Jim finished in the Top 4 (Top Dragon) at this year’s Legend of the Five Rings World Championships at GenCon 2015. Below you can find his decklist and tournament report. This is our second GenCon L5R World Champs report – if you haven’t already, check out the first (by Brendan Quigley). Have a story to tell from this year’s World Champs (or another storyline tournament)? Go ahead and submit it!
by Jim Chin
Choosing a deck:
It pays to be prepared, so my local playgroup and I sleeved up a gauntlet of the decks we thought would be good in the new Thunderous Acclaim environment. We identified Phoenix Honor, Crab dishonor, and Unicorn Standing Fast as the top contenders (with Mantis being traditionally strong but with slipping numbers in the meta.) Any deck had to have a decent game against these monsters. Against the first two, since they are defensive decks, a way to remove presence at the battlefield, as well as a way to generate Force, were needed. This pushed me in the direction of dueling+weapon military, which is an archetype I’ve also had success with at prior Kotei. You’ll notice in the decklist that my weapons are either very cheap, draw you more cards, or draw you more weapons. Against Standing Fast, dueling also seemed like the answer, but was vulnerable to a well-timed Spirited Dispute. Choosing a deck in L5R, unlike many CCGs, is also a matter of clan honor and devotion, but it pays to take critical looks at what other clans will bring to the table and the ways that your clan can counter those strategies.
The Fortified Monastery of the Dragon
3 Mirumoto Higaru – exp (Higaru is a savage beast as he has all the keywords, and he along with Reiji swings defensive matchups in your favor.)
3 Mirumoto Hikuryo (5 gold guys are key given the holding scheme of the deck.)
3 Mirumoto Reiji (MVP all day. A traditional problem of Dragon decks is that we are so fate dependent. Reiji allows you to avoid battles until you can rebuild your hand.)
3 Mirumoto Nokkai (I know, I know, he’s only 2 force. But he draws you cards when you duel, and boy do I duel. If I saw one in my Top 4 games the matchup may have been different)
2 Mirumoto Saiko (Kills dudes dead but has low base Force. She rarely threatens a province by herself, hence the 2x)
Mirumoto Shikei, the Laughing Dragon
2 Mirumoto Takanori
Mirumoto Tsuda, Emerald Champion
2 Mirumoto Tsukazu
3 Togashi Yayoi
3 Rich Vein
3 The Toil of Zokujin
2 Vengeful Populace
3 Weapon Artist
3 Coastal Lane
3 Gold Mine
3 Developed Quarry
2 Forgotten Legacy
The New Order
3 Versatile Blade
3 Stockpiled Weapon (Like the Dragon clan, this is subtly powerful. Leads to explosive early turns when your opponent does not expect it.)
2 Tested Blade
2 Ensorcelled Longsword
3 In Stillness, Forge the Soul (Another subtly powerful Dragon card.)
3 Come One at a Time
3 Weakness Exposed
2 The Eternal Chase (My meta against Mantis and Lion.)
3 Way of the Dragon
3 Clash of Blades
2 Courage Beyond Question
2 The Thrill of Daring
2 Sundered Blade
2 Strike of the Obsidian Blade (Weakest card of the day. Against more traditional Phoenix honor this serves as additional meta. Victory Through Deference is more generically useful.)
2 Sudden Movement
2 Strategic Withdrawal
Ring of Air
Ring of Earth
Round 1: Andrew Young, Unicorn Standing Fast (No Sensei)
Andrew is the winner of the Austin extended Kotei and clearly no slouch. Since he runs no Sensei his province strength is a tougher 8, and I figure it would be safe to assume that he’s running Standing Fast. I swing Turn 3 but for some reason blank and assume that he is running a Sensei. He lets me take it back and assign with the other spud I had lying around (and winning my vote for sportsman). Afterwards though, he legitimately has reservations (it’s the world championships after all) but also mentions that we would have to roll back too much. I offer for us to roll for it and I wind up winning the roll. We both kinda feel bad as he flips up 3 holdings right afterward, swinging tempo clearly to me. Junghar Regulars are the bee’s knees though as that Engage action is just too versatile. In Andrew’s critical attack I Sudden Movement in a Reiji, and he retreats to attempt to Cav and sleaze another province. When I also Cav in Reiji (knowing that has nothing since he had to retreat from Reiji last time) he also gets the “oh no” look and I let him take it back too (karma!). I wind up squezzing out a win using Come One at a Time on super units. We play out another one for fun where I wind up winning handily. He didn’t have to be a gentleman but he was and thus earns my eternal respect.
