Elemental Cycle – Lion

Elemental Cycle – Lion

In this article we look at the Lion cards in the Elemental Cycle. To give us the lowdown on the Lion we have Trevor Holmes. Trevor is a 2 time Lion Hatamoto who tested the new Lion stronghold extensively coming up to the Houston Kotei and posted a detailed write up following the event. He also creates a fantastic range of L5R themed wood products.

01. Hisu Mori Toride

Hisu Mori Toride is a small village near the City of the Rich Frog where the Unicorn and Lion are currently fighting. This stronghold represents the Lion army taking and holding that village as detailed in the Family Duty story from the Into the Forbidden City dynasty pack.

Hisu Mori Toride has 1 less influence and 1 less starting honor than the original Lion stronghold, Yōjin no Shiro. Its effect is also markedly different. Instead of aiding in military attacks as Yojin no Shiro does, Hisu Mori Toride rewards its player with an additional military conflict. Winning a military conflict by 5 more or skill (on the attack or defense) and sacrificing a Bushi will provide a Hisu Mori Toride player with an additional military conflict. This can allow them to sidestep attacking via political conflicts altogether, or, with a sufficient number of characters, to engage in up to three attacking conflicts per turn: two military and one political. It also means the Lion player will always have the last conflict. This forces the opponent into the difficult position of deciding between leaving characters unused or leaving their provinces undefended against a surprise attack from a Vengeful Oathkeeper (who now will always have a military conflict to attack into). Hisu Mori Toride will probably only be used to take an extra province once or twice a game, but its potential to do is impactful every turn.

The cost of sacrificing a Bushi isn’t terrible since Lion regularly field cheap ‘throw-away’ characters without fate. But the sacrifice of a more expensive Bushi can be turned to the Lion player’s advantage with cards like Kitsu Spiritcaller. Not only can a Lion player potentially get a powerhouse like Honored General into two military conflicts in a one turn via the Spiritcaller’s ability (attack with General, sac General, resurrect him in the second military conflict), that player can adopt a more conservative, value-oriented game by circumventing the Spiritcaller’s ‘return it to the bottom of its deck’ clause. In this case, the Lion player resurrects the General in their first military conflict, then sacs him to trigger Hisu Mori Toride’s ability. General will go to their discard pile, and – because he is out of play when the conflict ends – he does not get placed on the bottom of the deck, meaning he is available to be brought back by the Spiritcaller on following turn(s).

The stronghold also works extremely well with Sashimono, which prevents characters from bowing as a result of conflict resolution in military conflicts. The bigger the character, the better, and with the extra military attack from the stronghold, a single powerhouse character can participate in up to three military conflicts in total during a single turn. If this is a strategy you’re pursuing, you may want to keep your political conflict till last, so you can maximize your power – character’s impact over as many conflicts as possible.

It is impossible to cover the total impact and all the opportunities for value that Hisu Mori Toride provides in a full article, much less a small paragraph. My testing group’s work began when HMT was spoiled, and in the weeks since I’ve written thousands of words on what this card brings to Lion over on our group discord. Besides all of the tricks mentioned above, the real value of HMT comes from forcing our opponent to fight us where we are strong. Yojin no Shiro often would go unused for most of the game or its impact would be negligible, as some opponents would ignore our military attack and focus their resources on controlling the other three conflicts. Hisu Mori Toride punishes this strategy, not only by pressuring the possibility of a multiple-break turn but by forcing our opponent to defend and expend resources on our military conflicts, making other conflicts easier for us as a result.

Lion has always suffered from a false stereotype as the ‘military only clan’, and instead of giving us more of an effect we already have (YnS), Hisu Mori Toride rewards us for our strengths and forces our opponent to fight us on our own turf. As is often forgotten, Hisu Mori Toride is essentially two cards in one, as it turns the rarely played Akodo Toshiro into one of one best characters.

– Trevor


07. Matsu Seventh Legion

The Matsu Seventh Legion flies in the face of the notion that design would never print a high military skill Lion character due to Way of the Lion. That said, you pay for it – with the Seventh Legion costing as much as a clan champion. The ‘No attachments except Weapon‘ clause protects the Legion from Cloud the Mind and Pacifism, but it also means that they cannot benefit from a Sashimono.

