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Thread: Retro Ninjas

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    Retro Ninjas



    Greetings fellow sourcers!

    This is a short primer for the relatively recent Ninja archetype that emerged from the Modern Horizons set. The advent of Ingenious Infiltrator and Changeling Outcast gave Ninjas the missing pieces to become a full-fledged deck. Ornithopter being the traditional cost-efficient way to drop ninjas onto the battlefield now has a worthy complement in the form of Outcast given the tribal aspect of the UB ninjas. Now that the ninjas and enablers are present, the deck can flourish.

    Some brilliant mind figured out that Retrofitter Foundry patched nearly every hole in the strategy by virtue of turning puny enablers into intimidating constructs. When the ninja plan fails, you can now count on Foundry to give you Delver-esque aggressive board presence along with a steady stream of tokens against more control-oriented decks.

    Ninja synergy core:

    4 Ornithopter
    4 Changeling Outcast
    4 Ingenious Infiltrator
    3-4 Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
    3-4 Retrofitter Foundry

    4 copies of Ornithopter and Outcast being the ideal setup for a T2 Ninja as it can net you 2 draws on T2 via a combination of both cards on T1. When 8 enablers isn't enough, 0-4 copies of Mothdust Changeling and/or Baleful Strix are commonly played. Mostdust is a worse version of Outcast while Strix is the slower, more value-oriented and standalone good card to complement your enabler suite by virtue of being inherently evasive, stalls the board when mounting a lead, and can see its draw ability bought back by a ninjutsu bounce. 3 copies of Yuriko is standard as most avoid the 4th copy because of its Legendary status. 3-4 copies of Foundry is reasonable given the slow nature of the card in multiples. However, the fact that it is both good early, late, and in multiples makes it a common 4-of.

    Mandatory cantrip core:

    4 Brainstorm
    4 Ponder

    Brainstorm is a no-brainer in Legacy but has added value as a damage output when combined with Yuriko triggers in order to put back high CMC cards on top of the deck. Having a healthy amount of manipulation available also helps assemble the right pieces for this engine deck with approximately 8-12 enablers and 10-12 payoff cards.

    The rest of the cards tend to be aimed at disrupting the opponent. Here is a list of the most common pieces of disruption with their relative amount of copies.

    Force of Will is likely the best piece of disruption available to this deck. It allows the draw engine to be enabled by countering timely removal, prevents it from falling behind by countering a win condition, and allows us to keep our lead by converting extra cards into free counterspells. It's high CMC is a welcomed bonus when trying to quickly close out a game with Yuriko.

    Force of Negation is the next best thing after FoW for all the same reasons, just a little less versatile. Some added perks of FoN is the fact that it is more easily cast by taping lands and the exile clause is non-negligible when countering common engine cards such as Past in Flames, Life from the Loam, and Punishing Fire. 2-3 copies between the main and side

    Daze is a great card to have on the play against removal spells when backing up T1 enablers + T2 Ninja plays. It works great as a surprise element but tends to fall off quickly given non-aggressive starts and our lack of mana denial. Most lists will play between 0-4 copies in the main.

    Thoughtseize can be a strong complement to a counterspell suite in a combo-heavy metagame. It is a useful tool against removal spells when trying to setup a ninja against a wary opponent. It makes a great complement to a T1 Thopter play. Given the tempo-negative nature of the card, additional Daze and FoN copies are usually preffered. However, TS still sees play as a 0-3-of between the main and side.

    Fatal Push is the removal of choice against any aggressive deck. Most decks pack between 2-4 copies in the main.

    Murderous Cut can destroy any creature that Fatal Push cannot. It is mostly played for it's high CMC on a Yuriko trigger. Playing more than 1 copy opens you to the liability of not having enough cards in your graveyard to cast multiple copies.

    Dismember is the middle ground between the pros and cons of Push and Cut. It has a higher CMC than Push for Yuriko triggers, can be cast for 1 mana at the cost of some life points, and tends to hit the same targets that Cut can hit over Push (Hooting Mandrill, Gurmag Angler, Reality Smasher). Even though the cost is more flexible than Cut, playing more than 1-2 copies can become heavy on the life loss.

    Drown in the Loch tends to be both a hard counterspell and a hard removal spell at a solid CMC of 2. This card is a little more niche but offers a lot of flexibility. Most decks play between 0-2 copies given the clunky nature of CMC2 reactive spells.

    Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft offers some unique disruption to the UB color combination as it is one of the few ways to profitably interact with non-creature permanents such as Chalice of the Void and Ensnaring Bridge for instance. It can be used as a tempo setback on creatures without incurring any card disadvantage and can even be recycled by bouncing it via ninjutsu. This card is a must against Marrit Lage decks.

