Close Quarters

Kitesail Freebooter
“I’ve never seen anyone wear Christian Louboutin shoes to a tournament before.”

“I know, right?” Octavia says, obligingly stretching one of her legs. “But they’re just so nice.”

“And expensive?”

She smiles. “I’m not walking in them too much, at least.”

To be fair, it’s not just her shoes; Octavia constantly looks as though she belongs in a fashion magazine. Despite the fact that she’s not dressed in anything but casual clothes today — for whatever vague definition of “casual” exists — she still manages to stand out in a crowd of fifty-odd people.

You’re square in the middle of your local game store’s Ixalan prerelease, and you and Octavia have run into each other for your second-round match. You’re piloting a {B}{G} deck today, with a touch of White for Pious Interdiction and Territorial Hammerskull. Until recently, you thought Octavia was also playing three colors . . .  until the point you played a Kitesail Freebooter and found something unexpected in her hand.

Vanquish the Weak?” you ask. “I thought you were only playing White, Red and Blue.”

“I had a Hostage Taker that was too tempting not to use,” she admits.

Hostage Taker or no Hostage Taker, though, you eventually manage to bring Octavia to a low life total after a lot of effort. She then takes down your two best creatures with a well-timed Rallying Roar, and suddenly you find yourself on the receiving end of her beatdown.

On her turn, Octavia draws and casts a Pirate’s Prize, giving herself two cards and a Treasure token. She then gives you a good long look before making her move.

“I’m attacking with my River Sneak, Fathom Fleet Firebrand and Bonded Horncrest,” she says.

“Just those?”

“I know you have a lot of combat tricks,” Octavia says, “so I’m being careful. Are you blocking?”

You glance at your Grazing Whiptail, which is the only thing preventing her flyers from coming in. “I’ll block your Horncrest with my Skittering Heartstopper,” you say, “And I’ll block your Firebrand with Ixalli’s Diviner. Your River Sneak gets through.”

“Are you giving it deathtouch?” Octavia asks, sounding as though she was expecting you to do so.

“Yes,” you say, tapping a swamp. “Are you pumping your Firebrand?”

“No,” Octavia says, to your surprise. “You take 1 damage from my River Sneak.”

“I guess that means you have something to cast.”

Octavia plays a Mountain, then taps five lands to cast a Shining Aerosaur. “That’s all for my turn,” she says.

“I’ll cast Costly Plunder and sacrifice my Ixalli’s Diviner, then.”

It seems that your deck doesn’t like you, because the Plunder gives you a Verdant Rebirth and a Skulduggery — both of which would have been useful during the combat phase you just resolved. On top of that, your draw step gives you a late Atzocan Archer — something that would have been a lot more useful before Octavia swarmed the board with her creatures. That said, anything that can block flyers is probably welcome.

“I think this game is going to be over soon,” you say.

“Are we going into a third game?” Octavia laughs. “I’m not sure if I want to walk around in these heels just yet.”

“I don’t know,” you say. “But I’m going to try something. Just let me know if you want to call a judge, because this might get interesting . . . ”

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Octavia before the beginning of her next combat phase.

You are at 8 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.

Octavia is at 4 life and has no cards in her hand. She 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 with the subject line “Puzzle — Close Quarters” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, October 1, 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, Aaron Golas, Matthew Harvey, Addison Fox, Greg Dreher, Allen Smith, Ryou Niji, Ian McCaulley, Colton Wharton and Kyler Goulding, Micah Dilts, and David Arnold.

This puzzle appears to have stumped a lot of people. “Ludlow's board is seriously gummed up,” Addison Fox writes, “but his creatures (other than the stolen Ryusei, the Falling Star) all have two critical flaws in common: None of them have flying, and none of them have more than 5 toughness (except the Nav Squad Commandos, but we'll get to them later).

“This means that our route to victory definitely involves convincing Ryusei to kick the bucket, as it were. Once we do that, the only thing left in play will be Ludlow's Wall of Frost and whatever we manage to keep alive.”

