Chuck’s Niv-Mizzet Commander Deck

Bennie Smith’s new roommate Chuck is just getting back into Magic. Read about the Niv-Mizzet deck Bennie built for him to start getting into Commander and how he thinks some Avacyn Restored cards might fit into it.

Apologies to those of you who missed me last week; I was insanely busy. I got my roommate Chuck moved in, had to get plumbers out to fix a problem with one of my showers, had to jump through hoops to get my house refinanced to cash out my ex-wife, and needed to get taxes done…plus working the two jobs, it just left too little time for me to write about Magic. This killed me, because with Avacyn Restored spoiler season in full swing, I certainly wanted to talk about Magic!

Despite the wealth of spoilers that came out this week, I’ve decided to hold off talking about Avacyn Restored until next week when we will hopefully know nearly all of the new cards and I can start to flesh out better all my new deck ideas. Instead, I want to talk about Commander!

For those who may not have been reading lately, my new roommate Chuck is a long-time Magic player who used to play in the big multiplayer Magic throw downs at the old game shop TAG way back in the day. He also loved to play competitive Magic. He’s not really played much Magic at all for many years, but moving in with me has stirred up his interest to get back into it. He was really curious about Commander, and after I explained the rules I pulled out a couple decks and we played against each other.

He played my Glissa, the Traitor deck and I played Phage, the Untouchable (you can see links to those decklists at the end of the column). The first game he went first and got Strip Mine + Eternal Witness to keep me from doing anything relevant the entire game while he beat me down with Glissa and a couple other creatures. While I commented that that sort of play wasn’t exactly sporting or demonstrative of the format, he ignored me and took me to the woodshed.

The second game I had Cabal Coffers, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, plenty of Swamps and a Demonic Tutor. So I grabbed Torpor Orb, accelerated out Phage, and then cast Plague Wind to swing in and kill him.

The last game I had a fair amount of mana acceleration but no Tutors and no way to cast Phage without losing. Then Chuck played Mindslaver. With no way to stop Mindslaver and failing to draw a Torpor Orb or Platinum Angel, I scooped it up.

Note to self:  Phage deck needs to do something about Mindslaver

Anyway, Chuck liked what he saw of the format so far and was excited about playing those decks against multiple opponents. I handed him my "box of Commanders" which has a huge stack of legendary creatures and told him to pick one and I’d build him his own Commander deck that he can play and tweak.

If you didn’t miss the title of this column, you know what he picked…roughly the same time that sweet picture came out for Return to Ravnica featuring Jace hanging with Niv-Mizzet!

Now every Commander player worth his salt knows that Niv-Mizzet can be a really nasty Commander to build a deck around, so I did some thinking about how powered/broken I wanted to make the deck. If I were building it for me, I’d probably make it heavy red with all sorts of wacky red chaos type stuff with blue card drawing mixed in.

But I wasn’t building it for me. This is going to be Chuck’s deck.

In the end, I decided to err on the side of powered/broken, not necessarily full-tilt combo but with a few ways you can just kill the table and enough nastiness for people to fear the deck. I did this because Chuck has always had a no-mercy play style; he’ll quickly kill someone if he can, while at the same time he holds no grudges when people gun for him.

I also want to encourage people to play more cards like Jester’s Cap to break up table-kill combos and force people to play more fairly. Lastly, if he sits down at a high-powered Commander table, I didn’t want him to not be able to fight the good fight.

Here’s what I’ve cooked up for him:

I’ve certainly smoothed the edges of the deck some by applying some of my own philosophy regarding blue in Commander. Instead of Control Magic type of spells, I’m leaning more towards Clone, Vesuvan Doppelganger, and Sakashima, the Imposter. Besides, Rite of Replication can do some crazy things with enough mana (I still vividly remember Jay Delazier casting Rite of Replication kicked targeting my Terastodon).

I’ve also leaned more towards "friendly" counterspells like Arcane Denial, Remand, and Dream Fracture. Time Stop obviously isn’t friendly, but it’s a must-have in a blue Commander deck. Cryptic Command is downright mean but it’s right up Chuck’s alley, and I know there will be joy in his heart whenever he casts it.

