Inheritance Cycle – Pack 2 – Bonds of Blood

Inheritance Cycle – Pack 2 – Bonds of Blood

Bonds of Blood is the second pack of the Inheritance cycle. Tyler cleverly decided to put all the elemental-locked cards into this one pack early in the cycle, which means we get a good idea of which roles will be important to each clan before players start voting. It also makes this pack one of the more interesting of the cycle.



Dishonorable Assault

For many clans, the Fire province offers few if any tantalising choices, with a majority running Meditations on the Tao for want of anything better. Illustrious Forge is beginning to see some play, but only in decks with a significant bias toward attachments. For Lion players, Dishonorable Assault provides a new and potentially exciting alternative. Way of the Scorpion is already considered one of the premier events in the game, and Dishonorable Assault effectively transforms your hand into a better version of that card. Low-glory enemies are going to be less affected, of course, but even clans like Crab and Unicorn have some worthy targets. The cost of discarding cards also plays into Lion’s emerging hand-size theme, and a canny Lion can use Dishonorable Assault to manipulate his or her hand to maximum benefit. The ability can be used every turn, it helps defend itself, and it has a further impact on the game, since dishonored characters leaving play can exert further honor pressure on an opponent, who may be hurting already from Lion’s low honor bids. Expect to see Dishonorable Assault in many if not most Lion province lineups going forward.


Untamed Steppe

Right now, by far the most popular Earth provinces are Upholding Authority and Vassal Fields, with Entrenched Position or Ancestral Lands occasionally turning up under a stronghold. Untamed Steppe gives the Unicorn another option. At 6 province strength, it is difficult to break, and may require significant resource investment to do so. In a game that is constantly speeding up, the tempo implications alone cannot be ignored. Untamed Steppe has a reusable action that lets you flip a province facedown. This would seem to fit into Rally to the Cause/Khan’s Ordu/ Border Fortress deck, which turns every conflict into a military conflict. That said, this strategy also depends heavily on Talisman of the Sun, effectively making it Keeper only. It seems unlikely that Untamed Steppe will unseat Upholding Authority or Vassal Fields as the go-to Earth provinces for Unicorn, but synergy is a tricky thing, and can go from borderline to overpowered very quickly.


Festival of the Departed

Most decks contain at least two copies of Banzai!, and some, like Phoenix, have even more powerful events like Supernatural Storm. Since this province affects both players, you really want to feature this in a deck that does not itself rely on events. Given that the effect is always on, and works during both political and military conflicts, Festival of the Departed could make a solid choice for your stronghold province. But giving up the power of Upholding Authority may be too much for a speculative benefit.


Hiruma Yoshino

A Disguised Bushi is a solid card from the get-go. If nothing else, Disguised is a way to straighten a character, and Bushi is a common trait among the Crab. The ability won’t always be reliable since you must have a character face-up in the province. This is easier to work around if you’re attacking (unusually for Crab), while a canny opponent will make sure to attack into a province with no face-up character, or will attack a province with a face-up character, but in a political conflict. Once the ability has been used, the effect is not reliant a character’s presence in the conflict – it is a floating skill bonus, similar to the Imperial Favor. This means that even if all your characters are bowed, the bonus will still apply. However, unlike the Imperial Favor, if you have no characters, the bonus will still persist, allowing strange situations where a Crab player could prevent their opponent from winning a conflict while having no participants themselves. Note that due a weird quirk in the rules, even if you have enough skill to break the province you cannot win a conflict if you have no characters, so at best you can tie returning the contested ring. Cards like Peasant’s Advice can remove a character from a province before Yoshino’s ability is triggered, so you might want to use him as soon as possible during a conflict. Yoshino should see a lot of play.


Kitsuki Yuikimi

When you assign Yuikimi to an attack, and take fate from the conflict’s chosen ring, her ability will trigger. This offers her fairly reliable immunity to triggered abilities from turn 2 on, and puts additional pressure on your opponent’s decision-making. To go for the ring they really want, or the one with fate that makes Yuikimi teflon? Triggered abilities include everything from abilities on characters and events – all the way to provinces. Load her up with attachments and she becomes an untouchable tower. On defence, she’s a little harder to trigger, and you’ll need some effect like the upcoming Shiro Kitsuki, or the Phoenix card Know the World. Regardless, she is a solid tower candidate, and, at 3 fate, hits that sweet spot of affordable but not vulnerable to Assassination.


