The London Legion Banlist Online Tournament

Just like brokering for fish at the market; Crafting a banlist is a give and take affair with not everyone necessaraly happy with the results.

No releases? No problem! We are going to have to wait at least another month for the resumption of the Dominion Cycle so we at the London Legion have been looking into alternative rulesets for our events to stop things becoming too stale. Since the current meta seems to be fairly tapped out (looking at you duelling dragon) the London Legion Online tournament team has decided to roll out our own alternative “what if” format. What if there was a drastic ban, re-balancing/rotation patch that tackled most of the potentially problem legacy cards in the format. What would that look like?

The intent with the below list was to address a number of cards in the game that we felt were offering too much in terms of advantage for too little cost. You will notice that there are a large amount of cards from the core and first cycles which, with the benefit of hindsight we now know to be too powerful. A good example of this is Court Games; For 0 cost it gives access to two of the most powerful effects in the game (honour and dishonour) and finds itself in most, if not all modern decks due to this efficiency.

On the list you will notice;

  • All of the magistrates (due to Haughty and Cunning Magistrates)
  • All of the seals (due to Seal of the Dragon mainly used in the Dragon Monk deck)
  • Most existing restricted and banned cards with the idea that if they are strong enough to be restricted and/or banned then they probably aren't good for the game overall.
  • Cheap forms of card draw (Shrewd Yasuki, Spyglass, Tactical Ingenuity, Agasha Swordsmith)
  • Cheap forms of character ready (specifically Elegant Tessen, Common Cause, In Service to My Lord)
  • Cards that actively lock opponents out of interacting with various phases or are highly oppressive to play against and discourage interactivity with the game (Guest of Honour, Isawa Tadaka, Master of Gisei Toshi, Utaku Tetsuko)
  • Most of the 1 cost characters out of the core set who more often then not, offer huge efficiency in stats for their cost and effects.
  • Cards which can cheat out extra value over a number of turns with little to no set-up cost (Kitsu Spiritcaller, Keeper Initiate).
  • Cards to break up specific problem combos already existing in the game (e.g. by banning Favoured Mount, Fan of Command becomes much less of an issue as the characters have to work harder to participate in all conflicts).
  • Problem provinces that are either too cost effective or game-warping in-game.

Whilst it is important that the strongest cards are hit by any potential ban or restricted list, there is a fine line between limiting the cards with often game-warping effects and removing entire themes and play-styles from clans. We tried to avoid this as much as possible and whilst not entirely successful, I think through our play-tests and the tournament as a whole we learned some valuable lessons regarding the actual viable card-lists for certain clans.

Attendance was light for the event, with a number of unicorn, dragon and two crab players including myself participating. You can find the results HERE. Overall, just from the unicorn and dragon games, it seems like they are very much un-changed by the restricted cards. The dragon monk deck is alive and well due to to nothing being touched from their Kiho package so are still able to cycle out several cards onto Togashi Mitsu for explosive plays. On the other hand, with the restriction of both Fine Katana and Ornate Fan, Unicorn had the opportunity to thrive with its good depth of cheap, high impact attachments and force multipliers coupled with the already strong HMT.

Deckbuilding for Crab

With sweeping bans on the strongest cards from your card pool, I found that deckbuilding for Crab was particularly difficult. Almost a quarter of my dynasty and more then half of my normal conflict choices disappeared which leaves not much else to actually deckbuild with. Whilst banning Iron Mine does curb tower-play, the addition of Fine Katana and Ornate Fan leaves very few efficient attachments, and the removal of Kaiu Envoy and Shrewd Yasuki drastically cuts down our resource generation engine to only Gallant Quartermaster and inefficient outlier cards such as Sake House Smuggler and Yasuki Procurer.

Crab in particular I think have an issue with their lower end of the cost curve in terms of efficient characters;

Not including holdings, the majority of our dynasty characters lie in the 2-3 cost range but if we examine what is actually available, the majority of our cheaper characters (barring few staples such as Hida Guardian) have highly conditional effects with poor stats being active the minority of the time. Similarly with our 3 cost characters; outside of a couple of outliers such as Hida O-Ushi, most have poor effects for their cost.

This lack of efficient 1-2 cost characters coupled with generally having to look at the higher end of the fate cost curve for quality characters and the lack of cheap stat-boosting attachments slows down the Crab game considerably. Additionally unlike some other clans, Crab has traditionally relied on its strong core cards with few additional quality characters being released over the past years so do not have the same depth of card pool. I don't want it to come across that I think Crab are are a weak clan but rather rely on a small number of strong cards to make up their decks. Removing or restricting any of these massively hits the clan's overall power due to lack of credible alternatives.

With all this in mind, I put together the following list. Doubling down on the remaining strong cards such as Hida Guardian, Kuni Labs and Butcher of the Fallen whilst trying to otherwise make the characters as cheap as possible to make up for the lack of additional resource generation;

Overall, I think that I performed well during testing and the event itself (despite the dominant strategy usually devolving to 'defend until Butcher') but overall the format has made me more aware of the issues with the current release cycle strategy of L5R; Development lead times are more then a year from release, and realistically there often are very few cards released in an entire cycle for each clan that are credible alternatives to existing options resulting in long droughts of cards before issues can be fixed.

The act of crafting a banlist is a complicated affair and hard-banning large amounts of the cardbase doesn't seem to be the right answer. I would imagine that a better option would be to maintain a comprehensive ban and restricted list with possibly the YuGiOh format of having separate lists limiting cards to 0/1/2/3 copies per deck depending on how strong they are or maintaining separate lists for in and out of clan cards to avoid things being added because of other clans.

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