Meta Check – Madrid

Meta Check – Madrid

This weekend is the first Kotei held at Game On in Madrid, Spain. Currently, it looks like it will be bigger than Worlds with numbers over 400 players! The first two packs of the Imperial cycle will be legal so it will give us a taste of the new environment, but only a taste. Spain is super serious about L5R so I’m expecting some interesting results.

The setup on the floor is very impressive. That Torii arch is massive and made of wood! For scale, the people in the middle (under the Lion and Dragon mons) are under the arch, the guys on the left (under the Unicorn and Phoenix mons) are not.

I and Eoin along with a few of the other experienced Irish players offered to help out as volunteer judges. So we were there on the floor but, and I do need to stress this, aren’t Asmodee employees. We helped out where we could but we only have a limited perspective on the event. That said, I found my experience helping out a lot of fun and it definitely gave me some new perspectives on tournaments.

Day 1 – Saturday – Swiss

Over 450 players making this the biggest tournament we have seen so far for L5R. Gencon was larger, but that was a single core demo event rather than the game proper.

Unicorn attendance being low is pretty much as expected hovering around 8% about half the 14% you would expect. Crab and Phoenix both were low suggesting concerns about their performance. Phoenix were unlucky for this tournament just missing out on the pack with the Prodigy of Waves who massively improve their deck’s performance.

Due to a delay with the Madrid underground, only half the pre-registered players had arrived at the time the tournament was due to start. It was pretty painful, but rather than give half the players a loss it was decided to push the start time out. I think the start time should have been 9:00 and ended up being closer to 11:30. With 7 rounds, lunch, games going to time, etc. L5R is incredibly rough for tournament organizers with time already very tight. Starting out with a big delay outside of the players and organizers control was pretty rough, but somehow day 1 was completed, even if later than everyone would have liked.


Day 2 – Sunday – Single Eliminations

At the end of day 1, we had 36 players who qualified for day 2. Scorpion had overwhelming numbers with a third of the field Scorpion.

This is the qualification rate based on who got in as a percentage of the number of players of that clan in attendance. Even though Scorpion had the highest attendance rate they had the highest qualification rate.

Overall qualification rates seem to suggest Unicorn 3% are low and Scorpion at 12% are high. The remaining 5 clans are between 6% to 9%. This suggests Scorpion are the best clan for making it through the swiss. As we’ll soon see, the single elim rounds were not soo kind.

The final top 16.

While I don’t have decklists, we did end up watching a lot of games as judges and this did give us a few impressions of the decks being played. Everything below should be taken with a handful of salt, as it’s possible we might have picked up some inaccurate impressions.

  • Crab – Unicorn did seem to be the splash of choice. Funeral Pyre didn’t always appear, although it’s hard to know if it wasn’t in the deck or just didn’t appear. Stoic Magistrate and Policy Debate out of the new packs were popular. Example – Pablo Pintor Espinosa’s winning deck, Orian Gissler’s top 16 deck, and Daniel Correas López’s top of the swiss deck.
  • Crane – Kabuki Hero in a few. No particular splash of note. Example – Adrian Marin Jimenez’s top Crane deck
  • Dragon – Crab splash seemed super popular for Dragon with lots of Pathfinder’s Blades and Reprieves hitting the table. Kitsuki Yaruma was a lot more popular than I personally expected and I’ll be going back to reconsider him. Presumably helped by Yaruma’s 4 political skill, Policy Debate appeared to be popular for Dragon too. Another surprise for me was Seeker Initiate seeing play. I get the impression Finger of Jade was commonly played as a popular question for judges was if it can stop covert (it can). Example – Tomas Macho Nargane’s top 4 deck. Roberto Cotillas’ top 8 deck.
  • Lion – For Lion, you probably take the Worlds winning deck and add in Ujiaki and Gifted Tactician. Not much else to add.
  • Phoenix – Isawa Kaede, Embrace the Void, Harmonize, and Shrine maiden all saw some play. I couldn’t see anything of particular note for Phoenix. Things do change a lot of them in the next pack. Example – 5-2 Phoenix deck
  • Scorpion – Political Debate and Meek Informant saw a lot of play. All the decks I recall seeing at the top tables were splashing Dragon. I suspect these were variants on the top Worlds Scorpion deck. Example – Top 32 Scorpion and 6-0 side event.
  • Unicorn – As far as I am aware the top Unicorn was a Courtier deck splashing Crane, but that’s pretty much all I know. Example – Switchycorn finished 5-2 but didn’t make top Unicorn.

