Clan Focus – The Crab

Clan Focus – The Crab

The Crab Clan, defenders of the Empire. Although they are famous for their wall and for their heavy armor and Tetsubo’s, the might of the Crab is in their Bushi. A lone Crab Bushi’s first thought when they are attacked by an Oni isn’t one of glory, it is to raise the alarm so that when they inevitably fall the rest of the Crab will be ready. While the Crab are occasionally scorned by the other Clans for their brutishness and lack of manners, it is not due to a lack of culture but instead a determined focus on their duty to protect the empire.


Shiro Nishiyama

The Crab stronghold, Shiro Nishiyama (Castle of the Western Mountain), follows a pattern we have seen with the other Clan’s strongholds. The 7 Fate and 10 Influence are the same. The starting honor of 10 is 1 less than the Crane and Dragon but the Province strength bonus, at 3, is 1 higher. This ability is quite similar to that of the Lion stronghold in that it is a +1 bonus to all your defending characters but a little more useful as it is Political as well as Military. This advantage is given to offset the defensive nature (which isn’t breaking provinces). So we can see a balance between Military and Political, encouragement to have multiple characters, and to defend.

Hida Benjiro by Jeffrey Lai

A review of the revealed Crab Clan cards reveals three groups of themes: Sacrifice, Defense, and Denial.

Sacrifice Theme

One of the big themes for the Crab is sacrifice. Destroy one of your own characters for a benefit. Sacrificing a character does appear to be a serious cost, but there are times when it is essentially free. A character with 0 Military skill who isn’t helping in a Military conflict. A bowed character with 0 Fate isn’t contributing any skill this turn and is going away at the end of the turn. In fact, being able to sacrifice your character for a benefit can be seen as a bonus, those characters are providing even more than they were before. On the other hand, you only have so many characters and you won’t always have that perfect character at just the right time.

Ways to sacrifice

Ways to Sacrifice Crab characters

There are few different ways to sacrifice your own characters, four of which we are going to look at initially. The first, Funeral Pyre, is a holding, so it comes into play for free and ties up one of your provinces. You can sacrifice a character to draw a conflict card. This is a bit of a mystery meat effect during the turn or during a conflict, when you need an option, there is a temptation to use this. You don’t know what card you’re going to get but when you’re going to lose a conflict anyway, sacrificing a 1 or 2 skill character might get you the card you need to turn it around. At the end of a turn, if you haven’t used it already, you’re going to sacrifice one of your characters that are about to leave play, this is a straight benefit at no actual cost. The presence of this card draw puts Crab in a good place to bid low during the draw phase while continuing to draw cards outside of the draw phase. This gives the Crab the option to play a dishonor style game.

The Way of the Crab is all about timing. You trade 1 Fate and your weakest character to force your opponent to discard their weakest character. The goal here is to time it so your opponent has to choose a value character. Consider this scenario. Turn one you make a cheap character, your opponent makes their clan champion. Still in the Dynasty phase, you play Way of the Crab, you lose your cheap character and they lose their Champion! You can also set this up as the first action if the next turn if your opponent only has Fate on their best character. Moral of the story, never leave a clan champion solo when facing up against the Crab. Just the threat of this card changes how your opponent plays. It is also important to realize that the value of a card depends on the board. If your opponent has to choose between destroying a bowed big character with fate versus a cheap unbowed character in the current conflict then they have a horrible decision to make. There is a really good reason Way of the Crab is 1 per round at max.

Stoic Gunsō is a conflict character, so he can come as a bit of a surprise from the hand. For 2 Fate you get 2 Military and 1 Political, decent but not amazing. The ability lets you sacrifice a character to gain +3 force, with the right sacrifice, this makes the Gunsō a 5 Military skill card for 2 Fate. As this is only 1 influence, it is a decent splash allowing other clans get access to sacrifice effects.

The fourth and final option is the 4 cost Steadfast Witch Hunter. This is a 4 Military 2 Political Shugenja with 0 Glory. This is the first 0 Glory character we have seen so far and is worth some mention. There is no skill bonus in getting honored, but at the same time, there is no skill penalty if they are dishonored. This is the first and only Shugenja we have seen for the Crab and unfortunately, means Shugenja only cards are not really viable. The Witch Hunter’s ability lets you sacrifice a character to ready a character. Often this will be something you use between conflicts. If you attack with your clan champion and a weak character then you can sacrifice your weak character to have your clan champion ready again. Unbow abilities like this, are effective ‘force multipliers’ for characters. A character who gets involved in two conflicts is twice as effective. At the very least, the Witch Hunter herself is a 4 Military skill character which can take provinces.

