by Monjoni Osso
Dragon honor was a stalwart of mine in Celestial Edition and the first competitive deck I looked at in Emperor Edition. It started out as an experiment with the new dueling rules that failed miserably and I assumed (incorrectly) that the deck was hamstrung. I saw an exceptional take on the deck at the Austin Name a Card that radically altered my perspective on it. Kitsuki really excel at open control actions and can shut down attacks on turn three or four very well. The theme is versatile, with enough Force and combat actions to military out against dishonor, race against other honor decks while causing them honor loss, and of course honoring out against military. Many people have tried building a Kitsuki dishonor deck, but I think this is a poor way to take the deck. The Personality base largely supports honor running, with two exceptions, and so I’m going to focus this article on how to honor run with the Kitsuki Personality base.
The thing that makes Kitsuki stand out very well is that they are all Courtiers, Magistrates and Duelists. Duelist, as a keyword, is not as useful as it was in Celestial Edition and you should not rely on it to be your sole winning option. Courtier is already a very powerful keyword, opening up access to cards like Favors and Accidental Confession, but many Courtier actions are low focus value. With the prevalence of high focus military actions in the current environment, digging too deeply into the Courtier card pool can pose a problem for the deck. Magistrates are not as powerful as they were at the start of Celestial, but have access to crazy actions like The Law’s Strength and Discovering a Conspiracy. Also, Magistrates do help the deck’s gold curve out by providing access to Magistrate’s Stipend, permitting the deck to run six two-for-three holdings. This minor bit of acceleration is pivotal due to the average gold cost of seven that your Personalities will have.
The strength of any Kitsuki deck will depend largely on which of the three action pools you go into, and how deeply you choose to do it.
STRONGHOLD: Watchful Eye Dojo
Watchful Eye Dojo has some obvious synergy with the theme’s Personality and action base. The first and most obvious boon is that the action will either gain you honor or bow the challenged Personality, even while the stronghold itself is bowed. With Kitsuki Horume, this means that you have the ability to gain 1 honor in every player’s action phase.
Kitsuki Nakai was a staple of Celestial Edition’s Last Step Castle, but Kinaro has a few things holding him back. The biggest problem I have with him is that six is not really an optimal gold cost for a Personality in the deck, making him an awkward buy. He has zero Force, which presents a problem when the deck needs to swing military at something. That drawback did not matter as much due to the action suite available last arc, but with the necessity of honor going in to attack dishonor now it’s a much larger consideration.
A decent Personality. A send home duel is a solid action due to the lack of responses that don’t cost tempo. Not so hot in the non-military matchups, but his 3 Force and usable battle action is still significant in those.
The switch enabler. I don’t think of her as such, primarily, but her action is very good against other honor rockets and also against dishonor. She enables you to race other non-military decks very decently, but isn’t so great in the non-Lion military matchups. Against Lion, an early Fujimura with a target can slow their tempo down in the mid-game just long enough for you to cross.
This guy is the A Number One King of the Deck. His entering play gain or loss is phenomenal, but his repeatable gain from winning a duel feeds Watchful Eye Dojo very well. Once Horume hits the board, you’re guaranteed at least one honor in every action phase. His ten honor requirement makes things tricky on turn 2, but even then he’s a superb buy at nine gold. I don’t think I’ve ever won a game without at least one Horume on the board.
There is nothing not to love about this guy. He slows down attachment decks with his open action, packs 5 Chi so he can duel into big Uniques, and has box honor requirement with four Personal Honor. I’d run six of him if I could.
NO. BAD. There’s a myriad of things that make this Personality awful, the least of which is that you’ll get to use his reaction maybe once or twice per game at the most. He has very low Force by modern standards, has no keywords of any significance for the deck, and has an above box honor requirement. Easily the worst card in the Kitsuki Personality base.
This Before the Dawn inclusion really cements the open phase control that the stronghold provides, as well as pumping several battle actions the deck should consider running. He’s got four Force, four Personal Honor, and five Chi to back up his great Reaction, so he’s no slouch when it comes to smashing provinces or dueling. The eight honor requirement isn’t really a problem after your turn two, either. A powerful Unique for the deck.
The Clan Champion packs only one useful keyword, and has a significantly above box requirement making a pre-turn three purchase very risky. However, he packs a noticeable stat block that includes four Personal Honor and the limited card draw action is very strong given the lack of repeatable card draw dynasty-side so far in Emperor Edition. His gold cost does make things difficult early and mid-game, but by turn four or five he’s a very solid buy.
Expensive Duelist with a box honor requirement doesn’t really scream for inclusion, but is a great meta call if you’re expecting to walk into a Lion heavy field.
Three Personal Honor, four Chi, and a reliable unit-killing battle action. He can’t use your Courtier actions, but still makes for a great presence at the last battlefield. Crucial in more military-based variants of the deck, but still nice for the open control variant.
