This interview is a bit out of date now (since they’re talking about EE not having been released yet), but better late than never from our correspondent.
Interview by Kevin Kennedy
Kevin: Why don’t we get started with your personal information. First of all, I want to verify: you are in fact human and not some [sort of] of L5R tournament winning machine?
Case: ERROR: DOES NOT COMPUTE. I’m pretty sure Andrew (Ornatov) is the L5R tournament winning machine. He wins the tournament without even winning the tournament! (He still hasn’t keyed me in on those secrets). I think he runs off vodka, too.
Kevin: How old are you?
Case: Twenty six. My birthday is right around GenCon every year. The year I won, Sunday was actually my birthday. I think GenCon weekend contains my birthday again this year. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make a repeat.
Kevin: Where do you call home?
Case: Bellvue, Washington. It’s about 30 miles away from Seattle.
Kevin: Is there a Mrs. Kiyonaga or a potential Mrs. Kiyonaga?
Case: Not at the moment.
Kevin: What do you do to support your L5R habit?
Case: I was a financial analyst for a while, but recently got an insurance license. Right now I’m in my first month of being an insurance producer. It’s basically a fancy term for insurance salesman, but it’s kind of interesting to see the actual amount of “sales” they actually do. It seems like the work is much closer to being an advisor than simply “selling” something.
Kevin: Do you design the insurance products you sell?
Case: No, I’m simply the one selling them. I’ve considered doing some of the design process as well, it’s at least a year or two plus an actuarial license before I’d be able to do it. For now it’s just something I’m keeping as a consideration.
Kevin: What’s your educational background?
Case: College degree in economics at Pitzer College down in So Cal. Interestingly enough, it’s about 20 minutes driving from the AEG offices and I never once visited while I was actually in school (though I didn’t even really start playing L5R until my sophomore year).
Kevin: What do you do when you’re not playing L5R?
Case: Tennis and Starcraft mostly.
Kevin: Starcraft 2 or the original?
Case: SC 2
Kevin: Do you do any roleplaying or boardgaming? (Somehow, I just don’t see you as an L5R RPG player)
Case: (laughs) You’re right, I don’t do any roleplaying or anything. Board games are fun for parties and stuff but I don’t play them often.
Kevin: You seem to have won a lot of L5R tournaments. Exactly how many L5R tournaments have you won so far? Or have you lost count?
Case: Uhh… yeah… geez… Besides locals and stuff, I think it’s like 14 or 15 kotei, GenCon, a couple of level 10s and a storyline or two.
Kevin: How long have you been playing L5R now?
Case: I think I’m entering my 7th year.
Kevin: How long did it take you to win your first major tournament?
Case: About two years. I started at the beginning of Lotus. I won my first kotei my second season. More like 18 months I guess.
Kevin: What did you start out playing?
Case: I learned on Dragon monk during the Diamond/Lotus changeover and played Scorpion ninja and Kitsuki Dragon my first year.
Kevin: What did you win your first kotei with?
Case: Mantis Aramasu’s Pride raiding. The deck was sick. You’d run like 5-7 holdings and like 9 events. Buy no extra holdings and still buy your clan champion for one holding on turn 3 plus two other things. It was fast, brutal and killed 3-7 personalities with their naval action.
Kevin: How many different clans have you won tournaments with?
Case: Everything but Crane and Scorpion so far.
Kevin: Why no Crane or Scorpion? Not broken enough yet?
Case: (laughs) Just not as interesting to me so far. Crane was kinda fun during this kotei season but it’s tough playing the stupid deck for seven rounds of swiss then navigating the brutal Northwest are elims. Scorpion: I don’t really like playing dishonor that much and that’s really been Scorpion’s only regularly viable deck type so… yeah. Crane has had honor too, but I was able to find a fun wonky military deck just because Embassy is stupid strong.
Kevin: You seem to play a lot of Lion decks, or at least you seem to have played a lot of Lion decks, during the last two arcs. Is there any clan that your prefer to play over others?
