From one of the stronger starter decks, Ninja has become one of the staple characters in the meta, from the marquee Ira play that continues in Blitz to the on-hit specialist Katsu in Classic Constructed. Nevertheless, as newer players start the game, or veteran players try the class for the first time, they can find themselves confused by a variety of differing combo chains, each wanting to play a slightly different way with different support cards around them. This can make building an aggressive Ninja deck with strong Ninja combo lines intimidating to construct.
Therefore, I thought it might be a good idea to not only create a cheat sheet for each combo chain, but also dive deep into the playability of each one in the meta. I would like to note however I focus slightly more on Katsu in this piece due to the him being the main hero that usually likes to consistently leverage the combo effects compared to Benji and Ira. With that in mind, let’s get right into it!
Head Jab (0) → Open the Center (2) → Fluster Fist (0)/Pounding Gale (1)
Total Cost: 2 or 3
Set: Welcome to Rathe
One of the most aggressive combo chains for the class, the Head Jab chain has one of the best openings. Starting for free with Head Jab provides great mobility for bluffs, with the extra cards able to be discarded with either Katsu’s ability or be pitched for the next card in the chain.
Speaking of, Open the Center, although held back by its expensive cost (two-cost in a Ninja deck is a big deal), is fantastic when it gets the combo effect. All blue, yellow and red pitch can get to 4 attack with dominate, with the yellow and red almost always guaranteeing a hit for Katsu to then activate his ability.
Since Head Jab only hits for 3 at red pitch, you usually will not be activating Katsu until chain-link two with this card. For Ira as well, adding another +1 with her ability allows Open the Center to become a 7-attack card with dominate and go again – a very solid middle chain link indeed.
The last two links to this chain are interesting; I’ll talk about Fluster Fist first. Zero-cost is the big appeal here, with the entire combo chain then becoming cheap at two-pitch. I think Fluster Fist is an underrated card. If you can manage a Kodachi hit, along with the almost-sure Open the Center hit in this chain, Fluster Fist hits for 6 at zero-cost, which is really quite powerful. In addition, Fluster Fist can be discarded anytime with Katsu for a search ability, or even if played outside the chain is a zero-cost 4-attack card that can be boosted to 5 with Ira.
Pounding Gale is the other option to climax this chain, and definitely a tough option to ignore. Since it’s a super-rare, it’s harder to procure, but it’s still a very solid ability, with the opponent having to take double the amount of damage Pounding Gale deals to them, making it a strong choice to have in any deck running this chain. This effect makes any attack reaction you may have left in your hand extremely threatening and almost always commands a block with whatever cards the opponent has left.
Nevertheless, one-cost raises the chain cost to be tied with the highest of any chain here, and it’s usually tough to pull off in Ninja unless you’re able to search for this card with a Katsu ability. If you’re running this chain, I recommend running Fluster Fist as your default finish and then adding Pounding Gale as an upgrade if you want even more pop for your opponents to deal with.
Leg Tap (1) → Rising Knee Thrust (0) → Blackout Kick (1)/Hurricane Technique (1)
Total Cost: 2*
Set: Welcome to Rathe
*Hurricane Technique can be played twice, increasing the cost to 3
This is a very solid combo chain that’s not only fairly cheap, but it provides great bang for your buck in terms of what it gives. Leg Tap being one-cost is sometimes a bummer to open the chain link, but if you can play it after one or two weapon attacks, you’ll be set to go very wide in your turn.
Once Leg Tap is on the field, it’s amazing (especially if you can play the red pitch one). Red pitch Leg Tap plays for four attacks, threatening a Katsu trigger or other equipment triggers such as Mask of Momentum or Vest of the First Fist. If blocked with two, then they definitely will have trouble if a Rising Knee Thrust comes after it, with the red pitch then hitting for 5 and go again when played with combo. If your opponent wants a hand next turn, you’ll surely get the hit effect off on either the Leg Tap or Rising Knee Thrust.
The chain finishes off with two really hard-hitting attacks. Blackout Kick at red pitch is a straight-up 4+3-attack for one-cost, and since the combo trigger is +3, even the yellow and blue pitch are playable at this spot, although you really want the red pitch to push that damage right through. Hurricane Technique is even more threatening. If your opponent has blocked this chain already with two or three cards (a reasonable assumption), Hurricane Technique will most surely hit with its 5-attack, go again and return to your hand for another play if you can pay for it. Plopping another Hurricane Technique down after allows for a total output of 18 damage in the turn for a cost of three!
Surging Strike (2) → Whelming Gustwave (0) → Mugenshi: RELEASE (1) → Lord of Wind (0)*
Total Cost: 3
Set: Welcome to Rathe
*You can pay extra resources to boost the damage output of Lord of Wind… increasing cost by X.
The line most associated with Katsu, other Ninjas can run this line just for the fantastic line of Surging Strike into Whelming Gustwave, but the chain is really created to shine under Katsu’s two specializations. Seeing Surging Strike come down at the start of a turn is always threatening. Coming for 5-attack at red pitch is not an opener you can simply take and block later, and even if you do, the following attacks are not easy to block either.
