Elemental Cycle – Neutral

Elemental Cycle – Neutral

In this article, we look at the Neutral cards in the Elemental Cycle. To give a different perspective we have the guys at the Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast. The team from this Aussie based playgroup are all experienced players and all coming from different clans which gives them a good take on the neutral cards in the Elemental cycle.

03. Demonstrating Excellence

Demonstrating Excellence is the first in what we believe to be a set of elemental provinces, each featuring an effect that triggers when that province is broken. In addition, each province has +2 strength while their player has a role that corresponds to the province’s element. This mechanic has come under some criticism arguing that one of the strengths of Feast or Famine is its low province strength of 3, which makes triggering its effect more likely. In contrast, Before the Throne has a province strength of 5, making it less likely to break (and trigger its effect). High-strength provinces like this can end up being ‘farmed’ by attackers, who are interested in winning rings and not breaking provinces. Because of this, these provinces may actually see more play ‘out of element,’ as it were.

The effect of Demonstrating Excellence is relatively innocuous: a gain of 1 fate and 1 card, much like a combined Manicured Garden and Fertile Fields, but at the cost of losing the province. This might see some play with an aggressive deck uninterested in saving provinces where the slight gain over other air provinces will prove an advantage.

Here down under, this term would be used to describe sculling a pint of beer in under 10 seconds or helping your mate jump start his ford falcon for the 5th time that week. But this card defines this term as gaining 1 fate, and 1 card. This province is 3 strength which just doesn’t cut the mustard. In the current meta these sort of effects need to be incredibly strong as in tournament play you are conceding 2 points for tie breakers. As it is an air element, it competes with it’s little brother and sister (Manicured Garden and Fertile Fields) which have ongoing effects. In a Dragon heavy meta which uses Pathfinder’s Blade running this sort of province can be at your own risk. Better off running the new ‘sheila’ Kudaka and if you happen to be air role there is always the long forgotten frostbitten crossing to consider as a province choice. 7/10 too much demonstrating not enough excellence.

– Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast


13. Kudaka

Kudaka is the first Mantis Clan character we meet, and one of many in this cycle. Her 3/4/1 stats are solid, if not particularly exciting. Her ability, however, transforms the Air ring into a resource-producing wonderland and is going to encourage an awful lot of brewing in the wake of her release. Her reaction means that the Air ring will now reward her controller with an additional 1 fate and 1 card, on top of the potential honor gain for claiming it as an attacker, and she can do this up to twice per turn.

The clans that appear able to benefit from her most are Crane and Phoenix, with Scorpion as a possible third. Crane has characters like the Fū Sui Disciple (in this very pack) that encourage Air ring conflicts, while the Phoenix have a bevy of cards like Seeker of Knowledge, Kaito Kossori, and Winds of Change that can create multiple Air conflicts in a turn, and make those conflicts easier to win. Current top-tier Scorpion decks love both additional fate and additional cards but aren’t too fond of big on-board investments, so Kudaka may not be as appealing. In truth, any clan can benefit from Kudaka, but only a few can really make her a centerpiece character. Additional resources can open up a huge range of potential directions for a deck, so expensive power cards like A Fate Worse Than Death may figure strongly in such builds. Regardless, Kudaka should open up Air decks as an archetype, which is long overdue.

I was thunderstruck when I saw Akka-Dakka for the first time, be careful or she’ll walk all over you. It’s a long way to the top and for a single conflict you can gain one or two honor, draw a card and gain a fate; in this game, money talks.  She is a great economy character and I think a great addition to most line ups but probably won’t synergise to well in Lion or Dragon.  She is well stat’d for her cost, has low glory, what can I say? Definitely better than a slap in the face with a wet fish.

– Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast


23. Upholding Authority

Upholding Authority is the second province we see in this elemental theme. Like Demonstrating Excellence it has +2 province strength when you have the correct role, in this case, Earth. The same concerns apply in relation to farmable provinces, but as an earth province, Upholding Authority actually is, comparatively, in a better position, since a larger number of earth provinces are already farmable. Where this province really sets itself from current earth provinces is in its ability. When the province is broken, the attacking player reveals their hand, and the defender selects and discards a card and all other copies of that card in the attacker’s hand. Essentially, a Policy Debate-level ability. There are, however, two big ways in which this differs from Policy Debate: 1) it happens at the end of the conflict, and 2) your opponent sees it coming. Where Policy Debate can stop your opponent in their tracks often winning you the conflict, here you need to lose the conflict for the effect to fire. This also gives your opponent the opportunity to play any cards they consider important before the effect occurs. This is a much more powerful effect than Demonstrating Excellence, but may lack the surprise factor needed to make the effect completely relevant.

For a long time the neutral Earth provinces have held a kind of mediocre place but I have to say, this card’s a bloody rippa. In a tempo style deck you now have an interesting choice for your earth province you can choose to steal some tempo by neutralising a conflict with Public Forum OR you can eliminate some of your opponents hand advantage with Upholding Authority. Not likely to see play in Earth role Scorpion or in Crab but in almost every other faction this card is a welcome addition to the lineup depending on the goals of the deck.

–  Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast


31. Marauding Oni

Marauding Oni is simple and to the point: For 2 fate you get 4 military skill, a super-efficient bargain. The closest equivalent we’ve seen is Shiba Peacemaker at 1 fate and Hiruma Yōjimbō at 2 fate. Both are cheap 4-military-skill characters, but cannot attack. With the Oni you can attack, but this efficiency comes at a cost. Every time you assign the Oni, you lose 1 honor. As the Oni has – politics, you also lose the option of participating in a political conflict. While the Peacemaker and Yōjimbō typically don’t see play, a cheap, aggressive attacker like this is bound to make its way into some decks. At 4 military, this Oni can threaten a break by itself. This may be particularly useful for clans with more of a political focus, such as Scorpion. This allows them to threaten on two fronts with minimal investment. In contrast, this is less likely to see play in Lion decks, where they already have significant amounts of military skill.

I have yet to see it but I’m not going to be surprised when I see a super aggressive deck built with this card as a staple. I’m envisioning something out of lion, crane, unicorn which is going to just …. wait, I just realised that I saw a lion deck on Imperial Advisor as I am writing this, let me just….BOOM! … starting at 12 honor and naturally seeming to just magically gain honour with keeper of fire; yeah somebody’s gonna have a real good day with this one.

–  Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast


40. Sabotage

Currently, only Crab can play this card, and ironically it is most effective against the same holding-loving Crab. Crucially, you don’t need to be attacking the province to discard their holding. You can use this while defending a military conflict to take away someone’s holding, perhaps even the Favorable Ground they were hoping to use. It’s controversial to lock the holding meta card behind the earth role. With Crab, Phoenix, and Unicorn all playing powerful holdings as standard players are keen to include options to counter them. This might encourage more players to select an Earth role almost solely to play this card, but until worlds only Crab will have the option to put copies of Sabotage in their decks.

I promise not to talk about the role locking on this card….. OK so, there are plenty of problematic dynasty cards in the game, Kanjo District and Karada District come to mind first and hidden moon dojo could prove to be a valuable target; In the crab mirror Karada District can be game deciding. Even with the lack of high value targets there can also be some good medium value targets in the right situations such as Favored Ground. I’d say this card is worth at least a 1x…..I can’t help it, so on the role locking thing, I was initially pretty cut about it but after having some time to extract FFG’s dagger from my heart I realised that I really only have to worry about this card in crab match ups which means we are not in so much of a different place to just not having this card in the environment at all.

–  Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast


41 Abandoning Honor

Abandoning Honor is the Fire province in this cycle’s line of neutral provinces. As with the others, we have 3 province strength, with a +2 bonus if you’re running a Fire role. All these provinces have had effects that trigger when then province is broken, and this time, when the province breaks, you can target a dishonored character and discard them. You do need to have a dishonored target, but they don’t need to be in the conflict. That’s not quite Feast or Famine, the favored Fire province for those with a Fire role – but if you can reliably dishonor an opponent’s character, it comes close. As such, this becomes a strong province for Scorpion, who would be replacing Meditations on the Tao, a province they often look to lose, since once it is face up, its surprise value is lost. This addition to the Scorpion line-up will, no doubt, improve an already scary row of provinces.

