"If you can see my ninjas, they can see you. If you can't see my ninjas, you may only be a few extra turns away from death!"

Welcome to my Yuriko primer! After much testing I am pleased to offer up my Yuriko ninjas list. The first mtg precon I ever bought was the Ninjutsu theme deck from the Kamigawa block, and I soon picked up the black ninjas to make my favorite casual deck. When I started playing commander in 2017 I was so disappointed to find out that ninjas weren't supported in EDH and there wasn't a good ninja commander that could support the archetype. That all changed with C18 when Yuriko was printed, and the tribe got a whole lot of support when Modern Horizons released. Since then I have play-tested extensively, and have cut and added cards as new sets are released. I think this build is powerful and effective, and is truly great fun. The following primer will be extensive and have a good amount of detail, and some of the earlier sections will explore the evolution of the deck from release till now. Feel free to skip some of these if you have a good sense of how Yuriko works.

The first thing we'll note is that Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow is a ninja, and that she cares about ninjas dealing combat damage to opponents. This points us in the direction of a ninjas tribal deck. She also draws cards without "drawing" them (thus avoiding any draw hate), and uses the cmc of the cards she draws to damage all of our opponents. This pushes us in a direction of caring about cmc for reasons other than mana curve. She also has a unique ability called "Commander Ninjutsu." In order to sort out exactly what all this means and why it is brilliant game design, it might help to look at a classic ninja and understand how ninjas work generally.

As an example, we'll take that most famous member of the tribe, Ninja of the Deep Hours. This ninja can draw cards whenever he deals damage to an opponent which is fabulous! However, he doesn't have evasion himself, and costs four cmc to cast, which is a higher rate than we would want for this type of creature. Indeed, this is the case with most ninjas- they are over-costed and have great on-damage abilities, but don't have evasion themselves to guarantee they can use them. What makes ninjas good is ninjutsu. Ninjutsu is one of those rare activated abilities that function from your hand, in this case during combat whenever you have an unblocked attacker. Ninjutsu then bounces the unblocked creature to your hand and replaces it with the ninja, who then is guaranteed to get through for damage. The ninjutsu cost of Ninja of the Deep Hours is a cmc of 2, which is a much better rate than hard casting it, and which avoids summoning sickness. In essence, your opponents think your attacker is something, only to find out its really a ninja in disguise! Of course, to use the ninja in the first place we need an unblocked creature, which points us to cheap evasive creatures. We want these to be evasive so that they are unblocked, and low cmc so we can get them out early to enable our ninjas, and then redeploy them the same turn if possible to use them to enable still more ninjas. In my old casual days I used Dauthi Slayer and other creatures with Shadow to achieve this, but today we have better options, like Triton Shorestalker for instance.

Of course, prior to Yuriko, there wasn't really a great ninja commander for two reasons. Firstly, there were no legendary ninjas in both blue and black, and thus while Higure, the Still Wind might seem like a great general there wasn't really enough support to field a full deck. Secondly, by default the fact that ninjutsu functions from the hand means that it does not function from the command zone.

With Yuriko then, not only do we have a commander who works well, but one who is perfectly tailored to using ninjas effectively. To begin with, Commander Ninjutsu is effectively an activated ability which functions from the command zone. This means when we use it to put Yuriko onto the battlefield from the command zone we haven't "cast" her, meaning that commander tax doesn't apply. This is great, because our opponents can Swords to Plowshares Yuriko all day, and we can still get her back with a blue and a black as long as we have an unblocked attacker. As such, the only thing Yuriko really has to fear is being stolen with Control Magic spells and abilities or hit with an Imprisoned in the Moon type of effect. The other brilliant thing about Yuriko is that she takes one of the downsides of ninjas, namely, their overcosted cmcs, and turns them into direct damage to all of our opponents. This is especially great because ninjas tend to do poor damage on their own, so this allows us to dish out some real damage to them.

Yuriko's abilities also mean provide a few other guidelines to us. To begin with, she can draw cards like a champion (even though, again, we aren't really "drawing" them), so we don't need as much draw as we would in another deck because its built in. Secondly, mass evasion is ideal here, as bouncing our creatures back and forth all of the time isn't truly mana efficient, so we'll want a way to get lots of stuff through without having to always do so much work. Thirdly, ninjas have great toolbox properties, so employing a variety of tutors helps us to make sure that we have the ninja we need to deal with the problem we have. Fourthly, any ninja gets us a Yuriko trigger regardless of any other abilities, so Arcane Adaptation effects that make all of our creatures ninjas can win the game in a moment. Fifthly, since we care about dealing damage off the top of our library, being able to manipulate that with Scroll Rack type of effects are a huge bonus. Not everything we are playing is a haymaker and our lands will deal no damage, so these cards take the uncertainty out of our game. Finally, we love cards that, like ninjas, have a high cmc but can be cast for much less, like Temporal Mastery and Temporal Trespass. These cards will do tons of damage without rotting in our hands due to delve, miracle, and other abilities that allow us to skirt the cmc. All of these guidelines play to Yuriko's strengths, and will guide how the deck is built.

