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    [Primer] Nic Fit

    Sensei's Divining Top was just banned this morning (4/24/17). Please bear with us while we reinvent ourselves to not use the card. All of today, all of the below lists are historical and anecdotal, and should not be copy/pasted without examining and replacing cards. Thank you. Ari.

    “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
    ― Friedrich Nietzsche


    Definition of Nic Fit: "A GBx hybrid ramp-control deck which strives to abuse the Veteran Explorer / Cabal Therapy interaction."

    Table of Contents:
    I. Introductions
    II. (Some) Card Selections
    IIIA. Historical Notes
    IIIB. Naming Conventions
    IV. Cabal Therapy Guide
    V. The Primary Variants
    VI. The Second Variants
    VII. The Tertiary Variants
    VIII. Coverage Matches

    I. Introductions:

    Welcome to the Nic Fit community here on Source!

    You should play this deck if you like:
    -) Your opponents wailing and gnashing their teeth while you unleash cards that they never want to play against upon them
    -) A unique hybrid midrange ramp-control style of play that is only really found in us
    -) An archetype with a lot of undiscovered potential and space for individuality and brewing (2016 brought no fewer than 5 sub-archetypes to the fold, several of which had always existed but were yet undiscovered)
    -) You're coming to Legacy from Standard or Modern. This isn't a budget deck (and can be hilariously anti-budget in some cases), but a lot of its optimal choices are things that you may already have from newer formats or have been recently reprinted (Deed, Zenith, etc).

    You shouldn't play this deck if:
    -) You are harshly critical on what's playable / "real" and not -- Nic Fit can surprise you! Grinder mentality is not welcome here. That said, don't be an idiot and assume that your favorite 10-mana edh artifact is viable.
    -) You're unwilling to put a lot of time into learning to play this deck. And I mean, a -lot-.

    Yup. Those are really the only reasons not to play this deck. Within its deep annals, there is really something for everyone. There are combo variants, hard control variants, Stoneforge variants....you name it, we've got it. And, we're expanding our variants all the time. Come contribute!

    It's been generally agreed upon amongst the long-time Nic Fit pilots that you can reasonably expect to sink a year of your life into this deck before you will be able to reliably top 8 events. This number can fluctuate based on your playtime (every weekend + during the week vs once a month) and also based on your experience with 'similar' decks in other formats. It's important to keep in mind, though, that Nic Fit is a very, very challenging archetype to play. You need to sequence your plays several turns in advance, while still being flexible enough to respond to both your own deck and your opponents' decks changing your plans. You need to learn how to use Cabal Therapy effectively, which involves a massive amount of format knowledge and the ability to pay attention to every little detail and shred of information that is offered to you.

    It's very easy to become discouraged in yourself and in the deck after a few months of not putting up results. You just have to stick with it -- and we're here to help!

    My name is Kevin "Arianrhod" McKee, and I've been playing Nic Fit since early summer 2011. I've put up a lot of pretty reasonable results (somewhere north of three thousand dollars in winnings at this point, I believe, although not from any GP-level events) with a couple different versions of the deck, and I'm here to offer opinions and advice to all.

    Now, with the introductions out of the way, let's talk about the deck itself!

    II. (Some) Card Selections:

    Things We Do Run and Why:

    * Pernicious Deed

    It has been theorized in the past that you can run Deedless. It's a bad idea. Depending on the situation, your opponent will oftentimes get the benefit from your Explorers (if they get any at all) before you will. Being able to untap and reset the board while still holding your threats in hand, or, ideally, leaving them in play, is pretty huge.

    Dropping Deeds / running 1 copy in the past. My sincere recommendation would be: don't.

    This has changed somewhat since the introduction of Toxic Deluge. Some versions can get away with running more Deluges and fewer Deeds. This is a debatable point and depends on the specific version that you are playing. I personally will bias more towards Deed, but there are people who have gone deep on Deluges and been rewarded for it, so I wanted to mention it as a possible consideration.

