While Wind-Ups and Inzektors are getting a ton of testing in the run-up to Order of Chaos, Ninjas aren't seeing quite as much discussion. The conversation's been pretty perpetual, but when it comes time to go and find actual deck lists - especially well-tested ones - it's actually kind of slim pickings. I've been a fan of the deck since Ninja Grandmaster Hanzo and Upstart Golden Ninja were revealed in Japan, and while Ninjas don't have the devastating loop combos available to Inzektors and Wind-Ups, they're still a really unique deck that present threats most Duelists aren't ready for. While Ninjas don't appear to be quite as powerful as some of the other Order archetypes right now, it may pay to have experience with the Ninja strategy when March 1st shakes things up.
In the mean time, Ninjas are just a helluva lotta fun! They can totally hold their own in real competition, and they're a deck builder's dream because you can take them in so many different directions. I've seen Ninja variants that do everything from Summoning Dark Horus, to truly wacked out builds running the oldschool Ninjitsu Art of Transformation to bring out Flamvell Firedog. You can run heavy removal traps and protect them with White Dragon Ninja; play tons of continuous traps in conjunction with Magic Planter; run Xyz Reborn to repeatedly slam the opponent with Blade Armor Ninja, and do all sorts of cool stuff people don't see coming. You name it, I've probably seen it - and I've probably given it a whirl myself!
Today I want to take some time to talk about my two favorite ways to play this deck: one where the sky's the limit as far as budget's concerned, and another that's lighter on Secret Rares. Let's start with my absolute favorite, and the one that I keep coming back to: Chaos Ninjas!
I love playing this deck, because it's one of the more versatile Ninja strategies. One of the problems with most of the Ninja decks based off OCG builds is that they're relatively narrow: they have no choice but to play for an early win, because they don't present enough options to outclass other slightly slower decks played in the TCG. While Chaos Ninjas don't match the sheer range of options of a Plant Synchro deck, they're more varied and more flexible than other Ninja builds. They pack alot of big bodies and alot of removal, so they don't have problems with big opposing monsters that some Ninja decks encounter. Let's talk about some of the key cards, and key choices I've made in this deck list.
Almost any modern Ninja deck is centered on Ninja Grandmaster Hanzo, Upstart Golden Ninja, and Ninjitsu Art of Super-Transformation. Hanzo is always your best first turn play, because he gets you a copy of Super-Transformation from your deck. When you Summon Hanzo and set a back row card, your opponent has to assume that you've set Super-Transformation; and if they aren't terrible, that means they can't make a Summon next turn unless they can destroy your face-down.
Ninjitsu Art of Super-Transformation lets you trade Hanzo and eliminate one of your opponent's face-up monsters to Special Summon a Dragon, Dinosaur, or Sea Serpent from your Deck. That means that if your opponent Summons a Level 3, they risk you unleashing White Dragon Ninja. If they Summon a Level 4 or higher, you can drop White Dragon or surprise them with Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon. Galaxy-Eyes is deceptively useful, because it gets around Wind-Up Zenmaines with its effect; dodges Dimensional Prison and Mirror Force; and packs 300 ATK more than White Dragon Ninja, taking down stuff like Scrap Dragon in battle. It's a really cool card to actually get to play competitively, and it combos with Call Of The Haunted (which won't work with White Dragon, because it can't be Special Summoned by anything but Ninjitsu Arts). Remember: Galaxy-Eyes' effect detaches it from Call or Super-Transformation, leaving it unaffected by Mystical Space Typhoon.
But yeah: our chief focus is on Super-Transformation itself. Super-Transformation is a one-shot answer to anything your opponent can throw at you, barring a pre-established Xyz Monster (Super-Transformation can't target them, since they don't have a Level). If your opponent is about to drop an Xyz Monster though, you can always Super-Transformation first to steal one of the materials before the Summon is actually declared. Super Transformation makes it really tough to approach this deck: the safe plan is to wait out a potential Transformation, but since you as a Ninja Duelist can do some serious damage with Hanzo, or protect your back row and render opposing removal cards moot with White Dragon, the waiting game is often tough for your opponents to win.
You can Special Summon this card (from your hand) by Tributing 2 monster with 2000 or more ATK. During either player's Battle Step, when this card battles an opponent's monster: You can target the monster this card is battling; banish both it and this card, then any monster banished by this effect returns to the field at the end of the Battle Phase. If the monster banished by this effect was an Xyz Monster, this card gains 500 ATK for each Material the Xyz Monster had when it was banished.
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Super-Transformation also allows you to outplay cards like Dimensional Prison and Bottomless Trap Hole, since it's chainable and can steal an opposing monster while sending yours to the graveyard. Heck, you can even chain it when your opponent tries to Mystical Space Typhoon it if they have a face-up monster: bringing out Galaxy-Eyes and then relinquishing it to the graveyard when Super-Transformation's destroyed means you make a 2-for-2 trade (your Ninjitsu Art and Ninja for your opponent's Typhoon and monster). But if you Special Summon White Dragon Ninja, it'll hit the table before Typhoon resolves, keeping Super-Transformation active and giving you a definitive +1.
I'm playing two copies of Karakuri Ninja mdl 339 "Sazank" to make it a little easier to activate Super-Transformation. It also gives me something other than Golden Ninja to search from my deck when Hanzo's Special Summoned, which may be the best thing about it. Golden Ninja is really useful when you have an attack opportunity and a trap card to pitch for its effect. But when you don't have either of those things, it's a dead card. It's rough to lose games just because you can get a free card with Hanzo, but don't really have anything to do with your lone search target.
