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Enter the Dungeon #2 – Burning Punishment

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Welcome back, friends. This week, we’ll be exploring some of the strange combinations of spells that can be found only here in the dungeon. Angry geists will exact their vengeance on your opponent while creatures appear out of thin air, and a single devastating spell will take away two-thirds of your opponent’s life total in one shot.

Burning Vengeance is a card that begs to be built around. However, with only four in a deck, you’ll need either a way to find it consistently or a strong backup plan. White gives us Idyllic Tutor to find the enchantment, but very few strong Flashback spells. Blue has several spells with Flashback that draw cards, but leaves Burning Vengeance as the only way to finish the game, 2 damage at a time. Green isn’t a color known for its Flashback spells, but Odyssey block offers several strong token-making spells with the ability. In addition to providing adequate fuel for Burning Vengeance, this gives you a good backup plan in case you don’t find the enchantment.

Geistflame and Firebolt are excellent at removing early creatures that threaten your life total. Later, they can be flashed back for another 3 or 4 damage provided you have Burning Vengeance on the field.

Chatter of the Squirrel provides an early blocker at a reasonable price, and can be flashed back cheaply once you have Burning Vengeance. 3 mana for two Squirrel tokens is already decent, and when you add on a free Shock, it becomes a major bargain.

Sometimes one Squirrel isn’t enough. For that, we have Acorn Harvest. Although 4 mana is a bit expensive for two 1/1’s, the cheap Flashback cost puts this over the top. Paying 3 life is a much softer blow when your opponent is taking 2 damage as well.

Call of the Herd is probably the most recognizable Flashback spell in Green. It is and always has been a very efficient spell, probably more efficient than it should be. Getting a 3/3 for 3 or 4 mana is pretty standard these days, and normally wouldn’t be very impressive. Put both of those 3/3’s on the same card, however, and things get much more interesting. This one card can guarantee that you have a decent threat on turn three and another on turn four.

Beast Attack requires a significant commitment to Green, but gives you a lot of value for making that commitment. A 4/4 for 5 mana is nothing impressive, but getting two of them out of one card is. At instant speed, that 4/4 can come in and devour an attacker before your opponent knows what hit him.

Grizzly Fate gives you the same 4 power for 5 mana that Beast Attack does, but in this case, it’s split across two bodies. Although the Flashback is a bit more expensive, if you manage your graveyard carefully, you can get double the power out of this spell for the same price. Getting four 2/2’s is insane at 5 mana, and still boasts the efficiency of a White Sun's Zenith when you flash it back for 7.

Parallel Evolution will double your tokens for only 5 mana, and can then come back to do it again. In just two turns, this spell can turn a small force of five creatures into an overwhelming army of twenty.

Overrun serves as a finisher in the deck if Burning Vengeance and the tokens somehow aren’t enough. Unfortunately it doesn’t have Flashback, but if you cast this, the game is probably going to be over anyway.

Sprinkle in whatever dual lands you can get your hands on, and you end up with something like this:

[cardlist]

[Spells]

3 Geistflame

4 Beast Attack

3 Grizzly Fate

3 Overrun

3 Parallel Evolution

4 Acorn Harvest

4 Call of the Herd

4 Chatter of the Squirrel

4 Firebolt

4 Burning Vengeance

[/Spells]

[Sideboard]

4 Mountain

8 Forest

4 Gruul Turf

4 Karplusan Forest

4 Rootbound Crag

[/Sideboard]

[/cardlist]

Heretic's Punishment is the newest entry into Red’s long history of dealing damage according to converted mana cost. With so many of these cards lying around, I thought I’d built a deck to take advantage of some of the best ones.

Erratic Explosion is quite possibly the cheapest way to deal someone 15 damage in one shot that we’re ever going to see. With a couple of these in hand, you can potentially win the game on turn four. Although historically used in combination with Draco, it works quite well with any spell that costs 10 or more.

Riddle of Lightning gets the nod here over Kaboom! or Explosive Revelation because you get to Scry 3 beforehand, giving you a bit more control over what is revealed in case you have to cast it without the proper setup. It also leaves the card on top of your library, ready to flip over with Erratic Explosion or Heretic's Punishment for another dose of damage. If you don’t have the mana ready for that, you can always just draw it and put it back later with Brainstorm.

Brainstorm was always a key card in Erratic Explosion decks, and it fulfills its purpose beautifully here, making sure you get the maximum amount of damage out of each of your spells. One thing you need to remember is that unlike many other decks, you want to wait until the last possible second to cast Brainstorm. Using it early to try to find a damage spell is only going to hurt you in the long run, unless you have another copy waiting in your hand.

Mystic Speculation will tear through your deck looking for whatever piece of the combo you need, and will fix the top of your deck to ensure your opponent is taking a lethal amount of damage. Since the card you need won’t always be in the top three, you need to make sure not to waste the spell before you can afford to pay for the Buyback. Unless you have another copy in hand, it’s very likely that you’ll need to cast it again later.

Index won’t dig through your deck, but it will let you look at a huge number of cards to find the 15-mana spell you want on top. Although it may feel horrible when you miss, most of the time it should be able to get you what you’re looking for.

Halimar Depths suffers from the same problems as Index, but at the miniscule cost of entering the battlefield tapped, it’s more than worth it. You’ll want to play these lands last, unless you have an Izzet Boilerworks to bounce them with.

After adding in some dual lands and the twelve highest-costing spells you have, you should end up with a list that looks something like this:

[cardlist]

[Creatures]

4 Autochthon Wurm

4 It That Betrays

4 Draco

[/Creatures]

[Spells]

4 Brainstorm

4 Riddle of Lightning

4 Erratic Explosion

4 Index

4 Mystic Speculation

4 Heretic's Punishment

[/Spells]

[Lands]

4 Island

8 Mountain

4 Halimar Depths

4 Izzet Boilerworks

4 Shivan Reef

[/Lands]

[/cardlist]

So far, we’ve taken a look at a few of the creatures and spells that lie in the dungeon. Come back in two weeks, when we examine some of the unusual relics that can be found here.

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