Niv to Light definitive guide | Pioneer
Updated: Feb 18
We just got back from Players Tour Brussels and I am here to reminisce a little and write about our own version of Niv to Light, a deck the four of us (me, Ondrej, Stan and Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa himself) played. Personally, I am a little bit disappointed with my lackluster 9-7 finish. Unfortunately, I do not think I can expect to do much better at this unique dual format events until I can rediscover my long lost drafting mojo. As for our group and the deck, Paulo made top4 with it. Not bad. You could make an argument that had we given Paulo 60 basic lands, he would top8 anyway, and you would be most likely right. Still, in our small sample size, we had a 64.7% win rate, not accounting for one match when two of us faced each other. Against the tough competition at the Players Tour, I think that significantly higher percentage than 65% would be borderline broken. Here is what we played with just one small change - replacing Anguished Unmaking for Utter End.
Now, Niv-Mizzet as an archetype did not have a very good weekend. In fact I’ve heard that at MagicFest Brussels its win rate was well below 50%. And I am not all that surprised. I believe what has been considered a stock version of Niv to Light before this event has quite a few design flaws. First and foremost, we think it is correct to play 28 lands in addition to mana creatures, not just the standard 26. Most common way to lose with this deck is not being able to cast your hard-earned spells or being tempoed out, and 28 lands is a good solution to those issues. I often find myself in a position where I want to topdeck a land even though I already have 6+ mana just so I could catch up, or sneak in something like Teferi + Bring to Light. Niv-Mizzet Reborn and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath are certainly powerful enough that we do not need to be too greedy during deckbuilding.
That brings us to Gilded Goose. While Lotus Petal effects never have been a staple in control decks for obvious reasons, already having such a strong late game combined with desperation for fixation makes this card very justifiable. While the more popular option these days would be Paradise Druid, we prefer Goose, it plays out a bit smoother, stops a point of damage here and there and has extra synergy with Solar Flare. Is the mana perfect this way? No, not at all, but it never will be, this might be the hardest deck to optimize manabase for I could recollect. Luckily, it is also very rewarding. I think going forward it might be a good idea to cut a bit on temples and replace them with lands that can come into play untapped, but do not tell that to Stan.
Now onto spells. Niv-Mizzet Reborn, Uro and Bring to Light are our payoffs for all that mana hassle. They all count as win conditions, card draw spells and are very potent in helping us survive. Synergy between Bring to Light and Niv-Mizzet Reborn is what makes this deck click nicely. Teferi and Nahiri are great utility cards for this deck, they are both able to buy you tempo while also getting you closer to find your Niv. The rest is pretty much just interaction and silver bullets to look up with Bring to Light.
Thoughtseize vs. Thought Erasure
Most lists I have seen prefer Thought Erasures. It looks like a better fit being a multicolor and all. The thing is Thoughtseize is just a better magic card. By a lot. There are matchups where every card from Niv-Mizzet matters, but it is also a win more very often. You rarely search for one of these with Bring to Light (although it does happen) and Thoughtseize is a better card to draw naturally. So this is another instance where we want to be less greedy and have our deck play out nicely in the first few turns. If metagame slows down then maybe we'll be able go with more even split in our 75.
Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves vs. Enter the God-Eternals I have been struggling to figure this out. We went with Enter the God-Eternals for the tournament because it matches up better against Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and we wanted to have access to sneaky kills against Inverter of Truth. Little situational, sure, but I bet you no Inverter player will see it coming unless they've heard of it before.
However, now I am thinking that Tolsimir is a more impactful card for the format, and easier to cast. The fact that it's a creature can also help due to occasional Nahiri/Teferi interactions.