People to sacrifice

With sacrifice abilities so important you really need some characters to sacrifice. While every character can make the chopping block (preferably bowed with no Fate), you really want some cheap characters that can help power those abilities. The first case is the Eager Scout, a 0 cost 0 Military, 0 Political, 0 Glory, Bushi Scout with no ability. It doesn’t really matter what the stats are, if the cost is 0 then this is a winner. Without any ability, skills, or glory what can the Eager Scout do? Attacking by themselves they can flip over a province to find out what your opponent has. Defending by itself the Eager Scout saves you an honor and is an extra body for the strongholds bonus. Having the Eager Scout as part of a larger force lets you target the Scout with any of your opponent’s optional target effects such as the Unicorn Endless Plain province. After all that you can use the Eager Scout to power sacrifice abilities such as the Funeral Pyre giving a hell of a bang for 0 bucks.

Next up we have the Hida Guardian a 1 Military, 1 Political, 1 Glory character for 1 Fate with an ability that gives +2/+2 for each holding you control to another character in the same conflict. In addition to all the uses of the Eager Scout, the Guardian is providing an extra net +3/+3. In a battle with the Guardian, you can drop the Stoic Gunsō, use the Guardian’s ability to give the Gunsō +2/+2 and then use the Gunsō ability sacrificing the Guardian to gain another net +2 Military. In this case that 1 Fate character is contributing 4 Military force in total, not bad. The ability does require at least one holding, so this needs to be a consideration when building the deck.

Finally, we have the Kaiu Envoy, a character clearly designed to be sacrificed. This is a 1 Fate cost Bushi character with 1 Military and 0 Political skill. Although the Envoy doesn’t have any ability it does have the Sincerity and Courtesy traits. As a reminder: Sincerity is “When this card leaves play, its controller draws one card from their conflict deck” and Courtesy is “When this card leaves play, its controller gains one Fate”. So the Envoy is a 1 Fate character with 1 Military skill which when sacrificed gets you the Fate you spent back and lets you draw a card! A perfect candidate for a Sacrifice ability.

Rewards for sacrificing

Maximum Military Skill

In a final sacrifice sub-theme, we have just the one card, but Vengeful Berserker is a notable exception as he works so well with the rest of the sacrifice card set. Rather than providing a sacrificial character, or a sacrifice effect, the Vengeful Berserker doubles his Military in reaction to another character you control leaving play during a conflict, like when you sacrifice them. The Berserker is icing on any sacrifice ability you were going to play. Also, the Berserker’s ability doesn’t mention base skill so after you use the Hida Guardian to bring the Vengeful Berserker to 5 Military you can sacrifice the Guardian to a Funeral Pyre to bring the Berserker up to a whopping 10 Military.

Hida Kisada by Drew Baker


The next major theme for the Crab is defending. This reflects their background of defenders of the wall. In game winning as a defender is not as good as winning on the attack, you don’t get to trigger a ring and you don’t get to destroy a province. You do get to stop your opponent from doing those things. Successfully defending will prevent you from losing a point of honor. As a bonus, you get to decide the terms of the engagement, as you will see what your opponent assigns before you assign your own characters. To actually win though, you will need to go back on the attack when the time is right. So, conflicts where you defend should be seen as a way to wear down your opponent.

Succeeding on defense

The Mountain Does Not Fall is the defensive equivalent of the Dragon’s Indomitable Will, but has different limitations. Still costing 1 Fate instead of reacting to a resolution you take an action to choose a character and for the remainder of the conflict phase, they do not bow to resolution. The benefit here is that a character can participate in both the Military and Political defensive conflict and still be ready for an attack after. As such, this card is best played on a card that is able to contribute in both conflict types. You will be able to get the most out of this card when your opponent is the active player, this will leave the last attack to you when the targetted character can attack without needing to defend again. The drawback for The Mountain Does Not Fall compared to Indomitable Will is in when to play this. If you are defending and have 1 more skill than your opponent, playing The Mountain Does Not Fall on a character will make them a target for your opponent’s bow and kill effects. If you instead pass, then your opponent may also pass losing you the opportunity to play the card.

