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Against the Odds: Niv-Mizzet Reborn (Standard, Magic Arena)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 189 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had our second all-War of the Spark Against the Odds poll, and in the end, it was our latest version of Niv-Mizzet, Niv-Mizzet Reborn, taking home an easy victory. As such, we're heading to Standard today to play a deck that's somewhat hard to describe, basically being five-color, dual-color control, looking to draw as many cards as possible when Niv-Mizzet Reborn enters the battlefield and then hopefully use those cards to stay alive (and disrupt our opponent), allowing us to win by beating down with Niv-Mizzet Reborn or one of our other random, dual-colored finishers. Can a five-color Niv deck work in War of the Spark Standard? How many cards can we draw with Niv's enters-the-battlefield trigger? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Niv-Mizzet, Reborn

 

The Deck

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Niv-Mizzet Reborn is a fairly unique Against the Odds card. Rather than lending itself to a specific combo, it's mostly a value card, as a big, undercosted flier that draws some number of cards when it enters the battlefield. The trick to turning Niv-Mizzet Reborn into the centerpiece of the deck comes primarily in deck building, where we can split up our cards between the different color pairs to maximize the number of cards that we draw when Niv enters the battlefield. In theory, since each guild is represented in our deck by at least one card, we have the potential to draw up to 10 cards when we resolve Niv-Mizzet Reborn, although in practice the odds of hitting all 10 are pretty low, especially when you consider we have lands and extra copies of Niv-Mizzet Reborn (along with Chromatic Lantern to fix our ambitious mana) as Niv-Mizzet Reborn whiffs. Still, the main focus of our deck is to get the mana needed to cast Niv-Mizzet Reborn and maximize our odds of drawing a lot of cards when Niv enters the battlefield—even just a 6/6 flier that draws three or four extra non-land cards when it enters the battlefield is still a great deal in Standard.

The Mana

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Apart from Niv-Mizzet Reborn itself (and lands), the only non-dual-colored card in our deck is Chromatic Lantern, which is sort of a necessary evil to actually be able to cast our spells. Playing all five colors (and primarily multi-colored cards) is extremely taxing on our mana base, but Chromatic Lantern fixes this problem all by itself once it hits the battlefield. Not only does the artifact turn all of our lands into pain-free versions of City of Brass but it also ramps us into Niv-Mizzet Reborn. If we can cast Chromatic Lantern on Turn 3, we should have the five mana we need to cast our namesake card on Turn 4.

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The other way we help to ensure we can cast our spells is with six five-color lands. While the rest of our mana base is a mixture of all ten shock lands and a couple of basics, Gateway Plaza and Rupture Spire are our best non-Chromatic Lantern ways to make sure we can cast our Niv-Mizzet Reborn on Turn 5 and all the dual-colored cards we draw from Niv-Mizzet Reborn on following turns. The downside is they are essentially double-tapped lands, not only entering the battlefield tapped but also forcing us to tap another land to pay for them, which can cause us to get off to some slow starts where we play a tapped shock land on Turn 1, followed by a double-tapped five-color land on Turn 2. This can be especially painful against aggro,  doubly so if we are on the draw. Still, considering our main goal is to cast Niv-Mizzet Reborn, the downside is worth the cost.

Four-Ofs

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The other unique aspect of our Niv-Mizzet Reborn deck is that it's overflowing with one-ofs. Apart from Niv-Mizzet Reborn and Chromatic Lantern, we only have two other four-ofs in our deck in Growth Spiral and Thought Erasure, along with 19 dual-colored one-ofs. Growth Spiral offers another way of ramping into our Niv-Mizzet Reborn early in the game, and then we normally have a handful of cards after we resolve Niv-Mizzet Reborn, so having lots of mana allows us to cast multiple spells in the same turn. Meanwhile, Thought Erasure gives us a way to answer threats from our opponent's hand in the early game while also setting up our draws, thanks to surveil. Plus, both cards are dual colored, so we can "hit" them with Niv-Mizzet Reborn's enters-the-battlefield trigger.

