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You Leave Me No Choice

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Volrath, the Shapestealer
"I'll declare the start of my combat phase," Riku says.

You turn Stun Sniper sideways. "I'll tap your Skyship Stalker in response."

"Yeah," Riku says. "That much was obvious."

"Well, it's not like I have any other options."

"Yeah, that's fair enough," Riku says."No attacks."

"Wait, what?" you ask, raising an eyebrow.

"No attacks," Riku repeats.

"Even though I'm at one life?"

"Technically," Riku points out, "most of my creatures are smaller than yours. If I send in everything I've got, I'll be attacking you with three 1/1s and a 3/6."

"But that'll be four creatures against three blockers."

"You could block my Radiant's Dragoons, Unruly Mob, and Tuktuk the Explorer, then sacrifice your Thrashing Brontodon to kill my Triskelion."

"Yeah, but that'll get Tuktuk to give you a 5/5 artifact creature without the Brontodon to stop it."

"Not if you block Tuktuk with your Brontodon itself," Riku points out. "No, I think I can wait a little longer. Besides, I'm at fourteen life - I can afford it."

You nod. Part of what makes the Unabridged Cube so entertaining is that you can have tactical discussions like this. With the presence of one of each card ever printed, there's also the question of interesting interactions to consider: There's not a lot of other environments where you could steal your opponent's Stun Sniper with Animate Dead, then use it to lock down his 3/3 flying dragon.

Riku taps six lands and plays the only card in his hand, a Bellowing Aegisaur. That doesn't look good for you at all, but you can understand that your opponent is building up enough creatures to overwhelm your blockers. Now you're under pressure to draw another creature card on your next turn, just to make sure you can stop getting one point of damage through your front line.

"If you had some +1/+1 counters left on your Triskelion," you point out, "then you'd have a nice combo there."

"The thought did cross my mind, "Riku says. "That's how I won my first match. That probably wouldn't be the case here, though."

"What do you mean?" you ask.

"Well," Riku says, "if my Triskelion had some +1/+1 counters on it, I'd just aim them at you."

"Oh, yeah," you say. "One life. Duh."

"Anyway," Riku laughs, "it's your turn. Let's see if that Volrath of yours is as good as it looks."

Despite appearances, Volrath, the Shapestealer has been underperforming for you so far. You're usually up for taking any of the Unabridged Cube's preview cards out for a spin, but in this case the Volrath you cast last turn has been acting more like an insurmountable wall for your opponent. It's a 7/5 wall, though, so you're not too disappointed at its board presence.

You untap, draw a card, and aren't too enthused at the fact that Crown of Vigor isn't a creature. It isn't another basic land, at least, and you suppose you should be a little grateful for that.

You glance at Riku, who's probably going over potential combat scenarios in his head. You're at a precarious spot right now, and even if you manage to hold off your opponent's forces for another turn, there's still the possibility that Riku could simply draw some direct damage and blow you away. But what kind of move could you possibly make here?

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

You are at 1 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 still have a substantial number of cards remaining in your library, but you know neither the identities nor the order of those cards.

Riku is at 14 life and has no cards in his hand. He 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 - You Leave Me No Choice" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, August 26, 2019. We'll include the best ones in next week's article along with the next puzzle!

Last Week's Puzzle

Watcher in the Web
Correct solutions to last week's puzzle were received from Addison Fox, Kirk Maijala, Sean Patrick Keatley, Daniel Yin and Philip Belin, Max Bernstein, Hyman Rosen, and Ross.

Your opponent's Watcher in the Web is the major problem here, because it can stand in front of a huge number of blockers and survive thanks to its indestructibility. You do have a removal spell in hand... but what you don't have is enough cards to fuel it.

"This one is fun because it requires us to generate some obscene card advantage with Garna," Kirk Maijala writes, "but then win instantly instead of trying to grind out a win against Angie. Our path to victory requires us to take out that annoying spider with a big Scent of Nightshade, which in turn requires us to fill our hand with as many black creatures as possible. Thankfully our Thunderscape Familiar puts in a lot of work, saving us three mana throughout this line."

