Not by a Long Shot

Cream of the Crop
You’ve played quiet opponents before, but Don is in a different category altogether. The only reason you know his name is because “Don” happened to be the only word he used to introduce himself; he’s otherwise been communicating almost entirely in grunts.

Normally you’d call him out on this sort of thing, but despite his limited vocabulary, Don’s a lot more civil than some of the other opponents you’ve met. That is to say: He hasn’t bragged about his draft, he hasn’t complained at your topdecks, and he hasn’t insulted your cards. That last one alone puts him above some of the more unsavory people you’ve seen on the other side of the table.

That said, you’d probably insult your own cards if you had the chance; the Unabridged Cube apparently wanted to give you a nice parting shot before the year ran out. For a set that contains one of each card ever printed, that means that you have a terrible, terrible card pool, and you’re wondering why you even chose to play with it.

Somehow, you managed to make it to a third game for this match. Don won your first game handily, but you got lucky in your second game when he took a mulligan to four and then failed to find a second land. After starting your third game with a prolonged damage race, you and Don eventually settled into a stalemate: You have an Ogre Resister standing guard, but Don has better creatures than you, has a steadily increasing life total due to Convalescence, and has a Cream of the Crop to help optimize his draws.

Mirri, Cat Warrior
All of this, of course, leads into your current problem. Don drew and cast Rancor on his Mirri, Cat Warrior — making it a 4/3 creature with an uncomfortable number of keywords. With your Succumb to Temptation (sacrificing Agent of Stromgald) coming up empty, you chose to take Mirri’s damage on the chin rather than lose your best blocker.

The interesting thing is that your instant-speed card draw has given you some assistance, in a way: Your draws are an Aftershock and a Spiraling Embers. Coupled with the Sever Soul that you pull on your draw step, you have the means to take down most of Don’s creatures this turn.

At first you’re worried about your mana requirements, but then you remember that you have a Blood Funnel in play. But the more you think about the Blood Funnel, the more you realize that there might just be a quicker way to finish this fight.

“I’m going to try something,” you tell your opponent. “If something doesn’t work the way I expect, just let me know.”

Don grunts. You’re not sure if it’s a positive or negative response.

“Then again,” you say, “it might be better to call a judge. But here goes . . . ”

It is the start of your first main phase. Defeat Don before the start of his next combat phase.

You are at 5 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 of the next cards on top of your library.

Don is at 7 life and has no cards in his hand. He has the following cards in play:

  • Basking Rootwalla
  • Acridian (with Gift of Granite attached)
  • Roc Egg
  • Descendant of Kiyomaro
  • Mirri, Cat Warrior (with Rancor attached)
  • Convalescence
  • Cream of the Crop
  • 4 Forests (one tapped)
  • 3 Plains
  • 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 — Not By a Long Shot” by 11:59 P.M. EST on Sunday, January 1, 2017. We’ll include the best ones in next week’s article along with the next puzzle!

    Last Week’s Puzzle

    Massacre Wurm
    Correct solutions to last week’s puzzle were received from Russell Jones, Norman Dean, Aaron Golas, Matthew Harvey, Addison Fox, Hyman Rosen, Bill Murphy, Dominic Chan, Luke Paulsen, Justin Brunson, Elijah Bell, David Jacobs, Subrata Sircar, Simone Samperna, Ryou Niji, Jacob Malin, David Arnold, Greg Dreher, Will and Eli Clendenning, John Hoffman, and Michael Feldman.

    The fact that you’re in your postcombat main phase is a huge deal for this puzzle. “Since we’ve already attacked,” Subrata Sircar writes,“the Massacre Wurm is really the only avenue that seems likely. But we’ll still need half the pack to pull it off!”

    Luke Paulsen continues: “That Kaladesh booster has everything on our wish list! It's a tall order to deal 7 damage post-combat in Limited, let alone in U/G. But our pack came through with a Shrewd Negotiation to steal Sophia's Massacre Wurm, a Fireforger’s Puzzleknot to get a couple of pings in, and a Prophetic Prism plus a Dramatic Reversal to help fix our mana.

    “The only question is, can we get enough of Sophia's creatures to die? Fireforger’s Puzzleknot on Wild Aesthir makes one. Select for Inspection on Tar Pit Warrior makes two. We need a third death, though, and we can get it from Fragmentize if Sophie somehow ends up with an artifact creature costing 4 or less . . . ”

    This results in a solution with fairly loose sequencing — most of the steps involved don’t need to be done in a particular order, as Simone Samperna writes:

    1. Play Swamp.
    2. Tap Elvish Aberration to add {G}{G}{G} to your mana pool.
    3. Cast Prophetic Prism for {G}{G}. Tap Prism and filter {G} to become {W}.
    4. Cast Dramatic Reversal for {G}{U} and untap Elvish Aberration, Prophetic Prism and Stocking Tiger.
    5. Cast Sky Skiff for {G}{G} and crew it, tapping Stocking Tiger.
    6. Cast Shrewd Negotiation for {G}{G}{B}{U}{U} and exchange Sky Skiff with Massacre Wurm.
    7. Cast Select for Inspection for {U} and target Tar Pit Warrior (Sophia goes to 5 life).
    8. Cast Fireforger’s Puzzleknot for {G}{G}, dealing one damage to Wild Aesthir (Sophia goes to 3 life).
    9. Tap Elvish Aberration to add {G}{G}{G} to your mana pool.
    10. Activate Fireforger’s Puzzleknot’s ability by filtering {G} to {R} with Prophetic Prism, targeting your opponent (Sophia goes to 2 life).
    11. Use {W} to cast Fragmentize onSky Skiff (which is a creature due to the Tiger's crewing). Sophia loses 2 life and is now at zero life.

    Note that, while you can use Shrewd Negotiation to exchange control of Stocking Tiger instead of Sky Skiff, you wouldn’t be able to Fragmentize the Tiger afterwards — this is because Stocking Tiger has a converted mana cost of five. It’s not too much of a stretch to realize the need for the Sky Skiff from here, though.
    “Think of today's puzzle like a White elephant gift exchange,” Greg Dreher muses.“You unwrap your present and find nothing that will directly win you the game. So you look around the room for something to steal that will win you the game — something like Sophia's Massacre Wurm.”

    “In a dramatic reversal of the usual order of things,” Norman Dean adds,“Dramatic Reversal actually allows us to win this game, rather than being useless!”


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