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No Safe Place

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Editor's Note: Whoops! We left out a card from the original version of this puzzle. That card has now been restored below.

Wild Slash
"I'll attack with my Serendib Efreet, my Exultant Skymarcher, and my flying Killer Whale," Amina says gleefully.

"I really hate your deck," you mutter. "You know that, right?"

With your local game store's Unabridged Cube online once again, you figured that it would be nice to sit down and go into familiar - yet at the same time, unfamiliar - territory. The Unabridged Cube is a collection of cards that somehow contains one of each card ever printed, and today you used it to cobble together a passable br deck. Unfortunately, someone else used the opportunity to build themselves one of the stronger wu decks in recent memory... and as luck would have it, she's sitting across the table from you right now.

"So, considering your Smog Elemental," Amina says, "that's... six damage coming."

You glance at your scorepad. "That's the exact amount of life I have left," you admit.

"Really?" Amina says in mock surprise. "What am amazing coincidence!"

To be honest, Amina's position seems rock-solid: She's drawn into consecutive flying creatures, dropped a Pacifism on your lone flyer, and used a Serra's Blessing to hold her own line. Put simply, she's got you pinned down, and has now positioned herself for the inevitable kill.

You glance at your Whalebone Glider. Right now the old artifact is the only thing keeping Amina from an outright win, but you have to decide what to use it on.

"Sidisi's Pet, or Mobile Garrison?" Amina asks.

"What?"

"Your target for the Whalebone Glider," Amina notes. "That's the only way you can survive my attack."

You think for a while. "If I use it on my Mobile Garrison," you say out loud, "the only attacker I can reliably block and kill with it is your Exultant Skymarcher. That puts me at one life after damage. If I use it on Sidisi's Pet, though, I gain one from lifelink, and go to two... but you still have all three flyers."

"So it's the Garrison?"

"Not so much," you say, tapping the Glider and pointing it at your Sidisi's Pet. "I'm going to get eaten alive next turn anyway, so I'll go for the higher life total and pray for removal."

"That's interesting," Amina says, tapping a Plains and aiming a Dispatch at your Pet. "Useless, but still interesting. Take six damage?"

You panic for all of a single moment, but then catch yourself just in time. "In response," you say, "I'll tap Sidisi's Pet and Night Market Lookout to crew my Mobile Garrison."

Amina looks at you curiously for a moment, and then laughs. "I see," she says. "Very clever. I didn't see that one."

"So the Lookout drains you for one?"

"You can have it," Amina says, smiling. "I'll go to five life."

"And I'll go to seven," you say. "Then I'll take six damage from your attackers, and go down to one life."

"I can't believe I didn't see that. Too bad you're only going to last one more turn."

"We'll see."

Amina casts the last card in her hand - a Water Servant - and passes the turn to you. "Truth be told," she says, "I'm not even sure what kind of removal you'd draw at this point that can help."

Surprisingly enough, your deck actually does offer up a removal spell. However, the Wild Slash you draw is a bit lacking - it clearly won't be enough to take down any of Amina's flyers, and even then you won't have enough blockers for the rest.

All this leads up to one conclusion, though: You have to find a way to win the game before your opponent finishes you off. Amina may have the stronger deck, but you obviously have a better grasp of the subtleties, and maybe it's the right time to take this fight to her home.

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

You are at 1 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 still have a substantial number of cards remaining in your library, but you know neither the identities nor the order of those cards.

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

Amina has the following 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 - No Safe Place" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, April1, 2019. 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, Matt Bocek, Kirk Maijala, Max Bernstein, Dan Christman-Crook, Sean Patrick Keatley, Addison Fox, Hyman Rosen, Ryou Niji, Chris Billard, Michael Feldman, Mark Koster, David Arnold, and Greg Dreher.

"Fun puzzle!" Mark Koster writes. "At first it looked easy, then I found out that didn't work, and that kept happening."

"At first sight, this puzzle seems easy," Ryou Niji agrees. "We have more attackers than the opponent has blockers, so what's stopping us from attacking with everything, and getting 2 damage through that way? Well, it turns out that Elvish Lookout has shroud, and refuses to have more than 1 power, so if the opponent just blocks everyone else, we could only push through 1 damage that way.

"There is a single way to damage the opponent outside of combat: Urborg Stalker will deal 1 damage to the opponent if we can use Aisling Leprechaun to paint one of his creatures Green. The difficulty, then, is to make sure both the Green creature and Urborg Stalker itself survive to the opponent's upkeep."

