Tuning Up Tooth and Nail

What I intend to do with this article is to help you, the average Tooth and Nail player, improve and fine-tune your deck beyond the traditional (or outdated, depending on your perspective) choices that netdecks have to offer. Before I get started with the specifics, though, I feel the need to make one thing perfectly clear: Whatever you do, do not play Cloudposts in your deck.

For those of you playing Tooth and Nail, I have some disappointing news:

Tooth and Nail is not the best deck in the format.

I hope this doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. As we all know by now, nothing is going to dethrone White Weenie from its dominant position at the forefront of the metagame. Or whatever that one aggro deck is.

Actually, the Standard metagame right now is pretty convenient for those who play Constructed purely in order to win trophies and moneys. All it takes to determine what cards to play at a given tournament is to write down everything under “Eugene Harvey, Affinity” on the 6-0 decklist page from Worlds. Maybe change up a few sideboard slots, but nothing too drastic.

However, there are those of us in Magic who enjoy constructed purely for the deckbuilding aspect. We play our game at the competitive level not because we desire accolades or monetary rewards, but rather because the competition makes the deckbuilding more challenging.

As far as innovation goes, The Best Deck right now is about as lame as it has been in a long time. As early as Grand Prix: New Jersey, the optimal build of said deck was already nailed down to within two or three cards in the maindeck, give or take a handful of different sideboarding plans. Deckbuilders today who wish to tinker with Affinity are presented with exciting questions like:

“Two Atogs in the main or three?”

“Should I make my deck worse by running Welding Jar?”

“Am I dangerous enough to run only three Cranial Platings? It worked for Eugene Harvey, after all.”

Fun stuff.

Anyway, back to a deck with some real room for improvement: Tooth and Nail. What I intend to do with this article is to help you, the average Tooth and Nail player, improve and fine-tune your deck beyond the traditional (or outdated, depending on your perspective) choices that netdecks have to offer.

Before I get started with the specifics, though, I feel the need to make one thing perfectly clear:

Whatever you do, do not play Cloudposts in your deck.

Anyone who has played both decks for more than a handful of matches can tell you that Urzatron-powered Tooth is faster than its counterpart, but there seems to be a misconception floating around these days that Urzatron Tooth and Nail is somehow inconsistent.

The specific issue people are having with the deck is that even mono-Green builds often have to mulligan hands that do not have any Green mana in them. When this happens, players feel “robbed,” because they are not accustomed to sending back hands in a monochrome deck due to color screw.

However, UrzaTooth (as I have taken to calling it) cannot be thought of as a mono-Green deck if you are to have any success mulliganing with it. Instead, think of it as something more along the lines of a “green/brown” deck. There are twelve “brown” sources – the Urzatron – and around eleven or so Green sources. Just like with any two-color deck, it’s important to have a little of each in your opening hand; if the cards in your hand indicate that you can’t get by with access to just one of the colors, you should mulligan.

Actually, there are only three times when you ever keep the no-Green hand, even if it has all three Urzatron pieces in it: A) when you have already mulliganed to six and would rather keep the hand (even knowing it’s weak) than go to five cards; B) when you have some colorless way of searching up Green mana; or C) when you are holding the full Urzatron and a large colorless threat, and you are confident that casting the threat early enough will win you the game on its own.

So let’s say UrzaTooth’s mana base is okay. Why, then, should you play it over CloudTooth? I came up with a very simple analogy that explains my point of view on the subject:

Playing Tooth and Nail with Cloudposts is a lot like playing Affinity with 4 Glimmervoid and 4 City of Brass.

Sure, its mana is nicer – but it’s sooooooo sloooooooooooow.

So slow.

I was going to do this really lengthy analysis of how much faster the Urzatron is, but then I got a better idea: why not just have a race?

I pitted my build of UrzaTooth against Nassif’s build of G/R CloudTooth that won GP: New Jersey. (I’m sure there’s a somewhat faster build out there in Standard nowadays, so you can mentally add some bonus points to CloudTooth’s side if it makes you feel better.)

