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Kaito Shizuki Art by Yongjae Choi

Anatomy of an Archetype: Blue-Black (Dimir) Ninjas in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Draft

Welcome back to Anatomy of an Archetype where I combine data analysis and over twenty five years of professional level drafting experience to evaluate the different pieces of an archetype. There’s a ton of noise in the data so I’ve filtered that out and broken it down to give you all the relevant information you need to dominate the competition.

Today we are going to be talking about my favorite archetype to play in Neon Dynasty, Ninjas. It’s a very versatile archetype that can really blow up when it comes together. Plus, it has the inherent cool factor of being a freaking ninja!


Play Style

Look at the archetype’s objectives

While there are some very straight forward draws that feel like a scam for your opponent, most games with Dimir are going to have a lot of decision points packed into a small amount of time because of ninjutsu. This can be looked at as either a good or bad thing depending on how comfortable you are with the mechanic.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen is people using ninjutsu just because they can. You have to determine if you are actually advancing your game plan and not just playing the cards in your hand. There are a lot of times where just attacking and playing another creature is significantly better than bouncing your creature to do a miniscule effect. It’s not really being mana efficient when you are setting yourself back by doing it.

This deck is very well-positioned in the current meta because it can easily adjust between tempo and value both in deck building and in play style. This lets you gain an advantage over both the multi colored saga decks and the low to the ground red decks.


Navigating the draft

What gets you into the archetype

It’s hard to get me to commit to ninjas right off the bat because cards like Satoru Umezawa and Silver-Fur Master just don’t get me as excited compared to some of the stronger one-color cards. Kaito Shizuki and Kotose, the Silent Spider are much more tempting, but being easily splashed makes them more of a friends with benefits type of commitment.

The way I end up drafting ninjas is by starting off with either blue or black generically powerful cards and looking for some of the archetype specific cards around pick five. It’s usually pretty obvious by that point whether you should be moving in on them or pivoting into another deck.


Top 5 Commons

It’s important to not just look at the data for highest win rate for games in hand in that particular color combination, but to think through why they are performing well in that particular archetype.

Okiba Reckoner Raid being a top performing common shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone at this point in the format. While some people think that Raid taking a few turns to get off the ground would be a detriment to being able to ninjutsu, the menace usually puts your opponent in the position to let at least one creature through to get the party started. It’s just a cheap, efficient card that puts immediate pressure on your opponent.

Suit Up is way overperforming compared to the expectations for this type of card and all it took was adding that magical phrase, draw a card. As for why it is wrecking people in Dimir, it’s pretty simple, they really want to block your creatures. It’s a damned if they do, damned if they don’t situation where they either let you ninjutsu all over their face or get blown out with the cantrip trick.

Virus Beetle is accomplishing more than this type of card has ever done in limited and it’s at its absolute best in ninjas. Beetle puts your opponent in such a bad position because they can’t let it through with the threat of losing another card to a ninja. This means that it either plays defense way above it’s weight class or it opens up the way for tricks like Suit Up or You Are Already Dead.

Network Disruptor is the gas that gets this deck going. Most of the brainless, earth shattering draws that can happen in NEO drafts start with turn one Network Disruptor. This into Moon-Circuit Hacker into another ninja is just such an overwhelming start that puts you up on both cards and tempo that it will take something tremendous to turn the tables on you. It’s the best enabler for ninjutsu and needs to be prioritized early in the pack.

The Modern Age is a very strong card overall, but it does seem a bit off in Dimir ninjas. That said, it’s still a very good card and obviously performing quite well there. In my personal pick order, I would take Moon-Circuit Hacker over The Modern Age if I was drafting an aggressive ninjas deck. If you are building the grindy version with containment construct or have no good enablers, then I would take The Modern Age instead.


Top 3 Uncommons

Based off of the color pair specific data

Life of Toshiro Umezawa does so much for such a small mana investment. If you need to pick off a blocker or pump an attacker than this is the card for you. Amazingly versatile and can even provide an occasional Time Walk when your opponent just can’t play anything because you’d get to kill it for free.

Behold the Unspeakable is an insanely powerful card in any deck that can support it (Pro Tip: That’s a lot more decks than you think). The bonus here is the ability to Ninjutsu it back and do it all over again. There are so many bad beat stories that involve “and then they played Behold” that I am baffled that I still get these passed to me.

