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These Small Blessings


Noxious Gearhulk
"I'll cast Noxious Gearhulk," Kiri says.

You nod; it was probably only a matter of time before your opponent drew some removal. "So what are you going to destroy?" you ask.

Kiri takes a minute to look over your side of the table. "I've got too many choices," she finally says. "How do you get used to this?"

"It's not always this complicated," you admit. "Sometimes you get a lot of bombs and just cruise through your matches. Sometimes, though, the Unabridged Cube gives you a mess and expects you to work with it."

"It's got one of each card ever printed, right?"

"It even has preview cards sometimes."

"Great," Kiri says. "Now I feel like each and every thing I do will make the difference between winning and losing this game."

"You can try talking it through," you tell her. "What are you thinking about targeting with the Gearhulk?"

"Well, the obvious one is your God-Pharaoh's Faithful," she says, "because it's stopping me from attacking with most of my creatures, and destroying it will gain me the most life."

"Right," you say.

"Then there's your Devout Chaplain, since it'll lose summoning sickness next turn and I've got too many juicy targets for it. And your Heavenly Qilin's also worth a thought, since it's the only flyer you have, and you'll probably give it the Short Sword so that it can get past my Leafcrown Dryad. Like I said, I've got too many choices."

"Fair enough," you say.

"I'll destroy . . .  your Faithful, then. That looks like my best option right now."

"Okay. In response, I'll sacrifice my Goblin Bushwhacker to my Goblin Chirurgeon, regenerating my God-Pharaoh's Faithful."

Kiri pauses, one hand held above her Gearhulk. Her expression twists into a frown. "That's not fair!" she cries.

"Yes it is," you say, smiling.

"You could have told me about that goblin of yours with the regeneration ability before I spent all that time thinking about what to destroy!"

"Well, look at the bright side -- you've got a Noxious Gearhulk on your side now."

"You're lucky I skipped combat this turn," Kiri says. "All I'm going to say is, you'd better hope that that next draw of yours is a good one."

You chuckle as you untap your permanents and draw a card. Your deck turns out to be a little more generous than usual today, and gives you a Punishing Fire. With a quick stretch, you sit up straight and study the board.

After a while you look back at Kiri, who's still giving you a disapproving expression.

"What?" she asks.

"Nothing," you say. "I don't think you're going to like this, though."

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

You are at 4 life, with the following cards in play:

You have the following card 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.

Kiri is at 8 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 -- These Small Blessings" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, June 24, 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 Russell Jones, Addison Fox, Sean Patrick Keatley, Matt Bocek, Ryou Niji, Paul Simpson, David Arnold, Chris Billard, Hyman Rosen, Michael Feldman, and Subrata Sircar.

There are more than a couple of ways to win this one, but almost every solution agreed on one thing. "It was a greedy move by our opponents to burn out our Fog Bank instead of Toothy or the Battle Rampart," Matt Bocek observes."That's especially since there was another upkeep before Fog Bank would have been relevant again. The smarter play here would have blocked our path to victory."

The irony here is that Ccile's Switcheroo makes your opponents' Magmatic Force a liability for them. Sean Keatley notes that you can win this game as follows:

  1. Cast Pathmaker Initiate with rg.
  2. Cast Karametra's Favor with rg on the Saltwater Stalwart (drawing a card which might make things easier, but since we don't know what the next card is . . . )
  3. Tap the Battle Rampart to give the Pathmaker Initiate haste.
  4. Tap the Pathmaker Initiate, targeting Toothy, Imaginary Friend.
  5. Ccile casts Fumble with ub (tapping the Stalwart for mana) on the Pierce Strider. Ccile untaps the Battle Rampart with the Chakram Retriever's trigger. When Fumble resolves, bounce Pierce Strider and attach its Angelic Gift to the Magmatic Force.
  6. Ccile casts Switcheroo with uuubb on the tapped Saltwater Stalwart and the Magmatic Force.Ccile untaps the Pathmaker Initiate with the Chakram Retriever's trigger.
  7. Tap the Pathmaker, targeting the Chakram Retriever.
  8. Tap the Battle Rampart, targeting the Magmatic Force.
  9. Swing with Magmatic Force, Toothy, and Chakram Retriever for 11 damage.
  10. End your turn. During your opponents' upkeep, Magmatic Force deals 3 damage to one of them for lethal.

