Masters of the Court

Masters of the Court

Next up, the Crane pack. The Crane clan are in a pretty good position, they’ve been mid to top tier all along and are well suited to benefit from a new clan pack. The question now is whether this pack will push them ahead of the rest and how long that will last!


1 Kyūden Kakita

The current Crane stronghold, Shizuka Toshi, has a reputation best summed up with the phrase ‘use box!’. The ability is either played and never gets used, everyone forgets, or it has a big impact when the opponent forgets and the Crane players remembers. Kyuden Kakita is a proactive ability that the Crane can use every match and cannot be played around, so this will be the stronghold of choice for Crane decks going forward despite the slightly less influence that usual.

The ability lets you honor a character who was in a duel, after the duel resolves. So it encourages duelling and rewards just being in a duel, win or lose, with the honored status. The honored status is highly valued by the Crane who have abilities that key off it and high glory to benefit from the skill bonus. Any character with an innate duel increases substantially in value. Similarly, any duel gets an extra bonus. As you can use the reaction only once per turn you’re looking to maximise the effect and trigger it every turn.

With duelling the preference typically is to out-skill your opponent such that you can win by bidding 1. For the Crane, this often means duelling with an honored character but that means you don’t get the benefit from the stronghold. Kakita Toshimoko for example has an innate duel and as such can benefit from the ability, but he prefers to win that duel. Kakita Kaezin is similar, but both can use their innate duel in one turn to trigger Kyuden Kakita allowing them to setup for a later turn. Kaezin, in particular, is good at this as if he wins his duel he is now honored and even bigger to face off against the remaining opponent. Courtly Challenger is an option, but already becomes honored if they win a duel. Kakita Dojo’s value also increases and shows one of the duelling tricks Alex talked about in his Art of the Duel article. If you use Kakita Dojo to duel one of your opponent’s non-duelist characters and your character has no ability to blank then the duel has no effect win or lose and can be used with Kyuden Kakita as a no risk way to honor a character of your choice.
Currently the only notable card that starts a duel from the conflict side is Duelist Training as Policy Debate is restricted and Game of Sadane already honors your character, luckily there are a few options in this pack.

Without a doubt, this is a solid stronghold for the Crane that will easily slip into the top performers. It is comparable to the current Dragon stronghold which gives up to a +2/+2 bonus to a character with 2 or more attachments. In the case of Kyuden Kakita that bonus is being honored and it sticks around. The drawback is in needing an duel to trigger an an opponent to duel and it would not be surprising for opposing players to not defend to avoid triggering the stronghold.

2 Market of Kaze-no-Kami

As a water province this province gets compared to the recent addition of Midnight Revels. For 1 less province strength and an on reveal rather than an on attack you get a little more flexibility in target selection, picking a non-honored character rather than the most expensive character. The majority of the time of course, your still going to pick your opponent’s most expensive character but that added flexibility is nice. I think it is unlikely to be a better choice than Midnight Revels but it might find a place in Seeker of Water deck if Crane players ever decide to go that direction.

Support of the Crane

As before with previous Support cards, there might be some decks that enjoy this especially as the card pool increases but the loss of Keeper and Seeker only cards in addition to the ability make playing any of the Support roles a poor option. Hopefully, we’ll see these roles get used in special tournament events where players must be or support one of two clans. For example, the recent Lion versus Unicorn conflict could have had a tournament with players playing one of those two clans (and any other role) or any other clan and Support the Lion or Support of the Unicorn.

4 Iwasaki Pupil

Maybe it’s the red clothing in the art, but this really feels like a Scorpion card to me and that can only be a good thing for the Crane clan. This stat line has been decent for conflict characters but not for dynasty characters where instead of spending this 1 fate you could pass instead and grab passing fate. Worse still, the Iwasaki Pupil has no relevant trait like Courtier or Shugenja instead with a currently fluffy Geisha trait.

