Outlaws of Thunder Junction: Rules and Draft Primer

Abhi Vaidyanatha
7 min readApr 9, 2024

Prereleases for Outlaws of Thunder Junction (OTJ) start this week and there’s plenty of new and returning mechanics that you may want to know before Friday Night Magic. Let’s round everything up in order from most relevant to least relevant.

Booster Contents

Outlaws of Thunder Junction follows Muders at Karlov Manor as the second set to be designed for Play Boosters, as opposed to the Set Boosters of old. Though, due to some product mishaps, these are constructed differently. These boosters will contain:

  • 5 Commons
  • 1 Common (80% chance) or 1 Big Score card (20% chance)
  • 1 Breaking News Bonus Sheet Card (Replacing a Common)
  • 3 Uncommons
  • 1 Rare or Mythic Rare
  • 1 Land (50% common dual, 16% full-art dual, 34% basic)
  • 1 Non-Foil Wildcard
  • 1 Foil Wildcard

Breaking News

The Bonus Sheet for this set is more relevant than usual, draft-wise. Every Breaking News card has the potential to “commit a crime,” which can be a useful build-around if you have the right payoffs (we’ll teach you how to commit crimes later). Since there will be one in every pack, you can commit to taking the Breaking News cards at a higher priority to enable the payoffs. These cards are not legal for the Standard format, as they are notable reprints from Magic’s history.

Big Score

The Big Score replaces the List in this set, appearing in 20% of Boosters. Every card in this list is a Mythic Rare, which is more to represent that they won’t be showing up too often. All these cards are legal for the Standard format.

Lands and Mana Fixing

This set is designed by Dave Humpherys, who has a penchant for putting dual lands at common. This is the case with OTJ, where you can find a common dual in 50% of packs. Note that these don’t appear in any of the 6 common slots, just the dedicated land slot.

Mana Fixing in Draft

Your 3–4 color decks are going to function better than usual, as you are much more likely to see dual lands in your later packs. This also means that splashing for generically good cards in any color is going to be way more common. Don’t expect good cards to always come back to you just because you’re drafting an open color; many players will be splashing.

Mana Fixing in Sealed

When playing in your Sealed Prerelease, you will not get to decide which dual lands you get. Because of the dual lands you will see in half your packs, you’ll usually get 1–2 lands to help fix your mana, but if you’re unlucky, your duals may be off-color.

Crime Lands

The lands at common all read, “deals 1 damage to target opponent,” which notably, does commit a crime.

Plot

The wizard’s magic trick is making your life disappear.
  1. A card can be plotted face-up for its plot cost, putting it in exile temporarily until you decide to cast it for free from exile on a future turn. Cards can also become plotted through cards like Fblthp, Lost on the Range.
  2. You’ll want to plot your cards to get extra value from the card, play around counterspells (plotting can’t be countered), play into the Izzet two spells per turn archetype, and/or get the spell for cheaper. However, don’t be afraid to just play the card for its normal cost without plotting it if you need board presence!
  3. Plotting is a special action and can’t be responded to, much like playing a land for your turn or the Foretell mechanic from Kaldheim.
  4. You may plot cards only as a sorcery and may only play plotted cards as a sorcery. Neither of these can be done at instant speed.
  5. If a counterspell is targeted and plotted with Aven Interrupter, it’s essentially gone forever, as you can’t play counter magic at sorcery speed, no matter what this Secret Lair card claims. If you control an Aven Interrupter, your opponent must pay now pay 2 generic mana to play any of their plotted cards. If they control Doc Aurlock, Grizzled Genius, though, they can play plotted cards for free again.

