Dominion cycle – Pack 3 – In Pursuit of Justice

Dominion cycle – Pack 3 – In Pursuit of Justice

Fantasy Flight are being very kind to us, and even though we can’t yet get the pack, they’ve announced the contents so we can keep excited about the game. And this pack certainly delivers with some super spicy cards.


Tsuma

This is almost a reverse of the recent Crab province. If all your characters have two or more glory, then every time you make a character out of this province they come into play honored with a nice chunky bonus. The Scorpion province Toshi Ranbo is in many ways similar, where you got an extra fate.  As the Scorpion players discovered, while the bonus is good the cost of leaving an easy province for your opponent to attack is too much. You’ll probably make one character with this and then lose the province. As the Crane already have a wealth of options on how to honor their characters, it’s unlikely they’ll play this province.


Silent Ones Monastery

This falls into the same issues as all the other eminent provinces as discussed, but the impact it can have on the overall game might push it into play. Scorpion dishonor broadly comes in two varieties: the popular Bid 5 as championed by Palumbo and the less common Bid 1 as championed by Akai. Bid 5 looks to draw the options it needs to dishonor their opponent out, but it does mean your opponent can bid 1 themselves and gain a chunk of honor. Silent Ones Monastery takes that option away. At most, they’re only going to be able to gain 2 honor during the draw phase which is a big boost for the Bid 5 deck. As this effect is per phase, the opponent has a typically is going to gain honor due to bids during the draw phase, rings during the conflict phase, and honored characters leaving play during the fate phase. So there is still the potential to gain 6 honor, but only if those honor gains are spread out across the phases. So it’s likely that this will prevent maybe 2 or 3 points of honor over a turn.

Worse still, not being able to gain honor after the first 2 means they can’t transfer honor after the first 2, so the honor loss on the other side gets negated. So if the Scorpion deck has a bunch of duels, it can choose to bid 1 to take honor from their opponent or bid 5 and have no honor transfer (after the first 2). For this kind of deck to work though, it does need to keep the Monastery alive. If your Scorpion opponent starts with this in play, then hit it hard and fast and hope you can destroy it!


Courteous Greeting

Unholding Authority has been the go-to Earth province for quite a while, but this new neutral province is a great option. The province doesn’t care about costs or traits for the characters, so you can take your 0 skill character and bow out that massive attacker. Typically your opponent isn’t going to see this province until after they’ve assigned, but you’ll get to assign your small character to defend. So this is a highly defensive province that is likely to save itself. If you do manage to save it and then attack into your opponent’s earth province(s) the ability can be used on the attack (assuming it hasn’t been used already this turn). Although Seeker of Earth isn’t a particularly popular there are other ways of getting more Earth provinces. Some of the Eminent provinces such as City of the Rich Frog are Earth even though they can fulfill the slot of another Ring. If you can somehow get Courteous Greeting online before your Eminent province is destroyed it could do double duty!


Blatant Swindler

Although Crab might not necessarily have an interest for a cheap Courtier, a 1 cost card that sends an opponent’s character home at the cost of transferring 1 honor is a bargain. Your opponent does get to choose which character, but their options can be significantly lowered with Crab’s common use combination of Assassination and Way of the Crab. Typically these kind of actions are popular in decks that like to stall and win by honor or dishonor, but the cost does limit that as an option. Instead, getting 1 or 2 of these guys into play will help clear the way to support your big guys. With a Butcher and some Covert attacking, Blatant Swindler is a fine addition letting you trigger cards requiring no defenders and removing the last few remnants of your opponent’s hope.


Third Whisker Sneak

Having to win an unopposed conflict can be tricky, but Crab do have a few tricks to make it a little more reliable. In many regards, Third Whisker Sneak is very similar to the Seeker Initiate. The ability is great, but the Seeker doesn’t do enough win that conflict in the first place. Third Whisker Sneak is similar, while you have the Sneak in play, your opponent is likely to try to defend and if that happens then the Sneak is just a 2 cost 2/1. The recent Crab decks, however, are playing with Butcher of the Fallen as a key part of the package and the Butcher along with a few Covert options can make unopposed pretty reliable. In addition, Crab have the character Shadowlands Hunter who causes any conflict he’s in to be unopposed. All this, along with the 1 extra skill, might push Third Whisker Sneak out of the Seeker Initiate’s situation and into a card draw package to replace the recently banned Spyglass.


