For those of you who read my ridiculously long Kotei report, this’ll be a bit shorter, mostly because I can’t remember as many details. It’s still ridiculously long, though. 🙂
I had won the region 10 Kotei (Toronto, Bright Winds Geisha House) back in April, using a tainted Scorpion blitz deck. The principle behind it was basically to ignore fate-side battle tricks in order to maximise the ability to take provinces early. Running Charge over Inner Fire is painful for a Scorpion, but I was confident it made for a stronger deck.
I knew there was still room for improvement on the deck, but I spent most of the time between Kotei and GenCon working on different decks.
Not long before GenCon, the first Battle in Otosan Uchi story was released, which had the Bright Winds story. After reading the story, I decided that tainted didn’t seem to be a lot more favourable than corrupt, so I had better either go clean or corrupt all the way. I spent a while working on clean decks, but I didn’t really find one I was happy with mechanically. I had also become a supporter of the Shadowed Tower faction of the Scorpion, and it seemed to me that the best way of supporting them, storyline wise, would be to run a corrupt deck — as long as the storyline guys went along with it.
So Tuesday night, put together a corrupt deck. It was built for maximum speed and for resilience against dishonour and Kolat, running Churai instead of Higatsuku, Zombie Troops, and Accessible Terrain.
Wednesday was the drive down, I arrived in Milwaukee without major incidents and hooked up with my posse on thursday. While my buddies slogged through the qualifiers (attendees will recall how long the Thursday ones dragged out), I played in an invitational tournament and got my ass handed to me. Two games were walk-over wins by me, the other 5 dragged out and I eventually lost. I decided that I had sacrificed too much flexibility for speed and that night put back in Higatsuku and Kharmic Strikes. Salt the Earth went in too, as well as Fall on your Knees, Kolat Assassin, and New Emerald Champion.
On Saturday, I was a bit nervous, to say the list. I hadn’t had much of a chance to try the latest version of the deck — I hadn’t played much L5R at all at the con yet. There was a big contingent from Toronto in the semi’s — my own crew having put in ‘Matsu’ Jay Vanwert (playing a brutal Lion honor runner/switch), Tim Sullivan (dragon honour), Alec Nickalls (KS almost-all-samurai), and myself. Apologies if I get any of the details of the games wrong — I’m working from memory. And I don’t remember anyones names until the top 8.
I was up against a Shiro Matsu deck. I Took the Initiative and got gold, which is usually game against any of the high honour clans. I got him down 3 provinces fairly quickly, using Bayushi Tai to minimise the number of personalities he got. He was left with a Matsu Hataki exp. with 2 Elite Infantry. I attacked, he defended, and killed enough of my guys (plus Stand Against the Waves bowing) that I had to play a charge just to get the draw. So we started again with no-one on the table, but with 3 provinces against 1, I was able to put out force and he wasn’t.
During the game, nerves cause me to forget to flip over my provinces twice and to forget to draw once.
1-0, MVP: Take the Initiative
I played against a corrupt Scorpion. He won the cut, and got a Yudoka and corrupt gold. On my turn, I got the Yudoka without the gold, and thought to myself that was in trouble. Second turn he got the Under-Hand and a Bayushi Paneki, I brought out gold (including corrupt gold) and sat there with Yudoka. He got revering the past 3rd turn, putting Shoju on Paneki. He Under-Handed me 3rd turn, saw a hand full of anti-honour meta, a Rikuganshokan, and 2 Outmaneuvered at Courts, so he attached his own Rikuganshokan to Bayushi Paneki and attacked, taking a province easily. Since he had Under-Handed me, I had one more honour, so I lobbied for the favour with Yudoka. I brought out a Bayushi Tai, a Kwanchai and more gold.
On his turn, he had to attack, and he forgot I had lobbied for the favour, so he attacked again. I favoured home Tai, and he Rallied Yudoka, which was a mistake. He brought out Paneki.
