Elemental Cycle – Phoenix

Elemental Cycle – Phoenix

In this article we look at the Phoenix cards in the Elemental Cycle. Phoenix has had a bit of a rollercoaster with the Clan pack, some poor tournament results after that, and recently some success. One of those successful players is Travis McDaniel who was second place at Origins and Gencon. Travis was one of the first Phoenix Hatamoto at Gencon 2017 and achieved the title another 3 times in the Toshi Ranbo season.

08. Isawa Uona

Isawa Uona’s 2/- stats are somewhat weak, even for a 2-cost character, but her ability is incredibly powerful and more than makes up for this shortfall. After you play an air card during a conflict, she bows a target non-unique participating character as a reaction. This ability is in the same stratosphere as Mirumoto’s Fury and Lion’s Pride Brawler, which are two of the most powerful cards in the game, so Uona immediately demands attention. She does not have to be participating to use her ability, and it can be used on attack or defense. Current air cards of note include Benten’s TouchCloud the MindKaito KosoriSeeker of Knowledge, and Walking the Way, with more to come in this very pack. She’s an instant auto-include for Shugenja-based Phoenix decks, and will radically alter all combat calculations while in play.


What Uona’s stats lack she makes up with her haymaker of an ability. I’ve made plenty of effective use of her ability to bow non-uniques in every match-up through the common includes of Cloud the Mind and Benten’s Touch, and as a Keeper role you can also utilize Hurricane punch alongside Keeper Initiates and Shrine Maidens for an extra air card that also cycles! Regardless of your deck, Uona makes a sterling addition to the Phoenix’s roster of great Dynasty characters.

– Travis


19. Winds of Change

During the last cycle, we had some controversy with clan cards that were keeper- or seeker-locked, like Pathfinder’s Blade or – worse still – Northern Wall Sensei. The elemental cycle goes all in on these elementally locked, clan-specific cards. Currently, pre-Worlds 2018, Winds of Change can only be played by the Crane clan, and then only if they choose to splash Phoenix. Cards like this are very limited, unfortunately, and we currently expect many to stay in card folders.

Looking at Winds of Change specifically, the effect is two-fold. If the air ring has been taken, Winds of Change allows you to contest it a second time. It also removes the ring from someone’s claimed pool, so, if your opponent has claimed the air ring and would win the Imperial Favor due to this, you can play Winds of Change to reduce their glory count by one. As the air ring is honor-focused, this card will be of greatest interest to decks looking to reach 25 honor or reduce their opponent’s honor to 0.

It’s inevitable as the card pool expands that some cards end up being more dud than dynamo. Winds of Change is one of those cards that falls in the former category. It gives you the ability to take the air ring from wherever it as and make it available to be attacked again or to stay unclaimed and accumulate fate during the fate phase. Unfortunately I cannot help but compare this effect to Know the World and Seeker of Knowledge. Know the World already says dangerously little play for a similar effect of being able to re-attack any ring and not just air, and Seeker of Knowledge is the better option for decks looking to use the Air ring effect specifically multiple times a turn.

– Travis



21. Teachings of the Elements

Teaching the Elements is a Phoenix-only earth province that gets +1 strength for each claimed ring. Since it starts at 5 province strength, it will typically stand at between 5 and 7 province strength. It lacks a proactive action, so, if this does see play, it is most likely to be placed under a player’s stronghold. Once eligible, stronghold provinces are typically attacked on the first available conflict, with the attacker fully committing their forces. Therefore, this province will often be attacked when no rings are yet claimed. There are a few Phoenix cards that can help boost this province, even on a first attack: Secluded Shrine will give an extra ring, and Wholeness of the World may allow a player to keep a ring from a previous turn. Even then, we have to ask, why not just play Ancestral Lands or Entrenched Position which have the same starting province strength and a chance to have a far greater bonus without any work? Teaching the Elements is an instant coaster and, at this time, not remotely worthy of consideration for a competitive deck.

No Comment.

