The Cardboard Geisha #1 - Fear and Loathing
Written by Nina Illingworth
Tuesday, 14 July 2009 04:13
The Cardboard Geisha CE Article 1:
Fear and Loathing on the Road to Celestial Edition
Thank the heavens I don’t have any neighbors. It’s 3 AM here in downtown Toronto on a lovely June morning and I’m so wide awake it hurts. Someone has turned my stereo system on and cranked the volume to dangerous levels. The fool obviously doesn’t understand the power of my subwoofer as the whole building is shaking to the Hendrix rendition of All Along the Watchtower. I’d be angry but I’m too busy staring at a Dragon Clan Champion who’s wearing blue and looks like a beauty pageant winner. It also occurs to me that the idiot who’s turned the stereo up so loud was probably me and the song I’m listening to is no accident. I’m standing on the edge of a new L5R environment and panic is setting in as I realize I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing. There must be some kinda way out of here indeed! “Can you handle that Slick? You don’t know jack because nobody does sister!” The fourth coffee is starting to kick in now, is that why I’m talking to myself? It’s easier to blame the chemicals than it is to admit that I don’t like not knowing, that in fact my obsessive compulsive NEED to know both frightens and excites me at the same time. No sweetie there’s no room for the timid here in the jungle, before anyone has beaten walkways, paths and roads into the underbrush. The weak will be eaten, the slow will be tortured and then eaten and by the Kami you don’t even want to ask what happens to those who don’t check their math here in the primordial soup of a new environment. This is the CCG equivalent of Thunderdome and only the best decks will survive. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to get started.
Hello my name is Nina Illingworth and welcome to The Cardboard Geisha. For those of you who don’t know me I’m a game store manager in Toronto (That’s in Canada!) and a stone cold L5R addict. When I’m not busy dusting off a terrible Hunter S Thompson impression there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find me playing “Rings”. I’ve been playing the game since just before the release of Scorpion Clan Coup after picking up my first couple of starters at the Hairy Tarantula Comics and Games here in Toronto. Over the years at the shop I’ve had the pleasure of introducing about a hundred different players to the game. While doing so I’ve noticed that beginning players seem to run into some of the same problems over time regardless of when they’ve started the game. Let’s look at some of these common problems in more detail:
1) L5R is one of the most complicated collectable card games ever created. It takes not only a keen understanding of your own deck but also an incredible catalogue of memorized terminology to compete successfully in this game. Though there are a few individuals out there with the necessary recall skills to play L5R in a very short period of time the only way most of us can develop said catalogue is by playing lots and lots of games until we remember. Even then it’s hard to learn anything when you’re being utterly dominated in test games and one can quickly lose motivation to learn when losing all the time.
2) Most new players to L5R choose their first deck for purely subjective (storyline) reasons with little or no understanding of mechanics. I can’t count the number of times a new player has asked me to help him build a Crab deck because “Kisada/Kuon/Whoeever is a bad*ss!” While this is not a “problem” per se, it does often tie a new player to a deck that doesn’t match his natural play style or current skill level. Additionally it tends to limit the beginner’s scope of vision to one deck at a time when she SHOULD be playing as many different decks as possible to promote a better overall foundation on which to build her understanding of the game.
3) Its almost impossible to learn to play this game through online resources and the rulebook alone. You basically NEED someone else to help you go through the early stages of both play and deck building. This can be a limiting factor if the other players in your group are also beginners or you simply lack other skilled card players to test with.
4) While it’s very easy to find decks online the vast majority of them do not come with enough instructional information to make them accessible to even a moderately experienced L5R player. While it’s impossible to cover every situation in a deck list or tournament report a basic discussion of overall pacing and the use of key cards in the deck is hardly too much to ask for. Yet most decks simply list 80 cards and a stronghold plus a snippet of action from a key turn in a tournament game.
To use a much simpler analogy, it’s almost impossible for the beginning L5R player to “Level-UP” on her own. This represents a huge barrier to entering the game which in turn means we as current L5R players have fewer people to play with. As I realized this over time I often found myself wishing there was a website I could point new players towards that would provide at least a rudimentary catalogue of decks and strategy articles to help them improve a little on their own in between beatings at the hands of their more experienced cohorts. After several previous abortive attempts and a few decent articles published here and there I finally decided to tackle the problem head on.
In that vein I bring you The Cardboard Geisha Celestial Edition. Ideally this will be a series of articles designed to make it easier for players new and old to assimilate the Celestial Edition environment faster. At the very worst I promise a significant number of deck lists and play guides because I’m fairly addicted to building L5R decks. Please keep in the mind the usual disclaimer that we’re free to disagree and you can always stop reading if you think I’m a total moron whose understanding and insights are dwarfed by your own.
