True Reflections

Lord of the Accursed
So this is how your Hour of Devastation prerelease experience ends: Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Having gone 0-2 so far today, you now find yourself in the final stages of your third match. You’ve decided that if you lost this one, then you would simply go home and drown your sorrows in ice cream. Unfortunately, it now looks like you’re going to have to open that container of Triple Chocolate in your freezer.

Your opponent, Craig, has practically taken over the board in the last couple of turns. He’s playing a {W}{B} deck with a lot of Embalm and Eternalize effects, tying all those zombies together with cards like Lord of the Accursed, Binding Mummy, and Accursed Horde. You wonder how he made it to the 0-2 table, but maybe he’s just been as unlucky as you today.

You’ve managed to draw a lot of creatures and bring him down to a low life total thanks to your Rhonas’s Monument. However, Craig has revealed some tricks of his own: You lost a Quarry Beetle to a surprise Saving Grace several turns ago, and then he played a second Saving Grace on his last attack to remove most of your remaining creatures.

With the last of his mana, Craig embalms an Oketra’s Attendant from his graveyard, giving him a full complement of zombies. Unless you draw something really good, you’re not going to survive his next turn (and you’ll have to content yourself with frozen dairy desserts).

So you crack your knuckles, pray to whatever deities are watching your game at the moment, and draw . . .  a Sacred Cat.

Wait, that can’t be correct. You’re the hero of this story, right? So where’s the Hour of Revelation, Oketra’s Last Mercy, or Dusk // Dawn you were supposed to draw? (Never mind that you have exactly none of these cards in your deck.)

You stare at the card in your hand for a while. You can’t remember if a Sacred Cat has ever won a game for you — or for that matter, anyone else — before.

You shake your head. All things considered, you’d rather have a match win over some ice cream. But maybe you have a way out of this mess, and maybe you don’t.

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

You are at 3 life, with the following cards in play:

You have the following card 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.

Craig is at 4 life and has no cards in his hand. He has the following cards in play:

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 — True Reflections” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, July 16, 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 Norman Dean, Russell Jones, Matthew Harvey, Allen Smith, Addison Fox, Ryou Niji, Julian Brunelle, Josh Tutt, Kim T.L, Greg Dreher, Aaron Golas, Mike Ryan, and Subrata Sircar. Michael Shoemaker’s solution also came quite close.

“This is an interesting situation,” Matthew Harvey writes.“Vanessa certainly has two very large creatures on the board, but only has those two creatures to block with. We, on the other hand, have four potential attackers plus the possibility of a fifth one thanks to Fame being able to give something haste. The only issue is that our creatures currently aren't big enough for lethal, so we need to make them bigger — and we have two ways of doing that.”

The easiest way to go about this is to go for a straightforward attack, as Allen Smith writes:

  1. Cast Claim on Vault Skirge, returning it to the battlefield.
  2. Sacrifice Elixir of Immortality to Defiant Salvager to give it a +1/+1 counter. Scrap Trawler triggers, but has nothing to target.
  3. Sacrifice Vault Skirge to Defiant Salvager to get a +1/+1 counter. Scrap Trawler triggers, returning Elixir of Immortality to our hand.
  4. Cast Elixir of Immortality; this triggers Painsmith. Target Painsmith itself to make it a 4/1 with deathtouch.
  5. Cast Gravegouger. Exile any two cards that aren't Claim // Fame.
  6. Cast Fame from the graveyard on Gravegouger, making it a 4/2 with haste.
  7. Attack with everything. We have three 4-power creatures (Defiant Salvager, Painsmith, and Gravegouger) and two 3-power creatures (Scrap Trawler and Fervent Paincaster). At best, Vanessa can block two of our 4-power creatures and take 10 damage, which is enough for lethal.

“Vanessa can block so that Scuttling Doom Engine would die,” Norman Dean adds, “but its trigger won't go on the stack until after damage has been dealt, at which point she would be too dead for it to do her any good. Besides, we have Elixir and two open mana.”

As effective as this approach would be, however, this doesn’t allow you to attack with a Dragon token . . .  and who doesn’t like attacking with a Dragon token? “Our rough plan,” Mike Ryan notes, “should be to get the Dragon from Awaken the Sky Tyrant online, give it haste, and attack with enough creatures to get past the remaining blockers with 9 damage.

