by Monjoni Osso
Hello and welcome to a new series of articles for the Legend of the Five Rings collectible card game, Theory Katana. This series will be focusing on themes, decks, and theory for L5R covering formats ranging from the current arc, to draft and even open! For the first article, I felt compelled to cover one of the least explored and least popular themes in the current environment: Ronin.
Ronin are one of, if not the, most maligned factions in Emperor Edition. They have not placed in any Emperor Edition tournament, have no unifying keywords to fall back on, and are largely composed of overcosted personalities with few, if any, redeeming qualities. Their stronghold is, charitably speaking, poor and several of their most playable personalities are far outside the deck’s ability to pay for them. So, why would anyone play the wave men this arc?
The answer is truly simple. They’re just plain fun, in fact they’re the most fun deck I have had the privilege of playing in Emperor Edition. Every success is a major victory, every triumph hard-earned. Just taking provinces feels great even if you’re in a losing game. Battles become a crazy interplay of actions with your ability to make several different threats, something that strikes to the heart of what makes Legend of the Five Rings a fun game.
Don’t get me wrong, they face large and substantial problems. They have an economy that lacks a 2 for 3 gold production holding (a disadvantage shared by no other clan or faction in the game). They don’t get a clan discount for their personalities. Their stronghold produces 3 gold while having a starting honor of 2 (combining the disadvantages of both Lion and Mantis without any of their strengths). These challenges can be very frustrating.
So, with all those weaknesses, what is it that Ronin can actually do? Unlike many factions, it has been my experience that Ronin can force out an incredible amount of personalities. While Ronin may individually be weak, you won’t be sending one ronin at a province. You won’t even be sending two or three ronin. You’ll be attacking with several ronin, overwhelming the opponent’s action suite and control effects with simple weight of numbers. Ronin are, in other words, cheap and plentiful.
With that in mind, I present a deck I’ve taken to calling the Legion of Two Thousand:
SH: Palace of the Breaking Dawn
1x Kuronada XP2
1x Seppun Ritisharu
1x Shinden Shorai
1x Tales of Valor
1x Offering Reverence
3x Thick Marsh
3x Wide Valley
3x Lying in Ambush
3x Know No Fear
2x Heart of Darkness
3x Crushing Strength
2x Costly Opportunity
2x Sundering Strike
2x In the Heart of Battle
2x Seppun Heavy Elite
1x A Game of Dice
1x The Deciding Moment
1x Ring of the Void
1x Ring of Water
1x Ring of Fire
This deck, like the Ronin themselves, is uncomplicated. The strategy is to find an early Charter of the Legion of Two Thousand then use it as often as you can to create 2F/2C bodies to swing in with. Shinden Shorai and Masaya also give you more ways to buy personalities in the action phase, with the goal of just overwhelming defenses with hordes of unwashed ronin. Lying in Ambush synergizes very well with the Charter and on some draws you can have 3-4 personalities in play on your turn 2 action phase.
Personality kill isn’t extremely effective against the deck as you’re simply playing so many guys that killing one, or three, doesn’t affect it in the long run. Even for battles where your army gets obliterated, a timely Offering Reverence re-establishes you on the board with a horde of 2/2 samurai. Given that life is cheap, for ronin, you get access to fantastic options like Revenge and Costly Opportunity which allow you to take advantage of your ronin dying to your opponent’s actions. Learning also allows you to use your opponent’s strengths against them, copying one of their key actions and using it while also gaining some relevant keywords for a turn.
Unfortunately, ronin are extremely weak to bow actions and don’t get a lot of mileage out of more powerful straighten actions like A Yojimbo’s Duty. Large force can be easily negated and, if that’s your big trick, it’s all too easy to simply scoop to cards like Hiruma Nikaru. With that in mind, there are several options out against those actions with cards like Know No Fear, In the Heart of Battle (which is serving double duty as an unopposed force pump), and Seppun Heavy Elite.
Torn Asunder will bring with it many cards for ronin, but the most important one I think is Mutual Support. United-lite, this card gives a 4 force swing in battle and splits the bonus to two cards, making it more difficult to deal with than other single-target pumps. However, it probably won’t be enough to offset the utility of something like Crushing Strength or the versatility of In the Heart of Battle.
That wraps up our very first installment of Theory Katana! Thank you all for reading this, and please leave comments below.