There is really no reason not to put her into the deck. A turn one Demiyah/holding draw doesn’t lose the deck any tempo and enables very early access to Governor’s Court and Imperial Favor control. I would consider her an easy three-of inclusion.
You’re running three of this. You just are. Deal with it.
The Iaijutsu clause in this holding’s action means that it will see very little use in the deck, but the gold acceleration is all you’re really looking for. A no-brainer three-of for the deck.
The engine that makes the open control go. The open action on this, combined with the stronghold and actions like Accidental Confession and Duel of Haiku, are what make this deck a contender. This is the single card that enables an honor race to occur with this deck against the popular Temple of Purity deck. That it’s usable while bowed is just gravy, really.
Control lives and dies on card draw. At least one is an automatic inclusion, though increasing the count to two may be necessary against certain fields.
With the prevalence of six for five holdings in most military decks, this is a fairly weak inclusion. Ideally you flip this after the opponent’s already brought something like Traveling Peddler into play, but it’s a very bad flip on turn one.
This card is preposterous. More than once it’s bought a Personality for honor all by its lonesome. One of, if not the, best four cost holdings in the game.
I think this is a solid one-of for the deck. Honor duels against the popular paragon decks are a bit tricky, to say nothing of trying to hit big Uniques with Chi-targeted duels, and this holding makes those problems easier.
A great inclusion to increase limited phase gains, but is shut down hard by Rumors Travel which is seeing a lot of play. Great as a two-of, I think, but rely on it too much and it’ll cost you.
Solid dishonor meta for this deck. You can expect plus three Force per person on average, with the occasional plus four. It’s also great in the Yasuki matchup as it nimbly gets around their holding destruction ability. The three gold production combined with the average gold cost seven of your personalities makes it a fairly reasonable pure gold holding as well.
REGIONS & EVENTS:
This is an automatic inclusion. The board wide plus one Force is massive on its own, but that it can get other dynasty provinces flipped up is the real reason for choosing this region. Acceleration is important and that’s exactly what The Second City provides.
This has been a staple for honor decks since the end of Celestial Edition, and for good reason. Plus two province strength is usually enough to head off most turn two or three attacks, and destroying it to cross or gain the lead in an honor race remains a strong choice.
This card, if flipped on turn three, essentially guarantees a troublesome final battle while gaining three honor. I’ve been able to defend the province this flipped out of every time it’s happened, so I think the deck can manage it very well. It’s also great at funneling troublesome Cavalry into a tempting target, which is another consideration you can make based on the field you expect.
This card was great in Celestial and it’s great now. Willing Spirits with an Ebisu’s Honesty on the board shuts down most early attacks without requiring you to expend a single fate card. An automatic inclusion, I think.
This card wants to be an Impromptu Duel when it grows up. It’s the weakest duel yet printed, yet the only one that gains honor as a Limited. A regretful three of for the deck, and one I’ll be cutting the very second a valid alternative becomes available.
This duel is phenomenal, fueling both Magistrate and Courtier actions while bowing someone in the action phase and netting you an honor. It can be tricky to play against Unicorn, Lion, and certain other honor decks but a well-timed Duel of Haiku can shut down a mid-game attack without expending a lot of effort. An easy three of.
I don’t see a reason not to include this as a three of. You will be bully dueling most personalities in the game and this will wipe out a unit with regularity. An easy three of.
The second battle duel. With your high Chi, you can bully duel with this card to trigger certain honor gaining reactions (such as Horume) while also creating a 2/2 Samurai you can use to Wall of Honor or, in some cases, Ring of Fire. If you want to emphasize more battle actions, this is a strong inclusion.
This card is phenomenal for Courtier-based honor decks. A send home with a kill action against naked Personalities that does not require risking high value personalities. However, if you focus on dueling control, running a 2 focus value can be very risky.
High focus value Courtier action that metas against other honor rocket decks in a way that they can’t answer. It’s dead in the military matchup 90% of the time, but is so crucial in the honor and dishonor matchup I can’t see not running three.
Absolutely fundamental in an open control Magistrate deck, the thing I believe the Kitsuki excel at. Additional Chi means that clan champions and fully equipped Kensai can be challenged with the deck’s duels, while adding an additional Open bow. With actions such as Watchful Eye Dojo and Accidental Confession giving you dishonored Personalities, Spirit of Truth becomes dramatically more powerful. However, if you’re looking for a more battle-focused honor deck, this card has little or no place.
The honor staple of Celestial Edition returns, and is just as good as it was last arc. Three focus value plus an action that’s usable whilst bowed makes it an easy auto-include. That it stacks effects with Ebisu’s Honesty, Willing Spirits, and Boastful Proclamation is just icing on the cake for this particular card.
