Favor for a Favor
Unfortunately, the tournament ended somewhat anticlimactically for you. Your R/G draft deck had two Shocks and three copies of Chandra’s Outrage, as well as two Advocate of the Beast, three Beast creatures, and several other components that made for an easy 4-0 walkover. You finished your last match in record time, and after a short wait, you headed over to CJ’s table.
CJ looks glad to see you. “I’m about to go zero for four,” he proudly announces.
“You haven’t even finished your game yet,” you laugh.
“It’s not my fault my pile turned out to be a . . . pile. You should see what’s on Hannah’s side of the table.”
You look up at CJ’s opponent, and Hannah gives you a wave.
“Yeah,” CJ says, “I’ve had a bit of trouble killing her before she kills me.”
“I’m down to 1 life,” CJ says. “She got me for six last turn when she attacked with her Phantom Warrior and her Windreader Sphinx. Then she played a land and dropped the Guardian onto her side of the table, and I’m pretty sure my Accursed Spirit isn’t going to be able to get past that.”
“What’s her life total?” you ask.
“Eight,” CJ says, and draws his card for the turn. “That’s a Dark Favor,” he says, looking defeated. “Not a lot of good it does me at 1 life.”
“So what’s your play, then?” Hannah asks.
CJ takes a deep breath, and then sighs. “Match slip,” he finally says.
You grab the match slip from the other end of the table, and hesitate for a moment. Part of you wants to see this over with, but the other part of you really wants to show CJ what he’s missing.
It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Hannah before the start of her next combat phase.
You are at 1 life, with the following cards in play:
- Blood Bairn
- Accursed Spirit
- Pitchburn Devils (with your Lightning Talons attached)
- 5 Swamps
- 3 Mountains
You have the following cards in your hand:
You have not yet played a land this turn. You do not know the identities of the next cards on top of your library. You currently have no relevant cards in your graveyard.
Hannah is at 8life and has no cards in her hand. She has the following cards in play:
- Sentinel Sliver
- Scroll Thief
- Phantom Warrior (tapped, with Divine Favor attached)
- Windreader Sphinx (tapped)
- Guardian of the Ages
- Staff of the Mind Magus
- 4 Plains (three tapped)
- 5 Islands (four tapped)
If you think you’ve got a great solution in mind, don’t put it in the comments! Instead, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Puzzle — Favor for a Favor” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, January 8, 2017. We’ll include the best ones in next week’s article along with the next puzzle!
Last Week’s Puzzle
“Even if we had a creature (or a group of them) that’s strong enough to finish Don in combat,” Matthew Harvey writes, “he just has too many blockers. And with Blood Funnel, any removal spells we use will each cost us a creature. So we have to look for another way outside of combat, which leaves us with Spiraling Embers. But it deals damage equal to the cards we have in hand, of which we currently don't have enough to finish Don.”
“However,” Subrata Sircar continues, “spells like Spiraling Embers don’t lock in the amount of damage they deal until they resolve. Thus, if we can get seven cards in our hand with Spiraling Embers on the stack, the Embers will deal 7 damage, which is the amount of life Don happens to have.”
“The Lich’s Mirror's ability to ‘reset’ my hand size can combine with the Spiraling Embers to deal exactly 7 points of damage to Don,” Ben Garrett notes.“But this would only happen if I die while Spiraling Embers is on the stack below it. The trick then, is to figure out how to die on purpose and at instant speed.”
But as it turns out, dying is a difficult thing to do. “It turns out that although we can certainly kill ourselves,” Ryou Niji observes, “and we do have some instant-speed ways of hurting ourselves(Tavern Swindler and Tomb of Urami), we cannot quite kill ourselves at instant speed without jumping through a few hoops. Tavern Swindler demands a payment of 3 life, and it is all or nothing — we cannot activate it at all when we are at 2 life. And since Tomb of Urami only deals 1 damage to us, we can kill ourselves at instant speed only if we can first drop to 1, 3, or 4 life.
“At this point, we run into what I call ‘the curse of 3’. We are at 5 life now, and we cannot get to 1, 3, or 4 life just by taking damage or gaining life in multiples of 3:
To pump the Descendant of Kiyomaro to an acceptable toughness, you’ll need to 1) get some cards into your opponent’s hand, and 2) make sure he can’t play any of them to mess up your plans. So the sequencing is quite important here, as Sidney Parham writes:
There is one minor variation for the above solution: After combat, if the Hasran Ogress is still alive, you can tap two Mountains to cast Spiraling Embers, sacrifice Hasran Ogress for the Blood Funnel trigger, then tap Tomb of Urami for an unused
The Lich’s Mirror makes for a strange presence on the board, and inspired no end of speculation. Ultimately, however, Greg Dreher would quote Anton Chekhov here (were he a designer of Magic puzzles instead of a playwright): “Remove everything that has no relevance to the puzzle. If you say in the setup that there is a Lich’s Mirror sitting on the battlefield, in the second main phase it absolutely must go off.”