Object Lesson

“This is a bad idea.”

Valgan Sunkeeper gives his teammate a withering look. “We’re still doing it anyway, Esserem,” he says.

“I don’t see why you keep calling me ‘Esserem’, Willy,” Esserem says. “I haven’t played the character since that total party kill last year.”

“We’ve got an Archenemy: Nicol Bolas preview deck at our disposal, and immersion’s important!” Valgan insists. “Now stop calling me ‘Willy’!”

“’Linus’ is a perfectly good name, you know. Liiiiinus. Just because you like yelling out the names of the schemes every time you flip them over doesn’t mean . . . ”

I’ll tap four to cast Calciderm,” Valgan says, ignoring him. “Goldnight Commander triggers, so all my creatures get +1/+1. Then I’ll tap out to cast Viashino Sandstalker, and the Commander triggers again.”

You glance at Esserem, who shrugs. “Okay then. I’ll cast my Malakir Bloodwitch and drain you for three. That puts me at seven life, and Shadow Alley Denizen triggers.”

“Targeting what?” you ask.

“Targeting . . .  Goldnight Commander,” Esserem says.

“I’ll tap Fatestitcher to tap that Commander,” you note.

“And that means I’ll attack with everything else!” Valgan says. “Except for the Calciderm, of course. And the Hero of Oxid Ridge, since that second one’s got Lignify on it. Soltari Champion gives all my other creatures another +1/+1.”

Your ears prick up at this point. You have no idea why Valgan’s not attacking with his Hero of Oxid Ridge, since Lignify doesn’t actually give it defender. You’re not complaining, though — that’s one less creature for you to worry about.

“I’ll join in with my Shadow Alley Denizen, Gifted Aetherborn, and Wasp Lancer,” Esserem says.

“So we’ve got a ton of damage coming in,” Valgan says, “and you’ve only got three creatures that can block, so that’s probably going to . . . ”

You tap a forest. “I’ll cast Fog,” you say.

Fog,” Esserem says, indifferently. “Figures.”

Fog,” Valgan says.

You look up. Valgan looks frozen in the act of tapping his Mogg Flunkies.

Fog?” Valgan asks.

“Yes, Fog.”

“FOG?” Valgan shouts.

“I think you broke him,” Esserem observes.

“We’re playing the Unabridged Cube,” you say. “It’s not as though this should be a surprise — it’s got one of each card ever printed.”

“FOG???” Valgan cries.

“That went well,” Esserem says. “All I’ve got left is an Essence Scatter from that Fact or Fiction a few turns back, and it’s useless against the Prowling Serpopard. So I guess we’ll end our turn and bounce the Sandstalker.”

“Cool,” you say, untapping your cards and drawing a Prey Upon. “I’ll move to my first main phase and set a new scheme in motion.”


You flip over a When Will You Learn?, and you take a few seconds to read it. “I get to cast whatever’s on top of both your libraries,” you say.

“Okay,” Esserem says, as though this sort of thing happens every day. “I’ve got a Doomsday Specter.”

“And Wil . . .  I mean Valgan?”


Esserem turns over the top card of Valgan’s library. “Absolver Thrull,” he says. “So what’s your move?”

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat both Linus Esserem the Inscrutable and Willy Valgan Sunkeeper before the beginning of their next combat phase.

You’re playing the “villain” side of the Archenemy variant. Esserem and Valgan are your opponents, and are considered to be individual players despite sharing a turn.

If you declare an attack, you may choose to attack either Esserem alone, Valgan alone, or both of them at the same time. You’re also playing under the new rules: Any creature a teammate of the defending player controls may be assigned as a blocker by that creature's controller (i.e. if you attack Esserem, then Valgan can assign his own creatures to block, and vice-versa).

You have just set the scheme When Will You Learn? into motion, exiling the top cards of each of Esserem and Valgan’s libraries. You must therefore first choose whether to cast any or both of these cards without paying their mana costs (after which the chosen cards are placed on the stack as normal):

You are at 15 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 of any of the next cards of your library.

