Outlaws of Thunder Junction Set Review - Black

(Gisa, the Hellraiser | Chris Rahn)

White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts & Lands | Allied & Shards | Enemy & Wedges | cEDH | Reprints | Pauper/Budget

I have not yet begun to Defile [your stuff]

Howdy fellow spellslinger! I'm Brian, your usual host of Brew For Your Buck, and I'm happy to welcome you to another set review for the best color in MagicOutlaws of Thunder Junction (OTJ) looks to be a sweet set. Just like detective stories, I'm a sucker for a good Western movie, so I'm loving the flavor of the set so far, even if some of the cards are a bit goofy and there are way too many legends wearing cowboy hats. We've got plenty of cards to examine, including some really cool uncommons (thank you, play boosters), Big Score (BIG) cards, and new cards from the commander precons, so let's head out on the range Swamp and see what riches await our black decks!


Gisa, the Hellraiser

First up, we have our new Gisa and as usual, she's all about Zombies. Not as usual, she also pumps up Skeletons, and is in fact the only legendary creature in the game that cares about them as a creature type. For those of you waiting for your Skeleton-typal commander, here she is (though she's still going to make Zombie tokens). Her Ward makes her difficult to deal with, a plus for any commander. Of course, Gisa will go great leading or in the 99 of a Zombie deck, especially in conjunction with something like Cemetery Reaper or Gravespawn Sovereign that can generate more and more undead minions when you commit a crime.

You can check out a deck tech for Gisa, the Hellraiser by Ben Doolittle over on Commander's Herald!

Greed's Gambit

All of you Blim, Comedic Genius pilots just calm down. I'm only going to mention you all because outside of those type of decks, I don't know why anyone would ever play this. It's great for Blim, giving you some card draw and extra things to donate. But you can't even sacrifice it for value with Ghen, Arcanum Weaver or something like Bargain, unlike previous variants such as Demonic Pact. Donating this is the way to go for sure, otherwise the greed really doesn't pay off.

Harvester of Misery

This is my favorite type of card: simple and powerful. Cast it straight up or discard it as a removal spell then reanimate it will be common play patterns, though unlike Massacre Wurm its ETB ability will hit your creatures too. If that's not really something you care too much about, even better. It goes well with cards like Spider Spawning and Songs of the Damned too, so if you're doing that type of "creatures in the graveyard" deck, this can easily slot in as a piece of interaction.

Hostile Investigator

It seems Ravnica finally ran out of room for all of those Detectives. "Once per turn" clauses are more popular lately, and probably save this and many other cards from being too busted, though sadly that caps the power level quite a bit. I think I'll throw this into my Oskar artifacts deck, since it overlaps exactly those two archetypes (artifacts and discarding). Outside of that, I'd go investigate other cards. This being a mythic bothers me; it's a clear result of The Big Score being folded into main set packs due to the failure of March of the Machine: Aftermath. I'm guessing this would have been a rare or uncommon otherwise.

Tinybones, the Pickpocket

This time around, I'm a little bummed out by Tinybones. There isn't really any callback to his first iteration, though I suppose if you force your opponent to discard something then this one can steal it out of their graveyard. As a 1/1, our Skeleton friend will trade for any random creature token our opponents have lying around. Even if he gets through, there needs to be something worth stealing in their graveyard and you need the mana to cast it right then and there. If I were building around him as a commander I'd go the Voltron route, including stuff like Whispersilk Cloak to ensure he sneaks by, Goldvein Pick to generate extra mana, and ways to give him first strike like Sword of Vengeance.


Back in Town

I can't believe Wizards forgot to print some rules text on this card. The top of the text box should say "As an additional cost to cast this spell, you must sing 'Guess who just got back today...' "

Anyways, Thin Lizzy references aside, you can always sign me up for a mass reanimation spell. At x=1 it's a Zombify, which is a fairly common rate for single-target reanimation effects lately, but this gets really powerful as you start to scale it up. If you're in a deck with primarily these creature types, like the Olivia, Opulent Outlaw precon, this would be my suggestion for one of your recursion slots. If only it had some Pirate-themed art for my Admiral Brass, Unsinkable deck...

