Conditions Allow - Norika Yamazaki

Ben Doolittle • February 28, 2022

(Norika Yamazaki, the Poet | Art by Magali Villeneuve)

An Enchanting Warrior

At first glance, Norika Yamazaki, the Poet doesn't seem to fit into the theme of Conditions Allow. She's a mono-white commander that provides card advantage and builds on the already established enchantress archetype. However, the way Norika's ability is worded makes it slightly awkward.

Whenever Norika Yamazaki, the Poet, or any other Warrior or Samurai you control, attacks alone, you can cast target enchantment from your graveyard that turn. Because you have to attack to trigger this ability, the natural impulse is to fill the deck with Auras and go for a Voltron win. Recasting your Auras from the grave offsets the inherent card disadvantage of losing two or more cards when your creature dies, but Norika's ability works just a little too slow for me to like this approach. Unless your Aura has flash, you won't be able to cast it until after combat, so you won't get the benefit of Battle Mastery or Eldrazi Conscription until the next turn.

Additionally, there aren't many effects that let you sacrifice enchantments, and even fewer reasons you'd want to do that. Unlike with Heiko Yamazaki, the General and artifacts, enchantments do their best work on the battlefield. Except, that is, for a small few that actually do want to sacrifice themselves.

What an Enchanting Graveyard

Each of these enchantments have a powerful ability when they're sacrificed. Soul Snare is a useful on-board trick that will discourage anyone from attacking you, and when someone eventually does, you can bring back your removal spell by attacking the player whose creature you just removed. On the other hand, Omen of the Sun is a repeatable way to filter the top cards of your library while also putting extra blockers into play so you can be as aggressive with Norika as you want. Finally, Seal of Cleansing will help you deal with opposing players' enchantments.

While I'm generally not a fan of including Auras to put on your own creatures, Auras you put on enemy creatures are perfect with Norika. Choking Restraints and Detention Vortex both stop an opposing creature from blocking. When you cast them initially from your hand, you can ensure Norika survives combat, get to cast another enchantment from your graveyard, and then later permanently remove the problem creature. Then, attack your now defenseless opponent to re-enchant another creature. Weight of Conscience doesn't stop creatures from blocking, but it is a free exile effect that fits perfectly in a semi-tribal deck. Plus, having something useful to do with your non-attacking creatures is great in a deck built around Exalted.

Finally, there is one kind of enchantment that is guaranteed to eventually hit the graveyard. Recent years have given us numerous powerful Sagas that tend to fall into two categories. Elspeth Conquers Death and The Fall of Lord Konda are excellent removal, while The Birth of Meletis and The Restoration of Eiganjo help you ramp. I really like the creature side on the Sagas from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty as well. They can block profitably, increasing the value you gain from recasting them, and help you press the attack on turns where you don't have any enchantments to recast.

The Supporting Cast

...which isn't to say that I'm not including any other creatures at all. White doesn't have a ton of ways to give its creatures haste, but you can get around that by casting Norika Yamazaki, the Poet with a Warrior or Samurai already in play. Mothrider Patrol and Aven Skirmisher can both be ready to attack by turn two. Araba Mothrider is a little slower, but you'll need some time to set up your graveyard anyway. Sky-Blessed Samurai gets an honorable mention in this category as well, since it can easily only cost you two or three mana.

Some other creatures help build on the pseudo-Exalted theme of the deck, making your solo attackers stronger. Eiganjo Exemplar does this directly, by giving your Warrior or Samurai +1/+1 when it attacks. This makes blocking highly unfavorable for your opponent since you're more likely to kill their creature, and you still get to cast a spell from your graveyard. Imperial Subduer takes a more direct approach, simply tapping a creature so it can't block. It isn't often that your opponents will have just one creature, but odds are they'll have a creature or two they won't block with, and if they do, then you've dealt with a threat while replacing your creature with an enchantment from the graveyard.

Of course, white is also great at pulling small creatures back out of the graveyard, too, or at simply from stopping them dying at all. Selfless Samurai protects your commander from removal and combat while also gaining you some life when a creature attacks alone. In order to keep using that indestructibility, Devoted Crop-Mate and Sun Titan can both pull it out of the graveyard. I'd normally play Custodi Soulcaller over Devoted Crop-Mate, but the Soulcaller is a bit of a non-bo with Norika. Plus, you can avoid the drawback of Exert by giving your creature vigilance so it never has to worry about untapping.

Even More Value

One problem that avoiding Auras brings along is that your creatures are all rather small. Very few of the creatures in this deck deal more than three damage in combat. Normally, that wouldn't be an issue because you could just attack with multiple creatures. This deck, though, is built around attacking with one creature at a time.

Naturally, we're going to compensate by including even more creatures with Exalted. Angelic Exaltation and Sublime Archangel make those tokens from Omen of the Sun into a real problem, but if you play against a lot of board wipes, then Altar of the Goyf might serve you better. Commander games often see a lot of card types, so you'll consistently be getting +4/+4 or +5/+5 from the altar. That's enough extra damage to make Norika a threat on her own.

And of course, this wouldn't be an enchantress deck without Sigil of the Empty Throne. If you can control the game with Soul Snare and Weight of Conscience, an army of 4/4 fliers will close out the game quickly. Hallowed Haunting can also get out of hand quickly. The extra tokens are also great fodder for Weight of Conscience and Diversionary Tactics, either stopping blocks or saving you from oncoming attacks. I also really like Force of Virtue and Timely Ward with Norika. Enchantments with flash are effectively combat tricks you can play from the graveyard. Stasis Snare has a similar effect, throwing off combat math if your opponents aren't paying attention.

The rest of the deck is devoted to some interaction, like Swords to Plowshares to remove creatures and Unbreakable Formation to protect your own. I also have to mention Angelic Purge as a flexible removal spell that puts your enchantments in the graveyard. Add a few lands, and this is what the deck looks like.

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So far, Norika Yamazaki, the Poet has gotten much less attention that her counterpart, Heiko Yamazaki, the General. Norika is a unique take on the enchantress theme, though. Casting and recasting your spells lets you settle into a long, grindy game with the best of them, and your suite of removal allows you to dominate the battlefield.

What do you think about Norika? Are there any cards or synergies I missed?

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.