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Budget Commander: Niv-Mizzet, Parun


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I make no effort to hide the fact that I'm a huge Izzet fanboy: it is my favorite guild in terms of aesthetics, flavor, and game mechanics. The guild's main archetype, Spellslinger, happens to be my favorite archetype in the game. In all three Ravnica blocks - the original RavnicaReturn to Ravnica, and now the beginning of Guilds of Ravnica blocks, Izzet is my favorite guild to draft. In fact, I love grinding out opponents with Steamcore Weirds so much that its art has been my Twitter avatar since the account's creation. I love everything about the guild and especially it's brilliant, fickle, egotistical, and vain draconic guildmaster, Niv-Mizzet. So when Guilds of Ravnica released and we received the best version of Niv-Mizzet ever printed, I knew I'd have to do a Budget Commander article on him.

Niv-Mizzet, Parun is the third version of the Izzet guildmaster: the previous two versions were Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius. Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind was the first version and was one of the most popular and powerful commanders during the early days of the Commander format. The Firemind was almost always built as a Wheel deck, looking to string together cards like Wheel of Fortune and Windfall which allowed Niv to machine-gun down opposing creatures (and players) while digging for their Curiosity Combo: enchant Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind with Curiosity and then draw a card any way (like tapping Niv-Mizzet) to deal one damage to a player and draw one card as many times as you'd like, often killing all opponents in the process. The Firemind was the boogeyman of many Commander playgroups in the early days of the format but slowly faded in popularity as time went on and new, shinier commanders were introduced. Then with Return to Ravnica we got Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius, which was designed to be a homage to the original Firemind version -- draw cards and ping things -- but instead of pinging whenever you draw a card, this time you draw a card whenever you ping/hit an opponent, which means you don't get to ping seven times when you cast Wheel of Fortune and you can't combo off with Curiosity. While unquestionably weaker then the original version, Dracogenius fulfills a different niche in the format, allowing players to play a "fair" version of Niv-Mizzet, drawing cards and pinging away while being less prone to having explosive turns or combo'ing off, thus being better suited to more casual tables and less likely to become the archenemy of playgroups.

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Finally we get to the latest version: Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Parun continues to follow the Niv-Mizzet schtick of drawing cards and pinging stuff, but does it Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind's way of pinging whenever you draw a card, so Wheels and Curiosity combos are back on the menu. But wait, there's more! Instead of being able to tap to draw a card, Parun instead draws a card whenever any player casts an instant or sorcery! That includes your opponents! This trigger is way better than the Firemind's tap ability, which is rather weak by itself and only becomes powerful when paired with a handful of cards, most notably Mind Over Matter. Meanwhile, Niv-Mizzet Parun is effortlessly drawing you a ton of cards just for running whatever instants or sorceries you feel like. And believe me when I say I get no better feeling than drawing a card off my opponent's feeble attempt to Swords to Plowshares my Niv before I Counterspell it! Parun also can't be countered and comes with a bigger body too, just as the cherry on top! So much value! The only reasons to run Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind over Niv-Mizzet, Parun as your commander is that Firemind is easier to cast and has the option to combo with Mind Over Matter, while the Parun's UUURRR casting cost makes it harder to ramp him out with some of the best mana rocks like Sol Ring and Mana Crypt. Beyond that, Niv-Mizzet, Parun is just the best Niv around, no doubt about it. So with our commander chosen, let's get to brewing!

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Spellslinger Combo Control

Niv-Mizzet, Parun rewards us for drawing cards and for playing instants/sorceries. To take advantage of all that card draw potential, I will be building a Spellslinger deck full of instants/sorceries and cards that reward us for playing them.

Because Niv-Mizzet combos off so easily with Curiosity cards, that will be our primary win condition: Niv-Mizzet, Parun combined with Curiosity / Ophidian Eye / Tandem Lookout to draw any number of cards while pinging our opponents to death. Parun also has another easy combo up his sleeve: Isochron Scepter + Dramatic Reversal. Imprint Reversal on Scepter and if you have mana rocks that tap for 2+ mana, you can cast Reversal an infinite number of times, which means you can draw infinite cards / ping infinite times with Niv and you can generate infinite mana. These easy combos can take out all our opponents if we have enough cards in our library to draw. If not, we can reshuffle our graveyard into our library to keep going, or just win with Laboratory Maniac by decking ourselves.