The result is a combat-analysis solution. You actually don't have too many scenarios to work through, but you do have to do some preparations before your attack, as Dan Christman-Crook writes:

  1. Equip the Necropouncer to the Forcemage Advocate. Cast Phytoburst on the Plaguemaw Beast.
    • This serves two purposes. One: You can now give both Forcemage Advocate and Plaguemaw Beast vigilance. Two: Equally importantly, Patrick can think about letting the Aisling Leprechaun through "safely".

  2. Give Forcemage Advocate and Plaguemaw Beast vigilance with the Beacon Behemoth. You're now tapped out.
  3. Attack with everything but the Beacon Behemoth. Patrick can only block five of your six creatures, meaning he'll have to let either the Aisling Leprechaun or Elvish Lookout through (or die to combat damage). This leads to two scenarios:
    • If he lets the Leprechaun through, activate Forcemage Advocate, return Renegade's Getaway to Patrick's hand (if he casts it, the servo will get blasted by Grave Peril and a creature becoming indestructible won't matter), give the Leprechaun a +1/+1 counter, and deal two damage to his face.
    • If he lets the Lookout through and blocks anything else with the Stalker (which may cause the Stalker to take lethal damage), activate Plaguemaw Beast and sacrifice the creature being blocked by the Stalker. Whatever blocked the Leprechaun will turn green, the Lookout will deal one damage to Patrick, and the Urborg Stalker deals one more damage during Patrick's upkeep.

"If Phytoburst was an instant like Giant Growth," Chris Billard writes, "this would be easier, but realizing that Forcemage Advocate can provide the necessary boost is key. This also allows you to use Phytoburst to make sure Patrick's Urborg Stalker survives any blocking scenario, which in turn covers the case where Elvish Lookout is the creature that is not blocked."

Chris, of course, is talking about an alternate solution, which makes the interesting move of giving the Urborg Stalker the +5/+5 bonus:

  1. Equip Necropouncer ({G}{G}) to Forcemage Advocate, making it 5/2.
  2. Activate Beacon Behemoth ({G}) to give Forcemage Advocate vigilance.
  3. Cast Phytoburst ({G}{G}) on Patrick's Urborg Stalker, making it 7/9.
  4. Attack with all creatures you control except Beacon Behemoth. Patrick only has five blockers, so one of your creatures will be unblocked.
    • If a creature other than Aspiring Leprechaun or Elvish Lookout is unblocked, or if more than 1 creature is unblocked, Patrick takes at least 2 points of damage and loses.
    • If Elvish Lookout is unblocked, Patrick takes 1 point of damage. Since none of your creatures can kill Patrick's Urborg Stalker and Aspiring Leprechaun cannot kill any of Patrick's creatures by itself, the creature blocking Aspiring Leprechaun will become green and Urborg Stalker will deal 1 point of damage to Patrick on his upkeep.
    • If Aspiring Leprechaun is unblocked, activate Forcemage Advocate. Return Renegade's Getaway to Patrick's hand and put a +1/+1 counter on Aspiring Leprechaun. (Patrick can cast Renegade's Getaway but it will not affect the outcome.) Patrick takes 2 points of damage and loses.

Does the card returned by Forcemage Advocate matter? Aside from Renegade's Getaway, the cards in Patrick's graveyard will actually have varying levels of impact:

  • Marsh Gas will stop an unblocked Leprechaun or Lookout from dealing damage, so returning Marsh Gas would be a terrible choice.
  • Tainted Strike is a bad choice for the opposite reason: In both solutions, returning Tainted Strike allows Patrick to cast it on the unblocked Leprechaun and get three poison counters instead of two damage - a worthwhile trade-off.
  • Tar Snare, of course, can simply remove an unblocked Leprechaun and prevent it from dealing its 2 damage.
  • Deathlace, interestingly enough, is a workable choice. Patrick can certainly use Deathlace to turn any of his "Green" creatures back into Black ones, but in any solution scenario where you return Deathlace to his hand, that ability won't matter!

"One thing you can say for the designers of this Crap Cube," Addison Fox notes, "is that they sure were on the money. There are some staggeringly suboptimal options here, even considering the lows we're used to in the Unabridged Cube environment."

"Given Patrick's life total, though," Matt Bocek adds, "I understand Patrick's feeling of urgency... but he really walked into this one. He should have held back his Dune Outrider as an invincible blocker!"

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