Clan Focus – The Unicorn

Clan Focus – The Unicorn

The Unicorn are the wanderers and explorers of the Empire. Their mandate from Hantei, was to explore outside of Rokugan, and bring what they learned back to enrich the empire. One of those new ways, is the name magic of Meishōdō which is causing some concern and is the focus of the first storyline tournament. They are the first to have war horses, bred for battle, and devestating on the charge. Rokugani horses up until now, are essentially ponys, and are not used in battle. This is reflected in the game with the host of Cavalry characters that the Unicorn clan have.


Stronghold

Golden Plains Outpost has 7 fate and 10 influence like the other strongholds we have seen so far. The starting honor is 10 like the Crab but surprisingly the stronghold does not give a bonus province strength to its province. The ability can only be used in a military conflict, bowing the stronghold to move one of your Cavalry characters into the battle. This allows the Unicorn to leave a character out of a military attack or defense and only bring them into the conflict when they are needed. If the battle is not going their way, they call in reinforcements. If the battle is going their way, they can leave the extra character outside the battle to prevent them from being bowed by conflict resolution. This movement ability and all the movement abilities we will see later are also a way to get around covert. If your clan champion is not allowed to assign due to an attacking covert character, they can still be moved into the conflict at a later point. Send home actions are negated by the move in abilities. You also have the option of moving in a bowed character into a defending province to avoid losing 1 honor for not defending. The stronghold suggests that Unicorn are going to have a military focus with movement tricks to get the most out of their characters.

Province

Endless Plains is the Unicorn province and is one that gives nightmares to their opponents. It has a paltry province strength of 2, but when an attack is declared against it, the defender can break the province to force the attacker to discard an attacker. It will be in one of the 4 non-stronghold provinces, as breaking your own stronghold province is not a winning strategy. Anytime a player is attacking into a Unicorn province, they have to assume it is an Endless Plains and assign an extra character that can be discarded if needed. This means attacking with just your clan champion is not an option.


A review of the new Unicorn Clan cards revealed a few core themes that seem to sum up the Clan’s play style. The Unicorn want to to take the initiative and be the first player as often as possible. With their focus on Cavalry, it is expected that they would be a very mobile force with lots of movement tricks. Finally, the Unicorn summon the might of the horde, generating overwhelming military force for a final knock out punch.

Taking the Initiative

The Way of the Unicorn allows the Unicorn player to retain the first player token rather than pass it over. This gives them the first opportunity to pick the elemental ring of their choice and put their opponent on the back foot. Between passing early during the dynasty phase, and getting the first pick of rings with fate on it, the Way of the Unicorn is a surprising fate generator. Later in the game, where both players are on their last province, it allows the Unicorn to push into the last province before their opponent has a chance to do so.

Breakthrough is a 0 cost reaction that declares another attack immediately after you break a province as the attacker. Your opponent will get to declare their conflicts after, but immediately it puts the pressure back on them. This card also removes the action phase between conflicts, as after the first one ends you move immediately into the next one. If your opponent was planning to straighten some of their characters with actions, they aren’t going to get the chance. The tricky part with this card is you have to break the first province and then be ready to declare an attack with a different conflict type.

The Meishōdō Wielder is a 2 cost Shugenja with 2 military, 2 political, and 1 glory. He does not have the Cavalry trait. On a turn when you are going first, the Wielder is reduced by 1 making him a 1 cost 2/2. Having the Shugenja trait opens up some conflict card options for the Unicorn, but the lack of the Cavalry trait reduces his utility in the typical Unicorn deck which has many actions, including the stronghold, which requires Cavalry. Nonetheless, the efficiency of a 2/2 for 1 fate cannot be overlooked, and in those turns when the Unicorn player is going first he is a bargain.

The Moto Youth is similar to the Meishido Wielder but rather than a discount when you go first he gets a +1 Military bonus in the first Military conflict. If your opponent is going first and he declares a military conflict, then the Youth will only get his bonus if he defends. So, this is another case of Unicorn looking to take the initiative and go first.

Born in War is a 2 cost attachment that can only be attached to Cavalry characters. It gives a military bonus equal to the number of unclaimed rings. During the first conflict, 1 ring will be contested and 4 rings will be uncontested. As such, this is best assigned to the first attack. Despite the big blade in the art, this isn’t actually a weapon and doesn’t have the restricted keyword.


Movement

Together with the Stronghold, the Unicorn have a ton of actions that allow them to move into the conflict. None of those abilities move their units out, so they have to use their movement actions as reinforcements to support their initial attack. This really makes them worry about the Phoenix card Grasp of Earth which stops characters moving into conflicts. It makes send home actions such as Rout and Outwit difficult to play against the Unicorn.

The Shinjo Outrider is a 2 cost, 2 military, 2 political, and 2 glory Bushi Cavalry Scout. The Outrider’s ability allows it to move into a conflict. When attacking you can send just enough skill to take the province and then if your opponent does decide to defend, you can move the Outrider in to support your attacking force. If the Outrider isn’t needed, it can stay out of the battle ready for another one or to contest the favor with 2 Glory.

Shinjo Tatsuo is a unique 4 cost, 3 military, 3 political, 2 glory, Bushi Cavalry Scout. He has an action that allows him to move himself and up to 1 other character into the conflict. We currently believe he can use the ability if he is already in the conflict, as long as he does have another target to move in. Again, this is another move in ability for the Unicorn’s collection. It does raise the issue of how many is too many.

Ide Messenger is a 2 cost conflict courtier character with 1 military, 2 political, and 0 glory. Her ability is to move a character to the conflict for 1 fate. As a conflict character, she can be dropped from hand and at the next opportunity user her ability, this can result in a significant chunk of surprise skill suddenly appearing in the battle. At 1 influence, this is a nice option for other clans to use.

The Giver of Gifts is a 3 cost 3 military, 2 political, 2 glory, Courtier character. It does not have Cavalry, an important consideration when looking at any of the Unicorn cards. The Giver of Gifts has an ability that lets you move an attachment you control from one of your characters to another character. With a simple attachment, like Fine Katana, this allows you to move it from a character about to leave play to one who is going to stick around. It also allows you to move the attachment from a character who is bowed, for example from the resolution of a previous conflict, to a ready character.

Favored Mount is a 1 cost +1 military attachment that gives one of your characters the Cavalry trait. It also has an action that allows you to move the attached character into the current conflict. This has all the benefits and utility of the Unicorn stronghold and allows the Unicorn to keep more characters in reserve. At only 1 influence it will be an attractive splash for other clans.

Reactions to moving

In addition to the movement actions, there are a number of actions and reactions which are in response to or improve the movement abilities.

Spyglass, 1 fate for 1 political skill. As a reaction, after the attached character commits or moving to a conflict you can draw a card. You can take this reaction up to twice a turn. So if you attack with a character, you get to draw a card, and later if you move that same character into a second conflict, you get to draw a second card. Moving the Spyglass with the Giver of Gifts will help trigger this effect, either moving the Spyglass to a character not in the battle so you can move them in later or move the Spyglass from a previously assigned character to a character who is about to assign.

The Ide Trader is a perfect attacking character for the Unicorn. A 3 cost 1 military, 3 politics, Courtier with 1 glory he does not have Cavalry and cannot use many of the Unicorns tricks. His ability is a reaction when 1 or more characters move into the same conflict as him, once per turn, you can gain 1 card or 1 fate. So the Trader is the first to turn up, and if he doesn’t like what he sees suddenly, he gets reinforcements and the card draw or fate needed to turn the battle.

The Warrior Poet is a 3 cost Bushi Cavalry character with 2 military, 2 political, and 2 glory. The Poet has an action which gives each opposing character -1/-1 until the end of the conflict. This is an action that can be taken while the Poet is bowed and will have an impact on the battle. Send the Poet to attack, if you don’t need to use the ability you can move the bowed Poet into another battle and use the ability then.

The Border Rider is a 2 cost Bushi Cavalry with 2 military, 1 political, and 1 glory. The Rider has a simple action that readies her. This can cancel your opponent’s bowing effect, readies the Rider for another conflict, or lets her contribute her 1 glory to earning the emperor’s favor.

