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What Would Richie Do? Single Card Puzzles
By Oscar Tan aka Rakso
What Would Richie Do?

Over here in the Philippines, we ousted a corrupt president, Joseph Estrada, a few weeks back. While standing there in the street with the rallyists, a concept begun by my classmate Richie Chua was floating in my head, since I had nothing better to do. Having collapsed in bed after submitting an undergraduate Economics thesis on the trade patterns of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation that took three whole days just to encode the raw data for the computer model, I figured I may as well write the stuff down just to avoid thinking about the economy.

The topdeck situation is something Magic players both dread and eagerly look forward to. Nothing is more frustrating to an opponent with a carefully laid out victory path than the topdecked solution. Below is a series of puzzles entitled, “What Would Richie Do?” for reasons that will soon become obvious.

The basic rule is that you have one card in your library -—any Type I legal card -— that you could topdeck to win you the game, and you WILL topdeck it as long as you know what card to wish for. Remember... Type I legal -— no Unglued! And there is a special rule: the card you topdeck must not be in the scenario (for example, if you already have a Sorrow’s Path in play or in hand, you cannot topdeck another).

Richie “Ertai” Chua was my classmate since first grade, is a fellow graduating senior, team captain of our university’s Team Ertai, and is the #1 ranked player of the Philippines. With these qualifications, you’d think that if anyone can topdeck the right card in the last match, he would, right? (Oh, and just to give the opponent a name, Dominic Ortega is Richie’s “best friend” and was also with us in grade school.)

This was the original puzzle posted by Richie to the DCI Philippines e-group:

From: "Chua Richie"
Sent: Monday, January 15, 2001 8:23 AM
Subject: [dci] Magic Riddle!!!!! Answer if you can!!

Hey there Magic people.

In my History class, I thought up a riddle ala Inquest Dead Man's Hand. So here's the case: you are at 1 life and you have 6 lands of each basic land type in play. (30 lands in all). You only have two cards in hand and you must kill your opponent this turn. He is at 218 life, (don't ask me how he got there) and you must kill him by reducing his life to zero! (So no Sliver Queen and Coalition Vistory, Edsel!!)

I asked this question to DJ and Mark, but so I far I have them stumped! To those who I have told the answer (Team Ertai members, Mario, and Eric) don't reply.

Answer when you think you've got it.


(I guessed what the two cards were, and might post the answer along with all the rest some other time. Remember that only Type I legal cards are allowed… no Unglued! And you cannot topdeck cards that are already mentioned in the scenario.)

You are Richie Chua, playing in a sanctioned Type I tournament.

You have three of each basic land in play, along with an Afterlife token that used to be your Morphling. After removing your Timetwister from the game for Force of Will last turn to counter a Lightning Bolt, you are now at 1 life.

The cards remaining in your hand are: Gaea’s Blessing, Time Walk, and Balance. Two turns ago, your entire graveyard was removed from the game, and after looking through the “removed from game” pile, you conclude that you only have Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, The Abyss and one other card in your library.

Your first thought is to hope for your Mirror Universe. Dominic reads your mind and points to the Null Rod he has in play, and tells you it's not going to be so easy. Besides, you left your Mirror at home.

Your impatient opponent, Dominic Ortega, is about to call a judge because he insists he will win the game no matter what you do as soon as he untaps. Dominic is at 1,000 life and has 50 cards in his library. You are in your draw step, and you figure you have to win before your opponent untaps.


(Remember… you may only topdeck Type I legal cards, and only cards that have not already been mentioned in the scenario.)

You are Richie Chua, enjoying a casual game.

Your opponent, Dominic Ortega, stuck some Type I cards into his modified Blue Skies Type II deck, and just tapped nine Islands to cast three Rishadan Airships. He also has a Dingus Egg and an Ankh of Mishra, with nothing else in play or in the graveyard. He has seven cards in hand, but after casting a Duress last turn, you know he is bluffing and is holding seven Islands.

You Scrubland, Swamp and Mishra’s Factory in play, along with a Cursed Scroll and The Rack. In your hand, you have Balance, Seal of Cleansing, two Dark Rituals, Yawgmoth’s Will, Enlightened Tutor, and Vampiric Tutor. There is nothing in your graveyard except for a single Nether Spirit and two Swords to Plowshares.

Dominic is at 26 life (from Swords) and has 30 cards in his library. You are at 9 life and are about to draw the last card in your library.


You are Richie Chua, playing in a casual theme deck tournament in the cafeteria of the Ateneo de Manila University.

You laugh at your opponent, Dominic Ortega, and his Demon deck after he topdecks and plays a Lord of the Pit as his only creature. You stop laughing when he reminds you that he can just take 7 damage next turn and attack you. Dominic has nothing else in play except for 9 Swamps. He smiles mischievously and reveals the lone Diabolic Edict in his hand, and points to his last two untapped Swamps.

