The Emperor's Edict
A New Rules Update for Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game
Every three months, developer Tyler Parrott takes a close look at the competitive metagame for Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game and makes a number of tweaks to ensure the ongoing health of the game. You can download the new version of the Imperial Law (2.8 MB), the Rules Reference (4.0 MB), and the Multiplayer Rules (4.9 MB) today, and read on to hear Tyler’s own thoughts!
Developer Tyler Parrott on the Upcoming Rules Update
The year rolls on and it’s time to reevaluate the metagame of Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game. To that end, let’s look at some updates that will roll out at the beginning of April to improve the game experience for Organized Play events.
Longtime players may observe that in addition to updating the Rules Reference for the standard game, I have also updated the online multiplayer (Enlightenment and Team Conquest) rules. Now that Clan War has been released, I’ve observed a couple of topics that were either being overlooked by players or were generating a noticeable amount of questions. This update should hopefully clarify some of those questions and help empower players who wish to play against multiple opponents!
The first thing that stood out was that while they appear in the printed rulebook, the rules for “eligible provinces” had eluded the online rules. They have been appropriately re-added! This clarifies that, with the exception of The Crashing Wave (Clan War, 66), which explicitly allows the defending player to change, players cannot use cards like Chasing the Sun (Into the Forbidden City, 58), Matsu Agetoki (Defenders of Rokugan, 20), or Talisman of the Sun (Meditations of the Ephemeral, 119) to redirect attacks from one player to another.
Two other points of confusion stood out in the Team Conquest rules, as there was not a header that covered resolving conflicts against a team. This led to confusion about what kind of conflict is considered to be unopposed, so an entry has been added to explain that a conflict is only considered unopposed if neither defending player controls any defenders. Additionally, a loophole in the rules forced a team to attack both opponents even when one of those opponents had their stronghold already broken. A team now no longer has to attack a player whose stronghold province is broken, allowing them to declare both attacks against the remaining opponent.
Finally, the existence of the Enlightenment restricted list caused a fair amount of confusion in deckbuilding, as it was easily confused with the standard game’s restricted list. Going forward, there will only be a single restricted list, which will be for the standard tournament format—all additional formats will exclusively use a banned list and will not have a restricted list of any kind. Fortunately for Enlightenment, the multiplayer dynamics can punish players for playing strong cards in that format (as it draws the ire of both opponents), so a restricted list is not really necessary. A couple of cards that were on the restricted list were banned, and the rest are free for players to utilize as much as is desirable.
A Change of Time
The timing conflicts of certain keywords have been a source of confusion for some time, so this update hopes to clear them up. Before, it was unclear how keywords like courtesy and sincerity interacted with Interrupt abilities, and how pride interacted with Reaction abilities. With this update, the timing of triggered keywords is standardized to: “resolve the keyword immediately after the triggering condition occurs, before anything else can be triggered.”
Notably, this means that all Interrupts will resolve before a keyword, and a keyword will always resolve after the triggering condition occurs but before any Reactions (even Forced ones) can be triggered. This is an invisible change in most cases but will matter for certain cards like Asahina Storyteller (Core Set, 50) and Callow Delegate (All and Nothing, 85).
Sometimes, card errata can be very effective at resolving a problem (Kuroi Mori) and sometimes it can cause as many problems as it solves (City of the Open Hand). Errata is not a tool that can be used extensively, but with this update it proved possible (and valuable) to change the text on three cards.
City of the Open Hand (Core Set, 6) received an erratum last year that split its ability into two halves—either its controller gained one honor or the opponent lost one honor. This was intended to curb its power level by reducing the honor swing from two to one. However, it has become apparent that the erratum has only served as a “side-grade” rather than a “downgrade,” which is to say that the stronghold became different but not weaker. In this update, that erratum is rolled back so that the card now works as printed—the cost of changing a card’s text is very high, and if the result of that change is not accomplishing what it was set out to do (and if the card has not been reprinted with the new text) then the erratum is not worth continuing to implement. City of the Open Hand now works as originally printed.
Kuroi Mori (Core Set, 12) was restricted in the most recent update to limit its access to Phoenix players because it is one of the strongest provinces in the game. However, because this province is featured in upcoming prize kits, the opportunity to apply a simple erratum arose. Thus, Kuroi Mori now cannot be a stronghold province. This has allowed the province to be removed from the restricted list, as its primary use case (being placed on a stronghold to stop military-heavy clans from breaking the stronghold) is no longer available, and the card pool now has more tools to answer it.
