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The Spiciest Decks of Pro Tour Thunder Junction

April 26, 2024
Frank Karsten

In total, 207 Standard decklists were submitted for Pro Tour Thunder Junction, but some stand out more than others. The spiciest ones use innovative combinations of cards, represent a novel archetype, or do something that no one saw coming. In this article, we'll take a closer look at eight Standard decks that stood out to me the most. All of them leverage new cards from Outlaws of Thunder Junction or The Big Score, and all stand a real chance at winning the Pro Tour.

Five-Color Legends

"I assure you all this deck is a certified banger," Hall of Famer Brian Kibler posted after submitting his deck. "You haven't lived until you've cast Djeru and Hazoret with Jodah, the Unifier in play."

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The deck starts out similar to Four-Color Legends, using Inti, Seneschal of the Sun and Rona, Herald of Invasion to fuel Relic of Legends. But rather than focusing on Slogurk, the Overslime loops, it sets up heavy-hitting attacks with its synergistic legendary Humans. Outlaws of Thunder Junction's Kellan, the Kid not only attacks for three in the air but also provides a formidable combo alongside Djeru and Hazoret. When Djeru and Hazoret attacks, you'll be able to cast a legendary creature card from the top 6 of your library 98% of the time, allowing Kellan, the Kid to cast yet another permanent spell for free. The resulting battlefield presence is unparalleled, and Melira, the Living Cure or Hajar, Loyal Bodyguard can even protect Djeru and Hazoret from spot removal spells.

Two copies of Jodah, the Unifier support the theme further, growing your board and putting even more legendary creatures onto the battlefield. Jodah even triggers off Kellan, the Kid's ability. Although WUBRG mana might seem difficult, the deck has numerous five-color lands, with Cavern of Souls and Secluded Courtyard exploiting the fact that nearly every creature in the deck is a Human. Kibler's brew looks amazing, and I'm excited to see how it will play out.

Mono-Black Bloodletter

Pedro San Segundo, who qualified for his first Pro Tour at the European Championship earlier this year, is the only player in the tournament to register main deck Bloodletter of Aclazotz and Rush of Dread. Although Hall of Famer Alan Comer has these two cards in the sideboard of his spicy Grixis Reanimator deck, perhaps to pivot against graveyard hate, Pedro San Segundo aims to assemble the game-wining combo as early as Game 1.

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If you control Bloodletter of Aclazotz and then force your opponent to lose half their life with Rush of Dread, then they'll fall down to zero life, making this a two-card combo that immediately wins the game. Although a single Go for the Throat stops it, the two cards are playable on their own, and Insatiable Avarice can tutor for a missing piece. When drawn separately, Bloodletter of Aclazotz enables a fast clock, and Rush of Dread will wreck opponents who control three creatures.

The two-card combo is wrapped in a crimes shell, using numerous cards from Outlaws of Thunder Junction. Tinybones Joins Up and Tinybones, the Pickpocket are all about living a criminal lifestyle, while Vadmir, New Blood; Kaervek, the Punisher; and Gisa, the Hellraiser provide bonuses for committing crimes. For example, if Gisa, the Hellraiser enters while you control Tinybones Joins Up, then Gisa immediately creates two Zombie tokens, producing a massive army before your opponent has a chance to remove her. It would be a crime not to root for this delightfully devious deck.

Orzhov Bronco

Canadian Regional Champion Ulysse Gagnon Paradis and fellow Quebecer Kevin Anctil were the only two players to register Shadow of Mortality for the Pro Tour, and their deck exploits it in an amazing new way.

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The deck's game plan is to put Shadow of Mortality on top with Insatiable Avarice, then attack with a saddled Caustic Bronco. As you reveal a card with mana value 15, your opponent will immediately lose three-quarters of their starting life total. It's easy to ride that massive hit into victory. To facilitate Caustic Bronco, most of the creatures in the deck have three power to single-handedly saddle it. The stand-out Steel Seraph can even send the Mount into the air.

The game-winning combo is wrapped up in an Orzhov Midrange shell featuring formidable creatures, efficient removal spells, and good mana thanks to Concealed Courtyard. If you don't draw Caustic Bronco, then Sheoldred, the Apocalypse provides another way to make good use of Insatiable Avarice. You can target yourself and effectively gain 3 life, or you can target your opponent and force them to lose a total of 9 life. Against this Orzhov Bronco deck, your life total can rapidly dwindle out of nowhere.

Temur Prowess

Two players registered Elusive Otter and Slickshot Show-Off for Pro Tour Thunder Junction: Colin Jenkins and Jacob Nagro. Their lists differ, as Nagro focuses more on card draw, while Jenkins emphasizes combat tricks. Yet both make excellent use of the prowess theme and the newly added Botanical Sanctum and Spirebluff Canal for mana consistency. The list of Colin Jenkins, who qualified by playing the Arena Championship Qualifier Weekend on his phone, is highlighted above.

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The most important new card for this strategy is Slickshot Show-Off, which basically has mega-prowess. With an abundance of noncreature spells, Slickshot Show-Off can attack for lots of damage in the air each turn, and the plot mechanic allows you to dodge removal or sweepers until the time is right. When the opponent ever taps out, you can swoop in for the kill. Cast Slickshot Show-Off from exile, then boost it with Monstrous Rage and Twinferno, allowing you to connect for 16 damage.

Although Slickshot Show-Off is the main threat, the other creatures are excellent backups. If you control Elusive Otter, Monastery Swiftspear, and Questing Druid, then every Consider or Ancestral Anger will add three or more damage while replacing itself. With these synergies, you'll overwhelm your opponent quickly. The deck might be somewhat vulnerable to removal spells, but Monstrous Rage can effectively counter Cut Down, and Snakeskin Veil answers Go for the Throat. All in all, this novel prowess strategy should not be underestimated.

