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By: Procrastination, Christopher Giovannagelo
Dec 12 2013 12:33pm
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Welcome back to The Modern Perspective! Playing a powerful, but fragile, combo deck can often be just as suspenseful as watching the dramas I spoofed in my summary. You are on the edge of your seat, hoping for the big payoff. Plot twists and poor creative decisions will combine to lessen your enjoyment and in the end you may get what you desired....or perhaps it was all a tease?

As far as combo decks go, the Kiln Fiend/Nivmagus Elemental deck has always been a rollercoaster ride. Capable of Turn 2 wins, the inconsistent nature of the deck, combined with a reliance on actually swinging with creatures, has kept Niv-Elemental in the lower tiers of Modern. That's not to say that the deck isn't a lot of fun to play. A cross between Storm, Infect and U/R Tempo, the deck can explode out damage in a flurry of spells. You have to be aware of both life totals, the remaining cards in your decks, any mana open on the other side of the field, spell sequencing and just "gosh darned lucky" to make the deck really hum. It's a lot harder to keep track of then trying to watch "Gilmore Place 90210: The Gossip Years".

Looking for a way to make the deck even more threatening, I turned to the hot new kid in the Red arsenal:  Young Pyromancer.

Part I. The Cast (of the Maindeck)
Part II. The Test Match Drama
Part III. The Modern Land Prices

Part I. The Cast (of the Maindeck)

Young Elemental Combo
A slight change to an old favorite
4 Nivmagus Elemental
4 Young Pyromancer
4 Kiln Fiend
12 cards

Other Spells
2 Assault Strobe
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Serum Visions
4 Ground Rift
4 Gut Shot
4 Manamorphose
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Mutagenic Growth
1 Artful Dodge
31 cards
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Island
2 Mountain
2 Sulfur Falls
4 Arid Mesa
4 Steam Vents
17 cards

NivMagus Elemental

The deck is simple on the surface: cast a creature, cast spells to make creature bigger, swing  and win. The 3 Step process may not go smoothly though, so better have an idea of what you are working with.

The Mainboard Cards of Note

Young_Pyromancer.jpg Young Pyromancer - While it's not the true "1R Wonder Creature" to complete the cycle for each color, it's certainly a step closer. The Pyromancer may not look like much at first, but a couple end of turn Manamorphose followed by a few Lightning Bolts provides 6 Burn damage followed by 6 creature damage. Usually the Pyromancer will churn out a token here, a token there and you'll be doing nice damage in no time, but keep an open mind about emptying your salvo for a big return swing.

Nivmagus Elemental - The card that caused the original stir. When combined with cheap Storm cards, Niv can quickly grow into a beast that swallows Tarmogoyfs whole. Much like Goyf, even a 3/4 or 5/6 Nivmagus can end a Modern game before the opponent has time to react.

In this deck, with an extremely lucky hand, you can actually win on Turn 2 thanks to the Elemental! 

As for using it to its maximum potential, remember that having a Nivmagus out means you can eat a spell even if the opponent attempts to counter it or removes the intended target.


Kiln Fiend - Niv's close friend and confidant. Kiln Fiend is another creature that is bristling with power if your deck is designed the correct way. +3/+0 adds up very quickly when you can cast 4 or more spells in a turn. Tack some Double Strike onto it and that puts the nail in most opponent's coffins.

The 2 Toughness is the downside of the Fiend. Unlike Niv, that can permanently grow, the best Kiln is getting is a temporary buff from Mutagenic Growth. On the other hand, each Growth gives Kiln Fiend +5/+2, so they are good almost anytime you use them on the Fiend.


Manamorphose - Between full-fledged Storm and this deck, I'm very much in love with Manamorphose. It's not the most powerful spell ever made, but a subtle blend of abilities. Really, it just comes down to being "free" and drawing a card. If you are going to cycle through spells fast enough, this is going to be in the chain. 

Don't forget you can use Manamorphose to create Green mana to cast Mutagenic Growth if your life is too low.

