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22, Apr, 24

Is Thunder Junction Legend A New Up The Beanstalk For Modern?

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Article at a Glance

Now that the cards have been in players’ hands for around a week, we’re starting to get an idea how Outlaws of Thunder Junction will impact each Magic format. Satoru, the Infiltrator stuck out during preview season, and he’s putting in work in Modern already. Unlike most of the new Thunder Junction cards, he’s seeing testing in multiple archetypes.

Naturally, players are excited about this new development, and are discussing Satoru in droves. They’re even comparing it to Up the Beanstalk, a card most now agree was a flagrant design mistake in the era of the Evoke Elementals from Modern Horizons 2. Where is this new legend showing up? Is there any merit to the seemingly outlandish Beanstalk comparisons? Let’s dive in and find out!

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Sneaking into Modern

Let’s take a look at the main man himself. Satoru, the Infiltrator is a 2/3 for two with Menace, but the real juice is his ability. Whenever a creature comes into play under your control, if it was cast for free or cheated out via an effect, you draw a card. This sounds niche on the surface, and in Standard it probably is, but in Modern it’s more likely than you’d think.

The card is a natural fit in traditional Reanimator decks like Goryo’s Vengeance and Esper Reanimator. In these brews, drawing a card whenever you reanimate a creature is a big deal. So much so that four copies of Satoru showed up in qbeczkowo’s winning Esper Reanimator list in last weekend’s Modern Challenge. Given Satoru’s Legendary status, this represents a considerable investment, but his ability is good enough to warrant it.

Satoru has also been showing up in less traditional brews, too. A Sultai Scam list by hachamsi 5-0’d a Modern League last week with four copies of the card. Given how often creatures are jumping in and out of play in Scam decks, whether its through a Not Dead After All or an Essence Flux, Satoru can draw you some serious cards. This can help make up for the innate disadvantage powering out the likes of Grief and Subtlety can bring.

Outside of these big successes, Satoru is also being tested in fringe strategies like Crab Vine and even some Humans lists. That’s impressive for any card, and shows off the sheer range that Satoru could end up having once all is said and done.

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Full of Beans

These are just early results, of course, but they’re incredibly encouraging. It’s rare that a Standard card breaks into Modern, after all, especially at four copies. Satoru’s success is so impressive, in fact, that he’s garnered comparisons to another Modern powerhouse: the recently-banned Up the Beanstalk.

Looking at the two cards side-by-side, there is an uncanny resemblance. Both cost two mana, and both can draw you cards when certain, very specific, conditions are met. Beanstalk lets you draw whenever a creature that costs five or more enters play, which sounds useless until you consider that Fury and Solitude, two of the best members of Modern Horizon 2’s busted Elemental Incarnation cycle, have mana values of 5. Leyline Binding, an Oblivion Ring-like card with Domain, also costs 6 to start with, and can thus trigger the ‘Stalk.

As a result, Up the Beanstalk became a dependable draw engine for decks doing degenerate things. Being an enchantment it was hard to get rid of, and it also drew a card on entry, making it good at any stage of the game. In the end, it was just too consistent and powerful, and Up the Beanstalk was banned in December last year. Just three months, I might add, after its initial release in Wilds of Eldraine.

Ban Hammer Incoming?

Given the surface-level similarities, players are putting Satoru, the Infiltrator on a pedestal alongside Up the Beanstalk. But are they right to do so? As we’ve covered above, both cards are two mana draw engines. They’re also cards that perform well in decks that don’t play by the rules, and that dodge mana costs as part of their core gameplan. It’s not surprising that both cards play well with the Modern Horizons 2 Elementals, in that respect.

Satoru is a very different beast, however, in several respects. Being a creature, he’s much easier to remove than Up the Beanstalk. This makes him less reliable as an engine for his respective decks. He’s also legendary, which means you can’t stack multiple copies in play at once for extra draws. And finally, he doesn’t draw you a card on entry himself. Unless you cheat him out, of course. Notably, Satoru also doesn’t draw cards on quite the same stuff.

Add this all together, and you arrive at a design that feels very much like a ‘fixed’ Up the Beanstalk. It plays well in similar decks, but it’s much more balanced and has more counter play. For this reason, I very much doubt Satoru, the Infiltrator is destined to meet the same fate as Up the Beanstalk. It may well end up becoming a staple part of the Modern metagame, but it’s probably not going to force a ban.

Satoru, the Infiltrator is a best-case scenario, then. It’s an exciting new card from a new set that’s making waves in multiple archetypes, but not one that’s likely to push the Modern meta in an unhealthy direction. It may well be the new Up the Beanstalk, but if it is then it’s a much improved version.

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