Prime Speaker Vannifar In Her Prime

Is this the most important legend in Ravnica Allegiance in terms of Commander impact? Is it the most important card, period? Bennie Smith takes the already-popular Vannifar through his deckbuilding paces!

So Ravnica Allegiance has been fully revealed and wow, what a cool
set! There are quite a few cool cards I can’t wait to put in my Commander
decks, including several sweet new legends. I’ve written about the
Buy-a-Box promo, The Haunt of High Tower, and last week I shared a cool
brew with Teysa Karlov (be sure to check out the links in my Commander
library at the bottom). This week I pivot to Simic and the card everyone is
talking about: Prime Speaker Vannifar!

While Birthing Pod was an incredibly potent tournament card until it got
banned in Modern, I haven’t seen it do too much in Commander.

For me personally, I try to avoid too many tutoring cards in Commander, and
Birthing Pod allows us to tutor up a creature card each turn. Prime Speaker
Vannifar gives us that Birthing Pod flavor but attaches it to a legendary
creature we can cast from the command zone. So, we basically have access to
a Birthing Pod whenever we want.

I feel that this summarizes the Simic quite well.

Okay, so if I decide to shrug off my “few to no tutor effects” rule and
fully embrace Prime Speaker Vannifar, I’m going to put some limits on the
shenanigans. First of all, I’m saying no to this card.

Come on, that’s just silly. Basically, you get to sacrifice any creature
and chain up to pretty much any creature in your deck, as much as you want.

Also, I’m not going to just activate Vannifar blindly. There’s nothing
worse than someone who’s leafing through their deck to find a card, but
they just don’t know yet what they’re looking for.

I do think Vannifar could be a decent commander for either an Elf or Wizard
tribal deck, or maybe even a hybrid of the two. Using Vannifar’s ability it
could be easy to search up just the right tribal cards for whatever
situation you find yourself in. But there are plenty of such decks out
there for those who want to explore that option to mine ideas from. For me,
I’m going to take inspiration from Vannifar herself-she’s Prime Speaker, a
head honcho of the Simic, so let’s build a Simic deck that Simics hard!

So, what does Simic do? Let’s look at the guild mechanics over the years:
graft, evolve, and the latest, adapt. These all utilize +1/+1 counters, so
let’s lean heavily into that.

Simic Stuff – Adapt

Training Grounds Benthic Biomancer Pteramander Sauroform Hybrid Shambleshark Incubation Druid Biomancer's Familiar Skatewing Spy Sharktocrab Zegana, Utopian Speaker Trollbred Guardian

In honor of Ravnica Allegiance I’m going to feature a lot of cards
with the new mechanic adapt. These cards provide some great mana sinks for
later in the game, and for that I love Training Grounds and the new
creature version, Biomancer’s Familiar! It’s cool that some of the adapt
creatures have cool abilities that trigger from +1/+1 counters being put on

Simic Stuff – Evolve

Experiment One Gyre Sage Fathom Mage

Let’s dip into the evolve mechanic too, with Gyre Sage eventually giving us
a ton of mana and Fathom Mage letting us draw a lot of cards along the way.

Simic Stuff – Graft

Renegade Krasis Cytoplast Root-Kin

Last but not least let’s toss in a couple graft cards. Renegade Krasis does
a nice job of sharing the wealth of +1/+1 counters among your other
creatures, and Cytoplast Root-Kin gives you the ability to pull of +1/+1
counters from creatures you want to activate adapt on again.

+1/+1 Counters

Hardened Scales Evolutionary Escalation Sage of Hours Scavenging Ooze Combine Guildmage Simic Ascendancy Champion of Lambholt Fertilid Rishkar, Peema Renegade Sage of Fables Hadana's Climb Tuskguard Captain Pir, Imaginative Rascal Ezuri, Claw of Progress Forgotten Ancient Herald of Secret Streams Master Biomancer Spike Weaver Kalonian Hydra Loyal Guardian Spike Tiller Doubling Season Galloping Lizrog Experiment Kraj Biogenic Upgrade

Outside of Simic mechanics, there are a ton of great cards that care about
+1/+1 counters we can pepper in our deck. Rishkar, Peema Renegade will let
a lot of our creatures tap for green mana, and Sage of Fables can cash out
+1/+1 counters for fresh cards. Experiment Kraj is a fun card that can let
you splice together some cool abilities along the way, but what’s really
cool is letting it copy Prime Speaker Vannifar’s ability if you add a
counter to it.

