Dominion cycle – Pack 5 – As Honor Demands

Dominion cycle – Pack 5 – As Honor Demands

We are now up to the 5th pack of the Dominion cycle. Like many of the packs in this cycle, some early previews from the pack caused a certain amount of shock with the player base due to the power level and impact on the meta game.


Seven Fold Palace

Getting characters honored is a focus of many Crane cards, so although the stronghold has a requirement it’s not a particularly difficult one. Once you have a character honored, you just need to win a conflict and you get 2 honor. For this bonus, you’re starting at 10 honor rather than the 11 honor of other Crane strongholds, so you need to get this working to get an advantage out of it. Notably, this is quite similar to the effect of City of the Open Hand, where you’re getting a 2 honor shift. The requirement is very different, but unlike City of the Open Hand, it never really turns off. 

The first approach is to just go all out and try to win the game by honor. You need 15 points of honor to win the game and between this stronghold, honorable characters leaving play, and this stronghold you’re going to be able to push to do that. Alternatively, this stronghold serves as dishonor protection, letting you play cards like Assassination or other options that lose you honor while using this stronghold to keep you afloat.

While I’ve compared Seven Fold Palace to City of the Open Hand, it’s unlikely to have the same impact on the game. Starting at 10 honor you’re already holding yourself back and you’ll need to work to get advantage off this stronghold. Getting to 25 is significantly harder than getting your opponent to 0, so a purely honor gain effect is going to be weaker. In comparison, Kyuden Kakita just requires getting in a duel and Shizuka Toshi just requires you to remember it exists. Seven Gold Palace certainly has the potential to be a great stronghold, but it will be as part of a great deck rather than defining one all by itself.

Note – the artist for this card is Noah Bradley, FFG recently cut ties with the artist which is why the art does not appear on the online version of the card. For more detail see here.


Foothills Keep

This is a 3 province strength face-up blank province that encourages your opponent to attack it rather than another province. At the most generous we can be, it can be used to try to protect another province on turn one by making this one a better target. As City of the Rich Frog serves a similar purpose, a safe province for your opponent to attack, but it also does provide something beneficial, it seems the best use of Foothills Keep is to protect the City of the Rich Frog for a turn. That’s it, that’s the best I can think of for this card.


Honor’s Reward

A deck that honor or dishonors characters could find great benefit from this province. As a fire province, it competes with the neutral cards Illustrious Forge, and Meditations on the Tao and with the clan provinces Magistrate Station, Dishonorable Assault, Restoration of Balance, Sanpuku Seidō, and Kuni Wastelands. The competition for Fire provinces is open enough that Honor’s Reward could justify a place on its own strength alone but also could work well with a Seeker of Fire deck working alongside one of the other good Fire options. 


Pious Guardian

While the 2 fate cost slot typically isn’t great, getting 3 skill for that is actually quite good and getting that along with a Rally character is great. The ability itself does somewhat fit into the Crab theme of defending, even if it’s possible no Crab player has yet honored out since the game began. Like the other Rally characters, this is likely to make a place in all Crab decks and in so doing provide a healthy protection again dishonor decks.


Hida Etsuji 

Crab already have an abundance of efficient military characters which are super efficient skill for fate, so a 4 cost 4 military character isn’t particularly exciting for them. They’re unlikely to try honor up their characters, so the 2 glory is more of a draw back than a bonus. So this character really is focused on the ability which allows the Crab to trigger their holdings a second time. As reactions and interrupts can only react to each trigger once, while you can use them a second time you’d have to have a second trigger. So mostly this ability is focused on provinces with normal actions such as Fertile Fields,Manicured Gardens,  Meditations on the Tao, Riot in the Streets, Shameful Display, or Vassal Fields. Getting to trigger any of these provinces would be great, and would generate some value, but you’d have to question if that is enough. Luckily you don’t need Hida Etsuji to be in the conflict to trigger the ability again, he just needs to be in play.


Master of the Court

Voice of Honor is a defining feature of the Crane clan and Guest of Honor was a source of terror for other clans until it was eventually banned. This isn’t a Guest of Honor, it’s not a blank effect always on, but a once-off you can only trigger if the Master of the Court is Honored. As the Master of the Court is only 1 honor, it’s not really the character you immediately want to honor so doing so is a sacrifice. If you trigger the ability, you lose the honor status and have to get it again if you wish to use the ability a second turn. It also means you’re losing another honored character that you need for Voice of Honor. This isn’t a Guest of Honor, but Master of the Court is pretty close and looks like design did a good job in balancing a problem character.


