By Mark Thompson
An article dedicated to help new players create inexpensive competitive decks.
So last week we spent time on a version of a Crab Berserker deck built to help new players become competitive without breaking the bank. I also said that I would focus this week on Crane. I thought about deck choices and what I should run. First off, being a Crab player at heart, this week’s assignment was a bit tough for me to handle.
When a new player tells me they want to play military, there are many avenues for them to choose from. When they say that winning by honor sounds like a lot of fun, there are 3 clans that come to mind. When they tell me about themselves and they say that they are either aspiring or already lawyers or congressmen, I ask if they like Carolina Blue as a color.
For being the Kings/Queens of politics, the Crane did a poor job of manipulating AEG into creating a starter that highlights their most distinctive difference from the other clans. Their starter deck is a mishmash of scout, courtiers and a few shugenjas thrown in for fun it seems like.
I like the fact that Crane has a scout deck, however, from a new player perspective, a starter deck should focus on the most prominent and most unique aspect of their clan. They nailed it with Berserkers for Crab, but had a big swing and a miss with Crane. Scout theme should be for the veteran Crane that wants to take a break from politics kind of like the Yasuki dishonor theme for Crab; it should not be the introduction to a clan whose strength is based on politics.
The Impossible Deck
It was very tough coming up with a fate deck that gave me the speed to win. In order to cross on turn 6 you need almost 6 honor a turn including your first. That is the bare minimum. It’s best to prepare for 40 honor when setting your target number. People run Alter History, Game of Sincerity, and heck I had Yasuki Jekku in my Crab Berserker deck last week! Honor running is tough right now. Crane can blame the Lion, Phoenix, and Dragon for that. The worst card of all that will absolutely wreck this style of deck is Rumors Travel. I did not see it played against me, but it would make me want to cry if it did drop on me.
From a fate deck aspect, cards were tough to come by. A member of my play group stated, “The most expensive cards in L5R will always be military based.” He is correct, however, what he forgot to remember was the other true statement when describing fate cards, “If you want to gain honor from a card, expect to drop 10 bucks.” Since your fate deck needs honor gain, this makes it rough on the pocket book and the deck list.
A Different Way of Thinking
I struggled against good honor/dishonor runners. I had a hard time understanding the matchup and what to do. Another member of my play group, dare I consider him a mentor of mine, was discussing honor running decks before I came up with this list. He said something to me that kind of made me look at the deck in a whole new light. He said, “Rocky, (that’s my nickname) honor/dishonor decks are like red burn in Magic that other game. They have you on the clock; you need to beat them before they draw their last honor gain/loss.”
At first I thought he was nuts. I have always thought of the honor gaining decks as control. It made me rethink the whole matchup. In a way he is brilliant. There is a lot of control still in cards that come from the fate deck, but most people carry bow/send home functions in their fate hands.
You can look at the deck make up of some of the good honor decks out there and “I work hard for the money, so hard for the money!” starts going through my head. They work hard for the honor; its 1 here, 2 there, and 3-4 for proclaiming. That is not even including the taking the favor, using the favor, and other miscellaneous open actions during your turn. It’s not easy hitting 40, so you need all the help you can get.
A Word of Caution
For any new players, make sure you have a pad of paper and a pen. Write down your actions… but most importantly, carry a red pen with you as well. You will play a turn and pass control to your opponent, look at your board and notice 1-3 things you could’ve done differently or that you forgot.
It’s not the end of the world; however, with every action you forget, it becomes exponentially tougher to win. So jot down your mistakes and study them, this will help you correct your bad habits. In hockey and soccer, they talk about goaltenders walking away with clean sheets. That’s a shutout, a perfect game played by the goaltender. That’s what you want to strive for with every game. Documenting your matches will help you with that.
Deck Du Jour
Proof in the Pudding
Last week, I gave a brief synopsis of how the deck performed against certain matchups. After reading some of the comments, I thought I would change up this section and spend the time talking about strategy and card selection.
