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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Jan 08 2019 4:11pm
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Cube provides some unusual board states and interactions. Sounds like a perfect premise for some puzzles! These are all designed to be a medium or less level of difficulty, requiring only a basic understanding of the rules and the patience to consider different lines. A knowledge of the current vintage cube cardlist and strategies is helpful but unnecessary.

Do you have what it takes to be Magic's all-time super sleuth?

 

1. The Case of the Midnight Welder

You're greedily eyeing those artifacts in your graveyard, looking for a way to stop your opponent from killing you next turn with their Sphinx of the Steel Wind and/or Tezzeret the Seeker. If only you had a Time Walk this would be so easy! But you don't—so what is your best line?

Opponent's battlefield: Opponent's grave: Your battlefield: Your grave:
lands, mana rocks Mox Sapphire lands, mana rocks Memory Jar
Mindslaver Tinker Dire Fleet Daredevil Myr Battlesphere
Coercive Portal Ancestral Recall Goblin Welder Lightning Greaves
Sphinx of the Steel Wind     Phyrexian Metamorph
Tezzeret the Seeker (at 5)      

The solution, with commentary, is at the bottom.

 

2. The Case of the Missing Mana

If only that XUURR Explosion was the XUUR Invoke the Firemind—you'd have enough mana for lethal! As is, you are one short. What is your best line?

 

Opponent's battlefield: Opponent's library: Your battlefield: Your hand:
lands (all tapped) Lightning Bolt six lands Expansion/Explosion
Oracle of Mul Daya     Chandra, Torch of Defiance
      Wheel of Fortune
      Path to Exile

 

3. The Case of the Uncertain Impulse

Even if you leave a blocker back for your opponent's Hazoret the Fervent next turn, it threatens to burn you out as soon as they untap their lands. You hold your breath, cast Impulse, and study your four choices while slowly asphyxiating. Surely one of these can help you—what is your best line?

Opponent's battlefield: Opponent's grave: Your battlefield: Impulse options:
lands (all tapped) Firebolt lands Timetwister
Hazoret the Fervent Your grave: Goblin Guide Snapcaster Mage
  Flame Slash   Bribery
  Impulse   Time Walk

 

4. The Case of the Moribund Tentacles

All your hopes are riding on the last action card in your deck, the Emrakul, the Promised End you just hardcast. You were confident it was enough, until the mind-controlled turn started and you saw MULTIPLE ways to kill it in your opponent's hand. If they succeed in killing it, you have no chance of winning the game. You're still in the mind-controlled turn, before their regular turn starts. This moment could be the difference between 100 play points and 150. What is your best line?

Opponent's battlefield: Opponent's hand: Your battlefield: Your hand:
9 lands Hostage Taker 13 tapped lands empty
  Bone Shredder Emrakul, the Promised End  
  Mystic Confluence   Your library:
  True-Name Nemesis   1 card, and it's a land
  Terminate    
  Grim Monolith    
  Basalt Monolith    

 

5. Bonus puzzle! The Case of Cotton Rhetoric's Favorite Cards

This one has nothing to do with cube, but it does involve a lot of my dumb pet cards from years past.

Varchild's War-Riders' cumulative upkeep has been accumulating, and your opponent is poised to run you over with Survivor tokens next turn. You also suspect they have a Craterhoof Behemoth in hand, turning their damage from lethal to so lethal not even your Thought Lash can save you—and there are 200 cards in your library. What is your best line?

(This one might seem impossible, but parse through the obtuse text on these archaic cards and you'll see that they're not all as useless as they seem. There is a way to guarantee victory here!)

Opponent's battlefield: Opponent's hand: Your battlefield: Your hand:
8 tapped lands (not pictured) maybe Craterhoof Behemoth Varchild's War-Riders Lord of Tresserhorn
126 survivor tokens   Thought Lash Cyclone
    Illusionary Mask Lich
    Tornado Nova Pentacle
    Mirror Universe Tawnos's Coffin
      Angus Mackenzie

Bonus challenge question: If you don't cast anything, how many cards in your library would you need for Thought Lash to let you live through your next draw step if it currently has 3 age counters and your opponent does have that Craterhoof?

 

— ♦ — Solutions, Commentary — ♦ —

1. The Case of the Midnight Welder

A lot of options here! Let's run through them before picking the best one.