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The best way to combo off is to play our combo pieces and win on the same turn, preventing our opponents from stopping us with anything other than instant speed answers -- and they can't even counter Niv-Mizzet, Parun, muahaha! This does cost a ton of mana, however: six mana to cast Niv, minimum one mana to enchant him with Curiosity, and another minimum one mana to draw a card (Opt), for a total of eight mana minimum for a Curiosity Combo win. If we have mana rocks and Isochron Scepter imprinting Dramatic Reversal, however, we can produce infinite mana, cast Niv and win the game, for just four mana to start the combo. But while the Scepter combo requires far less mana to pull off, it's much harder to assemble because most of Izzet's tutors aren't budget-friendly. So no matter what combo we try to pull off, we should expect to wait a couple turns so we can find our combo pieces and have enough mana to assemble them.

Because we aren't a super fast combo deck, and we're likely going to be the archenemy at the table (rightfully so!) for the insta-win combos that we run, I'll be building this deck as more of a Control deck. We need tons of answers that can both stop faster decks and protect ourselves while we ramp and dig for our combo pieces.

 

Game Plan

The game plan for our Niv-Mizzet, Parun Spellslinger Combo Control deck is simple:

  1. Establish an early board defense while ramping.
  2. Control the board while continuing to ramp and draw cards to find our combo pieces.
  3. Assemble one of our combos and win.

Easy enough, right? Let's examine the parts that make up the deck.

 

Ramp

Our manabase is definitely the trickiest thing to get right for our deck on a budget. Izzet doesn't have the greatest selection of ramp in general, but Niv-Mizzet, Parun has an especially demanding casting cost. Because of this, some of the very best ramp choices in a generic Izzet deck like Sol Ring and Worn Powerstone get significantly weaker in our deck because they can't help us cast our commander (excluding commander tax). Of course, I would never advise cutting Sol Ring / Mana Crypt if you have them since they're just too good even when not used optimally, but other choices that I normally would auto-include in my Izzet decks, like Worn Powerstone and Thran Dynamo, should probably be replaced by stuff that taps for colored mana. We don't want to run into situations where we have lots of mana available but still can't cast Niv-Mizzet, Parun due to lack of correct colored mana.

If you decide to go Spellslinger like I am with my sample deck, there are a few extra sources of ramp that will help the majority of our deck, cards like Goblin Electromancer that reduce the cost of our instants/sorceries by 1 colorless mana (or more). These don't mana-fix for us and do nothing to help us cast our commander, but nonetheless if you're casting two or more instants/sorceries per turn then they're very efficient and can help supplement our ramp package.

Here are some of my favorite ramp cards for the deck under $5 USD at the time of writing this. When in doubt about what ramp to run, always go for the lower converted mana cost; we always want to spend turn 2 and 3 ramping.

If you're looking to add some Spellslinger ramp, here are some nice budget options:

 

Because Spellslinger ramp cards don't help us cast Niv-Mizzet, Parun, they should never replace our regular ramp cards but instead be used in addition to them. By the way, I left out Arcane Melee because I don't think it's worth it unless you're casting very expensive spells and look to chain together a ton of spells, which most decks don't do.

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Lands

The other half of our manabase is lands. Just like our ramp cards, we need to put extra emphasis on mana-fixing lands so we can cast Niv-Mizzet, Parun when we need to. Unfortunately, Izzet is an enemy colored pairing and this outdated concept means we have less mana-fixing lands to work with. Worse yet, Izzet is a popular color pair in multiple formats, so a lot of our best land options are way out of our budget range. Nonetheless, we do have a good amount of lands to choose from.

I also like running a handful of cycling lands in the deck, like Forgotten Cave. They come into play tapped so I wouldn't run all of them, but they tap for colored mana and they let us go more ham on ramp because we can cycle them away for cheap later on when we don't need more mana, and doing so draws a card to trigger a ping out of Niv-Mizzet, Parun. It's not a huge thing but it's nice.