Definitely a Scorpion card if I’ve ever seen one. Much like Feast or Famine, you opponent is going to really regret flipping this province. A single way of the Scorpion or Court Games could really ruin someones day. That said I have a suspicion with all the dishonour effects creeping into the crane clan this could be equally viable in crane. Being a Fire province I suppose it would depend on what the goals for your deck are. If you plan on murdering people and crushing their hopes and dream on a counter offensive, then sure, this fits that game plan. If you are going for more defensible provinces and getting incremental value, then maybe something more like Meditations. If you are fire role, don’t even bother.

– Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast


59 Breach of Etiquette

Crab’s Watch Commander is a strong card, which has remained in Crab decks since the start of the game. It forces your opponent into a difficult situation where they have to lose honor or stop playing cards. This neutral event pretends to a similar impact, but ends up falling far short. First, it must be played in a political conflict. This in itself is not damning, since other powerful cards like Court Games have a similar restriction. However, its ability will generally be so low-impact than any restrictions at all look excessive. Each time a non-Courtier character uses one of their triggered abilities, their controller loses 1 honor. So, in order to gain any value from this card, you need to be able to put a player in such a dire situation that they have to win that conflict, and also have no other way of doing so outside triggered abilities on their non-Courtiers. As part of a hyper-focused dishonor strategy, maybe, maybe this card could have a place, but its restrictions, its unreliability, and the scope for playing round it mean that there will almost always be another option. And you are only allowed to play one per conflict, meaning they could clog your hand while you wait for the perfect opportunity to play it. It’s not impossible that this sees play, just improbable.

I rekkon this is gonna be one of those cards that sneaks up on us at a major event. Someone, probably playing Scorpion or Crane is going to run this and it’s gonna destroy folks, then we will all realise the hidden talent that is the old breacheroo. It’s in much the same class as Watch Commander. Watch Commander is a deterrent rather than a nuclear option. You play it and then your opponent has to think carefully about what cards to play and when. This card similarly rather than causing heaps of honour loss will just cause your opponent to re-think some of his plays and may deter some. Let’s think of some good things to deter; Keepers, Hotaru/Tutori, Kitsuki Investigator, Keeper and Seeker Kami (let’s face it, mostly Seeker Kami). Remember as well dishonor is a marathon, not a sprint.

– Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast


60 Mantis Seafarer

The Mantis Seafarer offers a straightforward exchange – 1 fate for 1 of your honor should the Seafarer win a conflict. For most players at most stages of the game, this will represent a good deal. Fate is a far more granular resource, with honor only really mattering when a player has an awful lot of it, or very little. The ability is also unlimited, meaning a Seafarer who finds his way into multiple conflicts can return a whole heap of fate.

As a conflict character, he is comparable to the excellent Tattooed Wanderer who costs 1 fate for similar stats, but with the Seafarer you need to win that conflict and lose an honor to equal the efficiency. You do miss out on the Wanderer’s option to attach to a character and grant them the Covert keyword – but you also don’t need to spend influence to include the Seafarer. And if the Seafarer manages to trigger his ability twice, he effectively becomes a 2/1 character for 2 honor, which would instantly make one of the best cards in the game. He’s not quite that good, since he does require an up-front fate investment, but his efficiency is unquestionable.

Sadly, he is role-locked to Air, meaning that currently, only Crane can play him.

Currently only Crane and Phoenix can run this card and if I’m honest I don’t see it seeing play in either, the economy of that role makes a neutral economy card pretty much cactus. It’s only saving grace is that it’s a conflict character but like the Awakened Tsumogami why not just manage your fate better. Why would you pay two fate, for two skill (tops) only to get 1 fate on the back end of a conflict? Why not just, not pay the two fate and include a card that costs up to 1 fate to give you two skill? This card doesn’t help you win, and if you play this card and still win, then you were probably already winning to begin with.
– Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast

62 Seeking the Truth

This packs entry into the elemental province for this cycle follows a similar theme. In this instance, when the province is broken you can send a defending character home. As provinces break before characters bow, this will leave your character unbowed. In theory, the goal of this province is to allow you to defend with minimal cost. If you’re defending though, what are you trying to do? Presumably, save the province. If you do, then the province interrupt doesn’t trigger, so you end up with a blank province and your character bows. If you really needed the character unbowed, maybe don’t assign the character. If you really want to save the province, play a province that helps defend itself.