This approach has some minor variants: You only need to get at least 9 damage through in combat, so you just need a single Pathmaker Initiate activation on one of Ccile's 2-power creatures. From there, the ability of the Magmatic Force does the rest. You do need at least two Battle Rampart activations, though -- one for the Initiate and one for the Magmatic Force.

A trickier solution also exists. "It's a shame Carey and Denton already killed the Pir we had in our deck," Addison Fox remarks, "as a Doubling Season would have made this considerably simpler. However, we have two important things between our two hands that make this game winnable anyway: unblockability and tricks."

  1. Cast Pathmaker Initiate for 1r and tap Battle Rampart to give it haste. Then tap Pathmaker Initiate to make Toothy (currently 2/2) unblockable.
  2. Ccile taps 5 mana to cast Switcheroo, giving us Toothy in exchange for our Generous Patron. Chakram Retriever triggers, untapping the Pathmaker Initiate.
  3. Tap Pathmaker Initiate again to make Saltwater Stalwart (the hardest card in the set to say) unblockable.
  4. We cast Karametra's Favor for rg on Chakram Retriever, essentially donating 1 mana to Cecile. When it enters the battlefield, we draw a card, triggering Toothy up to 3/3.
  5. Ccile has 2 mana available now, so she can cast Fumble on Generous Patron, triggering Chakram Retriever to untap Battle Rampart. Fumble returns the Patron to our hand and gives its attached Lightning Talons to Saltwater Stalwart ("Salty"), building a 5/4 first strike unblockable creature.
  6. Tap Battle Rampart to give Toothy haste, which we need to do since it's just changed control.
  7. Finally, spend our last rgg mana to recast Generous Patron. Its Support 2 ability triggers when it enters the battlefield, and we can put a counter on Toothy (up to 4/4) and Salty (up to 6/5). When we put the counter on Salty -- a creature we don't control -- the Patron triggers and draws us a card, which Toothy happily accepts to get to 5/5.
  8. Attack with both Toothy and Salty, both of which are unblockable.
  9. First strike damage happens. Salty deals 6 damage and lets a target player draw a card. After a short discussion with Ccile, she agrees to let us draw the card, which triggers Toothy and lets us deal the other 6 during normal combat damage, grinning with all our teeth exposed.

This has its own variant: You can still aim for a victory via Magmatic Force here, since Ccile doesn't actually need to give you control of Toothy in order for her big imaginary friend to attack. Chris Billard writes:

  1. Cast Karametra's Favor to enchant Ccile's Chakram Retriever.
  2. Cast Pathmaker Initiate.
  3. Tap Battle Rampart to give Pathmaker Initiate haste.
  4. Tap Pathmaker Initiate to make Saltwater Stalwart unblockable.
  5. Ccile casts Fumble (u + Chakram Retriever with Karametra's Favor) targeting Generous Patron. Move Lightning Talons to Saltwater Stalwart.
  6. Chakram Retriever triggers; untap Pathmaker Initiate.
  7. Tap Pathmaker Initiate to make Toothy, Imaginary Friend unblockable.
  8. Cast Generous Patron (rg + Seer's Lantern). Put a +1/+1 counter on Toothy and on Saltwater Stalwart.
  9. Attack with Saltwater Stalwart (6/5 First Strike) and Toothy (3/3); neither can be blocked. Saltwater Stalwart deals its damage first and Ccile can draw a card. Toothy gets a +1/+1 counter and hits for 4.
  10. With Carey and Denton at 2 life, Ccile casts Switcheroo (uuubb) exchanging one of her creatures for Magmatic Force.
  11. Pass the turn.
  12. On Carey and Denton's upkeep, have Magmatic Force deal 3 damage to Carey for the game.

"Magmatic Force is the key to victory here," Chris adds."Unfortunately, it's just not for Carey and Denton!"

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