The 8 Best Ninja Commanders in Magic Ranked - Draftsim (2024)

The 8 Best Ninja Commanders in Magic Ranked - Draftsim (1)

Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow | Illustration by Yunnan Tao

Are you a Magic player that loves an interactive play style that keeps your opponents on their toes? Look no further than running a ninja Commander deck. With sneaky battle tactics that can make your opponents start second guessing their blocking decisions, running a ninja Commander deck makes for a thrilling match.

Let's see which commanders are up to the task of leading a ninja-themed deck.

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What Are Ninja Commanders in MTG?

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Kotose, the Silent Spider | Illustration by Marta Nael

Ninja commanders in MTG are legendary creatures with the ninja creature type, and have sneaky battle tactics that mostly relate to combat. They're either in mono-black, mono-blue, or in Dimir color identity (). The Dimir-colored ninjas are more popularly played than the mono-colored ninja commanders because of their access to removal spells in black and card draw in blue.

These ninja commanders primarily originated from the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Magic set. There’s one new ninja commander from Outlaws of Thunder Junction, two of them from Betrayers of Kamigawa, and the highest ranking ninja originating from Commander 2018.

#8. Higure, the Still Wind

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Higure, the Still Wind from Betrayers of Kamigawa is the lone mono-blue commander in this list, and it tends to be more of a useful member of the 99 because of its high mana value and lack of ninja creature support in mono-blue. However, if you want to try this ninja out as a commander, you can add Arcane Adaptation or Maskwood Nexus for creature type fixing. There are only 15 other mono-blue ninja cards, and you’re going to need more than that to make use of Higure's triggered ability constantly.

#7. Kotose, the Silent Spider

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While an okay Commander for exiling a problem card from someone’s graveyard and casting it as long as it's in exile, Kotose, the Silent Spider isn’t as effective in this singleton format as it is in other formats. You actually get more value running it in Standard, Explorer, Historic, or other formats that allows up to four copies of a valid card in the deck.

You can get more value with Kotose, the Silent Spider as your Commander if you have blink effects so you can continually bring this Dimir commander back to the battlefield and exile a new card from an opponent’s graveyard. Blink effects like Conjurer's Closet and Thassa, Deep-Dwelling can give you continued value by controlling what stays and goes in your opponent’s graveyard.

#6. Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni

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Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni is best known for recruiting creatures from your opponent’s graveyard to your side of the battlefield whenever it deals combat damage to a player. You can make full use of this effect by running mill effects like Mindwrack Harpy to fill your opponents’ graveyards.

Incorporating equipment cards that grant evasion increases your chances of landing combat damage with this black commander. Sword of Vengeance (trample) and Basilisk Collar (deathtouch) equipped on to Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni can help that strategy. Another sneakier tactic would be to have ways to return the rat ninja to your hand to utilize its ninjutsu ability later in the game.

#5. Nashi, Moon Sage’s Scion

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Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion is another mono-black rat ninja like Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni, but it has a ninjutsu ability that costs 1 mana less and a more valuable combat damage trigger that affects all players rather than just one opponent. If you had to choose between either rat ninja to be your commander, I believe Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion would be the better choice.

Since you’ll pay life rather than mana to cast opponents’ spells, you’ll need lifegain effects, something that black cards have plenty of: Gray Merchant of Asphodel or Sheoldred, the Apocalypse balance out the life costs for casting opponents’ cards you exile after combat damage. Incorporating Throatseeker to give your unblocked ninjas lifelink could also help with this strategy.

#4. Satoru, the Infiltrator

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Satoru, the Infiltrator is a unique ninja commander that debuted in Outlaws of Thunder Junction, providing card draw as long as creatures entering aren’t cast or no mana is utilized for casting. You can ninjutsu in ninjas with that ability in order to get the card draw. Ninjas with a low ninjutsu cost like Prosperous Thief and Ingenious Infiltrator can help you save mana for flashier game-ending spells like Kotose, the Silent Spider.

