On the Cheap – Crab Berserkers

By Mark Thompson

An article dedicated to help new players create inexpensive competitive decks.

Emperor Edition has created a lot of buzz at our local card shop.  We have had a lot of new people try the demo decks and others purchase starters.  These people want to play L5R. The problem comes when they try and take the next step.

They go from playing against another demo deck where the game is balanced to games against players that have a large card pool and a stronger knowledge of how to build a deck.  On top of that is the amount of cash you must invest to acquire the powerful cards you need.

Here is where we lose players.    We always list the great changes Emperor Edition has brought to make the game clearer and easier to play.  However, let’s take a quick look at what a new player has to face when trying to start in L5R  (the black eyes as I like to call them):

A steep learning curve

A player base that is well educated well versed in strategy

A large card pool to pick from

A weak Limited (sealed/draft) Format

Due to a lack of a Limited Format, we lose the ability to help new players play competitively without a large investment in certain things like Forgotten Legacy and the latest promos from the Kotei.  This also hurts a new player grow a card pool from sealed/draft events.

So How We Can Help

We can help combat the steep learning curve by helping our new players learn and understand the rules.   We need to carry a deck or two that are in the medium range of skill and abilities.

To help new players, I will choose a clan and build one deck.  The deck list will be posted.  Here is the catch.  I will build this deck for under $80.00 via cards from L5RSearch.com’s pricing.  I will not take into account commons and uncommons into the cost as hopefully, the store and player base will help new players acquire those cards. What they can’t get from the people they can hopefully buy from the store for less than $20.00.  The point is to show that with a small investment, and the starter deck, you can have a competitive l5r deck.


To help the mid-ranged player, I will post alternative cards to consider if you have the money to spend or the card pool to trade for.  This section I hope will generate the most discussion at the bottom of the article.  It’s good for new people to see chatter about why card A is better than card B.  Or why you would consider running three Yasuki Jekku’s in your main berserker deck!

Fun for Everyone

I will play this deck during the week at my local store and give a write up on how each match went.  This will give you an idea of how well the deck works.  I will play it against new players as well as Kotei level decks.  This should provide insight on its flaws and strengths.

Deck Du Jour

Halls of the Forgotten
Bamboo Harvesters
Border Keep
Dynasty (40)
Cost/Card Total
Events (3)
1 Formal Apology 0
2 Too Close to Home 0
Celestials (1)
1 Hida’s Guidance 0
Holdings (14)
2 Akodo’s Grave 0
3 Colonial Harbor 4.75 14.25
2 Heavy Infantry Dojo 2.75 5.5
3 Iron Mine 0
3 Small Farm 0
1 Traveling Peddler 9 9
Personalities (22)
1 Fukuzo 3 3
3 Hida Bushotsu 0
1 Hida Horu 0
1 Hida Kisada 0
1 Hida Komatsu 4 4
3 Hida Mimori 0
3 Hida Yamadera 0
3 Hiruma Nikaru 2.75 8.25
3 Kaiu Esumi
3 Yasuki Jekku 0
Fate (40)
Cost/Card Total
Strategies (38)
2 Ancient Feud 0
3 Blind Rage 0
2 Caught in the Act 4 8
3 Fortitude 0
2 Gold and Steel 0
3 Hidden Defenses 0
2 Immovable Object 4 8
2 Intimidation 2.75 5.5
3 Reckless Rush 0
3 Retribution 0
3 Spirit of the Berserker 0
2 Sundering Strike 4.75 9.5
3 The Duty of the Crab 0
3 The Height of Courage 0
3 Tireless Efforts 0
Rings (2)
1 Ring of the Void 0
1 Ring of Water 0
 Dynasty 43
 Fate 31
 Total 75

Proof in the Pudding


Game 1 Unicorn Journey’s End Keep

This player was new to the game.  He bought 2 holdings turn 1 and I got 3 (Small Farm), he bought 2 cavalry (Utaku Mai / Shinjo Byung) turn 2.  Turn 3 he doesn’t attack.  (This became a teaching moment)  Turn 3 I attack with Bushotsu and Mimori and he defends (this becomes another teaching moment).  He assigns both Mai and Byung to the battle.   He Mai’s Mimori, I Fortitude Byung, he bows Mimori, I Reckless Rush Byung w/ Bushotsu, he passes, I Tireless Efforts Bushotsu. He has no straighten abilities left in his hand. I crush, he never recovers. 1-0


Game 2 Mantis Thunder Shugenja

On turn 1, I play Bushotsu (I have blind Rage and a Spirit in hand) and a Small Farm. He drops Courage of the Mantis and Holdings.  This makes things scary as that is a great static for a Celestial.  I drop Nikaru; he can’t recover from the early province smash. 2-0



Game 3 Thunder Shugenja

I don’t get the blitz draw… it gets scary when he gets out Hiromi on turn 3.  I have to use 3 Rets in hand to kill his in province Sachina because of box and his shugenja sending me home.  The tempo swing is enough to win the game. 3-0