On my turn, I lobbied with Kwanchai, attached a Light Infantry to Yudoka and he and Tai went after a province. He knew my hand, so I guess his cards didn’t let him win the battle with just Paneki and Yudoka so he let me take the province. I Rallied and brought out a Paneki of my own.
Next turn he takes another province, attaching a heavy infantry to the same guy with Rikuganshokan and Rallying again. He outforces me by about 12 or so. On my turn, having no Rally, I sit there, bringing out Paneki exp.
His turn (turn 7), having to attack because of Rikuganshokan, he thinks a bit, then sends everyone at one province. He knows my hand, so he knows I can’t take all 3 of his on my turn. I defend everyone at the other province. I favour home the guy with Rikuganshokan, he crunches the province, doesn’t Rally. He starts to go on to dynasty phase, I ask to resolve my battle. He says sure. I use Paneki to bring the guy with Rikuganshokan in. He has no tricks and the guy dies. On my turn, I attach Rikuganshokan to Kwanchai and take all three of his provinces.
I think this is so cool I try to tell all my friends about it. Some manage to sit through the whole story.
2-0 MVP: Paneki exp, favour control
Round 3: Shadowlands.
Pkill-Oni is my best matchup, because the lack of followers means their force advantage is meaningless against the Towers, and Yudoka can bust Deadly Grounds if I’m out of Sup Strats. I go first, get a first turn Yudoka and 2 corrupt gold mines. Second turn I attach Light Infantry, Charge, and focus a 4, taking a province. I bring out the Under-Hand on turn 3, along with lots of force. It’s an absolute rout, although I play carefully so as to not make any mistakes. It’s pretty easy with the deck I’m using to get overconfident because you are outproducing the opponent, but if you lose a single battle it’s game over.
Afterwards I’m feeling pretty elated — the deck is working well. I’m on a wierd mixture of adrenaline, hunger and fatigue; naturally wired.
3-0 mvp: Yudoka. Second turn province, baby!
Round 4: Kyuden Agasha honour running.
I get a decent start, but he is able to hold me off early through In Search of the Future and Entrapping Terrain. My gold isn’t very robust, so I’m always just at the edge of being able to beat his forces. Early, I get a New Emerald Champion, giving it to Higatsuku, and making his Taeruko who has Cascading Fire and Torrential Rain the one who can bow him. She uses the Torrential Rain that turn, and next turn I Assassinate her.
He’s playing with the Phoenix chick who can cast a spell a turn without bowing and lots of big ranged attack spells — Cascading Fire and so forth. He loses 3 honour to Revering the Past, though, and he runs Crossroads instead of Campsite, so I’m not too worried, as long as he doesn’t get to use his spells for kill and then have his casters live somehow to cast again. I take casualties along the way, but I kill him while he’s still under 30 honour.
After the game, one of my friends from Toronto comes up to ask me the wording on Shosuro Yasuko. I tell him, he screams in anger and rushes off. For the next little while, until I meet him personally, I have the impression that Bryan Reese is a mad cheater.
4-0 MVP: New Emerald Champion
Round 5: Kosaten Shiro
I’m seated up in the single digit numbers. Next to me is, I believe, Vaughn Dederian, with a Shiba Halls dishonour deck, playing Brandon Flores, who I know from the Toronto Kotei. All of us are keenly aware of the fact that we probably only need to win one more game to make the finals.
And my opponent is nowhere to be seen.
Since I’m already so wired with adrenaline my hands are shaking while I hold the cards, you might imagine I had a little bit of difficulty sitting still and waiting. But, like a good boy, I did, and eventually my opponent arrives.
I remember nothing about this game. My nerves were on edge — I’m sure you understand. I think he was playing Kosaten Shiro, and I believe I Took the Initiative. It’s very hard for most honour runners to beat my deck if the go second.
5-0 MVP: Adrenaline
Round 6: Dragon honour.
