L5R World Championships Report/Decklist – George Bishop (T4)

George rounds out the Top 4 from the 2015 Legend of the Five Rings World Championships at GenCon (the first three were Jim Chin (T4), James Matthews (T2), and Isaac Cynova (T1)). Have a story to tell from this year’s World Champs (or another storyline tournament)? Go ahead and submit it!

by George Bishop


The deck is a standard Phoenix honor build that goes for a blitz approach to the honor gain.  I’ve been playing this style since 20 Festivals was previewed so I know its strengths and weaknesses very well.  The plan is simple, gain honor whenever and however you can, defend with Progressive and the favor early and hit 40 on turn 5.

The deck’s best matchups are against military builds that spend 2 full turns buying gold (these were the types of decks I was expecting to see the most of at Gencon).  By the time these decks attack I’m usually around 22-26 honor and will gain some more during the battle.  Essentially, these decks get 2 shots to take 4 provinces; not great odds for them.  Dishonor, on the other hand, is nearly an auto loss with your best hope being to either race to 40 before the dishonor engine gets up and running, or somehow, pull out a very slow grind to 40 using some combination of re-honor effects, honor holdings, a courtier and Secret Alliances.  Fast attack decks (i.e. decks swinging for a province on my turn 3) are not the greatest matchup for this deck but given the fact that I get Progressive by turn 3 in at least 90% of my games, my playtesting showed that I can usually handle them.

A few cards of note

Hira Sensei:  From the time it was previewed, I knew Hira would fit right into my Phoenix honor runner. The synergies between the Events, my defensive scheme, my gold scheme and my honor gain engine were too good to deny.  I get to see Progressive in virtually every game; I get to thin my dynasty and fate decks at the same time and I get to boost my awkward gold scheme (a 4 for 2 is not a fun holding to play).  And I get all of this without having to worry about clogging up my flips each turn.  5 province strength is scary but, even scarier, is the prospect of having to take 4 provinces in 5 turns, and Hira, I thought, would give me 40 honor on turn five with the reliability I had been looking for since Phoenix’s new Stronghold became legal.

Accepting the Choice:  This, for me, is another no-brainer, but I know there are many that don’t see value in the card.  There are plenty of games where I need to get 2 extra honor on turn 5 to seal up the game.  In those situations, I’m willing to give up a lot more than 2 gold and a card to grab a Wheels within Wheels.  If I could run 6 Wheels within Wheels I would and Accepting the Choice, effectively, gives me a few extra opportunities to see the most important card in my deck.  Similarly, in the early game, if I flip only unaligned courtiers and no Phoenix personalities to proclaim, I gladly pay Accepting’s costs to fetch an Honored Guest.

Kabuki Theater Troupe:  Throughout the course of a game, I generally operate on only a few holdings as my guys are cheap and I don’t run expensive attachments.  This means, however, that if I invest gold into a holding, guy, spell, etc. I need to get my money’s worth.  Attaching a Carpenter Shrine, gaining 1 honor and then losing it on an attack is not a good investment.  Losing an early province is bad enough but losing a Holding that I invested a significant percentage of my resources to purchase, on top of that, can swing a game.  I’ll pay the extra 1 gold to have an extra turn or two of honor gain from my Holding.


Pre-game (2)
1 Majestic Temple of the Phoenix
1 Hira Sensei

Dynasty (40)

Events (6)
3 The Blessing
3 The Samurai Caste Divides

Holdings (17)
3 Famous Bazaar
1 Forgotten Legacy
3 Rhetorician
3 Honored Sensei
3 Temple of Destiny
2 Temple Fortress
2 Kabuki Theater Troupe

Personalities (17)
2 Shiba Kintaro, the Remembered
1 Shiba Hano
3 Isawa Genma
3 Isawa Kaisei
2 Asako Kazuki
3 Otomo Terumoto
3 Otomo Demiyah

Fate (40)

Spells (8)
2 Words of Consecration
2 Seeking the Way
3 Mark of Heaven’s Favor
1 Look Into the Soul

Strategies (32)

3 Progressive
3 Wheels within Wheels
1 Desperate Sacrifice
1 Secret Alliances
2 Accepting the Choice
3 An Honored Guest
3 Inexplicable Challenge
3 Usurpation
3 Bridging the Gap
2 Pure Intent
2 Victory Through Deference
2 Absolution
2 The Path of Wisdom
2 Favors

The Tournament

Round 1 – Crane Geisha – Andrew Kim

I played Andrew in Phoenixville so I knew he was a very solid player. I win the roll-off and jump out to a fast start and never look back. He had to overextend for a fast attack and stalled in his turn 4/5. I cross on his turn 5 with 3 left and he doesn’t have the bodies to viably threaten 3 at once.


Round 2 – Unicorn Taitaken – ???

He must have been gold screwed because he came out fairly slow buying only one body on turn 3. I slap down a seeking on Genma and he doesn’t attack on turn 4. I cross on his turn 5 during his first attack.


Round 3 – Mantis Kobi – ???