    Here are a few 5-0 League decklists:

    Standard UB

    3 Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
    3 Changeling Outcast
    4 Ornithopter
    4 Ingenious Infiltrator
    4 Baleful Strix
    4 Retrofitter Foundry
    1 Murderous Cut
    2 Daze
    3 Fatal Push
    4 Force of Will
    4 Brainstorm
    2 Thoughtseize
    4 Ponder
    1 Misty Rainforest
    1 Underground Sea
    1 Bloodstained Mire
    2 Swamp
    4 Prismatic Vista
    4 Polluted Delta
    5 Island
    Sideboard
    1 Karakas
    2 Back to Basics
    2 Force of Negation
    2 Submerge
    2 Plague Engineer
    2 Liliana, the Last Hope
    4 Leyline of the Void


    Green splash for Oko and Decay by MomsBasementStreams

    3 Oko, Thief of Crowns
    2 Baleful Strix
    1 Brazen Borrower
    4 Changeling Outcast
    4 Ingenious Infiltrator
    4 Ornithopter
    3 Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
    4 Ponder
    2 Abrupt Decay
    4 Brainstorm
    3 Fatal Push
    4 Force of Will
    4 Retrofitter Foundry
    1 Bayou
    3 Misty Rainforest
    4 Polluted Delta
    2 Snow-Covered Island
    2 Snow-Covered Swamp
    2 Tropical Island
    2 Underground Sea
    2 Verdant Catacombs
    Sideboard
    1 Assassin's Trophy
    3 Force of Negation
    2 Grafdigger's Cage
    3 Plague Engineer
    3 Surgical Extraction
    3 Thoughtseize


    Red splash for Arcanist and SB options by Itou Minoru. Definitely more on the fringe side.

    1 Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast
    4 Changeling Outcast
    3 Dreadhorde Arcanist
    4 Ingenious Infiltrator
    4 Ornithopter
    3 Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
    4 Ponder
    1 Preordain
    4 Brainstorm
    3 Fatal Push
    3 Force of Negation
    4 Force of Will
    4 Retrofitter Foundry
    1 Badlands
    2 Bloodstained Mire
    2 Island
    4 Polluted Delta
    1 Prismatic Vista
    2 Scalding Tarn
    2 Swamp
    2 Underground Sea
    2 Volcanic Island
    Sideboard
    2 Abrade
    2 Grafdigger's Cage
    1 Liliana, the Last Hope
    2 Plague Engineer
    2 Pyroblast
    1 Red Elemental Blast
    2 Soul-Guide Lantern
    2 Submerge
    1 Tormod's Crypt
    Last edited by Qweerios; 11-15-2020 at 11:21 AM.
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    Do you know what assuming does? It makes an ass out of you and me.
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    ... ffs I was trying to be funny...

  3. #3

    Re: Retro Ninjas

    Force of Negation is only "free" on your opponent’s turn. This deck needs it's counter magic to be free during your turn (In large part due to your combat tricks). So some lists use Misdirection instead.
    I haven't seen Cauldron in ninjas yet, but it seems like a fun-of that has decent synergy with the deck. It hits your opponent for 12 with Yuriko, and it gets your ornithopters and outcasts back after you've sac'd them to retrofitter.

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    Re: Retro Ninjas

    Quote Originally Posted by Dewm View Post
    Force of Negation is only "free" on your opponent’s turn. This deck needs it's counter magic to be free during your turn (In large part due to your combat tricks). So some lists use Misdirection instead.
    I haven't seen Cauldron in ninjas yet, but it seems like a fun-of that has decent synergy with the deck. It hits your opponent for 12 with Yuriko, and it gets your ornithopters and outcasts back after you've sac'd them to retrofitter.
    It is true that FoN's biggest drawback is not being able to counter removal during your attack step. However, the strongest point in favor of FoN is that it costs no mana if you throw away an extra card, something that this deck tends to produce naturally. Using a hard counter on a removal spell is not something I commonly do simply because it tends to be a bad choice in the long run. FoN is crucial when playing against Chalice, Oko, and Combo decks in general. Hard counters are limited and it is often easier to reset the engine than to deal with a haymaker. Ninjas cannot prolong Daze's lifespan like Delver decks and tends to have more disposable cards to support FoN anyway.

    I haven't seen many successful lists playing Misdirection to be honest. It sounds fine in theory but is only playable when an opponent uses a removal spell and has a target to receive it, or in a counterwar. Both scenarios are all too uncommon compared to the flexibility that FoN, Daze, and even Thoughtseize provide.
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    Re: Retro Ninjas

    Three cards I didn't see mentioned :

    Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
    There's no room for it in Sultai Ninjas obviously but in Dimir Ninjas it can easily take the spot of a Swamp.
    I think the added benefit of letting you tap your Deltas and Vistas for B and crack them at an opportune time outweighs the risk of it being taken out by a Wasteland.

