Clan War

Clan War

This week the new premium box Clan War comes out. This expansion is notable insofar as it focuses more on multiplayer formats. However, there are a number gems for the standard 1v1 format, so this set should not be missed.

For full images you can look here.


Treaties

The first twelve cards of the set are used when making deals within a multiplayer game. When played, treaties are assigned a value from 1 to 5. In the earlier (beta) multiplayer rules, if you broke a treaty you gave its value in honor to the opponent with whom you had made the agreement. For players wishing to throw the game to another player, this meant that they could just keep making and breaking treaties with that player until he or she won through honor. These new cards mix that up. When a treaty is made, one of these cards is dealt randomly face down, and is only revealed when and if the treaty is broken. Some of these new treaties exact only trifling penalties, while others can be incredibly severe. Do you dare risk breaking your word? Or is the greater risk not to? These cards definitely increase excitement, temptation, and anticipation in this facet of the multiplayer game.


Clan Provinces

Each clan gets a new province focused on multiplayer play. In the enlightenment format, when you claim a ring, you place it on a province. If you destroy a province with a ring on it, you can then take that ring (if you don’t already have a version of the same element) and place it on one of your own provinces. There is an extra victory condition in enlightenment, which requires you to have captured all five rings, so these provinces can be immensely important. The Crab and Phoenix provinces allow you to trigger ring effects, while the Crane, Dragon, Lion, Scorpion, and Unicorn provinces move rings around, which can be useful in preventing an opponent from capturing the ring they need to win the game. These are all great cards in the enlightenment format, and will most likely feature in all its decks. Outside enlightenment (which includes other multiplayer formats like 2v2), these provinces are essentially blank.


Neutral Provinces

Next we have five almost identical provinces, one for each element. They each have 4 province strength, and each gets +2 province strength for each claimed ring that corresponds with their element. Since the format has three players, each with a ring of each element, that could add up a +6 province strength bonus. Every time these provinces are attacked, they also add 1 fate to each unclaimed ring of their element, making those rings more attractive in future conflicts. These provinces are thematically fantastic, but from a min/max perspective, you can probably find provinces that offer more.


Crab Dynasty

Hida Secretkeeper is a cheap Bushi who becomes a 3/3 when defending a province with rings on it. That’s only going to happen in multiplayer, but he seems like a decent option for that format.

One of the Forgotten is, in contrast, a strong option for even 1v1 tournament decks. At 2 fate cost for a 4 military skill Bushi Berserker, she’s already a great investment. Her limitation is that you cannot add fate when playing her, but we’ve seen (with the Dragon Clan’s Doomed Shugenja) that this drawback is not at all severe on a cheap character. And more than making up for this is her ability, which allows you to put a fate on her if an opponent has a ready character but passes a conflict opportunity. This is overall a fantastic character that should push the Crab Berserker archetype further toward tournament viability.

The Sake House Smuggler provides a 1 fate reduction for non-event cards – so typically that’s going to be conflict characters or attachments. The ability is symmetrical – which means it works both for you and your opponent – and while these abilities are generally bad, the opportunity costs involved here are generally going to be quite a bit higher for your opponent. The Smuggler is also a Courtier, a relative rarity among the Crab. A solid card in multiplayer, the Smuggler may even find his way into 1v1 decks.

The Kuni Silencer is a Monk! This now gives Crab a dynasty Monk and a conflict Monk. Some Crab decks have already been splashing Hurricane Punch, so the Silencer only broadens options there. 3 fate cost for 4 military skill is above average, but the ability is quite poor in 1v1, since your opponent would have to claim a ring, then declare an attack which you would have to win, before the Silencer could trigger. In multiplayer he should be much better, helping you to dismantle your opponents’ claimed rings, even if he fails to outright discourage other players from attacking you.

The last dynasty card for Crab is the Roadside Inn, a holding that moves fate from the fate pool to a character you control. While not quite as good as Iron Mine, this is still effectively a save. Unlike Iron Mine, the Inn does not discard itself, so it can potentially be used over multiple turns. However, as with many other cards in this set, each opponent can trigger the Inn’s ability for themselves by giving you 1 honor. Since this choice is out of your control, this card will probably never see play in 1v1, and may not even oust Iron Mine in multiplayer.


Crane Dynasty

This cheap Courtier is viable in both multiplayer and 1v1 formats. When he leaves play, you choose an opponent who then discards a card (of their choice). If they wish to, they may give you 1 honor to trigger the effect as well, netting you a 1 honor gain while diminishing hand resources. In discard-focused deck you typically want to bid 1 to keep hand sizes low, so this ability either effectively negates an opponent’s draw phase, or negates it for both of you while stealing honor. If everyone is drawing 1 card a turn and honor is low, even one card or point of honor can make a huge difference to the outcome of the game. Importantly, since the ability is an interrupt, you only have to trigger it when it is to your advantage. Although Crane has received a lot of discard effects, a deck based around these cards has not yet hit high-level competitive play. But with enough cards, eventually a deck will form.

