Tired of hearing about Tooth and Nail yet? I'm sure everyone is, but the list I'm sharing with you today is somewhat different from the traditional, bland, boring, uninspired build.
After scrubbing out hard at PT: Philly, I found myself quite a ways off from a Ratings Q for Nationals. Needing either fifty points (hardly possible outside of a premier event) or a Regionals Top 4, I assembled a pretty typical Tooth and Nail list then asked myself, "For what kind of metagame should I be prepared?" and "What can I do to improve my bad matchups?"
The first answer, according to most internet predictions, included Green-based aggro/control decks (5-Color Control, B/G Death Cloud, Etched Oracle), Mono-Red, Tooth and Nail, Mono-Blue Control, White Weenie and Rats as the major competitive Regionals decks. Although Tooth and Nail had been putting up victories in tournaments left and right, it appeared as though most of the popular decks weren't too concerned for the matchup and cut a lot of corners. Many of the Green-based decks settled on a single Cranial Extraction to fetch with Gifts while Mono-Green Aggro, Rats and White Weenie didn't have many tools to gain any ground. This left only Mono-Blue Control, Mono-Red and the mirror as the matchups to improve.
This matchup is clearly all about speed. As the Tooth player, it is necessary to setup and resolve Tooth before dropping into burn range. This is sometimes difficult as Slith Firewalkers and Zozu set up a fast clock and land destruction spells are as good as Time Walks. Any mana acceleration, Vine Trellis especially, can significantly improve things, but without a reliable way to set up the Urza Tron, especially post board against Sowing Salts, a long term answer is necessary, such as Circle of Protection: Red, Sacred Ground, or the transformational sideboard popularized by Terry Soh.
Versus Mono-Blue Control
Maindeck Bribery combined with Time Walk like effects such as Boomerang, Chrome Mox and Wayfarer's Bauble can make this matchup a nightmare. Even with Boseiju, I found myself losing most game ones of this matchup simply because I couldn't set up Urza Tron and Boseiju in time and would succumb to an army of Stalking Stones and Briberied Kiki-Jiki or Sundering Titans. Post board generally gets even worse as Shifting Boarders, opposing Boseijus or *gulp* Temporal Adept can really wreck my day. A transformational sideboard can help, but even that isn't necessarily very good, as Shackles and a flurry of counterspells are still a headache. Fortunately, Mono-Blue Control has been losing popularity as of late, and the lists sporting Bribery and Adepts have poor matchups against much of the metagame.
Versus Tooth and Nail
I still haven't completely solved this matchup, as things are truly random. The most important spell in the matchup is obviously Tooth and Nail, and if one player draws it and the other doesn't, the game is over. On the other hand, if both players have Tooth and Nail, it is all about who assembles the nine mana first. Clearly then, mana acceleration and mana disruption become the second most important factor. This makes a full set of Reap and Sow and Plow Unders something worthwhile, though many games are still decided by who drew the Tooth.
Versus Everything Else
Oblivion Stone. I can't overemphasize how ridiculous the Stone is against practically every other deck in the format. In most of my builds, prior to my Regionals list, I ran four copies. Due to some anti-synergies, however, I reduced the number to three. Vampire-Triskelion also seems too appear in many lists, but I found this to be unnecessary, as Colossus/Witness (followed by Tooth number two) or Colossus/Kiki-Jiki almost always seals the deal, without adding extra dead/poor draws to this mix.
Game twos can be difficult against many of the Green-based decks that board in several Cranial Extraction. My solution to this was to simply add more expensive cards which can directly win games on their own. Clockwork Dragon was an initial thought, but I went with an extra Sundering Titan and a couple Pentavus instead. Obviously Sundering Titan is complete gas against most decks packing Extraction, but Pentavus is also quite good, as it can attack for four and block four attackers every turn, as long as you are willing to invest some mana.
