Dominion cycle – Pack 4 – Campaigns of Conquest

Dominion cycle – Pack 4 – Campaigns of Conquest

The Dominion cycle continues with Pack 4 Campaigns of Conquest, boasting a new stronghold, 9 Rally cards and a new event cancel for Scorpion.


Hayaken No Shiro

Currently, L5R has a significant issue with an excess of straighten, allowing single characters with lots of attachments (Towers) to dominate the environment. This is particularly true of Lion decks, where cards like In Service to My Lord allow a smaller character to be bowed to straighten a Tower. This stronghold lets you attack or defend with a 2 or lower cost character and have the ready for another conflict. Often this will be a 3 military character like Matsu Berserker or Battle Aspirant but could equally open up political conflicts with Samurai of Integrity or an honored version of one of the many 2 glory characters. Alternatively, you can use it to straighten a 2 glory character after the last conflcit of the turn to gain control of the Imperial Favor.

In general, you don’t want to build your Tower on 2 cost characters, since most decks still play Assassination. Instead, you can use this stronghold to straighten the throwaway cheap character that just attacked alongside your Tower and then use In Service to My Lord to straighten your Tower. Or to straighten your Ikoma Tsanuri (later in the pack) so that your opponent’s Province choices simply don’t get to matter in the game.


Breaking In

A variant of Emperor’s Summons, a card that hasn’t seen any real usage. The increase in value by sometimes being able to safely store the character on your Stronghold province is counterbalanced by the significant decrease in cards seen when choosing who to bring out. If your deck really wants to see a specific character, then having access to Breaking In and Emperor’s Summons will help you get there, but there are simply better options in both elements for most decks.


The Pursuit of Justice

An action that readies a character is pretty great, but this action can only target participating characters. So you either assigned a character and then bowed them or you have some other effect to move a bowed character into the conflict and you’re okay with them bowing at the end of the conflict. Midnight Revels remains the gold standard for Water provinces and The Pursuit of Justice doesn’t change that. This might have some use in a deck with lots of movement like Unicorn Golden Plains Outpost.


Kuni Purifier

Non-targetted discard often is low impact in this game of massive hands, but random discard at least has the chance of getting a good card. The trigger, however, is largely out of your control, and your opponent may declare a token attack just to avoid the Purifier’s ability. As a Shugenja, it is outside of theme for the Crab, but it is their 8th Shugenja character. A number of those characters have effects that are used on the defence, which works nicely with the Purifier’s incentive for your opponent to attack. Kuni Yori also has a card discard element, so the Purifier works quite well with him. The stats for 3/3/1 for 3 are slightly better than those the clan have previously received for their Shugenja, but are not enough to justify the Purifier’s inclusion alone.

One way to prevent your opponent from attacking, is to bow and kill their characters. In this regard, the Crab who uniquely have access to Way of the Crab may be able to put together a kill deck that gains advantage when their opponent cannot attack. Eith the Purifier, Hida Amoro, Intimidating Hida, and One of the Forgotten that could be quite scary to play against.


Veteran of Toshi Ranbo

As a Rally character, this is probably going straight into all Crane decks. Luckily for the Crane, Bushi is a trait they have some interest in (Courtier or Duelist would have been preferable). The ability, in theory, gets better as the game goes on, Crane have a range of honoring effects and in an attack on your last province, this character has 4 glory and is a 7/5 when honored. So this does work within the core focus of the clan. Early game, having a low glory could be seen as a benefit, as it means any dishonoring effect will have minimal impact, but that is probably too niche to worry about.


Crippling Taxes

This Keeper only dynasty event is very similar to the Dragon card in pack one, Cycle of Rebirth, but Criplling Taxes does not refill! This takes away the cycling option on your own deck but makes targetting your opponent’s draw much more effective. Turn 1 you’re the active player and you have this dynasty event in your province. Your opponent has one character in their provinces along with a bunch of holdings. You play Crippling Taxes to discard that character and they don’t get to make any characters, that could be game-winning. Alternatively, you remove that one key holding or dynasty event your opopnent has. In addition, it can clear a province that has been stacked with cards, so while the increase in Rally does increase your opponent’s options it also lets Crippling Taxes remove more cards. If you’re going second, you’re already losing that passing fate, so reducing your opponent’s options coming at no cost.

