Size Matters

Dark Depths
As expected, your Unabridged Cube match has gotten too complicated too soon. You shake your head and try to think straight, but you’ve got a lot of things to track at the moment. The fact that this particular Cube contains one of each card ever printed may have something to do with it.

As far as you can tell, you and your opponent, Biggs, are stalemated. He’s still at a really high life total, though, having taken down your Ancient Hellkite with a Death Grasp. If one of you has a slight advantage, it’s probably him.

“So how large is that Majestic Myriarch of yours?” Biggs asks.

“I’ve got five creatures, so it’s a 10/10. The Bone Saw makes it 11/10, but that doesn’t do me a lot of good.”

“Is it my Restless Apparition?”

“Yeah,” you say. “You can pump it to . . .  what, 13/13?”

Biggs counts his lands, then nods. “It still can’t get past your Sprouting Phytohydra, though, so I’m not even going to try. At least, not yet. But that Quicksmith Rebel of yours might just take me down eventually.”

“You’re at 20 life,” you say, “and it’s not like I can remove any of your creatures as long as that Deathbringer Liege is on the table. Besides, you’ve still got that Dark Depths you fetched with your Thalia’s Lancers.”

“Which still has nine counters on it,” Biggs sighs. “This is going to be a long game.”

You glance back at your hand, which contains a few defensive cards you’ve been saving up. Biggs draws his card for the turn, and casually taps four mana.

Deathbringer Liege
“I’ll cast a Vulturous Aven,” he announces, “sacrificing my Walking Corpse to draw two cards.”

“And lose two life,” you add. “Down to 18?”

“Down to 18,” Biggs says. Then he draws his cards, and his eyes suddenly narrow.

“That’s a bad sign,” you say out loud.

“I’ll tap two and cast a Wall of Shards,” Biggs says. “Tap your Myriarch.”

You get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. “I’ll cast Ranger’s Guile to give it hexproof in response,” you say.

Biggs nods, more intent on his next play. “I’ll tap two swamps and cast Vampire Hexmage. Any response to that?”

You hand moves toward a Mountain to cast the Dual Shot in your hand, but then you remember the Deathbringer Liege. “No,” you say. “Go ahead.”

“No tapped creatures, so the Liege’s ability fizzles.”

“I’ll tap my Bone Saw to deal 2 damage to your Hexmage,” you say.

“In response, I’ll sacrifice my Hexmage to remove all the counters from Dark Depths,” Biggs says, triumphantly. “That’s Marit Lage right there,” he continues, dropping a 20/20 token onto the table.

You remain silent for a while. You’re surprised at how far this game has swung in the last sixty seconds, and definitely not in your favor!

You untap your lands and resolve One Thousand Lashes’ ability. Then you draw your card for the turn, adding a Chandra’s Ignition to your hand. With you at 5 life and no flyers on your side of the table, Biggs’ Marit Lage is going to clean your clock on his next attack.

It looks like your only chance is to win the game this turn . . .  but how could you possibly do that with Biggs at 18 life?

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Biggs before the beginning of his next combat 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 do not know the identities or order of any of the cards remaining in your library.

Biggs is at 18 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 — Size Matters” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, August 13, 2017. We’ll include the best ones in next week’s article along with the next puzzle!

Last Week’s Puzzle

Crackdown Construct
Correct solutions to last week’s puzzle were received from Norman Dean, Russell Jones, Aaron Golas, Allen Smith, Ryou Niji, David Parke, Addison Fox, Dan Harris, Michael Shoemaker, David Arnold, Greg Dreher, Subrata Sircar, and Chris Billard.

“I had to break out the spreadsheet for this one,” Allen Smith writes.“There's a lot of moving parts to keep track of. We (okay, Mari, but to make it easier I'll keep using "we") have no sources of non-combat damage, so we need to win by attacking.