– Travis


 36. Feral Ningyo

Feral Ningyo doesn’t seem like an earth card, but who are we to quibble? At its base, a 3/2/0 conflict character for 3 is arguably a little over-costed, but not so much so as to make it unplayable. What makes the Ningyo stand out is its ability. During a water conflict, the Ningyo can be put into play (for free), and is then shuffled back into your conflict deck at the end of the conflict. So, during water conflicts, this card becomes a free 3- or 2-skill boost, as well as an additional character. Phoenix tempo decks already pursue the water ring at almost every opportunity, and the Ningyo reinforces that. Phoenix can already field what is arguably the most aggressive deck in the game, and cards like Feral Ningyo, Spreading the Darkness, and Isawa Uona are going to push that deck even further. Expect the Ningyo to see extensive play in all aggressive Phoenix strategies.

The star personality of conquest oriented Phoenix decks this cycle, Ningyo has hit the competitive scene like a storm. Turns out being restricted to a Water only conflict isn’t such a downside when the upside is a free 3/2/0 body that recycles itself into your deck. With Phoenix’s immense card draw options, you can easily get into a late game scenario where you drop all 3 of these into a water conflict each turn and never deck yourself out.

– Travis


37. Oracle of Stone

Cards like this set off all kinds of warning bells. To understand why, we need to take a look at its costs and effects. At 0 fate to play, the only true cost of this is the card slot itself. This is inherent to all cards, but it is especially worth noting here because of the symmetrical card effect this card produces. Symmetrical effects affect each player equally, where most normal cards only produce a benefit for the player who plays them. Therefore, a symmetrical card actually sets its player back, at least in a vacuum, because an opponent gets the same benefit as it player, but for free (didn’t have to include and play the card). Therefore symmetrical cards are played with the intention of reaping a benefit that far exceeds the inherent costs and benefit to an opponent that the card provides.

Next, we need to look at the effect. In card games, there are three Pillars of Degeneracy, which are almost always at fault when a game breaks: 1) Resource Acceleration, 2) Recursion, 3) Card Draw. Oracle of Stone fulfils one of these conditions (draw), and Kyuden Isawa fulfils another (recursion). Combined, these factors make Oracle of Stone a dangerous card that will either be unplayable, because giving your opponent card access at the cost of one of your own cards is a terrible idea, or it will be broken, because it enables some form of combo, or other degenerate play. Why this card was printed, I don’t know, but it’s one to watch closely.

It may never see regular play. But, if it does, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Oracle of Stone has had a few veteran LCG players concerned about its potential to break a combo deck in the future. Fortunately, right now there isn’t really any conflict only combos that are crazy enough to run this card just to find them. However, Oracle of Stone is still a solid spell to have in the Phoenix repertoire to act as a Favored Niece style of effect to cycle out match-up dependant cards such as Consumed by Five Fires, Let Go, and Karmic Twist when not needed.

– Travis


48 Chikai Order Protector

Characters that unbow, or which don’t bow due to conflict resolution always deserve a look, and Chikai Order Protector is no exception. As with many Phoenix abilities, there is a condition to be met. In this case, the Chikai Order Protector must defend, and must defend alongside a Courtier or Shugenja. Phoenix have no shortage of either character type, so the Protector’s ability should almost always be ‘on.’ In exchange for a 4-fate investment, plus whatever additional fate you choose to place on her, the Protector offers a defensive stat block that may activate in each defensive conflict. This makes the Protector significantly stronger when you are the second player, since you can defend twice and then attack with her. As the first player, you will either get to defend with her twice, or defend once and attack once.

The Protector could be a strong inclusion in defensive dishonor decks, where her 4/3 stats can place significant pressure on an attacker in terms of hand investment over multiple conflicts. In tempo decks, the Protector draws a closer comparison to Agasha Sumiko, as a character who can contribute to multiple conflicts per turn. Defending is worse than attacking, but the Protector is cheaper than Sumiko, and has a far less stringent requirement. One significant danger when playing the Protector is that an opponent will be able to remove the Courtier or Shugenja with whom the Protector is defending. In this case, the Protector will bow at the end of the conflict in a potential blowout move. Because of this, the Protector requires a much more developed board, and is probably only a worthy play from turn three onward, where Sumiko could be dominating a full turn earlier. Regardless, being in the same conversation as Sumiko speaks volumes for the Protector’s potential power. The Protector still has to contend for deck slots with stalwarts like Prodigy of the Waves, Master of Gisei Toshi, and Isawa Atsuko, along with Kudaka from the Breath of the Kami pack, and she does lack the coveted Shugenja trait, but with cards like Clarity of Purpose to keep her ready through certain attacks, it’s not unreasonable to expect the Protector to appear in most conflicts each turn. She could be a potent force moving forward.

