Isaac was crowned 2015 World Champion at this year’s Legend of the Five Rings World Championships at GenCon. Below you can find his decklist and tournament report. This is our fourth third GenCon L5R World Champs report, with prior entries from Brendan Quigley (T16), Jim Chin (T4), and James Matthews (T2) (the remaining T4 report, from George Bishop, should be up tomorrow). Have a story to tell from this year’s World Champs (or another storyline tournament)? Go ahead and submit it!
by Isaac Cynova
Captain’s Log. Report of Wednesday, July 29th through Sunday, August 2nd, including GenCon and winning the Legend of the Five Rings World Championship.
GenCon, the magical 22 hour road trip.
I love road trips, even ones where cars die, like our former pride and spacecar, Kitty. A friend pointed out that even though there is now a super high monetary value to the weekend, the memories and experience I have from this trip are priceless, and he’s definitely correct about that part.
Thursday was spent trying to ignore cards and anxiety on my part, enjoying the convention and looking for board games for our playgroup to play in the inevitable post-GenCon burnout phase. We found a couple, like Superfight and SpecOps, as well as finally buying a copy of Boss Monster, and then headed back to the hotel to play said games until much too late.
Friday I registered and played in the morning grinder.
I’m really, really not good at writing reports, especially when I didn’t take notes during my matches so apologies for the memory holes. All I know is that I went 2-2 that morning for games played, and really, really, really didn’t feel confident in the deck at all. I knew what I’d built it to do (kill things, attach things, go fast, feel good to me, look weird to my opponents, possibly rush them into making mistakes) but it didn’t really seem to do any of those things on Friday. I killed some things, sure, but my gold was weird, and so were my fate hands. I played against a Mantis mirror match and a Phoenix deck for wins, and a Unicorn Control deck and Phoenix no sensei, bow tech honor for my losses. Most of my fate hands were filled with 2x Spirited Dispute, had no attachments, or had 2x Brazen against a Phoenix deck that DID NOT send me home (agh!). My final game was supposed to be against a Crab player who had sat near me for most of our pairings. He said he ran “little people and little followers that would just die to all of your ranged attacks,” so he conceded to me so that he wouldn’t go into the afternoon grinder with 1 loss (like my poor friend Jordan did). I asked him if he was sure, not entirely sure that my deck would do everything that the guy feared with the way my luck was going. He said yes, he was sure, and I was in on a concession. I don’t know how Mr. Crab Guy did in the other grinder or the Saturday tournament, but I certainly hope it was well for all the good Kharma he has.
Saturday morning I fire Moshi Ikako and some fate card from the deck, to replace with a 3rd Shrine to Hachiman and Your True Nature. Ikako because her 4 honor requirement is too high with Unwanted Tutelage now in the deck and being a strong contributor, and the other card because I would like 1x Your True Nature to show up and randomly help me out in matches where I am having attachment difficulties. I would NEVER like to see more than 1 though, so the 1x slot it is, and I’m ready for the tournament. Or… as ready as I will ever be, I think.
The Fruitful Port of the Mantis
1x The New Order
2x Forgotten Legacy
3x Kobune Port
3x Shrine to Hachiman
3x Temple of Destiny
3x Lonely Dojo
3x Coastal Lane
3x Famous Bazaar
1x The Abbot
3x Yoritomo Shotsuo
3x Yoritomo Yakuwa
3x Yoritomo Ichido
3x Tusurhchi Taito
3x Tusurchi Akira
3x Tusurchi Gosho
2x Tsuruchi Kaitaru
3x Sons of Gusai
3x Mounted Support
3x Junghar Regulars
3x Legion of the Khan
1x Ring of Earth
1x Ring of Air
2x Brazen Disregard
3x Standing Fast
3x Unwanted Tutelage
2x Holding Cells
2x Accessible Terrain
1x Courage Beyond Question
3x Spirited Dispute
3x Ideological Differences
2x Way of the Mantis
3x Overwhelming Offense
1x Your True Nature
1x Open Ground
Round 1– W – Phoenix Honor – I think. I don’t remember this match well. It was the first thing in the morning, but I do remember that it was a win, and that the deckstyle felt good. I got good gold, and the anti-honor cards did what they should (being Gosho, The New Order, and Brazen Disregard). I play against Stephen Vann regularly who is a fairly decent Phoenix player ( 🙂 ) and didn’t have to grind in because he qualified the hard way, in Oklahoma. This deck was one of the variations he tried out before settling on the Kharmic sensei. I definitely owe him for all of the Phoenix I ran over in the tournament. His play style seems to counter my aggro though, since I never seem to go better than 50% against him.