The ability on the other hand is super strong. While you have the Pupil in play, each players draws 2 fewer cards during the draw phase to a minimum of 1. So if you bid 1, 2, or 3 then you get 1 card, if you bid 4 you get 2 cards, and if you bid 5 you get 3 cards. In a situation like this I imagine most will bid 1. In a deck where the Crane player has additional card draw and card discard for their opponent, this character could be a lynch pin.

5 Beloved Advisor

Typical stats for a 2 cost character have up until recently been 1/2 or 2/1 so seeing a 1/3 character for 2 fate seems like a good investment. The Courtier trait definitely is one the Crane are interested in. The ability is mirrored, so both players get the benefit. In most cases this essentially blanks the ability, if both players are benefiting equally then you might as well not have it. The key then is working out how to maximise your gain and minimise your opponent’s. A dedicated hand denial deck might be able to utilise this by drawing cards for their opponent knowing they are about to get discarded. Similarly, a combo deck may use the Advisor to dig down to it’s combo pieces knowing that they will win once all the pieces are put in place. It can also be effective in situations where you can play cards but your opponent cannot, for example with when you have Guest of Honor in play any event they might draw in the conflict isn’t going to help them until after the conflict.

6 Kakita Favorite

Getting 3 military for 2 fate is decent, especially when your clan’s primary skill is political. Looking at skills alone this is quite similar to Daidoji Nerishma who has drifted in and out of Crane decks since the core set was released. The Kakita Favorite does have the Duelist trait which is useful especially with duelling focused cards which will be a big focus with the new stronghold. The ability is okay, essentially making this a 3/3 card for duels, not amazing but a solid addition.

7 Maker of Keepsakes

Shugenja is not a trait the Crane are particularly blessed with and many of the Shugenja they do have sit in the expensive 4 cost range. This 3 cost character is a little better is immune to dishonor. Unfortunately that can be a bit of a two edged sword as sometimes you want the option to dishonor your character when your opponent plays For Shame! and this immunity goes both ways. If the Maker had a more proactive ability then she might be worth playing, but right now the so-so stats and almost blank ability make this a card unlikely to leave the binder.

8 Kakita Yuri

A Courtier and Duelist. A 3 fate cost, the cheapest character immune to Assassination. An innate duel ability, so Kyuden Kakita can easily honor him. While 0/3 is okay, 2/5 is where Yuri is most often to sit. The duel ability itself has the potential to shut down an opponent’s entire turn. If you manage to catch them before they declare their first military attack then they’re down to only 1 attack in that turn. If you attack with Yuri it might be in the interest of your opponent to not defend just in case (and hope you aren’t able to pull an opponent in). Unicorn and Lion specifically could really struggle against Kakita Yuri. If your opponent only has one military conflict each turn and is going first then Yuri isn’t going to help, so against the majority of the clans this is only going to matter every second turn.

9 Asahina Takamori

At 4 cost Courtier and Shugenja with 0 skill in either military or political, Asahina Takamori is all about his ability. When you bring a Crane character into play, you can react with him to prevent an opponent’s character with equal or less fate cost from assigning to conflicts for the turn. He can use it on himself when he comes into play, he can use it when he is already in play and another character is played in the dynasty phase, or he can use it when a conflict character is played. Effective use with him will end up with an opposing character locked out every turn he is in play. If you’re not able to effectively use his ability however, you’ve ended up spending 4 fate with little return. Preventing a 1 cost character from assigning is okay, but you could have had a 4 cost character to oppose it otherwise.

In many regards, Takamori is like Hantei, he’s an expensive character who can neutralize an opposing character. Hantei is pretty great, but often all he does is stall a turn. You invest heavily into him limiting your own options and then stop your opponent from doing things. If you’re not able to effectively capitalise on this, then you’ve just extended the game for no real effect. Unlike Hantei, Takamori can be assigned and with his 3 glory can be honored up to a 3/3 character which might give him an edge. Although he is likely to be a difficult character for the Crane to effectively use, he will be incredibly frustrating to play against when they do.

