Mono-red very often has the stereotype of being the weakest color in magic. This idea is probably the most visualized in multiplayer commander games. When you consider the vast number of tutors black casts, the monstrous defense white constructs, the astronomical power blue gains, and the near unstoppable acceleration and recovery that perpetuates green, red tends to falter in the general EDH meta. In a format known for its long games, magic’s “fastest” color can often be seen to fall short.
Hand filtering, raw damage, artifacts, and mass land destruction come to mind when you think about red’s overarching themes. Unfortunately for red, blue draws better and crafts stronger artifacts while green’s damage and speed eclipses red’s in this format, which leaves us with mass land destruction (MLD). A mechanic often extremely frowned upon and hated off the board, trying to play with MLD can be very impractical (and ‘immoral’).
The types of commanders that each mono color has to offer show us that red tends to again fall short in sheer number, variety, and potency. This just continues to build upon the claim that red is in fact magic’s weakest color. While in the grand scheme of things this might be true, I think with a closer look you will find that red does not fall as short as many believe.
While mono-red might not see as a wide variety of playable commanders as some of the other colors, there are a select handful that bring quiet a bit of potency to the table. They would be mono-red goblins with Krenko, Mob Boss; Purphoros, God of the Forge; or Zada, Hedron Grinder; mono-red artifacts with Daretti, Scrap Savant; or Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient, and finally mono-red chaos/control with the infamous Norin the Wary.
Out of any mono-red commander, Norin the Wary is by far going to get you hated off the board faster than any of the other aforementioned options. This is mainly due to it being the only mono-red deck that has made a name for itself by running MLD, prison, stacks, and other stall tactics that can often make the game come to a grinding halt. When Norin players are not doing this, they are often casting spells like Scrambleverse and Thieves’ Auction to make it difficult for players to play their decks as intended. Ultimately, every Norin deck runs a collection of cards that give you benefits from him entering onto your side of the field three to four times a turn cycle (in a game with four players).
Norin the Wary was the second EDH deck I ever built and has probably evolved more than any of my other decks. When the deck was first put together I ran a vast collection of chaos-based spells. As I began to fine-tune the deck, I added more prison and chaos effects until my playgroup began to completely and immediately hate me off the table. Wanting to refocus the deck, I tried shifting Norin to be playable in French 1v1 Duel Commander games. This caused me to put in much more damage based removal and card advantage effects. Today, the deck sits as a multiplayer mono-red prison deck with some chaos effects that I can control so that I am the sole or greatest benefactor.
As a side note I recommend putting your Norin the Wary in a different sleeve than the rest of the deck so opponents can quickly know when Norin is exiled or not. My Norin currently sits inside a Grumpy Cat sleeve to remind my opponents to smile when they trigger me.
Why You Should Play this Deck
- You enjoy long slow games dealing small amounts of damage to your opponents over the course of many turns.
- You like to actively kill one or more players without combo’ing off or turning creatures sideways.
- You hate your friends.
- You want to see the world burn (slowly).
- You enjoy sitting behind a giant pile of artifacts and enchantments, twiddling your thumbs, and smirking as you watch your opponents struggle to deal with you.
- You enjoy saying the word “trigger.”
- You hate everyone.
- You are satisfied from a victory that comes from everyone scooping because they simply just do not want to play with you anymore.
Why You Should Not Play this Deck
- You like to win.
- Your playgroup already has a heavy amount of enchantment and artifact removal.
- You do not like the idea that even a little bit of life gain can cause you to lose the game.
- Your playgroup already has enough reasons to hate you.
- You do not want the pressure from your opponents as if you were playing infinite combo even when you are not.
- You shy away from tactics that many people often frown upon such as MLD.
- You do not like having to keep up with and properly stack multiple triggers all at once.
- You would much rather play a deck that turns creatures sideways.
This deck primer (as with any) is my own personal take on this deck. You may or may not agree with the card choices and that is fine. This list has been fine tuned to fit my own personal play style and playgroup, so I am sure that in a different setting and with a different pilot at the head, it would yield very different results.
