Ride the Wind
Examine the Unicorn Clan in Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game with Guest Writer Brandon Zimmer
For 800 years, the Ki-Rin Clan journeyed beyond Rokugan's borders, in search of external threats to the Emerald Empire. In these foreign lands, the clan learned to adapt, doing whatever it took to survive. The clan eventually returned to Rokugan, rechristened as the Unicorn Clan. Its members spoke foreign tongues, wielded strange weapons, and drew upon the kami using sorcery known as meishōdō. Today, guest writer Brandon Zimmer examines the Unicorn Clan in Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game, with an overview of the nomadic clan's past, present, and future.
Ride Them Down
Brandon Zimmer: Hello everyone, my name is Brandon Zimmer! I’m also commonly known as mnBroncos. For those of you that don’t know me, I have been playing Living Card Games® since 2012, and am probably best known for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Edition, and for becoming a Unicorn Hatamoto at the very first Worlds for the newly released Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game. I didn't play the old version of Legend of the Five Rings, but it was a game I had looked at getting into many times. When I found out that it was being made into an LCG, I was beyond excited.
I started looking more into the history the game and prepared myself to dive headfirst into the world of Rokugan. To be honest, I didn’t originally think I would be a Unicorn player. I have always been traditionally more of a control player when it comes to card games, so I just assumed I would become a Scorpion player. However, after the Core Set came out it seemed obvious right away that Scorpion was one of the most popular clans, and although I love control, I also like to go against the grain.
Going into Worlds I wanted to find the least played clan and do the very best I could with it—which is what led me to playing Unicorn and loving it. The theme behind Unicorn is easily my favorite of any of the clans. Gameplay-wise the idea of movement is nice and can lead to some fun plays; my Worlds deck played much more like an explosive combo deck than anything else.
Making plays like Cavalry Reserves (Core Set, 199) or Charge! (Core Set, 210) to send your forces into a conflict is very strong and often results in breaking a province, and when you follow that up with For Greater Glory (Core Set, 168), you are often way ahead on the board for the next two turns. Although, Unicorn is military focused, they do have a balanced amount of politics to go with their overwhelming military presence. Having many characters with two or three military skill along with two or three political skill does allow the Unicorn to be flexible in some matchups and take advantage of whatever conflict type your opponent is weaker in.
The key things that I enjoy about the Unicorn are big, explosive plays, ready effects, movement, and semi-balance in conflict types.
This does result in them having some weaknesses, however. Since some of the best plays you can make out of Unicorn are effects like Cavalry Reserves, it does make you more vulnerable to counter effects. So, decks running Voice of Honor (Core Set, 145), Forged Edict (Core Set, 184) or Censure (Into the Forbidden City, 60) automatically make your matchup harder since they can cancel your three-fate effects for zero fate and can set you way back when you're trying to use an effect to win a conflict.
The current problem with movement effects is that most of them are effects that are on the board and visible to your opponent. Effects like Golden Plains Outpost (Core Set, 7), Shinjo Outrider (Core Set, 114), and Shinjo Tatsuo (Core Set, 120) are positive effects! But they're fairly easy for your opponent to play around when they know these options are available. Effects like Charge and Cavalry Reserves that put characters into conflicts as a surprise are significantly more powerful. These effects may cause your opponent to overcommit while defending, but you want to break provinces, so if your opponent overdefends it isn’t a net-positive for you unless you have a way to break through with your second conflict. Finally, although there are times where being balanced in conflict types is a positive, it also leaves the Unicorn prone to situations where they don’t have enough strength of one type to break a province.
To the Horizon
I’m excited to see what the future holds for the Unicorn. There are currently only about fifteen conflict and twenty-one dynasty Unicorn cards, so even just a couple more packs can greatly change the clan. With the Elemental Cycle in sight, it’s a great time to be optimistic.
There are some effects I would like to see in the near-future for the Unicorn. First, I would like to see something similar to For Greater Glory within the Unicorn Clan. I have been saying since Worlds that this card is the greatest Unicorn card in the game. A vast majority of our characters are Bushi and I think Unicorn plays best with a lot of cheap characters, rather than a few powerful ones. In my Worlds deck I even took advantage of this by playing zero holdings, because I tried to play all four dynasty cards every turn if I could. The reason I picked a Keeper role for Unicorn at Worlds was because currently they need to spend nine influence on For Greater Glory, so that additional influence is huge. I think if Unicorn got a similar effect in their clan that not only clears some influence, it can also make other splashes a better choice.
I would also like more surprise move effects. Charge! is probably the best move effect in the game and it’s neutral. I would like to see Unicorn really stand out as the clan that excels in movement. The final thing that I think we need is more ready effects. We got a hint at this being a clan theme with a couple of cards in the Core Set and it makes a lot of sense. The way Unicorn can gain an advantage is with multiple cheaper characters instead of one big character, so being able to use those smaller characters multiple times each turns equals out the power level and it also increases the power of our movement effects, adding even more layers of surprise to every conflict.
I think Unicorn is ready to rise. I know our tournament presence hasn’t been great but that can quickly change. Unicorn does have some hard matchups against the top decks in the meta right now, but just a second cycle can quickly change that. We can still make some explosive plays and can still flood the board just as well as the next clan. Even though before the game came out I didn’t have my eye on Unicorn, I am loyal to them forever now and I'll always enjoy playing them. I look forward to defending my Hatamoto title at Worlds this year! I hope you all enjoyed this article and can start looking at Unicorn in a different way and give them a go.
Brandon Zimmer, also commonly known as mnBroncos, has been playing Living Card Games since 2012. He is known for playing A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, and for becoming a Unicorn Hatamoto at 2017 Worlds for the newly released Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game.