In Kyuden Kakita decks, this 2-cost character can defend, duel, and honor via Kyuden Kakita with no effective downside. But if the Dazzling Duelist happens to win that duel, the attacking player is also denied claiming rings, even if they win, letting you attack with that same ring later and helping you claim the favor. The overall dynamics of this card put it in a similar space to Brash Samurai, but with the added bonus of the Duelist trait, and no requirement to defend or attack alone to trigger its ability. Dazzling Duelist should see immediate play in competitive decks.

At 2 fate cost, this 1/3 Courtier isn’t terrible. The ability, however, is niche, and only useful in multiplayer. In that format, the Perfect Guest’s capacity to complicate conflict maths is not insignificant, and should allow Crane players to engage in some enjoyable mind games with friend and foe alike.

The Masterpiece Painter shows how tight costing can be. Although you’re paying 1 fate for essentially +1/+1 compared to the Perfect Guest, that 4 skill is significant, since it can single-handedly break a majority of provinces. In addition, the Painter’s ability chooses the number of players, and not the number of opponents. Therefore, in 1v1, you can choose one player – yourself – and get all the benefits of the Painter’s free pseudo card draw, while in multiplayer you also have the choice of helping someone else. Overall, that makes this an unexpectedly great character for 1v1 competitive play, with a nice bonus in multiplayer formats.

The last dynasty card for the Crane is Negotiation Table – a holding. What you’ll be hoping is that your opponents choose different effects, netting you the best overall return. What is more likely to happen, however, is that opponents will choose the same effect to minimise your rewards (and they get to choose – meaning they can choose an effect that benefits them more than you). In 1v1 games, this effect will never be better than symmetrical, so you’ll have used one of your cards to benefit both players equally, which is a losing strategy. In multiplayer this might yield better rewards (and is definitely more fun), but it’s still bad. Symmetrical cards require very specific circumstances to be good, and this card self-sabotages even that.


Dragon Dynasty

As a 1-cost Bushi Duelist, Inventive Mirumoto has a place in a few current Dragon decks, if only as a cheap body. The card ability requires you to have claimed the water ring. In a multiplayer enlightenment game where you hold onto the rings, that’s not difficult to fulfil, and in a 1v1 game, it just means finding the correct opportunity to claim water. When you do, you can take an attachment from your discard pile, pay its costs, and attach it to the Inventive Mirumoto. While you normally don’t want your attachments on a cheap character, getting a free Fine Katana is an excellent bonus to claiming a ring. The ability could also allow you to play a Smoke a second time, or to get an Ancestral card that became discarded so that you can return to hand when the Inventive Mirumoto leaves play. It also lets you extend the lifespan of highly impactful attachments like Talisman of the Sun.

The Agasha Prodigy bases its abilities around blind draws, but, if you have an attachment-heavy deck, you can skew the odds toward its working out for you. Conversely, if an opponent is playing a deck that is light on attachments, it’s probably not worth them giving you an honor. Therefore, even in a 1v1 game, this effect is likely to work solely for you, even if its outcome can’t be predicted with certainty. The Prodigy’s ability can be pushed a little further in a team conquest game, where both you and your partner are playing attachment-heavy decks. Playing the Prodigy does mean that you probably shouldn’t include attachments in your deck that have a negative impact, such as Cloud the Mind. However, in combination with the Dragon character Truthseeker, you can look at and rearrange the top few cards of your deck, ensuring that the right card is where you need it.

At 2 fate cost for a 2/2 Monk, the Ascetic of the North Wall’s base stats are drudgingly average. This is made worse by a pretty poor effect. If you’ve claimed the earth ring, he can’t lose fate or be discarded – except during the phase in which he would normally lose fate or be discarded. In theory, this protects the character against Assassination and the like, but he isn’t a high-impact target anyway. In multiplayer, you can grab the earth ring and hold onto it, giving him protection through many phases. In 1v1, you would have to claim that ring every turn, leaving big windows where he is vulnerable, not that anyone is likely to care anyway.

A 3-fate-cost, 3/2 stat line is below average, and the Mindful Warrior’s ability doesn’t work outside of multiplayer, so this character is basically dead on arrival for competitive 1v1 play. In the enlightenment format, he lets you switch around some rings to grab fate. For this, you need to be winning a conflict (1 ring contested) and already have a ring claimed. Getting extra fate is always welcome, and he can potentially combo with card effects that require specific rings, but there are a lot of hoops to jump through first, and this guy seems poor overall.

While you have the fire ring, all your attachments on other players’ characters gain Ancestral. In a team conquest game, this lets you drop attachments on  your buddy’s characters and then have them come back to hand after those characters leave play. Not amazing, but fun. In 1v1 it lets you reclaim Cloud the Minds and any other negative attachments that end up on your opponents characters.


Lion Dynasty

Ikoma Message Runner offers more than acceptable value with its minimal fate cost and the desirable Courtier keyword. Outside standard Lion midrange Courtier/Bushi decks, the Message Runner could also justify its inclusion in a swarm strategy alongside Those Who Serve. As well as potentially offering you additional purchase options in the dynasty phase by flipping a facedown province you control, the Message Runner’s action can be used aggressively, helping you to scout your opponent’s facedown cards and eliminate a key threat before it flips on the following turn.

