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Ray of Light: A Magic the Gathering Puzzle

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Radiant, Serra Archangel
Maddie considers your Radiant, Serra Archangel for a while. "Now that," she says, "is a real game-changer."

"Well, it costs seven," you say, "so I imagine that it has to give you some return on your investment."

"I've obviously been away for a long while," Maddie says, nodding. "I think I missed all the preview cards that came up with... what do you call this, again?"

"The Unabridged Cube?"

"That's it. The one that has one of each card ever printed. And has cards that haven't been released yet."

"If you don't mind my asking, how long has it been since you joined an Unabridged Cube draft here?"

"I think I isolated myself in my dad's farmhouse back in... April, was it?"

"Wasn't that six months ago?"

Maddie shrugs. "I'm trying to remember where it all began, but yeah, it's been a while."

"That's true," you admit. "I heard that unreleased cards were still spontaneously showing up in the Cube, even when there were only three or four people playing in the store. Those must have made for some interesting matches."

"At least now I feel like I just got home."

Maddie thinks for another minute. You can see about a hundred expressions cross her face, which means that your legendary flyer is definitely making its presence felt.

"That Radiant of yours is stopping me cold," she finally says.

You allow yourself a little relief. For a Green-Blue deck, Maddie has a surprising number of flyers, and neither your Matsu-Tribe Sniper nor your flying Resilient Khenra have been able to hold the tide completely. You're actually amazed that you've managed to survive this long.

"Okay," Maddie says, "I'll cast Mindculling and draw two cards."

"I've got nothing in hand," you say.

"Yeah, but I'm not going to wait till you draw something," Maddie says. "Besides, your bomb is already on the table."

"Fair point. That leaves you with just an Island and a Forest."

"I'll use that to cast Nightveil Sprite," Maddie says. "Then I'll play a Lumbering Falls and pass the turn."

"No attacks?"

"And run into Radiant? No way. I need to think about this first."

"I'm glad I first-picked her, then," you say, untapping your permanents and moving to draw a card. "She's saving my life here."

"Yeah, I'm sure she's got herself a little piece of heaven there."

You draw another flyer for your board - a Kor Skyfisher - and immediately start making plans. Considering that the Skyfisher's a 3/4 creature when you take Paragon of New Dawns into account, that's going to be another welcome presence. For that matter, bouncing your Carven Caryatid for an additional card also seems pretty good.

Then you pause for a moment as the situation starts to dawn on you. You're certainly starting to turn this game around, but it feels like you can certainly do something before Maddie draws into a solution. The only question is... what?

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

You are at 7 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, although you know neither the identities nor the order of those cards.

Maddie is at 9 life and has no cards in her hand. She has the following cards in play:

If you've got a solution in mind, don't put it in the comments! Help keep this puzzle a mystery to other readers!

Instead, if you think you've got a great solution, you can send your solution to puzzles at gatheringmagic dot com with the subject line "Puzzle - Ray of Light" by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, November 9, 2020. 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 Hyman Rosen, Jacob Butcher, and Michael Feldman.

"There are a few keys to solving this one," Michael Feldman writes:

  • There is zero enchantment removal available, so Transcendence's alternate loss-condition is the only path. Practically, that means a combination of damage and forced lifegain of 14 points total.
  • There are two ways to take advantage of Double Vision with Malevolent Whispers, both of which are problematic. You could cast Malevolent Whispers right off the bat, but then it would be impossible to use Stormbind unless you completely forfeit the ability to cast Moonmist. Or, you could use Stormbind on Malevolent Whispers during Chaney's upkeep, but that means that you have no meaningful way to sneak in an unblocked attack or use Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose to your advantage.
  • Taking advantage of Double Vision with Moonmist seems pointless, since you can't re-target anything, and your creatures transform into non-humans. But it would affect Chaney's Avacynian Missionaries, and if you happened to snatch them at instant speed, and set them up for another transformation...

"If the approach that suggests itself is to push Chaney to 20 life," Hyman Rosen notes, "the best source of lifegain is to have Dwarven Priest enter the battlefield. The key factor to notice is that Lunarch Inquisitors - the transformed version of Avacynian Missionaries - is also a Human, and therefore will be transformed back by Moonmist. That makes a copied Moonmist not as redundant as it might first appear, and in fact, it saves the day."

"Those wolves, were- and otherwise, are mostly red herrings," Jacob Butcher adds. "Chaney's combo of Transcendence and Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose means each life he gains costs me a life and each life he loses costs me 2 life! So Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose has to go:

  1. Tap Scorned Villager for g.
  2. Use gg to cast Moonmist, but defer its resolution.
  3. Double Vision copies Moonmist, but defer the copy's resolution also.
  4. Pay 2 and "randomly" discard Malevolent Whispers (the only card left in your hand) to activate Stormbind's ability to deal 2 damage to Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose.
  5. Pay 3r to cast Malevolent Whispers for its Madness cost on Avacynian Missionaries, gaining control of it with haste and +2/+0 until end of turn.
  6. Resolve the second Moonmist:

  7. Transcendence triggers and gains Chaney 4 life. Chaney now has 8 life.
  8. Attended Healer's "when you first gain life this turn" ability creates a third Cat token.
  9. Resolve the first Moonmist:

  10. Pay 1 to equip Viridian Claw to Avacynian Missionaries.
  11. End the turn.

    • Avacynian Missionaries' "if equipped at end of turn" ability transforms it into Lunarch Inquisitors.
    • Lunarch Inquisitors' "when transformed" ability exiles Inspiring Cleric.
    • During your cleanup step, Chaney regains control of Lunarch Inquisitors.
  12. Begin Chaney's turn. At the beginning of Chaney's upkeep, all three of your werewolves trigger for transformation back to humans, one of which gives you a new Wolf buddy. But in response...
  13. Pay r so that Nightfall Predator fights Lunarch Inquisitors. Nightfall Predator and Lunarch Inquisitors both die.
  14. When Lunarch Inquisitors leaves the battlefield, Inspiring Cleric and Dwarven Priest both return from exile.
  15. Inspiring Cleric's ability gives Chaney 4 life. Chaney now has 12 life.
  16. Attended Healer's "when you first gain life this turn" ability creates a fourth Cat token.
  17. Dwarven Priest's ability gives Chaney at least 8 life. Chaney now has 20 life, and Transcendence loses Chaney the game.

As the active player, Chaney can stack those three last triggers in any order he chooses. However, the outcome is the same: Between Inspiring Cleric and Dwarven Priest, he's still gaining a minimum of 12 life.

This solution has one variant, and it's based on your lone evasive creature. Shrill Howler is a 4/1 with Viridian Claw attached, which means that Loxodon Lifechanter is the only creature that can currently block it. You can therefore make the following exchange while your two Moonmists are on the stack:

At this point, the rest of the sequence takes over. Removing Lunarch Inquisitors still brings back Dwarven Priest, which still gains Chaney at least 8 life and causes him to lose to Transcendence.

Chaney does have some consolation, though: At least he knows his deck works, and at least he knows that this defeat is only possible due to a very unlikely interaction between Moonmist and his lone transforming cleric. To be fair, it's not something he can predict - after all, no one expects the Lunarch Inquisition.

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