Deck of the Week: Norin Soul Sisters

Soul Sisters has long been one of those established, lower-tier decks in Modern that attracts its share of fans and die-hard pilots who take it to battle regardless of the metagame prognosis. The fact that a deck built around lifegain exists in Modern should remove any doubts you had about the format’s capacity to support the bizarre and discarded strategies of Magic’s storied history. A few weeks ago the archetype took one of the Top 16 slots in the Baltimore Classic. Soul Sisters may look a bit wonky, but once you’ve had to fight through that fifth or sixth Squadron Hawk recycled via Mistveil Plains, you know the deck is capable of some powerful lines.

Purphoros, God of the Forge-cropped

While Soul Sisters is a pretty well-known archetype by this point, its rarer cousin/variant, Norin the Wary combo, will certainly be a novel sight to many eyes. In the recent bout of WMCQs, one intrepid player in Chile brought the infamous Dominarian coward to a Top 8 finish with his take on the archetype.

Norin Soul Sisters, by Joaquin Ossandon (Top 8, WMCQ Chile)

Creatures (26)
Ajani’s Pridemate
Auriok Champion
Champion of the Parish
Legion Loyalist
Norin the Wary
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Ranger of Eos
Soul Warden
Soul’s Attendant

Artifacts (4)
Genesis Chamber

Enchantments (2)
Spirit Bonds

Instants (5)
Lightning Bolt
Path to Exile

Lands (23)
Cavern of Souls
Clifftop Retreat
Flooded Strand
Mountain
Plains
Sacred Foundry
Windswept Heath
Sideboard (15)
Blood Moon
Deflecting Palm
Ethersworn Canonist
Grafdigger’s Cage
Grim Lavamancer
Spirit Bonds
Stony Silence
Wear // Tear
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To start, we see the typical Soul Sisters package of lifegain dorks that give the deck its name (Soul Warden, Soul’s Attendant, Auriok Champion). Like in the traditional mono-white version, these are paired with Ajani’s Pridemate to make for a two-drop that easily outclasses a fully-fueled TarmogoyfNorin the WaryThe other major payoff for gaining a billion life, however, is suspiciously absent. In place of Serra Ascendant, the red-white version runs a combo-esque package built around Norin the Wary as an additional kill condition.

Let’s unpack how this all fits together. Obviously a perpetually blinking Norin will stack up a formidable pile of lifegain triggers, but it’s not as if Soul Sisters ever had much difficulty padding its life total before. The more interesting interaction, and what adds a new dimension to this version of the deck, is how it works alongside Genesis Chamber and Purphoros, God of the Forge.

Genesis Chamber has been a darling of Johnnies the world over since, as far as I can tell, the dawn of time itself, and here it finds particularly sharp application. I’ve seen various attempts to break open the symmetrical effect in different ways, but Norin is by far the most reliable I’ve witnessed. First of all, assuming whatever creatures the opponent summons require the casting of spells, the first one will always net you a Norin trigger as well. Genesis ChamberOnce you add in combat on both players’ turns and casting of your own spells, it’s safe to say Norin will likely be triggering every single turn for an additional two free Myr tokens. Build your own Verdant Force, anyone?

Multiples of Genesis Chamber are sure to end games in a hurry, to say nothing of the introduction of Purphoros to the equation. Assuming Norin does his thing every turn, that’s a five-turn clock that’s effectively unblockable and near impossible to kill (good luck with those spot removal spells—would you like to target Norin or my indestructible creature?) Purphoros will incidentally give the Norin pilot an efficient way to kill pesky planeswalkers like Nahiri, the Harbinger or Liliana of the Veil, and give you another way to leverage your Myr army with the pump ability. Finally, Spirit Bonds provides additional utility and allows your token production to take to the skies.

Human Tribal?

Norin also enables the addition of Champion of the Parish to the strategy, without necessitating a complete rewriting of the creature base. Champion of the Parish is clearly an absurd card in a tribal Human deck, easily outclassing beaters like Wild Nacatl in the average draw. Cavern of SoulsHumans as a deck hasn’t made it in Modern (yet), but it’s hard to deny the power of Champion specifically. A big part of the Soul Sisters core is already comprised of Humans to begin with (the “sisters” themselves, Ranger of Eos, Serra Ascendant) and once you add in Norin, you can expect the parish to be well and truly championed.

Cavern of Souls makes an appearance too, to fix mana and guarantee your “combo” pieces resolve. Note that a Cavern on Soldier will give you uncounterable Ajani’s Pridemates, while still casting two other key business creatures, Ranger of Eos and Champion of the Parish.

That Legion Loyalist (and the Grim Lavamancer from the board) look like sweet tutor targets for Ranger of Eos. Loyalist is a natural solution to the problem of opposing Myr tokens from Genesis Chamber, while Grim Lavamancer is of course excellent at putting the screws to aggro (or the mirror!). These tutor targets do draw more attention to the lack of Serra Ascendant, and my gut feeling is that it belongs in this deck in some number. Serra AscendantMy thinking at this point is you’ll be hard pressed not to hit 30 life just like in the original archetype—and cutting your effective 6/6 flying lifelink seems dubious at best.