Although primarily a multiplayer character, a 1 fate-cost Bushi with 2 military skill may make it into some Lion decks on efficiency alone. Righteous Akodo also provides another cheap character to bow for In Service to my Lord, or to sacrifice to the Hisu Mori Toride stronghold.

Harpoon (forcing your opponent’s characters into a conflict) has historically been – and remains – a very strong ability in L5R. The Battle Aspirant’s action has less utility than characters like Kitsu Motso, since it only works on the attack, but sometimes brute force more than does the job. This is particularly true for Lion, who have access to an exceptional number of high-quality military pumps and can often smash through any military opposition. With his low cost, good stats, and powerful ability, expect to see a lot of this character going forward.

Medium of the Living Soul offers the option of sacrificing fate on a chosen character to resolve a ring effect one additional time. While expensive to use in gross terms, this kind of ability can nonetheless win games. An interesting aspect of the ability is that you don’t have to trigger it when the opportunity arises, giving you the option to bluff and perhaps force your opponent into overcommitting during a conflict, even if you have no intention of actually spending the fate. You can also trigger it in response to other effects that let you resolve a ring, such as Kami Unleashed. The character’s skills are slightly below average but not terrible. The Medium is unlikely to be a commonly played card, but fills an interesting niche.

The latest 3 fate cost for 4 military skill Lion character, the Bushido Adherent stands out from the crowd with 2 political skill, 2 glory, and a self-honoring ability. The ability does come with the drawback of giving your opponent a card, but a 6/4 honored character seems more than worth that trade, and it’s possible that the additional draw may result in your opponent having more cards in hand than you, in turn activating a bevy of Lion’s other cards. On-demand honoring is powerful in Lion, especially when it can be used in Political conflicts. He lacks the newly useful Commander keyword, but outside of that, Bushido Adherent is a solid addition to Lion’s roster.


Phoenix Dynasty

Phoenix Courtier decks have been looking for another 1-cost Courtier for a long time. Expert Interpreter interferes with an opponent’s ability to play conflict characters during conflicts that involve a given ring. Each opponent can give you 1 honor to resolve the effect as well, but given that Phoenix Courtier decks (in 1v1) tend toward dishonor, the Interpreter’s ability may just as well work for you alone. The Scholar keyword has a limited number of interactions, though that may grow in future. The Interpreter has to fight for deck space against two of the best 1-cost characters in the game – Ethereal Dreamer and Solemn Scholar – so despite numerous factors in its favour, the Interpreter may still struggle to see extensive play, even in Courtier-focused decks.

In multiplayer, the Isawa Pilgrim’s ability provides a fun way to help out an opponent by giving them control of this character. In 1v1, the 2-cost slot for Phoenix is heavily contested, so even with the threat of Pride honoring the Isawa Pilgrim and creating a 4/4, the opportunity costs and additional investments required to benefit from this are not attractive. Where the Pilgrim may find play is, paradoxically, in a dishonor deck, where she may present an opponent with an unpleasant choice: either allow the Isawa Pilgrim to contest the water ring unopposed, and lose 1 honor; or contest the conflict, only to have the Pilgrim deliberately lose, dishonor herself through Pride, then use her ability to give herself to the defending player, causing them to lose 1 honor when she leaves play. (She can also do this on the defence, if an opponent chooses to contest the water ring.) A niche character who may see some fringe play.

The Mediator of Hostilities turns passed conflicts into card draw. Her ability is not limited to opponents, so you can choose to pass your own conflicts and still benefit. When combined with Pacifist Philosopher, who awards you with a fate instead of a card for passed conflicts, the Mediator can create an impressive resource engine, and this may just warrant investigation. With ring shenanigans, Shiba Tsukune, Display of Power, and resource generation through passing conflicts, a new form of pacifist Phoenix honor or dishonor may be viable. In multiplayer, where the possibility of passed conflicts only increases, the Mediator may be a worthy play on her own.

Looking at provinces is cute, but doesn’t really have a big impact. So the Serene Seer is a 3-cost 3/3 Shugenja with 2 glory. This is dismal, and not remotely good enough to see play.

In 1v1, only Hallowed Ground’s first ability is relevant, and really it isn’t that relevant since it’s telegraphed ahead of time. In the enlightenment format, you can focus on getting the water and void rings first, knowing that the other rings carry penalties for whoever claims them. The effects themselves are quite severe. Opponents with the air ring can quickly find themselves in real danger of losing through dishonour; players with the earth ring aren’t going to be able to steal rings; and players with the fire ring will have immense trouble maintaining a board of characters. This will probably be a high-priority target in multiplayer games.


