Sic Semper Tyrannis

Cyclops Tyrant
“Weren’t you flying to the World Magic Cup, Steph?” Mari asks.

“No,” she says. “I missed the last qualifier. My parents flew in, and I took them out for the day.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“No, it’s okay,” Steph says. “I don’t see my parents as often as I used to, so it was nice to spend some time with them. I haven’t been seeing a lot of Standard tournaments here lately, though.”

“Well, Kaladesh has been out for some time,” you admit, “and the next expansion isn’t for another couple of months. We’ve been pulling out the Unabridged Cube in the meantime.”

“Yeah, well, we’re playing it right now, so I gathered that,” Steph says. “Seriously, though . . .  one of each card ever printed?”

“It’s interesting. And sometimes you get little card previews, too.”

“And it gives CJ a headache,” Mari adds, “which is always funny.”

Steph smiles. “I know a couple of people like that,” she says. “What color did you choose for your Flickering Ward again?”

“Blue,” you answer. “So, are you attacking?”

Steph considers this for a while, and then shakes her head. “I’ll go to my second main phase instead,” she says, “and then tap out to cast my Cyclops Tyrant. You take one damage from Furious Assault, which’ll put you at five life.”

“Wait, the Tyrant has intimidate, right?”

“Yes it does.”

Fleetfoot Panther
Mari glances at your side of the table. “Vulshok Morningstar on the Tyrant next turn, and attack for five,” she shrugs.

“You didn’t have to mention that, you know.”

“No, but it’s still fun,” Mari says. “What do you have in your hand?”

“Just one card,” you say, showing her your Fleetfoot Panther. “If I don’t draw anything good next turn, I’ll start shuffling up for next game.”

“Okay,” Mari says, “but you can still pull this one out.”

“What?” Steph asks.

“What?” you ask.

Mari blinks at the two of you. “You can still pull this one out,” she finally says.

Steph stares at the board for a while, and then gives you a confused grin. “If you have the win,” she says, “then I’d like to see it.”

You give the board another look. “You know,” you tell her, “so would I.”

Steph has just declared the end of her turn; you may still cast spells or activate abilities in response. Defeat Steph before the start of her next combat phase.

You are at 5 life, with the following cards in play:

You have the following card in your hand:

You do not know the identities of the next cards on top of your library.

You have the following relevant cards in your graveyard:

Steph is at 12 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 puzzles@gatheringmagic.com with the subject line “Puzzle — Sic Semper Tyrannis” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, November27, 2016. 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, Alfred Hsie, Ryou Niji, Eric Fletcher, Aaron Golas, Ethan Formichella, Eric Crowe, Scot Martin, Luke Paulsen, Paul Seitz, Subrata Sircar, Will Clendenning, Daniel Wolfe, Dominic Chan, Joseph Reid, Hyman Rosen, Rob Jones, Ben Frederick, Steven Baker, Greg Dreher, Michael Feldman, Ben Nassau, Thomas Pierre, Johan Erasmus, Tom Renshaw, and David Arnold.

“You have a couple of disadvantages in your current state from getting to that needed six damage,” Will Clendenning writes:

  • Hongjie has too many blockers for you to get through, making combat damage unlikely, if not impossible.
  • Also, Hongjie's Sangromancer will easily gain too much life for him if you don't get rid of it.

“There really is no way to deal lethal damage except via Hongjie's Vial Smasher the Fierce,” Dominic Chan adds.“But we don't have anything with converted mana cost 6 or higher besides our Demon of Death’s Gate.”

“The attractive approach is to kill Hongjie by recasting Demon of Death’s Gate while retaining control of Vial Smasher the Fierce,” Hyman Rosen continues.“We're going to have to use its alternate cost, since we don't have enough mana to hard-cast the Demon, which means we need to gain life. That means we need Sangromancer, so we need to somehow activate Cytoplast Manipulator twice. Fortunately, Ghostly Touch gives us a way to untap it. Then we have to dot the I's and cross the T's to get all the effects to happen in the right order.”

The final sequence takes more than a few moves, and requires you to take notice of the stack at some points. “This not only requires that we control Vial Smasher,” Ben Nassau notes, “but also that we gain enough life to pay the Demon’s alternate cost, and perhaps most interestingly that we not cast a spell until the final blow (as Vial Smasher only triggers off of the first spell cast each turn). We also need to figure out what the hell Phantasmal Mount’s ability says.”

Thomas Pierre’s solution goes as follows:

Upkeep step

  1. Let Skull Collector's trigger resolve and return Demon of Death’s Gate to your hand.

Draw step

  1. Draw your card (without looking at it, for extra bonus points).

First main phase

  1. Activate Phantasmal Mount's ability, targeting Lingering Tormentor.
  2. Activate Festercreep's ability. Festercreep dies, which triggers both Sangromancer and Sadistic Glee. (Hongjie chooses the order in which they resolve, but this doesn’t matter.)
  3. Let the Sangromancer and Sadistic Glee triggers resolve. Hongjie gains 3 life (now at 9 life). Sangromancer gets a +1/+1 counter.
  4. With Festercreep's ability still on the stack, activate Cytoplast Manipulator to steal Sangromancer (because it now has a +1/+1 counter).
  5. Let Festercreep's ability resolve. Each creature now gets -1/-1. This results in a bunch of things:

Combat phase

  1. Attack with Skull Collector. This triggers Ghostly Touch. Use it to untap Cytoplast Manipulator.
  2. Regenerate Skull Collector if necessary to avoid its death in combat.

Second main phase

  1. Activate Simic Fluxmage's ability to give its +1/+1 counter to Vial Smasher.
  2. Activate Cytoplast Manipulator to steal Vial Smasher.
  3. Cast Demon of Death’s Gate for its alternate cost of 6 life (which you now have) and the sacrifice of three Black creatures — Skull Collector, Lingering Tormentor, and Sangromancer. This triggers Vial Smasher, which deals a lethal 9 damage to Hongjie.

Even if you’re casting Demon of Death’s Gate using its alternate cost, Vial Smasher’s ability still triggers based on the Demon’s casting cost. You might not be paying the 9 mana, but your opponent’s certainly taking the 9 damage.

For style points, several of your actions during the first main phase can be taken during your upkeep instead. You could, for example, put Skull Collector’s ability on the stack, then activate both Phantasmal Mount and Festercreep before it resolves.

While it seems at first that you’d need to gain control of Vial Smasher before blockers are declared, that isn’t necessarily the case.“Skull Collector normally has enough power to kill Vial Smasher and prevent the winning play,” Michael Feldman writes. “But I realized that as long as you give Vial Smasher the +1/+1 counter from Simic Fluxmage before combat damage, Vial Smasher remains just out of reach of lethal damage. Who would think that amongst its multiple uses, a +1/+1 counter could be useful in this puzzle to actually, you know, increase a creature's stats by +1/+1!”

“Strangely enough,” Thomas adds, “almost no card you could have drawn would have helped:

  • A land would not actually have helped replay the Demon, as you need a bunch of mana just to steal Vial Smasher.
  • A spell would generally not have helped, as you really want your first spell to trigger Vial Smasher, so you would still need to steal her first.
  • However, Blustersquall, Cyclonic Rift, or similar cards that can tap or bounce Hongjie's board without actually casting a spell would have been nice!

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