Elemental Cycle – Crab

Elemental Cycle – Crab

In this article, we look at the Crab cards in the Elemental Cycle. To give some perspective, Pablo Pintor Espinosa has taken the time to add his own comments. The Spanish community is large and super competitive. Pablo was the winner of the Madrid Kotei, the largest of all the Kotei, and came second at the Birmingham Grand Kotei. Keep an eye for him at Worlds.

04. Third Tower Guard

One of the holes in Crabs dynasty is the lack of an aggressive 1 cost character. Third Tower Guard fills that hole to an extent. As another body, she works well with Shiro Nishiyama. Getting more military is somewhat redundant in Crab but the Earth ring is valuable for Crab as their current role is Keeper of Earth while the Water is often a high priority 1st conflict. Ideally, you either do a political conflict for Earth or Water and then have her available as a 3 strength military character or successfully defend an Earth or Water conflict and then have her available for a military counterstrike. She isn’t as powerful as some of the truly exceptional 1 drops such as Bayushi Liar, Doji Whisperer or Matsu Berserker but her balanced stat-line and 0 glory result in a flexible character that can be committed early if you need a probing attack or grows in strength for later in the turn. She will certainly see play, probably replacing a 2 cost Crab or Hida Guardian in Crab decks.

While being one of the worst characters of this type that we have seen over the cycle, a 1/1 for 1 is well received in crab, and she will be a 3/1 sometimes. Especially important that she has 0 glory, so, unlike Hida Guardian, she can poke at political without being canceled by a court games, fairly important in the first rounds. She will be a good addition to decks that rely on cheaper characters, and crab has received quite a few cards for a deck like that in this cycle. Will replace Hida Guardian in some decks, and maybe both will be run in some weenie decks with lots of sacrifice and Kuni Laboratories. Never underestimate the power of such good art!

– Pablo


05. Hiruma Outpost

Interesting card. Its honor loss reaction incentivizes you to attack the province a holding is in, however, its province strength bonus makes that a harder province to take. It seems best off sitting in province people are uncomfortable attacking, ideally Pilgrimage where even a token defense will hold off all but the most determined assault, and without breaking the province they cannot resolve a ring. Having it in a province such as Shameful Display, Meditations on the Tao, Defend the Wall or even Before the Throne might funnel your opponent into these provinces which will be tougher to break as a result of the province strength bonus. Crab decks can always Rebuild the outpost into an unbroken province prior to a conflict being declared and can even put it in the 4thprovince before they attack your stronghold. It plays best with other holdings you can sacrifice for effects such as Imperial Storehouse or Favorable Ground so it remains the only holding on the board. Due to the timing, however, it plays more poorly with Iron Mine which you will want to hold onto for later in the turn. It’s not an auto-include, but a deck looking to pressure dishonor that can build a murderers row of provinces can certainly get some real value out of it.

Weak card that doesn’t synergize well with other holdings in your deck (you don’t really have to give your opponent more incentive to attack at your Iron Mines), and, as a high number of holdings is really important to use some key cards to crab, I don´t think this card will be seeing much play.

– Pablo


24. Apprentice Earthcaller

Crab has long had a defensive focus in the LCG, but has lacked tools to win convincingly on the defense. The Apprentice Earthcaller is a valuable addition to the Crab arsenal. As Crab’s cheapest Shugenja, she also helps fit Cloud the Mind into the Crab toolbox. Her stat line is a little sub-par, but she’s really all about the ability. Her main use is to shut down the use of offensive stat boosts from actions and being honored, making Crab provinces tougher to take, since people often rely on a Banzai! or Court Games to send someone over the top. She’s less useful against Voltron-style mega units, since she can’t be used on a character with attachments. She also represents some value offensively, since you can negate stat or dishonor penalties on an attacking character. Critically, and like most Shugenja, she doesn’t need to be participating to use her ability. She will definitely be considered for decks.

Awful stats on a really restricted ability (only attacking and without attachments?…ugh). She can be a real pain to some Lion decks right now, but maybe the Stoic Magistrate is a better option, should crab be having trouble with HMT Lion. The Shugenja keyword is valuable, but with the arrival of Kuni Yori and Kudaka, crab players would have plenty of Shugenja to choose for.

