Theory Katana – Torn Asunder Draft

by Monjoni Osso

Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. “ – Bruce Lee

Torn Asunder is the first set in Emperor Edition that has no starter decks. All of the Torn Asunder release events are therefore draft events, something that’s brought some controversy to the game. Draft has never been popular in Legend of the Five Rings, but Emperor Edition has taken great strides towards making L5R draft both playable and fun. I’ve loved drafting since I really learned how to do it in Vs. System (which drafted very similar to Magic), it’s a format that’s wonderful for newer players, wonderful for older players that put in the time to study, and wonderful for your stronghold stores since it moves lots of packs through them.

It is also an almost totally different mindset than looking at constructed L5R. Drafting requires a lot of fluidity in thought. The quote that opens this article is one that I found first while reading another article about drafting, and it provides great insight into drafting as a style of play. Drafting requires fluidity of thought, and a willingness to change plans based on observation. Packs of cards will always create new opportunities for you, and the ability to recognize those opportunities is paramount.

Today’s Theory Katana will focus on drafting Torn Asunder. I’ve had the fortune to play in two Torn Asunder drafts this past week and I’ll be providing an in-depth analysis of the set as a draft and the events I participated in. My aim is to help explore L5R drafting and help all of you enjoy the format!

Commons will provide the backbone of most draft decks. Though there are few power commons in Torn Asunder, some commons will deserve higher pick choices than even rares. They are fundamental and foundational to draft, and being able to recognize their value is very important. In Torn Asunder, there are several key commons that can affect where you go with your deck.  Asako Kyuudo and Asahina Akahiko provide solid resources for any honor running deck, while Matsu Sango combines well with cards like Calling the Darkness and Defensive Stance for the backbone of any offensive deck.  Now We Are Enemies, Mutual Support, and The Earth’s Protection all provide bomb plays given the lack of removal (either send home or kill) in the format. Sturdy Armor is, in my mind, one of the best items so far in Emperor for Limited play, bringing in a 4G for 5F trade. Perhaps one of the most talked about commons of the set, Sudden Blockade, is less useful in Limited play but still strategically useful; if you had a poor Dynasty flip you can use spare gold to shut down one of the opponent’s big threats. This type of control effect can be utilized even in military builds to either force a discard of a problem card or to ensure that you’ll have a target for your next swing.

Uncommons will usually provide more thematic oomph than Commons, but will also be slightly less splashable. That being said, any pack containing Brothers of the Great Lakes bears looking at. Charge Into Danger is one of the only two move actions in the format, a vital pull against honor-running decks that are consistently getting the Imperial Favor. Doji Tatsuzo provides for a strong early pick if you’re looking at honor, as his action will allow the favor to be used against cavalry personalities, of which this set contains many. The strongest uncommon in the set is, without a doubt, Mumoku no Oni. An elite 10F personality is extremely strong considering the set’s lack of removal and while you may not get much out of his trait he’s so strong that even honor decks should high pick him just to get him away from other military decks. Finally, Suck the Marrow is arguably the best control card in the set; it provides definite removal and stacks well with the common Frozen in Place. Finally, The Passing of Tradition allows you to splash around useful keywords like cavalry or tactician and, while I wouldn’t say it’s a card worthy of a high pick, it’s a very strong mid-pack call especially for military decks.

Rares will always be powerful bomb cards in draft. Though there are certainly bad rares, their value in draft can be much greater than in standard constructed formats. Asahina Nanae, the new Jade Champion, is a powerful card with few answers in the format. Yoritomo Harumi provides one of the few ways to remove a personality. Daigotsu Bofana Experienced is one of, if not the, strongest picks in the set for his trait-based discard and huge force. While the only Dark Virtue in the set is Without Mercy, Bofana’s sheer size is more than enough to make him a high pick. Ikoma Satoru is one of my favorite cards in this set for several reasons. Chiefly, his Limited action is one of the only ways to get bad cards out of your hand and either result of his action is fantastic in draft play. He’ll either net you two cards or destroy an enemy personality with his Limited action, and that he’s a 3F Tactician for 7G is icing on an already pretty awesome cake.

So then, what deck types should a player be looking to build in Torn Asunder draft? Well, in Draft there are really two viable archetypes: military and honor. Honor is viable due to the repeated 2 honor gain on the box, but needing to cross 50 honor instead of the normal 40 makes it a slower win condition very dependent on control effects and strong defensive personalities. Military decks are somewhat easier to construct, but are also popular in the format. Military’s popularity usually means that the card pool will be thinner for it than for honor, however military also has more support card for card than honor does. Reaction and fluidity is very important when determining how you’ll build your draft deck and will require constant, conscious analysis of what cards you’re seeing.

I participated in two Torn Asunder drafts, following the AEG-recommended format of 5 packs. The first draft I was in took place at Dragon’s Lair in Austin, Texas. We had seven people in the pod, which does change draft subtly as usually strategies (and packs) are planned around an eight man pod, however I didn’t really feel the difference on this occasion.

