Hiding in plain sight? That’s the job of members of this archetype. One may even call it an Art form…
Welcome to another CDS article, and this edition will be focusing on a Warrior-type archetype that likes to masquerade as other types. Originating with a series of monsters that activated when flipped face-up, the theme has had many different revivals over the years and across multiple anime series. From gaining a set of support for the Ninjitsu Arts, specifically Ninja Grandmaster Hanzo, to gaining support for Synchro Summoning, specifically through the Karakuri Ninjas, and subsequently Xyz Summoning, through the Armor Ninjas combined with Upstart Golden Ninja, the theme has seen evolution over the course of the history of the TCG like no other. Even more recently, the theme has recieved new support in the form of the Twilight Ninjas. After so much support, you would think that duelists could be innovating with this diverse archetype, but in fact, the theme has remained rather stagnant in terms of attempted builds. For example, there was Ninja Control, featuring Ninjitsu Art of Super Transformation and White Dragon Ninja, a trap-focused strategy designed to stop the opponent with an indestructible Safe Zone. With the Xyz Era came a new iteration, Dino Ninja using Jurrac Guaiba to help make Evolzar Laggia and Evolzar Dolka to hamper the opponent’s effects. Another iteration of the theme was Apex Ninja, featuring Ninjitus Art of Transformation, Mist Valley Apex Avian, and sometimes even Dark Simorgh to negate and disrupt your opponent’s plays. This variant even got revived with the release of Pendulums, since wide pendulum scale ranges works well for summoning Apex Avian back from the hand.
But despite all of those control and disruption strategies, how many of them could be considered meta? The correct answer there is none of them. They had a bit of time in the limelight, but outside of a pretty WCQ mat in 2012, they haven’t created too much of a competitive splash. So why haven’t duelists tried to break away from the conventional control framework for the theme? Sure, Ninjas have access to these controlling cards, but they have so much potential elsewhere as well. Today’s article is all about doing just that – using the Ninja archetype in an innovative way to craft a fast-paced aggressive and advantage-based strategy. After all, they do boast one of the best archetype ‘Stratos’ equivalents in the form of Ninja Grandmaster Hanzo. The strategy has a simple goal: abuse the free searching each time Hanzo is Summoned, then turn that pure advantage into solid field presence. Remember, you get a Ninjitsu Art when it is Normal Summoned, and then you get a Ninja whenever it is Special Summoned. So if we build the strategy with enough Summoning power to abuse all of this searching, you can really have a solid search engine for the deck. But Hanzo is not alone in its duty. Twilight Ninja Shingetsu, another in-theme searcher, is the star when it comes to searching when it is destroyed. So instead of just having an ‘active’ searcher, you also have a ‘passive’ one at your disposal. Also, two Shingetsu also form a ‘Hopper Lock’, made famous by Watthopper back in the day. While this stall tactic may not be as effective today, it probably will be able to stall for a turn or two, and Shingetsu even searches a new Ninja for you if your lock is taken down by Dark Hole or Raigeki.
So we got the search power equivalent to one of the top decks once you add in generic Warrior-type support, otherwise known as Reinforcement of the Army, but do we have the Summoning power at our disposal? Yet again, the newest Twilight Ninjas are about to pull through for our archetype. Introducing Twilight Ninja Getsuga, the Shogun, the official boss monster of Aggressive Ninjas. Whenever he is in attack position, simply use his effect, turn him to defense, and then Special Summon 2 Ninjas from your Graveyard with no strings attached. To put how powerful this monster can be into perspective, imagine what happens when you use his effect to summon 2 Hanzo from your Graveyard. Both of them activate upon summon, adding 2 additional Ninja monsters to your hand. That is a +4 swing in card advantage, plus you already have 2 Level 4 monsters on your field, ready to perform an Xyz Summon. Even if you only use his effect to summon back 2 Shingetsu, you still are getting the ‘Hopper Lock’ out of the deal. Or should I call it the Ninja Lock now? The best part is, if Getsuga sticks around, you can simply use his effect again on the next turn. But wait, there is more! You have another effect that Special Summons a ton of Ninja monsters to the field, and this alternative is Senior Silver Ninja. Whenever he is flipped face-up, you get to Special Summon ANY number of Ninja monsters from your hand or Graveyard. So yes, he can be considered the in-theme version of Soul Charge. The only downside to his effect is that he Special Summons in face-down defense, so you would have to then later Flip Summon Hanzo in order to get your free searches. But 4 free monsters can definitely be worth that trade-off.
