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Reflections

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Aether Tunnel
You sit back. On the one hand, it seems very unlikely that you'll win this game with what you have on the table. On the other hand, you're playing against CJ, and there's always the chance that he'll present an opening by his own initiative.

Then again, there's also the issue of his high life total. You tell yourself that you'll worry about that when the time comes.

"I'll attack with my Sanctum Spirit again," CJ says, turning his card sideways.

"And I'm still not able to block it because of that Aether Tunnel," you mutter. "I'll take four, and you gain four life. Again."

CJ gives you a massive grin. "16 life now!" he says.

"Yeah, well, whatever. Where'd Mari go?"

"CÚcile says that she found a closet full of old DVDs, so she and Mari are now seeing if they can find anything interesting for movie night."

You raise an eyebrow. The twins never struck you as DVD collectors, but perhaps their parents are traditionalists. That said, you mentally remind yourself that not everything's on the internet just yet.

"I'll cast a Drownyard Explorers," CJ says. "That'll give me a Clue token."

"That's not cycling if you activate the token, is it?" you ask.

CJ takes a closer look at his creature. "I don't think so," he says. "Does your Crystalline Resonance only trigger on cycling?"

"Yes, just cycling," you say. There's a bigger question as to why the twins have a copy of a rare from the Commander 2020 set - especially when you consider that they've had to have had it for some time now --but you've learned not to ask questions.

"Okay, I'll sacrifice that Clue token for a card," CJ announces.

"You do realize that you can do it before the end of my turn, right?"

"I'll need the chance to play a land in case I draw one," CJ explains.

"That's... not really how the logic works."

CJ draws a card and drops it on the table. "Celestial Colonnade," he says gleefully. "What did I tell you?"

"That's still not how the logic works. You're supposed to... ah, nevermind."

You glance over your board. You and CJ have managed to end up with similar uw decks today, with the main difference being that you have a slightly greater emphasis on the "Blue" part. This has made combat particularly frustrating for you: After all, when both sides have flyers, nothing really gets through.

That said, you could consider the upside: For one, you do have a source of unblockable creatures in your Soratami Mirror-Guard (although not to the same degree as CJ's lifelinking Sanctum Spirit). And you'd be at a far greater disadvantage if you hadn't banished CJ's Isperia, Supreme Judge with a timely Cast Out.

After CJ declares the end of his turn, you add a Countless Gears Renegade to your hand and consider your next move. At seven life, you don't have a lot of maneuvering room left, especially now that CJ will have access to a 4/4 vigilant flyer after his next untap step.

"So," CJ says, "do you have anything?"

"Technically, I've got something," you say.

"...And?"

"And what?"

"Are you going to play it?"

You shift in your seat. "It's not about whether or not I'm going to play it," you say. "It's about how I play it."

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

You are at 7 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.

CJ is at 16 life and has no cards in his hand. He has the following cards in play:

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@gatheringmagic.com with the subject line "Puzzle - Reflections" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, April 20, 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 Jonah Comstock, Sean Patrick Keatley, "Bubbles" and Wei Lin, Michael Feldman, Russell Jones, Hyman Rosen, and zzo38.

Between the use of both +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters, and the presence of proliferate effects, you're definitely throwing around some counters here. The problem is that there's no clear path to victory on the surface:

  • It's not possible to get enough power and toughness bonuses on your creatures to overcome your opponent's defenses. The fact that most of these bonuses are only available at sorcery speed doesn't help much.
  • It's not possible to get your current Mortis Dogs up to a high enough power to kill your opponent all by itself.
  • While it's possible to free your Death's Shadow from its Pacifism, there's no way to get it past your opponent's blockers.

This leaves you with a creature that's not exactly on the battlefield at the moment: The Mimeoplasm. If you're going to free it from its Prison Realm, though, you'll need better things to assimilate.

"Our aim is to reduce our opponent's life points using the effect of Mortis Dogs," Wei Lin and 'Bubbles' note:

  1. Tap three Swamps to cast Cartouche of Ambition on Death's Shadow. Put the -1/-1 counter onto Wickerbough Elder.
  2. Tap two Swamps and one Forest to cast Courage in Crisis, putting the +1/+1 counter on Death's Shadow, and then proliferating that counter along with the -1/-1 counter that is on Wickerbough Elder. Death's Shadow is now a 13/13. Wickerbough Elder now has two -1/-1 counters.
  3. Tap one Forest to activate Wickerbough Elder's ability, removing a -1/-1 counter to destroy Pacifism. Death's Shadow can now attack.
  4. Enter combat and declare Death's Shadow as an attacker as well as Mortis Dogs (Mortis Dogs becomes 4/2 as it attacks). Our opponent's Circle of Flame will deal 1 damage to both of them since they do not have flying and are attacking.
  5. Death's Shadow will likely be blocked by one or more of our opponent's creatures. Regardless how your opponent blocks, you are going to gain 13 life from it due to the lifelink granted by the Cartouche of Ambition. When you go to 16 life, Death's Shadow will die.
  6. If your opponent does not block and kill your Mortis Dogs, tap your Desert at the end of combat to deal 1 damage to Mortis Dogs, killing it and sending it to the graveyard. Its effect will go off, targeting your opponent to lose 4 life (an amount equal to Mortis Dogs' power).
  7. On your second main phase, tap one Forest and the Simic Keyrune for Blue mana to activate Zameck Guildmage's first ability, allowing creatures that you control that enter the battlefield this turn to get a +1/+1 counter.
  8. Tap your last Forest to activate Wickerbough Elder, removing a -1/-1 counter one last time and destroying Prison Realm.
  9. With Prison Realm gone, you will now get The Mimeoplasm back. As it enters the battlefield under your control, exile Mortis Dogs as the first creature and Death's Shadow as the second. Mimeoplasm is now a copy of Mortis Dogs with thirteen +1/+1 counters, and an additional +1/+1 counter from Zameck Guildmage for a total power and toughness of 16/16.
  10. Finally, tap Plaguemaw Beast to sacrifice your The Mimeoplasm to proliferate the +1/+1 counter on Gristleback. As The Mimeoplasm dies and goes to the graveyard, the Mortis Dogs effect will go off and cause our opponent to lose their remaining 16 life for the win.
  11. Go and have a victorious lunch.

"Solving this puzzle came down to the following challenges in rising level of difficulty," Michael Feldman clarifies:

  • Understanding that Wickerbough Elder would obviously have to free The Mimeoplasm.
  • Recognizing that the only way to take away 20 life from a player that can block your every creature is via Mortis Dogs' ability.
  • Realizing that The Mimeoplasm would have to copy Mortis Dogs with a Death's Shadow buff, rather than use any of each player's red herring graveyard cards.
  • Figuring out how to kill Death's Shadow via Gristleback and lifelink.
  • Managing counters and 1-damage pings just right to make everything possible (including the realization that only one of your two proliferations is necessary as an end in itself).

Michael's variant, in fact, notes that you have enough resources to off Death's Shadow without putting the Cartouche of Ambition on it.

  1. Tap for g and tap Simic Keyrune for u to have Zameck Guildmage give each creature that enters the battlefield an extra +1/+1 counter.
  2. Tap for bbb to cast Cartouche of Ambition on Zameck Guildmage (now 3/3 with lifelink).

  3. Tap for bbg to cast Courage in Crisis on Zameck Guildmage (now 4/4) and proliferate Zameck Guildmage (5/5), Gristleback (4/4), and Wickerbough Elder (2/2).
  4. Sacrifice Gristleback to have it give you its power (4) in life (7 total).

    • Death's Shadow's continuous ability now gives it -7/-7 (making it 6/6).
  5. Tap for g and remove a -1/-1 counter from Wickerbough Elder (now 3/3) to have the creature destroy Pacifism.
  6. Attack with Death's Shadow, Zameck Guildmage, and Mortis Dogs.

    • The attack of these non-flyers has Circle of Flame deal each attacker 1 damage.
    • Mortis Dogs' attack has it get +2/+0 for the turn (now 4/2).
    • Mari's creatures, including two with 0 power but cumulatively with the potential to deal 11 damage, can block in such ways that any given attacker may or may not survive.
    • Mari cannot prevent Zameck Guildmage from dealing 5 lifelink damage, whether to a blocker or to her, which gives you 5 life (12 total).
    • If Death's Shadow survives, its continuous ability now gives it -12/-12 (now dead as a 1/1 with 1 damage).
  7. If Mortis Dogs survives, tap Desert at end of combat to deal Mortis Dogs 1 damage. (The latter dies as a 4/2 with 2 damage.)
  8. Tap for g and remove a -1/-1 counter from Wickerbough Elder (now 4/4) to destroy Prison Realm.

    • Prison Realm's exit puts The Mimeoplasm on the battlefield.
    • The process of The Mimeoplasm's entrance allows you to exile two graveyard creatures, copy one, and gain the other's power in +1/+1 counters.
  9. Use The Mimeoplasm's ability to exile Mortis Dogs and Death's Shadow, copy the former (2/2) and gain the latter's power (13) in +1/+1 counters (now 15/15).

  10. Tap Plaguemaw Beast and sacrifice The Mimeoplasm to proliferate.

    • The death of The Mimeoplasm has the creature take its power (16) in life from a player. Use the creature's ability on Mari (now 0 life).

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