Akodo Kaede

Akodo Kaede continues the trend of storylines being woven through the card game, which I love. Formerly Isawa Kaede, Akodo Kaede is now a member of the Lion clan, and her ability has some interesting interactions for Lion players to use. Most obviously, she can prevent a 0-fate character from being discarded during the fate phase (bonus points if she saves Toturi), but she can also prevent Kitsu Spiritcaller targets from being placed on the bottom of their owner’s deck. Such characters will still leave during the fate phase, but they’ll go into the discard pile, allowing them to be raised by the Spiritcaller again on the following turn. Arguably, the best us is going to be with Charge!, where you’ll get to keep the Charge! character for one more turn. You do need fate on Kaede to use her ability, and each use means she’ll be on the board for one turn fewer, so there is a balancing act involved. But the tempo gains can be considerable.

Interestingly,  if she has only 1 fate left, you can trigger her ability during the fate phase and still keep her around. She will lose her fate to save the character initially leaving play, but she won’t get discarded herself, since that framework step has passed, and she has no fate to be removed later. Due to this, you always want to make her with an odd number of fate, typically 1 or 3 to maximise value. With good stats and immunity to opponent’s ring effects, she is a pretty solid addition that will bring some flexibility to Lion decks.


Valiant Oathkeeper

This Phoenix Bushi is deeply mediocre. While 2/2 stats for 1 fate aren’t bad, there is nothing this character does well. Even her low glory, usually a positive, means that Purity of Spirit will not allow her to threaten an average-strength province. In a world of Ethereal Dreamers and Solemn Scholars, a Phoenix Bushi would need to offer something exceptional to forego all the Shugenja support Phoenix have amassed. Sadly, Valiant Oathkeeper is not that card.


Yogo Preserver

Sincerity is one of the better keywords in the game, especially for Scorpion, who have been known to bid 1 every now and then. Scorpion have a well-developed theme of dishonoring their own characters, and a Yogo Preserver should or could draw 2 to 3 cards for a Scorpion player during most games. At 3 cost, a 2/3 skill split is reasonable, and, while Scorpion tend to prefer Courtier, Shugenja is still a great trait in the right deck.


Benevolent Ambassador

Due to its Courtesy keyword, Benevolent Ambassador essentially ends up being a 1-cost 1/2 courtier. In a vacuum, the Ambassador’s ability is symmetrical, but if you’re actively trying to honor run (or stave off an opponent’s dishonor strategy), it will benefit you far more. Unicorn already have a range of Courtiers,  but they certainly aren’t a part of their current primary deck. The Ambassador’s ability has synergy with Shiotome Heroine, allowing her to straighten. While Benevolent Ambassador may have a place in a fun honor-running deck, it seems unlikely to find an immediate home.


Utaku Rumaru

Another addition to the Battle Maiden deck! Rumaru is the sixth Battle Maiden we’ve seen so far, and the third with 3 glory. Just by being in play, she improves the benefits of being honored and reduces the penalty of being dishonored. She also gets to double down on her passive by honoring another character after a conflict win. Some of the recent Bushi-focused cards like A Perfect Cut and Hantei Sotorii could fuel an honored military monster deck. That certainly could be fun, so hopefully it works out.


Fury of the Damned

At 2 cost, this is not cheap, but being able to double the base military skill of any number of your participating Bushi seems like a great way to win a conflict. Exactly as with Way of the Lion, playing two Fury of the Damned will result in a 4-times multiplier. (And playing three will give you 8!) This can result in truly massive swings, turning conflicts around, and breaking provinces – especially stronghold provinces. That said, unless your characters have 0 fate and are leaving play during the turn anyway, FotD is an all-in move, since you characters will die at the end of the conflict. At only 1 influence, this is a very splashable card, but the Fire-role only restriction will limit its use. I’m definitely a fan of this card and think it makes a compelling case for a Fire role with any clan that has a Bushi deck.


Arbiter of Authority

A fate cost of 1 is generally preferred for conflict characters, but even at 2, the Arbiter of Authority has a lot going for it. The Courtier trait helps out with cards like For Shame, while its 2 glory is useful for winning the Imperial Favor out of nowhere. The Arbiter’s duelling ability fits in brilliantly with Kyuden Kakita decks, which will almost certainly feature additional duel support cards like Proving Grounds, and the duel itself has bows and sends home the loser. A powerful effect. However, with only 2 political skill, the Arbiter is going to need a little help to turn the duel into a slam dunk. The Arbiter’s potential target can choose to refuse by dishonoring themselves – but they can’t do that if they’re dishonored already. Furthermore, Crane have a growing range of cards that heavily punish dishonored characters, like For Shame!, or Duel to the Death, which features below.


A New Name

A 0-cost +1/+1 attachment is interesting enough by itself, especially one without the Restricted keyword, which will therefore not interfere with any other attachments. Gaining Bushi and Courtier at the very least helps round out traits for card requirements, but could also open up some combo potential. Definitely a card to revisit every time a new Bushi– or Courtier-only card releases. A New Name is void role only, but is certainly worth a look if you are playing that role and care about both traits.


