Outlaws of Thunder Junction - Pauper/Budget

(Lazav, Familiar Stranger by Tyler Jacobson

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

*Godawful Southern Accent Engaged* What's up, Y'all?

We're in the wild west for this one, and to say I'm excited for what these frontiers have to offer is quite the understatement. What will we discover out here? Card advantage engines? More Treasure-themed cards? Maybe even some iconic cartoon characters? Let's get straight to it!


Honest Rutstein

I've felt for a while that Eternal Witness is a bit outdated as a means of fetching stuff from the graveyard. Obviously, it has it's place in blink decks, and decks that are desperate for creature density, but in any other place, E-wit should be replaced with Regrowth or Noxious Revival. However, Honest Rutstein isn't just a multicolored Eternal Witness. His creature specific recursion and reduction ability make him perfect for those creature dense graveyard decks. Umori, the Collector, Karador, Ghost Chieftain, and Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord could all make good use of him, and he should replace E-wit in many of those cases. 

Lazav, Familiar Stranger

Committing a crime is a new mechanic that's notable for how easy it is to make bad jokes with, but also for how ridiculously easy it is to trigger. All you have to do is tap Tim, and boom, your crime has been committed. Once that's been done, Lazav has the potential to go nuts. You're in blue, so milling your opponents is superbly easy, and at a three-player table, there's no doubt that something spectacular will be available. If you really feel the need, you can pack your own deck with monsters to guarantee a strong target. Either way, with this commander, crime pays.  

Doc Aurlock, Grizzled Genius

Being in Simic is a bit unfortunate, in the way that it closes off all the impulse draw of red, but there's still an absolute load of mechanics that cast from exile or the graveyard. Foretell is the first that comes to mind, followed by flashback, of course, and a two-mana reduction is no joke. Many cards become ridiculously cheap with that, and the potential to storm off is immense. If I were to build this deck, I'd have to stick to either the graveyard or exile theme, so that I can consistently mill myself to maximize flashback-esque abilities, or so that I can run exile matters cards. 

Ertha Jo, Frontier Mentor

My absolute favorite thing in a commander is when it lets me play with weird cards, and how many other commanders are going to let me play Furystoke Giant? Other cards, like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Brash Taunter, and Mother of Runes, all go nuts with her.  To sum up this commander, there's an absolute load of creatures with fun activated abilities, and she makes them twice as fun.

Except for Mindslaver. That one might make things less fun. Seriously, you don't need to do that. 


Nurturing Pixie

There's a surprisingly large market for these little white creatures that bounce other permanents. Whitemane Lion, the original, is in 22,000 decks. Why? These guys make it extremely easy to trigger enter-the-battlefield effects over and over again. In God-Eternal Oketra and Chulane, Teller of Tales decks, which require the casting of creatures, these are some of the most efficient ways to get the trigger repeatedly. As a result of this demand, Nurturing Pixie is extremely relevant, as it's one mana less than every other version of the card, which means twice as many triggers. However, it can't bounce itself, meaning you'd have to pair it up with the lion. At that point, it would be three mana for two ETB triggers, which is still a better rate, but probably not worth playing unless your deck is centered around those cards. 

Holy Cow

I've never seen something so majestic! That Aura! Those wings! The way the light wraps around its elegant form, like an angel in the light. Holy Cow! I'm so very glad they gave it flash, so you can play it whenever "Holy Cow!" needs to be said. This card serves its meme deck niche very well, and that's good enough to give it something of a home. 

Armored Armadillo

As someone from Texas, I can tell you that armadillos aren't usually this cool. For the most part, they just dig through your garden and aren't terribly intimidating. Even if you were to put armor on one, I can't imagine it would be very effective in combat, just like this one. This guy is a mini Wall, but Arcades, the Strategist decks have plenty of other mini Walls to work with.

What's that? It has an activated ability?

The only place to play this is in toughness matters decks, which have plenty of effects that transform butts into brawn anyways. It might've been a cool design if its toughness punched when it got saddled up, but as it is, it's as useless as real armadillos. 


Visage Bandit

Clones are strong effects to have in a deck, both for the purpose of duplicating the best thing on the table or for having doubles of your own best effects. The most important thing when evaluating a clone is double checking what it can copy, because half of them can only copy your own stuff, like Visage Bandit. This makes this card worse than the original Clone, but it's not useless, because it has plot. Like Mirror Image, it can be cast for three mana, and I think that the upside of casting it for free on another turn is huge. It really does feel like you're plotting, because if you plan accordingly, you can have a huge turn where you play not one, but two of an incredible creature, without needing a ton of mana. With plot, you can play a four drop on turn four, then copy it immediately instead of having to wait like you would with Mirror Image, and that's a huge difference. 

Loan Shark

This set's all about puns, isn't it? What's the deal with this new lore design? Throughout the years, I've noticed there's been two sides to Magic: humor, and unapologetic edginess. Ever since Alpha, Magic's been funny, from satirical flavor text, like on Frantic Search, to absurd card design that was reserved for silver-bordered sets. In addition, there was loads of parent-appalling flavor, captured in eerie art like on Duress, and terrifying characters, like the Phyrexians. Nowadays, however, Wizards has tamed down the game, replacing the edge with goofy designs, like Weirds wearing detective caps, or, in this case, a Loan Shark. I know that Magic's never been a realistic game, but really? A Shark in the middle of the desert? It's clear to me that this card exists purely for the Wild-West pun. Which do you prefer: the new Magic or the old? 

