Imperial Packs – Meditations on the Ephemeral

Imperial Packs – Meditations on the Ephemeral

Details of the sixth and final dynasty pack of the Imperial cycle is out! Let’s get stuck in and see what it has to offer each clan.


Crab

Iron Mine

Reprieve is a core card for the Crab. It can be used to protect a character from a kill effect or, more often, just keep them around for an extra turn. Iron Mine is the same effect, but as a holding instead. This essentially doubles the amount of retention the Crab can get, and with Rebuild used Iron Mines can be fetched and used again. On the other hand, it is another holding. Holdings are a big bonus as they’re free, but they take up a province and mean you get 1 less character to make. Decks can only run so many holdings before they risk disastrous dynasty phases where they’re unable to make any characters.

Compared to Reprieve, it is notable that Iron Mine protects all your characters, not just 1. With an Iron Mine in play, any effect that would discard a character can be negated. This gives the Crab board a massive amount of protection. At the end of the turn, it essentially adds 1 fate to one of your characters. Of course, the value of a single point of fate can change. This is going to be keeping your best character in play an extra turn. This can be Hida Kisada or a Steadfast Witch Hunter generating a massive board position. This can be magnified if the character you’re saving has an attachment such as a Watch Commander. Importantly, this along with Reprieve works with effects like Charge! and Raise the Alarm which brings characters in to play for cheap. This is an awesome card and should be a 3 of in every Crab dynasty deck despite the competition.

Kuni Ritsuko

This unique 4 cost Shugenja has 4 military, 2 political, and 1 glory. Her ability is a reaction to winning a conflict and removes 1 fate from an attacking character. As a Shugenja, she joins the Steadfast Witch Hunter leaving Crab with 2 Shugenja. In the current environment, Cloud the Mind is a key card. The quality of characters has shot up since the start of the Imperial cycle and Cloud the Mind is one of the few ways of dealing with those characters. In theory, only 2 Shugenja, or 6 cards, isn’t a great number but when those Shugenja are quality characters that will be made everytime they appear, it becomes a lot more reliable. With this addition, it does look like Crab could play 2 Cloud the Mind with confidence.

The ability allows the Crab player to sneak in an advantage when they win on the defense, essentially triggering a ring of void with a limited target. This allows the crab player to slowly grind down their opponent before the inevitable counter-attack.


Crane

Silver-Tongued Magistrate

The Silver-Tongued Magistrate is the Crane’s addition to the magistrate range. Like the others, this is a 3 cost Bushi with 2 military, 2 political, and 1 glory. When this character is attacking, characters without fate do not count to conflict resolution. This is the reverse of the Unicorn magistrate. Where the Unicorn magistrate synergized with Cavalry Reserves the Silver-Tongued Magistrate has no such option. At best, you’re hoping to strip fate from your opponent to make them vulnerable. Typically large characters are going to have an additional investment of fate, with cheaper characters get 1 fate at most. This means the Silver-Tongued Magistrate will be neutralizing cheap characters and big characters who have been around for a few turns. While it does have some issues, I’m not sure this is a character who is going to see play.

Pillow Book

The Pillow Book is a 0 cost attachment with an action that reveals the top card of the conflict deck until the end of the conflict. As long as that card stays revealed it can be played as if it were in the hand. The closest equivalent to this is Artisan Academy which has mixed popularity, but Pillow Book is also similar to the Unicorn Spyglass. Rather than costing 1, the Pillow Book is free, but you only get to use it once per turn rather than twice, and rather than drawing the card you get the opportunity to use it. If the card is not the right card for the moment, you don’t get to hold onto it, instead, it gets wasted. It also means multiple books are only going to work if you’re able to use that top card each time. Otherwise, you end up revealing the same card over and over unable to use it.

Despite the limitations, this is very likely to see play. Although the effect isn’t as good as Spyglass, Pillow Book is free card draw and for Crane requires no influence. It does conflict somewhat with Test of Skill where you are likely to name event and cannot then draw Pillow Book. Events also have a tendency to be situational, you can’t Court Games in a military conflict. This may result in Crane decks developing into cheap and easy to play cards that will always be useable. At 2 influence, it could be an attractive splash for clans interested in Crane. Dragon especially could get some good use out of it in an attachment heavy deck.