Now I am sure you are sitting there wondering when I will bring up the catch. Because if these monsters are as powerful as I say, they should have already had some sort of impact on deckbuilders. Well the only catch that I can think of is that the Shogun is a Level 8 monster and must be Tribute Summoned or Special Summoned somehow. You unfortunately cannot rely on Pendulum Summoning here, but the good news is that he can be Tribute Summoned by using only 1 Ninja monster as tribute. Good thing we have an in-theme ‘Cyber Dragon‘ equivalent that gets itself to your field without wasting your turn’s Normal Summon. Introducing Earth Armor Ninja, that forgotten Level 5 Ninja that was only ever used to manipulate levels with the other Armor Ninjas for the Xyz Summon of Number 12: Crimson Shadow Armor Ninja or Blade Armor Ninja. Sure, he has a very bland effect. But there is absolutely no problem in running a searchable tribute fodder monster if he is able to bring out your amazing boss so effortlessly. It also serves as tribute fodder for your Senior Silver Ninja as well as any other 1-tribute Ninjas that you choose to run, such as Red Dragon Ninja, Twilight Ninja Nichirin, the Chunin, or Blue Dragon Ninja.
I’m touching on all of these powerful Summoning methods via Effect monsters, such as from Graveyard or from the hand, but could there be other methods designed to Special Summon Ninjas? Of course, because we can always choose to bring them straight out of the deck as well! This purpose falls to our Ninjistu Art Trap cards, the cards that help to make the Ninja archetype unique. Not only do they each have effects upon initial activation, but they also stick around once resolved as they are mostly continuous Trap cards. Ninjtisu Art of Transformation lets you trade a Ninja for a Winged-Beast, Beast, or Insect-type monster from your Hand or Deck with a Level up to 3 more than your tributed Ninja. This includes the in-theme Red Dragon Ninja and Black Dragon Ninja, both of which can be powerhouses when used correctly. Red allows you to start limiting your opponent’s draws, returning Set cards back to the top of the deck for them to re-draw on the next turn. As for Black, it turns your large pool of Ninjas in-hand or spent Ninjistu Arts on your field into monster removal! On the other side of the aisle, you have Ninjistu Art of Super Transformation that lets you trade a Ninja AND a monster on your opponent’s side of the field for a Dragon, Dinosaur, or Sea Serpent-type monster from your Deck with a Level up to the combined Levels of the sent monsters. This includes the in-theme Blue Dragon Ninja and White Dragon Ninja, both of which have specific applications. Blue boasts a quick effect that negates an opponent’s monster’s effects and prevents it from attacking for the turn at the hefty cost of a Ninja and a Ninjitsu Art in your hand. As for White, it protects all of your Spell and Trap cards from being destroyed.