Caustic Bronco

I saw people saying that this is the new Dark Confidant, and I can confidently tell you that it isn't. It looks closer to Ruin Raider to me, needing to attack to get the extra card. As a 2/2 with no evasion, it won't be doing that without some help. On top of that, you need to have a 3+ additional power on the board to flip the life loss onto your opponents. I think if you're in a very specific deck like Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign or maybe Yuriko, that looks to stash big spells on top of your library, this might be worth a look. Otherwise, I'll find my card advantage elsewhere.

Charred Graverobber

Oh look another Skeleton! This spicy dude is a repeatable Gravedigger for Outlaws. It can do double duty with "leave your graveyard" cards like Insidious Roots, Desecrated Tomb, and his other Skeleton buddy, Skeleton Crew. A simple design from the precon, which is themed around the outlaw creature types of Warlocks, Rogues, Assassins, Mercenaries, and Pirates: WRAMP for short. Thanks to Lords of Limited for that pneumonic device!

Discreet Retreat

Typically I'm against playing Auras outside of a dedicated deck, because the blowout potential is just too high. Maybe that's the Limited side of my brain talking. This one is expensive at four mana, but does allow you to untap and potentially play seven mana worth of outlaw spells and abilities on the following turn. It also helps to keep your hand full in a deck featuring creature types that tend to attack. This could also be good in Typal-Typal lists along with the rest of the outlaw-specific cards. It seems fine for the precon but would likely be something I would seek to upgrade.

Heartless Conscription

This is the first card on the list from the Gonti, Canny Acquisitor precon. If you want to see what cards might go well in that precon, I did a whole review that you can find here. In any case, this eight mana wrath that requires you to spend even more mana to re-cast the creatures is just too overcosted to play. It's basically Decree of Pain for exactly this deck, even though I'd rather just draw cheaper ways to steal stuff. Yes, it goes well with Gonti's cost reduction ability, but you'd need to cast Gonti after this goes off to use it. It definitely fits with the theft theme of the deck, and is sorta-kinda card advantage too, but I think I'd rather look elsewhere for my wrath effect.

Insatiable Avarice

Any card mimicking Imperial Seal is worth considering and while this isn't nearly as efficient, it makes up for it with flexibility. Option one's tutor effect is fine, especially if you have a way to draw the card you search for right away. Option two is a three mana, draw three: an excellent rate for a card draw spell, and way better than something like Night's Whisper in my opinion since you're netting two cards instead of one. The final mode is five mana draw three, but one of the cards you draw is exactly the card you want. All three options make this card an easy include in decks heavily weighted with black mana (the best kind) but gets a little worse as you add more colors.

Kaervek, the Punisher

In my opinion, Kaervek is the most interesting commander on our list. It seems really easy to storm off with him assuming you've got the mana, but during your crime spree you can cast one of black's many rituals to keep the fun going. You might be limited by the life loss too, but toss in an Aetherflux Reservoir or even a Demon's Horn and that starts to become irrelevant. I'd look to add a mix of self-mill spells, rituals, and cards that can commit a crime, and finding the right balance of them seems like a really fun deckbuilding challenge. Keep in mind that it's any black card, so permanents with the relevant effects also work here. This also makes Kaervek a great value engine if you're not looking to go the combo route, but he probably only belongs in mono-black decks since his value will drop off considerably as cards of other colors start clogging up your graveyard.

Orochi Soul-Reaver

Now this is a card from Gonti's precon that I'm excited about. New Ninjas are always fun, and this will trigger on any of your creatures hitting an opponent. When it does, you're stealing their cards but also ramping. Besides Theft decks, this card can also go well in face-down matters decks like Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer or Ninja typal deck as well. There's even more upside if you care about the Treasures, and honestly what deck doesn't these days.

Pitiless Carnage

This card seems pretty busto-disgusto, and I don't use that term lightly. Free card draw effects are insane, because you can spend your mana on the cards you draw right away. You can stash this away early in the game with Plot, the cast it when you have a huge (but expendable) board state to refill your hand or push your advantage. In a token or sacrifice deck, this gets even better as a free way to sacrifice a bunch of things at once. If you're playing God-Eternal Bontu in your deck, you'll probably want to look at this too.

