Magic: the Puzzling, Dissension Edition

Posted in Feature on June 5, 2006

By Jeff Till

Puzzle 1:

Goal: Win this turn. It is your first main phase.

In Play:

You (7 life):
7 Forest
6 Island
Pillar of the Paruns
2 Simic Growth Chamber
Helium Squirter (with 1 counters), equipped with Umezawa's Jitte (3 counters)
Izzet Guildmage
Novijen Sages (with 3 counters)
Vigean Graftmage (1 counter)

Rosa P (3 life):
6 Island (5 tapped)
5 Plains (4 tapped)
Azorius Guildmage
2 Court Hussar
Isperia the Inscrutable
Lantern Kami
Paladin of Prahv
Pithing Needle (naming Evolution Vat)
Privileged Position
Soulsworn Jury
Stoic Ephemera

Your Hand:
Commune with Nature
Evolution Vat
Govern the Guildless

Cards in Library (in order):
Assault Zeppelid
Simic Guildmage
Sprouting Phytohydra
Biomantic Mastery
Cytospawn Shambler
Leafdrake Roost
Momir Vig, Simic Visionary
Patagia Viper

No relevant cards in Rosa P's hand or either graveyard.

In case you hadn't noticed, this is Magic: the Puzzling, Dissension edition. In the spirit of dissent, we're going to do things a little differently this time around. You'll notice that in the first puzzle I did not provide any kind of background information for the puzzle. That was no accident. It's time to shake up the status quo. A lot of people think that all of the puzzles should follow the same format. Clearly, I dissent.

Puzzle 2:
(I dissent by not using the normal Standard format for the puzzles, opting for pack wars instead.)

You are playing a game of pack wars with your friend Barbara B. The rules of the pack war are that you each open one pack of Dissension and draw your 7 cards. You may play any card facedown as a land that can produce any color of mana in the card's casting cost (so your Rakdos Augermage can produce or , for example). When a facedown card leaves play, it reverts to its original card. Players do not lose from decking. As commonly happens in these types of games, you are at a bit of a standstill, with neither player able to mount an offense, and no cards left in either library. Until, that is, Barbara reveals her rare: Pride of the Clouds. It looks pretty hopeless, since the swarm of birds will overrun your lone Hussar. Is there a way to win this game? What is the minimum life you'd need?

In Play:

You (?? life):
Beacon Hawk (as land)
Rakdos Augermage (as land)
Shielding Plax (as land)
Street Savvy (as land)
Azorius Signet
Ragamuffyn (enchanted with Plumes of Peace)
Sky Hussar

Barbara B (10 life):
2 1/1 white and blue Bird creature tokens with flying.
Aurora Eidolon (as land, tapped)
Azorius First-Wing (as land, tapped)
Gobhobbler Rats (as land, tapped)
Palliation Accord (as land, tapped)
Vigean Hydropon (as land)
Simic Signet

Your Hand:
Crypt Champion
Simic Growth Chamber
Valor Made Real

Your Graveyard:
Assault Zeppelid
Court Hussar
Ocular Halo
Simic Ragworm

Barbara has only Pride of the Clouds in hand, and no relevant cards in her graveyard.

Puzzle 3:
(I dissent by not even referencing a game of Magic.)

Your hard work as a Simic engineer finally paid off. After spending countless hours in the lab, and even more writing up reports, one of your proposals was finally accepted. Your research idea is to create the largest creature possible, using all the tools at your disposal. Looking in the cages, you see that you have exactly one of each creature with Graft. And luckily, your grant was approved with unlimited funding (or in this case, mana). So you put your head down and begin to think. Exactly how large of a creature can you build?

Control Group:
With unlimited mana, and one of each Graft creature ready for summoning (i.e. in your hand), what is the greatest power/toughness you can have on one single creature?

Main Experiment:
Same as the control group, but start with a Doubling Season in play.

Future Study:
Same as the main experiment, but your friend down the hall is going to let you borrow an Experiment Kraj as well.

For reference, the list of graft creatures is:

Extra challenge for math nerds:
Assume you have some number creatures, each with graft, exactly one of which is Cytoplast Root-Kin. Derive a formula for the largest creature you could generate in each of the experiments above, assuming that:

  1. You have n creatures, plus Cytoplast Root-Kin.
  2. Creature i has Graft G. (G 0, i=1..n)

Your mix of creatures can be arranged such that no creature will run out of counters by grafting onto another creature.

Puzzle 4:
(I dissent by not asking you to win the game, or nor even telling you about any opponent.)

Autochthon Wurm
It is the beginning of your turn. You have some number of cards left in your library, and they are all from the Dissension set. In play, you have only a Witch-Maw Nephilim (with no counters), and some number of basic lands, all untapped. Your hand contains only Autochthon Wurm, your graveyard is empty, and you are at 12 life. By the end of your first main phase, you have the same number of cards in your library and graveyard as you did before, you are at the same life, and your hand is empty. Your board position is identical to what it was at the beginning of the turn, with one exception: the card Autochthon Wurm is in play. How did this happen?


  1. You always choose to put counters on the Nephilim when you play a spell.
  2. Assume you are playing in a Standard tournament.
  3. None of your opponent's cards are relevant.
  4. Whenever the order of the cards in your deck would be random (after a shuffle, for example), you may choose the order of the cards in your deck.
  5. “Your board position is identical” means that your lands are untapped, Witch-Maw Nephilim has no counters, and nothing else is in play.
  6. There are multiple solutions. The fewer the number of basic land in play, the better the solution. I will post the number of lands I needed on Tuesday in the forums.

Bonus Puzzle (and subtle hint):
If you were instead playing in a Vintage tournament, what is the minimum number of basic lands you'd need?

Puzzle 5:
(I dissent by not telling you which player you are.)

You and your friend Patrick H were playing an extremely intense game of Magic. As the tension grew thicker you stared each other down, seeing who would blink first. Meanwhile, goofy Pete saw the two of you locked in a dead gaze, and could not help conking your heads together. The television cliché held, and you both woke up on the floor, with amnesia. You could both agree Patrick was just about to untap and take his turn, but you had no idea who was playing each deck. To help jog your memories, you both looked at each other's hand and the top few cards of each library (Hidetsugu's Second Rite, Lava Spike, and Boiling Seas for player A and all basic lands for player B), but it was to no avail. You are about to agree to conclude the game as a draw, but Pete mentions that a draw is unnecessary. Who is going to win this game?

Player A: (11 life)

In Play:
3 Rakdos Carnarium (tapped)
3 Swamp (tapped)
4 Mountain (tapped)
Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace
Avatar of Discord (Enchanted with Riot Spikes)
4 Enemy of the Guildpact
Anthem of Rakdos
Muse Vessel (with nothing removed)
Rakdos Ickspitter
Stormscale Anarch (tapped)

In Hand:
Wrecking Ball

Player B: (44 life)

In Play:
3 Forest
2 Simic Growth Chamber
Azorius Chancery (tapped)
Swamp (tapped, enchanted with Annex)
Simic Guildmage (with a +1/+1 counter)
Cytospawn Shambler (5 +1/+1 counters, enchanted with Shielding Plax)
Absolver Thrull (enchanted with Beastmaster's Magemark)
Rakdos Ickspitter (tapped, enchanted with Dream Leash, but owned by player A)
Underworld Dreams

In Hand:
Govern the Guildless

I'd like to thank my new tester, Chris Lau, without whom this set of puzzles would not be possible. I'd also like to acknowledge Malcolm Kim for teaching me about the pack wars format used in puzzle 2. Good luck on the puzzles. Solutions will be posted Wednesday.

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