  • Weld your Mana Crypt into a Memory Jar: This gives you a shot at drawing a Lightning Bolt for the win. Fair, but we can do better.
  • Weld your Mana Crypt into a Myr Battlesphere: This would be lethal if we could also get the Lightning Greaves at the same time, but we cannot. This line causes you to lose next turn.
  • Weld your Mana Crypt into a Phyrexian Metamorph, copying the opposing Sphinx of the Steel Wind: This gives you a blocker, but even if the opponent didn't have that Tezzeret the Seeker ultimate ready, it leaves us at the mercy of the opponent's draw step. They might topdeck a bolt. We can do better!
  • Weld your Mana Crypt into a Phyrexian Metamorph, copying the opposing Mindslaver and activating it immediately: This is tempting, but really, what can you do on their turn that leaves you any better than you are right now? You could kill Tezzeret, you could even fix the vote on Coercive Portal, but none of these set you up to win. You are left in a topdeck war—we can do better.
  • Remember that Goblin Welder can, for some reason, hit the opponent's artifacts, turn their Sphinx into a Mox Sapphire, and attack them with your 2/1 for lethal damage: Yes! This is the best line. It causes you to win the game immediately no matter what the opponent has or does.

 Goblin Welder

 

2. The Case of the Missing Mana

  • Explosion can be ignored. We will never get enough mana.
  • Chandra, Torch of Defiance has a chance of +1'ing into a lethal burn spell, but this is unreliable. We can do better!
  • The same is true of Wheel of Fortune. The odds are 7x better but still not good enough.
  • You might think Path to Exile can force your opponent to shuffle away their Bolt, but they can always just choose not to search. (In an otherwise unwinnable game, you might as well try this to see if they mess up, but this game is indeed winnable without relying on an opposing misplay.)
  • Let's look at the other half of Explosion: Expansion! Just wait for your opponent's turn, and when they cast the Bolt, copy it with Expansion. Yours will resolve first and you'll win the game with theirs still on the stack.

 

3. The Case of the Uncertain Impulse

  • Time Walk gives you a chance of drawing something relevant. A very small chance. Skip it.
  • Bribery might get your opponent's Thundermaw Hellkite for the win. It might get you a Dire Fleet Daredevil to use their own Firebolt against them. Or there might be no better creature in their deck than a Jackal Pup with summoning sickness. This likely has better odds of working than Time Walk, but it's still not good enough.
  • Snapcaster Mage to reuse the Impulse gives us four more chances, with one mana left. This might work but is still suboptimal.
  • Snapcaster Mage to reuse Flame Slash is the worst line of all. Hazoret is indestructible and it cannot target the opponent.
  • Timetwister is the best line—not because it lets you see new cards, but because it "turns off" the opponent's Hazoret and lets you immediately attack for lethal.

 

4. The Case of the Moribund Tentacles

  • As you probably identified, both Hostage Taker and Bone Shredder are threats to our Emrakul. Terminate, as an instant, cannot target Emrakul, who has protection from instants.
  • To survive, we must stop both Hostage Taker and Bone Shredder before the opponent's regular turn starts.
  • You might want to just cast the Hostage Taker and Bone Shredder without targets, but neither trigger is optional. They MUST hit a target if one exists.
  • You could drop a mana rock first to divert the Hostage Taker, but there is no nonblack, non-artifact creature available to divert the Shredder.
  • Your next hope might be to waste the Hostage Taker on the Basalt Monolith, cast the Bone Shredder, and then counter it with the Mystic Confluence, but that would require 12 mana, which you don't have.
  • The trick lies in Mystic Confluence's other mode: draw 3 cards. The opponent will then have 9 cards in hand and have to discard 2—the Hostage Taker and Bone Shredder. (This does not guarantee victory, as they might still draw something useful on their regular turn, but it is the only line that does not guarantee loss.)

Mystic Confluence

 

5. The Best Magic Puzzle Ever Created

This one is not as complicated as it seems. You're right that most of the cards in play and in our hand are irrelevant. (Alas, Angus Mackenzie will have summoning sickness on the turn you die.) But what's not irrelevant is this one particular line of text on Varchild's War-Riders: it has Rampage 1. All you need to do is attack, and no matter how many survivors your opponent blocks with, it will be big enough to trample over for 2 points of damage for the win. (Newer players, and even many older players, understandably do not know what Rampage 1 does.)

As to the bonus question:

  • Upon entering, the Craterhoof Behemoth will see 127 creatures including himself and give each +127/+127.
  • We have 126 survivors, each now with 128 points of power, plus the Craterhoof now with 132 points of power.
  • (126*128)+132=16,260 damage coming at us.
  • Varch can block 4 of it, and we're at 7 life. To stay at 1 life, we need to prevent all but ten of the 16,260 damage, meaning we need 16,250 cards to exile...
  • ...plus another 4 to pay for its cumulative upkeep next turn...
  • ...plus 1 more so we don't die on our draw phase. The answer is 16,255. I hope a deck that size doesn't crash the client!

Craterhoof Behemoth

 

Sincerely, Cotton