Endless Decks With Prime Speaker Vannifar

Is it Pod? Of course not. She’s her own card! And let’s face it: there is a lot of room for great without being as warping as Birthing Pod! GerryT can’t stop thinking about the unbelievably diverse decks you can piece together for new Standard with this legend!

Is Prime Speaker Vannifar the return of Birthing Pod to Standard, an
overhyped mythic rare with text meant to trick you into thinking she’s
good, or somewhere in between?

Prime Speaker Vannifar is not nearly as strong as Birthing Pod, and no one
is going to debate that. However, the similarities are clear. Even though
we don’t have the creature-base necessary to fuel Modern-level, truly
busted Pod chains, there’s no shortage of cool options in Standard.

When evaluating new cards, I tend to ignore the cons to some degree. We can
find cons for every deck and every card as nothing is perfect. Any time a
new set is released, it’s important to throw things against the wall and
see what sticks. If a card is powerful enough, jumping through some hoops
in an attempt to harness that power is worth it.

Cards like Lyra Dawnbringer and Niv-Mizzet, Parun see copious amounts of
Standard play despite dying to everything from Ravenous Chupacabra to
Vivien Reid. Sometimes, a powerful creature sticks and you win the game
because of it.

The question is:

If you untap with Prime Speaker Vannifar,
will you win the game?

It’s not a guarantee, but bad things will happen for your opponent.
Vannifar is powerful, so we should build around it and see what we can
accomplish. As Prime Speaker Vannifar is a creature, she could use a little
support. “Dies to Doom Blade” is a reasonable argument here, but there are
ways around it.

First of all, you could use Vannifar alongside other creatures that your
opponents have to remove, making it more likely that she sticks when she
finally hits the battlefield. Second, you can overload your opponent’s
removal with Incubation, Find, and/or Dive Down. Finally, you could try to
give her haste with something like Rhythm of the Wild. On top of it all,
Vannifar decks need to be able to win when it doesn’t draw its namesake
card or if she gets destroyed.

Unlike Birthing Pod in Modern, you can’t really do broken things with
Vannifar in Standard because of the lack of untap effects like Deceiver
Exarch, which would allow you to turn a two-drop into a four-drop. From
what I can see, Cacophodon isn’t going to get the job done. If you do untap
with Vannifar and Cacophodon, you could chain a two-drop into Atzocan
Archers into Skeleton Archer into Raging Swordtooth into a six-drop of your
choice, but that’s a tall ask.

My take is that Vannifar will see play and, at the very least, is worth

Value Vannifar

This is the easiest route to take. Prime Speaker Vannifar works well with a
Militia Bugler, Ravenous Chupacabra, Trostani Discordant chain.
Conveniently, Militia Bugler also finds basically any creature in the deck.
You want to use Vannifar to generate value from creatures that have
triggers when they enter the battlefield or die. Eventually, that
accumulated value will bury your opponents in card advantage.

You can use Dive Down to protect Vannifar or Incubation and Militia Bugler
to find multiple copies, so going long against decks like Golgari Midrange
won’t be a huge issue. You will eventually lose to Carnage Tyrant /
Finality if your deck isn’t set up to beat it, so that’s something to keep
in mind as well.

The explore package is cute because Wildgrowth Walker allows you to
recklessly play your shocklands untapped in most matchups without feeling
it, which is probably the main way that four-color manabases will function.

Deputy of Detention is somewhat awkward, especially compared to a viable
option in Exclusion Mage, because you don’t necessarily want to sacrifice
it at some point. It’s still a solid option but might be worse than
Exclusion Mage overall.

Muldrotha, the Gravetide is the endgame here, but it could realistically be
anything else. Izoni, the Thousand-Eyed does a fine job too. Dream Eater is
present to create a huge swing in the gamestate (and set up your next
turn), but isn’t necessary.

One of the most important things to note about decks with Vannifar is that,
while it might feel nice to have a silver bullet for any given situation,
you should realistically trim the bullets as much as possible. Vannifar
will be a target for removal (especially if you aren’t presenting anything
else worth killing), so there’s no guarantee that you’ll have Vannifar
online at any given point. Because of that sad fact, your deck must be
capable of winning games on its own, which this version may struggle with.

Realistically, Bant seems like a stronger option.

Even in Bant, you have seemingly endless options. If you wanted to, you
could get to the seven-drops, which include Meteor Golem, Pelakka Wurm, or
Tishana, Voice of Thunder. You could include the explore package with
Wildgrowth Walker and Jadelight Ranger.

We could stick to Jadelight Ranger in the three-drop slot, but with a
three-color manabase, District Guide is probably a better fit. I have Lena,
Selfless Champion as my anti-sweeper card of choice, but it could very
easily be Azor, the Lawbringer instead.

A heavier token theme with Hunted Witness or Legion’s Landing and Song of
Freyalise could be potent. That deck could use Venerated Loxodon to skip
right to a six-drop too!

