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Broken Dreams

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Your latest Magic Origins Draft gave you a rather nice Thopters deck, and you wasted no time using it to take down your opponents. You’re now sitting comfortably in the second game of your last match of the day, trusting your deck to see things through to the end.

Ghirapur Aether Grid
Stella, your opponent, had an interesting Draft as well: She’s playing an Elf-heavy deck, and after a disaster of a first game, she decided to bring in a lot of anti-flyer cards from her sideboard. This brought her deck from “pushover” to “heavy resistance” and made your second game more than a little contentious.

Over the course of the last few turns, you managed to bring five Thopter tokens into play while Stella was flooded with lands. She did end up with two reach creatures, though, so you had to hold your air force from attacking. Fortunately, you drew your Ghirapur Aether Grid at some point, and you found it useful in sniping Stella from a distance.

On Stella’s last turn, however, she turned the tables on you by casting Eyeblight Massacre and almost wiping your side of the table clean. She then cast Necromantic Summons (with spell mastery) to retrieve the largest flyer in a graveyard, which happened to be your Scrapskin Drake. Finally, she used the last of her mana to cast Fleshbag Marauder—which finally gave you the chance to counter it with Calculated Dismissal.

The Dismissal’s spell mastery effect let you scry two cards, so you looked through the top of your library for a way to bounce back. You found a Fiery Conclusion and an Act of Treason there and decided to keep both—putting the Conclusion on top so that you would draw it first.

Eventually, Stella decided to defer her attack to her next turn. You weren’t too surprised at that: She knows you have a Hydrolash in your deck, and at 5 life, so she wasn’t going to take the risk. With a strong defensive line in place, you imagined that she wasn’t too concerned at the possibility of you breaking through.

As it turns out, she had every right to be worried. It takes you a while to see it, but you manage to spot the win on the table. Between her mana flood, her mass shattering of Thopters, and her hesitation to attack, Stella’s not going to be very happy at the sudden turn of events.

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Stella this turn.

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

Aspiring Aeronaut

You have the following cards in your hand:

You currently have an Act of Treason on top of your library. In addition to the other cards remaining in your deck, you know that you have exactly one more copy of Infectious Bloodlust somewhere in your library.

Thornbow Archer
Stella is at 5 life and has no cards in her hand. She has the following cards in play:

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 — Broken Dreams”. We’ll include the best ones in next week’s article along with the next puzzle!

Last Week’s Puzzle

Correct solutions were received from Russell Jones, Aaron Golas, Carlo Picar, Andrew Muravskyi, Maarten Wybaillie, Norman Dean, Markus Beschoner, Jonathan Kustina, Matthew Harvey, Christopher McCormick, David Jacobs, Austin Callison, Mattias "Slanfan" Berggren, Lim Jun Weng, Vik Patel, Iniui Yuan, Quadrangolo Tetra, Joseph Megill, Heiko Maurus, and Jen Wong.

Several respondents noted that this puzzle was particularly interesting: “The path to victory is clear from the start,” Quadrangolo Tetra writes, “but the sequencing isn't straightforward at all.”

“Following in the sage advice of the great Detective Holmes,” Matthew Harvey notes, “we must eliminate the impossible then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the true path to victory. So let's start there and see just what is impossible:”

  • It's impossible for us to destroy Moat now.
  • So it is impossible for us to attack.
  • So it is impossible for us to win through combat damage.
  • It is impossible for us to win by milling Watson out before the start of his next turn.
  • Then the only answer left is: We win through bringing Watson to 0 life by direct damage.
  • This brings us to Sunflare Shaman as the only way to deal damage to Watson directly.

“The trouble is,” Chris Cordell continues, “you have to pump the graveyard with Elementals to send 16 damage through. There are seven Elementals that can be in the graveyard when you activate Sunflare Shaman's ability. Thus, you need to activate the Shaman a minimum of three times to kill your opponent, since at maximum, you only deal 14 damage from two activations.”

The most common solution involved dealing 4 damage before the end of Watson’s turn, followed by 6 damage during your upkeep, and then 6 more damage during your main phase. Andrew Muravskyi demonstrates:

Watson’s end step:

  • Tap a Forest and a Mountain to evoke Briarhorn, giving Flame Elemental +3/+3. Flame-Kin War Scout is sacrificed as part of its ability.
  • Tap a Mountain and Flame Elemental to sacrifice it and deal 6 damage to Hollowhenge Scavenger.
  • Tap Raging Ravine and activate Yavimaya Hollow to regenerate Sunflare Shaman.
  • Tap two Mountains and Sunflare Shaman to shoot Watson for 4 damage. (Briarhorn, Flame Elemental, Flame-Kin War Scout, and Hollowhenge Scavenger in graveyard.)

Our upkeep:

Our main phase:

There are, of course, alternate solutions. Aaron Golas points out a variant that puts Cytoplast Root-Kin into the graveyard:

In Watson’s end step:

During your upkeep:

Draw step: Draw Sunflare Shaman.

Main phase:

Another interesting approach involves using Grinning Ignus’s ability, not once, but twice. Austin Callison’s solution picks up after you deal 4 damage to Watson at the end of his turn (and grafted a counter away from Cytoplast Root-Kin):

  • During our own upkeep, we activate Sunflare Shaman again for 4 damage, killing it and putting Watson down to 8.
  • After the Shaman’s ability resolves, we pay 2 life (dropping to 2) to cast Noxious Revival and put the Shaman back on top of our library.
  • Draw step: We now have Sunflare Shaman and Pit Fight in hand.
  • Main phase: Now that we can activate Grinning Ignus, let's see about shrinking that Root-Kin. Tap all of our remaining lands and sacrifice Generator Servant to add 2rrrrgg to our pool. We now have five Elementals in the graveyard.
  • Pay r to bounce Grinning Ignus and add 2r to our mana pool; then, immediately recast him. Net loss: r. Graft a counter onto him when he enters the battlefield, shrinking Root-Kin to a 2/2.
  • Repeat this process one more time, ending with 2rrgg floating and a 1/1 Cytoplast and 3/3 Ignus in play.
  • Cast Sunflare Shaman, using a Generator Servant mana to give it haste. 1rgg is floating. Graft the last counter onto the Shaman, making it a 3/2. Cytoplast Root-Kin is sacrificed due to having 0 toughness. We now have six Elementals in the graveyard.
  • Activate Sunflare Shaman (gg is left in pool). With the ability on the stack, cast Pit Fight, targeting our two remaining creatures. The 3/2 and 3/3 trade, putting two more Elementals in the bin. When Sunflare Shaman's ability resolves, X will be 8—exactly lethal!

“I was banging my head against my desk for a while,” Austin admits, “thinking I had no way to put enough creatures into my graveyard fast enough, until I remembered the old activated-abilities-are-grenades analogy and also realized that Sunflare Shaman doesn't actually target itself with its ability.”


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