Of course, the core of any Niv-Mizzet deck is drawing cards, and I’ve certainly loaded the deck up with them! There’s the "friendly" everyone draws cards like Wheel of Fortune, Temple Bell, Time Reversal, Memory Jar, Dragon Mage, and Mikokoro, Center of the Sea. Then there’s the "selfish" card draw like Whispers of the Muse, Skullclamp, Azure Mage, Oona’s Grace, Lu Xun, Scholar General, Mulldrifter, Arcanis the Omnipotent, Consecrated Sphinx (insanity!), and Blue Sun’s Zenith.

Nin, the Pain Artist can be friendly or selfish, but that’s a woman’s prerogative… Psychosis Crawler is a must-have with all the card drawing, and it can do a pretty good job of winning the game if your opponents keep you off Niv-Mizzet.

With all the card drawing going on, I wanted to make sure Chuck had plenty of ways to shuffle his graveyard back into his deck to keep a steady supply available. The Eldrazi Titans do a good job of that, and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth fits perfectly into the card drawing theme. In addition to Time Reversal, I added Elixir of Immortality too (along with Trinket Mage to go find it).

Keeping a well-stocked hand means that Ivory Tower, Venser’s Journal, and Reliquary Tower are cards I wanted to make sure I have room for.

Of course, a lot of what you want to do hinges on playing Niv-Mizzet and keeping him on the board. To protect him I’ve added Darksteel Plate, Lightning Greaves, and Swiftfoot Boots. The last two give him haste, which is handy when he’s got a tap ability, so to further boost that potential I’ve got Anger and Thousand-Year Elixir (which can also untap Niv-Mizzet or any other creature you want to untap).

Now, a Commander deck can’t necessarily live on card drawing and combo kills alone, so I wanted to sprinkle in some utility cards. Basilisk Collar on Niv-Mizzet does a pretty good job at pinpoint creature removal. Shattering Pulse and Hoard-Smelted Dragon can pick off troublesome artifacts. Chaos Warp can remove anything overly problematic from the board. Oblivion Stone and Blasphemous Act provide nice mass removal.

Silent Arbiter keeps creature hordes off your back. Tower of the Magistrate does a good job of stifling Voltron-style equipment decks from gunning for you. There are a fair number of artifacts in this deck you’d like to get back, so Academy Ruins seemed like a natural (hello, Memory Jar!). Journeyer’s Kite can keep the land drops coming while also doing a great job of resetting the top of your library for cards like Scroll Rack and Sensei’s Divining Top.

Of course we can’t play red without having some crazy, wacky red spells. Wild Ricochet is a lot of fun and can lead to some great haymaker plays, and Word of Seizing is the kind of card that can often pull you out of difficult situations.

When you plan on drawing a lot of cards, having a steady flow of mana is important. I’m running 39 mana-producing lands along with six artifacts that produce mana. Soulbright Flamekin can provide an extra two mana at instant speed if there’s a creature out there you want to give trample to, and Mana Geyser will often produce an insane amount of mana with enough players at the table when you need your big turn.

I can’t resist talking about a couple Avacyn Restored cards that I’d like to add to Chuck’s deck when we get a hold of them. Reforge the Soul as a miracle Wheel of Fortune is a gimme. Desolate Lighthouse as a land that "loots"—which counts as drawing a card—seems like a perfect fit.

Cavern of Souls seems like a must-have for Commander decks that actually want to, you know, cast their commanders (especially if they also have a tribal theme), but I suspect that card is going to be insanely difficult to find considering how good it’s going to be in other formats too. Lightning Mauler might be worth a slot for an additional way to give haste.

Tandem Lookout is interesting as a way to go Ophidian early but then pair up with Niv-Mizzet when you cast him to play a backup Curiosity. Of course, the draw ability isn’t a "may" ability, so that might leave you in a tricky spot unless you can keep restocking your deck or not lose to the draw triggers. A fun thing to puzzle out.

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage? I imagine this would be even more difficult to acquire than Cavern of Souls, but how sweet would that be?

Anyway, if you have any suggestions for the deck please post them in the forums. I can’t wait to see Chuck play the deck and hear what he thinks about it. I’ll keep y’all posted on our adventures getting him back into the Magic swing of things!

That’s it for this week! 

Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me feedback, ideas, and random thoughts. I’ve also created a Facebook page where I’ll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic, life, or anything else you want to talk about!

New to Commander? 
If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):

Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus: