You’re currently in the second game of your match against Alcione. Alcione somehow managed to draft a five-color deck with seven Dragons in it, and you only found this out after three of them showed up in your first game. After a sound beating that is better imagined than described, you adjusted your tactics.
Trap Essence in your hand just waiting for the next one she summons.
On your last turn, you cast Write into Being and found a Windstorm on top of your library. That’s useful, you thought, manifesting the other card (a Roar of Challenge) and leaving the Windstorm on top. You then attacked with your Mystic of the Hidden Way . . . and walked right into the Whisk Away that Alcione had been holding. Ouch.
Alcione then took her turn and did something you didn’t expect: She cast Sight Beyond Sight and then dropped Descent of the Dragons, transforming four of her creatures into 4/4 Dragons! At that point, you were able to stop her Herdchaser Dragon from attacking, but at the cost of the last gem counter on your Briber's Purse.
You untapped and drew your Mystic of the Hidden Way, cursing the fact that your Windstorm lies just beyond your reach. Unless you do something quickly, Alcione’s next turn will bring you an even worse beating than your previous game!
It is the middle of your first main phase. Remove all of Alcione’s Dragons from the battlefield this turn.
You are at 5 life with the following cards in play:
- Whisperer of the Wilds
- Heir of the Wilds
- A face-down 2/2 creature (Roar of Challenge, manifested)
- A face-down 2/2 creature (Den Protector)
- Clever Impersonator (copying Herdchaser Dragon)
- Briber's Purse (with no gem counters on it)
- 3 Islands
- 2 Mountains
- 2 Forests
- Rugged Highlands
You have the following cards in your hand:
- Sidisi's Faithful
- Sudden Reclamation
- Trap Essence
- Mystic of the Hidden Way (drawn during your draw step)
You have not yet played a land for this turn.
You currently have a Windstorm on top of your library. Beyond this, you are not aware of the identities of any of the other cards.
You have the following cards in your graveyard:
- Servant of the Scale
- Savage Punch
- Sultai Skullkeeper
- Bathe in Dragonfire
- Write into Being
Alcione is at 17 life, has no cards in her hand, and has the following cards in play:
- Four 4/4 Dragon tokens
- Herdchaser Dragon (with a +1/+1 counter and Sultai Runemark attached)
- 1 Plains (tapped)
- 1 Island (tapped)
- 1 Swamp (tapped)
- 2 Mountains (both tapped)
- 2 Forests (both tapped)
- Scoured Barrens (tapped)
- Swiftwater Cliffs (tapped)
- Thornwood Falls (tapped)
Imagine the same situation as above, with one exception: Your Heir of the Wilds is a Kolaghan Aspirant instead. Would it still be possible to remove all of Alcione’s Dragons from play this turn? If yes, how would you do it?
If you think you have a great solution in mind, you’re welcome to send it to puzzles at gatheringmagic dot com with the subject line “Puzzle – Dracophobia”. We’ll include the best ones in next week’s article along with the next puzzle!
Last Week’s Puzzle:
Apologies to everyone: Last week’s puzzle had a solution, which was identified correctly by Matthew Roman. However, Matthew also points out that this solution has a problem – which I’ll cover in the summary below.
Partial solutions were received from Miko Losantas, Don N, and Max Cejuela. Evelyn Kokemoor and Mitch Winkens produced alternative solutions that work, given a certain condition.
The puzzle has a very troublesome sticking point: With so many interactions on the table, what do you do, and in what sequence? All respondents came up with the same base idea: Bring Diregraf Captain into play and then start killing your own Zombies to trigger the Captain’s life-loss ability.
The problem at this point is that you have limited means to destroy your own creatures. In his solution, however, Max points out that if you can bring your Gravespawn Sovereign into play, the Subterranean Shambler on Semir’s side of the table can be turned to your advantage.
From here, your steps would be:
- Attack with Haunted Cadaver. This triggers Curse of Inertia and Curse of Shallow Graves. Choose to untap Stronghold Assassin, and put a 2/2 Zombie token into play tapped (which is 3/3 due to Diregraf Captain).
- Semir is unable to block Haunted Cadaver due to a lack of black and/or artifact creatures. Haunted Cadaver deals 3 damage to Semir. Semir is now at 5 life.
- Sacrifice Haunted Cadaver for its ability, forcing Semir to discard three cards from his hand. Diregraf Captain triggers due to the Haunted Cadaver dying. Semir loses 1 life and is now at 4 life. (Note that if Semir discards his Dodecapod now, it returns to the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters.) Semir now has only one card left in his hand.
