All Things Tooth and Nail – PTQ Columbus *10th Place*

So last week John wrote about the theory and build of what he feels is the optimal version of Tooth and Nail. This week he took it for a spin in the real world, and came oh so close to qualification.

[Editor’s Note: The theory and deck discussion for this deck was posted last week. These are John Matthew’s results from playing the deck.]

I built the deck the night before the tournament with the exception of a couple of chase rares and some commons like Reap and Sow. I shuffled it up and goldfished it about twenty times so I could get a feel for what kind of plays I could expect out of it; however, I didn’t test it against any actual decks. I mean, I took the deck that won English Nationals and made it better, right?

The tournament was in Rockville, Maryland, and I made it there without getting lost once! BOOyakasha!* I ran around for a little while trying to get the final cards for my deck and meeting a few people. There were tons of Tooth decks: Mono-Green, G/u, and some weirder versions. I knew I would face the mirror a lot and changed my sideboard to contain a couple of extra Duplicants, which was a mistake. I should have added another Creeping Mold and maybe some Bottle Gnomes, as these would be much more effective at curtailing opponents going broken. After getting everything together and shuffling well, they posted pairings.

Round One – The only person whose name I didn’t get – U/W Control

As I said above, I hadn’t done any testing whatsoever with my deck. I do keep up on my Magic literature, however, and I could rattle off the contents of all the tier one decks within five cards or so. I knew counterspells were bad, but I had no cause to fear Condescend because of the ridiculous mana acceleration contained in my deck. I figured that if the control player knew what they were doing they would try to counter my acceleration; if I managed to entwine a Tooth, the game was mine.

First game, I mulligan, but he gets stuck on three mana for the longest time. He managed to Annul one of my Wayfarer’s Baubles and possibly a Jens, but he couldn’t draw what he needed while I accelerated. I managed to play and activate a Mindslaver while he was still at three mana; I cast his Thirst, discarded his land and a Last Word, then discarded another Last Word at the end of his turn. On my next turn, Eternal Witness let me Mindslaver him again. Mindslaver rules in the deck, since at worst, it’s a ten-mana Time Walk; if they’re tapped out, there is no way you can lose on the next turn, so you have tons more time to plan an appropriate win condition or ruin him with his own deck. When he finally got another turn, he drew and played his fourth land and cast a Solemn Simulacrum, tapping out. On my turn I entwined Tooth and Nail for Darksteel Colossus and Bringer of the White Dawn. He couldn’t kill it, so he scooped.

Sideboard: -2 Tel-Jilad Justice, -1 Duplicant, +3 Creeping Mold

Game two, he’s not missing any land drops and we are both slowly building up. He’s got plenty of mana and I am doing nothing because I need to out-mana him so I can out-spell him in a single turn. He taps out for Pristine Angel, but I don’t have any”I win!” cards, accelerating instead. Eventually, I have five cards in hand including two Eternal Witnesses and it’s go time. I play an Oblivion Stone, which he Vexes. I play something else that gets Vexed. I Witness the O-stone and play it again. It gets through, so I figure he’s out of counters. He beats me down to around eight with Pristine Angel before I Mindslaver him, casting his own Solar Tide to kill his Angel. Next turn I play another Mindslaver that I drew off a Vex. Next turn I Witness and Slaver him again. I never even cast Tooth, I just Slaver him and beat down with two-power wankers.

Games: 2-0

Matches: 1-0

Round Two – Anthony Iapellizzieri – G/u Tooth and Nail

Bleh, the semi-mirror match. I figured I would lose because he has the same game-crushing explosiveness that I have, except that he has counters for my good stuff. His build featured Serum Visions, Condescend, and Last Word.

Game one, I mulligan. Next hand is good. We both use a quick Bauble, but he is much slower than I am developing his mana due to a lack of Cloudposts. He Viridian Shaman’s my Simulacrum, but I don’t really care because he’s done his job. Next turn I play Mindslaver (that I’ve had in my hand the whole game) and he commences with complaints that I am a lucksack. On his turn, he plays a Sylvan Scrying to get a Cloudpost then taps out for Viridian Shaman on my Mindslaver. On my turn, I entwine Tooth and Nail (that I had since my second turn) for BWD and Colossus, figuring that he probably only runs a single Duplicant maindeck; he’ll have to take out BWD or it’s game over, and I’ll still have a big trampling monster for him to deal with. He scoops, and complains more about how lucky it was that I topdecked Tooth. I’m about to tell him,”If that makes it easier for you to deal with losing, go ahead and believe that,” but I decided to keep my mouth shut. Trash talk isn’t my game.

