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Commander Ninjutsu With Yuriko

At SCGCON Winter, Bennie Smith got to enjoy some surreal Commander games in the snowscape! Of all the decks he brought, this one got the most attention! He gives you the breakdown here!

Wow, SCGCON Winter was a blast! It was such a joy to be a guest of honor in
The Command Zone where I was able to play people from all over who had
bought the Commander Celebration package. Mother Nature threw us all a
curve ball Sunday by dumping something like 18 inches of snow over the
course of 24 hours, so the vast majority of us where stuck in the hotel. Of
course, being Magic players we merely sought out tables and chairs and just
moved the Con into the hotel lobby. Wendy and I were able to get in a lot
of Commander games with Sheldon Menery, Gavin Verhey, and Mike Turian and
that was an absolute blast. Gavin and Mike didn’t have Commander decks with
them so they borrowed decks from Sheldon and me. Let me tell you, watching
these two talented Wizards play my Grothama and Feldon decks was so much
fun.

I took some pictures and shared them on Twitter as I played games through
the weekend, and it seemed that I had a fair amount of interest in my
Commander deck built around Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow, so I figured I’d go
ahead and share the deck with you today. I had played the deck a few times
prior, but SCGCON gave me quite a few more games under my belt to see what
was working and what wasn’t.

Yuriko’s abilities are quite interesting, in particular the commander
ninjutsu ability. In a way, it’s a lot like Derevi, Empyrial Tactician in
how it skirts around the Commander tax rule. I’ve played several games
where I’ve never actually cast Yuriko from the command zone but have put it
onto the battlefield quite a few times with the commander ninjutsu.

Before I get into my current decklist, I wanted to go over the cards that
I’ve cut from the deck since playing it at SCGCON.

The initial build of this deck had some really clunky turns where I’d end
up drawing an extra card or two and have a bunch of cards in my hand that I
didn’t want to cast because I was busy with Ninja shenanigans, which takes
up mana. So the first order of business was to cut some of the more
expensive cards along with reactive cards that are more expensive. Vela the
Night Clad and Deepfathom Skulker are nice in theory, but the desire to cut
down on my mana curve put them on the chopping block. Xenograft is fine for
turning my small evasive creatures into Ninjas, but I’ve already got a
cheaper card that does it better in Arcane Adaptation. Kindred Discovery is
obviously sweet in blue tribal decks, but in Yuriko’s, card drawing engine
is powerful all by itself, so I’ve also cut Coastal Piracy and Bident of
Thassa. I also cut Commander’s Sphere and replaced it with Talisman of
Progress to trim down on the mana cost of the mana acceleration.

Okay, let’s talk about the deck! To my mind, the best way to enable Yuriko
is to have a bunch of one mana evasive creatures. These work great with
Ninjas in general but especially with Yuriko since her ability only costs
two mana. Since there aren’t, but so many of these creatures I’ve included
some at two mana as well.

Evasion – Unblockable

These are the creme de la creme, the truly unblockables. If you start the
turn with them on the battlefield you can guarantee they’re slipping by
blockers. Gudul Lurker has megamorph so you can bounce it back to your hand
with ninjutsu and play it with megamorph later. Similarly, Aether Figment
can play a similar role, later in the game you can play it with kicker to
make it bigger. Flitterstep Eidolon is also an evasive creature early to
sneak out a creature with ninjutsu, and when you have enough mana you can
cast it with bestow on a Ninja that you want to be unblockable.

Evasion – Shadow

Next up are creatures with shadow, which is just one step away from being
unblockable since hardly anyone plays with shadow creatures. The downside
is that they cannot block in a pinch, but that’s a small price to pay.
Thalakos Seer is a draw engine when it gets bounced with ninjutsu, and
Looter il-Kor does a nice job of filtering cards you don’t need while
drawing deeper into your deck.

Evasion – Flying

Last on the list are cheap fliers. While these can be readily blocked by
other fliers and creatures with reach, in the first few turns there is
usually going to be people who don’t have fliers or creatures with reach to
stop your initial Ninja shenanigans. Even later in the game there is
usually at least one opponent that cannot stop an aerial assault. Hypnotic
Siren does great work here: a cheap evasion creature early, bounce back
with ninjutsu, and then later play it with bestow to gain control of a
juicy target. Baleful Strix draws a card when you play it, so bouncing it
back with ninjutsu and replaying is grinding some awesome value. And since
it has deathtouch, odds are pretty good even if your opponent has fliers
they may not want to trade something valuable for it.

Creature Boost

Eventually you’re going to have some cheap, small, evasive creatures on the
battlefield but no Ninjas in hand. Sure, you can just send them in to ping
away at an opponent’s life totals, but I wanted to include some ways to
buff those creatures and get some added value. Empyrial Plate and Bonehoard
can make those unblockable creatures into serious threats, and Sword of
Light and Shadow provides a life boost and can get back dead Ninjas.

Top of Deck

Many Yuriko decks play heavy here, along with high cost spells so that
Yuriko’s combat damage trigger can drain a huge amount of life from
opponents. I prefer to just use Yuriko as a reliable card-drawing engine
that will get extra chip shots in on your opponents, much like the extort
ability, with the occasional five- or six-mana card reveal. That doesn’t
mean I’m forgoing all forms of library manipulation, and these two are
cheap and reusable.

