The Kitchen Table #382 – Norinmonium

Abe Sargent shares an off-kilter Commander deck that he recently built online featuring Norin the Wary as its general. Read about the deck’s concept and why he made specific card choices.

Commander online isn’t the same as Commander in real life, but it’s close enough to count. The metagame is different, the value of sweet cards isn’t there (my online foil Azami is saddened by this), and people play differently. Not only do they tend to play decks that are nastier and combo-rific that kill quickly, but they also tend to not self-correct.

Now, I’m not saying nasty things about online or super nice and unrealistic things about real life either. I played seven hours of Commander last week at the card store, and only once was I comboed by a Time Sieve. The rest was nice and happy. Online, people try to combo out in a majority of games. Also, in real life people can add cards to handle a threat by their friends and foes. If I wanted to prepare for that Time Sieve this week, I could look at something as simple as Into the Core or Dissipate. Online doesn’t work that way. If I toss a few additional Disenchant effects into my deck this week, I’m liable to not even need them in some games, where they’ll be dead draws. Then in others I’ll wish I had even more removal effects.

So it doesn’t feel like real life in many ways, but as I said before—it’s still Commander, and it’s still fun!

I recently built a new deck for my online Commander games. Those of you who know my work recall that I tend for my Commander decks to be more on the casual side of things, and this Johnny deck is no exception. It’s built around a one-drop Commander that some of you might know as Norin. Norin the Wary.

One of the issues with playing Norin online is that he’s a clickfest. The online client is always very slow during multiplayer and has a horrendous UI that has a lot of click issues—and Norin exacerbates the issues. Especially when combined with some of the cards below; so my next Norin deck will be in real life.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the Norin deck I’ve built and how it plays.

Norin basically flickers until the end of the turn whenever anyone attacks or casts a spell. That means you manufacture a lot of triggers, and your commander can basically never be killed. I played a game when I dropped him on turn 1 and never had to use mana for him again. That’s a powerful intoxicant to a commander who’s very special.

I began with a core of cards that I wanted to emphasize. The first were enters the battlefield (ETB) triggers that Norin could use and abuse. The obvious selections of Pandemonium, Electropotence, and Warstorm Surge were the first to enter the deck. Since I had these enchantments, I wanted some ways to pump Norin when he came into play—in went In the Web of War, Lovisa Coldeyes, and Obsidian Battle-Axe.

Now when Norin returns, he grows with a Web or Axe and then smashes someone’s face for even more damage. Since he leaves play and comes back almost every turn, one simple Axe and one simple Pandemonium does four times the number of players at the table in damage without any extra mana being put into him. Trust me when I say that’s powerful. Sure, your Pandemonium can be used by all, but not nearly as effectively.

I loved the Battle-Axe so much that I tossed in Godo. When you play him, you can search up that Axe and play it. I also tossed in two other pieces of equipment for the deck that really fit—Lightning Greaves and Darksteel Plate. You’ll see how the second one is particularly useful in a bit. Later testing showed that I really wanted one more piece of equipment, so I tossed in Sword of Vengeance and that suited it very nicely. I like all of the abilities it grants in addition to the power bonus. I think this Sword is one of the more underrated pieces of equipment for multiplayer.

The next combo card that jumped as an ally to Norin was Kyren Negotiations. You can bring him back to the battlefield and then tap him for a damage to something free of charge. It also works well with a lot of creatures in multiplayer, because you hold back the team to play defense and then you can tap them at the end of the last turn before you go to smash some face. I also tossed in Vigilante Justice to squeeze one last enchantment that deals damage from my Norin-ing.

The next Norin card is Genesis Chamber. While it does not work with some of my token makers later on, it spits out a large number of bodies with Norin. Those bodies are then able to use a Negotiations or enhance themselves via In the Web of War, or perhaps they just hit for one damage each off a Pandemonium. Plus, since they are creatures they can do boring things like attack and block.

Mana Echoes seemed like a particularly interesting choice if I could build a tribal theme in here. With both Lovisa and the Battle-Axe in my deck, it made sense to look at good Warriors. The first few choices made a lot of sense in this deck. Hamletback Goliath not only grows from all of your Norin tricks but also pumps from Lovisa or is happy to grab a Battle-Axe for free when he enters the fray to smash some face. Boldwyr Intimidator was another suitably interesting fellow. He can easily allow your warrior team to smash face through a defense of cowards. Not only is he some clever and flavorful fellow from Future Sight, but he slides into this deck very nicely.

The final two Warrior tribal cards I added were the Banneret for an early drop that accelerates your Warriors and Vengeful Firebrand, which is a powerful haste creature in most situations. As my deck fleshed out the number of Mountains increased massively, making the firebreathing on it even better than normal.

The next place I went was the powerful Goblin Marshal, who is also a Warrior. He brings some Goblin friends and fits the deck nicely. Also with him came Siege-Gang Commander and Mogg War Marshal. Despite the name, Siege-Gang Commander is neither a Solider nor a Warrior, but the War Marshal is a Warrior as well. They all fit because the many Goblin tokens made by these guys trigger Pandemonium or In the Web of War or are used by Kyren Negotiations very well.

The Warriors continued with Kazuul, who is a good multiplayer card as well as a nice Warrior beater; Changeling Berserker, who gives me another hasted powerhouse and also counts as a Human for Vigilante Justice; Lu Bu, Master-at-Arms, who is a 4/3 hasted horsemanship dude, and thus virtually unblockable while also a Human and Warrior; and the clever Goblin Artillery. I didn’t want all of the Artillery and Cannoneers, but one is nice. With your own life total not mattering as much, playing this and using it with haste off an Axe (or swinging with a 3/4) is a nice adjunct to the other stuff in the deck.