You currently have no permanent cards in your graveyard, due to a recent Grip of Amnesia from Esserem.

Esserem the Inscrutable is at 7 life. He has the following cards in play:

Esserem has a single card in his hand: Essence Scatter.

Valgan Sunkeeper is at 5 life. He has the following cards in play:

Valgan has a single card in his hand: Viashino Sandstalker.

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 — Object Lesson” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, June 18, 2017. We’ll include the best ones in next week’s article along with the next puzzle!

Last Week’s Puzzle

Angelic Armaments
Correct solutions to last week’s puzzle were received from Norman Dean, Russell Jones, Aaron Golas, Addison Fox, Allen Smith, Esteban Landerreche, Ryou Niji, Christopher Anna, Enrique Cordero, Greg Dreher, Rob Jones, Florian Kupferschmid, Joe Hemmann, Dominic Chan, Hyman Rosen, Josh Tutt, and Subrata Sircar.

“The first obvious thing to note,” Allen Smith writes, “is that we have no sources of non-combat damage, so we clearly need to win by attacking. That presents a problem, as Enid has potentially twelve creatures, six of which have flying, and one of which can block any number of creatures.

“That means we'll need to rely on some kind of evasion, and the only pieces of evasion we have are the flying granted by Angelic Armaments, and Spin Engine's activated ability. Relying on just the activated ability is too mana intensive, even with Battle Hymn providing a substantial boost of mana, so we'll likely need a combination of the two.

“Now, even that is still only five damage, which means that we need to find a source of three more damage. The only thing we have for that is Shidako, Broodmistress, which involves flipping Orochi Eggwatcher, meaning that we need to get to nine creatures (before activating Eggwatcher's ability, as that will get us to ten). Getting those creatures means casting all of our targeted spells at Silverfur Partisan.”

“The key to busting this one,” Christopher Anna adds, “is that you need Silverfur Partisan to create three creatures, and you have three spells in hand. However, if Terrifying Presence resolves, our evasive Spin Engine won't deal any damage. So we need to:

“The only way to do this is to buff the Partisan to 4 toughness with Angelic Armaments, mark 3 damage on it, and then sacrifice it to Shidako before Terrifying Presence can resolve. You could also use Brass Squire to juggle the Angelic Armaments over to Spin Engine, but since Silverfur Partisan is going to die anyway, why not get a Giant Growth out of it?”

This goes with Florian Kupferschmid’s sequence below. It turns out that you want to use the Brass Squire first, then pay the Armaments’ equip cost to move it over to your Spin Engine:

  1. Tap Viridian Joiner for 3 mana. Tap all lands for mana. Sacrifice Cinder Glade to Goblin Clearcutter (13 mana in pool).
  2. Tap Brass Squire to move Angelic Armaments to Silverfur Partisan.
  3. Cast Spitting Earth to deal 3 damage to Partisan (11 mana in pool). Partisan triggers. Let the trigger resolve to create a Wolf token (7 creatures in play).
  4. Cast Wing Snare on Partisan (8 mana in pool). Partisan triggers. Let the trigger resolve to create a Wolf token (8 creatures in play).
  5. With Wing Snare still on the stack, cast Terrifying Presence targeting Partisan (6 mana in pool). Partisan triggers. Let the trigger resolve to create a Wolf token (9 creatures in play).
  6. With Wing Snare and Terrifying Presence still on the stack, activate Orochi Eggwatcher (3 mana in pool). Let the ability resolve to create a Snake token (10 creatures in play). Eggwatcher flips and becomes Shidako, Broodmistress.
  7. With Wing Snare and Terrifying Presence still on the stack, cast Battle Hymn (1 mana in pool). Hymn resolves (11 mana in pool).
  8. With Wing Snare and Terrifying Presence still on the stack, sacrifice Partisan to Broodmistress targeting Spin Engine (10 mana in pool).
  9. Wing Snare and Terrifying Presence both try to resolve with no legal target, and are countered by the rules.
  10. Equip Angelic Armaments to Spin Engine (6 mana in pool).
  11. Activate Spin Engine's ability six times, once per flier on Enid’s side (0 mana in pool).
  12. Swing for lethal with your 8/6 flying Spin Engine.

