Dave of the Five Rings is an ongoing series chronicling David Gordon’s return to the Legend of the Five Rings CCG after several years. He will be tracking his progress from the launch of the game’s new core set, Ivory Edition, through to the season’s culmination at GenCon 2014.
Chapter 6: A Funny Thing Happened On My Way To The Kotei
In my last article, I discussed the major changes that Legend of the Five Rings had undergone in the three months between the first Kotei of the season in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, and the finale in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Playing in each, I witnessed the errata which hit the Crane Clan hard, removing much of their economic advantage that had dominated the first two weeks of the Kotei as well as the impact of the Coming Storm expansion set. Ultimately, I was disappointed in my ability to create the Spider Clan deck I had hoped to play due to the difficulty securing the cards that I wanted, and I expressed my strong dislike for the current status of power that drove me to the secondary market for in-demand rares.
The evening before the Kotei came and went, and I was still no closer to being certain on the deck I wanted to play. I arrived at The Game Castle in Londonderry, New Hampshire along with the earliest of attendees, having spoken with Angela DiTillio the night before. (Angela is one of the regional tournament organizers for Legend of the Five Rings, and some might remember her from the podcast she did for us.)
Angela had chosen to back out of the competitive environment in Ivory Edition as a player, focusing instead on solely being an administrator and tournament organizer. To that end, as an act of charity she had opened up her collection of Ivory cards to the local environment. As such, with her help I was able to isolate specific cards for my nearly complete Crane Clan Blitz Deck from her collection.
Once the store was open, I found myself in the middle of a flurry of activity. Angela’s act had placed me into the beating heart of the pre-Kotei excitement, and I quickly became embroiled in the fast-paced trading game as highly sought after cards were being exchanged. My ownership of a single Jade Pearl Inn – currently the most in demand card in the environment – gave me more than a little sway tracking down the Spider Clan rares I want.
As I pieced the remaining parts of my Crane Deck together, I got to know the players around me. Many had traveled here from a good distance, including New Jersey, Montreal, and even Arizona. I even had the pleasure of meeting someone I had spoken with on the Shinden Fu Leng forums for Spider deck design. While some were new to the game, many were players like me returning to the game after some absence. Being only the second week of legality in Ivory Edition, the impact of the Coming Storm was being hotly debated. Many had agreed with my assessment that what had once been uncommon was now rare, and that was creating a challenging environment for people on a limited budget. As always, I became lost enough in the community that time nearly slipped past me.
Then, I made the mistake of getting cocky.
In a conversation with Angela as registration opened, I joked that my Crane Clan deck was a palette swap away from being a Phoenix Clan deck. When asked to prove it, I pointed out how the Crane Clan’s personalities, in terms of Gold to Force, had analogues in the Phoenix Clan. Get a playset of each Phoenix Clan personality to swap in, and I was good. The Phoenix Clan stronghold had the same Province Strength, Gold Production, and Starting Honor as the Crane Clan stronghold, and after the errata, it was just as useful. The only disadvantage would be the lack of a Sensei. Bemusedly, she pointed out that Phoenix only had one other player signed up at the time, and I could do the swap right then. Having over a decade of friendship between us, I heard the challenge in her voice.
So I did.
I signed up as Phoenix Clan and converted my deck to their faction in a frenzy of card swapping. In a stroke of pure madness, I converted my Crane Clan Welfare Blitz deck over to the Phoenix Clan. And below is the final product.
1x Frost Dragon Festival
3x Bountiful Fields
3x Nexus of Lies
1x Oracle of the Void – exp
3x Productive Mine
2x Silver Mine
3 Ashigaru Spearmen
3 Commander’s Steed
3 Merchant Guard
3 Rice Farmer
3 Kaiu Axe
2 Reinforced Parangu
1 Ring of the Void
1 Ring of Water
1 Walking the Way
2 Army Like a Tide
3 Back to the Front
3 Contentious Terrain
3 Destiny Has No Secrets
3 Inspired Devotion
3 Oath of Fealty
3 Today We Die
It might have been a special kind of crazy to pull a swap like I did just before the tournament was to begin. Still, it made for an interesting story to tell during the games. Angela announced there would be five rounds of Swiss format, before breaking to a top 8. This meant that I would need four wins to qualify for the top 8, and even before the swap, I had no illusions about making it there. The first round of pairings went up, and I was off to fail spectacularly while having a blast.
Round 1 – Kyle Michalek – Crab Clan with no Sensei (0-0-0)
When I saw who my opponent was, a small current of dread crept through me. Kyle had been one of the players I had been trading with earlier, and when I saw his Stronghold, I knew it would be an uphill battle. Kyle had been trading for Yasuki courtiers, which meant that he was likely playing a deck focused around Dishonor. (As a reminder: while you can win the game by starting your turn at 40 or more honor, you also lose the game by ending your turn at -20 honor or below.)
