Magic: The Gathering – Outlaws of Thunder Junction Review

Magic: The Gathering – Outlaws of Thunder Junction Review

Another month, another Magic: The Gathering release!

This time it’s a wacky wild west theme being delivered to us with Outlaws of Thunder Junction.

Unlike the slightly smaller range offered by last month’s Fallout release, Outlaws comes guns blazing with the full gamut of Magic retail product. Play boosters, collector boosters, bundles, pre-release, and Commander decks are all here.

While the set brings some fun cards and a lot of tremendous art to the table, it unfortunately feels overloaded by the amount of mechanics it puts into play all at once. 

MtG OTJ Product

The rootin’est…

The new key mechanics the set introduces are Crimes, Plots, Sprees, and if you’re playing the Commander decks, Bounties.

A ‘Crime’ is committed whenever you use a spell or ability that targets anything belonging to an opponent, and many cards in the set have abilities that trigger when a Crime occurs.

Cards with the ‘Plot’ keyword can be paid for then immediately exiled into a side stash where they can be played from at a later time without having to pay their cost again. 

‘Spree’ is found on several sorceries and instants in the set and allows you to pay an additional cost to escalate the effect of the card’s ability. It’s hardly a new concept for Magic but the specificity of the keyword will have an impact on the meta I’m sure.

‘Bounty’ cards meanwhile are shuffled into a separate deck entirely, the size of which scales to the number of players at the table. Each represents a wanted fugitive that the player can bring in on their turn if its specific conditions are met, and for each turn the Bounty remains unclaimed the reward for it increases. When the Bounty is claimed, a new one is drawn and the cycle repeats. Oddly each Commander deck in the set only comes with three of these cards, and the minimum Bounty deck size for a two player game is six. They don’t appear to be included amongst the pool of cards which make up the two kinds of Outlaws boosters either, which is strange.

All are thematically strong ideas that work well in a vacuum, but when put into play alongside legacy mechanics and keywords also commonly represented in the set which create additional side-stacks, kidnap other players cards, and otherwise manipulate the field from indirect sources, things can get frustratingly messy quite quickly. 

MtG OTJ Cards

… and the tootin’est

The bloat is slightly exacerbated by the litany of new, more passive keywords Outlaws introduces also.

First is ‘Outlaw’ itself. An Outlaw is any and all creature cards labeled Assassin, Mercenary,  Pirate, Rogue, or Warlock. Many of the cards found in the set have abilities which play off of this keyword, and the Most Wanted Commander deck that I received is mechanically focused on it.

There’s the new ‘Mount’ creature type which also features the new ‘Saddle’ keyword. Mounts function similarly to how vehicles have in previous sets, except that they can also attack and block without being manned.

There’s a few brand new creature types thrown into the mix also, and while some are exceptionally cute and fun, the sheer choice to include so much new stuff both major and minor into one set feels like entirely too much.

MtG OTJ Cards 1

Move ’em on, head ’em up

I’m a sucker for wild west aesthetics, and Outlaws of Thunder Junction’s art and design fuses it into the Magic universe sublimely.

The idea to present the series’ variant cards as old-timey newspaper front pages is delightful, and thankfully unlike with some of Fallout and Karlov Manor’s variants, readability hasn’t been sacrificed this time in the name of thematic execution.

I chuckled when I pulled Outlaw Medic and beheld its gleefully silly spin on Sergio Corbucci’s iconic Django, and Tinybones is my perfect child whomst I will protect with my life and probably build a silly deck around.

Ultimately that’s what Outlaws boils down to as a set for me though, a pleasing aesthetic and a handful of cards I’ll want to use in the future mostly just because they bring me personal joy.

Maybe the dedicated competitive players out there will view it all differently, but for the casual tier that my friends and I play at, Outlaws just feels as if it’s attempting to do far too many things at once for it to be particularly enjoyable. As a fan of westerns who was looking forward to the set quite a bit, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed.


Magic: The Gathering – Outlaws of Thunder Junction was reviewed using products kindly provided by Wizards of the Coast.

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