No Strings Attached

Archfiend of Ifnir
With five expansions now in Standard, your local game store is holding a special Sealed event — one pack each of Kaladesh, Aether Revolt, Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation and Ixalan, plus one additional Standard booster pack of your choice.

Unfortunately, your choice of an additional Amonkhet booster pack didn’t pan out. Not only did you not open the Gideon of the Trials you were looking for, you also ended up with a bunch of disparate chaff for your 40-card games. Now you’re sitting across the table from an opponent who’s likely going to cruise to victory in your very first match.

Carmilla has managed to put together a nice deck, having pulled a good selection of Black creatures from her two Ixalan packs, and some great removal to boot. When she first cast her Deathless Ancient on her sixth turn, you immediately neutralized it with a Daring Demolition. However, she’s since gotten three Vampires onto the battlefield, resurrected the Ancient, and started bringing the noise for four damage each turn.

Eventually you got a One With the Wind onto a Vedalken Blademaster and used it to stand guard while you figured out what to do about Carmilla’s 4/4 flyer. However, Carmilla had other plans — last turn, she cast Puncturing Blow on the Blademaster, came in for another four damage to your dome, and then dropped an Archfiend of Ifnir onto the table!

Looking at two sizeable evasive creatures on your opponent’s side of the board — three if you count her Sky Skiff — just makes you ill; you’re at seven life and your only plausible blocker is a Skyship Plunderer (even with a Supernatural Stamina waiting in your hand). That’s not even considering what might happen if Carmilla realizes that she can just bum rush you with all of her creatures; you thought she knew that a few turns ago, but maybe she just wants to see you suffer.

When Carmilla ends her turn, you tap eight mana and sacrifice your Shore Keeper for three cards: Aether Tradewinds, Lethal Sting, and a Swamp. That’s a lot better than what you were hoping for, but your draw step also brings an additional bonus: a Take into Custody that you can use to buy yourself some more time.

Of course, coming back to defeat Carmilla isn’t going to be as easy as drawing a bunch of tempo and removal spells. You just can’t shake the feeling that there’s a way to straighten out this complicated board in the course of a single turn. But then again, if there’s anyone who can figure this out and come out on top, it’s gonna be you.

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

You are at 7 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. You only have one Desert in your deck — the Sunscorched Desert that’s currently on the battlefield under your control.

Carmilla is at 13 life and has no cards in her hand. She has the following cards in play:

Carmilla currently has no artifact cards in her 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 — No Strings Attached” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, October 15, 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 Russell Jones, Norman Dean, Matthew Harvey, Allen Smith, Sean Dennehy, Trajan, Addison Fox, Greg Dreher, Ryou Niji, David Arnold, Aaron Golas, Subrata Sircar, and Hyman Rosen.

“The trick for this puzzle,” Sean Dennehy writes, “is generating the crap ton of mana that you need to do all the things you need to do, and still attacking with everything you have.”

“We have done an inordinate amount of flooding this game,” Addison Fox points out. “We have 10 mana from just tapping all our untapped lands, not even considering the mana (and mana-like) abilities of our board. No wonder we didn't flip our Dowsing Dagger yet, we certainly don't need even more lands . . .  or do we?”

First strike is the key to this one, specifically the ability on Encampment Keeper. “In an unexpected twist,” David Arnold writes, “Cujo flew right into El Dorado:

  1. Pay {W}{G} to equip Dowsing Dagger to Encampment Keeper.
  2. Pay {W} to equip Cobbled Wings to Encampment Keeper.
  3. Pay {R} to cast Rile on Encampment Keeper — it’s now a 4/3 flying trample creature with one damage marked on it.
  4. Move to combat, and swing with all your creatures. Roger assigns blockers, but at least one creature of yours goes unblocked.
  5. During the declare blockers step, pay {W}{G}{G} to cast Rallying Roar.
  6. At this point, the possibilities break into two scenarios:

    Scenario A: Roger blocks Encampment Keeper with Air Elemental.

    Scenario B: Roger doesn’t block Encampment Keeper.

    • Resolve First Strike damage. Encampment Keeper is now 5/4 trample, so it assigns 5 damage to Roger. Dowsing Dagger triggers and transforms into Lost Vale. Any other blocked creatures and combat damage between them is irrelevant.
    • In your second main phase, tap the Lost Vale and the New Horizons-enchanted Forest for {R}{R}{R}{R}{R} and cast Storm Fleet Pyromancer.
    • Pyromancer’s ETB ability triggers, and deals two damage to Roger for the win.

“For once we have more attackers than the opponent have blockers,” Ryou Niji notes. “The key observation is that we want the opponent to block Encampment Keeper and then sacrifice it to its ability . . .  which means we want to punish the opponent as hard as possible for not blocking it by putting Dowsing Dagger on it. However, we also need Dowsing Dagger to transform, so Cobbled Wings and Rile both go onto the same Encampment Keeper.”

“When Roger declares his blockers,” Matthew Harvey observes, “a block on Drover of the Mighty over our other 1-power creature, Wildgrowth Walker, makes the most sense. There is no instant-speed Explore effect that can pump the Walker, but flashing in the uncommon Snapping Sailback would make the Drover a 3/3 and leave Roger dead to an Unfriendly Fire. We don't have either of these cards in hand, but this is just Game 1 and Roger doesn't know what we might have in our deck.”


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