The test? Twenty games of goldfishing each, with each deck’s goal being to assemble 7GG as fast as it could. The results were as follows:

Number of games (out of 30) in which the deck had 7GG ready to go by…

…Turn 4: CloudTooth – 1 game, UrzaTooth – 12 games

…Turn 5: CloudTooth – 8 games, UrzaTooth – 9 games

…Turn 6: CloudTooth – 10 games, UrzaTooth – 3 games

…Turn 7: CloudTooth – 6 games, UrzaTooth – 2 games

…Turn 8 or later: CloudTooth – 5 games, UrzaTooth – 4 games.

(For purposes of averaging, I’ll count “Turn 8 or later” as simply “Turn 8” – an approximation which actually favors CloudTooth.)

Average amount of time in which each deck assembled 7GG:

UrzaTooth – 5.2 turns

CloudTooth – 6.2 turns

That’s right, the average UrzaTooth draw is an entire turn faster than that of its counterpart.

Playing Cloudposts instead of the Urzatron is like pulling a Time Walk out of your binder, handing it to your Affinity-playing opponent, and saying, “Here. I want you to have this.”

As for the Green mana issue – yes, CloudTooth got more consistent mana draws. UrzaTooth definitely took more mulligans over the course of the 20 games than the Block Constructed deck did. And yes, some of them were due to a lack of green mana. But you know what? All that matters is which deck powers out fast Tooths more consistently. And as long as you mulligan properly, Tooth with Urzatron gets the requisite Tooth mana faster and more consistently than Cloudpost-based Tooth does.

If you are not winning enough with Tooth and Nail, the first thing you should do is replace any Cloudposts that might be in your deck with a full set of the Urzatron. That’s the easiest way to make your deck more successful.

[As editor and someone who plays more than a little bit of Type Two, I disagree with this assertion. Nassif’s build gives you access to a whole extra color of removal that makes a significant different in certain matches above and beyond “how fast you can Tooth.” It’s a strategic choice you are making to deal with a particular environment, and the whole “You get a Time Walk by playing UrzaTooth over CloudTooth” idea misses the point of why you played the two-color deck in the first place. – Knut, who still likes this article]

Now that we’ve established that, it’s time for the complicated part: tuning up UrzaTooth.

Rather than simply posting a decklist and explaining my card choices, I’m going to take a more open-ended approach to this process. I’m going to provide you with a list of Tooth choices that I feel are outdated, explain what cards I would suggest replacing them with, and detail the reasoning behind said changes.

I’ll let you make the call as to which cards you’d prefer to leave as they are in your build, and which (if any) of my ideas you would like to adopt.

Traditional Choice #1: 4 Oblivion Stone, 2-4 Mindslaver

This combination of cards, or something like it, showed up in a lot of Tooth builds at States. Like John Ormerod, I subscribe to the school of thought that says Oblivion Stone is simply too slow against Affinity. Assuming this is the case, a very simple question then follows: “What is Oblivion Stone good against?”

Well, once upon a time there were all these Goblins running around that Tooth needed to blow up, but they have since gone the way of the Rebels and the Kavu before them. These days the only matchup where a “blow up the world” effect would be required to stay alive is the Affinity matchup – but if you’re going to dedicate a slot to a card that’s only good against Affinity, you would be much better off running artifact destruction instead.

This is Oblivion Stone’s fundamental flaw – it is hardly necessary against non-Affinity decks, and cheap artifact kill is better against Affinity itself.

As for Mindslaver, consider the reason most people tend to run Mindslaver in the first place: as a redundant threat. The idea is that when you have a ton of mana but don’t draw a Tooth, you’re still in okay shape if you can activate Mindslaver and just shred your opponent’s position while you draw into a Tooth or Colossus with the extra turns you’ve bought.

