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36,700 Feet Per Second

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Escape Velocity
"Let me see that again," Kenan says.

You pull your Escape Velocity out from under your Rubblebelt Maaka and hand it to him. "I have to say that it's interesting," you admit. "I'm not really making the most of it, but then again, this deck isn't built to make the most of it."

"Yeah, well, this thing didn't turn out so well for both of us."

"You're telling me," you say. "I'm playing a bunch of terrible artifacts just so that I can get Rusted Relic working."

You're not exaggerating - the Escape Velocity happens to be the best part of a terrible booster draft today. Your rw deck doesn't have much strategy or removal beyond the little bits and pieces you've tried to string together: There's a minor artifact theme in there somewhere, and a couple of cards that are built around enchantments, but nothing that speaks to any sort of consistency.

That said, inconsistency is probably the name of the game for your local store's Unabridged Cube, a collection of one of each card ever printed. You've been coming in for regular events with the Cube for, well... a long time now, and you've seen more than a few dubious decks.

That's not to say that the Unabridged Cube doesn't have surprises, though. One of its odd habits is that it produces cards that haven't gone into circulation yet. You don't know where these cards are coming from or who's adding them to the Cube, but it's made your local game store popular every few months.

"I'll use Ob Nixilis Reignited to draw a card," Kenan says, adding a loyalty counter to his planeswalker.

You sigh. "That puts you at, what? Nineteen life?"

"Hey, you can't get through a game without some life loss," Kenan laughs. "I might have done that prematurely, though."

"How so?"

Kenan taps three Swamps and casts a Lost Legion. "I should have gotten this onto the battlefield first," he clarifies, checking the top two cards of his library. "Good thing I didn't draw a land."

"So what did you draw?"

"An Enclave Elite," he says, playing just that. "I have just enough mana available to kick it for three, so I'll tap out."

You nod. That doesn't exactly leave you with a lot of confidence in your ability to win this game, but at least you know that Kenan isn't holding onto any countermagic.

"Did I attack already?" Kenan asks, glancing at his board. "No I didn't," he says, before you can answer.

"Nightveil Predator?" you ask.

"Nightveil Predator," Kenan says, tapping his vampire. "Take three, go down to five."

"I'm hating the hexproof on that thing," you say.

"You wouldn't have had the removal to off it, anyway," Kenan says. "Your Brion Stoutarm doesn't even get online until your next turn."

"Speaking of which, is it my turn now?"

"Yeah, I'm done. You can go ahead."

You untap your permanents and take your draw, pulling a Together Forever from the top of your library. It's obvious that you have a really motley mix of cards today, although you're not going to go down as easy as Kenan may think. In fact - you have a feeling that this game is going to end in your favor very soon, although you're not quite sure how.

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

You are at 5 life, with the following cards in play:

You have the following card 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.

You have the following cards in your graveyard:

Kenan is at 19 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 at gatheringmagic dot com with the subject line "Puzzle - 36,700 Feet per Second" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, January 13, 2020. 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 Sevi Alvarez, Sean Patrick Keatley, Max Bernstein, Michael Feldman, Addison Fox, Jacob Butcher, and Hyman Rosen.

"Winning while only casting a single spell would be tricky on some boards," Addison Fox writes, "but as it turns out we have a TON of activated and triggered abilities relevant to the board state which let us power through this Eidolon of Rhetoric without a lot of trouble. We get other spells besides our draw for the turn in our hand at various points, but who needs them? Well, as it turns out, we do, but not to cast."

