I’m desperately fighting off the depredations of jet lag at the moment, having just gotten back to Ireland, so I beg your indulgence in ignoring any typos, omissions or streams of consciousness that pop up in the course of this post. I’m just going to give a quick report on the final day, before moving onto the decklist, the reasons for things being in there, and my replies to points raised on the mailing lists (at least the ones I can remember). This is really long, but I do hope that you persevere, as I would like my actions to be understood in their fullness.
Round 1, vs Adam Jones, TA dishonour.
Adam is a good friend of mine, and it sucks having to play him in the first round. We each know what the other is playing, which only makes matters worse for me, as I’m playing Hantei. I had a long argument with myself the night before about the moral pros and cons of using a first turn Hantei on Adam. In the end, in an attempt to achieve some sort of objective standard that was in keeping with the game, I asked myself what Miyamoto Musashi or Sun Tzu would have done in the same situation. The answer was quick in coming.
I went first, Hantei’d for Breach (losing the Wind’s Truth in return, as expected), brought up Kossori and other stuff. For the first couple of turns I built resources, culminating in getting a Void Dragon out (iirc). I had the option of bringing the Dragon out corrupt with a Portents in my hand for a guaranteed province next turn, but I brought it out clean, sacrificing further development on my side of the board. Next turn, Adam flipped Iris Festival. We both looked at each other, said ‘Karma’, and continued the game. I removed most of his personalities, and went for the kill over a few turns. I was hit for honour quite a bit, finishing on pos 1, but the outcome was never in doubt once the Dragon hit. 1-0, and feeling upset at knocking Adam out.
Round 2 vs Jorge, Corrupt Phoenix PD, Sacred Temples
I had a bad feeling about this round at the start of this game, and not without cause, as it transpired. We both built for the first few turns, my start being the better one. I got the Wasting Disease on Osugi, and a Water Dragon, who took one province. Both were Touch of Deathed in return, and he brought in a corrupt Isawa Tsuke naive. On my turn, I Mastered Tsuke, and used him to Ambush one of his guys, using the Favour to negate the loss. On the next turn, he Mastered Tsuke back!! I Walked, and my Hochiu then attempted to ambush Tsuke, ‘in an attempt to atone for the sins of the father,’ but it was not to be. Jorge Portentsed twice at the battle, killing Hochiu, and all bar one of my people. I brought in three more that turn, including Kitsu Osen to kill one of his guys, and said done. Next turn, he attached the Phoenix Sword to Tsuke, and killed Osen. I Wind’s Truthed the loss from the Sword to him. He brought in Isawa Mitori. Things were looking pretty grim. On my turn, four more people, I think, including Shiba Raigen, I played the Ring of Air, and said done. He attached The Wasting Disease to Mitori, corrupting him, and attempted to Waste on of my people, which I redirected with Ring of Air. Jorge groaned when I did that, having completely forgotten about it. Tsuke attempted to kill one of my people, but Raigen saved the day, though he died to the murderous Master of Fire. I Rose and did stuff, bringing more people in. My next turn, I Favoured a card. I drew a Walking the Way. I Walked for The Purity, and blew his guys up. Despite this setback for him, he managed to stabilize the game. By this time, we had both run out of Dynasty decks. However, my Sword was still in my fate deck, and it would certainly turn the game when it came up. That never happened, though, as time was called at the end of a tense and intense game. I had 28 honour, a Ring and a Province taken. Jorge had, iirc, 6 honour, no rings and no provinces. I took the game, but it was the closest game I had all day. 2-0, and feeling better. Until I saw the pairings for the next round.
Round 3 vs Brian Mulcahy, Crab Dishonour.
Great. An Irish player. We both muttered about how much it sucked, and started to play. Once again, I Hantei’d Breach first turn, once again losing The Wind’s Truth. I got a good start, and it looked like I would romp it after fourth turn Norikazu took his Secrets, but Brian played exceptionally, and I found myself in potentially big trouble in the mid-game, with Yakamo xp2 with the Jade Throne and the False Tao attached (which was wrecking my RoV). Osen saved the day, though, with the aid of The Wasting Disease. Apparently, none of the Crab had questioned how Yakamo could be shining from the Heavens and hefting around a throne at the same time. The game turned dramatically, and I won a few turns later. 3-0, and feeling really upset now.
Round 4 vs Jason (I think) Tactician Lion.