I Am Ready is a 0 cost event that removes a fate from one of your unicorn characters to ready them. Losing a fate is essentially giving up a later turn where you have that character. On the other hand, unbowing a character is essentially getting an extra turn out of that character now. So, with I Am Ready, you are trading a future turn for an extra turn now. The basic use is to ready a character after a conflict to send them into another conflict. In this way, it is similar to the The Mountain Does Not Fall or Indomitable Will. A second use is as a Ready for Battle, straightening your character which your opponent just bowed. Finally, it can combo with the Unicorn movement abilities allowing you to move a bowed character into the battle and then ready them. This last case is a poor substitute for straightening and then assigning, but it does allow you to save I Am Ready only until you are certain you need it. Other clans are out of luck, although this is only 1 influence cost, it does require a Unicorn character making it unplayable out of faction.


The Might of the Horde

The Unicorn are heavily focused on military conflict and have a number of cards which can be used overwhelm an opponent in horde of Unicorn characters.

For 1 cost the Utaku Infantry is a 0 military, 0 political, and 1 glory Bushi. Whenever this character is in a conflict he gets +1 military and +1 political skill for each participating unicorn character you control. This makes the Infantry a 1/1 character if they are the only unicorn character in the battle. Notably, the Utaku Infantry does not have the Cavalry trait and cannot use any of the Cavalry specific cards. In the last conflict, when everything is all in, a Utaku Infantry character could easily be a 5/5 or 6/6 character.

Utaku Yashmino is a unique 3 cost, 2 military, 2 political, 3 glory, Bushi Cavalry Battle Maiden. She has an ability that can be used once per conflict to discard a card from hand to gain +2 military and +2 political for the remainder of the conflict. The 3 glory is useful as a target for Court games. The ability turns your worst card into a flexible boost that means she can threaten a 4 strength province in either a political or military conflict.

The Moto Horde is pure military. At 4 cost for 6 military skill, it is like investing in two Matsu Berserkers at once. Like the Berserker, the Moto Horde cannot participate in political conflicts. Unlike the Berserker, additional fate spent on this character will have a good return. The Horde has the useful Bushi trait as well as the important Cavalry trait for Unicorn’s many abilities. The limitation of no non-weapon attachments is not particularly onerous as attachments are not a major focus of the Unicorn. As the FFG article points out, it can be a benefit as it prevents enemy attachments, such as Pacifism, from being played.

The Aggressive Moto is a 2 cost Bushi Cavalry with 3 military, 0 political, and 0 glory. He is simple and efficient military skill. The Aggressive Moto cannot be declared as a defender, however, they can be moved in with the Unicorn stronghold.

Cavalry Reserves turns 3 Fate into 6 and lets you pick the best set of cards from you discard pile. Turn 1 this is going to be useless as you won’t have enough discard characters to play it, but in the final conflict, this will be a killer play.

Captive Audience is one of the biggest reveals in the Unicorn selection. We have already seen the strength of the Phoenix province, Kuroi Mori, and Captive Audience has a similar effect that can turn any political conflict into a military one. This allows the Unicorn to attack with a Military conflict twice a turn. By choosing to declare a political conflict, the Unicorn player can prevent a player defending with — political characters. Any political actions, such as Court Games, can then be played with the goal of boosting military present. Once Captive Audience is played, and the conflict has changed to military, any characters who have — military will have to return home bowed. The Unicorn movement tricks will then allow them to move in any of their — political characters who were not able to assign. It can mess with attacks against the Unicorn, turning an effective political attack into a weak military attack. It also makes the province entrenched position highly effective as even a political attack against the province cannot be guaranteed to remain that way. Captive Audience is a killer finishing move, putting the Unicorn into their best conflict when, and only when, they want it. Even at 3 influence, this is a card that will have other clans eager to play 3 copies.

We also know there is a conflict card called Iuchi Wayfinder, which presumably is a character, although we have no further details.

News just in! The Iuchi Wayfinder is a 1/1/o for 1 fate with the Shugenja Water Cavalry traits. The ability is when they come into play you can look at one of your opponents facedown provinces. It is a conflict card with 1 influence.