Chikai Order Protector, affectionately referred to as YoboCOP by the Phoenix discord, is another really strong Dynasty card in the oversaturated 4 cost slot for Phoenix. Despite the competition, YoboCOP has proven to be an excellent threat in a lot of Phoenix builds where you can consistently meet her condition which isn’t surprising as her statline and ability are very similar to Agasha Sumiko who is widely considered a very strong card. Her lack of a Shugenja trait keeps her out of my deck for the moment, but I certainly wouldn’t fault anyone for running this very good dynasty character.

– Travis


55 Jurojin’s Curse

Another role-locked card, this time to Void, Jurojin’s Curse is a variant take on Mono no Aware. Both cards accelerate the removal of characters in play – Mono no Aware by removing fate directly, and Jurojin’s Curse by re-running the fate phase. Both are limited to once per round. Additionally, as the fate phase is when fate is placed on unclaimed rings, Jurojin’s Curse also adds extra Fate to unclaimed rings, making it especially good if you will be first player next turn.

Where Mono no Aware is a 3-cost event, Jurojin’s Curse is a 0-cost attachment, but requires the character to which it is attached to be ready for its ability to activate. This requirement isn’t trivial, since most turns tend to end up with all characters bowed, but it’s not hard to set up either, should you wish. (And you can also attach it to an opponent’s ready character.) A further hidden restriction on Jurojin’s Curse is that the character it attaches to must have at least 1 fate (barring certain exceptions we’ll get to in a moment). If the character has 0 fate, they will be removed during the first fate phase, and the Curse’s ability will not trigger.

Characters like Lion’s Steadfast Samurai, or Crane’s Doji Shizue, who can remain in play even with 0 fate, could theoretically ensure Jurojin’s Curse triggers every single turn if they are ready. Neither of these clans has a Void role at the moment, but they may acquire one in the future. Another option is to drop a conflict character and the Curse during the action window that happens before the end of the fate phase. This will fulfill the Curse’s requirements, allowing it to trigger.

The two clans who currently do have a Void role are Scorpion and Unicorn. Scorpion have played with Mono no Aware, and may find the reduced fate cost of Jurojin’s Curse preferable, despite its additional conditions. In addition, Scorpion decks usually feature a number of conflict characters, and will occasionally have other characters unbowed, such as Sinister Soshi, who can bear the Curse as well. (Leaving a character unbowed to take the favor against the Scorpion may also prove dangerous, since it would leave them with a target on which to place the Curse.) The Phoenix splash, which has a number of other reliable, impactful cards is already popular with the Scorpion, and the Curse only has an influence cost of 1. With Unicorn decks currently in flux and development, it is harder to see the Curse’s inclusion.

All in all, Jurojin’s Curse may suffer the same fate as Mono no Aware: not being reliably impactful enough to warrant deck slots. And, as more cards release, and as the speed of the game increases, its use becomes even more questionable. Jurojin’s Curse remains a powerful effect, but one that requires set up, timing, and the right opportunity. All this may deny it regular play.

Jurojin’s curse is a modular card whose main purpose is to act as a stronger version of Mono no Aware for 0 fate but at the cost of needing a standing character and also being susceptible to attachment removal. The extra fate phase can also be manipulated into extra economy because fate gets added to unclaimed rings a second time as well. If you don’t need the extra fate phase effect then you can always just use the card as a +1 pol attachment which is okay but not great. There is also a pretty slick combo you can use with Being and Becoming or Doji Shizue for an infinite loop of double fate phases. I think this card is quite strong and is waiting for the right deck to utilize it to its full potential one day.

