Beatdown Decks in the Elemental Cycle

Beatdown Decks in the Elemental Cycle

Pierre le Masson is a 3 time Crab Hatamoto who made top of clan at the Irish, French, and United Kingdom events. In this article, he has a look at the ‘beatdown’ archetype, which looks a lot more viable now the Elemental Cycle is out, and he gives some example decklists for Lion and Unicorn.

Finally! We can beat down!!!!!!!!!

FFG is glad to tell you that the play time of Legend of the 5 Rings LCG has been reduced down to 20 minutes!

Real beatdown decks are finally viable in competitive L5r and now is time to make our opponents aware of it! If you are one of those guys who are always upset about missing the smoke break in tournaments, this article is made for you. I think you will have realized that aggro got a lot of help in this cycle; notably, 3 magic words were enough to turn the worst clans into breaking machines: Hisu Mori Toride. That’s why we will be exploring the power of the beatdown through 2 different decks.

Proactive decks are often a good choice when a new expansion has just been released. When the meta has just been shaken, players who play the decks with the rawest power will always have an edge over reactive gameplay and that’s one more good reason to play an aggressive deck. As time goes on, people will know how to react to those decks and this is where reactive decks will get better. As a result, I am expecting Scorpion to be performing a bit less in the few weeks following the release of the cycle.


Death by Katana in the face…

First of all, the most obvious and the one people have been toying with for quite a while:

Let’s be honest this deck is sick, like really sick. It plays all the great toys that shined in the last world championship but now in a gameplan that actually works. Let’s talk about some of the card choices that deserve an explanation:

Demonstrating Excellence: The goal of the deck is to attack as much as possible so you most likely will let your province break. Among the air provinces, Excellence does the most when it breaks so it’s the best fit for us. People could advocate for upholding authority instead, I am personally not convinced it does more than Excellence and Ancestral Lands is such a great Stronghold province to have as life insurance against other aggro decks.

Marauding Oni: If only I could play more of those bad boys :-(, so much better than the other 2 drops Lion has access to, but we need Bushi to sacrifice.

Akodo Toshiro: I encourage you to look at the replay of Houston Kotei to realize how sweet this dude is. Very effective at triggering HMT with very little effort and remember that you can sacrifice him for HMT before his ability kills him.

Crane splash: Many splashes are possible for Lion aggro but the one that I felt offered the most is Crane.

Steward of law: The Steward + For Shame combo is old but gold, and helps against anything that stands on your path to HMT activation or an otherwise impossible defense.

Political Rival: he is the missing piece that compensates for our lack of political skill and he sometimes let you get those sweet pol breaks. Yes, 3 breaks a turn with this deck is actually possible, how sweet is that? It brings your conflict char numbers up to 10 which is crazy good with a stronghold that spreads the fight across multiple conflicts per turns.

Curry Favor: What does HMT love more than conflict chars? Ready effects! Something that Lion naturally miss and Crane gives for 1 influence and 0 fate! Played wisely this card will do wonders for you.

Stand Your Ground: Ikoma Ikehata and our great ability to get the Fire ring when we want, make this card very effective; the occasions are rare but when they do occur they turn games in your favor.


…Death By Trample…

The next deck I want to show you is the much anticipated Unicorn aggro deck. Before the elemental cycle, Unicorn was missing 2 things to be competitive: a good stronghold and better dynasty cards, this cycle they got both!

Let’s take a look at what kind of decks we can expect to see:

The new role is pretty much the icing on the cake for Unicorn. Feast or Famine is the ideal province for an aggressive deck since we won’t try to defend our provinces. Also, we can now redirect with talisman on Feast or Famine …. Very nasty indeed. The Seal of the Unicorn is here since the deck really lacks Cavalry fodder to sac for HMT (only 6 1 fate cost Cavalry characters) so I wanted to improve that a bit. Only testing will tell if that’s really necessary.

This version features a Crab splash for many reasons:

Hiruma Skirmisher: as I said earlier conflict chars are great for HMT and the Unicorn version should be no exception. Since Unicorn lack good conflict characters outside of Iuchi Wayfinder, we needed a splash that provides at least one good conflict character. Skirmisher is a perfect fit: the Covert is extremely good and even if a Bushi to help us trigger HMT. This little guy combined with a Banzai! or Spreading the Darkness gives cheap breaks which are crucial in an aggressive deck.