Dishonor decks had received a strong boost in the Coming Storm, and Kyle was good at what he was doing. Still, this match was much closer than I had anticipated. His higher Province Strength stymied my earliest efforts at blitzing him, but I was able to swing a two Province turn while I was at -15 honor. Also, the higher personal honors of the Phoenix Clan personalities kept me alive longer than I had anticipated. I ran a great deal of out-of-clan personalities to make use of Oath of Fealty, and that left me vulnerable to Dishonor.
Ultimately, Kyle was able to swing a key fight at his last Province to save it from my army after having dropped me to -28 honor from the -15 the turn before. I took my loss on the chin, and felt a little confident about my deck. It was something that Kyle had commented on not expecting.
Round 2 – Bye – (0-0-1)
With the odd number of players signing up for the tournament, I just so happened to snag the bye on this round. While counting as a win, it gave me nearly an hour to take a walk around and mingle. After getting something to eat, I passed by a table where several of the Player Design Team for the new western-themed Doomtown Reloaded LCG were running demos. Intrigued, I sat down and tried it out. I had been familiar with the Deadlands setting of Doomtown, but I had never played the game in its original incarnation. The promise of it being a Living Card Game, compared to the Trading Card Game of L5R, definitely caught my interest. It played exceptionally well, and I handily won my match by some lucky draws during the shootouts. As I played the last hand and sent my opponent’s last two dudes to quiet plots on Boothill, the pairings for Round 3 came out, and I was back to the races.
Round 3 – Geoff Prugh – Lion Clan with Satoru Sensei (1-0-1)
If this could be more of a one-sided fist fight, I would have been impressed. It was two blitz decks squaring off, and I simply had the bad draw. In my first 12 Dynasty cards, I only saw 1 Personality. By the time I could clear my Provinces, I only had two left. While the Frost Dragon Festival slowed him down slightly, he made no mistakes that I could capitalize on. Geoff handed me my second loss, but made up for it after the match. It turned out that he had a copy of Daigotsu Teruo, and I was able to trade for it. So, I was down a shot at the finals, but I was up a Daigotsu Teruo. I came out ahead.
Round 4 – Francis Patenaude – Dragon Clan with no Sensei (1-0-2)
After the lunch break, I squared off against the second Quebecois of the tournament. Playing a Dragon Clan switch hitter, Francis brought the Ring of Earth into play, expecting to be facing off against a defensive Honor runner like most Phoenix. When I started out with the blitz, he reacted with the skill of a practiced L5R player. He was not expecting the lightning fast military approach, but he was able to swing two opposed battles at key junctures. Gaining the edge in Honor, he was able to carry his momentum to victory before I could rebuild my horde of discount Phoenixes. This would be my third loss, but one that I was fine with. It was a match that would make me a better L5R player, and that was a good thing.
Round 5 – David Yellope – Crane Clan with no Sensei (1-0-3)
With no hope of the finals and my only victory coming from a bye, I settled down to face one of the Crane players I had been trading heavily with before the tournament. When I revealed the Phoenix Stronghold, he was a little surprised but geared up for an unexpected match. Each with three losses to our record, this would be a match played solely for love of the game.
David was playing a defensive Honor runner, and he was able to keep me in a position where I was forced to keep pressure on him. He saved an early Province, but I was able to outstrip his military with counter actions and the necessary Force pumps to take other Provinces. The match turned in my favor fairly early, and I was able to ride the momentum to victory.
Final Score: 2 wins, 0 ties, 3 losses
Ultimately, the Londonderry Kotei was smaller than the Feeding Hills event, with only 33 players in attendance. The top 8 saw two Dragon Clan players, two Mantis Clans, two Unicorn Clans, one Scorpion Clan, and Geoff Prugh’s Lion Clan whom I had faced off against. Chris Medico won the tournament for the Mantis Clan, naming Yoritomo Kumiko and Sincerity for his prizes. The Honor prize for that event was to create a piece of art to memorialize the three major L5R players whom had passed recently. Kyle Michalek, whom I had faced in the first round, won the Honor prize, having written a book of fifty haikus to honor them.
I stuck around for a while after the tournament, participating in a draft and continuing my wheeling and dealing. I was very glad I did. Even more so than Feeding Hills, the Londonderry Kotei brought the energy of the community together, and it felt good to be a part of something bigger still. I was able to secure three copies of Susumu Takuan as well as a pair more of Daigotsu Teruo to net me to the cards I needed for the deck I truly wanted to run. I would also like to give a special thanks to Alan Sarkessian, who had heard of my interest in Zenathaar, the rare Naga personality released in the Coming Storm. I had been lucky enough to draft one of her in the tournament, and when Alan heard that I was an old Naga player, he gave me two to complete my playset. Many thanks, Alan.
And now, I have a little over a month before I take my final steps on this journey. Gen Con looms bigger and bigger in the distance, and it will only be a matter of time before I am there. Until then, I will have to put together my decks, rally my courage, and prepare myself. My next challenge will be the hardest yet.
David Gordon is a regular contributor to the site. A storyteller by trade and avowed tabletop veteran, he also has a long and complicated past with L5R. These are his stories. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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