Seize the Secrets

Two mana for cards is not a bad rate, especially when the additional cost is so low. At first I thought that committing a crime would require you to spend a removal spell or something, but nope, all you have to do is target your opponents' permanents. Something as simple as untapping a creature with Kelpie Guide will do the trick, and then you can pay two to draw two. As many people have pointed out, the flavor of committing a crime is pretty messed up, and personally I think it should've been: Damaging an opponent or damaging/destroying a permanent they control. But I'm not the designers, and if my little untappers can satisfy Seize the Secrets, I'll take it.  


Hollow Marauder

Getting six or more creatures in a graveyard is a trivial task in any deck with black, especially if you build the deck right. The more creatures you have, the more effective milling yourself will be, and it shouldn't take long at all for this to be a one-mana card advantage piece. Given how quickly the average mana values of Commander decks are falling, you're likely to draw three cards off this. That's like Ancestral Recall! On top of that, it's a flying 4/2. But you know what's better than doing it once? Doing it over and over again! The best deck for this card is clearly Karador, Ghost Chieftain, who has all the pieces to let you cast this every single turn.

Forsaken Miner

Is this the new Gravecrawler? Eh... no. Definitely not, but it's still playable in a different niche. Like I've said before, there are permanents that will commit crimes over and over again. In black, the most notable ones are Blood Artist and Orcish Bowmasters, who will attract law enforcement at any time of the day. At that point, especially if you're saccing Forsaken Miner with Blood Artist on the field, the Skeleton can be cast from the graveyard repeatedly. Add in a Phyrexian Altar, and you win the game!

Servant of the Stinger

Let's start with the obvious here: this is worse than Demonic Tutor. But is it more fun? I'd say yes, and given the hate often directed at tutors, I'd say that's an important thing to consider. Getting this guy to connect will be easier than expected, given his deathtouch, and especially if the crime is committed after no blockers are declared. That's easy enough, given black's penchant for removal spells. This is a budget card for sure, but I know I'm going to have a good time making it work. 


Cunning Coyote and Resilient Roadrunner

This is the kind of humor I'm looking for. It's a clever, notable reference in a fitting landscape, and the in-game interaction between the two cards is extremely flavorful. I can't imagine how much fun it would be to actually counter the Coyote with the Roadrunner. The Coyote even has plot! And don't get me started on the fantastic artwork for both of them. Unfortunately, the Roadrunner is pretty much draft chaff, but I believe the Coyote is extremely playable. I can't list the number of times I've needed to give a Voltron commander haste, but my only budget options are one-mana haste spells. If I'm waiting an extra turn to play my commander and then give it haste, there's no point, but with plot, I can prepare the Coyote the turn before and actually give my general haste the turn it comes down. Yeah, Lightning Greaves is better, but it doesn't reference one of my favorite TV shows. 

Highway Robbery

Ah, yes, our reliable set reprint of Tormenting Voice. Most of the functional reprints are only playable in addition to the original, but this one should absolutely replace it. Firstly, there's no downside to plotting it. You can do that at any time you're not busy, and as soon as you have spare cards or lands, you can cast it for free. The option to sacrifice a land is also huge. Late game, trading mana for card advantage is spectacular, especially if you've been land-flooded. Unfortunately, it's a sorcery, unlike Thrill of Possibility, but it's strictly better than Tormenting Voice and will be a huge boon to many decks. 

Rodeo Pyromancers

This is some pretty relevant ramp. It's not the kind that will let you cast a seven drop on turn five, but casting a four-drop and three-drop can still be extremely relevant. It even turns one-mana cantrips into rituals! Coming down for four mana is a lot, but the decks that want weird mana boosts, like Omnath, Locus of All, will know that this is the card for them. 


Tumbleweed Rising

A tumbleweed showdown is the event in my life that I least expected, but also the one that's most needed. Two mana to double the biggest creature on your board is pretty great in mono-green, especially in those Ghalta, Primal Hunger decks that are running stuff like Gigantosaurus. One 10/10 for five mana is good, but two for seven is even better. 

Aloe Alchemist

This is a cool concept that adds a decent bit of possibility to the whole plot mechanic, but I can't help but feel like there's not much point? The thing that plot improves about foretell is how you can cast it for free when you need it. It really allows you to get the most out of your turns, and this card lets me do none of that. I don't need a free 3/2 on a later turn, I need a free pump spell on a later turn, because paying two mana for the effect is plain bad.

Stubborn Burrowfiend

Holy crap, I just looked up badger teeth, and I never realized how intimidating those little guys are. This depiction is a bit exaggerated, but I've realized that I could very much be mauled by a badger if I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That being said, I could totally get mauled by this thing, too. As I mentioned, filling your graveyard with creatures is a trivial task, and saddle 2 is a trivial task for attacking with a 10/10. Once again, Karador, Ghost Chieftain is a fantastic commander for this card, and I think it could lead a menacing pauper deck on its own.

Look, if you don't tell your draft opponent, "this town ain't big enough for the two of us," what are you even doing?

While the cheesy nature of the set still irks me a bit, I can't deny that the design is fantastic, and that every artist who worked on this absolutely popped off. I really had a blast exploring the cards in this set, and discovering the new things that they could all do. While I remember Magic's edgier days with great fondness, if this is the direction they continue to go in, I'm all for it, because they're doing a fantastic job. Let me know in the comments, how do you feel about Wizard's current design choices?

Alejandro Fuentes's a nerd from Austin Texas who likes building the most unreasonable decks possible, then optimizing them till they're actually good. In his free time, he's either trying to fit complex time signatures into death metal epics, or writing fantasy novels.