Dragon

Written in the Stars

This 1 cost event continues the theme of Dragon manipulating fate. The effect gives two options, place 1 fate or remove 1 fate on every unclaimed ring. On turn 1 this could allow you to play 5 fate onto rings straight away. Typically you will want to play this effect right before you attack, so you will regain the fate for the event when you declare a conflict. This would then boost the Seeker of Enlightenment potentially adding 4 skill. It could also be used to make sure the Enlightened Warrior triggers as your opponent will have to pick a ring with fate on it. This effect also combos with the attachment Jade Masterpiece allowing you to move an extra fate generated onto the ring you are going to declare an attack with. The other effect is to remove 1 fate from all the rings. This could be used to deny your opponent fate but at a cost of 1, it seems somewhat lackluster as you’ll at best deny your opponent 1 fate and might also remove fate you would have otherwise claimed.

Togashi Mendicant

This dynasty Monk character is 1 fate for 1 military, 1 political, and 1 glory. As a reaction, after the fate phase. beings you can look at the top three cards of your dynasty deck and then put them back in any order. This is a minor benefit but will give you a little bit of information that you can use. If you have a holding in play or a character that you are considering keeping, you will be able to tell whether you should discard those cards or are better off keeping them. It will allow you to place dynasty cards in the province you want. It can, for example, be used to place a holding such as The Imperial Palace onto either an unbroken province to get use from its +2 province strength or onto a broken province to make sure it cannot be discarded by your opponent during the turn. As a 1 cost character, this Monk is likely to come into play with 0 fate and leave at the end of the turn. This will give a character which can be bowed for High Kick or can be a target for Mantra of Fire or Mantra of Water. He goes along with the Togashi Initiate as a cheap support character.

Seal of the Dragon

The Seal of the Dragon is a 0 cost attachment that gives +1 political, the Dragon clan symbol, and Monk trait. Currently, the Monk trait is used for a limited number of abilities. This includes High Kick, Mantra of Fire, Mantra of Water, Centipede Tattoo, and the ability on Ascetic Visionary. Like the seals of the other clans, there are a few cases where you could be tempted to play it but it is probably not worth the investment of the card.


Lion

Beastmaster Matriarch

This 4 cost Bushi character has 3 military, 2political, and 2 glory. For each ring your opponent has claimed, the Beastmaster gains +2 military. If you’re going second, a truly terrible turn will result in the Beastmaster being 7 military on your final attack. Is it worth it? Currently, Lion play a swarm deck rushing out cheap characters while using the Kitsu Spiritcaller and Charge! to bring the more expensive characters in on the cheap. At the expensive slot, the Beastmaster is competing against Honored General, Akodo Toturi, and Ikoma Ujiaki. In that deck, the Beastmaster is unlikely to get a look in. If there is some reason for a big character style deck instead, the Beastmaster would be another option, but I’m not sure what that kind of deck would look like. The Beastmaster is just military skill on a stick, the Lion already have plenty of that.

A Legion of One

This 0 cost event can only be played during a military conflict. If you have only 1 character on your side, you can play this card to get +3 military and can choose to remove a fate from the character to gain an additional +3 military for a total of +6. Losing a fate means the character is going to be leaving play a turn sooner, but even without that extra option +3 force is great for a single card. Going solo probably means you’re low on options, possibly keeping characters for another conflict. As the Lion stronghold Yōjin no Shiro benefits from multiple characters on the attack, Lion normally prefer attacking with multiple characters. As such, it seems likely Lion will best use this card on the defense. This along with Way of the Lion and Banzai! will allow a single character get pretty dangerous. Unlike Banzai! it is not limited to once per turn. At 2 influence, this might be a popular splash giving, clans weaker in military an extra pseudo-Banzai!


Phoenix

Asako Tsuki

This 2 cost unique character has 1 military, 2 political, and 2 glory. Asko Tsuki’s trait line has all the right words: Courtier, Shugenja, and Scholar. This lets the Phoenix reliably run Courtier and Shugenja cards without having to split the deck. Although we know Scholar was going to be important from the Seal of the Phoenix, we didn’t realize how important until we saw Tsuki. Her ability honors a Scholar character after the water ring is claimed. It doesn’t matter if you or your opponent claim it. Just like the Prodigy of the Waves, once that water conflict is declared you can be pretty certain someone is going to be able to claim it. Tsuki then essentially honors a Scholar character every turn. Other scholars include Henshin Disciple, Naive Student, and Solemn Scholar. All have 2 glory apart from the Solemn Scholar who has 1. This is a great character who ties the Phoenix traits together.

Kanjo District

This is the 3rd holding the Phoenix have received, and as good as Magnificent Lighthouse was it just couldn’t compete with Forgotten Library. Kanjo District on the other hand, will make a space for itself. Limited to 1 per deck, it will find a space. It gives +2 province strength and has an action that requires discarding the imperial favor to bow and send them home. The effect is similar to Mirumoto’s Fury but without the limitations. It can be used on the attack or the defense. In addition to bowing it sends home, so a character with an ability like Lion’s Pride Brawler won’t get to use it. As the effect is not an event or a card it gets around Guest of Honor and Watch Commander. The cost is a little tricker, you need to have the favor. Luckily the Phoenix are adept at getting the favor when they need to, although that will mean sacrificing a character and the stronghold’s ability. As the holding can randomly show up, the Phoenix player will need to make sure they claim the favor from the turn before. It is also something players facing a Phoenix opponent will need to be aware of, because it will be in every Phoenix deck.


Scorpion

Illustrious Plagiarist

This 4 cost character is a Courtier and Shugenja, helping Scorpion decks run cards which require either trait. At 1 military, 3 political, and 1 glory this character doesn’t have great stats for his cost. Where he really shines is in his ability. As an action, you can gain the ability of the top event on your opponent’s discard pile. They play a Banzai!; the Plagiarist gets to Banzai!. They play a Court Games to honor a character; the Plagiarist players a Court Games to dishonor a character. In addition to totally messing with your opponent’s head, the Plagiarist typically equalizes your opponent’s events forcing them to spend more cards. This is exactly the kind of character the Scorpion love, powerful character actions that force your opponent to spend actions to keep up. At 4 cost, he is a little more expensive than they would like, but the only defense your opponent has against him is to play bad events, and that’s a win all by itself.

Oni Mask

This 0 cost attachment gives +1 military and +0 political skill. It is Seeker role only, so Scorpion as Seeker of Void can currently play it. It can only be attached to a character you control. During a conflict, as an action, you can remove 1 fate from the character the mask is attached to and blank the text box of a character in the conflict for the rest of the conflict. Notably, the attached character does not need to be in the conflict to take the action. This effect is similar in ways to the Shugenja only card Cloud the Mind. Cloud the Mind, however, can be used outside of combat and doesn’t go away at the end of the conflict. When attacking, the Oni Mask has to wait as the attacker takes the first action. It costs 1 fate like Cloud the Mind, but that comes from your pool rather than the character. When you spend fate from the character that character and the Oni Mask will leave 1 turn earlier.

The mask is a poorer version in many regards. There are some advantages. The Mask doesn’t require fate in your pool or a Shugenja in play, so it can be a little more flexible. Assuming you have enough fate on a character, you can use the Mask’s ability on one character one turn and on another the next turn. At the end of the day though, it is a poorer copy and it will probably only see play in decks that aren’t playing enough Shugenja to justify Cloud the Mind or when 3 copies of Cloud just aren’t enough!