Crane Honor

I get 2 Jekku’s but he has 2 of the Kakita Seishi’s on the board to keep the honor train moving.  He had 3 provinces when he crossed…. He had the infamous 1 after my battle phase and won. 3-1 for the night


In-House Tournament on Friday

Dragon Honor Dueling

He got gold screwed, was able to take the last province as he hit 32. He’s a good player; he just had a bad start. 1-0

Crab Carpenter Castle

I hear Retribution is pretty good against military decks…. 2-0.  This player was new and we discussed his deck options and things to look for that will help his deck synergize better.  It was a good learning experience for him. 2-0

Crane Honor Rematch from the night before

He gets 3 Seishi’s on turn one with a Prosperous Village.  But after turn 3 he was at 18 honor and I had cracked a province. He made a play mistake with his defense and it cost him the game when I went for 3 of his one turn… looking back on it, it might have been too risky what I did.  I took 2 of the 3 and left him with 2 provinces.  I cracked the next one, and then the final one when he was at 32 honor.  3-0

Top 4 Matchup

“Mr. Clean”

Dragon Honor Dueling Rematch

I get the gold screw this time but I come back… I do get 2 Jekku’s out that make this a tight match.

Turn 4 I try and swing to take a province, he defends with his champion and a couple others. His 2nd to last card kills my last personality at the battlefield and left him with a bowed champion.  I debate what to do.  I had a Ring of Water in hand.  He had 1 card in hand.  Yasuki Jekku was my only valid target due to actions played on other personalities.  I risked it, and RoW him to the battle field.  He had nothing to stop me.  Jekku straight up murdered Mr. Clean. It was amazing!  He actually says concede at this point but I talk him out of it…. Bad move.

He gets to 36 honor. He has 3 provinces; I send Kisada Mimori and Nikaru to one.  I send Yamadera, Bushotsu and Esumi to another.  We resolve the battle where he has presence first.  After actions that take out peoples, I am left with Bushotsu that will die at the end of battle delayed by Spirit of the Berserker with my box ability still up.  He plays Steel on Steel.  I have Sundering Strike, Immovable Object, Gold and Steel, Ancient Feud and Caught in the Act in Hand.  His force is 11 at the battle field my current force is 9.  His only other 2 personalities on the table are 2 dishonored Tamori Kazushige.  I choose to accept the duel….. I fish for a Duty of the Crab to delay the effects he drops 2 discovering the conspiracy and crosses.

The correct play for that sequence is as follows:

Him: Steel on Steel

Me: CARDS IN HAND!?!?!?!?!

Him: Zero.

Me: giggle and delay and strike

Bow down one of his force guys, win the battle but miss the province.  I then have Kisada, Nikaru, Yamadera and Mimori left plus another Nikaru and Yamadera to purchase to crack 2 provinces before he crosses

I messed up.  Even with a bad start, I could’ve and should’ve won this game.  But I didn’t.  3rd place.



There are definitely cards I would take out.  First off, the one Horu out like a fat kid in dodge ball and in goes Daigotsu Hotako.  She is amazing. I also consider other cards like Hida Fubatsu on Dynasty.

From fate side there is a lot of cards to consider: Brawl, another Immovable Object, Your Clan Needs You!, A Brave New World, Broken AllianceA Game of Dice and Creating Order are two other cards that belong in this deck.  Here is a shameless plug to all the new players out there for Forgotten Legacy: “Buy it! It’s not just an amazing deck box!”

On that note, I would also go with Bamboo Harvesters XP and Border Keep XP.   Strange Assembly put a gold scheme calculator out a few months ago.  It shows the power of Border Keep XP and more than once I had a hand of 2 Ret’s and a Hidden Defenses against the honor runners.  It would’ve been nice to cycle them.  Also, you wouldn’t normally expect a military deck to truly consider Bamboo Harvesters XP but your Berserkers are expensive so you won’t have a lot of printed battle actions at the fight.  You need cards to play.



For this deck I have 3 resounding MVP’s

  1. Hiruma Nikaru – If he is not in your Crab deck, you need to reconsider your Crab deck.  Berserkers? Yes Please.  Scouts? Uh-huh. Tacticians? Why Not. Yasuki Dishonor…. I can make a strong case! He’s so good that I may try and fit him in my Crane deck next week!
  2. Yasuki Jekku – Originally added because I didn’t have another Berserker and I wasn’t going to run Hida Horu’s.  He turned out to be money in my honor matchups.  He was a little disheartening in my military matchup, but he became Kisada’s Recruitment Officer Token.  Still, he did his part to keep the honor gains lower and to help turn off future gains.
  3. Retribution – The tempo you earn with this card is amazing.  You can totally screw up a person’s dynasty phase and defense for the next turn with the right timing on Retribution.

