Rakdos, the Muscle - Illustrated by Victor Maury

Rakdos, the Muscle | Illustrated by Victor Maury

The mercenary is a classic archetype in fantasy settings. Sell-swords who peddle their loyalties either alone or as part of a larger organization, these gritty warriors-for-hire are the backbone of any fantasy adventuring-based economy. From Dragon Ball’s Ginyu Force to Paladin from Have Gun – Will Travel, mercenaries are the badass antiheroes present across all kinds of literature.

Magic’s Outlaws of Thunder Junction includes a focus on mercenaries as part of the larger “outlaw” type (including assassins, pirates, rogues, and warlocks). This hot new batch of soldiers of fortune has changed the landscape around playing mercenary creatures. Suddenly, we have a whole batch of playable mercenaries to run alongside our Volrath the Fallen Mercadian Masques mercenary typal deck!

But which mercs are worth their pay? Let’s find out which ones can earn their keep!

What Are Mercenary Creatures in MTG?

Hellspur Brute - Illustration by Caio Monteiro

Hellspur Brute | Illustration by Caio Monteiro

Mercenary is a creature type in MTG (more specifically a creature class). It was introduced all the way back in Ice Age with Mercenaries. 1999’s Mercadian Masques block featured a mercenaries theme, with a cycle of black creatures that could tutor up additional mercenaries from their library. They were opposed to a cycle of white rebel-type cards that had similar abilities. Since then, they’ve been sparingly printed on thematically appropriate creatures, like Fallout’s Thrill-Kill Disciple, until receiving another special focus in Outlaws of Thunder Junction.

The best mercenary creatures have a wide applicability with their effects; while the original suite of Mercadian Masques mercenaries are cool, most of their abilities are locked into the tutoring mechanic in that set. Expect a lot of the newest mercenaries on this list, and a few surprise classics.

#30. Rogue Skycaptain

Rogue Skycaptain

Alliances saw the printing of two mercenary creatures, the worse of which is Rogue Skycaptain. A 3/4 with flying for 3 was an insanely valuable creature back in the day, but that 2-mana cumulative upkeep was stifling to say the least. Nowadays, it’s got play in Zedruu the Greathearted decks, but not much else.

#29. Silver Deputy

Silver Deputy

I mean, ok. Silver Deputy still has more uses as an immediate mana-fixer and support card than most of the MMQ mercenaries do in general, but it’s not very flashy, and fetches Deserts even slower than Outcaster Greenblade.

#28. Dauthi Mercenary

Dauthi Mercenary

Whoa, another old playable mercenary! Dauthi Mercenary has shadow and a worse version of Firebreathing for an ability. By no means impressive, it's still a viable game-ender as an unblockable mana dump for damage.

#27. Soldier of Fortune

Soldier of Fortune

Soldier of Fortune was the second-ever mercenary card, printed all the way back in Alliances. It’s unique ability to force an opponent to shuffle their library makes it ideal for threatening to shuffle away opponents’ Worldly Tutor/Mystical Tutor hits. Perfect for my punishing “make my opponents shuffle their library as much as possible” deck.

#26. Sterling Keykeeper

Sterling Keykeeper

If Blinding Souleater is any indication, the going rate for a white creature with a tap-down ability is about 4 mana, with that mana spread out across different costs. I like Sterling Keykeeper for being cheaper than the Souleater to play, and having a cheaper activated ability than Sinew Dancer.

#25. Hellspur Brute

Hellspur Brute

Hellspur Brute’s effectiveness is really determined by how much you pay for it. All 5 mana for a 5/4 trampler seems like a waste when we could be casting Rakdos, the Muscle for all that, but 1 red mana for a 5/4 trampler sounds great! Ask yourself how quickly and how consistently you can stick four outlaws to the board? With Forsaken Miner and Goblin Tomb Raider, it might be easier than it looks!

#24. Omenport Vigilante

Omenport Vigilante

Ah, and here it is! The OTJ Bear With Set’s Mechanic! Omenport Vigilante is a 2/2 uncommon body that gets double strike whenever you commit a crime. These sorts of cards are weathervanes for how powerful a new mechanic will shake out in a set. Omenport Vigilante slots right into the middle of the pack with comparable stats to the other recent double-strike bears we’ve seen in recent sets: Jawbone Duelist, Twinblade Geist, etc.

