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Punisher is R&D slang for spells that force an opponent to decide how to punish themselves, usually giving them a choice between either two bad situations or between something bad for them and a bonus for you.[1][2][3]

Description[ | ]

Punisher mechanics are characterized by two effects that are higher on rate than usually offered, offset by the opponent having the choice between them. Rarely are they effective at high levels, but certain players are huge fans. Over time, some of these have aged poorly as creature and removal cost efficiency has gone up, but rarely is the practicality of it the point. Some punisher cards are either grossly weighted to one side or require a mana cost, both of which play very differently to "classic punishers". Punisher is primary in red, where one of the two abilities is usually damage to the opponent making the choice; the other option is often something red doesn't normally do in the color pie (e.g. card draw). Black is secondary, but doesn't tend to have the color pie–bending aspect.[3] Black also has more repeating Punishers, while Red tends to use spells or single triggers.

History[ | ]

Punisher cards were first printed throughout the Odyssey block and were red. In the "alternative reality" themed set Planar Chaos, black got four punisher cards, using an unusual template where they are countered on the stack rather than sacrificed on entry for the two creatures (Brain Gorgers and Phantasmagorian). In Avacyn Restored, a creature punisher in the form of Vexing Devil was printed with the "sacrifice" template. Some punisher cards from the Odyssey block got a modern card frame for the first time in Tibalt's deck for Duel Decks: Sorin vs. Tibalt. Soul Ransom in Gatecrash is an Aura with an opponent-only ability, which is one of the few cases of that template. Remorseless Punishment in Oath of the Gatewatch, while a vertical cycle of them was printed in Hour of Devastation. These four allowed your opponents to choose from one of three options, all of which were detrimental to them.[4] These particular punisher cards were dubbed as the Torment ability.

The Doctor Who/Commander decks introduced Villainous choice, an ability word for targeted punisher effects.

Rulings[ | ]

  • When a punisher spell resolves, the player whose creature, land, or spell would be affected must choose whether to take damage or allow the spell's normal effect to work.
  • Damage that the punisher spell would deal to the player may be prevented.

Examples[ | ]


Book Burning {1}{R}
Any player may have Book Burning deal 6 damage to them. If no one does, target player mills six cards.

In the above example, your opponent must decide whether to punish themselves by taking 6 points of damage or putting the top 6 cards of their library into their graveyard.

List of punisher cards[ | ]

{W} White[ | ]

{U} Blue[ | ]

{B} Black[ | ]

{R} Red[ | ]

{G} Green[ | ]

{M} Multicolor[ | ]

{C} Colorless[ | ]

See also[ | ]

References[ | ]

  1. Sam Stoddard (February 28, 2014). "A Tribute to Punisher". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark Rosewater (January 16, 2017). "Are Browbeat like effects (Opponents chooses to hurt themselves or help you) still in Reds color pie?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  3. a b Mark Rosewater (June 5, 2017). "Mechanical Color Pie 2017". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Melissa DeTora (June 23, 2017). "Cycle of Torment". Wizards of the Coast.