Imperial Cycle – Scorpion

Imperial Cycle – Scorpion

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

Although they had yet to win any major tournaments, Scorpion had some of the best qualification rates into the top cut. They have also been able to produce two relatively distinct styles, one focused on dishonor and the other focused on conquest. Up until this point, although there were differences in the decks the card pool was narrow enough that either deck could switch if required. The Imperial cycle doesn’t offer a lot for Scorpion, but it does have some good additions.

The Scorpion conquest decks enjoy playing surprise conquest characters from hand. Bayushi Kachiko is a great addition to that deck and has the stats and ability appropriate for a champion level character. The dishonor deck is probably more interested in Illustrious Plagiarist, although both styles of deck could play him. Each Illustrious Plagiarist allows you to counter an event your opponent plays with a copy of it, all without paying an event cost or using a conflict card from hand. Although painfully expensive at 4 fate, A Fate Worse Than Death is a problem solver that all Scorpion decks can run without requiring any further setup. With the increased card pool, the number of suitable targets had significantly increased. In this set, the imperial favor is an important theme and many clans have powerful abilities they can use if they can get control of the favor. The Scorpion card to use the favor isn’t great, but they are able to deny the favor from their opponent with Fawning Diplomat making it an opponent meta choice. All Scorpion decks can benefit from the Meek Informant which allows them to see their opponent’s hand which lets a great player play a perfect turn. From the neutral cards, Scorpion get Policy Debate which with their decent political skill and ability to pressure dishonor will be very effective for them.

So, some good additions, but will it be enough? In the core environment, Scorpion have had an extremely strong performance in the swiss, but lost out in the single elimination rounds. This might have been poor matchups or just poor luck, it’s hard to know. The question here is whether the new additions will give Scorpion the push they need to win a tournament.


Characters

Meek Informant

This is a 1 cost conflict character with — military and 1 politics. This character is a Peasant and a Shinobi. As a reaction to entering play, you can look at an opponent’s hand. 1 cost for a character is great, an extra character out of nowhere can surprise your opponent and declare an attack they were not expecting. Unfortunately, this character is — military which means you’re not going to be declaring a military attack with it. As Scorpion are strong in political, it is unlikely they would need the support to declare a political attack.

The entering-play ability is fantastic, unlike the Kitsuki Investigator you don’t get to discard a card, but you do get to see your opponent’s hand and can play a perfect game. As FFG do not allow note taking, this is going to be a high skill card benefiting those who can remember all the cards they saw. In this game, hand sizes can get very high, so you may need to remember a dozen or more cards. At only 1 influence, this card may actually be better as a splash for a military-focused clan who can get more out of the 1 political skill than the Scorpion can.

Sake House Confidant

This 2 cost Courtier Shinobi has 1 military, 1 political, and 1 glory. The stat line is poor, but the traits are ones Scorpion do like, even if Shinobi is still developing. The ability requires discarding the imperial favor and gives each Shinobi in the conflict +2 political for the duration of the conflict. If you only have the Sake House Confidant, that turns the favor into +2 political. The trait is still developing, but currently, there are Adept of Shadows, Meek Informant, Shosuro Actress, and Shosuro Miyako within the Scorpion clan. Those are all playable cards, and even one additional character would bring that bonus to +4 political which is decent. The dilemma here then is if the Scorpion are going to have the favor. If they decide to play Fawning Diplomat to deny other clans the Imperial favor, it might make senses to play this slightly under-stated character to get a big use out of the favor.

Bayushi Yojiro

Yojiro is a 3 cost unique character with 3 military, 1 political, and 2 glory. He is a Bushi, Imperial, and Magistrate. Bushi isn’t a trait the Scorpion are particularly interested in, so Yojiro will be taking the slot of a useful Courtier. While Yojiro is in a conflict status tokens are ignored. The Scorpion rarely honor their own characters, who often have low glory, so being able to ignore the honored status can help. The Scorpion do focus on dishonoring characters, both their opponent’s characters and often their own as a cost. As the Scorpion characters typically have low glory they normally don’t mind being dishonored but their opponents often do, so Yojiro’s trait won’t help. Notably, Yojiro has 2 glory himself which would have made him the perfect target to be honored but his trait stops it from being useful. This is a cool idea but doesn’t mesh with the Scorpion’s theme and focus. He does at least boost Seppun Ishikawa!

Cunning Magistrate

Cunning Magistrate is the Scorpion addition to the magistrate line. A Bushi he has similar stats to the other magistrates at 3 cost for 2 military, 2 political, and 1 glory. In notable contrast to the others, this character is a conflict card giving it an element of surprise. When participating in a conflict, either attacking or defending, all other dishonored characters do not count their skill towards resolution. Scorpion are the kings of dishonoring characters so they will be able to leverage this, they will have control over this ability dishonoring opponent’s characters and leaving their own dishonored characters out of the conflict. When you consider it, however, you realize that dishonored characters often have low skill anyway due to the glory penalty. This card then primarily helps with low glory characters such as Hida Kisadaand with super units that have a large skill such as a Lion character with double Way of the Lion. As another conflict character, this has potential with Ambush pairing with the Unassuming Yōjimbō for exactly 6 worth of characters for just 3 fate.

