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Year of the Dog


Thraben Foulbloods
You're a good ten minutes into your game against Saluki before you realize that you have no idea what you're doing.

It's probably because you're playing one of CJ's decks. This one has a theme that became really obvious after the first few turns: Your first play was a Wild Dogs, your Hollow Dogs were recently on the receiving end of a Condemn, and now you're about to lose your Mortis Dogs to a first-striking attacker.

"Isn't this kind of limiting?" you ask CJ. "I mean, there aren't a lot of dogs in Magic."

"Yeah, but it's cool. I always wanted to build a Hound deck."

"But I'm playing against a Human deck!"

"Oh yeah. I had a lot of Human creatures, too."

"And it's as if all the noncreature cards in this deck were randomly chosen!"

"I didn't think about those too much, yeah."

You sigh. Now you know how Mari feels.

The game provides you with a good distraction, at least. "I'll block your Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer with my Mortis Dogs," you tell Saluki.

"That's good," she says, adjusting the die that's keeping track of her life total. "I'm at 6 life now, and Mortis Dogs dies."

"Sure. Any other plays?"

"I'll cast a Border Patrol," Saluki says, "and then activate my Salt Road Patrol for its outlast ability. I'll end my turn, so my Exuberant Firestoker triggers from Jor-Kadeen and deals 2 damage to you."

You glance at the Firestoker, which would have been dead ages ago if it weren't for a timely Honor's Reward on Saluki's side. You scribble down your new life total and get back to your thoughts.

You contemplate playing the Bone Harvest in your hand, but then decide to hold off for a little while longer. You draw an Ainok Guide, then shuffle your three cards around, looking for an opening to exploit.

Eventually an idea comes to mind. "Do you have any creatures in this deck that aren't dogs, CJ?" you ask.

"Nope, everything in Baha Men is a Hound."

"Say that again?"

"Baha Men. That's what I call the deck."

Your eyebrow twitches slightly, but you manage to stop yourself from strangling him right there. "What about graveyard triggers? Does this have a copy of Gaea's Blessing, for example?"

"No," CJ says. "I barely even know what that is. Why do you ask?"

You glance back at the table. Mari might not be here, but you have an idea of how to end this farce. You've been on the defensive long enough; it's time to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Saluki before the beginning of her 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 do not know the identities or order of any of the cards remaining in your library. However, you do know that you have several basic lands -- Swamps and Forests -- in there somewhere.

You have the following cards in your graveyard:

Saluki is at 6 life and has no cards in her hand. She 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 -- Year of the Dog" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, February 18, 2017. 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 Stephen Gross, Russell Jones, Ryou Niji, Maarten Wybaillie, and Chris Billard. Simon Lazarus provided a partial solution that identifies critical observations as well.

Quite a few people saw the infinite combo in this puzzle, although it's not actually an infinite combo because there's a limited number of creatures on the table, and Phyrexian Plaguelord can only give so many -1/-1 penalties. The main question lies in how to get the combo started, and how to end it at the right time. Russell Jones writes:

  1. Remove the counter from Triskelion to deal 1 damage to Nested Ghoul. Nested Ghoul triggers and gives you a 2/2 Zombie token.
  2. Cast Compelling Deterrence, bouncing Sadistic Glee and discarding Piracy Charm. (4 lands left.)
  3. Recast Sadistic Glee, attached to Triskelion this time. (3 lands left.)
  4. Tap Junktroller to put Piracy Charm onto the bottom of your library, 22nd from the top.
  5. Activate Boneknitter to regenerate Nested Ghoul. (1 land left.)
  6. Sacrifice the 2/2 Zombie token to Phyrexian Plaguelord, giving Ajani's Sunstriker -1/-1.
  7. Remove the counter from Triskelion to deal 1 damage to Nested Ghoul, making a total of 2 damage that causes its regeneration shield to kick in and tap it. Nested Ghoul still triggers and gives another Zombie token.
  8. Sacrifice the new Zombie token to Phyrexian Plaguelord, giving Ajani's Sunstriker -1/-1 and killing it. You get a second treasure token and another Scry 1 (now 19 cards above Piracy Charm), and this time Triskelion gets two+1/+1 counters.
  9. Remove a counter from Triskelion again, marking Nested Ghoul with afresh 1 damage and getting another Zombie token.
  10. Sacrifice both Treasures for mana, allowing Boneknitter to regenerate Nested Ghoul.
  11. "At this point," Russell notes, "the loop is clear: you can keep sacrificing the Zombie tokens for free, and removing counters from Triskelion for free, and each pair of times you do that gives you a total of:

    • Two treasure tokens (enough to pay for Boneknitter to keep regenerating Nested Ghoul so it never takes lethal damage),
    • the ability to Scry 1 twice (bringing Piracy Charm two cards closer to the top), and
    • the ability to throw out a pair of -1/-1s to any creature on the board.

    "Additionally, each time those -1/-1 penalties add up to lethal damage to one of Kent's creatures, you get another trigger on Sadistic Glee that's free of any obligations in the loop, producing a net profit of a +1/+1 counter.

