Our next round of Regional Championships is here, and many players are beginning to turn their attention to the events. After all, Murders at Karlov Manor just recently released, so this is a perfect time to see what new cards shine early on in Modern in a competitive setting. Recently, we covered the value of the Surveil Lands to various archetypes, such as Temur Crashing Footfalls decks, as well as a unique upgrade for Domain Zoo decks in the form of Leyline of the Guildpact.
As we wait to see what other potential breakout cards and decks make their presences felt at these Regional Championships, though, it’s important not to forget about other formats. As strong as some Karlov Manor cards may feel in Modern, the immense impact the set is already having in Pioneer is undeniable. The new cards have only been available on Magic Online since February 6, and we’re quickly beginning to see some cards help elevate certain strategies.
Today, we are going to focus on one deck in particular that got a plethora of new tools to try out. This deck makes amazing use of two new additions to Pioneer that have helped further solidify its spot as a strong choice in the metagame. Furthermore, as a Bring to Light shell, there are multiple other Karlov Manor cards players are testing as solid tutor targets. Before we get to the new hotness, it’s worthwhile to go over the deck’s main gameplan. This will provide further context as to why the new cards are such important additions.
An Excellent Late Game
The main goal of the “Niv to Light” strategy is to go over the top of other strategies by generating tons of value. Much like other multi-color Yorion, Sky Nomad piles, there are a bunch of cards in the deck with powerful enters-the-battlefield effects. Leyline Binding is a premium removal spell given the wide range of Triomes and Shocklands present. Meanwhile, Up the Beanstalk is capable of generating a lot of card advantage with the slew of five-drops and six-drops available.
Where this deck starts to differentiate from other Yorion strategies, such as Enigmatic Incarnation shells, is with the win conditions. Rather than relying on sacrificing Enchantments to Incarnation to tutor up game-breaking spells, this deck uses Bring to Light to do the dirty work.
Bring to Light naturally provides a lot of options for you, depending on the game state. Need to stabilize the board? Grab a board wipe. Need a hate card against combo decks? Search for Slaughter Games and remove your opponent’s win conditions from their deck.
More often than not, though, you will be grabbing the elite Niv-Mizzet Reborn. Niv-Mizzet is a 6/6 Flier that, when built around, can put a bunch of impactful spells into your hand at once. The key is to make sure you have access to a large number of cards with specifically two colors in their mana costs.
Obviously, Bring to Light is a great card to reveal with Niv-Mizzet. Beyond that, many usual suspects like Vanishing Verse and Abrupt Decay show up in the decklist, helping you maximize Niv-Mizzet’s triggered ability.
Major New Additions
One of the main issues that these Niv-Mizzet decks have had in the past, even with these excellent ways to pull ahead in the mid to late game, is staving off initial pressure. Sure, Sylvan Caryatid is a great blocker against aggressive decks and helps ramp you towards your potent five-drops. The problem comes when you don’t have access to Caryatid, and you need ways to reliably stay alive.
Karlov Manor gave this deck a massive edge in this area. The impact of Lightning Helix cannot be understated. It helps remove pesky attackers just like Abrupt Decay and such, but the three-point life swing can help buy you the time needed to put a massive threat into play or tutor for a board wipe.
The other massive upgrade from Karlov Manor is No More Lies. No More Lies is perfect in matchups where your opponent is also trying their best to resolve potent haymakers. Notably, both Lightning Helix and No More Lies are two-mana cards with two colors of mana needed to cast them. As such, your copies of Niv-Mizzet can dig for them, which is essential in making sure Niv-Mizzet is as strong of a win condition as you want it to be.
Unique Tutor Targets
Moving past Helix and No More Lies, this archetype also got a nice boost with some strong cards to tutor for with Bring to Light. First up, we have Urgent Necropsy. Urgent Necropsy is a bit tough to cast, because you need a stocked graveyard and multiple good targets to make casting this card worth it. That being said, it can definitely swing things in your favor in the right circumstance.
Against other Yorion decks, for instance, getting to destroy a big Creature and Leyline Binding can be a big swing. Getting to remove Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and Fable of the Mirror-Breakr at the same time can be backbreaking against Rakdos midrange. Similarly, hitting Witch’s Oven and Mayhem Devil at once against Rakdos sacrifice can be a life saver. Even if the card is somewhat narrow, the opportunity cost of putting a single copy in your deck is quite low, and there are spots when searching for it with Bring to Light can be super important.
Likewise, Deadly Cover-Up is a cool board wipe to tutor up where applicable. In many spots, this card will function quite similarly to Supreme Verdict, simply helping you stabilize the board. The added upside of getting to remove all copies of a specific card from your opponent’s graveyard, hand, and library, though, comes in handy in a number of matchups.
One of the biggest matchups, of course, is Abzan Amalia Benavides Aguirre combo. Abzan Amalia combo is capable of putting a lot of pressure on you quickly. Part of the problem with simply wiping the board against a deck like this, however, is that Return to the Ranks can undo a lot of your work.
Even if you stabilize initially, your opponent may be able to set up the Amalia and Wildgrowth Walker combo soon after, undoing all of your progress. With Deadly Cover-Up, you can wipe the board and potentially exile all copies of Amalia from your opponent’s deck. Given how popular Abzan Amalia is, this single extra card is a much bigger upgrade than may seem at first glance.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Overall, Murders at Karlov Manor provided enormous improvements to the Niv to Light archetype. Lightning Helix is a game-changer against aggressive decks, while a handful of new one-ofs like Deadly Cover-Up give the deck additional angles of play in specific situations. Even so, this deck is not fool proof.
Perhaps the biggest weakness this deck has is that it is rather slow and mana intensive. This can make it a bit vulnerable to decks with good mixes of disruption and pressure, such as Azorius Spirits. Decks like Lotus Field combo can be problematic too. You have a naturally slow clock and not a ton of disruption. Even Azorius Control can be a bit tough. Outside of Up the Beanstalk, most of your value-oriented cards in the matchup are a bit clunky and can easily get countered as a result.
Luckily, both Dovin’s Veto and Soul Search play vital roles out of the sideboard in these matchups. Add No More Lies into the equation, and you’ve got a recipe for success even in some of your historically hard matchups. If you’re going to play Pioneer in the coming weeks, you should certainly make it a point of emphasis to have a decent gameplan against this deck.