Sake House Confidant

This 2 cost Courtier Shinobi has 1 military, 1 political, and 1 glory. The stat line is poor, but the traits are ones Scorpion do like, even if Shinobi is still developing. The ability requires discarding the imperial favor and gives each Shinobi in the conflict +2 political for the duration of the conflict. If you only have the Sake House Confidant, that turns the favor into +2 political. The trait is still developing, but currently, there are Adept of Shadows, Meek Informant, Shosuro Actress, and Shosuro Miyako within the Scorpion clan. Those are all playable cards, and even one additional character would bring that bonus to +4 political which is decent. The dilemma here then is if the Scorpion are going to have the favor. If they decide to play Fawning Diplomat to deny other clans the Imperial favor, it might make senses to play this slightly under-stated character to get a big use out of the favor.


Unicorn

Talisman of the Sun

This 1 cost attachment gives +1 miitary and +1 political skill. It is Keeper role only, which currently the Unicorn are as Keeper of Void. While defending, you can bow this attachment to move the conflict to another of your eligible provinces. As the card is unique, you’re only going to be able to do this once per turn. At the most basic, when defending the stronghold province, you can move the attack to the other unbroken province delaying it by a turn. More complex interactions involve utilizing province abilities. If the attack starts at your Manicured Garden you can gain the fate from the province’s ability and then move to Meditations on the Tao also using that province.

The next consideration is what province you want your opponent to end attacking into. Against a military attack, you might choose to move the conflict to an Entrenched Position. Against a political focus attack, you might choose to move the conflict to a Pilgrimage as often political decks are more interested in winning rings than taking provinces. Looking at the options, a line up for Unicorn might include the Shameful Display and Riot in the Streets to help win battles, provinces like Meditations on the Tao and Manicured Garden to create board advantage and provinces like Public Forum to dump attacks onto. In this instance, I think Riot in the Streets would be the best option under the stronghold for later in the game when more characters are available. Notably, this does not work with Endless Plains as the reaction triggers after characters have been assigned and not when the province reveals. Other clans can have more fun: Crab get to pull attacks into a Defend the Wall or Guardians of the Seikitsu, Lion can pull attacks into a Feast or Famine, while Phoenix can assure a Shameful Display.

Shinjo Scout

This 2 cost Bushi Cavalry character has 2 military, 1 political, and 1 glory. After you pass first in the dynasty phase you can take a reaction to gain 1 fate. One way of looking at this character is a 1 cost 2/1 which is pretty good. Alternatively, you can invest some fate in the Scout and can trigger the ability a second time. In which case, the additional fate spent is slowly dripped back as long as the Scout remains in play. This does require aggressive passing to try to get that additional fate. With the Bushi and Cavalry traits, this character has the primary traits the Unicorn are interested in. It’s a solid character that will see a lot of play.

Seal of the Unicorn

Like the other seals, the Seal of the Unicorn is a 0 cost attachment, it gives +1 military, the Unicorn clan, and the Cavalry trait. Unlike most of the other seals, the Cavalry trait is immediately useable as it is required by the stronghold. On the other hand, the majority of Unicorn characters already have the Cavalry trait. Cards that require the trait and could be helped by the Seal are Born in War and Shinjo Saddle.


Neutral

Miya Satoshi

This 4 cost unique Courtier has 2 military, 4 political, and 2 glory. Those are actually decent stats, although in retrospect I haven’t always seen it that way. As an action, you can discard cards from your dynasty deck until you reveal an Imperial card and then place that Imperial card into one of your provinces face-up. If you only play Satoshi that will let you get an extra copy to play then turn he comes into play, allowing you to discard for an extra fate. Then on the next turn, you can do the same. There is a pretty good chance that strategy would mill your deck, but if you can afford the 5 point honor loss Satoshi will always be able to get an extra copy of himself. This might be a use for the Togashi Mendicant ability, checking the top 3 dynasty cards for an Imperial card before deciding to trigger Satoshi. Assuming you include other options, there are 7 neutral Imperial cards available: Imperial Storehouse, Miwaku Kabe, Miya Mystic, Otomo Courtier, Seppun Guardsman, Seppun Ishikawa, and The Imperial Palace. Any of the cheap characters essentially provide an extra province of production. The Storehouse is a free card. The two provinces are of note, as one criticism is how you cannot choose which province you drop them onto. With Satoshi, you can. This is especially pertinent for Chisei District and Hito District which can be dropped onto the province of your choice. Similarly, this allows the Crab get easier access to their own Imperial unique province Karada District. Each of the magistrates from the cycle are Imperial, so each clan has their own copy. Finally, Seppun Ishikawa is Imperial and will benefit from Satoshi’s trait and any other Imperial cards Satoshi should manage to fish out. Alternatively, rather than fishing for Imperial cards you can use Satoshi to get cards into your discard pile. This is relevant for Crab with Rebuild, Lion with Kitsu Spiritcaller, and Unicorn with Cavalry Reserves all of which can fetch cards from the dynasty discard pile. All this in mind, Satoshi looks like a pretty awesome card that will see play, even if some of the decks get quirky.