The second chain of this combo, Whelming Gustwave has an incredible combo effect for Ninja, and many times is why non-Katsu players will also run this line up to this card. At red pitch, Whelming Gustwave hits for 4, has go-again and gives Ninja a draw if it hits. More draw for Ninja is a death sentence for you, especially if they have a Mask of Momentum that could also go off alongside it. Whelming Gustwave hence demands a double-block, even at a yellow and blue pitch to cover for a punishing Razor Reflex on top.
The latter part of this combat chain forces Katsu the pay quite a bit of pitch for a usually lean deck, but this is why you want those hit/draw effects to activate with him. Mugenshi: RELEASE is a great card, but unless the opponent has committed a big block earlier on, will usually be difficult to pop off for its ability to search for Lord of Wind. Nevertheless, if you can bait out a block earlier or use an attack reaction to put its already solid attack of 5 to 7 or 8, you’ll be ready to pull off the longest of all the combo chains and plop down a zero-cost Lord of Wind on the board.
If you’ve done this, first of all, congrats – this is very tough to all do in one turn and a pleasure to all have in front of you. Second, your opponent now has to deal with another 2-base attack and whatever extra resource points you can throw at the card to boost its attack even more.
Besides the ability to hit hard with every extra resource point paid, resulting in an extra point of attack for Lord of Wind, the card has an underrated ability to shuffle back a bunch of the earlier cards in the combat chain back into your deck depending on how many extra points of pitch you pay. This ability can make Lord of Wind very threatening late game and turn your previously lean deck with usually poorer offensive cards into a lean, mean game-ending machine capable of one or two more full combo chains like this.
Soulbead Strike (0) → Crane Dance (0) → Heron’s Flight (0)/Find Center (0)
Total Cost: 0
Set: Crucible of War
This is the cheapest combo chain introduced for Ninja and one that, if the first attack hits, you’re well on your way to a bunch of damage pushing through. Soulbead Strike is an amazing card for Ninja, with 3-defense, zero cost and 4 attack at red pitch, and the ability to gain go again if it hits. Soulbead Strike (Red) is amazing for any hero and threatens a Razor Reflex on top every time. A zero-cost card requiring at least a two-card block is a great way to steal momentum from your opponent if you don’t already have it, and a great way to also bait your opponent into overblocking.
The blue pitch version is also amazing with Benji, who will usually get the hit effect to go off with his ability to seal off your opponent’s hand entirely. Once Soulbead Strike hits, it’s smooth driving from there. Crane Dance seals off your hand even more, and if played with Benji, is another guaranteed hit at 2-attack (blue pitch).
Heron’s Flight is a great way to end the chain, and if you have any idea what your opponent’s deck composes itself of, you should be able to seal off a good portion of your opponent’s hand to attack with 5 damage. This whole set also works amazingly to pitch with, activating Kodachi’s go again every time. The zero-cost makes it super versatile as a secondary combo chain to throw into a Katsu deck, allowing his ability to activate frequently.
Find Center is other option to finish the chain and is a very solid option to play in defensive or even aggro decks that have very little defense/life to bargain with. Ideal to play with Benji to up chances of hitting, the Zen state token it creates on hit can prevent 1 damage every time you would be dealt damage for the next two turns, which is huge for most aggro Ninjas and poor Benji who only starts with 17 health.
Torrent of Tempo (1) → Rushing River (0) → Flood of Force (0)
Total Cost: 1
Set: Crucible of War
Last but not least, this combo chain is the most interesting in terms of the potential damage output that it can bring in the blink of an eye. Like the above chain, Torrent of Tempo usually has to hit here for the rest of the chain to start buzzing, but with 5-attack at red pitch, you usually should be able to do this with an attack reaction or such barring a massive overblock.
I personally find this the toughest chain to get off entirely as many people block for 9 on the Torrent of Tempo to cover for Razor Reflex as well. Nevertheless, if you do happen to get it off, Rushing River provides another 4 damage at red pitch with a hand filtering ability that lets you draw a number of cards equal to the amount hits you’ve generated this chain, and then put that many cards back on top of your deck to ideally set up for the next attack in the chain’s effect.
Ideally played after two Kodachis or Zephyr Needles, this chain can turn a 1-damage hit into four or five combat chains quicker and cheaper than any other chain here. Flood of Force is unique as a chain ender in that it gains its combo effect if played after Rushing River or itself. Although at face it’s just 1 attack, its combo ability reveals the top card of your deck, and if that too has combo, you can put it into your hand and Flood of Force will gain +3 and go again.
This quickly becomes dangerous as you can play a 4-attack card for no cost by setting the top of your deck properly with Rushing River. If you happen to have another Flood of Force in hand or Arsenal then you can continue this chain into a massive four, five or more chain turn as mentioned above. It’s tricky to pull off, but low cost along with the potential of massive wide damage turns makes the Torrent of Tempo chain very rewarding for those that can pilot it.
Alright, that’s it for now! I hope you all enjoyed the read and for beginners and vets alike and that the cheat sheet and what I’ve written here results in more great Ninja players emerging in the community!