The Guardians of the Soul

Explore the Phoenix Clan with Guest Writer Tobin Lopes


"The kami are my allies. How can you hope to stand against me?"
   –Isawa Masahiro

With the release of the Disciples of the Void Clan Pack, the Phoenix Clan has received an injection of power in Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game. Now, there are more ways than ever to work with this explosive clan through a variety of deckbuilding options. Today, guest writer Tobin Lopes unravels the mystery of the Phoenix and explores your options when working with the caretakers of the Emperor's soul. 

Tobin Lopes: Unlike Rokugan’s other Great Clans, the Phoenix operate under a duality—access to the tremendous power of the Elements coupled with a distaste towards violence and conflict. Their power amongst the clans stems from their potential to be the greatest clan yet disowning such a role, as their commitment to the harmony of Rokugan has no equal. While the aversion to conflict might seem odd in a conflict-based game, the Phoenix have some powerful methods to beat their opponents, which will only get stronger with the new cards in Disciples of the Void. It all starts with their characters’ interaction with the rings.

To Find Harmony

When you play the Phoenix Clan, it means the Elemental Rings are huge part of your game. The Phoenix have more Shugenja than any other clan, which means there are ways to shape the game that provide for some intense rounds and strategic decisions.

With multiple Shugenja on the board you can exert a great deal of control—albeit passively—on the types of conflicts your opponents declare. Consider Solemn Scholar  (Core Set, 83), Adept of the Waves  (Core Set, 81), Prodigy of the Waves  (Into the Forbidden City, 46), and Isawa Masahiro  (Core Set, 90). All these characters have a direct impact during certain conflicts or as a consequence of the conflicts. Once you have the Earth ring, the Solemn Scholar can bow an attacking character, making your opponent hesitant to attack unless they are very confident they can win. The synchronicity between Adept of the Waves and Prodigy is clear, so while the Water ring might not be ideal for your opponent at the moment, they may decide it is the best of bad choices. When you're playing the Phoenix, that's the ideal place to have your opponent.

Because of their relationship to the Elements, the higher-cost characters like Isawa Kaede  (Tears of Amaterasu, 9), Isawa Atsuko  (Core Set, 92), and the Clan Champion  Shiba Tsukune  (Core Set, 93) can impact the game in ways that your opponent’s will find either impossible or frustrating to counter. Isawa Tadaka (Disciples of the Void, 10), the first Elemental Master in the game, will force your opponents into playing completely differently and make the Earth ring even more important than ever, putting opponents in a tricky spot. Ultimately, you'll always need to keep a close eye on the Five Rings when you're playing as the Phoenix, but this attention can yield great rewards!

Balancing Your Conflicts

One compelling aspect of Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game is the two-deck system. Having your Dynasty deck and Conflict deck support and strengthen one another is one of the challenges and subtleties of the game. With the Phoenix’s Spell events and attachments, there are dozens of ways in which you can manifest the clan’s non-aggression mantra. Display of Power  (Core Set, 179) and Harmonize  (For Honor and Glory, 37) can keep your characters out of conflicts while keeping your opponent restrained and wondering if they should ever declare a conflict. 

As for Phoenix’s conflict characters, there's a lot to like. Ishiken Initiate  (Core Set, 170) is especially good in the last conflict of a round, especially with the new holding, Secluded Shrine  (Disciples of the Void, 12). Seeker of Knowledge  (Core Set, 171) allows you to get honor from your opponent or boost your own. And lastly, the Shrine Maiden  (For Honor and Glory, 36) works well to draw the powerful Spells that are the cornerstone of Phoenix conflict decks. She’ll be especially strong with the new stronghold, Kyūden Isawa  (Disciples of the Void, 1).

Glory’s Prideful Edge

Reflecting the duality of the clan is the higher glory values of Phoenix characters. They seek to balance the forces of mortals and magic, and they are proud of this role. Such work means they are constantly working through honorable actions. Honored characters like Tsukune and Kaede are powerful and become the focus of your strategies as well as giving your opponent difficult choices.

But sometimes an honored status is not possible, and if a high-glory character becomes dishonored, it can seriously hamper your game. No keyword reflects this more than Pride, which you can grant to your characters with a  Magnificent Kimono  (Core Set, 172)—win a conflict and become honorable, but lose, and you could pay a high cost.

Allies of the Phoenix

Given the cost of high-glory characters your choice of ally can be vital. When I consider the choices, the Lion, Dragon, and Unicorn cards stand out. With Lion I gain  Guard Duty  (The Chrysanthemum Throne, 76) to honor defenders, Vengeful Oathkeeper  (Core Set, 160) to combine with Display of Power, and Stand Your Ground  (Core Set, 166) to keep my honored characters in play. With the Dragon Clan, it’s more about board control. I include  Let Go  (Core Set, 155) because Cloud the Mind  (Core Set, 202) is powerful against Phoenix, and combine it with Mirumoto's Fury  (Core Set, 159) and Indomitable Will  (Core Set, 158) to control the conflicts that are declared.

The Unicorn Clan, however, might be your strongest choice. Spyglass  (Core Set, 193) can bring you card draw, Iuchi Wayfinder  (Core Set, 190) can seek the best or worst provinces to attack, and Talisman of the Sun  (Meditations on the Ephemeral, 119) can direct your opponent’s attacks. And, if you have room, then Gaijin Customs  (The Chrysanthemum Throne, 79) can be great at a key moment. With Unicorn you might give up a bit of character control but you're gaining card advantage in exchange. Still, any of these allies provide a Phoenix player with good choices to victory. Regardless of who you choose as your ally, your path to winning the game starts in your provinces.

The Basis for Victory

Phoenix players often start with the hope of dishonoring their opponents into a loss. Province and holding selection is important to that strategy. For me, Shameful Display  (Core Set, 24) wins out over Kuroi Mori  (Core Set, 12) since it gives a crucial way to honor my characters. Before the Throne  (The Chrysanthemum Throne, 61) can be a late game surprise that backs an opponent to the wall. Public Forum  (Into the Forbidden City, 42) typically costs an extra conflict to break. I add those to holdings like the Imperial Palace for securing the Imperial Favor in order to use Kanjo District (Meditations on the Ephemeral, 108), Forgotten Library  (Core Set, 94) to enable low draw bids, and Magnificent Lighthouse  (For Honor and Glory, 27) to manipulate my opponent’s options. 

Caretakers of the Soul

The Phoenix work to balance the elements as well as anyone in the game. They are proud of their role in the Emerald Empire and these themes are reflected strongly in their cards. Whether you choose to partner with Unicorn, Dragon, Lion, or another clan, balance between aggression and pacifism will be a part of your game. Whether you choose to use Kyūden Isawa or Isawa Mori Seidō  (Core Set, 5), the Disciples of the Void give Phoenix a number of choices in how to play Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game.

Tobin Lopes lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife Brenda and their kids, Ezri and Zachary. He  is co-creator of The Art of WarCast—a podcast about Legend of the Five Rings.

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