Since the release of Wilds of Eldraine, players in various Constructed formats have been making use of a bunch of new cards. In many cases, these additions have helped improve well-established archetypes and taken them to the next level. In Pioneer, for example, Sleight of Hand added a bunch of extra consistency to Izzet Phoenix, which has become one of the best and most popular decks over the past few months. Both Boros Convoke and Boros Heroic have seen a big increase in their metagame shares, and the printings of Imodane’s Recruiter and Monstrous Rage have a lot to do with why that’s the case.
Interestingly, though, there are a couple additions that have given rise to new or previously unsuccessful archetypes. In Modern, for instance, Up the Beanstalk has revolutionized multi-color Leyline Binding decks, many of which are now Cascading into the elite two-drop Enchantment. While Pioneer has not had the same level of innovative success, last Sunday’s Magic Online Pioneer Challenge featured a really unique combo deck with some much-needed consistency added thanks to a few Wilds of Eldraine inclusions.
This card is none other than Agatha’s Soul Cauldron, which has opened the door for a wide variety of different combos in multiple Constructed formats. Cauldron has slotted nicely into decks like Modern Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo, but has seen minimal Pioneer play. The unique Challenge decklist paired Cauldron with Prime Speaker Vannifar which, despite being hyped up many years ago for its Birthing Pod impression, quickly fell by the wayside. Could this be the beginning of the rise of an underrepresented combo deck within the format?
Executing the Combo
To help answer this question, it’s important to first showcase exactly how the combo in question works. The goal is to be able to activate the ability of Prime Speaker Vannifar repeatedly in one turn, eventually ending with a massive attack. The first step is to sacrifice one of your one-drop Creatures to find Corridor Monitor, untapping Prime Speaker Vannifar. From there, you sacrifice Corridor Monitor, searching for Extraction Specialist, returning Corridor Monitor, untapping Prime Speaker Vannifar yet again.
You can repeat this same process to get every copy of Extraction Specialist from your library, then grab every copy of Glasspool Mimic which enter as copies of Extraction Specialist. Once you have a big board of Extraction Specialists built up, sacrifice Corridor Monitor one last time and grab Imodane’s Recruiter, then simply attack for a boatload of damage and win the game!
What Cauldron Brings to the Table
In previous iterations of Prime Speaker Vannifar combo decks, it was quite difficult to actually pull off the combo. Unlike Birthing Pod, Prime Speaker Vannifar is a Creature affected by Summoning Sickness. This made it vulnerable to basic removal spells. The presence of Cauldron actually helps mitigate this problem. See, if you can get a copy of Prime Speaker Vannifar into your graveyard, you can use Cauldron to give any of your Creatures without Summoning Sickness a +1/+1 counter along with Prime Speaker Vannifar’s abilities, letting you execute the same combo.
This works exceptionally well with Sylvan Caryatid. Not only does Sylvan Caryatid help you play Prime Speaker Vannifar naturally on turn three, but as a Creature with Hexproof, it’s the perfect target for Cauldron to put a +1/+1 counter while exiling Prime Speaker Vannifar. Rona, Herald of Invasion does a great job digging for your key cards while putting Prime Speaker Vannifar into your graveyard from your hand when you have Cauldron lined up. Cauldron and Recruiter both add nice levels of consistency and resiliency that previous attempts at this style of deck had lacked in the past.
In addition to the general combo pieces this deck utilizes, this archetype makes use of a lot of powerful cards designed to add a bit of redundancy to the deck. Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler can return Rona to the battlefield while letting you start looting immediately to fuel Cauldron. Getting to activate Prime Speaker Vannifar as though it had Haste can also be crucial. Another Wilds of Eldraine addition, The Huntsman’s Redemption, allows you to sacrifice one of your mana dorks to find Prime Speaker Vannifar.
This deck also plays Bring to Light, acting as extra virtual copies of Prime Speaker Vannifar, or occasionally Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor or something like Extinction Event in a pinch. This may seem like a lot of cards to jam into a combo deck, but its more than worth it thanks to the inclusion of Yorion, Sky Nomad as a Companion. Using Yorion to blink Extraction Specialist and Oath of Nissa on command is hugely beneficial in attrition matchups, such as against Rakdos Midrange.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Overall, this strategy is unlikely to become a dominant tier one archetype. You are somewhat reliant on finding Prime Speaker Vannifar to have success and draws without Cauldron can be broken up by removal spells. Even if you have Tyvar in play and can activate Prime Speaker Vannifar immediately, because you can only activate the ability at Sorcery speed, the opponent can cast cards like Rending Volley in response to the first activation, successfully breaking up the combo. Not to mention, decks like mono-green Devotion that utilize Karn, the Great Creator can search for The Stone Brain and simply remove Prime Speaker Vannifars from your deck.
That being said, the combo is much more resilient than it used to be. The combination of Cauldron, Caryatid, and Prime Speaker Vannifar in your graveyard can be backbreaking for the opponent. Between The Huntsman’s Redemption, Bring to Light, and Fauna Shaman, actually finding Prime Speaker Vannifar is relatively easy. Against decks with lots of removal, this deck can also win grindy games just as a value engine. Extraction Specialist and Yorion give the deck a lot of staying power.
On the flip side, having access to the combo can help you race opposing combo decks. In this sense, this deck does have game against everything, even if your strategy isn’t always the most consistent. With the release of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Pioneer metagame begins to shift even further, but it will be interesting to see if this intriguing combo deck gains additional traction in the format. For those who love creative combo decks, this archetype could be right up your alley.