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Going Places

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The Wanderer
Nox smiles.

You don’t like it when Nox smiles; it brings a shark’s teeth to mind. Not that you would compare Nox to a shark, of course: a weasel would be a far closer comparison, assuming that you removed all of its inherent subtlety.

“I’ll send in my Grateful Apparition, my Trusted Pegasus, my Primordial Wurm, and my Thundering Ceratok,” Nox says, tapping all four creatures.

“That’s all?”

Nox rubs his hands. “That’s all,” he says. “I’ll give the Wurm flying from the Pegasus’s trigger.”

“Yeah,” you say, surveying the board. “That’ll work.”

You’re definitely in a slump right now, and not in for much fun: First, Nox is playing gw, which means that a good number of his creatures are of the big, stompy variety. Second, Nox has a copy of The Wanderer in play, which means that he’s taken out the creatures on your side that have the best chance of blocking said stompies.

You still have a number of creatures in play, but you’d rather not lose most of them to Nox’s attackers if you can help it. Still, you really need to block in this case: How much can you lose, and how much can you win here?

“I’m definitely blocking your Pegasus with one of my Shriekdivers,” you say. “I can't take damage from the Wurm, so I’ll block it with the other Shriekdiver.”

“And the others?”

“I’ll block the Ceratok with my Herald of the Dreadhorde and my Spark Reaper. That’s five total toughness, so I don’t take any trample damage.”

“You’re taking my Apparition?”

“I’m taking one damage from your Apparition,” you say.

“Then you’ll be at four life against my nine,” Nox points out.

You’re starting to regret joining this War of the Spark Sealed tournament, but it’s too late to back out now. “Yeah,” you say, “that’ll put me at four life. But before combat damage, I’ll activate my Spark Reaper and sacrifice the Shriekdiver blocking your Wurm.”

Nox nods, and you draw a Chandra, Fire Artisan. You wonder if she could possibly help you turn the tables on your opponent, or if that’s even possible at this point.

“I’ll cast Defiant Strike on my Thundering Ceratok,” Nox says. “That’ll make it a 5/5.”

“And that’ll kill both of my blockers,” you sigh.

“It’s not my fault you threw both of them in the way,” Nox says, drawing a card.

“No other combat effects?” you ask suspiciously.

Nox shakes his head. “I’ll proliferate a loyalty counter onto my Wanderer. You’ve got a trigger, too,” he says.

“Yeah, my Herald. I’ll put two +1/+1 counters on my Zombie Army token, which makes it a 3/3. That’ll be too small for your Wanderer to take out.”

“Well, that’s what you think,” Nox says gleefully. “Postcombat, I’ll cast Wanderer’s Strike and exile that Army token. That puts a third counter on my Wanderer. Too bad you don’t have any good targets anymore, though.”

You finger the useless Nahiri’s Stoneblades in your hand, and curse under your breath. Despite your efforts at saving as many of your creatures as possible, Nox has decimated your board.

“I’ve still got one more turn,” you say defiantly, untapping your permanents and drawing a card. Unfortunately, it’s a Price of Betrayal - not a creature card, and most certainly a late response to Nox’s Wanderer.

“I guess a creature isn’t coming,” Nox says, reading your expression. “Are you ready to concede now? You ought to know the score at this point.”

“Give me a minute to think first,” you say, looking at the board again and making a note of the few cards you have left.

“About conceding?”

“No,” you say, after a while.

“What do you mean, ‘no’?”

“Not yet. Not when there are points to be scored, and games to be won.”

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

You are at 4 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 no idea as to what card is currently on top of your library.

Nox is at 9 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 - Going Places” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, May 20, 2019. 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 Kirk Maijala, Sean Patrick Keatley, Addison Fox, Hyman Rosen, Paul Fouts, Michael Feldman, Russell Jones, Matt Bocek, Chris Billard, and David Arnold.

“This one took me a while to figure out how I was even going to cast any relevant spells at all!” Kirk Maijala writes. “The key is to deal with Octavia's only flier, the Sunblade Angel, and get in with one of ours for most of the damage. All of our handy-dandy triggers take care of the extra damage we don't have at the start of the turn.”

“At first, I saw through the red herring graveyard cards,” Michael Feldman adds. “What made them tempting was my consternation at realizing that I couldn't take advantage of both flyers and only sacrifice Rescuer Sphinx if it was blocked, as that would be too late to take advantage of Eternal Taskmaster's resurrection on initial attack. For some reason, it took me a while before I realized I could reuse Kasmina’s Transmutation to ground Sunblade Angel instead of simply reusing Mana Geode for the Thunder Drake/Flux Channeler triggers.”

This leads us to an odd solution that requires you to sacrifice your biggest evasive creature in order to get through with your smaller flyer. Chris Billard writes:

  1. Play Emergence Zone. Pay r and sacrifice it so you may play spells as if they had flash this turn.
  2. Pay r and sacrifice Rescuer Sphinx to activate Ahn-Crop Invader's ability.
  3. Attack with Eternal Taskmaster and Thunder Drake. Pay brr to return Rescuer Sphinx to your hand from Eternal Taskmaster's trigger.
  4. Before blockers are declared, cast Rescuer Sphinx (uuuu). Return Kasmina’s Transmutation to your hand when Rescuer Sphinx enters the battlefield.
  5. Cast Kasmina’s Transmutation (uu) on Octavia's Sunblade Angel, turning it into a base 1/1 creature with no abilities.
  6. As you cast Kasmina’s Transmutation, Thunder Drake and Flux Channeler both trigger. Order the triggers so that Thunder Drake's resolves first and gets a +1/+1 counter, then Flux Channeler resolves and proliferates, giving another +1/+1 counter to Thunder Drake and a loyalty counter to Tibalt, Rakish Instigator.
  7. Octavia no longer has any creatures with flying, so Thunder Drake goes unblocked. Eternal Taskmaster will be blocked and will most likely die, but Octavia takes 4 points of damage.
  8. Use Tibalt's ability to create a 1/1 Devil token.
  9. Tap Mana Geode and sacrifice the Devil token to activate Ahn-Crop Invader's ability. When the Devil token dies, deal 1 point of damage to Octavia for the win.

While the Emergence Zone you draw isn’t a spell, it allows you to cast spells at instant speed. This becomes relevant when you realize that Kasmina’s Transmutation is the only way for you to stop the Angel from blocking, and the only way to recast the Transmutation is to bounce it with your Rescuer Sphinx.

So by some strange quirk of fate, you’ve managed to prevent a Sunblade Angel from running away with the game, outlast a God-Eternal Oketra, and make Tibalt instrumental to your win. That’s a lot to take in one puzzle... although at least Octavia won’t be late for that wedding she’s attending.