Prime Speaker Vannifar is a card that begs to be broken. Birthing Pod was a strong Standard strategy back in 2012 and ultimately got banned in Modern, so her effect has a pretty notable pedigree. How does she stack up in Standard? The Arena Boys were keen to find out.
In the grand tradition of Birthing Pod decks, we started out with a lot of 1-ofs. At some point during deckbuilding, we decided to fully embrace the 1-of life and played all 1-ofs to give us a rich and varied smorgasbord of Vannifar options. Is this the optimal approach? Almost certainly not. Was it a hell of a lot of fun? Absolutely.
Despite the silliness, this archetype might have some real legs. Vannifar allows you to tutor and cheat on mana, two traditionally powerful effects, and having a toolbox-style deck can be very useful against a field with such a diverse array of top tier decks.
You’ll notice that outside of the mana base, cards are either included as singletons or playsets. There’s a good reason for this—we want to draw the 4-ofs, and tutor for the singletons. Llanowar Elves and Incubation Druid provide extra mana—critical in a mana-hungry deck like this—and rather obviously, a playset of Vannifar offers the greatest chance to cast her on curve. Incubation // Incongruity also helps in this regard, while digging for specific cards in the late game.
Rhythm of the Wild is an all-star in this list. +1/+1 counters can be nice, but the real value of this card is in its fervor ability. Giving Vannifar haste to activate her immediately is a huge game, and then giving the creature she fetches haste so they can attack? It’s disgusting. The card also has insane synergy with Incubation Druid, turning it into a Desperate Ritual!
The 1-ofs fill out a curve to Pod up the chain, and offer a diverse array of effects to hopefully lend a hand in any given gameplay situation. All of them are designed to eke out value upon either entering or leaving the battlefield, typically interacting with the opponent or leaving behind tokens.
Going over each card would be a slow and ponderous exercise, but here are a few quick hits for you:
- Exclusion Mage over-performed—bouncing a blocker or creating a pseudo-Time Walk effect always felt terrific.
- Conversely, Tempest Caller didn’t do too well—the idea is that it would tap their creatures to push through lethal, but it just felt clunky and bad.
- Rekindling Phoenix offers so much value as a “free” sacrifice option, and is—obviously—a lot better than the stupid Rowdy Crew.
- Biogenic Ooze doesn’t only generate a token—it also pumps Vannifar, as she’s an Elf Ooze Wizard!
There’s still a lot of work to be done on the creature suite and if a Vannifar deck ends up making it big in Standard, it won’t look anything like this, but playing all 1-ofs offers enormous style points, which is perhaps more important than actually winning games.
The dream start is Llanowar Elves into Rhythm of the Wild into Vannifar, sacrificing the Elves, and starting the chain from there. Given these cards are all 4-ofs, it’s not as unlikely as you’d think. Even if you don’t hit the nuts, Incubation improves the overall consistency of your openers and helps to get Vannifar online.
As discussed, Rhythm of the Wild is an absolute all-star in this deck and opens up so many decision points when combined with Vannifar. Do you attack first, then sacrifice and get a +1/+1 counter, or do you attack with the more expensive creature you fetch out? Either way, having Vannifar plus Rhythm feels immensely powerful, and often it’s worth taking a turn off developing the board to land a Rhythm.
Which creatures you fetch with Vannifar will largely depend upon the matchup and gameplay situation, but in a vacuum any creature that adds extra bodies to the board—Siege-Gang Commander, Mesmerizing Benthid, etc.—is a great choice as you drive toward End-Raze Forerunners, while Rekindling Phoenix means that you can endlessly Pod into a 5-drop every turn.
Use your best judgment to think about which creatures to fetch, and try to think a few turns ahead. Will you need Pelakka Wurm to stabilize? Is it better to start a new chain at a lower cost to see more cards with Jadelight Ranger or Rowdy Crew? There aren’t many specific gameplay tips to offer here, given the toolbox nature of the deck.
Make sure you know your list cold, or have a screenshot of it handy to double-check that your anticipated Vannifar chains will actually work. Things get complicated when you draw a key link in the chain—especially an expensive one—and in that situation it’s often best to reset, get cards like Elvish Rejuvenator, and look to hard-cast your hand instead.
In all honesty, this is a horrendously sub-optimal build of a Temur Vannifar deck. Our commitment to 1-ofs might have gotten some cheap laughs (our favorite kind of laughs), but ultimately if you want to get some real work done with this deck then there are plenty of changes to be made.
Firstly, cutting marginal 1-ofs like Tempest Caller and Rowdy Crew for powerhouse all-stars like Rekindling Phoenix is a no-brainer. Rekindling Phoenix is an excellent card in its own right, and as discussed, offers huge upside with Vannifar.
Secondly, it’s not even clear the curve needs to go up to End-Raze Forerunners. Smashing face with the piggies is powerful, but a lot needs to go right to actually get there—if you can’t Pod through your top-end for some reason (perhaps you draw Pelakka Wurm), things get awkward. It might be better instead to lower the curve, topping out at 5.
Finally, this deck will require regular tune-ups as the field shifts and evolves. For example, Reclamation Sage is an excellent main deck inclusion right now—Experimental Frenzy, History of Benalia, Hadana’s Climb, and Wilderness Reclamation all offer juicy targets. This may not always be the case, so if you’re to play this deck regularly, stay on your toes and don’t “lock in” a list. Be agile.
Next week, we’re going to see what all the new Gates deck fuss is about, but we’ve got a very interesting (and probably incorrect) take on the deck. See you then!