Dominion Cycle – Pack 2 – Spreading Shadows

Dominion Cycle – Pack 2 – Spreading Shadows

The second pack in the Dominion cycle had a limited release before lockdown, but we’ve had a number of online tournaments where we could see the cards in action.


Seven Stings Keep

Seven Stings Keep looks fun and clever and is probably just okay. Then you declare an attack with it and you get to see your opponent have a stroke right in front of you, and you realise this Stronghold is much more impressive than you expected. SSK is not a simple plug and play card, but one that will need a deck to be built around it, as all Strongholds should. It gives a new opportunity for Scorpion cards that have been on the cusp of seeing play a new lease on life, just as the Brothers of Destruction Bayushi Shoju (Core) and Bayushi Aramoro. 

Wonderfully, there are no requirements on this stronghold. You don’t need Bushi or Courtiers; it doesn’t trigger only off a specific card type. You can be playing dishonor or conquest, and the stronghold will work just as well. Where Kyuden Bayushi requires a dishonored character and works better if you’re on low honor, Seven Stings Keep has none of that. The only real condition is that you are attacking.

Watching your opponent trying to work out if he can defend with his low Politics character when you have Shoju on the board will give you that giddy feeling being a Scorpion is all about. And if your opponent assigns a character with a dash skill and you choose the conflict they have dash in, they immediately bow and move home.

Seven Stings Keep is in definite danger of falling into the same trap as Kyuden Bayushi- Really good but just not City of the Open Hand. In the recent online tournaments, Seven Stings Keep did not feature. With City’s recent addition to the Restricted List, hopefully, more Scorpion will be willing to try out the other Strongholds.


Shinsei’s Last Hope

Cost reduction is fantastic, and getting an extra two fate every turn is well worth it. Unfortunately, you end up with your character dishonored, which can often be a -1/-1 or -2/-2 skill penalty for Crab. To get the most of this Eminent province, Crab players will want to play characters with 0 glory, pushing this province towards the berzerker deck that has always been on the edge of viability. As an Earth and Water province, it is likely to fill the often lacklustre Water slot competing against Midnight Revels.

A review of the Crab character base does show 17 Crab characters with 0 glory along with another 29 at 1 glory, so there is a character base to support this. It also works well with Ivory Kingdoms Unicorn and Marauding Oni. As there is no minimum of 1 to the cost reduction, that means characters like the 4 military One of the Forgotten is coming into play for free. At the other end of the curve, it makes Kisada a 3 cost character. Although having 0 glory will let you ignore the skill penalty of being dishonored, you will still need to manage the effective 1 loss of honor each turn. Also, if you’re looking for characters to appear on this province then it might be a good idea to reduce the numbers of non-character cards you’re playing. This includes holdings which are currently a Crab clan strength and many of the new dynasty Events which are the new hotness.

Looking at recent decks, Shinsei’s Last Hope has not been popular with Midnight Revels the prefered Water province. This does feel like a province with great potential though, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Berzerker themed deck playing this do well in the next few months.


Spectral Visitation

This Lion Earth province lets you take a character from your discard pile and put them into play, and just in case you don’t already have a character discarded it will discard the top 4 cards of your deck to give you some options. As the reaction is to when the card is revealed, you could use that character to defend or you could save them for later to attack.

Lion have not had great success in recent tournaments, but the two Lion decks that did make it to top cuts were running Upholding Authority instead of Spectral Visitation.


Retire to the Brotherhood

As this effect happens after the province is revealed, any characters the attacker gets from the effect end up at home, but any characters the defender gets can be assigned to the defence. This typically will be a stronghold province, allowing the defender to prepare for it while their opponent won’t necessarily know for sure. If the Phoenix player just has their stronghold province left with Retire to the Brotherhood they can confidently attack with all their 0 fate characters using the Void ring to bring another one of their opponent’s characters into the effects range.


Wind’s Path

The gold standard for this kind of effect has been the Scorpion holding Hidden Moon Dojo. While you do start the game with Wind’s Path active, you’re only looking at one province in comparison to Hidden Moon Dojo’s 2 to 3 provinces. In addition, Hidden Moon Dojo characters could be played outside of conflicts, letting you make a character and then declare an attack with them. Those two things may not seem like much of a difference, but combined they pull down the effectiveness enough that I don’t think Wind’s Path is worth playing.


