Elemental Cycle – Crane

Elemental Cycle – Crane

In this article we look at the Crane cards in the Elemental Cycle.

06. Fū Sui Disciple

Fū Sui Disciple has a similar requirement to the Phoenix clan’s Prodigy of the Waves. As long as any player has the Air ring, the Fū Sui Disciple’s player can use its action. Unlike the Prodigy, though, it actually matters which player has the Air ring, since that player will choose one of their characters without a status token to be honored or dishonored. Players may also end up trying to lose Air conflicts while this character is in play, in order to force the Disciple’s ability on an opponent or to escape it.

At 3 fate, the Fū Sui Disciple is a relatively cheap Shugenja (compared to Crane’s other Shugenja), which could help the Crane run a more consistent Shugenja line up. The Disciple’s stat line of 1 military and 2 political skill is more in keeping with a 2 fate character, but the potential skill impact from the ability should quickly make up for this limitation.

14. Formal Invitation

0-cost attachments with +1 to a single skill have appeared before, but, to date, have seen little play. Fine Katana and Ornate Fan has so far pushed such attachments out with their brute-force stats – but Formal Invitation offers at least a chance of breaking that mold. The glory restriction for attaching it (must be 2 glory or higher) is almost certainly in place to prevent abuse by the various clan magistrates, as well as a number of other characters.

The action offered by Formal Invitation is a powerful one – that of being able to move into a political conflict. This allows a player with Formal Invitation to under-assign on a political attack and then react to an opponent’s assignment, potentially tricking an opponent into over-committing to a defense they cannot win. It also provides protection against covert, allowing the Crane player to move their coverted character into the conflict. As an attachment, it can also be used on an opponent’s character. Although you will be giving them +1 political, for the remainder of the game you will be able to ‘harpoon’ them into political conflicts. This reveals another reason for the attachment limitation, the harpoon effect will only work against a limited selection of characters. For certain clans like Phoenix, Lion, and Crane there will be plenty of options, but even low glory clans like Scorpion and Crab have targets.

The fact that Formal Invitation costs 0 means that it can come as a true surprise, and, once on the board, will continue to affect an opponent’s decision making. The card’s influence cost of 3 indicates a card of significant power, and we expect this to see play in Crane decks, who can often afford the loss of 1 political skill from an Ornate Fan to take advantage of Formal Invitation’s highly impactful ability.

15. The Mirror’s Gaze

As a 2-cost attachment, The Mirror’s Gaze sits in a delicate position where, even if the effect is powerful, the investment is overly vulnerable to attachment control like Let Go. The Mirror can only be attached to a Shugenja character, which limits its use somewhat, especially since you’ll want this on a character with fate so that it will stick around. The effect itself is similar to the Illustrious Plagiarist’s, but it has to be used immediately after the effects of an event resolve. This reduces the flexibility of the mirror and can create a few timing issues.

Furthermore, the ‘ignore costs and triggering conditions’ clause does not ignore play restrictions, so there are a number of events that the mirror cannot react to. It is worthwhile having a quick read through the card’s FiveRingsDB page for a full list of rulings going into detail. Given the significant cost of The Mirror’s Gaze, its vulnerability, and the inherent unreliability of its ability (which makes using it at the first opportunity a pressing concern, and therefore prone to being played around), it’s hard to see where this card can make a home.

26. Asahina Takako

Crane receive another Shugenja in Asahina Takako, this time a 4 cost dynasty character with – military and 5 political. Getting 5 skill for 4 is a fantastic bargain, but having a – on either skill gives your opponent a little more control. As a Shugenja, she helps round out what is clearly a growing deck theme for the Crane. Her always-on ability lets you look at your facedown provinces, which lets you plan your next turn in advance. As an action, she can also switch two cards in your provinces or discard one. If you’re about to lose a province, this lets you save the card in it by moving it to another province. If you have a holding, this ability lets you either save the holding by moving it out or maybe use it by moving it in. This can allow you to move an important holding, such as The Imperial Palace, on to a province that is difficult to break such as Shameful Display. Her ability works well with Daidoji Nerishma who will always reveal the best card. Weirdly, she is amazing with the Crab card Raise the Alarm, since she lets you switch a facedown character into the attacked province, so you’ll always know what you’re going to get when you play it.

