16, May, 24

Potent Thunder Junction Uncommon Enables Powerful Insidious Roots Death Combo!

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Article at a Glance

At this point, it’s no surprise just how impactful Outlaws of Thunder Junction has been on the Pioneer format. Pillage the Bog has become a staple in Niv to Light shells, which have risen in popularity as a whole. Aggressive red decks, including Gruul aggro and Boros Heroic, received significant boosts thanks to the printing of Slickshot Show-Off. Kaervek, the Punisher has even shown up in Waste Not strategies as a neat grindy element.

While Thunder Junction cards have been tournament legal for roughly a month at this point, players are still finding new ways to incorporate unique cards. For instance, in the Magic Online Pioneer Showcase Challenge featuring over 230 players that took place over the weekend, one particularly innovative archetype put up a solid top 32 performance.

This deck is focused on the power of Insidious Roots, an underrated Enchantment that still has plenty of build-around potential. As it turns out, one elite recursive Thunder Junction Creature is a perfect fit for this strategy. Not only does it give the deck an even better long game, but it enables a super awesome death combo! Let’s start by highlighting Insidious Roots’ role as the deck’s main win condition.

Building Around Insidious Roots

Insidious Roots

The primary goal behind this deck is to be able to flood the board with Plant tokens thanks to Insidious Roots. Almost every other card in the deck fills one of two roles. Either they help fill your graveyard with Creatures, or they enable Creatures in your graveyard to leave that zone in some manner.

To provide fuel for Insidious Roots, Stitcher’s Supplier and Snarling Gorehound are capable of milling a bunch of cards over the course of a game. From there, cards like Deathrite Shaman and Agatha’s Soul Cauldron can exile Creatures you mill over to generate value with Insidious Roots.

Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler is nice because it fills both roles nicely. Following up Insidious Roots with Tyvar and using its -2 ability right away can help get your engine rolling. Tyvar’s static ability then lets your Plant tokens tap for mana right away. This mana can be used to activate Deathrite Shaman or help bring back Scrapheap Scrounger and create even more Plants in the process.

In many games, it’s perfectly reasonable to win primarily with combat damage. Each subsequent Plant you make with Insidious Roots also buffs your other Plant tokens, so your board gets pretty large rather quickly.

Where things get super interesting, though, is when you have the luxury of winning the game outside of combat. The combination of Cauldron and Priest of the Forgotten Gods makes this possible. As we will see, the addition of one Thunder Junction Crime payoff gives this deck a whole new avenue to victory.

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Forsaken Miner: A Massive Upgrade

Forsaken Miner

During spoiler season, Forsaken Miner received a decent amount of hype. After all, committing Crimes is trivial, and Forsaken Miner is a serviceable, sticky threat. The problem is that as a Creature that can’t block, there simply aren’t many well-established homes for the card. Decks like mono-black aggro that would have been perfect for Forsaken Miner back in the day have completely fallen out of favor.

Fortunately, this little uncommon is a powerhouse alongside Insidious Roots. Whether you’re casting Fatal Push or targeting the opponent’s graveyard with Deathrite Shaman, bringing back Forsaken Miner and triggering Insidious Roots while doing so is easy. Still, the real way to make Forsaken Miner pop off is with Priest of the Forgotten Gods.

Priest is a powerful card but requires Creatures to sacrifice to make work. This is where Forsaken Miner comes into play. With two copies of Forsaken Miner in play, you can activate Priest sacrificing both Miners. In doing so, you force your opponent to lose two life and sacrifice a Creature, while you get two black mana and draw a card.

Conveniently, when Priest’s ability resolves, you have now committed a Crime. Your Miners are in the graveyard and their abilities will trigger, and you can use the two black mana from Priest to return them to play. Each copy returns individually, so Insidious Roots will net you multiple Plant tokens. By itself, this is a neat synergy. The obvious downside, of course, is that sticking Priest can be difficult in a format dominated by cheap removal. If you can exile Priest from your graveyard with Cauldron, however, every threat you control with a +1/+1 counter on it now becomes a major problem. And that’s just the start.

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Executing the Combo

Agatha's Soul Cauldron

If you manage to get Insidious Roots, Cauldron, Tyvar, and two copies of Forsaken Miner all in play, you’re quite close to assembling a combo allowing you to win the game outside of combat. Clearly, this is a lot to ask for, but with constant Surveiling from Snarling Gorehound, finding these pieces isn’t as difficult as you might expect.

From there, you need to exile Priest from your graveyard with Cauldron. This will cause Insidious Roots to trigger, and you will be left with a 0/1 Plant token with a +1/+1 counter on it. Thanks to Tyvar and Cauldron, you can immediately tap this Plant token and activate the ability provided by the exiled Priest. Execute the following steps to win the game.

  • When tapping the Plant token, sacrifice both copies of Forsaken Miner. The opponent will lose two life and sacrifice a Creature, while you draw a card and get two black mana
  • Use the two black mana to return both copies of Forsaken Miner to play. Insidious Roots will trigger twice, giving you two more Plant tokens as described earlier
  • Tap one of these new Plant tokens, sacrificing both copies of Forsaken Miner like in step one
  • Repeat this process over and over.

Of note, this combo isn’t technically “infinite,” since Priest’s ability forces you to draw a card each time. Still, so long as the opponent loses all of their life before you lose via decking, this is irrelevant. This combo won’t arise in many games, but it’s a sweet line to have access to. For more information on the combo, you can take a look here.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Rest in Peace

Where this deck ultimately shines is in grindy matchups where the opponent lacks ways to answer Insidious Roots. Against mono-black midrange, for instance, Roots and Cauldron can take over the game by themselves. Single-target removal isn’t very effective against an army of Plant tokens or recursive threats like Forsaken Miner. Insidious Roots is also good at gumming up the ground. As such, decks like mono-white Humans can have a hard time closing the game before you stabilize.

Things get a little trickier against opposing combo decks. Your clock simply isn’t that fast on average. Even the opponent sticking Vein Ripper can be a huge problem for this deck if Priest isn’t already online. Luckily, Cauldron+Priest does a lot of work at keeping Rakdos Vampires and Abzan Amalia under control.

Graveyard hate cards like Rest in Peace are miserable to fight through, though. With the prevalence of Izzet Phoenix in the current metagame, you are vulnerable to splash hate. The good news is that playsets of both Thoughtseize and Pick Your Poison go a long way in making sure you aren’t just boned to graveyard hate in games two and three.

Overall, this deck hasn’t solidified itself as a top-tier archetype yet. The inclusion of Forsaken Miner is a huge deal, nonetheless, and this deck should be given the respect it deserves. If you’re a fan of obscure combo shells, definitely give this deck a shot.

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