Latest Update
24 December, 2006


Friday Night Focus - Form of the Firemind

Steve McAleer


After a brief hiatus to focus on casual Magic last week, I am returning to the semi-competitive world of Friday Night Magic with another update to a deck from the previous standard season.

Before I get into the deck I'd like to make a quick comment on the purpose of these articles. I am pretty much working the format of these articles out as I go along, and there are a couple of changes that I am going to make at this point.

Firstly, when presenting a deck list in the previous couple of articles, I have included an estimated cost of buying the deck (worked out using the current prices from the fine sponsors of this site). This hasn't really worked for me though, as the majority of the cost involved with building a deck comes from the dual lands needed to create a decent mana base.

In the future I will leave off the cost estimation unless a deck is particularly budget minded. My lists may also deviate slightly from the deck I actually play where I do not have access to all the dual lands I would like. So if I think that a deck would perform best with 4 Steam Vents, that is what I will include in the deck list, regardless of how many were actually in the version of the deck I played.

The second change is the need for an introduction to this series of articles to set out my aims within them. As always, any further suggestions on how to improve these articles, or comments on any decks I discuss are more than welcome in the forum. But now, on with the intro!

Friday Night Focus: Take Two

Friday Night Focus is a series of articles aimed at the Friday Night Magic player. It will present deck lists that are suitable for FNM competition, some match reports of the decks in action and other random discussion. The decks presented in this series will not have any particular budgetary constraints in mind, but they will aim to be both competitive and fun to play.

This week I am going to present another update to one of my decks from the previous Standard season. This one started off as a dragon theme deck, mainly so I could show off my textless Niv-Mizzet and Electrolyse cards...

Form of the Firemind
Designed by Steve McAleer for pre-20th October Standard

3 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
2 Keiga, the Tide Star

5 Creatures

4 Izzet Signet
4 Compulsive Research
4 Remand
4 Electrolyse
3 Pyroclasm
3 Char
3 Repeal
2 Sensei's Divining Top
2 Invoke the Firemind
1 Form of the Dragon
2 Evacuate

32 Other Spells

2 Steam Vents
1 Shivan Reef
4 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Minano, School at Water's Edge
8 Island
7 Mountain

23 Land

The basic plan of the deck was simple enough - kill any creatures the opponent tried to play, then drop one of your dragons and win. It has plenty of cards that can gain you card advantage, and several ways to deal direct damage if your dragons aren't able to finish the job. This list is from the period before Dissension was released, which is why Invoke the Firemind is included instead of Demonfire.

With so many cantrips and straight card drawing spells, getting Niv to stick for a turn would usually result in a win, as he machine-gunned anything in your way.

This deck loses a few cards from the rotation of Standard, but all of them are big losses:

-1 Minamo, School at Water's Edge
A very nice land, and one that your opponent would often forget had an ability except to tap for mana. It can allow a dragon to untap as a 'surprise' blocker, or double up a Niv-Mizzet activation.

-2 Keiga, the Tide Star
He was probably only the third best of the Kamigawa dragons, but Keiga was still a massive threat that had to be dealt with.
-2 Sensei's Diving Top
What can I say about the Top that hasn't been said already? Um, not much. An irreplaceable card, there is nothing even approaching this level of library manipulation in the new standard.

Brave New World

The first step in updating this deck is to look at what Time Spiral offers us in the way of card upgrades and new effects.

Blue in Time Spiral is the colour of Morph creatures, while red messes around with Storm. Neither of these mechanics looks like a great fit to me - the 2/2 Morphs die to our board sweepers, and don't offer any really great creatures that make up for this fragility. Storm, meanwhile, would require us to play all sorts of enablers to build our Storm count and would take the deck in a completely different direction. It looks like these two options are out.

My next stop was to examine the new mechanics in Time Spiral, to see if any of these would compliment the deck, starting with Suspend. Our plan largely involves playing reactive cards early on, normally at the end of your opponent's turn. Suspend lets you spend your early turns setting up big effects to come into play later on, but they can only be suspended in your own turn. This runs entirely against our existing plan, and there just aren't any suspend cards powerful enough to justify this set back to our game plan, so I'll skip past them.

The second 'new' mechanic is Flash, which happily fits in exactly with what the deck is doing. First off in blue there is Draining Whelk, which is seeing some play in the URzaTron deck. For this deck I think it is too fragile and likely to die before it can get the +1/+1 counters. The creature type is also no good for a dragon deck…

An Apology

While we are on the topic of blue Flash cards, I would like to apologise for my patently absurd comments a couple of weeks ago.

From my Verminator 2 article:
"Teferi [...] isn't really a finisher himself, and against aggro he is just an expensive road block that probably won't live to block anything."

I'm not afraid to admit when I'm in the wrong, and in the matter of Teferi, these comments were most definitely off the mark.

Welcome to Wrongsville, baby. Population: me.

See the bonus section at the end of this article for full details on why I have changed my mind on this card.

Our Usually Scheduled Broadcast Returns

Teferi is a strong contender for inclusion in the deck, with a large butt and a game changing effect, and playing him at instant speed is certainly something we would be interested in. The final blue Flash card is Ophidian Eye, which combos with Niv-Mizzet for the Other Dragon Combo in Standard. If your opponent is foolish enough to tap out with Niv-Mizzet in play, it’s game over for them. Frequently you can just conjure a win out of nowhere, and being instant speed means that you can often win the game with lethal damage to Nix on the stack.
The red Flash cards are less inspirational, although there is the very nice Bogardan Hellkite. With four signets and a couple of bounce-lands, coupled with masses of card draw, we don't have too much trouble reaching 8 mana by turn 8 or even earlier. With the amount of removal in the deck, it isn't usually a problem getting to turn 8 should we need to either. For me, the Hellkite just edges Teferi due to the CIP effect and that all-important creature type: dragon.

