On the Cheap – Dragon Kensai

The On the Cheap articles seem to be of interest to our audience and, in the absence of a string of article submissions from people who aren’t me, I thought I’d go ahead and do one of my own.  Now, there will be a couple of differences with this one.  First, I’m writing it, so there goes all hope of funny.  Second, at least for this particular deck, I’m going to use a different criteria for “On the Cheap” (using different criteria will not be unique to this one; in the future you might see a deck for the no-rares-at-all Bushi League format).  Like the prior articles, you get access to all the commons and uncommons you want (even if including Know No Fear in that group kind of feels like cheating).  You also get access to any of the fixed cards in that Clan’s starter deck (in this case, the Dragon Clan starter deck from Emperor Edition).  Finally, instead of $80 of rares, you get one set of Forgotten Legacy.  I know I’ve got a bit of a broken record thing going on here, but Forgotten Legacy is pretty overpowered, and picking that up gives you a lot of staple cards.  And, boy, does this deck use a lot of Forgotten Legacy cards – 18, I think.

Oh, and since it’s basically already out, I’m giving myself permission to use Embers of War cards for this deck.

Dragon Kensai has done well on the tournament scene, but (like most decks) you’ll lose a lot by dropping rares left and right.  Indeed, if you go take a look at my EE Dragon Kensai deck, you’ll see that it contained 29! rares and promos.  The Weapons, in particular, are hard hit – every single one is a rare or promo (or is in Forgotten Legacy), and until Embers of War you really had no chance of filling the Weapon slots with semi-competent cards.  So, let’s see what we can make of this.

Starting Cards – Not a lot of choice here.  Foothills Keep will be the Stronghold.  Border Keep XP is much better for you than regular Border Keep – for non-honor decks I tend to think it should be the default choice, but an attachment-heavy deck really wants the ability to send attachments back if it gets flooded, or go digging for them if there’s a drought (the ability to use BKXP is one of the many reasons to grab FL).  On the other hand, with such intensive gold costs, plain or Bamboo Harvesters is the way to go.

Foothills Keep
Border Keep (Experienced)
Bamboo Harvesters

Personalities: Kensai decks tend to be relatively light on Personalities.  And that’s good, because we’re going to run out of Personalities right quick.  We’ll use every single non-terrible (e.g., not Mirumoto Gobashi) Dragon Clan non-rare Kensai, plus Yamazaki.  That gives us 19, which is a reasonable place to be.  Best of all, this is almost exactly the Personality list we’d want to play anyway.  Masatane (a promo) isn’t available, but the new Mirumoto Kouzei is quite fine, and the Dragon Clan Champion will serve as the last slot.

3x Mirumoto Houken
3x Mirumoto Kojinrue
3x Mirumoto Kouzei
3x Mirumoto Reiyu
3x Mirumoto Yumaru
3x Yamazaki
1x Mirumoto Shikei

Holdings: Kensai can’t go light on Holdings, and I’m a fan of Small Farm to really up that Holding count (although, remember, Small Farm does not count as a real Holding when figuring out the minimum number you need to avoid gold screw).  Part of the Holding selection is easy, as your straight-up gold generation is all common or fixed – Gold Mine, Small Farm, and Prosperous Village.  Terrains can really hose Kensai, and Akodo’s Grave is available, so that’s also an option.  But basically everything else you’d want out of your Holdings is gone.  All of the utility Holdings that are of interest – Chugo Seido, Travelling Peddler, Temples of Gisei Toshi – are rares.  And Kensai decks get good mileage out of some 4G Holdings – with only a few in the deck, they effectively don’t cost any more on T1. Unfortunately, both of the favored ones – Recruitment Officer and Heavy Infantry Dojo – are promos.  And the options for replacements after that are less than compelling – Rugashi Bazaar is really the only option (unless you count Remote Village, which is nothing but gold but at least can come out off of a Gold Mine later on).  Luckily, Forgotten Legacy provides us with another potential option in Ageless Shrine (just remember that Ageless will only straighten the Personality, and your guys are a lot worse when their Weapons are bowed).  For now, let’s go with our Akodo’s Grave meta, plus Rugashi Bazaar in the four-spot (with the legality of Den of Iniquity, there should be a lot more dishonor to meta against anyway).