One other thing to mention is that Yuriko's ability might tempt us to play lots of high cmc cards like Enter the Infinite in order to use them to kill the table, and the pre-MH version did just that. The problem of course, is that these cards are most likely to rot in our hands and possibly draw us early aggro. The key thing to note here is that even if a card only costs 5cmc, if we get even four triggers we've wiped out half of each player's starting life total. 5cmc cards can usually be cast (especially if they are ninjas, miracle cards, or the like), are less likely to draw aggro, and are more likely to synergize with our game plan. For this reason the only high cmc cards I am playing generally are those that like Commit / Memory, Temporal Trespass, Temporal Mastery, and Alrund's Epiphany that we'll ultimate cast for cheaper.

1) cEDH Version

It is a testament to Yuriko's power that she can and is played in cEDH. These decks still run ninjas and win with Yuriko triggers and extra turns, but they play far more instants and sorceries, employ stax and infinite combos, and a whole suite of very expensive (in real-world $) cEDH staple cards. If you've read my primers you'll know that cEDH isn't my cup of tea and I prefer optimized commander decks instead, but if you've got 5 grand to throw into a cEDH deck and enjoy that style I'd recommend checking out the following primer- Yuriko Turn and Burn - cEDH.

2) Copy Often and Carry Big Sticks (Pre-Modern Horizons Deck)

The original incarnation of this deck was the pre-modern horizons copy version. Some players still adopt this approach, and while it has a lot of variance, it can definitely be fun. At the time we only had seventeen ninjas, so in addition to a little help from Arcane Adaptation and its functional equivalents we ran Mirror Gallery and a tons of Clone cards with the profligate goal of copying Yuriko herself for fun and profit. This approach to the deck was also not afraid to play big expensive cards like Enter the Infinite, Draco and the like which were almost never cast, but served well to kill the table with multiple Yuriko triggers. This approach could provide some insanely powerful plays, but was also more prone to variance due to the low ninja count and the high number of high mana kill spells that could sometimes rot in our hand. That being said, some still opt for this approach, and if you are interested in playing a deck like this you can watch a sample game here-

3) Ninjas Tribal with Extra Turns (Post-Modern Horizons Deck)

This is the version of the deck played here, which is an optimized ninjas tribal approach that plays lots of ninjas while keeping good top-deck manipulation and interaction, which plays a suite of extra turn spells to facilitate a win when we're ready.

We'll want to begin by ramping, as in any deck, and by getting out some of our ninja enablers. We're playing the typical suite of 2-mana rocks that any non-green deck would play, but our best pieces our Sword of the Animist, Dowsing Dagger  , and Explorer's Scope which our evasive creatures can use to great effect. These pieces allow us to put additional lands into play, in some cases repeatedly, and neither the first nor the last of them require us to hit, meaning it hardly matters if we just ninjutsu the attacker right back into our hands.

As far as ninja enablers go, there are many, many options in today's game but the eight that I've chosen I believe are the creme of the crop. Most of them are unblockable, and most of them are 1 cmc, which is what we want as 2cmc feels pretty slow. That being said, we will play 2+cmc enablers only when they have other advantages that make them too good to pass up. The suite of 8 cards I use here have in my experience been the cream of the crop (Mothdust Changeling, Slither Blade, Wingcrafter, Triton Shorestalker, Changeling Outcast, Mist-Cloaked Herald, Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive, and Dimir Infiltrator). The changelings are obviously good because they are also ninjas, the merfolk are good because they are 2cmc and unblockable, and Wingcrafter is great because it can later give evasion to your ninjas who are on the board. Also, I love the flavor of ninjas dropping from a flying contraption! Dimir Infiltrator is 2cmc, but his transmute ability allows him to function as a tutor for any 2cmc card, which is great whether we use him as an enabler first or not. Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive is great because he also grants evasion to most of our ninjas, which is awesome. We're also running a bonus enabler in Whirler Rogue who, at four cmc, is far above the rate we'd want for a regular enabler. That being said, he makes two thopters that can either make him (or another ninja) evasive, and can enable ninjas themselves. Its a great play to make him unblockable with the thopters, then ninjutsu in a ninja, only to recast him and make more thopters, which can enable more ninjas themselves. I've found that this card is incredibly powerful and very under-represented in Yuriko lists I've seen. A final bonus enabler is Moonblade Shinobi. This card is great because it creates evasive illusion tokens which can then continue to enable our ninjas turn after turn.

