Playing 5-Color Niv to Light at the Players Tour in Brussels

Lucas Berthoud

Lucas Berthoud

Introduction: Why I Registered 5C Niv to Light

I played 5-Color Niv to Light deck at the recent regional Players Tour qualifier in Brussels.

For those following the Magic Online metagame, the Pioneer metagame has been in constant flux since the last round of bans, with massive changes occurring in matter of days.

Oko, Thief of CrownsNexus of Fate

5-Color Niv to Light deck exploded in popularity at a time when mono-color decks were at the highest popularity. It had a great matchup not only against the more aggro version of those decks but also against the midrange versions that were trying to prey on the aggro deck. To give an example, it was good against the 12 1-drop versions of Mono Black as well as the 26 land, 4 《Glorybringer》 versions of Mono Red (the Big Red deck).

Ensoul ArtifactSpell QuellerInverter of Truth
Knight of the Ebon LegionMonastery Swiftspear

The metagame quickly adapted to it, with an uptick in Ensoul and Spirits occupying the metagame share of Big Red. At the same time, UB Inverter decks became popular. As a reaction to all of that, Mono Black Aggro and lower to the ground versions of Mono Red became popular again.

At the eve of decklist submissions, this was the metagame I expected and how I saw those matchups from the perspective of 5-Color Niv to Light:

Expected % Deck Matchup
15% Black Aggro Good
15% 5C Niv to Light Even
10% UB Inverter Even
10% Red Aggro (low to the ground, no 《Glorybringer》) Good
10% Spirits Bad
5% UW Control Good
5% UR Ensoul Bad
<5% Ramp Even if it’s Mono Green. Bad if it’s with Uro/Krasis
<5% Lotus Breach Bad
<5% UR Phoenix Even
<5% Dredge Good
<5% Heliod Good
<10% Random Stuff Good

Given this metagame prediction, it made sense to me to play 5-Color Niv to Light. Moving forward, if Spirits and UR Ensoul aren’t huge parts of the metagame, I think the deck will remain viable and its success will depend on tuning the sideboard against what is popular in each weekend. The deck has a ton of flexibility.

It is always difficult to have reliable estimates on who is favored in a matchup. The estimates above have some uncertainty to them. The ones and I was most confident about, and what ended up being the breaking point in me choosing the deck, were the results of my focused testing against UW, Mono Black Aggro and the newer versions of Mono Red Aggro, which confirmed they were all solid matchups.

The biggest unknown was the matchup against UB Inverter, but Gonçalo Pinto and Bernas Torres, who were practicing with the UB deck, said it was close overall.

A side note: it is very hard currently to have reliable information in how matchups play out. In eternal formats there is always the problem that small changes in sideboard options can have great impact on who is favored or not. But the most relevant impact to playtesting has been the London Mulligan, which makes the games more polarized. When playing on Magic Online, you can’t control how well your opponents are mulliganing and you can’t really account for the fact that you would keep different hands based on open decklists. The last factor is that the leagues on Magic Online are no longer competitive or casual, they are all mixed, which means there is a big range in the quality of opposition you are facing.

All of this means that there is a lot of value in having focused playtesting with a teammate and you can’t really count solely on Magic Online win rates to help you guide your deck selection decision. Since online data is unreliable, it also means you need to put more weight on having a good feeling for a deck being powerful and having a deeper understanding of what you need to do to win with it and sideboarding.

Slaughter GamesSolar BlazeHour of Devastation

5-Color Niv to Light is a true midrange deck that is mostly looking to play a long game, while at the same relying on specific silver bullets to beat polarized matchups. In the maindeck, those bullets are 《Slaughter Games》 (which is well positioned given the popularity of UB Inverter) and the combination of 《Solar Blaze》/《Hour of Devastation》. The sweepers work so well because any other creature deck feels pressured to beat us early in the game or risk getting buried in card advantage, which means they can’t realistically afford to play around sweepers.

