The card that stood out to me when I first read through the Guilds of Ravnica spoiler was Niv-Mizzet, Parun. It has an extremely restrictive casting cost and some of the most absurd abilities in Magic. Once I got over the shock that the giant Dragon is rare and somehow not mythic, I realized that not being mythic allowed me to win and lose with it in Limited far more than I ever expected. After a few Drafts, it was time to see how good Niv-Mizzet, Parun is in Constructed.
A 5/5 flying creature for 6 is fine, but we need to see immediate impact on the board for a card to be Constructed playable in most metagames. Glorybringer could kill creatures right away, while Lyra Dawnbringer struggled to see play. On top of that, a 6-mana creature is in a tough spot against aggressive decks. Lyra costing a full mana less and having lifelink makes it a far more attractive big mana spell against aggressive strategies, so Niv is going to struggle a bit there. The good part about what’s going on in Standard right now is how many cheap spells we can put in our decks to both make Niv better and make sure we have time to deploy our big Dragon without dying. Between cheap removal spells like Shock, Shivan Fire, Lava Coil, Lightning Strike, and a potential sweeper in Fiery Cannonade, we have enough tools to prolong a game against aggro to make Niv playable.
If you’re able to untap with Niv-Mizzet against an aggressive deck, you’re threatening to sweep their board and draw more cards than they could ever come back from. While you’ve probably deployed a fair number of spells before turn 6 just to stay alive, Izzet colors are filled with jump-start cards and plenty of cheap cantrips to make sure you can keep going. Turning your Opts into removal spells is a great place to be.
Against control, Niv-Mizzet, Parun is a total game-changer. This is the reason why Niv is my favorite card in the set. First off, a 5/5 flying creature for 6 mana is heavily restricted by just walking into 2- and 3-mana countermagic. Giving your finisher immunity to counterspells is incredible. If you decide to tap out with 6 mana to play your Dragon, you know it will resolve, and you’re likely to start drawing some number of cards even if they have answers for it.
Niv-Mizzet shines even further in control battles, however, when you don’t need to cast it on turn 6. If you’re able to keep mana up for your own countermagic, the game spirals really quickly. Even if they happen to have the answer and a counter for your counter, the number of cards and extra damage you’re dealing (to kill whatever creature they may have, a planeswalker, or even your opponent) adds up quickly. If you get to untap, the game should be over since you’re playing a deck heavy on instants/sorceries that will draw you into more.
The biggest issue right now with Niv is just how prevalent the midrange decks are. G/B Midrange has been crushing Standard tournaments online and Niv-Mizzet looks downright embarrassing against a lot of what they’re doing. Plaguecrafter for 3 mana will have you sacrificing your Dragon and drawing 0 cards. Ravenous Chupacabra makes you look silly as they spent 2 less mana and even get a 2/2 out of the deal while your Dragon provides no value. The Eldest Reborn and Vivien Reid provide even more ways to knock off a Niv and still leave behind tons of value. This is a horrific position and probably not a good way to be successful in Standard right now.
Niv-Mizzet, Parun is easily the card I most want to be crushing Standard with, but I just don’t see how we can rely on a 6-mana spell that trades down for negative value against the best deck’s cheaper cards. This is the sort of thing that can swing wildly, so if control decks continue to pick up in popularity to beat the Golgari menace, then be aware of how good Niv-Mizzet will be again. That could be tomorrow or it could be a month from now, but until that day, wait to unleash your Dragons.