A day at the Horse market. Or how I learned to stop worrying and throw another crab onto the pyre.

Hi All,

This is the first in hopefully a series of articles from me about where I think crab is headed in the Kunshu season of L5R, what I’m playing and how I plan to play it. I don’t claim to be the best player in the world or even in my clan but just a guy with a love of the game and an interest in doing the best I can in tournament play whilst having a bit of fun along the way.

Firstly, a little background on the deck; I had switched to broker crab several months before the release of the Inheritance cycle basically due to being bored with the standard Crab/Unicorn splash. After playing largely the same deck for the best part of a year with little changes in the way it had to be piloted, I felt that a change was needed in order to keep my attention. Pablo Pintor had already proved at Winter Court last year that a deck based around Yasuki Broker could work under the right circumstances so that was as good a place as any to start. It is worth noting that before pack 1 of the Inheritance cycle I was playing largely the same deck as below except dragon splash with let go for Cloud the Mind defence.

Basic Principles

The deck I’m currently running was designed to follow broadly the below principles;
  • Use Yasuki Broker to gain fate and hand advantage during the game.
  • Try to maximise on self-sacrifice effects so that Yasuki Broker will be able to be used more of the time.
  • If Yasuki Broker is not on the field the deck still needs alternative win conditions.
  • Everything should be expendable.
  • Run enough courtiers to be able to use For Shame! 

So how does it all work?

In short, the deck is designed as a defensive toolbox; Miya Satoshi can mill portions of the dynasty deck into the dynasty discard, using Rebuild to bring back more card draw and sacrifice effects in the form of Funeral Pyre with Yasuki Broker on the field to gain additional fate and hand advantage, and Gateway to Meido to access the discarded cards, we should be able to build advantage over a number of turns and go for the win when the opponent has exhausted the majority of their options. As a result, I find that compared to the standard ‘tower’ style Crab deck we are able to enjoy a higher power ceiling at the cost of some consistency when Yasuki Broker is not on the field. When we do get her out however, we can build overwhelming advantage whilst having some of the best economy in the game.

Pretty much the only card in the deck we need to stick around for multiple turns.

It is worth noting that by design, this is not by any means a ‘fast’ deck. It has certain weaknesses primarily against HMT Unicorn and any other fast conquest style deck that can quickly destroy provinces in the first couple of turns before we can set up a favourable board state.

For the province line-up the biggest addition for this cycle is the release of the aforementioned Gateway to Meido. Enough has been written about this card elsewhere but as a quick summary; At any conflict at this province we can play cards in our dynasty discard as if they are in our hand. In a deck with various effects to gain resource on character death, the ability to replay these characters offers a significant advantage and offers a clear incentive for our opponent to either overcommit to break the province or to force the attack onto other, potentially worse provinces depending on the board state at the time.

Even the threat of a Meido activation is normally enough to stop an opponent from attacking outright if they dont feel that they can kill it in one conflict so we can use that to our advantage.

Something to note is that I am not running the much hyped ‘Meido Combo’ to attempt a one turn dishonour win with Levy. I feel that it is better to use the card as a support to produce more resource in a more standard deck then to go all in on the combo; i.e. A deck that runs Meido as opposed to a Meido deck. Levy and Prayers to Ebisu can brick hard if we draw into them early so I prefer to gain small amounts of advantage over the course of the game instead of trying to go for everything in one shot. The deck has been designed to have a cheap fate curve with half of the dynasty deck being 2 cost or less so even a modest amount of fate defending at the province can turn into additional card draw (with Shrewd Yasuki and Kaiyu Envoy), additional fate on our characters (with Vanguard Warrior), a re-ready, etc. Of course, we are aiming to have Yasuki Broker and/or Yasuki Taka on the field also to gain additional fate and cards on each sacrifice effect at the province.

Not as necessary to the smooth running of the deck as Yasuki Broker so I often don't buy him over other, cheaper cards but why oh why is he not a courtier?!