This card does not have Rally, so you’ve cost yourself a dynasty slot to get this effect. While running holdings, which fill a similar slot, has been normal from the start, dynasty events are locked into a very limited window of use and as such are more likely to be wasted. Despite this, the effect has the potential to be high impact and is definitely worth testing.


Stoic Rival

Every Rally card is important and Rally character cards are especially so. Dragon will be including this character in decks just for the Rally and since we’re probably only getting Rally cards in this cycle it’s likely the Stoic Rival is here to stay. Characters with Rally are staples you’ll often add to your deck before you know what the deck is supposed to do. Due to this, the traits and quality of these Rally characters end up clan defining. A good Rally character that fits into a clan’s primary themes and therefore all the major decks, will be a big asset, one which doesn’t will hold the entire clan back for several cycles.

This character is very similar to the Niten Adept, the stats are the exact same, they’re both Bushi, and their abilities require them to have attachments. The Niten Adept doesn’t see a lot of play, but does see some, especially in decks running Reprieve and Finger of Jade which will also protect them from Assassination. The Stoic Rival’s requirement is a little easier, as a single attachment on your opponent’s character won’t immediately shut it down and it doesn’t require bowing attachment, so a Way of the Dragon by itself will let you dishonour two characters. The effect obviously is less impactful, dishonoring a target typically isn’t as good as bowing them. 

It is difficult to see a deck that the Rival is suited for. Up to now Dragon Bushi decks have had mixed success and dishonoring isn’t a coherent Dragon theme. There are two other characters that have straight dishonor effects, the Hitsu-Do Disciple (a monk), and the Master Alchemist (a Shugenja). It does work well with Mirumoto Hitomi (a Bushi) or Justicar’s Approach (requires a Courtier). He is a Duelist, adding to the Dragon’s growing collection, but the only Dragon card that cares about Duelist is the Mirumoto Dojo which rarely sees play. Right now Duelist is only relevant for the Crane who have Iaijutsu Master, Kakita Dojo, and Test of Skill as reasons to run the trait.

As a Rally character, I’m expecting Stoic Rival to go into every Dragon deck for the foreseeable future. For me, this means the Dragon are now a Bushi clan who use attachments and dishonor characters. Hopefully that”s something design actually plan to support.


Hidden Mountain Pass

As a Rally holding, this card will typically replace itself and give a bonus just for being there. In this case that’s +1 Province strength and at the end of the conflict phase this turns your province facedown. Leaving the Rally to the side for a moment, Dragon have multiple effects focused around placing provinces facedown, so much so that it’s clearly a theme. Mirumoto’s Fury has a revealed provinces requirement as does the new Asceticism in this set. Kitsuki Chiari’s ability is a reaction to one of your provinces being revealed and the number of cards the Shrewd Investigator looks at is the number of your facedown provinces. What Dragon do not have, is on-reveal provinces worth playing. Scene of the Crime lets you look at your opponent’s hand. Sharing Shinsei’s Wisdom moves a fate between two characters owned by the same player. After that, you need to go into the neutrals looking for options.

That aside, as this is a holding, you have very little control over where it is going to end up. If it turns up on a broken province it cannot trigger. If it turns up on a province that has yet to be revealed and you have other unrevealed provinces, then your opponent will attack another province. As Eminent provinces can’t be turned facedown, you don’t want it on one of those either. If you manage to get it on a revealed unbroken non-eminent province, then you have to hope it will be relevant, either a province with an on-reveal effect or if you are playing the Seeker role the 50% chance that it will be the right element. This can all be achieved with a Rebuild, but after all that effort you have to wonder if what you get out of it is actually worthwhile. While the Crane equivalent of Daidoji Marketplace isn’t a particularly exciting card, it is far easier to trigger and has provinces it will actually work with.

When Rally first came out, I was asked if I would play a blank Rally card, and after considering the ability, this is as close as we’re probably going to get. At that point, we had only seen the events and I mistakenly thought that Rally was being used as a kicker to encourage the use of dynasty events. Now we’ve started to see more of the cards in this set, it turns out that Rally has been sprinkled randomly throughout the cycle like the Salt Bae meme. We now know that cards like Butcher of the Fallen and Lost Papers get Rally. For Dragon, right now, I would recommend playing Lost Papers, A Season of War, and Stoic Rival but not Hidden Mountain Pass. If Dragon get another Rally card that actually does something, I would add that too. Not Hidden Mountain Pass. Given the lack of actual provinces this works with and the random nature, I’m really disappointed in design. This feels like a filler card that thrown together to meet a deadline and fill pack rather than ever see any actual play. It’s too random and too low impact on the rare occasion it does trigger.


