Dominion Cycle – Pack 6 – Atonement

Dominion Cycle – Pack 6 – Atonement

Atonement is the last pack in the Dominion Cycle and it is packed full of powerful cards.

Iron Mountain Castle

The fourth stronghold for the Dragon and this is similar in many ways to their first, Mountain’s Anvil Castle. Similar stats (but 1 less honor for some reason) and a focus on attachments, but instead of a bonus you’re get to bow for a 1 cost fate reduction and all your characters can have three restricted attachments rather than the usual limitation of two.

Fate is a core resource and a stronghold that gets 8 fate per turn is going to do more work than one that gets 7 fate per turn. To effectively make use of the discount, you’re probably best off having a decent number of 1 cost attachments in your deck. More expensive attachments still get the benefit, but you don’t always have extra fate to spend and taking something from 1 to 0 means you can always play it. You always want to have enough attachments that you’re able to trigger the stronghold every turn, but not too many locking your hand with 1 cost attachments after you’ve already used the ability for the turn. For some reason you can’t get the discount on characters controlled by opponents, so a Iron Mountain Castle can’t be used with Cloud the Mind. Overall, this action is fine if not particularly exciting. Dragon already have Daimyo’s Favor which has a similar discount, but often ends up cut from a deck as it’s pretty low impact for a conflict card.

This stronghold also allows your characters to have 3 restricted items. While definitely a bonus, there aren’t any big interactions this opens up. Characters are already able to have 2 restricted items and the restricted trait typically is placed to making towering slightly harder. Realistically, getting an extra restricted attachment is only going to add roughly 2 skill to your tower.

Overall this is a disappointing stronghold, not because it’s bad by any margin, but because it doesn’t open up a new deck type or help an under-supported one. Any deck that you run under Iron Mountain Castle could have been run under Mountain Anvil’s Castle with only a minor adjustment in the attachments you have.

Unbridled Ambition

This was a card that got hit with a pre-release errata adding in the ‘Cannot be a stronghold/province’ text that was obvious by its omission by everyone who saw the early spoiler. As a Fire province, it does give extra options to the Scorpion, but as a row province, it is unlikely to get the job done. Even though dishonor characters aren’t going to contribute their skill, this still is a 3 province strength and dishonor characters are already suffering in their skill penalty. For this to be effective you’d need multiple attacking characters all with skill remaining after they’ve been dishonored. Abandoning Honor or Honor’s Reward seem to be better options, especially as Honor’s Reward is functionally the same when there is only one dishonored attacker and it has 5 PS and could also be used at another province.

Weight of Duty

A sacrifice ability seems like a big cost until you realise you can sacrifice a bowed character with no fate. In a situation like that, the cost really isn’t a cost at all. As all the targets are selected by you, this can be a trade of a 1 cost bowed character to bow and dishonor a 5 cost character. Getting that scenario is going to be rare however, you have to sacrifice a character in the conflict which means they’re less likely to be bowed and you can only target an opponent’s unique character if you have sacrificed a unique. As it has sacrifice as a cost, this is of particular interest to the Crab who have a number of characters which get more value from sacrifice effects.

Every time we look at a void province, we always have to ask the question of whether you would play this instead of Shameful Display. This province in many ways steps up to that, it’s +1 province strength and the effect bows as well as dishonors. More importantly, your opponent’s character doesn’t have to be in the conflict. This means you can bow and dishonor a character your opponent was planning to defend with. So Weight of Duty definitely has the potential to be a bigger impact. For that ceiling though, you need to have a deck where you run small characters you can afford to sacrifice and the meta needs to be running larger characters that hopefully aren’t unique! I suspect that it is likely to be a very small window.

This province is, of course, a perfect candidate for a Seeker of Void deck, not only is it a good province by itself but the ability can also be used at your other Void province, presumably Shameful Display (or a double element province like City of the Rich Frog). Add to this that the ability will be active when you’re attacking into your opponent’s void province and you can see it can get a lot of work done.

Fire and Oil

‘While this holding is in an unbroken province’, what a horrible way to start off a holding. So if you’re on the backfoot and have lost a few provinces already then there’s a chance this is going to be blank. I definitely understand the intention, this is a holding that can protect all provinces and if it’s sitting on a broken province then it can’t be attacked itself. Maybe a better approach would have been to give it an action allowing it to be moved to the non-strong province and then have it only target characters at that province.

