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Alea Iacta Est

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Really Epic Punch
Bones untaps and pushes his CRANK! counter onto a new sprocket. “I shall resolve my Tread Mill’s ability first,” he says, “which will make my Multi-Headed Bot an 8/9 creature and give it vigilance.”

“And makes it an artifact creature,” you mumble.

There’s barely a reaction from the crowd watching your match, which doesn’t surprise you. Your match has been going on for far too long, and it’s a wonder that your tournament judge hasn’t called time on you yet. Still, when your opponent has the significant creature advantage, your game isn’t expected to last much longer.

“I shall resolve Inhumaniac’s ability now,” Bones says. He gets a 1 on his die roll, pauses, and then taps his Snickering Squirrel to make it a 2. You sigh.

“I shall attack with my 8/9 Multi-Headed Bot and my Old-Fashioned Vampire,” he then announces.

“I’ll block the Bot with my Squirrel token, and take 3 damage from the Vampire,” you say. In hindsight, it was probably not a good decision to come in for an Unstable draft on a Saturday morning.

“Good,” Bones says. “I shall move to my second main phase.”

“Go ahead,” you say.

Bones suddenly starts tapping lands — ten of them, to be precise. There are a few startled exclamations from the crowd as he drops a massive Hydradoodle into play!

“That would be for an X of four,” Bones says, rolling four dice. When the dust settles, you’re staring down an 11/11 Hydra Hound with trample and reach . . .  definitely not something you’re likely to survive next turn.

“I shall end my turn now,” Bones says. “I have nothing relevant in my graveyard, so I shall ignore the triggered ability of my Multi-Headed Bot.”

You glance at the board. “You’re at 16 life, right?” you ask.

“16 life indeed, and no cards in my hand.”

You could have sworn that your opponent had another card in his hand that he could have played, but perhaps you miscounted. Whatever the case, you have other things to worry about.

You untap your permanents, shift your CRANK! counter onto a new sprocket, and crank Refibrillator — the lone Contraption you have in play — to bring back an Eager Beaver from the graveyard. At least your Steam-Powered augment won’t be stuck in your hand.

You wonder why you’re still playing this game. After all, you’re facing down a 7/7 and an 11/11, and Bones is likely to run through a lot more surprises for you, thanks to his Widget Contraption. Maybe you should just concede now.

Your draw this turn is a rather innocuous More or Less, although it’s something that can mess up Bones’s die rolls. Now that you think about it, you can also make it work with Really Epic Punch to take down his Multi-Headed Bot. But the Hydradoodle’s going to remain a problem, and you can’t see any way past that.

It looks like the only way you can win this game is to roll up your sleeves and get to work. But where do you start?

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

You are at 6 life, with the following cards in play:

Your CRANK! counter is currently on your second sprocket, and you have the following Contraption in play:

You have the following cards in your hand:

You have not yet played a land this turn. You do not know the identities or order of any of the cards remaining in your library, or in your Contraption deck.

Bones is at 16 life and has no cards in his hand. He has the following cards in play:

Bones’s CRANK! counter is currently on his second sprocket, and he has the following Contraptions 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 —Alea Iacta Est” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, December 17, 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 Ryou Niji, Tara Timmons, Aaron Golas, Sean Rowe, Allen Smith, Bill Cheng, Addison Fox, Norman Dean, Gwen Robbins, Michael Shoemaker, Chris Billard, and David Arnold.

“Your situation isn't as grave as it looks,” Bill Cheng writes.“While your opponent has plenty of creatures, fighting on your Familiar Ground ensures that at most only one creature will be sent to block anything you send to the red zone.

“Despite bagging on Elvish Eulogist, she has flavor text and can hit the graveyard easily. Since we have to grow our Graveyard Busybody to towering heights, though (or shrink Rotting Mastodon), we have our work cut out for us.”

There are at least three ways to do this, and Tara Timmons points out the first one, which involves rolling over the top of the Mastodon with Sylvan Might:

  1. Tap a Forest to cast Elvish Eulogist.
  2. Tap Gaea's Cradle to add gggggg to your mana pool.
  3. Spend gg for Moonbow Illusionist's ability, returning Gaea's Cradle. turn one of your Islands into a Swamp.
  4. Play Gaea's Cradle as your land for the turn. Tap it. You now have gggggggggg in your mana pool.
  5. Sacrifice Elvish Eulogist, gaining 1 life. You're now at 4 life. Graveyard Busybody is a 6/6.
  6. Ping Angelic Wall four times with Trophy Hunter in order to kill it. You now have gg in your mana pool. Trophy Hunter is a 3/4, Graveyard Busybody is a 7/7.
  7. Spend the remaining gg to return Gaea's Cradle to your hand via Moonbow Illusionist. Keep your lands the same this time. (Land situation is now as follows: 2 Forest, 4 Island, 1 Swamp, 1 Hostile Desert)
  8. Tap Swamp and Hostile Desert to flashback Crippling Fatigue, paying 3 life (down to 1 life). Target Rotting Mastodon, making it a 0/6.
  9. Tap two Islands to return Hostile Desert to your hand via Moonbow Illusionist, keeping your lands the same.
  10. Enter combat. Attack only with Graveyard Busybody.
  11. Rhea can only block with one creature thanks to Familiar Ground. The best she can do is to block with the Rotting Mastodon.
  12. Discard both lands in your hand to Wild Mongrel. Graveyard Busybody is now a 9/9.
  13. Tap your last two Forests and two Islands to flashback Sylvan Might on Graveyard Busybody. It's now an 11/11 trample, and runs right over the Rotting Mastodon’s 6 toughness for exactly lethal 5 damage.

