I was riding back from GP Cinci, and as usual I was thinking about Tooth and Nail. Andrew Tenjum, Aaron Lewis, and Eddie Song were trying to teach me about how to play legacy, which was as successful as trying to teach a woolly thoctar how to water ski. A gap in the conversation led to me asking their opinions for the best Tooth targets in modern.
Most Tooth combos come in various levels, starting with the most obvious, and becoming more resilient and flexible. I wanted to Tooth for two Ranger of Eos, and from there pick up four Scute Mobs, but i was quickly talked off that ledge.
The biggest baddie is, of course, Emrakul. Naturally, if we were to play her, we’d want to attack right away. The easiest way to do that is with Urabrask, but if our opponent removes him we miss our attack. The last think we want to do is have our 9-mana sorcery countered by a Path to Exile.
The next level deep is Flame-Kin Zealot. This one still works if our guy gets killed. The last level is Zealous Conscripts, which is almost identical to F-KZ, but it gives us outs to all kinds of weird situations that only a conscripts can solve.
Eventually we decided that Emrakul was just not the best option. We wanted to make sure our inflexible-threat package, that is, cards we would basically only want to get with Tooth and Nail, takes up as few slots as possible. We managed to get it down to 4 cards that would win the game in what I believe to be 95+% of situations.
Iona + Painter’s Servant.
This the combo you almost always get if an Iona can hold off or race what your opponent currently has on-board. Your opponent can’t cast spells, and they can’t respond once your T&N resolves. Seems good.
Platinum Angel + ?????????
Remember the old Tooth and Nail days when you’d get Angel and Leonin Abunas? The combo was pretty resilient, but could still be disrupted with just two removal spells. Fortunately, the solution to that problem was just printed in the most recent set. The card is innocuous and underpowered – barely even limited playable – but here it makes you invincible: Archetype of Endurance.
Pod? Cold to Platinum combo
Twin? Cold to Iona combo (hard to imagine their board state that beats a 7/7)
Storm? Cold to Iona combo
Affinity? Cold to Platinum combo
Burn? Cold to both?
Zoo? Cold to Platinum combo
Fae? Cold to Platinum combo
Control? Cold to Iona combo
Infect? Boggles? Ad Nauseum? Platinum, Platinum, Platinum.
Scapeshift or Tron? Hard to say – they have sweepers so platinum isn’t always safe. Iona can’t really race a primeval titan either. Probably your worst matchups.
Now obviously the deck has to be compared to the other ramp decks in modern. Tron is a close comparison, but the deck’s haymaker spells are often just not enough. That Karn is often just a 7-mana vindicate, and Emrakul might not be online until turn 8+.
Scapeshift is the other choice, and the main consideration here is that our ramp doesn’t have to be land-based. We get to play another ramp option, one that fulfills a second role:
Dreamstone Hedron: Getting to 6 is super easy. Getting to 9 is hard without a Battlement. This is our second shot.
Thirst / Peer: I doubt this is even close to the best digging package. Not sure what is.
Witness: If you have one of your combo targets in your hand, he lets you run it back again the next turn.
Spellskites: Our matchup against twin has to be like, 20% without these, and maybe 30% with them. They block.
Gaea’s Revenge: This might as well be a resolved tooth and nail against a control deck. I don’t see how any of them are beating this.
It’s possible that we want chords instead of some of the draw spells. If that were the case, I’d want a Resto angel and a Kiki-Jiki as well to let us go up the chain.
Grafdigger’s Cage: Actually blank. We might want some of our own.
Walls: These should make our baseline-aggro matchups a joke.