Driven By Courage

A neutral province is always going to be interesting, and this one gives one of your characters a +2/+2 at an Air province, so either this province, your opponent’s Air province or extra’s provided by the Seeker of Air role. When looking at provinces I always consider two aspects, will it help defend itself and will it have an impact outside the conflict where it is attacked. This card does both, even if in a limited and arguably minor way. It could be of particular interest for duelling decks where the extra bonus can help them win duels they might otherwise have to gamble on.


Butcher of the Fallen

This easily is the card of the pack and has been in every Crab deck since release. If you make this monster turn 1, you have 5 unbroken provinces and only characters with printed military skill of 6 or more can defend. There are currently 16 characters in the game that make that criteria, of those only Butcher of the Fallen, Hida Kisada, Daidoji Uji, Akodo Toturi, Fushicho, and Moto Chagatai actually see play. So a turn one Butcher is almost certainly getting to attack an undefended province.

Even after a few crab provinces are broken, requiring a printed military skill of 4 or more to defend shuts out a massive number of defenders. Combine it with some of the Covert cards Crab have access to and your opponent doesn’t even get to defend. That this is a 4 cost card with 6 military skill makes it even better. Oh wait, it also has Rally??? A trait that I’ve previously made the argument for running blank cards if they had Rally! This is a quite frankly bonkers card that explains why Crab have won 2 out of the 3 online tournaments recently held.


Cunning Negotiator

Another Rally character. From some of the early Rally cards, I had a false perception that Rally would only be on event cards, just a little perk to encourage playing dynasty events. Boy was I wrong. Characters with Rally are a win/win. If they’re good enough that you’d consider playing them without Rally, then they’re probably 3x in that clan until the end of time and will influence the character of that clan going forward. Cunning Negotiator seems to be one of those. As a high politics, Courtier and Duelist, with an innate duel this character ticks a lot of the Crane’s requirements. Assuming you win the duel, the effect is pretty great. For your own row you’ll play a set of provinces with actions that you can reuse like Shameful and Manicured Gardens. On the attack, when you’re more likely to have a political conflict, the ability is likely to be less reliable although even then just getting the duel to honor up with Kyuden Kakita will probably be worth it.


Daidoji Marketplace

Here we see another take with Holdings having Rally. Revealing your province can allow early triggers on reveal provinces such as Market of Kaze-no-Kami or Illustrious Forge. Alternatively, it can bring ‘online’ cards with actions that can be used outside the conflict like Magistrate Station or Model of Courtesy. Let us assume you don’t use any of those cards, is Daidoji Marketplace still worth running? As the ability is a reaction, you don’t have to use it so if you don’t wish to reveal the province all you’re doing is telling your opponent it’s not a province that would have been useful to reveal yet. It is +1 province strength and it is Rally. Right now Crane also have Cunning Negotiator and the neutral A Season of War as their other Rally options so yeah, I could see playing Daidoji Marketplace just to run another Rally card until something better comes along.


Traveling Philosopher

The stats aren’t thrilling. The ability is almost the reverse of Kitsuki Yaruma who places provinces face down when he enters play. We know Yaruma did see some play a long time ago, back when Restoration of Balance was still a on-reveal effect in Seeker decks where getting to reveal a province again often meant getting extra fate. The Philosopher is a Monk character, which is a direction the Dragon clan are pushing in, but frustratingly this might have been better as a Courtier where it could have been played along-side Yaruma to double up on the effect. Ultimately, this is a card dead on arrival with only neutral provinces to put face down and no synergy with the rest of the Dragon.


Chronicler of Conquests

A 1 cost courtier character that can gain you honor is something that can find a space in an honor running deck. With 2 politics it can get some work done and with 1 glory it can help getting the favor. The action does require a battlefield to trigger, and while the first instinct is to go to the new attachments that are played onto provinces (Field of Ruin, Prepared Ambush, Total Warfare), more often this is going to be fulfilled by the holding Favorable Ground or the province Dishonorable Assault. Nothing amazing,

Jon: “I think you’re wrong about Chronicler of Conquests being ‘nothing amazing’. Imagine if I had a Scorpion guy that said ‘If there is a Poison in play your opponent loses 1 honour’. He would just end games, and this guy will do the same in Honour decks, which we know work now since they won the European Kotei season.”


