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A Thousand Pieces

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Infinite Reflection
"I mean, who gets nothing but Islands on a single Keep Watch for three?"

"I think you need to let it go, Mari."

"And that's after casting Harvest Season and killing off a Veteran Explorer! This deck must be cursed!"

"Considering that we're spending at least two days a week playing Magic," you explain, "the odds were bound to get skewed at some point."

"Hey, I'm not complaining," CJ says.

"Yes, well, you've got eight creatures in play," Mari points out, "and you're hitting me with a lifelinked Questing Beast!"

"Not yet this turn I haven't," CJ says. "I need to clear the ground first. Territorial Allosaurus with kicker?"

"What does that do?" you ask.

"It's a 5/5, and the kicker makes it fight something. Your Ensouled Scimitar isn't a creature, right?

"I haven't activated it yet," Mari says, nodding.

"I'll have it fight your Embodiment of Insight, then. That's a 4/4, so it should go down easy."

"I'll cast Befuddle on your Allosaurus in response," Mari says. "That'll bring it down to a 1/5, and it'll let my Embodiment survive. And I'll draw a card that had better not be another land."

"I knew you had that in your hand," CJ says, smiling. "You're not stealing another game from me today."

"I see that you learned something from your previous game," you remark.

CJ doesn't seem to be giving it more than a fleeting thought, though. "I'll cast Serra's Boon now," he says, "to kill your Marang River Prowler."

"Uh," Mari says, "no you're not."

"You mean you drew a counterspell?"

"No, I mean that my Marang River Prowler's a 5/2. It gets a bonus from Grand Architect, remember?"

"Oh, wait. Agh. Forgot about that."

"The Boon pulls it down to a 3/1, though."

You shrug. "At least that means that your Questing Beast is going to be able to outrace it again, CJ," you say.

"Speaking of which," CJ says, "here comes the attack. I guess you're not blocking with the Embodiment of Insight just yet."

"No," Mari sighs. "I'll take four damage. I'm now at nine life, and you're at nineteen."

"I thought I was at eighteen."

"You gained one more life from Soul Warden when you cast that Allosaurus," Mari says.

"Oh yeah."

"I wouldn't sit back just yet, CJ," you say. "You know how Mari operates."

"To be fair," CJ says. "I'm not sure what she could do here. Unless she's got a way to off my Questing Beast, I think I'm cruising to the win right now."

Mari gives you a raised eyebrow. You're looking over her shoulder just enough to see that she's drawn an Infinite Reflection from the Befuddle. In her hands, the combo piece might as well be a dangerous weapon.

"Your move," CJ says, ending his turn. Mari untaps her cards.

"Any word from the twins?" she asks you.

"CÚcile's been on emails to their family," you say. "They're still stuck wherever they are, so we're going to be house-sitting for a little while longer. Apart from some really late instructions for us not to touch their drink mix collection, they've said that the whole house is at our disposal."

"Did they tell us where to find the map?" CJ asks, laughing. "I still get lost finding the front door."

Mari draws a Deprive and shows you her two-card hand. "That's a relief," she says. "If I had drawn any more lands, I would have broken a vase or something."

"So is that enough for you to win?" you ask.

Mari smiles. "Watch and learn," she says. "Watch and learn."

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

You are at 9 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.

You have the following cards in your graveyard:

CJ is at 19 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 - A Thousand Pieces" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, May 4, 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, Greg Dreher, Sean Patrick Keatley, Michael Feldman, Hyman Rosen, and Russell Jones.

"The math dictates how you're going to win today," Greg Dreher writes. "You have 3 evasive damage from Impaler Shrike, as long as Enemy of Enlightenment can be dealt with, which means that 13 damage has to come from Ram Through. You can get Tree of Redemption to 14 power, so you'll need CÚcile to have a creature with 1 toughness.

"My first thought was to use both Silvergill Douser and an extra activation of Merfolk Thaumaturgist on Enemy of Enlightenment to get it to 1 toughness, but couldn't manage to make that work (needing either a way to discard a card in hand or having exactly 1 merfolk/faerie when the Douser ability resolves.) That's because you can't have Enemy of Enlightenment reach 0 toughness, because of this ruling for Ram Through:

If either creature is an illegal target as Ram Through tries to resolve, the creature you control won't deal damage to any creature or player.