Sideboard: My notes are non-existent, but I know I went -2 Tel-Jilad Justice and some other stuff to put in +3 Creeping Mold and a Duplicant.

Game two, we do nothing of consequence in the early turns except play mana and Jenseses. I have plenty of Green so I take the opportunity to pull out both Plains from the deck. I’m sitting on some goodies but I’m waiting for him to make the first move; with no testing under my belt, I perceive that the correct play in the mirror (especially after siding in extra Duplicant) is to wait for him to Tooth or otherwise tap out and then react accordingly (think toolbox theory) – I also have a Tooth in my hand so I’m comfortable just chillin’. He goes for the entwined Tooth and pulls out Leonin Abunas and Memnarch.

I was all set to entwine out some good stuff of my own, but I draw Slaver and that’s even better. Its activation is followed by another stream of”lucksack” vitriol; I guess I did topdeck it, but I had plenty of options either way. On his/our turn, he’s got Platinum Angel in hand and rips a Tooth and Nail, which I entwine; he’s like yeah, you Tooth for nothing to waste my card, it’s your turn. Uhh, not exactly – I take the opportunity to look through his entire deck and get some good information (i.e., no Duplicants, only one Colossus, only one or two Mindslaver) to help me sideboard.

I pull out a Viridian Shaman to kill his Memnarch, tap him out and pass the turn. On my turn I use the two Plains I had pulled out to hard-cast BWD. My opponent is pissed, or rather, more pissed. On his turn, he casts Thirst for Knowledge, but even if he drew a Stoner, he didn’t have eight mana to play it and pop it. He drops a card to his lap and goes to pick it up, then notices he had a card on the floor. He wants to just shuffle it in, but I figure I should call a judge because he’s seen the card and I haven’t and it feels wrong to ask him what it was. I know he’ll get a game loss, but I’m going to win anyway, and I feel no remorse. I call for a judge and he scoops to avoid a penalty, still harping over how lucky I am, even though his build was clearly suboptimal; I mean, he runs Blue for counters but didn’t even attempt to counter a single one of my spells. Derf.

Then he tried to fill out the match slips with a 2-0 win for himself. Sheesh. I shoulda called the judge back.

Games: 4-0

Matches: 2-0

Validation for the reason I love this game the most (the people!): about this time, I ran into a guy with a shaved head and a bandanna (Tupac style!), named Harry, that recognized me.”Are you the guy that ran MWC with infinite life at Regionals?” he asked. We started to talk and he’d read a bunch of my articles; it was cool to be recognized and appreciated. I talked a little about my deck and how I had a penchant for all things infinite, and how today it was Mindslavers. I also was talking about how cool it was to write for StarCityGames.com since they subsidize my collection; word got around to the people at the table that I was a Featured Writer and that I was writing a tournament report.

Kid in the Nike Hat says,”Can I be in the article?! Put me in it!”

I say,”Why? I haven’t played you.”

Round Three – Ken Russell – KCI w/ Incubator (not sure if it had Belcher)

Hmm. I didn’t expect KCI. I figured I would lose the first game then hate him out with my sideboard. Also, an entwined Tooth means victory.

Game one saw some great draws on my side. He told me later that he kept a sub-par hand because he saw me shuffling and knew I was playing Green; he had four lands and figured I’d be blowing them up so he kept. He gets off to a quick start with a Pentad Prism and some card drawing. I Justice his Prism and he plays a Mox. I Witness my Justice and kill a land, Scrying into another Justice. I Justice another land, but he’s keeping up with Talismans, more land, and manages to get off a couple of Fabricates. I’m pretty much out of gas and I’m thinking, gee, I really need to draw Eternal Witness. Whoop! I blow up his Mox with my twice-returned Justice. Eventually he plays a Krark-Clan Ironworks and then sacs some stuff for an Incubator. On my turn, entwined Tooth for Abunas / Platinum Angel means I win.

Sideboard: -1 Duplicant, -2 Reap and Sow, -4 Oblivion Stone, +3 Creeping Mold, +4 Oxidize. The Stoners have a good chance of ruining his day, but he was playing with Early Frost, so I went proactive.

Game two, he plays artifacts. I kill them. I’m not sure if I was playing the matchup correctly, but the way I saw it was this: if he plays Krark-Clan Ironworks, there’s no way I can respond. He won’t play it until he’s ready to do whatever it is he wants to do; if I respond to him playing his next spell by killing the Ironworks, he sacs a bunch of things for mana and does it anyway. So my strategy was to kill artifacts at the end of his turn or during my turn – and it worked pretty well. I get some beats going with a Simulacrum and get him to seventeen (he took a point from a Talisman) and he casts Plunge Into Darkness for nine. I think that was a mistake, since if he does it for one less, he gets a whole extra turn considering the damage I have on the board. I’m drawing a lot of lands though, but my last Tel-Jilad Justice at the end of his turn reveals Platinum Angel. I play it; he needs Echoing Truth to win, which I’m not even sure was in his deck. He can combo out for a bunch of Myr, but I fly over for the win.