Scorpion Dynasty

A 1-cost Shugenja with average stats, Shepherd of Visages is a decent addition to Scorpion’s lineup – especially to help play certain Shugenja staples like Cloud the Mind. Her ability has some decent utility, reducing the glory of your dishonoured characters (should that be necessary), or hindering your opponent’s honored ones. Not an auto-include, but can be a solid addition to the right deck.

Shosuro Actor has a lot of potential, but a 2-cost 0/0 is innately terrible, and if your opponent doesn’t put out a target to copy, it may not get better when you need it to. The dream is copying the likes of Lion’s Pride Brawler, but in the current environment, a much more likely situation is copying a 1-cost Crab, or a Border Rider that will stop being a Border Rider before you can use its action. If the Shinobi keyword becomes useful then the value of this obviously rises, but bear in mind than while pretending to be someone else, the Actor won’t be a Shinobi.

L5R has very few aggressive conflict actions on characters, and a straight-up bow is about as good as you can get. Your opponent gets to choose which participating character, but simply having the Proprietor on the table means that every conflict your opponent engages in needs to have some spud available to bow. The current environment has a lot of straighten available, but a straighten action used to counter this isn’t used to launch another attack later. The Proprietor is also particularly useful in Kyuden Bayushi, where it often costs a conflict card to dishonour one of your characters for later use. The Proprietor does become a 0/1 after using the ability, but any deck built to take advantage of KB’s action will have ways around that.

Utilising art from the greatest Scorpion character of the old setting, Bayushi Paneki, Master Whisperer is a very interesting card. He can function as a super-charged Favored Niece, cycling three cards of limited value for something better, and with a far superior statline. He supports the ‘mill’ sub-theme of Scorpion, and manages to finally be a card that supports that theme while also being playable. And in the very late stages of a game, when both hands are nearly empty, he can be used to draw three new cards even if you have fewer than three in hand. A card worth considering for most Scorpion decks.

Acclaimed Geisha House has a potentially powerful ability, but between the inherent unreliability of holdings showing up when most needed, and the need to dishonour a participating character, it is likely this won’t make the final cut. Offensively, it can be used to declare with a ring that has fate on it, and then switch to the ring you actually want (or just another one with fate on it), while defensively it has the potential to disrupt your opponent’s plan for the turn. Unfortunately, as mentioned, you can’t count on having it when you need it, and the requirement of a participating character means it doesn’t synergise with Display of Power. Acclaimed Geisha House is another card that helps support Kyuden Bayushi without costing a fate card, but may be a bit too unreliable to make it into decks.


Unicorn Dynasty

Much like Lion’s Righteous Akodo, the ability text on Altansarnai’s Vanguard is solely for multiplayer, but the Vanguard’s stats, as well as the key cost of 1 fate and the Cavalry keyword, mean this should see plenty of play in Unicorn swarm decks, and decks out of Hisu Mori Toride.

Unicorn’s current 1-cost Courtier, Utaku Mediator, has a really bad statline, so Unicorn decks will welcome the Merchant of Curiosities as another cheap Courtier. Favored Niece has shown the value of card cycle, and much like the other “your opponent may give you 1 honour to resolve this” cards, you’ll have to judge whether you’re getting enough value out of the ability to warrant your opponent also getting it. Unicorn often fly close to the sun with honor losses, so the extra points of honour may end up being important if the game draws out.

Endless Plains Skirmisher is a Moto Evicerator without the honor loss, and cheap enough to be straightened by Lion’s Take Up Command. An efficient card for a clan that is well-positioned to take advantage of efficient cards, the Skirmisher should see a good amount of play. It’s also worth remembering that you can move the Skirmisher into your opponent’s army, to force them to break provinces like Upholding Authority.

Way Station Trader features a strong ability that feeds into the playstyle of Shiro Shinjo. The Limited keyword means she can’t be played the same turn as Those Who Serve, the lack of Bushi may decrease her value in other decks, and she is reliant on your opponent having fate to steal, so she’s by no means an auto-include.

Forthright Ide is the third Unicorn Courtier of the set, so it’s possible we’re seeing a new direction for the Ponies. Like the others, the Ide’s stat line is entirely average, but he has a potentially powerful ability. Turning any card in your hand into a straighten is a potent option, and although you can’t use it between conflicts, you can use it while defending to straighten a character who has already attacked to let them swing again. 3 cost or lower encompasses some very dangerous Unicorn, including Utaku Tetsuko and Shinjo Yasamura, so while you may not get to use Chagatai again, you will likely have some great options anyway. Forthright Ide might see some play in tower decks, but his 3 cost may be too expensive for a support character. That said, the fact that he can straighten himself and has the Cavalry keyword may allow him to be the actual Tower, if he can get by without the Bushi keyword.


Neutral Dynasty

Shika Matchmaker is a neutral 1-cost Shugenja that could make for a decent filler, and may especially see play in certain Phoenix builds, but will typically reside in multiplayer formats. Allowing other players to pay fate costs for your conflict cards could be useful in some circumstances, but if fate is tight for everyone (which it usually is), why would an opponent help you out? It’s a cute idea, especially with the matchmaker theme, but instead of playing this card so you could beg for help, you could play a better card to help yourself!

Cunning confidant is the typical 2 fate for 1/2 that is rarely all that exciting. These calculations do change when your opponent has more captured rings than you, however, something that should happen every second turn, when you’re going second. On those turns, this character becomes a hefty 1/4 for 2 Courtier, which is well above-average value. Timing may be an issue though, so the Confidant will probably be overlooked in favour of more reliable and impactful characters.

This Bushi mirrors the Cunning Confidant, but for military instead. Both are solid characters, but their 2 fate cost remains unattractive due to Assassination, and due to simple stat blocks rarely having a real impact on the game.

As a monk, the Venerable Fortunist is of most immediate interest to the Dragon, but having another neutral monk character opens the trait up to other clans as an option. Balanced stats of 3/3 for 3 fate are decent, but not amazing. The ability is really where this character shines, allowing you to return a ring you have claimed that matches your role to gain 2 fate. This action can be taken at any point. For example, if you are Keeper of Earth, you can attack and claim the earth ring, then return the ring to gain 2 fate. You can then attack for earth again, and, after the Imperial Favor is assigned, use another Venerable Fortunist to return the ring again and gain another 2 fate. The Fortunist also has some synergy with Shiro Kitsuki, potentially forcing your opponent to choose between not playing the card you have named, or playing it, which will allow you to claim the ring that matches your role, and then return it for 2 fate.


Crab Conflict

In a typical 1v1 game, Kobo Ichi-Kai Jujutsu would end up being a +1 or +2 at best, and certainly inferior to a Fine Katana. In Enlightenment, however, having two or three claimed rings would be typical midway through the game. When the game is closing, this might even be a +4 military skill bonus for 0, which would be well worth the slot.

If Common Cause seems like a fun multiplayer card, look again and ignore the honoring clause. Sacrificing a character is a big cost if you’re, say, sacrificing a ready 5-cost character with multiple attachments and lots of fate, but it’s not even a cost if you’re sacrificing a bowed character with 0 fate. Crab especially have been using cards like Gallant Quartermaster and Kaiu Envoy as sacrifice fodder, even turning costs into benefits. In Service to my Lord has recently made a big splash in the tournament scene, and this is arguably a better version, since you can sacrifice characters who’ve already contributed to conflicts. Not only will this be a common card in Crab decks going forward, but you can also expect to see this being splashed, since, at 2 influence, it’s a really good deal.

Being able to determine which province your opponent attacks is pretty big, even if it costs 2 fate. Although tempting early game, more often you’ll save this for late game, when you can force your opponent away from your stronghold. Crab already make excellent us of Talisman of the Sun, and The Cresting Wave essentially is a one-use version of that. The Cresting Wave is vulnerable to event cancellation rather than attachment destruction, but critically it is an in-clan card, allowing Crab to splash something other than Unicorn and still enjoy such a powerful effect. In multiplayer games, this will be a lot of fun, and is a card where the support trait does make sense, since a player being attacked may happily pay the 2 fate to have the attack moved over to you instead.

There have been a few cards that boost province strength, and none of them see play, so I’m not sure why the designers keep making them with crazy costs like 2 fate and a sac. Given the multiplayer implications, Fulfill Your Duty could have well done with the Support keyword. Alas, it seems far too expensive and situational for a card that may only potentially save a province.


Crane Conflict

A Game of Letters is a situational card, albeit one that’s not too hard to set up. If an opponent has any honored characters, not necessarily in the political conflict, you get to honor one of your characters. If you have any dishonored characters, you get to dishonor one of your their characters. In some ways, this is like Court Games – limited to political conflicts and can honor or dishonor characters. Where it differs, though, is that you get to play as many copies as you like in a conflict. This could be a solid card for Crane, allowing them to catch up when an opponent has more honored characters, and could be a good way to set up the right dishonored target for a Novel Sacrifice or a Duel to the Death. Scorpion might also give it serious consideration as a splash card. In multiplayer it has a little more utility, since you can choose a status on one opponent’s character to add the same status to a second player’s character which emulates political shenanigans in an enjoyable way. This may see play across multiples formats.

Is Favorable Alliance really that favourable? Let’s first consider this card as if you were the only player involved in its effect. You could pay, for example, 2 fate and reveal the top 2 cards of your deck. For the rest of the game, you could now play those cards as if they were in your hand. Interesting, but not great value. In multiplayer, you can always refuse support, so Favorable Alliance will only benefit whom you want it to. And it could offer something spicy in a 2v2 game, where you and your teammate get to create a pool of shared conflict cards for some interesting cross-faction options.

There have been a few cards that protect a character from being targeted by events, but this is the first card we’ve seen that prevents all your characters from being targeted. At 1 cost and with the very specific requirement of you having a lower bid, Cultured Facade can be tricky to play, especially for a clan like Crane who likes to duel, where it is very easy for dials to change and often match. As impressive as this blanket protection can be, typically these types of cards don’t see play, since reliability is the best ability, and it’s generally more powerful to have a proactive card or a far more reliable way of cancelling opponent’s action.

Not bowing as a result of conflict resolution is a pretty big deal, even if it does cost a fate. We’ve already seen this with Kakita’s Final Stance, which lets a big tower unit bully-duel an opponent to avoid bowing at the end of the conflict. For Kyuden Kakita, that means you also get to honor up, providing an extra benefit. There is a lot of straighten in the current meta, and some of it does take place in conflicts (e.g., with Fan of Command), so Return the Offense can be used to lock down a tower that has moved in, which is immensely valuable in the current meta. While Kakita’s Final Stance stops your character from bowing, it also requires a military conflict, and another card to generate a duel. Return the Offense does most of this in one, making it a great card, and the fact that it has additional uses in multiplayer formats is icing on an already delicious cake.


Dragon Conflict

Inscribed Tanto is probably the best Dragon card of the set, which unfortunately is telling. This 0-cost attachment has +1 military skill, making it similar to a seal, but importantly for Dragon has the Weapon trait for Niten Master’s ability. Because it’s not restricted, you can drop it onto a character who already has two weapons, giving you one extra use from a Niten Master, or adding more power to a tower. Pathfinder’s Blade, long since restricted, was heavily used by the Dragon for the above reasons, on top of its great ability. Recently, Dragon have been using Sharpened Tsuruhachi to fulfil a similar purpose, so it’s clearly something the clan have wanted. And Inscribed Tanto also has some additional card text that’s actually pretty good! If you claim the void ring, then your character becomes immune to your opponent’s ring effects (mainly fire and water, but potentially void if the Phoenix are involved). Overall, a nice little utility package.

Contempaltive Wisdom seems to reflect one of the deepest mysteries of the Dragon clan, which is the apparent Contemp(t) from design that has left the clan in palliative care! The card is restricted, because heavy thoughts and tattoos really weigh down the arms. Having to return a ring is a significant cost, especially compared to Way of the Dragon, which has the same cost and doesn’t have that restriction. Why? I’ll have to think about it.

So, what can you get out of this? Well, if you drop this on Mirumoto Raitsugu, for example, any of your other characters can use his ability. So if your opponent avoids a conflict in which Raitsugu is involved, the threat of his ability remains, even if Raitsugu is bowed and at home. Right now, it seems like you can also give Raitsugu’s ability to Raitsugu, netting you an extra use. You could also play this on an opponent’s character and copy one of their abilities, which could be fun, though that does give them +2 political skill into the bargain. The cost of returning a ring is probably too high for this card to see play. You typically want to use abilities this costly and powerful to win early, critical conflicts, rather than having to win a ring before they become an option. This can be especially painful when you’re the second player. This could combo with the previously-mentioned neutral monk and the Kitsuki stronghold, but you have to ask yourself how many bad cards do you need to play to justify playing a bad stronghold in the first place?

Unquestioned Heritage allows you to move an attachment from one of you characters to another – if you have claimed the air ring. This is probably not intended to help you move your own attachments (why not just play the attachment on the second character to begin with?), so it’s probably intended as a way of punishing negative attachments, with Cloud the Mind being the probable offender. Is that good enough to warrant a card slot? Probably not. And the air ring clause genuinely makes you wonder if being required to have certain claimed rings was just randomly thrown onto cards to make it ‘multiplayer fun’ without any real consideration.

At 3 cost, you’re hoping that Impossible Koan is going to be great. Unlike some of the other clans, however, Dragon is almost completely reliant on Defend Your Honor to get cards like this through, leaving them in real danger of spending 3 fate and a card for no effect. The effect may be moderately potent against swarms, but towers will lose only a few skill points, so this seems best against low-attachment midrange decks. Presumably, the idea here is that Dragon are an attachment-focused clan, and the bonuses from attachments will still be there. Unfortunately, the quality of Dragon’s attachments has been pretty lacklustre, and other clans will often have greater bonuses from theirs. This might see play as a one-of in multiplayer games, purely for the fun of being able to mess with any conflict in the game, or potentially in 1v1 as a maybe-stronghold-saver, but right now this looks like a bad card.


Lion Conflict

Lion were already playing Seal of the Lion to gain the Commander keyword, so it’s very unclear how Take Up Command got printed with no cost, no attachment requirements and no Restricted keyword. Although Take Up Command is missing the +1 military supplied by the Seal, it trades it for an exceptionally powerful ability. Attaching this to a big, Unique tower and then using it to pull in, straighten, or both, the non-unique who just straightened your tower with In Service to My Lord is going to be a very common play in Lion decks going forward.

Called to War is likely to be a staple in Lion tower decks. The drawback of your opponent also getting to trigger its effect is only significant if that opponent has a giant Bushi tower as well. In other cases, the value returned by keeping your tower around for one more turn should vastly outweigh any value gained by your opponent. It also allows you to duke the water ring, potentially denying an opponent a key bow effect. Having languished for some time, Lion are now being showered with exceptional cards.