Design aside, how good is this? You lose 1 honor to dishonor a target. Losing 1 honor isn’t too bad, it’s only that last point of honor that really matters. Dishonor effects serve three purposes, to reduce the target’s skill, to slowly dishonor the player as dishonored characters leave play, and to set up a dishonored as a part of a combo . The first is honestly pretty unreliable, it’s great against a high glory clan but terrible against a low glory clan. The second relies on dishonor being a viable win condition, which luckily for the Crab it has been. The third requires the cards for a combo, Crab do have Warden of the Damned but at 3 cost it is quite expensive. They’re less likely to be able to capitalise with Crane’s Noble Sacrifice. So right now, the primary use is going to be number 2, looking to set up a dishonor victory.

A classic dishonor deck has a lot of moving parts and people often remember cards like Backhanded Compliment which close the game, but most of the work is done with small cuts over multiple turns. Ring of Air, an undefended province, a dishonored character leaving play. A Crab deck able to trigger this effect multiple times every turn won’t be far from dishonoring their opponent out.

Doji Diplomat

As a 0 cost Courtier, this character does have some value, but as we’ve seen again and again the loss of passing fate means this type of character is usually only worth it if your opponent has already passed. So typically that’s 50% of the time. If we ever see a rules change down the line removing passing fate, that would increase this cards value but wouldn’t necessarily shoot it to an always played slot. That said, usually 0 cost characters have been 0/0/0 but which character has 1 political and 1 glory which is a massive upgrade for a 0 cost character.

A few cycles ago, one of the big play for Crane was to get their province Magistrate Station online. If it was attacked and they could successfully save the province, then it was likely the Crane player was going to win the game. Together with their recent holding, Doji Diplomat suggests this has been turned into somewhat of a theme. Of course, Magistrate Station is currently restricted making it a difficult option for Crane to play. As you get to select one of your opponent’s provinces however, it’s unlikely you’re going to get to play this as a way to reliably reveal a specific province.

You can, however, pack your provinces with cards that will be useful if revealed during the dynasty phase and hope your opponent has cards that rely on attacking characters and conflicts. If you play some Eminent provinces, your opponent can’t select those. This has ended up with Crane playing Seeker of Void with Shameful Display and Weight of Honor in their province row along with City of the Rich Frog and Tsuma both of which are Eminent. On the stronghold they have Magistrate Station, so there are no good choices for your opponent and you’ll quite quickly get your seeker fate and all your provinces active.

Agasha Sumiko

This is the second version of Agasha Sumiko and the first did see a decent amount of play as if you did control the Imperial Favor she would not bow during the resolution of a conflict where she was attacking. This version is 1 fate cheaper, same military, same political, but 1 more glory at 2 rather than 1. Unfortunately, where her original version is essentially blank when you don’t have the favor, this character is blank while she’s alive. If this ability was on a 2 cost or less character, it would be fantastic, but a 4 cost? You want to keep your big characters around.

Clearly the design intent is to have a ‘come-back’ card where if you’re behind you get a benefit, but if you’re behind on honor, fate, and cards and then lose your 4 cost character what you’re really looking for is a better pairing in the next round. There are numerous 4 cost characters with 3/4 or 4/3 skills and a useful ability that don’t see play and unfortunately that 1 extra skill isn’t enough to make this anything less than dead on arrival.

Where this might have seen some play is when Charge! wasn’t banned, a situation where you could pay 1 for a 4/4 and have the ability trigger would be great, but Charge! was banned for a good reason and if we are actually able to play Sumiko like this then something has gone very wrong. To make things worse, the card that’s most likely to cheat Sumiko into play is Scorpion’s new event Stoke Insurrection making Sumiko actively a bad idea.

Righteous Samurai

This isn’t the first character that Lion have received with 4 military for 3 fate, but that doesn’t make it any less notable when it happens. Bushido Adherent and Matsu Agetoki both share the same stat line with Akodo Makoto having 1 less political and 1 less glory. There definitely was a point where it was assumed Lion would never see a character over 3 military due to Way of Lion and here we are. That said, stats aside the ability is pretty unreliable. It is a nice bonus against a dishonor deck, but Lion already have a number of options in that regard. Against most other decks it’s probably not going to trigger.

