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Fresh from the Fight


You'd have liked to say that your first Masters 25 draft was interesting, something that involved difficult opponents and games that went down to the wire. In truth, however, you drafted three Horseshoe Crabs, a Quicksilver Dagger and a Heavy Arbalest, then cruised to a result of 2-1 (losing to someone who always seemed to have a Murder when she needed it).

You're removing the sleeves from your deck when Mari runs up. At first you think she's about to tell you a story about how she managed to set up her most recent win, but what she has to say is a lot more unexpected.

"CJ's playing for 3-0!" she says, breathlessly.

You pause for a moment, then quickly gather up your cards and follow her.

Unfortunately, CJ's signing his match slip by the time you arrive at his table. "Show's over," he says. "Thanks, dude. I guess I just couldn't hold out till the end of the night."

"My pleasure," his opponent says.

"Wait," Mari says. "You conceded?"

"Well, yeah," CJ says. "Hiro here had double my creature count, and I wasn't drawing anything new. He was also at 14 life, and it wasn't as though I was going to fight those rising odds."

You glance at the cards on the table. "Is this what the board looked like when you finished your game?" you ask. "Did you remove any cards?"

CJ holds both hands up. "Oh, no no no," he says, "you're not doing that to me again."

"Doing what?"

"You and Mari are going to do that thing where you look over my game, and she's going to instantly know that I could have won it if I had played that card *this* way and this card *that* way. And you're going to take like, fifteen minutes to figure it out, and then you're going to agree with her."

"But what . . . " Mari begins.

"I just signed this thing off," CJ says. "If there's a way I could have won this, I don't want to know about it!"

You sigh. You have to admit that he's right -- maybe some things aren't meant to be known, and maybe some things are supposed to stay somewhere just beyond your reach. Still, that doesn't mean that you can't assuage your own curiosity.

"Could you at least answer one question, CJ?" you ask.

CJ shrugs. "Sure, whatever."

"You conceded during your turn, right? Your lands are untapped."

"Yeah, I did," CJ says. "Just after my draw."

You turn over the two face-down cards that probably were in his card at the point of concession. "And you just drew the Retraction Helix to go with your Act of Heroism?"

"That's two questions," CJ points out. "Besides, the Helix isn't really removal, and I thought it would only delay the inevitable."

Mari shakes her head. "One of these days, CJ," she says, "you and I are going to have a long talk."

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

You are at 5 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.

Hiro is at 14 life and has no cards in his hand. He 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 -- Fresh from the Fight" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, March25, 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, Ryou Niji, Greg Dreher, Enrique Cordero, Subrata Sircar, Chris Billard, Michael Feldman, and David Arnold. Russell Jones in particular provided some very comprehensive notes about mana distribution and the Desert that originally broke this puzzle, which we'll get to in a while.

"One glance at the board will tell us that we need to win mostly through Faith of the Devoted and not combat," Subrata Sircar remarks."That in turn will require a lot of mana and cards. Fortunately, between the Apprentice Wizard and the Dreadship Reef, we have lots of mana."

"We have the good sense to enchant our own creature with Immobilizing Ink to make a discard outlet," Ryou Niji notes, "and it's one that can really use the untap effect, too. There is also the fact that Arcane Denial is positive card advantage when we use it as 'counter a spell you control: draw three cards'. Unfortunately, we can't afford to counter Slip Through Space (since we need the unblockable damage)."

As a result, much of the puzzle involves getting a known card into your hand and recasting it so that you can use Arcane Denial. David Arnold writes:

  1. Tap an Island to cast Slip Through Space targeting Umara Entangler. Entangler's Prowess ability triggers and it becomes 3/2.
  2. Resolve Slip Through Space. The Entangler can't be blocked until end of turn and you draw a card (C1).
  3. Tap an Island and a Swamp and discard C1 to Ridged Kusite's ability, targeting the Entangler.
  4. Faith of the Devoted triggers. Tap your other Swamp for its ability. Tami goes to 10, you go up to 9.
  5. The Kusite's ability resolves. The Entangler becomes 4/2 first strike.
  6. Tap Courtly Provocateur to force Dragon's Eye Sentry to block this turn if able.
  7. Swing with Festering Mummy and the Entangler. Dragon's Eye Sentry must block, but since it can't block the Entangler, it must block the Mummy.
  8. Regardless of whether or not Tami blocks the Mummy with any other creatures, Dragon's Eye Sentry kills the Mummy during the first strike combat damage step, and the Entangler deals 4 damage to Tami at the same time (who goes to 6).
  9. From the Mummy's death trigger, put a -1/-1 counter on Umara Entangler. It is now 3/1.
  10. On your second main phase, tap Dreadship Reef for 1, then use that to activate Dreadship Reef and tap one island to add a total of uuuuuu to your mana pool.
  11. Pay uu to activate Razorfin Abolisher and return Umara Entangler to your hand (now that it has a counter on it).
  12. Pay uu to recast the Entangler.
  13. Pay uu to cast Arcane Denial to counter the Entangler.
  14. End your turn.
  15. On Tami's upkeep, triggered abilities go on the stack in Active Player / Non-Active Player order. This means that the Honden ability goes on the stack, and then your three draws from Arcane Denial stack on top of it.
  16. Draw three cards (C2, C3, C4). The following then occurs with the Honden trigger still on the stack:

The original version of this puzzle had a Desert on Tami's side, which inadvertently made this solution unworkable. This was because you have certain restrictions on what abilities you can activate at which times. You need:

The Dreadship Reef, however, counts for a one-time infusion of 5 mana, which will empty from your pool at the end of each step and phase.

  • You can't use all of the 5 mana during your precombat main phase, since you're limited to Slip Through Space and the Ridged Kusite's ability at this time (for a total of 2ub).
  • You can't use all of the 5 mana during your combat phase even if you activate the Kusite here. This is because you need first strike damage to resolve before you activate Razorfin Abolisher's ability, and your mana pool will empty at the end of the first strike combat damage step.

The only place where you can use the 5 mana from Dreadship Reef is during your post combat main phase. If Tami had a Desert on her side, however, she could easily deal 1 damage to the 3/1 Umara Entangler and kill it before this second main phase begins.

"On the surface," Michael Feldman notes, "the puzzle's title could refer to Arcane Denial, but it could also refer to the unusual amount of cards that would seem to be a big deal but don't really matter in the end:

  • Felidar Sovereign's alternate win condition is totally unobtainable and the solution wouldn't be any different if there wasn't a lifelink blocker.
  • Nylea, God of the Hunt doesn't have enough devotion and if she did, she still wouldn't make a difference.
  • Honden of Cleansing Fire looks like a huge problem given that you're depending on Tami's upkeep, but it starts at the bottom of the stack.
  • And Meekstone . . .  ah, surely there's gonna have to be some trick for untapping a big creature by making it smaller or recalling it or . . .  nope. Nada. Negative.

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