Magic, But Cheaper: Dimir Ninjas

Playing Magic at a higher level is only as expensive as you want it to be. Join us as we dive into the world of Magic, But Cheaper with our first edition: Dimir Ninjas!

Cyberpunk 2022

We have entered Cyber Space, and Kamigawa Neon Dynasty is in the midst of unleashing itself upon the pioneer format in full force. From Vehicles having everyone putting on their brew caps to Light-paws and Michiko slapping the competitive scene in the mouth, it seems as though everyone is all hands on deck tinkering and experimenting with their new Neon toys. Today we’re going to be taking a look at one of the most hyped, yet least impactful mechanics in the set (so far at least), and seeing how the Ninjutsu mechanic has altered the course of one of my favorite budget archetypes. Let’s take a look at Dimir Ninjas on a $100 budget. 

The Deck

Dimir Ninjas is a tempo oriented deck that combines its cheap and efficient creature package with equally cheap and efficient disruption to attempt to throw the opponent off of their game plan while establishing and protecting its own clock. The deck’s recent upgrades have given it several card advantage tools to help get ahead and bury an opponent as well, shifting the deck from the fragile and threat light list that it used to be into one that’s capable of grinding out a win over the course of a long and interactive game. 

The Rogues

I know we’re sort of burying the lede here a bit, but the core of our deck is actually not made of cards with the creature type “Ninja”, but “Rogues”. We’re taking advantage of some of the cheapest and most impactful evasive one-and-two-drop creatures we have access to. The deck uses the likes of Thieves’ Guild Enforcer and Soaring Thought-Thief as evasive clocks that can grow large despite their cost while also fuelling some of our more powerful spells. Meanwhile, Faerie Miscreant is just another cheap flying body that can occasionally fill up our hand in combination with our ninja plan. These three creatures, as well as the bevvy of Ninjas that we’ll cover shortly, are further bolstered by our pseudo-Rogue lord, Silver-Fur Master. Having access to a lord effect really turns up the heat for a deck like this, often trimming a full turn off of our beatdown clock, especially in combination with how easily these creatures can attack unimpeded with their evasive natures. 

The Ninjas

The remaining creatures in the deck all look to take advantage of the Ninjutsu mechanic, replacing an unblocked attacker to land a sweet benefit after damaging the opponent. From Moon-Circuit Hacker keeping our hand full to the repetitive Thoughtseize effect of Biting-Palm Ninja, we’re able to turn the combat damage step into a tremendous amount of advantage over the course of a couple of turns. In combination with our disruptive suite of spells, it is very easy for these creatures to create a snowball type effect on the game if an opponent struggles to answer the board.

The Spells

Some of the strongest one-mana spells in the game are available to us as budget pioneer players, and we’re looking to take full advantage of that here. The Ninjutsu ability helps us turn on Revolt for Fatal Push consistently, and our Rogues allow us to play arguably the strongest two-mana piece of interaction in the game in Drown in the Loch. Aside from these two tremendously powerful pieces of interaction, we are also packing a full four copies of Into the Story, another card enabled by our Rogues, to make sure that we never run out of gas in the later game. One of the strengths of this deck is that it’s in the two colors most well suited for low-cost interaction, which means that you really have the pick of the litter in terms of adjusting your numbers to suit your own meta game as well. 

The Lands

This deck has a slightly weird tradeoff it does with its manabase. The first couple of turns are rather crucial in being able to set up on time, so we want to try and keep all of our lands as ones that enter untapped. However, being in an allied color pair on a budget in this format isn’t the easiest thing ever, so a bit more mulliganing than normal is going to be expected here. As the game progresses, there’s enough draw power to dig to a perfect mana situation, but the early turns can definitely be a slog as you try to figure out the best way to tap for your spells while leaving mana up in the most effective manner for your future plays as well. Learning to work with the mana base in this deck is one of the biggest hurdles, and this will likely continue to be the case until we’re finally gifted symmetrical mana bases in Pioneer. Until that day though, we’ve got to work with what we’ve got. 

“I think that the deck is certainly strong enough to be a contender at any FNM level play and can easily sweep a meta game that isn’t prepared for it”

How does it Play?

The deck feels extremely tight. For this series, I take every deck through 10 rounds in some combination of the Pioneer practice queues and leagues, depending on how confident I am with the list. After a clean 4-1 in the practice rooms I did end up going into a league, where I managed a 2-3. The deck has some real issues with the mana (as I said above), but on our $100 budget this can’t really be helped. The deck flourished against several decks that were generally lacking in interaction such as Auras and Ensoul, as well as against Green Planeswalkers which ended up being 30% of my matches. Where it struggles is against any deck running main deck board wipes, as unless we have a timely Drown in the Loch, there’s just not a good answer or way to recover from that. I think that the deck is certainly strong enough to be a contender at any FNM level play and can easily sweep a meta game that isn’t prepared for it. As I always say, any deck can take down any event at any time. This deck is more than capable of holding its own in an open field, and only gets better when its pilot knows exactly what decks they’re going to be paired against. I feel confident in saying that with enough preparation and just a dash of luck, this deck can easily become an FNM end-boss and with some upgrades be competitively viable in higher ranked play. 

The Wrap-Up

Dimir Ninjas is a fun and exciting new take on an old established tier 3 strategy, that in the right hands can be a real force to be reckoned with. If you are someone who loves the combat step, throwing a wrench into an opponent’s plans, or just a really big fan of Naruto, Dimir Ninjas is an excellent choice for you. It’s fast and low to the ground, easily adaptable, and upgrades very well into a legitimate contender. 

That’s all for this one. I’m looking forward to continuing this series, as budget deck building is my favorite part of Magic. I hope you all enjoyed it. Expect more of these to come soon! In the meantime, stay safe, play smart, and thanks for reading. 

Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a PlayingPioneer original series called Magic, But Cheaper. Each installment in the series will likely be authored by ServoToken, who I would venture to call Pioneer’s premier budget oracle and has put countless hours into helping players win for $100 or less.

  • Darren "ServoToken"


    ServoToken has been playing competitive magic since 2011, spending a majority of that time living in the shoes of a player on a strict budget. After investing a lot of time learning how to make the best of a bad situation, his goals today are to spread those lessons to the often-ignored population of Magic players who can’t afford to drop a car payment on a new deck every couple of months. His mantra is that “You don’t need to play mono-red to do well on a budget”. These days, you can typically find him deep in the archives of Scryfall searching for new cards to brew around or making tweaks to the Pioneer Budget deck spreadsheet on his unending mission to bring his favorite format to the people on the cheap.

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  1. Hello!
    Interesting deck! I’m building one of these to try pioneer.
    However, I’ve got a question: What would you say the ideal manabase is, if we were to drop the budget restriction?

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