Its worth mentioning at this point that some lists run a lot more enablers, but I've found in my experience that this is a good amount. We have to remember that evasive one drops also do terrible damage with Yuriko triggers, so we don't want more than we need. With the London Mulligan we effectively have three shots at our opening hand, so eight with a bonus is a pretty good number for us.

Another thing that is great to get going in the early game is some top-deck manipulation. Sensei's Divining Top, Scroll Rack, Soothsaying, and Lim-Dul's Vault all are in the deck to help us get what we need, to smooth our our draws, and to get Yuriko's triggers to do what we want them to do. I also like having Walker of Secret Ways as she can return our ninjas to our hand for re-use in addition to snooping on what our opponents are up to.

I also want to point out that while we very often might be able to cast Yuriko as soon as turn two, that we want to be careful with how aggressive we are with her. If we dome our opponent's with Temporal Trespass on turn two they will probably gang up on us and destroy us before we can get into a commanding board state. Often it is best to take a little more time in the early turns to ramp and get some top-deck manipulation on board. While we will want to use her a bit early on in order to draw some cards, there is a balance to be struck between getting in some damage and keeping our opponents focused on each other and not us. Ninjas prefer to strike when no one is expecting it after all!

In the mid-game we are going to want to get some ninjas out and moving while dealing with threats that come up and searching for key pieces that will help us to win the game in an explosive turn or a series of explosive turns.

As for interaction, Throat Slitter and my favorite ninja of all-time, card:Mist-blade Shinobi exist to help us to deal with creature-based threats repeatedly. Counterspell and Commit / Memory can stop bad things from happening, and card:Introduction to Annhilation can deal with anything, including pesky enchantments, that we might otherwise have trouble dealing with.

When we need to deal with the entire board, we tend to run blue-based board wipes as these bounce our ninjas back to our hands where we can re-use them. Evacuation is great in that it is instant-speed and cheap, allowing us to be the first to rebuild after the wipe. Devastation Tide costs five mana (hence doing good damage) but can usually be cast by us for its miracle cost, thus once again allowing us to be the first to rebuild. Flood of Tears is one of my favorite new blue board wipes, and usually we'll be able to start with something on the board which will give us an advantage in rebuilding.

We also are running lots of great tutors. One of the best is Higure, the Still Wind, who can tutor up any ninja we need for the task at hand, and hence is also allows us to make full use of our ninja "toolbox." He also has the added benefit of being able to give our ninjas evasion, which is great. Scheming Symmetry can get us any card we want and put it on top of our library for some Yuriko damage, but can also be used right away if we draw it with Yuriko. Mystical Tutor also cheaply gets an instant or sorcery to the top of our library where we can use it for damage or draw it, and while Long-Term Plans puts it three cards down, it can get anything and our opponents don't get to see what it is, and with Yuriko we can usually get it in a much shorter timeframe. Whir of Invention is also great in that it can get us Scroll Rack, Sensei's Divining Top, Maskwood Nexus, or whatever else we need at instant speed. Dimir Infiltrator is also a great tutor who can grab us Counterspell, Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive,Cover of Darkness, and more as suits our needs.

What we'll be looking for, first and foremost, are cards which grant all of our creatures evasion. The cream of the crop are Sun Quan, Lord of Wu, Archetype of Imagination, Cover of Darkness, and Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive as they give most of our creatures evasion against most things, but Higure, the Still Wind, Shizo, Death's Storehouse, Smoke Shroud, and Access Tunnel can give some evasion as well.

We'd also like a way to make all of our creatures, including enablers and tokens, into ninjas, which is why we are running Arcane Adaptation, Conspiracy, and Maskwood Nexus. Oftentimes if we have one of these out, a few creatures, and one of our evasion pieces above, we can win in a single turn.

We might also want to grab the best card on the deck. More on that below!

