The Single Box Environment

The Single Box Environment

The Core Box

With the arrival of the new Legend of the Five Rings game, people are looking forward to playing some games. At Gencon 2017, the first tournament will happen. There will be similar tournaments at release across the world. To make sure enough product is available, these tournaments are going to use smaller deck sizes of 30/30 and only 1 core deck box. So with that in mind, let’s have a look to see what sort of environment this will result in.

If you want to be successful in this early environment, you will need to know the cards that are in it. There are a limited number of cards in this early environment so it isn’t too hard to become familiar with them. We recommend checking out the chain of articles we have already published.

Right now, it appears each clan will have a stronghold, a province, 14 dynasty cards, and 11 conflict cards. It is a reasonable assumption that each clan will be playing all, or at least most, of their clan specific cards. The choices then, are in the neutral cards and how influence is spent. There are two copies of each neutral card in the box with 3 copies of most of the neutral characters.

Conflict cards

As conflicts are a key element of the game, conflict cards can be grouped into those which impact military, political, or either.

Military only cards

Political only cards


Everyone should be playing 2 copies of Fine Katana, Banzai!, Ornate Fan, Court Games, Assassination. I do not recommend Fallen in Battle at all, but Court Games might be an option if you have room for everything else. Have a look over your character base to determine what traits you have that are viable. For Shame! is probably going to be an option, this only requires a courtier in the battle so it can arguably be played even if you only have the Otomo Courtiers (although it will be unreliable). If you have decent military Bushi, then Rout is going to be good. Similarly, if you have decent political Courtiers, then Outwit is going to be good. Good Omen isn’t always reliable, but getting 1 extra fate on your best character can be game changing though, so I am a fan of it.

Limiting your opponents options

Understanding the requirements and limitations for each of these cards will give you an understanding of your opponent’s options. If it is a Military conflict, your opponent has no ?, and has only Bushi: then the only cards they can play to win the conflict are Fine Katana, Banzai!, Assassination, and if they have higher military skill Bushi Rout. If you have only 3 cost or more characters then Assassination is no longer an option. If your Bushi are all higher military skill than your opponent they cannot play Rout. Understanding this can help you make decisions that limit your opponent options and ultimately win that conflict.


Assassination is a card that deserves a special mention. Every deck in the core set environment should have two copies. Turn 1 you will start with 4 cards and the option to mulligan into at most 4 more. For the mulligan element, a good rule of thumb is to only keep 0 ? cost cards. During turn 1 you will probably end up drawing 5 cards. Out of the 30 card deck, you will have seen up to 13 cards and are very likely to have at least 1 of the 2 Assassinations in hand. Your opponent is just as likely to have a copy. With this in mind, my recommendation for the dynasty is to mulligan for a 3+ ? cost clan character. The Wandering Ronin’s stock is slightly increased, but it is best to consider him a 2/2 for 3 with an ability you only use in a pinch rather than a dump all your fate for a explosive result. When you do play a cost 2 or less character, try avoid investing extra fate or attachments.

Clan conflict cards

Clan cards are less reliable as there is only one copy of each in the set. With the influence rules you get to pick a second clan, again only 1 of each. This ends up being about 10 cards from the main clan and around 5 from the secondary clan. In each of the clans there are 1 or 2 cards that could be cut, cards that require traits you cannot guarantee, that are part of combos you aren’t going to see, or are just too expensive to justify inclusion.

  • 2 Conflict Characters
  • 3 Attachments*
  • 5 Events*
  • Second clan splash

 * card numbers vary with Clan

Typical splash is expected to be Dragon

The Dragon suite provides basic boosts and utility. The Method, Daisho, and Wanderer are all 1 cost for 2 skill. The ancestral trait on the items is actually a lot better than I originally expected as you can drop this onto a fate less character and not worry about losing the item. The Wanderer’s bonus option of giving covert is very useful and easily pulls it’s weight. Let Go effectively is a 2 cost skill penalty as everyone will be playing the Fan and Katana, there is also a key item for each clan that often is even better such as Sashimono, Watch Commander or Pacifism. Lastly, Mirumoto’s Fury lets you save provinces while you focus on attacking. The bow action has some foils such as Ready for Battle, Steadfast Witch Hunter, and Niten Master but these are uniques and apart from Ready are telegraphed.

In a 30 card deck:

  • 15 cards will help in a Military conflict. Around half will cost 1 or more.
  • 12 cards will help in a Political conflict. Around half will cost 1 or more.
  • The normal impact is 2 skill boost or penalty with a few higher impact cards depending on condition.

If you have to make a guess, you can assume half the cards your opponent has drawn will be relevant for the current conflict. You can also assume that half of those relevant cards will cost 1 or more. So if your opponent has 8 cards in hand, you can assume your opponent can play 2 cards in the current conflict for free with a total of +4 skill and another 2 cards at cost 1 each for +2 skill per card. This isn’t going to be a hard and fast rule, and as your opponent plays cards in one conflict, they will have less of that same type for the next conflict.