All Out Assault has the potential to cause blowouts, forcing poor attacks and reducing players’ options for an entire turn. As such, it is far more likely to cause entire turns to stall out, with the second player ending up in best position to take advantage. Another way to turn this card to your benefit is with dash-skill characters, as these characters can only be assigned to one conflict type, it forces their owner to declare that conflict to maximise the number of attackers. All Out Assault is an interesting addition to the game, and something to be wary of when facing Lion, though it will likely only be played as a single copy in certain builds.

A Waning Hostilities that only affects your opponent is exactly the kind of card honour decks will need to be viable in the long run, decreasing the likelihood of them losing honor to unopposed conflicts. Privileged Position’s 2 fate cost is quite expensive, and you need to have it in hand before drawing cards from that bid, so it can be difficult to rely on, but once played it gives its player a lot of freedom over how to play the turn. This may also see some play in regular Lion conquest decks as an answer to tower decks, but they are probably better off running their own tower instead.


Phoenix Conflict

A card that tries hard not to be too good, and not to be too bad, Peacemaker’s Blade falls into a weird space. On the one hand, its potential upside is huge. Locking a big character out of attacking is worth far more than 1 fate. Chances are that you will also be locked out of attacking in turn, simply due to the weight of stats on the other side of the board, but Phoenix are well positioned to take advantage of passed conflicts. On the other hand, Peacemaker’s Blade only prevents a character from being declared as an attacker, so movement effects will get the attached character into conflicts – and with a massive skill bonus that you paid for! Since the card is restricted, it’s also possible your opponent may remove the Blade by attaching two other restricted cards. With a downside that’s supremely awkward to work around if you intend to attach it to your own characters, and yet which will punish you heavily if your opponent can work around it being attached to their characters, Peacemaker’s Blade seems just right for maverick players who like to ride their luck. However! – Phoenix Courtiers feature a significant number of built-in sendhome effects. With enough sendhome, Peacemaker’s Blade approaches a genuine lockout card, and there may be a low-key powerhouse deck lurking amid what has generally been regarded as the trash of Phoenix Courtiers.

Cloud the Mind has been a constant presence since the start of the game for one good reason – characters with powerful actions get played. There have been a few variations on this theme, but a simple 0-cost event that blanks a character for a conflict is easily the best one so far. As a spell event, it works really well in Kyuden Isawa, and it provides another trigger for Isawa Uona. Obviously, there are circumstances where you will need to deal with a character before a conflict or outside of a conflict, but that still leaves a lot of scope for Trick of the Light. Trick of the Light is likely to see play in addition to or even instead of Cloud because of the titanic gulf between a 0-cost card and a 1-cost card. Also worth noting is that, because ‘until the end of conflict’ effects expire before ‘at the end of conflict’ effects, Trick of the Light will not stop a Fushicho that has been brought into play by Forebearer’s Echoes from bringing back another Phoenix character as it leaves.

Appeal to Sympathy is an event cancel, and that alone means it warrants consideration. It does put the cancelled event on the top of its owner’s deck, which means you’ll have to worry about it next turn, and it does cost a painful 2 fate, but if it buys you the time you need to win, it was worth it. A single copy in a competitive 1v1 deck might be a good option. You’re not going to cancel every action like you might with Voice of Honor, but having the option to cancel an otherwise game-winning play would be worth keeping 2 fate around for! Appeal does have Support, so in multiplayer another player can help you out, if needed.

A mass bow event for 2 fate is pretty big. Mirumoto’s Fury still sits on the restricted list and it only bows one character, albeit it far more reliably. The attacker can get out of this by discarding 3 cards from hand, and since Ramparts of Stone is limited, you’re only able to play one per turn. With no hand size and the bid 5 meta still ongoing, players typically have masses of cards in hand making this event somewhat lacklustre, but in a deck bidding 1 with a hand lock approach, this could be a devastating option.


Scorpion Conflict

Although you can cheat this character into play with From the Shadows and Ambush, the reality is that this is a multiplayer card. If the Shinobi keyword gets some strong conflict support it may be worth reconsidering, but for now, you’re much better off using your From the Shadows on a Shosuro Sadako or Shosuro Actress.

I’m genuinely disappointed this is a Scorpion card. I think a neutral card with a similar function would be very good for the game. Imbued has two main uses – shutting down Voice of Honour in Crane or Lion, and restoring the skills lost on your own dishonoured characters. With Mark of Shame on the Restricted List, this card is potentially worth playing as a one-of, just to give some out-of-conflict options for dealing with honored Crane characters, but it’s very unlikely to be a staple in most decks. So far none of the ways Scorpion have gotten to remove their own dishonour tokens has been worth playing, but this is definitely the closest to making the cut.

Political skill is much harder to generate on the fly than military skill, primarily due to the lack of an equivalent to Banzai!. This means that a lot of the time when a deck is making a political attack, they are either aiming to simply resolve a ring or have exactly enough skill to take the province. Compelling Testimony shuts down both of these plans. 1 fate cost isn’t cheap, but in many ways this is as effective as Mirumoto’s Fury, though obviously only in one type of conflict. I expect this to see a fair amount of play, potentially in combination with Castigated, where their combined one-two punch could see a significant threat removed from the board. Just be aware that no matter how low you bring a character, the Imperial Favor may still give them the 1 politics they need to win the conflict and claim a vital ring.

