I know this is probably the masochist in me, but I love punisher cards. They just really make me happy...as bad as that sounds. I understand that they are often terrible cards; you never really want to be giving your opponent the option to choose what effect they would like to have affect them. That said, can a deck filled with punisher cards do some work? That's what I wanted to test, and I think I've got a list that can bring the pain to your opponents.
This deck is primarily a spell slinger deck. We do have a few non-instant or sorceries, but the basis is focusing around direct damage. Let's dive into the creatures and see how they help with our strategy.
In Primal Punishment, we are running 3 Electrostatic Field and 3 Guttersnipe. These cards help us punch in damage as we attempt to control the board against our opponent's creature onslaught. If we are able to resolve them against counter control, they'll typically stick around a little while allowing us to continually ping our opponent's even if they counter our spells. I am still struggling with the right ratio for these cards, I think there is argument to run 4 Electrostatic Field and 2 Guttersnipe, but for this build I opted for a 3/3 split.
We are running a ton of removal and direct burn. We are running a play set of Shock for the small creatures, play set of Lightning Strike for taking down some of our opponent's larger creatures, or both can be directed to the face for direct damage. In terms of direct damage, we are also running 3 Sovereign's Bite, creating a 6 point life swing. I opted to run 3 instead of a full play set, as the Bite only hits your opponents and not their creatures or planeswalkers. To help bring our life total even higher, we are running a full play set of Moment of Craving, gaining us 2 life and killing a creature.
More Board Control.
For even more board control, we are using a card that really hasn't broken into the meta at all: 2 Fraying Omnipotence. This 5 mana sorcery forces each player to sacrifice half their creatures, discard half their cards, and lose half their life (rounded up). This is a symmetrical effect, but our deck is built to take advantage of it better than most. It is important to note, this card will: force the sacrifice of a single creature, or 2 creatures out of 3, or 3 creatures out of 5, etc. This is also true for cards to discard, and life totals (which means it can kill your opponent if they are at 1 life). So it definitely will always feel better if they have odds in their various resources as you cast it. Keep this in mind, so you can better mitigate the damage it does to you.
This deck, if you can't tell, also runs full play sets of punisher card advantage. 4 Risk Factor and 4 Sword-Point Diplomacy are our main source of card advantage, and will often deal the most damage to our opponents. With this, we have a total of 12 opportunities to either draw 3 cards or deal at least 3 damage to our opponents with a maximum of 9 from a single three mana spell. On top of that, we are running a pair of Expansion // Explosion to copy one of these punisher card draw spells to really apply the pressure on our opponents. It also can copy our smaller spells like Lightning Strike or Sovereign's Bite to deal huge points of damage to our opponent's face, ending the game.
But what makes this deck work, in my opinion, is Primal Amulet. This card is a 4 mana artifact that reduces the casting cost of our instants and sorceries by 1 mana, and after 4 spells gives you the option to flip it into Primal Wellspring, a nonlegendary land that allows you to copy a spell whenever you use it to cast an instant or sorcery. So imagine this, your Lightning Strikes become Lightning Bolts, and your Risk Factors and Sword-Point Diplomacies now cost 2 instead of 3, and when it flips you can copy your draw spells for even more draw potential. Wow, does that feel strong or what?
The deck does have a couple of issues, mainly the mana base. We currently don't have the Rakdos shocklands, which will likely be coming next set. So in its place we have to rely on unreliable tap lands like Dragonskull Summit and Cinder Barrens. We are running 1 Detection Tower to help with the hexproof creatures in the format, but I could see us running 2. I, instead, opted for 3 Reliquary Towers, as we could eventually need them with the card draw potential, though this could just be my greed showing. I also opted for 2 Memorial to War to help fight some of the troublesome lands like a flipped Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin over Field of Ruin as I feared we would be running too many colorless lands. We then have 4 Mountains and 6 Swamps. I could also see a potential problem with Rekindling Phoenix or Arclight Phoenix, so if you have a lot of that in your meta, while we do have limited answers in the sideboard, maybe consider running Lava Coil over Sovereign's Bite to help deal with them. Luckily, when it comes to other issues, like counters or ultra wide boards, we do have other cards in the sideboard to help mitigate them.
We are running quite a few cards to help with the counterspell control matchup. 3 Duress, 1 Inescapable Blaze, 3 Squee, the Immortal, and 2 Angrath, the Flame-Chained are great inclusions against that match up. Duress grants us the ability to pick apart our opponent's control pieces, Squee just doesn't care about them as he can be cast from almost any zone (excluding the library directly), Inescapable Blaze provides an uncounterable 6 damage to any target to just end the game, and Angrath provides a late game inevitability if they can't counter him or remove him, not to mention he picks apart their hand as he +1s. Angrath can also be decent in the GB Ghalta match up or the Niv Mizzet match up, stealing your opponent's large creatures for a huge swing can be great. And if you are able to steal a Niv Mizzet, he also can help refuel your hand as you cast your instants and sorceries, also pinging your opponent in the process (not to mention if you opponent let's you draw from a Risk Factor during this time, will deal an additional 3 damage to your opponent). For large creature or planeswalker control, we are running 2 Vraska's Contempt to just show them the door. We are also running a pair of Ritual of Soot and Fiery Cannonade against low to the ground aggro strategies. And that's the deck in a nutshell.
It took me a while to tweak the deck to my liking, and I'm still not 100% on it; however, I think it is definitely a fun FNM brew for the sadist player. I can only imagine how great this deck can be once we see Rakdos enter the fray, giving us more support and the land consistency that we desperately need. I think this is a good start to a punishment style deck, and I can't wait to finish it in the next month or so.