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Through the Minefield


Lightmine Field
It's the first game of the second match of today's Unabridged Cube draft, and you're sitting across the table from someone resembling the stereotypical mad scientist -- goggles, white coat, gloves, excessively bristly hairstyle, and all.

You sigh. If the Unabridged Cube can contain one of each card ever printed, it's not much of a stretch to assume that your local game store can attract one of every single player out there. Still, you find yourself wondering what your opponent's up to; the only thing you know so far is that he hasn't said a single word since you started your game.

Then you realize something: Back when you were checking this round's pairings, you caught a glimpse of your opponent's name and figured that it was nice playing against someone you knew. Which means that . . . 

"Is that you, Octavia?" you ask.

Your opponent glances up at you, and for one moment you think you see a flicker of madness in their eyes. It takes you a few seconds before you conclude that she's wearing colored contact lenses.

"It's me," she says.

"Another photoshoot?" you ask.

"Commercial," she says. "Sorry I can't talk much. Prosthetic needs to harden."

"You're wearing a prosthetic?"

"A little bit of jaw," she says, somehow smiling without smiling.

You wonder what kind of commercial would need someone to dress up as, well . . .  whatever Octavia looks like right now. You guess that it might be for a new form of technology or some environmental cause, which means that you've probably got it wrong and it most likely involves some new brand of hair gel. But that's a question for another day.

"Mmm . . .  game?" Octavia asks.

"Oh, sorry," you say. "Where were we?"

Octavia gestures toward her attacking Sunspire Griffin and Dungeon Shade. She's paid three mana to pump the Shade to a 4/4, which means that both creatures are surviving the Lightmine Field that's stopping your offensive line.

Unfortunately, your Giant Spider was the victim of a Puncturing Light on a previous turn, and you've run out of cards in hand, which means that you have no aerial defenses to speak of. "I'll take that six damage," you say, "unless you're tapping that last Swamp of yours."

Octavia simply gestures toward her Drudge Skeletons, which indicates that she's saving the mana for its ability. That's fair, you think.

Octavia taps all of her Plains to cast a Cathar's Companion, then passes the turn to you. You peel a Might of the Nephilim off the top of your deck, then look to see how you might be able to salvage this game.

The Lightmine Field is probably your greatest obstacle: Anything that you use to attack has to get through the Field first, and then you have to figure out some way to deal with blockers like Drudge Skeletons and Deathgazer. You don't have any easy solutions for either, so you'll need to find a way to improvise.

The problem is that, with your life total at 5, you don't have a lot of time to fight your way out of this situation. But maybe you can manage with a little bit here, and a little bit there . . . 

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Octavia before the beginning of her 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 do not know the identities or order of any of the cards remaining in your library.

Octavia is at 8 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 --Through the Minefield" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, March4, 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 Russell Jones, Addison Fox, Stefanie Flavell, Michael Shoemaker, Ryou Niji, Sean Rowe, Jonah Comstock, Greg Dreher, Eric Weeden, Florian Kupferschmid, David Arnold, and Chris Billard.

"This puzzle required figuring out a lot of little tricks," Jonah Comstock writes. "Luckily, Mana Flare gave us a whole lot of mana to work with, and this solution will use nearly all of it.

"The key is to use and re-use Phyrexian Splicer (using Fatestitcher to untap it) in order to give everything the exact keywords they need. Cosi's Trickster needs flying to get in, and Rootwater Thief needs first strike so that it can use its ability for another shuffle before Trickster hits. I had to read the puzzle about five times to find where first strike was hiding, but it's right there on Altac Bloodseeker, provided you can kill something first, which is easy enough to do with Tracker - and the Tracker can get that pesky reach blocker out of the way while he's at it."

This was the idea behind the most common solution submitted for this puzzle. As Greg Dreher writes:

  1. Tap four Forests, two Islands, and Simic Signet for gggggggguuuuu.
  2. Spend u and cast Quest for Ancient Secrets.
  3. Spend gg and equip Throwing Knife to Tracker.
  4. Spend gg and tap Tracker to have it fight Minotaur Sureshot. Both creatures die. Altac Bloodseeker gets +2/+0, first strike, and haste. Put a quest counter on Quest for Ancient Secrets.
  5. Spend gg and tap Phyrexian Splicer to remove first strike from Altac Bloodseeker and give it to Rootwater Thief.
  6. Tap Fatestitcher to untap Phyrexian Splicer.
  7. Spend u to give Rootwater Thief flying.
  8. Spend gg and tap Phyrexian Splicer to remove flying from Rootwater Thief and give it to Cosi's Trickster.
  9. Spend u to give Rootwater Thief flying (again).
  10. Spend uu and equip Throwing Knife to Rootwater Thief.
  11. Attack with Rootwater Thief and Cosi's Trickster. Sacrifice Throwing Knife to deal 2 damage to Ricky, putting him to 5 life. Put a quest counter on Quest for Ancient Secrets.
  12. Since neither of your attacking creatures can be blocked, go to first strike damage. Rootwater Thief deals 1 damage to Ricky, putting him to 4 life, and its ability triggers.
  13. Tap your remaining lands for uuuuuu.
  14. Pay uu to exile a card from Ricky's library with Rootwater Thief's triggered ability. When he shuffles his library, put a +1/+1 counter on Cosi's Trickster.
  15. Still in the first strike damage step, spend uuu and cast Displace, targeting Fatestitcher and Riftsweeper. Put a quest counter on Quest for Ancient Secrets from Displace. Riftsweeper, Quest for Ancient Secrets, and Aether Flash all trigger.
  16. Aether Flash deals 2 damage to Riftsweeper and Fatestitcher, killing them. Put two quest counters on Quest for Ancient Secrets.
  17. With Riftsweeper's ability triggers, have Ricky shuffle the card you exiled with Rootwater Thief into his library. Put a +1/+1 counter on Cosi's Trickster.
  18. Sacrifice Quest for Ancient Secrets to have Ricky shuffle his graveyard into his library. Put a +1/+1 counter on Cosi's Trickster.
  19. Cosi's Trickster deals 4 damage to Ricky in the regular combat damage step, killing him.

This solution has one variant: Instead of getting Tracker to fight and destroy your opponent's Minotaur Sureshot, you can have it fight your Fatestitcher instead (after tapping the Fatestitcher for its ability, of course). You can then unearth the Fatestitcher and tap the Minotaur Sureshot to remove it as a blocker, even if Aether Flash deals lethal damage to the Fatestitcher in the interim.

Rootwater Thief isn't the only source for exiled cards on this table, though, and that opens an alternative solution. "This one was a real headscratcher," Sean Rowe writes. "I got really hung up on the Tracker, because you can actually use it to eliminate two creatures using the rules of the game and the bizarre wording of its ability. But once I realized I was two mana short for what I wanted to do, I had an epiphany that Fatestitcher can essentially remove a blocker for a turn -- and that's all we need:

  1. Tap Island to give your Rootwater Thief flying (u floating), then cast Quest for Ancient Secrets.
  2. Tap Island to equip Throwing Knife to Tracker.
  3. Tap Forest to have Tracker "fight" Exhumer Thrull, destroying both creatures and triggering Altac Bloodseeker (giving it +2/+0, first strike and haste).Put a counter on Quest for Ancient Secrets. Exhumer Thrull goes into exile and haunts a creature, although it doesn't matter which.
  4. Tap Forest and activate Phyrexian Splicer to give your Cosi's Trickster flying, removing it from Rootwater Thief.
  5. Use Fatestitcher to tap the Minotaur Sureshot, because we don't want any pesky reachers blocking our flyers.
  6. Tap Island and Simic Signet to cast Displace targeting Fatestitcher and Riftsweeper. They both come back, Displace is placed into the graveyard (two counters on the Quest), and Riftsweeper and Aether Flash both trigger.
  7. Tap Forest to equip Cosi's Trickster with Throwing Knife.
  8. Tap Island to give Rootwater Thief flying again, and unearth Fatestitcher. This triggers Aether Flash, but in response to the trigger, tap Fatestitcher to untapPhyrexian Splicer. Aether Flash resolves and Fatestitcher is exiled.
  9. Tap Forest and activate Phyrexian Splicer to give Rootwater Thief first strike, removing it from Altac Bloodseeker.
  10. Enter combat and swing with Cosi's Trickster and Rootwater Thief. Throwing Knife triggers -- sacrifice it to deal 2 damage to our opponent (knocking them to 5 life). This puts the fifth and final counter on Quest for Ancient Secrets.
  11. Before blockers are declared, sacrifice Quest for Ancient Secrets targeting our opponent, forcing them to shuffle their graveyard into their deck and placing a second +1/+1 counter onto Cosi's Trickster.
  12. Move to first strike damage as the opponent cannot block our flyers. Rootwater Thief deals 1 damage (knocking the opponent to 4 life) and its ability triggers. Tap our Island to pay for the ability and search the opponent's library for any card, which forces them to shuffle their library. This puts a third +1/+1 counter on Cosi's Trickster.
  13. Move to the normal damage step. Cosi's Trickster hits the opponent for 4 damage, which is exactly lethal.
  14. Gloat.

Then again, you could always ignore all the shuffling and take the direct route, as Eric Weeden writes:

  1. Give Rootwater Thief flying and use the Phyrexian Splicer to gift that to your Riftsweeper. (16 mana left.)
  2. Untap the Phyrexian Splicer with Fatestitcher and use the same process to gift Tracker with flying, then give the Rootwater Thief flying one last time. (12 mana left.)
  3. Cast Displace on the Fatestitcher. When it blinks back in, Aether Flash will kill it for you. Unearth the Fatestitcher. (8 mana left.)
  4. Tap the Minotaur Sureshot with Fatestitcher with the Aether Flash trigger on the stack. Aether Flash then deals 2 damage to the Fatestitcher and exiles it.
  5. Attack with the flying team of an equipped Rootwater Thief, Tracker and Riftsweeper for 7 damage in the air.

"Ricky made a critical mistake last turn," Addison Fox remarks, "casting Mana Flare and not killing us immediately before we get to use it. Maybe in a Commander game, letting that effect sit out on the table gets you a pat on the back, but in 1v1, it means we get to pretend our spells and abilities are free."

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