In this game, I got my worst start of the tournament. First turn I got a Kwanchai (bought for full). Second turn, a Geisha House. Although we had both qualified for the finals at this point, I was not in any way relaxed. Because I didn’t have a chance to bring out people quickly, I couldn’t attack until turn 5, which is very late for my deck. One of the advantages of corrupt gold, however, is that a slow gold start is not as disadvantageous for your economy. I was able to bring out a lot of personalities, and used Bayushi Tai to select which provinces to take. One turn I believe I took 2 provinces, killing him on turn 7 at 30-something honour.
I was very pleased with this game, as it showed the deck didn’t necessarily need a good start to beat honour runners, which was a problem with the previous versions of the deck.
6-0 MVP: Bayushi Tai
Round 7: Spawning Grounds, Sau Huang
Sau is a buddy of mine from the Toronto tournament scene, and as the only undefeated players we knew we’d be matched up in this round, and play a relaxed, fun game. He gets the Emperor’s Under-Hand out, which is huge in these matchups, and he is running a lot of followers and Stand against the Waves, which my deck has problems dealing with. I get him down to 2 provinces to my 3 because of my speed advantage, (including winning a battle against 6 or so personalities without followers) but I can’t take more provinces because of a lack of a Rallying Cry. Eventually Imperial funeral and Suspicions resolve, at -18 honour I draw a Rally, I attack, and Stand owns my ass. He sits there and dishonours me out.:-)
The game wouldn’t have been as close if Sau had been able to draw a Rally at all. Then again, if I’d bothered to put in a Sanctified Temple, I might even have won.
Probably not, though. Sau would have drawn a few Rallies before I could climb up to 40 at 2 points/turn.
6-1. MVP: Kwanchai, for crazy bowing tech.
So, I qualify 6th overall. ‘Matsu’ Jay makes it in at 7th, and Alec at 30th or so. Sau is in, of course, at number one, and James Lippens, another Torontonian, makes it into the finals too, with the standard all-samurai KS crane. One-sixth of the GenCon finals are Toronto, baby! Jay gets matched up against Bryan Reese (and is warned about the ‘cheating tech’), Sau and Alec are against Shadowlands, and I get another Scorpion. The top 32 is held the same day, with the top 16 and beyond on Sunday.
The mirror match is, as usual, luck of the draw. He is also corrupt, I win the cut (and draw a Take too, just to be sure) and we both get good gold, but my only early personality is Kwanchai, who is the Emerald Champion (nobody can bow). He gets the Imperial Gift, but I have the Scorpion sword in my hand, so I attach it to Kwanchai on my turn, which drops his honour below mine, giving me favour control. With favour control, I can attack without a rallying cry, and I begin whittling down his provinces while he is unable to respond. Province advantage soon means I outforce him significantly, I get the underhand around turn 5, and I finish him off without serious trouble.
MVP: Scorpion sword for Favour control
All the other Toronto players get eliminated in the 32. I am sad. Sau played against Conrad Jackson, and got bad gold, Alec somehow lost 2 duels against the Shadowlands, and Jay wasn’t quite able to beat the Reese honour lock — although he had a shot at the military win.
I’m matched up against a Unicorn next round. I very much hope it’s an honour runner, not the Kolat style. I play in a broken Blades Sealed deck tournament, come in 6th and win some cards, then go back to the hotel to get 6 hours of sleep.
Top 16: Unicorn Utaku Palaces. The next day I am just as amped as before. I sit down to play the Unicorn and draw a Take, bringing out Yudoka and some corrupt gold. His turn, he gets two small farms and no other gold. From his personalities, it’s pretty clear he’s not an honour runner. On my second turn, Yudoka attacks, tacticians for 4, and charges. I love province strength of 5 :-). I bring out gold and a Kwanchai.
On his turn, he brings out Shinjo Xushen.