The Finals were Fernando (left) playing Lion versus Pablo (right) playing Crab

In the end, Crab were victorious led by Pablo Pintor Espinosa who beat the Lion deck of Fernando Castanon Teran in the finals.

Pablo has explained he designed his deck to take out Lion and this really paid off as his last 3 games were against Lion.

“Policy debate is easily played against anyone with the stronghold, fans, spyglass, and watch commander, even hida guardian helps with it. Since the stronghold buffs each stat and you can play it in military conflicts, it is really easy to go in succesfully. Most opponents cannot afford to bid high to win the duel vs Crab. Bid mid-high first turn to get the cards you want vs your matchup and spyglasses, and reduce your bid in the next turns based on how much card advantage you have over your opponent and draw engine on the board, but I usually bid 1 every turn after the first. Funeral pyre is solid for getting even more draw. Yojimbos didnt work well with Stoic Magistrate so I had to take them out. I used ancestral land on the stronghold every game. As for the pairings, I played against 3 scorps, 5 lions, 2 crane, 1 unicorn and 1 phoenix. Thanks!”



If you have any comments or feedback please post them in the comments section below. Join us on our Twitch stream every second Monday at 8pm BST, 9pm CEST, 1pm PST.

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23 Replies to “Meta Check – Madrid”

    1. Hi Stephen, thanks for posting!

      The qualification rate for the top cut was significantly better for the Spanish players than at either the American events. Did Stoic Magistrate and Policy Debate make a difference or did something else change? I’m not sure I’m willing to accept the idea that 99% of Crab players at Worlds and Pax just sucked.

      After the cut, those numbers got cut drastically with only 2 in the top 16 and just 1 from the top 8 onwards. From your streamed games at Pax I could see you had some really tight games that could have gone either way. Notably, your last two games were against Lion. In this tournament, Pablo faced 3 Lion in his last 3 games. Was Pablo lucky? I’d say he was lucky that he got paired against Lion, but he knew Lion are strong and popular and he was ready to be lucky when others wouldn’t be. I don’t know if he read Eoin’s article but his deck choices certainly reflect some of the points Eoin made. Eager Scout doesn’t make the cut, he’s a nice bonus but increase the risk of bad draws. The Hiruma Yojimbo and Stauch Hida don’t make it, again they reduce consistency. I’m interested to see he included the Funeral Pyres which I gather are losing popularity somewhat in favor of holdings that can be sacrificed, again to reveal another province rather than locking it up.

      One of Eoin’s last points was that an extra defensive technique to punish attackers would be good. You certainly could look at Policy Debate as a punishment for attacking, I can definitely see how it fits into the Crab’s overall strategy of conflict card denial through dishonor.

      Was the improvement in qualification rate a reaction to the discussions the Crab have been having about these issues? With less players I would expect those who played to be more dedicated and more likely to be involved with the Crab board rather than just picking up a deck for the first time and making the cut.

      1. Baz,

        Heads up, this is a long reply.

        I’m glad you’re not stating that 99% of all Crab players from Worlds/PAX suck, as that would be factually incorrect. Here are some facts from the first 3 major events:

        # of wins: Crab (2), Lion (1), Crane/Dragon/Phoenix/Scorpion/Unicorn (0)
        # of players in top 4: Lion (5), Crab/Dragon/Scorpion (2), Crane (1), Phoenix/Unicorn (0)

        Below that you’re going to find Lion/Dragon/Scorpion populating the round of 8 mainly. Crane has only had John Urbanek make it past the round of 8, while Phoenix and Unicorn have not yet had a player get past the top 16.

        So I’d have to say that Crab and Lion are the top 2 factions based on results right now. Scorpion and Dragon and certainly putting guys there, but they aren’t getting it done right now. Am I saying that the players who lost in the top 32/16/8/4/2 games were bad? No, but they weren’t able to win the games to continue on in the tournament, and on some level results need to matter.

        Let’s now talk about Worlds, since that seems to be the pink elephant in the room. Eoin’s article has been referenced as reasons why Crab had Woes at worlds and underperformed. From a results standpoint and looking at Crab has done in a similar meta since then, yes we underperformed. However, let’s dig a little deeper. Since I’m writing this and consider myself a good player, was I disappointed with my Worlds results? No, I was not. My two Day 2 losses were to Travis McDaniels (top 16), who I consider to be the best Phoenix player currently playing and to Gabriel Caban (top 8), who is a stellar Dragon player, one of the best who I’ve had the privilege to play against. These were losses to contemporaries, people who I consider to be equally skilled or better than I am. If you talk to other Crab players from World’s, few are going to share the articles feelings.