"This puzzle should've been called 'Shenanigans with Garna'," Sean Patrick Keatley notes. "Garna enables returning everything put into your graveyard from anywhere, including itself if you can sac it with the ability on the stack. So...

  1. Tap Anje Falkenrath to discard Grave Scrabbler. Pay b for its madness cost to put it into play and return Garna, the Bloodflame to my hand. Anje untaps - her card drawn is meaningless, although if it was a Black card, it makes this easier.
  2. Sacrifice Anje Falkenrath to make the Anaba Bodyguard 4/4.
  3. Sacrifice the Grave Scrabbler to make the Bodyguard 6/5.
  4. Cast Garna for four mana; once you cast it, pay b to return Lingering Phantom to my hand. Once Garna enters play and puts its ability on the stack, sacrifice Garna to make the Bodyguard 8/6.
  5. Garna's enters-the-battlefield ability resolves, returning Garna, Anje, and Scrabbler to hand; joining the Lingering Phantom, Bone Harvest, and Scent of Nightshade.
  6. Cast Scent of Nightshade for one mana, revealing the five Black cards, and killing Watcher in the Web.
  7. Sacrifice Thunderscape Familiar to make the Bodyguard 10/7.
  8. Swing with the Spireside Infiltrator and the Anaba Bodyguard. The Infiltrator's ability pings the opponent for 1 damage.
  9. Sacrifice the Infiltrator to make the Bodyguard 12/8. Our opponent takes 12 more damage and dies.

This solution leaves you with two extra lands, because you end up not using Bone Harvest. There's a variant that uses Bone Harvest, though: You first cast it to put Lingering Phantom and Hidden Horror on top of your library. From there, your first activation of Anje Falkenrath draws you the Phantom, and because you're then untapping Anje, you can follow up by discarding the Phantom to draw the Horror.

This, however, leads to an alternative solution where you don't cast Grave Scrabbler for its madness cost. Instead, Kirk Maijala's solution uses Bone Harvest as your method of retrieving Garna:

  1. Tap Mountain and Swamp to cast Bone Harvest. Put Garna, the Bloodflame and Hidden Horror on top of our deck, with Hidden Horror as the top card.
  2. Activate Anje Falkenrath, discarding Grave Scrabbler. Don't pay its madness cost. Untap Anje and draw Hidden Horror.
  3. Activate Anje, discarding Hidden Horror to draw Garna.
  4. Go to combat. Attack with Spireside Infiltrator and Anaba Bodyguard. Attack with Thunderscape Familiar too, because it's about sending a message. Trigger Spireside Infiltator. (Angie falls to 12.)
  5. Tap three Mountains and a Swamp to cast Garna for four mana, thanks to Thunderscape Familiar. Tap a Swamp for Lingering Phantom's triggered ability to return it to our hand, as Garna is historic. (We have one Swamp untapped.)
  6. Resolve Garna and put her triggered ability onto the stack. Hold priority.
  7. Sacrifice Garna, Spireside Infiltrator, and Anje to Anaba Bodyguard, which now has 10 power.
  8. Resolve Garna's triggered ability, returning Anje, Spireside Infiltrator, Grave Scrabbler, Hidden Horror, and Garna to our hand.
  9. Cast Scent of Nightshade on Watcher in the Web. Reveal Anje, Garna, Grave Scrabbler, Hidden Horror, and Lingering Phantom for -5/-5, killing the indestructible spider.
  10. Sacrifice Thunderscape Familiar to Anaba Bodyguard, which now has 12 power.
  11. Go to blocks. Angie has no flying blockers and takes 12 damage from Anaba Bodyguard and dies.

This alternative solution has its own variant: You can cast Grave Scrabbler for its madness cost, in which case you return Lingering Phantom to your hand slightly earlier than expected.

"It's interesting," Addison Fox notes. "You'd expect that a puzzle which includes both a card that puts something on top of your library and a looter would involve drawing a card that didn't start the turn on top of your library. But as it turns out, the effect of Anje's ability is purely ancillary, all we really need is the cost."