I’m a big fan of Galloping Lizrog. Not only does the card have a hilarious
name and fantastic artwork, but it packs a huge punch while moving counters
off creatures you may want to reset to smaller sizes.

If Sage of Hours survives long enough you can take an extra turn here and
there, which sounds like a Simic good time if ever there was one.

Death Triggers

Skullclamp Pelt Collector Chasm Skulker Ulvenwald Mysteries Toothy, Imaginary Friend Weatherseed Treefolk Fool's Demise Phytotitan Protean Hulk

One angle that might be easy to overlook is taking advantage of death
triggers since Vannifar’s ability demands a creature death to activate.
Skullclamp and Ulvenwald Mysteries are too great ways to turn creatures
dying into more cards. It’s cool that you can use Vannifar to search for
either Pir, Imaginative Rascal or Toothy, Imaginary Friend and you get the
other partner as a bonus.

Weatherseed Treefolk and Phytotitan make perfect candidates for sacrificing
to Vannifar since they’ll come right back to use again. What’s super-spicy
though is Fool’s Demise-enchant one of your creatures with Fool’s Demise
and when you sacrifice the creature, you’ll get it back along with Fool’s
Demise and the creature you tutored up with Vannifar.

Enters the Battlefield

Coiling Oracle Bounding Krasis Eternal Witness Reclamation Sage Loaming Shaman Bane of Progress Prime Speaker Zegana Tishana, Voice of Thunder Woodfall Primus

Everyone loves enters the battlefield effects, and we can include some good
ones here, from Coiling Oracle and Eternal Witness on up to Woodfall
Primus. Bounding Krasis can chain us up from a two-mana creature to a
four-mana creature by untapping Vannifar when it enters the battlefield.


Wirewood Lodge Minamo, School at Water's Edge Kiora's Follower Thousand-Year Elixir

Speaking of untapping Vannifar, we can add a few more of those types of
cards outside of Intruder Alarm. Wirewood Lodge takes advantage of
Vannifar’s Elf type, and Minamo, School at Water’s Edge takes advantage of
Vannifar’s legendary type.


Pongify Rapid Hybridization Swan Song Arcane Denial Negate Counterspell Glen Elendra Archmage

Since we’re playing blue I’d be remiss if I didn’t include some control
cards to keep our opponents honest. The real gem here is Glen Elendra
Archmage-not only can you search it up with Vannifar, but there are tons of
ways to add +1/+1 counters to it, knocking off the -1/-1 counters so you
can perpetually persist. You can even sacrifice it to Vannifar to search up
a five-mana creature.

Simic Goodstuff

Sol Ring Sylvan Library Walking Ballista Bow of Nylea Sakashima the Impostor Guardian Project Morphling Battlefield Scrounger Progenitor Mimic

Here are a few more goodies to round out the deck. The already awesome
Sylvan Library gets reset each time you activate Vannifar; how sweet is
that? Bow of Nylea can add +1/+1 counters or put dead creatures back into
your deck to search up or draw again. And giving your attacking creatures
deathtouch can come in handy-say, an attacking Walking Ballista for
instance. While Walking Ballista can’t really be searched up with Vannifar,
it does do some fun things with Training Grounds and Biomancer’s Familiar,
and it’s certainly a great combo with Experiment Kraj.

I like being able to search up copy effects like Sakashima the Impostor or
Progenitor Mimic since there might be something much cooler on the
battlefield than anything you could search out of your deck. Of course, you
can also copy Vannifar with Sakashima the Impostor to double your

Sweet deck! But wait, there are too many cards. I’ll start by looking at
our mana curve:

1 mana:

2 mana:

3 mana:

4 mana:

5 mana:

6 mana:

7+ mana/X-spells:

78 total cards plus 38 lands equals 16 cards too many, so we need to make
some cuts! Let’s see what we can trim, starting with the top of our curve.

I like all of these, but I’m okay with cutting them in favor of other cards
at that point in the mana curve. Doubling Season is a great card, but I
don’t think it’s doing too much work in this deck without planeswalkers or
many token creatures. Besides, there are other cards like Pir, Imaginative
Rascal and Hardened Scales that can do a lot of that work.