Circuit Mender just destroys the red decks in the format by providing the life and card bonus on a decent blocker for a reasonable cost. The best part about this little bad boy is that it draws the card when it leaves play so you can abuse it with ninjas to your hearts content.


Top 3 Rares

We’re going to ignore Mythic Rares here because you’re less likely to get them. It’s also pretty obvious which ones are busted and should go in any deck that can make the mana work. I need to note here that it is based on win rate in this color pair and not ranked from my personal opinion.

Inventive Iteration gives you tempo, card advantage, and a potentially groan inducing Phantom Monster all rolled up in one package. With the right ninjutsu shenanigans you can keep recasting a creature to lock them out of a spell you know they have for the rest of the game.

Reckoner Bankbuster is the easiest slam dunk pack one pick one in all of the land of Kamigawa. Colorless card advantage and a big beat stick that eventually provides its own pilot. Even in the tempo versions, this is so good and cheap that it’s worth taking a victory lap for.

Tatsunari, Toad Rider only needs one enchantment to be a tremendous bargain. Between The Modern Age , Okiba Reckoner Raid , and Twisted Embrace it should be able to put in some real work without any cost to your deck building. It just provides so much pressure early and even if they deal with the toad, it’s just another enchantment away from coming back.

Just missing out, but still easy first pick windmill slams (unless you opened one of the mythic uncommons) are Biting-Palm Ninja and The Reality Chip .


Curve considerations

Is there a part of the curve with a glut of playables (i.e the four drop slot in blue in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt)?

There are a lot of cheap cards to fill out the curve and you need to be really careful about having too full of a mana curve. You have to remember that ideally you will be using ninjutsu as part of your curve so you won’t always have the mana available to play higher drops. Of course, you can totally ignore this when it comes to busted cards and just stick a pile of Behold the Unspeakable in your deck.


Adjusting card grades

It’s important to think about what cards are going to perform differently in the archetype you’re drafting so you can take advantage of picking them up later. It’s also key to find cards that provide a lesser, but similar effect to other cards that you haven’t been able to pick up.

Bump Up

Moon-Circuit Hacker can be part of some degenerate draws and also leaves open a lot of tricks because of it’s ninjutsu cost only being one. You can put this in, deal damage to draw the card, and then while still in combat bounce this back to your hand with something like Moonsnare Specialist to drown your opponent in value.

Mukotai Ambusher is another card that just abuses the red decks because they have a very hard time dealing an extra three to six damage. It’s not even bad against the saga decks as having a three power attacker on turn two can get the clock rolling.

Searchlight Companion has performed well in everything, but here it provides an evasive threat with extra value when you replay it. It’s nothing special, but is a solid glue card that holds things together.

You Are Already Dead provides easy memes and a great way to punish your opponent for blocking your Virus Beetle . It performs a similar role to Suit Up , but you usually lose your creature in exchange for it being two mana cheaper.

Bump Down

Ecologist's Terrarium is a card I have seen way too many times on the opposing side of the battlefield. It is just too slow and not what you are trying to do in this deck at all. If your turn two is playing this, you’re probably already too far behind on tempo. Even the grindier versions of ninjas want to establish something on board early on. If I’m splashing, I would prefer to be doing it off of dual lands and let this chill in the sideboard.

Malicious Malfunction just destroys your whole deck. I know you can argue that you just don’t play it when it’s bad for you, but this is the deck that you want to play it against so just leave it in the board.

Skyswimmer Koi isn’t awful in Dimir and sometimes ends up making the cut. It’s just a lot of mana to be paying when you could be pulling off crazy ninja stuff instead. This obviously changes if you are playing a grindier version with more artifacts.

Replacement

If you don’t have any cheap enablers, Inkrise Infiltrator can fill in just fine as the dollar store version of an evasive threat. It can even do some serious damage in the late game so don’t be too ashamed to toss it in there.


Card advantage

What sources are available and how much do they matter to the archetype?

Containment Construct and Network Terminal might be a little slow, but a personal Howling Mine is a pretty huge effect that is going to let you win almost any long game. It’s one thing when your lands become new cards, it’s another thing when you just get to keep everything.

I’ve covered most of the other engines that you can end up with including bouncing Behold the Unspeakable with any ninja which I’m only mentioning again because it is straight up chef’s kiss.


Combos and Synergies

A properly built ninja deck will have tons of synergies between enablers with comes into play effects and ninjutsu creatures with beneficial deals damage bonuses. I think these are individually covered throughout the article so I’m not going to relist them here.


