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Red in Tooth and Claw

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Fledgling Dragon
"So this place has how many bedrooms?"

"I don't know," CÚcile admits. "I try not to think about it. Impending Doom on my Fledgling Dragon?"

"Yeah, sure," you say. "I guess I shouldn't have worried about whether or not you had enough room for us here. If there was any place where I'd want to self-isolate, it would probably be this one."

"Yes, the twins have it quite good."

"Where are the twins, anyway?"

"Somewhere on a wildlife tour with their parents," CÚcile says. "They're halfway around the world right now, I think. I just know that their flights got cancelled and they need to stay where they are, so they're not going to be back anytime soon."

Knowing the twins, there's probably a 'wildlife' joke in there somewhere. "When you said you were house-sitting," you say, "I thought that meant you were also babysitting. That's... good, I suppose."

"At least they're getting some family time," CÚcile says, nodding. "Their parents were the ones who suggested that I get a few friends to stay over, in fact."

"That's a surprise."

"Hey, you said it yourself," CÚcile says. "This place is too much house for one person. Attack with my Fledgling Dragon?"

"Whoa, hold on. Are you at threshold?"

"I've got eight cards in my graveyard; I was at threshold a couple of turns ago. You're not paying attention."

"I was distracted by the size of this place," you say dryly. "So how big is the Dragon?"

"Um... 8/8," CÚcile says. "Wait, no... it's 9/9. I've got a Paragon of Fierce Defiance giving it an additional +1/+1."

"I'm obviously blocking that with my Heir to the Night," you say, dropping the Vampire into your graveyard.

"I'll finish my turn with a Dazzling Ramparts," CÚcile says, dropping the 0/7 Wall into play.

You chuckle. "It's not exactly the Unabridged Cube experience," you point out, "but I'll take it."

"Renata and Raffaela have a good-sized collection, but not quite one of each card ever printed," CÚcile notes. "What's shocking is how well they've organized it. I'll show you their playroom later."

"They have a playroom?"

"They have a playroom for their cards," CÚcile says, emphasizing that last bit.

"I feel so inadequate now."

"It helps if you start your turn," CÚcile says. "I think your friends are due to arrive very soon, so we need to set aside some time to help them settle in."

You untap your permanents and draw a Grim Contest. The game isn't looking too good for you right now, and for a moment you consider throwing it in and putting another pile of cards together. That said, there's not much else to do before Mari and CJ arrive, so you might as well make the most of the next few minutes.

CÚcile seems to be thinking along the same lines, though. "If you're going to take a while longer, maybe we should pack up."

"I just need a couple of minutes," you say.

"Coincidentally, that's exactly the same amount of time we need to find the front door," CÚcile muses.

"Why would the twins have to travel around the world to see a bunch of animals, anyway?" you ask in jest. "They could probably hold their own safari in here, if they wanted."

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat CÚcile 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 still have a substantial number of cards remaining in your library, but you know neither the identities nor the order of those cards.

You have the following cards in your graveyard:

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

CÚcile has the following cards in her graveyard:

If you've got a solution in mind, don't put it in the comments! Help keep this puzzle a mystery to other readers!

Instead, if you think you've got a great solution, you can send your solution to puzzles at gatheringmagic dot com with the subject line "Puzzle - Red in Tooth and Claw" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, March 30, 2020. 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, Jonah Comstock, Sean Patrick Keatley, Hyman Rosen, Greg Dreher, Jacob Butcher, Jay Sweitzer-Shalit, Michael Feldman, "Bubbles", Wei Lin, and David Arnold.

"This puzzle is pretty easy if you work backwards," Hyman Rosen notes, "because the steps just fall into place. The thinky-tricky bit is realizing that while having a White creature attacking reduces the cost of Nemesis Trap, you don't have to target the White creature itself to get the cost reduction."

"The solution is actually quite simple," Jonah Comstock writes. "We need to trigger Bleak Coven Vampires' ability. How do we do that? Well, we need to get one more artifact on the board, and we need to either bounce and recast the Vampire or make a copy of it with

Nemesis Trap. Option 1, however, is going to cost way more mana than we have.

