24, Apr, 24

Aggressive Thunder Junction Commons Blaze a Trail in Constructed Format!

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Article at a Glance

Outlaws of Thunder Junction has just launched, like a bullet from an old West revolver, and it’s had a major impact already. Just one week after release, Pauper Burn decks have added a few Thunder Junction cards to their ranks. This may not sound like a big deal to the uninitiated, but Pauper is still an eternal format, with a surprisingly high power level given the all-common restriction.

For this reason, even a small number of cards breaking in is a big deal, especially in well-established archetypes like Burn. If you have any kind of interest in the Pauper format, then you’ll want to keep an eye on these cards: you may just end up losing to them in the near future.

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Reckless Lackey

The big new addition to Pauper Burn from Thunder Junction is Reckless Lackey. Clearly coming over the Omenpath from Ixalan, this Goblin Pirate has a lot to offer for a one mana common. At a baseline, it’s a 1/2 with two keyword abilities in First Strike and Haste. That alone is very efficient, and a big step up from the Raging Goblins of old. The card is elevated even further by its activated ability, however. For three mana, at instant speed, you can cash the Lackey in for a card and an untapped Treasure.

Pauper Burn has been a creature-heavy deck for a while, relying on large numbers of one drops to soften opponents up before the cheap Burn spells come in. Pre-Thunder Junction, the deck played four copies each of Goblin Blast-Runner, Goblin Bushwhacker, Goblin Tomb Raider, and Voldaren Epicure. Reckless Lackey slots nicely into this lineup. Getting in for one damage early is extremely valuable in Burn, where every single point counts. The First Strike also makes Lackey great against the many 1/1s in the format, whether they’re other Goblins or Mesmeric Fiends.

In the games that go well, Reckless Lackey’s activated ability is unlikely to come up. When you find your creatures walled off and your Burn spells depleted, though, the ability to draw an extra card and store mana for later is invaluable. The Treasure the ability generates synergizes nicely with Goblin Blast-Runner and Goblin Tomb Raider as well, if you don’t need the extra mana. Put it all together, and it’s no surprise that the card is already appearing as a full playset in multiple high-ranking Burn lists.

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The Ping Deserts

Thunder-Junction-Pauper-Burn-Ping-Deserts

Surprisingly enough, Reckless Lackey isn’t the only card breaking into Pauper Burn from Thunder Junction. Two of the Ping Deserts, specifically Jagged Barrens and Abraded Bluffs, are also seeing play in many lists. Jagged Barrens is showing up in the less popular but still very successful Rakdos Burn archetype, while Abraded Bluffs has made appearances in Boros Synthesizer, a Burn-adjacent deck that leans heavily on artifact synergies.

As I mentioned in my breakdown of the surprise hits from Thunder Junction Limited, the Ping Deserts are cards that play far better than they look. They may not be turning on your Crime cards in Pauper, but they’re still dishing out one damage for no mana. And doing so on lands that fix your mana, to boot. Pauper may be a fast format at times, but it can also be an incredibly grindy one, and tiny edges like one extra damage can go a long way.

Playing just a couple of these over the course of a game is the equivalent to drawing and casting a zero-mana Shock. And, given how little entering tapped matters most of the time due to the extremely low curves in Pauper, there’s very little opportunity cost to including them. They’re so effective, in fact, that I wouldn’t be surprised to see either Jagged Barrens or Abraded Bluffs see play in regular Mono-Red Burn decks, where the mana fixing isn’t even a factor.

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Pauper Burn Going Forward

Pauper is a format that’s slow to change. While new cards slide in and out of the meta as each new set arrives, the core archetypes tend to remain the same. As we’ve seen with Boros Synthesizer, however, the rising power level of modern commons can make serious waves. While Reckless Lackey and the Ping Deserts are unlikely to have that kind of impact, it’s likely that they’ll branch out into other decks as players test them out elsewhere.

Reckless Lackey, for instance, has serious potential in Pauper Goblins decks. These lists, unlike traditional Mono-Red Goblin strategies, have branched out into Rakdos colors and incorporated heavy artifact synergies. Lackey, a well-statted Goblin with the ability to create an artifact, would make an ideal addition to such decks. Given how well it’s doing in Burn, it’s likely that Goblin players will at least try it out.

The Ping Deserts are in a similar situation. Goblins decks could easily incorporate Jagged Barrens, and the rest of the cycle could wind up in Pauper Aggro lists like Faeries or Zombies. Boros Synthesizer makes great use of Kor Skyfisher, which is a card that has serious synergy with the Ping Deserts. Skyfisher sees play in other major Pauper decks, such as Jeskai Affinity and Caw-Gates, so the Ping Deserts may just find themselves played there too. They may just be inverted gain lands, but they have real potential to sneak their way into any fast deck in the format. While one Goblin and a few lands doesn’t sound like a bumper haul for a new set, in Pauper that’s a fairly excellent result. Thunder Junction: ya did good, kid.

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