27. Bonsai Garden

With Bonsai Garden, the Crane clan get another tool to develop their honor deck. Getting into an air conflict isn’t difficult to achieve, although if your opponent is going first, it does give them an opportunity to try break the province in a non-air conflict. The effect gains 1 honor each turn, so if we assume each game is around 4 turns we’re probably looking at about 2 honor over a game, between waiting for it to appear and broken provinces making it leave play. That might not seem like a lot, but the only cost is tying up a province. The Crane start at 11 starting honor needing another 14 to win by honor. This definitely isn’t the card to singlehandedly make honor-running viable, but it is another piece in that jigsaw.

43 Sadane Student

The Sadane Student is Crane’s addition to the series of characters who get a ring bonus depending on which rings their player has claimed. Rather than costing 1, like the others, the Student is a 2-cost Courtier who starts with 1 military and 2 political skill – a very small increase for the additional fate. Once you claim the air or fire rings, the student gain an extra +2 political skill bringing it to a healthy 4 political.

As with the other ring based characters, there is the challenge of claiming a relevant ring in the first place. For Crane, claiming a political ring can be easy, but this means only one other political conflict in which to take advantage of the Student’s skill boost. However, if the Crane can win a military conflict first, Sadane Student gains more options, and can be better used to attack. Like most of the others, the Sadane Student has an efficient fate-to-skill ratio, but only under specific circumstances. Otherwise, she possesses only average stats with an essentially blank ability. Given Crane’s excellent selection of existing 2-cost characters, it would be surprising to see Sadane Student make an impact.

52 Icon of Favor

This 0-cost attachment essentially is a Favor of the Kami with a kicker and a Fire role requirement. Favor of the Kami never saw any play, since getting +1 glory alone just isn’t enough to justify a card slot. With Icon of Favor, you don’t even get the +1 glory unless you have the Imperial Favor. However, the kicker is that if you win a Fire conflict, you can honor the attached character. So, on a great day, you’ve just won the fire ring, already have the Imperial favor, and can trigger this for a lot of skill boosts. On a bad day, however, it’s a blank piece of cardboard.

However, another way to look at this card is as an extra Way of the Crane with a very limited trigger. From that perspective, it’s not too bad. You declare a fire conflict, and, if it looks like you’re going to win, you drop this attachment onto a character you want to honor. While one of the great things about Way of the Crane is that it’s always useful and has no conditions you can only play three of them. So, if you want more of a similar effect, Icon of Favor might be an option.

53 Insult to Injury

Where Icon of Favor was a limited Way of the Crane, Insult to Injury is a limited Way of the Scorpion. In this case, you need to have your Duelist character win a duel against the target you want to dishonor. Then you play this reaction from your hand. There aren’t actually a great array of Duelists in the game currently. The Dragon have Mirumoto Raitsugu, who is fantastic, and Mirumoto Prodigy, who isn’t. The Crane have Doji Challenger, who is fantastic and Kakita Kaezin, who isn’t. The Crane can also use their Seal of the Crane to add the trait to a character. So, already, Duelists seem light on the ground. For actual duel effects, we have Duelist TrainingKakita KaezinMirumoto Raitsugu, the restricted Policy Debate, and the upcoming Game of Sadane. Again, not a great number of options.

Once you do manage to get a duelist and duel together, you need to somehow duel the character you’re looking to dishonor. If you’re looking to dishonor your opponent’s Togashi Yokuni who has an impactful 3 glory, you’re going to have to somehow beat his 5 skill in that duel. Alternatively, if you’re looking to do an extra point of dishonor to your opponent, you need to hope your opponent assigns that character with low skill and no fate. Unfortunately, this is a card that requires some stars to align, so the majority of the time it’s just going to clog your hand.

