Mana Maze: The Puzzling

Posted in Feature on August 29, 2012

By Monty Ashley

Yesterday, we looked at Mana Maze Solitaire, a solitaire variant of Magic developed by Mark Rosewater in 1995. Today, we have a puzzle based on those rules!

Remember, the rules of Mana Maze Solitaire are based on the rules of Magic in 1995, which means that mana burn is a thing that will kill you. Here we go! Take it away, 1995 Mark Rosewater!

Your opponent Having some time on your hands, you've decided to play a game of Mana Maze, a Magic solitaire variant. You've chosen to use a sixty-four card deck with an 8x8 open-hand layout. You start the game with one life point and you've made it your goal to destroy the Leviathan. Good luck!

Mana Flare Dark Heart of the Wood Exorcist Leviathan Blue Mana Battery Volcanic Island Psionic Entity Apprentice Wizard
Serra Angel Divine Offering Mana Vault Raging River Psionic Blast Black Lotus Banshee Tundra
Shatter Gaea's Touch Desert Craw Giant Plains Bayou Desert Twister Xenic Poltergeist
Grizzly Bears Celestial Prism Elves of Deep Shadow Fire Sprites Dark Ritual Al-abara's Carpet Sol Ring Coal Golem
Twiddle Llanowar Elves Mana Matrix Paralyze Su-Chi Taiga Fissure Mox Sapphire
Psychic Purge Bronze Horse Tranquility Stone Calendar Dingus Egg Ashes to Ashes Lightning Bolt Crumble
City of Brass Mountain Sisters of the Flame Healing Salve Island Badlands Conversion Princess Lucrezia
Merfolk of the Pearl Trident Birds of Paradise Prodigal Sorcerer Frost Giant Air Elemental Red Elemental Blast Unsummon Lifetap

(Start at this side)


by Mark Rosewater

The object of this puzzle is to destroy the Leviathan, that 10/10 menace in the top row. So where do we start? Unlike the traditional Magic puzzles, Mana Maze Solitaire puzzles are a little easier to jump into, because there are a smaller number of first moves. First, we check out what mana we have available. Only Birds of Paradise (for one mana of any color) is in play, but a significant amount of mana is available in the second row (City of Brass, Mountain, Sisters of the Flame, Island, Badlands, and Princess Lucrezia).

Next, we see what we can quickly clear out of the puzzle to get to the mana. We could use the Birds to either Red Elemental Blast or Unsummon something, but the Prodigal Sorcerer lets us eliminate two cards at once (itself and the Merfolk) without using mana. So:

1) Tap the Prodigal Sorcerer to destroy the Merfolk. This uncovers the Sisters of the Flame, which we can turn into a red mana. The only red spell in the first two rows is a Red Elemental Blast, so we might as well use it. The Air Elemental seems the obvious recipient, because we will want to use the Unsummon, and the Lifetap can be taken care of by the Tranquility we just exposed.

2) Tap Sisters of the Flame to add one red mana to your mana pool. Use the red mana to cast Red Elemental Blast and destroy the Air Elemental. Once we expose the Badlands, we need to tap it for a red mana. We do this now for three reasons. First, we need it for the Lightning Bolt in the third row. Second, if we wait until Conversion is in play, we won't be able to get the red out of it we need. And third, if we wait too long, we'll suffer damage from the Dingus Egg.

3) Tap Badlands to add one red mana to the pool. We know we want to use the Tranquility. Unfortunately, the only green mana available is the City of Brass, and tapping it will deal us 1 damage. As we start with only 1 life, this means we will have to gain more life before we can use the City. To do that we need to cast the Healing Salve.

4) Tap Birds of Paradise to add one blue mana to the mana pool. Use the blue mana to cast Unsummon to return Frost Giant to your hand.

5) Tap the Mountain to add one white mana to your pool (due to Conversion). Use the white mana to cast Healing Salve. Life Total is now 4. Thanks to the exposed Stone Calendar, we only need tap one other land (Island) to cast Tranquility.

6) Tap City of Brass and the Island to add one green mana and one blue mana to your mana pool. Tapping City of Brass inflicts 1 point of damage. Life Total is now 3. Use the green and blue mana to cast Tranquility, destroying Conversion and Lifetap. Now we tap the Princess. The next move is pretty obvious because we only have two mana, two spells we can cast, and one appropriate target. The only important thing to remember is that we have to tap Princess Lucrezia before we Lightning Bolt the Bronze Horse, as the damage is reduced to zero if she's still in play.

