In discussion of a CCG, there’s always, naturally, a lot of focus on which Personalities and other cards are the most powerful. But that’s not the same as which card is the best, I think. The very best cards, to me, are strong enough to be playable, weak enough to not be annoying, and also have good art and flavor text (not just standing alone, but as representative of the setting). For Personalities, it probably helps if the person (or creature) depicted has shown up at least a bit in the story, because that increases the chance of some emotional resonance or cool flavor thing. Which matters because, ultimately, this sort of ranking is thoroughly subjective.
Below, I submit to you my entries for the “best” Personalities of Emperor Arc (which we’ll define as a card with an Emperor bug, but without an Ivory one), one per Clan (plus one unaligned). (warning: I reserve the right to change my mind for any reason, or no reason)
Well, let’s just cheat right off the bat! My pick for best card is … two cards!
Let’s see … great art? Check (twice, both from Hector Herrera)! Great flavor text? Check (at least on the basic version) Playable, without being annoyingly good? Check (ok, in some other arc, the XP would be ridiculously good, but in Emperor he doesn’t raise any hackles)! Card has flavor resonance with what happened in the story? Check (on the XP)! A good Personality card, and he maintained it across a second version? Sign me up.
Honorable Mentions: Hida Mumori, Hiruma Nitani (basic), Kuni Renyu (basic)
Yusugi brings good art (from Jake Murray), snappy flavor text that ties in with his Duelist keyword, efficient stats and a very handy trait. One could argue that he shouldn’t have an honor-gain trait when he has a history as a troublemaker, but I choose to think that he only has a two because of his past, and he gains you honor by staying beyind to guard his charge when the big mess goes down in the Second City.
Honorable Mentions: Asahina Akahiko, Asahina Nanae (basic), Daidoji Kitahime, Doji Makoto (promo version), Doji Tatsuki, Kakita Saki
A tough call, but Rikyou has a good ability and the correct keyword for it. Plus, not only is his art (by Heather Kreiter) good, but it’s got the correct tattoo for a movement ability – good old Centipede (OK, OK, technically a Centipede Tattoo is really good at getting you somewhere but a really bad way to get into a fight because it exhausts you, but we can’t have that crazy level of lockstep between the RPG and CCG). And all on a Monk who isn’t saddled with the really inefficient costing that has plagued them for much of Emperor arc. Or Fire Tokens on a monk not named Togashi Mitsu.
Honorable Mentions: Kitsuki Daisuke, Mirumoto Hikaro (the only Sensei I’m going to allow on these lists), Mirumoto Michi, Tamori Shosei, Togashi Osawa
This started off seeming like a tough category, because some characters who best exemplify what makes the Lion distinctive are going to be characters who cheese me off. Another chunk run into problems because the whole Kitsu theme isn’t very flavorful to me. Still, I seem to have ended up with a reasonably long list of honorable mentions, and one excellent winner:
It’s a Lion with a Force bonus for attacking – classic (yes, I know that a Soul of the original is in Emperor, but I don’t actually like the Butcher as a character, so I’m going with Arata). Her virtue is a strength in battle. Her flavor text exemplifies an honorable and dutiful samurai. Her art (by Anthony Grabski) is great. I shall forgive her the keyword that Lon Schlittenhart got put on her original version.
Honorable Mentions: Akodo Hotaka, Akodo Kamina, Ikoma Shika (basic), Ikoma Shuji, Ikoma Tsukasa, Matsu Hana, Matsu Koyama (basic)
Be advised: no way is someone who synergizes with Kalani’s Landing winning this one …
So instead Nobukatsu will get the nod because he’s what, in my useless little opinion, Mantis Magistrates should be – Tsuruchi Bounty Hunters. He’s got his ranged attack. He get paid when he takes down his target. His art (by Mike Capprotti) depicts him on the job. And his flavor text makes sure you know to tie all that together.
Honorable Mentions: Kitsune Tokoru, Tsuruchi Kosoko, Tsuruchi Kosoko, Yoritomo Naoto
Yeah, she’s still the most awesome Phoenix card (helped in great part by the Conceptopolis art), despite a normally-disqualifying lack of flavor text.
Also, how is it that there isn’t a single Isawa on my honorable mentions list?
Honorable Mentions: Asako Izuna (basic and xp), Asako Kijo, Asako Megu, Asako Yorisada, Shiba Iaimiko
Yup, don’t piss off the Scorpion (I mean, really, I’m not sure how the notion of the Scorpion going after you and your descendants endlessly is ultimately any different from, say, the Lion doing the exact same thing and calling it a blood feud, but whatever, it’s their thing). Great flavor text to mesh with Edwin David’s rows of identical Scorpion yojimbo, ready to die (and kill) for the Clan. Also Suwabe was a cornerstone of the Scorpion Loyalty deck, back when just having ridiculously good mid-range military Personalities was playable in EE. His ability doesn’t really mesh with the rest of his flavor, but we can’t require perfection, now can we?