Rest in Peace We opted to play a single copy, for two reasons. One, it is a highly impactful sideboard card, although not essential, Slaughter Games is often good enough tool against the same type of decks. Two, at the Players Tour the decklist are open and people know cards their opponents have in their sideboard, but they don’t know the exact amounts. So we did want to play at least one so that people could see we had access to it. Under normal circumstances I could see playing any number between 0 and 2. At one point in our testing I suggested to pair RiP up with Idyllic tutor, but the idea was shut down hard. Probably for a good reason, spending 7 mana to bring (to Light) Rest in Peace on the battlefield is most likely more cute than good. If there is any brave soul out there who tried it, let me know how it went. Matchups:
+1 Enter the God-Eternals, +2 Voice of Resurgence, +1 Deafening Clarion
-1 Thoughtseize, -1 Slaughter Games, -1 Teferi, Time Raveler, -1 Utter End
Good matchup overall. They tend to have Self-Inflicted Wound in the sideboard which is good against a lone Caryatid or Niv-Mizzet. However, it is not very efficient in case we have Voice or Goose.
+1 Rest In Peace, +1 Rakdos's Return, +1 Questing Beast, +3 Thoughtseize, +1 Thought Erasure, +1 Enter the God-Eternals
-2 Gilded Goose, -1 Uro, -1 Solar Blaze, -1 Hour of Devastation, -3 Abrupt Decay
If you can, keep a wider range of hands in this matchup. They have 6 discard spells and plenty of library manipulation, so they will most likely keep going after our hand and we end up playing from the top. Game 1 Slaughter Games naming Inverter of Truth is basically game over, though it is not always easy to cast it in time. Postboard they have multiple different win conditions plus Mystical Dispute and they can get there with their fair plan too, not just the combo. If they are not careful with Inverter, you can score a sneaky win with Enter the God-Eternals.
+1 Questing Beast, +1 Thought Erasure, +1 Thoughtseize, +1 Rakdos's Return, +1 The Scarab God, +1 Selesnya Charm
-3 Gilded Goose, -1 Solar Flare, -1 Hour of Devastation, -1 Abrupt Decay
This is a real treat. Game 1 can easily end by decking. Dragons will get exiled by Slaughter Games on both sides and Uro is endangered by Nahiri and Utter End, or he can be delayed enough by Teferi and other removal. In fact, at Players Tour Brussels I managed to deck one silly unsuspecting opponent who shall not be named after 40 minutes. That being said, more traditionally game 1 still can be won simply by pressing advantage with Nahiri and Uro. Postboard the danger of decking is much lower, but we still trade resources a lot. The Scarab God and Rakdos's Return can easily take down games by themselves. Oh yes, one more thing. Do not cast Bring to Light when there is Teferi on opponent's board. It will not work out as planned.
+1 Knight of Autumn, +1 Selesnya Charm, +1 Infernal Reckoning
-1 Thoughtseize, -1 Slaughter Games, -1 Niv-Mizzet Reborn
Usually, if we can keep them from hitting us for five a couple times, we are good. That means it is not always a good play to Abrupt Decay their first creature unless we can safely deal with the next one should it become a 5/5. Postboard they get a couple efficient counterspells, but we also get several more options to deal with their threats.
+3 Thoughtseize, +2 Voice of Resurgence, +1 Rakdos’s Return, +1 Thought Erasure, +1 Knight of Autumn, +1 Questing Beast
-3 Gilded Goose, -1 Slaughter Games, -1 Hour of Devastation, -1 Solar Blaze, -3 Abrupt Decay
These games take forever. Game 1 I would recommend Supreme Verdict as Slaughter Games target. They tend to not have enough removal and counterspells to deal with all Niv-Mizzets and Uro’s escapes. Enchantment creature removals like Seal Away, Detention Sphere and Cast Out are unreliable because they can be dealt with and Teferi/Azorius Charm only delays our threats. Game 2 and 3 are different, but still very long. Between all the hand disruption, Voices and Teferis it should not be hard to find a path through their defenses. And again, do not cast Bring to Light when they have small Teferi in play.
+1 Deafening Clarion, +3 Thoughtseize, +1 Thought Erasure
-1 Slaughter Games, -1 Utter End, -1 Uro, -1 Bring to Light, -1 Solar Blaze
Spirits tend to be good against slower decks. At first I though this will be the worst matchup. Fortunately, it is not as bad for us as it might look. Game 1 our 5-mana spells are free to resolve. Postboard not so much, but it is still winnable.