My first pack saw an Asako Kyuudo which I picked over even the rare in the pack. I feel like Kyuudo is an essential card for any honor run in the set, as he comes in as a 3PH 7F Elite shugenja for 8G; a mighty hill to climb for any military deck. My pick was seemingly validated as in pick two I saw an Earth’s Protection and snapped it up. That spell with Kyuudo can set up a nearly immovable defensive wall, and if you’re lucky can also nab lots of honor in battle resolution. Doji Iza came up my third pick, and I’m loathe to say no to 6G and 4PH. At this point, I was invested in honor and I thought that honor run cards were going to wheel around to me so I was pretty confident. The fourth pick came up with another Earth’s Protection, but pick five provided something different in a Sturdy Armor. Sturdy Armor is fine for defensive decks as you’ll be heading to battle and its great force to gold ration will play well, it also had the upside of getting it out of the pool for military players. Pick six was, in retrospect, where I had to change my plan. Matsu Sango came up late in the pack and, with the force pumps available in the set, I absolutely couldn’t pass him up. A Close Call was my seventh pick, stacking well with the three attachments I’d already managed to nab. Pick eight was somewhat more dire, and I hadn’t yet committed to a full military strategy, so I went with Sudden Blockade as it would find a space in either win. The last three picks are usually the dregs of a given pack, and I ended up with Touch of the Night (not displeased about that, got it away from the Spider and Scorpion military options), Duty Over All Things, and the butterfly token was my last pick.

After a brief analysis, I was fairly confident in my first picks. I was still open to building either Phoenix/Crane honor or something more military-minded and I’d managed to nab several powerful cards. Pack two would be decisive and, based on what would go around the table would decide where my deck would end up.

First pick of pack two went to Asahina Akahiko. A 3PH shugenja with a reusable move home that also gains honor would slot very well into the honor deck I was looking to assemble. It was, however, the second pick of pack two that would prove fateful as I looked at an Ikoma Satoru. Satoru is a card that, in my opinion, you can’t pass up and I drafted him immediately. At this point, with the Sango, Sturdy Armor, and Close Call I’d picked up in pack one I was looking into military. Yoritomo Naoto Experienced came up in my third pick, and he provided a huge (6F) Stalwart body that would eat my opponent’s first action. At this point, I was leaning heavily towards Lion/Mantis military and that line of thinking was rewarded on my fourth pick, Calling the Darkness. Calling the Darkness would turn my first pack Matsu Sango into an 8F monster on the attack. Mirumoto Yonekura was my fifth pick, she would either be a holding for the deck of a 4F Elite personality; either option was acceptable. Serendipitous picks followed, as my next pick was a Chiyurei’s Axe. This was yet another option to feed into A Close Call and it’s one of the few cards that gives unopposed force. At this point, I think, I was very locked into military. Matsu Sango showed up again as my seventh pick and at this point I was really assured about going into Lion. Sudden Blockade was my eight pick out of a very mediocre pack, with Fuboko, Duty Over All Things, and another butterfly token rounding out the pack.

So, pack three and middle of the draft. At this point, I’m fairly solidly in military and I’m looking to shore up options there. I’ve also noticed that Lion are making their way around the table, so I’m feeling pretty good about my choices so far. I first pick a Matsu Sango out of my pack, which in hindsight was a little overzealous. Sango was picked over a Now We Are Enemies and a Trusting Instinct, both of which would have been solid picks for the fate side. Still, pick two brought Soshi Shinoko. I’m a big fan of this Soshi in limited play, she’s a fantastic defender and her Open action can shut down the attacker’s biggest personality. Picks three and four were both oriented around Matsu Sango as I got Defensive Stance on both picks. Straight force pumps are somewhat hard to come by in Torn Asunder and these present powerful ways to make Sango an 8F attacker. Yoritomo Tansen came in as pick five, representing more of a utility/hate draft call. Tansen has one of the few repeated removal actions in the set, and it works overtime in aggressive military thanks to his ability to shoot provinces. Damaged Port as pick six was a tough call, as it’s essentially just a 2 for 2, but I do like to draft holdings in limited. I was surprised to see an Ambush Tactics come in at pick seven. It’s a removal action that also gets your personality out of the fight; trading one of your opponent’s personalities for no reply from them is never a bad idea. Picks eight and nine were Hida Chiyurei as I began eyeing Crab tacticians, however he saw little use outside of being turned into a holding. Pick ten was an Unseasonable Weather, a great event that can shut down an enemy swing (or make your counter-swing nearly unstoppable). Pick eleven was a Kitsu Miwa who’d wheeled several times. Her ability is fantastic in constructed play but in limited she can only search herself.