Master of Many Lifetimes

I’ve already spoken about Rally, and I still maintain that any card with Rally is worth at least considering. In this case, we have a large Monk character which is something the Dragon are after, but at 5 fate it’s a considerable cost. It’s locked into Seeker only making it the only role locked Rally card which is disappointing, especially as Keeper gives Dragon the Keeper Initiate Monk and as we’ll see the next pack Keeper is likely to be the role of choice for most decks. During the conflict phase, he’s essentially blank with his ability far more likely to trigger during the fate phase at the end of turn. 

The ability itself is pretty cool, you can actually move the character leaving play onto your stronghold province and have them there to make later if you desire. You do have to pay all the fate costs again, so while it’s nice it’s not particularly powerful but it does allow for some tricks as discussed in The Receding Tide. The way the ability returns attachments back to your hand is perhaps of more interest. It lets you load up a cheap character with attachments and then get them all back when that character leaves play. Dragon do already have a similar option in the form of Adopted Kin, an attachment that makes all the other cards attached to the character ancestral. Although Adopted Kin has seen some play, as it only really pays off late in the game and often you’re better off playing something like Reprieve that will keep the character around for an extra turn instead.


Fearless Skirmisher

Although not a Rally card like the Pious Guardian, the Fearless Skirmisher fills a similar role. At 2 cost for 3 military skill, it does have a good return in fate. The ability often won’t be relevant but can provide protection again dishonor decks by moving the dishonor status on the Lion characters onto those of the dishonor deck. Similarly, this can provide a form of protection for Lion honor decks, making sure they don’t lose honor from dishonored characters.


Honored Veterans

Like Call to War, this Lion dynasty event seems fair but more often than not the only Bushi on the field will be Lion. As an action, you do have to lose a dynasty action and potentially passing fate, but it also means you can choose not to trigger it if your opponent would benefit more than you would. As a Rally card, it can slot straight into a Lion deck without much other consideration beyond a quick double-check that you did remember to put Bushi into the deck.


Asako Lawmaster

At 3 cost for a 2/4 Courtier, the Lawmaster is actually a decent fate cost for its skills. The ability ties into the ‘pacifist’ theme and should provide a steady flow of honor gain to push you towards the target of 25 honor. This works well with Mediator of Hostilities who draws cards and Pacifist Philosopher who gains fate as reactions to passing a conflict. Similarly, if you’re not attacking it means your opponent doesn’t have to defend and can attack more allowing you to trigger Meddling Mediator who can take an honor from your opponent if they declare two conflicts and Shiba Pureheart who will honor up in reaction to the same trigger. This is a theme that has been developing for the Phoenix clan over the last few sets and while there was already enough to play a deck, this is a great addition and I think it will be a lot of fun to play!


Endless Archives

While this is an ability your opponent can also use, only the Phoenix deck is going to actively focus on passing conflicts. This means your opponent has to give up their attack and boost the effect of Endless Archives while also allowing you to draw (or more accurately filter) more cards from subsequent uses of the holding. In addition, as the Phoenix have other cards that trigger from passing, if their opponent passes then they get all the advantages and can declare an attack themselves. As the effect says X rather than ‘up to X’ you don’t get to choose fewer cards, so as the game progresses you might end up with a scenario where you can’t afford to use the ability as doing so would mean losing cards you want to keep. In a situation where you have fewer cards than X, you discard all of those and draw the number of cards you discarded.


Beautiful Entertainer

For 1 fate you get a 0 military, 1 politics, 1 glory character with just the Geisha trait. A character like that really is a waste of fate as often you’d be better off passing instead. It does have Rally which definitely helps and it does have an effect that can gain you some honor, but only when you would be lower honor than your opponent. As a Rally card, this can slip into a deck where you are worried about accidentally dishonoring yourself out. Despite a theme around being less honorable than their opponent, the Scorpion more often than not appear to be more honorable, even if that’s just because their opponent’s shoelaces were tied.


Shinjo Altansarnai

The original version of Altansarnai was terrible even in core. While the ability seemed great, once you actually played it you realised it did do much even when you managed to win the conflict to trigger it. This version is very different. Searching through 8 cards is a large chunk of your dynasty deck (20%) and you can get a lot of work done with a 3 cost character even if it is limited to non-unique. At the lowest level, this ability will typically get you a free 2-3 cost character and on the assumption that they’re worth their fate cost, then Altansarnai will quickly reclaim her cost. Being able to generate an extra character does help with effects that require numbers, a theme that the Unicorn briefly had. Many of the Unicorn cards trigger from moving or provinces being revealed, unfortunately these effects will not be useful with this ability as you’re already in the conflict and ‘put into play’ doesn’t count as moving.

