Pioneer was looking like a solidly mono-color format. The combination of awkward allied-color mana, the power of Mutavault and Throne of Eldraine Castles, and just one-drops being generally good made it seem obvious multi-color decks would need to wait for the lands to catch up to the format.
Then, out of nowhere, Niv-Mizzet Reborn was in half of the Top 8 decks in a Pioneer Challenge, and even more in the Top 16.
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 2 Siege Rhino
- 1 Hostage Taker
- 1 Hydroid Krasis
- 1 Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves
- 3 Niv-Mizzet Reborn
- 1 Questing Beast
- 1 Forest
- 1 Plains
- 1 Swamp
- 1 Mountain
- 1 Island
- 1 Overgrown Tomb
- 1 Sacred Foundry
- 2 Temple Garden
- 1 Watery Grave
- 2 Godless Shrine
- 1 Steam Vents
- 1 Stomping Ground
- 1 Blood Crypt
- 1 Breeding Pool
- 1 Hinterland Harbor
- 1 Woodland Cemetery
- 1 Sandsteppe Citadel
- 1 Opulent Palace
- 1 Botanical Sanctum
- 1 Scattered Groves
- 4 Fabled Passage
What Is Pioneer Niv-Mizzet Doing?
The part that should be obvious about Five-Color Niv-Mizzet is the namesake card. You are a midrange deck trying to overpower other decks on raw cards with a giant five-drop. While Pioneer is still as proactive as it has ever been, decks like Chonky Red have pushed that proactiveness further up the curve and added removal as the early action. If you can cast your spells head-to-head against theirs, Five-Color Niv-Mizzet is going to overwhelm that style of gameplay every time.
The part that’s a little less obvious is that Five-Color Niv-Mizzet is still a proactive deck itself that can exploit missed curves and close out games. Niv-Mizzet Reborn is a 6/6 for five, but the real hero here is Siege Rhino. As always, the 4/5 trampler just closes games out at an unreasonable speed.
Five-Color Niv-Mizzet is playing the same game as Chonky Red, just a step up the curve. You have answers for their early action, hard-hitting threats, and value that breaks parity when needed.
Mana and Mana Costs
In the Modern Five-Color Niv-Mizzet deck, mana is a non-issue. Even discounting the fetch-shock manabase, you have so many five-color tools that just let you ignore colored mana costs.
In Pioneer, that clearly isn’t the case. Mana is a real concern for this Niv-Mizzet deck.
Dom is on point with calling people out for playing bad cards because they can draw a better spread with Niv-Mizzet Reborn. You need to avoid all your multicolored spells being Dimir and only drawing one card off a Niv, but you don’t have to play cards you don’t want to draw normally so that you can draw four cards on average instead of three and a fraction. Discovery is the exact card I’m calling out here, even if the Dispersal half is an answer for Soulflayer.
But I think the Pioneer mana is fixable for five colors, to the point I think it almost isn’t an issue.
The first thing is to cut all of the checklands. Every time they enter the battlefield untapped, they are only adding at most one color you don’t have and that is what leads to the biggest mana issues with this deck.
People just don’t have respect for the Frontier Bivouac cycle. You can afford to have some number of tapped lands in your deck, and if you ever draw one of these it is so hard to have issues casting your spells. I’ve seen various Temples or cycling two-color lands in these decks, and I would much rather just cast my spells.
I’m slightly unsure of Fabled Passage. The fact is is an early tapped land that doesn’t produce multiple colors is a huge issue for bridging multiple early spells, but the ability to select any color is a big upside. The real reason to play Fabled Passage might be that you actually want access to basic lands in the face of a Field of Ruin, and if you play one you may as well play them all. I don’t think the full playset is a requirement, but I’m not opposed to starting there.
I don’t love the fastlands in this deck, but they aren’t actively bad. My issue is that I want to sequence my actual tapped lands first since those ones are way more crucial to my manabase. That leaves only a small window to play the fastlands, and drawing multiples can make this all a giant mess. You want enough that you draw exactly one a game, maybe a second, but not reliably two.
While the deck might be named after Niv-Mizzet Reborn, Sylvan Caryatid is probably the most important card to draw in the deck. The lists that play Paradise Druid are on the right path. You want more of this effect, and four is not the maximum. While Growth Spiral is technically on theme with Niv, you want actual mana fixing and not just ramp.
When in doubt, put lands in your deck that don’t overlap your most common multi-colored spell pairs. That way, there are more combinations of non-matching lands that cast your early spells. Overgrown Tomb plus Hallowed Fountain doesn’t cast Abrupt Decay or Teferi, Time Raveler, but if you have Godless Shrine plus Breeding Pool or Watery Grave plus Temple Garden where your one land doesn’t produce both of the same colors as those spells, you could cast them.
This kind of combination logic is also why the deck tries to play as few identically colored lands as possible. Botanical Sanctum plus Breeding Pool doesn’t cast anything; additional Simic lands past the fastlands are significantly worse. This is why you see lots of allied-color shocklands in these lists.
All of this only really applies to lands that produce two colors of mana. With three-color lands finding issues of overlap becomes near-impossible, which is part of why the Khans of Tarkir lands are so good.
We have determined this deck wants to play Niv-Mizzet Reborn, Sylvan Caryatid, and Siege Rhino. I would lump Bring to Light in with this group, since your singleton mess of spells definitely wants a good tutor that can also just be more Niv-Mizzets.
