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Conservation of Ninjutsu

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You can’t help but feel a little short-changed right now; your game was going quite swimmingly until the moment Shinobu played that Perilous Vault of hers. The Unabridged Cube remains a harsh mistress — having one of each card ever printed means that there are some flat-out bombs mixed in with today’s terrible draft pool.

That said, you only have yourself to blame. After a slow start on your part, you got some blockers onto the battlefield and then started hitting your opponent with a Phantom Monster. After Shinobu’s Rakka Mar started making tokens, however, you were compelled to play more ground blockers . . .  and you remained oblivious to the growing number of cards in her hand. At that point, her Perilous Vault (cast and activated on the same turn) put you in a bad spot.

Still, you’ve been able to recover to a certain degree. Shinobu’s Foul Imp was hitting you for two damage each turn for a while, but a lucky Fatestitcher has since put a stop to that. The Fatestitcher hasn’t been able to do a thing against her Goblin Fireslinger, but the Orc Sureshot you played a couple of turns ago holds some promise.

Unfortunately, Shinobu then decides to go for broke, playing a Fledgling Djinn and a Barbarian Outcast to empty her hand. Now that she has more creatures on the table (as well as two flyers), she’s in a good position to end things next turn.

With no cards in hand, you’re banking on your draw phase to help set things right. However, the Dark Ritual on the top of your deck isn’t what you had in mind. Still, maybe there’s a way you can pull out a win that’s as stealthy as Shinobu’s Perilous Vault stunt; she’s only at 5 life, after all.

Now if only you could find it . . . 

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Shinobu before the beginning of her next combat phase.

You are at 4 life, with the following cards in play:

You have the following card in your hand:

Shinobu’s Perilous Vault wiped out a good number of your permanents, and you have no cards with a converted mana cost of 4 remaining in your deck. You otherwise do not know the identities or order of any of the remaining cards in your library.

Shinobu is at 5 life and has no cards in her hand. She has the following cards in play:

Shinobu has the following relevant cards in her 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 — Conservation of Ninjutsu” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, March 5, 2017. We’ll include the best ones in next week’s article along with the next puzzle!

Last Week’s Puzzle

Helix Pinnacle
Correct solutions to last week’s puzzle were received from Russell Jones, Norman Dean, Addison Fox, Paul Seitz, Aaron Golas, Hyman Rosen, Ryou Niji, Sidney Parham, Matt Stanford, Dominic Chan, Jenn Anderson, Chris Anna, Bill Murphy, Greg Dreher, Wolfgang Schoenknecht, Sean Dennehy, Eli and Will Clendenning, Matthew Harvey, David Arnold, Luke Paulsen, and Steeve Blanc.

“When you see the title of the puzzle,” Bill Murphy remarks, “you know how you're gonna be solving it.”

“Winning this game before we die to combat damage actually requires us to win on our upkeep,” Addison Fox notes.“Centos has too many blockers, so our only real out is Helix Pinnacle. This means we need to somehow generate 100 mana on Centos' end step in order to let the Pinnacle trigger at the beginning of our upkeep. That's a tall order, but luckily we have an infinite loop if we do a little bit of unintuitive work.”

“Chekhov's Gun dictates that if we see a Helix Pinnacle, then that's how we must win the game,” Hyman Rosen writes.“Note that sacrificing a ‘clean’ Aerie Ouphes will give it back to us along with a Saproling token from Golgari Germination. This triggers Ivy Lane Denizen, which will clean up the Aerie Ouphes and pump Gyre Sage. We just need to get the loop started.”

As Jenn Anderson’s solution goes, there is some preparation involved:

  1. Tap three swamps and sacrifice the Boggart Loggers to destroy your tapped Forest.
  2. Golgari Germination triggers, creating a Saproling token.
  3. Ivy Street Denizen triggers. Target your opponent's Lightwalker, giving it a +1/+1 counter (and flying).
  4. Tap and sacrifice your four remaining forests to activate Uktabi Wildcats' regeneration ability four times. Uktabi Wildcats is now a 0/0 creature and dies as a state-based action.
  5. Golgari Germination triggers again. This time, give the Aerie Ouphes a +1/+1 counter, canceling out its existing -1/-1 counter.