The Clan Champion

The Unicorn clan champion, Shinjo Altansarnai, is a 5 cost, 5 military, 4 political, and 2 glory Cavalry Bushi character. After breaking a province in a military conflict she participated in, your opponent must destroy one of their characters. With the impressive military potential of the Unicorn, this seems like an inevitability each turn. Although your opponent can choose which character to destroy and can prepare for it eventually this will wear down their resources. With the Unicorn’s focus on going first, your opponent’s best option is to try defend with a zero fate character which they will destroy if they lose. In this way, they get use out of the character and then destroy them once they have no more value. The Unicorn can mess with that plan by having their own kill actions such as Assassination and Fallen in Battle which are played before using Altansarani.


Summary

Overall, the Unicorn are heavily focused on the ability to move into conflicts. By assigning minimal characters to break the province, but having reinforcements ready to move in, they put their opponent in a difficult position. They can choose to not defend, allowing the Unicorn player to claim the ring and destroy the province with minimal investment. They can defend with just enough to stop the assigned attackers and have the reinforcements come in to take the province. Alternatively, they can defend with enough to defeat the attackers and the reinforcements and have their defenders bow out during resolution leaving them vulnerable to the next attack. This is, however, a perfect scenario for the Unicorn and they won’t have it all the time. Often to take a province the Unicorn will need to assign the majority of their forces and won’t have much to reinforce with.


Shinjo Altansarnai by Le Vuong

Allying with the Unicorn

The Unicorn really don’t like playing nice with the other clans. For the most part, the Unicorn conflict cards require the Cavalry trait or Unicorn characters. There are a few notable exceptions. The Favored Mount and Ide Messenger offer some movement tricks to the other clans. Even without the Unicorn’s movement, the card draw from Spyglass just for assigning is quite good. Captive Audience is the real gem though, at 3 influence you’ll be pushing things to the limit but being able to turn a political conflict into a military conflict at a whim is game winning. This will see play with Crab and Lion for sure, and possibly Dragon and Scorpion.

Influence from other clans

Crab: Reprieve is always a good addition and only costs 1 influence. The crab have a lot of good military options, but the Unicorn may not need it. Jade Tetsubo at 2 influence, is additional military but is also a good way to deal with high fate characters. The Mountain Does Not Fall would allow defenders to be ready for the next attack. Watch Commander has the potential to be brutal. Given the Unicorn’s movement tricks, it is likely this will be in every battle even if the character is bowed. Suggested: 3x Reprieve and 2x Watch Commander.

Crane: Crane aren’t really offering a lot to the Unicorn, at least in support of their primary focus. Admit Defeat will punish players who defend with only one character. Political Rival and Steward of Law add more Courtiers and political options to the Unicorn as would Height of Fashion. Above Question can protect some key characters against your opponents actions. It is unlikely the Crane will be the preferred option for many Unicorn decks. Suggested: 3 Admit Defeat and 2x Above Question.

Dragon: Let Go is always useful to destroy your opponent’s attachments. Mirumoto’s Fury helps defend while your Moto rampage your opponents provinces. Tattooed Wanderer gives a covert option preventing key characters from defending. Suggested: 3 Mirumoto’s Fury and 2 Tattooed Wanderer.

Lion: Ready for Battle is always great against the many bow effects in the core set. Strength in Numbers provides some extra send home when attacking. Sashimono is a really good option especially when the Unicorn player is turning political conflicts into military ones. Suggested: 3x Stand Your Ground and 3x Sashimono.

Phoenix: Display of Power and Pacifism are the real options from the Phoenix card set. Display of Power lets the Unicorn focus on attacking, stealing the advantage of the rings from their opponent. Pacifism is a way to prevent opponents key characters from defending against the Unicorn’s attacks. It also is brutally effective with Captive Audience as it lets them assign to the political conflict, but once it shifts to military they get sent home bowed. Suggested: 2x Display of Power and 2x Pacifism.

Scorpion: are yet to be fully revealed


Next up we have the Scorpion. We already have a decent number of Scorpion cards previewed and our team has already started the write up, so expect this one out soon!

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

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2 Replies to “Clan Focus – The Unicorn”

  1. hey guys 🙂 great articles! I have read almost everything that you post. just wanted to point out that your description of how Moto Youth is working is not correct – it gets +1 Mil during the first Mil conflict, not during the first conflict. so as it doesn’t matter if the opponent initiates Political first – during the first Mil it will still get +1
    cheers and keep it up 🙂

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