Nearly Identical - Yuriko or Satoru?

(Ingenious Infiltrator | Art by Jason Rainville)

Swift and Silent

Hello! Welcome back to Nearly Identical, a series where I take a look at two commanders with similar designs and archetypes, find out what separates them, and help you find your next commander! Today, we're looking at two Dimir commanders that can ninjutsu out creatures for a ton of value: Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow, and Satoru Umezawa.

Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow stands as one of the most popular commanders to this date, being the fourth most built commander currently on EDHREC. She's capable of draining everyone at the table for a ton of life if she hits more than one big mana-value spell. As a result, the deck runs massive spells just to get the most out of her ability. And the way we do that is by getting damage in with Ninjas that sneak their way in through ninjutsu.

For the longest time, she was the only commander who utilized this mechanic effectively. But with the return of Kamigawa, we're introduced to a new powerhouse commander: Satoru Umezawa. While not as broken as Yuriko, Satoru gives us more to work with. By giving other creatures in our hand ninjutsu, we're open to more creative build paths that don't have to focus on Ninjas if we don't want to.

Based on data provided by MtGDS, Yuriko and Satoru have a similarity coefficient of 83%, meaning that there's an 83% chance that a card found in a Yuriko deck is also found in a Satoru deck. While one commander is not restricted to Ninjas, there is one core part that is necessary for these commanders to function and that's creatures that can go unblocked.

Ninjutsu only works if the creature we're returning to our hand goes unblocked. To ensure that happens, we need a package of small little creatures that either have evasion such as flying, or can't be blocked. Changeling Outcast is the best creature in Yuriko because it's also a Changeling, so it'll trigger Yuriko without needing to ninjutsu any creatures in for damage. Because this is so important to our strategy, we want to have cards like Ornithopter of Paradise over another mana rock simply because it can attack. It doesn't matter that it's a 0/2, so long as we have one opponent who doesn't have a flier. And we just got some new tech for Yuriko with Ingenious Prodigy and Faerie Dreamthief, which give us just a little bit of value when bounced back. So, how are we going to make these two commanders more distinct from one another?

Yuriko is a well-known commander and the pieces that go in almost feel set in stone. Stronger Yuriko decks care less about having a lot of Ninjas and more about manipulating the top of their deck so that the few that do hit can hit big. Instead of focusing too much on getting the biggest spell, I would rather leave it more to chance. I'd prefer to just make a Ninja deck and bounce Ninjas back to hand, repeating the process until we win.

For Satoru, I wanted to create a deck that I saw someone else play that piqued my interest. They were using Satoru's ability to cheat in Demons. Big beefy bodies that came down and smacked ya for a lot of damage, and all for four mana. Demons as a theme are difficult to build mostly because of their high mana value. The most popular Demon deck, by far, is Be'lakor, the Dark Master which gives you value for playing them but doesn't make them easier to cast, so you still need to run a lot of ramp. Using Satoru to get Demons down for four mana is an incredible value that'll overwhelm our opponents quickly. I'd also like to credit Alec from The Faerie Conclave which is where I first heard about Satoru Demons. Now, let's get into what we want to run in our Yuriko list!

A Clean Strike

Ingenious Infiltrator is an excellent source of card advantage in Yuriko. Not only does it have ninjutsu, but with each Ninja that's able to get in unblocked will draw us a card. Brainstorm stacks the top of the library while also giving us the chance to put a card in our hand on top. And both of Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar's abilities are great for the deck. If an opponent blocks a Ninja, it'll bounce and can be replayed with ninjutsu, and if they're not blocked, we'll draw a card and trigger Yuriko. All this just to get the most out of our commander, so what cards do we want to reveal off the top?

I'd be lying if I said Shadow of Mortality was in the deck for any reason other than it being a 15-mana spell. Sure we could cast it for two mana at some point, but dealing 15 to everyone sounds pretty sweet. However, we can't put a lot of high mana-value spells in our deck, it'd just get clunky. That's why we're including cards like Dig Through Time which can be cast for a reduced cost. Or we have cards like Commit // Memory which is actually a ten mana spell, not four mana since it's a combined mana total of both halves.

One with the Multiverse is the last card we'll talk about and it's everything our deck cares about. We'll always know what's on top of our library, remove lands by playing them, and get to cast a free spell on top of all of that.

Let's check out the deck!

Yuriko List

Yuriko's School of Ninjas

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Commander (1)
Creatures (31)
Instants (14)
Enchantments (8)
Artifacts (8)
Sorceries (3)
Planeswalkers (1)
Lands (34)

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Wings Beating like Thunder

Now, let's move on to what Demons we're adding to Satoru Umezawa.