Case: Mostly just the Military clans. Though, I definitely have also played a reasonable amount of Unicorn this last two year or so as well.
Kevin: Of all the L5R decks you’ve played do you have a favorite?
Case: Not really. I mostly tend to play what I find most interesting or most fun or entertaining. So I really enjoy most of the decks I play.
Kevin: What do you do to prepare for tournaments?
Case: Very little really. Just play. Figure what I like and don’t like and try to get to a point that I like. Talking with other players about their experiences can also be extremely helpful. Most of the time people get stuck on playtest and don’t really think about “Well, ok, how do I apply this data that I have now?” It’s just as important to try to think of whether you’re ok with a matchup or environment or a mediocre meta card as it is to actually playtest. I think the mistake people make is misjudging the goal of playtesting. The question shouldn’t be “How do I beat X?” as much as “Am I ok with my matchup with X?” Obviously if you’re not happy you start thinking about how to beat it, or improve your chances, but it’s all about how comfortably you feel.
Kevin: Can you give an example?
Case: Well, for Gencon, the most difficult matchups for Lion paragon were, surprise, Crane honor and Unicorn paragon and my playtesting showed me that with certain levels of meta, and some fate deck tuning I can beat Unicorn paragon. Mostly by just playing as efficiently as possible during battles, and relying on having more printed actions. For Crane, I ran piles and piles of meta but after a little while I realized I was doing it wrong and I was ok with having something like a 40-60 matchup and was able to run a very limited amount of meta.
Kevin: What meta were you running originally and what did you end up running?
Case: At one point, I was running something 15-17 meta cards: 3 Only Actions Speak, 2 Proper Deference, 2 Deeds and Words, Kitsune Den, 3 Determined Force, 2 Height of Courage, 2 Burn the Village and, if you count it, 2 Ageless Shrine. Ageless Shrine turned out to just be good in general, but I took out most of the rest of it before the main tournament. I think I was at 2 Determined Force, 2 Height of Courage and a Deeds and Words.
Kevin: Do you think some players obsess over certain matchups too much?
Case: Oh yes. I think that players have the misconception of “I HAVE TO WIN EVERY SINGLE GAME EVER AND EVERY MATCHUP!” Which, you know, is really quite wrong. Of all the tournaments I’ve won, I’ve only ever run the tables maybe once or twice. Most of the time, you’re going to lose a game or two to a bad matchup. Proper tournament preparation should really mean that you realize that you’re going to lose some games almost every time. I honestly never expect to X-0 the swiss portion of any tournament. What I try to do is get myself to a point where I can reasonably expect to have a record that will get me into the elims. The elims are incredibly luck based too… matchups can play such a huge role, and you have much less control over the elims than you do the swiss.
Kevin: So, it’s the end of Celestial and (almost) the beginning of Emperor. How did you think the clans were during Celestial edition?
Case: The clans were actually incredibly balanced during CE. I really enjoyed Samurai edition, but the clan balance was a little bit skewed over the length of the arc. In CE, pretty much every clan has had a reasonable showing for a reasonable amount of time, at least in proportion to the amount of players they had. Obviously some clans have WON more, but each clan has been in the top 3 in “power” at some point in the arc.
Kevin: How are you feeling about Emperor edition?
Case: Haven’t looked really. Like, really haven’t looked at all… lots of people have asked me about EE.
Kevin: Are you avoiding thinking about it until the base set is out?
Case: More or less. I’ve been busy.
Kevin: Are there any themes you’re excited about? Andrew seems enthusiastic about the Kitsune honor theme.
Case: Not really, I don’t but a lot of stock into themes. Mostly because they are often fairly splashable. Themes are great and all but power wise they often are not fully supported enough to play “just” a single theme.
Kevin: Do you think some L5R players get too caught up trying to play within a theme?
Case: Oh, definitely. The number of Lion decks I saw that were running Kenji… (shudders) Themes are great for general guidelines or starting points, but they shouldn’t be forced.