Honorable Mentions: Bayushi Higaonna, Bayushi Hurunayi, Shosuro Hawado (all three versions), Shosuro Rin
The Spider list is my shortest yet, helped along by the fact that so many of their Personalities were really, really bad, which makes it hard for them to be in contention (also, I’m not picking an Undead member of a Great Clan as the best anything). Or maybe it’s just late in the article and I’m getting more picky as I’ve looked through more and more Personalities (let’s see how many Unicorn I end up with). Ishibashi packs good art by Drew Baker, defiant flavor text in keeping with his Clan’s attitude, and he was for a long, long time in possession of one of the better Battle abilities on a Spider Paragon (which is extra sad when you think about how not-great his ability is).
Honorable Mention: Daigotsu Takayasu, Ninube Hajime
OK, yeah, his xp version is awful. And I feel odd picking a Unicorn who isn’t on a horse. But Junpei basic is a pretty complete package. Junpei was the archetype for what the DT was originally trying to do in Emperor with Unicorn Tacticians – they played the mental game at home, while some other guys charged into the fray. His art (by Luis Nunez de Castro) is decent but not amazing standing alone, but it exactly conveys why Junpei isn’t Cavalry and why Junpei’s ability can be used from home. And the flavor text just hammers this home.
Honorable Mentions: Utaku Eun-ju, Utaku Ji-Yun (xp)
A great example of top-down card design, The Great Death is (as the card notes) a Bake-kujira is a lesser-known type of creature/spirit from Japanese mythology/folklore. It is, as the card depicts, a skeletal whale that is accompanied by swarms of fish and birds (that’s “raptor” as in bird of prey, not “raptor” as in velociraptor; although velociraptors did have feathers). Good and well-executed art by Mike Capprotti (again), menacing flavor text – it’s a complete package.
Honorable Mention: Otomo Suikihime
Well, there you have it – a thoroughly subjective list. What did you think? Were the criteria used good ones? How different is your list?
12 thoughts on “Emperor Arc’s Best Personality Cards: A Thoroughly Subjective List”
I remember when the Mantis players first saw Nobukatsu. We were really hoping that his mechanic would be a sign of what was to come for the Tsuruchi, and a means by which Mantis would be doing ‘economic warfare’ stuff. Stupid Forgotten Legacy.
Or, you know, you could be honest and just say ‘Spider is my shortest list because I’m prejudiced against them’.
While Kuni Shinoda is a decent personality, he in no way is he best crab personality. How can you overlook Hiruma Nikaru, arguably the best non-unique personality in the game. His ability to shut off a personality to not perform and to also bow was often enough to shut down key elements of an opponents field. I could see him, or Kaiu Esumi as being the best non-unqiue crab of the arc, and while decent, there are a myrid of personalities I would’ve chosen over shinoda
At least in this context, “best” does not mean “most powerful.” There are bunches of Emperor-legal Crab Personalities that were more powerful than Shinoda, and there’s no way I would have picked Shinoda if this list was the most powerful Personality cards for each Clan. Nikaru isn’t just a more powerful card than Shinoda, he’s light-years ahead. Indeed, Nikaru is so good that he falls into the “strong enough to be annoying” category, which excludes him from my particular list using these particular criteria.
Shinjo Byung for Unicorn!
Crab: Hida Nikaru (basic)
Crane: Kakita Seishi
Dragon: Tamori Tamoko
Lion: Akodo Dairuko
Mantis: Yoritomo Kanahashi
Scorpion: Bayushi Misaki
Spider: Ninube Onchi (basic)
Unicorn: Utaku Ji-Yung (basic or xp)
Unaligned: Seppun Jiramu
I definitely think Tamori Tamoko deserved the Dragon spot, but I guess she was considered too annoying to see on the table for opponents.
She has no flavor text, and if there’s a thematic flavor to her abilities, I don’t know what it is (she’s making rocks fall from the sky to stop you from standing up/moving?). Her art is decent, but it isn’t super-awesome like Tsukimi’s (the only card to get mentioned in this list that doesn’t have flavor text). Her power level would have been fine if the other elements of the card had been there.
Crab: Kaiu Onizuka. Don’t get me wrong, Shinoda’s an interesting pick, but Crab shugenja are, once again, odd men out without a deck that really supports them. Even by the criteria provided, “best” people should fit in somewhere, even if it isn’t a deck in the T8. With nothing assaulting the walls, the Crab have been building and exploring new roles through EE. Onizuka’s got that going on. Plus William O’Connor artwork. What’s not to like?
