Happy New Year samurai and samurai-ko of Rokugan! I hope you have had a great time during the holidays! Tsuke had a fun time as well which is why I have been quite lax with all the writing. It is sometimes difficult to find topics to write about so if you want more articles feel free to request topics. Just a plug for our friends at discord before we move on to our topic today. Discord Cup season 2 is entering its final stage. A lot of the matches will be streamed. If you want to watch some high quality l5r play check out discord for the times or watch out for the posts in reddit with a link to the streams.
For today I want to discuss where the game is after the complete release of the Imperial cycle. The state of the game as a whole, the cards I think are problematic, and the power rankings of the clans as I see it. I expect a lot of angry fans out there when their clans don’t end up where they think they will.
First off I am happier at the state of the game now as opposed to where it was at the end of core. My happiness stems more from the variety of cards available rather than the power level of them. In my opinion the low point of L5r was during Worlds. I dont have the exact survey handy but there was data released about the composition of the decks entered. More than 80% of the players splashed Dragon. If you played in Worlds and did this I don’t blame you. In most situations Dragon was clearly the best choice. Such obvious disparity in the quality of cards available makes for a very poorly balanced game. Attachments were undervalued because everyone was splashing Let Go which meant that high cost attachments were unplayable. If you were to just take a look at the stats from a birds eye view, more than 80% of players splashing Dragon meant that
almost everyone who wasn’t splashing it was playing Dragon in the first place.
That has changed. Dragon is still a perfectly viable splash and will still form the baseline for many people but other splashes have begun to compete as well. Crab splash for the Seeker Clans, Unicorn Splash for the Keepers, Lion splash for Phoenix, Crane splash for Lion, Scorpion Splash for Crane, and a few other viable builds have emerged.
This is not to say that everything is going well. I am generally happy with the state of Lion, Crane, Phoenix, Unicorn, and even Scorpion. Mainly because they have a few different splashes available.I am not happy with the state of Crab and Dragon. If you were to go to a tournament and take a quick poll of players I would wager that almost all Dragons would run Crab splash while all Crabs would run Unicorn splash. As you can tell with my objection to the Dragon splash used during worlds I dislike it when only one viable deck emerges per clan. The more pressing thing, particularly for Dragon, is I don’t see how that will change in the future.
There has been a lot of talk about Policy Debate or even Censure and how they are cards that FFG should never have released. I don’t particularly find them problematic. Are they strong cards? Sure. Do they make it in most decks? They probably do. At this point I do want to point out that Banzai has been around for longer than these cards. I would also confidently bet that if you took a look at all the decks in any given tourney all of them would contain 3 copies of Banzai but a there would be a few who would not run Policy Debate or Censure at all.
When I think of problem cards I mostly look at cards that cause too big a swing or invalidate whole entries of cards with very little effort. In my opinion there are only two problem cards that exists in todays meta. Pathfinders Blade and Feast or Famine. There has been some talk about the potential of Mono no Aware or Waning Hostilities but until someone unlocks this potential I can’t declare them problems yet.
Pathfinders Blade should be comparable to cards like Censure, Let Go, Voice of Honor, Calling in Favors, and Forged Edict. They exist to counter one other type of card and have some requirement for doing so. All of them bar Let Go have some sort of cost or requirement and even Let Go needs an attachment to be on the board which is by no means guaranteed. Now we take a look at the Blade. First there will always be Provinces on the table. Second it costs nothing. Third it even provides you with a benefit (+1 mil, weapon) before it fulfills its main role. Lastly it only costs 1 influence. Every other card in the pool I mentioned costs 2 influence. It is possible for FFG to release a set of provinces whose abilities don’t have to be activated. Provinces similar to Pilgrimage for example. That may happen in the future but until it does the Blade makes provinces useless.
On to Feast or Famine. When the game first started a lot of players complained that hitting first turn Shameful Display caused too big of a swing. Good players learned to play around it as they were running their own Shameful Displays but more importantly it left an impression on new players that the game was very much based on luck. This is bad as L5r needs all the new players it can get at this point in time. Enter Feast or Famine. If you are reading this article you have already played against it and don’t need to describe it much. Does it have some requirements? Yes, but they are relatively easy to
fulfill. Twice as swingy as Shameful and can only be played by two clans.
As a general rule I believe FFG has done a good job with the game. These are the only two cards I wish they had not printed.
Now for the much awaited power rankings. Most rankings divide the clans into general tiers. For this article I will rank them 1-7. Note that some clans will be closer together than others.
