Commander Deck Of The Week: Yuriko, The Tiger’s Shadow

Who wants Ninjas? Bennie Smith shares his Commander Deck of the Week built around Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow.

Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow, illustrated by Yongjae Choi

Commander Masters previews are done and wow, there are a ton of much-needed reprints – and to be honest, a bunch of cards we really didn’t need reprinted!  There is a whopping 79 reprinted legendary creatures, and since I have a bunch of Commander decks in paper, I was scrolling through the list to see which ones I may have a deck already built around.  On Scryfall, sorted by EDHREC rank, the first one to pop up is Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow, a deck I’ve had for a while but have not yet shared as a Deck of the Week, so let’s rectify it right now!  I’ve recently made a few tweaks to the deck to add some cards from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, so the timing is great.

Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow

Yuriko is a powerful commander that very easily circumvents commander tax and effectively has built-in card draw that can occasionally just kill players depending on the mana value of the revealed card(s). If you’ve ever been curious about building a Ninja deck, the release of Commander Masters will be an excellent time to snag a copy of Yuriko, especially that sweet portrait art by Zara H!  I won’t personally be upgrading to that art because my sweetheart Wendy picked me up an artist alter of Yuriko with a tiger’s shadow overlaying her form on the original printing of it, and it’s just too awesome and sentimental for me to change up, but I look forward to seeing others running it.

If you’ve never run Ninjas before, here are rules you should know about, particularly what I’ve put in bold below which is specific to Yuriko’s variant on ninjutsu:


A keyword ability that lets a creature suddenly enter combat.

Comprehensive Rules

702.49. Ninjutsu

702.49a Ninjutsu is an activated ability that functions only while the card with ninjutsu is in a player’s hand. “Ninjutsu [cost]” means “[Cost], Reveal this card from your hand, Return an unblocked attacking creature you control to its owner’s hand: Put this card onto the battlefield from your hand tapped and attacking.”

702.49b The card with ninjutsu remains revealed from the time the ability is announced until the ability leaves the stack.

702.49c A ninjutsu ability may be activated only while a creature on the battlefield is unblocked (see rule 509.1h). The creature with ninjutsu is put onto the battlefield unblocked. It will be attacking the same player, planeswalker, or battle as the creature that was returned to its owner’s hand.

702.49d Commander ninjutsu is a variant of the ninjutsu ability that also functions while the card with commander ninjutsu is in the command zone. “Commander ninjutsu [cost]” means “[Cost], Reveal this card from your hand or from the command zone, Return an unblocked attacking creature you control to its owner’s hand: Put this card onto the battlefield tapped and attacking.”


Here are some rulings on ninjutsu to further clarify how this wild ability works:

The ninjutsu ability can be activated during the declare blockers, combat damage, or end of combat steps if you have an unblocked attacking creature.

Activating the ninjutsu ability during the declare blockers step allows the Ninja to deal combat damage. Using ninjutsu during the combat damage or end of combat steps will mean the unblocked attacking creature is dealing combat damage.

The Ninja will be attacking the same player or planeswalker the original attacking creature was attacking. This is a rule specific to ninjutsu; in other cases, the controller of a creature put onto the battlefield attacking chooses which player or planeswalker it attacks.

Although the Ninja is attacking, it was never declared as an attacking creature (for purposes of abilities that trigger whenever a creature attacks, for example).

The Ninja should be revealed while announcing the ability, but it doesn’t leave your hand until the ability resolves.

If a creature in combat has first strike or double strike, you can activate the ninjutsu ability during the first-strike combat damage step. The Ninja will deal combat damage during the regular combat damage step, even if it has first strike.

Wizards of the Coast (WotC) Magic designer Gavin Verhey has a nice short video that provides some tips for using Ninjas at their full power, so take a look if you haven’t watched it before:

Okay, let’s dig into my decklist!

Can’t Be Blocked

Mist-Cloaked Herald Changeling Outcast Tormented Soul Slither Blade Invisible Stalker Looter il-Kor Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive Gollum, Patient Plotter

The first thing I did was add a bunch of cheap creatures that can’t be blocked so that I could get Yuriko on the battlefield with commander ninjutsu as early as Turn 2. Changeling Outcast even counts as a Ninja when that matters!  Gollum, Patient Plotter doesn’t have evasion, but when he leaves the battlefield – perhaps due to ninjutsu – he brings the Ring tempts you mechanic to the battlefield, and at the first level of the Ring, it does provide evasion.


Ornithopter Hope of Ghirapur Jace's Phantasm Hypnotic Siren Siren Stormtamer Faerie Seer Baleful Strix Smoke Shroud

Flying is nearly as good as “can’t be blocked” since there’s usually at least one player without flyers or creatures with reach. I particularly love Hypnotic Siren, since you can cast it early to sneak out Ninjas and then later on you can cast it as an Aura with bestow to gain control of the enchanted creature.  Smoke Shroud is a nifty Aura that boosts a creature’s size and gives it flying, and if it’s in the graveyard and a Ninja enters the battlefield under your control, you can return it from the graveyard attached to the Ninja. Sweet!


