Updating the Metagame for Fifth Dawn: Tooth and Nail

Rather than rehash information about a deck most are already familiar with, I would like to examine Fifth Dawn’s impact on Tooth And Nail and what benefits other decks in the field could receive that might affect it. Regionals didn’t reveal much about Tooth And Nail that most of us didn’t already know. Elf And Nail has only now made an impact on the tournament scene, although it did make successful appearances at Regionals across the U.S. A series of strong showings and solid matchups seem to be causing an upswing in popularity of the deck, and many feel that Elf And Nail could be the answer to a field infested with Affinity decks. So it has proven to be a good deck, but that’s all about to change. Or is it?

When I first saw the spoiler for Mirrodin, I remember coming across Tooth And Nail, thinking that the card was horrible. I won’t lie. I’m not going to even begin claiming that I had the magical foresight that so many others claim to have. I had my printed spoiler in hand, labeled the card”Timmy,” then moved along down the line. Little did I, or several hundreds of others, realize what a tremendous effect Tooth And Nail, as well as, some of the fatties that emerged from Darksteel, would have on the constructed environment. In particular, Darksteel Colossus proved to be one of the best fatties to come around in a long time.

I’m not here to discuss fatties, but rather talk about the deck called,”Tooth And Nail” and it’s most recent spawn,”Elf And Nail.” When I first received a list for the deck a few weeks before the Block Pro Tour, I about fell over with laughter, and then I realized that if there were indeed actual teams banking on this deck, something had to work. I pieced the deck together and found the magic held within. I think all of us have a Timmy in us, waiting to play decks like this. It’s one of the few times that Spike and Timmy get the opportunity to enjoy the same kind of deck. I mean who doesn’t enjoy dropping enormous creatures into play, quicker than you should and winning the game because of it? I know I do.

Rather than rehash information about a deck most are already familiar with, I would like to examine Fifth Dawn’s impact on”Tooth And Nail” and what benefits other decks in the field could receive that might affect it. Regionals didn’t reveal much about”Tooth And Nail” that most of us didn’t already know.”Elf And Nail” has only now made an impact on the tournament scene, although it did make appearances in Regionals. A series of strong showings and solid matchups seems to be causing an uprising in popularity of the deck. Many feel that”Elf And Nail” could be the answer to a field infested with Affinity decks. It’s shown to be a good deck, but that’s all about to change. Or is it? Fifth Dawn is here and with it come a host of cards to filter through. The immediate response from most would be to scour the list and search for better and more improved fatties to drop in the deck. Let’s take a look at some of the possible monsters that could be dropped in.

Tornado Elemental

Bringer of the”insert color here” Dawn

Short list, huh? If anything comes from Fifth Dawn to benefit the Tooth decks, I assure you, it won’t be in the form of new fatties. But with that said, what cards could be gained from the new set? Maybe that answer lies in the design of the decks themselves. To better understand what Fifth Dawn provides, you need to understand the distinct style differences between”Elf And Nail” and”Tooth And Nail.” That’s a lot of”and,” isn’t it?

Tooth And Nail

2nd place at Regionals in USA, Elizabeth, NJ as played by Matt Kopernas


4 Chrome Mox

4 Rampant Growth

4 Reap And Sow

4 Sylvan Scrying

4 Oxidize

4 Tooth And Nail

3 Oblivion Stone


1 Akroma, Angel Of Wrath

1 Darksteel Colossus

1 Duplicant

1 Leonin Abunas

1 Platinum Angel

4 Solemn Simulacrum

4 Vine Trellis


8 Forest

“>Urza’s Mine

“>Urza’s Power Plant

4 Urza’s Tower


1 Duplicant

1 Viridian Shaman

1 Sundering Titan

2 Triskelion

4 Ravenous Baloth

3 Naturalize

3 Mindslaver

“Tooth And Nail” decks all have a similar build. Whether it be Talismans, Cloudposts, Urza lands, or Vine Trellis, they all utilize land search spells like Reap And Sow and Sylvan Scrying to search out the mana accelerating lands they need to fuel a quick Tooth and Nail. The strength of searching your deck and dropping any two monsters from there, often enough, is all you need to take the game. Especially when Darksteel Colossus, is one of them. Some forms splash White in the deck for things like Worship, Decree of Justice, and Wrath of God. Others, seem to drop in one or two Red sources and a few Fireballs to go to the dome and finish an opponent off.

But what about the creatures? Well, aside from creatures like Solemn Simulacrum, Vine Trellis, and Viridian Shaman, the”Tooth And Nail” decks all harbor the same group of creatures. You have your win conditions, in Darksteel Colossus, Akroma, Angel Of Wrath, Platinum Angel, and even Symbiotic Wurm. Symbiotic Wurm serves as more of a means to keep the control deck from ruining your day, if they cast a mass removal spell, such as Wrath Of God. The Wurm can swing with the best of them, since he has a 7/7 body, but more often than not, he’s there to keep the control decks in check.

After the win conditions, you have the support crew. These creatures help progress the win, maintain it, or pull you out of a pinch, when you need them. Leonin Abunas, helps protect Platinum Angel and Darksteel Colossus, while giving them enough time to finish off the opponent. Some versions run a set of Viridian Shamans and Ravenous Baloths, to help deal with the aggression and Affinity decks. Can you blame them? Triskelion and Sundering Titan are also other creatures that have the potential to make an appearance. Neither of those make the Astral Slide player smile.