Problem is, Mindslaver doesn’t actually kill the opponent by itself. At its worst, it’s a Fog and a Mana Short, and at its best, it demolishes both the opponent’s hand and his board position. Doing so will send him straight into topdeck mode, but chances are good that since you had Tooth mana but did not cast a Tooth…you are already in topdeck mode yourself. Since the opponent’s deck has a higher density of threats than yours does, there will be many times where he will simply win such a topdeck war and you’ll be out of luck.

A lot of people kind of forget about this, though, because of the huge psychological effect a devastating Mindslaver has. It’s great fun to use your opponent’s cards against him in a creative and diabolical fashion, as he watches helplessly over the complete destruction of his board position at the hands of his own cards. Times like this cause Mindslaver to be commonly remembered as “a devastating card I would not have won without,” rather than the non-threat it ends up being the rest of the time.

Replacements: 4 Oxidize, 2-4 Tel-Jilad Justice/Naturalize *Or* 4 Plow Under, 2-4 Sundering Titan

The plan here is to maindeck one of these combinations and to side into the other, following the theory that this will yield higher win percentages overall than running compromise cards that aren’t particularly strong in any matchup.

Against Affinity, the cheap artifact destruction spells serve the straightforward purpose of buying an extra turn or two with which to acquire Tooth mana. Ordinarily I would shy away from removing Mindslaver, a “threat/finisher” card, with a disruption card against Affinity because Mindslaver is neither a threat nor a finisher against Affinity.

Unless you are extremely lucky and the Affinity player has an Arcbound Ravager or an Atog sitting right on top of his library on the turn you Slaver him, you’re usually looking at little more than a Fog and a Mana Short from your ten-mana investment. And if disruption is all you’re getting out of it anyway, it is much more economical to just use artifact destruction instead.

But artifact destruction is simple; Plow Under and Sundering Titan require a bit more explanation. I’ll start with Plow Under first.

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but getting hit by a Plow Under when you’re a Green deck in this format feels a lot like getting punched in the face. See, most of the base-Green decks in this format – Tooth, B/G, R/G, and U/G – tend to need at least five mana before they can start putting any kind of significant threat on the table.

R/G needs five mana for Arc-Slogger and Kiki-Jiki, Tooth needs at least seven before it can play anything even slightly threatening, B/G needs at least six in order to cast a productive Death Cloud or Kokusho, and U/G needs all the mana it can spare to cast spells on its own turn and still have mana open to counter things on the opponent’s.

What’s even more relevant is that Green decks don’t typically do anything on the first few turns except accelerate their mana production and kill artifacts. Against other Green decks, there generally aren’t a whole lot of artifacts to shoot at, so all that’s really left for these decks to do is to play mana accelerants. Turn 1 Birds, turn 2 Elder… you know, those all those Ha Ha Dead Elf-type guys Dan Paskins is so fond of.

The point is, these decks are almost never putting any pressure on the table – Eternal Witness is about the nastiest threat you’re going to see coming out of the gates in the first couple turns from a green deck.

Why does this matter? If your deck doesn’t have any significant threats before the four- or five-mana mark, then getting reset back to the two- or three-mana mark before you hit five mana is almost literally the same thing as getting set back a full two turns. I mean, if you don’t have any plays your opponent cares about before you hit five mana, and now you only have two mana available…well, unless you have a second or third mana accelerator handy, you’re going to be laying lands and saying “go” for the next two entire turns while he plows ahead with his own development.

Worse still, this is a format where basically every deck whose mana base can come up with two Green mana is running four copies of Eternal Witness. This means that in addition to getting Plowed Under on turn 4, you may also be getting Plowed Under on turn 6 again, after a Witness returns it on turn 5. Now you’ve gotten two-for-oned twice by that card, putting you even further back on card advantage. Not to mention the fact that you’re still working on making it past turn three in terms of mana development, while your opponent is gearing up for turn seven.

Let’s not even think about what happens when he just draws two Plows.

Plow Under is bad news, folks, and if you’re Green and playing against Green decks, you’d sure as hell better have it, or you’re probably going to lose to it. In my testing against the bevy of other green decks in this format, there was practically a one-to-one correlation between the player that cast Plow Under first and the player that won. I’m totally serious – there would be like three or four games out of a testing session of twenty where a player who got Plowed first went on to win the game.

