I get the feeling Tooth and Nail was met with a resounding “okay, whatever” by many Spike-minded players when it was first revealed in Mirrodin. Thankfully, some enterprising and innovative deckbuilders created the Twelvepost deck, and showcased just how possible it was to do amazing things, and even win a fair amount of money, with some of the most Timmy-centric cards in the format (Tooth and Nail, Darksteel Colossus, Platinum Angel, etc.). Having been out of Extended for several years, Tooth and Nail hasn’t had much of an opportunity to poke its head up and accomplish anything impressive, but in the new Modern format, it’s now easier than ever to assemble a set of lands worth approximately thirty thousand mana and proceed to do whatever you want.
That, of course, begs the question: “Well, what do you want to do?” I’d like to win the game of course, maybe even with creatures, and especially with creatures that will make my opponent say “Wait, what?” Tooth and Nail is the perfect card for getting fantastic creatures, and the most fantastically what-inducing creature was just previewed in one of Noel de Cordova’s From the Lab columns, the appropriately named Laboratory Maniac.
The rules text here is immediately and seductively dangerous, and the art goes even further to make this perfectly clear: whatever ends up happening once he flips that switch, you’re guaranteed that someone is going to die horribly. So what do I need to make sure that someone isn’t me? I need a Maniac, an empty library, and most likely a ton of mana to make it all work. Here’s the most current version of what I came up with, as of the final draft of this write-up:
Starting with 12 actual Posts among the land (Vesuva will only be a non-post land in emergencies and other very special cases) will go a long way to guarantee that I’ll have enough mana to cast an entwined Tooth and Nail without having to wait very long for it. The rest of the lands are really just a glob of the best cards available, balanced to agree with the overall color weight of the spells. Playing 25 land cards helps Explore hit more often, and the extra mass is offset slightly by the inclusion of Misty Rainforest. The Rainforests are also included for the way they work with Ponder, allowing me to shuffle up if I don’t want all three of the cards.
Mentioning Laboratory Maniac and Tooth and Nail in the same document should make it obvious who the other piece of the puzzle is: Leveler. I’m pretty sure it’s every Laboratory Maniac’s dream, even if he isn’t aware of it, to invent something just as strange and blatantly combo-dependent as this weird thing.
Once they’re together, I’d rather not have to wait too long before I’m able to attempt to draw a card and lose win, so I’ve included Edge of Autumn and Street Wraith as instant-speed, no-mana ways to draw a card right now. The reason I put two each of Maniac and Leveler in the deck is because I have a strong suspicion Hide // Seek will become popular for ruining peoples’ days in Modern, and I want to have some built-in defense against it. If that doesn’t happen, then the space can be freed up for other stuff.
Explore is one of the best little commons available for going nuts with mana acceleration, and is especially crazy when paired with the particular way the Posts make each other grow. Reap and Sow is the classic go-to card for making Posts, but I decided to forgo its buddy Sylvan Scrying, as the sheer mass of Posts in the deck will make them come up appropriately often (and I’m not dipping into the Urzatron). Edge of Autumn fills a great role in the early game to help speed me along, in addition to the late game applications mentioned above. I rely on Ponder and Preordain to do the hard searching work, because they’re very strong in and of themselves, and they’re also a way to draw a card for only one mana. Pact of Negation is the mana-free way to stop my master plan from getting foiled, and I think Laboratory Maniac would approve of the inherent riskiness and all-in stylings of the effect.
This deck is still very rough, and has already been through multiple significant changes since I first wrote it down. There are still several things I have scratched in the margins for deeper thought and contemplation. Leyline of Anticipation would simply allow me to perform the combo during my upkeep, or even in response to a Ponder/Preordain when my opponent is tapped out. I would have to pay mana for Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, but he gives me a similar effect, and also messes the opponent up a bit more. Only having the Pacts to defend the combo probably isn’t enough. If I can find the room for them, I might benefit from adding a small handful of Spell Pierce or something similar. If Jace, the Mind Sculptor ever gets unbanned in Modern, he’s a natural inclusion for this deck (a deck with blue cards that wants to find specific ones and defend itself), but I don’t know if I’d have the money or interest to actually add him in. For casual play, the deck can be slowed down and have its consistency increased, with cards like Merfolk Looter, Bonded Fetch, or any other of the millions of draw and discard effects that have been printed over the years. I have no clue about sideboards for competitive play, as I’m not at all familiar with the direction Modern will probably be taking over the next year or so.
So there you have it. Inspired by one of the strangest cards in recent memory, I’m pretty proud of how this deck turned out. I doubt I’ll ever get around to building a physical copy, so I hope this sketch of the idea is able to inspire someone else to go out and have a hilariously winning time with it. Let me know what you think in the comments!