Group Slug

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'Group Slug' (also known as 'Punisher') refers to a Commander deck archetype that actively damages enemy players at an equal rate, usually in an effort to quickly deplete enemy life totals before those players are able to properly set up their own strategies. The name derives itself from the Group Hug strategy, as both strategies tend to provide equal effects to all players at the table, though in the case of the Group Slug strategy, the effects are negative rather than positive.

Group Slug is distinct from Stax decks, which also provide equal negative effects to their opponents, but do so to stall their opponents' plans, rather than to quickly erode their life totals.

Group Slug cards are most common in black and red.

Popular Cards & Commanders

Common Group Slug cards include:

Common Group Slug commanders include:

Strategy

Group Slug utilizes a sequence of abilities, usually enchantments and creatures, that deal minor damage to their enemies. These effects may deal damage at set times, such as the upkeep (see Sulfuric Vortex, or they may deal damage based upon an opponent's actions (see Fate Unraveler and Rampaging Ferocidon). Though opponents may not be terribly troubled by any one of these effects at a time, a Group Slug deck gradually adds more and more of these effects to the table, compounding their effects and transforming them from a minor nuisance into a significant source of damage that will drain enemies dry in a short time.

Damage Doublers

Group Slug decks almost always include damage-doubling effects that help increase the potency of their punishing enchantments. Examples may include Dictate of the Twin Gods and Furnace of Rath. These spells are usually symmetrical, and are therefore not usually played until after a Group Slug player has distributed a number of damage-dealing effects that these cards will amplify, to give themselves the largest amount of damage output.
Another common inclusion for this archetype are cards that collectively cut out entire portions of each player's life totals, often by cutting life totals exactly in half. While these spells may be unwieldy for other deck archetypes, Group Slug players use them to dramatically reduce the amount of damage they must deal to all players, quickening the clock they have set upon the game by leaps and bounds. Examples of this include Heartless Hidetsugu and Dire Fleet Ravager.

Trapping the Enemy

Group Slug is also called 'Punisher', a term in Magic that commonly refers to cards that give a player's opponent a choice of what their spells will do, rather than giving the player a choice of what their own spell will do. Historical examples of this include cards like Browbeat, which presents enemies with two undesirable options.
Punisher effects are employed in Group Slug as a means of trapping enemy players into problematic binds. For instance, Painful Quandary and Captive Audience give enemies choices, but the choices are so harsh that the Group Slug player will not mind which choice is made.
Similarly, cards like Underworld Dreams, Manabarbs, or Polluted Bonds present enemy players with subtler choices, specifically punishing them if they attempt to accumulate the resources they would require to help them find a way to eliminate the Group Slug player. By deploying effects that not only drain life totals, but specifically disincentivize actions that would help a player escape from their torment, Group Slug players provide their enemies with an illusion of choice where any path they take will still lead to their defeat.

Defense

Group Slug decks commonly draw aggression from several (if not all) opponents at the table, as the success of the Group Slug player means mutual doom for the rest of the table, which encourages them to temporarily unite against the Group Slugger. Use of this strategy therefore involves a significant degree of defense.
Group Slug decks do not typically include white or blue, which means they do not have access to the traditional suite of defensive effects found in Commander games like Ghostly Prison or Propaganda. These decks therefore rely upon a more straightforward method of defending themselves, namely by consistently destroying enemy creatures, thus preventing them from being able to attack. This frequently includes Mass Removal like Blasphemous Act or Deadly Tempest, and even sacrifice-based removal such as Plaguecrafter. It also may even include abilities such as Sire of Insanity, which discards cards from players' hands, leaving enemies with few options to stymie the consistent flow of damage. A clear board allows the Group Slug player's enchantments to slowly whittle away at enemy life totals while their opponents scramble to find a way to survive.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

  • Group Slug decks put a ticking clock on the tempo of the game, radically reducing the amount of time players typically expect a game to take in a 40-life format. This effectively deteriorates the ability for many decks to reach their preferred game state, such as Control or Pillowfort decks, who prefer lengthy games.
  • Many Group Slug cards tend to be enchantments, which cannot be destroyed by all colors, and which dodge many of the most common forms of Removal in Commander. Group Slug decks also do not specifically rely upon any one card within their deck, and are not 'blown out' if any singular piece of their gameplan is removed, thus avoiding many of the pitfalls of other deck archetypes, such as Voltron or Aggro.

Weaknesses

  • This strategy draws ire from every other player at the table. Group Slug players may find it difficult if not impossible to fly under the radar when they are dealing persistent damage to all other players. This may result in direct aggression from all opponents, which is usually too much for any player to reasonably defend themselves against especially a Group Slug deck, as the majority of cards within the strategy tend to be semi-expensive enchantments that will not assist them against powerful attackers.
  • Decks that punish all opponents equally have little ability to handle individual opponents whose threat level is much higher. It is not uncommon in games of Commander for multiple opponents to make temporary truces to work together to eliminate a mutual enemy. However, Group Slug decks may have little to offer in these situations, particularly because they are actively contributing to the defeat of players whose help they would need.


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