As a final note and one I’ll try not to mention too often, the composition and publication of these articles are sponsored by the Hairy Tarantula Comics and Games in Toronto, Canada. As a result of this fine company’s sponsorship I can write these articles and still eat! In exchange for this incredible arrangement I’ve been asked to point you towards their online card store Kyuden Tarantula. There you’ll find cheap Celestial Edition singles for all your L5R deck building needs. There is of course absolutely no requirement that you purchase anything from the store to read these articles but we’d be much obliged if you chose to do so the next time you needed singles.
With all that out of the way I figured we’d better dive right in. In that spirit I’d like to share my early impressions of what I think will be ten high impact cards from Celestial Edition. Please keep in mind that this list includes cards released in the CE base set only. If this list included all the cards currently legal you can bet cards like Low Stance, Game of Sincerity, Final Duty, Chugo Seido and Imperial Adjudication would have at least cracked the honorable mention slot. The list is in reverse order, meaning we’ll start with the least important and work our way to the most important card in the set.
Honorable Mention) Shiro Daidoji - When making this list I tried to confine myself to cards that multiple clans and deck types could take advantage off. After all it would take a truly incredible card to be environment defining if only one Clan could play it, wouldn’t it? Shiro Daidoji is that card. For starters 7 province strength is pretty amazing and one wonders if the overall power of military swarm deck types won’t make the increase necessary for honor decks to succeed in early Celestial. On top of that you pile a mass force pump trait on all defending Samurai, throwing Crane’s force to gold cost ratios all out of whack. Finally you add a battle action that’s both kill and provides an honor gain! This is flat out the best stronghold in Celestial Edition and the runner up isn’t even close. Crane players should count their blessings every time they reveal this card to start a match.
10) Yarijutsu – While occasionally the popularity of the “Weapons” package in CE will create problems for this card overall Yarijutsu is one of the most reliable kill actions in the set. Most of the best military decks in the environment run followers rather than weapons anyways and Yarijutsu goes right through them. Additionally because Weapons decks make much better use of Secluded Outpost than Follower decks, it’s possible to use Yarijutsu on the defensive; something that almost never happens with its counterpart Peasant Vengeance. Finally because a bowed Weapon still contributes force to it’s personality you won’t be totally screwed when your opponent Duty’s a boxable to save his key personality like with most kill actions. Expect Yarijutsu to be very popular in both honor and certain types of military decks.
9) Outer Walls – The very best blitz/swarm decks in the environment are capable of taking a province on their second turn with frightening consistency. If they went first and are willing to wait until turn three, it’s quite easy for them to take two provinces instead. You can of course defend against these attacks unless they have Cavalry units, like say Phoenix and Unicorn. Outer Walls provides breathing room against both of these powerhouse military decks. When you consider its utility against popular cards like Retribution and Unwavering Assault its value simply increases. What really seals the deal however is its ability to mess with ranged attacks in the mid-late game. There are going to be a LOT of decks running Final Duty, Taoist Archers and other sundry ranged 4’s in this environment. While Outer Walls won’t be in every deck, for many decks it will be the key to surviving the early game in Celestial’s infancy.
8) Steel on Steel – With the way focus values have moved in this set Steel on Steel basically says “target a personality with lower chi than your dude, cycle the top 3 cards of your fate deck to the bottom of your deck in any order… kill the wabbit!” It has become nigh impossible for a non dueling deck to win a duel started by someone with two or even one higher chi and the card set encourages military players to meta against the result of the duel (dead personality) rather than the duel itself. This of course makes Steel on Steel VERY powerful and since everyone absolutely loves dueling I don’t anticipate any complaining whatsoever as decks with high chi cut down 10 Force Oni with impunity. Yeah right, people are going to hate this card all over again which makes it number eight on the list.
7) Fury of the Dark Lord – Those asleep at the wheel will not have noticed the subtle change to the wording of Fury of the Dark Lord but somehow I doubt it will escape the scrutiny of Spider Clan players. That’s correct; this card no longer touches Shadowlands boxable personalities. This has turned Fury from the bane of Spider Breeder players everywhere into a powerful weapon for Daigotsu’s minions. Additionally a number of the high honor clans run few boxables and Fury because their mid ranged personalities simply have better battle actions (Crane and Dragon come to mind). Because military decks that go second rely so heavily on cheap personalities to make up the turn gap against these deck types a mini “Wrath of God” effect can have devastating results. It’s important to keep in mind that the nature of Celestial Edition gold schemes allows this card to be played reliably as early as turn three!