The no defending Courtiers clause is a big kick for Scorpion and Crane, both of whom field that trait in significant numbers. Phoenix can also be affected, though to a lesser extent, but almost every clan features at least one or two strong Courtier cards, such as Ide TraderKitsuki Investigator, or Shrewd Yasuki. Because of this, the Legion’s ability has the potential to be a super Covert, but will more often just be a weaker version. As a Charge! or Kitsu Spiritcaller target, the Seventh Legion is lackluster. On one hand, it does have 7 military skill, but, on the other, its trait is wasted, since defenders will have already been declared. As an additional minor benefit, the Legion’s Cavalry trait gives Lion limited access to cards that require Cavalry, primarily Cavalry Reserves, but more options may open up in future.

I’ve had mixed feelings on this card since its spoiling, going from deeming it unplayable, to playing three copies on my way to Top Cut finish at Kotei Houston, to cutting it entirely, to (finally?) resting on one copy. The text box is essentially almost always blank, as we are almost never paying full price for this guy from our dynasty row. With Ikoma Ujiaki an auto three-of in all Lion decks, this means Seventh Legion is competing with Akodo Toturi for the last few 5 cost slots. Is the 7th point of military skill worth more than a double ring effect, or the possibility to participate in political conflicts?

While it is true that every point of military skill matters for HMT decks, I’ve found that Toturi’s ability is more powerful than Matsu Seventh Legion’s slightly better stats most of the time. I played nine 5 cost characters in Houston, and I’m back down to six currently in, with two Toturi and one Seventh Legion in the interest of diversity. While it doesn’t happen often, those few cases where Ujiaki’s activation flips over double Toturi or my discard pile is thin on Spiritcaller targets I can get Seventh Legion onto the field where a second Toturi would have been wasted.

– Trevor


18. Even the Odds

Even the Odds is a peculiar card for Lion and one that doesn’t seem to support current archetypes. Lion tend to outnumber their opponents on the attack, but this card does open up a space where Lion can assign conservatively on the attack, and then move a character into the conflict, potentially honoring them if they are a Commander. Other uses could include moving a bowed Implacable Magistrate in, to blank an opponent’s defending army for the second time that turn. In other cases, the card’s attacking use is situational, and therefore not predictable, which will often see it overlooked in favor of something else. Crucially, this event is not limited to one particular conflict type, so it has utility in all conflicts.

Defensively, it seems like it would always be better simply to assign a defender, although, in tight situations, a Lion player could not assign a defender, then wait to see if an opponent will break their province before playing Even the Odds to contest the break. Honoring a Commander is nice additional bonus (if not the main thrust) to using this card, which plays into the honorable military theme of the Lion Clan. Unfortunately, Commanders are not very common. Currently, Lion have only three: Gifted TacticianHonored General, and Ikoma Tsanuri with the general already honoring itself. This looks like a card for the future if it ever sees play at all.

Move-in effects are rarely great, and this is one of the worst. While it is true that Lion has few powerful ways to honor characters, this card is low enough impact that it isn’t worth the ‘cost’ to play it, just like Guard Duty and Test of Courage. Every conflict card played costs us a card from hand, something that people often forget when they start playing things like Walking the Way or Spies at Court. With conflict decks already tight, there just isn’t room for a situational trick like this, especially when we could have drawn something like a Banzai or Strength in Numbers instead. Add in that the honoring effect isn’t guaranteed (and Commander support is poor) and I would be surprised to see Even the Odds ever rise above garbage tier.

– Trevor


34. Ikoma Reservist

The Lion’s entry into the cheap character theme for this cycle is the Ikoma Reservist, a Bushi who gets +2 military when you control the fire or water rings. The Reservist, however, is set apart from the others by being a conflict character. We already know that a 1 cost 1/1 conflict character is fantastic, and, with their new stronghold, the Lion have even more opportunities to claim rings and turn this into a 1-cost 3-military skill conflict character, which is way above the expected cost curve. I think it is likely this will be an auto-include in Lion decks and, at 2 influence, this is a potent choice for Lion splash.

A cheap conflict Bushi is just what Lion needed (Vengeful Oathkeeper does not count), and Ikoma Reservist checks all our boxes. 0 glory means it isn’t blanked by a Way of the Scorpion or unlikely Shameful Display flip, and while water isn’t a ring that is contested often against us (thanks to Ready for Battle) fire is one of our most common attacks.