"The trickiest thing about this puzzle is manipulating Enemy of Enlightenment with your card total," Michael Feldman continues. "Realizing that you can't kill it before Ram Through resolves eventually leads to the realization that you'll need Coral Trickster's morphing ability to tap Enemy of Enlightenment (instead of untapping one of your other Merfolk)."

With this approach in mind, we come to Russell Jones' solution:

  1. Tap Silvergill Douser to shrink Thought Sponge down to 1/3.
  2. Flip Coral Trickster face up. It triggers, tapping Enemy of Enlightenment. (gggguuuu left.)
  3. Sacrifice Giant Caterpillar to get a delayed trigger you don't care about, and take Talons of Wildwood off to the graveyard with it. (ggguuuu left.)
  4. Return Talons of Wildwood to your hand, then replay it on Tree of Redemption to give you a very intimidating 1/14 trample defender.
  5. Spelltithe Enforcer triggers; you can sacrifice a land here (or you could use this spot to get rid of Coral Trickster if you didn't tap Silvergill Douser while the Trickster was still face down, looking for a way to control the merfolk/faerie count at 2).

    • Whatever the case, Talons of Wildwood is now out of your hand precombat, preventing you from getting stuck with too many cards in hand later. gu left.
  6. Go to combat and swing with Impaler Shrike and Coral Trickster. Thought Sponge sadly can't come along for the ride, lest it be forced into an off-timed trigger.
  7. Enemy of Enlightenment is tapped, leaving nothing that can block Impaler Shrike. Coral Trickster can be freely blocked, and is incapable of finishing off any blocker in front of it. If any of the 3-toughness creatures are blocking it, go ahead and put one of those first in the assignment order.
  8. Impaler Shrike will deal 3 unblocked damage (to 13) and trigger. If Coral Trickster didn't get a 3-toughness blocker, you'll need to sacrifice it to that trigger and draw 3 cards. Coral Trickster probably dies in combat, unless it was unblocked or faced only the Guardians.
  9. Tap Merfolk Thaumaturgist, swapping Tree of Redemption to a 14/1.
  10. Play Ram Through, targeting your Kool-Aid Tree to be one of the fight participants. If there's a 3-toughness creature with 2 damage marked from Coral Trickster, that can be the other target. Otherwise, Enemy of Enlightenment needs to be the target; playing Ram Through leaves you with only the three Impaler Shrike cards in your hand, and grows Enemy of Enlightenment from 1/1 to 2/2.
  11. Spelltithe Enforcer triggers, and if the Enemy of Enlightenment is the target, you'll need to sacrifice Thought Sponge to this, otherwise you can simply sacrifice another land.

You can also wait until you sacrifice your Coral Trickster before you activate Silvergill Douser; this gets you to about the same result.

That said, there's also a solution to this puzzle that relies on a more complex interpretation of the rules. "This is a puzzle with some serious red herrings," Jonah Comstock writes, "but what we ultimately need for the last point of damage is a trick with layers that those of us who played during Innistrad might remember (and those of us who didn't can find in the Tree's Gatherer rulings):

  1. Pay g to sacrifice Giant Caterpillar (putting Talons of Wildwood into your graveyard).
  2. Pay uug to return Talons of Wildwood to hand.
  3. Pay ug to cast Talons of Wildwood on Tree of Redemption. Don't pay the tax, and sacrifice Thought Sponge. Draw three cards, which makes Enemy of Enlightenment a 1/1.
  4. Tap Tree of Redemption to make our life total 14 and its toughness 10.
  5. Pay u to unmorph Coral Trickster to untap Tree of Redemption.
  6. Tap Tree of Redemption again. Our life total becomes 10 and Tree of Redemption's toughness becomes 15 (because its base toughness becomes 14, and it gets the Talons of Wildwood bonus on top of that).
  7. Tap Merfolk Thaumaturgist to swap Tree of Redemption's power and toughness. It's now a 15/1.
  8. Cast Ram Through, targeting Tree of Redemption and Enemy of Enlightenment. Pay {1} for Spelltithe Enforcer if you want, or sacrifice an already-tapped land. Ram Through deals 2 damage to Enemy of Enlightenment (it gets bigger when Ram Through leaves our hand), and 13 damage to CÚcile.
  9. Attack with Impaler Shrike for the final 3 damage.

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