The other major concession this list makes compared to traditional Soul Sisters is in the mana base. While the addition of Cavern is nice, there was nothing preventing Soul Sisters from doing that per se. In exchange for the second color, you sacrifice the powerful utility lands like Mistveil Plains, Windbrisk Heights, and Ghost Quarter. The former two serve to provide card advantage and inevitability, respectively, and are perhaps less necessary as Norin Soul Sisters is much better at ending games with damage than the tedious grindfest that is recurring Martyr of Sands and Squadron Hawks infinitely. I suppose there’s nothing preventing you from relegating the splash to a smaller role, but it does seem that casting Norin the Wary consistently is pretty important. In any case, you also get access to Lightning Bolt.

Playing the Unplayable

I don’t think Norin the Wary combo (or Soul Sisters, for that matter) is likely to tear up the fast-approaching Grand Prix weekend or anything, but this looks like a fun deck to bring to FNM or a local PPTQ. How often do you get the opportunity to sleeve up a full playset of a truly terrible card like Norin the Wary, anyway? When Norin was released he was compared to the likes of One With Nothing and hailed as completely unplayable garbage—yet here he is 10 years later making a name for himself in Modern!

8 thoughts on “Deck of the Week: Norin Soul Sisters

  1. You mentioned the human tribal synergy in the deck with champion of the parish and that got me thinking. Could Thalia’s Lieutenant work in this deck? It’s like extra copies of champion that also randomly pump up sisters. I guess it might just be worse than ajani’s pridemate but it could be worth consideration.

    1. There is no consensus “best” soul sisters list, so its better to think of the decks in the archtype as existing on a spectrum.

      You can fiddle with the numbers to push the list less or more into different token engines (Genesis chamber/norin here, Spectral and/or Lingering souls in others), you can push it towards grindy value creatures like hawk or ranger, or you can emphasize the attack step with Champion (and now Thalia’s Lieutenant)

      So yes, you totally make a humans centric list.

    1. Don’t worry, we hear you loud and clear. This is partly an issue of finding more authors with a more spikey bent, which is something we’re working on. As for the Deck of the Week feature itself, it was largely conceived as an exploration of the lower- and non-tiered strategies. But we’re definitely looking towards more strategy-oriented content as well.

  2. The triggers in this deck are pretty painful to keep track of – flicker norin, gain a life, counter on pridemate, myr token, gain a life, counter on pridemate etc.

    Recent interesting norin tech is zurs weirding. If you can gain two life each turn you can lock your oponent from drawing cards. Solves one of the decks major issues which is not being able to win the game very quickly (and thus falling prey to combos). Terrible if you’re behind though.

    Id think nahiri makes purphoros less good than it used to be. Might as well play impact tremors and save some tempo.

  3. Hi 🙂
    Thanks for the article, I feel honored. About what you wrote, the deck changes the MU a lot from monocolored SS. This deck is worse against burn and SS; but much better against control (it’s actually the best MU). They share the bad MU against tron and combo (although Blood Moon helps a lot here).

    I just wanted to put some insight about the tournament. It had about 185 players (so, 8 rounds). My game were as follows:

    R1: vs Merfolk // W 2-0 // The matchup looks worse on my mind than in real magic. I think is about 50/50.

    R2: vs AdNauseam // W 2-0 // One if the weirds things of the deck is how you initial hand defines the kind of game that is going to be played. I got aggro hands both games, and that was enough to win against phyrexian unlife.

    R3: vs Nahiri Control // W 2-0 // The deck had an absurdly good game 1 against UWR Control. Although Nahiri mades it tougher; the matchup is still about 75% on my favor, specially on game 1. For example, in G1 my opponent resolved 2 Ancestral, clean the table a few times, and then conceeded against Norin-Genesis.

    R4: vs RG Valakut // W 2-1 // I don’t think I have a good MU here, but blood moon helps a lot.

    R5: vs Dredge // L 1-2 // I really felt there was no way I could win without the cage. The game I won he mulled to 3 or something.

    R6: vs BW Tokens // W 2-0 // Complicated MU, as Zealous Persecution can be a blowout. I win G2 with an opponent that had 5 3/3 Spirits and 2 3/3 soldiers. Purphoros worked great as a can opener here.

    R7: vs Nahiri Control // W 2-0 // Same as before, but with an opponent that played poorly.

    R8: vs Suicide Zoo // D 1-1 // The game was weird, because my mind was in the “can I ID to get to top 8” universe and far from the game. My hands were in the worse part of variance, so I think the MU is not great, but also not really bad.

    QF: vs Affintty // L 0-2 // I hadn’t tested the MU enough, so my gameplan was quite clunky. On game 2, I didn’t mull a good (but not great) hand with no stony. I think that was a mistake.

    My perception of the deck overall is that is better than most people think; but not enough to be Tier 1. It’s still good in a a creature/control enviroment.

    Cheers
    Joaquín

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