The Reservist is great as a second ‘surprise’ military attack from hand after we’ve claimed fire and triggered HMT, and along with the Imperial Favor can threaten even 4 strength provinces for 1 card and 1 fate. On ‘light’ boards I’ll often play Reservist with a single Fate to A Legion of One if necessary, or I’ll keep it around as a cheap sacrifice to HMT for next turn. Alongside Ageless Crone and Goblin Sneak, Ikoma Reservist gives us access to 9 standout conflict characters to ensure we have enough characters to participate in every fight.

– Trevor


35. Writ of Authority

Writ of Authority is another elemental-locked card, this time for Earth roles. At 1 cost for +3 political skill, it is very efficient, it but comes with a precarious condition, requiring you to discard the attachment if an opponent has more honor. Normally the biggest honor shifts come during the draw phase, and during the fate phase as characters leave play. This means you’re relatively safe to play this during the conflict phase and have it stick around until at least the end of the conflict phase, which makes Writ of Authority a little more reliable than Obstinate Recruit. Considering the existing political attachments, we know Ornate Fan at 0 fate sees play in almost all decks, while Height of Fashion at 2 fate almost never does. At 1 fate, Kitsuki’s Method sees limited play in Dragon, so there does seem to be space for Writ of Authority. At only 1 influence, it may be a tempting choice for decks who are likely to be higher in honor. Interestingly, the drawback provides some protection from Calling in Favors, since the Writ will destroy itself if stolen by a player with less honor.

Most of my clan-mates despise this card, but I love it and wish it wasn’t locked behind an Earth role. Some see it as a slightly better Ornate Fan for 1 fate (while Ornate Fan is free) and dismiss it, but even just getting to play 3 extra copies of Ornate Fan can be incredibly powerful (see Kitsuki’s Method).

For the Lion especially, a clan that could use some help on the political side, access to Writ of Authority means that even a lowly Ageless Crone can break a 4 strength province out of nowhere. While the restriction isn’t a guarantee, Lion is usually more honorable than its opponent thanks to Ikoma Prodigy and the third conflict from HMT which can generate an unopposed conflict here and there. Unfortunately, Lion won’t get to play with this card for a while, but if that day ever comes, you can be sure I’ll be sleeving up all three.

– Trevor


46 Ikoma Ikehata

What a fantastic card. A 1/2 for 3 fate is not a spectacular statline, but Ikoma Ikehata is a Courtier who could routinely spend the majority of his time as a 3-4, with all the potential upsides of being an honorable character in a lion deck (for example contributing while in an army with Implacable Magistrate, or defying death with Stand Your Ground). Coupled with the fact he has that sexy Covert keyword, this card represents an extremely interesting option for a clan that traditionally has had huge problems winning political conflicts. Being able to lock out a potential defender will also be a significant advantage for Lion, particularly early in the game where they will want to be as aggressive as possible with the new stronghold.

And we haven’t even mentioned the card draw Ikehata provides! The honoring effect is nice, but when card draw is thrown in to sweeten the deal, that’s going to lead to a lot of happy Lions. All in all, Ikehata looks too good to be true, which means there’s probably some hidden downside, and here it is: The 3 slot in lion is very hotly contested. Kitsu Spiritcaller and Lion’s Pride Brawler are staples of all Lion decks right now, and even Ikehata won’t changing that. This means that if you want Ikehata to be the “mane” event, then you’re going to be sacrificing the inclusion of either a 2-coster who is going to stabilize your curve or a 4-5 coster who is likely to have a more immediate impact when they hit the board. It’s a good problem to have options, and an even better problem to have great options and Ikehata will be a great option in the right deck. If there’s any knock on Ikehata, it’s that the “right” deck for him has probably not hit a critical mass in terms of the cards it needs to succeed…. yet. But his all-round utility should make him a worthy inclusion in any Lion build.

Ikehata is a classic example of a perfectly balanced ‘fair’ card in an unbalanced meta. If I had to design a reasonable political character for Lion, this would be exactly what I’d make. Stats within reason, covert to with conflicts, Courtier to enable For Shame, and an ability that helps generate an advantage when it triggers. You can make the argument that Ikehata would have been better at 2/3/1 (the inverse of Lion’s Pride Brawler) but I don’t think it would have done much to change his standing, which is solid value role-player that is rarely our best option.

