Epic Experiment – Niv-Mizzet Reborn

(Niv-Mizzet, Reborn | Art by Raymond Swanland)

Epic Preparations

Hello, EDHREC fans! I’m Bernardo Melibeu, and this is Epic Experiment, a series where we throw all common sense aside and experiment with some unusual strategies, changing how we normally build our deck. Is it going to work? Who knows?! We’re making science here. When you’re an Izzet mage, blowing things up is half the fun.

This week we’ll be reviewing one of the most powerful five color legends from recent set: Niv-Mizzet, Reborn.

Flying

When Niv-Mizzet Reborn enters the battlefield, reveal the top ten cards of your library. For each color pair, choose a card that’s exactly those colors from among them. Put the chosen cards into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

Observation 1:

Niv-Mizzet Reborn’s ETB is really powerful. Even if we get as “low” as three new cards, we are still getting a lot of bang for our buck.

Observation 2:

This ETB is especially good in a controlling position and can easily allow us to outgrind most the table, especially with the right support.

Observation 3:

Having mana to cast all of the spells gained through the ETB is crucial, however, discarding isn’t all that bad considering that we’re going up in card quality.

Observation 4:

There’s a hidden cost that we must be aware of, and that is that we probably have to fill our deck with not-so-optimal guild-colored cards.


The Old Formula

Niv-Mizzet Reborn’s High Synergy list is quite unique; its mixture of powerful multicolored staples that tend to point to a slower deck. Most of these cards are pretty good staples on their own. However, we can see how we are drawn to some not-so-optimal cards, like Counterflux and Deathsprout.


The Epic Ingredients

One of the biggest questions about playing Niv is knowing which cards we’re trying to get with our commander’s ETB. While many lists opt to go for a more controlling route, I wanted to try a more combo-oriented shell. This leads us to find a shell that has space for lots of guild-colored cards, and Reanimator is a great one for that. We’ve a huge pool of guild-colored creatures and reanimation spells, which makes our ETB triggers flexible, so we have a decent chance to find both halves of the combo.

We have a wide array of baddies to reanimate: cards like Aurelia, the Warleader, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, and Medomai the Ageless are some impressive beaters that drastically increase our damage output. Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, Dragonlord Dromoka, and Azor, the Lawbringer provide some disruption and can help us untap with our creatures more often. Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait, Omnath, Locus of Rage, and Niv-Mizzet, Parun are great for slower games where we need to grind out our opponents a bit. Dragonlord Kolaghan and Samut, Voice of Dissent are haste-enablers, which is pretty important, especially when using some of our mass reanimation spells.

There’s also a small Dragons package that appreciates the fact that our commander is also a Dragon. Atarka, World Render is a great fake 12-power beater that also buffs our commander. Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury can be a great anthem effect, and having Dash drastically increases its all-in potential.

There are plenty of powerful reanimation effects that we can get with our commander’s ETB trigger, like Extract from Darkness or Back for More. Primevals’ Glorious Rebirth and Pyrrhic Revival are explosive spells that can probably end the game right then and there. Torrent of Souls might not be as explosive as the previous two; however, it can really do some damage in the right board. Debtor’s Knell and Hunting Grounds are our go-to grindy “reanimation” spells (Hunting Ground technically isn’t one, but it’s cheating on mana in a similar way); they’re on the slower side of things, but their value can be spread across multiple turns.

One thing that can help mitigate some of the randomness of Niv’s triggers is assigning a role for each of the guilds. Let’s say that we’re looking for a source of ramp (among other things): Having Simic be the go-to color for it means that the Simic slot won’t be overcrowded with other options. Most of the black-based guilds are centered around our reanimation spells, but they do have some uses outside of them. This is the most fun part of building a Niv deck because it’s highly customizable, and colors may shift roles around as we tinker with them.

Guild Role Number of Baddies Total Number
Azorius Control 2 6
Dimir Reanimation spells and Self Mill 1 5
Rakdos Aggressive Reanimation spells 2 5
Gruul Baddies 4 5
Selesnya Ramp and Reanimation* 1 5
Orzhov Bigger Reanimation 1 5
Izzet Looting 2 5
Golgari Reanimation and Removal 1 5
Boros Baddies 2 4
Simic Ramp and Draw 2 8
*Hunting Grounds for all intents and purposes IS a reanimation spell

The Mixture

Niv Mizzet Reanimate

Commander (1)
Creature (23)
Enchantment (3)
Instant (11)
Planeswalker (3)
Artifact (1)
Sorcery (18)
Land (40)

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While the tempo swing of cheating a powerful creature into play can be an effective path to victory, our ability to consistently play big creatures cannot be underestimated, and it’ll keep us alive on longer games. After all, a few of our threats are designed for longer games, so we could use our reanimation spells to make them stick out for longer. This makes us extremely resilient and hard to disrupt, especially with such a powerful draw engine in the command zone.

For our non-guild colors cards (aside from the ever-present Sol Ring), we’re bringing cheap looting effects. Usually I’d recommend getting a stronger Ramp suite in this slot, since getting Niv online ASAP is crucial. However, having cheap looting available to us is just as crucial, as we need to fill our graveyard with creatures, and their draw power helps us find more creatures and reanimation spells.


Methodology

With many big baddies and expensive reanimation spells, our opening hands can be a bit awkward. Niv-Mizzet being such a powerful engine can really help us here: by allowing us to keep land-heavy hands and use its ETB to dig for action in the mid-game, we have much more flexibility to keep otherwise unkeepable hands.

Our early game is quite weak, and we’ll probably be playing land-go for the first couple of turns. However, when we start digging through our deck, we’re set. Given that, if your meta tends to have a lot of early aggression, getting some cheap bodies might help alleviate some of the pressure.

In the mid-game we start to seeing a change in dynamic. Now we have a lot of different tools that can handle many situations. When we’re lacking in the hand department, we might even want to cast our commander; in fact, our first Niv trigger is a very crucial moment in the game that can dictate how the next few turns are going to go. By this point we should focus on threats that get incremental value across multiple turns, like The Locust God, or Omnath, Locus of Rage.

Our deck can keep the pressure through the late game, but there’re a few caveats. We should be careful about not getting our creatures exiled, either by removals or by graveyard hate. While we have an easy way to get back our creatures from our graveyard, it can be quite expensive to do so; with a five to six mana per threat, it can be hard to get multiple on the battlefield after a few too many removals. Aside from that, our deck has what it takes to overpower most decks out there.


Epic Results

There are some gold-colored Dragons out there; this might be a good starting point for a more tribal-oriented/Dragon-centric build. Bladewing the Risen is a great value target that can grab another Dragon, and Silumgar, the Drifting Death can deal with aggressive strategies.

The list was originally conceived after I wrote my Jegantha article. Using Jegantha, the Wellspring as a Companion can be hard in a deck like this, but once we find the right creature suite, it can be a more explosive version of the archetype.

Playing cheap bodies can help relieve some of the early pressure, although I do think that this can be risky because our deck is very slot-intensive, and finding cheap, utility-based guild-colored cards can be hard.

That’s it for this Epic Experiment! What do you think about this list? Do you have any questions about the deck? Which cards did you like? Which did you not? Was this Epic Experiment a success? Please let me know in the comments below!

Bernardo has been playing(on and off) since portal and somehow manage to survive mirrodin block while being a total casual(beast tribal ftw?). He loves all the shades of blue and being the one saying "nope", while holding a full grip of cards in hand.