All About Prime Speaker Vannifar

Good morning and welcome back! Today at the Rules Tips Blog we’ll be discussing the new leader of the Simic Combine, Prime Speaker Vannifar, who to my disappointment is an Elf Ooze Wizard and not an Elf Jellyfish Wizard. She’s a 2/4 for 2UG, and her activated ability will be familiar to some of our longer-playing audience: You can tap her and sacrifice another creature to search your library for a creature card whose Converted Mana Cost is 1 higher than the thing you sacced, and put that card directly onto the battlefield. That’s right, she’s an Underwater Birthing Pod!

First, let’s break down how you figure out Converted Mana Cost (or CMC) for various objects. Usually it’s super easy- you just add up the mana symbols on the top-right of the card. Numbers represent themselves, and colored mana symbols just count as “1”. So a cost of 2UG on Vannifar means she has a CMC of 2+1+1 = 4. So if you sacrificed another 4 CMC card like Axebane Beast, you’d be searching your library for a creature with a CMC of 4+1, or 5. It must be the sacrificed CMC plus one- you can’t find something LOWER than 5 in this instance, even if you’d rather get a cheaper creature. This Birthing Pod effect only trades upwards!

So, determining the CMC of most objects is super easy. But what if their mana cost changes, or they don’t have one at all? In the first case, we’ll look at things like Hydroid Krasis and things like Mirror Image. Hydroid Krasis might have a mighty CMC on the stack, but as we’ve learned in the past, X on the battlefield is 0. That means a Hydroid Krasis being fed to Vannifar is only ever going to get you a 3 CMC replacement. Mirror Image’s CMC is normally 3, but what if you’re copying something? Mana Cost is a copiable characteristic- so if your Mirror Image is copying a Biogenic Ooze, it’ll have a CMC of 5, and can be podded up to a 6 drop! Speaking of Biogenic Ooze- tokens don’t have a mana cost unless they’re copies of things- so what’s their CMC? Well, it’s 0. EVERYTHING has a Converted Mana Cost, even if they have no mana cost. In that situation, their CMC is just zero- so you can feed tokens to Vannifar, and unless they’re token copies of something with an actual mana cost, you’ll pod right into a 1-drop.

So that’s most of Vannifar taken care of- but let’s look at the last little line in her ability: “Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery”. What that means is that you can only ever activate Vannifar during your own main phase while there’s nothing on the stack and you have priority- the same normal ‘timing’ rules for casting Sorceries and Creatures and Artifacts and Enchantments and Planeswalkers. You can’t ever use Vannifar ‘in response’ to your opponent doing stuff- you won’t be able to sacrifice a creature that has removal aimed at it, for example, because the stack won’t be empty. You also can’t use her during your opponent’s turn, or during combat on your turn! That timing of ‘any time you could cast a sorcery’ is set in stone: Your main phase, empty stack, you have priority. There’s some stuff out there that lets you cast Sorceries at weird times- the last Ravnica block had Hypersonic Dragon, and there’s cards popular in Commander like Leyline of Anticipation that let you cast Sorceries like they had flash. But per the rules, that doesn’t work with things like Vannifar, because all that’s doing is letting you cast a Sorcery as if it were an Instant. It’s not actually changing the rules definition of “when players can cast a sorcery”- like I said, that stays set in stone. So don’t try getting cheeky with Vannifar and Leyline in Commander- you’ll have to do your value-chaining during your own turn!

Today’s Rules Tip was written by Trevor Nunez

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