Rush of Dread

This Spree card is less exciting than the first one we looked at, simply for its mana cost. Four mana to get one player to sacrifice half their creatures is fine, but not great. Have a look at something like Vona's Hunger in comparison. The other two modes don't seem worth five mana to me, and eight mana to do all three is lackluster compared to other stuff you could be doing at that mana value. It's nice that this rounds up, and maybe that last mode is sweet in a deck that's also playing Wound Reflection. Flexible cards are usually better than they seem, but overall I think this one should stay with the draft chaff.

Thieving Varmint

Did they really need to make Varmint its own creature type? Poor Rat decks. Then again, maybe not. It's a powerful mana dork for exactly Theft decks but is otherwise a small body with some keywords. It's nice that this is mono-black, since it can go in other Dimir or Rakdos decks. With the precon touching green, Thieving Varmint could have easily pushed into that color identity and limited its use elsewhere. I prefer narrow cards over generically powerful ones in precons, but maybe not this narrow.

Tinybones Joins Up

When I first saw this previewed, I thought it would be an instant staple in my cEDH Ratadrabik list. Turns out, it's not a one-mana Blood Artist for those particular combos, but it could be in the future! If you're looping legendary creatures this is certainly a win condition and I like the flexibility of choosing who discards and mills, especially if your deck wants stuff in your graveyard. If you're using this as a combo piece in your legends-matter deck, let me know how in the comments below!

Vadmir, New Blood

This is the prime example of a card that is unnecessarily legendary. I'm sure someone out there will build a deck around this guy, but he's not going to be found in the EDHREC top commanders list any time soon. I don't think he's even that good in the 99 of a counters matter, Vampire-typal list. Having two on the battlefield in Limited doesn't even seem that powerful either. Come on Wizards, this could just be some unnamed Vampire Rogue, right?

Uncommons & Commons

Forsaken Miner

Budget Gravecrawler? Budget Gravecrawler. The famous combo along with Phyrexian Altar has another piece, but note your pinger effect actually has to target a player. Many variants like Zulaport Cutthroat say "each opponent loses..." which won't trigger the Miner's recursion ability. That leaves exactly Blood Artist and Falkenrath Noble as the two creatures to enable the game winning combo.

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Hollow Marauder

A neat option for reanimator or self-mill decks to draw some cards with a cheap, evasive threat. Even getting this down for four mana seems great, and it doesn't take much to have a few creatures in your graveyard later in the game when you want to refill your hand.

Lively Dirge

This card is going to be in so many future Brew For Your Buck articles. Entomb effects are a rarity in Magic, in part because they are so useful for enabling combos. This seems like a fantastic budget option if you need that type of effect, and the reanimation mode is pretty great even if you aren't grabbing what you tutor for. I love it, and I'll be picking up a copy as soon as I can.

Servant of the Stinger

This is not Demonic Tutor, but there are worse impressions out there. With three opponents to attack, it opens up your options a bunch, and maybe force a trade. If you have an easy way to commit a crime along with your combat damage, I'd consider this as an option for a tutor.

Shoot the Sheriff

The second best reminder text of all time, behind only Obsidian Fireheart. Flavor text is great too.

Treasure Dredger

Not a bad option for decks without green to ramp, especially if you care about Treasures or artifacts. Though I'd still prefer Zhentarim Bandit.

Corrupted Conviction

Worth mentioning since this common was climbing past a dollar. It should be much more reasonably priced now.

Well, that's all we have for OTJ, but that seemed like a long one! What commanders are you most excited to build around? Did I miss any synergies or combos? Let me know in the comments! Also, if you like budget decks or you're looking to save some money, you can find my the rest of my articles here, and every other week on EDHREC. You can also find me on Twitter @BrewForYourBuck. Happy trails!

Brian played Magic intermittently between 2003 and 2017 when he fully embraced his love for Commander. Finding ways to maximize the value of each piece of cardboard in the deck is one of his favorite things to explore, especially if it involves putting lands in the graveyard! Outside of Magic, Brian works as a consultant in the marine industry, turning his passion for boats and ships into a career.

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