By now, I'm sure you are curious to see the list, so here goes:
- 1 Darksteel Colossus
- 1 Duplicant
- 1 Sundering Titan
- 3 Eternal Witness
- 4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 3 Vine Trellis
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
I'm sure many of you are asking "If you think MUC is a bad matchup, why are you not playing Boseiju?" Perhaps I'm just a gambler, but I actually had three logical reasons against it. Firstly, as I said earlier, MUC's popularity has been on a steady decline, and I personally didn't feel that it would make up a significant part of the metagame. Secondly, I felt that MUC, in general, would have a tough time against most of the metagame decks, and by round four or five, there wouldn't be any left at the top tables (this turned out to be true at my particular Regional tournament). And finally, I felt that the MUC players who were good enough to worry about, would have so much Tooth hate that a single Boseiju wouldn't even matter.
In hindsight, even though I was not punished for cutting the Boseiju, it is certainly reasonable to include a single copy in the sideboard, simply because it generates such a large effect in this particular matchup, and is, of course, tutorable.
There are two reasons that this card is ridiculous in Tooth and Nail. First, having the ability to jump ahead on mana by an entire turn is insane in a deck that needs little a speed boost. This is especially true against Mono-Red, whose clock is extremely fast, and in the mirror, where being able to resolve the first Reap and Sow or Plow Under generally translates to "game over." The second reason, which is just as important, is that Mox doesn't cost mana. This is obvious, but has very significant implications. When running extra copies of Talisman, Vine Trellis or other mana acceleration, Tooth and Nail is forced to cut spells, rather than land, as it is not sensible to increase the odds of throwing back one land hands. This results in the Tooth and Nail list overburdening itself with mana sources. On the flip side, Chrome Mox allows for mana acceleration, while also counting as a land for purposes of getting to two mana to play Sylvan Scryings and Sakura-Tribe Elders. In the end, with Mox in the deck, Tooth gains very potent mana acceleration, while actually freeing up a couple extra slots.
I actually hate this card everywhere but the mirror match. Sure, every once in a while, you'll play this spell and Time Walk an opponent, but in most matchups, in most situations, Plow Under takes up your entire turn, while your opponent continues to beat your head in with Slith Firewalkers, Troll Ascetics or whatever else. Luckily, in those matchups Plow looks awfully nice imprinted on a Chrome Mox. In the mirror, however, this spell is the god of all disruption and in conjunction with a Tooth and Nail is almost a certain victory. This fact alone is worth the four slots. Of course, on occasion, you'll draw this card after popping an Oblivion Stone, and rub it right in your opponent's eye.
I hate paying ten for a spell that doesn't guarantee victory. In playtesting, at least 75% of the times I activated Mindslaver, it did not affect the outcome of the game. Many times I saw myself controlling a player with an empty hand, only to peel a land, or with just a couple harmless creatures in hand. Of course, every once and awhile Mindslaver is the nut high, single handedly bashing your opponents head in, but for ten mana, that's the bare minimum I require.
Several players told me to play these, but I ignored them. To this day, with well over two hundred games under my belt, I've lost only a single game after resolving Tooth and Nail. On the other hand, drawing either of these cards is mostly terrible, though Triskelion is sometimes not completely the nut-low. Oblivion Stone is usually enough to take care of the creature decks, once you assemble the Urza Tron. Perhaps the largest drawback to omitting Trisk/Vamp from the deck is that you actually have to piece together the win with the correct targets (against aggro, usually some combination of Colossus, Kiki-Jiki and Witness) rather than just fetching up the combo and laughing at your opponent.
Speaking of losing games after resolving Tooth, I actually saw one player this weekend lose a game to White Weenie after resolving Tooth, because he got greedy and fetched up Trisk/Vamp (rather than Colossus/Kiki) only to watch them succumb to Wrath of God. I wouldn't use this as an argument against Trisk/Vamp, but I did find it somewhat amusing.