The comments above are correct; Ikehata is just plain outclassed, not only by our 3s but by everyone else’s as well. When Mirumoto Raitsugu can kill anybody he wants, and Kitsuki Investigator can get perfect hand information and take our best card, Ikoma Ikehata, by comparison, looks downright embarrassing. Hawk Tattoo and Favorable Ground are everywhere currently, which makes his Covert unreliable at best, and the ability is hardly reliable as we are still losing against a Bayushi Liar, Doji Whisperer or Doomed Shugenja. I’m currently playing two as it’s a great way to bust through stalled boards, but Ikehata is ‘meh’ right now, and its everyone’s fault but his.

– Trevor


47 Ancestral Armory

Let’s take it at face value for starters: The +2 province strength is going to be nice in a game that only seems to get faster with every expansion pack we see. Recursion of Weapons is nice, but, for that privilege, you have to sacrifice this card, and you only get the chosen Weapon back in your hand, making it necessary to pay for the Weapon to use it.

Let’s think about how the Armory would play out in a game: Lion currently don’t run many Weapons of great worth. The most common attachments in lion decks these days are probably Fine Katana and Ornate fan. Recursing a Fine Katana provides very limited value, but could prove to be a difference maker in a conflict. Looking deeper into Lion Weapons we see Honored Blade and Kamayari, neither of which currently see much use.

Realistically speaking, I think the +2 province strength could be largely irrelevant depending on your province line-up. With the ability to run The Art of War, Feast or Famine, Upholding Authority, and potentially Before the Throne/Demonstrating Excellence as your air province, Lion decks in the near future could abandon the idea of defending their provinces altogether, and look to come out on top in a faster-paced game through increased province busting potential with the new stronghold Hisu Mori Toride and gaining resources from their own provinces breaking.

Looking at how Ancestral Armory fits in relation to the other viable holdings for Lion, I would see the Armory as poor choice for most conquest-based decks, which would benefit more from the increased presence in conflicts provided by Favorable Ground, the card draw of Imperial Storehouse, or even the possibly (though highly unlikely) inconvenient Hito District.

The Armory lacks impact, is made even more irrelevant by having to sacrifice itself for its effect, and is just generally not very on- message when it comes to what Lion seem to be focusing on in the near future: Breaking provinces faster than anybody else and end the game quickly. This card doesn’t yet facilitate that major theme. Perhaps it will have a role to play in a Lion honor deck?

Start Rant.
Look, I know not every card has to be a winner. Some cards need to promote a separate strategy or appeal to a casual crowd, and that’s fine. If every card were powerful, we’d be at a point where power creep is through the roof, and new cards would have to be insane to see play. Wait…

Ignoring for a second how restrictive this card is (we lose a province spot to take a weapon into our hand, while Karada District can steal any attachment from your opponent and it can sit in play all game?) it slides into a Lion weapon sub-theme that is just plain horrible. I get it, Karada District is limit 1 per deck, which is how you balance cards /s, but Ancestral Armory is supposed to ‘reward’ us for playing…what? Restored Heirloom is the only weapon in clan close to playable, and that card pulls itself back from the discard pile anyways.

Ancestral Armory is filler and bad filler at that. It comes from a ‘Lion needs something else…let’s make a weapon card’ mentality without actually looking at what Lion could use and how to make it work in a unique way. It’s worse than Imperial Storehouse, a card that every single clan has access to. Making a card more restrictive for no reason than to try and support a sub-theme is fine in theory, but only if said card rewards you for playing that sub-theme in the first place. Ancestral Armory isn’t just bad design, it’s lazy design.
End rant.

– Trevor


65 Tireless Sōdan Senzo

Stats wise, the Tireless Sodan Senzo is on par with most other lion characters in the 2 cost slot, but with the flipside being that it favors politics instead of military. Lion desperately need more political strength if they ever want to have a more balanced deck, so to that end, this card is starting to fill a massive hole that Lion currently has in its card pool. As a Shugenja, it means Lion have more consistency for running cards that require Shugenja like Cloud the Mind and maybe even some interesting swarm options Force of the River, but really, that’s still a little bit down the line for a clan that can only field 6 copies of cards with the Shugenja trait.

The major upside of this card is that it potentially serves as a free chump attacker or defender. You can commit this body to defend without a second thought and your opponent may have to commit precious resources to win that fight. Any trait that keeps a body in the action over multiple conflicts is worth a look, though I feel this card may not have a good home until Lion have a more defensive option in their repertoire of competitive decks (which has shown itself to be pretty thin over the current Kotei season).