How to Win (How to Make Everyone Cry)
While Norin the Wary decks have probably more variety of 99’s then most commanders, one thing is true for every deck. Every Norin deck runs a variety of cards that trigger and benefit you every time Norin or another creature enters the battlefield under your control. For the purpose of this article I am going to refer to these cards as engines. Many of the typical engines that you see in Norin decks are also on this deck list. About the only engine I do not run that many decks do run is Pandemonium. I do not play Pandemonium because I do not like my opponents being able to do to me what I am doing to them. Some of the strongest engines in this deck are Genesis Chamber and Purphoros, God of the Forge. In fact, I almost always use my Gamble to find Genesis Chamber.
Genesis Chamber technically does allow your opponents to benefit like they would with Pandemonium; however, you will almost always have more Myr than anyone else. Because you should have more Myr, it should not be a problem for you to block any attackers that are sent at you. Additionally, the Myr will trigger every other engine in the deck. All the extra bodies on the field also help when it comes to casting Blasphemous Act, Chain Reaction, and Warp World. (Things get spicy when you cast chain reaction for 20+ and you have already played your Stuffy Doll.) In general, while Norin is the best source of fuel for your deck, Genesis Chamber is the best engine because it also generates more fuel for the rest of your engines.
With Genesis Chamber and the rest of the engines in the deck, your goal is to slowly whittle away at your opponents’ life totals until they are all dead.
The Prison: Lock Your Opponents Up
Because you are constantly getting the attention of your opponents by having them adjust their life totals, a large portion of this deck is devoted to stopping them from attacking you to deal damage back. Some of the best ways to do this are by using Silent Arbiter with Maze of Ith and/or Mystifying Maze. An Ensnaring Bridge with a hand of two or less is another great way to shut down aggro. Other ways to impede upon your opponents is by running slug effects such as Winter Orb or Sphere of Resistance to slow their game play down. These are especially effective after you have an engine or two online pumping out damage turn after turn.
The best way to really put a lock on the game is to use the MLD as a way to either finish the game or really screw one or two opponents over. By far the best out of the three MLD spells I play in this deck is Jokulhaups. This spells destroys everything on the field except enchantments and planeswalkers, which means most of your engines, damage sources, and Norin go untouched. One of the most potent examples of this would be playing Rite of the Raging Storm on turn four or five and then follow it up with Jokulhaups. Blood Moon or Magus of the Moon can have a very similar effect on muli-colored opponents, making it impossible for them to cast spells as if they did not have any land to begin with.
In the past I ran a lot more chaos based cards. These cards were slowly cut from the deck due to their inconsistency and occasionally benefiting my opponents. What remains is Chaos Warp for spot removal, Possibility Storm to make it difficult for opponents to destroy engines, Warp World which functions as a board wipe and can sometimes randomly kill someone with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, and Confusion in the Ranks which is one of the strongest cards in the deck.
Confusion in the Ranks is a signature card all Norin decks (should) run. It is an extremely unique card possessing elements of chaos, control, and a win con all wrapped up into one. The enchantment makes it very difficult for anyone to play creatures because they will end up under the control of Norin. Every time anyone casts anything Norin is going to exile himself and then return to his rightful owner thus triggering Confusion in the Ranks. This allows the Norin player to continuously steal creature after creature until they are all under their control. The best part is all of those creatures the Norin player steals can be put into the red zone at no expense to the deck now controlling them. Additionally, when Confusion in the Ranks enters the battle field, it triggers itself allowing you to steal a rather troublesome or profitable enchantment someone else is using.
Everybody Loves Mycosynth Lattice
This deck is completely built and designed to have strong synergy with the cards that it plays. What makes my deck a little more unique than other Norin decks is its use of one of my favorite cards ever printed in magic: Mycosynth Lattice. When this card comes into play many of the other cards in the deck become so much more interesting. Below I have listed these fun interactions.
- Mycosynth Lattice + Confusion in the Ranks + Norin the Wary: Why steal your creatures when I can start stealing your land?
- Mycosynth Lattice + Shattering Pulse: Using five mana to destroy a permanent at instant speed on buyback is a creative way to make sure your opponents leave you alone.
- Mycosynth Lattice + Shattering Spree: Pay X where X is the number of permanents target opponent controls. That player loses the game.