I came back to Warriors later when fleshing out my deck for Manic Vandal, Impelled Giant, and Kessig Malcontents.

After the focus on tribes, I then just wanted some good creatures to wrap up that section of my deck. Cards such as Flametongue Kavu and Bogardan Hellkite should need no explanation. Imperial Recruiter was added to fetch creatures such as Siege-Gang Commander, Manic Vandal, and Warbreak Trumpeter. With my deck enjoying haste so much, I decided to finish with classic Anger. There are very few red decks that don’t benefit from it.

One of the classic ways to fight mass removal in multiplayer is with haste. I can add extra hits, which increases my damage potential both before and after a sweeping of the board. In a previous game, someone Damnationed the board, then I dropped Kazuul, added a free equip off the Axe, triggered the Electropotence to his face for seven, and then swung for another seven. It’s a deck with a quick bite.

Chartooth Cougar was added as one of the few ways to Tutor a land if needed. The two Darksteel Creatures were additions to protect themselves from mass removal, and Darksteel Plate assisted. I wanted a cheap beater, and Hound of Griselbrand sufficed with its built in resiliency to removal giving me a little spice.

Making Goblin tokens seemed a great way to abuse the cards in my deck, and especially the Mana Echoes. Warbreak Trumpeter and Goblin Offensive are amazing. They can each pump out an army by themselves while also spitting out a lot of mana from an Echoes. My deck was already heavy in artifact mana acceleration, so I added some X spells to soak up the mana from the Echoes or artifacts.

Rolling Thunder can be split among several targets as needed. When you have 20 mana in your mana pool, the three-mana buyback on Fanning the Flames looks pretty nice to save the spell for another go. Devil’s Play can be played immediately or later as needed. Finally, both Orochi Hatchery and Riptide Replicator can use a bunch of mana to fuel an artifact that taps for very little mana and either makes  a horde of Snakes or one giant Warrior. Considering how good both effects are in this deck and how often you may have extra mana sitting around, these are virtual essentials to this Norin build.

Hellion Eruption seemed like a fun card to try out with all of my token making and smaller creatures. Trust me, when you have out In the Web of War and you turn six Goblin tokens and two random Warriors into eight 4/4 hellions that add +2/+0 and haste for the turn, you’ll understand the power of this apparently janky card.

The next step was to try and emphasize the mono-red nature of the deck to attack the metagame. Norin and the enchantments survive removal such as Devastation and friends. In went Devastation, which is perfect in this deck since it lets my artifacts stay. I also decided to stick with Jokulhaups and Decree of Annihilation. This gives my deck some endgame in case others out power it, while continuing to emphasize Norin and the enchantments. When you cast Decree of Annihilation with Norin and Pandemonium in play, you’ve basically won the game against people whose life totals have dropped due to combat and such. Since they can’t hold onto lands through it, it will take a long time for people to recover and that gives you ages to win with Norin.

Those cards suggested others to me, such as Wasteland, Tectonic Edge, and Aftershock. I increased my land count to almost exclusively Mountains and added the powerful Ruination.

Several artifacts seemed really helpful in this deck. In particular, the combo of Norin the Wary and Avarice Totem is really nice. Here’s how it works: you need ten mana. Activate the Totem targeting Norin. Then activate it targeting a creature you want to steal. Let them resolve. The first resolves and you switch the Totem for their creature. Then the second resolves and you switch their Totem for your Norin.

Now you have to watch out. If they have five mana left after you take their good creature and you swap them your Totem, they can activate it and swap back. Then your final trigger resolves and nothing happens. Therefore, you can’t use it on someone who has five open mana, but that’s okay. Norin isn’t going anywhere so you’ll have the first combo piece for a while, and it’s unlikely that with all of these great artifacts and enchantments in your deck that Avarice Totem is what will bite a Krosan Grip.

Due to the mass removal heavy aspect of multiplayer, Cauldron of Souls was added to the deck. It also works with your own removal. When you play Jokulhaups, if you tap a Cauldron to give your team persist then you have a whole army after the world blows up. Sure, some creatures such as Goblin tokens won’t be able to come back, but most of the creatures in this deck are happy to come back a little smaller for the cause.

With such a large number of powerful enchantments in the deck, I felt a Crystal Chimes wouldn’t be out of place. Red doesn’t have a lot of recursion at its command and even less for enchantments. If your potent enchantments are cleaned out you have no option to recur them, so I threw in Crystal Chimes. It’s happy to bring all of your saddened enchantments for another blissful round!

After that, it was a simple matter of rounding out my deck. In went some card drawing, such as Wheel of Fortune and Reforge the Soul. With little true drawing, in went both Crystal Ball and Sensei’s Divining Top. Jayemdae Tome may be out of fashion, but it taps to draw cards really well and I heard that drawing cards is good. With so many of my cards not requiring mana to use and the Mana Echoes making extra mana in droves at times, there is often mana to spare and drawing a card with it is a nice choice in a deck with so little card drawing. I added the two cycling lands, Valakut and Darksteel Citadel. Into the Core was an addition to handle artifacts on my opponent’s side. Insurrection has won many a multiplayer game, so it went in simply because of how powerful it is.

Note that this deck is built from cards that I personally own online, so there isn’t Strip Mine, Blood Moon, Taurean Mauler, Grim Monolith, Obliterate, and many other cards that suit the deck. If you want to try this out, there are a lot of ways you can go to improve it. So enjoy!

Anyway, we have our Norin-tastic deck; I hope you enjoyed this off-kilter Commander deck!

Until later,
Abe Sargent