Imperial Cycle – Lion

Imperial Cycle – Lion

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

Lion were a strong clan going into the Imperial cycle, with a winner of Worlds and regularly high performers in the recent Kotei. In this cycle, they’ve received a number of characters that improve the quality of the already existing deck. Decks that previously needed to keep their honor high to use cards such as Venerable Historian and Obstinate Recruit can now abandon those in favor of new characters. This also allows Lion, if they wish, to double down on the Bushi trait moving away from Courtiers such as Ikoma Prodigy and political conflicts. These new cheaper characters are Akodo Toshiro, Gifted Tactician, and Miwaku Kabe Guard. The set also provides two big characters worthy of Charge! and Kitsu Spiritcaller. Ikoma Ujiaki does require the favor, but his action has the potential to be game-winning especially if backed up by a For Greater Glory. The Implacable Magistrate isn’t the most powerful of the Magistrates, but with the number of ways the Lion have to honor characters and the number of clans who rely only on the ring of fire she has the potential to win games. On the conflict, the notable addition is the Ageless Crone a 1 cost character who increases the cost of events by 1. As fate is tight, this can deny a player with 0 fate any event in a conflict. From the neutral cards, the two that immediately come to mind are the provinces of Feast or Famine and Public Forum, both of which are effective without requiring a defense, leaving the Lion to do what they do best, attack.


Characters

Ageless Crone

This 1 cost conflict character has 0 military, 1 political, 0 glory, and the courtier trait. While she is in the conflict, she increases the cost of events for everyone by 1 fate. A typical deck has around 50% of the conflict deck at 0 cost with the majority of the remainder around 1 fate. Dropping the Ageless Crone into a conflict shuts down your opponents ability to play any more events if they have 0 fate. This is a surprise Guest of Honor for 1 fate. Even though only 0 military skill, the Crone can be in military conflicts. As a Courtier, she makes cards like For Shame! more reliable in Lion although it would cost 1 fate. With 1 political she can win a surprise political conflict where the Lion are usually weak. This is a truly stunning character that will allow Lion to lock in a conflict where they are already ahead. It’s very presence will encourage other clans to play their events early before the Crone makes her appearance.

Miwaku Kabe Guard

This 1 cost Bushi isn’t very exciting at 1 military and 0 political. Although you’re normally unlikely to put 1 fate on a 1 cost personality, with the Pride keyword and 2 glory the Miwaku Kabe Guard is too good not to. Luckily for the Lion, this all fits perfectly into their deck. Although he is only 1 military, on the attack with the Lion stronghold Yōjin no Shiro he is 2 military. He also is an extra body for effects like the Honored General. At 1 fate he is good to churn out while refreshing provinces with the Staging Ground holding. As a Bushi, he can get extra fate using For Greater Glory and as he honors up you can use cards like Stand Your Ground (although he probably wouldn’t be a great target). For a Lion deck looking to gain more honor, he works perfectly well as a throwaway body that wins a battle and gains an honor when he leaves play. The Milwaukee Kabe Guard isn’t exciting, but he certainly has a place in Lion decks.

Gifted Tactician

This Bushi character costs 2 fate and has 2 military, 1 politics, and 1 glory. As a reaction to winning a military conflict that this character is involved in, draw a card. Lion love cheap Bushi, it clears the path for Staging Ground and is another body for cards like Yōjin no Shiro and Honored General. Getting to draw a card after winning is great and is an important addition to the clan who like to bid low and have limited card draw options. The Gifted Tactician is comparable in many ways to the Akodo Gunsō but lacks the province refill. Where the Gunso’s Pride can be a liability, the Tactician suffers no ill effects for losing making it a solid target for 1 additional fate.

