It's the year of the tiger, and the shadow has never been longer.
By which I mean: Yuriko, my favorite legendary and the third most popular commander in the whole format, just got a lot of new tools. We've reached an exciting point with Ninjas as a tribe where you have to make real decisions about what to keep in and leave out. On her release, there were only nine Ninjas to choose from. Many Yuriko fans were spotted hunting through bins at local gaming shops, in search of .
Today, excluding Changelings, there are 38 to choose from, and 16 of them are fresh from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. CEDH commanders rarely get so many viable options at once, and there's a lot to parse, so I'm here to rank them from worst to best and separate the Ninjas from the nonjas.
Before we jump in, note that these rankings come from a cEDH mindset. The lower the power of your pod/deck, the bigger the grain of salt you should take these recommendations with. If you want to know more about Yuriko in cEDH, take a look at the database stock list, what I'm testing right now, or join us on Discord.
Cool art, awesome name, shockingly bad card. Particularly in cEDH. But that's okay! Not every legendary has to be a Commander card. And this one is five mana with no Ninjutsu for a very niche effect. If you really want to cast your opponents' spells, go harder and cheaper with . This card is pretty terrible even in traditional EDH. At least until you go up against the local , , or player. Then it's hilarious. Next!
These two can be dismissed in the same breath because they have the same problem: they're nothing more than Ninjas, and they're glacially slow. In the case of , the Ninjutsu is simply too expensive. As you'll see elsewhere on this list, a three-cost Ninjutsu is about the upper limit, and even then, one and two are preferred. sees very little play, so there's no reason a Ninja with an even worse effect for the same price will see play. Meanwhile, is flavourful, but her unblockability turns off her Ninjaness. Terrible.
The best thing I can say about is that 3/2 is reasonably good stats for a beater in cEDH. Unfortunately, in the two-mana Ninjutsu slot, we have more impactful options. The lifelink may as well be flavor text; it just doesn't really matter in cEDH or even high power. Mukotai might be a little better if you're interested in trying an artifact-centric build, but I doubt it.
Moonsnare is almost fantastic, but having a three-mana Ninjutsu rather than two kills it. Anything that costs three mana in Yuriko can become awkward to cast, as you'll rarely have more than three mana on your third turn. That might sound self-evident, but cEDH Yuriko lists run an atypically small amount of fast mana compared to other decks, eschewing many staple rocks. Spending three to bounce a single creature is a hefty price, and with the printing of , we have that base covered.
has good stats, temporary evasion, and a decent effect when you connect. Regardless, I don't think this body horror Ninja cuts it. Three mana - as we've discussed - is a hefty price in a deck this low to the ground, and while a effect is situationally great, there are just better things you can be doing with your mana. I'd rather put out an enabler (an evasive one-drop) and hold up mana for a counter, or spend my turn on a tutor or cheaper Ninja.
It pains me to rank what makes a commander competitively viable: card advantage and mana advantage. Card selection and the ability to cheat massive threats into play seems solid. Satoru also gets points for being Dimir, easily the best dual color combination thanks to counters, tutors, and the best wincon in the format. so poorly, because I really want to like him. As his own commander, I see real potential. He ticks two of my boxes for
Within Yuriko? I'm less sure. Three mana makes it one of the most expensive creatures the deck typically runs, and we don't have anything worth cheating in. The card advantage also feels like overkill given that if we can Ninjutsu, we're already getting cards from Yuriko triggers. Cool, but too slow and greedy for a spot in Yuriko.
Inkrise is close to brilliant, but held back by costing two and having no Ninjutsu. There was a time - prior to Modern Horizons - where this card would have been an auto-include.
Still, Inkrise has merits. While it won't work as a turn one enabler, is one of the best "Ninjas" in the deck, and this is the same card despite costing twice the mana. It raises the question of just how much a single mana is worth, and if one extra colorless takes a Changeling Outcast from being fantastic to fringe.
Inkrise also gets points for having the most beautiful showcase art. Look at those colors. For the first time ever, has competition.
is much better than its rodent counterpart, . Unlike the Ambusher, Prowler rewards you with a spell effect for paying its Ninjutsu cost, and it's surprisingly relevant. I've outlined my thoughts on lifelink for Yuriko, but deathtouch is another story.
Prowler allows any of your Ninjas to trade up and kill something your opponent thought was safe. If your opponents know you have Prowler (let's say you revealed it from a Yuriko trigger), it can even work as a psychological deterrent. At 3/1, the stats aren't incredible, but they could be worse.
Not everyone is as hot on as I am. In a deck that eschews all but the leanest mana rocks - truly, many cEDH Yuriko lists don't run - this doesn't look great. Yuriko isn't exactly an artifact deck. However...
Pairing one of Yuriko's artifact-enablers - , , - with Covert Technician can create an efficient loop where each successive trigger can place the same creature into play. This won't come up often, but I've found it powerful when it has.
CEDH Yuriko decks are also happy to cheat stax effects, like , , and , into play. Putting them into play with Technician is especially sneaky, as your opponents won't be given a chance to respond to their entry. is another solid target, along with for high-power decks.
Admittedly, a great deal of Yuriko's staple artifacts are 0-drops. Why would you want to cheat a free spell into play? Because this is cEDH. There might be a on the field. A . A that makes your rocks awkward, or a that stops you from playing more than one noncreature a turn. In short, putting cards into play for free is often better than casting them.
And when you don't have an artifact in hand? Covert Technician is still a 2/4, the fattest Ninja in her mana class. There are few creatures in cEDH that Covert can't swing into safely, and many that it kills. I see more potential in than most, and I'm likely skewed by some very promising test games, but I encourage you to at least try her.