The other provinces are designed to gain as much additional resource as possible; Either gaining a fate, removing a fate or a use of the ring on win. Midnight Revels is usually either extremely good, bowing our opponents’ highest cost character or extremely useless so in the past I have been known to run Manicured under the stronghold as something we can always get use out of and Flooded Wastes in the row to have a decent one-shot throwaway province that can be Talisman’d into if necessary.

Conflict Characters and Attachments

One major departure from the normal ‘tower’ style of Crab play is my choice to use minimum attachments and maximise on the amount of conflict characters. Having tried both Talisman and non-Talisman versions I am inclined to believe that we can play minimum attachments against the majority of decks; Either they will have attachment removal so we are gambling if they happen to have it in their hands when we want to play Talisman or they don’t and we are able to use Talisman to push onto gateway for the equivalent or better than other attachment effects and stat boosts.

Secondly, stemming from the testing of the deck with its previous Dragon splash we are looking at the full ten conflict characters. One of the main reasons for this is the increased number of Way of the Crab which lends itself well to more 1 cost conflict characters to be able to kill problem characters at the end of each turn. In addition to this both Guardian Kami and Stoic Gunso can further synergise with Yasuki Broker with their sacrifice effects (Stoic Gunso being especially useful due to his effect being used during any conflict regardless if it is participating or not).

Walking the Way discards cards from provinces so we can use this to dump Keepers or to discard holdings for re-use with rebuild.

An issue I had during testing was with dynasty deck consistency. Whilst the deck will normally generate a large amount of conflict cards which can be increased simply by bidding high in the draw phase, often we are stuck with 1-4 cards in the dynasty deck depending on what we want to keep at the end of the previous turn. Walking the way is a personal tech intended primarily to help increase the dynasty consistency and lessen unfavourable flops. Normally I am searching for Funeral Pyres to enable Yasuki Broker or any other low cost, resource generating card such as Kaiu Envoy or Shrewd Yasuki.

OK so how do we play this thing?

In a word, conservatively. Shiro Shinjo aside, all clans generate a passive seven fate per turn. The idea is that if we can push the economy of the deck to be able to generate just one more fate per turn then my opponent then 3 or four turns into the game we should be at an advantage. Also, as we can’t rely on either our opponent hitting Gateway when we want them to or having Talisman available when we need it, we should look to building some early hand advantage on the opening flop with cards like Kaiu Envoy, Shrewd Yasuki and Funeral Pyre. Given that everything is expendable, I generally don’t fate my opening characters and will try to pass early to get the additional fate. Depending on our opponent it’s usually a 5-card bid to load up the hand before bidding low for the rest of the game to put some pressure on our opponents honour and ultimately draws.

An example of a decent first flop before mulligan. We can summon the Kaiu Envoy for more fate generation and card advantage at the end of the turn and also bring out a one Fate Miya Satoshi, discarding the Keeper Initiate for its effect and banking one fate for next turn.

On the conflict side of things we are generally looking for some combination of cards that include Way of the Crab and conflict characters as having it onboard early can really help remove problem characters especially against more expensive decks such as dueling Crane.

During the first turn there aren’t many rings that can cause serious damage so either try to defend against breaks or try to poke with either the earth or void rings if fated characters are on the field to force a defence.

From the second and third turns we will be able to use that banked fate and increased draw to start building our field. Stoic Gunso allows for opportunistic military conflicts whilst a fated Miya Satoshi would enable, us to fill our discard with holdings for Rebuild and characters for Gateway if needed. We are running 3 copies of Way of the Crab so its perfectly fine to make liberal use of them if we can net one or two fate advantage from its activation.

Going into the mid and late game we can continue to use our economy with Yasuki Brokers, Keeper Initiates and sacrifice effects to put pressure on provinces and eventually break. The deck likes to go wide instead of tall, so a well-timed Rebuild into Kuni Laboratory is normally enough to end the game. Alternatively, as we are not generally bidding highly after the first turn there is the possibility to pressure honour through a combination of low bids and ring effects. Generally, we can produce a large amount of hand advantage, so this incentivises opponents to bid highly to keep up.

In closing, I hope that this has given some insight into how I feel the direction of crab is headed this season. Feel free to give the deck a try and who knows? maybe something like it will be headed to the top tables near you soon.

Until next time.

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