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by ArchitectGaming
5 months ago  (5 months ago)
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Houston Kotei Writeup/Report (5th-8th)

Hey there, my name is Trevor Holmes (@ArchitectGaming) and this is my writeup/report for my Top Lion deck playing Dragon/Charge/HMT that I used to get my 2nd Lion Hatamoto and a Top 8 finish at Kotei Houston. I went 6-1 in Swiss, losing only to the winner, Shen (@Shenful) and unfortunately lost to Palumbo (@Bayushi Sukune) in the top cut, both playing Scorpion. Dan Mui (@Handsome Dan) was one of a group of players that tested with me and he took a similar list to a Top 4 finish. Notable Swiss victories were against Dan and Fro (@SirLargeness). Take that Fro you majestic sunglasses indoors wearing beast.

This is going to be a long one, just a forewarning. To make things easy I’ll break the report up into two parts: part 1 will focus on prep, thought process and opinions going into the event, and part 2 will be a round by round report of the event itself. Feel free to CTRL + F Part 1, Part 2 or Conclusion to jump around.

Part 1: Prep

Work for Houston started as soon as Hisu Mori Toride was spoiled, HMT from this point on. My test group consisted of a few other Lions that planned on going to Houston, along with a few active members of the Discord to keep things focused. The goal for Houston was fairly straightforward for me; I couldn’t win any prizes I didn’t already have, having taken 2nd at Grand Kotei Philadelphia (Pax Unplugged) last November, and Hot Tomato status isn’t of value to me, so even a victory would only net me a trophy as FFG don’t award travel vouchers to winners at the smaller Kotei events.

This meant I was playing for glory, and to prove a point. Lion Discord chat is great, but we are a prideful, stubborn bunch, meaning we have yet to come to a consensus on anything; splash, Restricted List card, stronghold, you name it. With Lion putting up poor results at the last few events a few players started to believe that you couldn’t do well playing the clan, so a small number of us set out to make a statement, and to show support for non-gated Kotei level events.
With that, testing began. Since Imperial Cycle I was on Tall Lion/Unicorn utilizing Miya Satoshi and a bunch of value generating effects to play a pseudo-Crab game with the aid of Lion’s excellent military pumps to threaten powerful breaks without having to devote too many resources to attack. I loved the deck and did very well with it for months, but it was a bad deck I was playing great. Not playing attachment hate is doable, but only in a shell that can win quickly and pressure the opponent. Lion/Unicorn did a lot of things, but it couldn’t consistently close fast enough for my tastes and lacked the raw power I knew I needed to compete.

From there we spent a good amount of time working through the splashes and configurations in an attempt to identify strengths and weaknesses. The three variables of Splash + Charge/FGG + HMT/Yojin no Shiro results in a ton of combinations, which meant the first part of our testing session revolved around honing on the individual merits of each approach. I could spend 3000+ words just outlining the philosophical differences of each of these variables, and did, in the form of regular note dumps to the clan chat, but for now I’ll keep it VERY brief.

Breakdown

Yojin no Shiro (YnS) is, by definition a situational/one-dimensional stronghold. The effect scales with the number of conflict participants, but the effect and the value of the effect have an inverse relationship. By that I mean that generally the greater the effect YnS provides (more guys to pump) the less relevant/influential the effect is (difference between 20 and 24 skill). Our opponents can ignore our one military attack a turn in favor of controlling the other three conflicts. We become predictable and easy to beat. Alternatively, HMT forces our opponent into military conflicts on defense and punishes them for military pokes, essentially ‘harpooning’ them into fighting us where we are strong. If they try to avoid our military conflicts we’ll double up, resulting in more province breaks, ring effects and an easier time claiming the favor. We force them to spend resources that they were rather use on other fronts, resulting in ‘free’ value and an easier time competing in the areas where we are weak.

Charge vs. FGG isn’t unanimous, but it is getting there. FGG needs no explanation, but by nature it is a high risk/high reward effect. Successfully getting one off can be a huge swing in board position and usually translates to a win, but if disaster strikes (Rally to the Cause or Public Forum in the row) it usually signals our defeat. Charge provides a similar effect (‘cheating’ value onto the table) but doesn’t offer the sustained value that FGG suggests. That being said, at the basest level Charge helps us win conflicts and FGG does not, which puts me firmly in the Charge camp, even without factoring in YnS vs. HMT. I concede that FGG is ‘better’ alongside YnS, as the stronghold suggests a go wide approach to utilize its ability better, but that type of thinking is dangerous, because even though FGG might be better alongside YnS, the conditions of the meta might heavily favor a Charge/HMT approach. I don’t subscribe to generalizations of Lion strategy or playstyle, but if I had to generalize, YnS is the swarm variant while HMT is the ‘thinking man’s Lion deck’.