Ikoma Tsanuri

There appears to be no rhyme or reason in the costing of Rally. If this version of Ikoma Tsanuri was printed without Rally, she would still be an auto-include in every single Lion deck from now until she cycles out of the game. She has average stats for a 2 cost character, the very valuable Commander Keyword, and an incredibly potent ability that simply shouldn’t be on a 2 cost character. This is a better stated Cautious scout that doesn’t have to attack alone, has better keywords, and has Rally.

I definitely feel that Ikoma Tsanuri is the poster girl for my concerns about what appears to be the current design approach for the game. Every pack seems to be a mix of trash like Hidden Mountain Pass and overpowered bullshit like Tsanuri. It definitely feels like design is taking a YiGiOh / MT:G approach where you print some powerful chase cards that shift the game. That sells the set and then eventually the set cycles out and new power cards replace it. While that might be fun for some games, it just doesn’t make sense in an LCG and highly factional game like L5R.


Isawa Tsuke

Many of the Phoenix cards from the core set had requirements around the ring for the current conflict, this reverses that and Tsuke’s ability can only be used if the Fire ring is in the unclaimed pool. This ability then is active until someone declares a Fire conflict. This encourages you to not declare fire, which as Tsuke has Pride is fine, but it also encourages your opponent to declare Fire which could leave Tsuke in a bad position of dishonored.

The ability is a slow burn, it doesn’t directly impact the current battle but can have long term impact on the greater game. Unfortunately, abilities like this tend to not be effective. While long term impact is important, short term gains in this game often turn into more gains. You bow a character, so you win a conflict. You win the conflict so you trigger and claim the ring. You’ve claimed the ring so you get the Imperial favor, and so on. In addition, Tsuke has Pride, which means you want to win every battle you assign him to. At first glance, his ability does look like it might discourage defenders but the ability doesn’t require he be in the conflict. This has the potential to catch an opponent out, but it does mean his ability isn’t contributing to winning the conflict he’s in.


Celebrated Renown

This dynasty event card lets you take an action and pay 1 fate to honor up the character with the most fate. It is a triggered event, so if you don’t want to honor up the character with the most fate you can choose not to trigger it. As this does require an action, the effective cost is probably closer to 2 fate as you’re missing out on passing fate in addition to the 1 fate you’ll spend. As a Rally event, it opens up the opportunity for it to be useful without any real cost.

Unfortunately, the target does require a similar space to that of Lost Papers, so if you set your character up as a target of Celebrated Renown, you’re also setting them up as a target for your opponent’s lost Lost Papers. Unlike Lost Papers you can make a character before you trigger the ability but then so can your opponent!

The real question here is if you could pay 1 fate to honor up a character. You’re lacking a lot of control over the target and the timing, but you don’t lose out on a card from hand or dynasty slot. I could definitely see this going into Phoenix decks but I wouldn’t consider it an auto include like I might for some other Rally cards.


Shadow Stalker

A bad card that will see play for the Rally keyword. An otherwise blank 2/0 that becomes a 4/2 isn’t what the Shinobi deck needs to be an actual deck, nor is it what anyone expects when they think of Shadow-touched Ninja doing ninja stuff. In Skirmish, it’s a bit better, since it will always be a 4/2. Ikoma Tsanuri this is not.

How do we not have a playable Shinobi deck yet? Every time the Imperial Law document is updated we see more hits to the Scorpion dishonor decks, but then they print more cards that support dishonor and some filler trash that never sees play for Shinobi. If you want Scorpion to stop dishonoring everyone, give them the Shinobi deck they all want!


Open Window

That’s right, an open window on your own Province makes it easier for a Ninja to sneak into your opponent’s Province. Like the Shadow Stalker, if this sees play it will solely be due to the Rally keyword. Moving into conflicts isn’t particularly valued in the game, because generally your character could have just assigned. In theory it works nicely with Seven Stings Keep, allowing you to declare a lone attacker but still send in reinforcements, though as it stands you’ll have no one to send in because Shinobi are mostly terrible. If they ever get the characters needed for the keyword to be useful then Open Window will be a good addition to the deck, but it’s not the sort of card that makes that deck viable in the first place.