Round 2: Lena? (Not 100% sure of the name) Yodo Sensei honor
I’m excited to see a Yodo deck doing really well as I’ve never really been able to wrap my head round it. I start with Earth and pitch aggressively for either Higaru or Reiji. She’s utilizing an interesting fortification scheme (Blessed Herbalist) and gains a lot of honor, ending the game at 39 when I take both. On a critical turn I did not decide to swing with a 5F unit that got hit with Selfless Politics, which wound up making some comfortable swings. I also peg her on the dueling build when I notice her focus values all seem to be 4’s and 3’s.
Round 3: Tim Casey Shibata Sensei dishonor
Tim is a tight player and though is playing dishonor is a great guy to play against, very enjoyable. His deck has an insane amount of Open bow but I feel like I have to start Earth anyway. I have to get a bit lucky as while he gets a lot of his control personalities he doesn’t see a single BCI. He’s still able to play 2x Way of the Scorpion with 2x Mercantile Conflict off of Shikei to drop me 12 honor, but I assign with multiple Higarus and Shikei and keep interrupting with Ring of Earth even though he names it so that I can Shikei/Higaru straighten.
Round 4: Jon Palmer, Aranai Sensei Unicorn Standing Fast
I hear Palmer’s pretty good at this game, and when he flips Aranai Sensei I peg him on John Seals’s corrupt-gold scheme Unicorn Standing Fast. He gets good gold but an early Reiji allows me to take the first province. He builds a big unit to Standing Fast with and in the critical turn I make a key mistake by putting a stockpiled weapon onto a Nokkai instead of a Higaru xp who already had an actual weapon. I lost the key battle by 3 Force, and if I switched it around I would have been able to wipe his army.
Round 5: Matt Butterfield, Taitaken Sensei Unicorn Standing Fast
Matt seems like a genial, friendly guy and he flips Taitaken, so I assume the worst and think he’s Standing Fast. It turns out to be correct. He even runs the Spirited Dispute to punch dueling decks, and he focuses out every time I challenge him to a lethal duel. Luck was on my side this game as I really needed every duel to go off in order to win. It turns out those Spirited Disputes were way at the bottom of his deck (he even runs two!) but instead of getting salty he genially states that sometimes that’s just how the cardboard flips. I worry that sometimes I get salty during matchups and he reminds me of what a true gentleman playing the game should be like.
Round 6: John ‘Ogre’ Seals, Aranai Sensei Unicorn Standing Fast
Crud. Seals gives me a big ogre hug when he finds out we are paired against each other. I feel like the matchup is normally in his favor, but he sees the worst turn 2 gold I’ve ever seen him flip (1 holding after already using the stronghold cycle 2nd ability on his first turn) while I buy double Gold Mines, then Reiji and gold, in order to break a province T3 while getting more gold. Turn 5 I split for his remaining two provinces to bleed his hand and Force blocks before he can set up a super unit, and at a battle my Reiji ties his two big personalities. My other unit (Higaru xp) takes and he flips up a holding and shakes my hand. Yikes!
Round 7: Jacob Hampton, Unicorn (probably Standing Fast)
We talk it out and with Case Kiyonaga’s help realize if we both draw we are both in the Top 16. We heartily agree to in order to get some sweet, sweet relaxation. I also wasn’t looking forward to what most likely would have been my 4th Unicorn Standing Fast matchup in a row.
