Since the last installment was a success, today I have three more “How to win?” puzzles for you that deal with a common theme. In all three cases, it’s your main phase, and there is an easy way for you to win the game this turn. Can you find it?

Scenario #1

You are playing a game of Standard, and your opponent is at 5 life. They control no nonland permanents and are tapped out. You control Goblin Chainwhirler, Soul-Scar Mage, and four Mountain. In hand, you hold Abrade, Pia Nalaar, and Hazoret the Fervent. How can you win the game this turn?

Solution

Attack with both creatures. Resolve first strike damage, putting your opponent down to 2 life. After first strike damage has resolved but before regular damage, cast Abrade on your own Goblin Chainwhirler, triggering the prowess ability on Soul-Scar Mage. Then move to regular damage to deal the final 2 points of damage.

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Scenario #2

You are in a Modern Masters 2015 Draft, and your opponent is at 18 life. They control no nonland permanents and are tapped out. You control Dragonsoul Knight, Ghostly Changeling, Bloodthrone Vampire, Cathodion, Darksteel Axe, Cranial Plating, three Swamp, and two Mountain. The Equipment cards are currently unattached, and you have no cards in hand. How can you win the game this turn?

Solution

Tap two Mountain and one Swamp to equip Darksteel Axe and Cranial Plating to Dragonsoul Knight. Attack with all creatures. Resolve first strike damage, putting your opponent down to 11 life. After first strike damage has resolved but before regular damage, tap two Swamp to equip Cranial Plating to Cathodion. Moreover, sacrifice Dragonsoul Knight to Bloodthrone Vampire. Then move to regular damage: 2 from Ghostly Changeling, 3 from Bloodthrone Vampire, and 6 from Cathodion is exactly lethal.

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Scenario #3

You’re playing a game of Legacy, and your opponent is at 12 life. They control a Lodestone Golem as a potential blocker, but they’re tapped out beyond that. You control Mirran CrusaderThalia, Guardian of Thraben, an unattached Umezawa’s Jitte with one charge counter, two Plateau, and two Savannah. In hand you hold Fling and Prey Upon. (Someone told you these cards were sweet tech against Cabal Therapy because “they’ll never expect it,” and you were silly enough to adopt them without question.) How can you win the game this turn, regardless of how your opponent chooses their blocks?

Solution

Tap two Savannah to attach Umezawa’s Jitte to Mirran Crusader. Attack with both creatures. If your opponent blocks Thalia, then pump Mirran Crusader to a 4/4 before first strike, then to an 8/8 before regular damage and win. If your opponent blocks Mirran Crusader, then let first strike damage resolve. Thalia puts your opponent down to 10 life, and your Jitte will amass two extra charge counters. Then, remove all three counters to turn Mirran Crusader into an 8/8. Lodestone Golem dies, and Jitte will amass two more charge counters. Remove one of those counters to kill your own Thalia, then remove a counter to turn Mirran Crusader into a 10/10. Finally, tap two Plateau to Fling your opponent for lethal.

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The Takeaway

These scenarios reveal the potential for instant-speed spells and abilities after first strike damage but before regular damage. It is perfectly legal to play cards or activate abilities in between, and doing so can be invaluable when you have cards or combinations or cards (like Abrade + Goblin Chainwhirler, Cranial Plating + Dragonsoul Knight, or Umezawa’s Jitte + Mirran Crusader in the examples) that can contribute something for both first strike and regular damage.

These situations don’t happen often, but recognizing these patterns can be the difference between winning and losing.