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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner


Once and Future
Gordon's expression is that of a man who is perpetually angry at the rest of the world. There's a certain deliberation to it, as though he's spent years practicing the scowl in front of a mirror. It almost feels like he's an explosive device on an unknown timer, ready to go off at the first person who so much as plays a turn-one Llanowar Elves at him.

Needless to say, you've been watching your step around him. The fact that he's your first-round opponent in today's Throne of Eldraine prerelease tournament only makes your job harder.

Gordon is playing some dubious creatures in his deck, but he's making up for it with a lot of removal: He's already taken out most of your mid-sized creatures and is now working on getting through your current stalemate. Fortunately, you've had access to a lot of Food tokens thanks to your Witch's Oven, and your gu deck has given you more than a few creatures to sacrifice. With Gordon's Brimstone Trebuchet being the only regular source of damage on the table, it looks like this is going to be a long game.

Gordon taps seven lands and moves his Reaper of Night onto the battlefield. "Seven for Reaper," he says.

You remember the Reaper very well - Gordon caught you with its Harvest Fear effect last turn, taking out the Hypnotic Sprite and Mystical Dispute in your hand. What you don't like, though, is the fact that he now has three potential flying attackers. Your 3/6 Steelgaze Griffin may be holding the line at the moment, but it's one Bake into a Pie away from putting you in a world of hurt.

Your eyes suddenly fall on Gordon, who's fixing you with that uneven stare of his. With a start, you straighten up.

"Sorry," you stammer, "is it my turn?"

Gordon just nods.

You briefly consider feeding another creature to your Oven, but decide against it: You don't have a lot of use for a Food token right now, and at six life, you can stand to wait a little longer. Instead, you simply untap your permanents and draw a card, feeling a little relief at the Once and Future in your hand.

"Er," you say, "what's your life total again?"

Gordon gives you a look that could probably melt butter, and then slowly checks his phone. "Eleven," he says.

"Eleven," you say, sweating. "That's, uh... nice."

Gordon doesn't say anything.

You fan out the cards in your graveyard, wondering if anything looks good. So far, it looks like Fell the Pheasant gives you a convenient method of defense, Witching Well can dig for more solutions, and Beanstalk Giant might be able to swing the pendulum back your way (assuming that it doesn't get Baked into a Pie and all).

You're torn between two options right now. Part of you thinks that you should continue to play the long game, so as not to trigger whatever lies behind Gordon's intimidating expression. Your opponent doesn't have an overly strong advantage, and your position seems likely to improve in the next few turns, so you can pull this off fairly easily unless Gordon draws more of his removal.

The other part of you, however, thinks that you should just cut loose, try to win the game this turn, and hope that Gordon doesn't burn you to a crisp with his blistering gaze. You'd rather get this game done so that you can move onto an opponent who's a lot more pleasant to look at, so this seems to be the better choice.

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

You are at 6 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.

You have the following cards in your graveyard:

Gordon is at 11 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 - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, October 7, 2019. 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, Sean Patrick Keatley, Hyman Rosen, Addison Fox, and Russell Jones.

"20 life is a lot," Addison Fox notes, "and we've only got one burn spell that can target Suree for only a third of it. However, Vigor's static and triggered abilities aren't off, so we can see about pointing some of that damage our way."

"If you cast a fully charged Sundering Stroke," Greg Dreher points out, "you could pump your creatures with Vigor's effect, but there's no way to get through Suree's board. That means you need to use it directly on Suree. You can only target a player once with Sundering Stroke, so you'll have to get creative to score that triple shot."

Spiteful Sliver makes a huge difference here, since any damage dealt to it (or any other Sliver creature you control) can be thrown your opponent's way. The problem is that Vigor hinders you as much as it helps, since it'll prevent the Sliver from taking damage.

