"On my upkeep, I'll resolve my Think Tank's ability."
Mari peers at the top card of her library, reveals that it's another Plains, and places it into her graveyard. "You know . . . I'd hate to be a creature," she says, drawing her card for the turn.
"Say again?" you ask.
"I mean," she says, "imagine living your whole existence based on someone who thinks of you as nothing more than a piece on a game board. Or a square of cardboard on a playmat, as the case may be."
"It makes you wonder if that would give them any sort of motivation at all. For instance, if I were to order my Advance Scout to attack into your Elvish Aberration - just to bluff a combat trick in my hand - I'm not sure if my Scout would follow orders if he had anything to say about it."
"So . . . does that mean you're attacking with your Advance Scout?" you ask.
"Hey, you gained eight life from that," Mari points out, "so why complain?"
"There's also the fact that you killed three of my creatures with that Sunblast Angel."
"Well, you got one of the Guilds of Ravnica preview cards in your pool, and I didn't get anything."
"That's . . . not really an advantage," you say.
Mari shrugs. "I can't help it if this deck came together so well."
She's right, of course. Mari managed to draft a classic deck for today's Unabridged Cube tournament, which means that she's doing an excellent job stalling your ground forces and hitting you with flyers at the same time. She's also been very good at using her removal, which explains why your board is in shambles right now.
"That's five damage to me," you say, updating the numbers on your scorepad. At 6 life, it won't be too long before you have to shuffle up and move to the next round.
"Good. I'll cast a Cerulean Wyvern now."
"Wait, what? I thought you had a combat trick?"
Mari gives you a look. "I never said I did. That example I gave a while ago was just hypothetical."
"Argh," you grunt, "Right, right."
"I'll graft a +1/+1 counter onto the Wyvern from my Vigean Graftmage," Mari adds.
You start holding your head in your hands. The worst part is the fact that the Wyvern has protection from Green - which means that even if you somehow managed to draw the Watcher in the Web hiding in your deck, you still wouldn't be able to block it. Having to handle one of each card ever printed has put you at a disadvantage more than a few times, and this is one of those occasions.
"That's it, I guess," Mari says. "Are you doing anything in response to me ending my turn?"
You consider using your Elf Replica to remove her Curse of the Forsaken, but that doesn't seem worth putting you down one blocker. "I'll tap five to return Vineweft from my graveyard to my hand," you say, "but that's all."
"Go ahead with your turn, then."
As you untap your permanents, you start thinking that maybe you should just throw in the towel for this one. Mari is simply too far ahead of you; frankly, it'll be a miracle if you can turn this one around.
"I just hope you don't draw your Traitorous Blood," Mari remarks. "That would win this for you right now."
"What?" you ask.
As a matter of fact, the Traitorous Blood is exactly what you've just drawn from your library. Suddenly your eyes are on the table once more, trying to figure out whatever Mari sees that you haven't quite seen yet.
It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Mari before the beginning of her next combat phase.
You are at 6 life, with the following cards in play:
- Thunderscape Apprentice
- Orochi Leafcaller
- Legion Warboss
- Elf Replica
- Elvish Aberration
- 3 Mountains
- 4 Forests
You have the following cards in your hand:
You have not yet played a land this turn. You know neither the identities nor the order of the cards remaining in your library.
Mari is at 11 life and has no cards in her hand. She has the following cards in play:
- Advance Scout
- Alabaster Wall
- Griffin Sentinel
- Vigean Graftmage (with a +1/+1 counter on it)
- Labyrinth Minotaur
- Cerulean Wyvern (with a +1/+1 counter on it)
- Faithbearer Paladin
- Sunblast Angel (tapped)
- Think Tank
- Curse of the Forsaken (enchanting you)
- 3 Plains (all tapped)
- 2 Islands (both tapped)
- Tranquil Cove
If you think you've got a great solution in mind, don't put it in the comments! Instead, send it to email@example.com with the subject line "Puzzle - The Agency Dilemma" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, September 17, 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 Greg Dreher, Addison Fox, Matt Bocek, Michael Reluzco, Russell Jones, Hyman Rosen, Rob Nadeau, Calvin Erven, Cody Pulvermacher, Sean Patrick Keatley, Ryou Niji, Marco Majoor, Max Bernstein, Thomas Pierre, David Moreno, Richard Lawrence, Jeremy Regan, Susan Moreno, Xaq Rothman, Chris Billard, Frederick Remolana, Bradley Dixon, and David Arnold.
"The doubling effect from Goldknight Castigator is critical to ending this game," Richard Lawrence writes. "Using Cytoshape to buff our Dream Prowler at instant speed will easily be lethal. For example, changing it into a Corpulent Corpse after it attacks and isn't blocked would deal 10 damage by itself. Just for fun, why not sacrifice the Marker Beetles and make it 12? The main obstacle to victory, however, is the Shimian Night Stalker. It needs to be removed before the attack step or it threatens to redirect all of the damage."
With a Barrin's Unmaking in your hand, it's possible to remove the Shimian Night Stalker from the equation. But the Unmaking isn't your only resource in this case: "The Night Stalker can't be activated until there is an attacking creature," Cody Pulvermacher clarifies, "so if you clone it before combat, it's just an extra Furnace of Rath effect. You can do some shenanigans involving Wild Mongrel to try and make Barrin's Unmaking do something, but this is not necessary."
Michael Reluzco notes that the easiest solution to this puzzle, in fact, involves only three steps:
If you want to use Barrin's Unmaking on the Shimian Night Stalker, this is also possible. "This just requires altering the board until Black is tied for most common color," Richard continues. "Sacrificing Verdant Eidolon for mana and changing Wild Mongrel's color to Black will do the trick (as does sacrificing Marker Beetles to its own ability)."
This results in a variant of the above solution, as Hyman Rosen writes:
At this point, Nox still has only a single Goldnight Castigator, but you can then cast Cytoshape on your unblocked Dream Prowler and change it to anything with power 4 or greater for the win. For style points, copying Phytotitan will make your Prowler into an 8/3 creature (base 7/2 with a +1/+1 bonus) for 16 damage.
It's worth noting, of course, that you don't have to sacrifice the Verdant Eidolon. Sacrificing Marker Beetles to its ability gives you an additional card as well as the +1/+1 bonus. You can then discard this card to Wild Mongrel, turning it Black and causing Armor of Thorns to fall off . . . and more importantly, raising the number of Black permanents in time for your Barrin's Unmaking.
Thomas Pierre notes another variant that works, which leans on Green's advantage in numbers and doesn't require you to increase the number of Black permanents in play:
"You know what would be more fun than a Goldnight Castigator, though?" Richard continues. "Three Goldnight Castigators! We can use Cytoshape to make a second Goldnight Castigator, and we can use Barrin's Unmaking to return the Metamorphic Alteration to our hand and recast it to create a third Goldnight Castigator. The single point of damage from Dream Prowler, doubled three times, is exactly the 8 needed to win.
"To make Blue tie for most common color, we need to activate Wild Mongrel twice, once to remove the Armor of Thorns, and again to create the third Blue permanent. This means discarding both the Verdant Eidolon and the card drawn by the Marker Beetles. Furthermore, we need to reduce the number of Back permanents . . . but the Shimian Night Stalker is a convenient target, since, as before, it does need to be removed before combat:
It turns out there's not really a wrong way to make your opponent take quadruple or octuple damage!