Knoxville Kotei Tourney Report and Decklist

Most of Strange Assembly regulars ventured up to the Knoxville Kotei last weekend (including both the tourney winner and honor winners, Kevin Kennedy and Jay Earle, along with Justin, Mike, and I).  I’m sure we’ll talk about it on the next episode, but it seems like I should write a tourney report, along with a decklist.  Advance warning: I don’t remember much about the details of games on the best of days, and this was not the best of days.

Although my usual M.O. for Kotei is to go there and back again in a day, this time I brought the wife and Benjamin along, and headed up on Friday.  Alas, this means I’m already in Tennessee when I get a call about Nancy Sauer maybe getting stuck at the Atlanta airport.  Luckily, that situation manages to (mostly) sort itself out, although the Kotei is deprived of Nancy’s baking skills.  Because the family is in tow, Friday’s schedule includes activities such as visiting a kid’s science center and taking Benjamin in the hotel’s indoor pool – sorry, no drunken late-night L5R sessions.

On Friday night and Saturday morning I flip through my deck a few more times, but end up leaving everything as is.  I arrive at the Kotei, and my Kensai begin their long day.  Despite getting more than seven hours of sleep the night before, I’m never entirely awake or with it.

R1 – Anthony Wright – Crane/Kyuden Otomo

Anthony is a new player, and ends up gold screwed, so I feel kind of bad as my Kensai flatten Kyuden Otomo.


R2 – Chris Moreno – Crab/Halls of the Forgotten

Retribution is important when you have two decks with province-soloing units swinging back and forth at each other.  I got to play two.  Chris got to play zero.


R3 – Jay Earle – Phoenix/Temple of Purity

I get off to a great gold start, and then end up with a little too much gold – plus Jay drew that accursed Asako House Guard.  I then botch away any chance at winning by attacking at only one province (of two left) and letting him cross.  That’s one blunder down, several more to go.


R4 – Jacob Hampton – Unicorn/Plains of the Maiden

There were quite a few casualties during this one, and multiple Creating Orders to permit overcommits on attack.  Jacob ended up at 35 honor, but the Kensai beatdown was just too much.


R5 – Bryan Lynn – Spider/The Spider’s Web

In this Kensai showdown, we each managed to take one province, and then the board got clogged up with dual-wielding crazy folk.  We both ended up with about 10 guys and as many Weapons each (Glory of the Shogun was running this whole time).  Finally, as we get near to time, Bryan cracks in for the attack.  He takes some provinces, but loses a lot more than he planned to.  He plays Creating Order to have some sort of defense, and then we’re past time.  I suggest a die roll, and Bryan asks to see my hand, concludes that he couldn’t have defended his provinces, and concedes.  Class act.


I made this!R6 – Jeff Valade – Crane/The Aerie

Jeff gets gold-screwed (couldn’t even dig into Peace with his Border Keep XP fate-cycle activation), and I have all of my copies of Hundred-Fold Cut to keep my men alive in the face of the multiple unit kill actions that Jeff was able to unleash.  It ends quickly.


R7 – Torian Chisolm – Crab/Halls of the Forgotten

We got picked as the feature match, so you can watch this over on


T8 – Justin Ownby – Unicorn/The Khan’s Estate

I’m really fried at this point, so my recollection of this three-game set is pretty shoddy.  It is, however, highlighted by me giving away game 2 by forgetting to use Yamazaki to unbow a Prosperous Village, which prevents me from buying Houken, which prevents me from defending or using Retribution, etc.  It was not, however, the only error I made during this match – my constantly fatigued existence is apparently not conducive to this many tournament hours.  Regardless, I end up winning 2-1.

