In my last article I discussed a competitive player catching the Commander bug. I mentioned the decks that I have built and been running in my local commander groups. It was mentioned to me that it would be interesting if I did more of a deep dive on each deck, so that will be what you see from me for the next couple weeks.
First is Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Click on Niv-Mizzet, Parun below to see the current build of the deck for those who would like to follow along.
You’re Not The Only One Cursed With Knowledge
Starting off we obviously want to draw some cards.
In a deck that contains the two colors in Magic that are most adept at casting instants and sorceries, there are a lot of options to choose from. While some of the options are obvious choices, others may not be. When it comes down to choices that may not be the common, a large part of it has to do with preference. That being said, I am a person who values knowledge and spends life as a perpetual student. I am always ready to learn, thus this process was exactly that; a learning experience.
Practicality also plays a large role in my deck construction as well, so keep that in mind. First, the elephant in the room, I am not playing Wheel of Fortune in my “Wheels” themed Niv-Mizzet build. The reason is the current price tag on that card. As of the writing of this article, TCGPlayer has a market price listed at around $155. There are many options that can be used in replacing this exorbitant namesake. Take for example the following spells, they are all suitable replacements for Wheel of Fortune.
The outliers here are Molten Psyche, Whirlpool Warrior and Winds of Change. So why are these spells in over something more conventional? The simplest answer is, preference. I really like the ability to double up on the damage from my wheel effect when possible. The Metalcraft addition of Molten Psyche allows us to do that. While I don’t have a critical mass of artifacts in this build to ensure it happens everytime this particular spell is cast, having the opportunity for it to come together is quite nice. Whirlpool Warrior is the only other creature that can serve as an additional wheel in the deck, the most common being Magus of the Wheel. The reason for this inclusion over, say Arjun the Shifting Flame or Forgotten Creation, is that it allows agency within a given game. The fact that my two wheel creatures share an activated ability to perform their spell-like function is what drew me to a creature with a similar structure as Magus of the Wheel.
You Throw Another Moon At Me, And I'm Gonna Lose It
While this deck can dispatch foes quickly if Niv-Mizzet is untouched, there are more than enough threats to pick up the slack in the absence of our draconian Commander. They say that the best offense is a good defense, I would argue that in commander; diversity is the best offense.
Each of the cards that you see above can serve as an additional, or backup, threat in the correct circumstance. Cards like Talrand, the Sky Summoner; Murmuring Mystic and The Locust God grant you the ability to go very wide in a deck that typically doesn’t rely on amassing an army to march to victory. Ominous Seas can do the same as these cards, though it is at a much slower clip you are trading speed and evasion for larger tokens.
Psychosis Crawler and Guttersnipe fall into a category of creatures similar to Niv-Mizzet, Parun. They are both halves of Niv-Mizzet’s ability, just disjointed. Drawing cards triggers the Psychosis Crawler and cast instants and sorceries triggers the Guttersnipe. Combined these two can serve as a “poor man’s” Niv-Mizzet, Parun, though separately they hold their own as well.
While in competitive constructed formats I prefer to play self contained threats that don’t require additional spells or permanents to be effective, Commander is a horse of a different color. Permanents like Thousand-Year Storm and Primal Amulet are fueled by what I’m already trying to do in this deck. Casting spells add counters to the Amulet, eventually transforming it into the powerful land Primal Wellspring. Once the transformation occurs, Primal Wellspring and Thousand-Year Storm have a similar effect on the game state. Wellspring can double up on a single spell, unless you can untap it, each turn. Combining it with another threat card like the Explosion half of Expansion/Explosion, it is able to remove a number of threats from the board or outright removes players from the game. Thousand-Year Storm has the same type of interaction with Explosion, only on a much larger scale if planned for accordingly. The power enchantment grants your instants and sorceries the mechanic Storm. The Storm rules text is “When you cast this spell, copy it for each spell cast before it this turn. You may choose new targets for the copies”. When you cast a spell with “X” in its mana cost and copy it, the copy has the same amount paid into “X” as the original. So if you have managed to cast any number of spells before placing a sizable Explosion on the stack, the results will be a spectacular fireworks display.
This brings us to our comrades-in-arms, the “Lab Men”. Laboratory Maniac is the origin of this term and it refers to an effect that allows you to win the game by drawing a card from your library when said library is empty. Jace, Wielder of Mysteries two instances of this effect. The first being the static ability on the card that was introduced in War of the Spark and the minus ability of planeswalker abilities. A quick aside about the purpose of the two instances of “If you would draw a card while your library has no cards in it, you win the game instead.” As long as Jace, Wielder of Mysteries is on the battlefield, the static ability version of the text makes sure that you win if you attempt to draw from an empty library; if you are using the minus eight ability and it will result in Jace being moved to the Graveyard, or somewhere other than the battlefield, the alternate win clause at the end of the ability win ensure that you can still win through the “Lab Man” effect and not lose as a result from drawing from an empty library. When piloting a deck such as this, resorting to an out such as this type of win condition is a real possibility.
Is That Everyone? What, You Wanted More?
Now that we have covered the spells that are easier to group together, I'll move onto those cards that fill out the rest of the deck. Starting from the top of the decklist; Baral, Chief of Compliance and Goblin Electromancer serve their obvious roles. Cost reduction is very important for any spellslinger deck.
Dockside Extortionist quickly became a mainstay in any Commander deck that can play it. I have had games where the enter the battlefield trigger can produce twelve Treasure tokens. That is twelve extra mana to do with however you see fit.
Many Izzet Commander decks inherently lean towards being combo decks. I have foregone that focus in this deck, with a few exceptions. Tandem Lookout, Curiosity and Ophidian Eye are all combo pieces when combined with Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Once Niv-Mizzet is enchanted, or paired through the Soulbond mechanic, the single act of triggering the dragon's ability will result in a loop that can deal an unlimited amount of damage. Well, not unlimited, the only limitation is the number of cards that you can draw from what remains in your library.
The remaining cards all serve one of three purposes; drawing cards, countering spells or removal. Some examples of my card drawing suit would be Blue Sun’s Zenith, Brainstorm, Ponder, Pull From Tomorrow and The Magic Mirror. Counterspells would include Counterspell, Fierce Guardianship and Rewind; these are all catch-all counterspells for the threats that I would be most concerned with from across the table.
Lastly, the mana base and acceleration from mana rocks (mana producing artifacts) are what you would expect; the infamous Sol Ring, color-corresponding Izzet Signet and Talisman of Creativity. Generic mana rocks such as Chromatic Lantern and Arcane Signet round out the artifacts. The only land that I have in my deck that may not appear in many lists is Volcanic Island. The original dual lands are not the easiest to come by, whether that is to availability or the high price tag; I was lucky to have an opportunity to acquire one in a trade.
I hope that you have enjoyed this look into a long-time competitive Magic player making his foray into the world of Commander (and loving it). Next week I will be continuing my Commander decks deep dive with my build of Pir, Imaginative Rascal and his partner Toothy, Imaginary Friend.