Alternatively, new cards with the plot mechanic like Fblthp, Lost on the Range can also instigate the card draw trigger from this commander. Even 0-drop artifact creatures like Memnite are good enough to trigger Satoru's ability.

#3. Tatsunari, Toad Rider

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Tatsunari, Toad Rider centers around an enchantment-driven build that can get out of control fast with the right cards. As you cast more enchantment spells with Keimi present on the field, you can drain your opponents’ life totals quickly.

Bloodletter of Aclazotz can double the life points opponents lose from Keimi as you keep casting enchantment spells. Keeping the build to low-cost enchantment spells like Aphemia, the Cacophony and Black Market Connections can increase how many life loss triggers your opponents endure. Plus, additions like these offer great deck utility to stay in the game.

#2. Satoru Umezawa

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Running a Satoru Umezawa Commander deck as a ninja typal build with most of them having the ninjutsu ability is the best way to go. You can activate more ninjutsu abilities in one turn by running cost-reducing cards like Silver-Fur Master. If you’re running ninjas with a higher ninjutsu cost than 4 like Silent-Blade Oni, the cost becomes 4 because of Satoru Umezawa’s second ability. The best part is that Satoru Umezawa offers all creatures in your hand ninjutsu if they don't already have it, providing more opportunities to throw your opponents off in combat.

#1. Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow

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The tactic is simple and fluid when running a Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow Commander deck. Build an army of ninja creatures, attack with as many as you can, and drain your opponents’ life total based on the mana value of the top card of your library. If you attack with five ninjas and land combat damage with them all, you get five triggers of this Commander’s ability.

Having Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive can reassure any of your ninjas with power or toughness 1 or less are unblockable so that you can increase Yuriko's combat damage triggers. Running unblockable creatures like Mist-Cloaked Herald and Gudul Lurker guarantee that you can ninjutsu in ninjas to replace these creatures as they attack.

Last but not least, Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow has a special version of the ninjutsu ability: Commander ninjutsu. Activating this ability doesn't count as casting your commander, so it won't increase the commander tax.

Best Ninja Commander Payoffs

Ninjutsu is one of the best ninja commander payoffs as it’s one of the most essential mechanics for running a deck like this. As long as any creature is unblocked during combat, you can ninjutsu in a ninja with said ability. Sometimes you can sneak in a much bigger creature and increase the damage you'll deal. Plus, you can reap the benefits of dealing combat damage with a ninja if there’s a saboteur triggered ability on a ninja card.

To guarantee that you can activate ninjutsu abilities, running creatures that can’t be blocked is a great tactic. That way, you can activate the ninjutsu ability once blocks have been declared to bring in one or more ninjas depending on how many unblockable creatures you're attacking with.

Speaking of combat damage, cards that reward you for dealing combat damage are essential since this is the strategy that ninjas live on. Many ninjas already have a trigger if you successfully deal combat damage with them. These Commander decks tend to be more of an aggro build focused on attacking and landing combat damage until an opponent’s life total becomes 0.

Incorporating cards that give you card draw benefits from combat damage like Reconnaissance Mission and Bident of Thassa can give you a steady flow of resources to stay in the game. Considering the combat strategy for ninja Commander decks, adding equipment to your ninjas that give you double strike like Grappling Hook or Fireshrieker can work to your benefit.

Commanding Conclusion

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Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni | Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

We hope you enjoyed learning more about the ninja commanders of Magic: The Gathering. Their sneaky ninjutsu tactics keep your opponents on their toes, not knowing when you’ll replace one unblocked creature with a ninja. No matter how you choose to build a ninja Commander deck, be sure to have your ninja tools ready like filling your deck with enough ramp, removal, protection, and creatures for combat triggers.

You can check out the Draftsim blog for more inspiration to find your next commander or learn about a new upcoming set. When you aren’t browsing the blog, you can stay updated on the latest content by following the Draftsim Facebook page.

Until next time, keep your tactics secret like a ninja and play on!

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The 8 Best Ninja Commanders in Magic Ranked - Draftsim (2024)
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