It took me playing with for the first time to see how useful he was. Reminiscent of from Betrayers of Kamigawa, has a few distinct advantages. Firstly, a cheaper Ninjutsu cost. As I keep repeating, the difference between two and three mana is night and day. Secondly, it doesn't have a "nonblack" clause. Nonblack is a common condition for black removal, but it's a crippling one in a format dominated by cards like , , and .
While discarding a creature is a downside and adds a real cost to Dokuchi's effect, it plays nicely with cards like and if that's your jam. Even without that synergy, I've been quite happy to pitch enablers and even other Ninjas I would have discarded to hand size anyway. If you can make Dokuchi unblockable and draw enough cards, nothing on the board is safe.
Unfortunately, when you can't connect with Dokuchi, he's a middling beater at only 2/1. This is a real feast or famine card that can maintain tempo and board control while you're ahead, but underwhelm when you're playing from behind.
One of just two Ninjas with a cheaper casting cost than Ninjutsu cost, Nashi is interesting, to say the least. Paying life for card and mana advantage is a cEDH-style effect, and in a deck designed to make creatures connect, the hoop you have to jump through is an easy one. However, a lack of evasion and a Ninjutsu of four makes Nashi pricey. It all comes down to the payoff.
I see two options with Nashi. You can play him straight as another card in the 99 in the hope of getting at least one great hit from four different decks. As an old player, I know just how powerful four cards from four opponents can be. But I also know how unlucky you can get. Nashi is also restricted by only getting one of those cards, and needing it to be castable this turn. A counter is useless.
Alternatively, you can build around Nashi, which strikes me as much better. He already pairs nicely with Yuriko's many topdeck tutors, particularly . If you decide to lean into him as a secondary combo piece, you can even include something like . Sure, you'll pay twelve life, but if you can't win with one card shy of your whole deck in your hand, you've got bigger problems.
I'm still a little concerned about Nashi's cost, but there's a lot of potential for the right build here.
Just like Covert, I think more highly of than my esteemed colleagues in the Yuriko community do. Lord effects aren't that good, they say. Ninjutsu for UB is awkward, they say. Your Ninjas won't be unblockable with , they say. The Ninjutsu discount is insignificant, they say!
Well, those are all fair points based on conventional cEDH wisdom. But I counter that lord effects are actually perfect in one of the few cEDH decks that can point to burn as a viable strategy. Other than giving a minor improvement to our total damage, additional power allows Yuriko to swing into a or a or a . It lets your 2/x Ninjas trade up into staples like and . It's even a pseudo-combat trick, as your opponent can make blocks they think are profitable or equal, only for the sewer rodent to turn the tables.
It also provides a sizeable discount to Ninjutsu costs. Admittedly, many of the deck's best Ninjas either require one or multiple colored pips, in which case Silver-Fur Master doesn't help. But especially with the new ninjas, there are now at least six powerful ninjas that will get a discount, and as I keep reiterating, the difference of a single mana is make or break in Yuriko, not to mention cEDH in general.
As for the tension with Tetsuko, there's no denying it. However, neither card is typically tutored for, and it is only a mild "non-bo" (the opposite of a "combo"). Yuriko draws so many cards that a single non-bo is no trouble.
has always been a solid option for Yuriko decks. Flipping for four, Ninjutsuing for two and drawing one card, it's simple but reliable. is like Deep Hours' little brother. Less beefy, and the draw turns into a looting effect the turn after you play him, but he only costs U instead of 1U. The difference is impressive. Yuriko is nothing if not starved for mana, and in testing, Moon-Circuit Hacker has often felt like a better version of Deep Hours', not a worse one.
Like , Hacker's discard can even be a boon with creatures you want to discard, or helping to pay for 's Delve cost.
This is the eye of the tiger. When I first saw one or more , it felt a lot like seeing . At first, my jaw dropped. It quickly shut again when I realized that it was "whenever " Ninjas deal combat damage. Really? Only one trigger? It started descending slowly again as I reread the card, and remembered that this is a four-player format. That's three Treasures per turn?
Frankly, even if it was just one Treasure per turn, I'd still play . Particularly when you cast it early, you may only hit one player, which - surprisingly - feels fine. It's the same Ninjutsu as , and sometimes one more mana is better than one more card.
Thief gets particularly crazy with common clone effects, like , , and the best Ninja from the set. Which brings us to...
If you could only include a single Ninja from Neon Dynasty in your Yuriko list, it should be . This card is a contender for the best enabler in the deck (likely tied with ). You could remove flying from this creature and I would still play it. You could remove the Ninjutsu and I would still play it.
Yuriko lists are already happy to run cards like and just because they're Ninjas with evasion. Most lists even run , which is just a vanilla Ninja. Thousand-Faced Shadow is better than any of these.
Now, at four mana, the Ninjutsu cost is over the soft threshold of three I recommend avoiding. But Thousand-Faced Shadow is an exception because the Ninjutsu only icing; you need never activate it for TFS to be playable. And when you do? It's a surprisingly strong payoff. Getting a second copy of , , or into play and swinging can't be underestimated. In testing, I'm amazed how often I'm willing to pay the four. This card will be played in Yuriko until the end of time, or Magic, whichever comes first.
With so many options and increasingly divergent paths to take Yuriko in, it'll be some time before consensus develops on Neon Dynasty's Ninjas. There's so much to try out, so many synergies to experiment with and a lot of flat out great cards to hold everything together. For the next few months, this is where I'm at:
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out my Comprehending Competitive series here on Commander's Herald. Special thanks to fellow Australian cEDH player and Yuriko expert, Strix.