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Psychic Hotline

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Psychic Purge
“I sense… danger,” your opponent says ominously.

You glance at the board. “That’s not much of a prediction,” you say. “I mean, you’ve got a Demonlord Belzenlok, and you’ve taken out most of my good stuff.”

“Not for you,” Jane says. “For me!”

“For you? But you’re winning!”

“Heed these words, for Madame Kostana is never wrong!”

You pause for a moment, not quite believing what you’re hearing. “I thought you said that that was just your stage name,” you say, frowning.

“Madame Kostana isn’t just a stage name,” Jane sniffs. “She’s a lifestyle with a personality of her own.”

“O…kay,” you say, wondering what you did for the tournament software to pair you up for this match. “So… what does Madame Kostana think about the board state?”

Jane thinks for a little while. “I think… that is, Madame Kostana thinks… wait, I’m Madame Kostana... ah, nevermind. I’ll just send in both my Demonlord Belzenlok and Abyssal Specter.”

“Just those two?”

Jane grins. “As it so happens,” she says, “I’m not about to give your Palliation Accord any more counters.”

You glance at the enchantment over on your side of the table. “Oh,” you say, and add two more shield counters to the Accord.

With your Dormant Gomazoa stuck in a tapped state, your only available blocker is a Snapping Drake, which you immediately move in front of Jane’s Abyssal Specter.

“I knew you would do that,” Jane immediately says.

“If I had the Drake block your Demonlord,” you note, “you’d just use your Ursapine to pump your Specter and come through for more damage.”

“That’s true,” Jane says, tapping her two Forests. “I’ll pump the Demonlord twice, then, to make it 8 damage coming at you.”

“And I’ll remove all six shield counters from Palliation Accord to prevent six of that damage. I’ll take two and go down to one life.”

“See?” Jane points out.

“See what?”

“You’re still alive,” she points out.“Remember what I said - you still have a chance to get back at me!”

You shake your head; the Unabridged Cube tournaments always seem to get the really strange people. But you suppose that if you can handle one of each card ever printed, you have to handle one of each player who can walk through the store’s entrance doors.

“So,” you add, “is that your turn, or…”

Jane taps three Swamps and drops a Fleshbag Marauder onto the table. “Sacrifice a creature?” she asks.

You drop your Merfolk Looter into your graveyard, and watch as Jane sacrifices her Shambling Goblin. “I’ll target your Loyal Sentry with the triggered ability,” she says.

“Right,” you add as you move the Sentry off the table. “I assume that you’re drawing off your Garruk's Packleader…”

“Forest,” Jane announces, and turns over the top card of her library. You raise an eyebrow, because it’s indeed a Forest.

“Okay,” you say. “That was interesting.”

“Madame Kostana has many talents,” Jane says, as she plays the land. “It’s your turn.”

You untap and draw a Psychic Purge, which is oddly indicative of your thoughts right now: You’d like nothing more than to end this game, move away from the table, and get something from the drinks cabinet. Opponent or no opponent, there’s a limit to the sheer amount of kookiness you can take.

“There it is again,” Jane says.

“What now?”

Danger,” Jane repeats. “And it’s coming in really strong right now. Madame Kostana doesn’t like it when she wastes her entrance fee on a match loss.”

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Madame Kostana Jane before the beginning of her 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 significant number of cards remaining in your library, but you know neither the identities nor the order of those cards.

Jane is at 5 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 - Psychic Hotline” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Monday, November 12, 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 Addison Fox, Will Rybaltowski, Alex van Kampen, Marco Majoor, Russell Jones, Frederick Remolana, Max Bernstein, Chris Billard, Ryou Niji, Hyman Rosen, Michael Feldman, and David Arnold.

“This one requires some sequencing,” Alex van Kampen writes, “but nothing major. There's a few factors in play here, such as the trample on the Dread Slag, the Nemesis Mask and the fact that there's five creatures attacking us.