Fawning Diplomat

As a 3 cost Courtier, the Fawning Diplomat doesn’t have amazing stats: 1 military, 3 political, and 0 glory. Luckily, 0 glory on a Scorpion character is an advantage, allowing them to dishonor for Forged Edict without losing skill. The ability allows the Scorpion player to claim the Imperial Favor when the character leaves play. Typically, characters of 3 or greater fate cost get at least 1 extra fate to make them stick around a little longer. Characters like the Fawning Diplomat and the Shosuro Actress, who only get to trigger their abilities on the turn they leave, encourage spending 0 additional fate, and need to have a worthwhile ability to make up for that economic deficit. The Scorpion character that discards the Imperial Favor for some benefit (the Sake House Informant, previewed during the Worlds stream) is relatively poor, discarding the Imperial Favor to give Shinobi characters +2 political skill. This isn’t the big potential of Ikoma Ujiaki or Kakita Yoshi, especially once you look at the current line up of Shinobi, which is a little thin. This means the Fawning Diplomat will likely be used to deny an opponent the Imperial Favor, and/or to power up Censure. This might be worth it, but given how powerful Scorpion’s dynasty deck is, it currently looks like a compromise for Scorpion to play her.

Illustrious Plagiarist

This 4 cost character is a Courtier and Shugenja, helping Scorpion decks run cards which require either trait. At 1 military, 3 political, and 1 glory this character doesn’t have great stats for his cost. Where he really shines is in his ability. As an action, you can gain the ability of the top event on your opponent’s discard pile. They play a Banzai!; the Plagiarist gets to Banzai!. They play a Court Games to honor a character; the Plagiarist players a Court Games to dishonor a character. In addition to totally messing with your opponent’s head, the Plagiarist typically equalizes your opponent’s events forcing them to spend more cards. This is exactly the kind of character the Scorpion love, powerful character actions that force your opponent to spend actions to keep up. At 4 cost, he is a little more expensive than they would like, but the only defense your opponent has against him is to play bad events, and that’s a win all by itself.

Bayushi Kachiko

Kachiko is a 5 cost conflict character with 3 military, 6 political, and 3 glory. She has the Courtier and Imperial traits and a send home ability. Her ability can only be used while she is in a political conflict and can send home a participating character with lower political skill than her. After they’ve been sent home you can choose to also bow them. Send home is a great way to deal with problem characters who have actions you want out of the conflict, but it lets them assign to another later conflict. That Kachiko can also bow them gives her the best of both worlds. This send home ability is not limited to opposing characters, so it can also be used to send home a friendly character. This opens up the option of a feint if your opponent chooses not to defend. At 5 cost Kachiko is the most expensive conflict character we have seen and could help the Scorpion stabilize a bad dynasty turn by saving all their fate for Kachiko later in the turn. As she is unique you can discard another copy of her to add 1 fate to her, but can only do so during the dynasty phase. As you cannot play conflict characters or attachments during the dynasty phase you will need to play Kachiko with at least 1 additional fate if you’re hoping to get the benefit of discarding another copy of her. This is an awesome card for an awesome character that we are delighted to see.


Holdings

Back-Alley Hideaway

This +1 province strength holding can stop a Scorpion character from going to the discard pile and instead attaches them to the holding. As an action, you can then play that character again as if they were in the province by sacrificing the holding. There are some questions over exactly how this works, if you are treating the character ‘as if it were in this province’ does that mean you can only take the action during your dynasty phase? Or is the action playable at any time? If it is possible to take the recruit action at any time, this could potentially bring a character back immediately. For example, a Shosuro Actress could end up simultaneously playing two characters.

Either way, you have to ask yourself what the goal is. Instead of playing this holding, you could be playing another character. If you reveal this holding turn 2 or 3 you will be able to choose the best character you have in play to ‘save’. On the other hand, if you draw this holding turn 1 it isn’t going to be much help. Even with some fun interactions, it really isn’t doing much for your deck and I suspect this is a card that won’t see a lot of play.


Attachments

Seal of the Scorpion

We have already seen the Crane seal, and this is quite similar. At 0 fate this gives +1 political skill, the Scorpion clan symbol, and the Shinobi trait. This has all the problems of the previous seal, although the fate to skill ratio is great it doesn’t seem worthwhile spending a card. Currently, the Shinobi trait has no real use, it can help with Smoke and Mirrors, but it doesn’t feel like that card is ready for play yet. The Scorpion clan symbol does actually prevent Way of the Scorpion targetting the character. If card draw is plentiful and fate is limited, Seal of the Scorpion will have a minor bonus with no fate requirement. If card draw is limited, then this card won’t be worth the card investment.