At this point, you have a “clean” Aerie Ouphes, a flying target in Centos’ Lightwalker, and an urge to get tricky with the stack. Matt Stanford writes:

  • Sacrifice Aerie Ouphes, targeting Lightwalker.
  • Before Aerie Ouphes’ ability resolves, we get two triggers: the Ouphes’ persist trigger and one from Golgari Germination as the Ouphes enter the graveyard. We own both of these, so we stack them like this:

    (top)

    Aerie Ouphes persist trigger

    Golgari Germination trigger

    Aerie Ouphes damage trigger

    (bottom)

  • Resolve Aerie Ouphes’ persist trigger.The Ouphes return to the battlefield with a -1/-1 counter.This triggers the Ivy Lane Denizen, and we put the +1/+1 counter on our Gyre Sage (1 counter so far).
  • Let the Golgari Germination trigger resolve. A 1/1 Saproling token comes into play, and triggers Ivy Lane Denizen. This time we put the counter on our Aerie Ouphes (cancelling out the -1/-1 counter).
  • With only the damage trigger left on the stack, before it resolves (when we regain priority) we sacrifice our Ouphes again, targeting Lightwalker. The three abilities go on the stack as before and we choose the same order:

    (top)

    Aerie Ouphes persist trigger

    Golgari Germination trigger

    Aerie Ouphes damage trigger (second time)

    Aerie Ouphes damage trigger (first time)

    (bottom)

  • Let the first two abilities resolve in the same fashion as before, targeting the same creatures and putting our Gyre Sage to two +1/+1 counters.
  • Repeat this over and over until we have 100 damage triggers on the stack, 100 1/1 Saproling tokens in play, and 100 counters on our Gyre Sage.
  • Tap Gyre Sage for one hundred green mana, put the whole lot into Helix Pinnacle, let Centos’ turn end, move to your upkeep and win in style.

“There is an alternate win condition to this infinite loop,” Addison adds. “Instead of putting the +1/+1 counter on the Gyre Sage, we can put it on our fresh Saproling token, making it a 2/2 creature. If we continually do that, we can untap with an army of 100 2/2s next turn, which – thanks to Thunderstaff — are functionally 1/2s. This is still enough to deal lethal damage when we have that many of them. Centos probably blocks one with Boros Reckoner, but we have more than two life, so this isn't a problem.”

Matthew Harvey notes that there’s also a solution that kills your opponent via an infinitely large attacker:

  1. Sacrifice Boggart Loggers to kill Centos' Indomitable Ancients.
  2. Cast Serpent's Gift on Centos' Reckless Ogre to give it deathtouch.
  3. Cast Mutant's Prey to have our Uktabi Wildcats fight Centos' Reckless Ogre. Uktabi Wildcats and Reckless Ogre both die.
  4. End Centos’ turn. On our turn, untap and draw a card.
  5. Cast Rites of Reaping to give +3/+3 to Gyre Sage and -3/-3 to Aerie Ouphes.
  6. Combat — Attack with Gyre Sage (4/5), Ivy Lane Denizen (2/3) and the two Saproling tokens (1/1s) without summoning sickness. Centos has three blockers (Lightwalker, Boros Reckoner and Changeling Hero), so at least one of our creatures will go unblocked.

At this point, you can begin the infinite combo above, stacking any number of +1/+1 counters on your unblocked creature. In fact, you can stack any number of +1/+1 counters on any of your attacking creatures — even if Centos gains 4 life from the lifelink on his Changeling Hero, it won’t be enough to stop the damage.

“It looks like Mari was just toying with poor Centos,” Luke Paulsen muses.“She has an on-board infinite combo that he hasn't noticed, and can win without any of the cards in her hand!”


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