        Looking at Eoin’s article, two of the biggest things that I took away from it were that our cards don’t synergize well and we are inconsistent. Joe Habes (Joe From Cincinnati) offered this in response when I asked him about Crab being inconsistent or disadvantaged at a competitive level, which I think is a spot on analysis:

        “I think Crab had a disadvantage before people learned how to play them competently. They play differently from each other clan because their greatest strength lies in their ability to wait out their opponent with solid defense and hard to remove characters, character efficiency, and resilience which no other clan typically cared about at the beginning. Once the ideal way to play them was discovered, however, they gained a significant advantage in the game. Crab is able to play conservatively and accumulate fate through their save effects (saving a 4 fate character with a 1 fate attachment technically generates 3 fate of value) and, once their opponent’s board eventually withers, they can take over a game. That’s why you see only ~3 Crabs per tournament really shine. The ones who get it will dominate the competition. The ones who play them like any other clan will fail.”

        I think Crab is, along with Phoenix, one of the two most technical clans to play in the game right now, with some of the highest skill ceilings in the game. When played correctly/optimally, they shine. When they aren’t, you get subpar results. I think Crane/Dragon/Lion/Scorpion have simpler game plans they want to execute at the moment, and Unicorn still is lacking the cards they need to be able to do what they want to do in order to win.

        So in conclusion, I’m confused on the stance your podcast has taken on Crab so far. 1. Is Crab, as the results have shown, a top level faction and IA just hasn’t acknowledged it? 2. Does Crab just have some of the current top players in the World (Pablo and myself) and that is what is propping up an otherwise mediocre faction? 3. Or perhaps we’re just lucky and this is a statistical anomaly?

        I’d like to think it’s the first answer with a dash of 2 and maybe a sprinkle of 3, as in any long tournament you’re going to have to win a game or two when you play poorly (some will call this getting lucky).

        1. I’m confused as to how you see Joe Habes’ comment of “saving characters is good and we can get a wide board” is a response to Eoin Burke’s concern that “Crab are more likely to have poor turn 1 due to lack of synergy and fewer cheap characters”. One is talking about the late game and the other about the early game.

          Do you disagree that Crab’s focus is more divided and less synergistic than any Clan besides Phoenix? Or that they have fewer cheap characters than most Clans? Or that Crab lack a 3 skill 1 drop? Because those were the main points Eoin made, and you and Habes have been shitting on him at every opportunity since he made those completely accurate points. He also explained why he believes Pablo did well in Madrid- Crab recently got the tools to beat Lion, and Pablo went all in on doing that and it paid off. Do you disagree with that assessment?

          1. Honestly, Crab won both the Kotei’s recently. It’s hard to chalk that up to luck. The reason Crab succeeded and these 2 events and not at World’s is because of the Crab variant’s that were run. Dishonor Crab is the variant that is taking these events.

            Dishonor Crab is very different from most Crab variants. It’s a very unique approach to Crab. I think Eoin’s assessment for Crab was interesting, but Crab’s optimal variant as a faction is currently dishonor. Most players did not play Dishonor Crab.

            To credit one success but to dismiss the other is a huge slap to the face. It comes across as pure fallacy. Rather than acknowledging that IA’s assessment of Crab may have been off the mark, IA continuously postures itself as “above the meta”. I live in the states, but I know I speak on behalf of a lot of members in my personal community here.

            I think Dishonor Crab did gain tools, but the foundation was already there. It’s a great deck as the tournament results have shown. It’s a niche archtype that most players in Crab weren’t playing. It’s absolutely not the everyday Lion variant where 90% are pretty identical.

            Admitting that your assessment of the meta simply means you were off the mark this instance. Rather than doing that, a lot of players feel IA makes self bias excuses and then proceed to look to each other for confirmation that they aren’t wrong.

          2. Really quick. Eoin’s article specifically mentions dishonor. The article before Worlds with recommended Worlds lists was the Bear Cavalry deck which does support dishonor and was similar to Stephen’s deck. I’m sorry if we gave the impression that we’re somehow ‘above the meta’, we’re just 5 guys talking shit on a podcast doing our best to give some good content. Feel free to keep posting about this under the Crab Woes article where I’ve included my most recent points.