Looked like a Shika-type build with Kobi, I assume, to go second. Someone tried to explain to me why this is a good idea but I still don’t get it. He starts fast (no kidding, he’s playing Mantis) but I’m able to bounce his turn 3 attack fairly easily. I’m able to buy enough guys to put bodies in front of his naval ranged attacks. I manage my provinces well enough but a final battle dishonor from Price of Shame on Kaisei when I’m at 42 makes things interesting. I’m able to send all his guys home to avoid the honor loss and stick at 42.


Round 4 – Spider Aranai – Case Kiyonaga

He gets the dreaded second-turn gold screw and comes out very slowly. I cross on his turn 5 with all 4 provinces left.


Round 5 – Crane/Scorpion Geisha – James Balthis

He’s playing Crane Geisha with lots of Scorpion bodies and running alliance which he sees 2nd turn. I’m incredibly paranoid about the in-battle dishonor and play very conservatively. As best as I can remember, I bounce one of his turn 4 attacks but lose a prov on the other. He swings for 3 on turn 5 and I’m able to save one and cross 40 in the battle while avoiding being dishonored. Very close game and the most inventive honor meta scheme I saw in 3 days of games.


Round 6/7 – There are 4 undefeated players and we agree to draw the last two rounds as we’re guaranteed a spot in the top 16 at 5-0-2.


Top 16 (single elimination) – Lion – Brendan Quigley

I play Brendan frequently on Sun and Moon and know his deck fairly well (which means he knows mine as well). He comes out very quickly with a ToHC and Ivory Courtroom on turn 1 with other gold showing. My flip is average and I start to get a bit worried. He swings for 2 with an Iairimi with big follower on 1 and the Abbott and another dude with big follower on the second. Desperate Sacrifice comes up big against Iairimi and I save that prov. I’m able to send home the guy with the follower and Brendan, with the only mistake I’ve ever seen from him in dozens of games, forgets about Kazuki’s fear and my 2 unbowed gold and I’m able to kill the Abbott in battle resolution. He gets one more shot to swing for 3 on my next turn but I’m able to hang on to one and cross. Great game from a great opponent.

Top 8 (Best of 3) – Scorpion – Bob Martin

Game 1 – I know this deck fairly well but never played with Bob as the pilot. I take the first one fairly easily as he sees only one weapon the entire game and I’m able to avoid in-battle dishonor. He sees Nitoshi but a Genma with a Words and a Seeking sucks up his box and I’m able to Usurpation away on his attacks. I also see multiple Bridging the Gaps to break his 2 Accessible Terrains.


Game 2 – he comes out of turn 2 with over 20 gold and buys 3 big bodies on turn 3. I’m worried about his production but my honor clock is right on schedule so I’m feeling ok. A Genma with a Seeking sucks up his box but he’s still attacking on turn 4 with 3 big guys all loaded up with destined weapons and a hand full of cards. Kazuki’s resilient plus his trait come up huge in both of these games as I can assign him against Nitoshi or Meiko with virtually no fear of losing 3 from the in-battle dishonor. My hand is stacked with honor gain battle actions on his first attack and then I flip a Temple of Destiny, Kaisei and buy a Kintaro from the dead to draw 4 and reload. He forgets to lower ph with house of disgrace on his last attack and I sneak in a Usurpation that makes the last battle an easy one.


Top 4 – Mantis Shika – Isaac Cynova (not to ruin the suspense, but I Lose)

Game 1 – Despite my deck failing horribly in both games (didn’t see a courtier or a Kazuki in either game and only 1 VTD) these were very fun games as I was playing on my heels for both and scrambling to piece defenses together for every attack yet I was able to come within a battle action or 2 of winning both games. He ends turn 2 with 14 gold and 2 guys while I have to Legacy on my first turn and get an awkward gold draw on turn 2. He takes a prov on turn 3 and one on turn 4. I’m able to cross during his attack on turn 5 but he has an Accessible Terrain (and probably some other good cards) and I have no answer for the last battle.


Game 2 – I come out much better turn one with Honored Sensei and Famous Bazaar plus a Blessing, but have another awkward flip on turn 2 (though turn 2 Kaisei isn’t too bad). He’s slower this game but he still takes a couple of provs by turn 5 (he’s loaded with send-home meta: I see multiple Brazens, multiple Open Roads and multiple Accessibles). I have the three cards to cross on his turn 5 attack (from 35 to 41) and he only swings for one. I think I have it as I have three guys and, i think, I can keep presence long enough to get all three off. His Brazen on my first-action Usurpation, though, means I can only get off one more action before I lose presence and I’m unable to save the province. I’m still alive at this point but that is the game.


Isaac’s deck came prepared for Phoenix honor and that paid off for him in a big way. Congrats to him as he played two very solid games against me and even let me back up from a possibly huge mistake in an early battle during the first game. I think this deck has the cards in it to take 2 of 3 from Shika Mantis but I didn’t see enough of the ones I needed in either game. Otherwise, the deck was incredibly solid on both days and, outside of the top 4 and top 16 matches, I always felt like I was in control in every game.

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