Sacrifices Must Be Made

Spearbreaker Behemoth
After a long moment of thought, Terry finally pushes three of his creatures forward. “I’ll send in my Spearbreaker Behemoth, my Oakgnarl Warrior, and my Skirk Commando,” he says.

You’re pretty sure that your opponent has something up his sleeve. Attacking with his two 5-power creatures is a no-brainer considering the Behemoth’s ability, but the Skirk Commando? Terry might as well be advertising the combat trick in his hand. Still, considering its ability, you don’t want the Commando to savage the rest of your creatures.

“I’ll block your Skirk Commando with my Baleful Ammit,” you say. “And my Dwarven Soldier will block your Spearbreaker Behemoth.”

“You’re leaving the Oakgnarl Warrior unblocked?”

“Yup. I’ll take 5 damage and gain 4 life back from the Ammit’s lifelink.”

“Not so fast,” Terry says. “I’ll tap a Forest to cast Giant Growth on my Commando.”

“Right. That’s enough for it to kill my 4/5 Ammit.”

“That also makes the Commando a 5/4, so I’ll pay one more mana to activate Spearbreaker Behemoth and make it indestructible.”

“Uh . . .  right,” you say. You have to admit that you didn’t see the Behemoth activation coming. But then, that’s the thing with your local game store’s Unabridged Cube — something that has one of each card ever printed will invariably surprise you.

“You’re still gaining that 4 life, at least,” Terry points out.

You mark the change down on your scorepad. “Anything else this turn?” you ask.

“You have seven lands, right?”

“Yes, why?”

Terry taps two Mountains and drops the last card in his hand, an Avatar of Fury, onto the table. “Because that reduces the cost I have to pay,” he says.

“You have a lot of expensive creatures in that deck,” you say, frowning.

“All the better to beat face with. I mean, why bother with a cunning plan when a simple one will do?”

“Fair enough. Are you done with your turn, then?”

“Knock yourself out.”

You untap your permanents. With your Baleful Ammit gone, there’s no reason to keep your Spirit Shield tapped, and you’re expecting to find it a new target. But it’s clear that what you really need to do here is to assemble the facts, digest the information, and consider the implications. That, and find a way to stop an army of big creatures from overwhelming the board.

You draw your card for the turn, which happens to be a Thud. At this point, you’re no longer surprised that the Unabridged Cube tends to give out cards that have yet to be released . . .  but then again, you already have a Dark-Dweller Oracle in play. You only wonder how much better things might be if you drew the more instant-speed Fling, though.

“Got anything good?” Terry asks.

“I’m still trying to decide,” you answer. But as they say, in times like these when everything is going dark, you stare into the dark until it blinks. And right now, it’s time for you to stare it down.

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

You are at 10 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 remaining cards in your library.

Terry is at 15 life and has no cards in his hand. He has the following cards in play:

Terry currently has no creature 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 — Sacrifices Must Be Made” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, July1, 2018. 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 Addison Fox, Norman Dean, Hyman Rosen, Russell Jones, Sean Patrick Keatley, MTGhost Council, Mitchell Berven-Stotz, Michael Reluzco, Ryou Niji, Paul Simpson, YaBoi Noah, Matt Rogers, Florian Kupferschmid, Michael Feldman, Chris Billard, David Arnold, and Subrata Sircar.

“There are lots of ways on our side of the battlefield to deal the requisite 8 damage,” Paul Simpson writes.“The problem is ensuring that the conditions are met. In particular: Our Okk can't attack unless we can pump the power of Serene Steward, Devout Chaplain, or Heavenly Qilin by three. Kiri's Leafcrown Dryad also prevents a flying attacker from getting through.

“It seems that the Leafcrown Dryad needs to die, and that we can't rely on Okk to attack. With the Dryad out of the way, the Heavenly Qilin will be able to attack and carry along another of our creatures with it. This means that we will need to be able to deal at least 4 more points of combat damage by a single creature.”

As it turns out, David Arnold finds that you don’t actually need a 4-power creature for this:

  1. Pay {R}{W} to activate Boros Keyrune, which is now a 1/1 double strike creature.
  2. Pay {W} to equip Short Sword to Boros Keyrune, which is now 2/2.
  3. Pay {R}{W} to cast Punishing Fire on Leafcrown Dryad.
  4. Move to combat. Attack with Heavenly Qilin and Boros Keyrune.
  5. Heavenly Qilin triggers. Target Boros Keyrune and have it gain flying.
  6. Kiri has no flying or reach creatures, so you deal 8 damage total (3 first strike, 5 normal) to her, and she loses.

This solution has some variations. You can use the Devout Chaplain’s ability (tapping the Chaplain, Serene Steward, and God-Pharaoh’s Faithful) to exile Leafcrown Dryad, for example. This leaves you free to cast Punishing Fire on your opponent, then use Short Sword and Serene Steward’s ability with your Heavenly Qilin and Boros Keyrune in some combination for the last 6 damage. (You can place both the Short Sword and the +1/+1 counter on the Qilin, and still win this way.)

An odd alternative involves using Punishing Fire twice, as Michael Reluzco demonstrates:

  1. Tap Serene Steward, God-Pharaoh’s Faithful, and Devout Chaplain to activate Devout Chaplain's ability, exiling Trollhide.
  2. Sacrifice Goblin Chirurgeon to itself, to regenerate Night Market Lookout.
  3. Pay {R}{W} to cast Punishing Fire targeting Night Market Lookout.
  4. Gain 1 life when God-Pharaoh’s Faithful's ability triggers. When this happens, pay {W} for Serene Steward’s ability to put a +1/+1 counter on Heavenly Qilin.
  5. Punishing Fire resolves. Night Market Lookout regenerates, so it is not destroyed . . .  but the regeneration taps it.
  6. Night Market Lookout triggers when it becomes tapped. You lose 1 life (3 life), and Kiri gains 1 life (9 life). When this happens, pay {R} to return Punishing Fire to your hand.
  7. Pay {R}{W} to cast Punishing Fire again, this time targeting Leafcrown Dryad. Gain 1 life from God-Pharaoh’s Faithful, and pay {W} to put another +1/+1 counter on Qilin.
  8. Tap Boros Keyrune for either color to equip Short Sword to Qilin. With two +1/+1 counters and Short Sword, Qilin is now a 5/5.
  9. Attack with Heavenly Qilin and Okk (now able to attack as the Qilin has greater power), giving Okk flying with Qilin's ability for 9 damage. With no creatures to block in the air, Kiri takes 9 damage to the face and has no more life left.

“If Kiri had a little bit more open mana,” Addison Fox observes, “she could activate Frontier Guide to get a landfall trigger and drain us off Retreat to Hagra. If she had a Vehicle to crew, she could drain us off Night Market Lookout . . .  but neither of those are true.”

“Kiri’s few life gain possibilities could have helped,” Chris Billard notes, “but the small blessing must be that she doesn't have the means to activate any of them.”


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