by Monjoni Osso
The first week of Kotei Season 2013 has passed and left us with several great tournaments. Blood has been spilled in war between the Colonies and the Empire of Rokugan. Yoritomo Kanahashi and Shiba Sansesuke lie dead, their lives just the first in what will be a very bloody Kotei season. With so many Kotei to go, this week’s Theory Katana article will be about decks any potential kotei player should be on the lookout for.
GIANT DISCLAIMER: Every Kotei field is different. L5R, very distinct from games like Magic, has significantly less bandwagoning. There are also massive differences in the field I prepare for (North American events, by and large) and those in other regions particularly Europe and Oceania. This will be of some help to everyone, I hope, but keep in mind that there is no guarantee that your Kotei will have all, some, or any of the following decks.
Number One With a Bullet: Temple of Purity Chi Death
Key Cards: Suck the Marrow, Frozen in Place, Theological Indecision
Torn Asunder brought with it two cards that have fundamentally changed the action phase in Emperor Edition. Suck the Marrow and Frozen in Place allow for a new form of action phase destruction in chi death. When personalities are reduced to 0 chi, they are destroyed. Since this is a rulebook effect, it cannot be negated or delayed.
This effect has seen the most impact through either Phoenix magistrates or Phoenix Henshin. In the case of magistrates, it combos with Kitsuki Judgment to offer them a suite of powerful action phase destruction. With Henshin’s ability to manipulate the force and chi of personalities, this military deck can kill even high chi personalities very quickly in the action phase. Another version of the deck runs several nonhumans, such as Kunji Experienced and Natsumi, to enable additional action phase destruction in Oblivious.
My advice against this tactic is building up an economy and swarming personalities from provinces. Some attachments (notably Gift Armor) offer protection against this form of destruction, but putting in significant amounts of meta risks weakening the deck against the actual win conditions at play (honor and military, respectively). Chi death is, at the end of the day, something that is circumvented by having more personalities than they can target.
Number Two: Kalani’s Landing
Key Cards: Kitsuki Judgment, Shinden Shorai, Sheltered Port
Kalani’s Landing has been one of the most controversial Mantis strongholds ever printed. It has been responsible for the majority of Mantis’ placements in Emperor Edition, and the addition of several gold-based Limited kill actions makes it all the stronger. If there is one deck that should be tested against, my opinion is that Kalani’s Landing is that deck.
Kitsuki Judgment is the clear headliner for the deck, as it is unnegatable unit kill. With Ingenuity (easily run out of the deck), Kalani’s Landing becomes a homing missile taking out any important unit on your side of the field with its ability to effectively produce 6G (its normal production with the cost reduction reaction) for gold-based kill actions such as Yoritomo Kanaye and A Stain Cleansed. This personality kill heavy variant of Kalani’s Landing significantly strengthens previously weak matchups.
A special mention must be made here of the deck’s gold scheme. Utilizing the “port scheme” (Sheltered Port, Kobune Port, Second City Port, Merchant Outpost, and Buried Treasure) the deck can force out truly insane amounts of gold every turn. Sheltered Port dramatically accelerates the Mantis economy and its interaction with Second City Port makes even expensive units fairly easy to kill with the deck’s action base.
An alternate version of the deck focuses entirely on blitzing personalities as fast as possible, with Masaya and Akodo Ashiko forming the backbone of a deck that can potentially take a province turn one. With Truce to pay for her, Ashiko can enter a battle even without presence, and since she won’t be in play during the action phase can’t be targeted by many popular control actions (including Caught Unawares).
Despite this versatility in builds, Kalani’s Landing has a very tough matchup against Forgotten Temple Oni. Oni are very expensive, taxing even the economy that Kalani’s Landing can put out, and typically run hard counters to the blitz deck in Hidden Defenses and Caught Unawares. Crab Berzerkers also test Kalani’s Landing decks due to the resilience of Halls of the Forgotten offsetting the advantage of Naval.
Number Three: Crab berzerkers
Key cards: Duty of the Crab, Ancient Armor of the Qamar, Hida Kaiji
Big Crab, as it’s known by most, has been a powerhouse for years and the Emperor Edition version is no slouch. Though they can no longer threaten turn 1 provinces, the addition of Hida Kaiji in Seeds of Decay granted the deck a powerful personality it was badly in need of. Rushing is still possible, as well, thanks to Incense Mill’s interaction with Hida Bakari.
Large force combined with powerful battle actions is the name of the game against Crab. Once they have their economy on line, they bring into play some of the best military personalities in the game. Duty of the Crab accelerates them tremendously, ensuring that even a discarded personality remains a threat. The additional speed granted by Kuni Renyu XP2 cannot be discounted, as the extra 2G off the Crab personalities can grant them an ability to swarm that their high gold cost would belie.
Berzerkers are, however, reliant on keeping their personalities in play and employ several means of ensuring that. They are notably vulnerable to simply being outforced and lack a large swathe of proactive battle actions. Swarming them, with force pumps from cards like Retired Sensei, can overwhelm their mostly reactive action base.
Number Four: The Forgotten Temple Oni
Key Cards: Caught Unawares, Hidden Defenses, Undetectable Enemy
The Forgotten Temple was one of the scariest decks at the end of Celestial Edition. Its powerful economy, combined with the massive efficiency of Oni at that point in the arc, combined to create a deck that completely overpowered GenCon 2011. Throughout Emperor Edition there have been some explorations into a similar deck, but in the wake of Torn Asunder the Oni are back.
The crux of oni comes in highly efficient gold to force ratios backed up with powerful actions and the best negation in the format. Once the oni’s gold scheme is online (something that it will spend 2-3 turns building up) it’s going to be clearing 4 provinces a turn and, on average, getting over 20 force in each Dynasty phase.
The oni deck’s main weakness is its speed. Very fast honor decks will tend to break the back of an oni deck as the deck usually isn’t declaring an attack until turn 3 or turn 4. Many oni are running honor meta to get around this problem, but it’s in the form of On and Alter History both of which are negated by cards like Forging Destiny. Terrain based actions like Thick Marsh can also be problematic for the oni deck, but they are resistant to bow effects thanks to cards like Mumoku no Oni and Deep Roots.
Number Five Yasuki Palaces Dishonor
Key Cards: Yasuki Ikke, Yasuki Jekku, Den of Iniquity
The Crab have an incredible amount of resilience, and this theme carries through to their courtiers. Unlike many Courtier decks, the Yasuki courtiers will happily go to a battle and make a military deck pay for every single action they take. Their wall of actions and reactions are often enough to stymie military decks.
Though the Yasuki have few ways to dishonor, Yasuki Jekku stands out immediately as he creates a reproducible honor loss on every one of their turns while also dishonoring his target. While Jekku provides the fuel for their actions, the engine of the deck lies in personalities like Yasuki Ikke and Yasuki Jinn-Kuen. With access to their negations as well as honor-cost negations in The Power of a Word and Yasuki Tanimura this dishonor deck is surprisingly resistant to proactive actions.
Beating Yasuki dishonor requires careful management of your honor total. One of dishonor’s main weaknesses in the current arc is that once you are at negative twenty honor you can just accept the honor loss alternates on most of their actions. Limited actions are also powerful against them, as only Yasuki Jinn-Kuen’s reaction can protect against non-Battle actions. Yasuki dishonor does have a surprising amount of kill with access to Unstoppable Strike and A Threat Enacted, however careful spreading of attachments and an emphasis on large amounts of personalities on the board will tend to overwhelm them.