I started out wanting to build a Ninja Stalker deck (Ukkima, Stalking Shadow  /Cazur, Ruthless Stalker, with Umori, the Collector as a companion, and only creatures in the deck), and ended up building a Yarok ETB deck, but with ninjas. My mind works in strange ways.

This is an attempt to seamlessly mashup an unblockable ninjutsu deck and a Yarok ETB deck. Yarok, the Desecrated is obviously at its best when in a flicker theme, so I did include some of the elements of that concept as well. However, self bounce is another avenue to recurrent ETB effects. And no manner of self bounce is more fun than ninjas!

I'm intentionally omitting infinite loops, so while I respect their usage, I won't consider adding them. Also, I do recognize that Hydroid Krasis got no ETB, but still gonna use it just because.

So here we go...

There are two separate themes coexisting in this deck: Unblockable, bouncy ninjutsu, and "enters the battlefield" (ETB) effects. This isn't exactly counterintuitive or counterproductive, because either deck archetype benefits from including elements of the other. Ninjas return creatures to your hand, so it's beneficial for there to be creatures that have effects when you recast them after they've been bounced by the ninjas. And while flicker spells dominate most ETB decks, there are too many good bounce spells out there to not take advantage of them as well.

Now don't get me wrong, I do fully understand how much of an advantage a flicker spell has over a bounce spell in an ETB deck. The obvious discrepancy is that you have to use resources to recast spells that have been bounced, while flicker pays for itself. However, with flicker, you get nothing extra in exchange for the casting of the spell. Same is true a lot of times with bounce. But, with ninjas, you get a useful damage-triggered effect, usually on a bigger body than the alternate cost's resource expenditure should produce.

With ninjas, you're trading a creature on the battlefield for something bigger and better, which deals immediate damage, and get to later recur the original creature's ETB. So throw something into that, which doubles those effects, and you have a stronger version of the original. The hard part is achieving a balance of the two elements, in a way that benefits both. This deck is my attempt.
The most effective ETB decks are Azorius. You can pull them into Esper, Bant or Jeskai - even into "Witch" (WUBG) - but the important colors are blue and white. Yarok ain't got no white. Without white, you lose a sizable portion of the flicker repertoire. So you have to be incredibly creative with his build.

It's not so bad, though, because in my personal opinion, Bant flicker decks are the best, because of all the great ETB candidates in green, and Yarok do got green. The hardest part about creating an ETB deck with green is choosing which cards to leave out. That's what we call a good problem to have.

Replacing the white in a Bant ETB deck with black is not ideal. However, that's where the ninjas come in. Black has some good ETB cards, definitely, but it doesn't have any flicker, and that's what you're losing without white. Blue has flicker and ETB, so you keep blue's versatility. But you're losing the raw flicker magnitude of white, and that's something that black can't provide. And it does little good that black has good ETB creatures, because adding any of them only makes it harder to deal with the "good problem" of green. Black is bloody useless for a good flicker deck, unless that deck also has white.

But, Dimir is not useless for ETB. It only "flickers" as much as blue can reasonably provide, but it provides a lot of bounce. Remember, bounce is slower than flicker, but it still gets the job done. Black alone obviously doesn't do much for that, but if you think about it as Dimir + Simic, rather than green, blue and black, it all comes into focus. You have the bounce from Dimir combined with the ETB aspects of Simic. It's a match made in heaven! Well no, heaven would be white's slice of the pie as well. So then a match made in the sweltering wetlands of Sultai. Whatever.
Some of the more obvious elements were included in this package:

- Card advantage from Baleful Strix, Beast Whisperer, Bramble Sovereign, Faerie Seer, Ice-Fang Coatl, Mulldrifter, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and Wall of Blossoms.

- Land advantage from Cloud of Faeries, Coiling Oracle, Uro again, and Wood Elves

- Recurrence from Cadaver Imp and Eternal Witness

- Removal from Acidic Slime and Reclamation Sage

- Life gain from Essence Warden and Thragtusk

All of these are obligatory. There are also some interesting selections, which we will begin to look at next.
There are a few elements of the deck that exist for the benefit of ninjutsu itself, separate from their usefulness as part of the ETB theme. Before we go into the Unblockable theme, it's probably good time to mention Primal Forcemage, Ambuscade Shaman and Cazur, Ruthless Stalker. They're in the deck almost exclusively for the sake of the ninjas. Cazur is also in there because it's a free card when you cast Ukkima, and vice versa. With Yarok in play, Forcemage turns a 2/1 unblocked Faerie Seer into an 11/10 unblocked Fallen Shinobi. With as much ninjutsu as there is in this deck, either of the ETB buffs mentioned here are extremely welcome.

But the biggest part of the deck focused on the facilitation of ninjutsu is the evasion theme. The fact that many of the ETB creatures are flying or have other forms of evasion is helpful, but obviously this theme is mostly driven by the list of unblockable creatures - AEther Figment, Dimir Infiltrator, Elusive Krasis, Neurok Invisimancer, Soulsworn Spirit, and Ukkima, Stalking Shadow  . These guys are in there as the most effective way to get ninjas onto the board.

Other forms of evasion are present too, including the decent amount of the ETB creatures which are flying. And Fogwalker, who has skulk. But Fogwalker is a good example of taking the bull by the horns instead of using finesse. Lockdown effects like Fogwalker and Soulsworn Spirit give you a better chance of getting the ninjas through to the opponent more than once, without even having to bounce them first.

Champion of Lambholt falls into the unblockable category as well, but has a special place in it because he potentially (and pretty easily in this deck) makes all of the your creatures unblockable. In an ETB-bounce deck with Yarok, it's easy to see that he can get very big, very quickly. Like the cards in the previous paragraph, he facilitates your ninjas' damage-to-players effects without having to bounce and recast them.
The resource base is fairly basic in this deck, so I won't spend too much time on it. It's worth pointing out Dowsing Dagger   and Growing Rites of Itlimoc   because they both operate very well in this deck. The Dagger because of all the evasion, and the Rites because of how creature heavy it is. The Rites is at its best played early, because of all the bounce. All the other mana ramp/rocks/dorks in there are pretty much EDHREC copypasta that anyone would use, but they are that for a reason. If I'm leaving out anything obvious, let me know

You also should just ignore the lands. I'm old, I've been playing for a long time, and I like to min/max my land choices. There are many MUCH MORE budget friendly ways to construct the land list. However, Hall of the Bandit Lord isn't even a mana producer, and is in there mostly to maximize the value of Primal Forcemage and the like.

Thoughts and comments welcomed and encouraged. Enjoy!


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27% Casual

73% Competitive

Top Ranked
Date added 2 weeks
Last updated 4 days

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

8 - 0 Mythic Rares

38 - 0 Rares

21 - 0 Uncommons

23 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 3.20
Tokens 0/1 Plant, None Copy Clone, 3/3 Beast, 1/1 Thopter, 1/1 Spirit
Folders Uncategorized, Sultai
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