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OK, about this new set...

I'm sure a lot of you got a chance to attend your local prereleases.  I'm sure those of you in the rough snow areas didn't, but you will soon enough.  I bet those of you that went had a great time.  Of course everyone has their opinion on the set.  Opinions are like... well, never mind.  If you didn't get to go to one of these great events, I'd recommend checking out a spoiler now.  They have one over on  

Anyway, I was looking over the set and I have a hard time seeing everyone's complaints.   But I'm not really going to spend time worrying about it.  There are always the naysayers.  And to be honest, I think this is a great set for middle the middle set in the block.  It definitely does a nice job of building on the concepts and story that were set forth in Champions of Kamigawa.

I did find it interesting that many players were enamored with one of the new abilities.    I bet that you already know which one it is.  OK, if you can't figure it's Ninjitsu.  And rightfully so.  Ninjas are pretty damn cool.  I'm down with ninjas.  Hell, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were great fun.  I hear their new shows are good too, but I haven't had the chance to bask in their tubular presence lately.  Yeah, I guess it shouldn't surprise me that players are all about ninjitsu.  But my main concern is its effectiveness.  

How good is this ability?  Yeah, I know it's great to get the shot in once and make use of the ability, but look at it a little closer.  First of all, go back and look at my article from two weeks ago.  Go ahead...I'll wait...

So, now you should have a better understanding of the combat step if you didn't already.  I know some of you don't understand why I sent you to go read that wonderful piece of gaming literature.  Well, to clarify, this "ninjitsu" isn't as straight forward and many players will try to make it out to be.

First of all, you want to use Ninjitsu when you know your creature is going to get through for some damage.  That's the only time to you can play it. But be careful.  Everyone is quick to say "add damage to the stack" after checking for blockers.  If you make any indication of damage being dealt, then you've lost your chance to activate Ninjitsu on one of your creatures.  I'd recommend starting to practice now.  Clearly announce your steps and phases.  This way your opponent can't get confused.  I expect to be called to a table no less than ten times in the next couple of months to resolve something involving Ninjitsu.  I'm not saying that people will be out to cheat you.  Of course there are some of those people out there, but overall, it could be a simple case of miscommunication with an ability like this.

Don't forget the rule.  Make sure creatures are unblocked.  Make sure damage hasn't been dealt.  Activate Ninjitsu.  Got it.  If not, get used to it.  These ninjas look like their going to be around for a pretty good while.

Anyway, we were having some interesting debates around my shop about the intricacies of Ninjitsu.  You attack.  They announce blockers.  Then if a creature goes unblocked you play Ninjitsu, right?  Not always.  And this is largely what we were discussing.  If, and/or when, do you really want to use Ninjitsu?

Imagine I'm playing a green/black deck.  A typical good draw is usually to start the game with a land and a Birds of Paradise.  On the following turn, assuming you make your land drop (because we all know you don't keep a one land hand), what do you do?  You can play a three casting cost creature.  You can play more Birds of Paradise.  You can make your opponent discard.  How do you choose to play the Ninjitsu ability?  

I just don't think it belongs in as many decks as people are trying to throw those ninjas into.  In the above example, if you were to attack with your Birds of Paradise (or whatever other first turn creature), and use Ninjitsu, how productive is it?  For instance, if you were to pick up Birds of Paradise in exchange for your Skullsnatcher (or even a Throat Slitter, if you'd played a Chrome Mox) what do you gain?  OK, sure, your opponent will lose a card from their graveyard or destroyed a creature, but with that being the case, you've sort of wasted your first turn.  You aren't ahead on mana anymore.  You don't have an extra creature attacking.  

Maybe the fact that it's called Ninjitsu is a little sneakier than we know.  I mean, really, maybe it takes a bit more skill than we first assumed.  I would also take the time to try and see what type of decks each ninja fits into.  I wouldn't imagine that the discard ninja needs to be in a ton of decks.

Honestly, I'm not even sure if the ninjas will find their way into a lot of decks.  I would lay off these ninjas right out of the gates.  Don't be too quick to use these guys.  I think they're good, but not sure their good enough for me to go crazy over.  Feel free to experiment and figure out what you like and what you want to do with them.  Just be careful and don't destroy your decks trying to fit them in.  Ninjitsu doesn't just "autofit" into a deck.

Truthfully, I'd be a bit more interested in reading about interesting plays from prereleases.  I'd like to know what cards stood out and which ones won big games for you.  This set is going to have so much stuff going on and lots of neat abilities that will be coming into play.  I'd like to hear about reader's perspectives form the get go.  It'll be something fun to look back at in a month or two.

Magic is a very deceiving game.  Ninjas are even more deceiving.  I bet I'll be wrong about these guys.

But if I don't have an article next week, well…the ninjas probably got me.

Until next time,

DeQuan Watson
a.k.a. PowrDragn
PowrDragn at Pojo dot com   

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