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Against the Odds: Niv-Infinite (Modern)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode sixty-three of Against the Odds. Last week, we had an all-infinite-combo Against the Odds poll, and in the end, it was the infinite damage / infinite card draw combo of Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and Curiosity that came out on top, sneaking past the infinite mana combo of Composite Golem and Nim Deathmantle. However, we have a bit of a surprise this week—sort of an Against the Odds 2-for-1 one, if you will. As I started building the Niv-Infinite deck, I realized that we needed a backup plan, and it turns out that the Composite Golem and Nim Deathmantle combo was perfect. As such, this week's deck has not one but two infinite combos to help us win the game by pinging our opponent to death with Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and Curiosity!

Anyway, let's get to the videos, but first a quick reminder. If you enjoy the Against the Odds series and the other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel.

Against the Odds: Niv-Infinite (Deck Tech)

Against the Odds: Niv-Infinite (Games)

The Deck

When it comes to building around Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and Curiosity, there's one huge problem—the combo requires getting to six mana, playing a creature, and then waiting a turn to combo off, which means it's incredibly slow for Modern. Normally in these situations, my default is to try to slow down the opponent with cards like Blood Moon and Ensnaring Bridge, and while I tried this type of strategy for the Niv-Infinite combo, it wasn't completely satisfying, mostly because it felt like we'd played similar decks before. As such, we ended up with a deck that's trying to do the exact opposite: instead of slowing down the opponent long enough that our combo can work, we sped up our combo!

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The combo of Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and Curiosity is pretty simple. With their powers combined, the first time we draw a card, we start an infinite loop where Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind pings our opponent for a damage, triggering Curiosity, which allows us to draw a card, which again triggers Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind; and in the end, we can ping our opponent to death one damage at a time while also drawing a whole bunch of cards! Like I said before, the main problem with the combo is that it's slow. We have to play Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind for six mana, find another mana for Curiosity, and have even more mana to play a card-draw spell (or wait until the next turn when we draw for our turn or can tap Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind to draw a card), and this is simply too slow for Modern, so beyond the combo itself, the first goal of the deck was to speed things up.

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Heartless Summoning does a great job of making our deck faster because it makes all of our creatures cost two less to cast. Sure, the creatures are less powerful since they get 1/1, but considering our goal is to combo off and not beat down, having a 3/3 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind that costs four mana is far better in our deck than a 4/4 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind that costs six. In theory, this gives us a chance to keep pace with some of the fastest decks in Modern and, with the help of our second infinite combo, can allow us to go Niv-Infinite as early as Turn 4!

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The combo of Composite Golem and Nim Deathmantle gives us infinite mana and is actually fairly efficient, especially with Heartless Summoning. If we can play a Heartless Summoning and Nim Deathmantle on Turns 2 and 3, on Turn 4 we can play Composite Golem and immediately make infinite mana of any combination of colors. This gives us the mana we need to play Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and Curiosity as well as to draw the card we need to get the first Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind trigger and start the loop. Plus, it gives us a legitimate backup plan for winning the game when we don't have the Niv-Infinite combo in hand.

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Whispers of the Muse is one of my favorite ways to win with infinite mana, since it's reasonable when we don't have the combo (cycling for just one mana), and when we do have infinite mana, it allows us to draw our entire deck with the help of buyback. This, in turn, allows us to backdoor our way into the Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind combo. If we happen to have infinite mana from Composite Golem and Nim Deathmantle, we can draw with Whispers of the Muse until we find a copy of Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and then use our infinite mana to cast our Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. Then, we can either draw until we find a Curiosity to start the loop or just continue to cast Whispers of the Muse with buyback, dealing one damage with Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind each time we resolve the card-draw spell!

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Since we're playing Heartless Summoning, we also get a bunch of creatures that work well with Heartless Summoning. Mulldrifter becomes a one-mana Divination when we evoke it with a Heartless Summoning on the battlefield (which can also start the Niv-Infinite loop for just a single mana), and Shriekmaw is a one-mana removal spell. Plus, we can cast Shriekmaw for full price, kill something, and have an evasive threat on the battlefield, which allows us to start drawing cards with Curiosity to find our combo pieces. Meanwhile, Spellskite is free with a Heartless Summoning on the battlefield and gives us a way to protect our Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. One of the problems with going Niv-Infinite is that Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind dies to a lot of removal spells—Path to Exile and Dismember, especially—and even more removal spells when we have a Heartless Summoning on the battlefield, making it a 3/3 and putting it into Lightning Bolt / Lightning Helix range. However, if we have a Spellskite on the battlefield, we can combo off without fear because we know that if something goes wrong, we can use Spellskite to eat a removal spell intended for our Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind

The Matchups

First off, the biggest problem with going Niv-Infinite is that Modern is a fast format, and there are a lot of decks that can kill on Turn 3 or 4. Our deck can win on Turns 4 or 5 when things go well, which means that against Infect, Burn, Dredge, Affinity, Death's Shadow Zoo, and some other decks, we are often a turn or two too slow to win before our opponent kills us. As a result, fast combo and aggro decks are generally rough matchups, because even with Heartless Summoning, we are a bit too slow and lacking in interaction. 

On the other hand, slower, more controlling decks are often overloaded on removal and counters, which are also difficult for our deck to beat, since we are built around tapping out for six mana creatures. The answers in Modern are so efficient that spending six mana to attempt to cast a Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind only to watch it get countered for two mana by Mana Leak or Remand, or killed for one mana by Path to Exile or Dismember, is a tough sell. 

The good news is that our deck is powerful and can win on Turn 4 with our best draws, which means that, even though I'm not sure we have any good matchups, we have enough power that we can beat anyone if they stumble a bit on their draws or keep a hand lacking removal spells.

The Odds

All in all, we managed to win 1 of 6 matches (good for a 16.67% match win percentage) and 2 of 13 games (good for a 15.38% match win percentage). While this record looks bad, we had a couple of near misses, often ending up one turn short of winning, mostly because we didn't have a way to draw a card to start the Niv-Infinite loop. As a result, I think our percentages could have been slightly better if we had gotten just a little bit luckier, but even with a bit more luck, I don't expect that our win percentages would have been good—just slightly less horrible. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

We've been trying out some new polls lately featuring various themes, and while they have been working well in general, we still need a way to give older options another shot on the Against the Odds poll, so this week is Second Chance Week, featuring options that came in second or third place over the past few polls!

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Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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