Many are cutting this as a maindeck card due to Bribery, but I already gave my reasons for ignoring the Mono-Blue matchup. To further defend Darksteel Colossus, fetching Colossus/Kiki is the fastest win condition this deck can muster up, totaling a potential thirty-three damage in two turns. It is essential against creature decks, and a solid utility against everyone else. Furthermore, many games are won on the back of a raw-dogged Colossus. Eleven mana is certainly a hefty price tag, but the beats are usually worth it.
Like I mentioned earlier, I wanted more guys to board in to blunt the effect of Cranial Extraction. Pentavus is likely the best creature, aside from the other creatures already in the deck, to fill this role, as it is able to single handedly dominate a game. Although being a five-turn clock is quite slow, Pentavites are very efficient as they are essentially indestructible walls when blocking, and can attack in the same turn, granted you are willing to pay for it. Even if your opponent removes the Pentavus with Shaman or something of that nature, you'll still have a couple Pentavites remaining. One Eternal Witness later, things will really start to get fun. The only true strike against Pentavus is the fact that it is neutered against Umezawa's Jitte. Fortunately, you have seven ways to deal with Jitte (Stones and Vines), which actually feels more like twenty, in a deck with Sensei's Divining Top.
Is this card good? I actually had three Viridian Shaman in my sideboard as I registered it for Regionals. That is, until someone asked if I had any Rending Vines, and I thought to myself, "2/2 in play, or card in hand?" One dollar later, three Rending Vines were added to my decklist. I boarded these in several times throughout the tournament, but only drew it once (against Rats), and my opponent didn't play an artifact the entire game. If the Mono-Red lists with Jinxed Choker maindeck remain as popular as it was in Florida Regionals, I'll likely switch back to Viridian Shaman, as the 2/2 body is especially important there.
My first tournament with this deck was the night before Regionals, at a 25-man cash Standard tournament in Orlando. My matchups were as follows:
Round 1 - Five-Color Control - Win
Round 2 - Mono-Green Aggro - Win
Round 3 - Tooth and Nail - Intentional Draw
Round 4 - Ponza - Win
Round 5 - Mono-Green Aggro - Win
Quarterfinals - R/G Tooth - Win
Semifinals - Ponza - Win
Finals - Split
Then the next day, at Regionals:
Round 1 - Mono-Green Aggro - Win
Round 2 - Mono-Green Aggro - Win
Round 3 - Mono-Black Rats - Win
Round 4 - Mox and Nail - Win
Round 5 - Tooth and Nail - Win
Round 6 - Four-Color Control - Win
Round 7 - R/G Land-D - Win
Round 8 - White Weenie - Intentional Draw
Round 9 - B/g/u Rats w/Trinket Mage and Shaman - Intentional Draw
Quarterfinals - White Weenie - Win
Semifinals - White Weenie - Win
Finals - Mox and Nail - Loss
The player that I lost to in the finals was the same player I beat in round four. So between our two decks, Mox and Nail went undefeated in matchups which weren't the mirror. That is somewhat impressive taking into account the length of the tournament, and how uncommon the exact archetype was.
Anyhow, I'd definitely recommend giving this list a whirl. I don't think I would make any changes in the list without considering the metagame. Clearly, if Mono-Blue is popular in your area, Boseiju and possibly Choke need to be somewhere in the deck. On the other hand, if Jinxed Choker Red is your likely opponent, Rending Vines should become Viridian Shaman. Overall, however, I don't feel there are any significant flaws in this list, and it is certainly one of the best, if not the best, deck for a typical metagame.
I hope I didn't bore anyone to death with this, generally mind-numbing archetype, but rather that all of you enjoyed reading my thoughts and opinions. If you did, in fact, like this deck, the article, or have an experience with the archetype that you would like to share, I'd love to read about it in the forums. Additionally, I promise to write about something new and creative next time around, so definitely check that out!
Until next time,
keythree AT gmail DOT com