If people like this version better, I will continue to write like this, if they want me to switch it up every once in a while, I can do that as well.
Some Thoughts on Not-So-Dynasty Cards
We will start with the Border Keep and Bamboo Harvesters. I went with the standard version of both because the cost to switch to Experienced Bamboo Harvesters is high and there are only a few matchups where you have the chance to use it. Only the Lion Clan starts with more honor and you have a chance to use it in the matchup against Phoenix since they have the same starting honor. The rest of the clans have lower starting honor. This is an area of the deck where you can wait to upgrade.
Border Keep – versus Border Keep Exp is a hard choice. The card swap is really important when you play to remove the “dead cards” from your hand. Last week, when I played Crab Berserkers I had 3 Retributions in my hand against the Crane, they were dead cards. There were many times where I had Rhetoric while playing against the military matchups and I was starting at my Border Keep wishing it was the Experience version. Remember, you can discard the Imperial Favor and a card to draw a card. It’s the next best thing in this situation. Border Keep also gives you an extra chance on late turns with only a couple of provinces to get that one Personality so you need to proclaim.
A Little Strategy Goes a Long Way
I am going to talk about Naoharu’s Gift. I feel when playing against this card, people make the wrong choice a lot of times. I handed out 2-3 focus value and every once in a great while a 4 when this card flipped. Most time my opponent lets me draw cards from my fate deck. In this deck, it’s not as bad because the fate deck is diluted due to the card pool I could pull from. However, a lot of time this is a bad selection. You need to think, if he pulls two cards off the top of his deck, what are the chances he will gain that much honor or from those cards. The other problem comes when he plays those cards to gain honor, they usually come with a bow effect or some other nasty action. If I am playing against a player who flips this, I use that card they hand me to either Border Keep Exp it out of my hand, or use it as a discard to A Brave New World one of their provinces. So strategies against this card, if they give you a card with 3 or less focus value, I say take the card. If it’s a 4, you may need to think on it a bit.
Oh the Holdings You’ll Play
As for holdings there are a few choices I want to talk about. Travelling Peddler is necessary for card draw. It’s a must in almost every L5R deck. That’s why it has a high cost associated with it.
Rugashi Bazaar is a card to use against dishonor; however, the design team better come up with a better strategy. It takes most of your courtiers from 0-3 force and makes them 3-6 force, since most of your actions target attacking personalities and their decks are designed to take on strong military decks, this makes this card useless. It took me just one game against Scorpion Dishonor to come to this realization. I used Accidental Confession on two of his defenders, yet with Merchant Atolls, Bayushi Shibata, and Yogo Adi, I still was 6 force short in a deck that doesn’t force pump more. I found myself wishing I had an Ancient Feud! The design team better bring more to the table if they really want honor to switch to military.
Well-Tended Farm is pretty bad as well, but I was running out of options for consistent honor gain. It’s not 1 gold cost ever, since I always shad to bow a 2 gold producing resource to put it into play. Temple of Hotei would’ve been a better choice and interacts with Asahina Munefusa if I used more Shugenja.
The Cult of Personalities
This was pretty easy to choose. You need to use mostly in house personalities so you gain the personal honor by proclaiming. So the only out of clan choice was Otomo Demiyah, had I owned a Miya Masatsuko ($1.75 for a copy, I will have to drop the cash just to add her to my collection), I would’ve added her in as well.
Kakita Nara was pretty easy choice, she gives you a personality and the ability of Colonial Harbor, this is a good thing, plus her open action is pretty good too!
Asahina Kitiaru – what’s better than 3 Doji Shunya abilities? 4 Shunya abilities. You can also copy Kakita Nara’s if you needed the extra province strength.
