Imperial Cycle – Crab

Imperial Cycle – Crab

With the Imperial cycle finally out, let’s have a look at the Crab specifically to see what cards in the new packs go into their decks.

Despite initial high hopes, Crab had a poor performance at Worlds but still managed to go on to win PAX and Madrid. Opinions were mixed on exactly why, but the best explanation we’ve seen is it took a while for players to learn the best playstyle for the clan. There is no doubt now that Crab is a top tier clan. The Imperial cycle gave a lot of love to the Crab.

On the dynasty side, the Crab receive 3 notable characters who each have their own place. The Crisis Breaker is a way to get double use out of a character, something that we’ve seen is incredibly effective again and again. The Stoic Magistrate is devastating against the Lion and Crane decks which run cheap characters and as a defensive Magistrate gives more control over battles. Finally, Kuni Ritsuko is an extra Shugenja who wears down your opponent as you defend, helping the Crab establish board control for their push back. On the holding front, the Crab receive Karada District a powerful unique that give Crab a solution to powerful attachments without needing to run Dragon. Crab also receive Iron Mine which can be sacrificed to stop characters leaving play, this added to Reprieve mean Crab characters are going to stick around.

On the conflict side, only the Hiruma Skirmisher is of note from the Crab cards. The extra Covert is great later in the turn when Crab are going on the offensive after their opponent’s attack has been broken. From the neutrals, Crab have already had great success with Policy Debate on the defense as the stronghold will boost their political skill. Mono no Aware may also prove a key card as with Iron Mine, Reprieve, and Vanguard Warrior the Crab can retain their board when their opponent loses theirs.


Characters

Hiruma Skirmisher

The Hiruma Skirmisher is a 1 cost conflict character with 1 military, — political, and 1 glory. When the character is played, he gains covert until the end of the turn. This is similar to the Dragon conflict character Tattooed Wanderer but rather than having to choose between a character and covert, you get both. This does come at a compromise, the Skirmisher has less military and cannot assign to politic conflicts and the covert only lasts for 1 turn rather than sticking around as an attachment. On the other hand, the Skirmisher allows you to drop a surprise character and attack with that character and also has 1 glory which can be important to contest the imperial favor in some niche circumstances. As the Crab already have decent military skill, the lack of political on the Skirmisher is limiting. This is still an exceptional card for the Crab, being able to prevent a character from assigning to defend for just 1 fate will win games.

Kaiu Inventor

The Kaiu Inventor is a 2 fate Bushi with 2 military, 1 political, and 0 glory (which, given how little Crab interacts with glory could be considered a benefit). As an action, you choose a holding you control and add an extra use to any of its abilities. Holdings that sacrifice themselves will clearly not benefit from the Inventor, which leaves us to consider Borderlands Fortifications, Funeral Pyre, and Karada District. Although Borderlands Fortifications sees little current play, the other two are quite popular. The Pyre draws a card while Karada steals a card. With this in mind, the Inventor is comparable to Shrewd Yasuki. The Inventor’s ability also relies on holdings, but those holdings must be your own, and be drawn from a far more limited pool. Right now, the Inventor seems weaker than the Yasuki. The Inventor could potentially offer more card draw by targeting a Funeral Pyre, but that also require you to have characters to sacrifice, adding a significant opportunity cost. Karada District, however, stands to benefit most from the Inventor. A Crab player with 2 Inventors in play could Rebuild into a Karada and pay 3 fate to steal 3 attachments. That is potentially massive, and something the Shrewd Yasuki cannot hope to match. For now, the Inventor looks to be very hit and miss, but all it will take is one new powerful holding to catapult her into decks.

Staunch Hida

The Staunch Hida is a 2 cost Bushi with 2 military, — political, and 1 glory. She has a Reaction that allows you to resolve the ring if you win a conflict on the defense. The 2 cost for 2 skill is decent and the ability is nice, but doesn’t help you win that conflict. At 2 cost, she is always vulnerable Assassination. The other 2 cost Crab characters (Hiruma Yōjimbō, Shrewd Yasuki, and Vanguard Warrior) are all good but do have limitations. The Staunch Hida is no different, the — political means this is only going to work in military conflicts, so it is only going to be relevant in 1 of the 4 possible conflicts. Despite the issues, the Staunch Hida will make a nice addition to the defensive Crab dishonor deck.

Stoic Magistrate

This is the Crab’s character in the magistrate theme of this cycle. Importantly, as an Imperial character, this Magistrate contributes skill to Seppun Ishikawa, someone we will see later in the releases .Although the stats of 2 military, 2 political, and 1 glory for 3 fate are poor, this characters text easily makes up for it. When the Stoic Magistrate is defending, 2 or lower cost characters do not contribute their skill towards resolution of the conflict. This does run a little counter to the low cost sacrifice theme of the Crab as well as the strongholds ability which favors lots of characters to increase the bonus. It is, however, a pretty great ability. Having one of these characters on the table will make your opponent’s decisions on how to assign very difficult. If they do assign 2 or lower cost characters, they risk being contributing 0 skill, but if they don’t assign them they won’t be in the conflict and will have to defend instead. It is likely they will only assign their 3+ cost characters keeping their 2 and less cost characters in reserved to defend where the Magistrate’s ability won’t help. Getting a surprise Stoic Magistrate in via Charge! or Raise the Alarm would really make a mess of an attack. On the other hand, a surprise Stoic Magistrate could make a mess of your own defence!

Crisis Breaker

The Crisis Breaker is a 3 cost Bushi Berserker with 3 military, 1 political, and 1 glory. The Breaker’s action can only be used in a military conflict if you count less military skill than your opponent. To count military skill, only count ready characters in the conflict and include the imperial favor if it is relevant. The effect is to target a Berserker, either the Crisis Breaker or another, ready them and/or move them into the conflict. This card is the reason Crab went with a Keeper role.

Currently, only the Crisis Breaker and Vengeful Berserker have the Berserker trait, but the Seal of the Crab can give it to anyone. This action allows one of your Berserkers to participate in two conflicts. Characters with similar effects are some of the most influential in the environment: Niten Master, Prodigy of the Waves, and Steadfast Witch Hunter for example. The Crisis Breaker isn’t quite as flexible however, you need to be losing a conflict. Your opponent can deny you this by refusing to have more military skill than you do, not necessarily an undesirable situation, but it does allow your opponent to work around it.

Kuni Ritsuko

This unique 4 cost Shugenja has 4 military, 2 political, and 1 glory. Her ability is a reaction to winning a conflict and removes 1 fate from an attacking character. As a Shugenja, she joins the Steadfast Witch Hunter leaving Crab with 2 Shugenja. In the current environment, Cloud the Mind is a key card. The quality of characters has shot up since the start of the Imperial cycle and Cloud the Mind is one of the few ways of dealing with those characters. In theory, only 2 Shugenja, or 6 cards, isn’t a great number but when those Shugenja are quality characters that will be made everytime they appear, it becomes a lot more reliable. With this addition, it does look like Crab could play 2 Cloud the Mind with confidence.

The ability allows the Crab player to sneak in an advantage when they win on the defense, essentially triggering a ring of void with a limited target. This allows the crab player to slowly grind down their opponent before the inevitable counter-attack.

Yasuki Taka

At 5 cost, Taka is a 3 military, 4 political, and 2 glory character. He does not have any currently relevant traits. His ability is a reaction which can be used multiple times per turn which gives his owner 1 fate every time a Crab character is discarded during a conflict. Taka doesn’t progress your board directly, but every fate he generates returns the cost you paid for him. After just 1 fate he is a 3/4 for 4 which is a decent stat line. Every fate you gain after that is a bonus that gives you more fate during conflicts when you need it. You may even find yourself sacrificing characters specifically to generate fate to power conflicts cards. It does make him incredibly effective in the mirror match. Taka may form a core of a sacrifice deck, but to get full value out of his ability, you’ll need to focus on sacrifice effects during the conflicts.


Holdings

Karada District

This holding is limited to 1 per deck. As an action, you can give an opponent 1 fate and take control of one of their attachments. Crab don’t have an in-clan way to deal with attachments, so this does add something. The 1 per deck limit it the only way to have a unique limitation on holdings, as they come into play immediately, but it makes this card very unreliable. In addition, the cost for the effect is a shift of 1 fate, so effectively 2 fate. This means the attachment needs to be worth it.

Unfortunately, this combination of high cost and unreliability along with the need for a good target to be effective really hampers this card. Rebuild helps out a bit, if your opponent drops a worthwhile attachment, a previously discarded Karada District can be brought back into play. In the old game we did have the Ancestral Swords of the various clans, if these powerful attachments were to be printed again, this would significantly improve the value of this holding. Currently, I don’t think Karada District is worth it due to how unreliable it is, but it wouldn’t take much for this to be an important tool in the Crab’s arsenal. Update: Ha! How wrong was I. This is an auto-include in Crab decks. If you see it early you can Rebuild it when you need it. It is a great way to deal with problem attachments which are increasing in numbers.

Iron Mine

Reprieve is a core card for the Crab. It can be used to protect a character from a kill effect or, more often, just keep them around for an extra turn. Iron Mine is the same effect, but as a holding instead. This essentially doubles the amount of retention the Crab can get, and with Rebuild used Iron Mines can be fetched and used again. On the other hand, it is another holding. Holdings are a big bonus as they’re free, but they take up a province and mean you get 1 less character to make. Decks can only run so many holdings before they risk disastrous dynasty phases where they’re unable to make any characters.

Compared to Reprieve, it is notable that Iron Mine protects all your characters, not just 1. With an Iron Mine in play, any effect that would discard a character can be negated. This gives the Crab board a massive amount of protection. At the end of the turn, it essentially adds 1 fate to one of your characters. Of course, the value of a single point of fate can change. This is going to be keeping your best character in play an extra turn. This can be Hida Kisada or a Steadfast Witch Hunter generating a massive board position. This can be magnified if the character you’re saving has an attachment such as a Watch Commander. Importantly, this along with Reprieve works with effects like Charge! and Raise the Alarm which brings characters in to play for cheap. This is an awesome card and should be a 3 of in every Crab dynasty deck despite the competition.


Events

Raise the Alarm

If you are defending in a military conflict, this 0 cost event flips the facedown province being attacked and brings any character revealed into play. There are then a number of conditions, it has to be on the defense, it has to be military, and the province has to have a facedown card. The effect could be pretty amazing; you could get Hida Kisada for free. You could also get an Eager Scout or a holding. Those last two aren’t terrible, the Eager Scout is another body, and a holding would immediately come into play. The point is, the effect is unreliable. Combined, this makes Raise the Alarm a very conditional and unreliable card. It is a free character though, even if it is a roll of the dice to see what character you get. Also playing charge makes this a little more reliable although there still is the risk that your opponent will attack provinces with holdings. At 2 influence it could be tempting for clans like Lion and Unicorn who already focus on military and play charge. Any effect that can get more use out of the character will improve this events effect, specifically, The Mountain Does Not Fall and Reprieve come to mind.

Fair Accord

This 0 cost event requires discarding the favor to play. If you do, you gain 2 fate. Fair Accord can only be played during the dynasty phase, which means you’re taking an extra action reducing your chances to pass first. If your opponent has already passed, you can play this to try catch up. As you require the imperial favor, this is a dead card turn 1. As you can only discard the favor once, multiple copies in hand will need to be played once per turn. If you have the favor, it normally means you had a pretty good last turn, so this isn’t going to dig you out of a hole if you’re losing. As an action, Fair Accord is a neat idea but it seems to be a little too restricted to be worth playing.


Attachments

Seal of the Crab

Just like the other Seals, this is a 0 cost attachment which gives +1 to a skill, a faction icon, and a trait. In this case, the skill is military, and the trait is Berserker. Right now that doesn’t mean much, but we do know that the upcoming Crisis Breaker straightens Berserkers with his ability. Like the other seals, I’ll be surprised if they see play without some later support.

Pathfinder’s Blade

This 0 cost attachment gives +1 military. It can only be played by Seeker clans; Crane, Dragon, Scorpion and notably not Crab. At an interrupt, this attachment can be discarded to cancel the effects of a triggered ability on a province. Essentially, this negates all the provinces beyond those like Ancestral Lands and Pilgrimage which have flat effects. Out of the 3 clans who currently can play this, it will be most popular with Dragon. At 1 influence it is a 0 cost Weapon which does not have the restricted trait. This is the perfect card for the Niten Master as early game it is free and late game it won’t require destroying a previously played weapon. The sacrifice effect will be the draw for Crane and Scorpion if they decide to play it. Crane already have seen the utility of Cautious Scout and the Pathfinder’s Blade does not have the limitation of attacking alone.

Pit Trap

This attachment has a few rules issues, but we’ve been assured they will be dealt with in an upcoming rules update. This 3 cost attachment can only be attached to an attacking character. It gives -1 military and -1 political, and the attached character does not ready during the regroup phase. If an attacking character is a problem this turn, then at least it won’t be a problem next turn. Unfortunately, Pit Trap doesn’t prevent straighten effects, so a Prodigy of the Waves will still be able to straighten. Of greater concern, the ring of water will straighten a character and is available to all clans. In addition, at 3 cost, it is especially painful if your opponent plays Let Go. Pit Trap may find a place if super units like the Dragon deathstars become prevalent, but, currently, this card doesn’t appear to do enough for its cost.


Conclusion

Variations on the Bear Cavalry deck have already been very successful, winning both PAX and Madrid Koteis. This deck continues with that core adding in the new cards from the Imperial cycle to improve it’s effectiveness. Talisman of the Sun from the Unicorn, allows the Crab player to choose two provinces to have the conflict at, either triggering two effects or deciding which provinces to end the conflict at. Mono no Aware provides an option to clear the opponent’s board while using other effects to retain your own.

Crab did great out of the Imperial cycle with a number of strong additions to their best deck. It looks like they are coming out of the cycle as one of the top clans, and considering they’ve already won 2 Koteis before the full cycles release, that makes them a force to be reckoned with.


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