Modern Tooth and Nail

Ever since the printing of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, magicians have been trying to make the most of Genesis Wave and Mono-Green Devotion in Modern. Inspired by the work of Michael Hetrick, Michael Jacob, and assuredly many Michaels before them, I decided to try it out for myself.

What I found was an incredibly powerful mana engine that I wanted to harness for a different purpose. Instead of Genesis Waving for 9+ to go off with Eternal Witnesses for more copies of Genesis Wave, I found I was winning more reliably if I got rid of a lot of the frills and just killed them with good old entwined Tooth and Nail.

4 Tooth and Nail, 1 Xenagos, God of Revels, 1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn – Originally I was looking for more copies of Genesis Wave. I want my combo decks to be really consistent, and wanted 12+ huge ways to finish the game. The more I played, the more I found I was trying to Genesis Wave for Eternal Witness to find a copy of Tooth and Nail to entwine, which told me all I needed to know about which was the better way to end the game. I like the Xenagos plus Emrakul package because they are both hard to interact with. Xenagos is sweet to set up Primeval Titan, and 30 flying damage plus annihilate 6 is enough to close almost every game.

15+ Forests, 4 Utopia Sprawl, 4 Arbor Elf, 4 Lotus Cobra, 4 Knight of the Reliquary, 4 Garruk Wildspeaker – This is an enhanced version of the old “Mythic” manabase. By embracing the “Forests matter” theme, we get the Arbor Elf plus Utopia Sprawl combo. Leading with an Arbor Elf, a Utopia Sprawl on a Forest will result in 4 mana turn two. Two 1-mana accelerators also give us a great chance of playing turn-two Lotus Cobra into fetchland for Knight of the Reliquary. Often these starts result in Primeval Titan or Tooth and Nail on turn 3. (In one epic game I hard-cast Emrakul on turn 3!) Garruk and Knight are both great in that they simultaneously present a dangerous threat to an opponent as well as work as mana accelerators.

4 Primeval Titan, 1 Khalni Garden – When looking for ways to go big in green, this Giant has been king since released. It doesn’t kill the turn it arrives in play (barring Xenagos on the board), but the lands you get to fetch up usually mean next turn will be curtains, whether because of damage from Kessig Wolf Run, mana from Nykthos, or inevitability from Boseiju. Titan is even good enough to just drop in play with some other creature with Tooth and Nail for 7 when you can’t quite get to 9. I really like at least 1 Khalni Garden in a deck with Titans to protect from Liliana.

4 Harmonize – Modern is not Magical Christmasland where opponents let you do whatever we want. Often discard and countermagic disrupt your plans of going gigantic. At first I was using Eternal Witness to return specific cards I wanted, but often enough I had hands where I’d never drawn something juicy to cast in the first place. Additionally, in games where I faced disruption I kept trying to cast Genesis Wave for x = 2-5 for value and having it come up meh. The more I played the more I realized I often had an early window with 4 mana and nothing to do with it. Harmonize was the perfect solution, as it so often is for any ramp deck looking for more consistency.

2 Genesis Wave – Wave remains a concession to the fact that you need big things to do, and not being able to play more copies of Tooth and Nail. Don’t get me wrong, I *love* casting this card, but without Eternal Witness to chain them into another spell they are rarely the instant win that they could be in other builds. (One of the problems with this card is that it demands so many slots to be good.) Still, Genesis Wave for 6+ can be great, and I’ve had plenty of games where I’ve Waved for my entire deck.

2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, 1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All, 1 Cavern of Souls, 1 Kessig Wolf Run, 1 Sejiri Steppe – One thing I found about heavy-green devotion builds is that they played a lot of cards they would otherwise never touch to make Nykthos great. This paid off in games they drew Nykthos, and looked embarassing in other games. This deck takes a different approach, which is both to find Nykthos more often using Knight of the Reliquary (an approach I recommend to any green devotion deck), and to play fewer Nykthos in order to avoid punishing draws of multiples (less universally correct). Boseiju and Cavern are two of the best anti-blue cards ever printed, and are criminally underplayed in folks’ sideboards. With the ability to tutor up a land that can create uncounterable Primeval Titans and Tooth and Nails, it is wrong not to play copies main here. Kessig Wolf Run is amazing in a deck that can produce this much mana, and turns every creature into a lethal threat. Sejiri Steppe allows Knight of the Reliquary to counter a removal/tap effect, which can be great on defense or stop interference with Emrakul or Xenagos when trying to combo out.

Sideboard Strategy

Against most decks this deck wants to race to its combo, and often doesn’t sideboard.

Bring in Radiant Fountains against aggro decks that are racing, usually in place of Boseiju and Cavern which don’t have useful effects.

Caverns and Boseijus are for controlling decks, to force through your own powerful spells. Depending on the control build, these either come in for utility lands or in place of accelerators they have good removal for. You can also move down curve in some cases where the full combo isn’t needed to win, and just forcing through value will attrition them to death.

Worship is an alternate win condition vs. quite a few decks. It’s not as universal a hoser ever since the rise of Infect, but it works against a lot of aggressive and damage-based combo decks.

Bojuka Bog is a hedge against graveyard decks, which we can easily tutor up.

Arena is a card I have yet to get in play, but keep feeling there are situations where it is the card I want most. Maybe it’s too low-power for this deck, but I’ve stuck with it since the potential upside seems high. One day my Knight of the Reliquary will kill a Mistbind Clique as it tries to champion, I know it.

Eternal Witness is solid against any attrition-oriented deck, and even 2-3 copies will transform Genesis Wave from a value card to an instant-win threat if Witness can return one.

Going Forward

With the rise of Splinter Twin and Infect in the format, it may be time to find room for a bunch of Spellskites in the sideboard, or even in the main deck.

Mastery of the Unseen performed incredibly at GP Miami in a devotion shell. This deck is another GW deck that produces tons of mana and has lots of big creature permanents. It could be that that card could make the sideboard more efficient, doing duty in “life matters” and “attrition matters” matchups.

Another new card that caught my eye is Shaman of Forgotten Ways. He fits in very well with the mana acceleration curve of the deck while offering a powerful threat. This kind of accelerator/win condition in one card might be exactly what the deck needs to have very high consistency. I could see him taking slots from Genesis Wave, Harmonize, or even Garruk.

Maybe a couple cards could be shaved from the main deck to move a couple Eternal Witnesses out of the sideboard to power up the remaining Genesis Waves?

I’ll try to answer any questions about the deck in the comments, and look forward to hearing from anyone playing this kind of brew about their experiences with it.

Bonus Deck Lists

Tooth and Nail + Summoning Trap

Tooth and Nail + Mythic Conscription

[Editor’s Note: The main list’s lands have been updated: -1 Forest, -1 Mountain; +1 Misty Rainforest, +1 Sacred Foundry.]


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