Viva La Revolucion

Sometimes the Unabridged Cube turns out to be a double-edged sword. As a collection of one of each card ever printed, some of its Sealed pools tend to be borderline unplayable, no matter what you try to build from them.

You’re agonizing over your latest game when Mari seats herself next to you. “Is this a bad time?” she asks.

“Can’t be any worse. Just look at this mess.”

Mari stares at the board. “Those aren’t very good cards,” she admits.

“Over half my pool was Red and Green,” you tell her, “with a small collection of artifacts on the side. Between Quicksmith Genius, Ezuri’s Brigade, and Pia’s Revolution, I figured that I could make do with an artifact sub-theme.”

“Pia’s Revolution?”

You pick up the Red enchantment so that she can have a look at it. “The Unabridged Cube’s coming up with preview cards now. This one’s from Aether Revolt, apparently.”

“So what’s happening now?” Mari asks.

“Well, Ernesto here attacked, and . . . ”

Your opponent pipes up from the other side of the table. “No,” he says. “The first thing I did was cast Wall of Omens.”

“Oh, sorry. Okay, then . . .  Ernesto cast a Wall of Omens, drawing a card and draining me for 1 life with Blind Obedience’s Extort. Then he attacked with his Arrogant Vampire and Lightkeeper of Emeria, none of which I could block. So I cast Foxfire on the Vampire.”

Foxfire?” Mari asks.

Foxfire,” you say, fishing the card out from your graveyard for her to read.

“These are some bad cards you’re using.”

“It still worked,” you shrug. “I only took 2 damage from the Lightkeeper. But then he cast a Syndicate Enforcer, drained me for another 1 life, and then followed that up with a Kami of Ancient Law for two more Extort triggers.”

“So you’re facing two Extort cards now, at how many life?”

“I’m down to five life. And he’s got a Haunted Crossroads to return any creature in his graveyard for re-casting. And I know he’s got a Corrupt in his deck somewhere — he nailed me with it in our first game.”

"I don't suppose you have something up your sleeve, do you? Mass removal? A Platinum Angel? An Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre?”

“No Angels or Eldrazi in my pool,” you say. “Not much mass removal either . . . ”

And as you’re saying this, you pull a Slagstorm for your Foxfire draw. You raise an eyebrow at the coincidence, barely even noticing the Hunting Moa from your normal draw step.

“Well,” Mari says. “That’s useful, at least.”

You survey the table, noting that there are a lot of creatures on it with 3 toughness or less. Ernesto looks at you expectantly.

“I think I’ve got a chance,” you tell Mari, “as long as he doesn’t draw that Corrupt within the next few turns.

Mari glances at you, having spent some time scrutinizing the board. “I think you’ve got an even better chance,” she says, “as long as you don’t give him another turn.”

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Ernesto before the beginning of his next upkeep phase.

You are at 5 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 have eleven cards remaining in your library, but you do not know the identities of its topmost cards.

You have the following cards in your graveyard:

Ernesto is at 8 life and has no cards in his hand. He has the following cards in play:

Ernesto 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 with the subject line “Puzzle — Viva la Revolución” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, January 15, 2017. We’ll include the best ones in next week’s article along with the next puzzle!

Last Week’s Puzzle

Guardian of the Ages
Correct solutions to last week’s puzzle were received from Aaron Golas, Dominic Chan, Russell Jones, Hyman Rosen, Norman Dean, Paul Seitz, Addison Fox, Mikhail Payson, Ryou Niji, Sidney Parham, Ben Garrett, Luke Paulsen, Sam Lasonder, Seth Baker, Alex Nikolic, Subrata Sircar, Eric Crowe, David Jacobs, Michael Hoppe, Matthew Harvey, Greg Dreher, Niklas Neuendorf, Marc Desnoyers, Benjamin Nassau, Will and Eli Clendenning, David Arnold, Bill Murphy, and Michael Feldman.

“After a few minutes staring at this,” Ben Garrett observes, “it becomes apparent that combat is required to deal lethal damage. CJ's Pitchburn Devils are the only way to deal direct damage, and even if he sacrifices them twice, he can't deal more than 6 direct damage to Hannah. Still, the Devils have to play a part . . . 