6) Secluded Outpost/Diamond Mine – I’m already noticing a natural resistance for players to play with holdings that cost 6 gold in the early days of Celestial Edition. It seems many people are theorizing that it’s better to buy two holdings on turn 1 to allow for gold splitting in the late game. With all due respect, these people are completely wrong. The absence of any sort of holding destruction card in the format makes hitting a turn one Outpost/Diamond Mine as good or better than hitting a turn one clan holding and a second holding. This in turn puts less pressure on your Border Keep in the early game, allowing you to focus on “mulliganing” towards superior draws rather than “a Gold Mine”. Redundancy is the soul of consistency and it’s never a bad idea to have multiple good turn 1 draws. As a side note, Outpost essentially makes 8 gold, that’s E-I-G-H-T on almost every turn in the right deck. That’s disgusting! Virtually every deck in Celestial Editon will be running one of these two cards (sorry Lion players) and some lucky Clans (see Dragon) can reliably run both.
5) Oni-Daikyu – In battle, there’s almost nothing you can possibly do that’s better than just flat out killing your opponent’s biggest card. Whether it’s a giant Berserker or an Imperial Elite Guard, Oni-Daikyu specializes in making big cards go boom. Particularly effective against weapon decks because they help create bigger targets, don’t discount the value of the ranged 3 attack it can produce against smaller followers too. The only thing keeping this card from being more important is the need to have a 2-3 Force personality to attach it to making it a difficult include for decks that run Fury/Census as a general rule.
4) Rout – In an environment defined by which attachment type a deck is rocking, a card that destroys attachments has incredible value. By destroying a given attachment a player is able to negate a huge number of battle actions in CE, on the attachments themselves, on key personalities who trigger off attachments (Hida Hikita, Mirumoto Satobe) and even in your opponents fate hand (Peasant Vengeance, Yarijutsu). The fact that you can pay 1G to destroy an 8G follower is so ridiculous in CE that it doesn’t MATTER if your opponent negates the send home effect. Early on this card will define military on military match ups in particular.
3) Duty – It’s probably starting to dawn on you that Celestial Edition is an extremely “fatal” environment. There are simply a massive number of useable cards that outright kill enemy personalities, both in battle and on the limited phase. While many of these cards have moderate restrictions it’s pretty easy to build a deck that can essentially kill a limited number of personalities regardless of size or attachments over a given game. Your opponents ARE going to do exactly that so wouldn’t it be nice to be able to force them to waste their best actions on your least important personalities? With any luck they might even run out of ways to kill your good ones that way. This is where Duty comes in. Opponent just paid 22 Gold to kill your Kuon with a Taoist Archer? No, you sacrifice Hida Kaoru to a Duty instead and save Kuon. You probably don’t need to be a math major to realize your opponent didn’t want to pay 22 Gold to kill a 6 Gold boxable. It’s also a little known fact that you CAN use a Duty in response to Fury of the Dark Lord, allowing you to sacrifice a recently purchased naked Samurai and save your key boxable with expensive attachments from the Fury. With the only restriction being that it requires you to run some disposable Samurai personalities, Duty is a lock for the number three spot.
2) Control – Would you trade 3 Gold, a Fate card and your worst personality in play for the right to ensure your opponents beefy Unique with a huge attachment never unbows again? Of course you would! The bane of big unit military decks everywhere (and there are a surprising number of them) Control is literally environment warping. Particularly devastating when combined with Open bowing actions like Defensive Nature there’s still a reasonable argument for including this card in every deck that can support the Samurai requirement. This is magnified when you realize there is absolutely NO way to move attachments from one unit to another without assigning both units to battle, something that Control of course prevents by ensuring the personality does not straighten. Sure, there are answers (Private Whispers, Price of Innocence, Defensive Nature all come to mind) but a great number of clans do not have access to those answers. Additionally the player running Control can combine it with Duty to make it even HARDER to deal with this card without an Open bowing effect. Truly a feast or famine option this card will be useless in some matchups but it will be game wrecking FAR more often than not, making it the second highest impact card in Celestial Edition.
1) Border Keep – Without a doubt this is the card that makes or breaks Celestial Edition. While the going theory on this card seems to be “No more gold screw” I’m of the mind that this card is way more important than that. Used properly I believe Border Keep can be used to push decks towards ridiculous opening/early game draws, creating an environment our playgroup has affectionately dubbed “L5R on steroids”. This card is so important I’ve already started working on a separate Border Keep theory article to be published soon. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that the winners and losers at this year’s GenCon may very well be decided by who better understands the way this card has changed L5R forever. Love it or hate it Border Keep defines Celestial Edition in a way no other card in the set can possibly match.
Well that’s all for now, I should probably get some sleep before work in the morning! I promise we’ll start looking at completed decks soon but for now I hope these early observations help readers get an idea of the overall shape of the early Celestial Environment. Please feel free to email me any questions/observations at
, after all If you don’t how will I write cop-out reader mailbag articles later when I’m too lazy to write a real article? Until then keep it weird folks and welcome to the jungle!
Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 July 2009 04:21