Akodo Toshiro

This Bushi character’s stats of 2 military, 1 political, and 2 glory for 2 fate are pretty typical, possibly a little better than normal if we take the 2 glory as a bonus. While attacking, Toshiro can take an action to gain +5 Military strength at the cost of not destroying the province. This is a way to assure victory and guarantee a ring effect if, for some reason, you find yourself behind. It does come at a cost, though. If there is no commander in the conflict (presumably to temper the hot-headed youth) Toshiro is discarded after the conflict ends. There are currently two Lion commanders in the game: Gifted Tactician and Honored General. These are both popular cards who hit the table often, so they should be able to keep Toshiro in check. As Toshiro can be a 7-military-skill character, he does improve skill-dependent cards such as Rout, and any dueling card. Some have even gone as far as suggesting that he makes Fallen in Battle playable. Toshiro competes with an impressive lineup of 2-cost dynasty characters for Lion, including Akodo Gunsō, Deathseeker, Gifted Tactician, and Venerable Historian. Even so, Toshiro should see playing time in decks that are tweaked to take full advantage of his unique ability.

Implacable Magistrate

This Bushi character is the Lion’s addition to the imperial magistrate line. At 3 cost for 2 military, 2 political, and 1 glory, she has the same stats as the other magistrates. The Bushi trait, however, is of greater value to the Lion, compared to other clans, thanks to For Greater Glory. As with all the other Magistrates, the Implacable Magistrate’s effect prevents certain characters from counting their skill towards conflict resolution when the magistrate is attacking. In this case, only honored characters and the Magistrate herself contribute skill. For the clans that rely on the ring of fire to honor their characters, she will present significant problems, and could possibly render a province undefendable. As with so many other Lion characters, there is always the potential of Charge!, Kitsu Spiritcaller, and Ikoma Ujiaki to drop this into a conflict. But there will also be turns where the Magistrate cannot be assigned with the rest of a Lion army, meaning she will be relegated to defense, or assigned to a secondary, political attack.

Beastmaster Matriarch

This 4 cost Bushi character has 3 military, 2political, and 2 glory. For each ring your opponent has claimed, the Beastmaster gains +2 military. If you’re going second, a truly terrible turn will result in the Beastmaster being 7 military on your final attack. Is it worth it? Currently, Lion play a swarm deck rushing out cheap characters while using the Kitsu Spiritcaller and Charge! to bring the more expensive characters in on the cheap. At the expensive slot, the Beastmaster is competing against Honored General, Akodo Toturi, and Ikoma Ujiaki. In that deck, the Beastmaster is unlikely to get a look in. If there is some reason for a big character style deck instead, the Beastmaster would be another option, but I’m not sure what that kind of deck would look like. The Beastmaster is just military skill on a stick, the Lion already have plenty of that.

Ikoma Ujiaki

Ujiaki is the 2nd Lion character with both the Bushi and Courtier traits. This gives increased consistently in playing both Bushi and Courtier cards giving the Lion decks additional tools such as For Shame! With 3 military, 5 political, and 2 glory for 5 fate Ujiaki has decent if below clan champion level stats. His ability requires having the Imperial favor, so this will require winning conflicts or leaving ready glory to take it. His effect certainly would justify leaving a character or two ready. After discarding the favor, you reveal all your provinces and put 2 of those characters into play at the current conflict. Lion have already been getting a lot of value out of the Kitsu Spiritcaller and Charge! Importantly there is no condition on their return, so cards like Good Omen, For Greater Glory, Stand Your Ground, and Sashimono will help you get more value out of those characters. This is a stunningly good character. If Ujiaki ever hits the table opposing you, you need to make sure your opponent does not get the favor.


Holdings

Hito District

This Imperial holding is limited to 1 per deck. Political conflicts cannot be declared against this province. Hopefully, there is some sort of combo with an as of yet unreleased card, but right now I have no idea what this card is for. You have no control over which province this deck will pop up in. If it turns up in a broken province, your opponent cannot attack it. If it turns up in an unbroken province, your opponent can attack any of the other provinces with a political conflict instead. I just don’t get it.


Attachments

Seal of the Lion

This seal is very similar to the others. Of note, the Honored General and Brilliant Tactician already have the Commander trait. It is relevant for Akodo Toshiro but currently has no other use.