Vilis, Broker of Blood does it all and more; an 8/8 flier that'll draw us cards whenever we lose life and has an activated that will trigger the life loss while doubling as removal. The eight-mana cost is enough to keep Vilis out of most decks, but here, we can cheat him out for four mana and establish a powerful draw engine much earlier than intended. Archfiend of Despair tacks on additional life loss on our opponents, which there will be a lot of given that we'll be hitting opponents with big Demons. And with the reprint from Commander Masters, this $40 card is now down to almost $10!

Infernal Sovereign is pretty insane. Basically, anything we do will draw us a card. Even though ninjutsu isn't a cast trigger, we're usually bouncing a small creature back to our hand which we can recast and then draw. And since Satoru puts a card into our hand when we do activate a ninjutsu ability, skipping your draw step is hardly a downside. Outside of the package of small unblockable creatures we have, how do we plan to support this plan?

Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire is one of our cheapest Demons coming in at three mana with the very niche keyword: Boast, which states that if Varragoth has attacked (important wording here), then we can pay two to tutor up any card to the top of our library. We can't activate Varragoth if he came in through ninjutsu since he wouldn't have been declared an attacker, but nonetheless, his type line is on theme and his ability will keep our deck consistent. If we're missing a demon to play or an unblockable creature, he can get it for us.

Titan of Littjara is a new and beautiful payoff for any typal deck that has little support. We plan on having a lot of Demons on the battlefield and Titan of Littjara will not only refuel our hand but become a Demon itself. Raise the Palisade will bounce every non-Demon back to their owner's hand, and rarely will we see another Demon across the table. Even though this bounces Satoru back to our hand as well, if we're casting this, we've basically just earned a free combat step. Truly a blowout card. Now, let's see what our wincons in the deck will be.

Hitting someone's face with a bunch of Demons will probably win you the game, but it doesn't take much for this deck to get blown out. We need something else as our backup if things go wrong, and Liliana's Contract fills that role. It'll draw us cards when it enters, but really we're looking at that second ability. Since we're cheating in Demons, having four on the battlefield at any given time won't be hard. The hard part is making it to our upkeep without losing our Demons or losing the Contract.

Sower of Discord makes combat math easier by allowing us to focus on one opponent as damage dealt to one will be dealt to another. Late game when someone's already been knocked out, this will ensure our victory is inevitable. Finally, the last card I'll talk about isn't one I'd consider a wincon at first glance. Protection Racket has gotten mixed reactions from players. Some praise it for its ability to draw three extra cards a turn, and others have complained it screws them over by exiling the cards they needed. Here, I think I'm okay with either option. If our opponents don't want us to have our big demons, then they're more than welcome to take eight to exile Vilis. The lower their life goes, the easier it'll be to ninjutsu in a Demon that'll finish them off.

Let's check out the deck!

Satoru, Demons' Informant

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Commander (1)
Creatures (37)
Enchantments (5)
Instants (5)
Sorceries (8)
Artifacts (8)
Lands (36)

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Lurking in the Shadows

Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow has dominated the format since her arrival in the 2018 Precons and leads a whopping 17,730 decks. To my surprise, Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver is very close to beating Yuriko out for most built Dimir commander with 17,720, as of writing this. Yuriko is one of the boogiemen of the format and her presence at the table will alarm anyone who's witnessed her in action. However, with hundreds of new commanders coming out every year, I can't remember the last time I personally played against her. That's not to say she's not still out there, lurking in the shadows, it's just that people might have moved on to new and fun commanders. Maybe players shelf her when they realize that their playgroup is looking for a chill game tonight. I think this and the repetitive nature of typical Yuriko lists have left her to the wayside.

Satoru Umezawa ranks among the top 50 commanders of all time with 9,300 decks, but that doesn't mean he's any less terrifying. I'll always be anxious about being attacked by an unblockable creature and waiting for it to turn into a Blightsteel Colossus, but I don't think Satoru suffers from the same problem as Yuriko. Yuriko wants you to play small creatures that can go unblocked and big spells that can drain the table, but you can ninjutsu out anything with Satoru. And I think that's what truly separates them.

Let me know your thoughts down below! Do you prefer to drain everyone with massive spells or sneak in powerful creatures for cheap? And if you have a Yuriko deck, what're your experiences playing her today? Let me know in the comments below, and I'll see you next time!

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Josh is a creative writer that started playing Magic when Throne of Eldraine was released. He loves entering combat and pressuring life totals, and to him, commander damage is always relevant. Outside of brewing many commander decks, he can be found prepping his D&D campaigns with a cat purring in his lap.

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