Games: 6-0

Matches: 3-0

Consistency so far: Very Consistent

Round Four – Jordan Herchelnoat – Mono-Green Beats

This was my round to relax because my opponent was a kid that wasn’t a very tight player. Also, I figured the Mono-G matchup would be a great one, because all my artifacts get sacrificed before he’ll get a chance to blow them up. I worried a little about Molder Slug, but figured I could always get Slaver lock.

Game one was completely uneventful. He mulligans down to five on the play, and I accelerate. He kills a couple Simulacrums with Viridian Shamans. I Slaver him three or four times before making the rest of”his” turns”our” turns forever.

Sideboard: -2 Tel-Jilad Justice, +2 Duplicant (for Molder Slug)

Game two, I mulligan, but he keeps another sub-par hand and has no play until a turn 3 Troll Ascetic. I play all four Sylvan Scryings in my deck and nab all four Clouposts. Eventually he smacks me to fourteen life, which I think means he must have forgotten to attack with a Molder Slug once, because he has two Slugs and the Ascetic on the table. I Mindslaver him. Then I Mindslaver him again. Then I Mindslaver him and set up Slaver lock with BWD. He doesn’t concede because he wants to play it out. On my next turn I basically combo out, playing two Tooth and Nails to fetch Duplicants, Colossus, Witness, etc. for single-turn crushing blow. I found out after the match that he sided out threats to put in artifact destruction – the non-Creeping Mold kind!

Games: 8-0

Matches: 4-0

Round Five – Rich Mays – U/W Control

This guy had all the looks of a tight, careful player, so I knew it would probably be a difficult match. He even shuffled with more precision than I have ever seen anywhere else.

Game one, I have to mulligan due to a one-lander with no Baubles or other mana-finders. My second hand is a keeper, and we both do very little except trade Wayfarer’s Baubles. He plays a Pristine Angel and I play a Simulacrum. When I’ve drawn like five lands out of my last seven cards, I decide to cast a Tel-Jilad Justice targeting my own Jens. He looks amused and lets me have it; I scry into a Tooth and put a Forest on the bottom. Next turn I entwine the Tooth for a Colossus and an Eternal Witness; I have three lands up. He casts Condescend for four against my three lands, but one of them is a Cloudpost that’s good for three mana, so I get to keep my stuff. This mistake would haunt him the rest of the match.

He attacks me down to eight with Angel. I beat down with my trample-monster, entwining Tooth every turn to grab a monster and a Witness. He casts a second Pristine Angel, which means he can win next turn through exactly lethal damage, while I can only get him to three. However, I still have my regrowthed Tooth and go for Abunas / Angel. I still have to block my Angel on one of his, in case he can blow up the world; I do and he scoops.

Sideboard: -1 Duplicant, -2 Tel-Jilad Justice, +3 Creeping Mold

Game two, an early Creeping Mold takes out a Plains, but he Baubles out a new one. He doesn’t miss any land drops and plays an early Scrabbling Claws, which I don’t like very much, especially when I drew Eternal Witness the turn after he played it. However, he stops using it at one point for some unknown reason, and then cycles it, probably trying to keep up his land drops. I go for O-stone which is countered, then Witness it and it sticks. He plays Pristine Angel and Stalking Stones and starts beating me down.

I make a couple of mistakes here; I forget that Stoner blows up only non-land permanents and take three points from a Stalker. He plays Abunas and I tap mana and announce an entwined Reap and Sow, which I forget can’t target his Artifact-Man-Land (I get Plains instead), fetching my third Cloudpost. He beats me all the way down to one life before I make a desperate attempt to win; can you guess how it starts? Yup, I Mindslaver him and play a Jens. He’s got Stalking Stones, Abunas, and his own Jens. On”our” turn, I run our Jenseses together hoping to draw either something good on my side or something good on his side. His side is a land and my side is . . . . . Tooth and Nail! Sweet. I start my turn by laying a Forest and then count carefully: nineteen mana. What could be a better use of nineteen mana than playing an entwined Tooth for BWD and Eternal Witness, bringing back a Mindslaver, playing it, and activating it to achieve infinite turn-ness? Nothing, really. Maybe writing”Yay!” in my life total, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. Anyway, he can’t win at this point so he scoops.