– Travis


66 Asako Azunami

Asako Azunami brings a new Elemental Master to the Phoenix clan, this time for the element of water. The Phoenix already have some great characters at the expensive 5-cost slot with Isawa KaedeIsawa Tadaka, and Shiba Tsukune. They also have an extensive range of excellent 4-cost characters, which can make for an expensive deck, especially now Charge! is restricted. With 4 military and 4 political skill, she has similar stats to Agasha SumikoKuni Yori, and Shiba Tsukune, but favors the Phoenix trend of higher glory with 3. As we have seen with Tsukune, this can be both a blessing and a curse. Once dishonored, Azunami is only a 1/1, but honored she is a monster 7/7. Unlike Tsukune, Azunami has the Shugenja trait which is core to current Phoenix decks. Her interrupt ability occurs before you resolve the water ring, and allows you to bow any character (ignoring the fate restriction of the water ring) and also straighten another character.

This falls into the trap the Phoenix often end up in. If you win a ring, if you’ve claimed a ring, if you manage to somehow win a conflict then things will be great! Of course when you’re behind and can’t find a way to win that ring of water, her ability doesn’t look so good. Luckily, you don’t necessarily need to win the water ring to resolve it: you can use Display of Power or  Guardian Kami (or Kami Unleashed, if and when the Phoenix gain a Seeker role). If you manage to trigger her ability, the impact of bowing your opponent’s best character while straightening your own is likely to shift any turn significantly in your favor, and the water ring is already one that Phoenix love. Adept of the Waves gives out the Covert keyword during water challenges, making the ring easier to claim. Asako Tsuki triggers as soon as anyone at all claims the water ring. Prodigy of the Waves gains an unbow action as long as any player has claimed the water ring, and Phoenix currently have the Keeper of Water role, so claiming the water ring will also bring Keeper Initiates into play.

Asako Azunami faces stiff competition in the Phoenix line up and suffers from the same issue of many other Phoenix cards, where you first need to claim a ring. Because of this, and despite Phoenix already having a range of excellent cards that both encourage and support claiming the water ring, Asako Azunami is unlikely to see much play.

Azunami is a solid 5 drop option for Phoenix, but with Tadaka securely locked in for most competitive builds it is very difficult to find room for some additional super-heavy characters. Azunami also strongly incentivizes you to go water as the first conflict, such that your opponent cannot deny you her ability by attacking water. When you attack water first however, it can be awkward to get full use of her ability as you unlikely will have a bowed character to ready. Phoenix does have tools such as Benten’s touch to make with more palatable, or using the Keeper of Water role to make attacking Water potentially punishing for the opponent, but it’s just not quite on the same level as Sumiko, Tadaka, Yokuni, and the other tried and true bombs in the game. As such, Azunami is a nice 5 drop option that is there as a supplement to other bombs if your deck wants to focus a bit more on the water ring but she doesn’t make waves.

– Travis


78 Ofushikai

We’ve previously seen the Phoenix Clan ancestral sword Ofushikai as a full-art promo in the excellent The Sword and the Spirits novella by Robert Denton III (which we highly recommend). At 2 fate, Ofushikai sits in the dangerous attachment-cost range where a single Let Go can produce a devastating resource swing. Since Ofushikai can only be attached to a Phoenix-clan character, you are less concerned about Calling in Favors stealing it, although it will still be destroyed. Unfortunately, the Ancestral keyword does not trigger upon direct destruction effects. The skill bonuses provided are a well balanced +2 military and +3 political – decent, but not enough by themselves to make this worth playing.

However, if you attach Ofushikai to a character with the Champion trait, you can also use the sword’s ability, which moves a participating character home and prevents it from assigning as an attacker for the rest of the phase. This doesn’t specify ‘opposing character,’ so you can also use it to move your own character home, allowing it to later defend or possibly contest the Imperial Favor. Currently, the only Phoenix clan character with the Champion trait is Shiba Tsukune, who often gets cut from decks to make room for more impactful 5-cost Shugenja. The Phoenix could also play Yoritomo, a neutral character who is the clan Champion of the Mantis Clan. Since Yoritomo is not a Phoenix character, he cannot equip Ofushikai, but this is something that can be rectified with a Seal of the Phoenix (though, if that Seal is destroyed Ofushikai goes too!).

