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From Turtles to Cranes, the Evolution of Ninja

Since Flesh and Blood was released, I’ve always been drawn to the Ninja class. It is one of the easiest classes to pick up and play but still requires a lot of skill to pilot effectively. One of the great things about the class is that it is incredibly versatile, it can be played as an all out aggressive deck but also as a slow grindy deck looking to fatigue the opponent. To start with, let’s go back to the first ever FAB professional constructed event, The Calling $10k Auckland.

https://fabtcg.com/decklists/kieran-mcentegart-ninja-deck-07022020/

1 Breaking Scales
1 Fyendal's Spring Tunic
2 Harmonized Kodachi
1 Mask of Momentum
1 Snapdragon Scalers
3 Ancestral Empowerment
1 Blackout Kick (Red)
3 Enlightened Strike
3 Flic Flak (Red)
2 Fluster Fist (Red)
3 Leg Tap (Red)
2 Razor Reflex (Red)
2 Rising Knee Thrust (Red)
3 Scar for a Scar (Red)
1 Sigil of Solace (Red)
3 Sink Below (Red)
3 Snatch (Red)
3 Surging Strike (Red)
3 Unmovable (Red)
3 Whelming Gustwave (Red)
1 Leg Tap (Yellow)
3 Mugenshi: RELEASE
1 Rising Knee Thrust (Yellow)
3 Springboard Somersault
3 Surging Strike (Yellow)
3 Whelming Gustwave (Yellow)
3 Energy Potion
3 Flic Flak (Blue)
2 Head Jab (Blue)
1 Leg Tap (Blue)
3 Lord of Wind
2 Lunging Press
3 Rising Knee Thrust (Blue)
3 Surging Strike (Blue)
3 Whelming Gustwave (Blue)

Game Plan

Kieran ended up making the finals with what was a pretty stock Ninja list at the time. I also played a very similar version in the same event, being beaten in the first round of top 8 by Kieran himself. The game plan is pretty simple, play efficient attacks and set up the arsenal and an energy potion in the early game then pull ahead by executing a large Lord of Wind combo (and a Mark of Momentum trigger in there somewhere) in the mid game. Once you are ahead, you can slow the game down and eventually win the game by attacking with Kodachis until your opponent dies. Kieran’s opponent in the final was also playing Ninja but their deck was a completely different animal altogether…

https://fabtcg.com/decklists/sasha-markovic-ninja-deck-07022020/

1 Breaking Scales
1 Fyendal's Spring Tunic
2 Harmonized Kodachi
1 Mask of Momentum
1 Snapdragon Scalers
3 Drone of Brutality (Red)
3 Enlightened Strike
3 Flic Flak (Red)
3 Fluster Fist (Red)
1 Open the Center (Red)
1 Pounding Gale
3 Razor Reflex (Red)
3 Sigil of Solace (Red)
3 Sink Below (Red)
3 Snatch (Red)
3 Unmovable (Red)
3 Flic Flak (Yellow)
1 Hurricane Technique
1 Mugenshi: RELEASE
3 Remembrance
3 Sink Below (Yellow)
3 Springboard Somersault
3 Tome of Fyendal
3 Unmovable (Yellow)
3 Flic Flak (Blue)
3 Fluster Fist (Blue)
1 Head Jab (Blue)
3 Lord of Wind
3 Rising Knee Thrust (Blue)
3 Timesnap Potion
3 Unmovable (Blue)
3 Whelming Gustwave (Blue)
3 Wounding Blow (Blue)

Sasha’s deck, dubbed ‘Turtle Ninja’ was completely left of field at the time and took a number of players in the tournament by surprise. The deck almost completely eschews the Lord of Wind combo, and instead relies on defensive cards and life gain to get through to the end game. Drone of Brutality plays a key part in ensuring you will never run out of cards to block or attack with and Tome of Fyendal allows you to gain an absurd amount of life. While each of these decks attacks from different angles, they both make great use of what is one of the key cards in Ninja: Harmonized Kodachi.

Harmonized Kodachi

If you’ve read my previous article, I talked about the importance of evaluating how much damage your cards will deal rather than the how much value they generate. While one damage does not seem like much on the surface, the fact that your opponent generally needs to block each instance of damage with a single card means they will often just take the damage instead, allowing you to slowly chip away at your opponents life while blocking everything relevant that they do. In the late game, Kodachis becomes even more powerful, as once your opponents life total has been reduced to one, they are required to block each attack separately, quickly draining cards from their hand and allowing you to finish them off.

Arcane Rising did not contain any new ninja cards for us to add to the pool but it did include some powerful generics which had a big impact on the way the aggressive ninja decks were played.

Art of WarPlunder Run (Red)

These cards helped make the big turns even bigger but also make the deck much more consistent, lets take a look at Nicholas Andisen’s deck from the last Road to Nationals in NZ before Crucible of War was released.

https://fabtcg.com/decklists/nicholas-andisen-ninja-deck-9820/

1 Breaking Scales
1 Fyendal's Spring Tunic
2 Harmonized Kodachi
1 Mask of Momentum
1 Nullrune Gloves
1 Snapdragon Scalers
3 Ancestral Empowerment
2 Eirina's Prayer (Red)
3 Enlightened Strike
3 Flic Flak (Red)
3 Fluster Fist (Red)
3 Head Jab (Red)
3 Leg Tap (Red)
3 Life for a Life (Yellow)
1 Open the Center (Red)
3 Plunder Run (Red)
1 Pounding Gale
3 Razor Reflex (Red)
3 Rising Knee Thrust (Red)
3 Scar for a Scar (Red)
3 Snatch (Red)
3 Surging Strike (Red)
2 Unmovable (Red)
3 Whelming Gustwave (Red)
3 Art of War
1 Hurricane Technique
3 Mugenshi: RELEASE
1 Rising Knee Thrust (Yellow)
3 Surging Strike (Yellow)
1 Whelming Gustwave (Yellow)
3 Energy Potion
1 Flic Flak (Blue)
3 Lord of Wind
3 Whelming Gustwave (Blue)

