Dead or Alive

Chandra's Spitfire
“Can we finish this?” Kasumi asks. “I don’t live nearby, and I have to drive all night just to get back home.”

You glance at the clock, and are surprised to see that it’s almost midnight; today’s Unabridged Cube tournament has apparently gotten away from you. Seeing as you’ve had more players than usual due to some random Ixalan and Iconic Masters cards showing up, you’ve had to go through more rounds than usual.

“Sorry,” you say. “This thing’s got one of each card ever printed, so I’m still trying to figure everything out. The new cards don’t help.”

“It’s all the same,” Kasumi predicts. “Only the names will change.”

You don’t quite agree with that sentiment, seeing as some of the new Ixalan cards are quite strange. In fact, you’ve been struggling to figure out how they fit into an overly expansive draft environment.

Kasumi draws her card for the turn, and smiles. “I’ll cast a Whirlermaker,” she says.

“Okay, your Weldfast Wingsmith now has flying.”

“I’ll attack with my Wingsmith and my Chandra’s Spitfire. What’s your life total again?”

“Er . . .  I’m at four life,” you admit. You have a bad feeling that she has something up her sleeve, but there’s not much you can do at the moment.

“Any blocks?”

You nod. “I’ll block your Wingsmith with my Herald of Torment, and I’ll take damage from the Spitfire.”

Puppeteer Clique
“Good,” Kasumi says, tapping five lands. “Starfall on your Herald? That’s 3 damage to you, making my Spitfire a 4/3.”

You glance at the table. “Are you sure you want to do that?” you ask.

“Of course I’m sure,” Kasumi says. “I’m playing for keeps now, because I might not make it back here.”

“Okay, I’ll pay one black mana and sacrifice Herald of Torment to Plagued Rusalka in response.”

Kasumi’s eyes widen as she realizes her error, and for a moment you almost feel sorry for her. But you continue anyway.

“That causes your Starfall to be countered due to having no target,” you add. “I’ll take no damage from it, so your Spitfire gets no bonus. I’ll also target that Spitfire with the Rusalka’s ability as well, making it a 0/2 attacker. And the Wingsmith’s been blocked, of course, so after everything is said and done, I’ll take no damage in combat at all.”

“Nuts,” Kasumi says.

“Why didn’t you cast the Starfall before attacking? You would have had lethal damage with the Weldfast Wingsmith in that case.”

I know,” Kasumi says dejectedly. “I had to go for the flashy play.”

“Well, you could still win next turn. Are you done?”

“Yes, go ahead.”

You untap your permanents and draw a Puppeteer Clique, which is a welcome flying blocker for you. But with Kasumi at a mere four life, she’s definitely within striking distance for the win.

And if all goes well, she might not like what you’re about to do . . . 

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Kasumi before the beginning of her next combat phase.

You are at 4 life, with the following cards 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.

Kasumi is at 4 life and has no cards in her hand. She has the following cards in play:

Kasumi has the following creature cards in her graveyard:

If you think you’ve got a great solution in mind, don’t put it in the comments! Instead, send it to with the subject line “Puzzle — Dead or Alive” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, September 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 Russell Jones, Ryou Niji, Aaron Golas, Allen Smith, Jon Congdon, Subrata Sircar, Nedas Žilovas, Michael Shoemaker, Luke Paulsen, Addison Fox, Ben Tucker, Ian McCaulley, and David Arnold.

The original version of this puzzle had a Sliver Hive on Vern’s side of the table, but this resulted in a scenario where it was impossible for you to win: At any time, Vern could have created a Sliver token to exile any of your critical creatures. The Hive was replaced with a Rupture Spire to remove this scenario.

“Vern sure does seem to get a lot of bad luck,” Luke Paulsen observes.“In this case, a crazy interaction between his old-style Gemhide Sliver and our Duplicant lets us get unexpected value out of our Samut, Voice of Dissent.”

Stone Giant can give one of your creatures flying, making it unblockable provided you can get rid of Spinneret Sliver,” Ian McCaulley writes.“Getting rid of Spinneret Sliver also gets you back Samut, an excellent candidate for going over the top, provided you can get her toughness down to 2.”

“Notably,” Michael Shoemaker adds, “the Duplicant takes on the creature type of any creature it exiles. Vern has many blockers, but if we can remove Vern's Spinneret Sliver, a flying creature could deal damage to Vern.

“The Stone Giant's make-a-flyer ability has some significant restrictions, though,” Michael continues, “so we will need to lower the toughness of our intended flyer significantly to get it airborne. Luckily, we have a Flowstone Channeler.”

All this leads to the following sequence, as Ben Tucker writes:

  1. Cast Devour in Flames on the Sentinel Sliver, bouncing a Mountain to hand. This kills the Sentinel Sliver, which brings back Duplicant, which exiles the Spinneret Sliver, which brings back Samut, Voice of Dissent.
  2. Replay Mountain. We now have two Mountains, oneRootboungCrag, two Forests, andno cards in hand.
  3. Attack with Samut and the KithkinMourncaller.
  4. Within our attack step (before moving to blocks), activate SkirsdagCultist, sacrificing the Feral Prowler and targeting your own KithkinMourncaller.This results in two cards in your hand.
  5. Activate FlowstoneChanneler, targeting Samut.You discard a card and spend{1}{R}, making Samut a 4/3.
  6. Tap Duplicant for {W} (it’s a Sliver, so it gains Gemhide Sliver’s ability). ActivateSamut’s ability to untap FlowstoneChanneler.
  7. Activate FlowstoneChanneler again, targeting Samut.You discard your last card and spend{1}{R} (that’s all your mana), makingSamut a 5/2.
  8. Activate Stone Giant, finally giving Samut flying so that she can now deal lethal damage to our opponent because of her Double Strike ability.

“As a Sliver player myself, ”Nedas Zilovas muses, “it was nice and kind of refreshing to think of a way to kill Slivers for once.”

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