63 Ikebana Artisan

Even at 2 fate the Ikebana Artisan’s stats are weak, 0 military and 2 political is closer to a 1 fate character. The Artisan is at least Courtier, which is a trait the Crane enjoy. The ability, in theory, is an honor gain one, in so far as it prevents you from losing honor in an unopposed conflict. So this might find a place in a future honor deck. This effect, however, comes at a steep price of 1 fate. While a dedicated honor deck would want to prevent this loos, 2 fate for the character and 1 for every unopposed honor loss seems a lot. Surely it would be cheaper to just defend?

Intriguingly, as the fate cost for the ability is part of the effect and not the cost, if you have no fate you can still use the ability. This does make the ability a little more palatable. One potential application for this character is with the Phoenix splash of Display of Power which requires not defending. In this way, a Crane deck could trigger an opponent’s Air or Fire ring to generate more honor while avoiding the unopposed honor loss. Currently, it does not look like this is a card that sees play. As honor decks are keen to avoid every honor loss, this might find a place if that style of deck does become viable.

73 Menacing Iron Warrior

Where Guest of Honor prevents your opponent playing events, with Menacing Iron Warrior you can now prevent your opponent from using actions on their characters. Where Guest of Honor turned out to be one of the most powerful cards for the Crane, this new character has been designed to be less oppressive. First, it is an action you have to take, so if your opponent is defending they can use an ability on their character as their first action. Second, it only affects participating characters, this is especially important once you realize that Shugenja typically have actions they can use without needing to participate. Finally, an opponent’s character with more military skill than the Menacing Iron Warrior is exempt from the ability, so with a quick Banzai! a character would be ready to act again. Despite these limitations, this is a card that could be very frustrating for an opponent relying on actions on their characters.

Unfortunately for this character, it is rare for a deck to be reliant on character actions. Typically there are only a few characters in every deck that would be affected, so unlike with Guest of Honor, you cannot rely on this being relevant for every conflict. Luckily, the Iron Warrior is a conflict card. So you can hold onto her until when you need her. Due to her ability requiring an action, if you do drop her in the middle of a combat your opponent will have an opportunity to act. Overall, I don’t expect the Iron Warrior will see a lot of play. If you compare her to Hiruma Ambusher you will see the Ambusher in certain circumstances will have a similar effect. The Ambusher, however, despite seeing some limited play is not a very popular option in decks partially because of the value of 1 cost conflict characters but more importantly as there are limited targets who have conflict actions worth stopping.

74 Soul Beyond Reproach

Not all of the ‘Way of’ cards see play, but Way of the Crane is secure in its position as a 3 of in every Crane deck. Soul Beyond Reproach has a similar effect, but more, with a 1 fate cost. Rather than just honoring the character, it honors them twice bringing them from dishonored status to honored if needed.

Despite appearances, Crane only have two 3 glory characters Doji Hotaru and Kakita Yoshi. So, the majority of the time the honoring effect is going to be on a 2 glory character for a +2/+2 bonus. That effect, for most characters, is essentially a Fine Katana and Ornate Fan combined. Often you’d prefer to just have one of them for free, but paying 1 for both isn’t terrible. The honoring effect also nets you extra honor when the character leaves play and importantly powers Voice of Honor. Of course, if you have a dishonored character that swing is going to be an effective +4/+4 making this an incredibly cost-effective action.

Soul Beyond Reproach does look like a strong addition to the Crane conflict deck. It is Air role only, but currently, Crane have an Air role and can play it. It does, however, mean their love affair with this card might be short-lived.

85 Callow Delegate

Adding to Crane’s arsenal of honoring effects comes the Callow Delegate, a 0/1/1 Courtier. Way of the Crane remains one of the best Way ofs in the game, and appending a 0/1 body to that effect for 1 fate seems an eminent deal. However, whereas Way of the Crane delivers an immediate effect, the Callow Delegate’s is delayed until the end of the turn (assuming your opponent doesn’t use an Assassination on him, or you don’t find a way to sacrifice him yourself). This makes him a little harder to use, since you have look a little into the future, although at absolute worst you can honor the Delegate himself to gain 1 honor, since his effect triggers just before he leaves play. Crane may also be reaching a saturation point of honoring effects, where each additional effect produces diminishing returns. That said, the Callow Delegate is only Crane’s third 1-cost character (Asahina Artisan and Doji Whisperer being the other two), so, on that basis alone, the Delegate warrants serious consideration. The Artisan, in particular, has attracted some criticism for its 0/0 stats and off-message Shugenja trait, so the Delegate could be a simple replacement, if he doesn’t see play alongside her. The Delegate lacks the obvious power of a clan staple, but may achieve that status anyway, at least in the short term, based on Crane’s lack of other options at the 1-cost slot.