    * Green Sun's Zenith

    The only times that we don't run at least 3 of this card is when there's either some number of Birthing Pods present in the list, or when most of the creatures are nongreen. It's basically the most powerful creature tutoring option currently available. It also acts as Explorers 5-8, and connects most of our card advantage together. One of the reasons to play the deck.

    * Eternal Witness

    The green Snapcaster. Before Return to Ravnica, we would commonly run 2-3 copies of this card. Unfortunately, Deathrite Shaman has arrived and is the fun police. She's still good enough that you should almost always run a singleton. Another problem with running multiple Eternal Witnesses these days is that despite the power and popularity of Miracles, legacy has become a much faster format overall than it was several years ago. While powerful, Eternal Witness is slow.

    * Sensei's Divining Top

    The gold standard for non-blue card filtration and quality. Doesn't die to our Deeds, and we can use it as many times per turn as we have shuffles (which can be a lot). Most versions run 3 copies, although blue versions usually shave to 1-2 due to the addition of Jace and Brainstorm.

    Although I do not agree with the idea of such, we need to be prepared for the possible event of a Top banning (thanks Miracles). Nic Fit is fairly well situated to survive without Top, although it would be very hurtful blow for sure. Oath of Nissa and Night's Whisper are the two most likely replacements -- both are notably weaker than Top, but will fulfill the same role.

    * Phyrexian Tower

    This unique land leads to some of Nic Fit's most broken opening sequences, with its crazy synergy with Veteran Explorer. In 2011-2012, Rector versions used to run 2 copies of this land, due to the added focus on sacrifice outlets. Now, (Starfield of) Nyx Fit is picking up Rector's mantle, and typically runs up to 3 copies. Every other version only runs a 1-of, however -- with some versions opting not to run it at all to improve that mana stability at the cost of explosive hands. Tower+Vet leads to 5 mana on turn 2, which enables a wide variety of broken sequences depending on the specific version.

    * Volrath's Stronghold

    Volrath's Stronghold is typically only run alongside both Phyrexian Tower and Primeval Titan, which generates an engine that Nic Fit players affectionately refer to as "the Two Towers." The Two Towers is a powerful engine for grinding that is also one of our best ways to fight Miracles. However, it usually requires running Primeval Titan to be "worth" it, which limits the amount of play Volrath's sees a fair bit.

    * "Combat" Planeswalkers

    This category includes planeswalkers which make tokens or buff creatures. Combat planeswalkers tend to be very good at beating opposing planeswalkers (consider Elspeth, Knight-Errant & Sun's Champion; Sorin, Lord of Innistrad; Garruk Relentless; Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; Nissa, Vital Force). One of Nic Fit's weaknesses tends to be to opposing planeswalkers because Pernicious Deed does not kill those like it does everything else. Combat planeswalkers can help shore this up by contributing board presence or sudden damage steroids to kill opposing walkers.

    * Deathrite Shaman

    Deathrite has varied in number since inception, but is typically played at 0-2. Generally, the more consistent and grindy your deck, the less you need this card. Faster versions with a strong combo (like Sneak) benefit from the extra acceleration and frequently run two copies. One or two copies are also common across the various Atraxa builds, which benefit from the rainbow mana production.

    * Tireless Tracker

    Tracker is run as a 1-2 of in most builds. Ideally you want to draw him as opposed to Zenith for him, but there will certainly be times where he can just take over a game state and tutoring for him is okay.

    * Meren of Clan Nel Toth

    Some people are opposed to Meren, others favor her. I personally love Meren, and since I'm writing the primer, I get to put her in this section :D Just note that there are strong arguments against her, usually based on the power level of other, more blunt-force cards. Meren is like Yawgmoth's Will in vintage: you need to sculpt the game state around her. If you engineer a game to where she's your last bomb in the sequence, she will absolutely take over an entire game. If you run her out early or play the deck more aggressively, you typically won't see as good of results with her. I play much more controlling, though, and typically sequence in a way that allows her to capitalize on the game.