Right now, Ofushikai looks like a fantastic card that the Phoenix cannot afford to play. Relying on one character or a two-card combo even to have a full-value target is asking a lot, especially when neither character makes it into most decks on merit alone. That said, the effect is strong and getting the pieces in play could win a game. If the Phoenix get a few more Champions, it could be a competitive card, but right now it is just a cool addition to a fun deck, perhaps one with a Mantis Clan theme.

Ofushikai is a good value attachment for most Phoenix unique and excellent value when attached to Tsukune with the active ability. However, attachment removal will likely always be a strong factor in the meta game and going down 2 fate on a trade with Let Go or 1 fate on a trade with Calling in Favors makes Ofushikai a non-starter for most competitive builds, but you can certainly have some more casual fun as a Seeker role using Lion splash and Time for War to guarantee this weapon never really leaves the battlefield.

– Travis


89 Ethereal Dreamer

While Isawa Uona is probably the stand-out character Phoenix has received so far this cycle, Ethereal Dreamer will probably be equally if not more impactful. While situational stipulations are expected on Phoenix cards, the Dreamer’s is guaranteed to activate (so long as you remember it) and provides a straightforward +2/+2 skill boost. While the ‘best’ Phoenix 1-drop is debatable based on context, the Dreamer becomes an immediate staple by virtue of its value, and is most directly comparable to one of the best 1-drops in the game, Doomed Shugenja. The Dreamer requires its ability to meet the Doomed Shugenja’s 3/3/0 stat line, and those stats will only be active during conflicts of one particular element during a turn, but this still effectively equates to being a 3/3 Shugenja for 1 fate. Unlike the Doomed Shugenja, the Ethereal Dreamer can have additional fate placed on her when she’s played, a minor comparative perk to make up for her contingencies.

The Dreamer’s implications for Phoenix decks are far-reaching, with the Dreamer allowing Phoenix to generate significantly greater early pressure than they’ve been used to. Phoenix tempo decks will see the Dreamer as a literal dream character, and instant 3-of staple, while less aggressive decks will still want to take advantage of a character that punches well above her fate investment, allowing fate to be directed toward other ends. Her 0 glory means she is unhampered by being dishonored, while Phoenix would rarely target a 1-drop with an honoring effect anyway, making the 0 value a significant bonus. The Ethereal Dreamer is an instant staple for all Phoenix deck types. So what was the deal with Fire Tensai Initiate?

Competing with Feral Ningyo for most impactful Phoenix card, Ethereal Dreamer is everything we’ve ever wanted and more from a 1 drop. Great stats? Check. Shugenja trait? Check. Low glory? Check. Flexible? Check. Used effectively this is a non-limited Doomed Shugenja that you can also put fate on, and that’s all that really needs to be said.

– Travis


90 Bustling Academy

And straight away, we get an answer. Bustling Academy is a card with potentially jaw-dropping implications. Whether those implications carry through into competitive play is another matter, but we do finally find out what Fire Tensai Initiates do: Take off and nuke the site from orbit. (It’s the only way to be sure.) If you control a Scholar character (of which the Phoenix currently have five: Asako TsukiFire Tensai Initiate, Henshin Disciple, Naive Student, and Solemn Scholar – with one more, Steward of Law being available as a conflict character through a Crane splash, and Seal of the Phoenix able to make Scholars on demand), then you can, as an action, discard a card from a province to refill that province face up. This is clearly not intended to be used on your own cards (though it can be, in a pinch), because you would get the same net benefit of seeing an additional card flip by simply not playing this card in the first place! So, time to cast our gaze across the table.

The Academy’s action is playable during the dynasty phase, giving you a fire-and-forget way of denying your opponent a key character (though most likely from turn two on, given the setup time required on turn one, and only if you’re the first player). This can have serious implications on its own – for play order, passing, for keeping or discarding holdings, etc. (and a holding that blows up other holdings cannot be underestimated in a world of Iron Mines, Kanjo Districts, and Shiotome Encampments). But the Academy also makes a complete mess of opponents trying to Charge! in a key character. When you use the Academy’s ability, your opponent is, of course, very likely to flip into something playable, but there’s a big difference between an opponent charging an Akodo Gunso in place of an Akodo Toturi.