Inspired Visionary

Phoenix have always enjoyed cheap Shugenja and even a lackluster stat line like 1/1/1 for 1 can see some play. This is especially true for the Fushichō deck which splashes the Lion card My Ancestor’s Strength which can turn a small 1/1 into a massive character. The ability itself isn’t great as it allows your opponent to draw a card, but it’s cheaper than Miya Mystic and presents a constant threat. It also requires leaving this character unbowed as far as the fate phase, so you’ll only really get value from the 1 glory during the favor contest.

Update: A more proactive way of using the ability is to shuffle one of your own attachments back into the deck and draw a card. While you can always do it for attachments that aren’t getting much value, the best case is where a character with an attachment is leaving play. This could be something simple like a Fine Katana on one of your characters or could be more interesting like a Cloud the Mind on one of your opponent’s characters where shuffling the attachment back in has more value.


Thunder Guard Elite

The elite police force of the Scorpion city Ryoko Owari Toshi, the Thunder Guard are little better than the criminals they arrest. That reality is aptly demonstrated by their very powerful ability – Scorpion are quite often happy to lose an honour to hurt their opponents, and they have a nice synergy with Shosuro Hyobu, the Governor of Ryoko Owari.

This Scorpion character pushes towards an otherwise underdeveloped theme of Scorpion military. At 4 cost the 4/2/0 isn’t great but is reasonable. The ability forcing your opponent to discard a random card at the cost of 1 honor is fantastic. The Pride keyword on a 0 glory character might seem a bit strange, but it actually has a lot of utility in the Scorpion. For example, the honored status can be redirected by Young Rumormonger or Shameless Gossip or you can defend to lose a battle but save the province and then ready your Thunder Guard Elite with Kyuden Bayushi.

Thunder Guard Elite did not feature in any of the recent top cut Scorpion decks who instead favor control and dishonor style decks, but it does add an extra element to Scorpion conquest and may help develop that deck.


Dispatch to Nowhere

There’s not really much that can be said about this card. It’s hard to see why it was printed, it’s not particularly on theme for Scorpion, the art is entirely wrong (why are the Scorpion getting rid of their own guy) and the effect is ridiculously over the top. 

As a dynasty event, it can only be played during the dynasty phase. For 1 fate you can discard a character with 0 fate. On turn 1, you’ll either see a cheap target or you’ll force your opponent to invest more in their own characters to avoid it. From turn 2 onwards, you’ll probably see enough of a return on investment (i.e. a 2+ cost target) that it’ll be worth spending the 1 fate every turn. Even if you don’t see a target, you can leave this even in your province until the next turn perhaps arranging a target by removing some fate with Ring of Void or A Fate Worse than Death.

Like Way of the Crab, this changes how your opponent has to play the game and far too often does so in ways that they just can’t play around. Combine this with some removal that doesn’t care about fate like Assassination, I Can Swim, and Noble Sacrifice and no one will be safe. This appeared in the majority of Scorpion decks that made the top cut in recent events and you can expect it to be in every Scorpion deck going forward.


Twilight Rider

We here at Imperial Advisor (mostly) believe that decks should be playing 6-9 Rally cards if able, and at worst they are blank cards that make your deck effectively smaller. A character with Rally is even more valuable and without looking at the rest of the card, we’d expect to see this as a 3x in all Unicorn decks going forward.

Now we actually look at the rest of the card, the stats aren’t amazing but it is 3 military for 3 fate, has Cavalry and Bushi and has a good ability. One of the best characters the Unicorn have is the 2 cost Border Rider. This isn’t quite that, but if you do have a movement effect, it is close as you’ll get two conflicts out of this one character. If this didn’t have Rally, I’d give a little more consideration to it, but as it does it’s going straight into my Unicorn deck. It does improve the quality of movement effects in a Unicorn deck, so that does bear some consideration.


Moto Stables

In many ways a Holding can be considered to be another card in your hand. Favorable Ground and Shitomie Encampment are effects most decks would be happy to play and Imperial Storehouse is literally an additional card. A Holding that gave +2M as an action is one that would be worth considering in non-swarm decks, and although Moto Stables has a condition on its pump, it is usable twice per turn, and thus can generate as much Military as a Banzai!. A solid addition to Unicorn decks that lean heavily into the movement theme of the Clan.


