Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North
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Changing Channels


Split Screen
Scouting out the competition at your local game store’s most recent Unabridged Cube draft reveals a vaguely familiar face. “Max?” you ask, “Is that you?”

“Yeah, it’s me,” Max smiles. “We haven’t seen each other since Dragons of Tarkir came out.”

“Only because you disappeared all of a sudden. Where have you been?”

Max shrugs. “Real life called,” he says. “Have you met my son Caleb?”

You glance at the bespectacled ten-year-old sitting before you. Caleb looks really uncomfortable in his glasses, almost as though he just got them yesterday.

“I took him for a checkup last week, and his grade went up,” Max says, as though reading your thoughts. “He’s still getting used to the new lenses.”

“I see. Why does he have four libraries?”

“Caleb got a Split Screen,” Max says. “From the Unstable set. It’s the Unabridged Cube, you know.”

“Yeah, one of each card ever printed. And that includes previews, too. I guess that explains why the four cards on the top of his libraries are face up.”

“Caleb’s trying to get better at drafting, so I thought I’d show him what this was like,” Max laughs. “He’s getting a mental workout at the moment.”

“He is being very quiet,” you admit.

“He’s thinking, so keep your voice down.”

“Ah, okay.”

“It’s his turn right now, so he’s trying to figure out how to beat me,” Max says. “After I paid the echo cost for my Urza's Blueprints, I got lucky and drew into a Patron of the Valiant. Caleb’s at eight life, so that’s bad news for him.”

“And you’re at . . . ”

“Four life,” Max says. “That’s within striking distance, I know. But I’ve got some nice defenses set up.”

You peer at Caleb’s cards in hand, wondering what he has in mind. For a ten-year-old, you have to admit that his expression isn’t giving anything away.

“He’s a lot more skilled than you might think,” Max says. “Caleb’s been thinking for a while now, so he might be looking at a way to win our game. If he does, though, then you can color me impressed.”

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

You are at 8 life, with the following cards in play:

You have the following cards in your hand:

You have not yet played a land this turn. The top cards of each of your four libraries are as follows:

  1. Goblin Tunneler
  2. Desecration Plague
  3. Beast Attack
  4. Renegade Tactics

Whenever you draw a card, Split Screen allows you to choose the library that you draw from. You otherwise do not know the identities or order of any of the other cards in these libraries.

Max is at 4 life. 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 — Changing Channels” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, December 3, 2017. 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 Photon Cat, Sean Rowe, TKDB, Ryou Niji, Stephen Gross, Addison Fox, Aaron Golas, and Chris Billard.

“While Vita's life total is low,” TKDB writes, “there's simply no way to deal more damage to her than she'd gain in the process. Our only ways to get damage through would involve:

  • Destroying a Guard Duty with Nature's Claim (which gives her 4 life);
  • Removing blockers with our spells (which gives her life via Sultai Flayer, and possibly lifelink if we're using Hunt the Weak); and/or
  • Clearing a path with Lure (which gives her life via lifelinking blockers).

“Even if we use Lure to keep them from blocking something and blow up our own Jugan to load up the counters on it,” Addison Fox points out, “the incidental lifegain from Nature's Claim already pushes them into unkillable territory.

“This was a difficult one to puzzle out until two things became apparent: There is a way to trigger Sultai Flayer two times, and it doesn't involve killing the Archangel of Thune. As it turns out, the key to that was simply giving all of Vita's creatures first strike . . .  which she so helpfully allowed us to do by casting the Ainok Bond-Kin she drew.”

“Paradoxically,” TKDB adds, “our winning turn is going to involve the exact opposite of the usual approach: We want to help her gain *as much life as we can*.”

The solution is complicated and requires some tracking. Chris Billard elaborates:

  1. Tap both Overgrown Battlements to float gggggggg since CJ has four creatures with Defender.
  2. Cast Nature's Claim (spending g) to destroy the Guard Duty attached to Mer-Ek Nightblade. Vita gains 4 life, triggering Archangel of Thune's ability and leaving the following board state:
  3. Cast Lure on Mer-Ek Nightblade (spending ggg).
  4. Cast Inspiring Call (spending ggg) on Mer-Ek Nightblade, giving it Indestructible.
  5. Attack with Mer-Ek Nightblade. All of Vita's creatures are forced to block it.
  6. All of Vita's creatures have +1/+1 counters, so they all have first strike from Ainok Bond-Kin. Resolve first strike damage; Vita gains 6 life from the Lifelink ability on both Serra Ascendant and Archangel of Thune. Archangel of Thune's ability triggers twice, resulting in the following board state.
  7. Mer-Ek Nightblade survives since it has Indestructible. It also has Deathtouch since it has a +1/+1 counter. Resolve normal combat damage, distributing its damage to Ainok Bond-Kin and Sultai Flayer only.
  8. Ainok Bond-Kin and Sultai Flayer both die, triggering Sultai Flayer's ability twice. Vita gains 8 life and Archangel of Thune's ability triggers twice.
  9. Vita: 22 life
  10. Serra Ascendant: 6/6
  11. Archangel of Thune: 8/9
  12. Cast Hunt the Weak (using your lands for gggg), having Jugan, the Rising Star fight Vita's Archangel of Thune.
  13. Both creatures die: Jugan from the damage, and Archangel of Thune from Deathtouch (due to Mer-Ek Nightblade’s ability). Vita gains 8 life and Archangel of Thune's ability triggers one final time. Since Vita now has 30 life, Serra Ascendant's ability now also applies:
  14. When Jugan, the Rising Star dies, put five +1/+1 counters on Serra Ascendant.
  15. Cast Grisly Spectacle (using your lands for bbbg) on Serra Ascendant. Serra Ascendant dies, and Vita puts the remaining 17 cards of her library into her graveyard.
  16. End the turn. Vita untaps and then loses the game when she is forced to draw a card from an empty library.

“I feel sorry for Vita,” Ryou Niji writes. “She would never have seen this coming. She has been worrying about her life total, which is why she played so many life-gainers onto the board; how could she imagine that she would go to 30 life and zero cards in one turn?

“One may worry that Vita might have Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Progenitus in her library, which would ruin our plan. But although a few things in Iconic Mastersreturn from the graveyard to the battlefield or hand, they aren't applicable here — nothing at all returns to the library. There is nothing in this format that could possibly save Vita.”

Unstable is available for Preorder!