You look at the Fork, Goblin Grenade, Chain Lightning, Lightning Bolt, Incinerate, Fireblast, and Price of Progress in your hand. You look at your side of the board, which has five Mountains and three Cities of Brass, and nothing else.

Two turns ago, Dominic played a Word of Command, and you followed his instructions to tap out then cast Demonic Consultation, naming Price of Progress. Because you only had one Price in your library, you have only one card left in it, and have nothing but a single Demonic Consultation in your graveyard. The mana burn you gave yourself and damage from your Cities left you at 1 life.

Dominic is at 23 life (from a Drain Life) and has 40 cards in his library. You are about to draw the last card of your Goblin deck (though you haven’t quite seen the goblins just yet).


You are Richie Chua, playing in a very strange sanctioned Type I tournament where practically every good card in the game was banned.

The special banned list included Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, Time Warp, Timetwister, Time Spiral, Morphling, Mana Drain, Counterspell, Force of Will, Misdirection, Deflection, Mystical Tutor, Braingeyser, Stroke of Genius, Merchant Scroll, Recall, Relearn, Paradigm Shift… everything, even a lot of creatures like Serendib Efreet, Tradewind Rider, and Waterfront Bouncer. Even Air Elemental is banned.

Scratching your head after seeing how the rules gutted your favorite color, you decide to go with a blue deck for the surprise value, and end up with a pile of 40 very obscure blue cards and 20 Islands. (The lengths a guy goes to for his university’s color.)

Your opponent, Dominic Ortega, however, spotted too many loopholes in the bannings for red. You were laughing when he began playing Flare and Zap, but saw how he cycled into a Dwarven Catapult that killed your Merfolk of the Pearl Trident and Flying Men, then into other (relatively) broken cards. Many turns later, you cry out in shock after he taps 11 Mountains and casts Blaze, which was somehow not banned. You cast the only counter the tournament allowed: Memory Lapse.

You untap and take a good look at your hand: Venarian Gold, Reality Twist, Thoughtlash, Psionic Blast, Spiny Starfish, and Psychic Purge. You have nothing but 14 Islands in play, and nothing in your graveyard except for the Memory Lapse. Dominic has nothing else in play, in hand or in his graveyard.

Both of you are at 10 life, but Dominic has 20 cards his library while you are about to draw the last card in your library, and his top card is a Blaze.


You are Richie Chua, playing in a strange format similar to Minimaster that has left with you with a very random (and extremely limited) card pool.

Fortunately, your opponent, Dominic Ortega, is more annoyed with your deck than you are. Two turns ago, you played Psychic Venom on one of his lands and actually dealt damage using Power Sink. Last turn, he cast a Personal Incarnation, and you obliged by enchanting it with Creature Bond, recreating a classic rules dilemma.

Dominic has the Personal Incarnation and six tapped Plains in play. He has nothing else, except a tapped Millstone you can’t believe he opened. He snickers and shows you a Swords to Plowshares, a Balance, and a Serra Angel, then whispers something about collusion.

You, in turn, have three Cities of Brass, a Cursed Rack, The Rack, and Black Vise in play (aside from your Psychic Venom and Creature Bond), nothing in your hand and just a Power Sink in your graveyard. Oh… you also have an Ornithopter, if that helps.

Dominic is at 21 life while you are at 5, and you know it is only a matter of time (you only have 3 cards left in your library). You are about to enter your draw step.


You are Richie Chua, playing in a casual two-man team store tournament with some spare cards.

You spent most of your resources disposing of Mark Hernandez, and now turn to Dominic Ortega, whose Forsaken Wastes is hounding your side. Your partner, Oscar Tan (that’s me), used a Jester’s Cap on Dominic early on, and recently played a Meddling Mage, naming Ghitu Fire. Dominic’s single card in hand is indeed Ghitu Fire, but Oscar will take his next turn after yours and is down to 1 life, and the store rules say that all a player’s permanents are removed from the game when he dies. Dominic has 10 untapped lands and is just waiting.

Mark’s Prosperity-Underworld Dreams-Teferi’s Puzzle Box deck has left you and Oscar with only 1 card each in your libraries. Oscar has nothing but six tapped Islands, four tapped Tundras (after casting the Stroke of Genius that took out Mark in response to his activating his Feldon’s Cane) and the Meddling Mage. You guess that the one card in his hand is his last Force of Will, and that the last card in his library is a useless Morphling. Both of you have nothing in your graveyards.

