Magic: the Puzzling - A Time Spiral Sneaky Preview

Posted in Feature on September 11, 2006

By Jeff Till

You have already had a week's worth of sneak previews for Time Spiral. Now it's time for something a little different: a sneaky preview. I'm not going to show you the preview card. I'm not even going to hide it in a link at the bottom of the page. You're gonna have to work to see this one!

In this article, you'll find six completely different puzzles, each one of which will reveal different parts of the preview card. Some are easy, and some are not. How many will you be able to solve? Will you need any hints? There's only one way to find out! Good luck, and have fun.

Note: you can solve any part without having to solve any other parts first.

Part I: Card Art and Name

Cart Art:

The first puzzle is about as straightforward as they come. The art for 24 different cards is shown below. Twenty-three of the cards are already in print, and one is totally new. Can you figure out which piece of art has yet to see print?

Card Name:

I'll refer to the card's name as PREVIEW_CARD throughout the article. Why wouldn't I just use the card's actual name? That's for you to figure out! Below are the scrambled up (or rather, more organized) names of 23 Magic cards. The good news is that each card corresponds to one of the pieces of art found in the image above, so the job of unscrambling isn't too tough. The bad news is that I've stuck an extra letter in each anagram. Your mission is to unscramble the words and figure out what the extra letters are. These letters form an anagram for the true name of PREVIEW_CARD.

The task of unscrambling an unknown card name might be a little daunting, especially considering you may not find a couple of the words in a dictionary. Worry not, because if you order the words below in the same way they appear in the image above, everything will sort itself out.

  1. aaceegikmnnrsuz
  2. aaaaabcehlnnostvv
  3. aaabddeillnorruvw
  4. aabdddefiioprrss
  5. aabiiikkmnrrrt
  6. aabeehimnnrs
  7. aabeeghimnnnrrsstu
  8. aacehhhilnoqrsu
  9. ccceeellooooprrrttt
  10. aaaceillmnoopprstttuy
  11. acdeekkmoorrrsss
  12. aacddeeefikmnnooorsty
  13. aaabdeeffghilllnnost
  14. abdeenooprrt
  15. aadfilmrty
  16. aabdgillorsw
  17. aaabdeginrrstu
  18. adggiiiinprstu
  19. bddeeeimmnnoprrss
  20. aceeiklmnorrrw
  21. acgiiiiiimmmnoorrrssvvy
  22. aaaeefglmnost
  23. adeehirrrstvw


When unscrambled, the names of the cards in the list are also in alphabetical order.

Part II: Color and Casting Cost

It's common knowledge that if you take a Glory Seeker and combine it with Serra's Embrace, you end up with a replica Serra Angel. Of course, you're paying six total mana () for your construction, instead of the normal five (), costing you an extra . Luckily, some creatures can be constructed for less than the sum of their parts. For example, Enormous Baloth = Grizzly Bears + Nightmare Lash + 5 Swamps, for a savings of one colorless mana (if you ignore the loss of life required to equip).

Your goal is to construct the following creatures at the greatest savings possible. The total savings is the mana cost of PREVIEW_CARD.

Ramirez_DePietroCreature 1: Lost Soul
Creature 2: Ramirez DePietro
Creature 3: Tunneler Wurm


  1. The creatures' power, toughness, color(s), and abilities must match exactly. Other information, such as creature type, is not important.
  2. All changes must be permanent, so temporary bonuses from cards like Giant Growth, Firebreathing, and Unstable Mutation do not apply. You may use spells or cards that grant bonuses permanently, such as Thrive or Living Armor. Treat counters as part of the creature's base power / toughness.
  3. You may use Equipment, but you must factor in both the casting cost and the equip cost. The same applies to any other activation costs.
  4. A savings of colored mana beats the savings of the same number of colorless mana.
  5. You may only use any card once in this puzzle.

Part III: Rarity

PREVIEW_CARD shares a rarity with the following cards:

  • Aladdin
  • Dancing Scimitar
  • Dragon Engine
  • Ivory Tower
  • Onulet

Part IV: Creature Type

The secret's out. PREVIEW_CARD is a creature. Consider that the only free piece of information you get today. Well, okay, I'll give up a little more. PREVIEW_CARD has 2 creature types in addition to being Legendary.