“There's a lot of little timing tricks and mana-counting with this one,” Norman Dean remarks. “I only noticed after I'd started that I had to sacrifice the Cinder Glade specifically, otherwise the Spitting Earth would kill the Partisan. And of course, while we need to target the Partisan with Terrifying Presence in order to get our creature count up, we have to make sure it never actually resolves — otherwise we've effectively Fogged ourselves!”

Then again you could also let Terrifying Presence resolve. An alternative solution takes advantage of the fact that Silverfur Partisan also has trample — so if you can get enough {G} into your pool, you could activate the Broodmistress multiple times for a really big wolf. Dominic Chan explains:

  1. Tap our lands for {R}{R}{R}{G}{G}{G}{G}. Tap our Goblin Clearcutter and sacrifice our Cinder Glade to add {G}{G}{G} to our mana pool.
  2. Cast Terrifying Presence for {R}{G}, targeting our Silverfur Partisan. We create a 2/2 Wolf token.
  3. Tap Brass Squire to attach Angelic Armaments to our new 2/2 Wolf token.
  4. Cast Spitting Earth for {R}{G}, targeting our Wolf token. Silverfur Partisan triggers, and we create another 2/2 Wolf token.
  5. Before Spitting Earth resolves, cast Battle Hymn for {R}{G}, add eight Red mana to our mana pool. ({R}{R}{R}{R}{R}{R}{R}{R}{R}{G}{G}{G}{G}{G} remaining.)
  6. Cast Wing Snare for {R}{R}{G}, targeting the 2/2 Wolf we targeted with our Spitting Earth. Silverfur Partisan creates another 2/2 Wolf token.
  7. Before Wing Snare resolves, activate Orochi Eggwatcher's ability, tapping it and paying {R}{R}{G} to create a 1/1 Snake token. Orochi Eggwatcher flips to become Shidako, Broodmistress.
  8. Activate Shidako, Broodmistress's ability twice, paying {G}{G} and sacrificing our 2/2 Wolf token that was targeted by Wing Snare as well as our 1/1 Snake token to give Viridian Joiner +6/+6. ({R}{R}{R}{R}{R}{G} remaining.)
  9. With our 2/2 Wolf token gone, Wing Snare fizzles. Pay {R}{R}{R}{R} to equip Silverfur Partisan with Angelic Armaments, making it a 4/4 flying, {W}{G} Wolf Warrior Angel with trample (what would that even look like?).
  10. Tap Viridian Joiner to add {G}{G}{G}{G}{G}{G}{G} to our mana pool. Then activate Shidako, Broodmistress, paying that mana and sacrificing all of our creatures — two Wolf tokens, Goblin Clearcutter, Brass Squire, Spin Engine, Viridian Joiner and Shidako, Broodmistress — to give Silverfur Partisan +21/+21.
  11. Enter combat and attack with our 25/25 flying, trampling, Angel Wolf. Enid only has 10 toughness in the air and must take at least 15 points of damage.

“There does exist a loophole in this plan, though,” Ryou Niji points out.“If the opponent mills herself with Vedalken Entrancer and hits Wonder, she’ll suddenly have 25 toughness worth of flying blockers (including Mishra’s Factory, which blocks as a 3/3) . . .  and we won’t have lethal damage. Delaying the sacrificing after blockers is of no use, since the opponent could block everything with Palace Guard.

“Then again, the Spin Engine plan won’t fare any better: There is no way we could have eleven spare Red mana to disable all the potential blockers. Although we can produce an obscene amount of Green mana by pumping Viridian Joiner with Shidako, Broodmistress, it won’t be Red.

“Besides, the opponent may hit Prismatic Strands instead. Or they may draw Swords to Plowshares off a Think Twice. Or, unlikely as it would be, they could Think Twice into Ancestral Recall into Turnabout into Wheel and Deal + Brain Freeze in response. If the opponent could mill exactly the cards she needs, then we simply can't win.”

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