7) Tap Princess Lucrezia to add one blue mana to the pool. Use the red mana from step 3 to cast Lightning Bolt at the Bronze Horse. Use the blue mana to cast Psychic Purge on the Horse, destroying it. After we finish off the Horse, we free up only one source of mana, the Llanowar Elves. Tapping it, we then Crumble the artifact in play of our choise. The Dingus Egg gets elected simply because we still need the Stone Calendar, Mana Matrix, and Celestial Prism. (And we even get 4 life for our trouble)

8) Tap Llanowar Elves to add one green mana to the pool. Use the green mana to cast Crumble on the Dingus Egg, destroying it. Gain 4 life. Life total is now 7. Using the same reasoning, we then use the Mox and Twiddle to rid us of the Su-Chi.

9) Tap the Mox Sapphire to add one blue mana to the pool. Use the blue mana to cast Twiddle on Su-Chi, tapping (and destroying) it. Su-Chi adds four colorless mana to the pool when it goes to the graveyard. We then sacrifice the Coal Golem to turn three colorless mana to red, which we use right away to Fissure the Grizzly Bears and Shatter the Stone Calendar (at a reduced casting cost—the reason we kept the Calendar and Matrix around).

10) Use three colorless mana and sacrifice the Coal Golem to add three red mana to the pool. Use two red mana to cast Fissure on the Grizzly Bears, destroying it. Use the remaining red mana to cast Shatter on the Stone Calendar, destroying it. One colorless mana remains in the mana pool. Now we must get at some mana sources, and also move up thw row toward our target, the Leviathan. We set our sights on Xenic Poltergeist, Mana Matrix, and Paralyze.

11) Tap Sol Ring to add two colorless mana to the pool. Use two colorless mana to activate and tap Celestial Prism to add one black mana to the pool. Tap Xenic Poltergeist to animate Mana Matrix. Use the black mana to cast Paralyze on animated Mana Matrix, tapping (and destroying) it. Now we want to get the Mana Flare into play, but getting the Craw Giant and Serra Angel out of the way will cost a lot of mana and (because we do it using Ashes to Ashes) a lot of life.

12) Sacrifice Gaea's Touch to add two green mana to the pool. Use one green mana and tap Fire Sprites to add one red mana to the pool. The pool now has one green, one red, and one colorless mana in it.

13) Tap Elves of Deep Shadow to add one black mana to the pool. Take 1 damage for tapping the Elves. Life total is now 6. Use the black mana to cast Dark Ritual and add three black mana to the pool. Use two black and one colorless mana to cast Ashes to Ashes and destroy the Craw Giant and Serra Angel (bringing Mana Flare into play). Suffer 5 damage for casting Ashes to Ashes. Life Total is now 1. One black, one green, and one red mana remain in the pool. We get more mana by tapping the Desert, Plains, and Taiga, which we use to rid ourselves of Raging River and Al-abara's Carpet. The first is done to get the Leviathan into play (so that we can destroy it), the second to get us much-needed life.

14) Tap Taiga, Plains, and Desert to add two green, two white, and two colorless mana to the pool (increased because of Mana Flare). Use three green, two colorless, and one red mana to cast Desert Twister and destroy Raging River. Use two white mana to cast Divine Offering on Al-Abara's Carpet, destroying it. Gain 5 life to raise life total to 6. One black mana remains in the pool. Given that the spells we have to take down the Leviathan, Psionic Blast and Banshee, will damage us in the process, we will need even more life.

15) Sacrifice Bayou to Dark Heart of the Wood. Gain 3 life, raising total to 9. No one card that we have can do 10 damage by itself, so we have to defeat the Leviathan in stages. First, we get the mana available from Tundra, Apprentice Wizard, Mana Vault, and Black Lotus. (We don't tap the Volcanic Island because we don't need the mana and don't want the mana burn at the end of the game).

16) Tap Tundra to add two blue mana to the pool. Use one blue mana and tap Apprentice Wizard to add three colorless mana to the pool. Use one blue and two colorless mana to cast Psionic Blast on Leviathan, doing 4 damage. Suffer 2 damage from Psionic Blast. Life Total is now 7. One black and one colorless mana remain in the pool.

17) Tap Black Lotus and Mana Vault to add three blue mana and three colorless mana to the pool. Use all eight mana in the pool (one black, three blue, four colorless) and tap Banshee to do 4 damage to Leviathan. Suffer 4 damage from Banshee as well. Life total is now 3. Although we could do more than 4 damage with the Banshee, four is all we need. Now, the coup de grace.

18) Tap Psionic Entity to do 2 points of damage to Leviathan. This brings the damage on the Leviathan to 10, destroying it.

19) Clear mana pool. No mana is in the pool and so there is no mana burn. Win with a final life total of 3.

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