Modern Horizons III and Outlaws of Thunder Junction - A look at what's on tap for Magic: The Gathering

Two big releases are on their way for Magic: The Gathering with Outlaws of Thunder Junction and Modern Horizons III coming out for Standard and Modern, respectively.

As the name might suggest, Outlaws of Thunder Junction is a wild west themed set and portions of the set's story are already available to read on the Wizards of the Coast website.  It's a theme that Wizards' design team had been wanting to do for years.

"Originally, when we pitched the western setting about four or five years ago, the higher-ups at the company were really dubious of it," tells Aaron Forsythe, Vice President of Design for Magic: The Gathering.  "We didn't really have our plan fleshed out all that well."

With the Omenpaths -- essentially a way of travelling from world to world -- opening up thanks to the events of the previous Phyrexian story arc, it provided a way for WotC to make their western-inspired idea work.  And they decided to do it with the planeswalker, Oko, at its forefront.

"Oko has collected a gang of the greatest villains of the multiverse, so that's a storytelling twist that we couldn't have executed on before," says Forsythe.  "And they've conduct a massive heist."


As for what Magic players can expect in specific with Thunder Junction, Forsythe doesn't want to spoil too much, but did say that there will be factions of peacekeepers and outlaws, as well as a few other, smaller groups also in operation.

"There's different, new races -- creature types -- there's a cactus-folk, so we've put a real fantasy spin on this stuff as well," adds Forsythe.  "[And] a whole new suite of mechanics that really play into the western feel."

As enjoyable as creating a set like Thunder Junction is for the designers, Forsythe admits that designing sets for Standard can be a bit of a challenge.

"With Standard, the real world hasn't experienced any of the format we're testing when we're trying to make the cards," he says.  "We're guessing what we thing Standard's going to be like every time we test a new set.  It's just a total guess."

When designing for Modern, such as like with the upcoming Modern Horizons III set, that largely isn't the case.

"With Modern, because of the data we can collect from Magic Online and real-world tournaments, we have a pretty good idea -- better than Standard by a lot -- of what we think the metagame is going to look like by the time the product comes out," Forsythe explains.

Like its predecessors, 2019's Modern Horizons and 2021's Modern Horizons IIModern Horizons III in that the goal is to create content specifically for MTG's Modern format.

"It is mostly new cards [and] new designs with a handful of reprints taken from older sets or supplementary products to add those into Modern as well," says Forsythe.

The reprints known to date include Priest of Titania, a card from Urza's Saga, as well as the cycle of allied-colored fetchlands -- cards Forsythe calls "linchpins" for the format.

As far as new cards coming out in Modern Horizons III, Forsythe says players can expect a number of double-faced cards such as those inspired by the double-faced planeswalker cards found in 2015's Magic Origins, the use of energy (a mechanic that debuted in Kaladesh), and the the Eldrazi including brand new cards for each of the Eldrazi Titans: Emrakul, Ulamog, and Kozilek.

Emrakul, the World Anew (MH3)"Because [the Eldrazi] have mostly been eradicated from the core canon storyline, they only time you can revisit them is in kind of a throwback set like this, so it's a perfect opportunity to do that," comments Forsythe.

One concern that Magic players have voiced about Modern Horizons III other than its price (as of writing, a Play Booster box of MH3 is listing for more than $369 on TCGPlayer) is its power level.  It's a concern that many players find valid after a number of format-warping cards were printed in the original Modern Horizons and Modern Horizons II such as Wrenn and Six, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, Fury, and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer.

Forsythe says that Magic players should expect to see a power level shift once Modern Horizons III releases.

"There will be a shift, for sure -- that is kind of the goal for the product," he admits.  "It's kind of hard to predict much there's gonna be."

"We have a target," he continues.  "It's a ton of unknown information.  The metagame changes a lot from when we finish the product to when it comes out, so we will see.  We're certainly hoping for an impact."

As far as the impact Modern Horizons III will ultimately have, it's largely up to how the Magic audience as a whole receives the set.

"The proof is in the pudding," says Forsythe.  "We expect a shake up and we hope it's gonna be in really cool ways."

Both Outlaws of Thunder Junction, which releases on April 19, and Modern Horizons III, which comes out on June 14, are available for preorder both online and from local gaming stores.

Barry White

Barry White is a longtime Magic: The Gathering player, having started in 1994 shortly before the release of 'Fallen Empires.' After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, he went on to a 15-year journalism career as a writer, reporter, and videographer for three different ABC affiliate newsrooms.