+1 Knight of Autumn
I love to play this matchup. It is quite tricky as they are trying to pressure with creatures while threatening with combo and we need to balance our gameplay between the two. Their creature plan is usually not all that dangerous and sometimes we even have time to Slaughter Games their combo piece, but there are games where it is correct to expose ourselves a little bit and risk it for a turn in order to hold off their attacks.
+1 Knight of Autumn, +2 Voice of Resurgence, +1 Deafening Clarion, +1 Enter the God-Eternals
-1 Slaughter Games, -1 Thoughtseize, -1 Utter End, -2 Teferi, Time Raveler
Possibly the best matchup. They are generally not fast enough to kill us before sweepers and Uro is pretty much unbeatable for them.
+1 Infernal Reckoning, +1 Selesnya Charm, +1 Enter the God-Eternals, +1 Knight of Autumn
-1 Thoughtseize, -1 Slaughter Games, -1 Teferi, Time Raveler, -1 Niv-Mizzet Reborn
We have good answers for their aggro plan and most of the time we can hold them off and win easily. Only exception is when they have The Great Henge, then they can take down some longer games too, but Utter End and Knight of Autumn should be able help in that regard.
Lotus Breach Combo:
+3 Thoughtseize, +1 Thought Erasure, +1 Rakdos’s Return, +1 Rest in Peace, +1 Questing Beast
-1 Utter End, -1 Solar Blaze, -1 Hour of Devastation, -3 Abrupt Decay, -1 Dreadbore
The problem here is Slaughter Games will not stop their combo because they have Fae of Wishes. We do not pressure them fast enough and we have a lot of bad cards game 1. Postboard it gets better as we have more disruption. Not a great matchup overall.
+1 Scarab God, +1 Rakdos’s Return, +1 Rest in Peace, +1 Thought Erasure
-1 Solar Blaze, -1 Thoughtseize, -1 Hour of Devastation, -1 Niv-Mizzet
Their card draw comes from permanents, if we can keep those off the board they will have trouble getting ahead and our Niv should take over. Postboard be aware of Mystical Disputes and Disdainful Strokes, they usually pack around four of those total. Teferi helps against the latter, sometimes against Dispute as well if we can afford to wait and cast it at 6 mana.
+2 Voice of Resurgence, +1 Rest in Peace
-1 Uro, -1 Niv-Mizzet, -1 Thoughtseize
Tough Matchup. The trick here is to not to get overrun. I mean, they have a very limited amount of threats, so if we manage to exile their Arclight Phoenixes and survive long enough, we might get out of reach of their deck. For example, it is often good to not attack with Niv-Mizzet even when they have an empty board, just to save three life points from a potential Phoenix attack. Postboard they have an annoying combination of pressure, card draw and counterspells. Voice does help against that and it defends well against pyromancers. If they play Crackling Drake (which is not very usual), it is good to sideboard in Selesnya Charm as well. Luckily Phoenix is not very popular these days.
+3 Thoughtseize, +1 Thought Erasure, +1 The Scarab God, +1 Selesnya Charm, +1 Rakdos's Return
-1 Solar Blaze, -1 Hour of Devastation, -3 Abrupt Decay, -1 Niv-Mizzet, -1 Uro
It might look like their late game trumps ours, but it is not that bad. Thoughtseizes help a lot and Rakdos’s Return can be especially strong if we can find it. Try to time your discard efficently, as it greatly helps you push your big things through counterspells postboard. Good targets for Slaughter Games are either Ugin, World Breaker, or Uro.
+1 Knight of Autumn, +1 Selesnya Charm
-1 Thoughtseize, -1 Slaughter Games What a brew. Have to give Ken Yukuhiro props for thinking outside the box. Without any chance to actually test this matchup, I am going to take a wild guess here and say we have tools to interact with them well enough for us to be favorite. Be aware that Hour of Devastation goes through Karametra’s Blessing indestructibility, although sole +2/+2 could save their creature.
Until next time, good luck with the dragon triggers.