OK, so I know a lot of people knock this card but if you are playing a control deck with a Water role I actually do kinda like it. If you are playing control then you want the game to go longer. If you are playing a defensive game and want your opponent to expend resources for less gain then this province might be something to think about. If you defend and your opponent wants the break then they will expend more resources that normal to get the break, you can then go home unbowed and counterattack. If your opponent opts not to spend the resources then you’ve denied the attack, which is pretty much what you wanted anyway right? I’d say that’s better than a kick up the backside.

– Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast


Yoritomo is more than a card, he’s more than a character. He’s an entire clan. The Mantis Clan Champion is steeped in the history of L5R, being a pivotal character in what is largely considered the most epic storyline of Old5R. His return to the game, as a playable character is a moment of pure joy for many players out there, myself included. Mantis was my first clan in Old5R, they are the faction that captured my attention the most and I am super excited to see the main man back in the thick of it. Be prepared to see die-hards of the old game try their damndest to make a competitive deck that centers around this character. I know I will (whatever that’s worth!).

Coming out of my nostalgic rant for a moment, let’s take a brief look at what a character who’s equivalent to his 20 best men actually does: Well….. He’s not exactly overwhelming. I’m fairly whelmed by him, but I wouldn’t say overly so. He’s a bull, but a bull that gets very tired very quickly. He might look menacing if you Charge! him into a fight, but chances are high that if you stand firm against him, he’ll finish a hard fight looking a lot less threatening than when he started. Forget about buying him the good old-fashioned way. You would get more result out of spitting into a stiff breeze. The key to Yoritomo is cheating him into play and keeping him there. This is when being a Lion player becomes very interesting, as I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Yoritomo is best placed in Lion. Now I actually have to justify that:

I said that cheating him into play was the way to go, this is pretty obvious as it’s the absolute best way to have Yoritomo be a meaningful threat for the longest period of time. Lion have the most in-clan methods of cheating a character into play, through Kitsu Spiritcaller and Ikoma Ujiaki, and Stand your Ground. Couple this with Charge! and then double down on it with the Crab splash for Reprieve and possibly even Raise the Alarm and you’re (realistically speaking) gonna be on the right side of a 6+/6+ character that can do some serious damage in any conflict. That means more consistent triggering of Hisu Mori Toride AND having a significant threat for Political conflicts, which is something Lion badly needs.

The alternative is to make him the hard way, perhaps on turn 1 make him as your only character and try pass first. This will leave 2 to 3 fate on him and 1 fate in your pool leaving him a paltry 4/4 with no ability. Enough to get some work done, but you’ll have to be careful about not spending any fate. Next turn, if you’re feeling brave you could pass immediately netting 8 fate bringing Yoritomo to a whopping 12/12 but leaving the rest of your board empty. This certainly might be an option for some decks, especially ones who can straighten Yoritomo to allow him to participate in multiple conflicts. This forces your opponent to respond, and if they do somehow manage to deal with him, you still have a bucket of fate to recover.

With a mechanic that taps directly into the core Fate mechanic of the game, Yoritomo is a super interesting card. Although he might appear a simple beat-stick, behind him there is a tactical subtlety, much like the character in the fiction himself. While Yoritomo might not set hearts racing in terms of playability, I think there are options where he can have a significant impact.

Best thing about Yoritomo? Cheating him into play, making him Phoenix clan with Seal of the Phoenix (full art obviously) and attaching Ofushikai (also full art) then head straight for your opponents Shameful Display. I guess you could attach the normal art seal and weapon but lets face it, it’d be a sub-optimal play. And if you’re not playing phoenix then I guess this guy just chills in your binder. We’ve had some really good mantis clan personalities this cycle; its just a shame Yoritomo is presently one of the worst.

– Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast


82 Appealing to the Fortunes

Some provinces are scary. Void provinces, especially, have a high bar to meet, with powerhouses like Pilgrimage, Shameful Display, and Kuroi Mori among their ranks. But Appealing to the Fortunes absolutely makes a case for its inclusion in certain builds. Clearly, this card rewards you based on the cost of the characters you play, so a deck with a higher number of 4-and 5-cost characters stands to benefit most from having this province broken. Effectively gaining 5 fate and a dynasty play out of nowhere (which may have allowed you to pass first as well) is an enormous resource spike, and can even be set up with cards like Walking the Way. Phoenix, in particular, can take advantage of this play by recycling Walking the Way through Kyuden Isawa, giving them the best dynasty draw out of their top six cards. And if that draw happens to include a Fushicho, their opponent is really going to regret having seen this province. To take the wombo-combo further, a Talisman of the Sun can ensure this province gets broken, and Crab players can additionally use their plethora of save effects like Iron Mine, Reprieve, and Vanguard Warrior to keep their most Appealing character in play. That said, any clan can produce huge board swings with this card.

As usual, this province is arguably better for non-Void roles. Its explosive potential means it has every chance of unseating the more established void provinces, and, like Feast or Famine, this is a card that could determine the course of an entire game if flipped at an inopportune time. Because the ability is an interrupt, a character in the Appealing to the Fortunes province can be brought into play before it would be discarded, which means that big characters landing on this province are going to feel a little like Christmas. And Appealing to the Fortunes also suggests itself in an environment where Lion and Unicorn may be threatening up to three conflicts per turn, simply to get more characters on the board.

Appealing to the fortunes, OR, “Free Kachiko” as we like to call it. Kind of a hard card to assess to be honest. This card has a really big cost, loosing a province, for a potentially really big gain, a high cost high value character. I’d say that in a game where each player is trading provinces this could be quite advantageous, however, even though it can provide some really useful advantages that isn’t guaranteed. You will beat good players, players that are better than you, with this card but not consistently enough, not as consistently as shameful display to be sure. I think the technical term is ‘a good card for bad players’.

– Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast


92 Imperial Librarian

The Imperial Librarian represents a major departure from previous design indications that glory was something of a protected stat. He offers a board-wide glory pump to all other characters, both yours and your opponent’s. The Librarian is Fire-role locked however, which severely restricts his potential impact, at least for now. The two current Fire-role clans are Dragon and Lion. Dragon have basically zero interest in glory pumps, which do not intersect with any of their strategies. Lion have a minor honoring focus through Pride, so the Librarian could have some effect in certain Lion decks. However, the Librarian is unlikely to see play there, on the basis that certain other clans, most notably Crane and Scorpion, can leverage the effect far better, so playing the Librarian against those clans would be a net-negative move. Crane can more reliably honor large numbers of their characters, while Scorpion can do the opposite, and punish a player with a Librarian by dishonoring their now too-glorious fools. Phoenix are the third clan that could make use of the Librarian, but would likely have to build around him.

For now, the Librarian is a bit of a curiosity, but he could quickly become a major player in the metagame should Crane secure a Fire role, with Scorpion and Phoenix potentially having an interest in him as well.

Libsie … Libbo … the Libonator, since he’s fire role only I think he’s got Buckley’s chance of being played in the current environment.That said, after a closer look he does have some kinda niche interactions.It’s worth pointing out that he stacks with multiple of him in play.Imperial means he can be searched for with Satoshi, Scholar means he can be honored with Tsuki Stackhouse and turns on Bustling Academy and Courtier means that it can enable For Shame! or Forged Edict.Overall I think the most synergy can be found with phoenix cards but honestly it can be a double edged sword because of it’s global effect.Phoenix bring him out vs crane and then conflicts become a lot harder.That said, phoenix look poised to get off ring effects without winning conflicts and so cards like this make that just a little bit easier.

– Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast


100 Perfect Land Ethos

While thematically very cool, discarding honored and dishonored status tokens and returning everyone to a state of equality, Perfect Land Ethos is sadly doomed from the start. Not only is its effect narrow, but the two clans against which it is most effective – Crane and Scorpion – are the two clans with indigenous, almost-free event cancel. Neither of these clans is going to play a card that directly works against their own core mechanics, and it seems highly unlikely that any other clan is going to play a card with such a limited effect, that costs 2 fate, and which will likely be canceled should it threaten any significant impact. If this card could ever be used proactively by a deck, it might see play, but for now, this one should be consigned to the folder.

Oh man, I’m so in two minds about this card. On the one hand, it’s a Barry Crocker of a card; it costs two and will eliminate any advantage that you’ve been accumulating as well as turn on all your opponent’s Forged Edict or set back your dishonor plan for a turn or so. On the other hand, it does stave off a dishonor loss for a short while, turns off Voice of Honor, brings your guys back from the brink of doing their best Harold Hold. I think I could live with this card as a 1x in a deck because I’d happily pay 2 fate to keep a key character on the table. Removal is the new black post elemental cycle.

– Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast


111. Mantis Tenkinja

Continuing the Mantis theme of honor for fate, the Mantis Tenkinja offers a tempting prospect for any clan with a Water role. When you play an event, you can lose 1 honor to reduce the cost of that event by 1. While, in essence this maybe does little more than make the Tenkinja a 1/2/2 Shugenja for 1, the impact on the board can be far greater than it appears. With an active Tenkinja, a player can represent a far wider range of possible reactions and plays to an opponent, creating greater uncertainty and an analytical headache. As the game progresses, her impact will tend to lessen as resources accumulate, but with two factions now capable of declaring three conflicts per turn, players will be gaining fate less regularly from rings, so any economic advantage may prove important. And she’s clearly at her most impactful on turn 1, when resources are incredibly scarce and her ability represents a significant percentage of the game state’s total fate. Currently available only to Phoenix – a clan with notoriously fate-thirsty decks – she has every chance of breaking into their lineups. And, as other clans gain Water roles, she may well feature in those, too.

Mantis Tide Ninja is a bloody rippa.  This has to be the ultimate card for dole bludgers who don’t want to work for their money; just spend all your money on dynasty characters, don’t worry, you can still play events! I’ve been spewin to play this card since it’s been previewed and I can attest that it does not disappoint. Right now it can only be played out of Phoenix, and Phoenix are really glad for this addition.  The most common uses are paying for Display of Power (which already has a hidden cost of 1 honor), Clarity of Purpose and Against the Waves.  This is especially good when combined with Kyuden Isawa. Kyuden Isawa decks suffer famously from fate manipulation cards like Goblin Sneak because every fate is super valuable but good old Mantis Tide Ninja is here to save the day.

– Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast


112. Awakened Tsukumogami

In Japanese folklore, Tsukumogami are tools that, after existing for a hundred years, gain a soul and become self-aware. In L5R, they’re a weird economy engine that won’t see any play. Currently, the list of cards the Tsukumogami affects are as follows (but if we’ve missed any, let us know):

As we can see, the only two clans that would really consider the Tsukumogami are Unicorn and Phoenix. But Unicorn have a better enabler for two of their cards, Force and Invocation, in Iuchi Shahai, which means only Phoenix would consider this card. And Phoenix won’t consider this card, partly because it’s Void role only and they can’t, and partly because it’s never going to make a return on its investment while offering nothing else of worth.

But the art is adorable.

Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu is a fighting style style made famous by…. wait…sorry, I mean Ryuuga wagateki wo kurau!….no, well however you say it, this card is a complete dogs breakfast. Inquisitive Ishiha is already a card the struggles to be competative. Why not just pass and save the fate?  How much fate on a ring would make this card worth it?

You know what this card is? It’s a Dimmies and Forges gift card that someone, ususally you grandmother, spend money which is good anywhere, and transformed it into money that is good nowhere except exactly one crappy store and then gave it to you on your birthday! That’s what this card does; just save the fate and pay full price for whatever the card was you were going to use and think twice before buying people gift cards!

– Hidden City Roller Derby Podcast


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

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