Golden Ninja might not look like it, but it's an extremely aggressive, high-risk card. Left to its own devices, it allows you to pitch a trap card (-1) to Special Summon a Hanzo (+1), get you another Ninja from your deck (+1), and then make a Rank 4 Xyz (-1). It lets you trade two cards for another Ninja and a powerful Xyz, a 2-for-2 trade that sees you breaking even in card presence. But if your opponent has Effect Veiler or Solemn Warning? It'll probably be a backbreaking -2, which Ninjas have a tough time recovering from. It's a really good card, and playing it well is key to this strategy's success. Heck, since it searches Hanzo, it even lands you with a complete Chaos Summon in your graveyard. But by playing Sazank alongside it, we get a strong defensive card that can blow away virtually anything that's face-up: even Stardust Dragon or Spirit Reaper. Playing Sazank is one of the factors that makes this Ninja deck more flexible than other builds.
The rest of the monsters are pretty self-explanatory. This deck can easily support Chaos monsters, so I'm running Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning and a single Sorcerer. You can even experiment with a second Sorcerer if it floats your boat. Effect Veiler shuts down Inzektor tricks, and can be swapped out for copies of Maxx “C” as needed. Tour Guide and Sangan bring it all together, giving you more power; a way to Summon Leviair and to take advantage of banished monsters; plus access to Veiler and Upstart Golden Ninja in a pinch.
The spell and trap cards are all pretty obvious too, with Reinforcement of the Army and Call Of The Haunted played to take further advantage of Ninja Grandmaster Hanzo. Dust Tornado makes the cut over Mystical Space Typhoon to keep Upstart Golden Ninja's ability live as often as possible. That was a late addition to the deck because it's so counterintuitive, but it really paid off. There's almost nothing worse than looking at a Golden Ninja you can't play, so each trap card you can run is worth its weight in gold. Skill Drain whomps on this thing, but you can always side in Mystical Space Typhoons for the rare matchups where that's a problem.
This deck isn't as flexible as the Chaos Ninja build, but it's designed for aggression and early game dominance. Both of these decks are constructed to take advantage of Upstart Golden Ninja and its ability to let you Xyz Summon Blade Armor Ninja for a quick 4400 battle damage, but this deck needs to make that play more often to win. In order to ensure that it can do that, it runs a Guaiba engine to Summon Evolzar Laggia and negate cards. It also plays Forbidden Lance, which can make it easier to attack with Blade Armor Ninja and Guaiba alike; and it runs even more trap cards than the Chaos Ninja deck, packing another Starlight Road and two Dimensional Prison to make direct attacks easier to achieve. It's also far easier to build, since it doesn't need Tour Guides. It tends to play Super-Transformation more aggressively, making attacks to reveal set monsters, so they can be Transformed to clear the way for other attackers. It's quick, and pretty good at what it does.
Aside from being fairly linear, this deck's main problem is getting over big monsters. Sometimes you'll have Super-Transformation or a bunch of removal, so that won't be a problem. You win those games. Other times, you'll find yourself with uneven draws that strand you with a bunch of beatsticks against a big attacker, and you just won't have an answer. You also have to play with a certain level of disregard for the threats facing Upstart Golden Ninja, which can be pretty harrowing. But the deck's alot of fun to play, and despite not having the same consistency as Chaos Ninjas, I certainly wouldn't label it “inconsistent” in the grand scheme of things. It's just more of an all-or-nothing proposition, and there's more pressure on you as the pilot to end Duels early.
Some words of caution that apply to both decks: be careful not to rely on a single copy of Super Transformation for defense if you have other options. If you flip Super-Transformation and your opponent chains Typhoon, you won't lose your Ninja, but the entire effect of Super-Transformation disappears. The same thing goes for Solemn Warning, so without another back row card, you could lose the Ninja to an attack. You also have to look out for Forbidden Lance. If you flip Super-Transformation; pick your targets; and your opponent chains Forbidden Lance to protect their own monster, you'll still lose your Ninja, while the opponent's monster remains on the field. You can make a Special Summon, but you'll only get to pick a monster of a Level equal to or less than the Level of your Ninja. The Dino Ninja deck can roll with that, since all of its Ninjas are Level 4, and it plays Level 4 Dinosaurs. It's not a great scenario to be in, but it isn't a complete failure. The Chaos Ninja deck is a different story, since it has nothing small to Special Summon.
To compensate for those risks, there's also a wealth of tricks that make Super-Transformation even stronger than it first appears. For instance, it can shut down Inzektors when you chain it to the activation of Inzektor Dragonfly or Inzektor Centipede's effect: sending the Inzektor to the graveyard before its effect can resolve means that your opponent never gets a chance to Hornet your cards. The same is often true for Wind-Ups: chaining Super-Transformation in time to stop the Xyz Summon of Wind-Up Zenmaighty can break the Wind-Up Hunter discard loop, provided your opponent doesn't have another Special Summon to get a replacement Level 3 to the table. With the right timing, you can play Super-Transformation to stop an impressive list of competitive moves.
There's no definitive “right way to build Ninjas” yet, but there are alot of ideas that - like those above - have a great deal of promise. It may take a new format for Ninjas to truly come into their own. It's possible they'll make a big impact at Atlanta, but if they don't, keep them in mind as the weeks tick down to March 1st. Regardless of how Ninjas perform upon release, it's gonna be a whole new ballgame soon enough, and new formats always give you a chance to bring different strategies into the spotlight. For now, Ninjas are exceptionally entertaining and play like nothing else out there, so give them a shot - especially if you're looking for something new to break you from your routine.
Disappearing into a sudden puff of smoke until next week, -Jason Grabher-Meyer
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