Duels of the Planeswalkers (2009): Teeth of the Predator Review (Part 2 of 2)
We’re now reaching the halfway mark of our ongoing Duels of the Planeswalkers coverage, and today we’re headed into battle alongside Garruk Wildspeaker. erving as foil is Jimi, who’s shuffling up Elspeth Tirel’s Wings of Light. Can her heavenly host stop tne encroach of nature, or will she be trampled beneath hoof and paw?
Now turn 3, I’m able to summon my first beater in the form of a Trained Armodon. This time it’s Jimi who simply lays land and passes. Back to me, I send in the Armodon for 3 points of damage, then summon a Civic Wayfinder, grabbing another Forest in the process. Jimi counterattacks with the Knight, but has nothing else.
Now turn 5, I send in the Armodon for another 3 points of damage, then summon another Wayfinder. Back to Jimi, she Pacifies my Armodon, then attacks in for 2 with the Knight to bring me to 16. After adding a Suntail Hawk, she ends her turn. Next turn, I swing in for 4 with the Wayfinders, leaving Jimi at 10 life. I then tap out to summon a Craw Wurm. Back to Jimi, she summons a Suntail Hawk and Angel of Mercy, the latter restoring her for 3 points of life.
Looking to go for the kill before Jimi can build up too much more, I drop the hammer on turn 7 with an Overrun. Swinging in with my two 5/5 Wayfinders behind the 9/7 Wurm, it’s all Jimi can do to stay upright. She blocks one Wayfinder with her Angel and Knight to enact a trade, though thanks to trample 1 point still gets through on the exchange. Her Goldenglow Moth gets shoved in front of the other, making it effectively a push between the 1 toughness and 4 life. The 9 from the Wurm gets through directly, slashing Jimi down to 3 life. I then add a Grizzly Bears and pass. Jimi replays a Goldenglow Moth.
Just to remove all doubt, I Overrun again on turn 8.
Jimi gets off to a quick start for the second game, chaining together a pair of Youthful Knights on turns 2 and 3 before I stabilise with a Trained Armodon. Back to her, she plays a turn-4 Angelic Wall to congest the red zone even further. I play a Civic Wayfinder and pass.
Now turn 5, Jimi goes big with a Glorious Anthem, attacking in with both Knights for 6 to leave me at 12. I counterattack with the Armodon and Wayfinder, seeing only the latter get past the Wall for damage. I then add a Spined Wurm and pass. The Wurm doesn’t last a turn before Jimi’s Pacified it, again carving me up for another 6 with the emboldened Knights. Back to me, I replace it with another Spined Wurm.
Now turn 7, Jimi ensures that the second Wurm meets the same fate as the first before she clears her troops for attack, then follows up with a Goldenglow Moth. I double-block one of the Knights with my Armodon and Wayfinder to kill it, losing the Armodon in the process. Down to 3 life, all I can do is add a Grizzly Bears. Next turn, Jimi swings in with the Goldenglow Moth for 1 in the air before adding an appropriately-named Angel of Mercy. I scoop after the next draw.
On the play, I lead with a Forest and pass, while Jimi begins with the trusty Goldenglow Moth. We swap land drops for our second turn, then I summon a Civic Wayfinder while Jimi brings a Youthful Knight on-line.
Now turn 4, I deploy a second Wayfinder, grabbing yet another Forest for my hand. This time Jimi matches with a Venerable Monk. Thanks to the Wayfinders, I’m able to drop a Spined Wurm on turn 5, though Jimi’s ready with the answering Pacifism. Back to me, I clean out my hand of a Civic Wayfinder, Wall of Wood, and Grizzly Bears. Jimi in response trots out an Angel of Mercy, going up to 25 life.
I finally run out of steam on turn 7, playing a Forest and passing. Jimi attacks in with the Angel for 3, then adds a Venerable Monk to go up 2 more life. My turn 8 sees me again add a Forest and pass, while Jimi plays an Angelic Blessing on her Monk to hammer in one me for 8.
Down to 9 life, I play a Forest and pass, then brace for impact as the Angel carves in again for 3. I finally find a threat next turn with another Spined Wurm, but unsurprisingly Jimi nullifies it with another Pacifism, saved just for the occasion. She attacks for 3 more with the Angel, plays an Angelic Wall just for something to do, and ends her turn. I draw, and scoop.
Thoughts & Analysis
I must confess to having somewhat higher hopes for Teeth of the Predator, particularly after the very weak Nature’s Assault from Portal Second Age. Here was a deck with some fat and a way to get it, and fully expected that once the stream of beats started in earnest around turn 3, the deck would be a veritable assembly line of threats. The reality didn’t quite play out that way.
To be sure, Jimi’s deck performed very well for much of the encounter. She only has four pieces of removal- a playset of Pacifisms- but she didn’t have much difficulty finding them when needed. Only once did her deck really crank up its boosting engine, in Game Two when the Glorious Anthem pumped up the Youthful Knights. Other than that, her deck didn’t outrun me with lifegain or outmuscle me in the red zone, it… simply played flying creatures.
That has long been Green’s biggest weakness, despite the printing of cards like Hurricane and Aerial Predation, or even Prey Upon. The problem has typically been that those cards are so narrow that they’re either silver bullets or dead draws, depending upon your opponent. The optimal solution is seen on a Claws of Wirewood, for instance, but of course we don’t have cycling as an evergreen keyword. So what’s a Green mage to do?
The answer to that has often been to simply dictate the pace of play in your favour. Green is the creature colour; no other colour gets as much bang for its buck as Green does. Flying creatures also tend to be small for the cost, to offset their evasion. If a Green mage can simply crank out a stream of threats, the Skies deck will be kept on the back-foot. Teeth of the Predator certainly has this aspect covered, tied for second-highest amongst threat density in the Duels of the Planeswalkers environment (only Chandra’s Hands of Flame somewhat surprisingly has more).
So where does Teeth of the Predator fall down? The answer is ramp. Green is at its best when it can squeeze out nasty, hard-to-deal-with threats quicker than anyone else. I’ve lived in fear of few cards at our kitchen table, but Samantha’s mono-Green beats deck specialised in Leatherback Baloths, and the sight of a turn-1 Arbor Elf still makes me a little twitchy even now. Initially I had felt that the playset of Civic Wayfinders and pair of Rampant Growths represented a solid investment in the deck’s ability to deploy its beaters, but now on the other side of experience I can only conclude the opposite.
In reality, this deck has only two ramp cards, in the literal sense. The Wayfinders really are more about smoothing out your manabase. Sure they replace themselves in your hand with a card, but that card is still only something that you can play once per turn. It doesn’t get you to where you’re going any faster than you could on your own- it just does so more reliably. That’s great when you want to get out your Spined Wurm on turn 5, but it’s not so great when you’d like to introduce your opponent to a 5/4 bruiser on turns 3 or 4. What Teeth of the Predator really is missing here is some mana dorks. And since the deck contains a pair of Overruns, they’re an even better fit.
Teeth of the Predator had some promise, but unfortunately it didn’t quite manage to live up to it. That doesn’t make it a bad deck- for what it’s trying to do it does it sturdily enough. But it does it here somewhat incompletely.
Hits: Solid core of creatures; pair of Overruns are a superb inclusion
Misses: Insufficient ramping suite doesn’t allow Green to flex its natural muscle to the extend it needs to be more competitive (but still within basic objectives of Duels of the Planeswalkers)
OVERALL SCORE: 3.75/5.00