Exposed Courtyard

During a military conflict, you can play any event card out if your discard pile as if it’s in your hand. Just in case you don’t have the options you need, discard two extra cards from the top of your deck to increase your options. This is essentially a better version of the Phoenix stronghold Kyuden Isawa which was considered too powerful and needed errata. You don’t start with it in play, but you don’t need to discard a card to use it, it works on all event cards rather than just spells, and it returns the card played back to the bottom of your deck rather than removing it from play. You can also have multiple copies of Exposed Courtyard so you could end up replaying 3 event cards during a single conflict. As we’ve discussed before, we consider recursion to be one of the pillars of degenerate gameplay, and this is a perfect example.

Shiba Pureheart

I doubt the Phoenix are going to be excited about getting a Shiba as a Rally character. While the Shiba have always been an important part of the background from the Phoenix clan, in-game they seem to be at their best when they’re supporting Phoenix Shugenja or more often than not taking an arrow for them. A deck type devoted to Shiba Bushi isn’t going to be particularly popular with players who were drawn to the clan. That said, this character doesn’t have to be in a pacifist Bushi deck under Isawa Mori Seido, the ability can just as easily be used on a Phoenix Shugenja. Indeed, Student of the Tao, the other Rally character for Phoenix this cycle, is a 3 glory Shugenja and does make a great target for honoring.

Bayushi Kachiko

At 5 cost this is a Champion level character and her stats and ability confirm that. The stats are quite clearly good, although no doubt the Scorpion would prefer this Courtier to have 0 glory rather than 3. The ability though, is crazy. If she drew you 3 cards every turn she’d be amazing. This ability is more than that, you essentially increase your hand size by your opponent’s discard pile and get to choose the 3 best cards to play out of that every turn. The one blessing for your opponent, is this only works during political conflicts where she is participating. So only conflict per turn, but you do get to go rummage through your opponent’s deck and pick out the best three options that you can play at the time.

She is still a 5 cost character so it’s not as if it comes without cost for the Scorpion player. If a Cloud the Mind is dropped she’s just a skill stick and not much else. While she’s active though, she certainly has the potential to swing a game all by herself. Her ability while active is a deceptively large amount of card draw, even if it’s from your opponent’s deck rather than yours and she essentially penalises your opponent for playing cards. 

Ganzu Warrior

Not cavalry and Seeker only are both knocks. The stats of 2/-/0 for 2 aren’t exciting. So the ability here needs to be pretty good. The ability is a reaction to a province being revealed, so it plays into the Shiro Shinjo deck. It also means you’re only going to see the trigger a limited number of times (especially as the once per turn means you can’t use more than one Ganzu Warrior). The effect is going to depend on the ring of the province you’re attacking, so you have no control over what that is, but most of the ring effects are going to be relevant.

Worldly Shiotome

This card was the result of a number of polls FFG looked for players to submit on. There was initially some concern from Unicorn players that other players would vote for the worst possible option, but in the end it seemed to work out. This is a Battle Maiden who has an ability that can honor herself. It might not mean much to players who’ve only ever played the FFG version of the game, but Battle Maiden decks were very much a valid theme of deck for Unicorn players in the old game. Essentially, it focused on high glory bushi characters with the cavalry trait. Utaku Kamoko, Utaku Rumaru, and Utaku Yumino all show the idea but despite obvious interest the deck never really got enough cards to go anywhere.

The ability can be reliable enough. There are a small number of Gaijin cards but some are notable. Adorned Barcha, Curved Blade, and Ujik Tactics are all good enough to see play and could be used to trigger this character. Assuming you were able to consistently trigger the ability, would a 4/4 cavalry character for 2 be worth it? I think so, but stats alone don’t win games.

Sudden Tempest

If this was 0 fate, would it see play? It’s got Rally, so you could slot it in without any real drawback beyond losing an action in the dynasty phase. It would let you remove a ring for a turn, typically this would be Ring of Air or maybe Ring of Fire when facing against a dishonor deck. Alternatively,  it could be Ring of Void when you’ve got a tower and don’t want it to lose a fate. If a ring has lots of fate and your opponent was going to declare the first conflict you could trigger this to stop your opponent from getting it. Those are all pretty minor effects but as a free bonus it’s good. This doesn’t cost 0 though, it costs 1. I honestly don’t think any of the cases you’ll potentially see are worth a whole fate for.