– Pablo


25. Kuni Yori

The Daimyo of the Kuni arrives in all his sinister glory. At 4/4/1 for 5, Kuni Yori has the highest political strength of any Crab character and pumps all your characters during Earth conflicts. This means attacking into Crab for earth becomes a super-tough proposition, since even two 1/1 Crab can defend, and, between the stronghold and Yori, muster a mighty 6 strength! Yori swinging in for a political earth conflict will become a common sight on gaming tables. He also has a devastating action: during a conflict, you can lose 1 honor to force an opponent to discard a random card. You can use this ability in any conflict, at any time, so it’s probably best used as early as possible, to hopefully strip a critical action. Alternately, if you have any hand knowledge, waiting until an opponent’s hand is more depleted to try to hit a key card may be the better play. He’s a monster, and will make his way into every Crab deck.

Good stats (4 POL!!!), a great stats boost across your table, Shugenja and a random discard at the cost of 1 honor, the Daimyo of the Kuni is a force to be reckoned, that will change the game as soon as he enters the board. Greatly improving Crab political weakness, he will replace Kisada as the premium 5 coster in a lot of decks. Incredible when playing lots of small characters, really helps get our Keeper Initiates on board.

– Pablo


32. Spreading the Darkness

This might be the most powerful card in this pack. Spreading the Darkness provides a Banzai!-level military strength pump along with blanket immunity to opponents’ card abilities. In nearly every situation, your opponent must either negate this spell or face a situation where your character is immune to almost every other action they can take. This has value in early conflicts, to ensure you break provinces, or in the final battle, where you can use it as a shield before dumping all your other skill pumps and attachments onto your newly immune character. It does have some weaknesses. The 2 honor hit is considerable, and bidding 5 and using this is costly. Also, your character can still have enemy attachments placed on him, such as Fiery Madness, and can still be bowed by the water ring effect if your opponent plays a Guardian Kami or Kami Unleashed. Thematically, those who abuse mahō can also be taken out with Way of the Crab if they are alone on the battlefield. I expect this to see lots of play in Crab and in Phoenix, where the possibility of recycling this spell could lead to some incredibly aggressive builds.

While at first glance this could seem like an incredibly powerful card, and most of us got really excited when it got spoiled, almost no one is running it in crab (or any other clan). The mandatory 2 honor loss is extremely expensive for the honor hungry crab (and losing 4 honor with Phoenix to play it twice puts you in an extremely awkward spot), and most of the time it will only be a worse banzai. May find room in some decks as a 1x or 2x. Sadly, one of the biggest disappointments for crab this cycle.

– Pablo


42 Hiruma Kogoe

As a 2/1 for 2 Fate with Sincerity Hiruma Kogoe is good value. She’s unique, Crab’s first in the 2-cost slot, which gives resistance to some card effects such as Karmic Twist, as compared to the two mainstays of that cost slot, Shrewd Yasuki and Vanguard Warrior. What will determine her viability is whether or not she can trigger her ability. Her ability works best if you are bidding 1 or 2 – and helps with card quality – but you need to be on lower honor when the draw phase begins. On turn 1, she works against any clan with a higher base honor, but, after that point, she requires you to drop your honor while also bidding low. The Pragmatic Crab archetype is meant to spend honor on powerful effects like Assassination and Spreading the Darkness, so that’s her natural fit.

Her ability is useful in that it allows you to move the best card from the top three to the top, guaranteeing you will draw it, and the ability’s effectiveness is magnified the fewer cards you draw. (If you’re drawing three or more cards, her ability, in fact, has no effect.)

Importantly, she has the Sincerity trait, which means she’ll draw you an extra card when she leaves play. This is a fantastic bonus for the deck types she is clearly intended to help and is almost reason enough to play her in any deck (as Phoenix do with the otherwise lackluster Naive Student). You also have to consider the relative clan strengths as well, Sincerity is just a better trait in Crab, which makes Kogoe a solid addition in the #alwasybidone style Crab deck, especially with sacrifice effects where her draw from Sincerity can be triggered on a whim. She’s a solid card, will see some play, since unique and Sincerity both have value.

Another cheap character for crab, this one with the surprise of being unique (always nice to have some protection against Isawa Uona or Kharmic Twist!), and having a powerful keyword, sincerity. She has a rather powerful, but situational ability, if you have lower honor than your opponent and you will bid 1 or 2, looking at the top 3 cards and changing their order may prove really useful, but its difficult to bid low and to be lower on honor. While she is certainly a great character, her direct competition in the clan in the really powerful Shrewd Yasuki, and sadly, he seems better, 2 Pol over 2 Mil is obvious in crab, and looking at two cards and choosing one to draw in the mid of the round is better than drawing one in the fate phase usually. A good character that may see some play, but its overshadowed by Shrewd Yasuki. Really hoping for Crab to get a Scout theme, it was one of the funniest decks in the OldL5R days.