Top 16: Case Kiyonaga, Aranai Sensei Spider
Case and I have squared off a bunch of times in big events and we have a running joke that every time we play each other I take one more province from him before I lose. Last time I took either two or three so we joke about whether this pattern will hold and try to remember how many I took last time. So far in all my games with this deck I feel like Dragon has the slight edge but I’ve really only tested against Yajinden Sensei. Case is playing something different and scary. I get ideal gold (T1 Coastal Lane into T2 Weapon Artist and Vengeful Populace). Weapon Artists are key in this matchup as their Fear effects and Shiho will only really blow up those Weapon Artist Weapons. This matchup is all about attrition, regardless of Sensei, so I buy two people T3 to swing T4. And this is when Case’s luck absolutely screws him. He flips up 3 bookeepers and a 2 chi personality. He buys him but since the guy doesn’t have tactician I take the 1st one unmolested. He eventually buys two Shiho and the guy that makes weapons but I use Clash of Blades on one Shiho and the weaponmaker. As he builds up an army of 3 chi people I decide not to lobby despite having Higaru, a move that seems like wasted opportunity, but I’ve been burned by both A New Alliance after I lobby, as well as needing that additional straighten (if they wind up bowing Higaru I am screwed). Since he still has a live Shiho I wind up assigning everyone to a province while he has two provinces left, conspicuously leaving a Shikei at home. I bleed out his hand by bowing out his naked people with Vengeful Populaces and Way of the Dragons off of dishonored personalities so that he cannot cancel my Ring of Air straighten or Weakness Exposed. (It turns out he’s also running big Followers so I want to play around Standing Fast…again!) I actually wind up losing the battle but Case only has a Spider Elite Sohei and one other card in hand while my grip is full, and with 2x Weapon Artists any guy I buy gets big. Seeing his chance Case swings for one of my provinces, but as luck (and Nokkai, who drew me 5-6 cards this game) would have it I have two Come One at a Times to wipe out his army. On the next turn I swing for two and Case defends, but when I Courage Beyond Question his Overwhelming Offense he offers the handshake.
T8: Jon Palmer, Aranai Sensei Unicorn (Standing Fasticron) – Best of 3
My only loss in the Swiss! Yikes! Palmer was very chill with me though. Game one he gets average gold but I also get double gold mine. I buy a Higaru and swing for a province Turn 3 which turns out to be brutal as he only sees 1 guy and two small gold holdings (Padis Dojo and Temple of Destiny) This game was only around 20 minutes as my early pressure never let up and in our big battle I bow his little guys to make sure that my duels go off.In the second game I get the very slow start and am not able to blitz. He gets fine gold as well, so we trade provinces back and forth as he builds up a Standing Fast platform with small 3 chi tacticians. We whittle each down to 2 provinces, with Palmer having 3 guys. He swings at 1 and I block 1 at each with a Come One at a Time, but he Cavs over to a small Hikuryo with a weapon, but decides not to engage with his stronghold. This seals it in my favor as I Come One at a Time with him unable to Sun’s Return, and leaving him without a standing fast platform. On my next turn I swing for 2 before he can wreck me with his meta (he has Padis Dojo to draw cards and has gold for multiple Versatile Armies and Holding Cells). He blocks his 3 naked people at my smaller army, and I wind up winning by 1 force. He flips up a holding and shakes my hand.
T4: James Matthews, Pheonix defensive dueling honor
James’s deck is interesting as he uses 3x Tsukimi and Come One at a Time to wreck people. I realize this means he can’t purely rocket as fast since he doesn’t run Pure Intent or Virtuous Victory but it also means that he can sacrifice-duel to kill my big, normally resilient/meta units. He mentions that he hasn’t lost a game yet all throughout GenCon.Game 1 is rough as he gets Samurai Caste Divides for an early Progressive and multiple copies of the Shugenja that battle bows to send someone home. I don’t have enough Clash of Blades for them all, and when he’s at 46 honor (I resolved New Order successfully) I split for 2 provinces while he still has 3. I make a critical mistake: I have a 7F 4 Chi Higaru, a 7F 5 Chi Tzukasu, and a 3 Force Monk. I should have put a weapon on Higaru to make him 5 chi since James had Tsukimi. However, I had multiple Way of the Dragons in my discard so I put a Weapon Artist on the monk so that no matter who got sent home with Progressive I could Way of the Dragon (I had played In Stillness, Forge the Soul and knew I had all 4’s in my upcoming focus pool). However, James blocks Higaru and sacrifices duels, tying the duel (argh!). However, even if I did, he would still have two provinces 5 cards in hand (two of them being Path of Wisdom for card cycle/Progressive shenanigans) with two provinces, one at 8 PS and one at 12.
Game 2 is quick – he sees 0 Progressives or Tsukimis and I roll through his provinces (but again, I have to resolve New Order)
Game 3 is similar to game 2 but without my New Order resolving. I take one early but he is able to stabilize with Progressive and Tsukimi. I make sure my Higaru is 5 chi and I make the same split I made in Game 1. Tsukimi Comes One at a Time on my Higaru again, and James focuses four cards straight from the top. I focus a card from the top (seeing that it is a 4) and focus three 4FV cards from my hand. He focuses all 4’s and we tie. It’s game from there as I don’t have enough Force to take his remaining provinces, since each is buffed with multiple fortifications (Musa Geishi, Defensive Memorial, etc.)