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Goldfish Gladiators: Punisher Burn (Standard, Arena)

Welcome to Goldfish Gladiators, a new series with a twist: rather than taking place on Magic Online, Goldfish Gladiator is focused on Magic Arena. There's an age-old rule in Magic that punisher cards (cards that give your opponent a choice) are bad. Because of this, when Risk Factor was spoiled, some people (like me, for example) immediately wrote it off as not very good. But maybe the problem isn't that punisher cards are bad but that we simply weren't playing enough of them together in the same deck! Today's deck puts this theory to the test, running not only Risk Factor but also Sword-Point Diplomacy in a deck that we're calling Punisher Burn! The basic idea of the deck is simple: we throw a bunch of burn spells at our opponent's face, back them up with a handful of efficient creatures for even more damage, and hope that we can get our opponent's life total to zero before they manage to kill us. Is combining Risk Factor with Sword-Point Diplomacy the secret for success in Guilds of Ravnica Standard? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Goldfish Gladiators: Punisher Burn


  • As you can probably tell from the video, Punisher Burn was originally intended to be a Budget Magic deck, but then we made the decision to move Budget Magic back over to Magic Online, so it ended up on Goldfish Gladiators instead. Still, the deck is fairly budget friendly, in paper, on Magic Online, and even on Magic Arena, especially if you discount the three mythics and four rares in the sideboard!
  • Thankfully, the deck was pretty sweet. We cruised to a 5-0 in our competitive constructed event, beating up on both Mono-Red and control along the way.
  • The deck is pretty straightforward. The easiest way to think of it is as Modern Burn. While many of our burn spells can target creatures or players, or primary goal is to throw them at our opponent's face and hopefully get their life total down to zero before they can kill us or gain life. 
  • The most important cards in our deck are the two punisher cards: Risk Factor and Sword-Point Diplomacy. These cards are basically our finishers. They represent big chunks of damage in the early game, as our opponent typically doesn't let us draw cards, and then we often get huge bursts of card advantage in the late game, which our deck efficiently converts into damage thanks to having so many burn spells. While both of these cards technically give our opponent as choice, the choice is minimized in Punisher Burn, since our opponent is often choosing to take four damage right away from Risk Factor or take more than four damage later from the cards we draw off Risk Factor.
  • Sword-Point Diplomacy is a bit less straightforward. Opponents typically gave us all the lands that were revealed and then decided on the other cards one by one based on the situation. Thankfully, our deck has only 20 lands, which helps to maximize the damage output of the sorcery.
  • As for the creatures in the deck, Ghitu Lavarunner and Viashino Pyromancer give us more early-game damage and help make sure that Wizard's Lightning is an actual Lightning Bolt as often as possible. Meanwhile, Electrostatic Field was the surprise all-star of our event, being absurdly good against Mono-Red, since it blocks basically every creature in the deck, and generating a ton of incidental damage throughout the game. While it might be worse in a world where Golgari Midrange is extremely heavily played, it was very, very good in our matches.
  • The other secret of the deck is Sovereign's Bite, which, combined with Electrostatic Field, makes it really hard to lose against other aggro decks. While gaining three life might not seem like much, it often is just enough to swing the race in our favor. 
  • All in all, the deck felt really solid. While I'm a bit concerned about the recent rise of Golgari, there's a pretty good chance that we can race our opponent if we can keep Wildgrowth Walker off the battlefield. Meanwhile, the Mono-Red matchup is almost a bye, and against control, Risk Factor and our other instant-speed burn make it really difficult for the opponent to leave up countermagic at all times, so eventually we catch them when they tap out and steal the game. If you like Burn and are looking for a fun budget option in paper or on Magic Arena, give Punisher Burn a shot!


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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