Yu-Gi-Oh! Rogue Report: Ninjas (Post Photon Hypernova)

Carter Kachmarik
February 07, 2023


Ninjas are old, like, extremely old; the first Ninja monster to release in Yugioh did so in the very first release to ever hit America, Dark Beginning 1.  Yet the Ninjas of Yugioh have remained largely a footnote, occasionally being provided an intensely playable card in the form of Ninja Grandmaster Hanzo in Order of Chaos, or Ninja Grandmaster Saizo in Shadows in Valhalla, despite never congealing into a decklist that could stand on its own amidst a sea of competitive strategies.  That seemed to be the case after Darkwing Blast, as well, with another wave of animal-themed assailants coming and going, but with Photon Hypernova’s release, and Tearlament likely to see a hit on the banlist, a few peculiar tools in Ninja’s belt might actually push it towards rogue playability, or perhaps even more.  Let’s dive in, and see what PHHY could have possibly provided these diverse daredevils.

Ninjas have received 4 new pieces of support in Photon Hypernova, and 3 of them are exceptional pieces to the burgeoning strategy.  These are, in no order of magnitude, Jio the Weighted Ninja, Green Ninja, and Yaguramaru the Armored Ninja.  Jio is a walking Book of Lunar Eclipse on a body, Green Ninja is an extender that turns on various pieces of once-clunky support, and crucially, Yaguramaru is a Level 5 Fusion monster, turning Instant Fusion into an extender, on top of being reasonable removal himself.  Every Ninja monster you would play in a modern deck does wildly disparate things, however, so seeing these cards come together into a collective whole isn’t very easy.  That said, even during Darkwing Blast, Aaron Hendrick was able to eke out a Top32 placement at the Louisville regionals, and we’re using his general gameplan as a basis for this new version; I hope to build upon his ethos with these new cards, and from some testing, churn out wins against Kashtira like no other deck in modern Yugioh.  If you want a format assassin, prepare to learn ninjitsu.


Ninja is a strategy that utilizes something not often considered by a modern Yugioh player: The face-down position.  The strongest plays Ninjas support are tied directly to the conflict & rulings which result from this form of disruption, so it’s vital to know a few things regarding how it works.  Notably, Ninja is a Fusion deck, and for those unaware, face-down monsters can be used as Fusion Material, including ‘Contact Fusion’, but no other form of Extra Deck summon, unless otherwise stated.  This means that Tearlament is a natural predator of Ninja, but conversely, Kashtira, Dragon Link, Mathmech, and more fall prey to having their starters permanently turned face-down by Jio the Weighted Ninja.  Green & Mitsu the Insect Ninja specifically play a key role in this archetype as extenders, which not only place bodies on the field, but also play with the flipping mechanic that makes Ninjas so difficult to pin down.  Not unlike Labrynth or Subterror, what lies in the nonpublic area of face-down cards can make things difficult for your opponent, even moreso, given Green & Mitsu are Level 2.  One of the all-time brutalizers of Kashtira is Knightmare Corruptor Iblee, and Ninja can access her from the Deck via Gigantic Spright.  This prevents them from freely Summoning their Kashtiras, if we can give them Iblee, so we simply Link our monsters off for Spright Elf, give the opponent Iblee, and conveniently turn on the craziest search Spell I’ve read in a while, Ninjitsu Art Notebook of Mystery. 

Notebook of Mystery is a Quick-Play Spell that immediately goes +1, turning itself into both a Ninja & Ninjitsu Art card from the Deck & Graveyard, with the condition that your opponent has to control a card.  This traditionally means it’s rather bad as a searcher turn 1, although with the help of Iblee, that’s no longer a concern.  Even if it remains Set during your first however, there’s still value to be had on the opponent’s turn: Turning itself into a Jio from GY & Ninjitsu Art of Dancing Leaves from Deck, or vice versa, means your opponent has to deal with those threats the moment your turn begins, or the advantage loop continues.

Furthermore, Ninjitsu Art Tool - Iron Digger supplies the capability to turn any monster into a Ninja, such as Iblee for a Ninja Grandmaster Saizo play, or equipping it to your opponent’s monster, and Tributing it off for Dancing Leaves.  Iron Digger is another incredible Spell for Ninjas, turning on its own effect (though Yaguramaru can also do so), popping a card, and cycling into a monster with itself in the GY.  Mystery resetting Iron Digger from the GY, and a Ninja from Deck, is going to be a play you make often.