3x Gold Mine
3x Prosperous Village
3x Small Farm
3x Akodo’s Grave
3x Rugashi Bazaar
2x Ageless Shrine

Everything Else: This is my category for Events, Regions, and Celestials.  Your first spot here is pretty easy – Ryoshun’s Guidance is the nuts.  Unfortunately, the rest of the usual suspects are rares – Alter History, Glory of the Shogun, and Imperial Gift.  There isn’t any direct replacement for any of these, so we’ll have to go looking.  And we really do want to look – our next options for Personalities are just bad, and we have quite enough Holdings, so we’d like the last three spots in the Dynasty deck to come from this category.  The Second City is mostly a free slot, so that works for one.  And, although we can’t replace the honor meta of Alter History, we can add in some dishonor meta, since Formal Apology isn’t rare.  Finally, let’s try out some new tech from Embers of War – Low Market.  Producing extra gold for our Weapons, it might help offset the loss of Near Miss.  We’ll only include one, but a second might be warranted (in place of The Second City or Formal Apology).

1x Ryoshun’s Guidance
1x The Second City
1x Formal Apology
1x Low Market

Weapons: This section is both painful and easy.  Painful because by excluding rares we lose every single Weapon we’d like to play that isn’t called Cursed Relic (luckily, Cursed Relic is the second-best Weapon).  Easy because there are so few options left.  After the Relic, the pretty obvious choices are Tsuruchi Daikyu and the new Sankaku-Yari.  The only real option is where to go after that, with the low-Force options of Maga-Yari (3F for only 2G), Satoshi’s Dual Warfans (card draw, although not when attached from the discard), or Shamsir (actually has a Battle ability).  We’ll go with the “card draw is king” option.  Under other circumstances, we might run another Weapon (or maybe even two), but our Weapon options are so bad at this point that hopefully we won’t have to.

3x Cursed Relic
3x Tsuruchi Daikyu
3x Sankaku-Yari
3x Satoshi’s Dual Warfans

Rings: Limited to non-rares, Ring of Water will be one of our few ways to move in and straighten a unit, and pretty much has to go in.  Ring of Earth is also worthwhile is a one-shot Outer Walls, or to get over province strength boosting.  Ring of Air isn’t terrible, but The Cycle of Vengeance is just better.

1x Ring of Water
1x Ring of Earth

Strategies: If we stick with 12 Weapons and 2 Rings, that means we need to slot in 26 Strategies. Some of this is a pretty easy, starting with the excellent Hundred-Fold Cut and Again! Never Beyond My Reach is one of the weaker cards in the full-bodied version of the Kensai deck (or, at least, it has been in the pre-Den of Iniquity EE environment), but a Ranged 6 Attack is more than enough for a budget deck. Retribution is one of the most important cards against other military decks, and Know No Fear is just good (although at some point you’ll certainly run into Inexorable to shut it down). A single copy each of A Game of Dice and Creating Order must also go in (yet another reason for Forgotten Legacy). This leaves 9 spots left to fill. If we had everything available, this would be 3x A Brave New World and 3x Near Miss, with three random spots left (probably Games of Will). There simply no way to replace A Brave New World and Near Miss, however. Province sleazing? Multiple free money off of one card, and it protects the attachments? We’re not getting that anywhere else. Of particular concern is move-in – the deck has lost Wyrmbone, has lost A Brave New World, can’t use the new Moving and Unmoving, and can’t even go to the backup plan of Rumors Travel because it’s also rare. But the deck really needs to have at least some move-in, even if it won’t be able to straighten the unit. The best option is probably going to be Broken Alliance (Hidden Defenses is better on defense, but we need the move-in to work on the attack as well). Although I usually lean towards three-ofs, but our remaining six slots will probably end up divided over more than two cards. Possibilities include Games of Will, Tireless Efforts, Superior Reach, The Cycle of Vengeance, Fall Back!, and (if we’re worried about defensive decks) The Snow Has Teeth. I’ve found a couple more straighten options to be handy, so we’ll want at least two of Tireless/Fall Back!/The Cycle of Vengeance. I’m not actually playtesting this thing, so we’ll grab Games of Will (Game of Sincerity is Evil, even we may lack good targets for the bow action), let’s go with the smorgasborg approach – I’ll let you test and report back.

3x Hundred-Fold Cut
3x Again!
3x Retribution
3x Never Beyond My Reach
3x Know No Fear
1x A Game of Dice
1x Creating Order
3x Broken Alliance
2x Games of Will
2x The Cycle of Vengeance
1x Superior Reach
1x Fall Back!