As for splash, we worked methodically but quickly to hone in on a ‘best deck’ for each Lion playstyle. Unicorn was quickly abandoned due to my prior experience with the deck, and I spent a little time on Crab, Phoenix and Scorpion before arriving at Dragon for Charge/HMT and Crane for YnS/FGG. Quickly, Crab was enticing for access to covert (Hiruma Skirmisher) power (Stoic Gunso) and sustain (Reprieve) but this splash ended up only highlighting our strengths without doing anything to shore up our weaknesses, which generally is what you should be looking for in your splash. Phoenix and Scorpion were cute but generally weak and clunky. Crane is better suited to protect FGG with cancels and relies on a few big plays to win the game (FGG/Noble Sacrifice) so activating YnS only once or twice is fine to help push through that important too. Dragon with Charge for HMT is a more streamlined, consistent ‘midrange’ deck, focusing on getting an advantage and holding on to momentum with a focus on turn 1 above everything else.

My main testing partner (@Padula) is a greatLion/Crane player, so we spent weeks debating the merits of both approaches. He went 4-3 missing challenger barely to Dan, and of the various Lion/Crane lists around I like his the best. In the end I decided on Dragon splash myself, as Dragon was our main focus during testing. Scorpion has the most results because currently Scorpion has more top-level talent, but Dragon is the best deck in the proper hands, so that’s where we started.

Dragon Matchup

Attacking Dragon is difficult, as it is impossible to consistently fight the Niten Master draw without losing value somewhere. They have Let Go for our Cloud’s and Finger of Jade for targeted effects, and Pathfinder’s Blade laughs at Shameful Display, Feast or Famine and Art of War. It is almost impossible to race Dragon thanks to PFB and the ability to throw at the very least a 5/5 into almost every conflict, and they are set up to outvalue us with Swordsmith and a ton of other great cards. This is known.

Dragon is not without weaknesses, however. Dishonoring Niten Master can blunt an initial attack, send homes are a cheap, powerful tool if you can clear the Finger of Jade barrier, and bankrupting them can cripple their hand. The composition of our conflict deck is built first and foremost to match Dragon card for card on the first turn to try and nab the Favor. The courtier sub-theme is in effect here to support For Shame, which is an excellent ‘free’ card to eat a 1 fate Finger of Jade, soak up unbows or dishonor a 3 fate Niten Master, which is Plan A. Plan B is kicking Niten Master out of conflicts, which helps us trigger HMT and ‘outrace’ them to the Favor on the first turn. 3 Let Go plus a Miya Mystic on the dynasty side slightly favors us removing a T1 Pathfinder’s Blade, though we are prepared to defend both military and political with 5 fans of our own and A Legion of One to make a huge roadblock. If we can stall their initial rush and come out of the first turn with the Favor, Ujiaki and Charge/HMT value can usually pull us ahead. Goblin Sneak and Ageless Crone work to run our opponent out of fate as soon as possible, turning off Ancestral Daisho, Clouds and conflict characters and restricting their ability to Court Games/Banzai their Niten Master. If we force Dragon to play weapons to win military conflicts, they have access to less total stands to jump into more conflicts.

Crab

Perhaps surprising to some, Crab is HMT Lion’s absolute best matchup, even better than Crane, which explains Crab’s poor showing at Houston, an event where Lion tied for most popular clan. The Dragon variants absolutely crush Crab in every aspect of the game. Let Go their early Spyglass, Sneak away their fate and half of their hand is shut off on the first turn. I’ve gone deep here and done the math, Crab’s conflict deck is unbearably greedy and stealing their fate stops them from getting the Spylass/Mountain/Gaijin Customs engine going. I trigger HMT turn 1 in this matchup often and can get solid breaks on both military and political. With the favor I start attacking their honor as Crab can’t survive bidding low with situational cards like Rebuild and Gaijin Customs clogging up their hand. Meanwhile, 37 of our cards interact with conflicts (3 of the 37 are Let Go) meaning all of our draws are straight gas working towards winning conflicts and triggering HMT.

Scorpion

Scorpion, unfortunately, is our worst matchup, which was realized a little too late in testing for my liking. Their dynasty side is weak, but that doesn’t matter as their conflict deck, province row and stronghold are all the best in the game. It is almost impossible to break Cache/Shameful/Pilgrimage/Meditations without giving up tons of value or overextending, both of which Scorpion can punish. Some Scorpions are putting Rally in the row which can catch unprepared Lions, though I am always attacking political against unrevealed provinces. Scorpion has a much harder time vs. wide strategies and while HMT isn’t ‘Tall’, the free +2-3 military skill from YnS is missed the most here. Toshiro is our best card against them, and Cunning Magistrate with a ton of dishonor is their best way to cheaply neuter our attacks. Dan split his 2 matches against Scorpion and I went 1-2 on the weekend.