10 Benevolent Host

The Benevolent Host has the potential to be an amazing card. For 4 cost you can get a turn of this 2/2 and the best Courtier you have in your provinces. This could be a 5 cost Kakita Yoshi giving you more effective cost than you’ve paid for. If you have Yoshi though, you probably want to get more than just 1 turn out of him so you might be better off paying 7 to bring him into play with extra fate which you cannot do if you use the Benevolent Host. Arguably, you might be better off using the ability with a 2 cost character where you will get an extra fate maybe buying the Benevolent Host with 1 extra fate paying 5 Fate for two characters with 1 fate on them. In addition to any possible savings you then have a better opportunity to grab passing fate as you’re making two characters with one action.

To evaluate the savings, we should consider the Host itself. If this was a 2 cost 2/2 character with no ability we probably wouldn’t play it. At 1 cost we would be happy. So, if we pay 4 for this character we want to make sure we’re getting at least 3 fate from the ability which typically we are. Unfortunately, the ability isn’t always reliable. If we end up playing an all Courtier deck then there is still a chance, even if low, we won’t get the character we need and a typical mixed character base makes this even more likely. It’s a fun card that has some potential, but the sacrifice of having to play all Courtiers along with the risk of not being able to trigger the ability makes the benefits too low.

11 Daidoji Uji

Uji is a signature character for the Crane clan. There are players who enjoy the courtly dealings exemplified by Kakita Yoshi or the perfect duelist as exemplified by Kakita Toshimoko, but Daidoji Uji caters for an often hidden side of the Crane clan the Daidoji. The Daidoji are the backbone of the Crane armies and are the stark realists of the clan. They are the ones who sabotage enemies supplies and use guerilla tactics all without the knowledge of the rest of the clan making sure the Crane stay honorable but also safe.

The card for Uji does not disappoint. Some Scorpion players have gone so far as to declare Uji as the best Shinobi printed so far. At 5 cost he is in clan champion territory. With 6 military he matches the best of the military clans and does so in a clan traditionally weak in military. With his 2 glory and an ability that requires him being honored he will typically be sitting at 8/4 as he will be an early target for honoring.

His ability lets the Crane player play characters from their provinces as if they were in their hand, so they can pass immediately in the dynasty phase and make characters only when they need them. As the Scorpion have demonstrated with Hidden Moon Dojo this is an incredibly strong tactic as it lets you keep your fate in reserve and avoids situations where you end up overspending in the dynasty phase. In addition, he also has a 1 cost discount saving even more fate.

Where Uji differs from Hidden Moon Dojo is his vulnerability. If you can Cloud the Mind Uji or remove his honored status, then suddenly the Crane player no longer has access to those dynasty characters. If they choose to pass without making anything and they’re unable to get his ability active again then they could be in real trouble.

This is an awesome card that will give the Crane a lot of benefit while still allowing their opponent some counter play.

12 Winter Court Hosts

It seems everyone gets a 6 cost character in their clan pack and the Crane are no exception. This 7 political monster is likely to eat provinces in a similar way to Bayushi Shoju. You could defend, but everytime you play a card to help your position the Winter Court Hosts ability will trigger getting the Crane another conflict card. Since it is unlimited, that is a fight you are not going to win, in fact the Crane would love you to even try! The ability does only work when the Crane player is more honorable than the opponent, but with the massive honor gains from honored characters leaving play that is usually doable.

The real question is whether 6 fate is worth it. So far the 6 fate characters have been a bit hit and miss with those you can Charge! as the preferred option. Right now the Crane could instead pay 4 for Guest of Honor who does as good a job at shutting down options. Adding in a Winter Court Host or two could double down on this situation, but might not be worth the cost.

13 Distinguished Dōjō

The Crane already have the fantastic Kakita Dojo which makes fitting in additional holdings a struggle. The Distinguished Dojo gives you a point of honor every time you win a duel (up to 3 times per turn) so we’re already looking at a focused honor running deck which already is a stretch.

