The path of the Ninja is a lonely one. Since trust is a luxury you cannot afford, your only constant companions beyond the pale shadow of death are fear and danger. Thankfully, at least in Magic: The Gathering, there are noticeable advantages to doing this particular profession, especially if you get Yuriko, Tiger’s Shadow to help you out.
Despite being consistently ranked as one of the most played and well-known commanders in the format, and thus somewhat confusing the ‘stealth’ aspect of ninjutsu, Yuriko has a powerful collection of Ninja skills that can contribute to a variety of different strategies. Here are ten of her most ruthlessly effective options.
Yuriko, Shadow of the Tiger
Before we dive into Yurika’s shadowy world, let’s quickly recap what she does. Not particularly impressive on the surface: three mana for 1/3 Ninja doesn’t exactly scream ‘broken’ after all. Its true power, however, is quite appropriately hidden just below the surface.
Yuriko has two abilities, one of which is completely unique to her. This is ‘Commander ninjutsu’, a version of Kamigawa’s ninjutsu mechanic that also works from the commander zone, providing a consistent way to avoid the commander tax and get Yuriko into play for just two mana. Her second ability is a huge asset to any ninja-centric deck: whenever one of your ninjas deals damage to an opponent, you draw a card, dealing damage equal to its cost to each opponent.
If you lean heavily on the ninjutsu mechanics, you can use both of Yurika’s abilities to great effect. Her first ability encourages the use of evasive creatures, which you can then switch for ninjutsu users from your hand (or Yuriko herself) as they come through unblocked, and her second ability rewards such switches with card draw and AOE damage.
Silver Fur Master plays a key role here as it lowers your ninjutsu skills while enhancing your ninja. Additionally, you’ll want to include as many ninjutsu users and cheap evasion creatures as possible to round things out.
9 upper deck
Since Yuriko’s AOE damage on each ninja hit is based on the mana cost of the cards on top of your deck, manipulating the order of these cards is a powerful strategy. With spells like Brainstorm and Ponder to filter out cheap cards in favor of expensive ones, you can ensure that every Ninja damage trigger leaves the entire table spinning.
This build naturally allows you to end games quickly, especially if you have a few ninjas attacking at the same time, but it also allows you to play a more reactive game, reading through your deck to find an answer to each situation. This is a fun and flexible way to play Yuriko.
To no one’s surprise, a simple ninja-themed deck is great for Yuriko as a commander. Since her second ability triggers when Ninjas deal damage, the more Ninjas you play, the more often you’ll use it.
You’ll want to include both ninjas with and without ninjutsu in this build, especially ones with built-in evasion like the Phantom Ninja. Changeling creatures are also fair game thanks to their full range of creature types, and you’ll also want to place Tetsuko Umezawa, the Fugitive for its ability to enable mass evasion.
The fact that Yuriko’s second ability hits all of your opponents at once makes her especially powerful and can even wipe out an entire table at once if timed. And while this time will naturally accumulate over the long game, you can also create it yourself by using Magic’s myriad of additional enchantments.
There are many of these, as Time Warp, Temporal Manipulation, and Part the Waterveil offer more or less the same effect for the same price. Said effect is of course the ability to take an extra turn. If you can find a clear window where you can safely attack one opponent with a few ninjas and take an extra turn or two, you can easily end the game on the spot.
6 Big Mana
Yuriko’s second ability rewards you for playing cards with high mana costs, so why not make it a theme and enjoy some of Magic’s biggest bombs in the process? There are a number of directions to take a theme like this, from a simple Ramp build involving Eldrazi titans and the like, to something more insidious.
A lot of cards have huge base mana costs that are then reduced by other factors like Shadow of Mortality. These cards serve a dual role in a deck like this: they serve as huge numbers for Yuriko to reveal with her ability, while also being fairly easy to cast when it comes to hand reduction.
Mill may just be the most maligned archetype in Magic’s storied history. When he’s going well, he’s terrible to play against, but when he’s going bad, he’s absolutely impossible to play against. Regardless of your thoughts on this rip-roaring deck type, you can’t deny that the Dimir (blue/black) color combo is where it shines the most. By the way, also Yuriko’s color combination.
It may seem counterintuitive to focus on reducing your opponent’s decks instead of using Yurika’s abilities to do the same to their life totals, but this allows you to trick your opponents into using up their early resources to fight against what they wrongly assume. it’s your strategy to leave them wide open for a good grind when the time comes.
4 The icy depths
A sort of archetypal cocktail, this building combines Yuriko’s love of ninjas with snowy lands and sea monsters. Although on the surface it sounds like an obnoxious and overpriced mix, in reality the three flavors complement each other surprisingly well.
By building your mana base out of solid snow, you give yourself access to an array of effective board-wiping options that can clear the way for your ninja to enter unopposed. This also applies to the sea monster support pack (Krakens, Leviathans, Octopuses, and Serpents), which excels at washing your opponents’ forces back into their hands, leaving no veil between them and the lidless eyes of your deep-sea horrors. .
With her low mana cost and ability to generate AOE player damage and card advantage, Yuriko is ideal for an aggressive deck. While this is harder to pull off in Dimir than other colors, it’s definitely still possible.
Black gives access to a number of great one-drops, including Bloodsoaked Champion and Dread Wanderer, while blue brings a ton of evasion and disruption to help your hordes get through. When the pressure from your early creatures and the pressure from Yuriko starts to pile up, few opponents will be able to resist breaking under it.
While they don’t have the same fondness for equipment as their close cousins the samurai, ninjas are still more than capable of wielding weapons, especially when said weapon allows for a double strike. This allows the equipped ninja to deal two instances of combat damage, thus triggering two instances of Yurika’s second ability.
The best options for this role are Brass Knuckles, Fireshrieker, and Grappling Hook. You can also further support your Ninja with evasive equipment such as the Cliffhaven Kitesail. With this strategy, you can go high instead of wide and attract more gear to support your ninjas with Yuriko’s abilities.
Yuriko may not technically be a Rogue herself, but she certainly has a lot in common with Magic’s street-smart types, most notably her love of evasion. Legendary Rogues like Krydle of Baldur’s Gate allow you to slip your ninjas through undetected, triggering Yurika’s bargain ability.
Additionally, you can play a fairly easy mixed build and see great results, especially since Rogues tend to be cheap enough to pull with Yuriko and play in the same round. While Ninjas have a strict code of honor, turning a blind eye to it can lead to great success at the Commander’s table.
NEXT: TCG 2023 Release Dates