Asahina Yasatura and Kakita Seishi were great turn one honor gainers. If I flipped Yasatura, Marketplace X-X, I was pretty happy. It gave me the favor token earlier, it got me to 8 or 9 honor without a card out of hand and 10 is your threshold. Once you get above 10, you don’t have to worry about honor requirements. From a Personality stand point if you have 2 Personalities with 4 Personal Honor in your provinces and you don’t think he will crush a province that next turn, only purchase 1 and save the other for the next proclamation, especially if it’s Doji Tatsuki. Proclaiming is very important and if you purchase the other personality on the cheap, you are putting yourself in a dangerous position by not having someone to proclaim next turn. If the Open/Battle action is so great that you have to have both characters, than so be it, just remember that it could come back to bite you.
Ok, so this was definitely where I had to get creative. There are good political actions that help you gain honor. If you want to win by turn 6 you need to pull approximately 2 honor from other sources than proclaiming. That being said, your fate needs to have some honor gain available, but it also needs to be able to help you save provinces.
Rings of Wealth
I was surprised the amount of times I was able to drop Ring of Earth. The province strength increase is very necessary. The Ring of the Void wasn’t always easy, but there were times I was able to drop it due to Tell the Tales and Courtesy of the Cranes and other fun stuff.
A Political Strategy
Accidental Confession is an interesting card. At first I had Heavily Engaged in the deck, and I could easily see putting it back in, it’s a good card. However, I kept looking at the card saying hmm I need things to take them out of battle, I need things to get them bowed and out of the fight…. Then I thought why not use Accidental Confession and stop them from being able to show up to the fight at all? It was like a ray of sunshine broke from the heaven’s to cast a light at how good this card truly is. Hindsight being 20/20, I still might find a home for Heavily Engaged, presenceless actions are great.
The Law’s Strength- Great card, a lot of people have Know No Fear and Height of Courage and more than once they started to drop those cards only to reread the text and reconsider.
Duel of Haiku – His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there’s vomit on his sweater already vs. In West Philadelphia born and raised on a playground is where I spent most of my days… your choice, both are epic when you play the card and just start going. Remember, this game is fun, and this is a perfect time to make your playgroup bust out in laughter. Take your shot! I sooo want to run this at a Kotei and just go off!
Curse you Attachments!
I would run fewer attachments if I could’ve figured out more honor gaining strategies to fit in to the deck. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Hopefully, with Embers of War coming around the corner, this will help this deck style out.
Hida Defenders – They were terrible, so much attachment destruction, ranged attacks and many other things, the card might as well read, pay 2 gold to possibly gain 2 honor later, if they do not pop off your follower with a Naval/Sneak Attack action. I would consider better Strategy cards in place of this one, or if you have to have attachments for some reason might I suggest replacing these with Armor of the Heavens. The gain 2 honor off the reaction is more reliable than Hida Defenders.
Singh Remnants are annoying for people to deal with; they were worth adding at this stage. Later on when you have a large card pool, these could be removed for other fate cards that increase the win condition at a faster pace, but on a limited budget, having a follower you can pitch to cycle cards with the Imperial Favor, then spend two gold to attach them to the personality you just brought into play works pretty well with your deck.
Some Cards to Consider
Wall of Honor – Great card for this deck, province pump, honor gain, if it only made Julienne Fries!
The Empress’ Address – Good card for this deck; honor gain and free personality recursion is good.
Dismissing the Cur – Send home with a possible kill action is good. The 2 honor is very nice as well.
Favors – Personally, I am not a fan of Favors. I personally am a bigger fan of bow their guy gain two honor, than bow my guy gain two honor. I understand that you have to go to battle for the later choice, but let’s face it, it’s going to happen. Still, that’s just my opinion and many people will tell me my opinion is wrong.
I Got a Feelin’
So after a couple of games under my belt, I noticed a couple of things. Rhetoric seemed to show up all the time against military and Hida Defenders showed up against dishonor. However, I was able to pilot the deck to some big wins. My methodology on this deck was to try and proclaim each turn including turn 1. It’s not easy, but it was very effective when I pulled it off. You do have to be careful with gold management with attachments in your deck and trying to proclaim each turn, but if you can budget properly, you will be in good shape.
Next week – Dragon…