Those Who Serve (The Emperor’s Legion, 28) has proven to be an effective tool at supporting swarm decks that wish to play lots of cheap characters rather than rely on a single powerful character to win conflicts. However, it has become apparent that the volume and power level of one-cost characters in this game is too high to also allow their cost to be reduced by this event. In order to support Those Who Serve/go-wide strategies while curbing the inherent power level of one-cost characters, the event is receiving an erratum to its minimum so that it cannot reduce the cost of a character below one. This makes Those Who Serve have no effect on one-cost characters that are already well-worth their cheap cost, while maintaining its value in decks that may want to go wide with more powerful (but more expensive) characters of higher costs.
The Efficiency of a Tower
First, it was the Crab Clan that leaned heavily into building a “tower” (a character with as many attachments as possible) because they had access to a high volume of card effects that could keep that tower in play from round to round. Then, it was the Lion and Unicorn Clans that leaned into building a tower that could move to and participate in as many conflicts as possible with Fan of Command (A Champion’s Foresight, 106) and Favored Mount (Core Set, 192). In all of these decks, a single card has turbocharged the strategy by providing it with an overwhelming number of “free” cards: Spyglass (Core Set, 193).
In order to curb the “tower” strategy that will inevitably continue into the game’s future, thanks to the large number of powerful attachments already printed, Spyglass has been banned so that such decks must still bid honor in order to draw cards. Should future attachment control sufficiently disrupt the “tower” strategy, Spyglass may be able to come off the ban list at a later date. Until then, it cannot be played.
An Underhanded Strategy
In addition to applying errata to cards and banning one of them, the restricted list has again been reviewed to see what no longer belongs on it. Before I address the two cards that came off the list, however, a predominant Scorpion strategy has proven to be so effective as to require restriction.
The Scorpion dishonor deck has always revolved around using City of the Open Hand to drain the opponent of honor with as few attacks as possible. By staying defensive and reactive, the Scorpion dishonor deck has proven able to drain the opponent of resources over time, carefully conserving its own resources so that it does not lose while its stronghold siphons honor from the opponent. Once the opponent is within range of being defeated, a few unopposed attacks or copies of Backhanded Compliment (The Chrysanthemum Throne, 78) can end the game without requiring any provinces to be broken.
When both players’ honor totals go down, bids also reduce, for neither player can afford to risk losing the game. When both players are bidding one and at low honor, a timely Duty (Underhand of the Emperor, 22) can allow the Scorpion player to draw four or more cards in excess of their opponent—often providing them enough cards to finally end the game.
This strategy fundamentally tries to avoid engaging with the game’s primary mechanic of attacking and defending provinces and is highly resilient because Duty’s effect mitigates the cost of City of the Open Hand (being at low honor). With both cards available, Scorpion decks can be frustratingly difficult to kill by dishonor, and even more difficult to defeat by conquest. However, Duty is an important component to other Scorpion decks—especially those fielded from Kyūden Bayushi, which forces its controller into a low-honor state but without the resiliency of City of the Open Hand.
Therefore, as the combination of City of the Open Hand and Duty has proven to be too effective at dishonoring opponents, both cards have been added to the restricted list so that they cannot be used together.
Secret Cache (Core Set, 13) was added to the restricted list to decrease Scorpion’s access to consistent card selection (and thus increase the “cost” of Duty, which is its inconsistency). As the primary culprit of the negative game state that Secret Cache’s restriction was meant to curtail is now itself restricted, and as more tools to punish provinces are emerging in the Dominion cycle, Secret Cache no longer needs to be restricted and thus is removed.
Meanwhile, the metagame has evolved enough that Void Fist (All and Nothing, 94) is no longer overpowered in comparison to other cards in the card pool. Therefore, it no longer needs to be restricted and thus has been removed. I am confident that the removal of Void Fist will improve the flexibility of Dragon decks without hurting the overall metagame in any way.
Defend Your Domains
I will return in three months when I reassess the balance of the metagame and determine if any further changes must be made. Until then, good luck in the battlefield and the courts!