“This means that a few things need to happen:

  • We need to get rid of Nemesis Mask by killing Destructor Dragon before we declare blockers.
  • We can't have Dread Slag deal combat damage.
  • We need to block or kill every creature.
  • The Torture on our Crossbow Infantry with two mana available for our opponent means we can't count on the Infantry being a 4/4 this turn.

Your actions for this situation therefore need to be timed properly, as Will Rybaltowski writes:

  1. Activate Heart of Yavimaya targeting Gravebane Zombie, giving it +1/+1.
  2. Tap two Forests to cast Pounce, targeting Destructor Dragon and Gravebane Zombie. Both die and trigger:
  3. Declare blockers:
  4. Fire Juggler’s ability goes on the stack, but before it resolves, tap Crossbow Infantry to deal 1 damage to Shinen of Stars' Light, killing the Shinen.
  5. Tap Heart Warden for g and use it to cast Reclaim, targeting the Shinen of Stars' Light that was just put into your graveyard.
  6. Let Fire Juggler’s ability resolve, revealing Shinen of Stars' Light and Gravebane Zombie. Ashok wins the clash and Fire Juggler’s ability kills Crossbow Infantry (which will die even if they do not activate Torture). Leave the Shinen of Stars' Light on top of your library.
  7. Tap a Forest and a Plains to activate Heart Warden’s other ability, sacrificing itself and drawing Shinen of Star's Light.
  8. Tap your remaining Forest and Plains to discard Shinen of Stars' Light and give Thornwatch Scarecrow first strike until end of turn.
  9. Resolve First Strike damage. This will put four -1/-1 counters on Dread Slag because Thornwatch Scarecrow has Wither from our Elephant token.
  10. Resolve regular damage. Dread Slag will only trample over for 1 point of damage as it’s a 5/5 being blocked by a 4/4.All of the other three attacking creatures (Fire Juggler, Skyraker Giant, and Sawtooth Ogre) have been blocked and won’t deal any damage to you.
  11. Win!

This isn’t the only method you can use to survive, though - there is an alternative solution that doesn’t use as many tricks but is just as strict on the timing. What makes this one interesting is that it allows you to take zero damage this turn, as Frederick Remolana notes:

  1. Tap a Forest and a Plains to cast Pounce, and target Destructor Dragon (4/4) and Dread Slag (9/9). Destructor Dragon receives 9 damage and dies while Dread Slag receives 4 damage. Destroy Nemesis Mask with Destructor Dragon's triggered ability.
  2. Enter your Declare Blockers step. Assign any blocker to any attacking creature except Dread Slag.
  3. After blockers are declared and before combat damage is dealt, tap Heart Warden for mana and cast Reclaim, targeting Pounce. Return Pounce to the top of your library.
  4. Tap a Forest and a Plains and activate Heart Warden's second ability. Draw a card (Pounce).
  5. Activate Heart of Yavimaya's second ability, targeting Thornwatch Scarecrow. Thornwatch Scarecrow gets +1/+1 and becomes a 5/5 until end of turn.
  6. Tap two Forests to cast Pounce, targeting Thornwatch Scarecrow (5/5) and Dread Slag (9/9 and marked with 4 damage). Thornwatch Scarecrow receives 9 damage and Dread Slag receives 5 damage. Both creatures die.
  7. All remaining attackers have already been assigned blockers and will not be able to deal any damage to the defending player.

This alternative solution even comes with its own variant: Instead of activating Heart of Yavimaya for a bonus to Thornwatch Scarecrow, you can tap Crossbow Infantry to deal 1 damage to the Dread Slag – making it a 9/9 with 5 damage on it, and fair game for the 4/4 Scarecrow.

Exactly how you get the kill for this game, of course, is up to you. “On your turn,” Russell Jones adds, “you can draw whatever, and then swing with a 3/3 Elephant token (possibly pumped to 4/4 by Heart of Yavimaya) against a field where the only untapped creature is pacified. Or you can just do nothing, and allow Pitiless Horde's upkeep trigger to deliver the fatal blow.”