This is no Hamstrung, but it does pack the best honor-based focus effect in the game. It also has a four focus value, for the eventual times that you do focus, and the honor gain is fairly easily attainable. The Battle/Open action is also very strong, giving you an effective dishonor tool in the action phase and a bow action in battle that gains honor. I think this is at least a two of in an average deck.
Card draw is always good. Drawing two additional cards in the end phase is a very strong effect, and that it’s included on a four focus card makes this an easy auto-include.
This card is simply phenomenal. Action phase card cycle combined with forcing your opponent to discard a card, and high focus value to boot. When you need to dig, I’ve often found Sincerity to provide that one extra card you need at a critical moment.
A great unique action, especially with multiple Kitsuki Horume in play. Doubling up on the stronghold’s action will pretty much always be strong. An effective use of this on turn 3 or turn 4 can win the game very handily.
The old Dragon honor relied on Outer Walls, but there is no presenceless action with that kind of power in Emperor Edition. Except, of course, for Ring of Earth. This Ring is best played early, its single effect is great at stopping turn 2 or turn 3 attacks.
While card cycle remains a great action, this deck can actually force Void into play fairly easily with effects like Sincerity of the Dragon. There is no reason not to include this in a deck as starved for card draw as honor usually is.
A unit kill action that can be performed even while bowed. I don’t think I need to say any more, but this combines well with Ryoshun’s Guidance and the innately high Chi the deck’s Personality base is packing.
With access to dishonor tech in the quantity that Kitsuki have, this card is an amazing play. Another consideration is that this limits potential redirect options. With many military decks running redirection, Relentless Conviction remains a powerful kill action .
This is an often overlooked action, but I find it an extremely potent card. Oftentimes, as the game goes on in time, you will have plenty of leftover gold. This provides a great use for that leftover gold, as well as providing a targeting restriction-free bow action. I’ve often found that it combos well with Tamori Ruya.
Watchful Eye Dojo
Bamboo Harvesters XP
1x Mirumoto Shikei
1x Mirumoto Ichizo XP
1x Tamori Ruya
1x Mirumoto Yozo
3x Kitsuki Horume
3x Kitsuki Nubane
3x Kitsuki Fujimura
3x Kitsuki Daisuke
3x Otomo Demiyah
3x Gold Mine
3x Magistrate’s Stipend
1x Traveling Peddler
3x Governor’s Court
1x Falling Rain Dojo
1x Stolen Merchandise
3x Rugashi Bazaar
1x The Imperial Treasury
1x Well-Tended Farm
1x The Second City
1x Ebisu’s Honesty
1x Willing Spirits
1x Boastful Proclamation
3x Sanctioned Duel
3x Spirit of the Truth
3x Sincerity of the Dragon
1x Game of Dice
3x Wall of Honor
3x Duel of Haiku
3x Rocky Terrain
3x Steel on Steel
3x Accidental Confession
3x Discovering a Conspiracy
1x Ring of Earth
1x Fires of War
1x Relentless Conviction
3x Paid Off
1x Ring of the Void
2x The Law’s Strength
STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES
This deck has very, very strong open control options. It is fairly reasonable to bow 1-3 personalities per action phase, and you can hit up 6-7 in one turn. You should expect to cross 40 honor in 5-6 turns. Thanks to the gold efficiency of your personalities, you also have a pretty smooth gold curve. This deck also smashes passive dishonor fairly well, due to your ability to swarm personalities, gain honor, and the Force provided by Rugashi Bazaar.
Unfortunately, the deck is fairly weak on card draw. Without Traveling Peddler, you will be relying on effects like Bamboo Harvesters XP, the Imperial Favor, and Sincerity of the Dragon. These options provide card cycle, but not true card draw. You are also extremely reliant on your fate deck for actions in battle, as the only Personality with a battle action is Kitsuki Daisuke.
The other major difficulty will be against decks that can effectively swarm personalities on the board. The faster you burn through your control actions, the worse your end game position is. While province increasing effects can stave off a turn 3 or even turn 2 swing, you will run out of actions without crippling their ability to take a province. Accordingly, expect weak matchups against Library of Rebirth Phoenix and Shamate Keep Lion Paragons.
The final weakness of the deck is other honor rockets. Against Phoenix Temple of Purity and Lion Halls of Memory decks, you need a turn 2 Kitsuki Horume buy as well as at least one Rhetoric before turn 3 in order to have a possibility of victory. Dishonor options such as Kitsuki Fujimura will be strong in the matchup, but smart opponents will seppuku potential targets.
These combine to make the Kitsuki Courtier/dueling honor deck presented here a tier 2 deck. While it has some great matchups against strong tier 1 decks like Unicorn Paragons and Dragon Kensai, it has weak matchups against other popular, strong decks. I believe that the deck can make a 5-2 performance in the right hands, but I’m not hot on its performance in a top 8.