Boros Prowess

There's more than one way to build around Slickshot Show-Off. The card has enabled Temur Prowess, boosted Mono-Red Aggro and Gruul Aggro, and even permits a Boros Prowess strategy. Brian Boss combined Slickshot Show-Off and Illuminator Virtuoso, the only player in the tournament to do so. It's likely that he was inspired by the Boros Heroic deck that he used to make a deep run in Pioneer at Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor.

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White offers Illuminator Virtuoso as a premier threat, along with Loran's Escape as protection and Homestead Courage to yield multiple prowess, connive, or +2/+0 triggers in a single turn. Thanks to the important new addition of Inspiring Vantage, all of these white cards can now be cast consistently alongside the various red early drops.

Demonic Ruckus is another new card, enabling turn-three kills. For example, after plotting it on turn one, you can play Illuminator Virtuoso on turn two, then cast Demonic Ruckus, Monstrous Rage, and double Homestead Courage on turn three. Assuming you connive nonland cards each time, this results in an 11-power double striking, trampling, menace creature that can swoop in for the kill. This Boros Prowess deck packs a punch!

Azorius Artifacts

Nils Gutiérrez von Porat and Josep Sanfeliu, both members of Team Coalition Victory who are hailing from Barcelona, registered the same 75 for Pro Tour Thunder Junction. Their spicy deck exploits several artifact-based cards from The Big Score bonus sheet.

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The key new card for the deck is Simulacrum Synthesizer. In this deck with 31 artifacts, it creates a steady flow of tokens that will quickly dwarf most things on the battlefield. For example, imagine that you start with Fabrication Foundry on turn two, followed by Assimilation Aegis on turn three, then cast Thran Spider on turn four. In the process, you create a gigantic 5/5 Construct token, and it won't stay that size. As anyone who has played with Urza's Saga in older formats will recognize, those "Karnstructs" scale up in size quickly.

Although Craft synergies headlined by Unstable Glyphbridge had been around in Standard before, the new set has supercharged the strategy. Besides the powerful Simulacrum Synthesizer, Assimilation Aegis and Three Steps Ahead reinforce a control plan, Fomori Vault keeps the gas flowing, and Rest in Peace and Torpor Orb improve matchups after sideboard. Thanks to all of these new additions, Azorius Artifacts has soared as a formidable contender.

Jund Analyst

While most Aftermath Analyst players at the Pro Tour are leveraging the power of Worldsoul's Rage in a Temur shell with Ill-Timed Explosion and Memory Deluge, two Canadian players went for a completely different approach. David Olsen and Andrew Kidston, both of whom registered the same 75, are using black instead of blue to set up incredible combo turns.

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The main draw towards black is Pitiless Carnage, a new addition from Outlaws of Thunder Junction. You can plot it on turn three, setting yourself up to cast it on a later turn, say when you have four New Capenna fetch lands in your graveyard and six basic lands on the battlefield. You would then tap all six lands for mana and sacrifice them to Pitiless Carnage, drawing six cards. Now that your graveyard contains 10 lands, you subsequently use Splendid Reclamation or Aftermath Analyst to return them all to the battlefield tapped, effectively negating the downside of Pitiless Carnage.

If you control Spelunking as well, then all those lands would enter the battlefield untapped, resulting in a significant mana boost. With enough lands on the battlefield, Pillage the Bog almost turns into Demonic Tutor, allowing you to grab another Pitiless Carnage, and you can repeat this several times. Each time, your land count increases. After sifting through your entire deck and adding absurd amounts of mana, a Worldsoul's Rage for X=20 will secure victory. These potential combo turns remind me of the ProsBloom decks from 1997 or the Eggs decks from 2012. If it weren't for the popularity of Rest in Peace—nearly one copy per player in the field—I would be trembling in fear.

Mono-Blue Cauldron

Akio Matsuzaki, who qualified via MTG Arena, is the only player to bring an Agatha's Soul Cauldron deck to Pro Tour Thunder Junction. His brew makes particularly good use of a new 1/1 flier from Outlaws of Thunder Junction that not many players were expecting to see at the Pro Tour stage.

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The deck's core game plan is to exile Sleep-Cursed Faerie and Omen Hawker with Agatha's Soul Cauldron, granting their abilities to a creature of your choice. If you control Training Grounds and concoct a creature that has Omen Hawker's tap ability and Sleep-Cursed Faerie's untap ability, then it will tap for two mana and untap for a single mana. Infinite mana turns into infinite Hypnotic Grifter activations, allowing you to find Realm-Scorcher Hellkite, discard it, and exile it with another Agatha's Soul Cauldron. Since the Cauldron enables you to activate creature abilities with any color of mana, a creature with a +1/+1 counter can then ping for infinite damage.

The new star of the show is Harrier Strix. It might not look like a Constructed powerhouse, but it adds valuable redundancy to the deck as essentially Hypnotic Grifter number 5-8. When supported by Training Grounds, Harrier Strix allows you to sift through your deck, finding all required pieces. It also adds a critical mass of cards with activated abilities to the deck, supporting The Enigma Jewel. Harrier Strix may look like an unassuming 1/1 flier, but it does a lot of work for this deck.

In conclusion, if you were looking for a brand new Standard deck to try out, then give one of these eight decks a try! They might be the key to victory at Pro Tour Thunder Junction, and if they do well, then you'll surely be able to see them in action on this weekend's livestream.

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