If the big problem is selecting the right other spells, which ones are those?
I absolutely adore Cut in this deck. The Ribbons half of the deck combines to close out the single Siege Rhino games extremely quickly, and the fact you can select this Rakdos card with Niv-Mizzet’s trigger is too perfect.
I can’t say the same about Abrupt Decay. Having a bit of flexibility in your answers is nice, but you want the bulk of your cheap removal to scale well. The threat of Underworld Breach makes me want to play multiples, as you can kill the namesake enchantment to disrupt the combo, but if that card doesn’t pan out, expect me to drop the extra copies of this card for Assassin’s Trophy and Dreadbore.
As for lower-tier removal, Azorius Charm was enticing when I started playing the deck but seems awkwardly reactive and narrow. Oath of Kaya was mildly impressive, but low-enough in impact that I would bias closer to zero than multiple copies.
I want access to Thought Erasure somewhere, but it doesn’t have to start in the maindeck. Despite technically being a hit off Niv-Mizzet Reborn, the card is rarely good in that timeframe. Honestly Thoughtseize might just be better.
I respect having access to Unmoored Ego in the maindeck as well, but I’m concerned it is too slow as a singleton to actually answer the scary cards you care about like Lotus Field. If you play one of that card, you probably want even more somewhere else. Lotus Field is also why you want Unmoored Ego, which can name lands, over Slaughter Games, which can’t.
I don’t understand why there are four Teferi, Time Raveler in this deck. It’s such a low-impact answer, you aren’t defending it well, and are you that concerned about Azorius Control that you’re pre-sideboarded against it? The best thing about this card for me has been shutting off the cast side of Chandra, Torch of Defiance’s +1 ability. It is rarely bad, but it is also rarely amazing.
I similarly don’t get Kolaghan’s Command. It’s not the best Shatter and you don’t really need those, you don’t have enough creatures to reliably recur, and three-mana Shock is not a good removal spell to draw.
All the expensive bullets are solid. You definitely want Utter End and Supreme Verdict as the best ways to sweep and kill anything, but the last way to exile things is whatever. I think people are mostly playing Nahiri, the Harbinger right now because Hostage Taker is bugged on Magic Online, but being the more definite answer is also an upside.
Putting that all together, I think Abe Corrigan is on the right track.
With all the things I’ve discussed and some new additions, I would start here with Five-Color Niv-Mizzet in Theros Beyond Death Pioneer.
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Siege Rhino
- 2 Paradise Druid
- 1 Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves
- 4 Niv-Mizzet Reborn
- 1 Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
The sideboard here should send a clear message: a million cards against non-interactive, non-creature decks.
VS Chonky Red
VS Mono-Black Aggro
This is the kind of sideboarding you should expect from Five-Color Niv-Mizzet in most fair matchups. If your baseline overpowering midrange deck isn’t smashing these decks to start, what are you even doing playing this deck?
On the other side of things, I’m pretty close to just sideboarding in Kunoros, Hound of Athreos to apply more pressure against non-interactive decks.
VS Lotus Field
Note that this is for the older Lotus Field decks that have no permanents. Against Underworld Breach, I would want access to Abrupt Decay and absolutely want Kunoros, Hound of Athreos. Teferi, Time Raveler; Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath; and even a Niv-Mizzet Reborn can be trimmed since your goal is just being lean and disruptive out of the gates.
VS Mono-Green Ramp
Spell Queller and Thought Erasure are both doing heavy lifting against ramp strategies, where making sure your interaction can snipe an Elvish Rejuvinator or Nissa’s Pilgrimage is vital to slowing them down long enough to win games. Unlike against Lotus Field, your plan isn’t constant vigilance but instead keeping them off early powerful acceleration, slamming midrange threats in the short window you have, and then running back more disruption to kill them before they resolve something colorless and large.
I don’t love Teferi, Time Raveler in either of these matchups. I’m just using it to draw-step Thought Erasure. Unmoored Ego isn’t even that good against Mono-Green Ramp; you just get to use it as Cabal Therapy if you have seen their hand.
VS Sultai Dredge
Your deck starts as an array of answers, so cut those that don’t work for some that do. In this case, the Sultai Dredge deck negates the less expensive one-for-ones extremely well, but you have cards in your sideboard that exile things or negate their entire deck.
VS Azorius Control
The latest lists of this deck are moving to Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis as their finisher of choice. That’s really good for Five-Color Niv-Mizzet, since none of its threats care about 1/1 chump blockers. Their ability to generate attackers is another reason to trim your overall count of Teferi, Time Raveler.
You want some number of Abrupt Decay, Assassin’s Trophy, and Oath of Kaya-style cards to go after their planeswalkers, but you only want that to be a fraction of your plan. I slightly prefer Oath of Kaya to Abrupt Decay in the “doesn’t kill Teferi, Hero of Dominaria” slot since recurring the Lightning Helix trigger with your Teferi, Time Raveler is a real way to end the game.
Five-Color Niv-Mizzet does one job especially well, and that is dunking on red, black, and green creature decks without succumbing to hate the way Sultai Dredge might. Against the other half of the Pioneer field it has to work harder, but with all the tools in the format available to it there, it certainly has the means to succeed.