Restricted List Update Q3 2020

It is coming up to almost a year of writing articles for Off Meta Musings and so far I haven't commented when a new ban or restricted list would be released as it's part of the game and generally the changes are fairly minor; breaking up problem combos or releasing one or two cards to help clans that may be struggling at the time. This time however, a number of cards have been hit that I feel fundamentally affect how and what Crab players can put in their decks so I wanted to kick off the discussion with my comments on what has gone on the list.

The Restricted Cards

Crab cards aside, we can see a number of problem cards becoming restricted; Bayushi Shoju has been rightly criticised in the past for being too strong as his effect actively pushes towards the main Scorpion win condition of dishonour and encourages further passive play on the Scorpion player's part by effectively putting a timer on the game before their opponent naturally loses to honour loss. We also have Display of Power which has been complained about since it's release for the ability to control the game by punishing your opponent for actually trying to break provinces (which has become even worse with the advent of provinces such as Upholding Authority that further punish opponents for breaking). Finally we have Tactical Ingenuity and Keeper Initiate which both provide large amounts of resource effectively for free.

Display of Power is probably being restricted by its main use in Scorpion decks - The restriction is likely part of a recent push to remove uninteractive and passive play-styles from the game.

We also see 3 cards added to the Banlist for either being too cost efficient (in the case of Bayushi Liar), having little to no downsides for play for one of the most powerful effects in the game (Policy Debate), or being able to be used in an infinite combo and/or encourage passive play (Gateway to Meido).

It is likely that with Policy Debate flat out banned and no other restricted cards on the list, Lion will continue to use Tactical Ingenuity to good effect. Dragon and Crane who also use Policy Debate quite extensively will need to find other options though they both have other possibilities in-clan (also including just switching over to Keeper Initiate now that it is restricted). Aside from Keeper Initiates, Unicorn are largely unaffected and Phoenix will now have to pick between Display of Power, Embrace the Void or Consumed by Five Fires.

The restrictions of Shoju, Keepers, and Display of Power (and more indirectly, banning of Bayushi Liar) all go a long way to tackle the passive style Scorpion Dishonour deck out of City of the Open Hand. Opponents should now be able to safely attack air rings into provinces in order to try and dig themselves out of the honour hole whilst forcing the Scorpion player to actually defend if they want to win the ring; I hope that these changes will bring them more inline with the rest of the clans.

The Crab Holdings

New to the restricted list are Iron Mine and Kuni Laboratory. These cards have been a staple in Crab Decks since their release with Iron Mine being ubiquitous in the Crab tower deck and Kuni Laboratory increasing in popularity after the release of the Clanpack with our improved ability to play smaller characters and swarm the board with bodies. The intent of restricting both cards was probably to try and split up both builds with players favouring either Iron Mine or Labs depending on their other deck choices and intended play-style. Whilst this is a good idea in principle we still have Rebuild on the restricted list (and rightly so) so players will be faced with the choice of playing either of those three cards or something else entirely and not having access to a key part of what makes Crab 'The Holding Clan'.. Holdings.

The one card that allows holding-based Crab decks the consistency they need.

The issue that various holdings have always had in-game is that they turn up whenever they are drawn and once the province is broken, they will generally disappear. Add to this the increased amount of province row destruction that has been released this cycle; with the most popular card being Season of War due to its Rally keyword, and it becomes difficult to be able to keep holdings with ongoing effects safely on the board. This is where Rebuild comes in, being able to bring back key holdings to be used when they are needed instead of when they decide to turn up. Taking either of the restricted holdings without Rebuild runs the risk of them not showing up when you need them to be impactful on the game, or being destroyed before they become useful. Choosing Rebuild however leaves few actual useful holdings to choose from from as in general the other Crab holdings leave a lot to be desired for.