In theory, the risk with this card is it could be destroyed with the province losing all the tokens on it. To trigger it, you just need to win a duel, so you can always defend when it is attacked and use it during the conflict. One nice aspect is that multiples will stack, so if you have two in your provinces you can gain 6 tokens from just three duels. With the new Kakita stronghold duels will be a major focus in the deck so it shouldn’t be too hard to make that happen.

This is a nice element to an honor deck, but it’ll find it hard to compete with the other holdings.

14 Yasuki Fuzake

We’re assuming this is a reference to the old storyline writer Rich Wulf who we still remember fondly. Before he joined the team he wrote L5R comedy fiction called the Legends of the Hidden Chicken with the main character being Yasuki Garou who would later become Fuzake Garou. If you haven’t yet, it’s definitely worth a read.

Looking at the card itself we have a 3 cost Shugenja with subpar stats. The ability is a way to remove status tokens from your opponent and yourself, so maybe remove a dishonored token from your side and an honored token from your opponent. While it does make sense as a way to counter Crane it doesn’t seem to have much proactive play for the Crab. That it only triggers when he leaves play is directly counter to their sticking around focus. It does play into the sacrifice theme but you’re sacrificing a 3 cost character just to trigger their ability which seems poor.

If the Crab decide to go down a Shugenja path, Fuzake will be there, at least till someone better comes along.

15 Kitsuki Jusai

I don’t like this card, but I think I should. At 4 cost the 3/4/2 stats are top of the line up there with Toshimoko. The ability actively denies your opponent fate and that fate will often end up in your pool instead. As a Courtier, he doesn’t fit into any existing Dragon decks but as the pool of Kitsuki characters improves that option is increasingly and makes me wonder if we can expect a Kyuden Kitsuki soon.

The ability, in theory, should be reliable enough, players often both bid 5 or both bid 1 depending on the turn. With Jusai in play your opponent is incentivized to bid a different value, maybe 2 or 4, or spend all their fate to avoid the fate loss but that itself has merit. If they manage to dodge the ability during the draw phase then they will have to try avoid it in later duels also. With Way of the Dragon it could trigger a second time!

Resource denial is an easily abused mechanic, Jusai’s ability is a minor increment but could easily be part of a slow torture deck that will strangle the life and will to live out of their opponent.

16 Akodo Makoto

A Lion character with 4 printed military has definite value to the Lion clan giving them an excellent target for Way of the Lion. Makoto hits that 3 cost spot perfectly, keeping her just outside of Assassination range. The ability really is an afterthought, if she is on the board the opposing player will know their Courtier’s with fate are at risk and should be able to play around it without too much concern.

17 Chukan Nobue

At 2 cost the 2/1 stat line is fine. Just fine. The Courtier trait isn’t something the Phoenix particularly are interested in but their selection of Courtier characters is steadily increasing and may eventually lure them away from their precious Shugenja. The Scholar trait is the faction trait for the Phoenix and they do have a few cards that like to see it. The ability again is one designed to counter the Crane which inherently makes it poor against the rest of the field. Right now, the only commonly played card discard is Dragon’s Restoration of Balance.

18 Bayushi Dairu

Dairu has been making some pretty big waves in the storyline and is worth keeping an eye on. His card probably less so. Again, this is a card designed to mess with the Crane that ends up ignoring its own clan’s focus. While moving an honor status token onto Dairu is going to be cool, denying your opponent bonuses and getting him +2/+2 it isn’t very useful if your opponent isn’t honoring their characters. Scorpion would have prefered a 0 glory character that they could dishonor themselves who could move their own status token onto someone else, the exect opposite of this card.

19 Armament Artisan

A neutral Bushi character with 2/0 who becomes honored when another character you control becomes honored. Maybe this will be of interest if we see something that keys off the Mantis Clan trait but right now this is going straight into the binder.