    * Atraxa and Leovold

    Both of these cards are new to the archetype, but have proven themselves capable contenders so far. Generally seen together, both legendary creatures amplify the power of Green Sun's Zenith in unique ways, with Leovold being an unusually powerful anti-combo piece that is still strong against fair decks.

    * Siege Rhino

    I'm personally much lower on Rhino than many other people are, however it is impossible to deny Rhino's power as a 1-of or 2-of. Many run him as a 3- or even a full 4-of, which I tend to believe pushes the deck too far down a midrange aggro path that the archetype is ill-suited to execute effectively. Again, though, I highly recommend a 1- or 2-of in basically any white-splash build.

    * Abrupt Decay

    We generally only run a pair of Decays, sometimes with a third in the board. While this may surprise some, it is because we want a diverse removal suite as opposed to a powerful one, and being able to run a backup removal spell that affects our coverage in good ways is worth more than only jamming the set of Decays with room for one or maybe two other options. Examples include Path to Exile or Swords to Plowshares (contingent largely upon number of Rhinos played) for exile removal or Punishing Fire for planeswalker control. Maelstrom Pulse and Vindicate both show up every once in a while as well, for a hyper flexible 1-of.

    * Thragtusk

    Thragtusk is basically always included as a 1-of in my lists, and has historically been a 2-of at times. The card generates too much value for us to ignore, and becomes especially toxic to our opponents when combined with one of our recursion engines (Meren or Volrath's/Phyrexian; Nightmare if you happen to still be playing it).

    These are just some of the possible card options -- I wanted to provide a brief overview of the most commonly played Nic Fit cards to provide some context on the type of card that you should be looking for. Generally it has to be a very individually strong card that also generates a lot of value or has other intrinsic synergies with the rest of the deck.

    Things We Don't Run and Why:

    * Dryad Arbor

    -) Dies to your own Pernicious Deeds, Deluges, etc.
    -) Usually better in all situations to sandbag the Zenith and Zenith@1 for Explorer or Deathrite instead of @0 for Arbor.
    -) Occupies a spell slot, and even then, it will sometimes screw your mana development with its very presence.
    -) Natural Order is not currently used in Nic Fit -- this would be the only scenario in which I would support Arbor.

    Addendum: while this has changed somewhat with the introduction of Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Arbor is still an unpopular choice, though it does appear from time to time. I personally still view Arbor as unplayable, but am less severe when criticizing others about it.

    * Liliana of the Veil

    -) Notable Exception: Punishing Nic Fit, although PFire has declined greatly as a version.
    -) Most of the problem with Liliana is that our cards are generally much better than our opponents' on a 1-for-1 scale. Bleeding our hand is usually something that is effective against us, and therefore it doesn't make any sense to do it to ourselves.
    -) Liliana isn't actually that effective against the decks that we want her to be effective against. Our clock is too slow to kill combo while Liliana keeps their hand low, she's not Show and Tellable, and she does nothing to Sneak Attack, little to Painter, even less to Elves, etc.

    * Maindeck Thoughtseizes & Hymn to Tourachs

    -) Too many dead cards in the late game.
    -) Doesn't actually kill the opponent.
    -) The 2 lifeloss can actually matter in a lot of matchups, because Nic Fit tends to use its life as a resource pretty aggressively.

    * Random EDH / Cube Garbage

    -) If you're running a card in Nic Fit, you need to have a specific reason for doing so. Don't think that just because Nic Fit "looks like a cube draft" that means that you can jam anything that you want.
    -) Nic Fit variants are very carefully constructed and each card present in them is there for a reason.
    -) This is even more true as of this updated writing (1/6/17). Nic Fit has a tremendously large playable card pool -- several orders of magnitude larger than any other legacy deck. As a result, it has taken Nic Fit a long time being the butt of a lot of jokes before it's begun to crystallize into truly competitive decks. Now, this has finally begun to happen, which makes card selection even more important. We've winnowed down to the best of the best, and a card needs to be very specific or very powerful to justify its inclusion. Nissa, Vital Force comes immediately to mind as something that's rapidly joined the ranks of the elite.