The standard opening play for Ninja has 2 main focuses: Ensuring you have a way to put Jio onto the field in some way, and having reasonable access to either Ninjitsu Art of Duplication or Ninjitsu Art of Dancing Leaves.  Duplication is preferred, however, because the monsters you can Summon off of its effect essentially set you up to win against all but the most absurd combo hands; Jio, being a Level 8, splits off into Tobari the Sky Ninja, Kagero the Cannon Ninja, and either Green Ninja or Mitsu the Insect Ninja.  From there, Kagero activates as Chain Link 1, and Tobari as Chain Link 2, Fusion Summoning Yaguramaru the Armored Ninja with himself and Green, and Kagero reborning Jio.  In a new Chain, Green flips up Jio for a double Set on your opponent’s monsters, Yaguramaru pops a card your opponent controls, and you can even use Kagero over Tobari, if you need the added targeting protection from the GY.  Ninjas have a diverse array of ways to deal with opponent’s cards, and they come from extremely simple, benign setups no one expects will result in 2-4 disruptions from 4 different places.  Finally, after all this time, Ninja’s surprise factor is realized well & truly.

One interesting aspect of deckbuilding for this particular archetype is the sheer volume of cards you have to work with; Ninjas have literally received a piece of support in every single era of Yugioh, which means you have 25 years of cards to go over in a decklist.  That’s perhaps why I feel more duelists should look at the archetype; the scaffolding it now has means you can swap in & out pieces to deal with specific metas.  Against Runick, Yellow Dragon Ninja is a phenomenal Level 8 to swap in over Jio, and Twilight Ninja Getsuga, the Shogun (or a Pendulum Ninja) can be perfect for extremely grindy metagames like we saw at the height of Eldlich.  If you adjust properly, and keep the actually-important pieces at the proper ratios, Ninja can combat any specific metagame to a reasonable degree.  As a bonus, aside from staples like Pot of Prosperity & the Bystials, Ninja is cheap.  A core will cost you less than $50, and the most expensive card you’ll need is Saizo, averaging out around ~$5.  If you already have your Prosperities, you can even sub in Bystial Baldrake over Magnamhut, and the cost of the deck is contained in essentially just 3 cards.

This is the build I’ve been playing in preparation for writing this article; a few important things of note are that Worldsea Dragon Zealantis can Summon back monsters in face-down Defense Position, which is vital for Ninja, and equipping your Iron Digger to a Borrelsword Dragon while Meizen the Battle Ninja is on-field allows it to attack directly…twice.  Aside from that, you’re looking to establish advantage loops with Notebook of Mystery, pivot between disruptions off of Yaguramaru & Jio, and finally, achieve lethal pushes out of nowhere with Meizen.  Note: If Kashtira players know how the deck works, it would be wise to include a third Yaguramaru in order to combat Kashtira Unicorn, likely over Accesscode Talker.  More than anything, your goal as a Ninja pilot is to know what flavor of disruption best messes with the opponent, and work your way towards that, with your ample ways to filter-through cards in your deck.  If allowed even one extra turn of play, you can easily recoup any amount of lost resources, so prolonging the game is vital to success.  Going second, you’ll want to side in cards like Evenly Matched, or even the new Tenchi Kaimei, as a way to break boards.  Raigeki & Lightning Storm are particularly good vs Kashtira, but also miserable against Tearlament, so plan accordingly.

For those who played Ninja throughout the years, this final point of vindication has to feel incredible; it’s an archetype that various eras of players likely know differently, from the Zexal-era’s Hanzo Control strategy, to Reaper Format’s Blade Armor Ninja Tempo deck.  Further still may know it only through a few of its incidental cards, such as Blade Armor Ninja, or Karakuri Ninja mdl 919 "Kuick".  It’s appropriate, then, that on the 25th anniversary of our beloved card game, that one of its very first archetypes may find a home in the meta, as a true victory for the non-rotating format that makes Yugioh what it is today.

That’s a wrap on Ninja, then & now!  Have you played Ninja in any past formats?  What sort of tech cards from its vast library is this decklist missing, either in the Main or Side Deck?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!