What’s most impressive about Shadow Stalker and Open Window is that Design managed to print two Scorpion Rally cards that are related to Shinobi, and yet somehow made them so bad they in no way help Shinobi become an actual deck.


Ride At Dawn

A solid Rally card that will likely go into every Unicorn deck. You won’t trigger it reliably when it appears it’s likely 50/50 that you’ll be able to pass first. If you’re playing a deck that builds a swarm of guys, that’s probably going to be worse. Even despite that, it’s effectively free deck thinning that sometimes hinders your opponent. This is like a reverse Imperial Storehouse with Rally, not super exciting, but solid.


Mercenary Company

Another Rally character and this time a neutral one. The skill to fate ratio of this card is off the chain, but it comes at a significant risk as if you ever lose a conflict with them then your opponent can pay 1 and take control of the character! For 4 fate, typically you’d get 4 military, so despite the drawback, the Mercenary Company is good value. If you can win the conflict there is no downside. This actually makes me a little nervous, as it can create situations where the game begins to landslide. This is especially the case for clans who already are military focused and who favor the Bushi trait. Crab for example get to Fury of the Damned, Crane can Issue a Challenge, and Lion can Called to War or Embrace Death depending on the outcome of the conflict.


Sturdy Tetsubo

We’ve already seen similar stats of 3 military for 2 fate on the Jade Tetsubo which sees limited play primarily for its ability. As a reaction to winning a conflict, this ability is problematic. Really, you want actions that help you win the conflict as that already gives you rewards while losing conflicts feels really bad when you have a bunch of effects you can’t trigger. That said, getting to discard one of your opponent’s cards is good. It’s a nice way to start a cascade effect where you keep your opponent down. Unfortunately, this is not a random discard, and with the constant draw due to the ‘bid 5 meta’ players typically have options on what to discard. So this isn’t a card to just slot into a deck, but it might be an element in a deck with more card discard where even losing 1 is painful.


Local Daimyo’s Retainer

There are only three 1 cost conflict characters with 2 skill, Tattooed Wandered, Shinjo Ambusher, and the new Phoenix Wandering Mediator from the first pack in this cycle. Those are great cards, and Local Daimyo’s Retainer would be a staple for the Crane it if didn’t have that restriction. Put this card straight into a Crane deck right now and it won’t see play until probably late turn 2 or turn 3. In theory, you can speed that up by playing eminent provinces, but typically your opponent will attack those first, so unless you’re playing 3 that wouldn’t speed things up. You could try hope for a lucky Daidoji Marketplace or two to help things along, but chances are, you’ll have to wait for this.

That said, normally you want conflict characters late in the turn, so dropping this character after your opponent has declared their last attack isn’t so bad. If they’re super aggressive this might be their first attack on turn 2, in which case you have a character for your next conflict. Even if they don’t reveal the third province until the end of turn 2, then the Retainer’s 1 glory can still help  you grab the favor, a task Crane decks had previously splashed the Dragon Ancient Master.

So you don’t get the super aggression you can with the other 2 skill characters, but if you’re not able to play the Retainer, you’re not yet in a bad place. This is a perfect example of a come from behind card, although even calling it that is misleading as you can still be ahead after your opponent has revealed your third province!


Asceticism

For 1 fate, your character gets +1/+1 and for the early game cannot be targeted by an opponent’s triggered ability. A triggered ability is anything that starts with Action, Reaction or Interrupt, so this card blanket blocks a lot of abilities. This can be especially useful on characters like the Stoic Rival who are looking for an attachment but are at risk of Assassination. The card is Earth locked, while Dragon have no other Earth role cards, Keeper of Earth is already a solid option for some Dragon decks purely down to the strength of the Earth ring. The requirement of having 2 or more non-stronghold facedown provinces limits this to an early game. It also means you have to carefully consider if you should be running any of the new Eminent provinces. To actually target your character, your opponent will need to have revealed at least 3 of your provinces which should take some time. If they really rush it, that’s midway through turn 2 but doing so will put them at significant risks and during that time they won’t be able to target the character. Once three provinces are revealed, this is just a +1/+1 for 1, which still isn’t terrible. This is a good card, it only works during a particular window, but an aggressive Dragon deck could keep that open for the entirety of the game.


