Shifting the Heavens

A New Rules Reference Update is Available for Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game

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The latest version of the Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game Rules Reference is now online! This update contains the usual streamlined rules, clarifications, new questions, and other minor changes that come with refining the rules. In addition, today’s update includes new roles for all seven clans, errata to three powerful cards and several restricted list changes that will go into effect on May 6th.

Learn why these changes were made directly from developer Tyler Parrott in the paragraphs below, and then download the new Rules Reference to see all the changes for yourself!

Noble samurai of Rokugan, an exciting and challenging new future awaits you. On May 6th, a new Rules Reference will go into effect for the Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game, and the current clan roles will be altered based on the votes that were cast by players at the first season of Elemental Championships. These updates to the Organized Play experience contain a number of changes, which I would like to highlight below.

New Roles

During the first few months of this year, players who attended Elemental Championships at their local stores were able to vote on which role they would want their clan to receive for the rest of 2019. The top two players of each clan at each event were given access to vote cards that allow them to vote for their choice of Keeper/Seeker and one of the five elements. These roles will last until they change again after the Winter Court World Championship at the end of the year. As we begin to transition to an adjusted Role Rotation schedule for 2020, the roles resulting from the Elemental Championships will last only six months instead of eight, as they will be replaced immediately upon the new roles being chosen at Winter Court.

Based on the votes that were cast, the following roles will be available to each of the clans starting on May 6th:

Crab: Seeker of Void

Crane: Seeker of Void

Dragon: Keeper of Water

Lion: Seeker of Air

Phoenix: Seeker of Void

Scorpion: Keeper of Air

Unicorn: Keeper of Water

These are in addition to the roles that are currently available to each clan through August 2019, as visible on the Clan Roles page.

New Rules

In addition to each clan receiving new roles next month, the Rules Reference has been updated with new rules and balance changes to the card pool to address negative player experiences.

Disguised and Toshi Ranbo

With the Inheritance Cycle on the horizon, the rules for the disguised keyword have been added to the Rules Reference. This should help players understand how the upcoming cards work as they are previewed, as well as ensure that everyone has access to the rules when those cards are released.

Additionally, rules regarding provinces have been updated to clarify adjacency and to explain the new elemental symbol that appears on Toshi Ranbo (For the Empire,1). Any province with that symbol in place of a single element counts as a province of all five elements at all times and can be included in a player’s list of provinces to fulfill the province slot of any element.

Skill Modifiers and Set Values

Through questions submitted to the rules form and at events, it was ruled that when a character’s skills have been set to a particular value (such as by Unleash the Djinn (Elements Unleashed, 120)), that character’s skill values cannot be modified by other card effects, as it would not sufficiently change the game state. This included modifying a character’s base skill values with effects such as Way of the Lion (Core Set, 167) as well as “standard” modifiers such as those of Hurricane Punch (Breath of the Kami, 17). However, this caused confusion when True Strike Kenjutsu (Children of the Empire, 21) was released, as modifying a character’s base military skill suddenly had game relevance outside of conflict resolution.

To clarify this point, as well as prevent such confusion from occurring in the future, this rules update overrides the previous rulings and provides a simpler answer: a character may continue to receive skill modifiers even if their skills have been set to a particular value. As modifiers are continually re-calculated, they will affect the character even though the final “set” value overrides all other calculations. This means, among other things, that Hurricane Punch may be played on characters under the effect of Unleash the Djinn.

Seeking Balance

Throughout the first year and a half of the game’s life, there have been a few cards whose power level and restrictive effects have heavily altered players’ experiences at both the casual and competitive levels. Three cards in particular stand out as being frustrating to play against thanks to their ability to singlehandedly warp the trajectory of a game: City of the Open Hand (Core Set, 6), Restoration of Balance (Core Set, 10), and Isawa Tadaka (Disciples of the Void, 10). Each of these three cards receives errata in this update that alters their play pattern to allow a greater degree of counter-play for the opponent.

City of the Open Hand

While taking one honor from your opponent when you are less honorable than them is a simple effect, honor is a very valuable resource in Legend of the Five Rings. Scorpion players have been able to use this ability since the release of the Core Set to drain their opponent of honor at almost no cost, simultaneously making it harder for them to lose and easier for them to win. Decks that seek to win by dishonoring their opponent often needed to make the opponent lose only six or seven honor over the course of a game, as the stronghold could get them a third of the way to victory on its own. This created the additional experience of frustrating opponents who attempted to leverage card advantage over a Scorpion player, as any attempt to punish the Scorpion for bidding five or higher every turn instead hurt the player who wished to do so.

By splitting up the stronghold’s effect, a Scorpion player who plays City of the Open Hand must choose: either they risk their own honor by pushing their opponents toward defeat, or they recover honor to keep themselves in the game long enough to defeat their opponent with the cards they have included in their decks.

