Vannifar & Fblthp - Deck Doctor

This deck is brought to you buy Land Say Go community brewer, Mo.

I love spoiler season. I know some who don't - like Kevin at Spanky's Card Shop in Kansas City. He gets mad at even the mentioning of cards he hasn't seen before - he's a purest.

We are officially 17 days away from War of the Spark being available in paper. Pre-release is scheduled for April 27th-28th at your local game store. The same time War of the Spark cards will be made available on the MTG Arena platform. As you prepare I suggest you spend your time perusing spoilers and building wacky off the wall decks to hit your constructed formats with vigor. Mo, a new addition to our LSG community collective brings us a really cool brew I have been testing, and I am very excited to share a write up with you regarding this deck.

Please Silence Your Phones

Nothing says "blue-green" or "Simic" like symbiosis; it's a tried and true process - biomancy. If the process of melding Elves, Crabs, and Warriors wasn't enough, now we have Prime Speaker Vannifar to boot! I like Vannifar, but I'm not sure the use case is built into this deck. Vannifar is best used in a deck that has "enter the battlefield" or "leaves the battlefield" condition on the creatures you are sacrificing. In the deck you've provided, Mo, I'm not sure we are getting the best use out of Vannifar, but I do appreciate the speed with which we are able to begin transmogrifying our creatures. I am going to be constructive with my review of this list. I have played nearly 15 matches with it to be faithful in my review, and I have a number of suggestions that I feel may help you.

Just because we have access to a card, and it's ability is cool, doesn't necessarily mean we should be playing it in combination with certain other cards. We are hamstrung by spoiler season and wanting to exhibit ingenuity in deck-building. Fblthp, the Lost is essentially a draw card spell. There are bound to be some interesting potentially infinite combos that come from his inception, but he does not work cleanly or effectively with Vannifar. Sure, casting him gives us the ability to draw a card, but when we use Vannifar to produce him from our deck, we are not casting him, we are putting him on the battlefield. We do not get to draw two cards. We can Neoform him though, pop out a Steel Leaf Champion, and shuffle him back in.

If Fblthp's ability said that we could shuffle him back into our library if he was the target of a spell or ability then we would be in better shape with the Vannifar combo. As is, I feel we have some major reconsideration to do of the submitted deck list before we begin to drive real value out of Fblthp.

Frankly, I see Fblthp being more of a tool in decks that allow us to cast cards from the top of our library. Think about Experimental Frenzy, which gives us the ability to see if Fblthp is there, cast him from the top of our library and draw two cards loading our hand for when we destroy Experimental Frenzy later for 3R. Think about Bolas's Citadel (just spoiled in War of the Spark) which gives us the ability to pay life, cast Fblthp from the top of our library, draw two cards and better position ourselves for a game-winning line.

Let's Dive Deeper...

Llanowar Elves is always a solid choice in mono-green or Simic builds. This ancient nerd helps us get off to the races faster and assists us when we commit to a creature-centrist strategy by giving us a meaningful play on turn one. Growth-Chamber Guardian feels is good all by itself and because it is good all by itself and we want it on the battlefield, I have a really hard time giving it up for a Vannifar activation - I may be missing something. Maybe, Vannifar is being used to avoid targeted removal that is absolute? Otherwise, it seems like Vannifar ability sacrificing GCG for a Steel Leaf Champion is a waste. Am I wrong here?

Steel Leaf is an undeniable benefit to any creature heavy deck - it comes down early, represents an ability that makes it very evasive, and can pressure the life total when it goes unaddressed. But, I feel like Vannifar gets nearly no use out of these three creatures...None of them have enter the battlefield or leaves the battlefield abilities, and unless the we are getting value from the Vannifar ability we have little more than a way to make sure our board presence remains when a creature dies or is targeted.

That may the model you are representing here? Being able to replace a creature that is dying? Which is fine, as long as you are clear that once combat damage resolves and a creature is on the way to graveyard it cannot be sacrificed to Vannifar.

Some of the best creature in green Standard are found in your list, and again by themselves are capable of producing some winning scenarios for you. Nullhide Ferox is an outstanding card with obvious upside, but how does it link back to the core mechanic or namesake of your deck in Vannifar? I cannot reasonably see a situation where I would want to sacrifice a Ferox to bring out a Biogenic Ooze or Gigantosaurus onto the battlefield. I would much rather mana nerd into a Ferox on turn four and begin beating face.

Spark Double has some great uses in this deck and really gets the juices flowing. I like the idea that we can get multiplicative value out of a Biogenic Ooze, and have that creature enter the battlefield bigger than it's predecessor. Which swings the deck into a Simic aggro deck that has certain cards (Vannifar & Fblthp) which do things but not the right things. It would almost be better to simply drop the Vannifar and Fblthp creatures and go with some additional mana production and Hadana's Climb. Right? Commit to he Simic beatdown plan? Our process just seems scattered, and I am meaning this in a helpful way.