"So how do we cast Nemesis Trap? Paying 6 mana for it is, again, too mana-intensive to let us do what we need to do. And we can't count on the opponent attacking with a White creature - nor would that let us do what we want anyway. So... we need to attack with a White creature. You might think we don't have a White creature on the board or any way to get one, and you'd be almost right. You'd be forgiven for missing the 0/1 White Goat creature that Discordant Piper can create.

"And what about that artifact? It would be nice if we could just activate Metrognome's ability, but if we do that, Nox's Stinging Barrier will wreck our day with the Metalcraft trigger on the stack. So we'll have to get a smidge more creative."

"That Stinging Barrier sure makes timing and targeting a lot trickier," Michael Feldman writes:

  1. Play Swamp. (Your lands can now tap for exactly {B}{B}{B}{B}{B}{G}{G}{G}.)
  2. Nox can now tap for {U} and tap Stinging Barrier to deal 1 damage to you (2 life left), himself (3 life left) or to any creature other than Plagued Rusalka (protected by Lightning Greaves); he could not do so before you took priority. Other than Discordant Piper, all targetable creatures have >=2 toughness and would survive.
  3. If Nox taps Stinging Barrier targeting Discordant Piper at any point, pay {B} and sacrifice Discordant Piper to Plagued Rusalka and give -1/-1 to Serum Raker (now 2/1). Discordant Piper's death creates a White Goat token (which is 1/2 from Celestial Crusader's +1/+1 bonus).
  4. Pay {B} and sacrifice Invasive Species to have Plagued Rusalka give -1/-1 to any untapped creature other than itself or Floating-Dream Zubera.
  5. Invasive Species' death has Demonic Vigor put Invasive Species in your hand.
  6. Demonic Vigor goes to the graveyard for lack of attachment.
  7. Pay {G}{G}{G} to cast Invasive Species.
  8. Invasive Species' entrance has you put a permanent you control in its owner's hand. Put Metrognome in your hand with the foregoing ability. (You now control one artifact.)
  9. If Discordant Piper is still alive, pay {B} and sacrifice Discordant Piper to Plagued Rusalka and give -1/-1 to Serum Raker (now 2/1). Discordant Piper's death creates a White Goat token (which is 1/2 with +1/+1 from Celestial Crusader).
  10. With Discordant Piper having been sacrificed by this point, and Serum Raker now being 2/1, if Nox taps for {U} and taps Stinging Barrier to deal 1 damage to Serum Raker, Serum Raker dies.
  11. If Serum Raker is still alive, pay {B} and sacrifice Plagued Rusalka to have it give -1/-1 to Serum Raker (which dies as a 1/0).
  12. Either way, Serum Raker dies. Its death has both you and Nox discard a card. Discard Metrognome.
  13. Because an ability Nox controls caused you to discard Metrognome, Metrognome creates four 1/1 Gnome artifact creatures. (You now control five artifacts.)
  14. If Stinging Barrier has still not been activated, Nox can tap for {U} and tap Stinging Barrier to deal 1 lethal damage to a Gnome. (You would then control four artifacts.)
  15. Pay {0} to equip Lightning Greaves on the White Goat (now a hasty 1/2).
  16. Attack with Bleak Coven Vampires and the White Goat.
  17. Before combat damage is dealt, pay {B}{B} to cast Nemesis Trap (reduced from {4}{B}{B} by the attacking White creature), targeting Bleak Coven Vampires.
  18. Nemesis Trap exiles Bleak Coven Vampires and creates a Bleak Coven Vampires token to be exiled at end step.
  19. The Bleak Coven Vampires token's entrance (while you control >=3 artifacts) has you reduce a player's life by 4 and gain 4 life. Reduce Nox's life by 4 (0 left) with the foregoing ability.

You don't want to target Floating-Dream Zubera with your Plagued Rusalka's ability for one reason: It allows Nox to ping his own Zubera to death, and draw a card. A Force Spike, for example, would be really bad for your Nemesis Trap.

"The title for this puzzle could run both ways," Michael points out. "You may be the one that created an antagonist out of a trap for one of your own creatures, but it was Nox's creatures that led to his own downfall. Without Serum Raker's discard or Celestial Crusader's bonus, you would have been unable to snatch victory from the jaws of self-defeat."

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