Ground Rift - The key to the T2 win. A T1 Magus requires the following to go critical: a 2nd land, 3 other spells (or 2 Gut Shots), 1 Assault Strobe, 1 Ground Rift. Eat all of the Rifts to create an 11/12 and swing.

Outside of the Nivmagus, the Rift can also be used to help slip your creatures past other ground blockers when you simply need to run in for damage. Especially useful when Tron thinks that a single Wurmcoil Engine has just helped them stabilize.

Assault_Strobe.jpg Assault Strobe - Strobe is crucial to every quick win, when you get right down to it. It's hard to decide if it should be bumped up to the full 4 copies...or at least maybe 3? When I go back to playing this deck again, the numbers on this will be the first thing I tweak.

Gitaxian Probe - This card was fun to use in Standard and it's still fun now. Honestly, after a while, you start to get used to having a way to scope out your opponent's hand and plan ahead. Of course, thanks to Phyrexian Mana, you could just jam it into every deck!

I probably don't need to say how great being a free cantripper is for this deck, but there you go.


Gut Shot - A spell that usually didn't show in the previous versions of the deck. Gut Shot may not be as powerful as Slaughter Pact, but it will pick off any 1 Toughness creature, especially Dark Confidant. Take that Pact!

This is a nice easy slot to side out, but is just more free goodness for Game 1.

Artful_Dodge.jpg Artful Dodge - A lot of cards could fill in this flex-spot. I chose the Dodge since I can always cast it twice in the same turn for Niv to munch on or give Kiln Fiend +6/+0. Most of the time though, I'd prefer to be holding a Ground Rift, but sometimes you need something a little more graceful?

The Sideboard Cards of Note

Shattering Spree - I would like to add more of these to the SB. When you have extra Red and a Nivmagus, you can Replicate a bunch and eat the leftover copies. Seemed like a good fit.

Pillar of Flame - a little sideboard tip: try to pick cards that can always be proactive. There were lots of games where I sided in the Pillars so that I had a higher concentration of burn spells to end the game with. Shooting down Kitchen Finks, Voice of Resurgence, Bloodghast and more is the intended purpose, but hey, burn is flexible like that. Gigadrowse - I tried to use this much like the old Dragonstorm decks did; tap down any problem lands at the end of their turn so you were free to go off. Much like Shattering Spree, feel free to eat any extra copies you can make.

Part II. The Test Match Drama
So I'm trying a different layout for the match up section. I'd like to give props to Claudio Anselmo Santos Ribeiro (and I thought my name was long...) AKA DailyMatters for showing the spreadsheet method of quickly recording/displaying a lot of match up results. Be sure to click here to check out Claudio's articles! Ten matches may not seem like a lot, but if I recapped all of them, it gets longer than you think.

Also, the formatting for the Match Highlights will, hopefully, make it quick and easy to tell where one begins and another ends.

Any feedback on the changes would be greatly appreciated, so let me know in the comments if you like it, hate it or have suggestions for improving it.

Match up Record
BG Death Shadow loam 2-1
UW Eggs 2-0
Affinity 2-1
Junk (GWB) 2-1
Mono U Tron 2-0
UB control 1-2
Mono Red Storm 2-0
UR Delver 2-0
Charbelcher 2-1
Mono Green Infect 2-1

These results were pretty surprising. I wasn't expecting to win nearly that much with the deck. That is a solid "Makin' Day 2" GP record there. Granted, several of these decks are just as "un-proven" as Young Elemental, but Affinity is a Tier 1 deck while Junk, Mono-U Tron and U/R Delver aren't slouches either. U/B Control runs so many of the "good cards" of the format, I'm surprised that deck doesn't have more notches on the belt. Many of the matches went to Game 3, notably the Loss, so don't think that Sideboards won't matter.

I'd like to test more against the really proven Tier decks (Pod, BGx, RG Tron, Splinter Twin) before saying that this version of the deck is a "very serious contender", but being able to steal wins out of nowhere is always useful. I don't want to assume that just because Infect can make a showing that this deck can as well. Honestly, the difference between 10 and 20 damage isn't small.