“Harper has more blockers than we have attackers, so going wide is probably out. That means going tall, with one or two evasive threats. Wind Dancer can give one of our creatures flying, and Crackdown Construct can be potentially huge, so that's a possible line. Unfortunately, Harper also has Bruna, the Fading Light and Skyraker Giant to block fliers. Matsu-Tribe Sniper can get Bruna out of the way (while pumping the Construct, no less), but getting the Giant out of the way is going to be a lot trickier.”

Unfortunately, the Skyraker Giant doesn’t fly, so it can’t be tapped down by the Matsu-Tribe Sniper. “But Naya Battlemage can do it,” Allen adds, “if we could give it haste somehow . . .  and it turns out that we can!”

David Parke’s solution notes that this approach needs a lot of mana. You do have a Bloom Tender and a Kiora’s Follower to boost your resources, though:

Phase 1: Get fourteen mana.

  1. Start with 8 mana:{G}{G}{G}{G}{U}{U}{U}{U}.
  2. {G}{U} (6 mana left): Play Phantasmal Image, copying Skyknight Legionnaire.
  3. Tap Bloom Tender: Get {G}{U}{R}{W} (10 mana). This doesn’t trigger Crackdown Construct, because it’s a mana ability.
  4. Tap Kiora’s Follower, untapping Bloom Tender. Crackdown Construct becomes 3/3.
  5. Tap Bloom Tender: Get {G}{U}{R}{W} (Fourteen mana).

Phase 2: Tap down defenders.

  1. {R}{R} (Twelve mana left): Equip Runed Stalactite to the Phantasmal Skyknight Legionnaire, killing your own Phantasmal Image. Crackdown Construct becomes 4/4.
  2. {G}{U} (10 mana left): Make a Phantasmal Image token with Back from the Brink, copying Steamflogger Boss.
  3. {W}{G}{U} (7 mana left): Make a Naya Battlemage Token with Back from the Brink.
  4. {G}{U} (5 mana left): Equip Runed Stalactite to Naya Battlemage. It becomes a Rigger, and has haste from the Steamflogger Boss. Crackdown Construct becomes 5/5.
  5. {W} (4 mana left): Activate Naya Battlemage, tapping the Skyraker Giant. Crackdown Construct becomes 6/6.
  6. Activate Matsu-Tribe Sniper tapping Bruna, the Fading Light. Crackdown Construct becomes 7/7.

Phase 3: Make the Crackdown Construct a 12-power flying creature.

  1. Activate Wind Dancer, giving the Crackdown Construct flying. Crackdown Construct becomes 8/8.
  2. {G}{U} (2 mana left): Equip Runed Stalactite to Crackdown Construct. Crackdown Construct becomes 11/10. (Construct trigger, Stalactite boost, and Steamflogger boost.)
  3. {G} (1 mana left): Make a Bond Beetle Token with Back from the Brink, giving the Construct +1/+1, making it 12/11.
  4. Attack for 12 damage.

This solution has one minor variant: Instead of getting a Bond Beetle token, you could first equip the Runed Stalactite to any other creature, then equip it to Crackdown Construct for the final attack. This gives you an additional trigger, which gets the Construct to 12/11.

Given that the combination of Steamflogger Boss and Runed Stalactite can give your creatures haste, this brings about the possibility of a second solution. Dan Harris starts out by getting up to fourteen mana as per David’s solution above, but then gets the Keymaster Rogue to pitch in:

  1. Use Back from the Brink to get token copies of Naya Battlemage and Keymaster Rogue respectively, and returning Phantasmal Image to hand. (Note that Keymaster Rogue’s ability doesn’t target!)
  2. Cast Phantasmal Image as Steamflogger Boss.
  3. Equip Runed Stalactite to Naya Battlemage; trigger Crackdown Construct for +1/+1 (4/4, considering Kiora’s Follower earlier).
  4. Activate Naya Battlemage to tap Skyraker Giant; trigger Crackdown Construct (5/5).
  5. Tap Matsu-Tribe Sniper to tap Bruna, the Fading Light; trigger Crackdown Construct (6/6).
  6. Tap Wind Dancer to give Crackdown Construct flying; trigger Crackdown Construct (7/7).
  7. Equip Runed Stalactite to Keymaster Rogue; trigger Crackdown Construct (8/8).
  8. Attack with Keymaster Rogue, who has haste now, for 5 unblockable damage; and with Crackdown Construct for 8 damage in the air.

