The Mighty Pride
Guest Writer Shey Ramsey Explores the Lion Clan in Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game
“War is the most noble pursuit of a samurai. It gives him purporse and brings honor to his ancestors.”
Few in Rokugan can stand up to the legion of samurai known as the Lion Clan. With overwhelming force, the Lion are the Emperor's sword, forged through honor and duty. Using the Lion in Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game will take a keen mind, finding a balance between the Lion's legendary numbers, their reverence for their ancestors, and their bold strategic thinking. Today, guest writer Shey Ramsey explores the right hand of the Empoeror, the mighty pride of Rokugan.
The Right Hand
Shey Ramsey: In Rokugan, it is said that honor is stronger than steel. For no clan is this more true than the Lion Clan. As the Right Hand of the Emperor, the Lion act as the instruments of Hantei’s will. The ranks of the Imperial legions swell with the recruits from the Lion, ready to answer the call to action should the Empire need them. War is at the heart of what it means to be a Lion, crushing the Empire's foes as a well-oiled machine. This is the glorious purpose bestowed upon the clan since its founding, embodying the essence of the samurai's martial spirit. There is no clan in Rokugan that holds themselves to the standards of Bushidō as strictly as the Lion. For the Lion there is no glory without honor, and of all the clans there is none as glorious as the Lion.
Founded by the Kami Akodo, whose tactical genius knows no equal, the Lion Clan consists of four families.
The Akodo family are the ruling family of the Lion clan and direct descendants of the Kami Akodo. They are well known for their masterful tactical acumen, strategic knowledge, and strict adherence to Bushidō. The generals of the Akodo are the best in the Empire: as the adage goes, “No army led by the Akodo has ever known defeat.” The current head of the Akodo family and champion of the Lion Clan, as well as the Emerald Champion, is the brilliant and level-headed Akodo Toturi. Toturi has proven to be a very interesting and dynamic character in the fiction, reluctantly taking over as clan champion after the death of his brother. While his clan was embroiled in a growing conflict with the Crane, he has provided an interesting point of view on the world of Rokugan.
Next, we have the Ikoma family of the Lion; the greatest historians of the Empire and the political heart of the Lion Clan. Nothing is considered historical fact unless it is recorded in the Ikoma histories. The Ikoma are renowned for their storytellers, beguiling the court with tales and serving as the expressive face of a clan that is otherwise seen as curt and stern.
While the Ikoma family chronicles history, the Kitsu family speaks to it. All samurai venerate their esteemed ancestors and look to them for guidance. The Kitsu family, however, possess the ability to speak to their honored deceased. The Kitsu have a special gift that allows them to speak with the spirits of their ancestors, piercing the veil so the Lion are never without the knowledge of those who came before.
Finally, the Matsu family of the Lion is the embodiment of the clan’s fiery spirit. This fierce matriarchal family makes up the military ranks of the Lion Clan with the Akodo, but where the Akodo plan, the Matsu act. They are what the rest of the Empire thinks of when it comes to the Lion Clan. If the Lion are the Emperor's Right Hand, then the Matsu are the blade in that hand which cuts down the Empire's foes.
A Legion of Samurai
Now that the backstory and lore for the Lion Clan is known, it's time to talk about how that's reflected in the mechanics of the game! At first glance, the Lion may look linear to play. Yes, they can be built with a very linear and aggressive game plan in mind, but there is much more nuance at play here. The Lion have many tricks up their sleeves to punish an opponent who underestimates them.
In the spirit of the Akodo family, the Lion Clan offers some of the most efficient military skill pumps in the game. This is reflected in cards like Way of the Lion (Core Set, 167) and A Legion of One (Meditations on the Ephemeral, 116). Whether you're using a single character or a swarming board state, a Lion player can push through a military conflict and come out on top. The Lion Clan isn't just about swinging with big numbers, though. The cunning strategies of the Akodo are on display in the conflict deck with cards like Ready for Battle (Core Set, 165). Preventing your characters from bowing is a huge effect in the current card pool, and the added boon of Ready for Battle's status as a free Reaction is huge.
While the conflict deck gives the Lion access to many interesting tricks, the dynasty deck is where they shine. More than any other clan, the Lion have the ability to bring a truly impressive number of characters to the table. Cards like Staging Ground (Core Set, 80) and Akodo Gunsō (Core Set, 71) allow the Lion player to flip over facedown dynasty cards, bringing additional characters into play more efficiently than any other clan. As you might expect from their ability to reveal more dynasty cards, the Lion excel at flooding the board with their efficient, low-cost characters. This "swarm" style of play works very well for the faction with Yōjin no Shiro (Core Set, 4) and cards like Honored General (Core Set, 77).
The Lion can also get a lot of extra mileage out of their higher-cost powerhouses with minimal investment, thanks to cards like Kitsu Spiritcaller (Core Set, 74) and Ikoma Ujiaki (For Honor and Glory, 26). Both cards allow the Lion to bring characters into play mid-conflict for free. Kitsu Spiritcaller offers the unique ability to bring a character back from the discard pile for a conflict (or even longer). Ikoma Ujiaki is a recent addition to this theme, and by forfeiting the Imperial Favor, you can turn all of your facedown dynasty cards faceup and bring two characters into the conflict. Best of all, this ability has no cost limit, allowing the Lion player to bring in powerful characters like Akodo Toturi (Core Set, 79) and Lion's Pride Brawler (Core Set, 75). Being able to bring in additional characters, in conjunction with cards like Charge! (Core Set, 210), means that the Lion Clan can easily add three or more characters into a conflict with little fate expenditure. Typically, characters that enter play in this way are unable to have additional fate placed on them, but the Lion are able to get around this with For Greater Glory (Core Set, 168). This card lets you place one fate on each Bushi character in your army after you break a province during a military conflict—keeping your board intact from turn-to-turn and rewarding proactive play to get the advantage over an opponent with a superior board state.
War and Reverence
With a dedication to their duty as the Right Hand of the Emperor, the Lion are fierce combat specialists with a reverence for their history and strategic thinking. Though they appear to be straightforward, the Lion have a multitude of tricks that can give them the upper hand over their opponents. Will you pick up the sword and join the honorable army?
Shey Ramsey is the host of the Jade Throne Podcast and a Lion Clan Hatamoto. John Merholtz, Crab Hatamoto and co-host of The Jade Throne Podcast, played a key role in the editing and refinement of this article. Special thanks to the rest of the Jade Throne Crew. You can check out the Jade Throne Podcast here .