          3. Oh, this thread is juicy…

            IMHO, Imperial Advisor produces pretty solid content. It’s one of the few out there that I avidly follow. I don’t always agree with their crew, but they often make valid points. I also really think Stephen is a good friend and strong player. He has some of the best insight around.

            Having personally attended the PAX Grand Kotei, I agree that the particular episode also was a bit much. Meh~

          4. I’ve had to delete a few comments. It’s important to me that discussion is respectful and meaningful and I feel some recent posts did not qualify for either of those. Unlike some of the social groups, this is not run like a democracy and I reserve the right to remove anything I don’t like. Feel free to message me if you have an issue with this, but don’t expect anything to change.

        2. Hey Stephen,

          Hopefully you managed to check the livestream last night where we did talk about Madrid. If you haven’t yet, the replay is up on twitch and we should have the episode out on youtube / etc soon enough. In the episode Eoin does a tight summation of the Madrid Kotei that I feel is fair.

          I have to admit I’ve found the hostility Eoin has been getting about that article pretty bewildering. Rather than claiming Crab players suck like many did, he went through the card pool and proposed some potential pitfalls that the average Crab player might be falling for. I’d like to hope many players read that article and adjusted their decks to minimise those potential issues. Indeed, your own PAX winning deck contains solutions to those same issues.

          As I suspect this is going to be a long post and I’m sure I’ll get a reply, I’m going to link us over to the comments under the Crab Woes article where it is more relevant. I’ll have a more detailed comment over there in a few minutes and if we could keep the chain going there that would be great.

  1. Hi again. Thanks for the report… I was happy to shake hands with you and Eoin this weekend, and as usual I find this blog the best place to follow up… keep going!
    I have written in the ffg forums about my experience, and my view on the delay issues. I hope you dont mind I link it:

    Again, thank you for all the info. I hope you could enjoy the city at least a little on sunday…

    1. It was great being there! It was my first time to Madrid, even though I didn’t get to see much of Madrid it was great to meet some of the Spanish players. Everyone was super patient with my lack of Español. It was great to hear about your experience, I’m super excited to see how that monk deck ends up 😀

  2. I dont know if there was any issue in the undeground but registering +450 players in 30 min is pretty difficult I think.

    I really enjoyed the tournament but we spent 14 hours to play 7 rounds the 1st day and before dropping I played 4 rounds in 8 hours.

    I am sure we all can think something to improve this point.

    1. The names were already listed, so it was just a matter of handing out the participation prizes and marking people off the lists. Probably still a bit tight but doable. I’m definitely looking forward to FFG addressing the time issues. I think part of it is the tie-breaker process which I’ll write a bit more about at the end of this article once I finish it up.

  3. Hi, Adrian here, last remaining Crane in Top16. I will be posting my deck later on today (Marc, the hatamoto also played it) and will provide the link to you guys.
    On a side note, I’d like to stress out how the Spanish version of the event website said the even started at 11, while the English one said 9, also, there was a HUGE bottle neck at the entrance, getting 450 people through airport security measures ain’t a fast procedure and the venue didn’t open until 9 for players.
    Thanks for coming over to judge, and it was great to see Eoin 🙂

    1. Awesome! Please share your deck and encourage any of the other players to do the same. I know for certain there is great interest in the tournament internationally, we just need to get the info out 😀

      I can see how the security would make a bottleneck. I appreciate that the venue had them, but I always wondered what the security team thought of all of us playing magical samurai!

      Could you share the link to the Spanish website? I just checked the GameOn page and it seemed fine, but maybe I’m looking at the wrong place.

      1. As promised.

        As for the Website, I can not be sure at the moment, someone showed me on the phone during the day while waiting for the tournament to start and I saw it said the event started at 11.
        My personal experience was, i arrived to the venue at 9, and had to wait about an hour until 10 to make it into the venue, then enroll, hand the deck, etc… All in all the schedule and logistics made it Impossible, and could not be blamed on the players.

        Another point that annoyed lots of people was sending us for lunch at 12:30, for jigoku’s shake, wer’e in spain, most people has lunch about 2 pm on weekdays and 3 to 4 on weekends! D=

  4. There was another Phoenix that was counted as a Dragon by a mistake, so there were initially 52 Phoenix, 53 Crabs and 65 Dragons.

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