    Liliana, Heretical Healer / Liliana, Defiant Necromancer
    This is the perfect card to pull the 4/4 Construct strategy over the top and turn it into a fleshed out second strategy.
    Liliana triggers immediately off an Ornithopter or Outcast being sacced for a construct.

    As a Planeswalker she can put Ornithopters back in play from the GY for ZERO loyalty, thus creating a steady flow of 4/4 constructs turn after turn.
    Her discard ability is also usefull as we usually have plenty ( or too much ) of cards in hand and our creatures can easily be taken back in hand later, hurting the opponent more than us.

    Snapcaster Mage
    Maybe he doesn't fit but I like to look at him as my fifth FoW, fourth Fatal Push etc with an outside chance of being Ninjutsu'd back into your hand.

    For reference, here's my take on UB Ninja
    https://deckstats.net/decks/51702/1524813-ninja

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    Re: Retro Ninjas

    Quote Originally Posted by Borg View Post
    Three cards I didn't see mentioned :

    Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
    There's no room for it in Sultai Ninjas obviously but in Dimir Ninjas it can easily take the spot of a Swamp.
    I think the added benefit of letting you tap your Deltas and Vistas for B and crack them at an opportune time outweighs the risk of it being taken out by a Wasteland.

    Liliana, Heretical Healer / Liliana, Defiant Necromancer
    This is the perfect card to pull the 4/4 Construct strategy over the top and turn it into a fleshed out second strategy.
    Liliana triggers immediately off an Ornithopter or Outcast being sacced for a construct.

    As a Planeswalker she can put Ornithopters back in play from the GY for ZERO loyalty, thus creating a steady flow of 4/4 constructs turn after turn.
    Her discard ability is also usefull as we usually have plenty ( or too much ) of cards in hand and our creatures can easily be taken back in hand later, hurting the opponent more than us.

    Snapcaster Mage
    Maybe he doesn't fit but I like to look at him as my fifth FoW, fourth Fatal Push etc with an outside chance of being Ninjutsu'd back into your hand.

    For reference, here's my take on UB Ninja
    https://deckstats.net/decks/51702/1524813-ninja
    A basic Swamp is generally better than Urborg. One of the strengths of the deck is its high basic land count when facing Wasteland decks. Also, the deck is not very black hungry and being able to safely deploy up to 5 lands goes a long way when taking over Delver matchups. One of the few ways we lose to Delver decks is by being on the draw against any Wasteland hand.

    As for Liliana, she's the definition of win-more as far as I can tell. I am curious as to what matchup she improves.

    Snapcaster has seen play in earlier versions of Ninjas as a 1-2 of. If it had evasion it would likely see more play as it would be a reliable enabler. Given the low spell count and inclination of the deck to favor alternative cost spells over cheap disruption, Baleful Strix tends to do what Snapcaster does but better.
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  7. #7
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    Re: Retro Ninjas

    Here's a different take on Ninja with a white splash this time. This is a 1st place MTGO league placement from Klarostorix:


    2 Teferi, Time Raveler
    1 Baleful Strix
    4 Changeling Outcast
    4 Ingenious Infiltrator
    4 Ornithopter
    3 Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
    4 Ponder
    4 Brainstorm
    2 Eliminate
    2 Force of Negation
    4 Force of Will
    4 Swords to Plowshares
    4 Retrofitter Foundry
    2 Flooded Strand
    2 Island
    2 Marsh Flats
    1 Plains
    4 Polluted Delta
    1 Scrubland
    2 Swamp
    2 Tundra
    2 Underground Sea
    Sideboard
    1 Force of Negation
    2 Disenchant
    1 Fatal Push
    2 Grafdigger's Cage
    1 Kaya, Ghost Assassin
    1 Kaya, Orzhov Usurper
    1 Narset, Parter of Veils
    3 Plague Engineer
    1 Surgical Extraction
    2 Thoughtseize


    Teferi is a great card against Control in general and can generate value by bouncing Strix, Foundry (Recast for 1 instead of Untap for 3), or simply by acting as a Draw 1 by bouncing Ornithopter and replaying it for free. Teferi can also help Ninjas to connect by bouncing a Ninja on the field in order to Ninjutsu it again off an evasive creature, netting 2 cards in the process. For me, the biggest perk of Teferi is its passive ability that completely shuts down removal during Ninjutsu phase and counters Veil of Summer in general. Teferi makes hard counters like FoW, FoN and Drown definitive.