No doubt a great character, even if just simply on fate efficiency.


Contested Countryside

This is the big one of the set. As a 0 cost holding with Rally and an always on effect, you lose nothing by playing this card. The only real thing you need to do is play Keeper, already a popular enough role. The effect turns your opponent’s provinces into your own allowing you to at least get the same benefit as they do and in some cases an advantage if your opponent didn’t want to trigger the action (Restoration of Balance or Midnight Revels come to mind). You do need to be careful with this, as sometimes the phrasing does specify the ‘attacker’ so you don’t really want to trigger, for example, Upholding Authority or Meditations on the Tao.

With this in the environment, and with so little cost to actually play it, you have to assume your opponent will be playing this card. You need to look at all your provinces again and decide how much of a liability they are if your opponent decides to play Contested Countryside. Then what happens if everyone plays provinces that Contested Countryside doesn’t hit? You could switch this out for another card, but with such low impact of it having Rally you may as well keep it in on the off chance your opponent thinks they can get away with it!

Personally, I think this is a really bad card for the game. It’s so easy to play that it should be everywhere and that means we have to narrow the card pool of viable provinces significantly. As it’s so impactful, it swings the balance in roles heavily to Keeper over Seeker making Seeker locked cards less playable. This card, by its very existence, has shrunk the card pool and that’s never a good thing.


Ceaseless Duty

Reprieve has been a key card for the Crab since core. The entire game is built around the idea of characters eventually leaving play, and Reprieve was a way to cheat that, enough so that it was a popular splash for other clans to take. This is reprieve but different. Instead of telegraphing your play with an attachment and leaving you open to Let Go, instead this is reactive and leaves your opponent guessing if you have it but still leaves you vulnerable to an event cancel such as Voice of Honor.

The effect does come with a limitation, you start with 5 unbroken provinces and at that point, Ceaseless Duty will only work on characters of 5 or less fate. Typically, you’re looking to use Reprieve around turn 3 or 4 where you made a character on an early turn with 2 fate and they’re about to leave play. Depending on how the game is going, Ceaseless Duty may not work at that point, especially if you were hoping to keep around a 4 or 5 cost character. Still, combined with Reprieve and Iron Mine, this gives the Crab a lot of resilience and because of that late-game fate efficiency. Even if you’re just saving a 2 cost character for an extra turn, then you’re up.


Elegance and Grace

Actions that ready your characters are big impact, and typically they cost 1 fate to do so. In this case, you pay 2 fate but can ready two honored characters. This simultaneously makes it better and worse, when you have the fate and the honored characters you’re getting more impact out of it, if you only have 1 fate and 1 honored character then you’re out of luck. Being able to straighten characters is a big effect and can have a massive impact on a game, so Crane finally getting one in faction is a big deal. That it only focuses on honored characters makes it easier for Crane decks to use, even if other clans decide to splash this at 3 influence per card.


Waterfall Tattoo

Effects that straighten are some of the most influential cards in the game currently. Dragon are on the weaker side of the curve, so seeing them get a straighten effect is wonderful. Unfortunately, Waterfall Tattoo is quite limited in a number of regards. It costs 2, which is 1 more than most straighten effects, but it does give you +1/+1 and as an attachment it does stick around. The effect is a reaction to a province being revealed, so this will ready a character for the defense but won’t let you ready a character who just bowed on the defense for an attack. It’s reusable over multiple turns, but it’s also telegraphed so your opponent knows what’s going to happen and if they have any attachment hate they could destroy it before the trigger occurs. It doesn’t always work, as it only triggers off a province being revealed so your opponent can happily attack an already revealed province without triggering it. 


Divine Ancestry

Lion have a scary honor deck, and although the Earth role isn’t one popular for that deck, an effect that ignores honor loss is a big deal. For the honor deck it means you can protect yourself during a phase, maybe that’s the draw phase letting you bid 5 to draw cards, the conflict phase where you no longer worry about the Air ring or undefended provinces, or the fate phase where your dishonored characters leave play. Alternatively, you can use it as a double bluff, where you play it at the start of the draw phase but secretly bid 1 hoping your opponent will assume you’ll bid 5 netting you a 4 point honor gain.

