Conditions Allow - Brothers Yamazaki

(Brothers Yamazaki | Art by Ron Spears)

Let Me Introduce My Brothers

Welcome back to EDHREC, and to Conditions Allow. This article series focuses on legendary creatures with a drawback, and tries to turn them into a strength. This week, we're taking a look at one creature that really wants to be many. Commander is a singleton format, and that is exactly why Brothers Yamazaki is a challenge to build around.

Brothers Yamazaki is a mono-red legend from Kamigawa. There are two different versions of this card, each representing one of the brothers. Both have the same effect: if you control exactly two creatures named Brothers Yamazaki, then the “legend rule” doesn’t apply. Separately, each other creature named Brothers Yamazaki has haste and get +2/+2. All told, we can get a pair of 4/3’s with haste and Bushido 1. This isn’t much, but the challenge of building around a commander that wants to have multiple copies of itself may lead us down some interesting paths. Let’s see where we end up.

Can You Tell Us Apart?

There aren’t many commanders like Brothers Yamazaki, so let’s dive right into their EDHREC page. Right at the top of the High Synergy Cards is Flameshadow Conjuring. This enchantment effectively lets us pay four mana to cast two 4/3s with haste by producing a token copy of Brothers Yamazaki whenever it enters the battlefield. Because of the Brothers' own effect, we don’t have to worry about the legend rule destroying the token.

Of course, one copy of an effect is never enough. Twinflame and Heat Shimmer are both one-shot effects that do the same thing as Flameshadow Conjuring. To help all these cards have a longer-lasting impact, we can use Sundial of the Infinite to make the tokens stick around.

The EDHREC page is also cluttered with spells that copy other spells. These could push Twinflame into a much higher-impact spell, since the power buff our commander gives other copies of itself will be compounded with each additional token. However, as soon as we have two or more tokens, the legend rule will kick back into effect, and we'll be left with only a single Brothers Yamazaki. We'll have to dig a little deeper before we start forming a strategy.

You have to look surprisingly far down the EDHREC page before finding Helm of the Host. This Equipment doesn't have to worry about the legend rule at all, since the tokens it creates are not legendary. It may seem slow to produce only one token at the beginning of each of our combat phases, but this is more reliable than Flameshadow Conjuring. To really make reliable use of that enchantment, we need to have our commander enter the field every turn, and red is not a color that easily supports bounce or flicker effects. If we were playing blue, we might rely on bouncing, or use a little Temporal Mastery to get multiple combat phases in a row. In red, however, we must rely on a Relentless Assault.

The Brothers' War

There are quite a few sorceries that grant extra combat steps. In conjunction with Helm of the Host, every additional combat phase will create a new Brothers Yamazaki token. Each makes the others stronger, until we have an unstoppable army. This strategy also takes advantage of the copy spells I mentioned earlier. Just remember that the untap clause of each of these copied spells will not happen between each extra combat, but occur right when the copied spell resolves, so each new token will probably be attacking alone. Still, this can put a sizable dent in one opponent's life total, while setting us up to quickly run away with the game on subsequent turns.

The copy spells will also help us put all of these pieces together. As many others have explained before, copying a spell doesn't require you to pay the extra costs again, so Tormenting Voice and Thrill of Possibility become actual card advantage. Red also has a couple of options for getting instants or sorceries back from the graveyard: Past in Flames is quite well-known, but you may not be as familiar with Anarchist. Including these cards means we don't have to worry as much about discarding our key extra combat cards, or using the copy spells to dig for them.

Family Heirlooms

All of this revolves around Helm of the Host. There are enough copy spells, extra combat phases, and draw for us to expect to be able to put those pieces together. Trying to draw a single artifact is much harder, however. Gamble helps, but isn’t exactly reliable. Godo, Bandit Warlord is a much better way of finding our key piece of Equipment, and it also gives us an extra combat phase the first time he attacks in a turn. In conjunction with the high density of draw effects, we should be able to find Helm of the Host fairly regularly.

If we can't put one combo together, though, maybe we can find the pieces for another. So far we’ve found a way to make a lot of Brothers Yamazaki, but with the help of Flameshadow Conjuring, Cloudstone Curio, and Mana Echoes we can create many, many more. 

Cloudstone Curio lets us use the tokens created by Flameshadow Conjuring to return the original Brothers Yamazaki back to our hand. We can then recast it to create another token, and so on. The mana to continually recast our commander and trigger Flameshadow Conjuring comes from Mana Echoes, which creates more mana the more tokens we have. Even though the mana it creates is all colorless, we can filter it into red with Prismite or Gemstone Array.

This does run us back into the legend rule problem, though. I resisted using Mirror Gallery in my article about Linessa, Zephyr Mage, but it's the only card that allows us to do what we want here, so it gets a spot.

If we do ever manage to get all of these cards on the field at the same time, we will get an infinite number of creatures, all with haste. There are other ways we can use it, however. Zealous Conscripts can steal every creature on the field, or continually untap one of our own. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx can easily provide the mana needed to activate Aggravated Assault repeatedly, or to use Endless Atlas to draw into the final card you need to win. Anarchist would let us cast any spell in our deck as many times as we'd like, while Reckless Fireweaver simply wins the game.

Fuel for the Clan

This is an extremely mana-hungry deck. We need a lot to cast our copy spells and extra combat spells in a single turn, or to keep activating Aggravated Assault. Getting up to a critical amount of mana is vital, and we have two ways to do it: traditional mana rocks like Thran Dynamo do a lot of work getting us there, and red also has access to a number of rituals that can push us up to enough mana to go off several turns before our opponents are expecting it.

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This deck was a lot of fun to put together, and ended up feeling much stronger than I thought would be possible. Extra combats wasn't a direction I thought I would end up going, but it ended up being an exciting direction to pursue. The deck would be stronger if it was focused strictly around that strategy, instead of sharing space with a complicated combo. The two don't share cards, but I wanted to highlight both approaches I thought had some potential.

Let me know which you find more exciting! Do you prefer complicated combos, or more straightforward combat? Let me know in the comments, where you can also tell me about any cards you think would be a good fit that I missed. As always, thank you for reading.

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.