Some of these cards provide some form of evasion, but I feel that Herald of Secret
Streams and Skatewing Spy provide better evasion than these. Guardian
Project is a great new card that I think is going to make huge waves in
Commander for obvious reasons, but in this particular deck I feel that
Vannifar targets are better than raw card drawing.

The one card on this list that I regret having to cut is Simic Ascendancy
since I think there are a ton of ways to get enough growth counters on it.
But I don’t have enough tricky ways to move counters around at instant
speed to make this enough of an “oops, I win!” card and instead, it’ll be
an “oops, we gotta kill Bennie this turn before he wins!” card.

What’s up with Benthic Biomancer? I mean, it’s a rare, but the card looks
like pure uncommon value. It’s a one-mana 1/1 with no evasion, it’s only
adapt 1, and when you put a +1/+1 counter on it you draw a card but then
have to discard a card. How is this a rare? Where is the flying, or at the
least an extra toughness? I mean, I guess it might be a decent reanimator
enabler, but I’m not really feeling it here. Am I missing something?

Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:

Prime Speaker Vannifar
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 01-14-2019

So, what do you think? What sort of choices do you disagree with? Are there
any cards that I overlooked?

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Deck Database

Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January
2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith”
and the commander name into the Google and it should pop right up. I’ve
written a lot about Commander – and Magic in general – so if you want to
explore further the

StarCityGames.com® article archives

have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

Ravnica Allegiance

The Haunt of Hightower

, Teysa Karlov

SCGCON Winter 2018 (stay tuned for decklists!)

Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow

, Grothama, All-Devouring; Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis; Feldon of the Third
Path; Ramos, Dragon Engine; Inalla, Archmage Ritualist; Prossh, Skyraider
of Kher; Brago, King Eternal

Ultimate Masters

Garna, the Bloodflame

Guilds of Ravnica

Niv Mizzet, Parun

Emmara, Soul of the Accord


Lazav, the Multifarious (decklist in the comments)


Tajic, Legion’s Edge


Etrata, the Silencer


Izoni, Thousand-Eyed

Commander 2018

Aminatou, the Fateshifter


Xantcha, Sleeper Agent

, Lord Windgrace,
Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer

Core Set 2019

Sai, Master Thopterist


Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma


Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire


Chromium, the Mutable


Grothama, All-Devouring


Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle

, Grand Warlord Radha
, Arvad the Cursed,

Muldrotha, the Grave Tide


Slimefoot, the Stowaway


Yargle, Glutton of Urborg

, Squee, the Immortal

Firesong and Sunspeaker


Jodah, Archmage Eternal

Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker

Masters 25

Hannah, Ship’s Navigator

Rivals of Ixalan

Azor, the Lawbringer

, Etali, Primal Storm

Nezahal, Primal Tide


Zacama, Primal Calamity


Tetzimoc, Primal Death


Zetalpa, Primal Dawn


Ghalta, Primal Hunger


Grusilda, Monster Masher


Dr. Julius Jumblemorph


Vona, Butcher of Magan


Tishana, Voice of Thunder


Admiral Beckett Brass


Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Commander 2017

Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith


Inalla, Archmage Ritualist


Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist


O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami


Mairsil, the Pretender


Taigam, Ojutai Master

Hour of Devastation

Razaketh, the Foulblooded

, Zur, the Enchanter
(Mummy’s Curse),

Djeru, With Eyes Open

, The Locust God, Karona, False God
(All the Deserts),Nicol Bolas, Neheb, the Eternal


Oketra the True

Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun

, Atogatog
(Cartouches & Trials),

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons


Samut, Voice of Dissent


Rhonas the Indomitable

, Hazoret the Fervent

Kaladesh Block

Yahenni, Undying Partisan

, Nicol Bolas, Child of Alara (5
Color Energy),

Rishkar, Peema Renegade


Kari Zev, Skyship Raider


Sram, Senior Edificer

Commander 2016

Breya, Etherium Shaper


Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice


Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender

Other Commander Decks

Anafenza, the Foremost

(shutting down shenanigans),

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

(no green creatures),

Kytheon, Hero of Akros

(Tribal Gideon),

Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Commander Strategy

Let’s Talk About Lands

Who Should I Attack?

Targeted Removal in Commander