Asahina Augur

It is a hard sell to pay 2 fate for a 0/0 character even if they are 3 glory and will be useful when they honor up. The ability does work well with the province Tsuma also in this pack allowing you to discard non-character cards at the end of the turn to make you get a character when you reveal at the start of the next turn. There might be some other similar combos that you can use, but I don’t imagine this character is going to be too popular. If this character sees play it will likely be as part of some abusive combo, rather than a standard deck.


Shrewd Investigator

Another Courtier for the Dragon clan giving them a second 1 cost Courtier character alongside the Kitsuki Counsellor. This, along with the next character, brings the Dragon courtiers up to 10 in total. If all those cards were high quality, that might be enough for a Courtier focused deck, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case. In this instance, you get a partial Meek Informant letting you sneak a look at some of your opponent’s cards. Unfortunately, you use the ability during a conflict which stops means you won’t get to use that information with Shiro Kitsuki until the next conflict. While information is useful, seeing some of your opponent’s hand, especially now that hand sizes can be quite large, and not doing anything about isn’t helping you win a game. Like some of the other Dragon Courtiers, the Investigator works best when hand sizes are small, but right now Dragon doesn’t have the tools to enforce or capitalise on that style of play.


Kitsuki Chiari

The second of the pack and tenth Courtier overall for the Dragon. As a cheap unique, Chiari is in that weird situation where getting the extra fate from a duplicate isn’t as useful as being able to play a second copy. The ability has the potential to be amazing, but only if you already know the right cards to name. This is a limited time ability, for two reasons, you have only so many provinces to reveal and as a 2 cost character you can’t afford to invest too much fate in her. Typically, I imagine you’ll pay 3 fate adding 1 extra fate to Chiara allowing you to keep her around for two turns. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a duplicate to keep her around for another turn. As the ability triggers during the on reveal phase, you can use that hand information you get when using Shiro Kitsuki’s ability. 

Despite some minor issues, Chiari is a great card. She has the potential to be as dangerous as the Kitsuki Investigator and the two combined can do a lot of damage to your opponent’s hand. As Chiari doesn’t need to be present, you don’t have to assign her to the conflict, so it can come as a surprise to an unwary opponent and it does give you something you can do with hand information such as from the Shrewed Investigator.


Master Tactician

This character has the same stats as Togashi Yokuni, very flexible suffering only from the risk of being dishonored. Luckily for the Tactician, if not Yokuni, the Lion do have a number of ways to honor up their characters and the glory to make that kind of card worth playing. Considering the traits, we have Bushi and Commander, the two most desired traits for Lion decks currently. The ability has been a source of some confusion, as unfortunately, the wording is quite poor.

The condition is having a Battlefield in play, we’ve previously mentioned the popular Favorable Terrain and Dishonorable Assault, but later in the pack, we’ll also see a conflict card that will make this requirement a lot easier to fulfil. Right now we believe the ability lets you look at the top card as much as you want without playing the card. If you want to play the card, you can only do that 3 times per conflict. So you’ll look at the card, maybe play it, if you don’t and you have a shuffle effect like Tactical Ingenuity you can use that and then look again. This lets you work around situations where you can’t use the card on the top of the deck until you’ve played 3 cards. Even after you’ve played 3 cards, this still lets you look at the top card which gives you information that can be useful. Add to this, that per Tyler, if you get a second Master Tactician or you discard and return this one, then you’ll get to use an extra 3 cards.

This is an absolutely fantastic character. The only flaw is the character is non-unique and as such can’t be straightened with In Service to My Lord or be dupped for free fate. This does, however, allow the Lion use their ancestor themed abilities to restore more than one Tacticians into the conflict. Two of these in a single conflict are likely to be 10 skill and 4+ cards, something not many decks will be able to oppose.


Student of the Tao

Paying 3 fate for a 1/2 character isn’t very attractive, the 3 glory can be nice but even paying 2 for that is a struggle. The ability is quite good though, a Seeker of Void deck running Kakudaira can end up with three provinces that a Student of the Tao can protect. While you’re more likely to set it up for a defence, it will also work when you’re attacking your opponent’s void province and does not require the character in the conflict! As a Shugenja and Scholar, this character does have the traits the Phoenix are most interested in, although the Courtier deck has recently had some success. All that makes this an interesting option that could find a slot. This character does, however, have Rally, and that means including this character into your deck has no downsides. The only worry about the Rally trait is where you flip into another Rally card meaning it doesn’t trigger, but if those are characters that you would play any way that’s not much of a downside. Arguably, that pushes Phoenix into  Shugenja Seeker of Void deck for the foreseeable future, just to get as much as they can out of this card.