Conflict splash from other clans

Crab (5)

Lion (6)

Phoenix (6)

Unicorn (5)

Scorpion (4)

Dynasty Cards

For almost all clans the Dynasty deck is very tight with only a few cards to make decisions with. The majority of the deck will be put together with Neutral cards where up to 18 cards are available.

There are only one of each clan card, giving around 14 cards in total. For example, Phoenix have:

  • 13 dynasty characters
  • 1 holding

For Phoenix, there is a total of 14+18 = 32 cards. So, 2 cards need to be cut. The current recommendation is to start cutting with the Seeker/Keepers, although reducing the number of holdings does remove the risk of getting all holdings in a turn.

Seeker or Keeper?

With the limited card pool, 3 more influence isn’t going to be as good as two provinces of the same ring. With Keeper, you get fate when you claim the relevant ring, but only on the defense. As your opponent chooses the Conflict type, they might never attack with the ring you need. With Seeker, you get fate when you reveal one of the two provinces of the element type, this helps you out of a hole and is reliable fate. If you never reveal the two provinces you are very happy, but if you never win the conflict of your ring in defense that is a bad place to be. So, go Seeker.

Province choice

Options vary, but it probably comes down to double Earth for Entrenched Position and Ancestral Lands or the ring of the Clan province and another of the same type. For example, Dragon can go fire with Night Raid and Restoration of balance for two card discard effects. Phoenix can go Water to add Elemental Fire and Rally to the Cause to Kuroi Mori to really mess with your opponent’s conflicts. Another consideration is the decision between powerful reactions which can only be used when the province is revealed and actions and traits which will be there every time the province is attacked. For more discussion on provinces check out our understanding the provinces article. Understanding the provinces your opponent may have, especially once the first few get revealed, will help inform how you should assign your attackers.

Sample Decks

We’ve discussed some of the basics, have a look at some of our sample 1 core decks to get you started. These shouldn’t be considered definitive and there are plenty of options, but it will be a decent starting point.

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

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4 Replies to “The Single Box Environment”

  1. Great article, Baz, and I agree on almost every point. I would like to throw in that Cloud the Mind and Spies at Court are similar to Assassination in power level in the single core environment.

    Cloud the Mind is a killer card because of the swingy nature of certain characters: clan champions, Lion’s Pride Brawler, Mirumoto Raitsugu, ect. A lot of the power in these cards come from their text box, and being able to remove that power for 1 fate is huge because there’s only one copy of that card. Clan champions lose of a lot of impact because they are often carried along by their abilities and not so much their stats. An unanswered Cloud the Mind simply swings games.

    Spies at Court is also a sleeper card that will make waves in this format. With every dynasty deck being a slot machine, the real power of decks comes in the conflict deck. Ideally, the conflict deck almost exclusively cards that directly contribute to winning conflicts, and again the clan specific power cards only have a single copy. Spies at court essentially removes 2 of your opponents threats (because again, almost every card will be a direct conflict threat), for only 1 card of your own. The dishonor should rarely matter due to the prevalence of Otomo Courtier and other chuds who can hold it with no fate left.

    Awesome job on the article though, it really sums up the format well and the mindset you need to have if you expect success from it. Good work, guys.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it!

    Yeah, you raise some good points.

    Cloud the mind does have a lot of utility and any clan with a decent amount of Shugenja should play it. I don’t think it’s as influential as Assassination due to the presence of the Miya Mystic in the single core set decks. I also heavily favour the Dragon splash and Let Go is a way to deal with it. Mostly though, Cloud the Mind happens or it doesn’t. There really isn’t a way to play around it so it doesn’t distort play.

    Spies at Court has frustrated me in the games I’ve played. In retrospect, maybe I was playing it in the wrong decks. If you win a conflict you lose a card from hand and dishonor a character to make your opponent randomly discard two cards. Dishonoring can be worked with, normally it is just a 1 point honor loss as your bowed character is leaving play at the end of turn. The loss of a card (playing Spies at Court) for the loss of two of your opponents diminishes the effect slightly. When you do get to play it, you will normally hit two really good cards. You’ll probably be using the earth ring, so they’re going to lose 3 cards which is brutal. That said, in my games I found I wasn’t in a position to actually win that political conflict. I’m sitting looking at Spies at Court and wishing it was something that help me win a conflict instead. That’s why I don’t like it. Looking back, I probably should be playing it in Scorpion or Crane, decks that don’t have issues winning political conflicts. A Spies in Court in either of those decks would really help soften up their opponent. I’m convinced. I’m hoping to get some Scorpion games in today (thanks to your hard work on the TTS mod) and look forward to trying it out then.

    Good luck at Gencon!

  3. Judging by the results, I very much under estimated the power of the Keeper role. The Keeper Initiate, one of the last cards revealed, is very powerful and seems to have made a big difference in the tournaments.

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