93 Game of Sadane

Game of Sadane is a card that Crane players should be delighted to see. Fundamentally, Game of Sadane will cost 1 fate to both honor one of your own characters and dishonor an opponent’s. This can present a significant skill swing in and of itself, but Game also activates Noble Sacrifice. Given that you will be trying to bully duel with a major character, you will not want to pitch them to a Noble Sacrifice, except in circumstances where they are already bowed and leaving play that turn – but that’s where Crane’s ability to honor almost any of their characters comes in. Bully duel with a major character, dishonor one of their major characters, then sacrifice one of your small honored characters for a big board and resource swing. Game of Sadane may also rejuvenate the playability of Asahina Artisan, who now has potentially two political-skill duels that she can affect, in Policy Debate and Game of Sadane. A fine card with a powerful effect, Game of Sadane should see plenty of play.

102. Magistrate Station

The Crane Clan hasn’t had a lot to cheer about through this cycle, but thankfully the last pack may raise a couple of smiles. Magistrate Station is a 3-strength fire province with one of the most powerful abilities in the game – that of straightening a character. Being Crane, though, only the best will do, so it is restricted to targeting honored characters. However, that is hardly a concern. Crane have so many ways to honor their people that the Station should never lack for targets. One of the peculiar twists for this card is that it’s a province. As a holding, it would have been truly amazing, and arguably way overpowered – and, again, we have to look at Guest of Honor as the probable reason why. An honored Guest combined with Magistrate Station can lock an opponent out of events for half the conflict phase, so the added variance of possibly never seeing this card – should your opponent never attack it – is an almost necessary balancing requirement. And this is why having broken cards isn’t always a good thing. That said, if a Crane player flips and successfully defends their Magistrate Station, it presents a huge value and tempo boost, further compounding the benefits of being honored into a potentially game-deciding edge. Crane players will have to sacrifice their current fire province (if they play one) to include this, but Magistrate Station’s capacity to dominate a board seems more than worth the trade.

105. Tengu Sensei

Tengu Sensei is another powerful denial option to add to Crane’s arsenal. In a clan that skews toward political, it’s also a militarily-skilled character, which presents additional value considerations.

Although well understatted for its 5 cost, the Tengu Sensei‘s Covert keyword, combined with its ability, makes it one of the most devastating attackers in the game. A character Coverted by the Tengu cannot attack for the rest of the phase, making that character almost useless. This ability has different implications, depending on whether the Crane player is first. As first player, the Crane will have their choice of targets – most likely choosing the biggest offensive threat their opponent controls. The higher the cost of the affected character, the bigger the value swing. As second player, a Crane with Tengu Sensei on the board can expect their opponent to attack with their most important character straight away. The value of this is more context-dependent, but at they very least it takes a decision away from your opponent and may force them into an uncomfortable position.

Ironically, since so much of Tengu Sensei‘s power comes from Covert, Covert is one of its greatest weaknesses, since a character with Covert is entirely immune to it. So watch out for those Tattooed Wanderers. The Tengu Sensei is also non-unique, which means it is vulnerable to an inopportune Karmic Twist. Conversely, Tengu Sensei is non-unique – so you can have more than one of this bird on the table at a time. If this happens, and an opponent has no way of dealing with them, they will probably end the game, and even one Tengu on the board will represent huge problems for an opponent. Doji Hotaru is often considered one of the more underwhelming champions in the game, so the Tengu Sensei may usurp her as Crane’ go-to 5-cost character, alongside Kakita Yoshi.

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

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2 Replies to “Elemental Cycle – Crane”

  1. With Formal Invitation, I think you may have forgotten that you can attach it to your opponent’s characters as well. ‘Inviting’ a powerful bushi to court could be very powerful. That’s probably why it is a 3-bamboo card.

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