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The Third Strider


It would be an understatement to say that your Modern Masters 2015 Edition match has been . . . strange. You and Rajiv are both playing base-green decks, you’re both using some questionable cards, and you’ve both made similar plays and errors. Inexplicably enough, you’re also the proud owners of no fewer than five Karplusan Striders that showed up at your table.

Karplusan Strider
Rajiv has been dominating your current game, eliminating your lone Aquastrand Spider and then pulling out several flyers to savage your life total. You fought back by dropping an Arrest on his Ulamog's Crusher and then trapped his 4/4 Skyreach Manta under an Oblivion Ring last turn. But Ravi has other flying creatures, and you don’t think you have enough removal to deal with all of them.

Rajiv draws his card for the turn and reads it for a second. Then, he taps five lands and casts All Suns' Dawn, returning three cards to his hand: Karplusan Strider, Lorescale Coatl, and . . . Banefire!

That’s bad news, and you know it—Rajiv has enough mana to burn you to death next turn. That, of course, assumes that he doesn’t kill you this turn, and you ponder your next move as he looks over his cards.

After a bit of thought, Rajiv finally glances at you. “I’m moving to my beginning-of-combat step,” he says. “Do you have any responses?”

It is the beginning of the combat step on Rajiv’s turn; you may cast spells or activate abilities in response, after which Rajiv will declare his attackers (if any). Defeat Rajiv before he defeats you.

You are at 6 life with the following cards in play:

Tukatongue Thallid

You have the following cards in your hand:

You have not yet played a land for this turn. You do not know the identity of the card that is currently on top of your library.

You have the following cards in your graveyard:

Gut Shot

Rajiv is at 8 life and has the following cards in play:

Rajiv has the following cards in his hand:

Rajiv may choose to attack with any or none of his creatures, and he may choose to cast any or none of the cards in his hand.

Bonus Question

Imagine the same situation as above, with one exception: Your Oblivion Ring exiled Rajiv’s Alloy Myr instead of his Skyreach Manta. Is it still possible to defeat Rajiv before he defeats you? If yes, how would you do it?

If you think you have a great solution in mind, don’t put it in the comments! Instead, send it to puzzles at gatheringmagic dot com with the subject line “Puzzle — The Third Strider”. We’ll include the best ones in next week’s article along with the next puzzle!

Last Week’s Puzzle

“I told you!”

“All right, I could have won the game on that turn. But it wasn’t an obvious play.”

“Well, some people were able to see it,” Mari says, giving you a smug look. “We got correct solutions from Russell Jones, Aaron Golas, David Jacobs, Anthony Roy, Scott Stoops, Matthew Wilson, Norman Dean, Eric Williams, Markus Leuthner, Jonathan Kustina, Andrew Muravskyi, Matthew Harvey, Chris Gonzalez, Tom Kellett, João Filipe Cid, Hyman Rosen, Michael Roesler, Kristopher Bokvist, Stefano Romito, Simon Lazarus, Daniele Civelli, Adam Eidelsafy, Jeffrey Clinard, Evelyn Kokemoor, John Stein, Johann Hullmann, Declan Lippitt, Jamie Ganner, Will Lewis, Hao Ye, Mark Eggert, Tony Zhao, Nathan Olson, Nicholas Croonquist, Lucas Labuda, Joseph Megill, Max Brett, Lane Engelberg, and Matthias ‘Slanfan’ Berggren.”

“Did you . . . just say all that in one breath?”

“We got some really good analysis, too,” Mari adds.

Anthony writes:

Initially, it looks like we will have to kill the opponent’s blockers to allow one of our creatures through, perhaps by borrowing the Aethersnipe to return a creature or the Myrsmith to produce Myr to sacrifice to the Mortarpod. We have nowhere near enough land to support this though.

Aaron then notes a critical observation:

The first thing that jumps out at us is the interaction between Mortarpod, Sickle Ripper, and Necroskitter. Sickle Ripper has wither, so it can use Mortarpod to put a -1/-1 counter on any creature we want. When that creature dies, Necroskitter will bring it back to the battlefield under our control.”

From here, Tom gives a comprehensive idea of how the play should go:

What we want to do is steal the Glassdust Hulk, enchant it with Goblin War Paint, and play Chimeric Mass to trigger the Glassdust Hulk's ability so it can walk past Lorena's blockers and win the game for us. The trick is in killing the Glassdust Hulk.

We need to give Sickle Ripper the Mortarpod to put a -1/-1 counter on the Glassdust Hulk so Necroskitter can bring it to our side when it dies. But the only way at our disposal to finish off the Glassdust Hulk is Bone Splinters, and since the Germ token would die when Mortarpod is moved to another creature and Sickle Ripper needs to be sacrificed to tag the Glassdust Hulk, we'd be left with only the Necroskitter to sacrifice. However, we need Necroskitter alive to reanimate the Glassdust Hulk.

“You had a Stormblood Berserker and a Chimeric Mass in your hand that you could use,” Mari explains, “but those options had problems, too.”

Tony writes:

Equipping Mortarpod, casting Bone Splinters, and casting Goblin War Paint takes 5 mana total, so we don't have enough to cast the Berserker for Bone Splinters. We can't animate a 1/1 Chimeric Mass, and besides, we need that to trigger the Hulk.

“That’s what you missed,” Mari finally says. “You didn’t need to bring a creature into play to cast the Bone Splinters—you just had to make one survive.”

Mark Eggert writes:

“That just leaves one question,” you say. “How were you able to figure all this out so quickly? Some of the e-mails are saying that you’re a genius, or a robot, or an alien, or all of them put together.”

“Meh,” Mari says. “That’s another story. I’ll explain it over some ice cream.”

“Uh-huh. Suuure.”

“You’re buying,” she says, poking you in the chest.


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