Insatiable Avarice | Outlaws of Thunder Junction | Art by Scott Murphy
29, Apr, 24

New Cards Make a Strong Showing at Pro Tour Thunder Junction!

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Article at a Glance

Each new Magic Pro Tour is an opportunity for fresh deckbuilding innovation. In this respect, Pro Tour Thunder Junction didn’t disappoint, with plenty of new cards showing up in the top-tier decks. Old archetypes got handy new tools for both the sideboard and main. In addition, some bold new decks came into contention as well. For one weekend, it really was the Wild West out there.

It’s an exciting time to be a Standard player to be sure. New cards seeing play on the top tables is a surefire sign of the quality of Thunder Junction. In addition, the short time between the set’s release and the Pro Tour likely means there are more gems yet to be discovered. We await those with bated breath, but for now, there are still plenty of exciting developments to discuss from the Pro Tour weekend.

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Almost All-Conquering Azorius Upgrades

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Azorius Control didn’t have a huge meta share over the weekend, with only two decks in the top 16. That said, one Azorius Control deck placed 2nd in the hands of Yuta Takahashi, showing the deck clearly has legs. Both versions of the deck played 3-4 copies of Three Steps Ahead, confirming its status as a certified Control all-star: something that many suspected pre-Pro Tour.

A Counterspell for three mana isn’t exciting, but it is perfectly serviceable in many matchups. And that’s saying nothing of the card’s other two modes, both of which are extremely relevant. Drawing two and discarding two is a great way to fill a turn where you’re not countering or removing anything. The copy effect is less useful in a Control deck, but it can still give you an extra animated Restless Anchorage, or a Chrome Host Seedshark out of the sideboard. Interestingly, the card never saw play in Midrange lists, but it appears to be a Control staple going forward.

New Legends for Not Quite Jodah Decks

We knew some flavor of Legendary creature deck would be showing up at the Pro Tour. It’s not too surprising, then, that 4 of the top 16 slots, and 2 of the top 8, were taken up by it. What is surprising is that players settled on a 4-color version rather than the 5-color version many were predicting. This deck had the most variance of any strategy at the Pro Tour. Which makes sense, given how many options playing four colors opens up. Unsurprisingly, a few new legends from Thunder Junction showed up consistently.

Honest Rutstein is the big one here. His combo potential was well-known going in, and so he had a solid three slots in every top 16 version of the deck. Interestingly, the loop with Rutstein, Relic of Legends, Rona, Herald of Invasion, and Tinybones Joins Up wasn’t the win condition players settled on. Instead, he played more of a support role to Slogurk, the Overslime loops with the Neon Dynasty Channel lands. He’s still an extremely valuable part of the deck, however, and one you should expect to see a lot going forward.

Less prominent were Tinybones and Vial Smasher. These two tended to be one-ofs in lists, serving more as niche edge case cards. Tinybones is just a solid creature, capable of sneaking in once you’ve wiped the opponent’s board with repeat Otawara, Soaring City Channels. Vial Smasher actually allows you to win via the Rutstein loop without Tinybones Joins Up since Rutstein himself is an Outlaw. While players only played a single copy, the deck has so much draw power thanks to Inti, Seneschal of the Sun that it can still be a reliable win condition.

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A Criminally Underplayed Duelist

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As most players expected, Esper Midrange was the most prominent deck at the Pro Tour. Six of the top 16 spots were occupied by the deck. Most of these lists played it safe, sticking to established cards from the past. Lucas Duchow, however, who came 6th in the event, mixed things up with three copies of Duelist of the Mind.

This is a card that many predicted would see play in the deck, due largely to its synergy with Raffine, Scheming Seer. It turns out that, even beyond that, the card is just very solid. It blocks well against Deep-Cavern Bat, one of the most-played cards in the format, and its looting ability is one of the few Crime triggers you can use more than once per turn, letting you shape your hand and graveyard to your needs. Duelist only appeared in one list in the top 16, but I could see this changing as more people wise up to how generally strong the card is.

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Stellar Sideboard Tech

Before we get to the most exciting new cards from the event, let’s take a sidebar into some sideboard staples. Pest Control and Rest in Peace weren’t seen in any main decks, but they made the sideboard in the majority of Esper Midrange lists. Rest in Peace also got a spot in the sideboard of the winning Domain Ramp list.

This makes a tonne of sense, as these two are the epitome of great sideboard cards. Pest Control is a huge blowout against Boros Convoke, sweeping their tokens and cheap creatures for a low cost. Rest in Peace is brilliant against Analyst decks and 4-Color Legends, which loops a lot of its cards through the graveyard. All of those decks were well-represented, and therefore so were these premier sideboard answers. This trend will likely continue to be the case unless the meta shifts dramatically, but it’s worth noting that Pest Control’s Cycling could edge it into main decks at some point.

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A Whole New Deck

And finally, the big story from Pro Tour Thunder Junction. A brand new deck, formally known as Orzhov Midrange, took the 18th spot at the event, just missing out on the top 16. It centers on a combo involving Caustic Bronco, a Thunder Junction card that works like a slightly worse Dark Confidant by itself. When Saddled, though, it inverts the effect, damaging your opponent instead of you. Pair that with the huge base Mana Value of Shadow of Mortality, and you can hit your opponent for an eye-watering 15 damage. Throw in Insatiable Avarice, and you can do so consistently.

The rest of the deck is standard Midrange fare, but this Combo specifically is incredibly spicy and proved to be the talk of the tournament. Naturally, the deck plays four copies each of Bronco and Avarice, to ensure maximum Combo consistency. Bronco actually saw play beyond this deck as well, though, in some Esper Midrange lists. This proves that, outside of the Combo, Bronco is a solid card with applications in more general lists.

Interestingly, Insatiable Avarice didn’t share the same fate, only showing up in Orzhov Midrange. That’s surprising, given it’s a powerful draw spell/ Tutor for a good cost. The fact that it’s already seeing play in Combo decks is a good sign, though, and even if the card sticks in the Combo niche for the rest of its time in Standard that’ll still be a success story.

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