Crimes

More monarchs should take breaks to play cowboys.
  1. You commit a crime when you target an opponent directly, target a spell they control, target a permanent they control, or target a card in an opponent’s graveyard with a spell, ability, or trigger you control.
  2. Even if you may philosophically disagree, board wipes such as Final Showdown are not crimes, as they don’t target.
  3. Crimes are committed after the spell is cast, not during the process of casting a spell.
  4. As mentioned above, the full cycle of 10 “crime” lands at common all have the text “deals 1 damage to target opponent,” which you can use to enable crime for free on your turn without casting a spell.
  5. Nearly every crime payoff has a “once per turn” clause attached to it. This makes crimes that you can commit on your opponents turns a lot more valuable. Crime pays, folks.

Spree

Kellan’s last dance.
  1. When you cast a card with Spree, you must select an additional cost, you can’t choose none.
  2. If you copy a spell with Spree, it will copy all modes selected. You cannot pay for additional costs if not all modes were selected.
  3. You resolve each effect of Spree in order, which often guides you in their play patterns. For example, when resolving a Getaway Glamer, you get to make your big creature disappear, then destroy the next biggest thing on the field (presumably your opponent’s biggest thing).
  4. The mana value of a card with Spree is the value in the top right of the card, which is usually 1, 2, or 3.
  5. If you cast a Spree card without paying its mana cost, you still can pay additional costs to activate the modes. You don’t get them for free though.

Saddle

What are the mechanics of saddling this with Thalia and the Gitrog Monster?
  1. To saddle, tap any number of creatures with power equal to or greater than the saddle number next to the keyword.
  2. Saddling a Mount is sort of like crewing a Vehicle, but the Mount doesn’t need to be saddled to attack or block. If you do decide to saddle, you usually get a bonus on attack or on dealing combat damage.
  3. You saddle a creature at sorcery speed.
  4. If you copy a saddled Mount, the copy will not be saddled.

Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote

If you control Resilient Roadrunner and cast Cunning Coyote, you cannot target your own Roadrunner with Cunning Coyote’s ETB trigger. Protection includes protection from your own sources as well!

Crimes Part II

No rest for the wicked.

Some well-studied players may notice that targets are chosen in the middle of the spellcasting process and may jump to believe that the crime triggers during the targeting step. This is particularly important for cards like Forsaken Miner. You can sacrifice your Forsaken Miner with a Phyrexian Altar while paying costs for a spell, and then bring it back with the crime trigger afterward.

As per my previous point, if you have a triggered ability that triggers in response to you casting a spell that will commit a crime, the cast trigger and crime trigger go on the stack at the same time. You choose which one resolves first. For example, let’s say that you control an Academy Wall and have a Forsaken Miner in the graveyard. Academy Wall triggers whenever you cast an instant or sorcery. So, if you cast Shock, you commit a crime, triggering Forsaken Miner and Academy Wall at the same time. Then, you can decide whether you bring Forsaken Miner back first or resolve Academy Wall’s trigger first.

Trigger Doublers

The most “Commander” Panharmonicon to ever be designed.

Don’t put Annie Joins Up in your Pantlaza, Sun-Favored EDH deck; note that abilities that make triggers trigger an additional time don’t allow them to always resolve twice. Abilities that say “Do this only once each turn” can trigger multiple times, but only one instance of the trigger will actually resolve each turn.

Decimate

We most recently saw Decimate in Commander Masters and Dominaria Remastered, but those limited formats were less commonly played. Wizards realized that most people failed to resolve Decimate correctly, so they provided helper text that’s never appeared on it before. To restate the helper text on the card, you must have a legal target for every ability on the card or you cannot cast it! I wouldn’t just jam this card in any deck playing green and red — the casting restrictions make it difficult to cast, so leave it in the sideboard and bring it out in game 2 if you’re sure it will have targets.

Infinitely Control your Opponent

The Breaking News Bonus Sheet features the return of Mindslaver, a famous lock piece that let you control your opponent on their next turn. If you control both Mindslaver and Esoteric Duplicator, you can get unlimited copies of Mindslaver and lock your opponent out of the game. This involves pairing two Mythic Rare cards, so very unlikely, but pretty devastating.

And that’s it! I’ll be updating this article as the format progresses, so stay tuned :)

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