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What the Cat Dragged In: One Final Magic The Gathering Puzzle


Author's note: This is the 300th and last puzzle in this series. Thank you to everyone who has followed these puzzles for all these years.

If you're interested in more Magic: The Gathering puzzles, Possibility Storm releases some really nice ones on a regular basis (and has an interesting subscription-based model for solutions). Zzo38 also lets me know that there is at least one NNTP out there for puzzle discussion as well.

Our archive of puzzles also remain available at CoolStuffInc.com, who have been some very gracious and welcoming hosts over the last few years. Simplified Chinese translations for a lot of these puzzles are also available at Iyingdi.com, along with a very supportive and dedicated community. (I'll also plug the fact that both places have great retail and online stores, so please check them out!)

If you're interested in older puzzles, or want to see how these developed, you can also head over to my old archive at Perplexingchimera.com. And of course, I'm still up for discussion and note-sharing at perplexingchimera at gmail dot com.

Until next time, may your board states always be favorable, and may careful insight always light your way.

"Take another five?" Sean asks.

"That Eligeth of yours is going to kill me," you say, scribbling down your new life total.

You're clearly not in the wrong here. Apart from the fact that your opponent's Eligeth, Crossroads Augur is the largest threat on the table, it's also the only flyer on the board. That means you're looking at the very unwelcome prospect of five damage each turn - too much for you to take, and too quick for you to find a good solution.

"What does that sphinx do, again?" CJ asks.

"It's one of those new cards from Commander Legends," Mari whispers. "It makes you draw when you would normally scry."

"So you scry, and then you draw?"

"It replaces the scry completely," Mari says, squinting at the card. "A little narrow, but you can't complain about a 5/6 flyer."

"Sorry about that," you tell Sean. "Mari and CJ watch a lot of my games."

"Yeah, I have friends who do that too," Sean admits. "That's not counting the games where I was doing the watching."

"You don't mind the commentary," you say.

"I don't mind the commentary. This is the Unabridged Cube, after all - it's got one of each card ever printed, so it'll give us an endless number of strange situations to talk about."

You nod, even though you don't exactly see this as a strange situation. Having a big evasive creature hitting you in the face until you keel over is about as straightforward as you can get.

"Right," Sean says. "I'll move to my second main phase and cast Elite Guardmage. Any responses?"

"It's got 3 toughness?" you ask.


You sigh, glancing at your Pyrite Spellbomb. "I guess I have no responses, then," you say.

"That puts me back at twenty life, and I'll draw a card," Sean says. "I guess it was a good move to steal your Cyclops Tyrant a while back."

"It was risky," Mari points out before you can say anything.

"How so?"

"As a 3/4, it's mid-sized," Mari says. "And its ability doesn't work as well against a deck that has Red creatures in it. Just look at it right now - you're not attacking with it because you don't want it to run into three possible blockers."

Sean smiles. "I'll give you that," he admits. "The Persuasion was more of a defensive play, and an early one at that. And at least the Tyrant is stopping you from opening that booster pack."

"You could just let the Tiger hit you so that we can find out what's in the pack," CJ says.

"Mmm," Sean says, shaking his head. "That's probably not happening if I can help it."

"I guess we'll have to wait till the end of the game," CJ sighs.

"I can work with that," Sean says, tapping his last three lands. "I'll cast the Hinterland Drake I drew from the Guardmage. That's the last card from my hand."

"And it's got 3 toughness, too," you groan.

"That Spellbomb's going to have to wait for another day," Sean says. "The table is yours."

You untap your permanents and draw a card. Mari and CJ both peer over your shoulders to see the Crowd's Favor in your hand.

"Ooh," CJ says. "Bad draw."

"Sssh," Mari says. "You're not supposed to say anything!"

Sean smiles again. Seeing that he now has three flyers on the table that you're not going to be able to block, you might already be looking at a loss here. The fact that he's at twenty life just makes this game look even more impossible for you.

"Hold on," Mari says. "How many cards are in that booster pack?"

"Um... why?" you ask.

Sean thinks for a while. "Fifteen," he says. "That's not counting the extra token or advertisement card."

"Hey, that works!" Mari exclaims.

"What works?"

Mari clutches your shoulder. "You've got this game," she says. "You just have to play this right!"

"I thought we weren't supposed to say anything," CJ grumbles.

Sean turns to you. "Those are some friends you've got there," he says.

"That's what I keep reminding myself," you say. "I wouldn't trade them for anything, though. Shall we continue?"

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

You are at 8 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 (including a number of basic Mountains and Forests), although you know neither the identities nor the order of those cards.

You can safely assume that your Zendikar Rising draft booster is normal and untampered. The draft booster is unopened, so you do not know what cards are in it; you only know that it contains some combination of fifteen cards from the set: Ten commons, three uncommons, one rare or mythic rare, and one basic land card. (You can discount any token or advertisement card in the pack.)

Sean is at 20 life and has no cards in his hand. He has the following cards in play:

The solution to this puzzle is given below, after the solution to last week's puzzle.

Last Week's Puzzle

Correct solutions to last week's puzzle were received from Max Bernstein, Greg Dreher, Hyman Rosen, Jacob Butcher, zzo38, Michael Feldman, and Matt Bocek.

"Think back to to 1993-1994," Greg Dreher writes, "where running a creature like Force of Nature was always a gamble, as a well-timed Armageddon could make your giant creature into your worst enemy. Lynn's probably too young to have experienced this, which is why she put Force of Nature in her deck. But you can capitalize on this mistake."