You have nothing but a Disenchant in your hand, and only City of Brass, Plains and Island in play. Aside from his 8 lands, Dominic has a Parallax Tide (removed your Treetop Village, Faerie Conclave, and Ghitu Encampment) and a Parallax Wave (removed Erhnam Djinn, Serra Angel and Masticore), both with no more fading counters.

Dominic is at 17 life (from his own Forsaken Wastes), and has just used a Feldon’s Cane. You are at 5 life, and Oscar is at 1 life.

It your upkeep, and Dominic plays Abeyance (and shows you the second Ghitu Fire he draws) on you after you resolve the Wastes.


You are Richie Chua, playing in a Friday Night Magic Type I multiplayer tournament.

Expecting a casual game with a few kids, you set aside your signature Pande-burst Type I deck, and read Paul Barclay’s “Full English Breakfast” article with a smile. Unfortunately, you find yourself in a 6-way slugfest, and not quite with kids.

Early into the game, Butch Maniego, the richest player in town, pretty much set the tone by playing all the Moxen from his hand, then casting Balance, forcing everyone to discard their hands and to clear the board.

In his next turn, Butch topdecked and played a Morphling. In addition, he has a Moat, five Moxen, a Black Lotus, a Sol Ring, and five dual lands in play.

Your next opponent, 5-color fanatic DJ Paculio, obviously saved up for the chance to play with five colors in style. Playing an almost exact copy of Jon Finkel’s Invitational Deck, he has a Sol Ring, Mox Ruby, five dual lands, and Library of Alexandria in play. He topdecked a Mystical Tutor and put Obliterate on top of his library while everyone’s hands were empty.

Next in line was Mario Padua, who obviously cashed in on all the foils he raredrafted at the Prerelease side events. He has a Black Lotus and five dual lands in play. He also played a Megrim last turn, and attempted to follow it up with a Tinker (obviously for Memory Jar) this turn, but this was countered by Mark Hernandez’s Mana Drain.

Mark went next, and untapped his five Islands. He plays his topdecked Stasis and took mana burn from the Mana Drain.

Dominic Ortega was your last opponent, and he played an early Mana Flare which raised everyone’s eyebrows. He has Mox Diamond, Mana Vault, Grim Monolith, Voltaic Key, Copy Artifact (copying Voltaic Key), Sol Ring, Tolarian Academy, and five dual lands. He plays his topdecked Candelabra of Tawnos, and his plan suddenly becomes clear.

Frowning, you look at your Volrath’s Shapeshifter, the lone creature on the board. (Actually, it’s a Birds of Paradise, since you have only two Birds in your graveyard.) You also have a Survival of the Fittest, four Tropical Islands, Taiga, and Bayou.

Volrath's Shapeshifter
Cost: 1UU
Color: Blue
Type: Creature - Summon Shapeshifter
Errata: 0/1. ; As long as the top card of your graveyard is a creature card, ~this~ is a copy of that card that has this ability and "{2}: discard a card from your hand." ; {2}: Discard a card from your hand. {Oracle 99/11/01}

You try to remember the contents of your deck, then frown, since the only spells in it were 4 Volrath’s Shapeshifters, 4 Survival of the Fittest, 4 Birds of Paradise, and two dozen different random creatures. Since you were trying to be original, none of those two dozen are Phyrexian Dreadnought, Morphling, Reya, or Flowstone Hellion. You decide to use all two dozen, if you have to, to win the game while everyone’s hands are empty. You draw your card and see that it is a creature (and it’s up to you which one)…


You are Richie Chua, playing in a special tournament where there are points for creative theme decks.

Asking around, you decide to recreate the old Hurkyl’s Recall deck, even though its namesake spell is now restricted. Your deck, unfortunately, stalls and is easy to disrupt, so you put in a few extras.

Your first opponent is Dominic Ortega, and you think he is playing Turboland. Midway into the game, you cast Lobotomy on him, and remove his four Treetop Villages from the game. He then plays a Forest, which you know is the last land in his library, and draws four cards from his four Horns of Greed in play. You hope he did not draw his real “combo”.

Unfortunately for you, he plays Death Pit Offering, then Titania’s Song, then Living Plane, then Simoon, killing all your land. He has nothing in hand, 8 Forests, 9 Islands, and 3 Cities of Brass in play.

You used your Tormod’s Crypt on him in response to Titania’s Song (removing Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, 2 Time Warps, 2 Gaea’s Blessings, and a Scroll Rack), and have no permanents in play. In your graveyard, you have ten dual lands, Black Lotus, five Moxen, Tormod’s Crypt, Mana Crypt, and Lotus Petal. You realize that the Song makes all your artifact mana useless, and the only other mana producers left in your library are your Tolarian Academy and Library of Alexandria. You are in a dilemma, because your Library can only power your Sol Ring and Feldon’s Cane (which are still in the library).