Elf And Nail

Random list compiled by me


4 Birds of Paradise

4 Vine Trellis

4 Wirewood Symbiote

4 Wirewood Herald

4 Viridian Shaman

4 Wood Elves

1 Fierce Empath

1 Darksteel Colossus

1 Duplicant

1 Triskelion

1 Kamahl, Fist Of Krosa


4 Skullclamp

4 Vernal Bloom

4 Chrome Mox

3 Tooth And Nail


20 Forest


4 Oxidize

4 Ravenous Baloth

4 Creeping Mold

1 Sundering Titan

1 Duplicant

1 Symbiotic Wurm

Here’s a random build of”Elf And Nail”. As you can tell, the most significant change in deck styles between”Tooth And Nail” and”Elf And Nail” are that the non-fatty creature count is a lot less, but you have a lot more creatures in general, and a whole new method of obtaining your mana acceleration. Vernal Bloom serves in much as the same manner as the”search-for-mana” method. This deck abuses Wirewood Symbiote to the fullest, with such gems as Viridian Shaman, Fierce Empath, and Wood Elves. The Skullclamps have a field day in this deck and really help dig through the deck and keep the pressure on.

With only three Tooth And Nails in the deck, you might get the impression that you need that extra one, but this deck digs and searches to draw so many extra cards that you’ll soon draw into the Tooth And Nail and do so quickly enough to have your opponent reeling from its effect. An ideal play from this deck would look something like this….

Turn 1: Forest, Bird, Imprint Chrome Mox, Skullclamp

Turn 2: Forest, Wood Elves, forest, equip Wood Elves, draw two cards

Turn 3: Forest, tap Bird, Mox, two forests, Vernal Bloom, Wirewood Herald, equip Herald, search for Wood Elves, draw two cards, Symbiote? Bird? Another Clamp? Mox?

Turn 4: Tooth And Nail

On turn 4, you’ve seen sixteen cards or more with this draw. I understand this is an excellent draw, but there are lots of variables in this deck that send you straight down the path of a quick Tooth And Nail.

So we’ve seen the decks and what their plan of attack is pre-Fifth Dawn and we know that, as far as fatties go, we aren’t getting anymore. But what do the other decks get to stop us? After Regionals, I think we can all say it’s a safe bet that Affinity is easily considered the most popular deck. Goblin Bidding and Slide are also still solid competitors in the metagame. Let’s look at some of these decks to see what they gain from Fifth Dawn and how that might affect us.


Most of the Affinity decks have decided upon adding Thoughtcast and Mana Leak, so it wouldn’t be any surprise to find a few adding Condescend to their Blue arsenal, though that doesn’t combo that well with the low land count in the deck. I could see Trinket Mage possibly making its way into the deck as well. Tutoring for Skullclamp, Arcbound Worker, Ornithopter, Aether Vial, artifact lands, Pyrite Spellbomb, and Welding Jar can be quite the good, especially when you get a 2/2 body out of it. I would expect that if enough Blue spells return to Affinity long with adequate means to search for Skullclamp and other card draw, then Chrome Mox could make a return. I feel like they’re trying to push Affinity back to the old Broodstar-style affinity.

Night’s Whisper could replace Thoughtcast or even join it to give the deck even more draw power, but I doubt that, due to the fact that there are more means to get Skullclamp and kick in the drawing engine available with the new set. If Clamp gets banned (and we should find out by the time this is posted), then all bets are off.

Feedback Bolt scares me. As if the deck didn’t have enough ways to pile up the damage on you, now they get a burn spell for artifacts. Thank God, that it’s only to the player and not both. At five mana it’s a bit pricey for the deck, but definitely worthy of considering as a slot or two. I also feel that Cranial Plating could be worked into a few decks. The thought of a quick Ornithopter equipped with that doesn’t make me feel all that great.

Outside of the spells listed above, I don’t see much else being added or having that much potential to be added to Affinity. I’m not the”be-all-end-all” of the game, so I would take my opinions with a grain of salt, but I feel pretty strongly about my opinions.

The sleeper card that I see having a major impact on Affinity is Moriok Rigger. At first, he seems pretty stale as a Grey Ogre with a semi-insignificant ability, but in the mirror matchup, he gets fairly ridiculous, and even against Tooth And Nail he can get big in a hurry. Affinity needs to be as explosive as possible to win against straight Tooth decks and even more explosive against Elf And Nail.

Affinity’s biggest threat to the Nail decks is counter magic. Casting expensive sorceries does have its drawbacks. Often enough, you’ll find yourself tapping out to cast the spell and that leaves you wide open to a timely Mana Leak or the aforementioned Condescend. To combat this, you need a way to either prevent the counter magic or reclaim the lost and countered spells. Defense Grid can help, but then again, it’s an artifact. Artifacts have garnered the most sideboard slots since Regionals, so Defense Grid wouldn’t be a great choice.

Instead, I like the idea of playing Eternal Witness. In the”Elf And Nail” decks, the Witness can be outstanding. Imagine the insane amount of times you could cast Viridian Shaman and with the pressure that”Elf And Nail” can apply, chances are it’s going to be a lot more difficult for Affinity to keep the mana open for countermagic. In the event that they do have the counter, then you have the Witness to bring back that countered Tooth And Nail. In the event you play against one of the Urza land or Cloudpost dependent decks, the return of your Creeping Molds will really help keep their lands in check. If only the Witness was an elf.

Well, that’s all for now, but I’ll be back in a few days with the second part of this look at the nail decks and how Fifth Dawn will impact them and the metagame.