I originally planned to just make one article discussing both paths I originally planned to just make one article discussing both paths but the length of the initial article made me decide to split it into two. As always the article assumes that you have some understanding of Phoenix already and want to improve your performance with the clan.
Way of the Isawa
We will focus on the second Phoenix archetype. In truth I am not happy with the name. The Isawa family are the greatest shugenja in rokugan. The deck that would most best fit them is one made with the new stronghold. This deck relies on the Phoenix courtiers more than the Phoenix shugenja. I suppose I could have named it the Way of the Asako but dishonoring their opponents never felt like the Asako style. They seem to be too nice for that. The best comparison I can make may only make sense to old l5r players. Playing the deck feels very similar to the initial Scorpion dishonor decks with the 11 strength provinces which relied on things like Secrets on the Wind or Shame to
win. Given the relationship between Asako and Yogo maybe Way of the Asako really is a more apt name.
This deck focuses on the same tactics I outlined in the initial Phoenix deckbuilding article and I prefer it to the Shiba build for many of the same reasons. In essence I think that the strengths of the various abilities you have access to are amplified when both players are bidding low, as is the case in dishonor games, than when both players are bidding high, as is the case in more traditional games.
Take Forgotten Library for instance. If both players bid one then it represents a 100% increase in the cards you draw. If both players bid 5 then it only represents a 20% increase. Meddling Mediator gets weaker as well when both players have high honor. While you would most likely prefer fate her secondary ability gets wasted. All of your dishonor effects lose the second half of their benefit which causes your opponent to lose 1 honor. Certain ring effects lose their value as well. Think about the last time you were in a match where both of you bid 5. Did the Air ring have much value? How about the Earth ring? After all if you are both at 10 cards what is one card less? When those rings get weaker then Tsukune gets weaker as well.
The key to this Phoenix playstyle is to remember that while your primary win condition is not dishonor. Your primary win condition is to disable your opponent so that you can win by either dishonor or breaking his provinces. It just so happens that by disabling him you are also lowering his honor total. The Air ring or what I call “pure” dishonor is one of your last priorities. Given a choice between getting an Air effect or getting an Earth effect you should always go for the Earth as that helps you in other ways. Of course fate and other things like Solemn Shugenja influence this as well. Void and Water also factor into this by removing activations from your opponent which you they pay for in fate. All the elements are used to deny resources to your opponent.
The biggest difference between the way of Isawa and Shiba is that this playstlye uses your lower cost characters to do much of the heavy lifting. Most Phoenix players would be shocked to find that Kaede did not even make the cut for the deck. The main reason is
cost. There are so many things now that destroy single targets so I wanted to spread out my investments. When I charge in Kaede I can also only use her for that conflict while Tsukune and Prodigy contribute in other ways. I will discuss Fearsome Mystic in another
section. Running with a very low curve allows me to cut Embrace the Void as well giving me more space for Proactive cards.
Crab players have a saying. “Always Be Crabbing”. For most this is just a harmless meme. The few who understand and practice it make Crab one of the most difficult clans to play against. In essence this means that throughout the game the Crab player will always be trying to line up Way of the Crab. This is a valid strategy because the fate swing caused by a successful Crabbing can lead to a blowout.
Way of the Isawa players should “Always be Sacrificing”. We should always be attempting to line up a Noble Sacrifice to take out the biggest threat. This sounds like something that should come in a guide for Crane players but if you think about it you will find that Phoenix has an easier time setting up Noble Sacrifice than Crane does.
In a Fire challenge Asako Diplomat by himself is capable of setting up a Noble Sacrifice. With Asako Tsuki on the board he can threaten this with a Water challenge. This leads us to Tsuki. It is very convenient that half of her Scholar targets are 1 cost characters. Naive Student and Solemn Shugenja. Perfectly costed to give you the maximum fate swing with Noble Sacrifice.
Most of your conflicts will involve baiting your opponent to overcommit. After all you should have a wider board than your opponent and have multiple ready effects to use if that is not enough. The Asako Diplomat is different though. When you commit your
Diplomat your opponent knows you want to win. You can use this to bait your opponent into overcommiting. If you have 2 or more Diplomats on the table make sure not to commit them into the same conflict unless you are sure you can win.
Fearsome Mystic is there as a cheaper more efficient version of Kaede. This means that she can be substituted for Kaede if you wanted. Ideally you would not pay for Mystic. You would charge her in against a target, boost her glory, then strip everyone of fate. I prefer this to Kaede as I do not have to spend resources to actually win the conflict and I can do it on both defense and attack. Your opponent can also bow the Mystic, debuff her, or anything else short of Cloud the Mind and the 3 glory will still be 3 glory and it will
still go off.
Way of Shiba decks go with Kaede because they want to invest resources into her while Way of Isawa decks go with the Mystic as she is treated as a one-sided Mono No Aware.
This brings us to Favorable Ground. Players may wonder why this is included instead of Storehouse in a deck that likes to bid low. First of you would like Satoshi to bring out Kanjo district as fast as possible and Storehouses get in the way of this. Second so that you can bring in Asako Diplomat and Fearsome Mystic in conflicts where they are needed. Remember they don’t need to be ready do their effect. Third it is an additional layer of redundancy for Shameful Display. Fourth in case you get send home while attacking it allows you to drag someone in to activate the favor. Lastly you can always
use it to retreat from a conflict.
Pillow Book and Shrine Maiden
The lack of Forgotten Libraries does hurt that’s why these have been included in the deck. There are fewer spells in the deck when compared to Way of the Shiba but Shrine Maiden should still net you one card and Pillow Book works as pseudo card draw. Pillow book may not work for everyone can can always be replaced with Admit Defeat if
wanted. There is also some minor synergy with Pillow Book showing you when it is a good time to play Shrine Maiden.
My preferred splash is Crane mostly due to Noble Sacrifice. Unicorn would also work with 3x Talisman 3x Spyglass and 1x Wayfinder. Scorpion is also an interesting option. Your curve is very low so you should be able to afford 2x A Fate Worse Than Death and 3x Forged Edict. Standard 3x Let go 3x Fury Dragon is always an option though i feel it brings less to the build than the other splashes.
Anyone that relies on single big characters is a good match up. The more opportunities you have to use Noble Sacrifice the better. I find that with this deck the most difficult match up is Scorpion. First off they have a shugenja who can remove dishonor tokens at will. Second they have a way to regain honor at will. Lastly it is harder to turn off Forged Edict than it is Voice of Honor so your Noble Sacrifice may misfire.
That completes the MasterClass Phoenix series of articles. I hope all of you Fire Chickens enjoyed it. Leave comments down below on what you thought!