Part 2: Report

Rd. 1 – Dragon – Erick (1-0)
This match was fairly straightforward and I don’t remember much of it. He didn’t get the Niten Master draw which forced him to play fair, but my draws were all gas which let me control the pace of the game and keep Favor. Going into the second turn with my Ujiaki live and his Sumiko dead is the best way to win the matchup. Six conflict characters and 5 attachments means I’m 72% to have two or more in an 8 card hand, so bid 4 when going first and even if you hit Resto on the 25% you are only discarding two cards, which is fine when our conflict deck is so smooth.

Rd. 2 – KI Phoenix – Jeremy (2-0)
This match was a clinic in the persistence of HMT Lion. Jeremy had the nuts early, getting Uona and bowing my guys for 3 turns while I couldn’t find a Ready for Battle and he kept Uona going with extra copies on his 2nd and 3rd flop. He had double Embrace the Void to keep things going, Kanjo District went live at one point and played Prodigy of the Waves with two fate on back to back turns. He even hit Maze of Illusion twice in a row to bow both attackers in a critical conflict, and I STILL was able to turtle up, outlast his board and be threatening a double break by time, at which point he conceded to his credit. This game was amazing and showcased the power of the conflict deck helping to keep me in it.

Rd. 3 – Scorpion – Johnny Shen (2-1)
Shen flopped Palace on Shameful Display and I didn’t get two cheap guys, which set we way back early. Turn 2 I flopped a holding, Keeper, Ujiaki and Toturi I think and was forced to buy Toturi with 2 fate even though it felt atrocious. Turn 3 he flopped four holdings but he was miles ahead by that point and it barely slowed him down. Shen played tight as always but my deck really didn’t let me compete, still I know enough about his skill and the matchup to know that even with a great draw I would have had a hard time winning. There are paths to victory, and Toshiro and cause them problems (as can Ageless Crone with fans) but we are disadvantaged in the matchup to say the least.

Rd. 4 – Scorpion – Scott (3-1)
This match went way better, as my cheap guys gave Scott fits. Playing conflict characters with fate is so important in this matchup as it lets us play a cheap guy and pass going into the second turn. Don’t be shy to put two fate on a Crone, especially if Toshiro drew out an early Assassination. Also be careful doubling up on A Legion of One, they are much more likely to Cunning Magistrate and blank it then beat us on skill, and we need the bodies to initiate conflicts and threaten Charge/Spiritcalling in. Our best plays are sneaking in a Crone with a fan to blow up a Shameful Display, put the favor on political in this matchup always.

Rd. 5 – Lion – Dan Mui (4-1)
The pseudo mirror, my deck is a bit more focused while Dan is playing a few more singletons and isn’t running the Kitsuki’s Methods. The Lion mirror is very swingy, full of big effects and forcing your opponent to have it. He had the RFB for my LPB while I didn’t have one for his until turn 3 or 4, which put me pretty behind. I bought Toturi with 2 fate on one turn which helped me turtle up and outlast Dan’s board. He went water on one conflict thinking my honored Toturi didn’t have a fate, but I still think it was the right play as I would have defended with Toturi to stop the break and then went water to unbow on my attack. Weird game as he had the favor for a while and never saw Ujiaki, while I never saw a Charge and went 20 cards before finding a Ready for Battle. The Lion mirror can be tilting but is still pretty fun and tense.

Rd. 6 – Crane – Fro (5-1)
Satoshi and the fans dominated this one, letting me fight his Guest of Honor + 3 fate and utilize cheap dudes and pumps to control the military conflicts. Satoshi hit Palace, which I set on Shameful, but it should have just gone on Manicured. I knew I was telegraphing Shameful’s location as I’m pretty sure Manicured was already revealed and he knew I wouldn’t put it on Art of War or Feast or Famine, but I wanted to protect Favor as he would have been set up to rush it with a big political attack eventually and he would need a Yoshi trigger to pull ahead in the matchup. I stuck two fans on Satoshi and got him honored, which let me defend long enough to wear him down and outlast Guest. There was a window where he got Satoshi dishonored with 1 fate still on him but he must not have had the Noble Sac, and even if he did I think I was pressuring him at that point. He played really well but the matchup went as it usually does. Crane has some potential to be scary but they need to turn the corner quick or they fall apart.

