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The Fine Print


Inner Demon
"You're lucky I don't have any artifact removal," Desdemona grumbles.

"We're talking about the Unabridged Cube here," you explain. "Take it from me: Sometimes you get bad card pools, and sometimes those bad card pools contain interesting cards that are worth using in corner situations. Having one of each card ever printed does that."

"You're just saying that because I don't have any way to get past your Ensnaring Bridge."

"Well, the way I see it," you say, "if it works, it works."

You're playing in your local game store's last booster draft event before the Core Set 2019 prerelease. Desdemona's br deck is far stronger than your middling ug concoction, but it's also slow. It's slow enough, in fact, that even after she took out half of your creatures with a single Inner Demon, you were able to empty your hand and hold her back with that timely Ensnaring Bridge of yours. You quickly followed this up with a Natural Spring, and Desdemona's been stewing ever since.

The problem is that, despite the impossibility of the situation, Desdemona's still playing. She does have a Blood Artist on the battlefield, but you can't imagine she has enough removal to bring you down one life at a time.

"How many cards do you have in your hand right now?" you ask.

"I just took my draw, so . . .  three," Desdemona says. "And you'll love this."

"Try me."

"First," she says, "I'll play a Swamp."

"That's hardly a momentous move."

"That's funny," she says. "I'll tap four to cast my Grinning Demon. Then I'll tap five to cast a Gutwrencher Oni."

You glance at your scorepad, and then go over her side of the table for a while. "I'm not sure if I get what you're trying to do," you admit. "The two creatures you just cast don't do anything against my Ensnaring Bridge. If anything, you just put yourself on an eleven-turn clock."

"Remember that Liliana's Contract I cast a few turns ago?" she asks.

"The one from Core Set 2019? Yeah, it drew you four cards."

"Well, I've got four Demons in play now," she says. "That means that you've only got one turn left."

"Wait, four Demons?"

Desdemona points to her Emberhorn Minotaur. "You do know that Inner Demon changes creature type, right?"

You remain silent as the realization dawns on you: Desdemona's looking at a win on her next upkeep! As you untap your permanents, you start frantically searching for a way out of this mess. But you've barely got any creatures in play, you have zero cards in hand, your opponent is at 21 life, and your own Ensnaring Bridge is going to stop you from attacking properly!

You peel a Stitcher's Apprentice off the top of your library. Whatever you need to do, you need to do it quick -- or otherwise this contract is going to be signed, sealed, and delivered in Desdemona's favor.

It is the start of your first main phase. Stop Desdemona from winning the game at the beginning of her next upkeep.

You are at 13 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.

Desdemona is at 21 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 -- The Fine Print" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, July8, 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 Ryou Niji, Matt Bocek, Michael Feldman, Hyman Rosen, Addison Fox, and Chris Billard. A very close solution was also submitted by Paul Simpson.

Your situation here is a difficult one. Michael Feldman notes that there are more than a few observations to start with:

"With all that untapped mana for the opponent," Ryou Niji clarifies, "all of his creatures with power 5+ may as well have indestructible now, and we also lack enough -X/-X effects to kill any of them.

"Therefore the largest target for Puppeteer Clique is Snapping Sailback, which can also get a few counters from its enrage ability after reanimation, but not quite enough for lethal. Another potential reanimation target is Magma Phoenix: If we can have it die twice, that would be 6 damage on its own -- but the remaining 9 damage is nowhere to be found.

"This seems hopeless until we notice that Lawless Broker allows Puppeteer Clique to persist twice, and the combination of the two ideas above could yield an answer."