In Closing

I liked this deck.  It’s fun to drop big force guys on the table that just won’t die and it’s fun singing Berzerker from Clerks to put you in the mood.  Also, when one personality is strong enough to take a province by himself and it’s NOT your clan champion? That’s pretty cool too!


Next week – Crane…


10 thoughts on “On the Cheap – Crab Berserkers

  1. I. Love. This.

    I’m trying to get friends into the game, and this idea makes that a very real possibility.

    1. Thanks! I am glad you liked it. We are having growing pains too, but I hope this helps alleviate some of the issues our community faces from a new player perspective.

  2. I really do appreciate the article for new players, but I feel like the second half of the article would have been better used explaining the strategy of the deck. The tournament report can be useful to experienced players as we can usually decipher what’s between the lines, but I don’t think a new player will get much out of it.

    A generic strategy guide, or at least a run-down of why you picked what cards you did for your deck seems like it would give way more insight to the deck for new people and tends to be what helps them from my experience. I’ve found it’s best to explain to someone how their deck works, let them get used to it, and then start to work on what they need to do against against specific decks they may face. You mention this in the beginning of the article, and it’s very true, it’s very easy to information overload a new player in this game.

    I also think that you might want to divide your basic and intermediate decks by player skill as well as budget concerns. Fukuzo is an amazing card and there’s a reason it shows up in most decks, but a new player is probably not going to understand how to use it; even if they do understand how to use the ability, they are likely to forget the ability as it’s one more thing to remember in an already complex game. I think cards like Fukuzo and Hotaku are perfect for the intermediate deck, once the player improves their understanding of how L5R works and get more comfortable with their deck. Another suggestion for the intermediate deck is suggesting alternatives that might not be entirely intuitive, like running Beserkers out of Kyuden Hida XP.

    One of the other reasons I would do a card-for-card description is so that you can explain meta like Too Close to Home. My personal question is why you’re running TCtH but then you’re also running Intimidation and Ring of Water.

    Likewise, running 11 holdings in your deck I feel is either going to need some explaining as to why it works for this deck, since most decks should run 13-16 holdings in general. The reason I say 11 is that you really can’t count Small Farm as a holding.

    My last comment is that L5R Sealed and Draft have both come a long way and I think both are very viable to teach and play with new people. Draft is always a bit tricky in any game for brand new folks, but the sealed decks work well enough together. In fact a local store is starting a limited league, which will hopefully pan out.

    1. Thanks for the input and your thoughts… The next article I can spend some time on why I made the decisions on which cards to use. The problem comes in the fact that I could write a 300 page novel on card choices, meta and the importance of gold curve vs. number of holdings and gold to force ratios, but no one would want to read all that in one sitting.

      However, you did provide me exactly what I wanted to get out of the community and that was discussion of card choices and why the decklist is as written and what other alternatives/suggestions would help a new player.

      As for your question of Intimidation it’s to harpoon in the nasty stay at homes that can wreck your world. Intimidation gives you the ability to bring in a Sachina or a pesky Doji Rengetsu that just ruins Nikaru’s day.

      Could they be dead cards in your hand? Sure, but Too Close to Home is impossible to predict and while in those instances, its a dead card, its definately not always the case.

      You would be surprised at how powerful Small Farms that one gold is the difference between a Hiruma Nikaru and a Hida Bushotsu… I considered One Koku even, but it just wasn’t going to work out in the end.

      Look the deck is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but if we generate other ideas for it to help new crab players this week (crane next) then we are making progress on this game.

  3. Why can you not count Small Farm as a holding? It is a Holding. It’s free. It produces Gold. Does it magically not exist somehow?

    1. He means in terms of counting the number of holdings in your deck to figure out if you have enough. For example, if you decide that 12 holdings is enough for your deck, you can’t count Small Farms as three of those holdings, because they don’t produce enough gold to set you up to be able to buy what you need in future turns. (Your specific deck may vary, but this is true for pretty much most normal decks people are playing these days.)

  4. Great article and great to see someone helping new players, or players on a budget. My only wish (not about this article. I thought it was great!) is that there are more “beginner” clans. Crab is great because it’s so easy to play and quite cheap. My only problem with that is from my own experience. A lot of new players are showing up in our area and to be fair, not a lot of them are going straight to crab. I am a new player who had to buy 7 starter decks to figure out that Dragon Kensai is for me. But I’m seeing in a lot of other places, that Crab is the “go to” clan for beginners. I wish there was more variety. More choices. I guess I’m just mad because I have no crab rares to trade to the beginners..*mumbles*

  5. Nice article. I only got to play L5R for the first time on Sunday and been looking all of for good beginner decks and guides, but the pickings are slim compared to Magic and WoW. Been a Magic player for over 13 years and L5R is very different. I’ve always known about it but never took the dive. If these articles continue I may end up picking up some cards. Thanks again!

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