Crab Clan Primer; A New Player's Guide to the Wall

A very Intimidating Hida

So you want to be a crab?

Hello everyone and welcome. With the recent influx of new players into L5R they will no doubt be looking at the different clans and which might fit their playstyles from other games or in my case, which had the cards that looked the coolest. The Crab clan has developed somewhat since the release of the core sets so with this in mind I wanted to write a more generalist piece about our clan as kind of a sales pitch for anyone who was looking in our direction. In short; less of 'here are some of the best Crab decks' and more of 'here are Crab's themes and how they translate to the cards ingame'.

Who are the Crab?

The Crab Clan are the true defenders of the Empire. It is their sworn duty to protect against the horrors of the Shadowlands to the south and to give their lives to the defence of the great Carpenter Wall; An immovable bulwark one hundred feet tall and thirty feet thick with foundations reaching hundreds of feet into the earth. Every day the Crab give their lives defending the wall so that the peoples of Rokugan can live in peace and prosperity and to the Crab, this duty transcends personal honour, glory and the petty squabbles at court. They might be gruff, unkempt and downright rude at times, but no one questions their strength or courage.

The themes of defence, sacrifice, and forgoing honour for the greater good translate in-game into a versatile clan that is able to generate additional resource during the turn in terms of fate and cards whilst also being able to protect it's characters from leaving the game further extending their use.


Defend to win

Probably the original Crab theme, defending conflicts and winning on defence is core to a number of cards. Whilst winning on defence would normally not actively push a player towards one of the win conditions, what it can do is stall the game and draw it out to future turns where we can turn the small advantages generated by the value cards in our dynasty and conflict decks into massive swings later in the game.

The theme of defence falls into a specific playstyle; Playing few characters early game, passing conflicts and slowly banking fate and cards until you have built a large resource advantage over your opponent with characters that usually will survive the entire game and participate in every fight.

Shiro Nishyama is the Crab Clan's original core stronghold. It's effect is a simple, but powerful flat +1/+1 to the stats of all defending characters until the end of the conflict. This makes it the stronghold of choice for a more defensive playstyle; Offering increased stats effectively for free to help prevent a conflict break whilst your opponent would otherwise have to spend resources to win.

Moreso then any other clan, Crab have several card effects that will either only trigger if the character is defending, or if the Crab player wins a conflict on defence. Whilst most of these (in the case of Kuni Ritsuko for example) are lackluster, and with the exception of Purifier Apprentice, very few actively push towards a win condition. However, the most efficient cards such as Hida O-Ushi, Borderlands Defender and Defend the Wall have found themselves in a number of viable builds. Hida O-Ushi in particular has made a big impact since her release in the Crab Clanpack; Unlike some of the other effects, she doesn't need to be participating in the fight for her effect and can be used to offer an additional military conflict; either forcing your opponent to save characters for the defence or taking advantage of our generally higher military stats. 

The Mountain Does Not Fall is designed to compliment a defensive playstyle for larger 'tower' characters. Going second, or first when combined with Hida O-Ushi; A Mountain-d character can defend and not bow from the resolution of both of your opponent's conflicts and then attack in the final conflict of the turn. Historically the character of choice for this effect was Borderlands Defender; Her effect combining with Mountain to ensure that she wasn't bowed or sent home by either conflict resolution or opponent card effects. She has fallen out of favour nowadays however with the release of O-Ushi and other more efficient characters 

Crab as the 'Holding Clan'

Whilst it is true that other clans have some powerful holdings, Crab have the only form of holding recursion in the game in the form of Rebuild. We also have a number of cards that search for, and can use their effects whilst holdings are in play which allows us to make them an integral part of our strategy.

Rebuild is, probably even moreso then Way of the Crab, is the ubiquitous Crab card and one of the most important theme defining cards in the set.