Cursecatcher

Shugenja haven’t been a big focus for Scorpion, although often they’ve run enough to play Cloud the Mind. Although currently a lot of Scorpion decks run Keeper roles for Backhanded Compliment, historically they have had a lot of success with Seeker roles. The stats at 2/2 for 2 are just slightly above the often typical 1/2 or 2/1 but not by much. The ability though is super interesting. While you have the Cursecatcher in play, you’ll only attack your opponent’s provinces if they have a facedown card so you can cancel the province’s ability. That is a massive ability. It even stops provinces like Magistrate Station which is used outside of a conflict, as long as there is a facedown card in that province. 


Scholar of Old Rempet

Another Rally character. This time the character is a bit lacklustre. Paying 1 Fate for a 1/0 isn’t doing a lot, but it is a Shugenja so it is providing support for Shugenja cards. Not having the Cavalry trait does limit it’s use with some of the Unicorn cards. Since the Scholar has no dash skills, it can be in either type of conflict which is nice. The ability doesn’t require the Scholar in the conflict, so you can lose 1 honor to protect one of your non-uniques in any conflict as long as the Scholar is in play. The no events limitation, unfortunately, counts for your own events also. He can also be used aggressively to stop your opponent playing Banzai! etc, but the non-Unique restriction severely limits the value of that usage. So not a very exciting card for Unicorn, but as a character with Rally it gives an extra option with essentially no downside.


Lost Papers

When this works for you, it will bow out your opponent’s best character and then refill the province. Zero downside or work from your part, but super big impact. It doesn’t cost fate or even an action that might reduce your chance of getting passing fate. You could even end up with more than one copy resolving in a single turn!

It is possible that your opponent won’t have the character with the most fate in play. There are decks that like opening with a chunk of fate and keeping a single character around for the entire game while other decks focus on playing cheap characters just for a turn or two. Similarly, this isn’t going to do anything turn 1 when no one has any characters in play yet, as it can only be triggered when revealed so there’s no point holding on to it (obvious tip: mulligan it away). That said, with Rally it’s a free card and the absolute worst-case scenario is where you end up triggering another Rally into Lost Papers so this doesn’t activate. So not much of a downside.

Unfortunately, this likely ends up being so good that it goes in every deck, even the ones that would normally place extra fate on their characters. It’s like a game of roulette where sometimes you don’t have great odds, but if every game is free it’s worth spinning the wheel as often as you can. If everyone is playing this card, then you probably should try tilt those odds a little in your favor. If you’re making characters with very little fate every turn then your opponent’s Lost Papers won’t work but yours will! And that is how meta changes just because of one card.


Return From Shadows

Again we see more of this new theme for Crab around unopposed conflicts. As previously discussed, Crab look like they’re in a position where they could be quite good at doing this. At the simplest form, you win a conflict and use Return From Shadows to set up for your next attack, maybe blanking and revealing their stronghold province for the final push. As it blanks the province first, it prevents any on reveal provinces from triggering. The timing on Returns resolution is quite nice, as a reaction to winning a conflict, it happens before a province is about to break. So you can blank a province like Upholding Authority just before it was about to trigger.

This card is doing a lot. You get to reveal a province, blank it, and stop on break provinces from triggering if you end up attacking one. The only real trick is if Crab get to consistently play it. If they can, it’s a solid piece in what sounds like a terrifying deck.


The Wealth of the Crane

Obviously, this is a super expensive card, but that’s something that can be mitigated slightly by running Eminent provinces that are already face-up. You can also use the Crane holding from the previous set, Daidoji Marketplace, which will reveal your province for you. If you do manage to play this card, what is it getting you? You get to look at the top 10 cards of your dynasty deck and put one in each of your non-stronghold provinces. It doesn’t say you have to discard anything, so you do end up with an extra card which is nice. You are able to place cards strategically and fetch specific pieces of a dynasty based combo, for example, two Kakita Dojo and a Distinguished Dojo to gain some last few points of honor. Right now though, I’m not sure what that particular combo might be. Maybe this is for a Crab deck where they can fetch 4 holdings for a big turn?