In many decks there is one card that is "the best card in the deck" that is always worth tutoring. This isn't always the card that wins you the game and sometimes is a key value piece that makes the engine run. In this deck the best card is Insidious Dreams, and it will very often win you the game if you can play it correctly. Insidious Dreams requires that we have some cards in hand to discard, which shouldn't be much trouble if we've been using Yuriko enough. It allows you at instant speed to discard a certain number of cards only to put that many cards on top of your library in any order. Usually we'll cast in on our opponent's end step right before our turn if we have enough cards to discard and some ninjas on the board. If there's a card we want access to on our turn (oftentimes a mass evasion card) we'll put that on top since we will draw it for turn, and the after it we will stack as many high cmc extra turn cards as we can. We'll then cast the evasion piece (if needed) and swing to draw the extra turn cards and do tons of damage to our opponents. Then if we have enough mana to cast the spell (which we definitely will if we put Temporal Mastery on top or have enough cards in our graveyard (which we are likely to due to the discard) we can delve Temporal Trespass to cast it on the cheap. However we manage this, our goal is to be able to take extra turns and keep swinging to dome our opponents with our highest mana spells. The key to the success of this maneuver is simply stacking our spells correctly with Insidious Dreams. Sometimes it will be easy. You'll only need to do twenty damage, so putting Temporal Trespass and Commit / Memory second and third will suffice. At other times, you'll need to be careful to put a miracle card first, and others later. Just make sure you think it through before doing so!

It is also important to note that you need to be careful with casting Insidious Dreams particularly if you are playing against a control deck with lots of counterspells. You have to discard your cards as part of the cost regardless of whether it resolves or not, and its a huge pain to discard most of your hand only to be countered! Make sure to either time it right or back your play up with your own Counterspell in this case.

Insidious Dreams can also just be used as a value piece if you aren't ready to win but want to claw back from being behind. While stacking your deck with Scroll Rack, Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive, and Higure, the Still Wind probably won't win you the game outright, it will help you get into a strong position to be able to do so later. While its a great win con, there are a lot of good uses to this card, and that is why its the best card in the deck.

This is where we win the game! Sometimes this will simply be the end of a war of attrition. If our opponents have beat each other up enough over the course of the game, we can often win with even a couple of triggers perhaps helped by a timely Mystical Tutor or Scheming Symmetry to ensure the top of our deck is a good kill card. Barring that, we'll often try to set our board up so that we have at least a few ninjas on board and an evasion piece, and will try to win in accord with one of the below plans.

1) Insidious Turns

This is largely the approach described in the prior section, where seek to win by using Insidious Dreams to stack the likes of Temporal Mastery, Temporal Trespass, Alrund's Epiphany, Nexus of Fate, and Beacon of Tomorrows on top of our deck on our opponent's end step. After attacking and doing damage off of these, we'll either cast Temporal Mastery if we can for its miracle cost, delve Temporal Trespass, or cast any of these spells to make sure that we get enough turns to finish them off. This is often times the easiest and most effective way to win.

2) Yuriko, Mistress of Mirrors

In the pre-Modern Horizons version of the deck, our favorite thing to do was to copy Yuriko as many times as possible, using Mirror Gallery as a workaround for the legendary rule. The only thing better than Yuriko triggers, after all, is multiple Yuriko triggers! In the current version, we can't justify Mirror Gallery, the generic Clone spells, or even Helm of the Host (which still works but is too costly in cmc) any more. But we still have two ways to do it- Spark Double and Sakashima the Impostor. If we can do this we easily double three triggers to six or four to eight, and very often that alone will be enough to kill the table.

3) The Tactician's Win

Barring the above strategies, we can just use our ace-in-the-hole top-deck manipulation pieces like Scroll Rack and Soothsaying or Lim-Dul's Vault to set up the top of our deck to do enough damage to finish off the game. These cards are great because they not only provide great value throughout the course of the game, but can help us to finish well also.

1) Haunting Voyage

I've loved this card in other tribal decks, and think it could have a great home here. There are times in Yuriko where you have a bunch of ninjas and just want to dump your hand and go for it, hoping its enough. Sometimes it isn't though, and there is a risk of being blown out and having to rebuild. This card is great because it brings all of your ninjas back for a second shot, and also can do some good damage off the top. I'll probably add it if I can figure out what to cut.

2) Murderous Cut

It feels like I should have more removal in this deck, and this is a great option since you can do five of the top while using delve to reduce the cmc when you cast it. I still need to find a place for it though. That being said, I haven't had any problems with my removal, but the numbers seem low on paper.

3) Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire

This is a low cost, evasive creature that is a repeatable tutor, being able to put beefy cards right on top of our deck where we want them. What's not to likew? I'll probably try this when I find which of the new ninjas I don't like.