Rd. 7 – KI Phoenix – Mike (6-1)
I think I was firmly Top Lion at this point as Padula and Dan were both X-3 at this point, but I wanted to win to get a second Lion in as challenger more than I wanted to get in myself. Lion tied for most represented so getting two in to the cut would send a message that Lion was real. It’s easy to lose sight of the picture when the cut is shown as 3 Scorpion 2 Dragon 2 Crane 2 Lion 1 Phoenix 1 Crab 1 Unicorn. In reality the cut is 2 Scorpion, 1 Crane, 1 Dragon, 1 Lion, plus the 7 that get added in at every event. The story of this event was definitely Crab’s beating at the hands of Lion and Crane’s solid performance in the hands of Balthis and Fro.

Anyways, this matchup was also fairly straightforward, I was firmly ahead then Tadaka came along and turned the game into a grind until it died and I got to play again. Ujiaki and Spiritcaller really help, it shows the power of Tadaka that even with the favor and Ujiaki triggers it is tough to do anything underneath him. That’s Phoenix though, as my opponent said, the keys to beat them are on the table, as they basically choose your ring path for you.

Top 8 Match – Scorpion – Palumbo (loss)
I really wanted Dan’s side of the bracket, as he got Crane, then Dragon, then Crane again while I had to face Scorpion. Dragon does busted things but it’s absolutely easier than Scorpion in the hands of a great pilot. Things were going okay with Palumbo but he saw a ton of early Bayushi Liar which helped him stay ahead of me on cards. I think I got an early break but couldn’t apply pressure fast enough. I knew with the Liars I would get run over if I bid too low too early, so I started going for air ring on turn 2 and dropped my bids starting on turn 3. Still, Scorpion is favored the longer the game goes as they just take us lower and lower with their box and I couldn’t get a meaningful Ujiaki or Charge off. The last turn ended with Palumbo basically out of answers and forced to AFWTD a Matsu Berserker to stop my military, and then Cunning Magistrate with his last 3 fate just for the 2 skill to stop my political. This stopped me from getting a Keeper in and honoring a dishonored guy which let him go unopposed Blackmail Artist on air to take me from 4 to 0.

Conclusion

My only losses on the weekend were to the champion (Shen), and Palumbo (who won at Atlanta), both playing Scorpion, the best deck in the hands of a skilled pilot. The field was stacked and everyone in the cut was a Hatamoto from a previous event. I heard 10 of the 65 were Hat at one point during the season which is pretty rough for the average player to fight through. I would have done a card by card analysis but anyone interested in individual card thoughts can drop by the Discord chat and dive into the copious notes that are collected there. Moving forward I’ll be testing Crab with StD and a few other options. I’m not excited about dropping answers to attachments but StD could be pretty rough for Scorpion to fight through and might help pave the way for Charges to land, though I’m not sure if we can afford the honor loss. Definitely puts a clock on us in that matchup if we use it. Big thanks to Handsome Dan, Padula, Bill, Brood, and Tenerim. Special thanks to Danwarr for turning me around on 7th Legion/Methods and Matsu Kenshin for the Indomitable Will tech. More thoughts on Lion incoming, but if I plan on keeping the meme going I’ll probably be giving up hatamoto at gencon. 😉

Thanks for reading,
Trevor Holmes
ArchitectGaming on Discord/Jigoku
www.etsy.com/shop/ArchitectGaming

comment Comments
good shit bro!
Put some bling on your deck and add a kotei placement, you deserve it!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaApn0OXsMY
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Keeper of Air
Organized Play Role
Increase your deck building influence value by 3.
After you win an conflict as the defending player - gain 1 fate.
Seeker of Air
Organized Play Role
You may replace 1 province of any element with an additional province while deck building.
After an province you control is revealed - gain 1 fate.
Keeper of Earth
Organized Play Role
Increase your deck building influence value by 3.
After you win an conflict as the defending player - gain 1 fate.
Seeker of Earth
Organized Play Role
You may replace 1 province of any element with an additional province while deck building.
After an province you control is revealed - gain 1 fate.
Keeper of Fire
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Increase your deck building influence value by 3.
After you win a conflict as the defending player - gain 1 fate.
Seeker of Fire
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You may replace 1 province of any element with an additional province while deck building.
After an province you control is revealed - gain 1 fate.
Keeper of Void
Organized Play Role
Increase your deck building influence value by 3.
After you win a conflict as the defending player - gain 1 fate.
Seeker of Void
Organized Play Role
You may replace 1 province of any element with an additional province while deck building.
After an province you control is revealed - gain 1 fate.
Keeper of Water
Organized Play Role
Increase your deck building influence value by 3.
After you win a conflict as the defending player - gain 1 fate.
Seeker of Water
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You may replace 1 province of any element with an additional province while deck building.
After an province you control is revealed - gain 1 fate.
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Increase your deckbuilding influence value by 8.
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Increase your deckbuilding influence value by 8.
You may only spend influence on clan cards.
Support of the Unicorn
Increase your deckbuilding influence value by 8.
You may only spend influence on clan cards.
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