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 7: Why We Play
By now Gen Con 2014 has passed us by, and it was certainly an experience. As the pinnacle of this year’s ’journey through Ivory Edition, it did not disappoint. If you have never been to Gen Con, you owe it to yourself at least once, dear reader. It truly is an experience like no other in the hobby. This year’s Gen Con tipped the scales at over 50,000 attendees, and the sheer volume of fellow gamers alone echoed like a cacophony in the Indianapolis Convention Center at all hours of the day and night. Gen Con 2014 was indeed the best four days in gaming this year.
And so, I am going to break slightly from this segment’s formula. Previously, I had been guiding you step by step leading up to my time at Gen Con in a rather linear way. The news that broke at GenCon this year, however, is too big to save to the end of the next series of articles, and I must take the time here to discuss it. When finished, I hope you will understand why.
We Start With The Ending
The American Championship’s storyline prize this year dealt with a surprise assault on the Second City by the forces of the villainous Dark Naga, and at its conclusion on Sunday, August 17, 2014, a story was read aloud about his fall. Throughout the convention, the prizes of the major tournaments were tied to that battle, and the Challenge Booths that I have talked about on our podcasts would determine which districts fell to the Dark Naga’s forces.
Ultimately, however, the forces of Rokugan held out against the Dark Naga and he was killed. It came at a heavy cost for the samurai of Rokugan – one paid in the blood of humans and naga alike. The story prepared for that event spoke of the high cost, but spoke also of the psychic scream of the dying Dark Naga across the group-soul of his people, the Akasha. And, at the end, one hundred thousand Naga souls in the depths of the Shinomen Forest awakened to that cry.
This was promptly followed by the announcement that the Naga would be returning as a playable faction in 2016.
As you have followed my journey thus far, dear reader, you are aware that my original faction in Legend of the Five Rings was the Naga. While I was unable to physically be there for the announcement, one of the other bloggers on the scene (Yoritomo Raiden at the Kolat Informant) tracked me down on the expo floor and gave me the good news. My reaction was, expectedly, positive. There may have even been an exhausted whoop of joy with what was left of my voice. It was the exact sort of fan service that AEG is known for, and precisely the sort of news I wanted but had given up hope of ever hearing.
Along with everything else I went through this year with L5R, that news stands prominent in my mind. I fought well, earned my place of respect among the community, and shared my love of Rokugan with the world through these articles. At the end of it all, I could not have asked for anything more than learning that my faction would return to the game and that the Challenge Booth I participated impacted this decision. This is why we play the game.
To that point, before I go into the actual Gen Con report, I would like to thank the team at Alderac Entertainment Group behind Legend of the Five Rings and the event staff on the ground who ran an amazing four days in Indianapolis. My thanks go Dan Dineen, Bryan Reese, Fred Wan, Rob Hobart, and all the other staffers whose names (and business cards) I did not get to pick up and note down.
I truly had a blast this year, with everything leading up to Gen Con, and with every day on the tournament floor. I would also like to thank all the other players I spoke with who shared their stories of L5R with me. I especially would like to thank Yoritomo Raiden again for being the bearer of the excellent news and for the several great discussions we had about the history of this game. It is the community of Legend of the Five Rings that truly makes this game what it is. It is all of us who make this game great. Thank you for reminding me of this.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled report.
Along Came A Spider
The drive to Indianapolis is a long one from Boston, but I’ve done it before. With our cars loaded up and journey mapped out, we set out for the fifteen hour trip. The miles flew by us, and we even made it into Indy ahead of schedule. Still, the long haul had wiped the intrepid crew of Senators (the CR staff) out, and after a delicious meal at the RAM Brewery and meeting with some developers, we put down for the night.
The whole convention center Thursday morning was filled with anticipation and excitement, and I spent some time putting the final finishing touches to my deck before making the hike out to the CCG Hall. Thanks to some key trades at the previous Kotei, and the support of several local players, I was finally able to put together a Spider deck I was excited to play. Several test runs had shown it to be capable of swinging the key opposed battles that defined the current environment of military decks. Rather than relying on my usual blitz strategy, I chose to go a more toolbox approach of deck design. Aranai Sensei gave each of my personalities the Tactician trait, allowing me to use both The Sun Returns to prevent actions and The Death of the Winds to go through my deck for whatever action would win. It was a little janky, but I like decks that require skill to play.