It’s worth noting that Nearheath Chaplain’s presence doesn’t complicate the board in this case. “Nearheath Chaplain has lifelink,” Chris Billard adds, “but if it blocks, Rhea will only gain 3 life and will take 10 damage. Battle Screech is a sorcery, so Rhea cannot play it . . .  and even if she could, it would not help.”

Discarding cards to Wild Mongrel won’t just make the Graveyard Busybody larger, though; it also has the convenient effect of making the Mongrel bigger. This brings up a second solution from Ryou Niji, which forces your opponent into a situation where they must block two of your creatures:

  1. Tap Gaea's Cradle for ggggg.
  2. Pay gg to activate Moonbow Illusionist (ggg left) and return Gaea's Cradle to our hand to turn one of our Forests into, um, a Forest.
  3. Replay Gaea's Cradle, and tap it again for ggggg (gggggggg floating now).
  4. Tap Hostile Desert and three Islands for 1uuu (1gggggggguuu floating now).
  5. Activate Moonbow Illusionist five times to return Gaea's Cradle, Hostile Desert, and three tapped Islands to our hand, turning our Forest into a Forest again and again.
  6. Discard all the aforementioned lands to give Wild Mongrel +5/+5 and turn it, um, Green.
  7. Attack with both our 7/7 creatures. Due to Familiar Ground, our opponent can block each with at most one creature.
    • If the opponent blocks any one of them with Nearheath Chaplain in an attempt to gain life, pay gguu to flashback Sylvan Might on that blocked creature to turn it to a 9/9 trampler. The opponent gains 3 life but takes 8 trample damage, going to 0.
    • Otherwise, pay gguu to flashback Sylvan Might on any one creature that isn't blocked by Rotting Mastodon. The blocker would have at most 4 toughness; hence the opponent takes at least 5 trample damage, going to 0.

This solution has the added bonus of ignoring color and land type changes completely — you’re changing Forests to Forests and turning your Wild Mongrel into a Green creature!

There is one more solution that involves attacking with two creatures, though. “Rhea has a lot of blockers,” Allen Smith writes, “but there's a limited amount of good that will actually do her, thanks to Familiar Ground preventing double-blocks.

Sylvan Might also gives a creature trample, so if a big enough creature of ours is blocked by a small enough creature of hers, we can trample over for lethal.Rotting Mastodon puts a crimp in that plan, meaning that we need two creatures that can potentially be large enough.Graveyard Busybody is already pretty big, so it's probably one of those creatures. Trophy Hunter could be the other one, if it can find enough small fliers to shoot down.”

The problem, of course, is finding enough mana to activate Trophy Hunter multiple times. But as we’ve seen in the previous solutions, Moonbow Illusionist lets you squeeze more mana out of Gaea's Cradle, and the result is something like Addison Fox’s solution below:

  1. Cast Elvish Eulogist and then tap Gaea's Cradle for 6 mana, leaving us with gggggg floating and 1gguuuuu in untapped lands.
  2. Pay gg and activate Moonbow Illusionist, returning the Cradle to our hand to make the Hostile Desert a Swamp. This leaves us with gggg floating and gguuuuub in untapped lands.
  3. Sacrifice the Eulogist to gain 1 life, putting a sixth card with flavor text into our graveyard.
  4. Pay gb and 3 life to cast Crippling Fatigue targeting Nearheath Chaplain, killing it and leaving us ggg floating and gguuuuu untapped.
  5. Pay gg and return Hostile Desert to our hand to make an Island a Plains (g floating, gguuuuw untapped).
  6. Pay ugw to exile Nearheath Chaplain and make two 1/1 flying spirits (gguuu untapped).
  7. Discard Hostile Desert to Wild Mongrel to give it +1/+1 and make it White, putting a seventh card with flavor text in our graveyard.
  8. Tap all three White creatures we control to flashback Battle Screech and make two more 1/1 White fliers, up to nine creatures.
  9. Move to combat and attack with Trophy Hunter and the Graveyard Busybody. One of them, at least, must be blocked by at most 4 toughness, since Familiar Ground means they can't double-block.
  10. If the Trophy Hunter is blocked by a creature with at most 4 toughness, tap Gaea's Cradle for nine Green, floating ggggggggg with gguuu left untapped.
    • Pay four of this mana to flashback Sylvan Might and make Trophy Hunter a 4/5 with trample.
    • Spend the other 10 mana, 1g at a time, to kill each of our four 1/1 fliers and our Moonbow Illusionist.This puts five +1/+1 counters on Trophy Hunter, making it a big fat 9/10 hen that gets in for 5 trample damage.


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