– Pablo


51 Wicked Tetsubō

At +1 military and +1 political skill for 2 fate, the Wicked Tetsubō is a poor deal for an attachment, based on stats alone. Requiring the Berserker keyword to attach it also restricts it to only four characters: Crisis BreakerHida AmoroVengeful Berserker, and the upcoming Tainted Hero, and, in addition, anyone who bears the Seal of the Crab. So the ability better be pretty good…

When attacking, you get to chose a character and set their military or political skill to 0. That’s pretty amazing. This attachment more or less wins you a conflict, reducing their biggest character to 0 skill. And, since the duration of the ability is ‘until the end of the conflict,’ any modifiers applied to the skill after Wicked Tetsubō has been used are ignored, and the skill remains at 0. Therefore, the Tetsubo is, or at least can be, an extremely effective way of dealing with a ‘tower’ character. This may prove especially effective in the upcoming environment, where we’re expecting an increase in decks using multiple skill pumps. But the Tetsubō, unfortunately, cannot target a character who has already received a Spreading the Darkness.

The ability is really strong, but it’s difficult to fit that many berserkers in a Crab deck, making this a card held back by its deckbuilding restriction rather than a lack of raw power. But still, this is a card to certainly try out, since the effect is worth jumping through hoops for.

2 Cost attachments must be really powerful to be even considered in a deck, while we have so much Let Go, Calling In Favors and Miya Mystics in the meta, but Wicked Tetsubo has an amazingly powerful ability, essentially negating one defender. The problem with this card is found on the berserker only restriction. Crab already has good Mil stats (and berserkers particularly high ones), so you probably won´t need this on you Mil attacks, but it would be amazing in Pol conflicts. Sadly, all berserker (apart from the role locked Crisis Breaker) cannot go into Pol conflicts, so the value of this card is greatly diminished. Playing it with the Seal of the Crab is pretty dangerous, as it can be removed and you will also lose the Tetsubo. It can see some play if we get more (and better) berserkers.

– Pablo


61 Flooded Waste

When looking at provinces we always talk about two key elements, does the province defend itself and does it have a proactive effect on the game. The Crab province Flooded Waste is a card that does both. Bowing all the attacking characters gives you two options, defend with a token force to win the ring, or defend with no one to be able to declare the ring on attack yourself. Not defending does have an element of risk as if your opponent has any movement or straighten effects they can use those to get the skill needed to break the province. It is important to remember that the Imperial Favor counts as long as you have a character in play, so if the attacker has the Favor they will still have 1 skill for the conflict. With a province strength of only 2, it won’t take much for your opponent to take the province, but they will need to play cards to do so.

In the province row this functions in a similar way to Public Forum or Rally to the Cause stalling the conflict. In a game where taking provinces is on the clock, this can be a big deal. In the final province, it is a more reliable Rally to the Cause, stalling the initial attack and forcing the attacker to initially feint rather than all-out commit. I’m expecting this to replace Rally to the Cause as the stronghold province for Crab as it can more reliably stall that initial conflict. It will make that final assault untenable without first dealing with the reaction. It also makes an interesting case for Crab as Seeker of Water.

Pretty interesting card. Can be played on the Stronghold to force two attacks and give some room to retaliate, or on the row if you are pressed to stop some early aggression. Not the best province, but its Water, so it can replace some really lackluster ones like Rally. Even if you bow a lot of characters with it, one from the conflict side can easily break it. Sometimes it’s better that your (once revealed) blank provinces are easily broken, so they can’t become a ring farm.

– Pablo


71 Nezumi Infiltrator

As a 1 cost 1 military and 1 political conflict character, the Infiltrator is automatically worth considering. Being immune to Shadowlands and Mahō card effects actually a disadvantage is at the minute. Although it thematically makes sense, sadly it means the Nezumi can’t be a target for Spreading the Darkness. His entering play effect can be used to help smash a province or prevent a break, so sometimes he will count as an extra skill. He can also be played at home still triggering the effect which adds to his flexibility. This is a card that will see instant play.

A conflict character with a cost of 1 will always be appealing to crab players, due to the combo potential with the Way of the Crab. With standard stats of 1/1 and a nice 0 glory, it would probably find room in a lot of crab decks. But this rat also has one amazing ability that can be played even if you drop it outside the conflict! No doubt we will find it in a lot of crab decks.