Card Choices

The final list we ran is a product of tuning from the geniuses at Czech House, Stan Cifka, Ivan Floch and Ondrej Strasky. I think they did a lot of cool innovations in the deck. Let me go over them:

28 Lands Including Temples

Temple of DeceitTemple of EnlightenmentTemple of Epiphany
Temple of MaliceTemple of Silence

Most versions run 26 lands. Given how important it is to hit land drops until your 5th, the higher land count worked well for us and boosts the effectiveness of 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》. The side effect of flooding in the late game is mitigated by a little by the Temples and by 《Nahiri, the Harbinger》, so overall it felt like a well-balanced deck.

《Gilded Goose》

Gilded Goose

3

《Paradise Druid》 is often played in this slot, but 《Gilded Goose》 offered some significant advantages: you can live the dream of turn 3 《Niv-Mizzet Reborn》 and you get the consistent life gain in the late game, which happens quite often. This added dimension, along Uro, is what allowed us to cut 《Siege Rhino》.

《Nahiri, the Harbinger》

Nahiri, the Harbinger

2

At some point we had 3 of them in the list but ended up going to 2 to lower the curve a little. Nahiri happens to be well positioned against 《Heliod, Sun-Crowned》 and the deck has had a very good target for the ultimate, but its most important job is flood protection.

No 《Siege Rhino》

Siege Rhino

0

《Siege Rhino》 isn’t a bad card, but we felt like we didn’t need it against aggro decks, and it has the downside of being killed by 《Fatal Push》 and getting ignore too often in the late game. I think early game interaction is often more critical, which is why I had 4 《Abrupt Decay》 and 1 《Dreadbore》. I would probably add more cheap removal spells before adding Rhino, if my goal was to improve further against aggro. Ultimately, Rhino was not a good enough as a bridge to the late game and, unlike its time in Standard, using him to pressure control or combo deck wasn’t impactful enough.

《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

2

This is an incredible card and the reason why we have such a strong matchup against Mono Black Aggro. Since the deck is so reliant on ramping, Uro acts as the ideal bridge in the early game while being an incredible factor in the late game, often winning games by itself.

My Sideboard Plans in Brussels

Here are the sideboard plans I planned to use in Brussels:

Black Aggro

Against Black Aggro

Out

Teferi, Time Raveler Teferi, Time Raveler Teferi, Time Raveler
Slaughter Games Thoughtseize

In

Infernal Reckoning Infernal Reckoning Voice of Resurgence
Deafening Clarion The Scarab God

5C Niv to Light Mirror

Against 5C Niv to Light Mirror

Out

Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay
Solar Blaze
Hour of Devastation

In

Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Thoughtseize Thoughtseize
The Scarab God
Thought Erasure

UR Ensoul

Against UR Ensoul

Out

Teferi, Time Raveler Teferi, Time Raveler
Thoughtseize
Slaughter Games

In

Infernal Reckoning Infernal Reckoning
Selesnya Charm
Deafening Clarion

UW Spirits

Against UW Spirits

Out

Nahiri, the Harbinger Nahiri, the Harbinger
Slaughter Games
Bring to Light

In

Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute
Thoughtseize
Deafening Clarion

Red Aggro

Against Red Aggro

Out

Slaughter Games

In

Thought Erasure

Against Red Aggro (Midrange Style)

Out

Teferi, Time Raveler Teferi, Time Raveler Teferi, Time Raveler
Slaughter Games

In

Thoughtseize Thoughtseize The Scarab God
Thought Erasure

UW Control

Against UW Control

Out

Gilded Goose Gilded Goose Gilded Goose
Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay
Solar Blaze

In

Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Voice of Resurgence
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Questing Beast
Thought Erasure

Mono Green Aggro

Against Mono Green Aggro

Out

Thoughtseize
Slaughter Games

In

Questing Beast
Selesnya Charm

Mono Green Ramp

Against Mono Green Ramp

Out

Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay
Nahiri, the Harbinger Hour of Devastation Solar Blaze