#23. Outcaster Greenblade

Outcaster Greenblade

Ranking just about the same as District Guide in value, Outcaster Greenblade tutors a basic land or Desert to your hand, and has potential to be relevant on the board after the fact. This green creature will see play as its formatsBorderland Ranger/Ainok Guide/whatever nickname we have for these type of basic land tutors. It’s got a sick sword in that artwork, too!

#22. Jolene, Plundering Pugilist

Jolene, Plundering Pugilist

Jolene, Plundering Pugilist’s triggered ability is pretty good if you can trigger it the turn it hits the field. Sadly, we’re hard up for creatures with power 4 or greater that we can play for 3 or less mana in Standard right now. I can see it slotted into a Gruul deck that cares about “power 4 or greater” specifically (think alongside Warden of the Chained), but limiting it to once per attack does neuter this card a bit. Maybe it’ll see play with Cactusfolk Sureshot and Jolene can just trigger itself.

Jolene’s second ability is just too much mana for 1 damage. Unless you’ve generated hundreds of Treasure tokens somehow, 2 mana and a Treasure is just too much to spend for 1 single point of damage, I don’t care that it's at any target.

#21. Prickly Pair

Prickly Pair

Prickly Pair is going to be an all-star in Limited formats, mark my words. Two mercenaries for the price of one with a little bit of variability in how they get their damage through means great value, especially in a format where your opponent won’t have easy access to a board wipe.

#20. Deepmuck Desperado

Deepmuck Desperado

Deepmuck Desperado is almost the Hedron Crab I want it to be. Easily repeatable mill triggers are the backbone to any mill deck, but Deepmuck is sunk by that “once per turn” modifier. Still, it’s a 2/4 blue creature with an effect at uncommon that usually costs five mana, so I guess I can’t be too upset. Probably best in a deck built for a Limited environment, where the smaller deck sizes mean your three-card-per-turn mill limit has a greater effect. Remember that you can get its ability to trigger on your opponents’ turns too.

#19. Cactusfolk Sureshot

Cactusfolk Sureshot

Gruul cards caring about creatures with power 4 or greater is a relatively new design space for the cards, and Cactusfolk Sureshot’s tramplehaste anthem slots into those decks easily. A 4/4 with reach and Ward is already great, buffing the rest of your board and guaranteeing at least one attack from whatever 4-power creature you run out next makes the Sureshot well worth it.

#18. Gunner Conscript

Gunner Conscript

If you’re a Pauper player, you know how punishing the All That Glitters-esque effects are when they go unanswered. Fallout’s Gunner Conscript has that effect built in to a 2/2 trample body that’ll replace itself (and one of the Auras on it) with Junk tokens when it dies. This makes up for being two-for-one’d when you eventually lose a creature and an aura to a single removal spell.

#17. Thrill-Kill Disciple

Thrill-Kill Disciple

If I had a nickel for every time Magic had printed an outlaw card with “Thrill-Kill” in its name, and they were seemingly entirely unrelated besides that, I’d have two nickels. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it's happened at all.

Not to be confused with Thrill-Kill Assassin, Thrill-Kill Disciple is a Fallout card with the squad ability. While paying for squad by discarding a card does pretty effectively limit how many copies you’ll be getting, you’re guaranteed a few cards back in the form of Junk tokens when these 3/2s inevitably die. How well Thrill-Kill Disciple performs is really going to depend on how well you’ve built around it with discard and exile synergies – maybe in the 99 with Laelia, the Blade Reforged as your red commander?

#16. Boneyard Desecrator

Boneyard Desecrator

Boneyard Desecrator looks like a trap, but I think it's a fair common in a Limited environment. Its activated ability coming with a 2-mana cost makes it worse than those cheaper +1/+1 countersacrifice outlets in Eternal formats. Carrion Feeder is just better in most non-Standard situations.

#15. Rodeo Pyromancers

Rodeo Pyromancers

I’m really excited about these two. A Pauper-legal storm piece in a format that runs on eking out extra value each turn? Yes! The only reason it won’t see play in burn is because it’s a whopping 4 mana, I assume to compensate for the 3/4 body. I know it’ll make its way into my jank decks.

#14. Charred Graverobber

Charred Graverobber

Disentombs are always gonna feel worse than Reanimates, that’s just the way it is. Charred Graverobber has play in an archetype that relies on moving cards in and out of the graveyard, but 5 mana for a 4/2 with a restricted Disentomb just doesn’t cut it as a rare these days, even with escape.

#13. Jedit Ojanen, Mercenary

Jedit Ojanen, Mercenary

The latest rehash of Legends legend Jedit Ojanen, Jedit Ojanen, Mercenary marks a return of the rarely seen forestwalk ability. Despite their Azorius casting cost, Jedit is Bant-aligned with its green triggered ability. While Jedit Ojanen, Mercenary doesn’t really play into the broader outlaws theme, it's still an interesting card that makes some rare tokens, and demands to be built around a legendary-matters theme.

#12. Freestrider Commando

Freestrider Commando

I like Freestrider Commando for Pauper. Its 3/3 body for 3 is just fine and on-curve, but Pauper is a format of 5/5s these days and green getting access to a cheaty 5/5 could be big news. Makes a great target for both Recommission and Unearth!

#11. Robaran Mercenaries

Robaran Mercenaries

Robaran Mercenaries is a great combo-enabler from Dominaria United’s Commander set. Easily broken with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker for infinite ETBs, it's also just generally a boon for any commander with an activated ability. Off the top of my head, Captain Sisay, Dynaheir, Invoker Adept, Garth One-Eye and Triad of Fates all love this white creature.

#10. Doomed Necromancer

Doomed Necromancer

Whoa! An actually playable mercenary from over 20 years ago! Doomed Necromancer appeared alongside Goblin Turncoat as the only two mercenaries in the Onslaught block. Doomed Necromancer is a slow-ish 4-mana investment for a recursion effect, and it made its name as a budget option for graveyard-themed Commander decks. Since many reanimator decks run sacrifice or aristocrats cards in addition to their reanimation effects, Doomed Necromancer has the added bonus of triggering Grave Pacts and Blood Artists as well.

#9. Moggcatcher


The series of mercenaries and rebels from the MMQ block received a couple of off-color mercenaries that could tutor for different creature types. Moggcatcher fetches goblin permanents from your library for 3 mana and a tap, which is insanely good value in goblin decks without much access to creature tutors. In a world where Gamble is often your best bet for pulling those combo pieces out of your library, Moggcatcher’s repeatable tutor effect takes the cake as far as secret goblin deck tech goes.

#8. Seahunter


Seahunter is just as good as Moggcatcher, if just a hair better for being in blue (the superior color). But seriously; Seahunter fulfills the same role as its red counterpart, being a repeatable typal tutor in a color that doesn't often get to search for creature cards. Best of all, both of these tutors can be activated at instant speed to put the tutored permanent directly into play, letting you surprise your opponent with a Goblin Goliath in response to their attackers.

#7. Angelic Sell-Sword

Angelic Sell-Sword

We’re really just getting Serra Angels with a bunch of other abilities for 5 mana these days, huh? Angelic Sell-Sword has great power, toughness, and evergreen abilities that’ll always make it a relevant body on the battlefield. In addition, you get another 1/1 for each non-token creature you have entering the battlefield, each of which trigger the Sell-Sword’s second ability. I’m expecting to see Angelic Sell-Sword show up in everything from tokens decks to Voltron decks – doubling up those mercenary tokens with Parallel Lives or attaching Ronin Warclub immediately, respectively.

#6. Kellogg, Dangerous Mind

Kellogg, Dangerous Mind

Kellogg, Dangerous Mind is a great mercenary from the Fallout Commander decks and perfect at the helm or in the 99 of any Treasure deck. First strike and haste means Kellogg can attack to make a Treasure when played on-curve, and five Treasures really aren’t hard to accumulate in Commander when we’ve got all these Dockside Extortionists flying around.

