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We Asked Wizards About The Lessons And Successes Of Magic’s Recent Dance With Spell-Slinging Bandits

Outlaws Of Thunder Junction lays the tracks for the direction of Magic’s new planes

After a brief return to the popular plane of Ravnica courtesy of Magic: The Gathering’s Murders At Karlov ManorOutlaws of Thunder Junction marked a point in the series where the card game is kicking off a year venturing into new worlds that players have never before seen. Now that the dust has settled on the release of OTJ and players have the upcoming Universes Beyond Assassin’s Creed and other new planes to explore in Bloomburrow and Duskmourn: House of Horror, I’ve posed some questions in review of the Wild West-themed set to the worldbuilding team and the set’s Editing Lead, Matt Tabak.

WellPlayed: What are some of the frustrations or challenges that arise from creating a new plane for Magic like Thunder Junction?

Worldbuilding Team: The creation of a new plane is more challenging rather than frustrating. The biggest opportunity space is to make it the world feel new and exciting, but also stay true to Magic’s overall multiverse. Magic worldbuilding has a close creative relationship with Magic design: Design prompts worldbuilding, worldbuilding guides design, and so on. In this way, cool cards can be driven by both game design and worldbuilding. Sometimes there is a top-down design that starts from a creative concept and then has rules built for it, other times game design has an awesome idea for a card that we then provide the creative element for. It is a cool collaborative process that leads to a ton of fun card designs.

WP: Given the opportunity to return to this plane in a future set, what element would you like to see expanded upon or reimagined?

WBT: We have an entire set, yet it feels like we have just scratched the surface of Thunder Junction there is just so much more to learn about the origins of the plane itself, the unique magic of the plane, Thunder, and about the awesome and enigmatic cactusfolk.

WP: What rules or restrictions were formed when deciding what creatures would cross over into this set from other planes?

WBT: Outlaws of Thunder Junction is the perfect setting to explore what might result from a central junction of the Omenpaths, or multiplanar portals, with crews of outlaws from many worlds all vying for a chance at an infamous vault. This fundamental concept helped inform both the creature types we would expect to see on this world, and which legends we could expect to show up. This is how you wind up with enterprising folks from across the multiverse all in one place looking to strike it rich. Some folks were recruited into Oko’s gang, others struck off on their own like Olivia Voldaren and Gonti, as these folks certainly wouldn’t bend to someone else’s authority. Fortunately, we were still able to fit these characters into OTJ as the legendary face characters for two of the set’s Commander Decks Most Wanted and Grand Larceny.

Magic worldbuilding has a close creative relationship with Magic design: Design prompts worldbuilding, worldbuilding guides design, and so on.

WP: What is your “new player hook” for this set? Is there a mechanic or theme that hopes to draw in new audiences?

Matt Tabak, Editing Lead: It won’t seem obvious, and it’s not one we’ll market as a new player mechanic or anything, but my vote is plot. There are a lot of subtle interactions possible with plot, and the more you play with it, the more little tricks you encounter. It really is a mechanic built on discovery. You may not realize it as it’s happening, but you’ll become a better player because of that mechanic.

WP: What are some of the references or nods to popular Wild West media that you hope players pick up on?

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WBT: At its heart Outlaws of Thunder Junction is a heist set full of ne’er do wells and the set is full of familiar tropes but with a Magic twist. Train heists, folks tied to tracks, jail breaks, high noon duels. Beyond the trope space an uninhabited plane also is full of both danger and freedom, the allure of a new frontier, full of characters fleeing from their pasts. You can see that in Annie Flash, the Veteran and in our new face commander Yuma, Proud Protector and his Desert Bloom deck.

WP: Always a fun question – What is your favourite card from Outlaws of Thunder Junction (new or reintroduced)?

WBT: There’s a ton of new mechanics to love in Outlaws of Thunder Junction! Committing a crime is a fun new rules term that rewards you for taking specific game actions, namely targeting opponents, their permanents, spells, or cards in their graveyard. Spree is a new keyword found on modal spells that allows you to devise the most devious answers to your opponent’s plans. What would a good heist be without some clever plotting, the new plot mechanic has you covered, set up for powerful future turns with cards like Make Your Own Luck Need a getaway vehicle? How about a getaway Gitrog? Saddle up The Gitrog, Ravenous Ride and take this monstrous mount for a short-lived, but explosive ride!

Outlaws of Thunder Junction is the second major new expansion to the world’s biggest collectible card game. It launched on April 19 this year, with powerful new mechanics that spiced up play across traditional sealed and Commander play. The Commander decks are still great bang for buck in the current MTG cycle. Toying with formats like sealed is also attractive with Play Boosters fetching a tenner or less locally, and are readily available at EB Games and JB Hi-Fi.

Magic: The Gathering’s Outlaws of Thunder Junction is currently available at your local games store.

Written By Nathan Hennessy

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