You can make matters less pleasant for an opponent by combining the Academy with a Magnificent Lighthouse, first using the Lighthouse to scout their top three dynasty cards for the worst possible flip… and then giving it to them with the Academy. This could point the way toward a Phoenix board control deck that plans to murder and deny its opponent’s characters, eventually creating an overwhelming disparity in board position. The Scholar requirement does make the ability less than 100% reliable, but this is probably a good thing. The Scholar characters themselves are a fairly disparate bunch, but all very playable, with those least seen only lacking an archetype to make them shine. And a highly defensive control archetype with Bustling Academy as a key denial component could be that deck.

This is actually a rather nice utility effect and being on a holding means you can use it multiple times if you manage to keep it up. Discarding a card from a province helps you deal with troublesome holdings or remove charge options from your opponent before they can use them. As nice of an effect that this is, this card falls short in two regards. First, it is a holding you want to keep turn over turn if you want to have a lasting control presence, and for that this holding is competing with Libraries/Kanjo/Palace that you also want to keep around and you can find yourself in some very awkward dynasty options because of it. Second, it requires a Scholar which currently has mostly lackluster options outside of Tsuki/Solemn/Naïve so you either need to run seals or have some subpar characters to really get it off consistently. One for the future, to be sure.

– Travis


95 All and Nothing

The namesake of the pack as a whole, All and Nothing is a thematic representation of the void encompassing – while still being distinct from – all other elements. Mechanically, this is represented by allowing a player who resolves the void ring to resolve any other element instead. And draw a card. And it’s this last clause that will ensure this card sees play in certain archetypes.

Off the bat, this is unlikely to see play in Phoenix tempo archetypes. Tempo archetypes care very much about board control, so the void ring, when they pursue it, is almost always intended for its original purpose: to weaken or damage the opponent’s board. Isawa Kaede could constitute an exception here. When she attacks, the ring will always be a void ring, so All and Nothing could be used to transform the void element she adds into any other element. While thematically attractive, tempo decks will still decline the opportunity costs involved in favor of playing cards that more directly advance their win condition.

But that’s all right, because this card isn’t meant for those decks. This card is meant for decks that either have little use for the void ring, or which very much want to resolve a certain ring effect at every opportunity. This immediately suggests honor or dishonor, and honor at this time remains a far weaker archetype in Phoenix, so dishonor it is. The air, earth, and fire rings are the rings dishonor generally wishes to pursue. One of these rings will usually be a clear first choice, though sometimes an opponent will get to it first; and sometimes the void ring will accumulate enough fate to make it a priority choice – but at the cost of an effect you’d rather resolve. All and Nothing solves both these issues, as well as providing the chance to resolve any given ring twice in one turn – once via that ring itself, and once via the void ring. On its own, the ability would be marginal, but the added draw effect puts an entirely different spin on the card, to the point that we may possibly be seeing the Phoenix dishonor archetype come into sharper relief, characterized by card access. Oracle of Stone provides huge ‘digging’ potential (perhaps to get a handful of Backhanded Compliments as quickly as possible) and All and Nothing can add to this significantly: e.g., resolving the void ring as earth via All and Nothing will draw you two cards – digging you two cards further toward your game-ending combo.

Unlike the Oracle, All and Nothing cannot be recycled through Kyuden Isawa, but this is a good thing (for the game if not for the Phoenix). Card draw only gets better the more of it you have, since more cards with card draw will draw you more cards with card draw – so every draw effect you have improves and reinforces every other draw effect. And a deck that can reliably cycle itself within a few turns can open up entirely new approaches to play, few of which are likely to be ‘fair.’

There is a non-negligible opportunity cost involved in playing All and Nothing, and this may count against it in certain respects, but its potential to add to an archetype that desires and feeds on card draw is not to be underestimated.