Splashing

Is it supported in this archetype and how much should you look to do it?

Due to the streamlined nature of this deck, I really don’t want to splash unless it is for a very powerful effect that is abusable. The two main ones that pop into my head are Kappa Tech-Wrecker and Gloomshrieker. They both provide great value and are amazing to ninjutsu back to do it all over again.


Deep vs shallow

How many drafters can a table support?

Both Black and Blue are deep colors with a variety of removal, tricks, and efficient creatures. 

NEO Dimir can typically support 2.0 drafters per table. It would be 2.5, but a lot of solid cards are sucked up by the multicolor splash decks.


Biggest Trap Cards

These sounded like a good idea….

Dokuchi Shadow-Walker sounds like something a ninja deck wants to do, but in most cases it’s just too clunky. There are so many better things you could be doing for four mana and the fail case of paying six mana for a 5/5 is atrocious. I’ll still play one when I actively need a way to ninjutsu for value, but I’d recommend against ever playing two.

Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion has one of the biggest deltas in effectiveness. A 3/2 with this ability is never connecting unless they are really screwed or you use ninjutsu. Bouncing even one of your cheap creatures on turn four to hit with this revealing lands almost loses you the game on the spot. I know it’s an on theme mythic rare, but this should be like a pick five when it has an ALSA of 1.39 in Dimir.


Sideboard

Obviously ignore this in Bo1 land, but be on the lookout for these cards late in Bo3.

Spell Pierce can really shine against the multicolor saga value decks. It’s a terrible main board card, but being able to hold up one mana to totally wreck their Behold the Unspeakable or Boseiju Reaches Skyward is really big game.

Mirrorshell Crab is another sideboard card that fills the same role against the value decks of countering the spell that gets them back in the game when you’re already ahead on board. It’s less effective at doing the same thing while providing the back up plan of a huge creature.

Planar Incision is wonderful to bring in against a removal heavy deck, especially if it’s enchantment removal. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to main deck one of these if you have enough enter the battlefield effects.


Example Deck

A trophy deck that gives you a good idea of a build to aim for!

NEO Ninjas example deck
by j2sjosh
Buy on TCGplayer $10.15
Limited
best of 3
0 mythic
4 rare
2 uncommon
34 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (1)
1
Suit Up
$0.25
Artifacts (1)
1
Ninja’s Kunai
$0.25
Enchantments (4)
1
The Modern Age
$0.25
Lands (17)
8
Island
$2.00
7
Swamp
$1.75
1
Tranquil Cove
$0.25
40 Cards
$11.38
18 Cards
$4.54

This was a pretty traditional ninjas deck with almost everything you could ask for outside of a few more removal spells. Of note is that I only played one white source for Tameshi, Reality Architect as I was hesitant to miss a color early.  

NEO ninjas tempo
by j2sjosh
Buy on TCGplayer $17.61
Limited
best of 3
1 mythic
3 rare
4 uncommon
32 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (1)
1
Kaito Shizuki
$5.99
Instants (3)
1
Suit Up
$0.25
Sorceries (1)
1
Soul Transfer
$0.35
Artifacts (2)
1
Ninja’s Kunai
$0.25
Enchantments (2)
1
Twisted Embrace
$0.25
Lands (17)
6
Island
$1.50
1
Plains
$0.25
9
Swamp
$2.25
40 Cards
$19.52
19 Cards
$7.51

This was a Bo1 trophy that was focused more on tempo so it played tricks instead of Tamiyo's Compleation to take advantage of the three Virus Beetle and other low-cost creatures. There was certainly some value I left in the board but I wanted to test out the build and it cruised right through the draft.


Wrap up

Well that brings us to the end of the latest edition of Anatomy of an Archetype. Thanks for reading and I hope this will help you sneak out a few extra wins!

I’m always open to feedback, let me know in the comments section what you loved, what you hated, or what you would like added to the next edition.

You can contact me in the comments section below or at:

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j2sjosh
j2sjosh

Josh is a member of the elite limited team The Draft Lab as well as the host of The Draft Lab Podcast. He was qualifying for Pro Tours, Nationals, and Worlds literally before some of you were born. After a Magic hiatus to play poker and go to medical school, he has been dominating Arena with over an 80% win percentage in Bo3 as well as making #1 rank in Mythic.

Articles: 142