At this point, you have a method available, and just need to figure out the sequencing. "This took some maneuvering to figure out how to kill off Vigor," Sean Patrick Keatley writes, "but here it goes:

  1. Tap two Forests to put the Runed Stalactite on Runaway Steam-Kin.
  2. Tap one Forest to cast Savage Stomp targeting Steam-Kin (since it's a Dinosaur) and Kathari Screecher; Steam-Kin gets a +1/+1 counter from Savage Stomp, and then six more from the damage because of Vigor (seven total counters). Kathari Screecher dies and the Spirespine becomes a creature.
  3. Tap two more Forests to put the Runed Stalactite on Vigor.
  4. Remove six +1/+1 counters from Steam-Kin to get rrrrrr. Use that and tap one Mountain to cast Sundering Stroke (which gives the Steam-Kin another +1/+1 counter for two total) - targeting Vigor and the opponent.

  5. Tap your last two Mountains and the Forest to activate Hatchet Bully, putting a -1/-1 counter on itself and dealing 2 damage to the opponent (16 total damage now).
  6. Swing with the Spiteful Sliver. Spirespine must block, so the 4 damage it deals to the Sliver goes to your opponent's face for lethal.

Between Savage Stomp, Sundering Stroke, and an attack into Spirespine, you have three major sources of damage here. The interesting part is that they can be interchanged to some extent: Your only requirement is to remove Kathari Screecher before attacking into the resulting Spirespine, as Russell Jones points out:

  1. Move Runed Stalactite onto Vigor, now 7/7. rrrgggg left.
  2. Activate Hatchet Bully, putting a -1/-1 counter on Vigor (back down to 6/6) and dealing 2 damage to Runaway Steam-Kin that gets replaced with two +1/+1 counters. (Dealing the 2 damage to Vigor would have the same result due to Spiteful Sliver's trigger, but it's fewer clicks on MODO this way.) rrgg left.
  3. Play Savage Stomp, targeting Vigor (which is a Dinosaur for the discount) and Kathari Screecher. Vigor gets a +1/+1 counter (erasing its -1/-1 counter) to get back to 7/7, then takes 6 damage. Kathari Screecher takes 7 damage at the same time, dying and causing Spirespine to become a standalone creature. Spiteful Sliver's trigger deals 6 to the dome (to 14 life). rrg left.
  4. Go to combat and swing with Runaway Steam-Kin. Spirespine, which is now an untapped creature, must block; if Suree wants to throw in any extra blockers then good for her. You still control Vigor, so no damage will actually be dealt to the Steam-Kin (even if she includes Oakhame Adversary as a blocker, it won't help).

    • You'll get to deal 3 damage back and destroy Spirespine, meanwhile the blockers will attempt to deal at least 4 damage and turn that into more +1/+1 counters. Runaway Steam-Kin is now assured of at least six +1/+1 counters on it.
  5. Move Runed Stalactite over to Runaway Steam-Kin. Vigor shrinks to a 6/6 with 6 damage, dies, and shuffles into your library. Krasis Incubation falls off as well. r left.
  6. Remove six +1/+1 counters from Runaway Steam-Kin to add rrrrrr, and the last Mountain provides a seventh r. Play Sundering Stroke targeting Runaway Steam-Kin, Spiteful Sliver, and Suree's head.

    • Runaway Steam-Kin will trigger for a meaningless +1/+1 counter unless it was multi-blocked with a bunch of power in combat.
    • Each of the three targets is set to take the full 7 damage, and since you no longer control Vigor, the damage to your own creatures is actually dealt as such instead of turning into counters. Both of your creature targets are also Slivers, so they trigger with Spiteful Sliver's ability even though both die in the process.
  7. Suree takes 7 damage directly from the spell (to 7 life), 7 more from the first Spiteful Sliver trigger (to 0 life), and the game ends with a trigger lingering on the stack, the promise of 7 overkill damage that won't actually be dealt.

"If you wanted to count the extra damage anyway," Russell remarks, "that would be fighting dirty."

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