Bringing Niv to Light

Cris "Iglooboi" breaks down the Niv to Light deck he took to the Top 8 of a Pioneer NRG 10k, including sideboard choices and flex slots.

Niv to NRG Top 8

Rakdos Midrange making you lose faith in Pioneer? Seeing your opponent grind value throughout the game, answering multiple threats through their disruptive gameplan got you down? Or maybe you are tired of seeing Mono Green having so many threats that get value when they enter, exist, and die? Personally, finding a deck that could have game against both of these matchups without getting run over by Mono-White and Mono-Red was proving to be a challenge.

Finally, the one and only Claudioh won a challenge with Niv to Light, and it was a list I truly felt could be the next step in the Pioneer Metagame. Having strong versatile removal, early ramp, powerful board wipes and the ability to take the game over with giant threats made it exactly what I was looking for. Taking his list, I made some changes to fit the metagame I expected and it worked out for me, as I was able to work my way into the Top 8 at the NRG series 10k in Minneapolis with this list.

In the future, I think I plan to add one additional boardwipe to the list. I’m not sure if I would rather it be Shadow’s Verdict or Sunfall, but I am currently testing Sunfall, as it can exile large boards and leave you with a big incubation token to take over the game with, which is important against random indestructible threats or to get through Selfless Spirit or Dauntless Bodyguard. It also prevents cards with death triggers – like Cavalier of Thorns – from activating. 

Shadow’s Verdict is in consideration because it also catches Greasefangs and Kroxas that are in the graveyard ready to be reanimated.

The Toolbox

On to the main toolbox cards, let’s take a look at Nahiri, the Harbinger; Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines; Klothys, God of Destiny; Niv-Mizzet Supreme and Valki, God of Lies Each of these inclusions were well thought out in terms of earning a place in the list. 

Starting with Nahiri, the Harbinger, I was hesitant with her at the beginning of the weekend. I learned very quickly how powerful she is, especially since a lot of players ignore her. Nahiri lets us turn extra lands into spells or helps us dig for our lands to cast Niv-Mizzet and removal. It also is a great removal spell, exiling many tapped creatures and prevalent enchantments like Leyline Binding, Fable of the Mirror Breaker, or Wedding Announcement. On occasion, we also get to ultimate Nahiri, which gets us Niv-Mizzet Reborn and drawing two to five cards. Niv then returns to your hand to be cast again. Normally, we just draw it to cast and is not a priority to get off Bring to Light but occasionally we just want an answer to a Leyline Binding and it’s a great two-for-one in those scenarios.

Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines is pretty straightforward as far as its inclusion goes. Mono Green struggles to beat it, as their main engines rely on Cavalier of Thorns triggering to get Nykthos into play and Storm the Festival in the graveyard, and their grindy plan wants to draw cards off Kiora. She also lets us double our Niv-Mizzet trigger and our Omnath triggers. 

Klothys is just a grindy indestructible graveyard hate piece. I had a game against Azorius Control where I resolved Klothys and it just sat on the battlefield and dealt between 12 and 14 damage alone – and it even ate Memory Deluge, which was a beneficial target in the long game. In other matchups it can eat Vehicles from Greasefang, Arclight Phoenixfrom Phoenix, random reanimation targets and keeps graveyards in check enough to slow down or increase the costs of delve spells. 

In Niv-Mizzet Supreme, we get to see my hidden hero. Niv Supreme allowed me to get so much value multiple times throughout the tournament. I had a game where I tutored it out against Mono White Humans, because they were playing the game where it felt like they had a Brutal Catharor Ossification to snag my big creature and keep pushing damage, but Niv-Mizzet Supreme having protection from mono-colored allowed me to pull it out and be sure my opponent couldn’t deal with it 

Finally, we have Valki, God of Lies which is my personal favorite card for Bring to Lightdecks. After resolving a board wipe, we are looking for a permanent that can single-handedly take over a game. Usually, Niv-Mizzet Reborn can do that, but most decks can use a removal spell and make it awkward. Tibalt, God of Lies is a perfect card for the slot. Casting it from Bring to Light we can cheat it in and usually have mana for a removal spell to protect the Tibalt as we begin upticking it for card advantage. We also get to use its minus ability, exiling creatures and casting them. During the event, I was able to exile a Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and cast it to win the game, which honestly felt incredible.

Flex Slots

In the flex slots, I have Slaughter Games, Primari Command and Kolaghan’s Command. Slaughter Games is a card that looks weird at first glance, but it allows us to have maindeck ways to fight against combo decks. Having Slaughter Games to exile cards like Greasefang, Emergent Ultimatum, Karn the Great Creator, Creativity Targets and Atraxa, Grand Unifiercan be the difference between dying on turn four and preventing your opponent from being able to combo for the rest of the game. The other card being considered for that slot would be Unmoored Ego which is able to hit Lotus Field and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Aside from removing combo pieces, another approach we can take is forcing discard and blowing up creatures and artifacts with Kolaghan’s Command. K-Command is really good at enabling two-for-ones, especially against Rakdos Midrange and other grindy matchups. 