As a followup to Ancestral Armory, Senzo is a great example of how to design a solid card that promotes an alternate playstyle without making it so insane that you are forced to play it, but also not so bad that it never leaves the binder. Senzo isn’t that exciting now, but with a little more Shugenja support Lion could be able to play Cloud the Mind and all the other Shugenja splash options the Lion currently don’t have access to. The ability is useful but not busted, unlike most of Dragon’s tacked on abilities, which encourages thoughtful deckbuilding and in-game decisions. This card is a great example of off-the-beaten-path design that ‘widens the card pool’ by giving us access to more options because of what this card provides. It won’t make the cut in the current Lion lists based on rate, but could easily become a staple in future Lion lists with a wider card pool. That’s good design.

–  Trevor


76 Heroic Resolve

I really like this card. +1/+1 for 1 is average at best but what this card represents is an in-clan support piece for Hisu Mori Toride. The theme of the new Lion box is basically “do more, with less” (as you have to sacrifice resources to use it) and to successfully capitalize on that, Lion needs to be ultra-efficient, with cards in hand, Fate and bodies on the board.

One possible way is running Unicorn splash for the combination of movement tricks from Favored Mount, spying on provinces with Iuchi Wayfinder and unbow with Gaijin Customs. The problem there is that the pieces sometimes fail to sync up in the right way, and what that deck needed was really just the unbow to provide the additional resources in a single turn to get the mileage out of the stronghold. With Heroic Resolve, you have a more efficient option for unbow, with the added consistency of being able to splash Crab instead for the incredibly powerful Spreading the Darkness and the extra covert from Hiruma Skirmisher. In fact, Crab splash offers all kinds of interesting options. I’d even go so far as to say Raise the Alarm is an exciting option for Lion, as that potential free body could be used to defend a province, win a ring to fuel Heroic Resolve and trigger the Stronghold on the defense!

All in all, I feel the restriction might be easier to get around than you might think at first glance and the potential upside of this card is not to be underestimated.

This card rides the line between unplayable and busted, which is pretty amazing considering how simple it is. It doesn’t cost two (thank God), provides an actual pump and the ability can be very powerful with a little support. Currently, I’m not playing it, mainly because Lion lags behind the top clans a bit in terms of overall card quality across the board, but this card could easily replace some Katanas or Fans and give Lion some ‘burst’ potential with a little more help. This card is better in HMT but by no means exclusive to it, and Heroic Resolve encourages Lion players to try and win conflicts on defense, something everyone should be doing anyway.

– Trevor


77 My Ancestor’s Strength

This card is one that has me quite puzzled to be honest. Lion are not exactly overflowing with Shugenja, and even less so when it comes to Shugenja you actually want to send to a fight. Kitsu Spiritcaller being the magical champion for Lion, who is probably just as well off never going anywhere near a fight (and couldn’t use its far more effective ability in combo with this anyhow), and the brand new Tireless Sodan Senzo are the sum total of lion Shugenja this game has to offer currently…. Not exactly enough to support this card in the first place, but let’s suppose for a moment that you did have enough Shugenja power to warrant the inclusion of this spell:

1 cost is steep for what will probably amount to what Phoenix get for free with Supernatural Storm. It also requires a big body in the bin to get the full effect, so in the early game it’s not likely to do much and in the late game it could amount to a fairly significant increase in military strength, and a far more humble impact in political strength due to the stereotypical Lion stat line across the board. The only major upside for this card, is that it’s not locked into the “Only while attacking” restriction that so many Lion cards are.

From a Lion player’s perspective, this is a card that will probably go into the binder and never come out. It is another spell though, and Kyuden Isawa is not going anywhere, so never count a spell out, especially in a clan with far more balanced stats and some ridiculously large bodies this can take advantage of.

Right now this is a Lion card that everyone else gets to use, but eventually, Ancestor’s Strength will combo with Miya Mystic, Tireless Sodan Senzo or a Clouded Kitsu Spiricaller for a big effect. Lion needs one more playable statted political character (Ikoma Ujiaki gets us partway there) as we don’t want to be using this in military conflicts ideally. The dream is threatening big breaks with a Senzo poke, so we turn our political conflicts into free bows but can also punish our opponent for under-blocking. Currently, we are missing a few pieces, but this card has potential, and I’m glad it exists, assuming more pieces for this deck are coming.