Duel to the Death

This one is pretty terrifying. Now the Crane just have to point at your character and they die! But, while it certainly may seem that way, it isn’t entirely true. As long as your character is honorable, they can refuse. And if their military skill is high enough, they can guarantee they’ll win the duel regardless. So a certain amount of setup is required to turn this into a kill card – possibly even more than Noble Sacrifice. That said, the power level on this is high. There are numerous ways to set up a dishonored target (who will probably then have a harder time winning the duel), and stacking a single Duelist up isn’t particularly hard. At 3 influence, Duel to the Death is a tricky splash for other clans, especially as few have the same ability to dishonor and duel as the Crane.


Niten Pupil

As a conflict character, the Niten Pupil can appear out of nowhere and present a potent, cost-effective dueling threat. With an effective skill of 4 for a duel they’re involved in, a little extra support may be required to guarantee the win, but simply exerting pressure on an opponent’s honor total may be reward enough. With Duelist, the Pupil is particularly effective in conjunction with Mirumoto Dojo. Played from hand, he can remove 1 fate from an opposing character and stack to an impressive 4 skill for the entire phase. At 2 cost, however, Assassination is always a risk. But if you’re not afraid of going big, dropping a Mirumoto Daisho on him will allows him to Defend Your Honor at 6 skill – potentially cancelling the Assassination effect and inflicting a nice 3-4 point honor loss. Interestingly, if you play Way of the Dragon on the Pupil and get into two duels, the second duel he will have a base skill of 8!


Two-Heavens Technique

Covert is, in a word, fantastic. There’s a reason Tattooed Wanderer is one of the most popular splashes (though being a 2/1 for 1 also helps). The requirements for Two-Heavens Technique, while thematic, are surprisingly harsh. There is only one neutral weapon, Fine Katana, and the Dragon themselves have only Ancestral Daisho and Mirumoto Daisho. Frustratingly, the Mirumoto Daisho will rarely help, since it prevents you from having another restricted card – meaning in turn that you are limited to Pathfinder’s Blade or Sharpened Tsuruhashi as your second weapon. Nevertheless, this might see some play in Dragon decks who choose to use their influence to access other clans’ weapons.


Forebearer’s Echoes

Kitsu Spiritcaller in event form. During the first turn, this isn’t going to be as effective as Charge! due to the limited number of targets (though Walking the Way can dump a key card into your discard pile very quickly). Later in the game, however, it becomes far better than Charge!, with a large array of options to pick from. Forebearer’s Echoes is similar in many ways to Cavalry Reserves, but for 1 fate less, with no trait requirement, and targeting only one character. But if that character has a cost of 5 or 6, you’re not missing out on much value.

As a spell, and at only 1 influence, Forebeare’s Echoes will be at its best when splashed into Phoenix Kyuden Isawa decks, where they can recycle it through their stronghold, as well as fetch Fushichō, who will return another Phoenix character to play after it leaves. Still, Forebearer’s Echoes should prove a welcome addition to any Lion deck, assuming they have the air role to play it.


Isawa Tadaka

Another version of Tadaka, this time as a conflict character. You can play up to 3 cards with the same title in your deck, so if you want to include any conflict Tadakas, you must remove the same number of dynasty Tadakas from your dynasty deck, if you’re playing them.

Although 5 fate is a lot for a conflict character, Kachiko has shown it can be worth it. But Tadaka has an additional wrinkle, in the form of the Disguised mechanic. Tadaka can overlay and replace a non-unique Shugenja you control, keeping all fate, attachments, and status tokens the non-unique Shugenja had. Tadaka will enter play unbowed (which may mean you’ve also effectively straightened a character), but you are required to pay the difference in fate cost between Tadaka and the Shugenja he’s replacing.

This version of Tadaka allows you to look at a number of cards in your opponent’s hand and choose one to discard. The numbers of cards you get to look at depends on the number of characters you remove from your dynasty discard pile. The more you remove, the better, obviously, but a single random discard can still be a potent effect. And since characters will be leaving play, or entering the discard pile from provinces, you should be able to reliably use this each turn. The effect can potentially be equivalent to a Policy Debate, a card that very quickly found its way to the Restricted List.

With the original version of Tadaka also restricted, and this new version competing with it, Phoenix players have an additional incentive to move away from dynasty Tadaka to another restricted card (and many already have). For thematic story reasons, Tadaka can be played by the Crab, but only if they take him as part of a Phoenix splash.