The solution involves a lot of timing considerations, some careful usage of the stack, and more than a few regeneration shields. Matt Bocek demonstrates:

  1. Tap our lands for bbbbrrr.
  2. Pay b and sacrifice our Sadistic Augermage to kill Terry's Snapping Sailback. Debilitating Injury goes to the graveyard. We'll put Thud back on top of our library.
  3. Pay band activate Dark-Dweller Oracle, sacrificing Puppeteer Clique. We exile Thud off the top of our library, but we won't cast it until much later.
  4. Puppeteer Clique persists its way back onto the battlefield, allowing us to steal a creature out of Terry's graveyard. Our only choice is Snapping Sailback, so we'll take that.
  5. Pay bb to cast Dark Privilege on our new Sailback (now 5/5), which empties out our hand for Hellbent (we still have Thud available in exile).
  6. Sacrifice Lawless Broker to Dark Privilege, to give the Sailback a regeneration shield (we'll need it in a minute).
  7. Put the +1/+1 counter from Lawless Broker on Puppeteer Clique. State-based actions cancel out the -1/-1 counter from persist and this +1/+1 counter, leaving the Clique with no counters. This means it will get to persist again the next time it dies.
  8. Pay rr to activate Spirit Shield targeting Terry's Needletooth Raptor, which becomes 2/4. This is what happens when you play with janky 90s cards from before they made rules for equipment.
  9. Now that we have all the pieces in place, sacrifice Slaughterhouse Bouncer to Dark Privilege.
  10. Our hand is empty, so Slaughterhouse Bouncer gives -3/-3 to Terry's Magma Phoenix, killing it.
    • Magma Phoenix triggers, dealing 3 damage to each creature and player. We go down to 7 life and Terry goes to 12. Skirk Commando, Dark-Dweller Oracle, and Puppeteer Clique all die. Snapping Sailback and Needletooth Raptor both get their enrage triggers, but importantly, they don't go on the stack yet. They wait until the next time a player would receive priority.
    • Puppeteer Clique hits the graveyard and persist triggers. Now all the triggers go on the stack in APNAP order. We're the active player, so we'll put persist on the bottom of the stack with the enrage triggers above it.

    • Since we (very temporarily) only have one creature on the battlefield, Terry is forced to target Snapping Sailback with the Raptor's enrage trigger. Luckily, we already paid to regenerate the Sailback, so instead of dying, it taps, then triggers and becomes a 6/6.
    • Snapping Sailback's trigger from the Magma Phoenix's damage resolves, and the Sailback becomes a 7/7.
    • Finally, the Puppeteer Clique returns to the battlefield with its second persist, bringing back Terry's Magma Phoenix with it.
    The original Dark Privilege activation (with Slaughterhouse Bouncer) resolves, giving Snapping Sailback a regeneration shield.

  11. Sacrifice the Clique and the Phoenix to Dark Privilege. Rude.
    • Magma Phoenix's ability triggers, this time dropping us to 4 life and Terry to 9. We're low, but not low enough for the Sorcerer's wand to concern us. Needletooth Raptor dies. Avatar of Fury would die, but Terry will probably save it by making it indestructible. It doesn't matter either way since we're fresh out of graveyard manipulation.
    • Same as before: Sailback is our only creature on the battlefield, so Needletooth Raptor has to choose it for the enrage trigger. Sailback regenerates, then triggers and becomes an 8/8.
    • Snapping Sailback's trigger from the Magma Phoenix's damage resolves, and the Sailback becomes a 9/9.

  12. The two Dark Privilege activations resolve, but these don't matter.
  13. Spend our last r to cast Thud from exile, sacrificing the pumped-up Snapping Sailback to deal lethal damage to Terry.

It's worth noting that you need that first regeneration shield from the Lawless Broker sacrifice: The regeneration shield placed by the Slaughterhouse Bouncer won't resolve in time to save Snapping Sailback from the first instances of damage from the Phoenix and the Raptor.

"With mana standing, Terry has some options," Chris Billard adds."He can make his Spearbreaker Behemoth, Oakgnarl Warrior and/or Avatar of Fury indestructible at any time meaning we can't steal them with Puppeteer Clique. Also, our life total and the Sorcerer's Wand prevent us from using the Magma Phoenix more than twice. Even with all these options though, it turns out that this game ends with a Thud!"

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