In this environment, God help you if you can’t cast Plow Under on turn 4 and your opponent can.

Now let’s take Sundering Titan. While certainly no turn 4 Plow, he is good in this environment for the same fundamental reason that the Plow is: green decks need their mana. In my UrzaTooth build, I have access to four Titans post-board, explicitly because they are so strong against all the two-color Green decks out there. Titan is precisely how I win in the face of Cranial Extraction against B/G, for example.

If B/G Extracts my Tooths on turn 3 or 4, I still have the backup plan of just powering out a Titan on turn 4 or 5. If I follow him up (or precede him) with a Plow Under or Reap and Sow to take out a land, it becomes exceedingly difficult for my opponent to deal with my 7/10 guy. Racing is pretty much out of the question since he is now too far behind on mana to cast Kokusho (and sometimes even too far back to cast Molder Slug, if he’s running it), and killing the Titan once it’s in play puts him so far back on mana – now he’s lost a total of four lands from that one card – that I will have ample time to dig up a second one or a Witness to bring back the first.

Incidentally, I’m not saying Sundering Titan guarantees a win by itself in the face of Extracted Tooths. Obviously, being forced to play without your deck’s namesake is far from easy – but it gives you a much better chance at turning such games around than people have been giving it credit for.

And remember, though the Titans are best as redundant threats against G/B, their effect is equally devastating when against R/G and U/G. The trouble against those decks is actually getting one into play in the face of R/G’s land destruction and U/G’s countermagic. But such is the case with any threat in your deck; you have to pay for it and resolve it before it becomes a factor in the outcome of the game. And frankly, I can’t think of any threat short of a Tooth and Nail itself I’d rather fight to resolve against a two-color Green deck.

Moving right along…

Traditional Choice #2: Solemn Simulacrum

I have always had a very fundamental problem with this card in Tooth and Nail: it does not gel with the strategy of the deck.

Tooth and Nail’s game plan has always been to do two things: get a ton of mana in play as fast as possible, and then do something really broken with it. While Solemn Simulacrum is a solid card in general, it really doesn’t put you a whole lot closer to meeting either of these goals.

Paying four mana to Reap and Sow for the last piece of the Urzatron is a good deal – that generates a ton of mana. Paying nine mana for an entwined Tooth and Nail is also a strong play, because it generates a really broken effect. But paying four mana just to fetch out a basic land and put a 2/2 cantrip guy into play neither qualifies as “getting mana really fast” or “doing something really broken.”

It’s kinda like how Counterspell is an amazing blue card, yet you just don’t play it in a Mind’s Desire deck. When you’re running a combo strategy, “solid cards” just do not cut it any more. When you have them in your deck instead of specific combo enablers, you end up diluting the combo and making your deck slower than it should be.

Speaking of combo enablers…

Replacement: Sensei’s Divining Top

Okay, I’ll be honest – my first appraisal of this card was that it was utter trash. After all, it could not possibly be any worse in Limited, and how exactly is a card going to be playable in Constructed if it doesn’t even make the grade in a forty-card deck?

I have never been so wrong about a card in my life.

I finally broke down and gave the Top a shot one day when I was pulling my hair out trying to find a way to make this deck get Tooths more consistently. At the time, I was throwing away far too many games in which I assembled 7GG and then died because I didn’t have a Tooth in hand and just hardcasting a random big artifact like Colossus, Platinum Angel, or Mindslaver just wasn’t enough to win on its own.

So I tried the Top, and wow. Just wow. As I said, I have never been so wrong about a card in my life. Top is fan-freaking-tastic in this deck. There are a number of reasons this is the case, but the short version is this:

Top is good in Tooth and Nail because Tooth and Nail is a very mana-inefficient deck with many shuffling effects.