Under Siege

Players often plan their turns carefully, determining who to attack with and who to save for the defense, usually based on the cards on the table and the cards in their hand. This completely destroys half of that calculation, and can leave your opponent exposed and feeling unable to defend when you remove the cards they were relying on. Of course, it may also put exactly what they need in their hand, but due to the game’s overwhelming pressure to Bid 5 during the Draw Phase, it’s likely they will be fighting that Conflict with fewer cards in their hand than usual. 

The Lion player can also use this on themselves if their hand doesn’t have what’s needed, and with cards like In Service to My Lord and Right Hand of the Emperor having to discard at the end of the Conflict often isn’t a high cost. You also get to keep any card like a conflict character or attachment that you played out of those 5 cards.

This card is also a powerful tool for Mill decks, and may be the key part needed to make those decks competitive. Forcing your opponent to draw and discard 5 cards for 1 Fate is a significant escalation in the speed you can burn through their Conflict deck.


Kyofuki’s Hammer

Here we see another type of card that plagued the Phoenix throughout the first few cycles, cards that only trigger when you’re already winning. Although the effect of the card is relatively minor, just discarding a card in a province, you have to wait until you win a conflict to be able to do it. Typically, if you have problem with a card in a province you attack that province and discard it when the province is destroyed. To add to this, for some reason this ability is unlimited, this means if you win a second or subsequent conflict with this character in it you get to discard another card. I guess this could be part of a super mill tower deck where you stack 3 of this on a single character and have them winning all conflicts discarding a total of 12 cards per turn! At that point though, you’re already winning conflicts, so why not break some provinces and win rather than go for a strange mill strategy?


Forgery

Obviously this is a much, much worse version of Forged Edict, and it seems likely that we’ll see Edict get banned when this is released. Lets start though by evaluating this card without comparing it to Edict. Having it cost 1 Fate with a play restriction puts it on the weaker end of the power spectrum. It’s more in line with Phoenix’s Appeal to Sympathy than Crane’s Voice of Honor or the neutral Censure, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the game. The condition is one most Scorpion decks will meet easily, and 1 Fate is a perfectly fair cost for the effect. Hopefully, we’ll see all counterspells become costed along these lines, making playing them a more significant choice than the ones released in the first year of the game. However, since Voice of Honour was never put on the Restricted List despite being no less powerful than Forged Edict, it seems like Design is happy to continue pretending it’s not a problem.


Steed of the Steppes

L5R simply doesn’t need more straighten effects. This should be a bad card- it costs 1, gives only +1 Military, has to blow up to trigger and isn’t generally usable early in the game. Except that it’s a way to allow Utaku Tetsuko to be in two Conflicts on turn 2, and Shiro Shinjo wants to be revealing those Provinces early. I still feel it should have given +2 Military for the cost, but even better would have been never printing it at all.


Summary

There are enough auto include cards to make this pack an instant buy. Crab get some fun discard options that could be really oppressive, Crane and Dragon get Rally character’s they’ll be playing for quite some time. Lion get a great stronghold and Tsanuri who is bonkers. Phoenix have their Rally event which could be good. Scorpion get to pick up Forgery in anticipation of losing Forged Edict while Unicorn get Ride at Dawn and a 1 cost ready.

The big question from this pack is ‘what are design thinking?’ While this is a question we’ve been asking for quite a while now at this stage I think we’ve given up on trying to make sense out of it. Fingers crossed we see more busted shit for the clan you love and more bans for the clan you hate, because that’s the game we have these days.


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

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6 Replies to “Dominion cycle – Pack 4 – Campaigns of Conquest”

  1. The big question from this pack is ‘what are design thinking?’ While this is a question we’ve been asking for quite a while now at this stage I think we’ve given up on trying to make sense out of it. Fingers crossed we see more busted shit for the clan you love and more bans for the clan you hate, because that’s the game we have these days.

    Bazzlebub, I love you! 😂

    1. Issue a Challenge? You make a good point. I guess it would be better to say that the Crane already have an establish Bushi base which has let the run cards like Fan of Command. On reflection, it is kinda shocking that there are so few cards for Bushi.

  2. Yeah agree with Erik here, Veteran of T R is not a good card. The only reason to play this is Rally, we have better 2 cost Bushi. Don’t really agree with the view of this card.

  3. The game is devolving, with the addition of these cards, into something as far from the “small incremental advantages strategy card game” as possible.

    The review was, as always, excellent.

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