I got a good start, and built quickly. Jason’s was slow, however. On about the third or fourth turn, his Desperate Measures came up. I had an Avoid, but was so more developed than he was, and the honour hit would drop him to 2. I let it go. I had a Wind’s Truth in hand for Lies, Lies, Lies…, but he didn’t play one. The honour hit stalled him, and next turn I ambushed his Gunjin with Hosigeru. I sent Gunjin Home with the favour, and used my Wind’s Truth to give him the loss, figuring he would have used Lies the previous turn. He was now at negative three. I Hantei’d his Lion Sword, as there was a greater chance of him getting it from Imperial Gift, or drawing it, than getting a Lies. I once again lost the Wind’s Truth. A couple of turns later, he got his Gift, went to negative 1, realised that he couldn’t get above 0 quickly enough to make a difference (there was a Dragon on the table), and conceded. 4-0. Feeling a bit better about things again.
Round 5 vs Vu, Spawning Pits PD
I went first. The first card I turned over was Hochiu. Fair enough. Next the Air Dragon. Not good. Next Taeruko. Much better. Then Inheritance. I looked up at my opponent, praying that I didn’t hear the word ‘Avoid’, but he waved me to play on. I Hantei’d him for Portents. In response, he named Kitsuki Kaagi’s Journal. Both people up, up to ten honour. Taeruko fetched in his turn, which was a disaster for him, as he only got 4gc onis and a Shadowlands Marsh, and then the big decision. I had two portents in my hand. I could bring up a dark Dragon. But that went against the manner I had played in up till now. However, it would certainly turn the game, potentially preventing a Shadowlands victory in Jigoku, and saving the Empire’s armies there. I turned to my second, and asked him ‘Is it honourable to corrupt a Dragon in order to destroy the Shadowlands?’ He pondered for a few seconds, then said ‘Yes’. I fetched with Taeruko, brought up a caravan. Then I brought the Dragon in corrupt. His turn yielded nothing but gold. Vu was upset, and understandably so. He brought up his stuff, and gave me the table. The rest of the game went quickly. The Dragon took two provinces with Portents, only to be killed by a second Kolat Assassin, the first having murdered Raigen. I got the sword onto one of the three Hochius I had brought out, one other having died to kill The Nameless One, whose soul now resembled the twisted shell in which it resided. The third Hochiu ambushed Jama Suru the turn after the Water Dragon had hit the table, removing his only defender by bowing him in a duel, resulting in mutual death. Vu dishonoured the Water Dragon with Dark Lords Favor. I assigned to battle, rehonoured the Dragon and destroyed the final Horde Province. The final had been a real anti-climax, having been horribly one-sided. But such is fickle luck 🙁
There has been a lot of controversy over whether this deck is corrupt or not. Having taken a look at a lot of the posts on the subject, the argument, I think, seems to come down very much to the spirit of corruption against the definition of corruption. If you wish to choose the definition of corruption, then the deck is not corrupt, as it features no Shadowlands or Ninja cards. However, as the more interesting and contested area is the spirit of corruption, that’s the area I’ll concentrate on.
First up: the Kolat. Kolats are bad, as we all know. They all have dash honour requirements, their actions cause honour losses, and Toturi the first doesn’t like them at all. On the other hand, the Kolat have been fighting an underground war against the Shadow for centuries, and are at the very least indirectly responsible for averting the Shadow from a complete victory. So how do you weigh up the relative merits (and demerits) of Kolat cards? Kolat Master is considered a ‘bad’ card: it causes an honour loss. However, Isawa Osugi, a Kolat agent and author of the False Tao gets you four honour when brought in for full. Both are parts of the Kolat, yet produce radically different effects in the game, practically opposite effects. Admittedly, Osugi does not have the Kolat trait for game mechanics, but as that area of argument yields a non-corrupt deck by those rules, it is not an area that is really relevant. In the milieu of the story, both are as heroic, or reprehensible, as each other, depending on which side of the fence you are on. Similarly, there is Shiba Gensui. A Kolat Agent, but one who has fought the Shadow well. So how do you judge how honourable an individual or an action is?