“If we just attack with all of our creatures, though, we can expect that Reya Dawnbringer will block the Dragon, the Scuttling Doom Engine will block the Defiant Salvager, and we can only get 5 damage in. That's not enough, so we need that Scuttler gone . . .  and it is probably the only way to wake up the Dragon anyhow.

Your other consideration, of course, is that you need to gain life in order to survive the Scuttling Doom Engine . . .  but using the Elixir of Immortality may prevent you from using the Claim part of Claim // Fame. Kim T.L covers this one:

  1. Play Gravegouger, exiling Vault Skirge from your graveyard (using {B}{R}{R}, {B}{B}{B}{B}{B}{R}{R} left).
  2. Use Elixir of Immortality to gain 5 life, shuffling your graveyard into your library (using {B}{B} mana, {B}{B}{B}{R}{R} left).
  3. Use Defiant Salvager's ability and sacrifice the Gravegouger. This returns Vault Skirge to your graveyard from exile and puts a +1/+1 counter on Defiant Salvager (now 3/3).
  4. Use Defiant Salvager's ability and sacrifice the Scrap Trawler, returning Vault Skirge to your hand and putting a +1/+1 counter on Defiant Salvager(now 4/4).
  5. Play the Vault Skirge with 2 life (down to 9 life) and 1 mana (using {B}, {B}{B}{R}{R} left). Painsmith triggers, targeting Fervent Paincaster.
  6. Exert Fervent Paincaster to ping Scuttling Doom Engine (killing it because of the Painsmith’s deathtouch). Scuttling Doom Engine triggers, and you take 6 damage (down to 3 life).
  7. Awaken the Sky Tyrant triggers, putting a 5/5 flying Dragon token into play.
  8. Use Defiant Salvager's ability and sacrifice the Vault Skirge. This puts a +1/+1 counter on Defiant Salvager (now 5/5).
  9. Play Claim to get Vault Skirge onto the battlefield from your graveyard (using {B}, {B}{R}{R} left).
  10. Use Defiant Salvager's ability and sacrifice the Vault Skirge. This puts a +1/+1 counter on Defiant Salvager (now 6/6).
  11. Use Defiant Salvager's ability and sacrifice the Fervent Paincaster. This puts a +1/+1 counter on Defiant Salvager (now 7/7).
  12. Cast Fame from your graveyard, targeting the Dragon token and making it a 7/5 creature with haste (using {B}{R}, {B} left).
  13. Attack with a 2/1 Painsmith, 7/7 Defiant Salvager and 7/5 Dragon token. With only Reya Dawnbringer up as a blocker, our opponent takes 9 damage.

This approach has multiple variations. Julian Brunelle’s solution, for example, is a combination of both of the above:

  1. Cast Claim, targeting Vault Skirge and returning it to the battlefield.
  2. Sacrifice Elixir of Immortality to Defiant Salvager, putting a +1/+1 counter on the Salvager.
  3. Sacrifice Vault Skirge to Defiant Salvager, putting a +1/+1 counter on the Salvager. Scrap Trawler triggers, bringing back the Elixir of Immortality to your hand.
  4. Cast Elixir of Immortality. Painsmith triggers, targeting Fervent Paincaster with the trigger.
  5. Cast Gravegouger, targeting Claim // Fame and any other card.
  6. Tap and exert Fervent Paincaster, dealing 1 damage to Scuttling Doom Engine. The Engine dies, and its trigger goes on the stack.
  7. In response to Scuttling Doom Engine's trigger, activate Elixir of Immortality. We gain 5 life.
  8. Scuttling Doom Engine deals 6 damage to us. We fall to 5 life, and Awaken the Sky Tyrant triggers. We get a 5/5 Dragon token.
  9. Sacrifice Gravegouger to Defiant Salvager,putting a +1/+1 counter on the Salvager and returning Claim // Fame and the other exiled card to our graveyard.
  10. Cast Claim on our Dragon token.
  11. Attack! Even if Vanessa blocks the token with Reya Dawnbringer, our Painsmith, Scrap Trawler, and Defiant Salvager (with three +1/+1 counters on it) will still hit her for 10 damage.

“I would hate to break it to Vanessa,” Ryou Niji adds, “but Chord of Calling is an instant. Unless she expects something like Island and Spell Pierce, there is no reason not to at least wait until our combat step. And there is plenty of reason to wait: For example, any creature or artifact of converted mana cost 3 or less could turn into lethal damage.”


Hour of Devastation is now available for preorder at CoolStuffInc.com!

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