A New Scroll of Law
Updated Rules Reference and Imperial Law for Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game
In turbulent times, any chance to seize control of fate is tempting. And as the Temptations cycle unfolds for Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game, it brings the new tools that can provide that great power… at a high price. But fresh off the unfolding conflicts of the Dominion cycle, some of Rokugan’s Great Clans have proven a disproportional ability to control the pace of a game, and thus the Imperial Families have come together to issue a new Imperial Law and Rules Reference to level the playing field.
Cracking Down on a Core City
Among the Legend of the Five Rings online community, City of the Open Hand (Core Set, 6), is often a contentious card. In the few years since its release, the Core Set Scorpion stronghold has proven to be overpowered as printed. It was issued errata that halved the card’s ability, but that only proved to be a lateral shift in power, not actually making it any weaker. That errata was reversed and the card was placed on the restricted list, giving it a high cost to play. However, a Core Set stronghold on the restricted list presents a frustrating prospect for future game balance and player enjoyment—unlike any other card in the game, a stronghold is a foundational game piece that cannot be easily removed from the card pool.
In order to remove City of the Open Hand from the restricted list, and expand future deckbuilding space among Scorpion dishonor decks, it has been given a new erratum and removed from the restricted list. This much more drastic (and much simpler!) text change should allow the stronghold to exist free of the restricted/banned lists going forward. Dynasty and conflict card effects can still provide players with the option to build dedicated dishonor decks, perhaps around Bayushi Shoju (Shoju’s Duty, 121), while the stronghold serves a smaller role keeping a Scorpion player from losing to dishonor. Errata are not handed out lightly, but this is one that I feel confident about for the game’s future.
In addition to City of the Open Hand, six other cards have been altered through restrictions, errata, and banning. They represent the new status of the Stronghold format.
Power at Too Little Cost
New cards released for the Scorpion Clan in the Dominion cycle have once again pushed that perennial powerhouse back to the top of the inter-clan metagame. While some of those cards were intended to be powerful (Bayushi Kachiko), others proved to be stronger than desired (Stoke Insurrection), and new tools have exacerbated the sins of older cards (Forgery). In order to curb Scorpion ambition, three of their top cards have been addressed through an erratum, a restriction, and a banning.
Stoke Insurrection (As Honor Demands, 113), while intended to be a powerful tool for Scorpion decks to leverage hidden cards in provinces against their owners, is too efficient at what it does. It has been issued an erratum that limits the characters it brings into play to a total printed cost of six or less, which allows it to remain powerful but only up to a certain point. It now compares more accurately with Ambush (Core Set, 188), trading consistency for flexibility both in cost and effect. Stoke Insurrection should remain a potent tool in Scorpion’s toolbox, but at a more reasonable rate.
Bayushi Kachiko (Atonement, 124) meanwhile flexes her skills in court by turning the opponent’s political tools against them. Similar to Master Tactician (In Pursuit of Truth, 57) in Lion, she can play three cards per round from outside her controller’s hand of cards. Her high cost, weak early-game presence, and limitation to only working in political conflicts in which she is participating were meant to rein in her ambition. Ultimately, they have proven insufficient, and she has joined her regent husband on the restricted list.
Despite over two years on the restricted list, the Scorpion event Forged Edict (Core Set, 184) has continued to define the Scorpion clan’s ability to control the game at almost no cost. The clan is filled with powerful Courtiers, and often finds rewards for dishonoring its characters, making this potent event-cancel a free tool in the Scorpion’s arsenal. With a more balanced alternative now in the environment with Forgery (Campaigns of Conquest, 91), Scorpion players have been able to dictate the terms of a conflict more easily than ever before. Forgery may not be problematic, but Forged Edict continues to be, and so this Scorpion staple has been banned from the Stronghold format.
In the final pack of the Dominion cycle, the Crane Clan received the lynchpin of their cycle’s theme: Doji Diplomat (Atonement, 119). This free Courtier has minimal skill and a symmetrical effect which the Crane have put to powerful use alongside their province-filling engine The Wealth of the Crane (In Pursuit of Truth, 63). A predominant Crane strategy has been using The Wealth of the Crane to fill their provinces with the exact holdings and characters that they want, then defending those provinces and holdings until the opponent runs out of resources. Given the power level of some Crane provinces/holdings— Magistrate Station (Elements Unbound, 102), Esteemed Tea House (For the Empire, 7), and Kakita Dōjō (Children of the Empire, 13)—the clan does not need to work hard to set up near-impenetrable defenses. This Imperial Law update seeks to break up some of these strategies without removing the new deck archetype for Crane.
First, Magistrate Station has been banned. This province has proven to be game-warpingly powerful, providing Crane with a once-per-round ready at no cost (other than defending their provinces, which they want to do anyway). Doji Diplomat makes this province easy to reveal, and the opponent’s options for counterplay rapidly diminish, especially if the Magistrate Station is revealed underneath the Crane player’s stronghold. By removing Magistrate Station from the restricted list and banning it, the restricted list can be a more flexible tool in managing Crane decks, and more tools can be given to the “self-reveal deck” in the future.
Second, Doji Diplomat has been added to the restricted list. This is intended to separate the Diplomat / Wealth package from the equally-powerful defensive package of Kakita Toshimoko and Kakita Dōjō. Both archetypes, in some respect, revolve around Kakita Dōjō, where one builds up a mobile dueling platform (Toshimoko) and hopes to draw into the Dōjō, while the other puts the Dōjō into play consistently but needs to search for less powerful duelists to leverage the Dōjō’s ability.
The final card added to the restricted list in this update is Common Cause (Clan War, 65). While this is a powerful card for the Crab Clan, it is also a powerful card for every other clan. As one of the most commonly chosen splash cards from the Crab, it allows any character to be readied as an Action at no meaningful cost. Simply put, this card is too strong for the game as a whole and has been restricted to increase the opportunity cost of including it in a player’s deck.
Winter has descended on Earth’s northern hemisphere, but it is also descending upon Rokugan. The Temptations cycle is in full swing, filled with Mahō, dire characters, and a Black Scroll, with no respite from inter-clan enmities or power vacuums on the horizon. In this turbulent time, it is up to the common people to protect each other in hopes that their lords can once again unite before disaster strikes.
I will continue to keep an eye on which decks are popular and effective on social media, and you can look forward to a revisit to the Imperial Law in the spring!