Let’s talk about the mana inefficiency first. As a Tooth player, your deck has tons of early spells that cost exactly two or exactly four mana. So whenever you have an odd amount of mana in play, one mana is getting wasted for that turn. With a Top in play, you can soak up the extra point of mana in order to ensure the next card you topdeck will be the best card of the top three in your deck. Then after you draw that one awesome card with your upcoming draw step, you can then use a land-searching spell of some kind to shuffle the remaining chaff away.

Let’s say, for example, that you are heading into your third turn with Urza’s Power Plant and a Forest in play, and a Sylvan Scrying in hand. (Assume the rest of your hand is something along the lines of artifact destruction, Forests, and a Platinum Angel or something.)

You activate Top during your upkeep and see Sakura-Tribe Elder, Reap and Sow, and Urza’s Tower. Knowing that you have the Power Plant in play and a Scrying in hand, you observe that you can complete the Urzatron once you have that Tower. You reorder the cards so the Tower is on top, draw it during your draw step and then Scry for the Mine. Urzatron complete. The Reap and Sow and Sakura-Tribe Elder, which you didn’t need anyway, were shuffled away. Now you can freely use the Top to start searching for a Tooth and Nail or whatever else it is you need.

Now pretend the Top is replaced by Solemn Simulacrum, and consider how that same turn now plays out. You again untap for your third turn, draw Sakura-Tribe Elder…and then what? You have Urza’s Power Plant in play and a Sylvan Scrying in hand, so your only options are to either play the Elder or Scry blindly for some Urza piece other than Power Plant, then hope you either topdeck the remaining one or another nonbasic searcher.

There’s a Tower sitting two cards below the top of your library at this point, but you don’t know that…and since you’re going to play a shuffling effect this turn regardless, you may never see it at all. The Solemn and Elder in your hand will each get you one additional Forest, plus maybe a third one when Solemn dies and draws you a card…but still, look how much better the turn went with Top. None of this “I hope I topdeck into the Urzatron” stuff – you just dug up one of the pieces you needed with the Top and nabbed the other one with Scrying.

Or maybe let’s say you also needed that Sakura-Tribe Elder to fetch you out a second Green source (because you were already holding a Tooth). In that case, you could have just as easily reordered the deck as Tower-Elder-Reap during your upkeep, then activated the Top during your main phase to draw the Elder into your hand before shuffling, and then the Top and the Reap and Sow would be shuffled away instead. After doing this, the Top has cost you no card disadvantage overall, and has increased the strength of your early game beyond belief.

Some readers may be thinking to themselves, “This is just some rose-colored example where Top happens to work out to your advantage.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Top is usually at least this good, and often much better. I have had all sorts of expletives slung at me online because I Tooth on turn four so frequently; this is not the case because I am some sort of miraculous topdecker, but rather because of that innocuous one-mana artifact I played on turn one.

It’s the cheapest and closest thing to a tutoring effect you can get in this mono-Green deck.

Like I said, I approached the Top with some apprehension. At first I just put two in to test the waters. After a bit, I decided it was proving useful enough to put a third in. Then I played with it some more, learned how to better abuse it, and soon it became clear that I could play with no less than four.

Now I’m literally horrified by the idea of cutting even a single Top for any reason. If I’m looking for a way to fit one more card, I don’t even glance at the Tops. It would be like cutting a Tooth and Nail for some reason; you know immediately that doing so will make the deck worse overall, so why even think about it?

Sensei’s Divining Top is this deck’s Disciple of the Vault. It’s weak as hell on its own, but utterly absurd when taken in context of the deck.

Traditional Choice #3: Talisman of Impulse/Talisman of Unity

There are three main benefits to running a Talisman in your deck.

1) They accelerate mana.

2) They are a colorless source of Green mana.

3) They feed Molder Slug.

The problem with the Talismans is that there is so much artifact hate in this format, they cannot be depended on to do any of these things in game one. If I go first and play a turn two Talisman, what would you say the odds are that my opponent Oxidizes it during my end step?

I mean, pretty much every deck with green in it is also packing Oxidize in game one. Those that aren’t packing Oxidize at least tend to be packing Viridian Shaman, which means your Talisman is also getting KO’d before you can use it any time your opponent goes first and lays a Shaman on turn 3.