Zero cost cantrips are almost always good, such as Hurricane Punch. I have a hard time thinking All and Nothing is a great card, however, due to its limited condition (wanting to trigger another ring when claiming void) and inability to stack with itself like hurricane punch, meaning that it can be difficult to get a lot of mileage out of multiple copies.

– Travis


108. Reader of Omens

Phoenix’s addition to the ‘gains X skill if you control Y or Z rings’ characters is instantly forgettable. A blank 2/3 for 2 wouldn’t make it into current Phoenix lineups, so a conditional 2/3 for 2 definitely won’t. He should have read this card review and gotten better.

You don’t need to read any omens to see that this card is terrible.

– Travis


118. Roving Michibiku

Controlling certain rings can really help the Phoenix clan. Henshin DiscipleIshiken InitiateKatana of FireSolemn Scholar, and Isawa Tadaka all benefit, either directly or indirectly, from controlling certain rings. When an opponent denies those rings it can hurt, so now the Phoenix are employing roving gangs of ring-thieves to level things out. In truth, the Roving Michibiku is rarely going to benefit one of the above-mentioned cards, simply because only two of them see any regular play. But what the Michibiku does affect, which players vie for every turn, is the Imperial Favor. A 2-point swing in determining who claims the Favor should be enough to secure it in most cases, which can help to turn on powerhouses like Kanjo District, or activate Censure. As a Scholar, the Michibiku can enable Bustling Academy to do its thing, though his Monk trait is woefully under-supported in Phoenix, and would require a Dragon splash to make use of. As a 2/2/1 for 3, even as a conflict character, the Michibiku doesn’t offer fantastic skills, but he can be situationally powerful in concert with other cards.

A new scholar! Interesting effect that helps trigger the effects of other scholars like Solemn Scholar or Henshin Disciple who want a specific ring claimed. It also does create a swing of 2 points when doing the imperial favor glory count which is pretty good. However, the kick is that this character is fairly understated and requires winning the conflict in order to trigger. Even as a conflict character, that feels a little hard to justify right now but with more effects that care about the favor or which rings you have claimed then I think he could see some use.

– Travis


119. Taryū-Jiai

Dueling Shugenjas! Since Taryū-Jiai is a glory-based duel, it is almost certain to see play exclusively out of Isawa Mori Seido. This is because glory has a much, much narrower range of values than military or political skills, so Isawa Mori Seido‘s ability will be needed to make the duel sufficiently one-sided. Even then, unless you have an Isawa Mori Seido-boosted Asako Azunami or Isawa Kaede against a 0-glory opponent, you will always need to bid at least 2 to guarantee a win. This narrows the card’s effectiveness, which is narrowed further by the requirement that your opponent is also playing Shugenja. This starts to stretch the list of what is needed to make good use of this card, although the reward – resolving a ring effect of your choice as if you were the attacker – is a major payoff. While this card would seem to suggest itself in Phoenix dishonor, or maybe honor, those archetypes are currently a mess, with four(!) different character traits (Bushi, Courtier, Monk, Shugenja) contributing differently, and all detracting from the focus required for a successful tournament build. As such, Taryu-Jiai doesn’t seem to have a natural home, which is a shame.

This card is probably the coolest card in the cycle, in my opinion. A few months ago this card would never see play in its wildest dreams because very few clans ran many Shugenja but with the advent of the complete elemental cycle we see that is not the case. Crane is the only faction that I often see run none at all and Lion will have just one in the form of Kitsu Spiritcaller, but other than that you are very likely to run into a Shugenja on the other side of the board. The other hoop to jump through with this card is making sure your glory is sufficiently higher than your opponent’s in order to win the duel without needing to spend much honor. This isn’t too hard out of Isawa Mori Seido but will be pretty difficult out of Kyuden Isawa so I believe this card will mostly see play in the former as it is also not a spell. In the right situation this card can easily give you a 0 cost ring effect which can be huge to do things like honor a 5 glory Kaede or 3 glory Haughty Magistrate, remove key fate from important enemy characters, or force your opponent to give you honor to flip the duel or otherwise lose some to the air ring. I think that if the meta has enough Shugenja in the key decks, then this card has a real shot of making the cut.

– Travis


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

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