Toys in the Attic

It’s not hard to figure out where your feeling of déjà vu is coming from; you’ve been in a similar situation before — and it was against your opponent’s sister, to boot.

“Emi told me about the Stocking Tiger play,” Sophia says. “I didn’t believe her back then, but I guess things like these come back to bite you. And I guess it had to happen, what with this cube containing one of each card ever printed and all.”

You glance at her. “Yeah,” you say, “but you still have the advantage right now.”

Sophia’s deck for this draft has turned out to be a mess of mass removal. Your game started off fairly well, only for you to sent back to square one by a turn-five Wrath of God. Then, when you had sufficiently recovered — both in terms of your composure and your board state — Sophia tapped 6 mana and blew everything away with a Life’s Finale. Finally, after you built up a hasty set of defenses, she really put the thumbscrews to you by dropping a Massacre Wurm on the table.

Fortunately, the quality of Sophia’s creature base leaves a lot to be desired, and that’s the only reason you’re still alive. Still, she followed up on the Wurm by attacking with Wild Aesthir and Tar Pit Warrior, bringing you to five life after you refused to block.

With Sophia at eleven life, you drew a Distortion Strike into an empty hand and decided to go for the best play you had — an unblockable 4/3 Stocking Tiger!

She laughs. “Okay, okay,” she says, “I’ll go to seven life. Are you opening the Kaladesh pack?”

“I’m opening the Kaladesh pack,” you say, taking it from underneath the Tiger and tearing into the foil packaging.

"This is so like Emi's story. Next thing we know, you’ll be winning with whatever’s in that pack.”

You thumb through your new cards. Just like before, holding fifteen cards in your hand is much more difficult than it looks. But, much as Sophia implies, it’ll all be worth it if you can figure out how to secure a win.

It is the start of your post-combat main phase; you have already completed your combat phase this turn. Defeat Sophia before the start of her next turn.

You are at 6 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 currently have no energy counters.

You do not know the identities of the next cards on top of your library, but you do know that you have at least one more basic Forest somewhere in your library.

Sophia is at 7 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 — Toys in the Attic” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, December25, 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 Norman Dean, Russell Jones, Matthew Harvey, Hyman Rosen, Aaron Golas, Subrata Sircar, Daniel Ray, Dominic Chan, Ryou Niji, David Jacobs, John Hoffman, Will Clendenning, Greg Dreher, Paul Seitz, Addison Fox, Jeff Proksch, Bill Murphy, Sean Dennehy, and Michael Feldman.

“With this clogged-up board state,” Matthew Harvey writes,“ getting through for combat is impossible. So we need to look for victory another way.”

“Luckily, Nox has left a source of non-combat damage on the board — Hellhole Flailer! We just need to gain control of it, but that will fall to our Simic Manipulator, if we can find some more +1/+1 counters to put on it. (I'm looking at you, Sluiceway Scorpion.)Then we need the Flailer to get an increase in power slightly as well . . . which is what Vorel is best at.”

With this in mind, David Jacobs’ solution is straightforward:

  1. At the beginning of combat on your turn, sacrifice the Sluiceway Scorpion to Desecration Demon. Declare no attacks.
  2. After combat, scavenge the Scorpion onto the Simic Manipulator, which now has three +1/+1 counters on it. You now have 10 mana remaining.
  3. Activate Vorel of the Hull Clade’s ability targeting Simic Manipulator, so it now has six +1/+1 counters. You now have 8 mana remaining.
  4. Activate Manipulator targeting Hellhole Flailer to gain control of it.
  5. Cast Hidden Strings, untapping a land and Vorel. You now have 7 mana remaining.
  6. Activate Vorel’s ability, targeting Flailer. It is now a 5/4 creature. You now have 5 mana remaining.
  7. Activate and sacrifice Flailer to deal 5 damage to your opponent. Hopefully you left your Axebane Guardian untapped!