7-1; 8-2

T4 – Kevin Kenney – Phoenix/Library of Rebirth

Houken's Bane

Kevin’s deck is a cavalry blitz, designd to get a Cavalry guy on T1 and start swinging on T2.  This throws the deck’s entire gold plan out of whack.  I (of course) go down provinces early in Game 1, but manage to fight back with a fully loaded Yamazaki.  I then get to buy Houken, planning to straighten my mega-unit and be able to defend one of my two remaining provinces . . . when All That Will Be Lost flips for Kevin, dropping the Houken, and with it my hopes for recovery.  In Game 2, I get to respond to Kevin’s second attack with Retribution + Retribution + Brave New World, which denies him the ability to buy a second Personality.  A couple copies of A Yojimbo’s duty allow his loaded firebird to defend, but it can’t stand up in the following opposed battles (this is one of only two games Kevin lost all day).  Then we move on to the third game, where my fried brain concludes, for reasons unknown, that I should stick with my usual gold plan instead of flushing it all.  After my own Glory of the Shogun helps Kevin buy my province over my Ring of Earth, I’m left with an all-Gold second turn flop, and that’s basically that.

7-2; 9-4

– Me, for making really dumb mistakes. Out of the four games I lost, three involved obvious play errors on my part. One of the big things you’ve got to do if you want to be a high-level tourney player is eliminate the mistakes – there’s too much already going on with bad matchups and luck, and good players with good decks will not leave you the opportunity to recover from self-inflicted wounds. You are not going to win Kotei if you make mistakes, much less boneheaded ones like I did.
– The air conditioning, for giving up for a couple hours there in the afternoon.
– The L5R holiday pack, for getting pulled from the AEG online store before I got around to buying one (it’s the store’s fault, not mine, and I shall not listen to anyone saying anything otherwise!). No Benten’s Blessing for me.

– Donnie and the tourney staff for coming together banging everything out in the last few weeks, then pulling it off without a hitch.
– The tourney location, Sci-Fi City, for being the best game store I have ever seen in a mall. Real place space! Real game selection! And this despite taking up space with comics.
– Let’s pretend like being able to recognize that I’m making play errors, rather than just attributing it to luck or the unfairness of the world, is worth a prop.
– Wyrmbone Katana, for being yourself


Foothills Keep
Border Keep XP
Bamboo Harvesters

Dynasty (40):


1x Ryoshun’s Guidance
1x Glory of the Shogun
1x Imperial Gift
1x Alter History

3x Gold Mine
3x Small Farm
3x Prosperous Village
3x Recruitment Officer
3x Akodo’s Grave
1x Temples of Gisei Toshi
1x Chugo Seido

3x Mirumoto Houken
3x Mirumoto Yumaru
3x Mirumoto Kojinrue
3x Mirumoto Reiyu
3x Masatane
3x Yamazaki
1x Tetsuo

Fate (40):

3x Hundred-Fold Cut
3x Again!
3x Retribution
3x A Brave New World
3x Near Miss
3x Know No Fear
3x Never Beyond My Reach
1x Readied Steel
1x Tireless Efforts
1x A Game of Dice
1x Creating Order

1x Ring of Water
1x Ring of Earth

3x Wyrmbone Katana
3x Cursed Relic
3x Modifications
3x Nightingale Blade
1x Blade of Champions

Card Notes:

Imperial Gift

Imperial Gift – The Empress almost always gives me a Wyrmbone Katana. What a coincidence.

Akodo’s Grave – Brawl is one of those meta actions that has “Bow a card without attachments” as the non-meta effect, and it turns out that this is a pretty lousy Battle action for a strategy card in this environment. And Ancient Feud is dead a lot. Since there are some Terrains that just kick you in the teeth, and I don’t want to take out any of the great fate-side options this deck has, I instead opt to deal with Terrains from the Dynasty. Ended up not using them all day, however.

Personalities Who Aren’t In The Deck – Shikei is too expensive. Guys need Weapons for resiliance anyway, so Shikei naked is too easy to deal with and Shikei with a Weapon is overkill. Katagi would go back in before Shikei, but (again) I went for the cheaper up front investment. As I’ve opined before, Katagi only does anything useful when you’ve dropped two (or more) Weapons on him, and his trait doesn’t reduce the cost of Weapons that come back from the bin. Nineteen isn’t a lot of guys, but you don’t buy a ton of them anyway, what with all the Weapon purchases.

Mirumoto Houken: The real all-star of the deck. Almost everyone else is fungible.
Yamizaki: The other guy who isn’t just another Weapons platform.

Fate deck: You may note that I am almost all 3x of Fate cards that aren’t Unique. I do not go heavily in for 2x cards like many top L5R players do. Almost everything in the deck is something that I want to see every game, and if I want to see it every game, then I want to play 3 of it.