Heading into pack four, I had a very aggressive military deck and I was looking to keep the pressure going. I opened up a Mirumoto Kojinrue Experienced and was happy to slam that as my first pick. He’s somewhat pricey at 10G but he can attack for free and still perform actions. He’s basically got Super Elite. I’m a big fan of his traits and a 5F personality who is essentially immune to being bowed is a great deal even at 10G. Sturdy Armor was my second pick of this pack, with its stable force to gold ratio getting even better in the deck I was constructing. Surprisingly, Matsu Yoshito came in at pick three. An aggressive military deck would have a lot of trouble passing a 4F 7G cavalry attacker and with the Sturdy Armors I was already packing he would be a serious threat. Drain of Effort is a solid card in limited play, and at worst provides free action phase card draw, and so it was my fourth pick. Destrier was pick five, a call I had to think about because I’d passed Destrier in pack one. However, in pack four I was not only building aggressive military I also was getting cavalry in Matsu Yoshito, so the fifth pick of pack four made it a lot stronger of an option than it had been in pack one. Now that I had several attachments, A Close Call made for a fantastic pick six. Pick seven was an unexciting Damaged Port, with few cards in the pack providing anything to my deck. The Passing of Tradition made up pick eight, and its ability to hand out cavalry or tactician would be certainly welcome. Pick nine was Martyr’s Call, which would let me use Yoshito to beef up the Sango that I had already drafted. Pick ten was a mediocre Hida Chiyurei, but I was passed as pick eleven another Matsu Yoshito!

Heading into pack five, I had a very strong Lion personality base with the attachments and actions to make them go, so at that point I was just looking to fill in holes and find a solid alternate clan. I first picked a Chiyurei’s Axe. Now that I had several cavalry personalities, unopposed force was coming in as high value. The Axe was chosen over a Doji Kazuo (limited utility in Draft) and Forgotten Bay Dojo as well as another Mirumoto Yonekura. In hindsight, the Mirumoto Yoneku4ra would have been a solid pick as it was likely that Chiyurei’s Axe would have wheeled. Pick two was a surprising Matsu Yoshito, giving me three of the cavalry Lion and dictating some very strong turn three attack options. Mutual Support came in at pick three, a shocking wheel as it’s one of the strongest force pumps in draft and I was happy to take it. Trusting Instinct was a great pick four, strengthening the “buy a guy, attach something, take a province” plan that was developing. Now We Are Enemies gave an amazing pick five, with its six force swing making for some big plays in battle. Pick six was funny, in retrospect, as I drafted a fourth Matsu Sango. I could now run four of the massive (if tiny) Lion and with the amount of pumps that I had I was pretty confident in his ability to get over most enemy armies. Asako Kyuudo was pick seven of pack five and was a very different call than he had been as the first pick of pack one. I was unsure how hard Phoenix were getting drafted but I’d seen few Phoenix personalities make it around, and Kyuudo represented a fearsome defensive option as he could stop many early swings just by sticking around and I was very light on removal. Chun came to me in pick eight, and while it would rarely come up the option of making my personalities Naval on the last swing was too good to pass up. Picks nine, ten, and eleven presented little for the deck in bringing me Overpower, Witness the Untold, and another butterfly token.

So, once all had been said and done, here’s the deck I constructed:

Dynasty (20)
1x Yoritomo Naoto XP
1x Mirumoto Kojinrue XP
1x Ikoma Satoru XP
1x Chun
1x Soshi Shinoko
1x Yoritomo Tansen
1x Mirumoto Yonekura
1x Asako Kyuudo
2x Hida Chiyurei
4x Matsu Sango
3x Matsu Yoshito
1x Unseasonable Weather
2x Damaged Port

Fate (20)
2x Earth’s Protection
2x Sturdy Armor
2x Chiyurei’s Axe
1x Destrier
2x Sudden Blockade
2x Defensive Stance
2x A Close Call
1x Ambush Tactics
1x Calling the Darkness
1x The Passing of Tradition
1x Martyr’s Call
1x Trusting Instinct
1x Mutual Support
1x Drain of Effort

I ended up going Lion/Dragon to get the discount on Kojinrue more than anything, though with hindsight Mantis would have been equally viable. Earth’s Protection was thrown in to finish out the Fate deck, which also warranted Asako Kyuudo’s spot in the deck. Switching into military during pack one had definitely paid off, all that was left was to play it.

Game one saw me up against a Phoenix/Mantis deck. I didn’t get to see much of it as a turn two Matsu Yoshito wearing Sturdy Armor on turn three put my opponent on a clock he couldn’t beat. The deck was flowing very smoothly and I was happy with its performance.

I lost the die roll to go first in game two, and I was up against a brutal Crane/Mantis honor run. A turn two Asahina Nanae Experienced completely shut me out of the game. I simply wasn’t able to get enough force on the board, and I didn’t even take a province until my opponent was over thirty honor.

Game three saw me losing the die roll again, but since I was against Scorpion/Unicorn (AKA Scorpicorn) I decided on a defensive honor run/swarm strategy. Going first in draft is a big advantage and for my deck going second would be very tough. Luckily I had several 3PH personalities to bring into play and I was able to rocket up while presenting a large enough army that my opponent couldn’t swing. A Yoshito with Sturdy Armor was backed up a Calling the Darkness Sango, giving me lots of force that my opponent just could not get over.

2-1 is a record I was happy with, and tied on record with the first place deck. The deck performed well, with aggressive Lion personalities just crushing provinces every swing. I hope that this Draft analysis has helped all of you gain a new perspective on Torn Asunder draft. Next week’s article will also be centered on Torn Asunder draft, and we’ll find out what happens when I ignore Bruce Lee’s advice.

Until then, thank you all for reading this! Like always, please leave your comments and questions below.

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