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A lot of people were excited to see what the 5c Niv-Mizzet deck myself, Kanister and Matt Nass registered for the Kaldheim Championships, and with good reason: Niv-Mizzet is a sweet card that provides a ton of value if you can stomach the deck building restraints.
Some people can’t handle the mana swings though, even Pros. I had faith in the deck but I had to face a lot of “new decks” that weren’t expected and that’s probably why I only managed a 4-4 record with it. While I don’t think I played all that well in them neither, I’m disappointed the most for my 2-1 record against Jund Food as the matchup was quite favorable. I probably kept a hand I shouldn’t have as I was too reliant on Coldsteel Heart vs a Thoughtseize/Binding/Reclamation Sage deck in game 3.
Otherwise, I was quite happy with the deck and with tighter play I think could have potentially went 6-2 and maybe even made Top8.
THE DECKLIST I PLAYED
What we were trying to do here is exploit the fact that Jund was going to be approximately 40% of the field, with an archetype that went hard beating it, but also other creature-based decks.
I was exceptionally high on the card Shadows’ Verdict as it lines up just so incredibly well against the deckbuilding constraints that Collected Company puts on you, and allows you to exile creatures like Cauldron Familiar or Woe Strider regardless of what zone they’re in. Also worth noting that Midnight Reaper won’t trigger without a sacrifice outlet or if you have a Yasharn in play.
While Collected Company decks didn’t end up being a huge portion of the field (we realized this closer to the deck submission deadline), the deck still performed quite well, and even better against Jund Food than Jund Company, and had a powerful enough engine to hang with the slower decks.
We iterated on this deck, a lot. Like A LOT. It kind of looks nothing like the earlier versions of it. As the format kept developing so did our deck.
Our goals were to beat creature decks and have some game against controls.
We didn’t expect nearly as much ramp and other big decks, but our deck was actually quite good against a lot of them, and I think it can adapt well to their existence.
This is the biggest point of contention and why some could stomach playing this Niv-Mizzet deck and others couldn’t.
While this mana is not perfect, and could likely be improved, it’s pretty close to where you’d want it to be.
Coldsteel Heart does some heavy lifting whenever you’re missing a color. If you’re brave and want to play with the mana base, I highly encourage it.
I will say that I ignored some of my own rules towards the end of the event when my brain stopped working. In general I want to keep only hands with a Triome but you’ll have an idea how the deck works after playing a few games.
I think one misguided fear some teammates had was that if you drew the wrong color for your 5th land you couldn’t cast Niv-Mizzet but it’s extremely difficult to have 5 lands in play and not be able to cast Niv-Mizzet as the deck has very few duplicate lands, so there’s not that much overlap. Even at 6 mana Niv-Mizzet is doing a lot of work and the deck can interact well before burying the opponent even if you’re missing a color for a few turns, Hydroid Krasis can often bail you out.
Tyrant’s Scorn: it attacks CoCo decks deck building restrictions, it can bounce creatures with a bunch of Auras on them, and in the late game it can pick up your own creatures to protect them from removal or keep the cards flowing.
You’ll be surprised how effective playing Niv-Mizzet drawing a Scorn off it and picking it up and doing it all over again is. This card is one of the major reasons I was excited to play the deck. It’s flexibility in matchups where it would otherwise be a dead removal was much better than anticipated.
Mortify: the worst card. It was an answer to Trail of Crumbs, Korvold, and Search for Azcanta which are all ways you can lose, but not super efficient.
This is one of our only concessions to wanting more hits off of Niv-Mizzet while addressing problem cards. Not ideal, but it checks a lot of boxes.
Maelstrom Pulse / Binding the Old Gods: Excellent catch-alls that are here to make sure no threat is unanswerable. Binding helps with the mana too. Wouldn’t touch this split although Kanister played 3 Binding 2 Pulse, and only 2 Yasharn which is defensible.
Deafening Clarion: Hard targeting the CoCo decks but this card does work. Clarion lines up extremely well with your creature sizes and allows for turns where you gain tons of life to keep yourself from being burned out.
Yasharn, Implacable Earth / Grafdigger’s Cage: Cage was a last minute addition as the deck was still only winning about half the time against Jund CoCo before its inclusion, once we added it over some actively bad cards and made some tweaks, the matchup felt quite good. Yasharn is really strong in this deck as it uses the extra mana quite well and slows down Jund decks, especially in game 1.
