Dead Man's Hand: A Puzzle with Allies and Eldrazi

Posted in GRAND PRIX LYON 2015 on October 31, 2015

By Frank Karsten

In this puzzle, you will be taking the role of an Allies player in a game of Battle for Zendikar Limited. Things haven't been going well for you so far: your key threats were destroyed by your opponent, who subsequently cast an Ondu Rising to go up to 35 life and was able to get two mythic Eldrazi down on the battlefield. Last turn, Ulamog took a big bite out of your library, which means that you'll lose to decking after the next attack. What's more, Void Winnower is preventing you from casting spells with even converted mana costs and is ready to block your biggest attacker.

It is your first main phase, and you've just drawn a Swamp. Can you set up a sequence of plays that allows you to win this turn?

Before you start to solve this puzzle, take a stopwatch, time yourself, and see if you can do it faster than Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy. Lévy will be bringing you all the GP Lyon action on from the video commentary booth this weekend, but he took the trophy at Grand Prix Madison (which was also Battle for Zendikar Limited) a few weeks ago.

Raphaël Lévy

I approached him with a print-out of this game state in hand; provided him with pen, paper, and an abacus; and he went to work.

Lévy initially looked at lines that involved killing Void Winnower with double Outnumber, but no matter what he tried, he could only get up to 34 damage. Of course, that is exactly how I set up this puzzle. I'm evil like that.

Lévy then wasted a bunch of time with the incorrect assumption that Ally Encampment could bring back an Ally from the graveyard, but he eventually discovered that it didn't quite work like Haven of the Spirit Dragon—you can only bounce creatures that are on the battlefield. "You've just had your fourth slow play warning," fellow commentator Thoralf Severin remarked.

Eventually, 24 minutes after he started, Lévy managed to find the correct solution. Here it is:

  1. Tap Beastcaller Savant to add one white mana to your mana pool.
  2. Tap Mountain and cast Outnumber on your own Beastcaller Savant.
  3. Play Swamp, triggering Retreat to Emeria to put a 1/1 Kor Ally creature token onto the battlefield.
  4. Tap Swamp, Plains, and three Forests to cast March from the Tomb, returning Tajuru Warcaller and Beastcaller Savant.
  5. Receive two Tajuru Warcaller triggers.

Afterward, your board state is as follows. Remember that the opponent still has an untapped Void Winnower in play, so you can't play spells with even converted mana costs.

  1. Tap Plains and tap, sacrifice Ally Encampment to return Makindi Patrol to your hand.
  2. Tap Forest and Mountain, and along with the white mana that’s still in your pool, recast Makindi Patrol. Get another Tajuru Warcaller trigger.
  3. Attack with a 9-power Chasm Guide, a 9-power Kor Castigator, an 8-power Tajuru Warcaller, a 7-power Kor Ally token, a 7-power Beastcaller Savant, and a 4-power Makindi Patrol.
  4. The best your opponent can do is to block your Chasm Guide, so they’ll take 35 damage, which is lethal!

Casting Outnumber on your own creature is an unusual play, but when Eldrazi are besieging your plane, you sometimes have to jump through strange hoops to maximize your rally triggers. Take that, Ulamog!