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The Thing You Doom

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Skyblinder Staff
"Skyblinder Staff," Jane says.

You pause. "What?" you ask.

"Madame Kostana says that the Skyblinder Staff will be the doom of me," Jane says simply.

You glance at the lone card in your hand, but no matter how you view it, it resembles a War Priest of Thune a whole lot more than it looks like a Skyblinder Staff. You wonder if that says something about your opponent's sanity.

"So what you're saying is that... the Skyblinder Staff..."

"...Will be the doom of me," Jane says. "At least, Madame Kostana says that."

"But you're Madame Kostana," you point out.

"I am? I am. Ooooh, that's my stage name!"

You shake your head. This is your second time playing against Jane in an Unabridged Cube draft match, and she apparently hasn't changed. Maybe the act of considering one of each card ever printed does a number on the mental faculties.

You have no idea where Jane got into the notion of a Skyblinder Staff, but her reference to "doom" is obvious: You've had a Doom Foretold sitting on your side of the table for a few turns now. Despite Jane's overdramatics and your low life totals, though, neither of you are in danger of losing to it anytime soon - the battlefield is just too populated at the moment.

"So, random pieces of equipment aside," you say, "what you're really saying is that one of us is eventually going to draw some direct damage and use that to finish off the other."

"Maybe," Jane says. "Madame Kostana's visions have always been a little fuzzy."

"But you're Madame Kostana."

"The one and only," Jane says as she taps her Destructive Digger. "I'll sacrifice a Mountain to draw a card. I need to hurry before you take your next draw."

"Let me guess... that's also what Madame Kostana says."

"And Madame Kostana is never wrong," Jane says, grinning. She draws her card and triumphantly drops it onto the table.

"That's... a Scourge of Geier Reach," you say.

"I knew it was going to be a big creature," Jane says happily.

"Yeah, well, it was bound to happen," you concede. Inwardly, you thank yourself for adding a Hushbringer to your card pool: Right now, the Throne of Eldraine rare is single-handedly preventing a whole host of triggers from taking place - one of which happens to be Jane's Elemental Bond.

"Your turn," Jane reminds you.

You untap your permanents and feed a Benalish Hero to your Doom Foretold. "I'm not sure if I want to go through all the effort of figuring out what this thing does," you admit. "Besides, I'll need to find a way to deal with that Scourge."

There's still the question of how to break your stalemate with Jane, but you have to admit that her "doom" prediction is likely to come true: Sooner or later she'll draw something that deals damage to players, you'll shuffle up for Game 2,and you'll sit through another fifteen minutes' worth of her strange predictions.

"Skyblinder Staff," Jane announces suddenly.

You peel a card off the top of your deck. Well, what do you know - it's a Skyblinder Staff.

"Yeah," you say to no one in particular. "That's not creepy at all."

"You want to know something even more weird?" Jane asks. "Madame Kostana isn't getting any vibes from your next draw. I hope that doesn't mean anything."

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Jane before the beginning of her next combat phase.

You are at 2 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.

Jane is at 2 life and has no cards in her hand. She 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 - That Thing You Doom" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, October 28, 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 Russell Jones, Sean Patrick Keatley, Addison Fox, Hyman Rosen, and David Arnold. A partial solution was also provided by Jacob Butcher.

This puzzle puts you under a major restriction in your opponent's Intrepid Hero: You can't target it with any effects due to Mask of Avacyn, and it can take down any single creature you control with 4 power or greater. What's more, you're not quite certain as to when your opponent will actually activate the Hero's ability, so you're stuck having to work with its presence.

"Getting in for any amount of damage when we can't have a 4-power creature AND Ashish has so many blockers is unreasonable," Addison Fox writes. "It requires a creature who can change its power almost at will! Luckily, Shambling Suit has exactly those characteristics, and we can use our piratey goblin friend to fine-tune just how big it needs to be at various points."

