The Adept’s Path

The Adept’s Path

Today we start with, what hopefully will be, a series of articles from contributor Tony Gleeson. Tony is a friend of the team who is starting fresh into Legend of the Five Rings. Reading his experiences will hopefully help other new players who wish to learn about this game and world we all love.

 As a long-time card gamer, but relative newcomer to the lands of Rokugan, I’d like to document my experiences as I take the plunge into a completely new game with a very old background. In this series of semi-regular articles, I hope to give my take on cards, clans, and strategy of the Legend of the Five Rings living card game, as I learn the game and its background, and tackle the competitive scene.

To say that I’m a newcomer to L5R doesn’t mean that I’m walking in completely blind, since a lot of my friends are veterans of the old L5R CCG, and have tried to get me involved in the past. However, the sheer size of the card pool then was too daunting. Now, though, with the game relaunching, I don’t have that excuse anymore.

One of the most celebrated elements of the old game was clan loyalty, where players picked a clan and stuck by them for as long as they played the game. It’s around this element that I focus this initial entry.

For some, the choice of clan was made based on playstyle preferences, while for others it was to round out their playgroup. But, in the main, once a player chose a clan that is how they identified themselves whilst involved in the game.

The fact that the active community could influence the game design and very lore of the game was the primary driver behind clan loyalty, because a player’s involvement counted towards their clan’s overall progress through the story. So, no matter how much (or little) you could dedicate toward the game, you could still affect it. And, thankfully, FFG have committed to following this tradition, albeit with tighter restrictions.

I’ve played Android: Netrunner, where faction loyalty was almost non-existent, and I’ve played Game of Thrones, where House loyalty exists, but not to the degree that is evident in L5R, and of all the new elements we’ll be experiencing in L5R, I think this is what excites me most.

In this article, I’ll be casting an eye over each Clan to see what they offer the layman (even if my initial assessment is way off). Once I get access to the full card pool and can get a few games in, I’ll go back to revise my first impressions of each.

Choosing Sides

Whether remaining clan loyal, or putting another clan’s deck together for testing or fun, your choice of faction determines what you can put in your decks, how you approach the game, and what your ultimate end-goal is. So, a wise choice here can go a long way toward both success and enjoyment.

The great thing about the LCG format is that, assuming you’re up-to-date with a game’s regular, affordable releases, then you will have every card you need to test the different factions. This can be before or after you make any big decisions.


Crab Clan
Stalwart. Stubborn. Selfless. The Crab have no time for subtlety, look down on weakness, and epitomise strength. They think nothing of self-sacrifice in the name of the Empire, seeking no personal glory. They know they are the first and only line of defence against the Shadowlands.

The strength of the Crab is their…strength. Their characters have some of the highest printed military skill, but they can lack in the political arena. Their glory is also among the lowest in the Empire, which can be a boon or curse. With such low glory, honoring and dishonoring their characters has little to no effect. The Crab also understand sacrifice better than any other clan, and have many powerful abilities that reward them for judicious – if sometimes callous! – play.


Crane Clan

Graceful. Honourable. Sophisticated. The Crane epitomise the pursuit of perfection, whether in art or combat. They wear their honor like armor, and the court is their battlefield.

Unlike the warrior Clans – the Lion, Crab, and Unicorn – the Crane specialise in politics and court games, and many of their effects lean towards political conflicts. The Crane focus on, and benefit from, honoring as many of their characters as possible, and can control the game with a number of effects that prevent your opponent from playing Events. With only the Scorpion as their courtly rivals, the Crane should hold the upper hand during political conflicts in most games.


Dragon Clan

Mysterious. Adaptable. Inscrutable. The Dragon Clan represent the hidden powers within, and they have many options during the conflict phase which can provide surprise boosts to their warriors. Whether on the field of battle or in the intricacies of court, the Dragon can hold their own.

The strength of the Dragon comes from their attachments, which allow them to more efficiently allocate their troops. This means that, rather than deploying several characters with little Fate, they can afford to invest more heavily in individual, powerful units. Add to this the fact that Dragon can punish opponents for having more characters than they do, and have access to some of the few methods of adding Fate to characters already in play, and the power of the single, focused warrior becomes even more apparent.


Lion Clan

Proud. Brash. Relentless. The Lion possess the largest standing military in Rokugan, so it is only fitting that this is where their strength lies: on the field of battle, and not in the intrigues of court. But winning the war means nothing if it isn’t won well, and, to that end, Lion are also closely tied to honor.

The Lion’s strength is in its armies, and they have the means to create and maintain a significant board presence turn after turn. In many ways, the Lion are the mirror to the Crane, and while they favour military might over court games, they both seek to gain honorable advantages, and are rewarded for doing so. While Lion may not have access to the same level of conflict-deck card draw as the Crane, they can dig through their dynasty deck much faster, can recycle characters, and can rely in strength in numbers rather than conflict-phase tricks to ensure victory.


Phoenix Clan

Powerful. Enlightened. Enigmatic. The Phoenix are a clan apart. They are masters of the elements, boasting the highest number of Shugenja – the priest-magicians of Rokugan. They excel in the magical arts, and use the elements themselves to further their cause.

Individually, Phoenix characters tend to be weaker in terms of stats, but they boast some of the most powerful abilities in the game. Many of these abilities, however, require specific circumstances, meaning that a Phoenix player must be very precise in how they play. But when it all comes together, they can be nigh unstoppable. A lot of Phoenix characters have high glory values, so while they can arguably gain the most from being honored, they also have the most to lose through dishonor, and must play with this in mind.


Scorpion Clan

Dishonourable. Calculating. Subtle. The Scorpion have a reputation for deception which is often misconstrued as dishonourable. But in truth, they are the clan most loyal to the Empire. They care so much that their own personal honor means little to them, and they will do whatever it takes to protect their clan, the Emperor & the people of Rokugan.

Scorpion are the masters of stealth and surprise, often bidding high on their honour dials to draw enough conflict cards to ensure that they have options available to them. This means that Scorpion players will often flirt with losing by dishonour, and learning how to manage this may make them one of the more difficult clans to play.


Unicorn Clan

Savage. Aggressive. Heathen. The Unicorn’s ancestors originally left Rokugan at the Emperor’s behest, to learn about the world beyond the borders of the Empire. During their travels, they adopted new cultures, beliefs, and practices, and became something new – which the Empire is unsure how to handle now that they have returned.

The Unicorn strike fast, strike hard, and strike where they are not expected. Even more than the Lion, they prefer military conflict. But instead of relying on sheer numbers, they have exceptional maneuverability which allows them to hold the bulk of their force in reserve and then redeploy as much extra strength as is required to win the fight.

I still haven’t decided which clan I’m going to play, but I’m leaning toward Dragon, Lion, and Unicorn.

If you have any thoughts on which clan you intend to play, leave a note below and let me know. And if there’s anything you want to hear about in more depth, or anything I can improve on, let me know as well. Thanks for reading!


4 Replies to “The Adept’s Path”

    1. There are two important aspects you should consider a) the mechanics and b) the story for each clan. The mechanics will determine whether you enjoy playing the game with the faction or not, while the story is the aspect that will make you fall in love with them. Right now Unicorn are quite poor mechanically, but many players still play them because they have a love of the open plains, swift horses, and crushing their enemies. I honestly wouldn’t worry too much about the current power levels of the clans in game, as those things tend to shift. Instead, when you look at mechanics consider if the overall style if fun rather than if it will win.

      Have a read of the background introduction post. Once you have, come back here and ask a few more questions. We can answer the questions you have and it might prompt another article to help out the next player looking to pick a clan!

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