There’s some more generic stuff left to discuss, but this part will meander over into clan-specific matters. Celestial tends to place cards into nice, neat themes (four per clan), but Samurai was still more of a mish-mash, with some clans having only 1-2 broad options. How successful a clan can be in War of Honor may hinge on how well their good CE themes sync up with what they got in SE. Let’s start with Unicorn, because The Terror of Samurai is back:
“Who will stop me?” That about sums up Chags xp4. He solos any province, possibly two (and doesn’t care about Outer Walls or presence-less send-home). No one in your army can get moved home. And he even stands himself back up if your opponent decides to bow him. There was a reason they banned this guy. Granted, taking two provinces doesn’t give you any additional steps on your Path to Victory, but you’ve still just crippled an opponent in one shot. Yes, your opponents can try to team up to stop him, but that’s true of anything military. And he might even get a little boost, because if you drop one opponent down to two provinces, there will probably be another opponent who still has four, and you can Cavalry him to death.
Unicorn picks up two new Strongholds from Samurai (the third SE box was the CE-legal Utaku Plains). The Western Steppes was the most-played at the end of Samurai, but takes a big hit from the loss of Legacy holdings. A real part of the value of that spud was that you could start with Seat of Power in play and then use it to protect your two copies of Moto Chagatai. The Temple of Death has sort of taken a bit of a hit, as Border Keep has replaced pitching guys on your first turn with putting them on the bottom of your deck, so you’ll have to rely more on your own discard pile. On the other hand, with so many more opponents, there are at least a lot more discard piles to choose from. Bonus: use it to shut down Fields of the Dead.
“Random good Uniques” has been a popular Unicorn theme for many years now, these days often out of Outsider Keep. Chags xp5 may be no Chags xp4, but he’s still nothing to sneeze at. He still solos any province, still has a resistance ability (not as good as xp4, but I hear that people do still try to bow your guys), and picks up an action that either kills an enemy unit, or gets rid of two of them. He should still be showing up in basically every Unicorn deck. The SE Moto Chen may not be Clan Champ massive – but he’s close. And still especially good against political decks (just try and make sure that they can’t talk the non-political players into helping out their defense). Shono xp4 rounds out the fatties section, with yet another province-soloing Cavalry Tactician. And his “super cavalry” Reaction still gives you a lot of tactical flexibility, even with allying restrictions.
Moto Yong-Tai doesn’t have the province-smashing ability of the above three, but her nasty reaction still warrants her inclusion in generic Unicorn decks. People complain already about how Unicorn can just take a Battle action to deal with them after they move in; Yong-Tai doesn’t even take that much effort to get the job done.
Shinjo Xushen has a generic statline, and an RA4 is solid but uninspiring. But in a format where people wrongly talk about how RA4s don’t kill anything, Xushen can make those assertions accurate. He shows up early in your Outsider Keep deck, and even RA6s aren’t going to be finding targets.
Finally, although she goes in an entirely different direction, Rikako is pretty nuts if you’ve got Items in your deck. I’m guessing big Weapons for whatever portion of your deck isn’t giant Tacticians, but there are lots of options. The move-in/straighten someone else isn’t a bad option either.
One of the solid CE Unicorn decktypes is Battle Maidens, and it’s an early favorite for War of Honor due to its ability to easily rack up advances on both the Honor and Military tracks. So what do the SE Battle Maidens add in?
4F for 7G and an RA4 isn’t going to light the world on fire (she’s mostly a worse Xushen, but with the Battle Maiden keyword and more PH), but Utaku Arisa isn’t shabby, especially if you need more ways to finish people off after you reduce their Force to zero. If you want to bow for your RA4 to gain 2 honor, you can try Utaku Jisoo instead – but CE should let you come up with better abilities than that. Utaku Nayan has awful stats (3F for 6G, and only 3PH), and handing out -4F will never get anyone excited – but a printed gain of 3 Honor goes a long way towards that honor track. Depending on how much you can make the difference between 2 and 3 matter, she might be handy if a more honor-focused
Battle Maiden deck, but that awful Force makes me wonder.
Your big Personality add for the Battle Maidens may be Utaku Yu-Pan xp – she’s 1 less Force and one less Gold than xp2, but she still has the blanket +1F bonus. At first glance one might not look too kindly on an ability that requires you to bow someone just to send an enemy unit home, but its repeat use can win battles all by itself. Utaku Kohana loves to bow for this, if you’re willing to risk the boxable hate.
Utaku Remi isn’t too shabby either, but she’s more of an Outsider Keep sort of girl. Similarly, Utaku Genshi and her built-in Retribution could be attractive, but she requires a Weapon overlap in your deck, so she might fit in better in a different deck (plus The Perfect Moment makes Retribution feel pretty wimpy).
Shinjo’s Courage is a must-have for Battle Maiden switch decks. It synergizes great with the existing Force-reduction cards, and basically Shinjo’s Courage + buy a guy full = advance your Path to Victory. Even when it isn’t your turn, that 4-5 honor gain for half of the Path is a Big Deal.
Strength of Paragons is a stupendous effect – tons of your Battle Maidens will have 5PH from the box, so all you need are some Personalities with above-box requirements, and “Battle: Kill anyone” can be yours. Back in Samurai, Unicorn often imported some Lion to find enough targets, but Samurai + Celestial gives you Utaku Anhui, Utaku Eun-ju, Utaku Fusae, and both versions of Utaku Kohana.
Basically random guys from here on out. Suren’s ability would be great if he was fair and only targeted cards in the enemy army. But, instead, he can just randomly punk cards at any battlefield – enemy or not.
Moto Chai is a man in desperate need of a Sneak Attack (Deathly Aura need not apply – Chai isn’t a Samurai). He kills things dead and, because CE’s conventions about attachments and targeting hadn’t come into play, he’ll kill through Spells or Items.
The rest are what they are, and will probably not manage to make the cut – move-in (Hotei), free dude on defense (Kadonomaro), restricted harpoon (T’sao). Eien really wants a lower gold cost, but he might let you straighten a lot if there are a couple of political decks at the table.
There are a couple of non-Personality cards that are exclusive to the Unicorn as well. Koutetsu Chikara (translation: Unicorn Clan Armor) is decent, but not scary, since its targeting is restricted by unit Force. Western Outpost, while its gold production isn’t great, can provide a needed boost to your Dynasty phase when your whiffing on Personalities and you’ve already blown your Border Keep (or you really need to get that guy back from the province you just lost).
All told, for all the mass of Battle Maiden cards, the most raw power comes from Unicorn’s random Uniques. Expect to see both Battle Maiden switch and Pony Smash in War of Honor tournies.