20 Political Sanction

From a design perspective, this is great. Cloud the Mind is a strong card that sees play everywhere and introducing equivalent cards that have benefits (cheaper) and drawbacks (harder conditions and weaker effect) is a good way to open up the card space. This probably doesn’t hit the mark. While having more political skill shouldn’t be a big deal for the Crane, only being able to do this during a political conflict and it only preventing triggered abilities rather than blanking the card really limits it. You cannot stop characters that are heading into a military conflict. You cannot stop characters like Tadaka who do not require triggering their ability. It could see play in some decks who do not run Shugenja, but they would need to run ‘harpoon’ effects to drag the target into the political conflict. Even then, a number of high target threads that Cloud the Mind does help with would be unaffected by Political Sanction.

21 Letter from the Daimyō

This is Ornate fan but at 1 cost that can be sacked to trigger a Spies at Court effect that doesn’t require dishonoring and isn’t limited to once per turn. Like Spies at Court you’re trading 1 card to force your opponent to discard 2 but in this case, your opponent gets to choose. Personally, I feel this slots straight into Crane deck and will be an incredibly destructive power in the game. Restoration of Balance has been called out as a heavily negative play experience where hitting it can be game ending. Often this is turn 1 when you’ve got a hand of 8 or 9 cards and have to discard down to 4. Seeing your Crane opponent drop Letter from the Daimyo in the conflict they’re about to win will be similar, although it doesn’t have the massive card discard potential of Restoration of Balance it can push your opponent down below 4 cards. In addition to the range of other discard cards we’ve seen for Crane, this might be the start of a nasty hand control archetype.

22 Gossip

While there may be more powerful cards in this pack, gossip is definitely the one being talked about the most (no pun intended). Some consider it incredibly powerful naming the one card that could stop you and shutting down your opponent’s options. Others consider it a waste of a card pointing to the scenarios where you name a card your opponent doesn’t even have and deny yourself a protactive card in hand instead. I’m almost certain that once players start actually playing Gossip they’ll still be as divided, if not even more.

The trick of course, is naming the right card. If you could see your opponents hand, for example with Meek Informant, then you will know if you need to play Gossip and what card you need to name. Similarly, if you know your opponent’s deck well and are in a situation where just one of those cards is going to mess with your plan, then Gossip is a way to reduce risk and guarantee victory.

A lot of the time, cancel cards will be named. If you have an important card to play but you’re worried about Censure you can play Gossip naming Censure forcing your opponent to Censure your Gossip (possibly revealing they have another Censure in hand) or let you play uncancelled for the turn. Similarly, naming Let Go will help keep your key attachments safe while naming Charge! could avoid surprise Chagatai.

Gossip is a great card that will have different results for different players. Some players may not understand the best cards to play. Great players may be able to play around the problem cards and use the slot for another card that will get more work done.

A note for the judges. This card can cause some problems between players if the person playing the card makes a mistake with the naming. Saying ‘Let it Go’ rather than ‘Let Go’ might trigger a ‘gotcha’ moment between players. It is part of the cost to name a card though and if the opposing player realized a real card was not named they should have alerted their opponent. In addition, as the game has been translated into multiple languages there are lots of ways to identify a card and it’s not reasonable to insist two French players playing in Paris with French cards use the English names. As such, as long as it is clear between the two players which card is meant then it is okay whether that is ‘Let it Go’, ‘Let Go’ or ‘That Dragon event that destroys attachments’.

23 The Spear Rushes Forth

Send home effects are a way to deal with problems in conflicts but they aren’t very popular as the problem character then gets to assign to the next conflict. Bow actions leave the character in the conflict but neutralize their skill and prevent them from attacking again. Mirumoto’s Fury was a very popular splash for a reason. In this case, you spend 1 fate and an honor token from one of your characters during a military conflict only to bow an opposing character. The limitation to military only is a frustration, but Crane are pretty powerful in political conflicts already so they’re likely to need the support in the military conflict instead. Losing the honored status is also a frustration. It will probably be a loss of a +2/+2 bonus and even though the Crane do have ways to honor their characters, they don’t have an infinite amount of them. In addition, as it is a cost, you need to be careful you don’t accidentally leave yourself unable to Voice of Honor if your opponent tries to cancel this.