So, after that, we’re left with a decklist of:

Foothills Keep
Border Keep XP
Bamboo Harvesters

Dynasty (40):

Events/Regions/Celestials (4):
1x Ryoshun’s Guidance
1x The Second City
1x Formal Apology
1x Low Market

Holdings (17):
3x Gold Mine
3x Small Farm
3x Prosperous Village
3x Akodo’s Grave
3x Rugashi Bazaar
2x Ageless Shrine

Personalities (19):
3x Mirumoto Houken
3x Mirumoto Kojinrue
3x Mirumoto Kouzei
3x Mirumoto Reiyu
3x Mirumoto Yumaru
3x Yamazaki
1x Mirumoto Shikei

Fate (40):

Strategies (26):
3x Hundred-Fold Cut
3x Again!
3x Retribution
3x Never Beyond My Reach
3x Know No Fear
1x A Game of Dice
1x Creating Order
3x Broken Alliance
2x Games of Will
2x The Cycle of Vengeance
1x Superior Reach
1x Fall Back!

Rings (2):
1x Ring of Water
1x Ring of Earth

Weapons (12):

3x Cursed Relic
3x Tsuruchi Daikyu
3x Sankaku-Yari
3x Satoshi’s Dual Warfans

What To Add: Most of the things you might want to add are listed above, although there’s a tension – some of the most important adds are promo cards that may be a pain to get (Wyrmbone Katana, Near Miss, A Brave New World, a better 4G Holding).  The rare Weapons from Emperor Edition may not be too difficult, because they’re all reprints.  The easiest adds may be the Unique/Singular cards from Emperor Edition, as those are always easier to pick up – Glory of the Shogun (probably the most important, makes Maga-Yari stronger), Alter History, Temples of Gisei Toshi, Chugo Seido, Tetsuo, and Imperial Gift shouldn’t be difficult (Travelling Peddler still carries value, even if you only want one of it and even though its been reprinted multiple times now).

Well, that’s it for now.  <insert pithy closing here>

12 thoughts on “On the Cheap – Dragon Kensai

  1. Good article, although I’m a huge BK regular kind of guy. I think your approach of starter + FL is a good one. FL is just a stupidly good set.

  2. Great article! love reading your on the cheap articles, and well pretty much every article.

    I noticed there are x3 Know no fear and theres a x1 aswell, so you have 4 in the deck.

  3. Bk Regular just doesn’t go well with Kensai. You realllllly need to make sure you get that weapon to start the game with.

    1. It definitely makes sense for Kensai, but not as a default choice when building any other deck. Dragon Kensai breaks a lot of rules about deck construction.

      1. The power of T1 free money makes it the default for any Kalani’s Landing deck, as well, but I otherwise tend to be very much on the non-exp side.

      2. Spider Monksai pretty much has to run Border Keep XP as well. You’re going second against everyone (almost), so you HAVE to be able to unearth a ret vs. military.

  4. Slight critique: Neither in single form, or as a set, is Forgotten Legacy cheap. If you can afford those cards, odds are you can afford other niche rares.

    1. With respect, I disagree. Having to fork over between 3 and 15$ for each of the 28 rares that are in the original deck suggests a -much- higher cost than a set of FL (although Know No Fear is expensive, I’ll give you that).

    2. Ultimately, I think, cheap is relative. CCGs are, on the whole, not cheap, especially if you want the “complete game” (aka, a playset of everything). If we were talking about buying a “normal” board or card game, I don’t think anyone would classify the cost of a starter + $50-$80 in rares as “cheap.”

      In this context – yes, picking up a set of Forgotten Legacy is more expensive than the $80 rare budget in the prior two “On the Cheap” articles. However, within the context of the L5R CCG, Forgotten Legacy is basically the best money you can spend after the starter decks. So you’ll pay $20-35 more (depending on whatever AEG charges you for shipping) for FL than you would for a select $80 of rares, but you’ll be much better positioned for deckbuilding going forward.

      Hopefully we will get some “bushi league” articles submitted, which really are more “on the cheap,” seeing is they’re just commons, uncommons, and your starter deck(s). Jay, for example, built a pretty decent bushi league Phoenix honor deck (not shabby, given that most of the Battle actions that say “gain 2 honor” are rares).

  5. I guess my criticism is just largely that I don’t get this exercise. You’re eliminating one card type from your deck. To me, the appeal of CCGs has been a low investment upfront to get in. Once I’ve decided to buy into the game, I’d likely buy a Forgotten Legacy (that being a hypothetical new player, since those who know me, know that I haven’t). People I know try to get me to play miniatures, and I find them unappealing because the investment is very front loaded and if I don’t like it, I already feel financially committed. And then from another perspective, AEG’s desire to sell as many of these sets as possible will also lead to any rareless deck to have a considerable bulk of its power coming from these cards. I probably worded all this poorly, which is why I avoid these sort of posts.

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