I attack on my turn with Yudoka and Kwanchai. I have a Sneak and a Superior Tactics, so if he defends, I’ll bow him with Kwanchai, tactician Yudoka, move him out, and tactician again at the different province. That’s the plan anyway. He defends, I Sneak/bow him. He shoots Yudoka with Arrows from the Woods. I think, oh well, a Kwanchai and a Yudoka for his only guy, no problem. I pass. He plays Inner Fire.
Boy, did I got owned.
Fortunately, he still has only 3 provinces and 7 gold, and it’s still my turn and I have plenty of gold, so I bring out Shosuro Higatsuku, Bayushi Tai, and another Kwanchai.
On his turn, he attaches Dead Eyes to Xushen (bowing his box) and takes a province with Xushen, the Dead Eyes, and a Charge.
On my turn, Kwanchai gets Rikuganshokan and I declare an attack. Xushen unbows but gets Outmaneuvered in Court, so he can’t defend. I take 2 provinces, bringing out gold.
His turn, he attacks, assigning Xushen as infantry, taking a province, and brings out Moto Chagatai.
On my turn (turn 5), Xushen gets Kolat Assasinated, I attack with everyone, and Chagatai is not enough to defend his last province.
MVP: Take the Initiative
Top 8: From here on, it’s best of 3. I’m as happy with this as anyone else, because it should allow the decks to really show how they match up. My top 16 game was over quickly, and I knew I’d be playing the winner of the Brandon Flores/Scott Hadsall matchup, which took a while. Eventually Scott took the win, but the match between Bryan Reese and Jordan Murari dragged on, and on, and on… I was confident at this point I wouldn’t have to play Reese, because even if he beat Jordan he’d be up against a Shadowlands deck. And how is Reese’s Pieces going to beat a Shadowlands deck, right? Ha.
So eventually, I sat down across from Scott.
Game 1: I took the initiative, but got lousy gold. Scott went second, getting great gold… Hiruma Dojo, small farm, and on turn 2 he got a large farm plus 2 other buyable holding, giving him about 15 gold at the end of his second turn. By my fourth turn, I had a Higatsuku, and 11 gold or so, some of it corrupt, and he had Tsuge and Ukira out, plus the Ki-Rin Shrine, I think. I flipped over new Emerald Champion, and made Higatsuku the Champ, Tsuge the guy who could bow. After thinking for a while, I spent all my gold to Kolat Assassin Tsuge, attacked with Higatsuku, charged, and was Flatteried home, I believe. On his turn, he got a Chieko out. I got Revering the Past, and Higatsuku got Shiryo no Shoju, taking a province, I then brought out a couple of Bayushi Tais.
Over the next few turn, he Shamed Higatsuku, and I discarded everyone who was not a samurai when they showed up in my provinces. I used the Bayushi Tais to take the provinces with personalities in them, leaving him with huge quantities of unused gold. He was gaining honour very slowly because of the lack of personalities, and since he couldn’t dishonour me out, the game was a lock. I think he finished with 26 honour.
MVP: New Emerald Champion
Game 2: No take. I got a good start, Scott’s was average. It was apparent from my opening draw (which had a Yudoka and a Kwanchai) that I pretty much had to by the Yudoka or else I would be wasting gold, so I wouldn’t be able to pull the trick from last game of having only one non-samurai. So I brought out Yudoka and Kwanchai and tried to go as fast as I could. He soon got out a shugenja, who got a Walking the Way, a Secrets, and Judgement. I had the Under-Hand and was taking provinces, but he had already dishonoured and Shamed Yudoka, and another Shame would knock me out of the game. I actually forgot to use the Under-Hand on him two turns running, which would have been game if he’d had 2 Shames in his hand. He made the mistake, however, of Iaijitsu Challenging me with his shugenja with all the stuff on him. Kwanchai accepted, and I focussed twice before I struck. One of my focus cards was a Take the Initiative, but the other was a Kharmic strike. That was game, because he could no longer dishonour me out before I took his last few provinces.
