The Wrong Crowd

Deathpact Angel
With Magic Online holding Return to Ravnica flashback drafts over the next couple of weeks, your local game store decided to break out some of its back stock. So now you’re playing the multicolored goodness of a Dragon’s Maze / Gatecrash / Return to Ravnica draft.

You’re in the third and last game of your second round, and it’s been a tough one so far. Both you and your opponent, Tiffany, have traded control of the board multiple times. You pulled out an early 3/3 trampler in Korozda Monitor, only to see her Arrest it. She tried performing some graveyard shenanigans with Rot Farm Skeleton, on which you quickly played Agoraphobia. You started hitting her in the air for 2 damage each turn with Millennial Gargoyle, only for Tiffany to bust out her bomb: Deathpact Angel.

In fact, it’s the Deathpact Angel that’s giving you fits at the moment. Tiffany held it back at first due to her low life total, but a timely Bazaar Krovod on her side means that she’s now able to attack and untap the Angel for something close to the vigilance ability. To make matters worse, she also got a Bronzebeak Moa into play. When she followed that up on her last turn with a Battering Krasis, you were forced to throw something in front of her 5/5 in order to survive.

With the board quickly turning against you, you used Zhur-Taa Druid to cast Inspiration before the end of Tiffany’s turn, pinging her for 1 damage and drawing a Bioshift and a Wasteland Viper. This gives you a decent bit of hope for your next turn, and you finish things off by activating Agoraphobia to return itself to your hand.

At first you think that your plan is quite straightforward: Cast the Wasteland Viper to stop the Bronzebeak Moa, and replay Agoraphobia on the Deathpact Angel. You’d be open to any Rot Farm Skeleton combos once more, and you’d need a new way to break through Tiffany’s defenses, but this should be good enough to stabilize the table.

Then you move to your draw step, and pull a Faerie Impostor from the top of your library. That’s even better, you think — between the Millennial Gargoyle and the Impostor, you’d potentially have two flyers against an Agoraphobic Deathpact Angel. That would put your opponent on a slow, but decent, clock.

Or . . .  you could always take the alternate route of winning the game with what you have.

 . . . Wait, what?

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

You are at 4 life, with the following cards in play:

You have the following cards in your hand:

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

Tiffany is at 6 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 — The Wrong Crowd” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, December11, 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, Dominic Chan, Aaron Golas, Ryou Niji, Subrata Sircar, Greg Dreher, Hyman Rosen, Jordan Oros, Luke Paulsen, Will Clendenning, Michael Feldman, and Bill Murphy.

“This week's puzzle seems really easy,” Ryou Niji writes.“We just bounce both flying blockers and get in for 5 damage. We do need to get rid of Steel Golem, but we can just activate Synod Sanctum targeting it —

*Reads Indomitable Archangel*

“ . . . Oh well.”

Steel Golem is a fine obstacle here. You have one piece of removal — Neurok Replica — as well as the ability to recur it this turn, but the Golem effectively prevents you from recasting the Replica. Making matters worse is that you have a lot of artifacts, and Indomitable Archangel’s metalcraft ability conveniently keeps them all out of targeting range.

(Suspension Field does count as a second source of removal — particularly since you can remove it and bring it back with Synod Sanctum — but since it can only exile creatures with toughness 3 or greater, it won’t be able to remove either the Skirge or the Harpy.)

Subrata Sircar writes: “The trick is to get the Steel Golem out of the way long enough to recast the Replica to bounce a second flyer, and then swing with your own flyer for enough. Since all your artifacts have shroud, you need something that sacrifices or doesn’t target.”

Fortunately, there’s such a thing on Maciek’s side of the table, and Luke Paulsen takes full advantage of this:

  1. During our upkeep, pay {U}{U} and sacrifice Neurok Replica to bounce Tethered Skirge. Thanks to the Tethered Skirge and Scrapheap triggers, life totals are now 5-2.
  2. Still during our upkeep, remove a +1/+1 counter from Arcbound Reclaimer to put Neurok Replica on top of our library.
  3. Go to our draw step. Draw Neurok Replica.
  4. Go to our first main phase. Pay {W} and sacrifice Dromar’s Attendant to add {W}{U}{B} to our mana pool. Scrapheap puts us up to 3 life.
  5. Pay {W}{U} and tap Synod Sanctum to exile Ronom Unicorn.
  6. Pay {W}{B} and sacrifice Synod Sanctum to return Ronom Unicorn to the battlefield. Scrapheap puts us up to 4 life. Tainted Aether triggers, and we sacrifice Steel Golem to it. Scrapheap puts us up to 5 life.
  7. Pay {W}{W}{W} to cast Neurok Replica. Tainted Aether triggers and we sacrifice Arcbound Reclaimer to it, letting the modular ability fizzle (there are no legal targets since Neurok Replica has shroud). Scrapheap puts us up to 6 life.
  8. Pay {U}{U} and sacrifice Neurok Replica to bounce Insatiable Harpy. Scrapheap puts us up to 7 life.
  9. Sacrifice Ronom Unicorn to destroy Suspension Field. Scrapheap puts us up to 8 life. Hunter of Eyeblights re-enters the battlefield. Indomitable Archangel is now our only remaining creature, so it gets a +1/+1 counter. Also, Maciek has to sacrifice something to Tainted Aether — but we don't really care what.
  10. Go to combat and attack Maciek with Indomitable Archangel for a lethal 5 damage.

“For style points,” Greg Dreher adds,“you have the mana and life to pop that Bottle of Suleiman, and a land to sacrifice if you do get the Djinn.”

If you’re capable of gaining a lot of life from Scrapheap, though, this brings up the possibility of using Bottle of Suleiman as part of the solution. And it turns out that there’s a likely path to victory here, according to Russell Jones:

  1. Sacrifice Ronom Unicorn to destroy Tainted Aether.
  2. Activate and sacrifice Neurok Replica to bounce Tethered Skirge. Tethered Skirge triggers and Maciek loses 1 life (to 5). Scrapheap triggers and yougain 1 life (to 2). You have eight lands left.
  3. Activate and tap Synod Sanctum to exile Suspension Field. Maciek gets Hunter of Eyeblights back, which triggers. Since you sacrificed Ronom Unicorn and all other creatures you control are artifact creatures, Indomitable Archangel is the only legal target for the Hunter’s ability. Archangel getsa +1/+1 counter to become 5/5. You have six lands left.
  4. Remove a counter from Arcbound Reclaimer to put Neurok Replica on topof your library.
  5. Go to your draw step and draw Neurok Replica.
  6. Go to your main phase, tap out, and sacrifice Dromar’s Attendant for a total of 8 mana. Scrapheap triggers and you gain 1 life (to 3).
  7. Remove the last counter from Arcbound Reclaimer to put Dromar’s Attendant on top of your library. Scrapheap triggers and you gain 1life (to 4).
  8. Activate Bottle of Suleiman, sacrificing it and going down to 7 mana.Scrapheap triggers and you gain 1 life (to 5). Don't let the ability resolve yet.
  9. In response, sacrifice Synod Sanctum to bring back its cache of exiled cards, which consists of only one card: Suspension Field. Scrapheap triggers and you gain 1 life (to 6). You now control exactly two artifacts: Scrapheap and Steel Golem, so metalcraft is turned off. You have 5 mana left.
  10. Let the Synod Sanctum ability resolve. Suspension Field returns to the battlefield, and you can now target Steel Golem, exiling it.
  11. Let the Bottle of Suleiman ability resolve. You either get a Djinn token or take 5 damage, but because of all the lifegain from Scrapheap triggers, it doesn't really matter which one. You'll either have 1 or 6 life when it's all done.
  12. Cast Neurok Replica (which you can do because Steel Golem is still on vacation) and immediately activate it to bounce Insatiable Harpy. You have zero mana left.
  13. Go to combat and swing with a 5/5 Indomitable Archangel. Both of Maciek’s potential flying blockers are back in his hand and he has no reach blockers, so he has to take the 5 damage (to 0) and lose.

“The mind-blowing thing here,” Luke writes, “is that we actually have to play around a *positive* result from Bottle of Suleiman.”Reversing the activations of Synod Sanctum and Bottle of Suleiman above means that you might have a Djinn artifact token around the time Suspension Field re-enters the battlefield . . .  but that also means that you can’t exile Steel Golem with it, since you’ll have a total of three artifacts then!

The only question that remains is how you managed to end up with an artifact-heavy pool of cards that all seem to hate each other. But then again, no one said that an Unabridged Sealed format was easy . . . 


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