This is the eighth in a series of posts about Samurai arc cards that might find a place in War of Honor decks – or maybe that would just be amusing in War of Honor decks (Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7).
I guess I need to pop these out faster, or GenCon is going to be over before I’m done, eh? Let’s go onto Lion next, because they have some fantastic options for War of Honor. Lion has been great in CE, and was really good in SE. Plus, their best decks in both arcs have tended not to care too much about keywords, letting you mash Personalities together.
Lion decks in War of Honor will do one of two things – straight out smash your face, or smash your face while gaining enough honor to advance on that Path to Victory. Lion was able to do both in Samurai arc, and the key to the switch decks was Vigilance Keep. In SE, they often employed the Unicorn-style tactic of smashing an early province or two, and then sitting back. That probably isn’t as functional a tactic in War of Honor (taking two provinces still leaves a lot of production for your opponents to kick your teeth in with, and the deck doesn’t do a lot of Open honor gaining), but the extra honor boost from Vigilance Keep is still handy – take a province using a 4PH guy, buy a guy with 4PH, and that’s both your military and honor advance for the turn, letting you save honor-gaining Battle actions for other players’ turns (Vigilance Keep does not work when you are an ally). However, Vigilance Keep has to compete with the excellent Shamate Keep, which doesn’t gain you as big a chunk of honor, but actually helps you win battles and (if you can afford to keep it unbowed) can help gain honor on other players’ turns. Vigilance Keep seems more loaded for early swings (which can also make you a target), while Shamate Keep might have more staying power. I’m not sure which is the “right” choice, but I don’t think either of them are wrong.
The Hall of Ancestors was an excellent Stronghold, but has probably lost a step as time has gone on. It requires a little setup (getting a dead guy in your bin), which the other boxes don’t – and the better your other options are, the more it stings to devote deck slots to that end. Plus, your primary source of getting a guy in the discard pile right away (discarding him on T1 to maximize your chances of getting two holdings on T2) has been replaced with Border Keep. Having an effectively unkillable Akodo Hachigoro is sweet, but I have the feeling that Hall of Ancestors isn’t going to get the same level of love it once did.
By the way, if you are going to play Hall of the Ancestors, then Ineko and Katsuko are probably where you should start looking for ways to get dead guys in your discard pile.
While we’re at it, let’s talk about the big guy (sorry, Yoshino, you aren’t it). He’s got an above-box HR. He costs 8 and only has 3F. If anyone tries to tell you that this lack of stat efficiency meant he was anything less than ridiculous, then that person either didn’t play in SE or is a Lion player with delusions of mediocrity. Hachigoro’s ability is incredibly disruptive and destructive – harpoon and Sneak Attack rolled into one. He can not only drag in Personalities who didn’t want to assign at all, but he can also break up defenses by pulling in a Personality who was trying to defend somewhere else. And – unlike Sneak Attack and its ilk – Hachigoro gives you the first action, not the Attacker (you can use him as the Attacker or as an attacking ally). If you really want, you can even use it as just a Sneak Attack, without the harpoon.
She doesn’t have a single keyword you care about, and she might as well be 0F/1C, but Asa was a key card for Lion honor/military switch decks in Samurai. She costs next to nothing (note that she boosts her own HR and PH when in a province). She gives you an extra honor on each of your turns. In War of Honor she is probably a little less handy – going from 4PH to 5PH often won’t mean anything, and you need a base 4PH to get the most bang for your buck out of Vigilance Keep.
Who would have guessed that some of the best Courtiers in Samurai were Lion? Ikoma Yasuko should be in every Lion deck. Just click on the link and read the card if you don’t know what she does.
Noda might be even more amazing in War of Honor than he was in Samurai arc. He bows for free every turn someone might attack, so he can favor monkey on your turns (if there isn’t a Crane or Phoenix player in the game), and will always be upright whenever anyone else declares an attack. And he makes all of your guys +1F – he’s not free like Akodo’s Guidance, but he does pump on defense as well.
The great Lion Personalities don’t stop there. Aoiko is another no-brainer in basically any Lion deck. A kill action and she moves one of your other guys in (she cannot move herself in)? Somebody liked Lion when they were designing all these Uniques, eh?
You know all those cards lately that jack guys without attachments? Benika can handle that sort of thing for you. She’s got normal stats to start (3F/6G), and then for 2G each turn you get to protect two of your Personalities and get +4F. Benika xp is probably the weakest Benika because she needs one of the other Benikas out to generate Nonhumans to sacrifice, but Limited unit bow is not to be trifled with.
Lion Clan Champions never get any respect because of their gold costs, but Yoshino gives your army a tremendous Force pump, solos provinces, and has a filthy Battle ability. He’s worth the gold.
OK, Takeko isn’t the kind of ridiculous some of these other Lion guys are, but she will hand out a lot of Force penalties in a battle of any size – your opponent will have to take our your spud with no battle action first, or his army will severely weakened by the time he gets around to dealing with Takeko.
Yoshike was pretty fly in her day, but this is one Lion whose stock has probably dropped significantly. Blanket force pumps are a lot more readily available than they used to be, and Yoshike has to hang back in order to be effective on any turn but your own (and will only be effective on the defensive when you’re way back on your heels).
Of course, there are some non-Personalities that the Lion can use as well (although it should be readily apparent by now that, on the whole, Celestial arc Strategies are stronger than their Samurai arc counterparts, and that vast swathes of the SE red cards are now coasters). So there is exactly one red card in this post, which is The Lion’s Strength. It’s weak harpoon (they have to defend with someone, and you don’t get an immediate follow-up), and it’s weak move-in (no using it presenceless), but that’s at least flexibility.
Force pumps may be relatively cheap these days, but Hitsu Taeruko is still playable. Too bad you have to bow it, so no maximizing it across a turn cycle.
Koutetsu Sessou costs four. Lion players hate attachments that cost four. Sessou has a great action, but I think they’re right this time – not worth the awkward (unless you’re running War Encampment).
Lion Advisor is a five-for-five. Lion are actually just fine paying five for a holding T1. There’s an awful lot of competition for holding slots though.
Lion’s gains from Samurai arc are almost all Personalities (plus a box), but that’s fine because a good number of those Personalities are well above the curve – and, really, you’ve got fine red cards from Celestial anyway. With great guys in SE and great guys in CE, Lion should be a force in War of Honor. I would anticipate seeing lots of military/honor switch decks, and also quite good non-keyword-specific pure military decks.