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Fortune's Fickle Fate


Having finally run out of Modern Masters 2017 stock and with Amonkhet previews on the horizon, your local game store has gone back to the Unabridged Cube. As you can probably expect, the Cube has a sense of humor for April Fools’ Day: When it contains one of each card ever printed, that apparently includes cards from the Un- expansions.

You’re going through your first game at the moment, and already it’s showing signs of being the highlight of your day. The rest of the store seems to agree: you and your opponent, Erwin, are playing to a sizeable audience now.

Erwin looks really uncertain as he looks at the line of face-down cards. “So what’s left?” he asks.

You glance at your list. “Auriok Replica, Stonybrook Angler, Goblin Mime, Teroh's Faithful, Kessig Malcontents, and Phage the Untouchable.”

“You just had to play that Free-for-All, didn’t you?”

“The board was packed, so I took a chance,” you tell him. “The fact that you had just played Phage the Untouchable the turn before . . .  that made it interesting.”

Phage the Untouchable
“Okay,” Erwin says, his hand hovering over the face-down cards. “I’ve got a one-in-six chance of losing. So I’ll take . . .  this one!”

He flips over a Goblin Mime, and a sigh of relief washes over the crowd.

Erwin looks like he’s about to say something, but settles for pumping his fist. Then he draws and plays a land.

“You missed the upkeep on your Carnivorous Death-Parrot,” you point out.

“Aw, nuts,” Erwin says, and then claps his hand over his mouth. The crowd roars.

“And that triggers the Goblin Mime as well,” you add.

“I hate this game!” Erwin moans as he hands you both creatures to put into your graveyard.

You watch as he scratches his head and plays the Plains he just drew. “I guess that means I’m not attacking this turn,” he says. “Stupid Un- cards.”

“I’ll ping you with the Aethersnipe in response to the end of your turn,” you say. “That’ll put you at five life.”

“Okay, now it’s your turn to get something from the Free-for-All.”

You glance at the five face-down cards remaining. There’s no sense in drawing out the anticipation, so you turn over the first card within arm’s reach: Auriok Replica. Erwin slaps the table, and the crowd roars again.

“All right, then,” you say, drawing your card for the turn. “Let’s see if we can finish this thing before one of us comes down with a terminal case of Phage.”

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

You are at 7 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 remaining cards in your library.

The following remaining cards have been set aside by Free-for-All:

As you can probably expect, whoever puts Phage the Untouchable into play on their side via Free-for-All’s ability will likely lose the game immediately.

Erwin is at 5 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 — Fortune’s Fickle Fate” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, April 9, 2017. We’ll include the best ones in next week’s article along with the next puzzle!

Last Week’s Puzzle

Wort, the Raidmother
Correct solutions to last week’s puzzle were received from Russell Jones, Norman Dean, Paul Seitz, Aaron Golas, Allen Smith, Ryou Niji, Greg Dreher, Matthew Harvey, Gary So, Dominic Chan, Martin Krawies, Aaron Thorn, Subrata Sircar, Will and Eli Clendenning, Addison Fox, and Luke Paulsen.

“This board state does make things look rather confusing,” Matthew Harvey writes, “especially as we have no way of knowing how Aisha will block when we attack.

“The thing to note is that Wort, the Raidmother gives Conspire to the spells we have in hand, as they are all either Red or Green. Some might think that we need to tap two Red or Green creatures to copy these spells, but in truth we need to tap any two creatures that share any color with the spell. So for example, we could tap two White creatures to copy Sundering Growth, or two Black creatures to copy Auger Spree.”

Addison Fox continues: “Wort granting Conspire to spells that ordinarily can't be copied adds multiple dimensions to any game of Magic:

  • Which spells do we copy?
  • How do we pay the Conspire cost?
  • What do we do with the second spell?
  • Are there any interesting side effects we might want to happen twice?

“For instance,” Addison notes,“Sundering Growth has Populate . . . so it might be worth it to destroy an enchantment that isn't doing anything just for the second token.”

That doesn’t mean that you need to cast Sundering Growth twice, though. But Will and Eli Clendenning point out that there’s a sequence that lets you win without regard as to how Aisha blocks:

  1. Pay gg to cast Sundering Growth, targeting and destroying Intangible Virtue. Create another 1/1 Red Goblin token.
  2. Attack with Scorched Rusalka, the original 1/1 Goblin token, and your 3/3 Golem token.
  3. Pay rg to cast Strength in Numbers targeting the Golem token, paying and conspiring it by tapping Wort, the Raidmother and Penumbra Spider. Target the Golem token with the second Strength in Numbers as well. The Golem token is now a 9/9 creature with trample.
  4. Pay r and sacrifice Penumbra Spider to Scorched Rusalka. Aisha goes to 10 life, and you create a 2/4 black (untapped) Spider token.
  5. Pay brg to cast Auger Spree and conspire it by tapping the Spider token and the new Goblin token, with both spells targeting the Golem token. The Golem becomes a 17/1 creature with trample.
  6. Move to declaring blockers. Aisha must block the Golem token with a combined total of at least 8 toughness not to die. But if she did, then she would only have one blocker left — she would go to 1 life because of the Golem token, then take 1 damage from either the Goblin token or Scorched Rusalka.