– Pablo


72 Fight On

As it is restricted to the Water role, Fight On is currently limited to the Phoenix Clan. It is very effective if you are utilizing large characters, enabling you to defend one of the late conflicts in the turn, pulling in a character and critically straightening them for the low cost of 1 fate. The target character does have to be bowed, but you can still play it on a character in the conflict and just straighten them. Phoenix conquest decks using Spreading the Darkness and Fight On could become a mighty force in the next little while.

Currently unplayable by crab due to Water Role locking, fight on is amazing. Ready effects are among the strongest in the game, especially in crab, with the focus on expensive characters and attachments. Would be seeing a lot of play if it could be added to the decks. Even while being so good, it may be difficult to fit it in Phoenix decks (the ones that can run it right now) because they already have a lot of ready/don’t bow events.

– Pablo


83 Tainted Hero

Hey look, it’s another giant, 3-cost Crab Berserker who relies on sacrificing a character to work at full power. Tainted Hero is an awful lot like Vengeful Berserker, a card that’s struggled to find a slot in Crab. However, he’s a much better Charge! target than Vengeful, and works extremely well with Favorable Ground. Any movement action can offer great value with him, like Favored Mount or Crisis Breaker. The question is: is such an awkward, big body worth the trouble? Maybe, with fast military decks like Lion and Unicorn looking to win by conquest on turn 2. Having a giant blocker might make all the difference in slowing them down, to get to Crab’s mid-game. Also, he makes a great cheeky combo with Calling in Favors on a Cloud the Mind on Kuni Yori.

Awfully similar to other berserkers, the Tainted Hero boasts an incredibly Mil of 6 while being unable to go to political conflicts. While this may protect you from some evil Hawk Tattoos, its a huge detriment for a 3 coster to not be able to go at Pol conflicts. It requires you to kill a character to assign to conflicts, which can lead to some strange timing issues and can be potentially good in a sacrifice deck. Not an exciting character, the hero doesn’t solve any of the Crab issues but can find some room in sacrifice decks. Awesome flavor.

– Pablo


84 Kuni Laboratory

It’s not often you get a new deck out of one card, but Kuni Laboratory is the engine that will power a new kind of Crab deck. Crab’s 0-2 fate cost characters tend to have average to below average stats, and with none of Crab’s 1 drops featuring an aggressive 3 in any skill, Crab has therefore tended to rely on its 3+ drops to get work done, using the cheaper Crabs as filler or utility. Kuni Laboratory changes that, giving out a blanket +1/+1 to all your characters in all locations. This along with Funeral Pyre is the engine of a low honor-bid deck that looks to swarm your opponent to death by playing about 27 0-2 cost characters. On the downside, it’s a 0-PS province, making it a priority target for your opponent, and it costs you an honor a turn. But with Rebuild, most of these problems can be played around. Annoyingly, it’s another Crab holding that doesn’t combo with Kaiu Inventor, which makes one wonder what was the point of printing that card.

One of the best cards of the whole cycle, sadly it isn´t so powerful in the current crab/uni deck. An entire board Mil and Pol pump is incredibly efficient, even with the loss of 1 honor. Works really well with the already staple Rebuild. Between this and Shiro Nishiyamas ability, it can be troublesome to overcome some cheap crab defending, and the keeper initiates are great when this is around. But the honor loss is something to be considered in crab, a clan with no honor winning mechanics, so it can be difficult to leave them for several turns, and can screw you if you are already close to dangerous numbers, so it will be wise to play while planning for it to appear.

– Pablo


104. Yasuki Broker

Yasuki Broker is another Crab combo piece that’s pretty understated, and has 2 glory that’ll hurt way more than it’ll ever help. But she has the Courtier trait (Crab’s second courtier!) and a really powerful ability. Along with Kuni Lab, Yasuki Broker is part of the upcoming Crab weenie deck. The goal of the deck is to attack and defend with your weenie hoard early, then, on the 3rd or 4th conflict of the game, attack or defend with the Yasuki Broker and start sacrificing your characters. Funeral Pyre for 2 cards and a fate! Miya Mystic for discarding an attachment, a card and a fate! Activate Tainted Hero for a card and a fate! And, combined with Yasuki Taka – she is going to make it rain. While appearing over-costed, she is actually incredibly exciting, and promises to be the engine that drives a new kind of Crab deck.