MVP: Kharmic Strike!!!
Top 4: Bryan Reese had beaten his Shadowlands opponent, which impressed me –although I shouldn’t have been super surprised, because the Yogo ability just rapes Shadowlands, plus he has the tools to out-Kolat them. Once again, I knew I’d have to put the pressure on as early as possible before he could bring out his shugenja and string together the cards he needed to dishonour me out.
Game 1: He beat me for the cut and I get a Take. My gold start was insane, though, getting out a Higatsuku and a Tasogare turn 2. Higatsuku is bowed by Peasant revolt, and I spend probably ten minutes looking at his hand with EUH, deciding whether to attach Rikuganshokan to Tasogare that turn and attack, or bring out Paneki XP. I eventually bring out Paneki xp, going the safe route, and my production is much more than he can handle. He doesn’t get a shugenja, and so I am in no real danger.
MVP: Corrupt gold, all the way.
Game 2: I win the cut and get decent gold, he gets bad gold. He sacrifices guys to save provinces, and Block Supply Lines helps, but I’m putting out people much faster than he can deal with. I kill his only shugenja by pulling Kwanchai from home into the battle with Paneki so he can’t replace her. If he’d had 2 more turns, I would have been dishonoured out, had the shugenja lived, as he had a nasty dishonour hand.
MVP: Paneki xp.
Top 2: I go off with my posse and eat, as I’m starving and still absolutely wired with adrenaline. I’m excited to have gotten past Reese’s deck, which had me worried, and I’m much more confident about facing a P-Kill/Tools Shadowlands, which is one of my best matchups. Before the round of 16, I had a chat with Conrad Jackson, just about L5R stuff, and it’s cool that we ended up matched against each other in the finals. Going in, I’m worried only about Kolat Masters and Deadly Grounds — he’ll be trying to kill my Yudokas to stop me busting his terrains.
The first game I win the cut (he cuts to a Refugees, giving him a -17 to my 5), and he doesn’t seem to be running Takes. On turn 3, I have a scorpion sword on Yudoka, a Kwanchai, the EUH, and he has no personalities. I look at his hand. He has a Kolat Master, a Geisha assassin, a Poisoned Weapon, a Return for Training, an In Search of the Future, a Deadly Dround… good stuff. I consider ditching the ISOTF, but decide I’ll just make him play it and hang on to the Under-Hand. I attach Light Infantry to Yudoka, attack, tactician a 4, and get In Searched. Because I know what is in his hand for the rest of the game, I’m in no danger, as I keep ahead of him in force totals and take province after province. Bayushi Tai performs his usual duty of ensuring my opponent gets lots of gold and few personalities. I Kolat Assassin a Slidge, to keep his force totals down, and roll over him, despite not getting any Rallying Cries. He Geisha Assassin/Poisoned Weapon/Kolat Masters a Paneki, but later in the game, I pull him into my the province where my army is defending with Paneki XP and kill him.
MVP: The Uberhand. No surprises makes for easy gameplay.
The second game, he gets personalities out faster whereas I have slower gold. As of turn 4, he has two 6 force personalities (but not much gold), whereas I have a Higatsuku and another 3 force samurai, plus a Kwanchai. I have Charge in hand, and think a while, before declaring an attack, Outmaneuvering in Court one of the oni’s. I Sneak, he Falls, I Sneak again, and bow his oni with Kwanchai, then Charge, killing the oni and taking the province. Had I not had the second Sneak, or a Fall of my own, he would have played Deadly and wiped out my army for the loss of half of his. Losing the 6 force permanently puts him behind in the force totals, which is good because I have no Yudoka’s and no Superior Tactics in hand. His defending with the one oni tells me he has a Deadly Ground or Night Battle in hand, so after that I take one province at a time, always well ahead of him in force, leaving behind a defender or two in case of a Counterattack. It’s over on turn 8.