“It's worth noting,” Allen Smith writes, “that we can allow Aisha to block before playing anything, and given the unknown information, she might block in such a way to make this easier for us. For example, if any of our creatures are unblocked, we can double-Strength-in-Numbers and Auger Spree it (in that order, of course) for an 11 power unblocked creature.

“In this case, though, it might just be faster to play all of our things before giving Aisha a chance to block, just to save her the effort of thinking about what might be in our hand.”

Attacking with four creatures would also be plausible, although you would need to adjust your strategy to how Aisha blocks. As Gary So writes:

  1. Cast Sundering Growth, destroying the Arachnus Web on your Penumbra Spider and populating the Goblin token.
  2. Announce four attackers: Wort, the Raidmother; the Golem token; Penumbra Spider; and the original Goblin token. Leave Scorched Rusalka and the new Goblin token untapped.
  3. Aisha has only five blockers with toughnesses 4, 3, 2, 1, and 1.
    • If either of our 3/3s (Wort or the Golem token) goes unblocked, cast Strength in Numbers and Auger Spree on that creature, which will deal the lethal 11 damage.
    • If either of our 3/3s goes blocked by only one creature, cast Strength in Numbers and Auger Spree on that creature, tapping Rusalka and the spare Goblin token to conspire the Auger Spree and killing the blocker. That creature will die, allowing for 11 trample damage.
    • If Penumbra Spider goes either unblocked or blocked by a single creature, cast Strength in Numbers and Auger Spree on the Spider. (If blocked, conspire Auger Spree to kill the blocker.) This will deal 10 damage. After combat, activate Scorched Rusalka, sacrificing any creature to deal the final point of damage.
    • If each of the 3/3s goes blocked by two creatures, at least one of those blockers will have a toughness of 1. Cast Strength in Numbers and Auger Spree on your 3/3 creature, conspiring Auger Spree to remove the blocker with the greater toughness. This lets you trample over the 1-toughness blocker for 10 damage. After combat, activate Scorched Rusalka, sacrificing any creature to deal the final point of damage.

Finally, several people noted that you can also attack with all five creatures and deal up to 13 damage in the process. Russell Jones’ alternative follows:

  1. Play Sundering Growth, not conspired, targeting the Arachnus Web on Penumbra Spider. Populate the Goblin token.
  2. Go straight to combat and swing with everything except the summoning-sick Goblin token.
  3. Aisha has five potential blockers for your five attackers. They can be arranged in any manner, but no matter how she blocks, you are guaranteed to have either an unblocked attacker, or a 3/3 attacker that's facing only a single blocker(whose toughness is no greater than 4).
    • In the case of an unblocked attacker, even a 1/1:
      1. Play Strength in Numbers, not conspired, on the unblocked creature, making it 6/6 trample.
      2. Play Auger Spree, not conspired, on that same creature, making it 10/2.
      3. Sacrifice one of your blocked creatures to Scorched Rusalka before damage is dealt, dealing 1 damage to the dome (bringing Aisha to 10 life).
      4. Allow combat damage to resolve. None of Aisha's blockers have lifelink (since the Rhox War Monk is all tied up in a web), so any clashes among creatures don't matter — all that does matter is your unblocked creature gets through for 10 damage.

    • In the case that she blocks each of your creatures:
      1. Play Strength in Numbers, not conspired, on the Golem token, pumping it to 8/8 trample.
      2. Sacrifice Penumbra Spider to Scorched Rusalka. Penumbra Spider triggers and gives you a black Spider token. Scorched Rusalka deals 1 damage to the dome (bringing Aisha to 10 life).
      3. Play Auger Spree, this time tapping your new Spider token and populated Goblin token to conspire it. (Both of those tokens are summoning-sick, but conspire doesn't care.) Target the Golem token with one of the copies, making it 12/4, and target its blocker with the other copy, which reduces its toughness to 0 or less and kills it.
      4. Allow combat damage to play out. Once again the inter-creature clashes are meaningless, and the Golem token (which now faces zero blockers) gets through for 12 trample damage (bringing Aisha to -2 life).

“I think this example illustrates a principle in Magic combat,” Ryou Niji remarks.“In many cases, attacking with a creature is the best use of that resource!”

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