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Niv-Mizzet: The Core, The Update, The Sideboard Guide

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Let's talk a little more about Niv-Mizzet, Parun.

While this does mark not just the second week, but the third week in a row I've discussed my GP Milwaukee deck, I think each of these prior articles had a lot to say that was new. It seems clear that the world feels a little different than it once did, and treasure seems to be everywhere. This makes for a fight over bigger plays - whereas once I felt like I was the only one engaged in this fight, now it feels like many players are, or at least they are interested in keeping me from accomplishing the flipping of Treasure Map.

Everywhere online I feel like I've seen takes on how people would update my Jeskai deck. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are many takes I've seen that I nearly wholly disagree with, and other takes that feel mostly right. To me the key to distinguishing between them is a question of Strategic Archetypes, and understanding how to keep this deck a Jeskai Hybrid Control deck rather than shoehorn it into a Jeskai Control deck (and thus weaken your Parun).

The Core

Figuring out what one might call the deck's 'Core' is something many have missed as a result. In exploring the deck, I've gotten to a point where I feel pretty confident that the untouchable core looks like this:

Niv-Mizzet's Crew:

The Support Crew:

Land:

Clever mathemagicians will recognize that this is a base of 56 cards. This doesn't leave much room for play.

Some of these cards simply play necessary roles. Niv-Mizzet, Parun, Treasure Map, and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria all help do the work in making sure that Niv-Mizzet arrives with mana up. Dive Down and Spell Pierce help keep Niv alive. Expansion // Explosion and Opt are both powerful cards, but are ludicrous with Niv; Shock is a seventh active Niv spell for a single mana and also acts to help contribute to surviving.

In the support roles, the first three Deafening Clarion are simply irreplaceable, while the fourth one isn't on the list (nor was it in my GP list) because it isn't a card you definitively want in any old metagame. That first Syncopate and that first Ionize are your baseline counterspells you want just to be able to maintain control of dangerous spells. Lava Coil is, for any metagame I can foresee, the go-to removal spell for what this deck needs right now, though that could change to Seal Away in the unlikely situation where Adanto Vanguard takes over Standard. Enigma Drake helps to justify the Dive Down and serves as a very powerful card to help stabilize the game versus aggressive decks or end the game when you're ready.

I came to these cards out of a lot of work, playing a ton of different variations to try to get there. Those last four cards aren't much real estate to work with, but it does give you some wiggle room to adjust based on what you think makes the most sense for a particular metagame.

Of course this does give room for small updates.

The Update

Here is where I'm at with the deck, as of today:


One important shift is moving the second Syncopate into a second Spell Pierce. To me, fighting the Treasure Map wars is just crucial. Sadly, this does make you a bit weaker to Adanto Vanguard (especially on the play), but it has seemed to me to be crucial in lots of ways, from protecting your own Treasure Map or Niv-Mizzet, Parun or to stopping their Treasure Map more often. In the mirror or near-mirror, Treasure Map advantage can be everything.

Savvy readers might take note about the mana change; this is a result of some of the lessons that were learned during the Grand Prix and the time after. More than anything, I kept feeling like I was Blue-shy. This is in part because this Jeskai deck, unlike other decks, actively wants uuuu; this constraint isn't shared by a more traditional Jeskai list. As a result, the worst non-Blue source gets the boot for an additional Island.

This also means a bit less access to White. Cutting into the double-White spells becomes more reasonable, which I only do a little bit with, cutting a Lyra Dawnbringer in the sideboard, but others have cut yet more because of the mana change. My replacement for Lyra Dawnbringer is Fight with Fire, a card that has tons of applications, from killing opposing Niv-Mizzet, Parun cleanly, to being a reasonable sweeper spell if drawn in a late game, and just generally taking care of all manner of threats immediately.

Of course, one could go further.

Take, for example, my friend Ian Degraff's recent foray with the deck this weekend, at my favorite Madison game story, Misty Mountain Games, for their new tournament series, the Summit Showdown. He only changed one additional card in the main, and he beat another player playing another version of my deck in the finals.

Here is his build:


Ian's inclusion of Karn, Scion of Urza in replacement of Rekindling Phoenix can be really powerful. Numerous versions of the list before the Grand Prix would occasionally have Karn, Scion of Urza in it. Karn is entirely capable of having huge Constructs the moment it hits play, and getting any old card can be quite dangerous if it is drawing you ever-nearer to Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Whatever sits in this slot should probably be capable of ending a game; other cards I'd consider in this slot are Ral, Izzet Viceroy, a third Enigma Drake, a fourth Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Murmuring Mystic, or that sideboard Lyra Dawnbringer.

