A Moment of Respite
Developer Tyler Parrott on the New Rules Reference Update
“When your opponent sees but a single blade, you have achieved victory.”
The release of the Dynasty Pack For the Empire of the Inheritance cycle marks a new chapter for the Emerald Empire of Rokugan. This time of change is further reflected by the newly updated Rules Reference for the Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game! This update will be formally going into effect on July 8. Today, developer Tyler Parrott goes into detail on why these adjustments and clarifications were necessary for the game.
Tyler Parrott on the Rules Reference Update
Greetings, samurai of Rokugan!
As the season of war ramps up and the final intrigues to earn the Ancestral Sword of the Hantei approach, I wanted to take a brief moment to provide some clarifications in the Rules Reference and address the current metagame.
This Rules Reference update contains a few additions, but they are clarifications rather than changes. One of the new rules from the Masters of the Court expansion slipped through the cracks in the previous update, so that has been added. The language for the new disguised keyword has been adjusted for added clarity, rules have been expanded to clarify the interaction between “initiate a duel” and targeting, and the definition of when tokens are gained and lost is clearly defined.
The card interaction that is affected by these rules clarifications is Student of War (Children of the Empire, 23) with the disguised keyword. An additional cost to play a character using the disguised keyword requires you choose a non-unique character of the appropriate characteristic, such as a Bushi for Akodo Zentarō (For the Empire, 9) or a non-Scorpion character for Shosuro Miyako (Justice for Satsume, 65). Resolving the disguised keyword has a number of effects, but one in particular discards the chosen character after the disguised character has entered play and received all of the chosen character’s attachments and tokens. This is the only part of the keyword’s effects that directly interacts with the chosen character.
Because the keyword ability directly affects the target (by discarding it) and because the effect of discarding the character is the only part of the effect that does so, you cannot choose a character that cannot be discarded to help pay the cost of a disguised character (see Rules Reference, page 18). Therefore, when you have composure, you cannot use Student of War to play Akodo Zentarō or Shosuro Miyako with the disguised keyword.
When we published the Rules Reference version 9 in May, a number of balance updates were introduced, including errata and adjustments to the restricted list. Some of these adjustments were ones I had been testing for a while and had only now reached a point where I was comfortable implementing them. Many players were surprised at the lack of any Crab cards being added to the restricted list, as the Crab Clan has been a powerful one, but the clan has also been consistently second-best and has never been so strong as to be problematic. I did not deem it necessary to restrict any Crab cards at that time for that reason.
In this update, Spyglass (Core Set, 193) is added to the restricted list to break up the Crab deck that has persisted since the end of the Imperial Cycle. Part of this addition is to weaken the Crab Clan, which is a clan that now celebrates the spotlight as one of the best. However, as an important note for the future, I don’t intend to hit any clan with restrictions whenever they’re the best, unless they’re noticeably stronger than all their competitors—and Crab is not that, even now. The element that prompted this restricted list update is that this Crab deck has not changed in a meaningful way since the release of Iron Mine (Meditations on the Ephemeral, 103) at the end of the Imperial Cycle, and the deck archetype is powerful in a way that isn’t conducive to evolution and innovation.
The core of the Crab/Unicorn deck that has been seeing success revolves around a number of interchangeable pieces: play a character that costs three or more, maybe with some fate on it (but maybe not), put a bunch of powerful attachments on it, such as Watch Commander (Core Set, 133) or Spyglass, keep the character ready so it can participate in as many conflicts as possible with cards like Fight On (The Ebb and Flow, 72) or Mountain Does Not Fall (Core Set, 138), and keep the character alive as long as possible with (Core Set, 30), Reprieve (Core Set, 132), or Iron Mine. Because these are all the most powerful effects within each category, there is not much that future expansions can to do iterate on this deck archetype, and the archetype is powerful enough that tournament-winning Crab decks have been strictly adhering to the existing model.
The most interesting way to innovate on the deck often revolves around its character choice, but for the Crab/Unicorn deck the characters almost don’t matter: the deck’s strength comes from its ability to field powerful attachments that don’t leave play. Borderlands Defender (Core Set, 31) and Steadfast Witch Hunter (Core Set, 35) are not what is being saved by Reprieve and Iron Mine—the game is won on the back of Watch Commander and Spyglass. Without tools for other decks to handle a high volume of powerful attachments, I deemed it necessary to temporarily remove one of the Crab deck’s core tools.
For Crab players who want to continue using powerful attachments, they certainly can—Spyglass is only on the restricted list, not banned. Those players give up both Rebuild (Core Set, 136) and Charge! (Core Set, 210), the former being an effective toolbox card that doubles as an additional Iron Mine, the latter being an aggressive economy card that pushes the Crab player towards victory. For Crab players who want to continue using either of those restricted list cards, they must give up the deck’s most efficient source of card draw, and perhaps find value in other splashes instead. Either way, I expect some surprising new tricks to find their way into Crab decks from the Inheritance Cycle and can’t wait to see what players make of the Crab Clan Pack when it releases later this year.
What about Unicorn decks?
Unicorn decks are tangentially hit by this restriction, but less significantly than might be expected. The most aggressive Hisu Mori Toride (Elements Unbound, 101) decks have found the value-generating engine of Spyglass to be too slow for their strategies, so they have already cut it for more assertive options. The Unicorn decks that have been finding value from Spyglass, those which ride out from Shiro Shinjo (Warriors of the Wind, 1), have less of a need for Charge! and can still run Spyglass in their decks as they can use their stronghold to generate the fate advantage that makes Charge! such a ubiquitous card in certain clans.
A Fine Balance
Maintaining balance amongst seven clans is a difficult task, but not an impossible one. I continue to keep a close eye on the competitive metagame, at tournaments as high-profile as the Grand Koteis and as local as Elemental Championships. I listen as much as possible to how players are perceiving the power of the clans and of broader strategies, such as the current predominance of attachment-heavy duelists.
The addition of Daidoji Uji (Masters of the Court, 11) has made the Crane Clan's fate economy very effective and the tools to counter Uji sometimes struggle to materialize, while Mirumoto Daishō (Children of the Empire, 58) allows Dragon decks to turn duels into an efficient win condition. Scorpion, despite receiving an errata to their Core Set stronghold, quickly materialized into a pair of aggressive decks that rely either on rapid conquest such as Kyūden Bayushi (Underhand of the Emperor, 1) or swift dishonor like City of the Open Hand (Core Set, 7). Phoenix continues to be powerful, but with the loss of Embrace the Void (Tears of Amaterasu, 16) and a minor nerf to Isawa Tadaka (Disciples of the Void, 10) they are no longer the metagame-warping presence they were for the first season of Elemental Championships. Unicorn has begun applying real pressure with the addition of Moto Chagatai (Warriors of the Wind, 10) and Curved Blade (Warriors of the Wind, 20) to their existing Cavalry Reserves (Core Set, 199), while Lion players attending koteis have embraced their Scorpion allies and are finding success with Forged Edict (Core Set, 184) while they wait for new powerful Lion cards to arrive in the Inheritance Cycle and The Emperor’s Legion packs.
Now that we have entered the Inheritance Cycle, I do not expect the metagame to settle for some time as new cards regularly enter the card pool. That said, I am excited to see what creative strategies and decks players come up with and will eagerly be following along to see how this year’s Kotei Series (and Elemental Championships) end!
Join me in October when we check in with the rules and state of the game next, and in the meantime… good luck!