Mirror Image is an interesting include - I get it - it copies a creature we have. Maybe an Ooze, maybe a Steel Leaf, maybe a Ferox, but to what end? This card can be excellent with Vannifar, but our current creature selections limits us in some exceptional interactions. Runic Armasaur should be removed from the decks mainboard. This card is a sideboard response to certain deck archetypes, and those archetypes are not all that prevalent in Standard right now. Gigantosaurus would be dropped for me in lieu of Carnage Tyrant immediately. The commitment to 5 green in a two color deck is not good and has left this creature stranded in my hand on more than one occasion during testing.

The Right Tools for the Job

Vivien's Arkbow is certainly very exciting. I mean, this artifact is ridiculously powerful and I am excited to see how it pans out as Standard progresses into this amazing set in War of the Spark. For the purposes of this deck I can see why it would be included. It provides you with additional filtering and card acquisition that is outside of the auspices of hand control. Frankly, I like it. It adds strength to your creature game plan here.

Vivien, Champion of the Wilds giving each of our creatures flash is fantastic, but we want to be able to benefit from the instant speed casting of sorcery speed permanents right? Which leads me back to my original recommendation on crafting a worthwhile Vannifar deck: your creatures should be loaded with "enter the battlefield" and "leaves the battlefield" abilities. This version of Vivien simply isn't providing as much value to this list as she could be. Neoform is a cool spell and does the Vannifar thing with a bonus +1/+1 counter.

Each of your sideboard cards have direct reasons why would bring them in, but your weighting on 1 for 1 swaps is all over the board and I feel that we are getting nowhere by applying a deep amount of analysis to these choices.

Your mana base also badly needs some help, and if you continue to play this list I would highly recommend that you move it to 24 lands to suit a reliable casting of your 4 and 5 drop spells. There just isn't enough ramp or mana production to warrant running 21 lands with 13 spells at 4 CMC or higher.

Here's How LandSayGo Would Do It

I remember seeing two really quality decks when Vannifar first came out; a Bant best-of-one list from Todd Stevens and a best-of-three list from Ali Aintrazi. Both of these guys are respected builders and dynamite Magic players. Even SaffronOlive featured a Temur version of Vannifar that abuses Rekindling Phoenix and Prime Speaker Vannifar in some pretty disgusting ways. Let's draw form the two former lists in providing you with some better direction, shall we?

Creatures that showcase the Explore mechanic are among the best in terms of ETB triggers we have in Standard right now:

Explore helps us smooth out our mana resources, and can even pitch undesirable top deck cards to the graveyard. This three card combo of the Branchwalker, the Ranger, and Wildgrowth Walker are time-tested now and battle hardened. You get to gain life, produce lethal attackers, and filter away bad draws by fixing your mana curve. Until proven otherwise, these three creatures should be your catalyst for Vannifar.

Llanowar Elves are for early game ramp, and once our mana is in place, fodder for Vannifar to find more of our Merfolk Branchwalkers and Wildgrowth Walkers. Deputy of Detention is an interesting mainboard solution for Planeswalkers, Enchantments, Creatures, and Artifacts. When duty calls you can rely on a Vannifar conversion of one of your 2 CMC creatures into a Deputy to completely stifle any problematic game plans your opponent may have. Knight of Autmun is the same utility but for artifact and enchantment destruction, incremental life gain, and a bigger body for blocking.

Militia Bugler gives us a good deal of the filtering in our deck we need to find additional 2 CMC or less creatures for conversions with Vannifar, and also provides us a decent body at a 2/3, you can see that we can use the Bugler to search for a 4 CMC creature, preferably Conclave Cavalier, and then drop convert the Conclave Cavalier to one of our 5 drops all while leaving behind tokens for additional bodies on the field. This type of synergy really is more in line what I would expect to see out of a Vannifar deck, Mo. I hope you agree.

Our top end is saturated in value. As we go about using Vannifar to enhance our board presence by transmogging creatures, gaining benefit from our etb triggers, and pursuing a winning line we hop to end up here. Biogenic Ooze is its own little engine; used strategically it gives the ability to create tokens on ETB, and by running dormant mana through it to create additional tokens. Shalai provides us with some layers of defense for our creatures and gives us a mana outlet to pump our creatures. Trostani is an all-star, has an etb trigger, and buffs our entire army.

Mo, this version of a Vannifar list works much better. You'll also notice in this list Fblthp is not present at all - he simply does not fit into a Vannifar list. We could have taken an alternate approach to the Deck Doctor and built a Fblthp deck, but we didn't. Maybe next time. :)

I hope you have found this article helpful, Mo. We appreciate your submission and can't wait for the next one. Good brewing, my friend.

Until next time.