Games: 10-0

Matches: 5-0

Place: 1st

Consistency so far: Much more consistent than anything I’ve played against

Nike Hat:”Dude, come on. Put me in the article!”

Round four opponent:”Me too! Please?”

Round 11 opponent from Regionals:”How about a blurb about me? We have prior history!”

Jesus Christ! You’d think I was famous or something.

Now is when the pressure really mounts. The last time I was first place in a PTQ was years and years ago, an Extended event. I went from 4-0 to 4-3 and didn’t even make the prizes. Back then I was inexperienced and prone to emotions, not like now (yeah right); also, I was being aided in the fact that I came with no illusions of doing well, and being 5-0 was just a bonus rather than an aim, allowing me to play comfortably.

Round Six – Michael McGee – Little Red

Well, if I didn’t know what a bad matchup was before the tournament, I found out before this match even started. The reason for this was that Mr. McGee was gleeful at our pairing.”I’m so glad I’m playing against you, you can’t win, I’m going to crush you! I’m going to win on the fourth turn! This match is a bye for me! I’m going to go second-turn Slith third-turn Molten Rain I win! I’ve 3-0’d Tooth and Nail today!” He is all about how his four maindecked LD spells are going to wreck me; I was praying to God that he would draw all four of them as long as he didn’t draw a Slith; without that, I will plow through the most dedicated LD with ease.

He might have said these things in a different order, but he said them all nonetheless. We got deck checked, so he harped on his impending victory for a solid five or six minutes before he went to scout the rest of the decks at the top table, ordering one of his cronies to hold his seat for him.

Now I mentioned above that the biggest reason I love playing Magic is the people, which made this match kind of difficult for me: this is exactly the kind of player I don’t like to play against. They try to rush you, rile you, and are just generally abrasive. I respect the skill that Michael’s got as both a young player and a deckbuilder (he won an NAC qualifier, he was at the top tables in the last round of Regionals, etc.), and he made a great metagame call by bringing Little Red. But he needs to work on his sportsmanship.

Game one was a frustrating one. I lost the die roll, but he starts out with little pressure and I’m very confident. He Magma Jets me, casts Flamebreak, and blows up one of my lands. He doesn’t play a single critter. I don’t draw a Tooth and start beating down with a Simulacrum and an Eternal Witness. I draw a Platinum Angel, which is good and I play it; he has to use a second Beacon of Destruction (he domed me with the first one) to kill the Angel. On my next turn it’s me at eight life and him at seven and I draw Mindslaver. I attack for four and Slaver him, happy that I just won. Whoops. He casts Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] on me twice. If I had attacked him with only one critter, then Slavered him, I would have won by casting his own burn spells on him and then finishing on my turn. Or if I had mana-burned myself for one I could have won also. It is a mistake that will come back to haunt me, in excruciating fashion. This is what not testing will do; anyone who has tested against Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] would realize the danger of sitting at eight life.

Sideboard: -2 Tel-Jilad Justice, -2 Reap and Sow, -1 Oblivion Stone, +3 Creeping Mold, +1 Duplicant, +1 Rude Awakening

Game two is better. He gets some Slith Firewalker and Jens action, followed by an Arc-Slogger, which he played to force me to blow my Stoner. During my upkeep I pay for my Wayfarer’s Bauble, which means I have only nine mana for the Mindslaver I drew. I’m frustrated. But I blow up the board and rest happy that I can still Slaver him next turn. On his turn, he plays a second Slogger which makes me happy; he claims that he knew I had Slaver but played it anyway, I’m not sure why. On”our” turn I ‘Slog him for six points then attack myself to put me at ten or so. On my next turn I entwine Rude Awakening and beat for 24.

A note on Rude Awakening: this card is great. If you think about it, you need ten lands for it to be lethal (barring interference), and I hit that all the time! I am definitely maindecking this card from now on.

Game three, a no-lander means I’m forced to mulligan and my opponent cheers. I understand that when your opponent has to mulligan, you’re happy, especially in when it’s 1st and 2nd battling it out; I feel the same way. But you don’t cheer about it. Anyway, he blows up a land and gets beats going with Jens and Dragon Whelp or whatever that card is called now. I desperately need a Jens or a Wayfarer’s Bauble, but I can only draw more land. I have a chance to stabilize if I can get to six mana to Duplicant his flyer, but another Molten Rain takes care of that and it’s over. I shook his hand even though I didn’t want to; the strange thing is that he was super polite to me for the rest of the day, just not when we were playing.

Because I am not above cheap shots, here is a special note for Michael if he’s reading. My friend told me to tell you that next time someone casts Patriarch’s Bidding, think twice before you name Beasts. Mise!