That said, this still seems like a great card for Crane especially Kyuden Kakita where they should be able to honor themselves a little more reliably.

24 Courteous Scheming

Hisu Mori Toride has been fantastic for the Unicorn and this 2 cost event brings all of that power to the Crane. Winning a political duel shouldn’t be much of a problem, but you do need to make sure you get an opposing character into your political conflict to be able to trigger it. Unlike with HMT, Courteous Scheming comes as a surprise, so your opponent is unlikely to expect an extra conflict out of nowhere and is less likely to be ready for it. Played at the right time, this could swing a game whether that is taking an extra province unexpected, capturing an extra ring for effect and favor, or rushing in to break an undefended stronghold province.

25 Festival for the Fortunes

At 3 fate this is a risky card to get cancelled. Even if it goes through you’re honoring up your opponent’s characters as well as your own, so playing it wouldn’t always be beneficial. You’re hoping for cases where you get more bonus skill due to your higher glory or increased number of characters. This might find a slot in an honor running deck where you’re pushing out a horde of characters and then honor them looking for the honor gain when they leave play. As Crane already have multiple in clan ways of honoring just their own guys, this is more likely to see play in other clans such as Phoenix, Unicorn, and Lion who can build decks with high glory.

26 Shinjo Haruko

Haruko can pull an opposing honoured character into the conflict, which seems to be the purpose as move in actions typically are poor as you could have just assigned insteadd. At 3 cost for a 3/2 she isn’t amazing and if your opponent has no honored characters she is essentially blank. Again another victim of cards designed to mess with the Crane rather than support their own clan.

27 Daimyō’s Gunbai

This attachment has no fate cost, instead to play it you issue a military duel during a conflict and the winner gets the attachment. Fine Katana and Ornate Fan both offer +2 skill for free, so this is a minor improvement on that with a pretty big condition, winning the duel. Decks that are interested in dueling for the sake of dueling will very much enjoy this attachment. Kyuden Kakita, for example, gets an extra opportunity to trigger the stronghold and honor their character. This doesn’t help when you’re unopposed however and as it’s unique if you already have one in play the Gunbai will not enter play. You can use additional copies to trigger additional duels if you wish, which can be useful.

28 Retreat

Speaking of cards that remove you from the conflict, at 0 cost this could have some consideration in decks like HMT. Those decks need to assure victory in a military conflict but if the opponent doesn’t defend then Retreat would effectively be a ready action. In practise, ready actions are ready actions and this isn’t worth the 1 cost.


Summary

This is a pretty strong pack for the Crane giving them a lot of powerful additions to their decks. Other clans have less incentive to look at this pack, the non-Crane card aren’t very exciting apart from maybe the Dragon and Lion characters.

Kyuden Kakita is likely to be the dominate Crane deck going forward, although decks not interested in dueling can always rely on the old stronghold. Iwasaki Pupil and Letter from the Daimyo might be a deck type all by themselves. Uji is a powerhouse which along with the addition of military characters like Kakita Favorite might see a strong conquest deck that can take military and political conflicts with equal easy. Kakita Yuri, Asahina Takamori, and Gossip all say no to your opponent while Courteous Scheming says yes to the Crane. Some of these cards might need a little work, practice, and finesse to get working but this pack has the potential to bring Crane to the top of the meta.

Listen to the team going through all the cards!

If you have any comments or feedback please post them in the comments section below. Check us out on the Imperial Advisor website, podcast, and YouTube channel for more discussion about the L5R LCG.

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6 Replies to “Masters of the Court”

    1. I think this will end up on my gravestone. “Here lyes Bazleebub, he could have used a little proofreading”

  1. i love your reviews but please could you add the original text to each card? (my english isn’t that good and reading the text boxes is very difficult because of the fuzziness … i dont know is this the right word)

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