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Unstoppable Force


Yargle, Glutton of Urborg
You sigh. Why is it that you never seem to do well on your first prerelease match?

Part of you thinks that you may have built your Dominaria deck incorrectly. Maybe you should have run a more tempo-oriented ug deck, even if that means benching most of your removal. Or maybe you should have brought in a splash of Black for your lone copy of Eviscerate . . . 

Whatever the case, it's too late now. The only thing you can do is ride this one out; maybe you can win your next three matches.

Dianne taps three lands. "I'll cast Dub," she says.

"Okay. On what?"

Dianne surveys her side of the table. You're expecting her to put the aura on one of her two flyers, considering that you don't have much in the way of defenses there. You wouldn't blame her if she dropped it on her Arvad the Cursed either, but she instead decides to go for the flashy play.

"Yargle?" you ask, a bit confused.

"Yargle, Glutton of Urborg," she says proudly. "He's now a 13/7 Knight with First Strike."

"Uh . . .  you do know I have a blocker that can turn indestructible, right?" you ask, pointing at your Amaranthine Wall.

Dianne glances at it as though she's seeing it for the first time. "Oh."

"You can take it back, if you want."

"No, it's okay -- it's still good for defense. I'll just attack with my Aven Sentry and Windgrace Acolyte," she says, tapping both creatures.

You're tempted to cast Arbor Armament on your Grunn, the Lonely King and have it block with extreme prejudice, but something stays your hand. Instead, you cast it on your Howling Golem and have it block the Aven Sentry as a 3/4.

Dianne gives you a curious look. "I'm looking for more removal," you say.

Dianne nods and draws a card. You draw an Ancient Animus -- definitely the removal you've been looking for, but you're down to a single untapped Mountain at this point.

"Adamant Will on my Aven Sentry?" Dianne asks, tapping two more lands.

You glance up, surprised. "That's a nice draw," you admit.

"I hope that draw you took was worth it," she says. "Take three damage from my Acolyte?"

You eventually move to your turn, noting that your life total is now dangerously low. You peel a Shivan Fire from the top of your deck (noting that it would have been a lot nicer if you had drawn it earlier) and straighten up. If you're going to approach this prerelease tournament properly, you'd better start here.

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

You are at 5 life, with the following cards in play:

You have only 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.

Dianne is at 10 life and has no cards in her hand. She 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 -- Unstoppable Force" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, April 29, 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 Addison Fox, Russell Jones, Greg Dreher, Subrata Sircar, Stephen Gross, Ryou Niji, Michael Feldman, and Andr Fernandes.

"How can you beat Osten, who still has a healthy life total?" Greg Dreher asks."Just pretend he's an Elder Dragon, and let Tetsuko Umezawa sneak your way to victory. But first, you need to cleverly conceal the true power of your forces."

"Since the only realistic source of damage is the evasion ability granted by Tetsuko Umezawa," Ryou Niji writes, "it is almost certain that we will need to make use of her favorite trick to push through damage: Shrink our own creatures, and pump them back up before blockers.

"However, at first glance, we don't seem to have any large pump effects at instant speed, and adding +1/+1 counters or removing -1/-1 counters one at a time won't suffice. It takes some creative thinking to find a way to turn an innocent untap effect into an instant +3/+3 . . . "

"This will require careful timing to get the most out of all our creatures," Subrata Sircar declares, and so it goes:

  1. Start by paying ub for Hidden Strings to tap the Leech Bonder and Crossbow Infantry. Cipher Hidden Strings onto the Black Knight on resolution.
  2. Pay u and untap the Leech Bonder to move a -1/-1 counter from the Grief Tyrant to the Black Knight (making it 1/1).
  3. Sacrifice the Grief Tyrant to the Defiant Salvager; when the Tyrant dies, put three -1/-1 counters on the Abundant Maw (making it 3/1). The Salvager gets a +1/+1 counter.
  4. Enter combat and swing with the Leech Bonder, Black Knight, Tetsuko Umezawa and the Abundant Maw. The Leech Bonder can be blocked, but the others are unblockable thanks to Tetsuko.
  5. Tap the Giant Oyster to lock down the Abundant Maw.
  6. After blockers are declared but before first strike damage, pay u and untap the Leech Bonder to move the -1/-1 counter from the Black Knight to the Nearheath Pilgrim (killing it).
  7. Go to first strike damage. The Black Knight deals 2 damage to Osten (8 life) and the Cipher trigger for Hidden Strings triggers.
  8. Resolve Hidden Strings to tap the Leech Bonder and untap the Giant Oyster. When the Oyster untaps, remove all -1/-1 counters from the Abundant Maw (it becomes 6/4 again).
  9. Finally, pay u and untap the Leech Bonder one last time to move the +1/+1 counter from the Defiant Salvager to the Abundant Maw.
  10. The Abundant Maw and Tetsuko Umezawa deal 8 damage for the win.

You want to tap Osten's Crossbow Infantry right off the bat because it's likely to interfere with your attacking 3/1 Abundant Maw. It's also particularly notable that you want to move the Black Knight's -1/-1 counter to the Nearheath Pilgrim; this prevents a scenario where either the Pilgrim or the Minotaur Sureshot block your Leech Bonder, and Osten ends up gaining enough life to survive.

This solution has a couple of variations, but they're very minor: You could, for example, also attack with your Defiant Salvager, but it's likely to get blocked and otherwise has no bearing on the final result. You could also use that next-to-last step to move the +1/+1 counter to Tetsuko Umezawa instead of your Abundant Maw; she probably won't mind the additional bonus.

"Ordinarily this is the part of the puzzle where I'd put a witty closing statement on the whole scenario," Addison Fox remarks, "but to be honest, I'm tapped out."

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