#5. Taii Wakeen, Perfect Shot

Taii Wakeen, Perfect Shot

I love a creature with a good activated ability, especially one demanding to be built around as badly as Taii Wakeen, Perfect Shot. Wakeen’s first effect is easy enough to execute, given all the Shocks and 2-toughness creatures running around, and its second ability makes triggering it a breeze on anything tougher than that. Personally, I love the idea of a pingers deck built around Wakeen that uses Fireballs and Comet Storms like cheap removal.

#4. Vial Smasher, Gleeful Grenadier

Vial Smasher, Gleeful Grenadier

Vial Smasher, Gleeful Grenadier is probably one of our best mercenaries. Its Impact Tremors effect for outlaws means there are a lot of creatures that’ll trigger the direct damage! Plus, it's got 3 power for a 2-mana uncommon, making it slot right into aggressive Rakdos () decks we’re bound to see pop up with the release of OTJ.

#3. Claim Jumper

Claim Jumper

White cards have been quietly assembling quite a collection of Plains-based ramp for some time now (by “ramp” we mostly mean “keeping pace with the actual ramp decks”). Claim Jumper takes that “play fair” aspect of white’s ramp effect and slaps it on a body, with a “repeat this once” clause.

Compared to the classic Plains-fetcher Knight of the White Orchid, I could see Claim Jumper getting play in Commander. Coming down a turn later than the Knight hurts a little bit, but grabbing an additional land that turn should see it even out in terms of actual value. Claim Jumper’s Plains entering tapped does make it generally worse, but I can see how getting two untapped Plains on an enters-the-battlefield effect could be broken.

#2. Graywater’s Fixer

Graywater's Fixer

I think Graywater's Fixer will be a staple in the outlaw-themed Commander decks. Even something as simple as three copies of Nekrataal entering the battlefield can cause a serious shift in the power dynamic. What I’m really excited about is Graywater's Fixer’s usefulness in decks outside a strictly-outlaws deck. I want to slot it alongside a Grixis commander as part of a Conspiracy/Arcane Adaptation combo and give everything in my graveyard encore. Let’s drop three Grave Titans all at once. Or three Archon of Crueltys. Yeah, that’s gonna be fun.

#1. Rakdos, the Muscle

Rakdos, the Muscle

Rakdos, the Muscle is the second mythic rare mercenary creature, after Dominaria United’s Jedit Ojanen, Mercenary. In typical Rakdos form, this cowboy demon is a big beater with flying and trample, so it's already a nasty threat before you consider the card advantage it can generate. We’re going to see Rakdos, the Muscle explode in any deck with any sort of sacrifice synergy.

The only thing holding me back on Rakdos, the Muscle is that “once per turn” stipulation on its second ability. This new form of pseudo-regenerate that WotC’s been pushing doesn’t need to be activated twice to save Rakdos from a second removal spell, but I wish we could use it as a free sac outlet alongside all those other great “when a creature you control dies…” cards in Standard right now.

Best Mercenary Payoffs

Olivia, Opulent Outlaw

The new Outlaws of Thunder Junction outlaw cards have brought mercenaries into the spotlight, and, of course, have also brought the best synergies for this neglected creature type. Olivia, Opulent Outlaw is the best choice for an outlaws Commander deck – it’s cheap, has built-in evasion, rewards you for attacking with outlaws, and then rewards you for keeping a board of them on the field.

Many of the mercenary cards from OTJ have abilities that trigger when you commit crimes, or synergize well with spells that’ll make more mercenaries. At Knifepoint, Ertha Jo, Frontier Mentor, and Lassoed by the Law will all go well with a mercenaries deck.

Wrap Up

Robaran Mercenaries - Illustration by Chuck Lukacs

Robaran Mercenaries | Illustration by Chuck Lukacs

It’s always exciting when an old creature type receives an update and a host of new cards. For years, mercenary creatures have sat on the bottom tier of creature types, just because they all came from a completely different time. Outlaws of Thunder Junction took those old, janky cards and gave them a new home as part of the broader outlaw type. I can only hope to see the same treatment for homarids and brushwaggs.

What are your favorite mercenaries? Are any of the MMQ mercs worth running in your Commander deck to tutor up the new ones? Let me know in the comments, or over on Draftsim’s X.

Thanks for reading!

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