Of course, it's not just about making the Shambling Suit small enough to bypass Intrepid Hero - it's also about building it back up again afterward. This means that there has to be some preparation involved, because this two-move strategy needs to be available at any point in which your opponent activates Intrepid Hero. "Fortunately for us," David Arnold writes, "the Helm of Awakening gives us a discount on spells:

  1. w to cast Aviary Mechanic. Its ETB ability triggers: Return Journey to Nowhere to your hand.
  2. Whirler Rogue returns to play under Ashish's control. Ashish creates two 1/1 Thopter tokens.
  3. You now have only two artifacts and/or enchantments under your control (Hangarback Walker and Shambling Suit). Tap Pathmaker Initiate to make it so that Shambling Suit can't be blocked until end of turn.
  4. w to cast Journey to Nowhere. When it enters the battlefield, exile Whirler Rogue.
  5. Sacrifice Amateur Auteur to destroy Journey to Nowhere.
  6. Whirler Rogue returns to play under Ashish's control. Ashish creates two more 1/1 Thopter tokens.
  7. rw to cast Squee's Embrace on Dockside Extortionist.
  8. r to sacrifice Dockside Extortionist to Scorched Rusalka. Ashish takes 1 damage and goes to 15. The Extortionist bounces to your hand.
  9. r to cast the Extortionist. Its ETB ability creates six Treasure tokens (for Helm of Awakening, Mask of Avacyn, and four Thopter tokens), and your Shambling Suit enters the DANGER ZONE.

    • At any point now, Ashish can tap Intrepid Hero to destroy our Shambling Suit. If and when Ashish does, we proceed to the EMERGENCY SUIT DETONATION PROTOCOL. The next steps assume that Ashish is asleep and passing priority while dreaming of a return to Kamigawa block.
  10. Move to combat. Attack with the Suit (for 8 damage). Ashish goes down to 7.
  11. Sacrifice all six Treasure tokens and tap a Mountain to add rrrrrrr.
  12. w and tap Hangarback Walker to put a +1/+1 counter on it.
  13. r and sacrifice Meadowboon to Scorched Rusalka. Ashish goes down to 6. He may blow up your Hangarback Walker before the Meadowboon's death trigger resolves - if so, r and sacrifice it to deal 1 damage to Ashish.
  14. You now have at least four Thopter tokens of your own, and Ashish is at 5 life. rrrrr and sacrifice all of the Thopters plus Pathmaker Initiate to close out the game.

EMERGENCY SUIT DETONATION PROTOCOL

In all likelihood, Intrepid Hero gets tapped to blow up your Shambling Suit either at the end of the precombat main phase, or after it is declared as an attacker. In either event, the protocol is the same:

  1. Sacrifice five Treasure tokens to add rrrrr. The Suit now has 3 power (Shambling Suit, Hangarback Walker, oneTreasure token) and the Hero's ability fizzles. Presumably, this is because Intrepid Hero swings at the Suit's "head," but the Suit mysteriously Ant-Man's mid-swing and the sword whiffs.
  2. Now that the Hero's ability has fizzled, we can get back to work: r to sacrifice Meadowboon, giving each of your creatures a +1/+1 counter. Ashish goes down to 14.
  3. w and tap Hangarback Walker to put a +1/+1 counter on it.
  4. rrrr to sac Aviary Mechanic, Pathmaker Initiate, Hangarback Walker, and Dockside Extortionist to deal a total of 4 damage to Ashish, who goes down to 10. You create five Thopter tokens of your own.
  5. The Shambling Suit's power is now at 8 (one Treasure token, five Thopter tokens, a +1/+1 counter, and the Suit itself). Ashish takes 8 damage and goes to 2.
  6. Tap a Mountain and sacrifice the last Treasure token for rr.
  7. rr and sacrifice two Thopter tokens for 2 damage and the win.

Note that there's also the possibility that Ashish may tap Intrepid Hero targeting your Dockside Extortionist (which can become a 4/4 thanks to Squee's Embrace), or your Hangarback Walker (which can become a 4/4 from its own ability). This won't help him, though - in both cases, you're immediately sacrificing the Extortionist or the Walker to the Scorched Rusalka!

There is at least one variant to this solution: You can place Squee's Embrace on your Aviary Mechanic instead. This allows you to sacrifice it to Scorched Rusalka, and recast the Mechanic to bounce your Journey to Nowhere once more. From there, recasting Journey to Nowhere to exile Dockside Extortionist, then using Amateur Auteur to remove the Journey, will let you get your Treasure tokens.

The best part, of course, is that you end up with enough creatures to sacrifice to Scorched Rusalka regardless of whether or not your opponent activates Intrepid Hero. The Rusalka ends up single-handedly responsible for half of your opponent's life points... which isn't bad, considering that you started out with only four Mountains!

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