We are only a few days into 2015 and I’m excited to see what the future holds for L5R CCG but today I review the year that was 2014.
Launch of Ivory Edition
We started 2014 with the high hopes of Ivory Edition would have the right level both for veteran and new players alike. Sadly, several problems happened with Ivory Edition.
The first was the scheduled launch of Ivory Edition. It was delayed due to getting enough product printed in time. I completely understand that AEG uses a company in China for printing. February happens to be the month that the Chinese New Year falls on making it almost impossible for those companies to have enough product printed for a release.
What’s an Interrupt?
Changes to the way the game has been played have been happening for the last several arcs. One such change that was the most difficult to understand was the removal of the Reaction and the introduction of the Interrupt.
This caused issues for the players, the design team, and the rules team alike. They are played with different timing windows than Reactions are.
AEG decided to allow printed proxies of Ivory Edition cards for early season Kotei events. With the early spoilers released, this led to a degenerative deck based upon cards from the sets Gates of Chaos and Aftermath. The main culprits were Well-Defended Farm and Exotic Farmland.
This deck could be played out of any faction and seemed to be the best military deck for every faction. The deck used an Ashigaru follower base, a unaligned Ashigaru personality, and the strategy Exotic Farmlands. The strategy creates a 1F Ashigaru follower for every 3 gold paid. With the Well-Defended Farm, this made it very easy to overwhelm the opponent.
So the Empress quilled the Peasant Uprising with the banning of both Well-Defended Farm and Exotic Farmlands.
The Crane Power Grows on the Fields of Battle
Normally, the Crane Clan power is in its ability to duel and through the courts. In 2014, the Crane dominated on the field of battle and won Militarily.
This was done through the might of their stronghold, their sensei, and personality base from the Daidoji family.
The stronghold allowed Crane players to play normally less efficient gold production holdings with better abilities and still get the benefit of equal production of some of the more blank holdings. This gave Crane an advantage that no other clan had.
The other was the power of their Sensei.
Akagi Sensei did not truly have a drawback like the other sensei. Reducing your honor gains from holdings by 1 doesn’t hurt the deck the majority of players would be using the sensei for. It gave a province strength boost and a movement ability that any personality could use.
The combination of the stronghold and the sensei allowed for an early dominance of the Crane Military during Kotei season.
The Empress in her wisdom decided that the Crane advantage needed to be leveled somewhat and issued an errata on both the Stronghold & the Sensei.
This slowed the Crane Military dominance somewhat but still allowed for the deck to remain strong. In fact, at the North American Championships in August, the finals were both playing Crane Military.
More Rulings from the Empress
A few more issues were found and had to be removed from the environment for balance reasons.
The first was the card Advanced Warning. Originally printed in Before the Dawn set, a bridge set between Celestial and Emperor Arc, its wording only allowed for the card to target a Scout. A change was made on this card (due to design philosophy) to make it better for more general use. This made the card better for draft as well as constructed.
Well, it was a little too good for Constructed with the change. Being able to send home an Ogre Bushi with it made it very hard for defensive decks to win so it was banned from all Arc and Strict events.
Next was a card from The Coming Storm, the follower Cavalry Escort.
A card from the previous arc, The Duty of the Crab, allowed for an easy way to take a province very early and out of nowhere.
Cavalry Escort isn’t as cheap of an option as The Duty of the Crab was and you had to have presence to play it. Even still, the card left many defensive decks in a precarious place in the game.
So it was determined that the card would be banned from both Arc and Strict events.
The last decree was an errata over Oboro, the Liar. The sneaking member of the Silken Sect had a dangerous combo that could win the game in the same turn.
The deck used the Kobi Sensei to win by gaining 10 Conspiracy tokens. The deck cycled through its dynasty deck until there were no other cards in the deck besides Oboro. It would then play 1 copy for 6 gold, shuffle it and the 2 copies in the discard pile back into the deck, use Momiji to refill the province face up, play another copy, repeat until they had 10 tokens.
This could be done sooner than any Military, Dishonor, Honor, or Enlightenment deck could in the environment. So the Empress decreed that Oboro Invest trait would only add Conspiracy tokens if it you hadn’t used a copy of the Invest trait this turn.
Victory through Deference
The card Victory through Deference got several notices that it was detrimental for the environment, especially from Shugenja based decks.
This was due to a rules loophole that anyone without the Shugenja keywork could not cast spells that were equipped to him or her.
Despite this card being in the environment, a Shugenja based military deck won the World Championship.
As far as the rules issue, that is addressed with the release of 20 Festivals.
For all of those things that went wrong in 2014, there were some magnificent wins for the CCG.
Defeat of the Dark Naga
At Gen*Con 2014, for the first time, the multiplayer set Siege: Heart of Darkness was available. During the four day event, players got the ability to team up to play against the advancing armies of the Dark Naga. No player knew of what would happen if the Dark Naga won or if he lost.
Participants in the Main Event and the Second Chance event got the ability to determine who would be defender of each province. This was done by breaking up the groups after the cut in to groups of players who continued to play, even if they would normally not be involved in the final 16 until a winner of that bracket was crowned and a personality they had chosen to defend that province.
As provinces were lost and then reclaimed, it finally became apparent that the Dark Naga would lose and be destroyed. Any province taken by the Dark Naga at the end was burned to the ground and the defender of the province was destroyed by one of the Dark Naga’s lieutenants.
In the end, three of the provinces of the Second City were taken by the Dark Naga’s forces and 2 of his lieutenants were destroyed.
This was the first time that those who did not make the cut were allowed to continue to play in a major storyline event for a story prize. Let me say that
Awaken the Naga
After the North American Championships were over, a piece of a story was read to the crowd. With the death of the Dark Naga, a scream so loud that it could be heard back within the Shinomen Forest within the Empire, awoke the Naga from their slumber.
With that, the Naga will return to the CCG as a playable faction in 2016 with the release of Onyx Edition.
A Long Time Coming
After 19 years, a World Champion from a clan that has been around since the beginning of the CCG finally won its first World Championship.
The Unicorn had made the final game several times previously but the final conquest was never theirs until Bartlomiej Chrobak, known by his username jabbas, pulled off the feat with a deck that most said couldn’t exist with the card Victory Through Deference in the environment.
Certain aspects of design has been very fun and interesting.
Invest, Reserve and Discipline has been good at times in Constructed and very usable in draft environments.
The jury is still out on Unstoppable, Resilient, & Courage but they seem to be great flavor wise and more useful for the draft environment.
Courtesy seems to be the one that will be most useful for Constructed at balancing the going 1st vs. going 2nd issue.
The best keywords designed in Ivory have been Destined, Expendable, and Kharmic.
The Return of Sensei
I was skeptical of the return of the Sensei card type from the Jade, Diamond, and Lotus era. The reason being that in the past, the Sensei have either been broken, overpowered, or not played.
Other than the issue with Akagi Sensei and how good the Satoru Sensei has been for Lion, Sensei cards have not been broken or overpowered. This tends to mean that they would be more on the weak side. Still, more Sensei have been played in Constructed formats that I had thought would have.
Hopefully, the Sensei design of and use will continue to grow as we move into the 20 Festivals Arc.
A Robust Draft Format
If you haven’t played the draft format, the latter sets of Ivory have been great for draft. The draft teams have done a great job with testing those sets and gotten draft in a great place.