“The problem,” Allen Smith continues, “is that Ryusei’s ability will also clean up our board. We could regenerate the Sporeback Troll, but that will leave it tapped and therefore useless for pushing damage through. The one tool we have to get a creature to survive the apocalypse and still be ready to attack is Shield of the Avatar — provided we have enough creatures.”

On top of that, you still have the Wall of Frost to worry about, since it easily survives five damage to everything on the table. “This puzzle drove me nuts,” David Arnold notes.“I tied myself in knots trying to figure out how to kill Wall of Frost and Ryusei, because I forgot that Magic has three fundamental rules:

  1. Read the card.
  2. Wait until the last possible second.
  3. Read the ******* card.

“Reading the Raptor Hatchling, per rules 1 and 3, shows us that the Dinosaur token created has trample!”

The solution ends up stacking damage on the Raptor Hatchling and suiting up an angry Dinosaur. As Ian McCaulley writes:

Precombat Main Phase:

  1. Tap two Mountains to cast Raptor Hatchling.As it enters the battlefield, use Graft to move a +1/+1 counter from Sporeback Troll onto Raptor Hatchling. The Hatchling becomes a 2/2.
  2. Tap Bloodpyre Elemental to activate the ability granted by Lightning Prowess, dealing 1 damage to Raptor Hatchling.
  3. Raptor Hatchling's Enrage ability triggers. Create a 3/3 Green Dinosaur creature token with trample (hereafter known as “Big Mama”).
  4. Tap two more Mountains to cast Betrothed of Fire, enchanting Big Mama.
  5. Tap your last two untapped Mountains to equip Shield of the Avatar to Big Mama.
  6. Tap Bloodlust Inciter to activate its ability, giving Big Mama haste.
  7. Tap two Forests to activate Sporeback Troll's ability, giving Raptor Hatchling a regeneration shield.
  8. Tap your last untapped Forest to cast Prey Upon, targeting Raptor Hatchling and Ryusei, the Falling Star. Raptor Hatchling deals 2 damage to Ryusei and Ryusei deals 5 damage to Raptor Hatchling. Raptor Hatchling has a regeneration shield, so instead of dying, all damage is removed from the Hatchling, and it becomes tapped.
  9. Raptor Hatchling's Enrage ability triggers again. Create a 3/3 Green Dinosaur creature token with trample (hereafter known as “Little Mama”).
  10. Sacrifice Sporeback Troll and Little Mama to activate Betrothed of Fire's first ability twice. Big Mama becomes a 7/3 with haste and trample.
  11. Sacrifice Bloodpyre Elemental to activate its ability, targeting Ryusei, the Falling Star. Ryusei takes 4 more damage. Combined with the 2 damage dealt to it by Raptor Hatchling in step 8, this is enough to destroy Ryusei.
  12. When Ryusei dies, it deals 5 damage to each creature without flying, which is every creature on the battlefield right now.
  13. Raptor Hatchling's Enrage ability triggers again. Create a 3/3 Green Dinosaur creature token with trample (hereafter known as “Too Late Mama”).

Combat Phase

  1. Declare that Big Mama is attacking. Wall of Frost is the only eligible blocker.
  2. Sacrifice Too Late Mama to activate Betrothed of Fire's first ability. Big Mama becomes a 9/3 with haste and trample and 2 damage marked on it.
  3. During the combat damage step, Big Mama assigns 2 damage to Wall of Frost, which, combined with the 5 damage from step 12, is lethal damage. Big Mama assigns her remaining 7 damage to Ludlow. His life total becomes 0, and he loses the game.

“And there we have it, ”Matthew Harvey writes.“It seems that Ludlow should definitely have held Linvala, Keeper of Silence back in their last attack — with Ryusei, the skies were all theirs. Plus, without the use of the three activated abilities on the board, we wouldn't have been able to win.”

Ixalan is now available for Preorder! Pick up sealed product and singles as they're posted!