Last night, another season of American Ninja Warrior wrapped up. I’m a huge fan, and have been watching for years. Out of consideration for any other huge fans who have last night’s show recorded, I won’t give out any spoilers. I highly recommend checking out some highlights of this season, especially if you’ve never seen it before.
One of the main reasons I love Ninja Warrior so much is because it’s so difficult. Several seasons ago, a pair of ninjas broke through, and finished stage 3 of the finals course. Nobody had done this in competition before. Stage 4 is the final stage, a 75 ft rope climb that must be done in under 30 seconds. Both did it, but according to the rules only the faster of them got the title and prize money, even though the other guy was the first person ever in the sport to hit that final stage 4 buzzer. I still think they both should have got the money and the title.
The other reason I love it so much is that most of the competitors are regular people, with jobs and lives and responsibilities. Some are full-time ninjas, however, either competing across the world in minor events all year, or running ninjas gyms of their own.
Some of my favourites are The Weatherman Joe Moravsky, who is an actual weatherman and dad, and might wind up as one of the best 2 or 3 ninjas ever, sophomore RJ Roman, a musician whose finger strength from shredding makes a huge difference on the course, and Michelle Warnky, a long-standing badass veteran and gym-owner. Michelle finished a city finals course this year (huge! Second woman ever!) and had probably her best season, but they gave her a promo that made it seem pretty likely that she’s going to retire to start a family.
The lady ninjas are awesome. The past few years, we’ve seen a steady influx of talented female ninjas, some just over the minimum age line and ready for their first chance, and some moms in their forties who are not slowing down any time soon. If this was Michelle Warnky’s last ride, she can stand tall knowing that she’s been a major inspiration for these women, and a whole lot of men, too.
This is a blog about Magic, so my tie-in is obviously badass lady ninjas, and that means Yuriko. A couple of Commander Challenges back I played a game against 2 Yuriko decks and was chopped up in short order. We sat around afterward and talked Yuriko deck tech, and I want to share a few of the cards we talked about that day. I checked EDHrec’s Yuriko page. None of these are on it, so hopefully they’re new to you as well!
I’ve slowly chopped all the unblockable 1 drops from my deck except for Changeling Outcast. Getting a Yuriko hit in turn 2 is great, but being able to play a longer game is better. The best you can do on that turn 2 Yuriko hit anyway is 16. Draco. Not a kill shot. Doh’-main! The 1 drops really suffer later in the game if you don’t have a haste outlet. It’s not much work for three opponents to kill a 1/1 between them, knowing it’ll be Yuriko on your turn. So I’ve started playing evasive hasty guys like Gurmag Swiftwing here. I have high hopes for Gingerbrute.
In a similar vein is Reckless Imp. Dash is great with Ninjitsu, and it even has an inflated CMC vs. the cost you’ll usually pay, for Yuriko’s trigger. Flying is usually more than enough evasion to get a hit in on one of three opponents.
Not everything has to have haste or evasion. Please block this one! Saprazzan Heir is one of those cards that everybody has to read. I do like those cards.
I really like the activation cost on Descendant of Soramaro. No tap required. If you can keep your hand nice and full, even a single activation can set you up for a few turns. Another one that has to be read.
It’s a huge risk playing stuff with a low CMC in Yuriko. They’ve gotta perform. Load up on the Swan Songs of the world, and you might regret it. Trickery Charm makes the cut for me. It’s one of evasion, changing a non ninja to ninja, or a topdeck reorder. Any one of those can mean the game. And your opponents probably have to read it.
Mirage Mirror and Mirror of the Forebears can fill an extremely important function for Yuriko: getting her back in the Command Zone. Yuriko is not unblockable, natively, which is actually a huge problem. Making a copy kills her via the Legend Rule and puts her back to where she can easily sub in for your evasive dorks. In either case, you can use the copy left behind as your Yuriko for the turn if you have other attacking ninjas, or to fizzle a pre combat removal spell. Plus Mirage Mirror does a ton of other stuff, like copy your other ninjas, or your friend’s Propaganda that saves you for one more turn. Forebears can be tricky, as your creature types might not all be Ninja, but it’s cheaper to cast, use and purchase. I see Quickling and Cavern Harpy on EDHRec, so people are onto needing to bounce Yuriko.
Credit Voucher is one of those weird old artifacts from Mercadia. It’s great for reloading if you have a mitt full of dreck, but the real reason it’s here is to get my high CMC cards back into the library. This with Psychosis Crawler could be a game ender.
Nephalia Academy, and to some degree, Library of Leng, can give you a major leg up on your meta if it’s discard-heavy. The Academy is easier to keep in a deck as a general hedge. Timing is tricky. Discard is often at sorcery speed. But multiple discards, and you might set up a massive Yuriko proc. This is also awesome against Wheels, as you can keep any good stuff you’d normally toss.
My Yuriko deck has a theft subtheme and this has been a jaw dropper. It’s best when stealing something that has a nasty activation, like Zacama, Primal Calamity. It doesn’t stop an opponent from using Ashnod’s or Phyrexian Altar to sac their targeted creature for mana, but you can’t have everything. 7 CMC for Yuriko, too.
This is my spiciest piece of tech. It’s unknown, still cheap, and does serious work for Yuriko. Dawn of the Dead can be tough to cast, but is always worth it. Why? The major stumbling block for Yuriko is the mid to late game fizzle, where your opponents have stabilized a bit, and can deal with your evasive chumps. Maybe you got a hot start, but your Yuriko procs just didn’t hit big numbers. You play an evasive chump, but it dies before your turn. You have a dead chump, and desperate need for haste. This answers both. It has the glorious upside of not exiling the creature when it leaves play, as many other, similar cards do. If the dork dies, try again next turn. If it gets Ninjitsu’d back to your hand, you’re living the ninja dream.
Thanks for reading. I hope you found some spicy new tech for your Yuriko deck, and check out American Ninja Warrior next season. You might love it.