But what if we don’t bother with the Naya Battlemage at all? Addison Fox points out that Keymaster Rogue and Back from the Brink technically allow you to use Phantasmal Image three times. This means that you can remove the Skyraker Giant with the Tormentor Exarch:

  1. Cast Phantasmal Image. When it comes in, copy Tormentor Exarch and give the Skyraker Giant -0/-2.
  2. Now that we control a Red creature, tap Bloom Tender for {U}{G}{R}.
  3. Exile Keymaster Rogue to create a token copy of it with Back from the Brink. When it enters the battlefield, return our Phantasmal Image to hand.
  4. Recast Phantasmal Image, copying Tormentor Exarch again to kill off Skyraker Giant.
  5. Tap Kiora’s Follower to untap Bloom Tender and tap it for another {U}{G}{R}.
  6. Equip our Phantasmal Image/Tormentor Exarch with the Runed Stalactite, killing it thanks to Phantasmal Image's rider.
  7. Exile Phantasmal Image to create a token copy of it with Back from the Brink. Choose Steamflogger Boss.

At this point, you can give the Crackdown Construct flying and equip Runed Stalactite to the Keymaster Rogue for enough damage to win.

This leads to one final solution, where Russell Jones points out that you don’t need either the Naya Battlemage or the Keymaster Rogue. It turns out that you can have the Matsu-Tribe Sniper tap down the Skyraker Giant – you just have the make the Giant fly first!

  1. Tap Matsu-Tribe Sniper to deal 1 damage and tap Bruna. Crackdown Construct at 3/3.
  2. Tap Wind Dancer to pick up Skyraker Giant, making her long-held dream of being the highest head in the sky come true. Isn't that nice?Crackdown Construct at 4/4.
  3. Tap Kiora’s Follower to untap Wind Dancer. Crackdown Constructat 5/5.
  4. Tap Wind Dancer to pick up Crackdown Construct, who also grows to 6/6.
  5. Play Phantasmal Image copying Tormentor Exarch, giving Kiora’s Follower -0/-2 and killing it. (Oddly, the Green and Red exarchs don't actually have an "anti-misclick clause" on the mode that's meant for an opponent.)
  6. Use Back from the Brink to get a Kiora’s Follower token.
  7. Tap Bloom Tender for {U}{R}{G}.
  8. Use Back from the Brink to get a Bond Beetle token. Try to put a counter on Phantasmal Image, but it gets sacrificed instead.
  9. Use Back from the Brink to get a Phantasmal Image token, and have it copy Steamflogger Boss this time.
  10. Equip Runed Stalactite onto Kiora’s Follower, making it a 4/3 Cat Rat Elephant Rigger with haste. Crackdown Construct at 7/7.
  11. Tap Kiora’s Follower to untap Matsu-Tribe Sniper. Crackdown Constructat 8/8.
  12. Tap Matsu-Tribe Sniper to deal 1 damage and tap Skyraker Giant, fulfilling the necessary "evil genie" trope. Crackdown Construct at 9/9.
  13. Equip Runed Stalactite onto Crackdown Construct. The trigger makes it 10/10, then the equip ability resolves to give it +1/+1 and an additional +1/+0 from Steamflogger Boss for being a Rigger, a total of 12/11.
  14. Go to combat and swing with the 12/11 Construct (which is also an Artificer and Assembly-Worker among its other 230-odd creature types, evoking an Escherian paradox) into a field of three tapped flyers, one of which redundantly has reach as well. Obviously it won't be blocked, and gets in for lethal.

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