Mantra of Void

The last Mantra, this time for Void. Giving Dragon the full suite of elements if they wish to run them. This Mantra is similar to all the others: it’s a reaction to your opponent declaring an attack for that one ring, it targets a monk or character with a monk attachment, and you get to draw a card. In this instance, it reduces the cost of your attachments by 1. This would allow you to for example, play 2 Mantra of Void when your opponent attacks for Void and then as your first action play a Togashi Acolyte for free and then for your second action play another Togashi Acolyte for free. In the ‘Strike the Summit’ style deck, where you’re looking to play multiple actions in a single conflict, this ongoing cost reduction can be amazing as the fate limitation on attachments is at least partially removed.

That said, this has all the problems of other mantras: It’s only on the defence, it has limited targets, and most frustratingly you have to wait for your opponent to declare that conflict (or get  Togashi Tadakatsu out). The Mantra cards have struggled to find a place in Dragon decks, partially due to their design, but also due to the initially limited number of monk characters. Lately, Dragon decks have had some success running some mantras and this is likely to be one worth trying out.


Makeshift War Camp

For 1 cost, you get +2 military for all your characters. It’s also a battlefield to trigger all those abilities that require a battlefield we were talking about earlier. Not a lot to say on this one. Early game it’s likely to be a 1 gold Banzai. If you have it on one of your own provinces, it’s unlikely your opponent will be able to win a military conflict against you at it. In the late game, it’s a finisher that will close games.


Shori

A 4 military boost for 2 fate is decent even if it is limited to unique Lion characters only. It does have ancestral, but you’re hoping to keep that character around the entire game so it’s likely to be rare for it to return to your hand. The real juicy content is when you attach this to a Champion character and suddenly you get an extra military conflict each turn. Right now Lion have lots of ways to ready or not bow so they can be in another conflict. Currently, there are two Lion Champions, Akodo Toturi (only the yellow version) and Matsu Tsuko. Despite the lack of commander, Akodo Toturi has still seen some play in successful Lion decks, unlike Matsu Tsuko. Shori is probably going to end up with a similar fate to the Crane sword Shukujo, where despite an awesome ability you are rarely able to line everything up to get things going. 


Studious

For 0 cost you get +1 political skill, you draw a card if you win a conflict, and if your character leaves play you get to draw another card. Unfortunately, you can only play it on a Scholar, but Phoenix are getting a decent range of Scholars of late. This attachment isn’t give you a lot though. If you’re willing to give it time it should replace itself and hopefully will get you an extra card or two. This might be worthwhile in a deck trying to dig down to a particular combo, a dishonor deck looking for backhanded compliments for example. Otherwise, it might be a hard sell especially with conflict decks so tight already and Studious doing very little immediately when you draw into it.


Study the Natural World

In many ways, this is an event version of Kaede’s ability but with a few more limitations. You need a Scholar, this only works on the attack, has a pretty steep cost at 2, and you can’t rely on the element of your opponent’s province if you’re attacking blindly into it. All that limits the usefulness of this card. On a more detailed reading, Study differs from Kaede’s text as it doesn’t have “instead of choosing an element to resolve”. Now maybe this is an omission and we’ll get a ruling to correct it, but right now if you play Study the Natural World and win the conflict you get to resolve all the elements at that step and then later move onto the resolving the ring step where you get to resolve one of the elements a second time. As the Phoenix have a number of ways to meddle with the elements themselves such as Seeker of Knowledge, this could end up a pretty big effect. The only challenge is you need to win that conflict after spending 2 fate on Study!


Way with Words

This 1 cost attachment seems innocuous, but it’s another cut that will bleed the Scorpion’s opponent to death. Someone dies dishonorably, a province is left undefended, an Air Ring triggers, a blackmail artist triggers. It’s the backhanded compliments that people remember, but that’s the final blade that only falls when everything else is in position. This is a relatively cheap and reusable source of honor loss that might be enough to move Scorpion decks focused primarily on Dishonour over to a Keeper of Water deck.


Hunting Falcon

The series of clan seals is a group of attachments that have +1 in some skill for 0 along with giving a trait. These do occasionally see play, but mostly for the traits rather than skill, indeed Fine Katana and Ornate Fan have reduced in popularity with time. The ability does let you peak at one of your opponent’s face-down provinces, which does give you information. Unicorn already have that with their Iuchi Wayfinder conflict character, but again that is more of a bonus with the Wayfinder who is typically played as a cheap Shugenja more than anything else. As a first turn play, it’s decent. Free military bonus and some knowledge on where to attack (or not). That perk is pretty slight though, making this an easy card to replace.


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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