4) Sakashima of a Thousand Faces

This card definitely belongs in the deck, and I even know what to cut for it. Now I just need to be in a place where the price drops or I'm able to redeem some store credit to purchase him. It's another copy of the original Sakashima the Impostor and Spark Double, but it also let's Sakashima's Student become a Yuriko clone, and thus has an additional upside. It will eventually go in for sure.

1) Mirror Gallery and Clone Effects

Back in the Pre-Modern Horizons day we were all in on copying the seventeen ninjas we had, and trying to dupe Yuriko as much as possible. Getting more ninjas makes this unnecessary, and frankly provides a more mechanically consistent gameplay.

2) Xenograft

This was great until Maskwood Nexus was printed. Four of these effects is too much, Nexus is strictly better and a different permanent type than the others (and can be tutored with Whir of Invention, Arcane Adaptation is better costed and Conspiracy is more flavorful and in a different color. Hence this one gets the cut, but if you are missing any of the other three this is a good card.

3) Big, dumb high cmc cards like Enter the Infinite and Draco

I like to be able to cast my cards, and as a "mel" I value mechanical consistency. Even though a couple of these cards wouldn't ruin the function of the deck I'd personally rather not. Temporal Trespass and its imitators are great.

4) Helm of the Host

This is great in that it can copy Yuriko and win games, and can be tutored with Whir of Invention. Its a great card and if you have and like it by all means play it. For me, I just felt it was too mana hungry and fairly likely to be destroyed before I could get much use out of the investment.

5) Throatseeker

I played this for awhile because he is low cmc, and lifelink is underrated in commander, particularly when you are playing card:Bolas' Citadel for value. That being said, ninjas tend to have abyssmal damage on their own, so you don't gain life off of him, and he doesn't have ninjutsu, making him dependent on other things giving him evasion. As such he was consigned to the scrap heap and I haven't missed him.

6) Ninja of the New Moon

While this guy has ninjutsu and can actually dish out respectable damage on his own, he doesn't have any other abilities, making him suboptimal here. While he'd still be better than Throatseeker because of his damage alone, he still doesn't make the cut.

7) Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni

Cutting one of the original ninja legends was a sad thing indeed. Nonetheless, I found that too often I didn't have enough good targets for it, and when there aren't good targets it's a vanilla ninja without evasion, albeit a beefy one. It's better to just go low-to-the-ground with more ninjas and kill stuff with Yuriko. But I still might put him back in some day for old time's sake.

8) Azra Smokeshaper

This card was only ever in because prior to Neon Dynasty he was a ninja that could hit the board for a ninjutsu cost of 2 and start racking Yuriko triggers. There used to be very few ninjas with that low of a ninjutsu cost, so he made the cut on that alone. With Neon Dynasty we have far, far better options and this one is cut for good.

9) Bolas's Citadel

While there was always an argument for this based on top-deck manipulation and because of the potential to drop it early and use it to explode ahead of the competition, it really is more of a pet card for me, and there are more synergistic options. While the six off the top was never bad, it always sucked to have it in hand late in game when our life total was too low to use it. I think we'll do better with more ninjas.

10) Whir of Invention

I love this card, but all of our good artifacts in this deck are low cmc and are best when played early, and we overpay and get them too late with Whir. I'll find another good home for the best artifact tutor there is. It was replaced by Solve the Equation, which is always good and in much more demand in this deck.

11) Maskwood Nexus and Conspiracy

There just isn't the demand in this deck for this effect that there used to be. It was essential pre-Modern Horizons and still very useful afterwards in turning our enablers into ninjas. We still have Arcane Adaptation for this purpose, but with Neon Dynasty we're better off just playing more and better ninjas.

12) Smoke Shroud

I really like this card, and might put it back in if some of the newer ninjas don't perform as I hope they will. You always think that you need mass evasion, but oftentimes if you can just get a few key ninjas through at the right time you're good, and this helps us to do that. Nonetheless, we're going for a higher ninja count at the moment.


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97% Casual


Revision 11 See all

(1 year ago)

+1 Sword of Hearth and Home maybe
Top Ranked
  • Achieved #2 position overall 2 years ago
  • Achieved #1 position in Commander / EDH 2 years ago
Date added 3 years
Last updated 1 year

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

6 - 0 Mythic Rares

33 - 0 Rares

26 - 0 Uncommons

22 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 3.38
Tokens Bird 1/1 U, Copy Clone, Illusion 1/1 U w/ Flying, Ninja 1/1 U, Plant 0/2 G, Thopter 1/1 C, Treasure
Folders Dimir, Other People's Decks I Like, Killer Deck Lists, decks, Ninja, commander, edh, Completed, Get this, EDH, See all 41
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