As mentioned above, a lot of my sideboarding choices were either using the pinpoint hate, or simply going into UR Burn Deck mode. At times Gut Shot wouldn't carry it's weight, or maybe Mutagenic Growth was the correct pull. You have to juggle when to take out Ground Rift or when to go down to 1 Assault Strobe

Match Highlights

Arcbound Ravager  Affinity  Signal Pest

Game 1
My opponent opens with a nuts hand of multiple 0 drops and Signal Pest. I can grow a 7/8 Nivmagus, but it's not enough to race in time. 

Game 2
I land a T2 Young Pyromancer. After that, I keep using removal to clear out creatures. I'm eventually swinging for 8 damage each turn against a blank board.

Game 3
I use early removal in an attempt to keep my opponent off of using Springleaf Drum. They eventually get out an Ethersworn Canonist, but I bait it in combat with a Y.P. so that we trade. My opponent drops 2 Vault Skirge and I challenge it by casting a Kiln Fiend. My opponent swings with both Skirges to go up to 16 life and then casts an Arcbound Ravager as the only blocker. I draw a Probe, pay life to cast it, draw a Ground Rift for the Ravager and cast Strobe to do 20 damage with my Fiend.


Liliana of the Veil  Junk (GWB)  Dark Confidant

Game 1
Things are looking bleak. I didn't get a quick win and my opponent has beaten me down to 2 Life with Lingering Souls Spirits and a Confidant back to block. I have a 3/4 Nivmagus, a Mutagenic Growth and an Assault Strobe. Like a true champ, I topdeck Manamorphose, choose Green and Red mana, cast the Growth, cast Assault and cast a Ground Rift drawn from the 'Phose. The DC is trying to regain his balance when I swing in for 18.

Game 2
I got to make a cool play this game. My T2 Young Pyromancer is bullied a T3 Liliana of the Veil. My opponent puts the -2 ability on the stack and I respond with Gut Shot. I sac the Elemental that was just made and redirect the 1 damage to Lili. Living the dream. Later I get too eager and use Bolt to make a token in response to my opponent killing Y.P. After that they drop a Deathrite Shaman that I now have no way to remove and my own graveyard becomes my cause of death.

Game 3
On the play I get T1 Niv, T2 Young Pyromancer. After the Y.P. I cast Probe for a token and see that my opponent isn't holding removal and has mostly land and a Dark Confidant. Knowing this, on T3 I cast another Y.P. and Bolt the DC out of my path. I figure I need to win this in a hurry. If they drew into some kind of sweeper, I was toast, no reason to hold back now. They use discard to strip the last card out of my hand (a Serum Visions) but I go in for 7 damage putting them at 6. My opponent goes to 4 mana and passes the turn. I draw a Ground Rift that I cast to make Nivmagus a 3/4 and swing with the team. Now no single block will stop me from doing the final 6 damage. They think for a bit and concede. Maybe they were holding Restoration Angel or a removal spell?


Goblin Charbelcher  Land Thinning Belcher  Arbor Elf

Game 1
My opponent drops a T1 Arbor Elf so I Gut Shot it away. I grow a Niv Magus, but it's not large enough to end the game before my opponent gets to 7 mana and Charbelcher's me 

Game 2
On T3 I cast a free spell, another normal spell, Ground Rift, Ground Rift and swing for 17 damage when my opponent has 19 life. Luckily they don't have the Charbelcher and we are on to Game 3.

Game 3
I knock off the T1 Arbor Elf again and then set up to race with two Kiln Fiends. My opponent is ramping steadily and even though they untap with 7 mana on the board, the only card left in hand is not Charbelcher. I chain together spells so that I can do 30 damage with my Kiln Fiends. That last card in hand? Fog. There goes THAT big turn. Luckily, they don't draw the Belcher the following two turns and pumping my Fiends with 1 spell each turn is enough to finish them.


Delver of Secrets  R/U Delver  Lightning Bolt

Game 1
I drop land, Nivmagus. Opponent drops land, Delver. Seems like a race, so I drop T2 Kiln Fiend. Opponent gets a flipped Delver, then uses land from first turn to cast Serum Visions followed by a 2 Life cast Probe on me so they know I have Mutagenic Growth, then drops a fetch and passes the turn. On T3 I chain 3x Manamorphose into a Serum Visions and enter the attack step. Opponent tries to Bolt my Fiend, but I play the Growth like a good player and end the game.