Round 2 – L – Mantis – Eric Gardiner – He runs a similar Standing Fast deck, but has different attachments. Follower that lose him honor, and the armor that gives Resilient. His personality base also negated Ichido, who is a pretty big help against other big unit decks by sending their fatty home bowed. Big problem. For all of his different play choices however, I realize about halfway through that we both were covertly calculating gold value. In the final battle we both relax and made jokes about how big each person’s mega-unit was. He had more standing fasts in that battle, plus the favor from an early holding purchase that I completely forgot about. I was the aggressor (big surprise) Boom. One loss. I also forgot that Gosho was Absent which could have killed one of his big followers. Sadness.
Round 3 – W – Unicorn – Shugenja Military – This one was sneaky. I knew that he would load up and want to trade provinces with me, so I bought my normal train start – turn 2 guy with gold, load up and attack. He had bought a main personality and a support personality the turn before, and defends with his main. He Lookout Posts (?) or gets an action in somehow. Maybe he played Turtle’s Shell? Anyway, with his action he runs away and gives me -3 force. I won’t take the province now, but I have Open Ground in my hand. I pull him back in at resolution to kill his guy so that he can’t load up just yet. When we finally fight I have 3x Overwhelming Assault and a Holding Cells with open gold and am the attacker. GG.
Round 4 – W – Scorpion – I have another friend, Tim Casey, who plays dishonor and truth be told, I was scared of this matchup because I’ve never beaten Tim’s deck with mine. The Tutelage card slot itself is an admission of defeat there: I don’t expect to win this matchup, so I might as well play a militarily superior card than worry about it. This game seems to go much better than I expect, however, despite a subpar gold start (only 4 gold). He doesn’t run the Crab holding honor loss suite so I have about a half to a full turn longer to take his 4 provinces. At the end he sees 2 cards, names Accessible because I played it earlier in the game, and then I attack. I do the standard counter-Encircled Terrain tactic of killing all of his guys and then playing my terrain, only I play Open Ground instead of the Accessible I also had. Game. He’s upset because he says he should’ve used his Ways of the Scorpion to look at more cards in my hand, but I don’t think it would have mattered. He didn’t read Akira either, and I had 3 of her in my final battle, who would’ve shot his province down to nothing. I tell him about her after the game is done and that seems to mollify his irritation. On to the next!
Round 5 – W – Another Phoenix Honor – By this time I am thanking my stars for all of the frustrating Phoenix games that I’ve played against Stephen. Again, I don’t remember many details, but I know that I won. I believe that either this one or the first game I played was a copy of the Yung Sensei deck that Stephen settled on. Cycling Strength in Subtlety is a harsh thing to attack through, but I made it. 4-1.
Round 6 – W – Lion Honor – I’d heard about this deck, but never seen one. I knew Standing Fast would be a kill action though, so I pocket them and instead ditch Holding Cells, Spirited Disputes, and Overwhelming Offenses when necessary. I get a pretty nuts start against this poor guy though. Turn 1 I get 7 gold worth of holdings, not bad, but no triple Kobune Port start. Turn 2 I see no guys, so buy 11 more gold of holdings. Turn 3 I see 2x Ichido, Akira and a Kaitaru…. Yeah. I buy Akira first to put me to 2 honor, buy Kaitaru for 15 gold, and then pick up both Ichidos. It was bruuuuuuuutal. I believe I swung for and took 3 provinces turn 4. Sorry guy.
Round 7 – W – Crane Sachina Military – I look up and realize that I’ve now done better at this GenCon than I ever have before (my previous best was 4-3 in the commander era). I’m pumped, but I still want to make the cut. After discussing the match with the other top players, it’s discovered that I am the bottom ranked of the 5-1, playing down against Heraclio, a solid (read: scary) Crane player, and both of us have to win in order to make the top 16 pod. Well fun.