Your best moves forward are probably best summarized by the train of thought that Max Bernstein provides:

  • First thought: "I'm going to have to kill my Bearer of the Heavens and board-wipe everything, aren't I?"
  • Second thought: "I need to kill the Bearer with Ob Nixilis' ability and somehow gain enough life to survive, aren't I?"
  • Third thought: "Okay, that's all possible. Now how do I win after all this nonsense?"
  • Final thought: "I'm 2 damage short. Sure wish there was an easy way to get that done."
  • Final-Final thought: "Wait, I need HOW much mana?"

Despite having only seven lands in play, you indeed have more mana than you need available. "The combination of World Shaper, Bearer of the Heavens and Elephant Ambush / Akoum Firebird seems to suggest a setup where you could wipe out your opponent's board while leaving yourself with both lands and creatures," Matt Bocek admits. "Instead, everything is backwards in this puzzle: You end up destroying all the lands that World Shaper saves, and leaving the only creature in your opponent's hands:

  1. Tap all your lands for 7 mana.
  2. Cast Seedling Charm to put a regeneration shield on Lynn's Force of Nature.
  3. Cast Bear Umbra on Bearer of the Heavens.
  4. Equip Sylvok Lifestaff on Devoted Druid, then alternate using its mana and untap abilities until it dies and nets you 3 life. (You don't actually need the mana it produces.)
  5. Equip Sylvok Lifestaff on World Shaper. Turn Skirk Volcanist face up by sacrificing two Mountains. Deal all three damage to World Shaper, killing it and bringing you up to 12 life.
  6. When World Shaper dies, return the two sacrificed Mountains and Evolving Wilds to the battlefield tapped.
  7. Attack with Bearer of the Heavens. Bear Umbra triggers and untaps all your lands.
  8. Tap and activate Evolving Wilds to search your library for a basic land. Ob Nixilis, Unshackled makes you lose 10 life (which you can just barely survive) and forces you to sacrifice a creature. Sacrifice Bearer of the Heavens to put an end to combat and set up a boardwipe.
  9. Pay 4r to activate Zealot of the God-Pharaoh once, dealing 2 damage and bringing Lynn down to 8 life.
  10. End your turn. The sky falls, destroying all permanents except for the Force of Nature (which regenerates).
  11. On Lynn's upkeep, she has no mana sources to pay the Force of Nature's upkeep cost, so her own guy hits her for 8 damage and the game.

There are several variants to this solution, most of which involve alternative means to get mana: You could, for example, cast Bear Umbra on Devoted Druid to squeeze some extra mana out of it, then attack with the Druid for the Bear Umbra trigger. Removing the Druid with its second ability then becomes a nice touch, as it stops your opponent from gaining life by having their Bloodline Necromancer deal blocking damage.

Solution to What the Cat Dragged In

As you can probably expect, the draft booster pack under Stocking Tiger is the key to solving this puzzle. Even though you don't know what cards are in the pack, you do know that there are fifteen of them. Assuming that you can get the pack's contents into your hand, you can then discard all fifteen of these cards to Ravenous Bloodseeker, for a corresponding bonus to your Flameblade Adept.

The problem lies in how to get Stocking Tiger to deal combat damage to your opponent. You have no evasion available, but you do have a Tangle Angler that can "lure" up to four of your opponent's blockers. From there, you need to work your way around the rest:

  1. Tap all your lands to add rrgggg to your mana pool.
  2. Pay r and sacrifice Pyrite Spellbomb to activate its second ability and draw a card.
  3. Discard the drawn card to activate Ravenous Bloodseeker.

  4. Pay r and tap Naya Battlemage to activate its first ability and give Tangle Angler +2/+0 until end of turn. Tangle Angler is now a 3/5 creature with infect.
  5. Pay gggg to activate Tangle Angler four times, forcing your opponent's Daybreak Chaplain, Looming Altisaur, Elite Guardmage, and Cyclops Tyrant to block it this turn if able. You now have no mana remaining in your mana pool.
  6. Declare an attack with your Tangle Angler (3/5 infect), Stocking Tiger (3/3), and Flameblade Adept (2/2 menace).
  7. Have your opponent declare blockers.

  8. Before the combat damage step, cast Crowd's Favor using its convoke ability (tapping Ravenous Bloodseeker), targeting Stocking Tiger. Stocking Tiger is now a 4/3 creature with first strike.
  9. Assign all first strike combat damage: Stocking Tiger deals 4 damage to your opponent. Your opponent is now at 16 life.

    • Stocking Tiger triggers: Open the Zendikar Rising draft booster and add its fifteen cards to your hand.
  10. Discard one of those cards to activate Ravenous Bloodseeker. Respond to this activation by discarding another card to activate the Bloodseeker. Continue discarding and activating the Bloodseeker in this way until you've discarded all fifteen cards from the draft booster.

    • Flameblade Adept triggers a total of fifteen times and gets a total of +15/+0 until end of turn, becoming a 17/2 creature with menace.
    • Ravenous Bloodseeker gets fifteen instances of +2/-2 on the stack. It becomes a 5/0 creature when the last of these activations resolves, and dies; all other activations then 'fizzle' and do not resolve.
  11. Assign all normal combat damage.

    • Daybreak Chaplain deals 1 damage to Tangle Angler. Your opponent gains 1 life from its lifelink ability, going to 17 life.
    • Flameblade Adept deals 17 damage to your opponent, bringing them down to 0 life and winning you the game
    • .

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