    White also provides Plowshares over Push which solves the Uro problem and can be used on Hogaak and Marrit Lage in a pinch. Plow also has the added bonus of exiling Mandrills. Another perk of playing white is Disenchant out of the board because classic UB traditionally can only bounce problematic artifacts like Chalice, Vial, Spheres, Trini, Bridge, etc. via Brazen Borrower and needed either a green or red splash to definitely deal with those cards outside of the stack. What I like about this white splash list compared to my red splash list is that it really buckles down on permanents and goes overboard with disruption vs. Combo and with grindy permanents vs. Control via the sideboard. The white splash may lose some points vs. Delver by being more vulnerable to Wasteland but it makes up for it with 4 StP and 2 Eliminate that will deal with anything thrown their way. Against Snoko decks losing Pyroblasts is a big hit but I find Teferi is amazing (even more than Oko) at controlling the pace and protecting key positions. Plowshares is also an important tool against Uro that Grixis combinations can't fight off as cleanly outside of timely GY hate or Submerge.

    On a different note, lately the 5-0 lists (except Seb Zevallos' ''Cauldron'' list) have been moving away from Daze in favor of more FoN. I have echoed that sentiment lately and perhaps we could get some discussion going on the topic. Personally I have found that Daze is extremely good in this deck against an unsuspecting opponent but can be absolutely worthless when an opponent is wary of Daze. Unlike Delver decks which apply early pressure and can backup their disruption via Wasteland, Daze has absolutely no longevity in Ninjas and only serves as Force fodder when it's been revealed off Yuriko. I always like the T2 Ninjutsu plays on the play with Daze backup but I've found that the Daze backup is only relevant sometimes and that assembling a Ninja engine in general is more reliant on a clear board than a disrupted opponent. By that I mean that I'd rather have a guaranteed FoN against an Oko that will clog the board and prevent me from getting any traction rather than a timely Daze for a safer early Ninjutsu. FoN is also much more reliable than Daze against Combo decks in general and nets some important percentage points there. My list contains 2 Daze and 1 FoN mainboard but the recent results and my play experience really pushes me toward abandoning Daze altogether for more reliable disruption like a 2nd FoN and a mainboard Brazen for instance.

    Here's my latest list for reference as I don't think I've ever shared it since COVID:

    4 Ornithopter
    4 Changeling Outcast
    3 Baleful Strix
    3 Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
    4 Ingenious Infiltrator
    1 Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft

    1 Dismember
    2 Fatal Push
    2 Drown in the Loch
    2 Force of Negation
    4 Force of Will
    4 Brainstorm
    4 Ponder

    4 Retrofitter Foundry

    4 Polluted Delta
    4 Scalding Tarn
    2 Bloodstained Mire
    2 Underground Sea
    1 Volcanic Island
    3 Island
    2 Swamp
    //SB
    2 Plague Engineer
    2 Thoughtseize
    2 Surgical Extraction
    2 Pyroblast
    1 Red Elemental Blast
    1 Abrade
    1 Cling to Dust
    1 Nihil Spellbomb
    1 Grafdigger's Cage
    1 Pithing Needle
    1 Blood Moon
    Do you know what assuming does? It makes an ass out of you and me.
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    ... ffs I was trying to be funny...

  8. #8
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    Re: Retro Ninjas

    First place with a standard UB list from EternallySurprised. He did beat Stryfo with his famous Pile in the finals. I suspect Narset had something to do with it...

    List:

    2 Fatal Push
    1 Eliminate
    2 Daze
    4 Brainstorm
    4 Ponder
    3 Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
    4 Ornithopter
    4 Ingenious Infiltrator
    4 Changeling Outcast
    1 Brazen Borrower
    1 Baleful Strix
    1 Narset, Parter of Veils
    2 Force of Negation
    4 Force of Will
    1 Murderous Cut
    4 Retrofitter Foundry
    1 Misty Rainforest
    4 Polluted Delta
    4 Prismatic Vista
    4 Snow-Covered Island
    2 Snow-Covered Swamp
    2 Underground Sea
    1 Verdant Catacombs
    Sideboard
    1 Narset, Parter of Veils
    2 Back to Basics
    1 Engineered Explosives
    2 Grafdigger's Cage
    1 Massacre
    2 Pithing Needle
    2 Plague Engineer
    2 Surgical Extraction
    2 Thoughtseize


    I am curious about his boarding plan against 4c Control decks. Personally I like to side out all my Ornits and removal but I've got red blasts to bring it. I have no doubt that the 2 Needles in Eternally's SB likely play an important role against Uro, Oko and friends. Narset + Needle shuts down a lot of the incremental value that Astrolabe piles generate. I really like the Narset tech here and the passive seems absolutely bonkers as a G1 play against a lot of decks.

    I've tested a white splash for Teferi lately and I can say with confidence that StP and Teferi are really great additions to Ninjas but Eliminate is necessary for any non-red list.
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