As a long time fan of the Kamigawa block, I knew that in the lead up to Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty I wanted to really put a spotlight on the plane. My connection is admittedly based in nostalgia, but the block came along at the right time in my life that it made an extremely strong impact. This is the final installment of a five-part series, following my look at Toshiro Umezawa, Fumiko the Lowblood, Seshiro the Anointed, and Kataki, War’s Wage in the previous weeks.

Knowing that Toshiro Umezawa was going to be the featured commander representing black, it was impossible not to have blue spotlighting the ninja of Kamigawa, lead by Higure, the Still Wind. Second only to samurai in my personal ranking of the Kamigawa classes, ninja are undeniably connected to Kamigawa and easily the most anticipated part of any visit to the plane for the general public. Oddly, ninja only appeared in Betrayers of Kamigawa during our original visit to the plane. This was a baffling move in hindsight, but reminds me of Wizards’ choice to not include the Ally creature type in Rise of the Eldrazi or transform cards in Avacyn Restored. Like in those cases, the designers may have been worried that players might not care for ninja and opted to play it safe.

In my opinion, ninjutsu was an awesome mechanic that was easy to follow, provided you understood enough about how the game tracks objects and by extension, the interactions ninja have with auras, counters, and equipment. The tribe was so evocative, that they have returned several times in small groups to unanimous praise. Ninjustu is rightfully returning in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty and I couldn’t be happier.

This week, we’ll be taking lessons from past decks that I have built, ironically centering around Kamigawa legends, to shape the core of this deck’s strategy. We want to make use of unblockable creatures at all stages of the game, use equipment to protect our general, and transition into an end game that looks more like a White Weenie deck than the Voltron strategy our opponents may be expecting. In true ninja style, we will work covertly and use deception to wage some irregular combat.

Commander: Higure, the Still Wind

Creatures: Drift of Phantasms, Escape Artist, Faerie Seer, Flying Men, Grand Architect, Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar, Gudul Lurker, Invisible Stalker, Lantern Bearer, Metathran Soldier, Mist-Cloaked Herald, Mist-Syndicate Naga, Mulldrifter, Ninja of the Deep Hours, Phantom Ninja, Signal Pest, Slither Blade, Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive, Tidal Barracuda, Tribute Mage, Trinket Mage, Trophy Mage, Walker of Secret Ways

Artifacts: Blackblade Reforged, Bone Saw, Bonesplitter, Butcher’s Cleaver, Caged Sun, Fireshrieker, Forebear’s Blade, Gilded Lotus, Grappling Hook, Heraldic Banner, Hero’s Blade, Kefnet’s Monument, O-Naginata, Ronin Warclub, Sai of the Shinobi, Sapphire Medallion, Scytheclaw, Sky Diamond, Sol Ring, Stormrider Rig, Thran Dynamo, Vedalken Orrery, Winged Boots, Worn Powerstone

Enchantments: Awesome Presence, Coastal Piracy, Cunning Evasion, Lay Claim, Reconnaissance Mission, Rune of Flight, Smoke Shroud

Instants: Counterspell, Grip of Phyresis, Mystical Dispute, Muddle the Mixture, Rewind, Swan Song

Sorceries: Fabricate, Part the Waterveil

Lands: 29 Island, Ash Barrens, Command Beacon, Field of Ruin, Ghost Quarter, Halimar Depths, Isolated Watchtower, Tolaria West, Warped Landscape

Lessons from the Past

Early in the construction of this deck, I made the decision that I wanted to aim for something akin to a “soft-Voltron” strategy: protecting our general, with the possibility of winning through commander damage, but not having it be the main win condition. This idea came from my experience building Isao, Enlightened Bushi in a similar way. Isao was a formidable threat, suiting up and then regenerating at their leisure, but Surrak, the Hunt Caller and Multani, Maro-Sorcerer could also pick up equipment and take out an opponent.

For Higure, we are keying in on his unblockable ability the most; because while the context will change immensely after Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, there is not a lot of use for Higure’s tutor ability to get more ninja at this time. In an ideal world, Higure is coming into play and sneaking back to our hand to get a different “saboteur” effect—a combat damage trigger—from our other ninja when the time is right. We should only expect to cast him from the command zone once or twice, since he likely won’t die in combat.

