Gisa, Glorious Resurrector | Innistrad: Midnight Hunt | Art by Yongjae Choi
2, May, 24

Unassuming Thunder Junction Uncommon Could Be The Next Collected Company!

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Article at a Glance

It’s not always the big rares or mythics from a new set that have the biggest impact on constructed formats. Sometimes a humble uncommon, such as the new MTG card Lively Dirge, can be just as, if not more, game-changing. We’ve certainly seen this so far, as the Thunder Junction sorcery has taken up slots in a range of decks, across a range of highly competitive formats.

It’s always great to see a card that went under the radar succeed like this. It reminds us all that, no matter how long we’ve played Magic, or how good we think we are at evaluating cards, something will always slip through our nets. In celebration of this facet of the game, let’s take a look at Lively Dirge, and how it’s managed to find its way into competitive decks from Standard to Modern.

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The Liveliest Of Dirges

Before we sing its praises, let’s recap what Lively Dirge actually does. It’s a two mana sorcery, one and a black, with Thunder Junction’s new Spree ability, allowing two extra modes to be tacked on. For one extra mana, you can put a creature from your library into the graveyard, just like Entomb. For two mana, you can resurrect up to two creatures, with a total mana cost of up to four, from your graveyard.

The power of Spree cards lies in their flexibility, and Lively Dirge has that in spades. Paying four mana to reanimate two cheap creatures is a solid deal in many scenarios. Paying five to tutor one of them first is even better. The only mode on the card that really underwhelms is the three mana Entomb effect, but they can’t all be winners.

The fact that this card can put two cheap creatures into play has elicited comparisons to green powerhouse Collected Company. For better or worse, it’s not quite that good, of course. Compared to Collected Company, Lively Dirge is a sorcery, it’s more expensive to cast at full power, and it generates less creature mana value when cast. That said, the tutor effect makes it better in Combo decks, and sometimes even in Midrange toolbox decks.

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Pioneer Performance

The MTG format in which Lively Dirge is seeing the most success so far is undoubtedly Pioneer. Abzan Amalia Combo has been a solid deck in the format for a while now, and the card is just a perfect fit there. Essentially, the deck revolves around getting Amalia Benevides Aguirre and Wildgrowth Walker into play, then gaining life via something like Lunarch Veteran or Prosperous Innkeeper. This will trigger a loop in which you constantly Explore and gain life. In the end, Amalia will reach 20 power, and wipe the rest of the board. Unless your opponent has an answer, they’ll go down in one swing on the next turn.

Lively Dirge is ideal here because it can bring back both combo pieces at once, and even tutor for one if you haven’t drawn it yet. It’s also on-color, so no splashing is necessary. The deck already plays the likes of Return to the Ranks and Collected Company, but I could see them being phased out due to the sheer consistency Dirge offers the strategy.

Beyond this deck, Lively Dirge is also seeing Pioneer play in other Combo lists. Both Sultai Rona Combo and Esper Greasefang are trying the card since they can easily search up Combo pieces for more consistent wins.

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Standard Success

Lively-Dirge-MTG-Cauldron-Combo

Pioneer isn’t the only MTG format getting some Lively Dirge love. Standard is too, most notably in the 4-Color Cauldron Combo decks floating around at the moment. These decks leverage Agatha’s Soul Cauldron alongside creatures with activated abilities to generate infinite mana and burn the opponent down with Realm-Scorcher Hellkite. Lively Dirge can bring back the deck’s two most important combo pieces, Sleep-Cursed Faerie and Kami of Whispered Hope, simultaneously. The tutor effect, as always, is appreciated here too.

Interestingly, Lively Dirge is also seeing play in some non-Combo lists in Standard as well. Some Dimir Midrange decks are starting to incorporate the card, using it purely for its toolbox utility rather than a combo finisher. Such decks can grab cards like Graveyard Trespasser and Night Clubber as needed, reacting to the opponent’s plans on the fly. It can also just bring back some of your straightforward power cards, like Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor and Tinybones, the Pickpocket to boot. It’s early days for the card in Midrange decks, but the fact that it’s seeing play outside of Combo decks speaks to its well-rounded overall power.

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Modern Mayhem

Lively-Dirge-MTG-Yawgmoth-and-Crabvine

Standard and Pioneer aren’t too surprising as homes for a new card. What’s more surprising is that Lively Dirge is also seeing play in the far more competitive Modern. Yawgmoth decks, Midrange-Combo hybrids that can win both fairly and not-so-fairly, have already started trialing the card. This makes a lot of sense since the card supports both sides of the deck’s game plan well. It can grab your Young Wolf to set up the combo, along with any other utility creature in the deck. Alternatively, it can tutor Yawgmoth himself right into play from your deck. Either way, a remarkably good fit.

Similarly, Lively Dirge is also seeing play in some Crab Vine lists. The synergy here is even better than in Yawgmoth, since Dirge can drop your copy of Stinkweed Imp into the graveyard to set up Dredge, then reanimate a creature to enable Prized Amalgam and Gravecrawler. While it is expensive for the deck, Dirge can easily set up lethal turns if cast for five, and as such is likely an addition to Crab Vine that will stick around.

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