In

Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Infernal Reckoning Infernal Reckoning
Thought Erasure Selesnya Charm Questing Beast

Lotus Breach

Against Lotus Breach

Out

Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
Nahiri, the Harbinger Nahiri, the Harbinger Hour of Devastation Solar Blaze
Dreadbore

In

Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Thoughtseize Thoughtseize
Rest in Peace Rest in Peace Rest in Peace Questing Beast
Thought Erasure

UR Phoenix

Against UR Phoenix

Out

Gilded Goose Gilded Goose Gilded Goose Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
Bring to Light Hour of Devastation Solar Blaze Dreadbore

In

Rest in Peace Rest in Peace Rest in Peace Thoughtseize
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Deafening Clarion Thought Erasure

Dredge

Against Dredge

Out

Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay
Teferi, Time Raveler Slaughter Games

In

Rest in Peace Rest in Peace Rest in Peace Selesnya Charm
Thoughtseize Thoughtseize

White Heliod

No changes.

UB Inverter

Against UB Inverter

Out

Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay Abrupt Decay
Hour of Devastation Solar Blaze

In

Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Thoughtseize Thoughtseize
Thought Erasure Questing Beast

Moving Forward

Possible Changes

Moving forward, here are the cards I would consider moving in and out of the deck:

Cutting 4th 《Abrupt Decay》

Abrupt Decay

I value having early plays with this deck and 《Abrupt Decay》 is particularly good against Ensoul and Spirits, your toughest matchups. However, the card can be narrow in matchups that are rising in popularity, like UB Inverter.

Thought ErasureUro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

Because of this, the 4th copy could become 《Thought Erasure》. I like 《Thoughtseize》 too, but 《Thought Erasure》 has the added of benefit of being a good hit with 《Niv-Mizzet Reborn》. The way the games play out, a discard spell after turn 5 is still relevant and you can always combo it with 《Teferi, Time Raveler》. Another consideration for this slot is 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》: the 3rd copy is pushing it because it is bad in multiples and you can’t easily pay the Escape cost, however it is so good so often that I would take the risk.

Cutting 2nd and 3rd 《Rest in Peace》

Rest in Peace

After a bad playtest session against UR Phoenix, I was convinced the deck needed help against graveyard decks. While this remains true, it is possible that such decks will continue to stay a small part of the metagame share, so those slots could be used somewhere else.

Rakdos's ReturnThoughtseize

《Rakdos’s Return》 and 《Thoughtseize》 could be used in those slots, again making you stronger against UB Inverter and UW Control (a deck that was more popular than I expected in Brussels).

Adding 2nd 《Voice of Resurgence》

Voice of Resurgence

Voice has overperformed significantly, not only against UW and Spirits but also as a defense against Mono Black’s 《Self-Inflicted Wound》. I would consider an additional copy in the sideboard over 《Mystical Dispute》.

Adding an 《Enter the God-Eternals》

Enter the God-Eternals

This card was a nice find by the Czech House and Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa (PV) before the tournament. It is very useful against the newer versions of Mono Red that rely on 《Torbran, Thane of Red Fell》 and can in theory it can also cheese careless UB Inverter players. I didn’t really have time to playtest its effectiveness against UB, however it was reported to me that the plan worked well enough. Because of this, I would consider taking out 1 《Infernal Reckoning》 for it.

Updated Decklist

Lucas (Twitter / Twitch)

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Lucas Berthoud

Lucas Berthoud Lucas Esper Berthoud is a powerhouse from Brazil. He defeated Marcio Carvalho at the finals of Pro Tour Aether Revolt 2017 and became the Pro Tour Champion with a perfect 12-0 Standard record. After that he teamed up with Marcio, Sebastian Pozzo, Carlos Romao, Luis Salvatto, and Thiago Saporito as Hareruya Latin and they had a great season to become the finalist of the Pro Tour Team Series. He kept winning and those results were rewarded as becoming a member of Magic Pro League 2019. Read more articles by Lucas Berthoud