Oni Mask

This 0 cost attachment gives +1 military and +0 political skill. It is Seeker role only, so Scorpion as Seeker of Void can currently play it. It can only be attached to a character you control. During a conflict, as an action, you can remove 1 fate from the character the mask is attached to and blank the text box of a character in the conflict for the rest of the conflict. Notably, the attached character does not need to be in the conflict to take the action. This effect is similar in ways to the Shugenja only card Cloud the Mind. Cloud the Mind, however, can be used outside of combat and doesn’t go away at the end of conflict. When attacking, the Oni Mask has to wait as the attacker takes the first action. It costs 1 fate like Cloud the Mind, but that comes from your pool rather than the character. When you spend fate from the character that character and the Oni Mask will leave 1 turn earlier.

The mask is a poorer version in many regards. There are some advantages. The Mask doesn’t require fate in your pool or a Shugenja in play, so it can be a little more flexible. Assuming you have enough fate on a character, you can use the Mask’s ability on one character one turn and on another the next turn. At the end of the day though, it is a poorer copy and it will probably only see play in decks that aren’t playing enough Shugenja to justify Cloud the Mind or when 3 copies of Cloud just aren’t enough!

Events

Smoke and Mirrors

This 1 cost event allows you to return your attacking Shinobi characters home. This allows you to attack as a feint, leaving any defending characters to bow out at the end of the conflict while your Shinobi are ready to attack in the next conflict. This may eventually be worthwhile once the Scorpion have enough Shinobi to have a full deck, but right now there are less than a handful of Shinobi cards. Including Meek Informant, there are 4 along with Adept of Shadows, Shosuro Actress, and Shosuro Miyako. At the moment Smoke and Mirrors goes straight into the binder, but it promises a fun Shinobi deck in the future.

Misinformation

This 1 cost event requires you to have a bid dial at least 2 higher than your opponent, so if our opponent has bid 1 you would have bid at least 3. When looking at Test of Courage we talked at some of the issues relating to bid dials. Scorpion already know this pain with I Can Swim which can require some work to use. Misinformation is unplayable if your opponent has bid 4 or 5, so this issue is magnified. Add to this that Scorpion currently have two styles of play, the first is to draw lots and win by conquest the second is to draw few and win by dishonor. Only the conquest style decks are going to be able to play Misinformation. The effect reduces gives opposing characters -1 military and -1 political, so this is going to be more effective the larger the opposing army is. Multiple copies could seal a game, either allowing you to not defend against a massive attack or to negate the defense of a stronghold. It is in those last battles where this card will have the greatest impact and unfortunately where it will be most difficult to play. If you consistently bid high, going into the last turn your opponent is likely to do the same. The issue with a consistent low bid is similar. It seems likely then, that the conquest deck is going to be able to make use of this during the early game but possibly not during the late game. Similarly, the dishonor deck would have to release the honor lock to play this during the late game. This is a powerful card, but if you’re not able to play it then it’s dead weight in your hand.

Backhanded Compliment

Right now, Scorpion are Seekers, and cannot play this card. The two clans that are most likely to adopt dishonor as a strategy and that can play this card are Crab and Phoenix. Backhanded Compliment is a 0-cost event that makes a target player draw 1 card and lose 1 honor. Pushing those last few points of dishonor can be a real problem, since the target player will lock down into bidding 1 every turn, and will attempt to claim the ring of air to buy them the time they need to win. Backhanded Compliment can ‘bomb’ an opponent on low honor out of the game by hitting them with an unexpected honor loss of up to 3 points. Combined with Contingency Plan, an even greater bomb could be exploded. The downside comes in assembling multiples of these cards quickly enough. Tattered Missive could work to build up a hand of 3 Backhanded Compliments to finish off an opposing player. Backhanded Compliment greatly increases dishonor’s lethal range, something to keep in mind the next time you’re about to bid!

A Fate Worse Than Death

As the pool of cards increase, the quality of characters continues to improve. In many games, you will find yourself looking across the table thinking ‘I have to do something about that character’. This is the card that will do that. For a costly 4 fate you get the character bowed, sent out of the conflict, dishonored, blanked, and remove a fate from them. This removes the character for this turn and the removal of a fate token brings them 1 turn closer to leaving play. Scorpion currently play the 2 cost I Can Swim, but the restriction of having to bid higher than your opponent often means you can’t play it when you need to. We can expect to see 2 copies of A Fate Worse than Death in every Scorpion deck and even at 3 influence per card, it might prove attractive for other decks.


Scorpion received some interesting cards, but for each one they add to their deck they are removing an already pretty good card. So while decks are going to improve it is going to be an incremental change. The deck we present below is a variation on Bayushi Akai’s dishonor deck with some of the new cards added. Really there are only minor changes. It is likely the conquest variant will also have only minor additions. These differences are likely to increase the distinction between both kinds of deck, which might mean they are more focused or it might mean they are easier to play against as their opponent will have a better idea of how to play against them.


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