Finishers

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Apart from Niv-Mizzet Reborn, we have a handful of additional dual-color finishers in Hydroid Krasis, Ravager Wurm, and Niv-Mizzet, Parun. The biggest upside of all of these cards is that they cost six mana (or, in the case of Hydroid Krasis, are fine when cast for six mana), which means we can play Niv-Mizzet Reborn, find these cards with Niv's enters-the-battlefield trigger, and cast any of these cards the following turn. Hydroid Krasis draws us some more cards along with gaining a bit of life, which is especially helpful against aggro. Ravager Wurm can take down annoying lands like Azcanta, the Sunken Ruins while also potentially picking off opposing planeswalkers by fighting a blocker and getting in a hasty attack, while Niv-Mizzet, Parun is great against control since it's uncounterable and generates card advantage. Toss in four copies of Niv-Mizzet Reborn as a massive 6/6 flier for five, and our deck has plenty of big threats to close out the game in short order.

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We also have a handful of one-of dual-colored planeswalkers. Vraska, Relic Seeker is actually quite similar to our creature-finishers as a six-drop that comes down the turn after we find it with Niv-Mizzet Reborn and then either allows us to pressure our opponent's life total by making menacing Pirates or pressure their board by blowing up their best non-planeswalker, non-land permanent. Tamiyo, Collector of Tales is mostly in our deck to be a planeswalking Eternal Witness, getting something like Niv-Mizzet Reborn back from our graveyard to draw even more cards. Meanwhile, Teferi, Time Raveler isn't really a finisher, but it is a good way to close down control decks—which seem to be very popular on Magic Arena at the moment—by making them play at sorcery speed, which locks down all of their counterspells and forces our opponent to use their removal at inopportune times.

Replaceable Effects

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The rest of our deck is mostly removal and a few counterspells split across the different guilds. Here, the most important thing to point out is that our removal breakdown is unique since, rather than playing four of a specific removal spell, we instead have our removal split across the guilds as one-ofs. In a deck where the goal is to power up Niv-Mizzet Reborn, rather than playing four of the best removal spell in the format, it's actually more beneficial to play some (slightly) weaker removal spells in different colors to maximize the power of Niv's enters-the-battlefield ability. For example, we could play four copies of Bedevil, but this would mean we'll always only draw a maximum of one removal spell when we resolve Niv-Mizzet Reborn. By playing one Bedevil, one Assassin's Trophy, one Mortify, and one Justice Strike, we'll find Bedevil specifically less often, but we will greatly increase our chances of drawing multiple removal spells when we resolve a Niv-Mizzet Reborn. In theory, the number of cards that we draw helps to overcome the fact that we're playing some slightly less powerful options to support our Niv plan.

The Matchups

On paper, it seems like Niv-Mizzet Reborn would struggle against aggro but do well against midrange and control. While this is most likely true, we did manage to take down Mono-Red Aggro on video. The biggest issue with the aggro matchup isn't that our cards are bad—they are actually pretty good and even better after sideboarding, when we get more Knight of Autumns and another Enter the God-Eternals—but the fact that we're playing a slow and painful mana base. On the other hand, against control and midrange, our deck has a lot of answers and is typically just more powerful than our opponent's deck. Maybe the best part of playing Niv-Mizzet Reborn is that thanks to Niv revealing the cards that it draws us, our opponent usually knows most or all of our hand but usually still can't win because our cards are just so strong in a vacuum. 

The Odds

All in all, we played five matches and won four, giving us an 80% match win percentage. There was also one other match against Esper Control where I scooped in game one because we'd already played control about a million times and another Esper match didn't seem all that interesting for the video. This makes Niv-Mizzet, Reborn solidly above average in terms of Against the Odds decks.

As for Niv-Mizzet Reborn itself, the card was insane. While we never drew 10 with its enters-the-battlefield trigger, we did draw six once, which was pretty impressive. Even better, we averaged somewhere around four cards per Niv, which is a ton of value on a five-mana 6/6 flying body, and that doesn't even consider that the cards we get from Niv-Mizzet Reborn are actually better than just drawing a random card since we know that we're not getting any lands and we occasionally get to choose between two (or more) options and grab whatever one is best for the situation. Basically, Niv-Mizzet Reborn was great, and the deck was not only competitive but a blast to play!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

We'll get back to our normal mixture of sets and cards soon, but we're going to have another War of the Spark poll this week, this time with a twist: rather than playing the winning card in Standard, we're going to take it for a spin in Modern! Which of these spicy new War of the Spark cards should we build around in Modern next week? Let us know by voting below!

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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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