– Trevor


81 Raging Battleground

This is an interesting card. At first glance it seems legit. 4 strength is better than most of Lion’s current lineup so it might have a bit of resilience to it, and it also has an effect that seems really strong especially once you consider that Lion have access to Feast or Famine to create quite the quandary for opponents. I always feel quite jealous of Dragon’s amazing lineup of horrific provinces and while this isn’t exactly Restoration of Balance, it is still pretty darn good in the right circumstances. It makes me wonder just many tools the design team intend to give players access to in terms of manipulation of face up/down cards. If this effect were repeatable on demand, then it would represent a very interesting card indeed.

Speculation on future mechanics aside, this does synergise extremely well with copious void conflict declarations, enhanced by a timely Akodo Toturi. A very interesting province that requires testing to see if it can displace Shameful Display as the gold standard in Void provinces for Lion.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with Battleground. How’s that for a ringing endorsement? Such is life with Lion cards. The fact that the reaction is a little restrictive (has to be non-unique, has to have no fate already) can be tough, especially as the ability is a reaction to reveal, and not an action ability or reaction to conflict declaration. This means it can be very difficult to plan for Battleground to happen, and there is no ‘fail-state’ option, like ‘kill the character if it has no fate, if it has fate remove one fate’. This makes Raging Battleground essentially a Rally to the Cause, but the effect isn’t guaranteed and probably less impactful than switching the conflict type most of the time. Add that we aren’t playing this over Shameful Display or Pilgrimage (the best two neutral provinces not named Feast or Famine) and I’d be surprised if this card ever saw play.

– Trevor


87 Tactician’s Apprentice

Anything that synergises with bidding low is going to really help an honor deck, especially when it allows you to claw back the card advantage you gave to your opponent. The unfortunate part of this card is that it has just about the most awful combination of everything else. Courtier would have better than bushi, as it would give better access to more relevant actions for  a more defensive honour deck or really any deck. 1/0 for 1 with 1 glory are terrible stats, which make this character only good as sacrificial fodder for Hisu Mori Toride, but there are far more worthy 1 costers available for that deck. 

This card is excellent, and I disagree with the comments above on just about every point. Another Bushi instead of Courtier means our worries about not having a Bushi for HMT are gone. While I wish he was a 1/1 like Steadfast Samurai to potentially poke political conflicts, I don’t mind the glory, as Scorpion will usually save a dishonor effect for Matsu Berserker or Lion’s Pride Brawler before using it on this guy. Tactician’s Apprentice sometimes sits and acts as a tiebreaker for favor totals, but he can also take a random honor effect and contribute in conflict as well.

The ability is great, as bidding 3 usually puts us in a win-win (-win-win-win) scenario. In a bid 5 meta, if they bid 5, we get a 4 honor swing and are only down 1 card. If they bid 4, we are even on cards and get an air ring. If they match us, we successfully forced our opponent to drop their bid, a strategy that favors our dynasty deck, and if they bid lower than us, we have both a board and a hand advantage going into the turn. Tactician’s Apprentice is great for bumping your opponent off their lane and generating incremental value and supports the games where Lion pivots to dishonor based on how bids played out and if your opponent played an Assassination.

– Trevor


88 Matsu Mitsuko

To start off, 4/2 for 4 fate is fairly decent. It’s nothing super shocking but it a solid body that will get work done straight away without much fuss. An immediate threat, straight out of the gate, is something that Hisu Mori Toride appreciates, so while Mitsuko won’t trigger the box alone and without some kind of investment, it’s a great follow up on a second military attack.

The most interesting thing about Mitsuko for me though are the traits Cavalry and Commander. The cavalry trait is interesting as it lends a bit more weight to the idea of playing unicorn splash. The thought of being able to run Cavalry Reserves with any kind of consistency is very intriguing for a clan that has the most options available for cheating characters into play. Realistically though, that option is still a few cheap Lion cavalry characters away from being truly efficient, but, Mitsuko does provide another rather beefy character alongside Matsu Seventh Legion that could be really influential in a fight even if you aren’t getting the maximum bang for you 3 fate spent on a Cavalry Reserves. Commander is becoming a strong theme in Lion now and the Commander cards that lion have are starting to take some kind of shape. Even the Odds works particularly well with Mitsuko, as you’ll be gaining a 6/4 into a fight with the potential to bring a second body into the fight to potentially turn the fight in your favor. Mitsuko’s ability is also super flexible, being usable on attack or defense, without presence and she doesn’t need to be unbowed either. All this leads to a card that is likely to see play. The main bone of contention with this character, is that Mitsuko is contending with Honored General in the 4 slot. That is unfortunately not a fight that Mitsuko is likely to win, but with a little bit of tweaking in your curve, you may well be able to find space for both. I guess that leaves Ikoma Eiji out of a job.