Game 2
Unfortunately, my opponent mulligans to 5 and I have a strong early hand that pumps out a 4/5 Nivmagus. I attempt some end of turn shenanigans that starts a mini counter war, but I can eat the spells and I'm not too worried. Then I get caught with Vapor Snag when I wasn't expecting it. This was a minor set back, since it was their last card and I could easily recast Nivmagus with a 3 other cards in hand.

Still, Vapor Snag...that's probably worth some testing in here.

Over all, most of the games I did win were on the back of ridiculous, last minute Nivmagus saves. Kiln Fiends were often killed on sight, but for some reason, Nivmagus would be left alone. I also got to play a few other Game 1's where the opponent left during sideboarding. One was a win against 3 Color Burn where I actually cast Lightning Bolts to kill Vexing Devils and then rode a 3/4 Nivmagus all the way home against a 2 card hand. The other was a Loss against Jund Dredge when I needed a Bolt or Artful Dodge and I drew Ground Rift against a single flying blocker. There was also a match against my friend's prototype Faerie build; Gut Shot was awesome there.

Longest chain of spells?

3x Manamorphose - 2x Gut Shot - 2x Mutagenic Growth - Ground Rift

That was a very satisfied Nivmagus Elemental.

Part III. The Modern Land Prices
All prices are from The version linked was the cheapest when the land was added, but be sure to check for the best available price!

The Zendikar Fetch Lands
The Fetch Lands are the lynchpin of most mana bases in Modern. Being able to fix your colors by finding a Ravnica Shock Land is critical to the various top tier multi-color decks. The Fetchlands also have great synergy with the best one drop creature in the format, Deathrite Shaman. The price of Fetchlands is often considered the defining cost barrier of Modern, however, on MTGO, they are usually cheaper than many high demand Mythics.

Fetch Lands SET 01DEC13 11DEC13 Change %
Arid Mesa ZEN 10.77 11.75 0.98 9%
Marsh Flats ZEN 11.38 11.13 -0.25 -2%
Misty Rainforest ZEN 19.56 20.17 0.61 3%
Scalding Tarn ZEN 19.67 22.46 2.79 14%
Verdant Catacombs ZEN 20.06 16.58 -3.48 -17%

There goes Scalding Tarn, right back into 1st Place. I knew it wasn't going to give that up without a fight! Mesa is starting to show it isn't a quitter as well. As for the Catacombs drop, doesn't it know that the Internet swears that BGx is the best deck in the format? I guess the Internet needs to have a sit down with Catacombs?? ; )

The Ravnica Shock Lands
The Shock Lands, with their dual basic land types, are very important pillars of the Modern format. The nickname is derived from the 2 life paid to put the land into play untapped compared to the 2 damage from the card Shock. After being reprinted in the Return to Ravnica block, the prices dropped dramatically and it is now much easier for players to acquire these lands with a modest budget.

Shock Lands SET 01DEC13 11DEC13 Change %
Blood Crypt RTR 3.52 3.52 0.00 0%
Hallowed Fountain RTR 3.00 3.42 0.42 14%
Overgrown Tomb RTR 4.29 3.64 -0.65 -15%
Steam Vents RTR 3.16 2.95 -0.21 -7%
Temple Garden RTR 3.16 3.70 0.54 17%
Breeding Pool GTC 3.00 3.23 0.23 8%
Godless Shrine GTC 3.55 4.46 0.91 26%
Sacred Foundry GTC 6.00 5.89 -0.11 -2%
Stomping Ground GTC 3.61 4.17 0.56 16%
Watery Grave GTC 3.25 3.12 -0.13 -4%

A strong finish at an SCG event puts Fountain in the "upswing" grouping this week. Godless Shrine was making an impact at the GP so it is on the ups as well. If the Shocks are holding at this level now, what will happen after they rotate out of Standard?

