Crab Clan in the Dominion Cycle Part 2


The remainder of the Dominion cycle has either been released or revealed so I am back with my look at the Crab cards in the last three packs to see if there is any potential.


As I have already said, unlike the previous cycle which had the theme of sacrifice, it doesn't look like there is an overarching theme for this set of releases. We are also introduced to two new, and potentially high impact game mechanics in the form of Rally (discussed already HERE) and Emminent Provinces;

Rally


Rally is a keyword ability that appears on dynasty cards. When a card with the rally keyword is revealed in a player’s provinces, that player adds the top card of their dynasty deck to the same province faceup. Both cards are in the province together, and either can be played as an action during the dynasty phase. Do not refill a province until it is empty.

  • When a province is refilled faceup, or when a card is added to a province faceup, that card is not revealed and the rally keyword on it does not trigger.

Eminent


Eminent is a keyword ability that can be found on province cards. A province with this keyword cannot be a player’s stronghold province, starts the game faceup, and cannot be turned facedown.

The first Eminent province that we actually saw (despite it not having the keyword) was Scorpion's Toshi Rambo. Paraphrasing from a previous interview with Tyler; Eminent provinces are supposed to have powerful effects that help the player instead of penalising your opponent but as a trade-off they start the game face-up so your opponent knows exactly where it is and can safely attack it without any surprises.


Pious Guardian





It's a 2 cost Bushi with good stats at 3/1/1 and rally and an effect that gains honour as long as you have one or fewer unbroken provinces. Considering that Scorpion dishonour will likely find a province to farm, and that Crab likes to try and defend to stop breaks, and that we have a number of effects that use honour as a cost, this card would seem to be a natural fit in our decks. That being said however, between all of the available rally and especially in Kyuden Hida, there isn't much of a need for more dynasty acceleration and the cheaper side of the dynasty curve is already fairly full from our economy engine. 

There is also some good indirect synergy though with Butcher of the Fallen and Caesless Duty (see below) whose effects are both better the fewer broken provinces you have. It is also nice that we are finally getting some effects that promote defending as a means to actually, albeit slowly win the game (with Butcher as the pay-off for protecting your provinces) and our first ever card to mitigate honour loss.

Kuni Purifier





A non-unique 3 cost with 3/3 seems to be the new norm in terms of card design nowadays, and the Shugenja trait opens up some nice tech especially taking Isawa Tadaka into account. The effect - a discard when your opponent passes on declaring a conflict adds to our list of opponent passing on conflicts effects but I have mixed feelings about this mechanic. On the one hand the effects have the potential to be very powerful (losing honour and characters to Intimidating Hida and Amoro or losing fate advantage with Fruitful Respite and One of the Forgotten), but on the other hand outside of One of the Forgotten we are paying a premium for the characters themselves for effects that more often then not won't activate. The question then becomes; Is a blank 3/3/3 worth the deckbuilding space? In the specific case of Kuni Purifier, I would say that the answer is yes as he has conflict Isawa Tadaka synergy and has already proven to be useful in that particular deck.

I have the feeling that this is a theme that is building up very slowly so we may have to wait for a few more releases to actually see the pay-off (maybe an event that has an auto-pass effect for your opponent on a conflict?).

Hida Etsuji





Another commander to join Sukune and Siege Captain but this time with the small but welcome bonus of not being able to be evaded from covert and unable to be Assassinated. Slightly pricey but his utility and power comes entirely from your province lineup.

If you are playing seeker of air for example; With Manicured Garden, Fertile Fields, Shameful Display and Vassal Fields in your row; That's potentially a lot of value from one card if you can keep him around for multiple turns. Ideally however he would want to be used in some sort of Keeper deck to take advantage of Talisman of the Sun to guarantee your province activations.

There are also several provinces whose effect work at all provinces of the same type so Hida Etsuji may have some use in activating those effects multiple times against your opponent. Personally I will be looking at a Seeker Void build with Shameful Display, Weight of Duty and Rich Frog for 2-3 dishonours per turn at two thirds of my provinces plus additional dishonours from fire and oil (see below). This will require some setup probably with The Crashing Wave to flip Weight of Duty but after that he should be handing out dishonour tokens like candy.

It is worth noting that Hida Etsuji does not work with the neutral holding Contested Countryside due to the recent rulings.