Never Beyond My Reach: Depending on matchups, this can be one of the weaker cards in the deck, partially because you’re investing so much in Weapons with good on board actions. Although shooting at the province next door is great.

Cursed Relic: Don’t underestimate the RA3s that the Relic produces. They’re quite valuable for picking off token Followers to get to the soft underbelly of the enemy army.

Hundred-Fold Cut: More card draw than negation these days. There are not a lot of ways to kill through attachments, so don’t be shy about blowing these in early unopposed battles for the card draw.

Tireless Efforts/Readied Steel: I ended up hedging with one each of these to fill my last two spots (and sticking with the 13th Weapon over a copy of Peace). This wants to be the new anti-Game of Sincerity meta from Embers of War.

11 thoughts on “Knoxville Kotei Tourney Report and Decklist

  1. I always feel awkward if the draw goes against a new player and I flatten him. Even moreso since I’m one of those people who consistently does pretty poorly at major tournaments so if I curbstomp someone it’s pretty bad. At Sterling I played someone in the last round down at the scrub tables who got a half-crummy draw and I just took him apart. (I’m not a hundred percent sure he was new but he was playing very much like a new player and I didn’t want to embarrass him by asking.)

  2. Interesting that you get Wyrmbone with Imperial Gift. I always end up getting Blade of Champions, so I can push to a spud. But that could be because I can’t run Know No Fear in Monksai, so I have less negation in the deck.

    1. My Imperial Gifts seem to show up early, or not at all. Later, Blade of Champions is a likely target. But early, I’m less likely to have anything to redirect to. Blade of Champions basically then has to be played as the second Weapon on one guy (straining my economy when ideally I’m not paying for more Weapons than are necessary), and just redirects bow or attachment kill to itself.

  3. Games of Will is going to be a nice addition to kensai along with Moving ans Unmoving. I would really suggest reconsidering Peace, especially with Bkxp for the deck shuffle. Being able to get a Recruitment officer second turn when preping for the turn 3 swing is very nice, in addition to its standard uses of preventing first turn gold screw and grabbing free prosperous villages late game.
    I honestly don’t see the point of readied steel in dragon kensai, its not a bad card but it just feels wasted as an action.
    Currently I’m planning on going down to 2x Retribution once den of iniquity is legal and dishonor is functional. Right now Ret is only wasted in honor matchups but, once dishonor is competitive I get the impression that it is going to be Brave new world fodder in more and more matches.
    From a spider kensai perspective I know Tetsuo is awesome but, I just can’t see running him when shikei is available. The cost difference is minimal and the card draw for those bad times when glory doesn’t show seems like it would be very big.

    1. The main distinction of Readied Steel is that it lets me Open straighten a unit to defend. Every once is a while it’s a bad Near Miss (producing two Gold). I’ve gotten more use out of it recently than Tireless Efforts, although that may be because I’ve gone against fewer Paragons.

      Shikei is “only” three more Gold, but that three more gold is significant because it means Shikei is relegated exclusively to late game purchases, and it can be difficult even there, unless you got a big gold start. Tetsuo I can actually buy along with one Holding on T2 if necessary, and is reasonably affordable after that.

  4. Yeah, Games of Will obviously goes into Kensai (and many other decks) when it is legal. And as another guy who has played the silliness that is All That Will Be Lost, sometimes it’s a complete blank, and sometimes it wins you the game in a single dynasty flip. Bowing the Houken who was going to straighten the Yamazaki who was going to straighten the Prosperous Village which was going to buy the extra weapons you were going to defend with is usually game.

    1. And you have to look all sad at the Ryoshun’s Guidance, Chugo Seido, Know No Fear, etc., that you have because all of the negation and redirection is for actions, and doesn’t work against Events.

  5. Thanks for the prop! Good report and analysis (as ever).

    I totally missed the A/C issue. I know it turned off at the end of the day, but I didn’t realise we also had an issue during the afternoon!

  6. You know… I played against 3 different Kensai decks in Knoxville and the only one that beat my WED deck was running at least 2x (if not 3x) Ageless Shrines. That could also solve the All That Will Be Lost issue for you.

    Also, there are few things my Swords for Hire like more than naked Houkens!

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