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Weirder Things

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Pestilent Haze
"Okay," Elliot says. "Legion's Judgment on your Hellkite Punisher."

You wince. "Great timing," you admit. "In response, I'll sacrifice it to my Hobblefiend."

"Uhh... you don't have any mana available."

"Does it have a mana cost?" you ask. "Of course it has a mana cost. Nevermind."

"It's a good thing I drew that," Elliot says. "I thought I was going to die to that stupid dragon."

Your local game store has a full house going for its Core Set 2021 release tournament, which isn't saying much. With the current social distancing rules, each event is running at about half the normal number of participants - a far cry from having to elbow your way into your assigned seat.

On the plus side, however, there are a lot more of the tournaments - in fact, they've been running almost non-stop since Friday evening. And even if you haven't picked up the best card pool in the world right now, you've had an interesting exercise in trying to read facial expressions from a sea of masks.

Elliot, for that matter, is wearing a pitch-black face mask with the words "PHONE HOME" in big red letters. You wonder if Octavia had a certain movie in mind when she made that one.

"Okay, second main phase," Elliot says. "I'll cast Valorous Steed, and that gives me an extra Knight token."

"I'm surprised you're not attacking," you say.

"You've got me down to five life, so I need to take it slow," Elliot says.

"Not even with that Gnarled Sage of yours? It's a 5/5."

Elliot shakes his head. "You've got too many cards in your hand for my taste. Besides, I might have some lifegain coming. I'll figure it out when I get myself to a better position."

"That's assuming that you have enough time to get yourself to a better position," you note.

"Them's the risk," Elliot says, rapping the table twice. "Your turn."

You untap and draw a Pestilent Haze from your deck. So far you're not sure if you're unlucky or bluffing: You really want more creatures on your side of the table, but your deck isn't exactly cooperating with that plan. Elliot seems a little hesitant to make a move, at least.

You flip through the four cards in your hand once more, making sure that you're not missing out on any details. If Elliot's not making things up and really has some lifegain in his deck, you probably want to keep him from playing it. And the best way to do so, you muse, is to make sure that he doesn't reach it in the first place.

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

You are at 10 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.

Elliot is at 5 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 - Weirder Things" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, July 13, 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, Hyman Rosen, Michael Feldman, Jacob Butcher, Sean Patrick Keatley, Greg Dreher, Russell Jones, and David Arnold.

"Ever since the days of Alpha and Dwarven Warriors," Greg Dreher writes, "Magic has helpfully reminded us that small creatures made unblockable can suddenly get much larger. And that's what we're doing today: Sea Legs will make your creatures eligible for Goblin Tunneler's ability, and ultimately, you want a creature targeted with this ability to gain his sea legs and embrace the pirate life."

"The basic plan is not hard to spot," Jonah Comstock continues. "Make our creatures small enough to be targeted by Goblin Tunneler, then make them big enough to kill our opponent. Our equipment, Slab Hammer, is already well-positioned to help us here, since it doesn't pump our creature until it attacks. Sea Legs will help us get the rest of the way there - with a little help from Mizzium Transreliquat, which can apparently turn creatures into Pirates at instant speed."

The twist, however, is that you need to time your abilities and activations in order to maximize the damage you deal. In addition to this, Russell Jones points out that you also need some assistance from your other creatures:

  1. Use the colored ability on Mizzium Transreliquat to make it a copy of Slab Hammer. uurrrrrrleft.
  2. Equip your second Slab Hammer (or as it's known in the anagram world, "Lamb's Harem") to Spireside Infiltrator. uurrrr left.
  3. Play the "ageless" Sea Legs on Spireside Infiltrator. It's not a Pirate, so this has the effect of shrinking it to 1/2. urrrr left.
  4. Tap Goblin Tunneler to make Spireside Infiltrator unblockable. Of course, it will remain so even after its power increases later in the turn.
  5. Go to combat and swing with Burning-Tree Vandal, Spireside Infiltrator, and Floodtide Serpent. To handle the Serpent's attack cost, return Narcolepsy to your hand. Several things trigger:

  6. Tap Goblin Tunneler right away, making Floodtide Serpent unblockable.
  7. Finally, activate the Mizzium Transreliquat-in-Lamb's-Harem-clothing (that doesn't even sound appealing) again, taking advantage of the colored ability's persistence and this time becoming a copy of Captain's Hook. It's still attached to Spireside Infiltrator, which now is a Pirate, meaning Sea Legs boosts it to 9/7 instead of shrinking it. r left.
  8. Octavia can block the Burning-Tree Vandal, but not with anything that has lifelink or any other meaningful effect. Spireside Infiltrator and Floodtide Serpent are both unblockable, getting in for 9 + 1 damage, which is enough.

Then again, a variant solution exists that leaves a single creature to deal all of the needed 11 damage. It's possible to get Spireside Infiltrator to 9 power in addition to its trigger for one, but you need to get creative for that last bit of life. Michael Feldman writes:

  1. Tap for 1ur (5uur left) to have Mizzium Transreliquat copy Slab Hammer with the former's copying ability intact.
  2. Tap for 2 (3uur left) to equip the Slab Hammer copy onto Spireside Infiltrator.
  3. Tap for u (3ur left) to cast Sea Legs on Spireside Infiltrator (now 1/2 as a non-Pirate).
  4. Tap Goblin Tunneler to have it make Spireside Infiltrator unblockable for the turn.
  5. Put Narcolepsy in your hand to attack with Floodtide Serpent along with Burning-Tree Vandal and Spireside Infiltrator.

  6. Stack the Slab Hammer triggers last so that they resolve first.

  7. Before damage, tap for 1ur (1 left) to have the Slab Hammer copy copy Captain's Hook. Spireside Infiltrator gets +2/+0 (now 7/6) and becomes a Pirate.

  8. The unblockable 9/8 Spireside Infiltrator deals Octavia 9 damage (1 life left). If Octavia allows other attackers to go unblocked, they inflict lethal damage, but they are also easily blockable.
  9. Play Island (your lands can now be tapped for 1u).
  10. Tap for 1u (no mana left) to cast Narcolepsy on Spireside Infiltrator.
  11. With no further options, the turn passes to Octavia.
  12. The beginning of Octavia's upkeep has Narcolepsy tap Spireside Infiltrator.

Jacob Butcher also notes that another variant exists for two additional damage. This route takes advantage of the fact that Sea Legs has flash:

  1. Cast Sea Legs on Spireside Infiltrator, giving it -2/-0. Spireside Infiltrator is now 1/2.
  2. Tap Goblin Tunneler to make Spireside Infiltrator unblockable until end of turn.
  3. Activate Mizzium Transreliquat to make it a copy of Slab Hammer (but still transformable).
  4. Equip the ersatz Slab Hammer to Burning-Tree Vandal.
  5. Attack with Spireside Infiltrator, Burning-Tree Vandal, and Floodtide Serpent. Floodtide Serpent's attack ability returns Sea Legs to my hand.
  6. In response to all the attack triggers, cast Sea Legs on Burning-Tree Vandal, giving it -2/-0. Burning-Tree Vandal is now 1/2.
  7. Tap Goblin Tunneler to make Burning-Tree Vandal unblockable until end of turn.
  8. Resolve all attack triggers:

  9. Activate Mizzium Transreliquat to make the ersatz Slab Hammer a copy of Captain's Hook (though no longer transformable). Burning-Tree Vandal is now 7/6.
  10. Octavia presumably blocks Floodtide Serpent. Floodtide Serpent probably dies.
  11. Spireside Infiltrator and Burning-Tree Vandal deal a total of 12 damage to Octavia, killing her.

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