- Mycosynth Lattice + Subterranean Tremors: Let’s play a game of magic where I get to start the game with an 8/8 red lizard and your opening hand is what is in your hand now.
- Mycosynth Lattice + Vandalblast overloaded: Better than an overloaded Cyclonic Rift.
Of course we will not always have things to synergize with Mycosynth Lattice. In those cases, when you think you have no hope winning, I encourage you to simply play the Lattice and pass the turn. You will be surprised at the many other fun interactions this card can create for you opponents.
Opening Hands and Deck Match-Ups
Opening hands in this Norin the Wary deck is surprisingly simplistic. The biggest question to answer is do you have a sizeable amount of land (four land is the sweet spot for me) or do you have some early game plays to begin stalling/drawing extra cards? If you can answer yes to this question then chances are you can keep the hand. Often when I look at an opening hand I think to myself “so this is how I’ll aggravate everyone this game.” As you play the deck more and more in your playgroup, you will quickly learn where your opening hands should be for a strong chance at winning.
Before I get into a break down of match-ups in the EDH meta, please know that you should not expect to win with this deck. While this deck probably stands a better chance at winning than many Norin builds, it still does not win often. Norin decks kill people very slowly while attracting hate very quickly. Just try and enjoy how long you can be a thorn in someone’s side before they finally kill you.
Chaos Decks: A fairly even match up, especially if there are two Norin decks at the table. Can easily go in either person’s favor.
Combo/Combo Control Decks: You are going to lose. This Norin deck (as with most) just does not have the flexible removal options you need to fight dedicated combo decks.
Fast Aggro/Blitz Style Decks: Unless your hand is filled with anti aggro cards (chances are it might be) you are going to lose.
Glass Cannon/Voltron Aggro Decks: Because these decks often only use one or two creatures, without your Ensnaring Bridge or Maze effects you are probably going to lose. Be careful because these decks can benefit from some of your slug effects, as they are trying to kill you with one creature.
Graveyard Interaction/Combo: If the reanimator deck is combat based you might have a chance. If it is infinite combo based you are probably going to lose.
Group Hug Decks: Because this is an offshoot of chaos decks, the match up can be interesting. However, these decks tend to win through infinite combo and have life gain so you will probably lose.
Mid-Range and Token Aggro Decks: With a little luck you will have a good shot at winning this match up. Else you will die very quickly.
Pillow Fort/Prison Decks: Due to the massive amount of life gain in these decks the odds are often not in your favor.
Unfortunately for all of us Norin players out there, there are many generals who are essentially impossible for you to beat without enlisting the help of another player. To make matters worse, Norin decks by their very nature have a negative ten negotiation modifier when it comes to EDH politics. Expect for other players to not come to your aid.
Watch out for Commanders that possess an activated or static ability that can kill Norin. There are also several artifacts that can kill Norin but you shouldn’t struggle with these for too long. While there are a few other sources of fuel for your engines in the deck Norin is the most important. Without Norin, the deck loses what little chance it did have at winning.
This is just one take on Norin the Wary so I encourage you to try out lots of different cards to see what you enjoy the most. Many Norin decks run damage doubling effects and so that is definitely something to look into. If you are looking into a more chaos style deck I recommend adding Grip of Chaos with Confusion in the Ranks and Mycosynth Lattice for a real fun time. If you are more interested in the burn route look into what happens when Manabarbs and Citadel of Pain are both on the field. Burn inspired players might also look at Goblin Bomb and Goblin Game. You can also go all in on the creature ETB’s playing dash creatures and other creatures that bounce themselves back to your hand. There are also other prison effects that I’m not playing currently but easily could, like Smoke. Finally please take some time to go look at the coin-flipping version of Norin the Wary using Krark’s Thumb and Chance Encounter. Personally I know I still want to test a Static Orb, the new Panharmonicon from Kaladesh, and invest in a Forcefield. I am just trying to show you that there are many different ways to build this deck.
No matter what you decide to play, know that the most important thing about Norin the Wary decks is making sure that you are playing cards that you want to play. While your playgroup may hate you at first, with time they will hopefully come to accept this lovable little one-drop. Just remember to make sure that you are having fun (maybe moderate the amount of MLD, sacks, and prison effects you use) and there hopefully will not be too many problems.