During a game it may seem detrimental to leave province slots for holdings as you aren't seeing the characters which are necessary to actually attack/defend and produce resource but the abilities that they can offer are often extremely important to the deck's smooth operation. Funeral Pyre for example allows you to sacrifice a character to draw a card (usually one that was leaving this turn anyway, and one that might have some other effects that activate when they leave play), Kuni Laboratory gives a much needed stat boost to our cheaper characters in exchange for one honour at the beginning of the conflict phase and Iron Mine can help keep your characters on the board for longer.

All of these effects can build into a coherent strategy which, when combined with holding search and recursion, allow them to be used exactly when they are needed in game.

In addition to the actual holding effects themselves, we have a number of cards (featured above) whose effects only work when there is a holding in play; The most popular of these being Shrewd Yasuki and Hida Guardian who produce cards in hand and extra stats in a fight respectively and provide very good value for their fate investment.

The Kaiu Wall

Back in October 2018 there were a series of live Q&A sessions with Tyler basically covering everything from card design to clan background and themes. One of the questions I asked but didn't get an answer to at the time revolved around the Kaiu wall;

"Do you think that there is design space for a series of holdings or even provinces representing the wall that would work together and give various effects the more of them are face up on the field? It would help to make the wall less of a thing that's there in the background and more of an actual defensive asset in-game."

I must have been channeling my inner shugenja that day because as it turns out, not only was there design space for a series of provinces representing the great Carpenter Wall but it was something they were actively looking to put into the game!

The Kaiu Wall, also known as the Carpenter Wall or the Kaiu Miracle, for centuries was the very physical demarcation of the southern border of Rokugan. On its north side lie the lands of the Crab Clan, and on its south the River of the Last Stand separated it to the blighted reaches of the Shadowlands. It was here that the forces of Rokugan entrenched themselves in their eternal battle against the forces of Jigoku.

The Kaiu Wall consists of six holdings; all limited, with abilities that can be used either at conflicts at any holding with the Kaiu Wall keyword or on the holdings themselves. With a combination of Rebuild and Kaiu Shihobu we are able to quickly fill our provinces with the wall pieces whilst also being able to effectively defend them using their effects and characters from Kyūden Hida and Whisker Warrens. So far from community testing we have had some success with using at least four of the wall pieces in our decks (Forges, River, Seventh Tower and Watchtower). However, given that there has been a large increase in the amount of cards printed that are able to clear characters, holdings and events on your provinces, and the inherent downsides of seeing fewer characters during your dynasty phase; I feel that running more then a few of these holdings makes more issues then they are worth ingame.


Central to a number of crab cards is the Sacrifice mechanic; you purposefully discard one of your characters in order to activate strong effects. Normally this means that you will attack or defend with your characters first and then sacrifice them to get even more value out of their fate cost. It is important to note that there is no getting around the cost to activate these cards; If you try to save the character leaving play then the sacrifice card's effect won't activate and you will have either wasted your opportunity or will have to activate it again in the case of one of the events.

Probably the most well known Crab sacrifice card is Way of the Crab. For the cost of 1 fate and a character you control (normally something cheap that gives back resource such as a Gallant Quartermaster or Kaiu Envoy) your opponent must sacrifice one of their own characters. It doesn't target and doesn't care how much fate there is on the character so the only way to save it is with cards like Iron Mine and Reprieve. Such is the fear of a character being killed by Way of the Crab that your opponents will be forced to make sometimes sub-optimal plays to try and buy another character just so that their bug guy doesn't get hit.

Yasuki Broker deserves special mention here as she has direct synergy with the other sacrifice effects. Whilst she is in a conflict all other characters you control give a card and a fate when they leave play. With good timing of your sacrifice effects there is the possibility to net a large amount of extra resources during the turn.


Using honour

I have split this into two parts; On the one hand we have cards that cost honour in order for us to activate and take advantage of their effects (in a similar way to Banzai! and Assassinate). On the other we have a number of cards that require us to be less honourable then our opponents in order to be active. This doesn't necessarily mean that the card's effects have direct synergy with eachother in terms of usefulness but with careful planning (such as using Hida Yakamo alongside Kuni Laboratory, Banzai and Assassinate) you can activate some of the stronger effects in the game. Just be aware that due to the lack of in-clan honour effects, the threat of total dishonour is very real for a Crab player so you can often find yourself close to 0 with careless play.

