If you know a bit about the lore, are into badass Dragons, and are on the controlling side of the spectrum, you might have been hoping for a sweet Niv-Mizzet printing. In that case, I’m guessing that you will not be disappointed. Niv-Mizzet, Parun, third of its name, seems incredibly powerful—much more so than his previous iterations.
Unless I’m mistaken, the first two Niv-Mizzets were never Constructed powerhouses and as far I can remember, it took a player of the caliber of Guillaume Wafo-Tapa to place well in a high-profile event with the Dragon in his deck when he finished 15th at Pro Tour Honolulu 2006.
So what does the latest Niv-Mizzet offer? Well for 6 mana, you get yourself a 5/5 flying legendary Dragon Wizard that can not be countered. Along the line of his predecessors, whenever you draw a card, he deals 1 damage to any target, and whenever a player casts an instant or sorcery spell, you draw a card. There is a catch—its casting cost, UUURRR, will restrict you during deck building—but maybe not as much as it might seem at first glance.
While you probably won’t be able to play the Dragon alongside cards like Vraska’s Contempt or Settle the Wreckage, having access to three good dual lands in both Grixis and Jeskai means that you won’t have to restrict yourself to just Izzet colors if you want to include Niv-Mizzet in your deck and as long as you keep the splash to cards with a single B or W in their casting cost, you should be fine. The most obvious candidate is perhaps Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.
If you ever untap with Niv-Mizzet in play, the game should be all but over, and if your opponent deals with it with a removal spell, you should still find yourself up a card (or two if they had to use Assassin’s Trophy).
Once you’ve moved past the casting cost, the card might seem a bit unbalanced. It’s guaranteed to hit play, replaces itself if it gets killed, and straight-up wins the game if your opponent doesn’t have it.
Well, not exactly. Niv-Mizzet, Parun does line up quite poorly against a list of some of the best cards in the format: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Vraska, Relic Seeker, and Ravenous Chupacabra, as well as a buffed Ral, Izzet Viceroy immediately come to mind. The good news is that in matchups where you expect to face these cards, you can try and wait until you have a few extra mana so that you can either have a backup counterspell or a cantrip or two to fire off before the Dragon is dealt with.
Here is my first attempt at a Jeskai Control deck using the new legend:
If you’re going to roll with Niv-Mizzet, I don’t think that you can afford to play basic Plains or even Field of Ruin as you might not have have a window to sacrifice it in the early turns, leaving you unable to cast the Dragon on curve. The basic Island, Clifftop Retreat combination is a bit awkward, so you might want to trim some number of the W/R dual lands for extra basics or maybe an Evolving Wilds or two.
While Lightning Strike, Seal Away, and Deafening Clarion (the new “Sweltering Suns”) are respectable removal spells, we’ll hopefully have something better to work with by the time Guilds of Ravnica is fully spoiled.
I’m usually not a fan of mana rocks, even when they cost 2, and most people have only talked about the Lockets as good cards for Limited, but I wonder if it’s not worth playing a copy or two when you’re ramping into Teferi, which will most likely be the most powerful card in the format by a decent margin. Add to that the fact that the splash damage of Abrade is gone and the Locket prevents you from flooding in the late game, and you might actually have a Constructed playable card. Dragon’s Hoard is also an option, and has the benefit of producing white for Teferi, which in turn might allow you to lower the number of Clifftop Retreats.
Niv-Mizzet could also push Sarkhan, Fireblood over the top. The planeswalker has seen a bit of play in Standard but Nicol Bolas and Glorybringer didn’t feel like enough of a payoff. Turn-4 Niv-Mizzet sounds absurdly powerful if the format lets you consistently untap with Sarkhan in play.
I’ve loved pretty much everything I’ve seen of Guilds of Ravnica so far—the mechanics, the power level of the cards, the flavor—I can’t wait to see what’s left to discover, and to start battling in the new Standard.