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Triggermaster

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Archangel's Light
“I’ll tap 8 mana and cast Archangel's Light!” Yoyo says, triumphantly dropping her mythic rare onto the table.

For a while, you can hear a pin drop. Then you clear your throat. “You need to mention that you’re tapping ‘lands’ and not ‘mana’,” you say.

“Sorry, I got carried away,” Yoyo says. “So does that mean that I shuffle everything back into my deck except for Archangel's Light?”

“You shuffle everything back in. Everything except for the Archangel's Light.”

And I gain fourteen life!” Yoyo adds, brightly.

It’s obvious that your opponent is playing in her first-ever store tournament, being so remarkably happy about the whole experience. Exactly why she chose to play an Unabridged Cube draft will probably remain a mystery, though - particularly as you’ve had to explain what each and every card in her deck does. In a Cube that contains one of each card ever printed, that’s gotten very tiresome very fast.

“Okay,” you say, “that puts me at 6 life, and that puts you at… 30 life.”

"I’m not about to tap my Fyndhorn Elder for mana when it’ll make your Gideon's Avenger bigger.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Yoyo says.

For someone who’s new to the game, Yoyo has gone quite big with her card choices. She wiped out most of your Forests earlier with a Wake of Destruction, and you’ve been forced to use an Elixir of Immortality for a chance to get some of them back. Between the Elixir and her Archangel's Light, however, the last thing you want is for this game to stretch into this round’s time limit… and you can see how this is going to be a problem.

“Don’t forget that you still have to attack,” you remind her. “It’s a requirement for your Galvanic Juggernaut.”

“I remember,” she says, and turns both her Galvanic Juggernaut and Faultgrinder sideways. “I’ll attack with both of these.”

“I’ll block the Juggernaut with… anything, really, so that it just bounces off,” you say. “The Faultgrinder can’t be blocked because of the Whispersilk Cloak, so I’ll take another four damage from it and go down to 2 life.”

“Cool,” Yoyo says. “That’s all for my turn!”

You sigh and untap your permanents. Considering that it’s currently a 0/5 creature, you wonder why you haven’t killed her Galvanic Juggernaut yet - especially as its chances of blocking something are rather low. Maybe this game is just slipping away from you. Or maybe you’re just subconsciously letting the newer player win.

As if she’s reading your thoughts, Yoyo looks at you curiously. “You’re holding back, aren’t you?” she asks.

“I don’t know what you mean,” you say, drawing your card for the turn. It’s a Simic Ascendancy, which you don’t recognize until you remember that the Unabridged Cube is coming up with preview cards again. The Ravnica Allegiance prerelease is already next week, though, so you don’t have very long to wait for the new cards.

“Come on, I know exactly when someone’s trying to be nice to the newbie,” Yoyo explains. “My boyfriend’s friends did it to me around the kitchen table, too. They stopped when they realized I could hold my own.”

You chew your lip for a while. You have to admit that that would make you feel better. Besides, Yoyo probably isn’t going to be your worst opponent today; it would be best for you to get back into the correct mentality.

“I’ve also heard stories that you bounce back really quickly from a losing situation,” Yoyo notes.

“You have?”

“Yeah,” Yoyo admits. “The way I see it, you might even be planning to pull something off right now. I don’t know if it’s intended to stop you from losing, or if it’ll make you win this game… but that would be nice to see regardless of how new I am at this tournament thing.”

You chew your lip again. That’s an interesting prospect, you admit. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that you have a plan in mind for overcoming the odds right now.

…Or would it?

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Yoyo before she defeats you.

You are at 2 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 currently have no cards in your graveyard.

Yoyo is at 29 life and has no cards in her hand. She has the following cards in play:

Yoyo has the following card in her graveyard:

Yoyo currently has no cards in her exile zone.

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 - Triggermaster” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, January 21, 2018. 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 Addison Fox, Sean Patrick Keatley, Russell Jones, Sergey Sirotin, Stephen Gross, Hyman Rosen, Ryou Niji, Greg Dreher, Paul Gulbis, Davide Ferroni, Paul Simpson, Alex Koon, David Arnold, and Michael Feldman.

“Nothing makes a puzzle more satisfying than turning an upside into a downside for our opponent… except for using every part of the buffalo,” Addison Fox writes.“And boy, are we using some buffalo parts here: We have 10 mana, five creatures, and three cards in hand, and we're going to need all of them.”

“We don't have much ‘clean’ evasion,” Ryou Niji notes, “but we do have a lot of ways to make the opponent's creatures unable to block. Between sacrificing a creature to Desecration Demon, moving the resulting +1/+1 counter onto Splatter Thug, and the Battalion ability of Firefist Striker, we can reduce the number of available blockers for the opponent to one. Still, the opponent can just block Scorchwalker, leaving us without enough damage - copying Weapon Surge costs more mana than we have.

“We also have the option of giving one of our attackers intimidate, but that would cost us an attacker no matter what, and we will again be one point of damage short even if the opponent blocks a 2-power attacker. That is, unless we set it up so that the missing attacker ‘rejoins’ combat anyway.”

This setup happens to be the key to getting the kill past your opponent’s lone blocker. Technically, as Davide Ferroni writes, all you need is an additional combat trick:

  1. Tap four Swamps to play Midnight Recovery targeting Shadow Alley Denizen, and ciphering it under the Armored Transport.
  2. Tap the last Swamp to play Shadow Alley Denizen.
  3. Begin combat, sacrifice Scorchwalker to Desecration Demon who becomes tapped.
  4. Tap the Island to play Bioshift and move the +1/+1 counter from Desecration Demon to Splatter Thug,who now can't block because of its unleash ability.
  5. Attack with everything (three creatures). This triggers Firefist Striker, targeting Tithe Drinker (because of its lifelink ability). Now the only creature able to block is Rix Maadi Guildmage.
  6. Tap Izzet Guildgate to play Weapon Surge targeting Armored Transport, which now is a 3/1 creature with intimidate and first strike, so it cannot be blocked by Rix Maadi Guildmage.
  7. First strike uses a separate combat damage step, so Armored Transport deals damage first, bringing the opponent to 7 and triggering Midnight Recovery's cipher ability. Use it to return Scorchwalker from the graveyard back to your hand.
  8. Opponent blocks either Catacomb Slug or Firefist Striker.
  9. Tap the last three lands to use Scorchwalker's Bloodrush ability and give the unblocked creature +5/+1, bringing the opponent to 0 and winning the game.

The Weapon Surge gives you an interesting option here: More than one person wrote in with the initial assumption that you need to cast it for its overload cost, only to find that 1) it won’t give you enough damage by itself, and 2) you actually don’t want your remaining creatures to have first strike.

“I went through so many different avenues,” Sean Patrick Keatley notes, “and there are so many Red herrings. It was tempting to overload the Weapon Surge but you will not have enough mana. Then I tried to think of how I could benefit from ciphering in this case, and that's when I remembered first strike damage is a separate step.”

“See what terrible stuff can happen when you hang around with a denizen of a shadowy alley?” Russell Jones muses. “Nothing good, for sure.”