    * Sylvan Library

    -) See also Thoughtseize on why life loss is bad. Even in matchups where you think your life total is safe, like Miracles, it does end up mattering, especially if they're on a heavy Mentor build or are running multiple Entreats.
    -) Dies to your Deeds and you can't save it like you can with Top.
    -) Usually better options exist. I generally play Painful Truths before Sylvan Library, although sometimes I split Top with Library in a 2-1.
    -) Note that Library's stock is poised to go up for Nic Fit if Top ever gets banned due to Miracles abuse.

    * Gaddock Teeg

    While some players favor Teeg, even in the maindeck, I personally find him more problematic than he's worth. He shuts off our Zeniths and our planeswalkers, which in my opinion are two of the main reasons to run the deck. I understand that generally you're bringing him out against decks that are hurt worse than we are -- but sometimes you draw your 1-ofs instead of tutor them, and it can make draws very awkward -- especially for planeswalker-heavy or non-creature heavy builds like I favor.

    * Most "utility" planeswalkers. Liliana of the Veil is a good example of a utility planeswalker: one which does not generate board advantage. A good rule of thumb is that if a planeswalker generates a token as a plus, or an especially strong token as a minus, it's probably worth considering. Otherwise, it is very hard for a planeswalker to break through to being played in Nic Fit. Kaya, Ghost Assassin is a noteworthy exception to this rule.

    IIIA. Historical Notes:

    Tao created the Source thread for Nic Fit in late May of 2011, and the thread quickly attracted the attention of deckbuilders due to the interaction formed between Veteran Explorer and Cabal Therapy. Speaking personally, I had discovered the interaction separately around the same time due to the printing of Veteran Explorer in one of the Commander box-sets. Previously, I had no idea the card existed, but I quickly thought of Cabal Therapy and came to Source to investigate if anyone else had thought of the same thing. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the fledgling thread, and have been working on the deck ever since.

    The deck remained underground for several months, despite putting up sufficient numbers at local tournaments to keep our interest up. It probably helped that the deck is so much fun to play, as well. Fast forward to July 31st, 2011 -- the Starcity Games Open in Pittsburgh, PA. I was able to get a car around to play in the Legacy Open, and while none of us did that well, my deck attracted the eye of Caleb Durward, who was playing not far from me. We talked about the deck briefly, and he said that he'd seen people playing it on Workstation online, but that he hadn't seen it at an actual event before (paraphrased due to nonexact recollection). Although I ended up at something dismal like 4-3-1, apparently some interest had been sparked.

    At the SCG Invitational in Charlotte, in December 2011, Nic Fit got to steal some limelight as Caleb Durward piloted a straight G/B version of the deck to an impressive top 8 finish, and snagged a Deck Tech on the way. Over the next few months, the deck periodically bounced in and out of the Decks to Beat forum on the Source, which signifies a tier one deck. Despite these periodic jumps, the deck has remained a strong tier 1.5/tier 2 contender for much of its life, largely due to a complete lack of true masters and professional players that actually run the deck, as Caleb has continued to experiment with other archetypes after playing Nic Fit to decent finishes several more times.

    Since then, the archetype has fragmented into various sub-versions, all with a unique style and personality all their own. Each version can have wildly different matchups, although most share at least a few core similarities. Most of the high-placing finishes for the deck will be categorized with their attending version in section V. While we have yet to win any notable, large-scale tournaments, we have appeared in many such top 8s, and our pilots have pocketed dozens of dual lands and other high-level prizes. The overall archetype's best/most prestigious finish so far is a 10th place by BUG Pod at GP Paris, in February 2014.