Honour, from what I have gathered and pondered about, is an approach to life dictating that the means justify the end. The rules are everything, without them there is nothing. This contrasts with the outlook of other groups within the Empire, that being, unsurprisingly, that the end justifies the means. This is the case with the Kolat, certainly the case with the Crab Clan, and I would also hazard that it is the fundamental approach of the Phoenix Clan as well. As much, if not more in certain ways, the Phoenix are as pragmatic as the Crab. When Fu Leng returned, the Phoenix took it upon themselves to locate the Black Scrolls to divine as much as possible from them about the enemies the Empire faced, full knowing the price their clan might pay. What good is honour if there is no Empire to bear it? This is certainly my take on the philosophy of the Phoenix, and it is the philosophy that guides my deckbuilding for storyline tournaments.
I realize, of course, that this may not run concurrently with other people’s idea of the Phoenix. In particular, I refer to the oft quoted ‘Choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil’ from the Shiba War Banner. With my Shiba hat on, so to speak, this holds absolutely true to the family’s ideals. As an Isawa, I can find little more preposterous. Evil is a relative term used to describe the things that hurt us, and while notions of good and evil are strong socializing forces, ultimately, there is only power. Notions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, ‘honour’ and ‘corruption’ can only exist and grow, essentially as luxuries, in an established area of power, the Empire. There are times when ‘honour’ and ‘good’ are weaknesses that can kill, and in this storyline, I wanted, and needed, from a more practical point of view, to represent that ambiguity, an ambiguity which, for me, defines what it is I love most about the Phoenix (and the Crab).
2x Shiba Gensui
3x Kolat Master
I have made my points about the Kolat, to be agreed or disagreed with as you wish. From my point of view, they are agents who act outside of the boundaries of Rokugani society (hence the honour-losses) but are a faction of power who have stridently fought the Shadow, and who have helped the Phoenix directly. They may be dishonourable to many, but they work to protect the Empire, and in such a time of need as the Battle against the Shadow, to refuse allies, especially powerful ones, is foolish.
Ambushes are an important part of military tactics. Are the Crane Honour decks that run three as standard dishonourable? And decks with Ambushes and Concealed Archers? If so, then how can one win a dishonourable honour victory? Only if honour is a game. If it is a game then it signifies artificiality, and would you call a Samurai’s honour artificial?
3x Evil Portents
The Battle at Oblivion’s Gate was a time of Evil Portents, for *all* the factions. Once again I refer to the honour deck that plays these as defence (which I was largely doing. I think I P.Bombed about twice in the whole tournament: it kills all my people too). They certainly were used offensively in the final, but were the Portents evil for the Shadowlands or the Phoenix?
The Wasting Disease
The 12th Black Scroll
Of all the cards, these two are the dodgiest, and I offer no excuses or explanations. They’re very powerful cards, so I played them.
The biggie. I brought him out corrupt to win the game quickly against a really strong deck versus mine. Power has its price, and in this case, it was the death of a Dragon (about which I am still feeling guilty). Once again, though I have to ask whether sticking to principles and possibly allowing Jigoku to fall to the Horde would have been an acceptable outcome.
Before shouting ‘Yes! It would have been cool!’, I would like to make one last point. Rokugan’s Samurai culture and religion is founded upon a disregard for death. Not necessarily a fearlessness, but the sure knowledge that an honourable death will earn a safe place in the afterlife. If Jigoku *had* fallen, then the afterlife would have become a place of terror for the Rokugani. So try and imagine the impact that a mortal terror of death would have on Rokugani culture, and all notions of honour and good.
They’d probably end up like us 😉
I’d just like to say thanks to a couple of guys who seem to have understood why I did what I did, Bob Yager and Joe Fulgham. There may be more, but I couldn’t face reading all the posts. Thank you.
Isawa Hochiu * Master of Fire
**Note: This was the last World Championship that was played under the Open Format deck building rules.**
The Winning Deck:
“P.A.G.O.D.A” (Phoenix Accelerated Gold Open Dragon Attack)
The Sacred Temples of the Phoenix
Dynasty Deck (41 cards)
1 Agasha Gennai (Experienced)
1 Air Dragon
3 Asako Hosigeru
1 Earth Dragon
3 Isawa Hochiu
1 Isawa Norikazu (Experienced)
1 Isawa Osugi
3 Isawa Taeruko
1 Kitsu Osen (Experienced)
3 Seppun Kossori
3 Shiba Raigen
2 Shiba Gensui
1 Void Dragon
1 Water Dragon
Fate Deck (41)