The Scars of Mirrodin Fast Lands
The Fast Lands are a great way to ensure two colors of mana in the first few turns of the game. Only available in allied color pairings, they see the most use for colors that have strong aggressive themes that are not affected by the drawback. The Fast Lands have a relatively low price threshold and are an inexpensive way to add mana consistency to a deck.

Fast Lands SET 01DEC13 11DEC13 Change %
Blackcleave Cliffs SOM 1.84 1.31 -0.53 -29%
Copperline Gorge SOM 0.74 0.65 -0.09 -12%
Darkslick Shores SOM 0.70 0.80 0.10 14%
Razorverge Thicket SOM 0.96 0.87 -0.09 -9%
Seachrome Coast SOM 0.58 0.52 -0.06 -10%

Another "low" week for the Fast Lands. Blackcleave is really down for a change; will it continue down?

The Worldwake Man-Lands
The ability to produce two colors and provide a creature with an ability makes these lands rather attractive. More useful in mid-range and control oriented decks that don't mind the drawback as much. Currently only one of these lands appears as a '4-of' in a deck; so while they have a moderate price threshold, keep in mind that you usually only need about 1-2 copies of each per a deck.

Man Lands SET 01DEC13 11DEC13 Change %
Celestial Colonnade WWK 6.19 6.60 0.41 7%
Creeping Tar Pit WWK 2.62 3.00 0.38 15%
Lavaclaw Reaches WWK 0.43 0.38 -0.05 -12%
Raging Ravine WWK 1.92 1.96 0.04 2%
Stirring Wildwood WWK 0.75 0.82 0.07 9%

Tar Pit continues to inch up, despite dropping a bit the week before. All in all, the Man Lands aren't changing much, so no need to "hold out" if you were thinking of picking them up.

The Core Set/Innistrad Check Lands
While they do not provide mana on the first turn of the game, the Check Lands still have enough potential to see use in Modern. When combined with the Ravnica Shock Lands, the Checks are an inexpensive way to create reliable 2 color mana bases. Now that the Check Lands have rotated out of Standard, their prices are extremely low. Newer players to Modern, as well as those with very tight budgets, may want to start with these extremely cheap lands.

Check Lands SET 01DEC13 11DEC13 Change %
Clifftop Retreat ISD 0.24 0.27 0.03 13%
Hinterland Harbor ISD 0.15 0.26 0.11 73%
Isolated Chapel ISD 0.43 0.24 -0.19 -44%
Sulfur Falls ISD 0.84 0.68 -0.16 -19%
Woodland Cemetery ISD 0.24 0.18 -0.06 -25%
Dragonskull Summit M12 0.10 0.10 0.00 0%
Drowned Catacomb M12 0.10 0.08 -0.02 -20%
Glacial Fortress M12 0.07 0.07 0.00 0%
Rootbound Crag M12 0.07 0.07 0.00 0%
Sunpetal Grove M12 0.08 0.07 -0.01 -13%

The Innistrad lands are still trying to find prices to stabilize at. Keep an eye on the ones you may still need and figure out what price you prefer. The surge for Hinterland Harbor is unexpected since it stayed low for so long.

The Utility and Deck Specific Lands
This section covers Utility Lands, off cycle mana fixers and Deck specific lands that you might need if you want to build a Modern deck. Whether it's the Urza Tron Cycle, Affinity or you just want to know how much the most used lands that blow up other lands cost, this should give you some idea of what you are working with.

Utility & Deck Specific SET 01DEC13 11DEC13 Change %
Grove of the Burnwillows FUT 24.90 24.90 0.00 0%
Horizon Canopy FUT 14.56 14.31 -0.25 -2%
Tectonic Edge WWK 0.55 0.55 0.00 0%
Ghost Quarter ISD 0.10 0.11 0.01 10%
Urza's Mine ME4 0.14 0.14 0.00 0%
Urza's Power Plant ME4 0.08 0.08 0.00 0%
Urza's Tower ME4 0.13 0.13 0.00 0%
Academy Ruins MMA 0.33 0.12 -0.21 -64%
Gavony Township ISD 0.13 0.10 -0.03 -23%
Treetop Village PRM 0.34 0.34 0.00 0%
Blinkmoth Nexus MMA 3.10 2.09 -1.01 -33%
Darksteel Citadel DKS 0.52 0.42 -0.10 -19%
Glimmervoid MMA 1.77 0.88 -0.89 -50%
Inkmoth Nexus MBS 2.90 3.71 0.81 28%
Mutavault M14 22.05 25.91 3.86 18%
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx THS 2.69 2.46 -0.23 -9%
Eye of Ugin WWK 4.85 4.50 -0.35 -7%