This wouldn’t be so bad, except for the following situation: you do not know what your opponent is playing, and your opening hand contains no Green mana sources except for a Talisman. Do you mulligan?

If you keep, there is a decent chance your only green source will get blown out as soon as it is played. Maybe you’re also holding Sakura-Tribe Elder. That means you can hold it until turn three and then immediately drop it, tap it for green, and play the Elder. But then you’ve lost your entire second turn for no appreciable reason. Neither option is particularly appealing. Let’s not even consider the decks that leave Viridian Shaman in after sideboarding for lack of anything better to replace it with.

The fact is, if the Talisman gets blown up – and believe me, it frequently does – it no longer fills any of the three roles you were counting on it to fill. In game one it’s always risky to keep a hand with a Talisman as your only green source (again, if your opponent has the Oxidize, you may lose the game because of that choice), and even still it may get blown up by a random Viridian Shaman before you can use it in both pre- and post-board games. And a dead Talisman doesn’t even feed Molder Slug.

Replacement: Birds of Paradise

There are three main benefits to running Birds of Paradise in your deck.

1) They accelerate mana.

2) They do not interfere with your already crowded two-mana slot.

3) They chump block, flyers included, once their mana is no longer needed in the late game.

Unlike the Talisman, Birds are killed by neither Oxidize nor by Viridian Shaman. Electrostatic Bolt, Magma Jet, and Echoing Decay will kill them, of course, but these cards are far less common in this environment than straight-up artifact removal spells are.

Also unlike the Talisman, you have but one choice when you see a Birds without a green source in your hand – you must mulligan. In this respect, the Talisman is clearly better. However, my solution to this has simply been to run more Forests. With Sensei’s Divining Top in my deck, I have had no trouble at all with my mana base of eleven Forests and the Urzatron (that’s 23 lands total).

Okay, so you have to mulligan the Birds-but-no-Green hands. But what about those one-landers that have only a Forest and a Talisman for mana sources? Gotta ship those back – you cannot count on immediately topdecking the second land in order to be able to play the Talisman. How about one Forest and Birds? That’s a hand I can actually keep, provided there’s an Elder, Scrying, Top, or something similar in there to go along with it.

The most important thing that separates Birds from every other mana fixer, though, is that they cost one mana. This means that they do not interfere with other turn two plays such as Sylvan Scrying and Sakura-Tribe Elder.

There’s a big jump in efficiency between “turn 2 Talisman, turn 3 Scrying” and “turn 1 Birds, turn 2 Scrying.” In both scenarios, you have exactly one mana open at the end of your second turn, but the Birds scenario gives you four mana on turn 3 rather than only two, since you already cast your Scrying back on turn two and no longer need to spend your third turn using it. This gives you enough mana on your third turn cast Reap and Sow, for example – and assuming you drew at least one Urzatron piece in your opening hand, you are now going to have 7GG assembled by turn four. That’s the earliest possible turn you can entwine a Tooth and Nail.

Birds of Paradise are a big part of the reason that my UrzaTooth deck left CloudTooth in the dust in the race I conducted earlier. But if you don’t think this boost in speed is worth the vulnerability to early burn and Echoing Decays (I do, but you might not), there’s always the fallback option of Vine Trellis. That gets hit by neither Electrostatic Bolt nor Oxidize, can block non-flyers more than once, but is still considerably slower than the Birds.

Traditional Choice #4: 1 Platinum Angel, 1 Leonin Abunas *Or* 1 Mephidross Vampire, 1 Triskelion

The Angel combo is about as direct a win as you can get from two creatures. It says to your opponent, “You cannot win this game unless you can remove both a 2/5 white guy and a 4/4 artifact creature.” The downer comes when you draw the one Abunas and no Tooth, and know that even if you did have the white mana to hardcast it with, you’d still get mowed down by the incoming horde of artifact dudes.

