When Legend Story Studios broke into the TCG scene, they provided local game stores with what they called the Welcome Deck. This small pre-constructed deck featured Ira as the face of the game while introducing players to the potential it offered. The simple gameplay of the Ira mirror match saw players going back and forth, throwing Head Jabs and Flying Kicks and, hopefully, hitting that signature Whirling Mist Blossom.
In this way, Ninja was, for many, their very first taste of the game, and Ira their first hero. That remained Ira's claim to fame, because as soon as a player bought into the game and started opening Welcome to Rathe, Ira was cast aside in favor of a more mature hero: Katsu.
While Ira was 'too young' for the constructed format of the era, it was ultimately a technical ruling that she had not been formally released in a booster pack that kept her from seeing any play. And so it was Katsu who players honed their Ninja skills with. That is, until the release of Crucible of War and the introduction of the Blitz format brought competition. And it wasn't just a formally released Ira who was challenging Katsu's place.
Alongside Ira's booster set debut, we were introduced to Benji, a blitz hero with an off-brand Ninja ability. While Ira soared as a competitive Blitz hero, Benji remained a novelty, his potential untapped... until now.
These three Ninjas have shaped the competitive scene and defined the outer boundaries of what a deck must be prepared to handle. Their individual strategies are each primed for a fruitful and potent future. Let’s take a deep dive into how the Ninja class will carve their way into the metagame this year and beyond.
The Legend Grows
Unexpectedly, perhaps the best new toy for Ninjas arrived in the form of a Generic card. Even Bigger Than That is a card that Ninjas stand to gain more from than anyone. Most- if not all- Ninja play patterns begin with an onslaught of 'go again'-driven Kodachi- which, unless they’re in a terrifying “Kodachi Lock”, the opponent is more than likely to allow to hit. Before the sting of the Kodachi can seep in, Even Bigger Than That (red) allows the Ninja to Opt 3 and draw a card that has a greater base attack than 1.
As if to add insult to injury, doing so will allow them to create a Quicken Token. In Ira, that could mean a 5-damage Snatch with 'go again'. In Katsu, this could mean the beginning of a very dangerous combo line. And while Benji isn't likely to follow up with a single hit anywhere near as scary as those, he will certainly be drawing out his chain of attacks for the turn. Regardless of which Ninja you’re using, those pesky daggers are now more threatening than ever.
Ira's Steady March
To be completely honest, Ira didn’t specifically get a whole lot of support from Everfest. On the surface, that sounds a bit dismissive of our Original Ninja. But Ira has never lost her fighting form, remaining a specter of the Blitz format. Her meta strategy is the embodiment of the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
That said, one card that comes to mind would certainly be Twin Twisters. The red pitch version would allow you to come in for a 5 attack with built in 'go again' if it were to be played as your second attack on the chain. Worst case scenario, it comes in for 3 and buffs your next attack by 1 on hit. Despite that, I struggle finding anything in the popular Ira builds that would compel a Twin Twisters substitute. Especially considering that, in true Ninja fashion, it only blocks for 2.
Moving into Skirmish season, I fully anticipate seeing Ira high in the ranks- as is her habit.
The Lord of Wind Learns a New Trick
In my opinion, Katsu is one of the most well rounded, true-to-form aggressive heroes in the game. And because of this, Katsu is going to take advantage of a slightly wider spectrum of Everfest additions than Ira. After a brief season of lower representation, I expect you’ll be seeing more of Katsu in higher level competitive gameplay. While I'd be surprised to see him enter the top tier, I wouldn’t be shocked to see those top heroes integrating sideboard packages to deal with him.
Everfest Katsu is going to take advantage of the Hundred Winds combo line to great effect. Let’s say you have one or more Hundred Winds in hand, and you begin your turn with the trusty blue pitch 0 cost into Kodachi. Swing in with Hundred Winds, hit, and trigger Katsu’s ability. At this point, you can search for another Hundred Winds to continue your built in 'go again' with the small +1 buff. But your optimal scenario? Search for Winds of Eternity.
While I don’t expect every diehard Katsu player to force the Hundred Winds combo line into their deck, I do believe we should all expect to see some.
Coming Of Age
While Katsu and Ira remain relatively consistent, it's really Benji who's changed. Everfest has taken what was once considered a “meme” deck and made us respect it. With the introduction of Spring Tidings, Benji is quickly transforming into a blitz menace. Spring Tidings is, in my opinion, the best-tailored specialization we've seen. A 0-cost yellow pitch that attacks for 2 and blocks for 3 with built in 'go again' is exactly the kind of card Benji wants, and it stays on theme with the 2-base attack that is unblockable from cards in hand. Finally, it allows the player to draw a card for each attack that has hit on the combat chain with base 2 or less. As early as a week after the release of Everfest, OTK Benji decks began to emerge, with his new specialization making it all possible.
While Spring Tidings may have his name on it, Mask of the Pouncing Lynx feels just as custom built for Benji. Upon landing an impossible-to-block blow to your opponent, you may destroy the Mask to search your deck an attack action with 2 or less base (i.e., Spring Tidings). Because of this, you can force your explosive combo on turn one, before giving your opponent a chance to get their bearings. It's enough to ensure that Mask of Momentum sees time on the bench among Benji players.
Leaving the Dojo
While Everfest supported all classes and most heroes, I feel comfortable saying that Ninjas were reasonably favored. After spending a lot of time playing against the three Ninjas and their new goodies, I'm confident that each of them will remain a force to be reckoned with.
The next time you go into your Armory event, remember to think twice about willingly accepting a Kodachi blow- and bring a fridge of armor to block Benji! These three Ninjas are here to stay, and they’re certainly striking back.
Parker Brown has been both casually and competitively playing Flesh and Blood since early 2021. A self proclaimed collector-turned-player, Parker was drawn into Flesh and Blood by its unique and darker themed art style. Parker is a Viserai player at heart, but has been known to study the mechanics of every hero in the world of Rathe. He enjoys writing on topics such as metagame strategy, deck building, and more.
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