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Shuffle and Cut

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Mana Flare
The Unabridged Cube has been temperamental lately, especially when it comes to Sealed Deck tournaments. The players at your local game store have reported getting card pools that were either too unstoppable for their own good, or downright impossible for any prospects at winning. Of course, the Cube does have one of each card ever printed, so anyone has a likely chance of getting an extreme selection of cards . . .  but you wonder if it has a mind of its own sometimes.

Considering that your 40-card deck today tries to win the game by stalling your opponent until their library runs out, it's safe to say that your card pool is of the latter type. Unsurprisingly, you have yet to win a single game.

You're now facing Ricky's br deck, which has the customary boatloads of removal spells. However, Ricky's creature base isn't much to look at, and hinges mostly on a couple of mythic rares. That means that you've managed to hold the line so far, but you're not sure how much longer you can do so.

On his last turn, Ricky drops a Mana Flare into play. You immediately realize that that spells trouble, even before you can see the grin on your opponent's face.

"I'll tap three lands," Ricky announces, "and cast Burning Sun's Avatar. That's 3 damage to you, and 3 damage to your Narnam Cobra."

You wince. "Okay," you say, "I'm at six life, and the Cobra dies."

"I'll cast Giant Strength on my Accursed Spirit, then," Ricky says.

Without the Cobra, you suddenly realize that you're more than a little defenseless, especially since your Tracker has yet to recover from summoning sickness. "In response, I'll have Fatestitcher tap your Spirit," you say.

Ricky nods. "I'll cast Fate Unraveler?"

"Okay," you say.

"And I'll finish off my turn by casting an Aether Flash."

You shake your head. It could be worse, though -- Ricky might have been playing something that depended on a Storm count. At least he no longer has any cards in his hand, you suppose.

You untap your permanents and are about to draw your card for the turn when Ricky clears his throat. "Cursed Land?" he asks.

"Oh, sorry. I'll take one damage from that and go to five life."

"And one more damage from the Unraveler once you draw your card?"

"Four life, then," you say, a little irritated.

You really need a creature at this point, and that's why your deck doesn't give you one. Instead, your draw is a Displace, although it's at least marginally better than the Quest for Ancient Secrets you already hold.

"So what's your move?" Ricky asks. "Obviously you're not going to be able to wait me out here like you're expecting to do."

You count your cards first, eventually coming to the conclusion that you don't have enough to pull this one out. Ricky doesn't have many cards remaining in his library, but they're still too many for you to deal with. It looks like you have to consign yourself to another loss today.

 . . .  Or do you?

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

You are at 4 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. You have no relevant cards in your graveyard.

Ricky is at 7 life and has no cards in his hand. He has the following cards in play:

Ricky has the following cards in his graveyard:

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 -- Shuffle and Cut" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, February 25, 2017. We'll include the best ones in next week's article along with the next puzzle!

Last Week's Puzzle

Treasured Find
Correct solutions to last week's puzzle were received from Russell Jones, Addison Fox, Ryou Niji, Sean Rowe, Subrata Sircar, zzo38, David Arnold, and Chris Billard.

"Working this in reverse," Subrata Sircar writes, "we can win by dealing four damage in combat, plus two from the Mortis Dogs dying again.

"In order to deal four damage in combat, we would need to attack with three creatures - two of which should have Menace - and probably have the Vampire Hounds and the Hound of the Farbogs get blocked while the ThrabenFoulbloods get through.

"In order for that to happen, we would need to hit Delirium, which means that we'll need to figure out how to get four card types in our graveyard. The most likely approach is to get a creature, land, instant and enchantment in our graveyard."

It's especially notable that you won't be able to get a sorcery card into your graveyard barring some shenanigans with Greater Mossdog. This is because your only sorcery card, Treasured Find, exiles itself as part of its resolution. It's possible to get Treasured Find into your graveyard with a bit of maneuvering: You could, for example, cast it targeting the Mossdog, then use an instant-speed card draw effect, replace it with the Mossdog's dredge ability, and let the Treasured Find get countered on resolution. However, your resources are such that you would only be able to use this with Wild Dogs' cycling ability after combat takes place.