The Hiruma Yōjimbō is a quite simple character, a Bushi Yojimbo with 4 Military, 3 Political, and 2 Glory for a bargain of 2 Fate. The drawback is the Yōjimbō cannot be declared as an attacker, although this limitation does not prevent them being moved in. Although Cloud the Mind would be perfect to remove this restriction, unfortunately, Crab have only one Shugenja making it difficult to play reliably.

Defend the Wall’s Province strength of 4 is decent, the maximum we’ve seen so far is 5. The ability allows you to trigger a Ring effect when you win as the defender at this province. You still don’t get to break a province, so it isn’t as good as attacking. Importantly the province doesn’t help you win that conflict yourself. If your opponent has reviewed at the board and determined they should be able to win, then you need to have a key conflict card to upset their plans.


Borderlands Fortifications is a +2 Province strength hold that has an action that can move from one Province to another. When your opponent attacks and this holding is in play, they will need to factor in an additional +2 skill if they want to break a province. If they attack the Province with this holding, you can wait until they have enough force to break the province and then move the Borderlands Fortifications to another province saving it for another battle. If they attack one of the Provinces that does not hold this province then, if they only barely have enough force to break the province, you can move this holding into the Province making them spend more actions to take it. Unfortunately, this holding will not help the Stronghold province as there is no card to replace. In short, this card makes your provinces a little harder to break forcing your opponent to invest an extra character or conflict card to make sure they break the province.

The Shrewd Yasuki’s stat line of 1 Military and 2 Political is pretty standard for 2 Fate. While there is a holding in play, either your opponents or your own, you can look at the top 2 cards of your deck and choose 1 of them to put into your hand, the other card goes to the bottom of your conflict deck. Drawing cards is great and getting an option in which card to pick is even better. The Shrewd Yasuki is also a Courtier which opens up the potential to use Courtier cards such as For Shame!

Kaiu Shuichi has another ability that keys off having holdings in play. A 4 cost Bushi Engineer with 3 Military, 3 Political, and 2 Glory he doesn’t initially have a very exciting stat line. His ability allows you to gain a Fate if he is in a conflict and there is a holding in play, either you have one or your opponent has one in any of your provinces. This ability effectively reduces his price by one and returns every additional fate you place on him. Shuichi also has the Covert ability which reads “When this character is declared as an attacker, you may choose a character that does not have covert. That character cannot be declared as a defender for this conflict during the ‘declare defenders’ step.” Taking this all together, Shuichi ends up effectively being a 3 cost 3/3 with Covert initially who returns any additional invested Fate back to you rather than the pool. The greater your initial investment into Shuichi the greater your return, which seems apt for an Engineer character.

We also know there is an action card connected to holdings, Rebuild. This lets you fetch a holding from your discard and place it in a province. So if you do lose a province you can fetch the holding back, or if you have a holding that has a cost of being destroyed this will let you use it a second time (there is a neutral holding that can be discarded to draw a conflict card). This will keep your holdings reliable both for their effect and for cards which key off their effect.


The final major theme for the crab is of denial. Just like a wall, the Crab makes it harder for their opponent to take action. This breaks down into three sub-themes: dishonor, character denial, and action denial. In each case, you’re making life harder for your opponent. There are ways for your opponent to work around these, but they are then playing the Crab’s game.


Dishonor on your Cow!

Intimidating Hida is a 4 Military, 2 Political Bushi with 1 Glory for 3 Fate. His ability is a reaction to your opponent passing instead of declaring a conflict, making that player lose 1 honor. With the Crab focus on defense, it can be attractive for the other player to allow the Crab declare the first attack to break up the forces. This Intimidating Hida pushes the opponent into attacking, giving the Crab the info they need on how to split their force. If the opponent decides not to attack they pull back on conflict card draw or risk losing through dishonor.

Like all the other clans so far, the Crab have a 1 cost attachment with a total of 2 stats, in this case, Watch Commander with +1 Military and +1 Political. This attachment has the Follower trait which is an interesting first, but as of yet doesn’t do anything. Rather than the Restricted limit, this has a 1 per character limit which means it doesn’t interfere with other attachments but prevents 2 or 3 Watch Commanders being stacked on one character. The cards ability is a reaction when an opponent plays a card during a conflict, making them lose 1 honor. This ability is unlimited, allowing it to be triggered each time the condition is fulfilled rather than just once per turn. In play, this gives your opponent a choice, play that card and lose some honor or don’t play the card. From this perspective, it isn’t a proactive card as it doesn’t force your opponent into anything but instead, forces them to play around it.