    "When you get to rotting away at Rottenheart Ghoul, it will trigger, and the trigger must target you . . .  but you don't have any cards in your hand at that point, so nothing happens.

    "Kent has seven creatures, with a total of 25 toughness. Eating through that by repeating the loop produces enough Scry 1 effects to ensure that your (or rather, Mari's) Piracy Charm moves to the top of the library. Once you have it on top, it can stay on top and ignore all subsequent Contraband Kingpin triggers.

    After all of Kent's creatures have been killed off, Triskelion will have seven +1/+1 counters from those, and can get an eighth +1/+1 counter from the Zombie token you sacrificed to administer the last -1/-1, making Triskelion a 9/9. This gives you 22 power worth of creatures, but you can't just alpha strike against a clear board and call it a day, because the 4 power that comes from Nested Ghoul is tapped as a result of having to regenerate all those times. So in effect, there's only 18 "usable" power at that point. You then need to do the following:

  12. Remove counters from Triskelion to burn Nested Ghoul again, but this time don't bother regenerating: save your mana, allow Nested Ghoul to die, and get another "net profit" trigger from Sadistic Glee.
  13. You still get a Zombie token from the damage that causes the finishing blow, and the Phyrexian Plaguelord ability can target Junktroller, who has enough toughness to survive it a few times. There's now 19 total power on the board, all of it usable.
  14. Sacrifice the last Zombie token to give Junktroller another -1/-1. Sadistic Glee triggers again, and you have 20 total power. Pitiless Plunderer also triggers for a treasure token.
  15. Sacrifice Junktroller to Phyrexian Plaguelord. Since targets are chosen before costs are paid, you can have the target for the -1/-1 be Junktroller itself (to avoid weakening anything else), and that ability fizzles. You get another treasure token, and another +1/+1 counter from Sadistic Glee. You now have 21 total power.
  16. Instead of using the treasures to pay for a Boneknitter regeneration again, use them to pay for Sage of Fables' ability, removing a +1/+1 counter from Triskelion and drawing a card (which is Piracy Charm, since you scryed away all 21 cards that were above it). This counter removal means a temporary dip to 20 total power.
  17. Cast Piracy Charm, choosing the +2/-1 mode and targeting anything except Boneknitter. You're back to 22 total power, and this time none of it is tied up in tapped creatures.
  18. Go to combat and swing with all six surviving creatures, for a total of 22 damage at a clear board (to bring Kent to 0 life).
  19. Reach into Mari's bag and pull out one of the tins, which actually contains a delicious apple pie, of course. *How* long have you known her? Besides, you could smell the pie ever since she got back! Anyway, it sounds like it's time for the two of you to leave and go home to partake in your just desserts.

An alternative solution, however, allows you to deal more than 22 damage. "The key is realizing that we have to move Sadistic Glee to Triskelion and that we don't actually need Piracy Charm," Chris Billard writes. "The rest of our creatures provide everything that we need to start the loop that destroys all of Kent's creatures and moves Compelling Deterrence back to the top of our library. At that point, Sage of Fables lets us draw Compelling Deterrence again so that we that can bounce Kent's Ivory Mask and target him for the final damage:

  1. Cast Compelling Deterrence (ub) targeting Mari's Sadistic Glee, discarding Piracy Charm as Mari controls a Zombie.
  2. Cast Sadistic Glee (b) on Triskelion.
  3. Activate Junktroller to place Compelling Deterrence on the bottom of Mari's library.
  4. Sacrifice Junktroller to Phyrexian Plaguelord giving Kent's Ajani's Sunstriker -1/-1. When Junktroller dies, put a +1/+1 counter on Triskelion from Sadistic Glee and create a treasure token from Pitiless Plunderer.
  5. When the treasure token enters the battlefield, Scry 1 due to Contraband Kingpin and place whichever card is on top of Mari's library on the bottom. There are 20 unknown cards between Compelling Deterrence and the top of the library.
  6. Remove the +1/+1 counter from Triskelion to deal 1 damage to Nested Ghoul. Create a 2/2 Zombie token.
  7. Sacrifice the Zombie token to Phyrexian Plaguelord giving Kent's Ajani's Sunstriker another -1/-1. Put a +1/+1 token on Triskelion from Sadistic Glee, gain a treasure token from Pitiless Plunderer and put the top card of our library on the bottom from Contraband Kingpin.
  8. Kent's Ajani's Sunstriker dies. Put a +1/+1 token on Triskelion from Sadistic Glee, gain a treasure token from Pitiless Plunderer and put the top card of our library on the bottom from Contraband Kingpin.
  9. At this point, you start the same loop -- with the exception that you're scrying Compelling Deterrence to the top of your deck instead of Piracy Charm. Eventually you'll end up with the Deterrence in hand and 19 power worth of attackers (one of which is a 1/1 Triskelion with nine +1/+1 counters on it). At that point:

  10. Attack with your creatures. Kent has no creatures to block with, so he takes 19 points of damage.
  11. Cast Compelling Deterrence ({U} + your remaining treasure token) to return Ivory Mask to Kent's hand.
  12. Remove all nine +1/+1 counters from Triskelion to deal a total of 9 points of damage to Kent, reducing his life total to -6.

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