    IIIB. Naming Conventions:

    Our deck's name is so weird and off the beaten path that I feel I must address it in its own section. We don't actually know entirely where Nic Fit came from, before anyone asks. A lot of people assume that it came from a typo....that it was originally supposed to be "Nice Fit." Whether it did or not, however, is questionable, and probably impossible to prove. Caleb Durward noted that he believes the name to refer to the interaction between Explorer and Therapy in his Deck Tech.

    Whatever it may have once signified, Nic Fit has come to be synonymous with Therapy/Explorer, although some casters in particular still try to call the deck Explorer Rock, or even more simply, "that Veteran Explorer deck."

    Each subset of the deck tends to go by either its shard/wedge name or the name of the specific plan or backup engine that it is abusing. Scapewish comes from Scapeshift + Burning Wish, Punishing Fit as per Punishing Fire, Sneaky Fit from Sneak Attack, Nyx Fit from Starfield of Nyx, etc. At the same time Junk Planeswalker Control (or Abzan Planeswalker Control) is also a perfectly viable name, as is 4c Atraxa: it's succinct and tells you exactly what it's doing at a glance.

    IV. Cabal Therapy Guide:

    Proper Cabal Therapy names are one of the most important aspects of playing the deck. While the following guide is far from perfect, it can be used as a general purpose training tool for when you're just learning the deck and just starting with Therapy. If you have no idea what to do, this is for you. As you get more experienced and more advanced with the deck, some of these calls will change based on a wide variety of factors...but this is a good starting guide.

    * Miracles

    Play: Sensei's Divining Top
    Draw: Counterbalance

    Top is the most important card in their deck, and on the play it's the obvious name. On the draw, try to snag their Counterbalance to shut down their virtual card advantage and keep your early developmental plays clear.

    * Shardless:

    Play: Brainstorm
    Draw: Shardless Agent or hold until t2-3 for Jace, or hold until you want to resolve something and name Force
    Postboard Play: Hymn to Tourach
    Postboard Draw: Hymn to Tourach

    On the draw, Therapy isn't that great in this matchup. Frankly, Therapy isn't that good in general, but especially on the draw. Hymn to Tourach is their best card vs you, but they usually only have 1 or at most 2 copies maindeck, so it's generally not worth naming. On turn 2 (if they have DRS) or turn 3 it can be correct to name Jace, but even still they only usually have 1-2 copies of him now as well. It can be wisest to just hold it until you need to resolve something and then slam it on Force of Will. Postboard, adjust to Hymn to Tourach, because they'll be bringing in extra copies of it and actively looking for it in their opening hand.

    Generally speaking, you want to sideboard out Cabal Therapy in this matchup, but if you happen to have to leave some in, those are your best names.

    * Stoneblade/Deathblade

    Play: Brainstorm
    Draw: Hold.

    If you're on the play, try to disrupt a shaky keep by taking Brainstorm, which also makes your future Therapies better. If you're on the draw, you want to hold your Therapy so that you can either use it after they Stoneforge for an equipment, or on turn 3 naming Jace TMS.

    * RUG Delver

    Play: Stifle
    Draw: Stifle

    It's our number one enemy in this matchup. If they don't have it, congrats, you have information and the go-ahead for Explorer to ramp past their tempo. Also keep in mind that they give you information on their hand from Delver. Write it down.

    * BUG Delver

    Play: Stifle
    Draw: Stifle

    Same as RUG here, really. You can make a strong argument for calling Hymn to Tourach, but Stifle is usually more devastating if they happen to run it.

    * TES and ANT

    Play: Dark Ritual
    Draw: Dark Ritual

    Ideally you want to name mana on the call, and then business on the flashback. Doesn't always work that way though...be prepared to be flexible here. Dark Ritual gets the nod as the initial name because most of their 'broken hands' involve sequences containing Dark Ritual, and it's probably the ritual that they are most likely to keep in their opening hand, vs something like LED that needs a lot of pieces to go with it and is fairly fragile.