The Sinister Citadel of the Spider
1x Frost Dragon Festival
1x Journey’s End Siege
3x Abundant Farmlands
1x Bamboo Harvesters – exp
3x Famous Bazaar
3x Nexus of Lies
1x Oracle of the Void – exp
3x Productive Mine
3x Shinomen Marsh
2x Daigotsu Chiboshi
2x Daigotsu Geiko
1x Daigotsu Kanpeki, the Shadow Emperor – exp3
3x Daigotsu Onosaka
3x Daigotsu Roburo
3x Daigotsu Teruo
2x Ninube Shiho
3x Kikage Zumi Initiates
3x Skeletal Troops
3x Zlkyt’s Family
3x Reinforced Parangu
1x A Champion’s Strike
2x Back to the Front
2x Breaking the Rhythm
1x Contentious Terrain
1x Creating Order
3x Death of the Winds
1x Discovering the Seeds of the Void
3x Okura Is Released
3x Sneak Attack
3x Strike as the Earth
3x The Sun Returns
3x Way of the Spider
2x Wounded in Battle
The deck was built to have options but also to reliably deliver enough Fear effects to bow out most opposed armies on the board. The three Strike as the Earth, combined with Wounded in Battle and Tairao also gave the deck a strong edge of Chi death. Every personality in the deck had the requisite 3 Chi to benefit from Aranai Sensei as well, leaving me with several options whenever I would need to bow a Tactician for The Sun Returns. I felt good going into the tournament.
The first thing that struck me about the Thursday qualifiers for the American Championship was how few players there were. In my previous years, I had seen the Thursday qualifier easily bring in over a hundred players.
Similar to both of the Koteis I attended, though, I couldn’t help but notice how few players there were. When the first pairings went up, I counted less than fifty players in total and that I was the only Spider Clan player, due no doubt to the fact that not a single Spider Clan deck had won a Kotei this year.
I hoped that this would work in my favor, as most players would not be anticipating seeing a Spider in the qualifiers. I headed out to my table number, shook hands with my opponent, and rose for the opening ceremony. Lead by Reggie Garth, we opened the tournament with the iconic banzai call and responses that all who play L5R know well. This year, however, we dedicated the tournament to the three players the community had lost. It felt good to shake the CCG Hall that early on Thursday morning with our voices.
Round 1 – Anthony Ngo – Lion Clan with Satoru Sensei (0-0-0)
Lion Clan was a military deck I had tested well against, and I was looking forward to this match up. He went first, and was able to bring out two Holdings and a Blessing to get in a solid Gold scheme. Only my side, however, I saw no Holdings on my initial flip, nor during my first turn cycle. A full two turns behind the Lion, the loss of tempo was genuinely too much to recover from. I was able to slow him down slightly with a second turn Frost Dragon Festival, but by the time we were fighting over my last Province, he had too much of a lead to be stopped. Anthony played solidly and made no mistakes, handing me my first loss of the day.
Round 2 – Jesse Grabowski – Unicorn with no Sensei – (0-1-0)
Jesse came out of the gate with a good offensive strategy, and he soon had me on the ropes. The Oracle of the Void and my Stronghold kept me at four Provinces of production, and a quick counter attack left him at three. Famous Bazaar also sped up my deck’s production on a key turn, and soon he had to push for my final Province before I could simply out produce him. It was a knock down, drag out fight, with both sides playing out every last trick in our playbook. In the end, I was able to get the edge in available Force on the table, defeat the army, and take the game. Jesse proved an excellent opponent and an amazing sportsman.
Round 3 – Cecilia Sham – Lion with no Sensei (1-1-0)
Another deck that I was expecting, this was going all well and good until my inexperience with my deck cost me the game. For the first time ever, I was able to bring Daigotsu Kanpeki into play and defended with him against the Lion army. Having already lost a Province containing Journey’s End Seige and had to cycle Oracle of the Void, I could not easily afford to lose another Province, but I felt confident that I could defeat her army as I had more Force than it on the table.
However, for my first battle action, I forgot to use Kanpeki’s ability to take two consecutive battle actions. By the time I caught myself, I had already played and resolved my first action. She was able to bow down my Kanpeki using New Cavalry Tactics, and then generated enough Force to take my army and the Province. My flip revealed two Holdings and one Personality, which was not enough to turn the tide against the Lion, handing me my second loss.
Round 4 – “Yasuki” Jeremy Halcomb – Crab with no Sensei (1-2-0)
Another one sided fist fight, but at least this one was from a fun opponent. Jeremy was able to get a good Gold start and take out a Province using Cavalry Escort. By the time I got my feet underneath me economically, I did not see enough Personalities to swing the tempo back in my favor.
Final Score: 1 wins, 3 losses, 0 ties, and a silver lining
With my third loss, I was officially drummed out of the Thursday qualifier. I chose to stay in, however, in order to possibly give others a shot at the Main Event and to simply be part of the community. My next opponent was in the same boat as me but chose to concede and drop out to participate in a Strict tournament starting at that time. The prize for that tournament would be first pick of a major tournament to be played in the 2014 / 2015 Winter season. He saw it as an opportunity to bring some support to his local playgroup in Tampa, and one that he did not want to pass up. My next round saw a similar concession and drop, but then my fortune changed.
For you see, a spot had become available for the Dark Naga Challenge Booth, which had otherwise been sold out. While I had tickets for Saturday, the generic tickets I had secured access. Tthe deck I had with me was not the one I had wanted to bring to the Challenge Booth, but I was not going to pass up the opportunity. In my next article, I will tell you all about how that all went, as well as my Friday in the Qualifiers. Plus more examples on how nothing ever really goes as planned. Until then.
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 email@example.com.
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