Finally, Prismari Command is a weird niche card in the deck. I am not a huge fan of the card, but being the only Izzet hit for Niv-Mizzet makes it desirable. It also lets you ramp on turn three if you didn’t have your turn-two ramp spell, so I can make a treasure and cast a turn-four Bring to Lightor either Niv-Mizzet card. It also allows you to destroy random artifacts, sculpt your hand and even shock random cards like Goblin Shaman, Bloodtithe Harvester, Mana Dorks and occasionally push a little bit of chip damage to the opponents.

Meta Calls

A few toolbox pieces you could play instead would include Yasharn, Implacable Earth; The Scarab God; and Invasion of Ergamon. I am not a fan of Yasharn in the current meta game, as it’s mainly just good against Rakdos Sacrifice (which isn’t super prevalent in the current metagame) and Bloodtithe Harvester. It has its moments, but on the whole I think that the card might be slightly too narrow for the field that we’re seeing at the moment.

I think Scarab God is good and has specific metagames where it’s better than others, and currently, the deck would prefer to be exiling creatures, and Niv Mizzet doesn’t tend to go to the graveyard and stay around until we can reanimate it due to Misery Shadow, Graveyard Trespasser and other incidental exile. The other reason I’m not a huge fan of it is the high density of five-drops already in the deck.

Finally, Invasion of Ergamon being numbers nine and maybe ten for this same effect has been a card I’ve been interested in testing. Early in the game, it helps ramp us into a turn-four big spell and rummage for lands. Then, in late game, we can hit it off Niv-Mizzet Reborn. Currently, Klothys, God of Destiny is the only hit for the Gruul color combination, and Invasion’s includion gives us an additional hit to rummage for more big-mana spells, in addition to being a flicker target. 

The Sideboard

Currently, my sideboard is pretty straightforward. Starting with Dovin’s Veto, I wanted a way to reliably interact against blue decks on the stack, especially when it comes to counter wars with Azorius Control. Dovin’s Veto also has the benefit of getting hit off Niv-Mizzet Reborn triggers, and you can jumpstart it if Niv-Mizzet Supreme is on board. Mystical Dispute is in for a similar reason, because one-mana interaction tends to make a big difference when you’re trying to resolve Omnath on turn five or Niv-Mizzet/ Bring to Lighton turn six.

Reckoner Bankbuster is a card that makes your grind against Rakdos and Azorius Control a lot easier, and its inclusion in the sideboard allows you to board out dead cards in the matchup. 

Rending Volley is mainly there to help the Greasefang matchup, as it allows us even more instant-speed removal to fight through the opponent’s Thoughtseize and Liliana of the Veil

Next we look at Casualties of War– which is the spice I copied from Claudioh – and it was quite impressive multiple times over the weekend. I brought it in a few times vs decks like Rakdos Midrange, Mono-Green and Mono-Black. It’s really good in grindy matchups, where you just need to clean up the board. 

Finally, we have Lavinia – which was there to show some amount of respect to Lotus Field – but I don’t think I would run it in future events and I would most likely change it to a second Deafening Clarionor a Solar Blaze to help combat the new Boros Convoke deck.

End Step

Niv to Light has been around since the beginning of Pioneer, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon. With the ability to constantly control the board and develop a quick clock, it makes for a healthy and fun midrange toolbox deck that can settle in for the controlling game plan. Currently, I think this deck is in a good position, as Mono-Blue Spirits isn’t seeing a lot of play, Phoenix is on a huge down trend, and, with the uptick of creature decks, Niv to Light can maintain enough control over a game to succeed. 

With all of this being said, the deck requires some getting use to, as it requires a lot of mulligan decisions, weighing probability of drawing a land or removal in any given matchup, memorizing your list to make educated lines to set yourself up for the best Bring to Lightchoices and knowing when you grab Niv-Mizzet Reborn versus grabbing Tibalt, Niv-Mizzet Supreme or just choosing to blow up the board.

Good luck with your future Niv triggers and thank you for reading!

  • IglooBoi

    Cris Smith started playing magic with the Premium Sliver deck when he was in middle school. Throughout school he played casually until his father decided to join the venture and they bought the pre-cons during Rivals of Ixalan and started going to their LGS. As his father started getting more busy with work Cris met new friends and together they wanted to get more competitive. Now he grinds the NRG circuit and plays Modern and Pioneer at a competitive level.

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