Dominic attacks with his last six lands, but falls out of his seat when you play the three cards in your hand: 2 Elvish Sprit Guides and Tangle. You are both at 20 life, and you have 30 cards in your library, while he still has 20 cards (and he reshuffled 2 Gaea’s Blessings back in right before you used Crypt).

With nothing to untap, you enter your draw step.


You are Richie Chua, passing time with a Type I Coalition Victory deck that was lent to you.

For fun, you slipped in a few of your own spare cards, but now regret it. Your opponent, Dominic Ortega, just played an Enlightened Tutor, for Grinning Totem, and is planning to go for a Coalition Victory in your next turn. Just your luck, he is playing a casual Sliver deck, and plays the last card in his hand, a Sliver Queen. Dominic has 14 dual lands in play, and taps the last 8 to play two Heart and two Winged Slivers.

You block the Queen with your Rainbow Crow, and trade your a Dream Thrush for the a Winged Sliver. You have two Rishadan Ports in play, and another Rainbow Crow, Tidal Visionary, Sway of Illusion, Lotus Petal, Lotus Vale, Black Lotus, and Lion’s Eye Diamond in your hand. In your graveyard, you have Drain Life, Coalition Victory, Yawgmoth’s Will, Yawgmoth’s Agenda, Yawgmoth’s Bargain, Regrowth, Ancestral Recall, Fact or Fiction and the Dream Thrush.

You have exactly three cards in your library, and you know that the two bottom cards are Coalition Victories. You are at 1 life, and your opponent is at 69 life, with 40 cards in his library. It is now the beginning of your upkeep.


You are Richie Chua, and have borrowed an 8-year old’s Type I deck while waiting for the next round of a Sealed tournament to start.

You find yourself in the unenviable situation of facing off against Dominic Ortega, who borrowed the 8-year old’s friend’s deck just to play against you. His deck’s theme is “steal everything,” something you admit you always wanted to do.

Dominic is now beginning his main phase. On his side of the board, he has your Propaganda enchanted by his Steal Enchantment, another of your Propagandas enchanted by his Confiscate, your Ivory Tower enchanted by his Steal Artifact, your Gwendlyn Di Corci (a red/black/blue legend) enchanted by his Control Magic and your Molimo enchanted by his Treachery.

He taps four Islands and four Swamps, plays Phyrexian Infiltrator, and swaps it for your Ruham Djinn, which was enchanted with his Exotic Curse and your Mystic Veil. He then taps a City of Brass and 2 more Islands, and plays Spirit of Resistance. Finally, he taps his last 3 Islands and plays Political Trickery, giving you a newly played Glacial Chasm and taking your untapped Badlands.

You’re supposed to be playing an all Legends deck, but the concept is just not working. On your side of the table (or what is left), you have Sword of the Chosen, Ice Cauldron, Sylvan Library, Soothsaying and Trade Routes. You also have an Ertai, Wizard Adept. And, of course, you have Dominic’s Phyrexian Infiltrator.

The lands are the fun part. You have a Tundra, Savannah, and Brushland in play. You also have Maze of Ith, City of Shadows (no counters), and Halls of Mist (newly played). However, you also have Adventurer’s Guildhouse, Cathedral of Serra, Mountain Stronghold, Seafarer’s Quay, Unholy Citadel, whatever good they might be. And, Dominic’s Glacial Chasm.

Dominic is down to 5 life, and you are down to 4. Dominic has no cards in his hand or in his graveyard, but he still has 20 cards in his library. You have no cards in your graveyard, and are down to the last card in your library. It happens to be something that got mixed in with the kid’s deck from your trade binder, however, so you know what it is.

You have nothing in your hand except for Drain Life, Earthquake and Hurricane. You take another quick look at Spirit of Resistance.

A small crowd of grade school kids (and their curious parents) have clustered behind Dominic, clearly enjoying the idea of stealing the opponent’s cards. Your opponent obliges by telling everyone how he needs a real opponent as he waits for your next move. It is now the beginning of your upkeep, and you look your opponent in the eye and smile.


Oscar Tan
Manila, Philippines
Rakso, Type I Maintainer,
Official ringer of Team Ertai of the Ateneo de Manila University

Read More Articles by Oscar Tan aka Rakso!

 - Wednesday (July 18. 2018)
 - Thursday (May 17, 2018)
 - Tuesday (Aprl. 24, 2018
 - Monday (Apr. 16, 2018)
 - Friday (Apr. 6, 2018)
 - Wednesday (Apr. 4, 2018)
 - Monday (Apr. 2, 2018)
 - Friday (Mar. 23, 2018)
 - Thursday (Feb. 15, 2018)
 - Thursday (Jan 25, 2018)

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