You can run a few colorless lands, but they have to be top-notch to warrant inclusion: Inventors' Fair is one such all-star if you're running Isochron Scepter since it fetches a combo piece. There's also other staples like Strip Mine and Scavenger's Grounds that I'll always make room for.

Here are some of my top picks for lands under $5 USD at the time of writing this:

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Spellslinger Control

Here comes the fun part! Niv-Mizzet, Parun draws us cards when we play instants/sorceries, so I'm all about doing that as much as possible. Izzet has a deep pool of awesome Spellslinger cards so this will be easy. We've got instants/sorceries to take care of all our deck's needs and then support cards that reward us for running lots of instants/sorceries.

Our interaction should be a mix of removal and countermagic. Countermagic is very important because it's the only way to answer most instants/sorceries we don't want resolving, but also doubles as ways to protect our combo pieces when we try to go off. But we won't be able to counter every threat that's being cast and there's simply better answers to some threats by just removing them once they've entered the battlefield. We need a healthy mix of countermagic/removal, and there's no shortage of both in the form of instants/sorceries.

Interaction is a top priority for us, but if we have an empty board then we're inviting our opponents to just attack and kill us. It would be inefficient to waste a removal spell on every random 4/4 swinging at us. Instead, we should look to set up a board state that deters opponents from randomly attacking us. Luckily Spellslinger has the perfect defense in the form of efficient token generators: Talrand, Sky Summoner, Young Pyromancer, Metallurgic Summonings, and the newcomer Murmuring Mystic. These cards can start generating tokens that can chump block big threats, and if they're left on the battlefield long enough they can even generate armies that can attack and win games on their own.

We'll need tons of card draw to keep our hand full of gas, keep hitting land drops, and dig for our combo pieces. Luckily we have tons of instant/sorcery options to do this.

With our needs laid out, here are my favorite Spellslinger options currently under $5 USD to fill out the deck:

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Finding Our Combos

Our main win condition is suiting up Niv-Mizzet, Parun with either Curiosity, Ophidian Eye, or Tandem Lookout. We don't have a lot of good budget tutor options, but my favorite are two transmute cards: Drift of Phantasms can get Eye or Lookout and Dizzy Spell gets Curiosity

If you're running Isochron Scepter + Dramatic Reversal combo, the best tutor is the transmute card Muddle the Mixture, which can fetch either piece. We have a fair bit of artifact tutors like Inventors' Fair, Fabricate, Whir of Invention, and Tezzeret the Seeker. We can use Mystical Tutor and Merchant Scroll to fetch Reversal.

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Putting it all Together: Budget Niv-Mizzet, Parun ($50)

Here are two sample lists, currently $50 USD each. One has the Isochron Scepter combo, which is the most expensive card in the deck but has a strong payoff. The other doesn't run the Scepter and uses the budget to make the deck all-around a bit more consistent. Both are running the Curiosity combo.

Here's the one with Scepter. Not only does the combo win with Niv-Mizzet, Parun, but you also can spawn an infinite army with any of your token generators.

Here's the one without Scepter. I shifted the budget instead for other minor upgrades elsewhere, like a slightly more consistent manabase.

$100 Brew

Here's how the deck looks like at $100. The deck functions exactly the same as the $50 version, just with better cantrips, tutors, ramp, and a more consistent mana base

Check Out Laboratory Maniac's Budgetless Brew!

Looking to take Budget Niv-Mizzet to the next level? Want to see how the deck looks like with a limitless budget and tuned to be as competitive as possible? Check out Laboratory Maniacs' live brew of Competitive Niv-Mizzet, Parun over here! They were nice enough to let me join them on their brewing session and I worked backwards from their budgetless list to make this budget article. So if you want to see what direction to upgrade ol' Nivvy, their list is a great place to start!

 

That's All, Folks!

I know, it's been a while, and I promised you all to finish my Commander 18 precon $20 upgrades, so that's what you'll be getting next!


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