Only a scant 21 hits for Militia Bugler is low, so either some of the token
generation must become creatures or Incubation needs to go. Once we fix
those issues, this deck actually looks pretty good.

Song of Freyalise gives you a ton of mana to work with, and the tag team of
Incubation and Militia Bugler helps you find what you need even if Vannifar
doesn’t stick around. The fact that Incongruity can downgrade any threat on
your opponent’s side of the table is valuable too. Overall, Incubation
solves a lot of the problems that these green decks had.

Savage Vannifar

One of the most overlooked things about Vannifar is how a deck doesn’t
necessarily need to be built entirely around her. You can include her as a
value-additions without leaning on her. Cut the extraneous Vannifar chains
to a minimum and see what you can accomplish.

Giving every creature you cast haste can be incredible against control
decks or anything with planeswalkers. It might not seem worth the
investment of a card and three mana, but it dramatically alters the way the
game will play out, so Rhythm of the Wild is worth experimenting with.

WIth four copies of Rhythm of the Wild, Demanding Dragon looks stronger
than Skarrgan Hellkite, but that could be wrong. Either way, the gameplan
is to Vannifar into hasty threats, but casting them is a fine backup
option. A hasty Etali, Primal Storm is the big finish.

Growth-Chamber Guardian is adorable with Vannifar since you’ll have several
two-drops to sacrifice if you care to spend the mana. It also works quite
well with Rhythm of the Wild. Ravager Wurm is an interesting inclusion in
the six-drop slot. You can take out an Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin or fight
Lyra Dawnbringer or Niv-Mizzet, Parun, but it’s probably better off as a
sideboard card at the moment.

Does this deck have enough power for Ghalta, Primal Hunger? Maybe we need
to move more toward Zhur-Taa Goblin and Pelt Collector in order to enable

This looks reasonable. Maybe the deck is stronger without the Vannifar
component, but I can’t really see you losing if you get to untap with her

Carnage Tyrant and Ghalta with haste are truly terrifying, but I suppose
that’s what Gruul does.

Gruesome Vannifar

What about a value-oriented Vannifar deck that utilizes the various
self-milling cards in Sultai? There’s no shortage of enters-the-battlefield
effects in those colors, plus there are significant rewards for sacrificing
your own creatures and filling up your graveyard.

This version doesn’t have Incubation to find Vannifar because it doesn’t
need her to win. Instead, Gruesome Menagerie is the payoff for doing all
the sacrificing and self-milling. If you do have an active Vannifar, you
can find Salvager of Secrets to get back Gruesome Menagerie if you want.

You could utilize Find as a backdoor way to put Vannifar into your hand if
you wanted to, but Menagerie seemed like a stronger payoff. Lazav, the
Multifarious may have finally found a home. Surveil is already strong in
this sort of deck, but having a creature that can copy a Vannifar in the
graveyard is terrifying.

Riverwise Augur is cute and maybe not good enough. However, you want a
Vannifar target at three, four, and five that you can search for on a dry
battlefield just to get some value. The Augur seems like the best choice to
me, but it could also be Golgari Findbroker.

If you like value, Gruesome Vannifar is probably what you’re looking for.

Tribal Vannifar

Does Vannifar finally push Merfolk into viability? I’m guessing not, but
that’s not really Vannifar’s fault. She does give you a good use for all
the situational Merfolk that have been printed.

This time, green is the splash color.

What does using Vannifar alongside Goblins get us? Well, there are numerous
enters-the-battlefield effects attached to the various Goblins in Standard,
so that helps. Getting incremental value all the way up to Siege-Gang
Commander is pretty nice, even if it’s not necessarily more powerful than
what the other Vannifar decks are doing.

If anything, the thing I enjoy the most about this deck is being able to
Vannifar into a Goblin Chainwhirler whenever I want to. Naturally, that led
me down the path of building around Status / Goblin Chainwhirler, but we’re
not going to talk about that.

Realistically, this deck could also probably be improved by cutting the
Vannifars for Rhythm of the Wild and cleaning up the numbers, but that’s
less fun.

Naturally, I looked at Elves as well, but they are oddly a beatdown tribe
this time around with very few enters-the-battlefield effects to abuse.
Upgrading your two-drop to a Steel Leaf Champion isn’t that big of a win,
so I’m going to skip them for now.

The Backup Options

Vannifar’s options don’t end there and we still have plenty of Ravnica Allegiance yet to be previewed. Here’s a cheat sheet of
cards I didn’t mention, in case you’re wondering what else is out there.


So, is Birthing Pod actually back? Yes and no. We have some hurdles to jump
through to enable Prime Speaker Vannifar, and she’ll probably end up being
one of the funnest cards in the entire set. If Kaya’s Wrath or Cleansing
Nova don’t see a ton of play, I could see value-centric creature decks
being well-positioned at some point. Domri, Chaos Bringer was also
previewed while I was finishing this article and would absolutely slot into
many of these decks, which would only make them stronger, so Vannifar has
that going for her as well.