Earth Becomes Sky

Out of all the cards this cycle, Earth Becomes Sky seems to have achieved peak hype. Since characters ready at the end of each turn, this card will almost invariably have a trigger, and for 1 fate you get to lock down your opponent’s best character for the next turn. It also is an effective solution to your opponent’s unbow effects, which can seriously dent their plans for a turn. However, the real punch with this card comes when you can hoard them for the late game, then trigger 2 or 3 at the end of a turn, leaving your opponent with a dead board, and relying on whatever they can buy from their provinces in what probably will be the last turn of the game! Luckily, this is Earth Role only, and, as a Phoenix card, it will force other clans into a specific splash. This is certainly one to be aware of and may justify Ready for Battle (which Earth Becomes Sky can also react to) or just more ready or event cancel effects. 


Alluring Patron

Another high-cost conflict character – with all the benefits and drawbacks that has. Unlike most clans, Scorpion player would see the 2 glory as a negative rather than a positive, since they want their Courtiers with low glory so they can use Forged Edicts with minimal impact. The Alluring Patron’s ability is a ‘harpoon’ effect, which has proven time and time again to be incredibly powerful. For example, dragging your opponent’s biggest military character into your political conflict allows you to remove a huge threat by bowing them out via conflict resolution. Or you can drag an unassigned character into a conflict – clearing the way for your next attack. Or, with the Patron’s ability to dishonor a character should they choose not to move, you can set up your target for an effect like I Can Swim. Dishonored characters are especially vulnerable to the Patron. They cannot choose dishonor, so they are forced to move.

The Patron is similar in many respects to Yogo Hiroue, who has the same cost with a better ability – and doesn’t see play. And for high-cost, big-impact conflict characters, Scorpion already have Bayushi Kachiko. So, unless the Patron’s ability to appear mid-conflict re-writes the book on Scorpion tactics, it’s hard to see a place for the Patron in Scorpion. However, she might make a reasonable splash for Crane, who are also interested in dishonour, and in harpoon for forcing duels.


Softskin

Another Poison card for what must eventually be a deck. At 2 cost you’d expect a pretty great effect, but in this case your opponent just ends up milling cards from their deck. There is seldom a scenario where they are better off bowing their character. So this card must be for some sort of mill deck. (‘Milling’ is a reference to a Magic the Gathering card called ‘Millstone,’ which could discard 2 cards per activation from an opponent’s deck. If a player ran out of cards and tried to draw, but could not, they lost the game, so ‘milling’ became core to a specific deck style.) However, milling works differently in L5R. Running out of cards doesn’t lose you the game, it just triggers a reshuffle that costs you 5 honor. So softskin is a dishonour card of sorts. In a typical game, players start with 4 cards and then will draw 5 each turn. In a 40-card deck, and assuming no additional card draw, they will draw the last card from their conflict deck on turn 8. That’s pretty far away, so if you’re going a discard route, you need to push that strategy hard. For mill to work as a strategy, you need to be pressuring an opponent’s honor, to make the 5-honor hit count. But you also have to contest against a deck that is probably spending fate and cards on effects that directly alter the board. And if your deck can win via milling, it can probably win even better by abandoning its mill cards and playing something more direct. So right now, we’re not really sure where the mill strategy is going, but I guess this is another card for it.


Unfulfilled Duty

Ready effects are very strong, so being able to ready multiple characters is amazing. At 2 fate cost, you probably want to ready at least two characters, so a 5 cost and a 1 cost, two 3 costs, or a 4 cost and a 2 cost. As a bonus, there is the potential to ready 3 or 4 cheap characters. You are limited to characters without fate, but apart from playing characters without fate and natural fate loss, you also have effects like Charge! and Cavalry Reserves, which will bring characters into play without any fate at all. Having attachments on characters you ready will also improve the value of any Unfulfilled Duties you play. With Unicorn having Hisu Moride Tori to generate extra conflicts, Unfulfilled Destiny absolutely stands to have an impact on the meta. It is locked to an Earth role, but, at 2 influence, it is strong enough for any clan with an Earth role to consider it.


Summary

Overall, despite having so many elementally locked cards, this pack is very much worth picking up due to the power level of the cards it contains. The provinces and dynasty characters are all good enough to see play, though Benevolent Ambassador and Valiant Oathkeeper may be reserved for fun decks. The conflict cards have some misses like Softskin, and Two-Heavens Technique, but Fury of the Damned, Duel to the Death, Forebearer’s Echoes, Isawa Tadaka, Earth Becomes Sky, and Unfulfilled Duty all hit it out of the park. That Unfulfilled Duty shares the Earth role with Earth Becomes Sky, and that both have low influence, is excellent news for Phoenix and Unicorn, who have a lot to look forward to.

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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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