Crane: I like a lot of the Crane art this arc, including several of the duelists. But there’s nothing really groundbreaking there. So I’d go with Asahina Akikusa. Crane had a “what might have been” season in EE, and none more so than the Asahina shugenja theme. Doug Shuler comes through with art that is excellent but not overwrought, the card’s mechanics are thematically appropriate, and the flavor text links this personality into the larger story — and reminds us of a bit of truth, besides.
Dragon: I actually do like Rikyou, but as far as the storyline goes, the Emperor arc was the arc of the Kitsuki for Dragon. And so my nod here goes to Kitsuki Daisuke, in basic and experienced form (XP2’s Ivory bug disqualifying it). Daisuke doesn’t come with the best art in the arc. Richard Garcia’s basic is fine, but hardly memorable, and Aaron Miller doesn’t find me a fan with his experienced version. But the flavor text gives us a real personality, and the abilities mesh well with someone willing to back up the Kitsuki Method with more traditional forms of conflict resolution.
Lion: The Lion often suffer with generic people — not necessarily generic cards, but rather a sort of Just Another Matsu syndrome. I considered picking Matsu Hama, but since the art was used before, I went somewhere different. We know the Lion are honorable, but rather than just telling us that again, let’s see them doing something in this era of change. Ikoma Shika. The flavor text, especially on the basic version, gives us a sense of individual character. The experienced version has a very “Lion scout” ability, and Sergio Camarena twice gives us art of a female samurai who looks self-assured and competent without being gratuitious or off-theme for the setting.
Mantis: Not that they really left, but the Mantis have gone back to the sea, and back to a little bit of that pirate flair we haven’t seen in an arc or two. If we hadn’t had the reign of Kalani’s Landing, the new “raid lite” stronghold would probably have gotten Yoritomo Iwashi cut from the list for being powerful enough to be annoying. But since it’s been under the radar… He’s got a great ability that plays to Mantis’s theme. He’s got flavor text that supports the attitude of the Mantis without sounding totally generic. And Charles Urbach has provided romance book cover artwork that only the Mantis could get away with.
Phoenix: If Ivory-bugged cards were available, Isawa Koizumi would get my nod simply for being a priestess of the kami that actually looks like a priestess and not a D&D wizard! But the rest of the Isawa are disappointing, and the Asako have been too off-screen for one of their representatives to get the nod here (except Chukage, who is too mechanically annoying to do so…). So, in the only time I’m going to agree with the original list: Shiba Tsukimi XP4. The abilities are interesting and flavorful, and the artwork is, in my opinion, one of the all-time best representations of the clan.
Scorpion: I couldn’t pick a ninja here, because, sadly, the Spider have stolen some of that thunder this arc. Instead, I’m going to go with the only Sensei I’ll put on this list. Bayushi Kazutoshi. His experienced version has a very Scorpion themed trait. His XP2 version, a trait very much representative of the Paragons of Chudo theme. In both cases, his flavor text gives us insight into the kind of man he is (not surprising, given his instructor), and as much as I hate the Sensei mechanic, I’m very happy that The Student earned the keyword itself. Adam Schumpert’s art for the XP2 doesn’t relate to the event in the flavor text, and doesn’t really stand out all that much, but Charles Urbach comes through again on his experienced version.
Spider: I’ll agree, it’s tough to pick a Spider by these criteria. They haven’t really settled on a visual theme, their mechanics were universally weak (unless they were power uniques or simply too weird-looking to make this list), and the didn’t really clean up in the flavor text department. But I’ll go with Goju Bunoro here. He’s got art and flavor text that highlight the difference between Spider and Scorpion, and an ability that, even if it didn’t really see much play, is the sort of mechanics-bending shenanigans that the Spider get courtesy of their dark powers. Sergio Camarena is not an artist I’ve typically taken much note of in the past, but assembling this list has shown me that needs to change!
Unicorn: I’m just not willing to shine a spotlight on a Unicorn without a horse, except maybe a Death Priest (and well that deck is fun, none of their cards really stand out here). Utaku Ji-Yun’s experienced art only has the edges of the horse on-frame, but that’s okay. She’s got a great ability. Mario Wibisano’s somewhat etheric style of drawing samurai-ko works well for a battle maiden here. And her flavor text, albeit very short, shows real growth in personality from her basic (which is too blank to be worth a callout, although Drew Baker’s art is quite good there). And, she earns an extra nod as the Imperial representative, since JEKxp demands I have one.
Naga: We started this arc with Forgotten Legacy, and although he barely got more than five minutes of fame, The Dark Naga was supposed to be a major looming threat. And, frankly, I’m an old-school Naga player, so this category had to exist! It’s tempting to pick my own vanity card, Qalyar, but my actual selection is The Shakash. Drew Baker’s art here stands a cut above most Naga over the game’s history. The ability is versatile and powerful, and the cost reduction trait makes the “growing threat” that the Dark Naga were supposed to be into a mechanical reality. Oh, and the flavor text makes clear what this storyline’s impacts on the typically purity-obsessed race are.
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