Supported by Tribute Mage, Trinket Mage, and Trophy Mage, the cheap equipment like Bone Saw, Bonesplitter, O-Naginata, and Winged Boots can really shine in this deck, because we don’t need to spend a lot of mana equipping attackers. And ninjutsu decks especially love equipment like Hero’s Blade, Ronin Warclub, Sai of the Shinobi, and Stormrider Rig, because the equipment will see our creatures come into play and attach themselves for free.

Plus we will be employing cheap auras Awesome Presence, Rune of Flight, and Smoke Shroud to help round out our buffs. Awesome Presence has been a long time pet card of mine, as the name is unmatched and the effect grants “pseudo-unblockable”, because most players will not invest three mana to block with a single creature unless it’s game-ending for them. Smoke Shroud is a staple card for any deck featuring ninja, because the recursive nature of the aura is great and flying is appreciated.

Setting Up to Strike

Similarly to Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow, we’re going to want to have a whole host of small creatures that cannot be blocked, as ninjutsu fodder once Higure is online. The below package of creatures is going to be important, not only for allowing us to effectively ninjutsu creatures out, but also as methods of constant pressure on the rest of the table.

Unblockable Creatures: Escape Artist, Faerie Seer, Flying Men, Gudul Lurker, Invisible Stalker, Lantern Bearer, Metathran Soldier, Mist-Cloak Herald, Phantom Ninja, Signal Pest, Slither Blade, Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive

Unlike Yuriko, we do not have the benefit of commander ninjutsu, so returning Higure to our hand with Cunning Evasion and Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar is going to be especially important. Which is why Drift of Phantasms and Muddle the Mixture are in the deck not only to find these on board combat tricks, but also a large swath of the equipment we’re using. This combination of small attackers and combat protection should mean we have ample chances to still sneak Higure in and out of play on the regular.

Having these small creatures also feeds into a mental game I want to play with the rest of the table, leading keen players to believe that I don’t know what I am doing, since regular ninjutsu doesn’t interact like commander ninjutsu. This should lower our profile enough to allow us to survive and not be the first player or two out of the game.

A March to the Finish

Lastly, we take advantage of constructing a deck around a pile of creatures that cannot be blocked. When it comes time to start closing out the game, we can simply buff all of our creatures and swarm whichever opponents need to be handled. Vedalken Orrery and Tidal Barracuda allow us to sneak in our low cost creatures just before our turn. Caged Sun, Grand Architect, and Heraldic Banner can all passively bolster our creatures. While not the same, I see these buffs in the same light as Wildblood Pack in my Tovolar, Dire Overlord deck, frequently turning three damage into twelve. Add in Blackblade Reforged or Scytheclaw and we don’t need to connect too many times to defeat our last opponent standing.

My hope is that by balancing on the middle ground of a Voltron and go-wide strategy, we should be able to adapt to whichever line of play we need to to best handle the opponents in any given game. Luckily our general can single-handedly attack if need be, knowing that we have the counter magic and proper threat assessment to back us up.

Closing Thoughts

Dedicating my last five articles to highlighting Kamigawa has been a labor of love, to say the least. I am excited and hopeful for what Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty can bring to the table, and I hope that it wins over enough of the audience that we will not have to wait another 20 years for another visit to the plane. While I will hold judgment on the decisions made to transition to a cyberpunk setting, I will say that I loved the more traditional setting of Kamigawa, thousands of years in the Magic multiverse’s past. It was a starkly different plane during that first trip, rich with this tapestry of humans, spirits, samurai, and shrines. For the time, it was outside of the traditional idea for a fantasy game’s setting and, while I am by no means an authority on the topic, I felt like it respected the ideals of the culture it was inspired by.

I’m looking forward to talking about the new cards that will be coming out any day now and my only regret is that we will only have a few months with this set before we must move on to Magic’s next plane. But I really hope to make the best of it with the time we have. Thanks for reading.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH and the EDH community. He has been playing Magic: the Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.

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