Restoration of Balance

Strong province effects are a hallmark of Legend of the Five Rings. However, few are quite as effective as Restoration of Balance at singlehandedly and unexpectedly swinging the game. Short of a few card effects that allow a player to look at an opponent’s province, players could not know or plan around when they were forced to discard down to four cards in hand. This produced the frustrating game experience of matching your opponent’s high bid of cards, declaring an attack, and losing half (or more) of those cards to a single triggered ability. The natural counterplay to Restoration of Balance—bidding lower so that you do not have to discard as many cards—proved to be equally punishing: when a player bid low to dodge Restoration of Balance but then revealed other provinces instead, they ended up losing conflicts because they were stuck with fewer cards than their opponent.

A major theme of Dragon is balance, as stated by the title of the card. In order for balance to be achieved, both players must give up something, which is why this update changes the triggering condition from “When Revealed” to “When Broken.” Now, in order to discard cards from your opponent’s hand, a Dragon player must lose their province—making it a kind of mirror to the Lion Clan’s The Art of War (Core Set, 11), as well as providing the opponent the opportunity to play cards instead of seeing them get discarded…even if playing them immediately is not strategically wise.

Isawa Tadaka

The Elemental Master of Earth is an ambitious and powerful young man, and his card in the Disciples of the Void clan pack certainly exemplifies that. Unfortunately, his ability has proven to be too difficult to play around. Tadaka’s ability required nothing of the Phoenix player, forcing the opponent to win the Earth ring in order to turn him off… while making it extra difficult for the opponent to do so because they did not have the Earth ring. A player could build their deck with only one or two copies of each event to minimize Tadaka’s effect, but the card pool is still too small for such a strategy and it overly punished players who wanted to build focused decks based around synergy rather than raw power.

This errata changes the time during which Tadaka limits which events your opponents can play. Originally, Tadaka’s effect applied all the time, except when his opponent claimed the Earth ring. Now, it applies only when the Earth ring is contested or claimed by Tadaka’s controller. If a Phoenix player wants to activate Tadaka’s text right away, they must be the first player and attack first with the Earth ring—still a tempting prospect, but not always the best tactical option.

While this errata provides greater counter play against Isawa Tadaka, it can still be particularly frustrating when combined with Secluded Shrine (Disciples of the Void, 12). As more tools become available to the other clans to deal with cards in their discard pile or enemy holdings, the two-card combination of Tadaka and Secluded Shrine will become less of a concern. In the meantime, they will both live on the restricted list so they cannot be played together.

Restricted List Update

While the primary goal of this balance update was to address concerns with actual card text, it quickly became apparent that adjustments would also need to be made to the restricted list. These adjustments are meant to break up or otherwise inhibit two-card combinations that are powerful because of their ability to mitigate costs.

Isawa Tadaka and Secluded Shrine

As was discussed above, the errata to Isawa Tadaka means that Secluded Shrine can, without cost, activate Isawa Tadaka’s text and remove the opponents’ ability to play around it. While cards are coming in future expansions that will provide tools to remove cards from a player’s discard pile or to discard enemy holdings, these two cards cannot be included in the same deck until such cards are released and Secluded Shrine can be unrestricted.

Embrace the Void and Consumed by Five Fires

Consumed by Five Fires (Fate has No Secrets, 96) is a very powerful tool available to Phoenix players using a Seeker role. It is balanced by the fact that it is both expensive and requires both players lose the same amount of fate. When combined with Embrace the Void (Tears of Amaterasu, 16), which allows you to gain the fate discarded from the attached character, it becomes very trivial to discard all the fate from your opponent’s characters so that their entire board is discarded while spending only two or three fate yourself. Even outside of this interaction, Embrace the Void is a powerful fate generation card that has no cost as players are always going to be putting fate on their characters. Therefore, Embrace the Void has been added to the restricted list so that if a player wants to use this efficient fate generation tool, they must give up access to Isawa Tadaka and the other powerful cards on the list.

Steward of Law

Steward of Law (Core Set, 139) is a very subtly powerful card. For a Courtier with reasonably-costed skill values, its constant ability takes a large number of options away from the opponent that are normally available. Between turning For Shame (Core Set, 207) into a zero-cost bow effect to removing the opponent’s ability to escape a Duel to the Death (Bonds of Blood, 36), or taking away the opponent’s ability to use cards such as Bayushi Aramoro (Underhand of the Emperor, 8) and Forged Edict (Core Set, 184) which require dishonoring as a cost, the ramifications of Steward of Law’s ability are surprisingly far-reaching for such a cheap and accessible character. By restricting Steward of Law, it adds a deckbuilding cost for Crane players who wish to restrict their opponents’ options during a game: they may use Steward of Law, or Guest of Honor (Core Set, 51), or Policy Debate (For Honor and Glory, 40), but no combination of the three.

A Bold New Future Awaits

Between the new roles available to each of the clans, the new rules and restricted list introduced with this update, and the new clan packs that have recently been released, the metagame of Legend of the Five Rings is now wide open for players to experiment with new cards and new strategies. Until the next Rules Reference update in the beginning of July, I look forward to seeing what creative decks players build and which strategies stand dominant!

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