I discover what the Sachina sensei does, and the mini-Scorpion aspect of it keeps me playing around it since he gets gold + geisha + free follower that looks at my hand by my 1st turn (attaching on my turn). He picks a Follower out of my hand and I have to discard it so that I can attach the other one in my hand and swing. I’m 1F short of taking the province, but I was really just pufferfishing ™ – hoping to bait him into an early defense so that he’d lose tempo, thinking I might have an Army Like the Tide or some such. Instead he doesn’t defend like a smarty and the province trading commences. It continues a turn or so until he is sufficiently attached up and immune to my Ichido thanks to his Naval shenanigans ( 🙁 ) at which point he defends. A battle ensues during which he gets upset and says the defense was a mistake. I don’t see it, since he had to defend at some point. I believe I end this with a Holding Cells. He escapes with a Sudden Movement, but I think is either short on gold, or doesn’t see good people (or both) and I gain the advantage after that point. He offers to accept my concession. I refuse as politely as I can, trying to be gracious, but PUMPED AS IF I WERE THE BLOODY HULK AT MAKING THE CUT AT GENCON, AGH!
Oh yeah, I get the win. I’m in. Not only that, I’m top seed after Swiss thanks to the “Gentleman’s Agreement” ™ – engage facebooking.
Top 16 – Jesse Anderson – Phoenix Honor – Awesome guy, but by this point I am super pumped about my matchup against Phoenix. Still, I play it relatively safe, not wanting to run into the battle bow version again. I do not. This game goes well. No Sensei, so a 7F unit takes a province. I win and make Top 8, highest our playgroup has ever gotten at GenCon. I do a lap around the little table section to celebrate and blow off some tension. TOP 8 SON! I had to turn in my deck after so that they could check it for my games tomorrow. Did you hear that?! I had to turn in my deck so that I could play Sunday…… at GenCon! Agh!
More board games until too late this night as well. Yay GenCon!
Sunday – Top 8
Lion – Best of 3 – William O’Brien – I remember being terrified of Lion when all of their people were Reserve, and they played the Harpoon suite. This was not that deck, but had some of the same remnants, personalities and such. He even ran the Invest guy. I like this deck. Unfortunately, it dies to Ranged 3 attacks, and my deck packs a lot of them. My deck also suits up and attacks a half turn before his does, so I have the aggressive advantage (I’m the aggressor against Lion!? Crazy.) Anyways. I get the feeling that my run against him was what he’d been doing to other people all tournament, because defending just did not work out for him. I beat him both games like that. Turn 1 gold, Turn 2 guy and gold, turn 3 attack. This is where my adrenaline kicks in and I give my deck a name (a stupid name, but it still applies:) “This Train An’t Got No Brakes!”
Top 4 and Top 2 – Were both against Phoenix Honor. You can watch the matches on the 6thring twitch channel. They were some of best opponents I’ve had, even when I was doing stupid things and probably being occasionally a jerk, not realizing how my opponents would feel making it to the top at GenCon only to come face to face with a deck that theirs had a disadvantage against. Still, they both made me work for it, and for anything untoward or hurtful I said, I blame adrenaline. I was so pumped I was nearly out of my mind, and I made a couple of glaring play mistakes, made up for the fact that even when I was not at my best, my deck and a huge dose of luck helped me out. James was probably the best guy to have a GenCon finals match against, and when my humor faltered, his picked up right where I left off. I hope you all had as much fun watching those games as we had playing them.
I know everyone says that, but it was literally a team effort. Stephen Vann is who all you Phoenixes should blame for giving me the hours of practice and anti-P-nix juju, Tim Casey gave me the dishonor practice, Drew Allen, Sean Slimak, Alex Conway, Jacob Claussen, Jordan Morey, and our newer members Brett and COOOOOOOORRRRAL! gave me mixed military experience for this arc, plus we have to mention the craziness that is the decks that Chris Pepe comes up with, that constantly makes me have to think on my feet and adjust. Without any of those guys, or any of our regular midwest opponents like Lon, Case Lopez, Daniel Briscoe, James Matthews, Matt Demand, and the rest of you from the Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona areas (David Winner I now have to count you in this column. Enjoy Colorado!) I would not be here.
On the Mantis side, a Mantis win is something that I’ve dreamed about since the first Kotei tournament report I read on the old Kobune Port- a top 4 report from Tsuruchi Sho using Castle of the Wasp, who’s real name I can’t even remember at this point. I always hoped for a Mantis GenCon win, but I thought it would be helmed by Daniel Dineen, Kiyonaga, Valentine, James Balthis, or one of our other talented and lucky pros. Never in a million years thought it would be me.
This is for us… All of us. I guess those midwest Kotei wins finally have built up to something. Lets enjoy it.