Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Ninjas and Ninjutsu in Magic
Ninjas are a relatively rare clan, containing only a few dozen members as of this writing. However, they're a powerful lot specializing in the ninjutsu ability, letting you return an unblocked attacker you control to the hand to cast a ninja from your hand in its place (often at a reduced cost).
Plus, while their battle stats aren't great, ninjas offer many direct-damage effects, rewarding you for bypassing blockers. They favor the blue and black factions, but which shinobi deserve your attention? These are the ten best ninjas in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Overt Operative
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4
Like other gray-bordered cards, Operative belongs to one of the semi-official "Un" sets, meaning she's not allowed in several formats. Additionally, her 2/3 stats aren't great for a four-cost creature.
However, she compensates with menace, letting only two or more creatures block her, and the ability to assemble a contraption when she lands combat damage. Menace helps her score direct hits, and you can make her even harder to block by applying traits like protection, flying, or shadow.
9. Ninja of the Deep Hours
2/2 doesn't impress on a four-cost creature, but you'll likely field Hours using his alternative ninjutsu cost. By returning an unblocked attacker you control to your hand, you can pay two mana to cast Hours tapped and attacking, and at this point, it's too late for your opponent to declare blockers, meaning Hours will directly attack.
Additionally, whenever he inflicts combat damage, you can draw a card. A useful effect, but after his initial surprise attack, you'll probably need to grant Hours blocker-hindering traits to let him slip through undeterred.
8. Okiba-Gang Shinobi
Again, a rather expensive card for a 3/2 warrior, even considering the slightly-lower ninjutsu cost of four. However, when Shinobi lands combat damage on an opponent, they must discard two cards!
This quickly limits their plays, and landing the initial activation should be easy with ninjutsu. From there, look for openings or use special traits to help reapply Shinobi's penalty.
7. Mistblade Shinobi
Mistblade is particularly weak even for a ninja, carrying just 1/1, but you can cast him for a single mana with his ninjutsu effect. Then, when he scores direct damage, you can bounce an opponent's creature back to their hand, a great removal that can even bypass indestructible.
After that, Mistblade's low strength makes him vulnerable in combat on subsequent turns. But if you can grant him ways to slip by, he'll repeatedly force your opponents to recast their monsters, drastically stalling their efforts.
Skullsnatcher bears a fair 2/1, especially since you'll likely field him with his single-cost ninjutsu. When he inflicts direct damage against a player, you can exile up to two cards from their graveyard. This makes it much harder for them to revive their aces or utilize flashback abilities, and it's particularly effective against graveyard-reliant structures (like zombie decks).
5. Higure, the Still Wind
3/4 is actually pretty decent considering Higure's ninjutsu cost of four, and when this legendary assassin lands combat damage on an opponent, you can add a ninja from your deck to your hand. Additionally, Higure can spend two mana of any color to make a ninja unblockable that turn, an excellent way to guarantee the effects of himself or shinobi allies.
4. Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
This legendary rat ninja has surprisingly strong 5/4 stats, especially with his reduced ninjutsu price of five. But more importantly, when he deals combat damage to a player, you can summon a creature from their graveyard for free!
Use this to continuously seize command of your rivals' best aces. As icing on the caking, Ink-Eyes can regenerate himself by spending two mana, helping him survive would-be death blows.
3. Silent-Blade Oni
At seven mana, Silent-Blade is the most expensive card on today's list, and he still costs six even with ninjutsu. However, he compensates with impressive 6/5 stats and both demon and ninja synergies, comboing well with several clans.
Better still, when he inflicts combat damage to a player, you can look at that player's hand and cast a non-land card they have for free! Not only does this pilfer opposing spells, it reveals their hand, granting you knowledge of their upcoming plays.
Useful for his numerous supports, impressive stats, and brutal effect, Silent-Blade has won me several games and is surprisingly affordable, costing less than a single dollar.
2. Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
Yuriko offers an excellent commander for EDH ninja decks, but she also works fine as a standard main deck entry. While she only 1/3 stats, her "commander ninjutsu" lets you cast her from your hand or command zone for just two mana (by returning an unblocked attacker you control to the hand, just like regular ninjutsu).
Unlike other commanders, who need increasing mana values to recast, this price never increases, meaning it's not a big setback if Yuriko dies. Still, as long as she's out, whenever a ninja you control (including herself) deals combat damage, you draw and reveal a card, having opponents lose life equal to its CMC. This both replenishes your hand and saps health from foes, and since it works with all ninjas, you can potentially trigger it multiple times each round.
1. Sakashima's Student
Student's ninjutsu halves his price, offering an unusually large yet appreciated discount. Don't worry about his 0/0 stats; when he arrives, he can copy any other creature, adding ninja in addition to its regular types.
This not only replicates but improves upon the unit by maintaining ninja synergies, letting you mimic the field's strongest creature for just two mana. Just make sure not to copy your own legendary creatures (else you'd have to sacrifice one), but opposing legendaries make great targets.
Supporting Ninja Decks in Magic
Remember, to help your ninjas activate their direct-damage abilities, utilize hard-to-block traits like shadow, menace, and flying, reducing the number of valid defenders. Try applying these with auras, equipments, and sorceries, ensuring foes can't guard your assaults.
For such a small group, ninjas contain a surprising amount of elite warriors, and I look forwarding to seeing their ranks expand in future sets. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next batch of powerful shinobi, vote for your favorite card, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill
frikifecto on April 27, 2020:
2nd Silent Shinobi.
3rd Ninja of the Deep Hours.
Of course, if you don't use black in your deck, Deep Hours is the only option (yes, there are some decks like that) but in a U/B deck the top is this. These three are above all other ninjas, because the others' ninjutsu costs and/or for having a less powerful effects, whiches you could obtain easily and in a cheap way with instants (blue, you know).
We must remember that ninjutsu has a cost and a very concrete condition to activate it, which is having an unblocked attacking creature.
For doing a Ninja deck these three are the only who has to be considered, and the rest being creatures with small cost and evasion. Some faeries would be fine, among others.
Will on April 22, 2020:
i think that Okiba-Gang Shinobi is a great card for its discard affect i mean you're potentially making an opponent get rid of dangerous cards that you dont want them to play