If you’d rather not jump directly into your combat phase, however, a variant of the above solution involves using Vorel twice to increase the number of +1/+1 counters on your Simic Manipulator, then scavenging your Sluiceway Scorpion for Hellhole Flailer. Will Clendenning clarifies this:

  1. Tap an Island, a Forest, and Vorel of the Hull Clade to put a second +1/+1 counter on your Simic Manipulator.
  2. Tap another Island and Forest to play Hidden Strings, untapping your Vorel of the Hull Clade and one of your tapped Islands. You can cipher Hidden Strings onto a creature if you want, but you don't have to (just for kicks, cipher it onto your Axebane Guardian).
  3. Tap yet another Island and Forest and Vorel of the Hull Clade again, putting another two +1/+1 counters on the Simic Manipulator.
  4. Tap the Simic Manipulator and remove all four of its +1/+1 counters to gain control of Nox's Hellhole Flailer.
  5. Move to combat. Sacrifice your Sluiceway Scorpion to Nox's Desecration Demon's trigger. Declare no attacks.
  6. Move to your postcombat main phase. Tap your last untapped Island, your Dimir Guildgate, and your last untapped Forest to scavenge the Sluiceway Scorpion, targeting the Hellhole Flailer.
  7. Tap all of your Swamps and the Axebane Guardian for Red, and sacrifice the Hellhole Flailer, dealing six to Nox's face. Yet again, you've killed someone with their own card.

But an alternate solution also exists, and it involves attacking with at least one creature. “With Nox's full battlefield,” Greg Dreher writes, “you're not going to win in combat with your meager supply of creatures, especially when he has a creature with lifelink. But you can steal creatures, and his Hellhole Flailer can do 80% of the job. You just need to sneak in one more point of damage.”

Addison Fox’s solution points out that this one point of damage comes from Spire Tracer, your sole evasive creature. You need to jump through a few hoops to get it through your opponent’s blockers, though:

  1. Tap Simic Manipulator and remove a +1/+1 counter from it to get Hover Barrier over on our team. This leaves our Manipulator as a tapped 0/1, ripe for evolving.
  2. Cast Spire Tracer for {G} to do just that, leaving us with {B}{B}{B}{G}{G}{G}{U}{U}{U}.
  3. Tap Vorel of the Hull Clade and spend {U}{G} to double the number of +1/+1 counters on Manipulator, leaving us with {B}{B}{B}{G}{G}{U}{U}.
  4. Cast Hidden Strings for {U}{B}, untapping the 2/3 manipulator and tapping our opponent's Hellraiser Goblin, ciphering Hidden Strings onto the Spire Tracer. This leaves us with{B}{B}{G}{G}{U}.
  5. Tap the Manipulator and remove its two +1/+1 counters to steal the tapped Hellraiser Goblin, giving our Spire Tracer haste.
  6. Move to combat, and sacrifice the Sluiceway Scorpion to Desecration Demon to tap it. All our remaining creatures must attack thanks to our new goblin, so let's take a quick stock of our board — if anything attacks on the ground, Nox can gain 3 life by blocking with his Rakdos Ragemutt, and we can't be having that:
  7. Swing for 1 damage with Spire Tracer, triggering cipher on Hidden Strings. Untap Vorel and the Manipulator.
  8. Spend {B}{B}{G} to scavenge the Scorpion onto the Manipulator to give it two counters again. Then we have {U}{G} left, just enough to activate Vorel one more time to give the Manipulator four +1/+1 counters.
  9. Tap the Manipulator and remove its four +1/+1 counters to steal our opponent's Hellhole Flailer, then tap the Keyrune, Guildgate, and Axebane Guardian (who, thanks to our new Hover Barrier, taps for {B}{R}) to throw it at our opponent's face for lethal damage.

While it’s an interesting move to tap Hellraiser Goblin with Hidden Strings so that the Rakdos Ragemutt can’t lifelink Nox away from defeat, it’s also possible to simply tap the Rakdos Ragemutt instead.

“I don't understand why Nox thinks he's the best player around since he made plenty of misplays this game,” Dominic Chan writes.“First, if Nox wasn't planning to attack, he should have cast Blast of Genius in his pre-combat main phase, at worst to draw a few cards, and at best to remove one of our creatures or win.

“Secondly, if Nox was planning to kill our Nimbus Swimmer, he would have had to deal 8 damage to it. But there is a better target on the board — us! We're only at 6 life, and no matter how you look at it, we would have been a better target because Nox would either have killed us, or at least brought us into range for a wide swing.
“Lastly, Nox should not have unleashed Hellhole Flailer at all, since just from analyzing the board, there was a strong possibility that we could steal and sacrifice it. It's probably not the best idea to pump the thing that could potentially kill you.”


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