Cards that cost honour to activate. Some, like Kuni Laboratory are stronger then others but all give potentially decent effects using a resource that we otherwise wont be making much use of.

Cards that require the player to be less honourable to activate. Of these, only Hida Yakamo has seen a real amount of play but his effect is very strong as long as you can keep it active.

Draining honour

In L5R there are three win conditions; The conquest victory (breaking your opponent's stronghold), the honour victory (reaching 25 honour) and the dishonour victory (your opponent reaching 0 honour). In my experience the most successful decks can threaten 2 of the 3 win conditions which allows a degree of versatility ingame. As the cardpool increases Crab have been receiving more cards  with the subtheme of draining honour from your opponents. Whilst these effects aren't as direct honour drain as those of Scorpion, and often give your opponent the choice to carry out an action or lose an honour (In the case of Watch Commander and Purifier Apprentice), they do allow a player some measure of control over the game.

In keeping with the crab playstyle of gaining small increments of advantage over time we have a number of 'slow dishonour' effects. Coupled with our in-clan economy we generally can switch to a 'bid 1' playstyle early on in order to choke the opponent's hand lest they lose points of honour each turn by bidding highly.

Playing the long game

Crab are also seen as the clan of 'saves'; we are one of the few clans in the game with relatively easy access to cards that help our big personalities (most likely with several fate worth of attachments also) stay on the field after their initial fate has run out. These cards represent the kind of economy that works well with the themes of defending that I touched upon previously whereby they allow a player to maintain advantage over the board whilst not having to invest as heavily in the initial turns. As we only generate 7 fate per turn any situation where we could offset some of the cost of keeping characters on the board onto later turns (whose effects are also unaffected by the void ring and other character fate draining mechanics) helps push our economy further.

Staples here are Vanguard Warrior, Iron Mine and Reprieve in decks that favour few, large personalities over several smaller ones. It is important to note that unlike Vanguard Warrior, which places a fate on a character, both Reprieve and Iron Mine protect the character from leaving play also through the various 'kill effects' present in game.


Whilst not a clan theme as such, It is worth mentioning Crab's in-clan economy engine in the form of Gallant Quartermaster, Kaiu Envoy, Shrewd Yasuki and Funeral Pyre. When used in combination, these cards can net several fate and cards per turn whilst being some of the most cost-efficient characters we have. You will notice that most if not all of these cards will feature in the majority of Crab decks as they provide a good backbone in order to support whatever playstyle direction you are looking to go in.

Berserkers (Or not defending to win)

Crab are one of the two clans in the game who have cards with the Berserker trait with the other being Lion. Running berserkers as a theme deck has historically been difficult due to the general lack of cheaper berserker characters and the only real support in the form of Crisis Breaker, Seal of the Crab and Wicked Tetsubo. That being said however, berserkers have made somewhat a comeback of late with decks featuring the excellent Butcher of the Fallen alongside Crisis Breaker (to re-use your berserkers in fights after they have attacked or defended) and Hida Yakamo. Yakamo, who doesn't bow from military conflicts as long as you are less honourable then your opponent also combines well with his sister O-Ushi who gives more military conflicts so the theme performs well in an aggressive conquest deck focused on military domination.

Closing Thoughts

As I mentioned in the opening crawl; the themes of defence, sacrifice, and forgoing honour for the greater good translate in-game into a versatile clan that is able to generate additional resource during the turn in terms of fate and cards whilst also being able to protect it's characters from leaving the game further extending their use.

Crab as a whole work by gaining incremental advantages turn by turn (either in cards drawn, fate saved or generated, or characters life being extended) so that eventually you have built a large lead over your opponents. This focus on efficiency in their core playstyle can make it difficult for opponent's to pinpoint exactly when a game was lost, or when the turning point of the game happened. Usually it was not this turn when Hida Kisada was bought, but several turns ago during an air conflict that should have been void.

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