The Empire has many Shugneja but none understand magic better than the Phoenix Clan. They also are the keepers of the Tao of Shinsei. With this power and knowledge comes great responsibility. Phoenix tend to be very pacifistic knowing they can unleash the fury of the Heavens with a single prayer.
The Phoenix Clan have several base themes in the Core Set.
The first one is based the Elements. The Isawa family lead the Elemental Council. Masters of the Elements have the strongest connections to each of the elements in the Empire. They are the only clan in the Empire that study all 5 elements. Many shugenja have effects based on which ring is involved in the conflict or which ring you have claimed.
Their second theme is based around Glory.
STRONGHOLD, PROVINCE, and HOLDING
Isawa Mori Seido – While this stronghold looks a bit bland, the ability to give +2 glory to a character has some great potential. High glory is one of Phoenix themes and their box helps push that average up higher. The part that is missed is the fact that giving an opponent’s character the bonus. That may seem odd, but if the opponent’s character dishonored, you get to shrink them more.
Kuroi Mori – This Phoenix only province is a real pain to deal with. Switching to a different ring or to another type of conflict is very strong. Certainly this one is going to be one of the most annoying.
Forgotten Library – As the Keepers of the Tao of Shinsei, the Phoenix are increasingly knowledgeable. Forgotten Library allows them to tap into that knowledge without bidding very high. Essentially you are trading 1 less Dynasty card flip for 1 more Conflict card.
Naive Student – This character is fairly bland but has some higher end stats for a 1 cost character.
Solemn Scholar – Now we get into the Shugenja. Bowing a character is one of the best ways to deal with the threat. This one requires you to have the Earth ring to use the ability. This is a character who is good only in some situations.
Adapt of the Waves – Another strong ability is that of the Adapt. Covert is the strongest Core Set ability in my honest opinion. This ability is purely all offensive but it will only trigger during Water conflicts. Again, this is another situational character.
Meddling Mediator – Now this is a character that really puts your opponent in a bind. The mediator is a high POL skill character for 2 fate. If you are trying to force a win via honor or dishonor while trying to stave off an opponent winning by military, this courtier lets you take honor from them if they declare 2 or more conflicts against you. She’ll certainly help you grind out value.
Asako Diplomat – Another powerful character for the Phoenix is the Asako Diplomat. The stats on the character are fair but it is the ability that you are playing her for. With the highest average Glory in the Core Set, honoring one of your own characters is quite strong, but don’t knock the ability to dishonor a character though.
*Isawa Masahiro – I expect the Fire ring to be contested a lot. With Phoenix glory numbers being so high, I expect opponents to target the Fire ring to dishonor high glory targets. The opposite is also true as Phoenix players will go after to Fire ring for its effect and to keep your opponent away from it. This effect is quite strong as full-fledged character removal is rare. Expect Masahiro to wreak havoc.
Radiant Orator – The orator is a great flavor card but I am not a fan. First off, the stats are a bit low for 3 cost character. The second problem that I see is that send home is not the best in the LCG unless it is the last conflict of the turn.
Serene Warrior – Now the base stats for Serene Warrior are really good and the glory number is off the charts. Honoring a Serene Warrior gives you a character larger than most champions. Vanilla characters are slot fillers early but tend to get replaced as better or more synergistic cards come out. I feel that is the fate of the Serene Warrior.
Fearsome Mystic – Another conflict that many players will be involved in are Air conflicts. Fearsome Mystic can be a wrecking machine with the bonus glory during Air conflicts (or even from the stronghold). I would not want to be facing down her with multiple characters with Fate on them.
*Isawa Atsuko – The Void Ring is among the most powerful Ring effect. It will be one that is contested quite often. Atsuko’s ability is very strong against swarm style decks or when you have multiple participating characters. She will have less of an effect on large, single units.
*Shiba Tsukune – One of the best champions doesn’t even have to be apart of conflicts to change the game. Tsukune can do well in both MIL and POL conflicts. If she becomes honored, she would have higher stats than any other champion. What sets her apart from most champions is that she doesn’t have to be involved in any conflicts to affect the game. Being able to trigger up to 2 unclaimed rings is incredibly powerful. When you can set up which rings you’ll trigger, her ability is much stronger.
Seeker of Knowledge – When playing for an honor or dishonor win, you might be in the market for Seeker of Knowledge. This character lets you trigger the Air ring effect multiple times in a turn if you win those conflicts. Very strong for clans like Crane and Scorpion.
Magnificent Kimono – The kimono was obviously designed to be played on your own characters as honoring your high glory character is quite strong. I can tell you this is good at times to put on your opponent’s character to dishonor them. Very good for a variety of high glory and honor based decks like Crane, Lion, and of course, Phoenix.
Grasp of Earth – Now we come across the first clan specific spell. Grasp of Earth does have a good stat line for its cost but is its action is why you want it. This is the type card that will be used in specific meta to help against conflict deck characters and movement tricks.
Supernatural Storm – The potential for this pump spell is quite high based on your board position. While Phoenix has the most Shugenja currently with 6, both the Scorpion and Dragon have 3 each. Two of Phoenix shugenja are Conflict deck characters, meaning you can splash several Phoenix cards that if that theme.
Way of the Phoenix – Ring control can be quite powerful. The Way of the Phoenix sets up many scenarios where you can keep a ring away from your opponent during this conflict phase this turn. It’s even better when Tsukune is on the table, ready to trigger it at the end of the Conflict phase.
Against the Waves – This spell has both offensive and defensive capabilities. The best ability that I’ve done with it involves successfully breaking a province and then straightening the shugenja that did so with this card. You can use it to bow a powerful character like Yokuni though.
Know the World – More ring control. This one basically allows you to claim a ring, wait until your opponent declares a conflict, put that ring back into the unclaimed pile, and go after it again. This is very annoying if you are trying to keep your opponent from one ring or you are trying to complete a strategy like honor or dishonor.
Display of Power – Speaking of ring control, this one might be the greatest way to claim a ring. Yes you are going to lose an honor for losing an unopposed conflict and potentially the province, but you keep your opponent from claiming that ring AND you get to trigger its reward.
Phoenix Clan Grade
Ally Grade: B
Phoenix has some fantastic utility cards like Seeker of Knowledge, Grasp of Earth, Magnificent Kimono and Pacifism. I can easily see Seeker and Pacifism in control based strategies pushing honor or dishonor as a way to win. Grasp of Earth is a strong meta card against movement decks like Unicorn or heavy Conflict character based decks. The Kimono could be seen as a cheap pump for those with high glory, particularly Crane and Lion. Both Display of Power and Know the World could also be put into other clans’ decks if you are willing to limit the number of total cards you will put into your deck.
Best Clan to Ally with the Phoenix: Crane
With Phoenix being such a heavy Glory theme, wanting characters honored fits into both Phoenix and Crane. Voice of Honor really helps the control aspect a lot. Noble Sacrifice is great removal as well. Admit Defeat, Stewart of Law, and Height of Fashion are also very usable splash cards from Crane that have an impact.
Overall Grade: C+
While Phoenix has some individually powerful cards, the biggest problem that I see with Phoenix is the mishmash of Bushi, Courtier and Shugenja. With so many different traits, not having the right personal for the Conflict cards you have in hand is painful to deal with. Several of the Shugenja also have powerful effects but they rely on certain factors that are not always controllable. This makes for some inconsistency issues.
As more cards are released, a more sound strategy can be build thus allowing the true strength of the Phoenix to be revealed.