The ability to void a character is strong, even if your opponent gets to do it back. Unfortunately, the Bid restriction means this card often won’t be playable in the early game, when it’s most useful, because the scenario where Scorpion outbid their opponents is mostly likely the turn they play Duty to bid 5 to their opponent’s 1, and that is usually the final turn of the game. The 1 cost on top doesn’t help matters. Sadly another card enabled by a bid manipulation deck that doesn’t exist, created for a different card game where people don’t bid 5 all the time.


Unicorn Conflict

“All limits are player specific.” That line in the rules pretty much demolishes any real value this card might have. If the attachment was worth stealing, then it’s probably worth stealing back immediately. Calling In Favours this is not.

Free send home is very good, especially when you can use it to save a province. Free send home that’s dead in what is often the best conflict to use send home is less good. Depending on how fast and aggressive your deck is, this could well be worth a slot, but if you aren’t winning the game quickly, then giving your opponent a character to use in another conflict, combined with an entire additional turn of use, could cost you the game.

Step 1: Everyone currently fighting stops fighting and bows.

Step 2: Pick a new province to attack.

Step 3: You and your opponent move in the guys you actually wanted to fight with and hope this battle goes better.

There is no doubt that this card has the potential to blow out conflicts, especially when combined with Unicorn’s other movement tricks. You can assign one lone attacker, and if your opponent under-commits you can simply move in some more guys to win the easy coflict, whereas if they defend with a large force you can cause them all to bow. However, 2 fate and a card should turn the tide of most conflicts without having so many moving parts, and like Way of the Open Hand, the difficulty of using this when attacking the stronghold risks leaving you effectively down cards when trying to close out the game.

Charge! was good. Is a 2 fate Charge! good? Regardless of how powerful this ends up being, though I imagine it’s well worth testing in decks running big Cavalry characters, I’m surprised we didn’t see a wording similar to Forebearer’s Echoes that would prevent the character from hanging around for the rest of the turn, something acknowledged as a big issue with the original Charge!.


Neutral Conflict

Hige’s Sermon, more than any card in the set, has stirred discussion, especially concerning the current, tower-heavy meta. Tower decks run an excess of straighten abilities such as In Service to my Lord, Fan of Command, and soon the new Crab card, Common Cause. So the decks that Hige’s Sermon intuitively seems intended to stop are rather tragically the ones best equipped to turn around and use it as an offensive option. Unless FFG thought tower decks needed more help? Notably, this card is Limited, which means you can’t play this in the same turn as, say, Those Who Serve. Limited has long been a neglected keyword, only appearing on Doomed Shugenja for quite some time, so it’s great to see more cards with it appear.

Unicorn already have Way of the Unicorn, which doesn’t see play, so a 1-cost version certainly isn’t of interest. In addition, you don’t get to be the first player for the dynasty phase, reducing your chance to pass first. In a multiplayer game, you can play this for free and, since the first player will rotate, this can have a bigger impact. Getting the first conflict when unclaimed rings are on the line could actually be very important! It’s surprising that we’ve got this far into the set and this is the first card with a kicker when in multiplayer.

In the Enlightenment format, if you have five rings on provinces you immediately win the game, so this card is not relevant to that format. To capture five rings, you need to somehow get extra conflicts, steal a ring or rings with Display of Power or Roving Michibuku, cheat a ring with Secluded Temple, and/or retain a ring with effects like Wholeness of the World. All of these cards are suspiciously Phoenix… maybe there’s a deck there?

A turn where you somehow manage to win five rings is pretty much a slam dunk anyway, and if you end up with 5 fate left over on top of that, you’re already so far ahead that you don’t need this card to win. Unfortunately, the win effect will remain cute until some effect slips through and makes it broken. If we ignore all that, and just look at what the card can do, then you can use it to trigger the effects on rings you’ve already claimed. Often, this will be late in a turn which will minimise the impact for conquest-oriented decks, but may enhance it for dishonour or honour. At 5 cost, you’d expect it to do a lot, and unfortunately, this doesn’t live up to that promise. A Fate Worse Than Death already dishonors (fire), bows (water), and removes a fate (void) without requiring any claimed rings at all.


Summary

This deluxe box set is not at all what I expected. It’s being pitched as a fun multiplayer alternative, but the changes it brings to multiplayer are pretty slight. The treaty system is improved, but that’s not an aspect that every player is interested in. The new Support keyword is kinda lacklustre, there are a few cards where it does work and an opponent will want to pay the fate cost so you can help them out, but mostly it seems randomly tacked on. Too many of the cards are mirrored effects, which doesn’t make them multiplayer cards, it just makes them bad. Meanwhile, we have a bunch of super-strong tournament-level cards, many of them for clans that are already considered top tier. Time will tell, but this set definitely leaves us with mixed feelings.


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