Creature Type 1:

To find out the first creature type, I've provided five groups below. For each group, you need to find another creature type that combines with each type in the group and can be found on some creature. So for example, if you thought the answer for group 1 was Snake, there would need to be some creature that is a Bird and a Snake, some creature that is a Human and a Snake, some creature that is a Monk and a Snake, etc. Once you have found the five creature types (one for each group), repeat the process on those five types to find the final solution. Sorry, but for this puzzle, pretend that Mistform Ultimus does not exist.

Group 1: Bird, Human, Monk, Thrull, Zombie
Group 2: Beast, Druid, Elf, Plant, Spider
Group 3: Cat, Cleric, Giant, Goblin, Minotaur
Group 4: Avatar, Mercenary, Rogue, Soldier, Warrior
Group 5: Assassin, Insect, Knight, Spirit, Wizard

Creature Type 2:

Mistform_UltimusSince Mistform Ultimus was excluded from the first part of the puzzle, it is only fair that a trivia question based on M.U. will reveal PREVIEW_CARD's second creature type.

Readers of were asked to submit short stories celebrating the day that Mistform Ultimus obtained what creature type?

Part V: Ability

At last we get to the most interesting part of the card: its ability! PREVIEW_CARD's ability is the following:

Whenever you , where X is . When , .

Whenever you , where X is . When , .

All you have to do is guess which is the proper value for each dropdown. There are only 3125 possible choices, so it should be easy. To help you along, I'll provide some hints. For the true puzzle masters out there, only the first 7 hints are required to figure out the ability.

Hint 1:

The word ‘sacrifice' appears on this card exactly once. Note that any hints that refer to words on a card refer to the root word (inflectional root, for the linguists out there). This means that the word ‘sacrifices' might appear exactly once, instead of sacrifice, etc.

Hint 2:

This card does not reference graveyards at all.

Hint 3:

There are 9 words total in the 1st and 3rd dropdowns.

Hint 4:

This card does not reference life at all.

Hint 5:

There is a word in common in the 2nd and 4th dropdowns.

Hint 6:

The word "more" appears on this card, but the word "all" does not.

Hint 7:

If you know what the correct value for dropdown 1 is, then you can determine the value for dropdown 3.

Hint 8:

If there are nothing but lands and PREVIEW_CARD in play and you are at 23 life, casting the following spells will cause PREVIEW_CARD to die: Platinum Angel, Hypnox, PREVIEW_CARD, Draco

Hint 9:

Playing Consult the Necrosages will never trigger PREVIEW_CARD.

Hint 10:

The position of the correct solutions in the dropdowns are (in no particular order): 1, 2, 3, 3, 4.

Part VI: Power and Toughness

Throughout the entire game, you and Pete have done nothing but accumulate a massive number of Enchantments and Land. Finally, this turn you drew the only creature in your deck: PREVIEW_CARD. And you have just enough mana to cast it as well (how lucky). You put PREVIEW_CARD on the stack and begin to do some calculations. It turns out that it has exactly the right power and toughness to kill Pete this turn. One number lower in either stat would not have been enough to end the game. What is PREVIEW_CARD's power and toughness? Assume that the ability of PREVIEW_CARD is irrelevant.

In Play:

You (6 life):
Several Basic Lands (tapped)
Aether Flash
Goblin Bombardment
Lashknife Barrier
Light of Sanction
Powerstone Minefield
2 Seal of Cleansing
2 Serra's Hymn (1 counter each)

Pete (7 life):
Several Basic Lands (tapped)
Aether Flash
Divine Presence
Furnace of Rath
Mass Hysteria
No Mercy
Powerstone Minefield
Seal of Fire

PREVIEW_CARD is on the stack.


Rule 419.9a If two or more replacement or prevention effects are attempting to modify the way an event affects an object or player, the affected object's controller (or its owner if it has no controller) or the affected player chooses one to apply. Then the other effect applies if it is still appropriate.

I hope you had fun with these puzzles. Solutions will be posted Wednesday. And finally, thanks again to my tester, Chris Lau.

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