Along the River of Gold

This Water role only province is 4 province strength. Currently, only the Phoenix can play it as they have the Keeper of Water role. While this province is revealed, you can use its action to switch the base military and political skill of a character at a water province until the end of the conflict. This ability it identical to that of Bayushi Yunako who is a powerful Scorpion character. In contrast to most provinces, this ability can also be used at other water provinces. So if Along the River of Gold has been revealed and survives the attack, the ability would be useable at the opponent’s water province (assuming it had not already been used this turn). Provinces that defend themselves, as this one does, are particularly notable. This would replace Elemental Fury or Rally to the Cause for the Phoenix both of which are once-off effects. Although it might be a hard sell to move away from Elemental Fury given the recent water ring focused cards, having an ability that could be used every turn and in effect acts as a mini Rally to the Cause might be too good to pass on.

Mono No Aware

Earlier we spoke about how Waning Hostilities changed how the game was played. Mono No Aware is equally impactful. A 3 cost event it removes 1 fate from each character and lets you draw 1 card. Only 1 can be played per turn. This favors decks who invest minimal fate in characters instead of letting them leave play and punishes those decks that try keep characters around. It can be played in the conflict phase to make characters vulnerable to effects such as Ring of Water or Mirumoto Raitsugu. It can be played after the last conflict, leaving the surprise for your opponent as late as possible. It can be included in a deck as a core element where you try play it every turn and put no fate on your characters. Alternatively, it can be used situationally, playing the card only when windows appear. Crab can make exceptional use of it, keeping characters around with Iron Mine and Reprieve while their opponent’s characters leave play. Lion could play it just before they play For Greater Glory while their opponent could equally play it right after. This card has the potential to shift the environment, changing how decks are played. At 3 cost, however, it is quite expensive, and like any expensive event, it is especially painful when it is canceled by Voice of Honor, Censure, or Forged Edict.


Summary

This is the final pack of the Imperial cycle and at last players are able to experience the full Imperial environment. Crab and Phoenix both get some really strong cards in this pack. Iron Mine may become the holding of choice for the Crab, along with Reprieve, guaranteeing them board dominance. Kuni Ritsuko solidifies the Crab Shugenja board and makes attacking into Crab painful. Mono No Aware seems to have serious potential for Crab. These 3 cards in a single pack could be the core of a new Crab theme of fate control. Meanwhile, the Phoenix see Asako Tsuki a cheap unique who will ties together the Courtier and Shugenja traits and has a great ability. They also get Kanjo District a Mirumoto’s Fury style effect for the favor, which Phoenix are good at contesting. Finally, Phoenix get the option of Along the River of Gold allowing them to replace Elemental Fury with a more defensive province. Unicorn actually come out of this pack with some decent cards, a cheap Cavalry character and a very powerful attachment that will mess with their opponent’s attacks.

In the new week or so we’re going to be collating all these cards and grouping them into the various clans. Initially, these will just be the cards and commentary but the plan is to add to these articles giving an overview of the current position for each clan and potential decks for the new environment.


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One Reply to “Imperial Packs – Meditations on the Ephemeral”

  1. Just to add. This was a great pack. There are a ton of awesome cards in it and only a few duds. There are a lots of interactions I know I’ve missed when I was writing this one up. It’s a really great pack to finish the cycle on and I’m super excited to start testing decks.

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