Guard Duty

This Keeper-only attachment costs 1 fate for +0 military and +0 political. As an action, the defending character can honor itself. Lion have a few 3-glory characters, but, for the most part, Lion characters have 1 or 2 glory. This attachment then gives, in effect +2 military and +2 political, which — while conditional to activate and costing more than Fine Katana or Ornate Fan — is flexible. It also potentially honors up a character for Stand Your Ground, which will keep a character with Guard Duty around for another turn, during which they can use Guard Duty to honor again. Although Lion do like honoring up their characters, they aren’t particularly fond of defending, so this might struggle to find a slot in Lion decks. On the other hand, at 1 influence it may be of interest to Crane and Phoenix, who have great interest in effects that easily honor their characters.

Kamayari

This 2 cost +3 military weapon is very similar to the Crab’s Jade Tetsubōwhich does not see a lot of play. The Kamayari can only be played on Bushi characters which aren’t a problem for Lion. The ability bows a character who triggered an ability during the conflict. Bowing characters is great, but this is very much telegraphed. Your opponent knows the Kamayari is in play and has to decide between having their character bowing or not using the ability. In this way, it is similar to the Crab card Watch Commander which also adds an additional cost. Kamayari looks like a situational meta card. If Lion are having trouble with characters who have actions, this might be a way to help deal with them. Without targets that would suffer from the ability, the skill to fate ratio on this card may not be worth it for the card to see play.


Events

A Legion of One

This 0 cost event can only be played during a military conflict. If you have only 1 character on your side, you can play this card to get +3 military and can choose to remove a fate from the character to gain an additional +3 military for a total of +6. Losing a fate means the character is going to be leaving play a turn sooner, but even without that extra option +3 force is great for a single card. Going solo probably means you’re low on options, possibly keeping characters for another conflict. As the Lion stronghold Yōjin no Shiro benefits from multiple characters on the attack, Lion normally prefer attacking with multiple characters. As such, it seems likely Lion will best use this card on the defense. This along with Way of the Lion and Banzai! will allow a single character get pretty dangerous. Unlike Banzai! it is not limited to once per turn. At 2 influence, this might be a popular splash giving, clans weaker in military an extra pseudo-Banzai!

Time for War

This is a seeker only event that costs 0 fate. As Lion currently have a keeper role, Lion cannot play Time For War. As a reaction to losing a political conflict, you attach a Weapon from your hand or discard pile, with 3 or lower cost to a Bushi for free. There are currently four weapons in the card pool, Ancestral Daishō, Fine Katana, Honored Blade, and Jade Tetsubō. Those are 1, 0, 1, and 2 fate respectively none of which fully take advantage of the 3 cost discount. Even though this is only 1 influence, it is not yet the time for Time for War. As previously mentioned, the Ancestral Swords are a potential option which would significantly improve the value of this action. Currently, Dragon, Crane, and Scorpion are the clans with the seeker role, none of which are particularly prone to losing political conflicts. This looks like this is a card for the future.

Test of Courage

Test of Courage is a 1 cost event that can only be played during a conflict when your honor dial bid is less than your opponent. In the core environment, Lion have been pretty consistent in bidding low trying to keep their honor higher than their opponent for specific cards effects. Nonetheless, this condition can be problematic as the card Good Omen shows. Many games lock into an equal bid rhythm with both players bidding the same 5 or 1 turn after turn. If you can manage to bid lower than your opponent, you can move a Lion character you control into the current conflict and honor them. Honoring a character is a great skill boost for Lion and also lets them stay around a little longer with Stand Your Ground. Move in abilities help support an army where your opponent has more than expected skill or has played actions that unexpectedly increased their skill or reduced your own, such as with send-home actions. This is a pretty great card, but you have to wonder, why didn’t the Lion character assign in the first place? This combined with the often tricky bidding condition could push this out of contention for a slot in the already packed Lion conflict deck.


Lion were in a good place and got some great cards that support their main deck type. This puts Lion in a strong position, however, other clans are learning how to deal with Lion. Policy Debate specifically is of great concern as Lion often have 1 political targets that can be dueled and losing key cards like For Greater Glory can be painful. Lion may find themselves playing Censure to cancel it. On the other hand, if they find themselves with the 4 fate available, Mono no Aware followed by For Greater Glory could break most opponents. Lion definitely look like a clan to beat.


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