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None Shall Pass

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White Knight
"I may have jacked up that deck's power level a little too much," Vern says.

You glance at the useless cards in your hand. "I'm not sure what you mean," you say. "We're a little stuck at the moment."

Vern chuckles. "Well, it's all about White having most of the Knight cards," he explains. "And most of them are low-cost: It probably wouldn't be a surprise if I told you that I could make a Knight deck almost purely out of two-mana White creatures."

"But you're not playing with a bunch of two-mana Knights."

"I was getting to that," Vern says. "As it turns out, a deck with thirty or so cheap Knight creatures runs real fast. Too fast, in fact, for an equivalent deck of Black Knights. Like the one you're playing now."

"I've had worse."

"Not now, you don't," Vern says. "The big advantage of Black's roster of Knights is that they're bigger than White's - more or less. So the Black Knight deck just has to survive to the point where it can get those bigger creatures on the board."

"So you built up this deck to do that, and slowed down the White Knight deck to match them up more evenly," you say, finally understanding.

"Right," Vern says.

"Is that why there's a Dread Return in this deck?"

"I built in a small reanimation thing, yeah. The White Knight deck also has a small lifegain thing going on, which is why I used Honor the Fallen to take away your graveyard in response earlier. That, and I didn't want you to get back that Ihsan's Shade."

"I'll do you for that," you say, shaking your head.

"Not if I go ahead," Vern says. "Are you doing anything about my attacking Skyhunter Prowler?"

"Um... I have no flyers to block," you say.

"So you'll take damage?"

"I'll take that one damage," you say. "'Tis but a scratch."

"I'll cast Remember the Fallen, then, paying 1 mana for the extort from Knight of Obligation. I'll use that to get the Benalish Lancer from my graveyard. Then I'll cast the Lancer with kicker, and pay 1 mana to extort you again. That'll be my turn."

"Slow down," you say. "I think that leaves me at seven, and you at eleven life. Maybe you need to water down your deck a little more."

"I don't know, maybe. Do you want to shuffle up for a new game?"

"Nah, deck test losses like these are just a flesh wound in the great big battlefield of life," you say, untapping your permanents. You draw a Haakon, Stromgald Scourge from the top of your deck, and you stare at it for a while.

"Your move?" Vern asks.

"I've got two questions for you, Vern."

"What's that, then?"

"Do you have any discard outlets in this deck?"

Vern gets a sheepish look. "You drew Haakon, didn't you?"

"I guess that means that you don't," you say, shaking your head. "My second question is, where'd you get the copy of Smitten Swordmaster? Throne of Eldraine hasn't been released yet!"

"Ah, an old collector like me never reveals his secrets," Vern says, smiling.

"I'll bite your legs off if you ever say that again, Vern."

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Vern before the beginning of his next combat phase.

You are at 7 life, with the following cards in play:

You have the following cards in your hand:

You have not yet played a land this turn. You still have a substantial number of cards remaining in your library, but you know neither the identities nor the order of those cards.

Because of Vern's well-timed Honor the Fallen earlier, you have only one card in your graveyard:

Vern is at 11 life and has no cards in his hand. He has the following cards in play:

If you think you've got a great solution in mind, don't put it in the comments! Instead, send it to puzzles@gatheringmagic.com with the subject line "Puzzle - None Shall Pass" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, September 23, 2019. We'll include the best ones in next week's article along with the next puzzle!

Last Week's Puzzle

Correct solutions to last week's puzzle were received from Russell Jones, Addison Fox, Hyman Rosen, Nick Guren, Sean Patrick Keatley, and David Arnold.

"This week, as is often the case," Addison Fox writes, "the clue is very much in the name.

"Obviously our only out to victory is triggering our Mogg Maniac to deal 10 damage to Hailey through noncombat means, and we have five power in combat tricks to make that possible. However, the obvious place to put them - the 5-power Angel - only nets nine damage since our Scarecrow is sapping it. This leads to a much more roundabout solution in order to get the other 5-power creature of Hailey's into the red zone."

Hailey's other 5/5 creature, however, is a Lovestruck Beast... and your opponent doesn't exactly have a 1/1 creature that can act as motivation. "In order to be able to attack," Russell Jones notes, "the Beast has to spy a 1/1 creature, but fortunately it has a (presumably cursed) mirror on hand to view its own reflection, which doesn't look nearly as scary, so it can happily oblige."

This leaves you with one more problem: Lovestruck Beast isn't inclined to attack of its own volition, not even if you reduce it to a 1/1 for its own ability. That's why Russell's solution involves setting it on fire:

  1. All your lands and the Izzet Signet together can makerruuuuuuuu.
  2. Play Guise of Fire on Lovestruck Beast, now 6/4. ruuuuuuuuleft.
  3. Bounce Shimmering Wings and replay it on Triton Cavalry this time. Triton Cavalry triggers and bounces Sensory Deprivation. ruuuuuuleft.
  4. Bounce and replay Shimmering Wings again. Triton Cavalry triggers and bounces Agoraphobia. ruuuu left.
  5. Replay both Sensory Deprivation and Agoraphobia onto Lovestruck Beast this time, shrinking it to -2/4. uu left.
  6. Bounce and replay Shimmering Wings yet again, but this time put it on Lovestruck Beast instead of Triton Cavalry. Now it has flying, so One-Eyed Scarecrow shrinks it to -3/4. (This beast is really going on an ADVENTURE!)
  7. End your turn.
  8. Awakening triggers on Hailey's upkeep to untap all your lands (but not the Izzet Signet).

  9. Play Blood Lust on Lovestruck Beast, growing its heart four sizes (take that, Grinch!) to land on 1/1. Seven lands left.
  10. Hailey draws Engulfing Slagwurm. Maybe she plays it or animates the Stirring Wildwood. It doesn't matter.
  11. In combat, Lovestruck Beast must attack if able. Anything else can join in as well, except Jaddi Offshoot (defender) or Engulfing Slagwurm (summoning sickness). They all have vigilance and don't tap, so they might as well.
  12. Before asking yourself how you want to block, pay to bounce Shimmering Wings. Lovestruck Beast grows to 2/1 by virtue of losing flying. Six lands left.
  13. Of course, Mogg Maniac gets to block Lovestruck Beast.
  14. Pay to bounce Agoraphobia. Lovestruck Beast grows to 7/1. Three lands left.
  15. Play Alexi's Cloak on Triton Cavalry. It triggers and bounces Sensory Deprivation. Lovestruck Beast grows to 10/1.
  16. And... tick tock. Time to deal the damage.
    • Mogg Maniac takes 10 damage, dies, triggers, and turns that into 10 to the dome.
    • You might take some damage as well - not enough to be any concern, nor to stop you from making your diagnosis: Yep, it was a cursed mirror after all. Too bad! Nothing you can do about it now.

"Let's hope WOTC decided to create a Belle token to keep our friend company," Nick Gurn muses. Somehow, I don't quite remember the movie turning out like this.