MVP: Outmaneuvered in Court
I was fortunate in that my matchup in the final round was a good one for me: once I outforce the Shadowlands, it’s pretty well over. Immediately after the match, Rich Wulf read the Revelation story, which was damn cool. Jokes come across much more clearly live than on the page, so it was cool to hear it read in the midst of a sea of pumped-up L5R players. I found it very appropriate that Bayushi Tai was the Scorpion who assisted Tsudao in defeating Daigotsu, since he figured very prominently in my deck.
I picked up a number of bounties, including Top Corrupt Scorpion (a wooden sword), the Fried Chicken Bounty (for ensuring neither Phoenix or Crane won GenCon — 2 pounds of Chicken wings), and the Eliminating the Last Dynasty player bounty (200 some-odd bucks in change — we went to a Casino to turn it into bills, which is a story unto itself). Plus there was the Sword, the Scorpion Banner, the Top of Scorpion medal, a complete set of foils from Broken Blades, and 3 Boxes of L5R boosters (Gold, AOF, BB). And a great honking big trophy. I needed help carrying it all. It was trippy.
My adrenaline crash was spectacular, but I managed to pull myself together to go to the Safehouse afterwards, where I was bought drinks and threw ice at people and had a great time. Apparently it was the first time Scorpion have won GenCon, too, which is pretty damn cool. I met a lot of people I had seen only online before, and all in all had a rocking time of it, although the win STILL hasn’t really sunk in.
peace out, yo,
Eugene Earnshaw-Whyte (aka Eugene Earns….)
a.k.a. Shosuro Arunsa
The Winning Deck: “The Lesser of Two Evils”
Stronghold: The Towers of the Yogo
Wind: Toturi Tsudao
Dynasty deck (41 cards)
Fate deck (40 cards)
3 Confusion at Court
2 Fall on your Knees
2 Kharmic Strike
2 Kolat Assassin
3 Outmaneuvered at Court
3 Rallying Cry
2 Salt the Earth
3 Sneak Attack
3 Superior Tactics
3 Take the Initiative
Commentary on the deck: It is designed to have as good a chance as possible of taking a second or third turn province without compromising mid and late-game strength too much. Its only real battle tricks are Superior Tactics (to avoid defenders early) and the Higatsuku/Kharmic Strike combo. Kolat Assassin and Outmaneuvered in Court can prevent a lone defender from interfering, while Confusion at Court removes the primary early-game defense most decks will have available. Fall on Your Knees is a strong utility card that can protect my own reactions from other Falls, as well as cancelling opponent’s Sneak Attacks, Tests of Courage, and Poisoned Weapons. Salt the Earth is to deal with the only card that is likely to be able to hold me off for multiple turns: Campsite. It helps in drawn-out games against decks that run Farmlands or Shadowlands Marsh, as well, and some decks run Sorrow’s Path, which can be annoying.
The dynasty side is fairly standard, although I run Hiruma Dojo over Jade Works because it makes Paneki, Tai, and Tasogare much easier to bring out. New Emerald Champion was a late addition (the 41st card), and it was extraordinarily valuable. If I were to make a change, the easy one would be to replace the Large Farm with a Sanctified Temple: the only game I lost at GenCon was due to lacking a Sanctified Temple.
If my deck gets a good start — either a Take the Initiative, or at least 2 holdings brought out on the first turn — it can bring out people early while simultaneously continuing to develop its production. It is usually able to mount a credible attacking threat on turn 3, which is one turn earlier than most military decks can manage without compromising production. It is less able than my Kotei winning deck to take provinces on turn 2, because it has fewer followers.
The majority of my wins were pretty one-sided, as I attacked early with more people than my opponents could reasonably deal with. The deck’s best matchups (out of popular tournament archetypes) are Shadowlands P-Kill Oni and Dragon Duelling/Honour, its worst are Unicorn Kolat Military and any Lion or Shadowlands deck with lots of followers and Stand Against the Waves.