The stats on this guy are fine, but Lion is at a point right now where I don’t want to buy anybody that costs over three for the most part. Usually, I won’t even buy Lion’s Pride Brawler on the draw, as the ability to play two conflict characters with fate is much more stable and less easily answered by a Cloud the Mind or something. That being said, a 4 cost guy better have insane stats or a great ability for me to be interested in it, as I don’t want to pay fair for it and I can always just Charge a 5 cost guy. Mitsuko is ‘fine’, in that the stats are acceptable and the ability can be relevant, but it just isn’t something Lion is in the market for right now. I’ve cut four cost characters from my deck entirely, and Mitsuko doesn’t offer anything that unique to warrant its inclusion.

– Trevor


107. Kitsu Warrior

On the face of it, the Kitsu Warrior is one of the worst stated cards in the game. In terms of stats:fate Lion seem to be on the receiving end of a lot of hate, as with Kitsu Warrior we now have 3-out-of-4 of the least efficient 4 cost characters (stats:fate = 1:1). The exception in this group of inefficient characters is Honored General, who is a stellar character and a staple for Lion.

Kitsu Warrior on the other hand, is about as close to a coaster as it gets (Ide Tadaji will make it out of binders before this card), and here is why:

  • This character stinks in the first conflict, so that’s a write off.
  • He is only skill efficient in the 3rd conflict of a turn, and only if at least 2 were military conflicts AND you proc’d Hisu Mori Toride in one of them AND didn’t already need to commit this character to winning your first military conflict.
  • If you are claiming rings and winning battles, you won’t need this card, you are winning already, this card will help you win more. Never the sign of good card.
  • If your opponent is claiming rings and winning battles, you are losing and this card is only going to help in 1 conflict, AFTER you have been beaten within an inch of your life. Why deploy a telegraphed come-from-behind strategy when you could play a better character and proactively try and win?

The only scenario where this card makes an impact is when you bring it into play from Charge!, Ikoma Ujiaki or Kitsu Spiritcaller late in a turn where a lot of rings were already claimed. In this case, it is monster of a card but the issue I have with this scenario is, why would ever put cards in your deck that are only good in this scenario!? Fill your deck with cards that ensure this scenario NEVER happens and you will win far more games. The thing that irks me the most about this card though is the existence of Beastmaster Matriarch. The design team are pushing an agenda that players have rejected en-masse. Where is the evolution in card design? Where are the learnings? Lion are quickly becoming bottom tier because their card design is behind the curve, poorly balanced and completely fractured in direction.

I thought they learned with Beastmaster Matriarch. Whoever is in charge of Lion design is either lazy or forgetful.

– Trevor


117. Restored Heirloom

Water locked? Thanks…… I’d rather resolve the water ring anyhow. It’s effect is more likely to have a lasting impact on the result of the game. Probably best in Phoenix where declaring water conflicts is a priority early in the turn, and the low splash cost makes it a worthwhile inclusion as a 2x. Being recursive is also neat for Phoenix, as you can happily attach this to a Fire Tensai Initiate and have a legitimate threat.

Lion has turned into a clan with a vast array of disparate “value establish” cards, when all others are receiving “value added” cards for already established themes and mechanics.

Two cost attachments have to be borderline insane to see play in a Let Go meta, and this card is far from it. Instead of a water ring effect, we get a Katana and a half? Most of the time the guy we would have bowed was at least a 2/x, meaning we have to get at least two turns of value out of the weapon for it to even be worth it. In a meta where attachments can realistically stick around, and Lion wants to fate large guys (so, a Sashimono meta) this card might be good, but that is not the world we live in, and I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

– Trevor


For more from Trevor check out his write up on fiveringsdb.com where he talks about the current state of Lion and outlines the Lion deck he is currently running.


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2 Replies to “Elemental Cycle – Lion”

  1. Why is “Ikoma Ujiaki an auto three-of in all Lion decks”? He seems like a typical win-more card, because a Lion who is behind in the game would often not have imperial favor. Is the high roll potential the reason to prefer him over Toturi and/or Matsu Seventh Legion, or am I missing something more interesting?

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