A much better version of Yasuki Taka, cheaper, works with non-crab characters, gives money AND cards, and courtier trait. The downside? Only limited to the conflict she’s participating in, which shouldn’t be a huge problem. This may enable some sacrifice deck, adding more reliability on finding one of the fate producing machines (her or Taka). Really exciting and interesting character, incredible synergy with Miya Mystics. She has low stats but should have no problem being fate efficient with just some sacrifices the turn she gets on the board.

– Pablo


113. Pragmatism

As a +1/+1 attachment for 1, Pragmatism is competing with a lot of good cards. Unfortunately, its upside is by no means equal to Watch Commander‘s. So, while you are on lower honor, Pragmatism gives its character an additional +1/+1 (for a total of +2/+2) and that character can’t be honored or dishonored. Basically – if you’re playing pragmatic Crab, this sometimes has the same stats as an appropriate Fan or Katana, and you can’t get hit by someone dishonoring you. It’s all right. It has some play in being tossed onto a rare 2-glory Crab going into a political conflict so your opponent can’t Court Games you, and if you’ve already managed to honor that character, they’ll stay honored until they leave play or lose the attachment. An active pragmatism does however make you vulnerable to effects like For Shame!, because you cannot select the dishonor option. If you can’t find a better card, you haven’t tried hard enough.

Small sidebar: Unlike Hawk Tattoo, Pragmatism cannot be played on an opponent’s character, which really makes you wonder about design’s priorities.

Good +2/+2 for 1 fate buff if you are lower on honor, but leaves the character that has it really vulnerable to the widely play For Shame. Pragmatism may be powerful coupled with Borderland Defender. Will struggle to fit in any deck, but can be played if you wish to run an attachment heavy deck without relying on other clans attachments.

– Pablo


114. Specialized Defenses

One Crab card a set will genuinely annoy me with how bad it is, and Specialized Defenses is this week’s winner. To explain why, we have to talk briefly about ‘role locking.’ Role locking is where a card is available only to a particular role, be it elementally locked or Seeker/Keeper locked. Role locking isn’t a problem – it’s an opportunity to put an above-the-curve card into an inherently limited space. Put a really strong removal action in Fire and one in Water and you don’t have to worry about someone combining the two in one deck. Or you might only want a certain type of effect available to a small pool of the environment. That’s all good design space. Clan-encrypting the roles, on the other hand, is an issue with the format too long to be discussed here. So, in brief, a role-locked card should be a powerful effect that needs to be silo’d away for some reason.

Let’s take a look at Specialized Defenses. On the plus side, it’s free. On the negative side, it requires an Earth role and then requires you to be defending a province whose element matches the contested ring or a ring in your claimed ring pool. To successfully pull off playing this card, you need to be carefully predicting your opponent’s target province, then grab the matching ring first, or steer your opponent into selecting the ring to match his target through careful fate play, or use Elemental Fury to make it Water when he attacks, or just randomly get lucky. What do you get for all this hard work? You double the provinces strength. Most of the time this equates to +4/5 province strength. The equivalent of playing a Banzai! on the defense.

On an attack into a province like Ancestral Lands with a big holding attached you might get a +12 province strength buff – but that’s really rare and it does nothing but save the province: your opponent will still get to resolve their ring. And even that level of return is painfully corner-case. If Specialized Defenses had some weaker effect when the province didn’t match, or did something crazy like claimed the ring if your opponent failed to take the province, I’d consider it. But as is it’s automatic binder fodder. Just terrible.

What a funny card. Makes one think if it was really tested or if the original intent was to release a card that will never see play (while crab may use some berserker or other themed cards that could have replaced this). Hard restrictions on a weak effect and role-locked, perfection.

– Pablo



The elemental cycle has been really poor for the dominant Crab with Unicorn splash decks, adding just a few cards that replace other already good cards (like Yori replacing Kisada in some decks). A lot of weak cards, the ones worth mentioning being themed cards like Yasuki Broker or Kuni Laboratory, with the notable exception of Kuni Yori. A lackluster cycle that will probably hurt Crab Clan position as a tier 1 clan during the last Kotei season, while most of the other clans have received some really powerful tools or even new Strongholds. Crab/Uni will still be a strong deck, but may have some trouble with the rise of fast-paced decks after this cycle, and maybe we will see some kind of sacrifice deck, as they have received some love through this cycle.

– Pablo


This article was a team effort. All blame will be shared equally.

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3 Replies to “Elemental Cycle – Crab”

  1. Thanks Baz for the article, I pretty much agree with everything Pablo says excepted that I think Kisada is much better than Kuni Yori the honor loss from Yori is really big. I run both anyways but if I had to choose Kisada all the way.

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