The action card Levy takes a little bit of consideration to truly appreciate. The effect is simple, your opponent gets to choose to give you a point of Honour or a Fate. Like many other cards we’ve seen with the Crab, timing is everything. Although initially this might seem like a simple extra 1 Fate or Honour it is important to realize that this is coming from your opponents, so this is a swing of 2 Fate or Honour. Due to the rarity of Fate your opponent typically is more likely to give your honor unless they are in a position where they may lose due to dishonor. If they have no Fate however they have no choice, they have to give you honor even if that would mean losing the game.

Character denial

Nice character you have there, shame if something were to happen

The Jade Tetsubo at 2 Fate for 3 Force is decent, not as great a ratio as some of the free cards out there but it certainly is contributing. The ability is the big one, by bowing the Tetsubo you can send all the Fate on an opposing character back to their owners pool meaning they get discarded this turn. The target does have to have equal or lower Military, but as the Tetsubo is adding +3 Military skill, this shouldn’t be a problem. The difficulty here is the Fate goes right back for your opponent to either use on conflict cards in the current conflict or to recruit more characters next turn. Also, removing all the Fate from your opponent isn’t going to directly influence the current conflict. So how is this best used? As mentioned before, the actual value of a Fate token depends on where it is. If you’re removing the last Fate from a clan champion any investment your opponent makes for next turn isn’t going to have the same return.

Hida Tomonatsu is a 3 Fate 3 Military, 2 Political Bushi with 2 Glory. When she wins a conflict as a defender, you can sacrifice Tomonatsu to return an attacking character to the top of your opponent’s deck. This is a self-sacrificing character, so we don’t get to pick a preferable target. As this will trigger at the end of a conflict we know Tomonatsu is going to bow but our opponent’s character is probably going to do similar. The best scenario for this is when the target opposing character has an investment in Fate and will be sticking around for an extra turn or more while Tomonatsu is leaving play. The conditions may make this particular scenario tricky, but as it is defending we have more control as we can assign defenders with this goal in mind.

Reprieve might seem like a bit of a strange one to include in a character denial sub-theme, but it does two main things: it prevents your opponents removal effects and it messes with their plans when your characters sticks around an extra turn rather than fading away. During the Dynasty phase when you are recruiting a character you have a limited amount of Fate to work with and often have to make difficult decisions. A few turns only those characters you have invested in will still be around and it is likely they will be leaving play soon. Reprieve gives you a few more options. The value of 1 point of Fate changes. A point of Fate on your clan champion has a much higher value than a point of Fate on your 0 cost Eager Scout. Reprieve effectively is a point of Fate on just the character you want it on keeping them in play for one more turn. As it can be played during the last action phase before characters without Fate are discarded it can come as a surprise for your opponent. Reprieve also protects your characters from your opponents removal effects. Your opponent would need to play two Noble Sacrifice or duel you twice with Mirumoto Raitsugu to get past Reprieve and finally remove your protected harasser. Finally, Reprieve can be played on your opponent’s cards to prevent them from leaving play. This can prevent an honored character leaving play and granting honor to your opponent.

Action Denial

Hiruma Ambusher doubles as the Crab’s second conflict character and their denial card. Just as the Crane have Voice of Honor to stop action cards, Lion have Ready for Battle to stop bow effects, and Dragon have Let Go to stop attachments; the Crab have Hiruma Ambusher who stops an attacking character from using their abilities.

Borderlands Defender when defending cannot be moved or bowed. That means for 3 Fate you have a reliable 3 skill 1 Glory character who isn’t going to budge. Unfortunately, where the Borderlands Defender cannot be targetted by a number of effects, other characters in the same army can be. This makes the Defender a good target for attachments and boosts as they aren’t going to be easily bowed or removed.