Apprentice Engineer

There are a number of cards in this cycle that appear to be replacements for existing cards that would have been due to cycle out if not for the change in the planned rotation. This is what Rebuild would look like. It’s still a conflict card, but costs 2 fate rather than being free, although you do get a bonus 2/1/0 character along with it and as a character it can’t be stopped by event cancelation. The design for this is a little tidier than Rebuild and deserves mention, rather than shuffling a card back into your deck which is an unnecessary delay you just discard everything already in the province. This does mean you can’t stack holdings with the Apprentice Engineer.

We don’t have rotation though, so Apprentice Engineer lives in a world where it can exist along with Rebuild. That’s a lot of holding recursion and at only 2 influence for each card, it’s something any clan can reasonably play. While this is weaker version of Rebuild by not being free, it’s still a fantastic card. Unlike Rebuild it’s not restricted and Rebuild was restricted for a reason!

Inventive Buttressing

There are a few holdings in the game that have large bonuses to province strength. Although it occasionally catches players off guard, boosting province strength has never been a viable strategy. That this only gives a bonus in military conflicts is a bit weird, sure it makes sense from a title perspective but wouldn’t all provinces have a different political and military strength if that really mattered?

It’s interesting to see it feature in the game, but spending that 1 fate on it is painful. You could instead look for one of those rare conflict characters or an attachment that gives 2 skill. At 0 cost and without the military conflict restriction would this see play? You would play this on the defence and your opponent would then need to match it with a card to boost their skill. If they didn’t have an answer, then your province is saved and you keep the bonus for another turn. As is, no I don’t think this is playable.

Treasured Gift

Although the bonuses are exceptional, this 0 cost card still stops your opponent’s character from declaring as an attacker against you. It is possible they could move that character into a conflict already declared, and the character can still defend, so it doesn’t lock them completely out of a conflict. Timing will be everything with this card. It’s best played when you’re not planning to attack again for the rest of the turn. If you are first player and declare an attack, after that conflict you can play Treasured Gift to stop your opponent from declaring their own attack. If you drop this on a character with 0 fate it means they’ll leave play before they can get any value from the skill bonuses.

This is definitely a card that has value, but the fact that it only stops characters from being declared as attackers and the relatively high skill it gives the character makes it tricky to get right.

A great place for this is in multiplayer where you can play it on an allies character and they can still attack other players!

Daidoji Yari

There are a few attachments with the same stats that just don’t see play. Obviously making it 0 cost would make it better than Fine Katana so that’s not an option. Those numbers aren’t inherently bad, but you need to have a good ability alongside it. In this instance, it only works when your bid is lower than an opponent and the effect is specific to the small section of characters which have convert. Unfortunately, that ability is so situational and minor that this card is unlikely to see play.

In Search of Self

This is directly comparable to Mirumoto’s Fury which is Dragon’s restricted card. Same cost of 1, same effect to bow an attacker, but with a slight difference in condition. The condition is still based off of unrevealed provinces, but instead of characters glory this card looks at the characters fate cost. During the first conflict you defend, that means you’ll be at best bowing a 4 cost or lower character with its effectiveness diminishing every conflict after that.

Mirumoto’s Fury is at its best in Seeker decks, where there’s a good chance you’ll have that 1 fate to pay for the event and hopefully save the province. It was restricted not due to Dragon players using it, but due to Scorpion decks splashing it along with Let Go. That you can bow an attacker without having to defend yourself makes these kind of cards very relevant, especially in aggressive early game decks that don’t want to defend.  A deck playing 3 copies of In Search of Self and 3 copies of Mirumoto’s Fury is going to be tricky to attack the first turn or two. A deck that’s banking fate early will struggle After that though, when 2 or 3 provinces have been revealed the number of targets will be limited.

After being restricted Mirumoto’s Fury didn’t see much play as the other restricted options won out. That this is a weaker version of Mirumoto’s Fury set’s the power level. In that time, a number of clans have received many more straight effects that diminish the effectiveness of bowing slightly. It’s still good to force your opponent to play those cards of course.

Spiritcaller Prodigy

This is another case of what looked like an old card replacement, Spiritcaller Prodigy fills a similar role to the Kitsu Spiritcaller but with limitations, no longer can you pull out a clan champion and instead you’re limited to a 3 fate or lower Lion character. As a bonus you get this as a conflict character at the same skills which is a definite buff from where it was. In addition, the character doesn’t leave play at the end of the conflict, so if you straighten the character you can get an extra conflict or if you add some fate they can stay around. Unlike the Kitsu Spiritcaller though, this is a once off, as the Spiritcaller Prodigy sacrifices. This does mean you can attack with the Prodigy and sacrifice the bowed Prodigy to get another character, something you can’t do with the Kitsu Spiritcaller.