Disciple of Shinsei

Voted the best Dragon card out of the set! On the one hand, that’s a dig at the rest of the cards, but this neutral character is an excellent option for Monk decks. It takes the slot of Miya Mystic, for the same cost you get Monk instead of Shugenja and 2/2 instead of 1/1, but the destruction effect only triggers when the character leaves play rather than the mystic’s far more useful action. If you can find an effect to sacrifice that Disciple at will, then this can be even more useful. For example, a Crab deck can use Funeral Pyre, destroying an attachment and getting a card at the same time. For non-Crab players splashing an effect like Common Cause can get the job done. The trick here of course, is using cards that you would use anyway rather than trying to work to make the Disciple a little better.


Obsidian Talisman

Earlier in the pack we were looking at Shinsei’s Last Hope, and now we have an effect that can remove the dishonor effect. So for a card and an honor you can still get the 2 cost discount from your province but also run a few higher glory characters. You can also play this attachment on your opponent’s character to easily remove the honored status. That might be enough to see it’s inclusion in some Scorpion decks, where they can either remove their opponent’s honor status or remove the dishonor on their Courtiers to keep Forged Edict active. This is a Void role only card, but Void has typically been a good option.


Highlight the Flaws

For 1 cost you get to cancel the effects of a province. That’s pretty big. As an interrupt, you don’t need to play it until it’s worth your while and it comes as a surprise for your opponent. You do need to play a Fire role which hasn’t been great and you can’t always rely on your opponent having an action worth cancelling. When it does work though, it can be big. Stopping your opponent from triggering an Upholding Authority is great, but attacking into their stronghold and stopping them from triggering the Rally to the Cause they were relying on can be game winning.


Mountaintop Vigil

While cancelling a ring effect can be pretty good, spending a card and a fate to do it typically isn’t going to be worth it. As a conflict action, you telegraph to your opponent what is about to happen and they have an opportunity to adjust their plans. That also stops this being useful against Display of Power as your opponent doesn’t play it and you end up cancelling your own ring. That this is also locked into a Void role really makes me question what design think Dragon do.


Logistics

It would seem the primary goal of Logistics is to get a second use out of a Battlefield attachment you have in play but not at the right province. In that case, the attachment moves over to another province owned by the same controller and you get to draw a card. Logistics can be used to either save cards from a province about to break or moving them into a province you’re about to destroy.

The far more interesting way of using Logistics is to pile your own cards into one single province. As Logistics doesn’t discard cards out of the province you’re moving to you, can end up with multiple cards in a single province. This can be particularly important for decks like Crab where holdings are key as it lets you stack holdings.


Ethereal Alignment

For 5 cost you can unbreak a province! But only when the conflict phase ends and only if you managed to claim a ring with the same element as the broken province. If you you could do this as an action rather than reaction, then I think this could have been good. You could attack and claim the ring, then restore one of your 3 broken provinces and your opponent no longer can go in on your stronghold like they were planning. As a reaction to the conflict phase ending however, you have to save that 5 fate, somehow claim a ring while being presumably on the back foot, and give your opponent a dynasty phase to plan their way through. Maybe if you had spent the 5 fate on something more proactive in the same turn you wouldn’t need to get a province back!


Suffer the Consequences

The flavour of this card is great, with a high price (a Scorpion sacrificing themself for the Clan) giving a high reward. The actual reward seems an odd choice for Scorpion, who probably shouldn’t be getting additional conflicts, but at least it’s not killing an opposing character. Having to Sacrifice a bowed Bushi, Courtier, or Shugenja doesn’t seem like much of a cost. Presumably you will have attacked during the first political conflict so you’ll have a character bowed and the number of characters without those 3 traits should be relatively small (Scorpion seem to have 5 in total). 

Earth is already a popular role for Scorpion, as it is the best Ring for Keeper Initiates and Venerable Fortunists, so there is a good chance this will slot into Scorpion decks as a single copy for catching your opponent off-guard. That said, this only saw play in 1 of the Scorpion decks in recent events. It certainly feels like it has the potential to see a lot more play.


Never Yield

A blanket effect preventing your army from being bowed or moved home does have the potential to be strong. You’ll rarely enough if your opponent has an effect this is going to stop though, so much of the time you’ll play it blind hoping it’s relevant. In cases where you opponent does have a bow or send home action, unlike with a cancel this means they’re just going to play it on the next conflict. Given that, this is probably best played on the last attack into your opponent stronghold when they have to give all or nothing. It might be the sort of card that you add a 1-off into the deck hoping to draw it for that final finish to cut down your opponent’s options.


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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