Clan Focus – The Neutral Cards

Clan Focus – The Neutral Cards

Ronin by Jason Engel

Unlike the Clan specific cards, the neutral cards have been slowly drip-fed to us one or two at a time. Understanding the neutral cards is a vital part of succeeding in Legend of the Five Rings. Every deck will be playing at least a few and the first few tournaments will heavily dependent on them. Knowing the options, your opponent has at any particular time, allows you to prepare for all eventualities and estimate your chance of success.

Conflict cards

There are two copies of all the neutral conflict cards below. As with the neutral Dynasty cards, these will be defining for the Gencon, London, and release tournaments.

Political conflicts

  • Court Games: Political only. It can be used offensively to honor a character or defensively to dishonor your opponent’s character. For the latter, you do not require presence. You can play only one per conflict.
  • Ornate Fan: Zero fate for 2 political skill that sticks around as long as your character does.
  • Spies at Court: If you win a political conflict you can force your opponent to discard 2 cards. The cost of dishonoring a character can be mitigated by choosing a 0 glory character or a character being discarded at the end of the turn.

Military conflicts

  • Banzai!: Lose 1 honor and gain 4 military skill. You can give two characters a 2 military boost each. You can play only one per conflict.
  • Fine Katana: Zero fate for 2 military skill that sticks around as long as your character does.
  • Charge!: For 1 Fate you can bring a character into play from one of your provinces. That character will arrive with no fate on them. If you’re only planning to have this character for one turn, this can save a bit of fate.
  • Fallen in Battle: If you win a military conflict by 5 or more skill, you can play this card. It is tricky to use as contested conflicts are usually won by only a few points of skill and token defenders aren’t the targets you really want to kill.

Either conflict type

  • For Shame!: To play For Shame! you need to have a Courtier in the conflict. Your opponent gets to choose to bow or dishonor their character. If the target is already dishonored they have to bow them, and if they are already bowed they have to dishonor them.
  • Assassination: An easy removal effect for only 3 honor. The presence of this card in the environment should make you nervous about additional investment in a character of 2 fate or less.
  • Cloud the Mind: It requires a Shugenja but for 1 fate can blank your opponent’s best action.
  • Good Omen: It can be tricky to play, you need to have a lower bid than your opponent, and you need to have a target with a cost 3 or greater. If you do manage to play it, it is a free fate on your best character.
  • Outwit: Outwit is a 1 cost event which requires a Courtier in the conflict and sends home an opposing character with less political skill. This card is best used in a military conflict where you can send home a high military skill character which has less political skill than your Courtier. Send home actions allow the character to participate in another conflict, but are fantastic for getting rid of problem cards which are only active when in the conflict.
  • Rout: This is the Bushi version of Outwit and is based on military rather than political skill.
  • Contingency Plan: We only know about this card from the FAQ at the back of the Learn to play book. Its effect is to alter the honor dial in some manner. So it may be good for card draw, honor, dishonor, or dueling depending on the exact effect.

Dynasty cards

From the learn to play rulebook’s suggested deck lists, we know there are 3 of the following cards in the base set. For decks made out of a single core, you can expect 10 to 12 characters in the 30 card deck to come from these 4 characters.

Characters

  • Wandering Ronin: The Wandering Ronin is a 3 cost character with 2 military and 2 politics. Twice per conflict, you can remove a fate token from the Ronin to gain +2 military and +2 politics for the conflict. For 5 cost you can get a single turn 6 skill character, essentially a 1 turn clan champion with no ability. In the single set environment, you’re hoping your opponent doesn’t have any bow or send home effects. At 3 cost he is not eligible for Assassination and at 0 glory being dishonored by For Shame! or Court Games is not going to stop him.
  • Otomo Courtier: A cheap Courtier and good political skill for 1 fate. She cannot be involved in military conflicts and cannot attack if your opponent has the Imperial Favour. With only 2 political skill she is not going to be great using Outwit in a political conflict (unless she gets a bonus) and cannot be involved in a military conflict. Importantly this opens up For Shame!
  • Seppun Guardsman: The Guardsman is the military Bushi equivalent of the Otomo Courtier. He cannot be involved in political conflicts and cannot attack if your opponent has the Imperial Favour. The Guardsman has all the same problems with Rout as the Otomo Courtier has with Outwit.
  • Miya Mystic: A Shugenja for the trait and attachment removal without needing to splash Dragon. Two fate cost for 1 Military and 1 Political is poor, but she doesn’t have the limitations of the Otomo or Seppun characters. The Shugenja trait opens up Cloud the Mind and a few of the Phoenix cards. The attachment destruction ability will most often target the ubiquitous Fine Katana and Ornate Fan but can also hit problem cards like Cloud the Mind, Watch Commander, Sashimono, Pacifism, Height of Fashion, Above Question, and Reprieve.

We’re assuming that all other neutral cards are 2 of in the core set.

  • Seeker Initiate/Keeper Initiate: We have just seen part of the initiate. At 2 fate for a 1/1 Monk the Initiate is similar to the Miya Mystic, but the ability appears to trigger when you win a conflict of your ring and lets you look at x cards on top of your deck and add one to your hand. The reveal did not show how many cards that is, but even if it is just two, any card draw is great.

Holdings

  • Imperial Storehouse: On most turns, you won’t be making everything from your provinces. Having a holding does limit your options slightly, but you get a conflict free card. This is a +1 province strength holding which can be sacrificed to draw a conflict card. Although there is a temptation to use this immediately, sacrificing the Storehouse and drawing a card, you might be better holding onto the +1 province strength to hinder your opponents attack.
  • Favorable Ground: This holding can be sacrificed to move a character in or out of a conflict. This allows you to pull out of a conflict you have lost, making sure your character does not bow. It can help you win a conflict by moving a ready character into a conflict to contribute more skill. Importantly it lets you get a bowed character into a conflict allowing them to use their ability or trait and to make sure you don’t lose honor due to an undefended province.

Summary

Each clan has around 10 conflict cards in the core set, with each card appearing once. Ten points of influence is typically around 5 to 6 cards from another clan. Once players have three core boxes, they can make conflict decks which have no neutral cards in them, but would stretch to do so and would lose many options. Similarly, there are around 14 dynasty cards in each clan, so a full dynasty deck could be put together with three core boxes. Given the quality of the neutral dynasty cards, I think it is likely the neutral characters will not feature although the holdings might. In the single core, things are a lot different. Over half of the 30 card dynasty and conflict decks will be neutral cards.

For the Single core set dynasty deck, there is limited choice as only around 34 cards are legal. The conflict deck has more options but in part is dictated by the traits present in the dynasty deck. There are 6 Bushi, 3 Courtier, 3 Shugenja, and 2 Monk available from the neutral cards. Bushi decks can use Rout. Courtier decks can use Outwit and For Shame! Shugenja decks can use Cloud the Mind. Only one card so far requires Monk, the dragon event Mantra of Fire. In the early play environment, players should be able to guess the basic composition of their opponent’s deck, apart from influence. With that knowledge, knowing the traits in play, the number of cards in their opponents hand, and the amount of fate their opponent has a play a player should be able to estimate the potential plays in any situation. Easy to say, but difficult to do in round 5 of a tournament when you’re exhausted just a play away from becoming a Hatamoto.

 

If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles… if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle. — Sun Tzu

 


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

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