Still, it's possible to get all four card types into your graveyard with a little help from the Mossdog. "We have a total of eleven mana available," Addison Fox writes, "assuming that we are sacrificing a creature to Phyrexian Tower at some point (spoiler alert):

  1. Spend 2 mana to cast Treasured Find to return Mortis Dogs to our hand.
  2. Recast Mortis Dogs for 4 mana, leaving us with 5 mana remaining. We have two cards in our graveyard (because Treasured Find exiles itself, unhelpfully).
  3. Sacrifice Mortis Dogs to Phyrexian Tower and nug Saluki for 2 life, down to 4. We have three cards in our graveyard again.
  4. Use the floating Tower mana to cast Bone Harvest. Return zero cards to the top of our library and set up the delayed draw trigger for next upkeep. We have four cards in our graveyard.
  5. Finally, with our last 2 mana, cast Ainok Guide and search up a swamp to put on top of our deck.
  6. Now we can move to combat. Attack with Vampire Hounds (currently a 2/2), Thraben Foulbloods (currently a 3/2), and Hound of the Farbogs (currently a 5/3). Our Overwhelming Instinct's ability triggers, and we draw a card.
    • Replace this draw by dredging Greater Mossdog. We mill a swamp and two other cards and return the Mossdog to our hand. This leaves us with six cards in our graveyard.

  7. Before blocks, discard Greater Mossdog to Vampire Hounds, giving it +2/+2 -- and more importantly, giving us our seventh card in the graveyard. With threshold on, several things happen all at once thanks to state-based actions:
  8. Moving to blocks, Saluki has two unsavory options: They can block Vampire Hounds and double-block Hound of the Farbogs, taking 4 from our now delirious Thraben Foulbloods, or they can double-block both Menace creatures and take 4 from the unblocked Vampire Hounds. Either way, we have some bellies to rub.

This, of course, assumes that you're getting the extra 2 points of life loss from Mortis Dogs. But there's another place where you can find 2 damage, and it's on Saluki's side of the table -- her 2/2 (currently 2/3) Sell-Sword Brute.

"The key to solving this puzzle," Ryou Niji points out, "is noticing that only Patriarch's Desire can really change the board state. It's currently stuck on Exuberant Firestoker, so unless we turn on threshold somehow, we won't be getting anywhere.

"We only have two chances to get a card into our hand this turn: the card draw from Overwhelming Instinct, and the Treasured Find. (The card draw from Bone Harvest is probably too late since the rest of our cards are sorcery speed.)We probably can't achieve threshold if we don't dredge Greater Mossdog instead of drawing; Treasured Find therefore needs to return Patriarch's Desire if we want to do anything useful with it."

Ryou's solution therefore depends on getting enough mileage out of the Patriarch's Desire:

  1. Pay gg to cast Ainok Guide. When it enters the battlefield, search our library for any basic land card and put it on top.
  2. Pay 2b to cast Bone Harvest targeting nothing, just to get it into the graveyard.
  3. Attack with all three creatures -- Vampire Hounds, Hound of the Farbogs, and Thraben Foulbloods.
  4. Discard Greater Mossdog to give Vampire Hounds +2/+2.
    • Now there are seven cards in our graveyard: three that started there (Greater Mossdog just went through a short vacation to our hand), three that we just milled, and Bone Harvest.
    • Patriarch's Desire's "bonus" grows to +4/-4, enough to kill the otherwise 3/4 Exuberant Firestoker, so both go to their respective graveyards.
    • Our graveyard now has at least four card types in it: creature, land, instant, and enchantment. This means that Thraben Foulbloods is now a 4/3 with menace, Hound of the Farbogs is a 5/3 with menace, and Vampire Hounds, after its activation resolves, is a 4/4.

  5. Our three attackers require five blockers to block, and our opponent only has four creatures now, so she must let one through, which would be at least 4 damage. The intelligent thing to do would be to block Hound of the Farbogs with two creatures, Vampire Hounds with one creature, and leave Sell-Sword Brute back so that she is not dead on board.
  6. After combat, pay gb to cast Treasured Find to return Patriarch's Desire to our hand.
  7. Pay ggbb (with Phyrexian Tower sacrificing Ainok Guide for bb) to recast Patriarch's Desire on Sell-Sword Brute. As we still have threshold, that's enough to kill it, and our opponent takes 2 more damage.

"Saluki built up a pretty gummy board," Addison muses, "but thanks to the magic of Menace giving them a virtual -2 blockers, we were able to turn this puppy around." Perhaps she should have just let sleeping dogs lie.


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