Those two options may be the more commonly recognized Ninjitsu Art cards, but there is one more that gives our Aggressive Ninjas the final bit of Special Summoning prowess that it needs – Ninjitsu Art of Duplication. By trading a Ninja from your field, you get to Special Summon a number of Ninja monsters from your deck with total combined Levels equal to or less than the tributed Ninja’s Level. So if you tribute a Hanzo, you get to Special Summon another Level 4 Ninja or multiple Level 1 Ninjas, all straight from your deck. While this doesn’t seem all that special at this point in time, let’s start talking about the combos unlocked with this card. If you have Duplication and Earth Armor Ninja, simply Special Earth with its effect, use Duplication to bring out Hanzo (and potentially a Level 1 Ninja in face-down defense if you choose to run it). Hanzo then activates, adding Getsuga to your hand. After that, Tribute Summon Getsuga using your Hanzo. Then, by using the effect of Getsuga, Special Summon back your Hanzo and Earth Armor Ninja, and then add your free Ninja from the deck to the hand. So starting with a Trap and a monster, you ended with a Ninja search, Hanzo, Earth, and Getsuga on your field, a face-up Ninjistu Art, and potentially a set Level 1 Ninja. The simple version of this combo is to Normal Summon Hanzo, add Duplication, use Duplication in your opponent’s Standby Phase to summon a second Hanzo straight from your deck. This second monster gives you a free Ninja to your hand as well. Duplication also has an additional use, specifically when you have a Getsuga that your opponent threatens to destroy or negate. Simply tribute it away with Duplication and bring out another Getsuga or 2 Level 4 Ninjas from your deck; (Insert puff of smoke) threat dodged. Duplication also lets you trade any of your Level 6 Ninjas for another Level 6, or you could even bring out multiple Karakuri Ninja mdl 339 “Sazank”, set and ready to remove your opponent’s monsters from the field.
Of course you have additional Ninjitsu Arts at your disposal as well, ranging from draw power and destruction immunity to ATK reduction, monster removal, and attack negation. At the end of the day, you have a ton of options. That is what Aggressive Ninjas is all about, abusing the insane search power and wide berth of the Ninja archetype to search out whatever answer you need, then continuing to generate even more free card advantage. Eventually, your opponent just won’t be able to continue trying to keep up. I think I’ve spent enough time talking about the potential of this deck, so let’s get into the Key Cards, shall we?
- Ninja Grandmaster Hanzo
- The ‘Active’ searcher of the archetype, you get to add a Ninja or Ninjistsu Art based on how you Summoned him. Or you could just add Duplication, then use a second Hanzo from your deck on the subsequent turn to search out a Ninja.
- Twilight Ninja Getsuga, the Shogun
- The boss and first recursion threat of the archetype. Also, its Level works well with Duplication. Pretty strong if you ask me. If you need more reasons to run it, simply re-read the introduction paragraph about him.
- Twilight Ninja – Shingetsu
- The ‘Passive’ searcher of the archetype, also lets you lock out your opponent whenever you get 2 of them to the field. A worthwhile addition to any deck, but a star in this Aggressive Ninja strategy.
- Earth Armor Ninja
- The days of having just an inherent Special Summon are not over. Not quite! Earth will always be put to good use in Ninjas, even if it doesn’t have 4 different effects like some newer cards.
- Ninjitsu Art of Duplication
- Special Summoning power from the deck; combo piece that is invaluable and irreplaceable.
- Reinforcement of the Army
- Searcher for our searchers who then can search the other searcher which will search the other searcher and so forth. Yup, that makes complete sense.
Additional Tech Options:
This time around, the tech options are either more Ninja and Ninjistu Arts, or more supporting cards to help the Ninjas do what they do best. We did have a bare-bones Key Card section after all! Remember, your goal is to overpower the opponent with sheer card advantage and summoning power, never forget that!
- Red Dragon Ninja & Ninjistu Art of Transformation – The Level 6 Winged Beast Ninja never rides in a deck without its faithful Ninjitsu Art. This is an excellent choice when you want to disrupt decks and control their destiny.
- Black Dragon Ninja – A tech only to be considered if you are already running Red and Transformation. This lets you abuse the free searches from Hanzo and put all of the extra Ninjas in your hand to good use. Is it perfect? No, but it sure steps up doing a fine job when you prepare to fully overrun your opponent.
- Twilight Ninja Nichirin, the Chunin – An on-demand option for protecting your Ninjistu Arts and Ninja monsters from destruction. It also can fit in the deck easily as a one-of, instead of relying upon a large Super Transformation engine alongside White Dragon Ninja. This card just does it better. Also lets you run over powerful monsters such as Ultimate Falcon or Towers without digging into the Extra Deck.