Another interesting mechanic from Time Spiral is the cycle of cards that can be played as instants, but have a bigger effect when played in your main phase. It just so happens that the best two cards from this cycle are in our colours: Careful Consideration and Sulfurous Blast. It also happens that both of these cards go up against a card already in the deck: Compulsive Research and Pyroclasm.


Careful Consideration (referred to as CC from here on to avoid RSI) has a lot in common with Compulsive Research (CR; ditto). They both give you the chance to get +1 card, but may also give you no net card gain. With CR this depends on the cards you have in hand or draw, weighed against your need for future land drops. With CC this is entirely controlled by when you play the card. So far in my experience with CC I have played it in my main phase about 95% of the time, meaning that the choice of which to play comes down to a question of whether the extra 1 mana is worth drawing one card deeper into your library. For the time being I think the answer is 'yes', with a contributing factor being the additional point of damage you can deal when casting it with Niv-Mizzet in play.

Sulfurous Blast versus Pyroclasm seems a far easier decision to make. Pyroclasm may be two mana cheaper, but Sulfurous Blast also damages players. The additional finesse that it affords, with some control over the level of damage it deals, can also be important.

Putting it all Together

Incorporating these new cards into the deck, please allow me to introduce:

Form of the Firemind v2.0
Designed by Steve McAleer for Standard

3 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
2 Bogardan Hellkite

5 Creatures

4 Izzet Signet
4 Rune Snag
4 Remand
4 Electrolyse
2 Ophidian Eye
4 Psionic Blast
4 Careful Consideration
3 Sulfurous Blast
3 Demonfire

32 Other Spells

4 Steam Vents
2 Shivan Reef
2 Izzet Boilerworks
7 Island
6 Mountain
2 Desert

23 Land

If you don't have access to Psionic Blast you can make up the numbers with Char. Most of the time you won't notice the difference, but pro-red creatures can cause this deck problems if you are just relying on the Deserts to bail you out.

This deck is capable of some massive turns, especially once Niv-Mizzet hits play. In one game, for instance, I played Niv-Mizzet and the next turn played out as follows:

Draw for the turn, Niv triggers (1 damage)
Repeal my own signet, Niv triggers (2 damage)
Electrolyse opponent, Niv triggers (5 damage)
Attack with Niv (9 damage)
Main phase Sulfurous Blast (12 damage)

Of course, a lot of the time you simply get to say 'Oops, I win', and play Ophidian Eye. Note that this card is useless without Niv-Mizzet, which is why there are only two copies of it in the deck. The ability will only trigger when the enchanted creature deals damage to an opponent, so you cannot draw cards by playing it on an enemy creature and letting it hit you.

Sideboard Considerations

I haven't come up with a fully optimised sideboard for this deck as yet, but these are my thoughts regarding a fairly solid board that should help against most decks.

1 Demonfire
1 Sulfurous Blast
These can come in to make a full set of either card. Against control you will want the extra Demonfire, against weenie decks such as Boros or Glare you will love every Blast you can get your hands on.

3 Serrated Arrows
As mentioned above, the pro-red guys in Boros Deck Wins can cause problems for this deck if you have Char instead of the Psi Blasts. Serrated Arrows is a great answer to this problem, and is solid against many other decks into the bargain. It neutralises Ohran Vipers, and can kill Dark Confident and Birds of Paradise.

2 Evacuate
This is a bit of a pet card of mine that makes its way into a lot of decks, but it is solid against any tempo oriented aggro deck. Returning Boros or Gruul creatures to their owner's hand is as good as killing them, making it effectively an instant speed Wrath.

4 Flashfreeze
4 Shadow of Doubt
With Dragonstorm winning the World Championships it looks like it and BDW are the decks to beat at the moment. Against Dragonstorm, Shadow of Doubt is the current tech du jour, so it seems a solid inclusion. Flashfreeze is a very underused card, which can throw a spanner in the works as they try to go off. It will also come in handy against Scryb & Force, the UG deck that was also popular at Worlds.

This should leave you prepared for most of the big decks at the moment, although I would like to find room to include Annex or Ghost Quarter to deal with the Urza lands or Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree. If you have any sideboard ideas, or think there is some improvement to be made to the main deck, please hit the forum and let us know!

Bonus Section, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love the Bomb

There's just time for a quick update on how my Verminator deck is doing (see my past articles for the full deck list).

I entered my local FNM with the deck, almost as listed; the one change I made was to move two Krosan Grip to the sideboard to play Teferi main. The results were a revelation.

In a dramatic contrast to my experiences with Teferi in previous play testing, he was amazing every time he came into play. He really strikes fear into your opponent, and a lot of the time they will focus their efforts on removing him at the expense of all else. Frequently this was a Shadowmage Infiltrator generating me massive card advantage that was ultimately far more dangerous than a 3/4 that makes you play at sorcery speed.

He also generates massive openings to get down the real finisher - an end of turn Teferi will draw out any counter your opponent has, leaving the way clear for the Simic Sky Swallower in your main phase.

The result was that I went 3-0 to finish in 1st place of a 10-person tournament, beating a Dredge deck, UB control and BDW on the way.

That brings us to the end of another FNF; join me next week for another thrilling instalment!



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