When I purchased a box of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty I fell in love with the art direction of the Satoru Umezawa buy-a-box promo. The art was created by the lead character designer of the Metal Gear series and it makes sense that the stylistic depiction of a cybernetic ninja would not only evoke nostalgic feelings but also inspire me to build a deck.
I’ve been toying around with this deck for six months since Neon Dynasty was released and I’ve found an immensely fun to play, optimized build. Below I’ll lay out how to get all your Ninjas through your opponents’ defenses!
The deck uses small, evasive creatures to take advantage of Satoru’s ability granting all the big creatures in our hand “Ninjitsu 2UB” allowing us to cheat must-answer threats into play. These threats aim to either one-shot players or control the board. The deck also plays a variety of efficient interaction and “actual” ninjitsu creatures to answer threats and keep the value-train going in the event our threats are answered.
UNBLOCKABLE, ENABLER CREATURES
The small, evasive creatures I play are to consistently activate ninjitsu abilities from my hand.
The deck aims to play creatures like Siren Stormtamer, which provides additional utility in the form of protection against potential answers to the on-board threats and Thalakos Seer which serves to draw additional cards each time it’s bounced back to my hand with a ninjutsu ability.
BIG CREATURES TO “CHEAT” INTO PLAY
Satoru gives each creature in our hand “Ninjitsu 2UB”, this allows us to discount the cost of massive threats and play them much earlier than our opponents will be able to deal with them. The deck has 3 types of big, beefy monsters that it wants to cheat into play using the aforementioned evasive creatures + Ninjutsu combo.
1. Creatures that kill a single player with one attack like Blightsteel Colossus.
2. Creatures that control the board and are difficult for opponents to answer because they attack resources while providing card advantage/board presence such as Toxrill and Jin-Gitaxis.
In the case of Toxrill, its end step ability serves to get rid of an opponent’s creatures, while also providing board presence which forces opponents into a tough decision between deploying their own threats and answering our threats.
Jin- Gitaxis on the other hand, attacks the opponent’s resources from a different angle while providing massive card-advantage. Jin reduces the opponent’s hand size by seven, so barring any “no max hand size” effects, our opponents will likely have to discard their entire hand at the end of turn, which can be absolutely backbreaking, especially in the early turns of the game.
3. The last type of creature has powerful combat damage triggers made significantly better because they will more reliably go off early.
Sphinx Ambassador is a particularly fun example because it challenges us to pick a creature in our opponent’s deck and then they have to guess which one we picked. If our opponent guesses correctly, nothing happens…. but, if they guess incorrectly, we get to put that creature into play under our control.
This is one of my favorite cards in the deck, and highlights the cool flavor of Ninjutsu. The fact we can reliably cheat our creatures’ mana costs, and the method by which we accomplish this reliably is attached to our Commander and directly translates to combat damage allows us to run tons of interesting creatures.
These creatures provide us with cursory card/mana advantage by helping establish a board presence and digging for our larger threats. Silver-Fur Master and Ninja of the Deep Hours provide mana advantage by discounting all future ninjitsu activations or drawing additional cards, respectively.
Given our Commander will likely be in play, these relatively lackluster creatures come with card advantage stapled onto them when their ninjitsu abilities are activated. In addition to these mid game engine pieces, some of the actual ninjas in the deck can function as backup win conditions with Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow as a prime example.
Yuriko is infamous as one of the most powerful and popular Commanders for good reason. It’s ability to reveal the top card of one’s library and have all opponents lose life equal to that card’s mana value has the potential to create massive, game ending life swings, especially in concert with timely top deck manipulation and the many high mana-value threats in the deck.
My deck plays efficient interaction spells that function primarily to protect my Commander and the threats.
Satoru is of the utmost importance to this deck’s strategy because it relies heavily on its ability to cheat massive threats into play.
Commaneer is a great way to turn an opposing bomb against it’s caster such as stealing a TIme Stretch.
My deck runs a variety of tutors in order to search up particular cards at any given time. The deck has many moving pieces and access to each is essential for the deck to function properly.
Vampiric Tutor functions as a catch-all to get anything we need and synergizes particularly well with Satoru’s once-per-turn triggered ability to look at the top three cards of your library and put one into your hand and the rest on the bottom. With this ability on the stack we can cast Vampiric Tutor and put a card on top of our library and into our hand.
Dimir Infiltrator plays a dual role as a small-evasive creature that also searches for any two-mana spells via transmute.
Higure, the Still Wind is a tutor that can be put into play using ninjutsu to get another ninja. Sometimes it searches for additional threats to apply more pressure like Silent Blade Oni or additional evasive creatures like Changeling Outcast to help enable ninjitsu shenanigans on future turns.
FUN WITH THE COMBAT PHASE
To get the most out of this deck, having a detailed understanding of the combat phase is an extremely useful tool.
For the uninitiated, the combat phase proceeds in 5 steps which proceed in order as follows:
The beginning of combat step
The declare attackers step
The declare blockers step
The combat damage step
The end of combat step
The declare blockers step is important to understand because it is only after our opponents have declared their blockers—or their inability to do so—that we are able to activate the ninjitsu abilities of the creatures in our hand.
The combat damage step is important because many of our creatures have triggered abilities that trigger when combat damage is dealt. The primary aspect to understand about the end of combat step for our deck is that a creature that has dealt damage during the previous step is still considered an unblocked, attacking creature.
It is important to know when we can activate our ninjitsu abilities. During the declare blockers step, we can activate a ninjutsu ability of a creature with an enter the battlefield ability, my personal favorite is Rune-Scarred demon because it searches our library for any card and puts it into our hand.
Oftentimes, I use this to go get interaction for my opponents or a ninja with a cheap ninjutsu ability—like Prosperous Thief.
In this scenario, our Rune-Scarred demon is an unblocked attacking creature that can be returned to hand during the declare blockers step to be replaced by Prosperous Thief which can subsequently get its trigger during the combat damage step.
Overall, my deck is an absolute blast to play! It offers a number of exciting interactions and has allowed me as a player to play a more reactionary and arch-enemy style game than I am typically used to given my fairly high power build of the deck.
I’ve been an avid Commander player for about 10 years and I tend to play mid-range value based strategies. I have introduced many people to the format and assisted even more with deckbuilding over the years. If you ever want some friendly advice, I’m often found behind the counter at RIW Hobbies & Games in Linvonia, MI.