The current list of non-restricted, non-banned holdings that could be taken in the event of choosing Rebuild as your restricted card. Of these, cards such as Kansen Haunt, Miwaku Kabe, Proving Ground and Miya Library have little synergy with our current playstyles. Kaiu Forges and Funeral Pyre see play in most decks, and in some limited circumstances Hiruma Outpost and the Wall pieces. Perhaps we will have to look at cards like Kaiu Shihobu, Frontline Engineer and Our Foe Does Not Wait to find holdings directly from the deck instead of recurring them from the discard.

These restrictions also indirectly impact three staple cards of our decks at the moment; Shrewd Yasuki, Gallant Quartermaster and Hida Guardian, whose effects rely on holdings being on the field to activate (less so for the Quartermaster but Funeral Pyre consistency will be an issue for it to be used to its upmost effectiveness). These cheaper cards also help with the cost curve of our dynasty which is necessary to be able to buy more characters given the amount of bow/move-home/kill tech there is in the game at the moment.

Whilst I don't see us dropping Shrewd Yasuki any time soon due to his effect working on both player's holdings, it is possible that Hida Guardian may be swiftly dropped if we can't sustain his requirements.

Playing the Keeper Role

It is no secret that Crab have favoured keeper roles in the past due to the presence of Keeper Initiates in the game. This card rewards Crab for defending the ring of your role which is apt given that Shiro Nishiyama gives a boost for defence, and also that a number of our cards only work whilst defending. With this card also going onto the restricted list however, the only cards that see play at the moment for us that require a keeper role are Defend Your Honour (one of the very few cancels available that we can use with any kind of consistency) and a recently resurgent Crisis Breaker.

Keeper Initiate going on the restricted list also has the knock-on effect of further weakening the Crab swarm and sacrifice decks (and the relatively recent Crab Monk deck) with the first blow being the errata to Those Who Serve, and the second being the restriction of Kuni Laboratory. Without reliable access to Labs to boost the otherwise poor stat-line of the cheaper crab characters (who generally are either 1/0 or 0/1) and Keeper Initiates to provide value, I do wonder what the future will be for this play-style especially given the current anti-tower meta.

One of the better cards released recently whose only issue is that he carries the seeker role requirement. Perhaps now he will see much more play?

We have however had some recent successes with seeker control decks containing the newly released Blatant Swindler and a number of players were experimenting with seeker before worlds last year so this may be a direction in which we see more Crab builds heading.

Closing Thoughts

For my current deck; A lion splash swarm build with Take up Command to re-use our cheaper Bushi, Tactical Ingenuity and Sukune for added value and 16 various holdings including all the cards recently restricted, I would need to find replacements for up to 15 cards once the list goes live. Our regular keeper decks will still need to find replacements for up to 12 cards which I believe is one of the biggest hits to a clan since the restricted list was initially conceived. I would expect that we will be seeing an increase in seeker decks with a lower reliance on holdings given either their lack of quality or consistency.

Considering that we will also most probably not complete this cycle of releases until the next restricted list update sometime in October, and recently released images of pack 4 don't seem to offer any overly exciting prospects for Crab, I personally think that the restrictions go too far to hit our power in-game (though I do agree that something had to be done, just not to this extent). I would love to be proven wrong however, so I am looking forward to seeing what we can come up with.

Remember your ABCs people - Always Be Crabbin'

Re-reading over my thoughts, I am aware that they do come across as me doing a lot of complaining about the restricted list updates but overall I am actually happy with what went on outside of the two holdings. I think a more cautious approach would have been appropriate (Unrestrict Rebuild, Restrict Butcher of the Fallen, Kuni Labs and Iron Mine. This opens up three distinct playstyles; Mid-Longrange Tower (iron mine), Swarm (labs), and Butcher charge whilst keeping them all independent of eachother and still allowing other holdings to be used). I also hope that there is more support in the future for the Crab swarm build to counter the hits to Keeper Initiate and Kuni Labs - Something like a Crab version of Lion's Ashigaru Levy would be most appreciated.

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