Ninjas

Yuriko is your main go-to Ninja, and you’ll want to put her on the
battlefield early and often, but we’ve got lots of other options for our
Ninja deck. Yuriko’s trigger works on any Ninjas you control, so let’s
flood the battlefield with them as we can. Many of them have nice
battlefield control options too, so they fill double roles here as Yuriko
triggers and spell-like triggers. Sakashima’s Student is my favorite here
since it can copy something huge and scary on the battlefield and still get
Yuriko triggers.

Nice bonus here is Swarmyard since so many Ninjas are also Rats.

Mana Acceleration

Our deck’s mana curve is very low to the ground, but that doesn’t mean we
should eschew mana acceleration where we can. Phyrexian Altar fills a
really cool role here-if you can’t otherwise get Yuriko in for an attack
but you’ve got a different creature that cannot be blocked, sacrifice
Yuriko to Phyrexian Altar for a blue or black mana, and then use that mana
and one other to use the commander ninjutsu ability!

Removal

Several of the Ninjas provide some creature removal abilities, but we can
certainly use more of them given that our deck isn’t necessarily going to
win big and win fast. I’m particularly excited about Fumble; it’s already a
fantastic spell to combat someone who’s trying to Voltron up a creature
into something formidable, but it’s even better here since you can move the
Equipment or Aura cards to an unblocked creature or Ninja and you could do
it at instant speed.

Ravenous Chupacabra, Hostage Taker, and Etrata, the Silencer provide
removal options that also play nice with Ninjas in your hand, bouncing back
to replay and take advantage of their abilities again and again.

I’m not too proud to play Cyclonic Rift because sometimes you’ve got to put
the deck that went nuts early in check, but this deck in particular I think
makes good use of it, clearing the way for a horde of Ninjas to attack and
cascade a bunch of Yuriko triggers to potentially end the game during the
attack step.

Dimir Goodstuff

Last but not least, I rounded the deck out with these gems. Thassa, God of
the Sea provides some card selection and can make a key Ninja or two
unblockable. Sakashima the Impostor can copy Yuriko and give you double the
Ninja trigger fun. Sea Gate Oracle and Gonti, Lord of Luxury make great
cards to swap back to your hand with ninjutsu.

Here’s how the deck ended up:

Commander

So, what do you think? What sort of choices do you disagree with? Are there
any cards that I overlooked?

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Deck Database


Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January
2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith”
and the commander name into the Google and it should pop right up. I’ve
written a lot about Commander – and Magic in general – so if you want to
explore further the

StarCityGames.com® article archives

have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

SCGCON Winter 2018 (stay tuned for decklists!)

Grothama, All-Devouring; Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis; Feldon of the Third
Path; Ramos, Dragon Engine; Inalla, Archmage Ritualist; Prossh, Skyraider
of Kher; Brago, King Eternal; Partners Tribal (Sultai)

Ultimate Masters


Garna, the Bloodflame

Guilds of Ravnica

Niv Mizzet, Parun
,

Emmara, Soul of the Accord

,

Lazav, the Multifarious (decklist in the comments)

,

Tajic, Legion’s Edge

,

Etrata, the Silencer

,

Izoni, Thousand-Eyed

Commander 2018


Aminatou, the Fateshifter

,

Xantcha, Sleeper Agent

, Lord Windgrace,
Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer

Core Set 2019


Sai, Master Thopterist

,

Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma

,

Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire

,

Chromium, the Mutable

Battlebond


Grothama, All-Devouring

Dominaria


Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle

, Grand Warlord Radha
, Arvad the Cursed,

Muldrotha, the Grave Tide

,

Slimefoot, the Stowaway

,

Yargle, Glutton of Urborg

, Squee, the Immortal
,

Firesong and Sunspeaker

,

Jodah, Archmage Eternal

,
Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker

Masters 25


Hannah, Ship’s Navigator

Rivals of Ixalan


Azor, the Lawbringer

, Etali, Primal Storm
,

Nezahal, Primal Tide

,

Zacama, Primal Calamity

,

Tetzimoc, Primal Death

,

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn

,

Ghalta, Primal Hunger

Unstable


Grusilda, Monster Masher

,

Dr. Julius Jumblemorph

Ixalan


Vona, Butcher of Magan

,

Tishana, Voice of Thunder

,

Admiral Beckett Brass

,

Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Commander 2017


Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith

,

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist

,

Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist

,

O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami

,

Mairsil, the Pretender

,

Taigam, Ojutai Master

Hour of Devastation


Razaketh, the Foulblooded

, Zur, the Enchanter
(Mummy’s Curse),

Djeru, With Eyes Open

, The Locust God, Karona, False God
(All the Deserts),Nicol Bolas, Neheb, the Eternal

Amonkhet

Oketra the True
,

Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun

, Atogatog
(Cartouches & Trials),

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons

,

Samut, Voice of Dissent

,

Rhonas the Indomitable

, Hazoret the Fervent

Kaladesh Block


Yahenni, Undying Partisan

, Nicol Bolas, Child of Alara (5
Color Energy),

Rishkar, Peema Renegade

,

Kari Zev, Skyship Raider

,

Sram, Senior Edificer

Commander 2016


Breya, Etherium Shaper

,

Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice

,

Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender

Other Commander Decks


Anafenza, the Foremost

(shutting down shenanigans),

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

(no green creatures),

Kytheon, Hero of Akros

(Tribal Gideon),

Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Commander Strategy

Let’s Talk About Lands

Who Should I Attack?

Targeted Removal in Commander