“Can CJ destroy Hannah's Guardian of the Ages and launch a pumped-up Accursed Spirit through her remaining army? It's possible for him to destroy Hannah's Guardian, but then he can't pump his Accursed Spirit enough to deal 8 damage by itself.”

“But what CJ's not thinking of,” Paul Seitz adds, “is how he can still use the Dark Favor without killing himself.”

Dark Favor represents not only 3 additional power,” Ryou Niji notes, “but also a much-needed Blightcaster trigger . . .  except that it would also kill us if it entered play. Our first intuition is to find a source of life gain; unfortunately, while we have Grim Return to steal a creature, none of the opponent's sources of life gain is actually a creature . . . so that doesn't work. Then, we realize we can forfeit the +3 bonus to fizzle the life loss, because Dark Favor doesn't trigger if it never enters the battlefield.”

“So, even if the Dark Favor looks as though it's a dead card,” Eric Crowe writes, “sacrificing the creature you cast it on still gets you the Blightcaster’s trigger. And in the case of targeting Pitchburn Devils, it allows you to kill off another blocker.”

With this in mind, the key is to make sure that Dark Favor gets cast without resolving. Bill Murphy’s solution clarifies this:

  1. Cast Dark Favor targeting Pitchburn Devils. Blightcaster triggers, giving -2/-2 to Auramancer and killing it.
  2. With Dark Favor on the stack, sacrifice Pitchburn Devils to Blood Bairn, making the Bairn a 4/4 and putting Lightning Talons into our graveyard. Pitchburn Devils trigger, dealing 3 damage to Scroll Thief and killing it.
  3. With Dark Favor still on the stack, cast Grim Return, targeting Auramancer. Auramancer enters the battlefield under our control and triggers. Return Lightning Talons to our hand.
  4. Resolve Dark Favor. It no longer has a legal target and is put into our graveyard.
  5. Cast Lightning Talons, targeting Accursed Spirit. Blightcaster triggers, targeting Sentinel Sliver and killing it.
  6. Go to combat, attacking with Blightcaster, Accursed Spirit and Blood Bairn. Guardian of the Ages triggers (too little too late).
  7. Go to blocks. Guardian of the Ages can block one creature:

But then again, you can also win without necessarily using all your mana, as long as you’re willing to consider further blocking combinations. Benjamin Nassau demonstrates this:

  1. Cast Dark Favor targeting Auramancer.
  2. Use the Blightcaster's trigger to kill the Auramancer.
    • Dark Favor goes directly to the graveyard thanks to the classic two-for-one nature of Auras.
  3. Cast Grim Return, getting back Auramancer.
  4. Auramancer puts Dark Favor back into our hand.
  5. Repeat the same trick as before: Cast Dark Favor targeting Sentinel Sliver, and use the Blightcaster's trigger to kill it.
  6. Attack with your Blood Bairn, Blightcaster, Accursed Spirit and Pitchburn Devils. There are a myriad number of ways that Hannah can block, but she only has two blockers and therefore can’t block all of your attackers:
    • If Hannah doesn't block Blood Bairn, sacrifice everything to it to deal 8 damage by itself, no frills.
    • If Hannah doesn't block Pitchburn Devils, it deals 6 damage by itself, and any other unblocked creature kills her.
    • If Hannah blocks both Blood Bairn and Pitchburn Devils, sacrifice Pitchburn Devils to Blood Bairn to deal 3 damage directly to Hannah, taking her to 5 life. Blightcaster and Accursed Spirit then get in for the final 5 damage.

    “You are able to win in this situation,” Mikhail Payson notes, “by utilizing Blightcaster's triggered ability, Blood Bairn's activated ability, and an understanding of how Aura enchantments work:

    303.4c If an Aura is enchanting an illegal object or player as defined by its enchant ability and other applicable effects, the object it was attached to no longer exists, or the player it was attached to has left the game, the Aura is put into its owner’s graveyard. (This is a state-based action. See rule 704.)

    “Our options are pretty limited,” Benjamin adds, “so this solution can be found pretty quickly. Poor CJ, though.”

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