In addition, Ian wanted to go over-the-top of other slower lists, and had Nezahal, Primal Tide as a kind of "fifth" Niv-Mizzet, Parun. This card also has decent application versus Golgari, as yet another answer to Carnage Tyrant.

Invoke the Divine was a card he and I had talked about, but ultimately he was talked into playing by Sam Black, who noted that it would not only be powerful against opposing Treasure Maps, but would also be a powerful card against the White enchantments you could expect to see rise up in response to this deck.

Of all of the choices for cuts, I'm quite nervous about Ian cutting both Disdainful Stroke and Settle the Wreckage, but something has to give - you simply can't do it all with only 15 slots.

The Sideboard Guide

I'm very much in the camp of my friend, former Cabal Rogue collaborator, and Misty Mountain Games proprietor Brian Kowal in not believing in hard-and-fast sideboarding guides. Most often, the best choice is to not get too caught up in a specific mapped out sideboarding plan, and instead be flexible enough to adapt to how an opponent plays out their deck.

That being said, here is a rough guidepost to the major matchups, using my updated list as the base.

Golgari

IN:

OUT:

This matchup has the most variance in how you sideboard. High mana versions, for example, practically demand that Syncopate get cut from the board (especially on the draw), with Deafening Clarion sticking in. Lava Coil simply doesn't want to be cut if Midnight Reaper is in the mix. Be as flexible as you can with this.

These decks can be expected to bring in Duress, and potentially more Planeswalkers. You can also expect Carnage Tyrant. With that in mind, Ionize aren't great in a world of Duress and Carnage Tyrant. Spell Swindle has the advantage of allowing you a massive mana boost even if it doesn't do any work countering that Tyrant, but also allows you to simply have another hard counter in the late game, since you're dropping Ionize and maybe Syncopate.

Star of Extinction is obviously an all-star here. Preparing to kill all the dinosaurs. It's fun.

Izzet

IN:

OUT:

There is a bit of variance in the boarding here, as well. You can expect Niv-Mizzet, Parun to come in for them, but they may also have Murmuring Mystic joining from the board. In addition, they are likely to up their Beacon Bolt count and bring in Negate or other countermagic. If theya re particularly Niv-Mizzet, Parun heavy, Ixalan's Binding is another option as well.

Sticking and protecting a Niv-Mizzet, Parun is key, with a lesser help from Rekindling Phoenix to hold the fort.

One misunderstood card here is Spell Swindle. This is a great card in the matchup because you can get into a fight that your opponent doesn't expect to have to fight. For example, if they cast Chemister's Insight at the end of your turn, you can counter it and still be safe from their retaliation. Should this happen to be your last counterspell in a late game fight, it can put you at such a mana (or card) advantage that you put your opponent away. Even using it on Niv-Mizzet, Parun can help keep you in the game with the extra mana.

Jeskai

IN:

OUT:

If my opponent is running with Legion Warboss, Shock and Enigma Drake stick around and I find other cards to shave, depending on their play style. One goal is to have the maximum number of cards that can get rid of an opposing Niv-Mizzet, Parun, whether they are a dedicated Niv-Mizzet deck like mine or not.

Boros (or other White Weenie)

IN:

OUT:

Here, you are just trying to cling on to life. Versus Heroic Reinforcements builds, keep in either two or all three Expansion // Explosion. This wasn't a great matchup with two Lyra Dawnbringer, and while it is very rough, "solving" it is doable by increasing card choices like Fiery Cannonade, Seal Away, or Settle the Wreckage in the board. If you decide to try to face this kind of deck down more by altering the sideboard, consider re-adding in the Clifftop Retreat or even dipping into Meandering River (gross though it is). If they also have Banefire, expect to be more likely to lose.

Experimental Red

IN:

OUT:

On the draw, you can cut a Syncopate over the Treasure Map. Depending on how they are boarded, you might find yourself keeping in one or both Dive Down, likely in exchange for cutting the extra Spell Pierce. While you will win the game if you can drop a Niv-Mizzet, Parun, you need to survive to the point where you do so.

The Stream

A streaming update: my equipment is slowly trickling in. Hopefully, I'll manage to get a very first (rough) stream up this weekend! This is all new to me, so I hope you'll join me and see if we can create the best stream possible!

I'll see you on Twitch!

Next week, something completely different!

- Adrian Sullivan

Follow me on Twitter! @AdrianLSullivan

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