Originating as a series chronicling David Gordon’s return to the Legend of the Five Rings CCG after a several year absence, Dave of the Five Rings continues on as he examines the current and future of the iconic world of Rokugan upon the game’s sale to FFG in 2015.
Chapter 51: Bans, Stands, and Fans
Hello and welcome back, dear reader.
July has been a bit of a bumpy month for us at the Cardboard Republic, but I hope that it has been treating you well. While I did not cover the news in June in my previous article, I thank you for your continued support. Tempers are running hot in the community right now; we are all feeling the effects of this continuing crisis, and it is taking its toll.
A New Imperial Decree
That all being said, Legend of the Five Rings continued to move forward even during this pandemic, and news has trickled out into the general community. While Organized Play remains ground to a halt, save for the occasional online tournament hosted by the London Legion Online, as well as the Discord League and a few other attempts at keeping people playing.
The Imperial Law nevertheless continues to be updated to reflect growing developments in the meta game. Released on June 22nd and gone into effect on July 6th, the new Imperial Law document provided fairly extensive updates to the Banned and Restricted Lists for the Stronghold format of L5R LCG.
As with every update to the B&R List, the language surrounding this update centered on trying to encourage players to diversify their deckbuilding and improve the Stronghold format’s game experience – though this latest one seemed to border more on the edge of being a punitive measure against a certain Great Clan which continues to dominate the Organized play scene.
It did, however, address certain key problems in the game and removed a key problem card whose shadow had been cast over the Restricted List since its inception. With Gateway to Meido being banned and Display of Power restricted, both Meido-Crab and Enlightenment-Phoenix can join the Daisho-Dragon on the list of decks which did not play the game how Tyler envisions it.
Still, I will shed no tears over the loss of these two decks, as the removal of Gateway to Meido will barely impact the meta, while Display of Power has been a problematic card since its release in the Core Set. Display of Power is a card which rewards not playing the game while punishing the person choosing to play the game, and restricting it removes it from the many decks which would use it to accelerate their game by simply not playing. If I never have to decide not to declare a Conflict because my opponent has 2 Fate, and will simply benefit from my Conflict if I hit Upholding Authority and they have Display, I will be grateful.
Additionally, Iron Mine has returned to the Restricted List, being joined by Kuni Laboratory, due to each’s interactions with the Rebuild Event. With Keeper Initiate joining them as well, the Crab Clan’s wide-board strategy is now effectively dead in the water. Now they have no reason not to play the Butcher of the Fallen mid-range deck which prevents the opponent from participating in Conflicts.
Other newly restricted cards include Tactical Ingenuity, which serves to give Lion Clan players the illusion of deckbuilding choices but more accurately removed their option to play any other restricted card. With no other Lion Clan card (or a card which Lion would want) on the Restricted List, this prevents them solely from running Keeper Initiates for better Imperial Favor control and In Service fodder.
This brings us, as always in these discussions, to the Scorpion Clan with another new Imperial Law and another series of bans and restrictions to try to make them less dominant. This time, the new Bayushi Shoju was added to the Restricted List, and Bayushi Liar was banned outright.
Bayushi Shoju (Inheritance Cycle 121) was a powerful, game-shaping card for the Scorpion Clan, forcing an honor loss for both players while accelerating the game through card draw. Combined with his blanket denial of the Imperial Favor to your opponent, Bayushi Shoju was a dominating Character on the game and one which added an effective “countdown clock” to the game through his automatic honor losses. With City of the Open Hand still restricted, Dishonor Burn remains too reliable and not interactive enough for Tyler’s vision of L5R.
Bayushi Liar being banned is an entirely different matter. It was banned simply because it was too good compared to other 1 cost characters in the Core Set such as the Doomed Shugenja, Doji Whisperer, and Matsu Berserker. With a 0 Glory and the Scorpion’s tendency to Dishonor their characters, Bayushi Liar quickly proved to be too powerful to be allowed in the meta, apparently.
This now brings the Scorpion Clan to seven Restricted cards, including the only Restricted Stronghold. While the Scorpion Clan players are discouraged, they are continuing forward with earning their victories in what Organized Play can be found. City of the Open Hand remains the dominant Stronghold of the Great Clan, and dishonor burn with the ability to switch-hit into Conquest on Political strength remains the dominant strategy in the Great Clan.
