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Clinging Darkness
Given that you’re in the last few days of 2017, you’ve barely managed to scrape eight people together for one final Unabridged Cube draft. Then again, most of your local game store’s patrons are away for the holidays, so you shouldn’t be surprised.

You don’t want to end the year by coming in dead last in a format that uses one of each card ever printed. However, today’s draft has other ideas: no less than five people ended up drafting Red, and you ended up with most of the dregs. At least the Black component of your deck has been more up to snuff.

To make matters worse, you’ve been paired against Jerry, who seems to have gotten the table’s best Red cards. So far, you’ve lost a Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief to his well-timed Flametongue Kavu, spent three creatures just to take down his Cryptic Serpent, and have been forced to watch him recur Chandra's Phoenix . . .  twice!

When Jerry attacked with his Phoenix last turn, you briefly considered blocking it with your Puppeteer Clique; this would allow the Clique’s Persist ability to trigger, let you bring back his Flametongue Kavu from his graveyard, and get rid of the Phantom Monster waiting on his side of the table. In the end, though, you decided against it — you’ve still got six more life in any case, and your deck might be able to cough something up.

Amazingly, it does: Clinging Darkness is not a bad draw at all. Now you just have to figure out how to deal with the Charmbreaker Devils that Jerry got into play before he ended his turn.

Still, there are too many things that can go wrong here. Jerry can draw something that can bring his Bloodshot Trainee to 4 power, for example, or pull a land to Retrace his Flame Jab, or simply survive long enough to ping you to death with his Shivan Gorge. If you want this game to end well, you’re going to need to act now . . .  but with him at 17 life, where do you start?

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

You are at 6 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 do not know the identities or order of any of the cards remaining in your library.

Jerry is at 17 life and has no cards in his hand. He has the following cards in play:

Jerry has the following cards in his graveyard:

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 — Countdown” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, December 31, 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 Robin Westphal, Addison Fox, Russell Jones, Aaron Golas, Ryou Niji, and Chris Billard.

There are quite a few solutions to this one. Brion Stoutarm has a good chance of single-handedly ending the game in your favor, but he’s hampered by the fact that Holly has a Mangara’s Equity in play. In this case, Robin Westphal points out that the response is simple: Get rid of the Equity!

  1. Tap all mana sources including Lifespring Druid for rrgggwww.
  2. Cast Amateur Auteur for ww.
  3. Sacrifice Amateur Auteur to destroy Mangara's Equity. Death's Presence activates, put two +1/+1 counters on Lifespring Druid.
  4. Activate Brion Stoutarm for r and sacrifice Lifespring Druid to deal 4 damage and gain 4 life. Death's Presence triggers, put four +1/+1 counters on Stocking Tiger.
  5. Cast Eager Beaver for ggg, and untap Brion Stoutarm.
  6. Activate Brion Stoutarm for r and sacrifice Stocking Tiger to deal 7 damage, gain 7 life, and trigger Deat . . .  ehm, I mean: win the game.

There are, of course, more complex solutions. “Since we've already moved through our combat phase this turn,” Addison Fox writes, “we know that winning before Holly has a chance to crack in for lethal is going to require some outside-the-box damage sources. Luckily, Brion Stoutarm can throw creatures directly at our opponent and gain us life at the same time. A little rules-bending thanks to Unstable gets us another source, as well.”

This approach also happens to play it straight: “With Death's Presence on the battlefield,” Ryou Niji writes, “a straightforward approach should work just fine:

  1. Play the Mountain in our hand.
  2. Pay r, tap Brion Stoutarm, and sacrifice Stocking Tiger to deal 3 damage to the opponent. She is now at 7 life.
  3. Pay ggg to cast Eager Beaver, untapping Brion Stoutarm with its enters-the-battlefield trigger.
  4. Tap Lifespring Druid for r.
  5. Pay r, tap Brion Stoutarm, and sacrifice Lifespring Druid to deal 5 damage to the opponent. She is now at 2 life.
  6. Pay wwr to cast Super-Duper Death Ray targeting Precinct Captain, dealing 2 damage to it and 2 damage trampling over to the opponent.

That said, there’s also the fact that you have an additional creature at your disposal, and you don’t have to pay its mana cost to get it into play. Aaron Golas elaborates on this with the following solution:

  1. Tap Lifespring Druid for r.
  2. Tap three Forests to cast Eager Beaver. When it enters the battlefield, untap Lifespring Druid.
  3. Tap three Plains to augment Half-Kitten, Half- onto Eager Beaver.
  4. Pay r, tap Brion Stoutarm, and sacrifice Stocking Tiger to activate Brion Stoutarm targeting yourself.
    • Death's Presence triggers; put three +1/+1 counters on Half-Kitten, Half-Beaver.
    • Brion deals you 3 damage, but your life total doesn't change: You lose 3 life and gain it back at the same time with lifelink. However, Half-Kitten, Half-Beaver still triggers; use it to untap Brion Stoutarm.

  5. Tap Lifespring Druid for {R}.
  6. Pay r, tap Brion Stoutarm, and sacrifice Lifespring Druid to damage yourself again. Put two +1/+1 counters on Half-Kitten, Half-Beaver thanks to Death's Presence, and untap Brion Stoutarm.
  7. Reveal Masterful Ninja from your hand so it's on the battlefield. Tap a Mountain and Brion Stoutarm, and sacrifice Masterful Ninja to damage yourself again. Put one +1/+1 counter on Half-Kitten, Half-Beaver thanks to Death's Presence, and untap Brion Stoutarm.
  8. Play Mountain. Tap it and Brion Stoutarm and sacrifice your 10/10 Half-Kitten, Half-Beaver to deal 10 damage to Holly and win the game!

Aaron also points out that you can set up an infinite combo here, and that it involves Lobe Lobber (and some stack trickery):

  1. Play Mountain.
  2. Tap two Mountains and Lifespring Druid (for g) to cast Eager Beaver. When Eager Beaver enters the battlefield, untap Lifespring Druid.
  3. Tap Lifespring Druid and three Forests to cast Lobe Lobber and equip it to Brion Stoutarm.
  4. Tap three Plains to combine Half-Kitten, Half- with Eager Beaver.
  5. Tap Brion Stoutarm with the ability granted by Lobe Lobber to deal 1 damage to yourself, simultaneously gaining it back with lifelink.
    • Half-Kitten, Half-Beaver triggers, but you need to finish resolving Brion's ability: Roll a die, and untap Brion if you rolled a 5 or greater.
    • If Brion doesn't untap himself, put Half-Kitten, Half-Beaver ability on the stack targeting Brion to untap him. Otherwise, target Lifespring Druid with Half-Kitten, Half-Beaver's ability, untap it, and tap it again to float 1 mana of any color.

  6. Repeat the above sequence, floating 1 mana roughly one out of three times, until you have as much mana of as many colors as you want! From there: SHENANIGANS. (But you'll still end up winning by flinging something at Holly with Brion Stoutarm . . .  possibly a Masterful Ninja pumped to high heaven!)


Unstable is Now Available!