This does draw some comparisons with the Scorpion card Duty which is restricted. Divine Ancestry has to be pre-played, but does last for an entire phase. It doesn’t gain you honor. It costs 1 fate rather than 0. Unlike Duty it isn’t limited to just 1 per deck. Right now, Lion players aren’t particularly impressed by this card. Apart from the draw phase play, it doesn’t actively progress your win. Other clans trying to beat the Lion honor decks are far more worried about this card. This remains an option for Lion decks to slot in if they ever feel threatened by dishonor.


The Receding Tide

This isn’t immediately a powerful card (especially as the non-Mythic means you can’t do it with Fushcisho), and honestly you’ll have to struggle how to use it. At the basic level, if you have a character about to leave play that you want to keep around you can move them into one of your provinces and buy them next turn. If that character has a leaving play effect it will let you trigger them earlier and if they have an entering play effect they’ll be able to trigger it again when you make them in the next dynasty phase! You can also do some fun tricks with cards that ‘cheat’ cards into play (for example the Disguised trait) essentially making a larger combo to ready a bowed character. This is one of those cards that you need to keep in mind as new cards come out as it always has the potential to be part of a powerful combo!


Soshi Diviner

This conflict character has the typical stats for an underwhelming 2 cost character but has an ability that might be of some interest. As the effect doesn’t switch or replace cards in the province it moved to, the effect allows you to stack dynasty cards. This has a number of interesting uses, it lets you move a holding to a broken province, it lets you force a refill by moving the last remaining card out of a province, it lets you stack your holdings onto a particular province. To use the ability, there needs to be a conflict ongoing, but you don’t need the Soshi Diviner in that conflict and the effect can target cards in provinces away from the conflict. These are all quite cool and useful abilities but aren’t necessarily impactful, so without a particular purpose, it’s a decent ability on an underwhelming stat line.


Stoke Insurrection

If you have this in hand, and your opponent has two large characters in their provinces, then despite the high cost this can be remarkably efficient. If your opponent has 4 or more facedown cards, then this is a bargain at 2 fate and essentially is a double Charge! While your opponent having 4 facedown cards during the conflict phase isn’t the norm, with cards like City of the Rich Frog, Governor’s Spy, and Soshi Diviner such things can be arranged. Interestingly, as this does say ‘reveal’ it will trigger Rally cards revealing even more cards and giving you more options to choose from. With the amount of Rally cards in the environment, Stoke Insurrection has a double use of accelerating dynasty card draw significantly to push your opponent towards that 5 point honor loss for reshuffling.

At 4 cost, many will point out how disastrous getting this cancelled will be. The unfortunate reality, of course, is that not every clan has the same access to event cancels, and Scorpion are one of those clans who have enough cancels to push a powerful card like this through. With an effect so similar to Charge, it’s bewildering that design thought this was okay, but it does seem to reflect a shift in design strategy that currently only seems to have been implemented with some clans and not others.


Command By Name

As few of these province modification effects have turned up throughout the life of the game, and I’m not sure any of them have seen play. Even if this was 0 cost, wasn’t role locked, didn’t cost 1 honor and a card, then I doubt even then it would see play. As is, it seems to be dead on arrival. That it sets the province strength to 0 rather than 1, takes the cake though. If you have 0 skill and the province has 0 skill you do not break the province as you cannot win a conflict with 0 skill. So apart from being unplayably bad, for those few new players who do try it out it’s just going to create confusion.


Summary

Another pack and some big changes for the game. Uncontested Countryside is obviously the big card of the pack and is likely to create a massive shift to Keeper roles and provinces that aren’t hit by Uncontested Countryside. I’m really not sure what the design intent of this card was, while it does generate a shift in the environment, all it really does is limit the cards that are playable. Meanwhile, some cards in the pack are super powerful while others are dead on arrival. It’s almost as if these cards are being designed by multiple people who aren’t talking to each other all with very different ideas of what the final game should look like.


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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2 Replies to “Dominion cycle – Pack 5 – As Honor Demands”

  1. I guess I just don’t see the reasons to hate on Contested Countryside. Other than the Keeper restriction. Obviously it will become an auto-include in every deck and will as a result likely be put on the restricted list. But, it will drastically shift ideas on what is or is not a playable/liability for provinces. Frankly, the list of truly playable provinces per element is already pretty small due to one or two clearly being better than the others. This could very well change that, at least for a time. I’m looking forward to seeing provinces I don’t normally see, or watching players gamble using powerful province abilities and having those same abilities thrown back them.

    Is that a lot of swing for one card, undoubtedly, but I think it will shake things up in a fun way and keep people on their toes.

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