As seems to be the case after each release of the Imperial Law, the Scorpion Clan is punished for their success by taking away their secondary toys while the core engine of their Stronghold and its interaction with the systems of the game remain untouched.
June also saw the release of the second Dynasty pack of the Dominion Cycle, Spreading Shadows, as well as the official announcement of the sixth Dynasty pack, Atonement. Although we’ve known the name since January, we finally have more details on just what to expect in the final pack of the Dominion Cycle. Due out in October 2020, Atonement brings the last rounds of the Eminent Provinces and the Rally keyword for the time being, along with two cards designed by the fans of the L5R LCG.
Worldly Shiotome, designed by the popular vote of the entire community, will see release with Atonement, as well as Daidoji Yari, a card designed by the 2018 World Champion, Erik Baalhuis. The Dragon Clan will be gaining their fourth Stronghold in this pack, with Iron Mountain Castle allowing Dragon Clan players to play more Attachments, compared to Mountain Anvil’s Castle which made the Attachments they were playing better. The Dragon are also gaining another new version of Agasha Sumiko, now with the Imperial trait and some very good artwork, but with an ability which continues the tradition of the great Dragon Clan goose eggs.
Finally on the manner of timely news, I want to give a shout out to Bazleebub over at the Imperial Advisor for his recent article about Dueling in the LCG. While he did not write his article as a direct response to mine, its release gave him the push to get it up and online later that same day. If you haven’t checked it out, I recommend hearing his take on the matter. While many in the community compared our articles side to side as a matter of pitched opinion, I want to be clear in that I respect Baz’s stance and feel that the truth to fixing how Dueling should work in L5R very well may lie entirely outside either of our arguments.
Then again, I have been playing a lot of Netrunner lately and find that the Trace mechanic there might simply be a better micro-game…
A Flurry of Letters
Continuing the COVID-era trend – where notable news was scarce but L5R was busy on the Fiction front – we had two new short stories released alongside three Clan Letters. Keith Ryan Kappel joins the ever-growing stable of Fantasy Flight Games’ writers for Legend of the Five Rings, presenting a story of the accomplishments of Yoritomo and Kudaka in “Heart of the Mountain”. This story does little to advance any of the hanging plotlines which fill the current story, but it provides a fun and welcomed distraction from the intense drama of the Great Clans, serving instead a simple, accessible story of Yoritomo’s bravado and ambition.
Tyler Parrott’s “A Discerning Eye and an Unyielding Resolve” by contrast follows the events of Marie Brennan’s “What the Eye Cannot See” from January, telling the story of Kitsuki Chiari’s ongoing investigation into the cover-up surrounding the death of Hantei the 38th. Cleverly, this story even makes specific reference to the series of Clan Letters released earlier that month, with Kitsuki Chiari cracking the code of the Scorpion Clan letter which was posted on the FFG L5R website without any accompanying fanfare.
In the two Clan Letters which FFG did announce, however, the wars of the Lion Clan and the Unicorn Clan continue to escalate, even as winter begins to set into the land around them. The Empire stands perched on the edge of all out civil war, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that the circumstances of the Emperor’s death will not stay hidden for long. When that match is struck, it will find an Emerald Empire primed for the flame.
And that, in a perhaps strangely meta way, is where we found ourselves at the end of June. Until our next update, if you would like to take in some more content I recommend two recent podcasts. The Asians Represent! TTRPG livestream has recently begun their journey into the Legend of the Five Rings RPG book, and they can be watched every Friday at 7 PM EDT. Also, I recently was a guest on the Character Creation Podcast with Amelia Antrim and Ryan Boelter, walking through the Character Creation process of the L5R RPG and its many many questions. Check them out!
In July, we will assuredly talk about some new cards again, as Pack 4 of the Dominion Cycle was finally previewed to the public and fingers crossed that we may even see some more cards from Pack 5 before the month is out.
Lastly, don’t forget about the Fantasy Flight Games InFlight Report from GenCon Online on July 29th at 8 PM EDT (7 Central). If you can’t or don’t wish to catch the feed itself, I will, per usual, be reacting to it live on my Twitter.
Until then, dear reader.
Carry the Fortunes.
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 on Twitter.
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Photo Credits: Legend of the 5 Rings images by Fantasy Flight Games.