Um … I’m actually not adding any Theros: Beyond Death cards to my Niv-Mizzet Reborn Brawl deck. I guess I’ll see you here again in a couple weeks? Thanks for stopping by?
Wait, no, okay, wait – I do have an article for you. And it’s a good one, explaining exactly why no Theros: Beyond Death cards are making their way into my Niv-Mizzet Reborn deck.
Basically, It Comes Down to Mana Cost
Most every card in the Niv deck is either cheap, removal, or a finisher. The deck almost never wants for cards in hand, but it often wants for mana. Stacking the deck with expensive spells would leave it dead in the early game and unable to cast enough spells to empty its hand (then reload with Niv) in the late game.
Because Theros: Beyond Death is not a heavily multicolor set, it doesn’t include that many “guilded” cards. Many of those it does include are designed to fit specific draft themes, and thus don’t play well in a generic control deck. Of the rest, many cost four or more mana.
In Niv Reborn, cards that cost four or mana have to either stabilize the board (Time Wipe, Tolsimir), perform an essential function (Tamiyo has retrieved the right removal spell or win condition so many times), or win the game outright (Ral, Garruk, Explosion). With those parameters in mind, here are the cards I considered, but likely will not add, to my Niv-Mizzet Reborn Brawl deck.
Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
Ashiok can win games by himself, but Niv’s “expensive Dimir card” slot is already occupied by Enter the God-Eternals. Enter the God-Eternals stabilizes boards quite nicely and provides essential life gain against aggressive decks.
Enter the God-Eternals’ mill clause is also a great offensive tool against control decks (it combos with the not-so-secret win condition of making the opponent draw their whole deck using Explosion), as well as a decent way to dig for a key card (with Tamiyo or Find ready to retrieve it). Because Enter the God-Eternals does so much, it isn’t going anywhere – so Ashiok, Nightmare Muse is benched for now.
Athreos, Shroud-Veiled is another potentially fantastic win condition that is just too slow and expensive for the Niv deck.
Athreos does nothing the turn he comes into play, and this deck can’t afford to spend six mana and get nothing out of it on the same turn. (I see you looking side-eyed at Escape to the Wilds right now. Escape lets you accelerate on mana the turn you play it and “go off” with multiple spells on the next turn. It affects the board fairly quickly, and is in a color pair that doesn’t offer Niv much else.) The deck’s three current Orzhov cards also all perform key functions (removal, removal, and board stabilization).
Polukranos also finds himself crowded out by cheap spells (Assassin’s Trophy, Find, Leyline Prowler) and one big mana card (Garruk) that does his job better than he does. Polukranos is relatively mana-efficient, so I wouldn’t fault you for including him in your Niv-Mizzet Reborn deck. But I think the deck needs access to Golgari’s other tools more than it needs access to a 6/6 or 12/12 that will be able to fight something on the other side of the board, eventually, someday.
And finally, we get to cards that I really attempted to fit in the deck. Dream Trawler is a great win condition that fits into most any control deck’s plan (draw cards and eventually beat the opponent while doing so). The problem is, Niv’s current Azorius cards are also really good.
Of the four Azorius cards I play (Dovin’s Veto, Deputy of Detention, Teferi, Time Raveler, and Time Wipe), the only one I could see cutting is Teferi, Time Raveler. Teferi is great in other constructed formats, but often comes down early and just eats a removal spell in Brawl.
That said, Teferi costs just three mana, while Dream Trawler costs six (and is color-intensive to boot). So if I have to pick between Teferi and Dream Trawler, I’m sticking with Teferi.
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
Does the one mana difference between Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Growth Spiral actually matter all that much, given the many extra upsides of playing Uro? Honestly, it doesn’t. And I could see replacing Spiral with Uro, to give the Niv deck an extra threat and source of life gain.
However, I do value being able to hold mana up for Ionize or Assassin’s Trophy, and then play Spiral instead when an opponent gives me the all-clear. I also value my Mythic wildcards, which I’m going to need for Standard upgrades. Because he’d cost me one of those wildcards, and he’s not a “strict” upgrade, I’m not swapping Uro into my Niv-Mizzet Reborn deck quite yet. But Uro is the Theros: Beyond Death card most likely to make the cut in Niv – because he’s mana-efficient and a clear contender when compared to a card I already use.
Are you in the process of upgrading your own Niv-Mizzet Reborn Brawl deck? Are you adding more Theros: Beyond Death cards than I am? If so, which ones? These are all questions I’d love answers to, so feel free to leave ’em in the comments below! But until next time, may you know the joy of needing just one Mythic wildcard (and maybe not even that) to upgrade your favorite Magic: Arena deck.