- Ninjistu Art of Shadow Sealing – Searchable monster removal, while the removal isn’t necessarily permanent, it definitely can be useful in a pinch to get rid of monsters that pose a large threat to your continued existence within a duel.
- Armor Ninjitsu Art of Alchemy – Searchable draw power that makes good use of your leftover Ninjitsu Arts while also clearing space in your backrow. Note that this works best if you only have 1 face-up Ninjistu Art, so such as the moment right after you perform the Earth + Duplication combo described earlier.
- Magic Planter – The other draw-power option and way to use spent Ninjitsu Arts. The biggest different between this and Alchemy is that Planter is generic, while Alchemy is searchable. So you can still send your Call of the Haunted with this, but you will not have this spell available as often as you’d like.
- Call of the Haunted – I was tempted to put this in the Key Cards section, because additional summoning from the Graveyard really is that important. Simply revive a Hanzo to search out Getsuga, and you already have your tribute Summon all set to go.
- The Monarchs Stormforth – Sure, you may be running a large Extra Deck. But with a deck that is running many Level 6 and a couple Level 8 monsters, it always is something to consider. Non-targeting, non-destruction monster removal really is that great. Even if you don’t need to tribute a second monster for Getsuga, you still can if you want to get rid of theirs in the process. Also, as a last resort, you could even Tribute Summon Earth Armor Ninja.
- Allure of Darkness – You run a ton of Dark monsters, but have no way of recovering banished cards. If you want the extra draw power, by all means run this.
- Senior Silver Ninja – Sure, he boasts a powerful effect. But in all honesty, his effect can be a bit slow. You should weigh your options carefully when deciding whether or not your deck could use his help.
- Strike Ninja – This deck can be modified to be very reliant on DARK Ninjas and them alone, abusing Hanzo and the Twilight Ninjas rather effectively. You would also need to be running banish retrieval, such as Escape from a Dark Dimension. This build is a bit gimmicky, but it is an option nonetheless.
- Karakuri Ninja mdl 339 “Sazank” – Interested in summoning out this guy with Duplication or Senior Silver? Remember, Duplication can summon him in face-down defense position if need be, so he is on-theme and on-call monster removal.
- Masked Ninja Ebisu – Boasting an effect to spin away any backrow threats, Ebisu is a good Ninja for ensuring your OTK attempts go through. Sadly, he doesn’t actually gain any tangible card advantage, which is why he’s relegated to Tech Option status.
- Crimson Ninja & Armor Ninja – The Level 1 Ninjas that you can choose to run to offset any slight differences between Duplication and the Ninja you tribute. Also, these double as great things to Special Summon back with Senior Silver since he Summons in face-down defense, perfect for FLIP monsters.
- Upstart Golden Ninja – Once, he was the prime deck Special Summoner. But let’s face the facts, trading away a Trap for that Special Summon really wasn’t worth the effort, especially when Duplication does that job better while also providing other roles. But if you want a bit more utility in what cards you can search, this is an option for you.
- Blackwing – Zephyros the Elite – Great for reusing those Ninjitsu Arts that happen to be laying around. Also is a Level 4 Winged-Beast who can be pulled out of the deck with Transformation.
Check out my sample decklist hidden in the spoiler below!
As always, the above list is just my personal build. Ninjas truly are powerful, especially once you start playing a proper build of them. Until the next time, I hope you keep innovating and building creative decks! Most of all, just enjoy dueling for the fun that it can be!
Reminder, I also take suggestions for future CDS articles! While I will not run out of cool ideas, I do want to be writing articles about strategies you are interested in. So if you desperately wish to see a CDS article about the archetype, theme, or strategy you love, feel free to private message me on the YGOrg Discord server or the YGOrganization Forums with your ideas to keep under consideration: my username is Quincymccoy.