- Move to your postcombat main phase.
- Tap an Island and a Swamp to unearth Rotting Rats (2/2 due to Diregraf Captain). When Rotting Rats enters the battlefield, choose to discard Fatestitcher. Semir discards the last card in his hand. (If Semir discards his Dodecapod now, it returns to the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters) (2 Islands, 1 Swamp remaining).
The above step’s timing is important: If we had unearthed the Rotting Rats before attacking with the Cadaver, Semir may have put his Dodecapod into play, producing an additional artifact creature blocker.
At this point, Semir’s hand is empty, and the Dodecapod should now be in play with two +1/+1 counters on it.
- Tap an Island to unearth Fatestitcher (1 Swamp remaining).
- Tap Fatestitcher to untap Howltooth Hollow.
- Because you and Semir now have no cards in your hands, you can now tap a Swamp and tap Howltooth Hollow to put Gravespawn Sovereign into play.
- Tap Rotting Rats, Nightscape Familiar, Diregraf Captain, Gravespawn Sovereign and the untapped Zombie token (from the beginning of your turn) to return Semir’s Subterranean Shambler to the battlefield. Shambler’s enters-play ability triggers.
- In response, tap Stronghold Assassin and sacrifice Gravespawn Sovereign to destroy Subterranean Shambler. Shambler’s leaves-play ability triggers. Diregraf Captain triggers due to the Gravespawn Sovereign dying. Semir loses 1 life and is now at 4 life. Semir loses 1 life and is now at 3 life.
- Resolve all effects on the stack. Shambler’s leaves-play ability resolves, dealing 1 damage to each creature. Stronghold Assassin and Nightscape Familiar both die, and Diregraf Captain triggers twice. Semir loses 2 life and is now at 1 life.
- Resolve Shambler’s enters-play ability, dealing 1 damage to each creature. Your Zombie token (from the beginning of your turn) dies. Semir loses 1 life and is defeated. (Your unearthed Rotting Rats would also be destroyed at this point, but it wouldn’t “die” because the unearth ability exiles it instead of putting it in your graveyard.)
That said, Matt clarifies the issue with this original solution: "Myr Retriever returning an artifact to opponents hand makes it so Semir has five cards in hand, meaning that Howltooth Hollow can’t be used." Again, I apologize for the error.
Evelyn's and Mitch's solutions both observed that if Semir discards his Dodecapod at first opportunity, you could cast Fate Transfer to move its two +1/+1 counters to Haunted Cadaver before your combat step and then attack with a 5/5 Haunted Cadaver and finish off Semir by killing four Zombies. While this path is a lot easier than the above, you have no guarantee that Semir will discard Dodecapod first (especially if, as Evelyn points out, he knows that you have a Fate Transfer in hand!).
Note that moving the +1/+1 counters from Dodecapod to your Diregraf Captain had a purpose: Without the counters, Diregraf Captain would die once the Subterranean Shambler’s leaves-play ability resolves, and it wouldn’t be around for the death of your Zombie token.
For the bonus question, it’s indeed possible to defeat Semir at 10 life. To do this, note that you make an additional Zombie token from Curse of Shallow Graves and that the last possible moment you can remove Semir’s blockers is just before he declares them.
- Attack with Haunted Cadaver. This triggers both Curse of Inertia and Curse of Shallow Graves (notably before Semir is able to declare his blockers). Choose to resolve Curse of Shallow Graves first, followed by Curse of Inertia (targeting your untapped Stronghold Assassin).
- Resolve Curse of Shallow Graves’s ability, putting a 2/2 Zombie token into play tapped (which is 3/3 due to Diregraf Captain).
- In response to Curse of Inertia’s ability on the stack, tap Stronghold Assassin for its ability, sacrificing Rotting Rats and targeting Subterranean Shambler to deal 1 damage to all creatures. This destroys Copper Gnomes and Myr Retriever, triggers Diregraf Captain due to the death of your Rotting Rats, and causes Semir to lose 1 life as normal. More importantly, however, it deals 1 damage to your tapped 3/3 Zombie token from Curse of Shallow Graves.
- Resolve Curse of Inertia’s ability, untapping your Stronghold Assassin.
- Allow Semir to declare blockers, in which case he finds himself in the same situation as above: unable to block your Haunted Cadaver.
From here, follow the remaining steps of the above solution, which will destroy your tapped Zombie token on the resolution of both Subterranean Shambler abilities, and it will cause Semir to lose an additional 1 life.