Of course, what has actually been happening with this character is the Spiritcaller Prodigy brings back the Kitsu Spiritcaller who brings back someone like Akodo Toturi. In the other cases the new version of the card competed for space with the existing cards in some way. Here the new card actively supports the old card. Leaving Kitsu Spiritcaller aside for a moment, Lion have a great selection of 1 to 3 fate Dynasty characters sandwich the Spiritcaller Prodigy can bring back the right character for the moment, even at 3 fate that’s a fantastic ability. In the meantime, expect to see 4 and 5 cost characters hitting the table a few actions after the Spiritcaller arrives.

Magistrate’s Intervention

The only magistrate the Phoenix have is the Haughty Magistrate, one of a set of Bushi Magistrates with one for each clan. In addition to that series, there are Dragon’s Magistrate of Reason, Scorpion’s Bayushi Yojiro, Unicorn’s Utaku Tetsuko and two neutral magistrates one for seeker and one for keeper roles. So, it is a surprise to see a card that actually uses an otherwise unsupported trait. That aside, this is a 1 fate event that requires a Courtier that dishonors an attacking character. As an event that dishonors it’s easy to compare it to Way of the Scorpion which does the same for 0 cost without those limitations. Of course, comparing to a clan locked card is a little unfair. If your opponent has declared two attacks against you, then you can double dishonor the character. This presumably is how this ended up in Phoenix colors tying loosely into their pacifist theme. The double dishonor effect is similar to that of Mark of Shame, a card so good it was restricted. Mark of Shame costs 2 fate but is an attachment so it can’t be cancelled and can be played at any time. So you’re saving a fate but significantly limiting when it can be played.

At its basic effect of dishonoring an attacker, this is actually decent for 1 fate. The bonus effect of double dishonoring is highly unreliable, not only do you have to wait for your opponent’s second attack but you have to hope your target of choice is in that second attack. At 3 influence, I can’t see this being popular for a splash for Scorpion dishonor but with Display of Power it does remain a definite option. For the Phoenix deck, it adds support to their Courtier dishonor deck which was already viable and now gets a bit of a boost.

Compromised Secrets

The restriction of being less honorable than your opponent is a common one for the Scorpion and as their most popular deck is one that tanks their opponent’s honor, it often makes these cards unplayable. This attachment has no immediate effect, but instead gives your opponent a choice, don’t use the character’s ability or do use it but hand over a point of honor. This type of effect makes for a great game, more choice is more fun. Unfortunately in this case, you’re not the one making the choice. You hand that over to your opponent and if they don’t need to trigger the ability then Compromised Secrets is essentially a wasted cards. If your opponent is going to get more out of the ability than the additional cost of transferring an honor, then they can choose to take it. Unlike Cloud the Mind they always have the option, in addition, Compromised Secrets only adds the cost to triggered abilities so it doesn’t deal with threats like the new Bayushi Kachiko.

Flank the Enemy

That your opponent gets to pick the character is a knock against this card, but once you look at it a little more this is actually a pretty great card. The comparison card in my opinion should be Admit Defeat, a Crane event that costs 1 and bows a lone defender. It doesn’t see tons of play but has appeared in competitive decks. If you’re attacking with 2 or more characters and your opponent has only one character, then Flank the Enemy is essentially the same. After that, everything is a bonus. Flank the Enemy also works when you’re on the defence, bowing an attacker. If you have the fate for it, you can play this multiple times. At 1 fate, this is never going to be a power card and with your opponent picking the targets it’s not always going to have a massive impact, but it should be reliable enough to make a solid addition to a Unicorn deck.

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.

4 Replies to “Dominion Cycle – Pack 6 – Atonement”

  1. Ganzu Warrior has the [Max 1 per conflict] restriction so even if you have multiple participating you will only be able to trigger one of them.

  2. Admit Defeat > Flank because
    1) Committing two or more attackers is worse than committing one.
    2) Even if you can use Flank against two enemies (you’d need three), if you use it, they just bow the chud anyway. Better to save it for a single opponent except in those extremely rare circumstances you’d be able to play multiples at once.

    1. You’re not wrong, but Flank > Admit Defeat as soon as your opponent has 2 or more characters in the conflict!

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