The Vampire/Triskelion combo is similar in that getting it down makes winning very tough for your opponent. This combo shares the annoyance of drawing the Vampire without a Tooth, but has the additional downside of not explicitly preventing you from losing. Even if you do manage to drop Vampire/Triskelion on an Affinity player (generally speaking the only matchup in which either combo is used), he can still mess you all up with as little as one Shrapnel Blast. Naturally, you will clear his board in response, but without both parts of the combo, you will find yourself tasked with the thankless job of taking Affinity from twenty to zero before it kills you, using only a 3/4 Flying, three points of Triskelion damage, and whatever you can topdeck.

Drawing Triskelion on its own is quite far from game-winning, whereas Platinum Angel can steal free wins from an Affinity player who has not drawn any Shrapnel Blasts or adequately large flying blockers to stop you from just swinging five times and winning. This works especially well against Vial players in game one, who usually do not have access to Shrapnel Blast, and whose only flyers are Blinkmoth Nexi.

Replacement: 2 Platinum Angel

Let’s say, hypothetically, that an Affinity player does manage to kill both your Abunas and your Angel. How did he manage do it?

With a pair of Shrapnel Blasts, of course.

Since Affinity and Krark-Clan Ironworks are the only decks you’ll realistically be Toothing for Angel and X against, the Abunas is almost never better than a second Angel. Against KCI, Abunas/Angel is only better in the situation where your opponent has Fireball but no Goblin Charbelcher after going off, which is very unlikely. Moreover, the KCI vs. Tooth and Nail matchup goes a lot like the Mack Truck vs. Watermelon matchup. The odds of your mising a match win against KCI are already astronomically low, and the odds of your winning specifically because you had the Abunas rather than a second Angel are even lower… so it’s really not a situation worth getting worked up over.

People also seem to have this worry, “what if Affinity sides in Electrostatic Bolt or Oxidize for my Angels?” There are two easy responses to this. First, Angel/Abunas is still only better in the precise situation where Affinity draws double EBolt/Oxidize, and zero Shrapnel Blasts (as opposed to just two Blasts, or one Blast and one EBolt/Oxidize). However, this is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, I love having two Platinum Angels in my deck because it frequently tricks Affinity into over-sideboarding like this. I can always tell when a player has tried to outsmart me by boarding in extra Angel kill, because they will still have two or three cards in hand on turn four, and my life total will still be in the double digits. Then I’ll just Tooth for Colossus instead of Angels and win handily.

“But what if they get a nuts draw and double EBolt?” If you’re worried about that happening, you’re letting what Dan Paskins would call The Fear get the better of you. Actually, just about all of these situations are so unlikely, they’re already picture-perfect examples of The Fear in action.

I have never lost a game to Affinity in which two Angels have entered play, ever. Not in testing, not in tournaments, not nowhere, not nohow.

Still, if all this is not enough to keep you from tossing and turning at night after cutting the Abunas, try this: play a bunch of games against Affinity with 2 Angel, and every time you topdeck one and hardcast it for the eventual win, flip a coin. If it comes up heads, try to imagine how the game would have gone if that topdecked Angel had been an Abunas instead. You’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time.


So this is the part where I’d ordinarily post a decklist that incorporates all my changes and explains how they all interact… but like I said, that’s not what I want to do with this article.

The coolest part about Tooth and Nail is that there’s an awful lot you can do with a deck that’s capable of producing nine mana by turn 4. Aside from the usual mix of land searching and of course the Tooth and Nails themselves, there are still plenty of spots left for you to incorporate your own ideas. I’m still exploring all the deck’s possibilities myself, so it would be almost criminal of me to post a list and say “this is how to do it; this is as good as it’s going to get.”

At any rate, this is where my story ends. I hope all this has been in some way helpful to you. If not, tune in next time for my first theory article – maybe you’ll like that one better. In either case, drop me some feedback on the forums. Even if it’s just to say “that rocked” or “you suk,” we writer-folk do like to know we’re at least being listened to.

Best of luck,

Richard Feldman

Team Check Minus

[email protected]