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Against the Odds: Vannifar Surprise (Standard)

Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of Against the Odds! We'll start exploring new Outlaws of Thunder Junction cards next week, but this week, there's one more Murders at Karlov Manor deck I've been wanting to build since last spoiler season: Vannifar Surprise! The idea is to use [[Vannifar, Evolved Enigma] (or Cryptic Coat or Hide in Plain Sight) to cloak a massive surprise like Portal to Phyrexia, One with the Multiverse, Atraxa, Etali, or Titan of Industry. Then, we can use Unyielding Gatekeeper, Touch the Spirit Realm, or Nahiri's Resolve to to blink the surprise creature, putting it back into play face up and hopefully winning the game! Surprise! Is Vannifar good? Can the surprise plan work in Standard? Let's get to the video and find out on this week's Against the Odds!

Against the Odds: Vannifar Surprise

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The Deck

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The plan of our deck today is pretty simple. Step one is to cloak a massive surprise from our deck. For this, we have three different cards, all of which cloak, but each works in a slightly different way. Our namesake Vannifar, Evolved Enigma is the one card in our deck that can cloak a card directly from our hand, which means if we draw any of our big surprises, Vannifar is the most guaranteed way to get it on the battlefield as a mysterious face-down creature. Meanwhile, Hide in Plain Sight and Cryptic Coat cloak from our library. While we can use surveil lands to try to set up the top of our deck with a big surprise, in general, these cards are random (although Hide in Plain Sight digging six cards deep helps increase the odds that we hit something good). We're mostly trusting in the Magic gods that we'll find something surprising.

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So, what are our surprises? Some of the biggest, most game-ending cards in all of Standard. Portal to Phyrexia wraths away our opponent's board and lets us reanimate each turn. One with the Multiverse lets us cast our other big surprises for free from our hand or the top of our deck.

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We've also got a bunch of big-creature surprises, which let us actually get our opponent's life total to zero. Nobody expects one of our harmless face-down 2/2s to actually become a Cityscape Leveler to blow up their permanents, a Titan of Industry to flood the board with bodies and gain us a bunch of life, or an Etali, Primal Conqueror or Atraxa, Grand Unifier to generate an absurd amount of card advantage.

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The final piece of the puzzle is a way to turn our face-down surprise permanent into its face-up final form. For this, we have a few options. Unyielding Gatekeeper is one of the best since we can cloak it with Vannifar or Hide in Plain Sight and then flip it up later for just two mana, either as removal on one of our opponent's things or, more importantly, to blink one of our permanents, which lets us turn a face-down surprise into a finisher. Touch the Spirit Realm is similar: we can use it as removal on our opponent's things, if necessary, or we can save it to blink one of our surprises. Nahiri's Resolve has the upside of being able to blink our entire board each turn, which works hilariously well with Hide in Plain Sight. We can cast Hide in Plain Sight on Turn 4 to put multiple surprises into play face down and then follow up with Nahiri's Resolve the next turn to blink them all and return them to play face up our next turn. Last and least, we have Werefox Bodyguard, which is mostly in our deck as removal but can work like a weird blink spell in a pinch if we use it to exile a surprise and then sacrifice it to its own ability to put the surprise into play!

Wrap-Up and Odds

Record-wise, we went 4-5 with the deck, which is fine, if unexciting. While our deck can do some hilariously powerful things, it can also be inconsistent if we draw a bunch of expensive surprises but no ways to cloak them. Aggro can also be a problem, sometimes running us over before we can get our surprise plan set up. The good news is that when the deck works, it's pretty awesome. When things go well, we can end up with a Portal to Phyrexia or One with the Multiverse as early as Turn 4, which can run away with the game against pretty much any deck in the format. Most importantly, the deck is just funny. We often end up with a bunch of face-down creatures on the battlefield and watch our opponent try to guess which one they need to kill. If they guess right, they can fizzle our surprise plan, but if they guess wrong and kill a random face-down land or something similar, they are likely to be in for a...well...big surprise the next turn!


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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