Hydroid Krasis / The Scarab God / Niv-Mizzet Reborn: this package is your threat suite that keeps on giving. Krasis is the worst of the bunch most of the time but it’s still necessary as you really need to draw into Niv-Mizzet and when you draw it, you need high impact threats in case it gets answered.
The Scarab God is a nightmare for Jund decks and can give control decks a headache after they counter all your other threats. I was low on The Scarab God initially as it seemed unnecessary, and we had Teferi, Hero of Dominaria in this slot for a while, but it became evident it wasn’t only a good card in the deck, it’s one of the reasons to play the deck. It dodges both Noxious Grasp and Aether Gust, which is a huge bonus.
For a long time we had copies of Growth Spiral, Cut//Ribbons, Oath of Kaya and Angrath’s Rampage in the deck. These cards seemed palatable as they would give us extra hits on Niv-Mizzet but they were also just worse versions of some of the cards we ended up including.
We decided playing slightly worse cards just to get more value from Niv-Mizzet was likely not worth it, and we should just play the good cards.
I’d add Thought Erasure to this list by cutting a sweeper or two which should be fine as the Jund decks have slowed down and CoCo decks in general are on a down trend. It’s also nice to be able to have at least one way to attack the hand so you can force through an important spell.
Growth Spiral would be excellent in the deck but the mana is so unreliable for it on turn two that it’s not worth it. The initial build of the deck had those instead of Coldsteel Hearts until we realized that Coldsteel Heart was doing exactly what we wanted Spiral to do, outside of also giving us a card to cycle after a Niv-Mizzet, but when you’re doing Niv things you’re generally in fine shape already.
The sideboard is almost transformational. You’re either going to side in 1-2 cards against various Jund and creature decks, or you’re going to side in a ton of cards against more controlling decks. I wasn’t exactly happy submitting this sideboard, and I think it’s the area of the deck that could use the most work, especially moving forward.
The main issue we wanted to address with the sideboard was Azorious Control, a matchup we thought was actively bad after playing it a lot and thought might be a big portion of the field. We had Thought Distortion for quite some time and would occasionally lose games we forced the opponent to discard 7 cards because they’d have drawn a Shark Typhoon and a Brazen Borrower and we would slowly get tempo’d out between those and Castle Ardenvale. One major issue was we had no way to punish them for tapping out on turn 2 or 3 for a Search for Azcanta or Narset, which were both must answer cards.
So we looked for different options for cheap threats. We got to Hero of Precinct One, Thief of Sanity, and eventually Legion Warboss. Hero was exciting but we realized our cards are mostly too reactive so it’s a two mana 2/2 that only started providing value in the mid game and was easily answered for no gain. Thief of Sanity got eaten by Sharks, and Disputes.
Warboss snowballed much quicker and could force the Azorious Control deck to react immediately, but also usually left you some value making Narset harder to keep on the table. Warboss has games it can win all on its own or backed up by a discard spell.
From the Azorious side I immediately felt the tension of whether I could afford to play Narset or not, and we ran with it from there.
Kanister confirmed after the event that Warboss was in fact a difference maker.
Sideboarding is quite simple and intuitive with this deck, as you’ll mostly know when you don’t want stuff like Deafening Clarion, Shadows’ Verdict, and Grafdigger’s Cage, and in this instance you’ll likely want the discard, counters, and Legion Warbosses.
Against Jund Food you can trim down on the sweepers and add Casualties of War, but against CoCo you’ll want the extra sweeper and can trim something like a Krasis or Mortify depending on how many Korvolds they have.
It’s pretty much as simple as that.
This is something I’d consider trying moving forward.
I cut a Coldsteel Heart and added a Indatha Triome, It’s possible it should be a Raugrin Triome instead, but with so many black sideboard cards it’s hard to pin down.
With far less Collected Company going around Shadows’ Verdict is far less important and you can maybe even cut them all.
There are a lot of ways to build this deck, and I think it has potential to be quite good but will take a lot of iteration. I will certainly keep trying it as it’s the most fun I’ve had playing Historic, and some of the most fun I’ve had playing constructed Magic in years.
Looking forward I’ll be playing the same two formats with the same card pools in MTG League Weekend so I’ll be playing more Historic and Standard in the coming weeks and can’t wait to get my hands on Strixhaven after that.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and feel free to use the comment section for any further question. I’ll see you next week, always here on 95mtg.com!