Modern Masters Flashback Drafts helped lower the price on the MMA lands. Darksteel Citadel is even back down too. On the other hand, Inkmoth decided to go up to make up the difference. Hmph. Still, most of the pieces of Affinity are cheaper than they had been, so if that is how you want to break into the format, you might want to pull that trigger? Mutavault continues to climb. It's just a rare, so some M14 drafts might not be a bad idea?

Here we are at the season finale of the article! These last few articles have shown me just how important it is that somebody is keeping an eye on powerful, T2-T3 win combo decks. Sure, they are delicate and statistically unsound, but once you practice with them, you'll be surprised how often the T3 wins start rolling in. If you do get one of the T2 wins, don't expect your opponent to be very happy about it.

The Elemental combo deck doesn't win any faster with the help of Young Pyromancer, but having another single, dominating threat to drop on the table starts to stretch the removal thin for some decks. I'm very tempted to give Haze of Rage a try. How many Tokens and/or Storm copies would it really take to make that pop? Or, you could try removing Nivmagus and Groundrift for Delver of Secrets and some other less "combo-y" spell? Either way, if you just enjoy making your opponent hold their breath as you start casting spell after spell, you might like this deck.

Next week, because some people sort of demanded it, I'm going to look at the Mono Blue Time Walk deck!

Oh and in case you were wondering how the love triangle between our three protagonists ends?

He gets the girl.

Heart Sliver

Until next time,

- Gio

The Modern Perspective Archive


Good artilc - how much does by Kenomage at Fri, 12/13/2013 - 04:05
Kenomage's picture

Good artilc - how much does this deck cost? I like it a lot!

Currently on MTGO traders the by Procrastination at Fri, 12/13/2013 - 11:13
Procrastination's picture

Currently on MTGO traders the main deck is:


but take out the Fetch lands and it is:


So if you want to build a purely fun version, it's not pricey. If you really want it to be stronger, every little fetch helps when you just need one more spell in the chain.

There is a deck like this in Pauper as well that puts up solid results. Our esteemed site overlord, Joshua Claytor, talked about it this very week -

Thanks for reading!

@ Brian Nordyke (FB post) - by Procrastination at Fri, 12/13/2013 - 11:08
Procrastination's picture

@ Brian Nordyke (FB post) - Blessing is very strong and usually ran in almost every other list I've seen for this deck, whether it be Modern or the Pauper version. While I usually wouldn't think much of it, that 1 colorless to cast it might actually make a big difference. A lot of the games I won out of nowhere often involved multiple "free spells" and having this many of them in the deck helps that.

The core of the deck is the combo; I'm starting to wonder if Apostle's Blessing might be playing it "too safe" and is actually slowing us down? It's certainly up for testing and discussion.

That said, I could see replacing Artful Dodge (even though it is more powerful than it looks) since it can save the creature from several of the cards you mentioned.

I like Slaughter Pact if you want to add the Black shocklands into the mix, I'd probably run it in the board though. I'm not a huge fan of the Blue pact in this. Unless you are absolutely winning the game on that swing, you'll probably lose the next turn. I mean, obviously winning swings like that happen often, but still iffy.

Love This Deck. by Deadeye151 at Mon, 12/16/2013 - 16:20
Deadeye151's picture

Ahh i remember the UW Eggs game. ;) I loved this deck while it was stomping me lol. Have you tried running one to two snapcaster? If feel like two could help pump or even flashback a bolt for win. Awesome article and amazing deck!