Greetings Travelers! Welcome to another edition of Barely Budget Brews, a series that takes on the challenge of brewing up the best possible Commander deck under $100. Commander is a passion of mine but unfortunately my wallet has a hard time keeping up with my passion. Let’s search far and wide for the biggest bang for our buck while still being competitive.
When you think of an aggro deck, a couple of colors that come to mind are definitely NOT blue and black. They have been fine complementary colors to an aggro strategy before, but not as the only 2 colors featured in the deck. Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow offers an unique take on aggro strategy while still maintaining the trickery Dimir has to offer.
Yuriko has a creature type that is not really all that supported in the current card database. Ninjas were featured during the Betrayers of Kamigawa block and have not really made an appearance since. They have popped up in a couple special sets including Planechase and Commander 2017.
One unique aspect of this commander is the very cheap cost to enter play. Commander ninjitsu gets around the commander tax which makes Yuriko accessible all game.
- Always costs 2 as long as you have an unblocked attacker
- Generates a ton of card advantage
- Always threatening large life loss to all opponents
- Ninjitsu is inherently negative tempo
- Creatures must attack to get full value
- Will be open to counter attacks
Strategy and Decklist
The ninjutsu mechanic cares about having an unblocked creature, and replacing the attacker with the Ninja in its place. The advantage to this is most of the Ninjas have combat damage triggers, and it gets them into play whilst dodging counter magic. We need to pack the deck with evasive creatures in order have consistent ninjutsu opportunities, the cheaper the better.
Yuriko’s triggered ability says, “Whenever a Ninja you control deals combat damage to a player, reveal the top card of your library and put that card into your hand. Each opponent loses life equal to that card’s converted mana cost.” We can go about this two different ways. One way is that we can build the deck normally, be happy with the card advantage, and have the opponents lose whatever life they lose. Another way to approach this is put over costed spells in the deck for HUGE life loss. So yeah, definitely doing that.
Since there are very few Ninjas to choose from (none of which we are using) we need a way to manipulate creatures types. We could have turns were we flip 5+ cards if we can manage to turn everything into Ninjas.
Well we are $.42 over. Close enough! There are opportunities to trim a few bucks here and there. You could rebuild non creatures spells to more resemble a tempo deck. A few of the cards are clocking in are 6+ dollars but offer a huge advantage to your strategy.
Wait a minute! No ninja in a deck that cares about ninjas doing combat damage?!?! Let’s see how a ninjaless ninja deck works.
The hands down best way to make sure we can ensure ninjitsu early and often is unblockable creatures. We are aiming to keep hands with at least 1 creatures to get Yuriko’s engine going ASAP. Besides just unblockable we can also use value evasive creatures that we can bounce later for added value or get some chip damage.
A perceived downside to all these little creatures is they have very little power. While this is largely irrelevant to our strategy, it can be an issue with facing down much larger creatures. None of our creatures trade particularly well in combat, so picking your spots of when to attack or defend will be fun little exercise in board evaluation.
Since Yuriko’s ability cares about the converted mana cost of the revealed cards, we are including high CMC but also very functional spells. Some of these spells are split cards, the Delve mechanic, and hybrid casting cost cards.
Split cards are multi functional spells that usually have 2 modes you can choose from. The rule now states that split cards CMC are the total of both spells. This means that Commit / Memory is now a 10 CMC spell. See the rules text below regarding split cards CMC.
Cards with Delve usually have a very high casting cost. This mechanic allows you to help pay the cost of the spell by exiling cards from your graveyard. Hybrid mana spells like Beseech the Queen let you pay either a single B or 2 of any color 3 different times. For example you can pay (B)(B)(2) or (2)(2)(2). No matter how you intend to cast the card, the printed CMC is 6.
Creature Type Manipulation
Now that we have the army of evasive creatures and high cost spells to flip, we need to address the elephant in the room. We have no ninjas besides Yuriko. In order to make our army ninjas we are including a suite of enchantments that change the creature type of our creature into ninjas. It’s important to never run 2 of these out at a time, and try to have another ready when the first one gets destroyed.
Transmute is a mechanic from Ravnica: City of Guilds that allows you to pay an alternate mana cost and search for a card in your library for a card same CMC. This allows us to tutor on the cheap for the creature altering enchantments or whatever answer we need at the time. Muddle the Mixture and Dimir Infiltrator gives us a 2nd and 3rd copy of Unnatural Selection while Perplex gives us a 2nd copy of Arcane Adaptation. Having redundancy for these important enchantments is key to winning, and being able to fish them right out of the deck is back breaking for your opponent. Sometimes we even just get to cast for card for added versatility.
Notable Non Budget Upgrades
The overall power of Cyclonic Rift is hard to ignore. That single Rift can win the game out of nowhere, regardless of the board state. Any tutor that put the card on the top of the library can be great response to a Yuriko trigger. Jace, the Mind Sculptor‘s brainstorm ability can give you the ability to keep flipping high CMC cards getting stuck in your hand. Extra turns and Yuriko go together like peanut butter and jelly. Temporal Mastery and Temporal Trespass can get you there without always having to pay the huge mana cost. If you can manage to string a few turns together then it is not very likely your opponents will survive to take another turn themselves. Any sort of tutors that put the card on top of your library is invaluable since you can respond to Yuriko’s trigger. Cards like Mystical Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, or Long-Term Plans can help you out there.
Tips and Tricks
- Cast Insidious Dream in response to a large amount of Yuriko triggers. Fishing out your highest cost spells could be 25+ damage to all opponents.
- Sometimes Inkfathom Witch kills are the best way to go. Turning all your creatures into 4/1 is large chunks of combat damage on top of potential triggers.
- You only need to hit 1 person in order to start firing off Yuriko triggers. Do not spread your attention. Focus on keeping 1 board as clear as possible for your creatures to connect.
Identifying and understanding your role from game to game is important. Sometimes you are aggro and sometimes you are a combo deck. You strike when and where it is least expected, just like a ninja. I highly encourage you to take the deck for a spin and tell me what you think. Sharing ideas and giving advice is the spirit of EDH and why Magic: the Gathering is such a wonderful community to be a part of. Until next time!
Chris Johnson, better known as Destructo, has been in the game for over 20 years. A simple man with tastes spanning every format but who’s true love is Commander. He has always focused on the “gathering” aspect of Magic: the Gathering. You can always find him knee deep in a multiplayer game, brainstorming some fresh budget brews, or just talking shop about the game he loves.