This deck is significantly more aggressive than Kieran’s version from The Calling Auckland. He has dropped almost all of the defense reactions from the deck and halved the number of blue cards, instead packing the deck with efficient red attack actions with Go Again. The biggest difference in the way the decks play is that rather than looking to attack with Kodachi’s every turn in the early to mid game, Nic is intending on attacking with his threatening red cards every turn. Kodachi is mainly used as a filler for excess resources and to help trigger Mask of Momentum.

Fatigue Ninja didn’t gain much from Arcane Rising and fell off the scene for awhile, mostly because I think people struggled to work out how to play against the new control deck in the format, Mechanologist. Only a single player managed to make the top eight (Alex Barron) of a major tournament before Crucible of War was released. Speaking of which, the deck gained access to some previously released but not tournament legal cards which helped improve a lot of its matchups:

Soulbead Strike (Red)Torrent of Tempo (Red)

The biggest benefit to these cards over say, red Head Jab, are that they block for three, which is a must against the aggressive decks of the format. On top of that, they are also a great finish to a two card hand, allowing you to pitch blue, attack twice with kodachis and then threaten a Mask of Momentum draw. I managed to pilot a version of this deck to a win at Road to Nationals Nelson:

https://fabtcg.com/decklists/jasin-long-control-ninja–deck-30820/

1 Breaking Scales
1 Breeze Rider Boots
1 Fyendal's Spring Tunic
2 Harmonized Kodachi
1 Mask of Momentum
1 Nullrune Boots
1 Nullrune Gloves
1 Nullrune Robe
3 Command and Conquer
2 Crane Dance (Red)
3 Drone of Brutality (Red)
3 Enlightened Strike
3 Fate Foreseen (Red)
3 Flic Flak (Red)
1 Heron's Flight
1 Razor Reflex (Red)
2 Reinforce the Line (Red)
1 Rushing River (Red)
3 Sigil of Solace (Red)
3 Sink Below (Red)
3 Soulbead Strike (Red)
3 Torrent of Tempo (Red)
3 Unmovable (Red)
1 Mugenshi: RELEASE
2 Remembrance
3 Springboard Somersault
3 Tome of Fyendal
2 Crane Dance (Blue)
1 Drone of Brutality (Blue)
3 Find Center
3 Flic Flak (Blue)
3 Lord of Wind
2 Rushing River (Blue)
1 Snag
3 Soulbead Strike (Blue)
2 Timesnap Potion
3 Unmovable (Blue)
2 Whelming Gustwave (Blue)

It is worth noting that this was a very warped format, half of the country was in lockdown and Crucible of War released the day before the event. On top of that, around 80% of the field were playing either aggressive Ninja decks or Warrior which are pretty good match-ups, making it a great choice for the tournament. Again, the deck struggles against Mechanologist which wins the long game most of the time so you need to be thinking about sideboard plans for that deck if it is popular in your area.

So where to from here? As a number of people are still getting access to product I want to start by ranking the higher rarity cards (majestic and above) in order of most to least important.

Aggro Ninja

  1. Mask of Momentum – Unfortunately, the best card in this version of the deck is also the most expensive, you are really going to be lacking power without this card so you should try to prioritize it.
  2. Art of War – This card does literally everything, all of the modes are useful to you and I couldn’t imagine playing the deck without it anymore.
  3. Lord of Wind + Mugenshi Release – One of the most powerful combinations of cards in the game in terms of raw power output, executing this combo is a great way to win games
  4. Ancestral Empowerment – A great card that helps your plethora of on-hit triggers to get past your opponents defenses

Fatigue Ninja

  1. Remembrance – Shuffles your best cards back into the deck allowing you to push through damage at the end of the game
  2. Tome of Fyendal – Keeps your life total high in the mid-game, works great in combination with Timesnap Potion
  3. Command and Conquer – An incredibly powerful card in a control deck, the key aspect is that it prevents your opponent from attacking you with five cards on their next turn, whatever they decide to do

Everything else is gravy in my opinion. Cards like Enlightened Strike are great at increasing the consistency of your deck and Mask of Momentum is obviously still excellent in Fatigue Ninja, but I do not think they are required to have success with the deck. With that out of the way, lets take a look at some lists to get people started:

Fatigue Ninja

Budget Version

The additional yellow Torrent of Tempos and Soulbead Strikes should help with the threat density in the deck but its still likely not enough to swing the Mechanologist match up in your favor. By reducing the number of defense reactions in the deck we can now also side the red versions out against wizard.

Aggro Ninja

Budget Ninja

Personally I prefer more aggressive versions of Ninja with less (or no) defense reactions. You only really want them against warrior and guardian anyway and even then they can be pretty awkward if you draw them at the wrong time.

This is where I am at currently with the Ninja class in classic constructed, but by no means are the decks tuned especially the aggressive version. The best thing about Flesh and Blood is that often you will have more success with a deck that suits your play-style than the best deck in the format so make sure you keep that in mind before playing any deck.

I can’t wait to see what else Legend Story Studios has in store for the next evolution of Ninja, already there are some awesome new options for the class in the Blitz format. I don’t have time to look into that format today but it is definitely in my plan for the future. As always it great to hear everyone’s thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below or even send me a link to your list and I’ll gladly take a look!

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