Games: 11-2

Matches: 5-1

Now instead of drawing into the Top 8 as the number one seed, I have to win the next round to draw in.

Round Seven – Omid Najafpoor – Little Red (identical to the one above)

Great. Making that one mistake forces me not only to win instead of drawing in, but I have to play McGee’s home boy with an exact copy of the only deck to even hand me a game loss so far. And it’s against Nike Hat of all people! Congratulations, Nike Hat. You made it!

Once again I lose the die roll, in the one matchup where I desperately need it. He goes turn 2 Slith, turn 3 Slith, turn 4 mash one of your lands, and that was game. This matchup is completely frustrating, because if they don’t draw Slith I should win (barring mistakes, that is). If they do draw Slith, I will probably lose.

Sideboard: -2 Tel-Jilad Justice, -1 Oblivion Stone, +2 Creeping Mold, +1 Rude Awakening. I didn’t side in Duplicant this time because there really aren’t that many targets for it.

Game two I get to go first and have a good hand featuring some Baubles, among other things. Unfortunately, he goes turn 2 Slith turn 3 Slith, and I am at eleven before I can pop an Oblivion Stone. I lay a land, Eternal Witness a Jens and play it; next turn I am going to drop the last land in my hand and entwine Tooth to put the game in a good place. At the end of his turn he Pulses me, then Pulses me again (two in hand!), then Fireballs me on his turn.

The entire match took about ten minutes and with my opponent’s draws was virtually unwinnable for me as well as extremely frustrating. My opponent is very gracious in victory however, and we play a third game just for fun. On turn 6 I tap three Cloudposts and three Forests, cast Rude Awakening to untap all my lands, then Double-Entwined-Tooth-And-Nail. So it goes.**

Games: 11-4

Matches: 5-2

Consistency: Still very consistent, despite dropping two matches in a row; it was to my worst possible matchup, and I had all the tools I needed just not the time to cast them.

Round 8 – Justin Morcate – G/u Tooth and Nail

Another semi-mirror match. By this point I am super-confident, however, that I am going to beat anything except stupid Little Red, which has somehow stormed the top tables and taken four slots in the top 8. They must have all dropped a match early and then come back, because I hadn’t seen a single one until it beat me twice in a row. So basically, even if I manage to make top 8, I will probably get squished in the first round.

Game one we go land for land, the difference being that I have two Cloudposts, where he has none. He wastes a Tel-Jilad Justice on a Jens, so I play a Slaver without the mana to activate it, hoping he won’t kill it. He casts a main phase Thirst for Knowledge, pitches a Colossus, and drops a Cloudpost, which was a mistake – on my next turn, I got to untap with two of them giving me eleven mana total. I think by this point you what that means… Slaver time! I Slaver him and ‘Nail out a Bringer of the White Dawn and a Jens. He scoops.

Sideboard: -2 Tel-Jilad Justice, -4 Oblivion Stone, +3 Creeping Mold, +1 Rude Awakening, +2 Duplicant

Game two, we start out by trading Creeping Molds on each other’s Cloudposts. I get slightly ahead in the mana race because several Sylvan Scryings mean I have one more ‘Post than him at all times. Eventually he casts Eternal Witness to return a Creeping Mold, and on my turn I play and activate Mindslaver; I make him Creep his own Cloudpost and play another one so that mine will still make lots and lots of mana. On my turn, I entwine for a BWD and an Eternal Witness, then drop BDW and a Jens, holding the Witness in case something bad happens. On his turn, he plays and blows a Stoner; on my turn, I play Witness for BWD, hard-cast BWD, and he’s out of responses so I win. Yay!

Games: 13-4

Matches: 6-2

Consistency: Considering I didn’t lose a single game to any deck but my absolute worst matchup, I’d say it was spectacular.

At this point I need Nate Heiss and his opponent to draw; it’s U/W/g with Rude Awakenings versus U/w Pristine Angel / Vedalken Shackles. They take about thirty-five minutes to finish the first game, so I am hoping against hope that I can squeeze in. But Heiss’ opponent mulligans to five in the second game and it’s over very quickly.

I came in 10th behind Rich Mays, my fifth round opponent, which I don’t quite understand, since I won head-to-head and he lost a full round earlier than I did, but them’s the breaks. I won half a box of product, which covered my entry fee. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

John Matthew Upton

I like back, feed me!

jmumoo AT yahoo DOT com

* New Season of Da Ali G show is on! And it’s even funnier than the last one. [Agreed. – Knut]

** This is a quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, a classic that I just recently read for the first time and highly recommend.