The Clan Champion

The Great Bear

Hida Kisada, the Great Bear, falls into the denial theme. A 7 Military, 2 Political Bushi for 5 Fate, Kisada is a beat stick from the get-go. With 0 Glory Kisada’s skills are unaffected by dishonor. The ability is always active and cancels the effect of the first of your opponents card actions each conflict if you have not lost a conflict this phase. This doesn’t require Kisada to be in the battle. For your opponent, once Kisada hits the game, it is a calculation about what action they can sink into Kisada’s cancellation so they can continue to play the game. Preferably they want one with a minimal cost which can be played every turn, for example, the Borderlands Fortifications.


In short, the Crab look like a tough nut to Crack. With the Sacrifice mechanic, they get getting more out of every character they play. They use that character as normal and then reap a bonus when they have passed their usefulness. While Crab have a defensive theme, the goal doesn’t appear to be to stall but rather to setup a counter punch. The denial aspects of the Crab force their opponent to work extra hard around the limitations. With dishonor mechanics and decent card draw, they can create a strong lock. All these combined, set a scenario where the other player struggles on the attack and expends their resources, the Crab player then is able to exploit the opening using Sacrifices to push for a win.

The denial aspects of the Crab force their opponent to work extra hard around the limitations. All these combined, set a scenario where the other player struggles on the attack and expends their resources, the Crab player then is able to exploit the opening using Sacrifices to push for a win.

Crab Hero by Drew Baker

Allying with the crab

The Crab have a number of conflict cards with 1 influence which can be easily splashed into the decks of other clans. Three copies of Reprieve, Stoic Gunsō, and Hiruma Ambusher all can be included with the last point of influence unused. All three cards are very useful, Reprieve keeps your characters around, the Gunsō is incredibly efficient for Military skill, and the Ambusher stops character with dangerous abilities. The Jade Tetsubo is a 2 influence Attachment which is a weapon, this will make it of interest to the Dragon but its ability to get a character off the board may make it attractive removal for any clan. The remainder of crab conflict cards are all three influence, of those Levy seems the most attractive for honor or dishonor decks looking to make that final push.


In a change to the previous articles, rather than talking about what the Crab can give to other clans I’ll be talking about what the Crab can use from the previously spoiled clans. As we see more clans being spoiled, this is something that will be expanded and I’ll be retroactively going through the previous articles to update.

Crane: Duelist Training at 1 influence is a Military base bow effect which will work well with many Crab characters. If your opponent does bid high, they will lose cards or honor which will play into the Crab game. Above Question at 2 influence is a way to expand the denial theme while Admit Defeat again at 2 will help make that counterpunch when your opponent leaves few defenders. 2 Duelist Training, 2 Above Question, and 2 Admit Defeat hit 10 exactly.

Dragon: All the Dragon cards are 2 influence, so we get to pick any 5 cards. Mirumoto’s Fury provides some great defense. Let Go’s attachment destruction is useful against all opponents and often is a Fate advantage. The Covert provided by Tattooed Wanderer could help that counter-attack by removing your opponents planned defenders.

Lion: As the Crab have a good spread of Bushi Sashimono at 2 influence is an option to double the effectiveness of your Bushi. Ready for Battle at 1 influence is always going to be handy against bow effects. Three Sashimono and 3 Ready for Battle come to 9, if there is space a Guidance of the Ancestors or Honored Blade could be added, perhaps dropping a Sashimono to bring it to 3.

Phoenix‘s big card is Display of Power which really helps with the Crab dishonor deck. It does mean not defending which is a little counter to the Crab strategy but can make for a big swing.

Scorpion don’t have a great selection for Crab. Blackmail at 3 influence does combo well with the Crab’s sacrifice mechanics. You get to ‘borrow’ the character for the turn and sacrifice them for a bonus effect.

Unicorn offer Spyglass and Favored Mount, both common splashes for any clan. Spyglass helps get extra card draw while still keeping the pressure on while bidding low.

Sample Decklist


Next up we have the Phoenix!

If you have any comments or feedback please post them in the comments section below.

Join us on our Twitch stream on Monday the 17th July at 8pm BST, 9pm CEST, 1pm PST. We will be talking about our experiences with the crab. As always we will be answering any questions from those who make the stream.

Check us out on the Imperial Advisor website, podcast, and YouTube channel for more discussion about the L5R LCG.


4 Replies to “Clan Focus – The Crab”

  1. Mental note: Covert such as Kaui Shuichi and the Dragon Conflict character Tattooted Wanderer both are dishonour elements as they prevent your opponent from assigning defenders. Without defenders, they lose honour.

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