    * Elves

    Play: Natural Order
    Draw: Natural Order

    Natural Order is their pathway to their fastest kill, and it's the first priority to name as a result. Note that there are debates for Glimpse of Nature -- especially if they have a fast Nettle Sentinel or Birchlore.

    * Reanimator

    Play: Reanimate
    Draw: Exhume

    Reanimate is the 'faster' reanimation spell, but it does hurt them badly. Exhume is arguably more dangerous because it doesn't cost them life, meaning they get 7 more cards to defend their Griselbrand with. Worst case, don't forget that you can play around Exhume by Therapying yourself to discard Venser, Frost Titan, Rector, or any other creature that you want to get in play.

    * Sneak/Show

    Play: Show and Tell
    Draw: Griselbrand

    Show and Tell is their fastest kill. Likewise, Griselbrand is probably the more dangerous thing for them to Sneak Attack because they can draw a million cards to hit Petal + Emrakul and just kill you in one shot.

    * Death and Taxes

    Play: Vial
    Draw: Phyrexian Revoker

    Deed is our best card here. We know and they know it, and Revoker is their answer to it. Shut it down. Vial is still better to name on the play, though, because sometimes you can catch them keeping the 1-lander+Vial hand, and punishing that when possible is good. Vial also lets them break timing with Flickerwisp. Vial has become even more critical as time has passed, due to the presence of Recruiter of the Guard (which combos with Flickerwisp to give Death and Taxes an actual lategame now). Note that sandbagging Therapy activations can be very strong here, as you can wait for them to fetch an equipment with Stoneforge or tutor a Flickerwisp with Recruiter.

    * Burn

    Play: Lightning Bolt
    Draw: Fireblast (or Price of Progress, depending on your draw)

    If you have a lot of nonbasics in your draw, name Price -- otherwise, name Fireblast. On the play, call for Lightning Bolt because it's their best burn spell and usually the one they're happiest to have in-hand. That being said, it's a royal crap shoot to hit anything vs burn. All of their cards are basically the same, just with different names.

    * Infect

    Play: Invigorate
    Draw: Invigorate

    Invigorate is their most powerful pump spell by a mile. If you have a hand that's heavy in spot removal, it can be correct to target Vines of the Vastwood instead.

    * Eldrazi

    Play: Thought-Knot Seer
    Draw: Thought-Knot Seer

    Reality Smasher is the only other monster we care about here, and generally TKS is more important because it comes down much earlier and takes our best card.

    * Grixis Delver

    Play: Brainstorm
    Draw: Young Pyromancer

    Grixis isn't playing Stifle anymore, but if you have inside information and you know the pilot is on an old list, audible that to Stifle for sure. Young Pyro + Cabal Therapy is their most powerful interaction against us, and it's what we need to target on the draw. On the play, stripping their Brainstorm can make the difference since most of their cards are individually junky and need to be tied together, plus it can slow the flipping of Delver and is a blue card for Force in a deck which runs a lot of nonblue cards.

    * Lands

    Play: Exploration
    Draw: Crop Rotation

    Gamble is another powerful name, but you need to evaluate the board state and see if they would still have it in their hand, or if they'd have fired it off already.

    * Nic Fit Mirror

    Play: Sensei's Divining Top
    Draw: Green Sun's Zenith

    Top is the most powerful card in the mirror, but Zenith is a card that is very frequently something we want in our opening hand. Both are fine names on play or draw, but I typically favor the above.

    * Unknown

    Play: Brainstorm

    If you're in the dark and you're on the play, name Brainstorm. It's the most played card across the most archetypes, and blue players are notoriously greedy with their opening keeps -- they will frequently keep loose hands because they have a Brainstorm, and stripping that from them can sometimes cost them the game on the spot.
    Last edited by Arianrhod; 04-24-2017 at 01:09 PM.

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