Rank 1: Dragon
This may be a surprise to some people. If we ask ourselves what has been added to competitive Dragon after 6×6 the only answer we will come up with is Agasho Sumiko and maybe Imperial Palace. The other Dragon additions were not that great. While Sumiko is a worthy addition so is every other new 5 cost champion. The rise of Dragon in the power rankings is not because of her. It’s not a coincidence that the 2 problematic cards I mentioned regularly find their way into the deck of the most powerful clan.
Dragon’s strength is solely due to its Seeker of Fire role. If they were any other role they would be a rank 4 or 5 card. The ability to ignore provinces and to have the best provinces available to you is very difficult to overcome.
Rank 2: Lion
This may surprise some people and in reality I rank the next 3 clans so close together that a case could be made for switching around rank 2, 3, and 4 of this list. First of Lion is the only other clan with access to Feast or Famine which naturally boosts their strength. Their role synergies well with cheap new pride characters which allow the clan to set up Noble Sacrifices almost at will. Ujiaki is one of the stronger favor champions as well. Historically Lion has had difficulty contesting the favor but with new low-cost high glory
characters this could change.
Keeper of Fire also works well with Toturi allowing him to bring out 3/3 honored Initiates at will. Legion of One also gives Lion an extra boost other clans don’t have access to to win military conflicts.
Rank 3: Crab
Up next is Crab. A big jump in power from the clan that placed dead last in worlds. If we look exclusively at the cards that have been released during 6×6 there is a very good case to be made that Crab has gained the most out of the expansion. Iron Mine allows you to save characters at will and is great comboed with Rebuild which you are already running anyway. Crisis Breaker is a reusable military boost just by himself and with minimal effort can get Kisada to show up in both conflicts. More importantly Stoic Magistrate punishes opponents for playing wide whereas Crab naturally punishes opponents for playing tall leaving the other player with no good choice as to what characters to bring out.
They don’t get as much out of their role as the other two clans with the Guardian province potentially hurting them more than their opponent. It is a testament to how good their releases have been that they have risen this far despite their role while Dragon, Lion, and Scorpion have risen because of their role.
Rank 4: Scorpion
Some players would be surprised that I only rank Scorpion fourth. Next to Dragon they have the most frustrating province line up to play against. Of course if the player deviates from their optimal province line up then they lose a lot of their power. 6×6 solidified the drop bear playstyle of Scorpion with the release of Kachicko and their Magistrate. There is a limit to how far this can be taken though. No matter how many great conflict characters you release a player can still only take 10 of them in a deck. They also require you to bid higher than normal because your characters come from your conflict instead of your dynasty leading to honor issues. Access to Pathfinders Blade
also invalidates your opponents provinces.
Rank 5: Phoenix
The only other clan who can make a case they have gained as much as Crab during the 6×6 release is Phoenix. Prodigy, Kaede, Benten, Tsuki, and Haughty Magistrate are all good cards. Kanjo district is abusive when you factor in how easy it is for Phoenix to claim the favor. The main problem facing Phoenix now is that no matter how many strong cards they get they still have arguably the weakest Province line up in the entire game. This is very difficult to work around as the provinces are the only cards that are guaranteed to show up each and every game and provide a gap that Phoenix have to overcome from the start. Keeper of Water is a decent choice and the best that could have been had at the time but the disappearance of Seeker of Void is really telling.
Rank 6: Crane
How the mighty have fallen. Before 6×6 I would have ranked Crane in the top 2 clans. In fact I predicted a Crane vs Lion finals in worlds with a Lion victory because Lion naturally counters Crane. 6×6 has not been kind to Crane. Doji Representative is of course very popular among players and finds its way into most Crane decks. I do think that there are some sleepers that have not been fully exploited yet. Kakita Yoshi, while not as impactful as Ujiaki or Sumiko, can make it virtually impossible for your opponent can catch up. Pillow Book can also function like a virtual Spyglass without having to resort to splashing Unicorn. Seeker of Air also enables Crane to amass plenty of resources which they can build a strategy around and gives them access to Pathfinders Blade. Crane may rise a few rungs once players figure out these cards.
I will be playing Crane for season 3 of the Discord League/Cup and have some theories about them I am testing. The era of Bid 5 Crane may be over as that diminishes the value of Yoshi and Pillow Book.
Rank 7: Unicorn
Im sorry ponies. I love you all but you knew you were going to end up here. For what its worth you have Calimsha’s Unicrab, Contrasts Unicourtier, and the traditional Unilion. There are plenty of viable builds out there. The only difficulty is they all center around abusing Ide Trader which can get killed or Clouded. Moto Juro and Shinjo Scout are both very good additions to the Unicorn lineup. I personally dislike Yurt but other players have made it an auto-include. There is a future for Unicorn but players have not figured it out yet.
This concludes the first state of the game address fellow citizens of Rokugan. Your Dear Tsuke will try to release something like this at the end of every cycle.