Fire and Oil





The more I think about fire and oil, the higher I rate it as a card and welcome it's effect if it is indicative of a new direction in Holding design for us. Unlike previous cards such as Heavy Ballista, it works on all defensive conflicts instead of just military. If we were sitting in 2019, this card would definitely have had the additional limitation of having to be used on its own province and probably with additional conflict restrictions. The downside of only being able to be used on unbroken provinces can be somewhat mitigated through Apprentice Engineer and Rebuild which I believe that there may be a case for as a restricted card given that both Fire and Oil and Funeral Pyre are decent targets.

Effect wise, we are looking at half of a Way of the Scorpion with the bonus effect of being uncancellable so with the rise of various honour decks I will be excited to finally be able to play a 'proper' crab dishonour build possibly with this and Hiruma Outpost, moving them both onto the stronghold to force 2 points of dishonour on a single conflict along with the aforementioned seeker of void Hida Etsuji combo.

You do have to watch your own honour as it is yet another card that uses our honour to activate its effects but a largely free, and uncancellable dishonour effect will always be strong. I am looking forward to using this in my decks going forward.

Apprentice Engineer




Rebuild on a stick (sort of). On the face of it, this cards seems great; An uncancellable way to bring back your own holdings. However, on closer inspection it does have several limitations that Rebuild doesn't. To start, Apprentice Engineer discards all other cards in that province whereas Rebuild sends one card back into the deck. This immediately results in limitations in use on City of the Rich Frog and in its use with cards such as Unyielding Sensei. Additionally, there are issues with both the 2 fate cost and the timing of its effect. A common play (before everything was put on the restricted list) was Rebuild -> Iron Mine at the end of the turn to save a character because during the turn there was the risk of the mine being broken as it's an immediate target for opponent attacks. With Apprentice Engineer, you have to save 2 fate until the end of the turn when it's stats are effectively wasted.

Additionally, Crab players will appreciate that our Conflict deck is already pushing to the more expensive side so there are concerns that the 2 fate cost (even if it can be used earlier in the turn) may be too high to be able to even use the Engineer with any level of consistency. Overall, I guess that Apprentice Engineer was designed to be a 'fair' version of Rebuild but it's stats, costing, and effect difference from the original may leave this card as a somewhat niche include if your deck build can't handle the costs. Ultimately it will see play in decks however, if simply due to there being no other alternatives for Holding management.

Inventive Buttressing




Not all that great. A 1 cost attachment for a province to give +3 strength during military conflicts only. The issue here is that for 0 cost you can attach a Fine Katana to one of your characters and have an effective +2 strength that goes towards actually winning the fight and can also be used on the offence. 

It's shortcoming are especially evident given that Lion has received Makeshift Warcamp in the same cycle which for the same cost offers +2 Military force per participating character. With the release of Inventive Buttressing, we have a number of cards that either buff or reduce province strength but they all suffer from the same issue that province strength simply isn't as strong or versatile as raw stats on characters but we are still expected to pay a premium for it.

Sturdy Tetsubo





Another addition to Crab's range of 2 cost, 2 handed smashy sticks. The Sturdy Tetsubo actually has quite a good effect; A twice per round hand discard. I can definitely see this card being used in a hand-control style deck going for earth rings with Tadaka or Kuni Yori to generate up to 4 points of hand advantage in a single conflict (2 for the earth ring, and one each for the discard effects). Of course the Tetsubo has the same issues with Let-Go as all other 2 cost attachments but in an attachment heavy deck I think that this definitely has a place.

Caesless Duty





And finally, we have another crab 'save' with this one being dependent on the number of unbroken provinces you have. Note that it can be used whenever the character would leave play so it is immediately valuable as protection from opposing Assassinates, Way of the Crab or to stop you from being pushed off a bridge and learning to swim.

Given it's fate cost I would compare Caesless Duty to Reprieve; Reprieve is affected by Let-Go and other attachment hate but on the other side, Caesless Duty is an event so there is the possibility of cancel. Additionally, Caesless Duty gets weaker the longer the game goes on with various provinces breaking. Taking these into account, I think that Caesless Duty will see play in lower dynasty cost decks to keep cards like Shrewd Yasukis, Students and even Quartermasters (for that sneaky Way of the Crab play) around for longer. Due to the prevalence of attachment control in the game, and given that I don't tend to use attachments in my decks Caesless Duty will likely be a 3x of in pretty much everything that I make.

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