Thousand-Faced Shadow Moon-Circuit Hacker Dokuchi Silencer Silver-Fur Master Mistblade Shinobi Phantom Ninja Satoru Umezawa Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion Throatseeker Prosperous Thief Ninja of the Deep Hours Sakashima's Student Ingenious Infiltrator Throat Slitter Higure, the Still Wind Fallen Shinobi Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni Silent-Blade Oni

Remarkably, there are so many Ninjas available these days that I’ve actually had to leave a few on the sidelines, but I’ve got all the very best ones in the deck. Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty brought us a bumper crop of sweet Ninjas such as Thousand-Faced Shadow, Silver-Fur Master, and Nashi, Moon Sage’s Scion.

Bounce and Replay Creatures

Aether Vial Cunning Evasion Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar Defiler of Dreams

Since most of my evasive early creatures just cost one mana, I’m running Aether Vial as a way to easily drop one back into play at instant speed each turn. Defiler of Dreams can replace the blue mana cost with two life instead, and can make them a nice little card draw engine. Keep in mind putting Ninjas on the battlefield with ninjutsu isn’t casting them, so those won’t trigger Defiler of Dreams.

Cunning Evasion and Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar let you attack with all of your creatures with impunity, and any that get blocked can be returned to your hand – and if they’re Ninjas, you can potentially put them right back into combat with ninjutsu!

Top of the Library

Rivendell Castle Vantress Sensei's Divining Top Vampiric Tutor Scroll Rack Vesuvan Drifter Cruel Tutor

Knowing what’s on top of my deck can help me decide whether and when I want to leverage my Yuriko triggered ability. Vesuvan Drifter lets you know that top card whenever you need to, and occasionally its beginning of each combat ability can let it turn into something cool that’s lurking on top of your library.

I’m not playing a silly card like Draco to try to drain my opponents for sixteen, but I do have some six- and seven-mana cards that can deal a life drain punch and can actually cast them for effect at some point in the game. Vampiric Tutor or Cruel Tutor can find one of those cards and put them on top of my library right before I attack with hopefully unblocked Ninjas with Yuriko on the battlefield.

Card Draw

Faerie Mastermind Call of the Ring Nexus of Fate

Yuriko is a card-drawing engine in the command zone, and it will usually draw at least one extra card starting on Turn 2, so I don’t really need too many extra sources of card draw.  I did add Faerie Mastermind since it’s a cheap flyer that can help sneak Ninjas out, and since it has flash, it can evade sorcery-speed removal. I also really like Call of the Ring since the Ring’s first ability grants extra evasion to my numerous smaller-power creatures, and the extra card draw will be nice. Lastly, Nexus of Fate is my one “Time Walk” effect that’s expensive enough to do a big drain when it’s revealed from Yuriko’s triggered ability.


Otawara, Soaring City Witness Protection Go for the Throat Feed the Swarm Reality Shift Damnation Deadly Rollick

Outside of Ninjas and Ninja shenanigans, I don’t have too much room for other things, but I did want to squeeze in a few pinpoint removal spells and one sweeper with Damnation.


Swan Song Arcane Denial Negate Raise the Palisade

Just a few counterspells will keep opponents honest when I have mana open. I’ve also added the new Raise the Palisade, which seems awesome for clearing the path for a big Ninja attack!

Mana Ramp

Myriad Landscape Sol Ring Arcane Signet Talisman of Dominance Dimir Signet

My mana curve is really low to the ground, but I do have some mana rocks here to help me activate ninjutsu and have mana available for other things. Mostly, I just want to hit my land drops every single turn with the extra cards drawn with Yuriko.

Utility Lands

Swarmyard Encroaching Wastes Reliquary Tower High Market Creeping Tar Pit Hive of the Eye Tyrant Hall of Storm Giants Barren Moor Lonely Sandbar

Some of my Ninjas are also Rats, so Swarmyard is here to regenerate them and protect them from destroy effects and damage. Encroaching Wastes is here to deal with the occasional annoying Maze of Ith that might stymie my Yuriko trigger.

The Deck

Okay, here is the full decklist:

Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 07-21-2023
Magic Card Back

Here are the deck stats from our friends at Archidekt:

What must-have cards might I have missed including here?  Which of the reprinted legends from Commander Masters are you most excited to build around?

Talk to Me

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and start conversations about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  You can also find my LinkTree on my profile page there with links to all my content.

I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do Commander, Brawl and sometimes other Magic-related streams when I can.  If you can’t join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.  You can also find the lists for my paper decks over on Archidekt if you want to dig into how I put together my own decks and brews. 

And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

Visit my Decklist Database to see my decklists and the articles where they appeared!