Reprieve: sad to say but it’s just a no-brainer in any deck which splashes Crab. It fits well in the deck since it combos with Charge! and we do play enough threatening 1 fate attachments that we can hope it will stick around.

Spreading the Darkness: Unlike Lion, Unicorn doesn’t have that many strong military boosts, so StD will greatly help us in our many military conflicts (looking at you sexy Captive Audience).

The rest of the deck is pretty simple, it tries to play the best of the Unicorn while keeping in mind the aggressive gameplan. The deck suffers from a lot of honor loss but yurt is the perfect antidote to any honor problem.

While the deck seems sweet on paper, it might suffer from a lack of coherence, some of the cards in there are just not suited for an aggressive gameplan. I am expecting the deck to be more value oriented and less aggressive than the Lion one but I can’t wait to test this out.


If you can’t run HMT don’t feel left out, the old Phoenix aggro is getting great upgrades as featured at Gencon by Travis McDaniel. With the Ethereal Dreamer and maybe the new seeker role this already strong deck can only get better. Phoenix aggro is more tempo oriented, a pure aggressive deck is probably difficult to build without the option to get additional conflicts.



These lists are obviously still in testing this early in the cycle and are subject to change. The decks naturally have weaknesses against Crab which has a very good time defending those military conflict and Dragon with their silly province line up. My results even in those match-ups make me pretty hopeful. Will they prevail in a tournament? Only time will tell.

Until next time, have a good beat! – Pierre


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.

Check us out on the Imperial Advisor website, podcast, and YouTube channel for more discussion about the L5R LCG.

15 Replies to “Beatdown Decks in the Elemental Cycle”

  1. Good read, and two very solid lists. I’m a little surprised though to see no Invocation of Ash in the UHMT deck – it can turn a poke into a break, and you can even take it back afterwards. Makes attacking with Talisman out an absolute nightmare.

    1. Thanks you, could be worth testing, but a 4 mil boost even across 2 conflicts seems underwhelming for 1 fate when I already play spreading the darkness and banzai which do the same for 0.

      1. Sure, but neither of those also let you force the break when someone attacks you Politically. That kind of versatility is amazing.

    1. False Alarm people! I made a typo when transcribing the list. Kitsu Spiritcaller makes a lot more sense! Updated now.

  2. Satoshi in Unicorn is not necessary right now – better to include Iuchi Shahai and some Master of the Swift Waves. Also, conflict with no Force of the River and Invocation + Unleash the Djinn seems a bit off – the decklist is definitely playable but outdated.

  3. I think Satoshi remains a very good asset for unicorn as long as they are keeper. But I could definitely see Shahai replacing shinjo scout and the add 3 cloud the mind instead of a few fans/katanas. Master of the swift waves is good but require a lot of testing to see if she actually works, Force of the river seems ban and so is unleash the Djinn In my opinion.

  4. Surely you cannot sacrifice Akodo Toshiro as his ability kills him at the end of the conflict, and you trigger HMT as a reaction /after/ the conflict has ended, and after Akodo Toshiro’s ability triggers. If HMT was an interrupt you could sacrifice Akodo Toshiro.

    1. HMT has a reaction trigger from winning the conflict while Toshiro’s Commander requirement isn’t checked until the end of the conflict. So, yes, you could react with HMT and sac Toshiro.

      3.2.3: Compare skill values and determine result (This is the trigger to react with HMT) 3.24 Apply Unopposed 3.2.5 Break province 3.2.6 Resolve ring effects 3.3 Conflict ends (this is the trigger for Toshiro’s Commander requirement).

      This has been done during Kotei on camera and Jigoku let you do it.

  5. Merci Pierre, pour un joueur occasionnel comme moi c’est top de pouvoir bénéficier de l’expérience de joueurs comme toi pour tester de nouveaux aspects du jeu. Je vais de ce pas tester ce deck Lion aggro !

    Thank you Pierre, for a casual player like me it’s great to be able to benefit from the experience of players like you to test new aspects of the game. I’m going to test this aggro Lion deck!

  6. OK thx ! I had difficulties with that deck in the beginning but after a few games I started to win, some games with 3 breaks T3 !! I need your tag to add you on Dicord ?

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