Michael Feldman's solution is particularly interesting here, clearing the table as much as possible with Infected Vermin and then making the most of Wasteland Viper:

  1. Tap Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun for ggggggg.
  2. Pay g, tap Quagmire Druid, and sacrifice Shinen of Life's Roar (5 cards now in your graveyard) to have Quagmire Druid destroy Broken Fall.
  3. Before Quagmire Druid's ability resolves, return Broken Fall to your hand to give Undertaker a regeneration shield. When Quagmire Druid's ability resolves, it fizzles for lack of a valid target.
  4. Tap a Swamp for b, tap Undertaker, and discard Broken Fall (6 cards in your graveyard) to have Undertaker put Shinen of Life's Roar in your hand (5 cards in your graveyard).
  5. Pay gggg and discard (channel) Shinen of Life's Roar (6 cards in your graveyard) to force all creatures to block Ironscale Hydra this turn if able.
  6. Pay gg to cast Nature's Way (7 cards in your graveyard) on Ironscale Hydra to give it vigilance and trample for the turn and to have it deal its 5 power in fatal damage to 2/2 Valor.

    • This is the only casting as permitted by Eidolon of Rhetoric's ability. (Discard abilities do not count as casting.)
    • Valor now gives creatures Shay controls first strike as long as it remains in Shay's graveyard and Shay controls a Plains.
  7. Attack with Cacophodon and Ironscale Hydra (allowed by Crawlspace's "2-attacker max" ability).

  8. Each blocker attempts to deal first strike damage (due to Valor's graveyard ability) to Ironscale Hydra. This has the latter prevent each of the seven creatures' damage and respectively get seven +1/+1 counters (now 12/12).
  9. Tap a Swamp and three Forests for bggg to have Infected Vermin deal 3 damage to each creature, Shay (11 life left), and you (3 life left).

  10. Before regular damage, tap a Swamp, tap Undertaker, and discard the card you just drew to put Wasteland Viper in your hand.
  11. Tap a Forest and discard Wasteland Viper to give Ironscale Hydra +1/+2 (now 13/14) and deathtouch.
  12. Assign 1 point of damage from Ironscale Hydra to each of the four remaining blockers, killing each one due to deathtouch.

    • 13/14 Ironscale Hydra tramples to deal its 9 remaining damage to Shay (2 life left).
    • Unblocked 2/5 Cacophodon deals 2 damage to Shay (0 life left).

There are a number of variants to this solution. You could, for example, have Broken Fall regenerate Infected Vermin instead. This gets you only one use out of Undertaker (which you use to return and channel the Shinen), but allows you to clear all but one blocker with an additional Vermin activation.

The potential to clear all blockers brings up an alternative solution. "Infected Vermin is key," Jacob Butcher writes, "because its ability to damage creatures and players both directly damages Shay and kills/damages all possible blockers:

"I struggled with this one for a while until I realized it was feasible to wipe the opponent's board with Infected Vermin," Sevi Alvarez writes. "This puzzle is secretly about how to achieve Threshold and exploit the diseased rodent without giving up too much board presence:

  1. Cast Nature's Way, targeting Ironscale Hydra and Knight of the Tusk. The Knight has 5 damage on it, and you have 5 cards in your graveyard.
  2. Use Quagmire Druid to sacrifice Wasteland Viper (6 cards in your graveyard), destroying Eidolon of Rhetoric.
  3. Activate Broken Fall (which returns it to your hand) to put a regeneration shield on Quagmire Druid.
  4. Activate Undertaker and discard Broken Fall (7 cards in graveyard), targeting Wasteland Viper.
  5. While the ability is on the stack, you have Threshold. Activate Infected Vermin's regular ability, and in response, use its Threshold ability. This empties your mana pool.
  6. The Threshold ability resolves first. Quagmire Druid regenerates, tapping it. Cacophodon triggers; target Quagmire Druid, and it untaps. Infected Vermin, Shinen of Life's Roar, and Undertaker die. Riptide Biologist, Stormfleet Spy, Wu Warship, Valor, and Knight of the Tusk also die.
  7. The regular Vermin ability resolves. Cacophodon triggers, but the target is irrelevant. Eidolon of Rhetoric and both Serra Angels die. At this point, you are at 2 life, and Shay is at 10 life.
  8. The Undertaker ability resolves, returning Wasteland Viper to your hand. The resulting board state:

  9. Attack with Ironscale Hydra and Quagmire Druid (the maximum amount allowed under Crawlspace). Tap a Forest and discard Wasteland Viper to pump the Druid up to a 5/4 and hit them for 10. You win!

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