The Emerald Dojo
A Legend of the Five Rings Strategy Site
Updated 31 May 2021.
Playing an attachment is an investment that can have a significant impact on a game of Legend of the Five Rings. While the humble Fine Katana cannot match the punch of Banzai! in a single conflict, it will, over time, provide greater value.
For new players it can be frustrating to invest significant resources in a key attachment, only for an opponent to remove this before it can reach its full potential. However, the number of cards that enable attachment removal is limited, and most have specific requirements that must be met before they can be played. Learning these conditions allows for much greater confidence in both playing—and removing—key attachments.
While not exhaustive, this guide covers the mechanics of attachment removal, the strategy of attachment removal, common attachment removal cards, and some of the more niche attachment removal cards.
Attachment Removal Mechanics
Lion's Pride Brawler is a powerful Lion character who, while attacking, can bow an opponent's character of equal or lower military strength.
Cloud the Mind is a neutral attachment that blanks the text box of the attached character. It requires a Shugenja to be played, and is commonly used to prevent powerful characters from using their abilities to influence the game.
Suppose Cloud the Mind is attached to Lion's Pride Brawler (a situation Lion players are familiar with). With her text box blanked, she is now unable to use her ability.
Miya Mystic is a common neutral character who can be sacrificed during the conflict phase to discard an attachment. To re-enable the Lion's Pride Brawler's ability, Miya Mystic's action can be used to discard Cloud the Mind.
As with all Legend of the Five interactions the wording is important here. Miya Mystic targets an attachment, not a character, and thus cannot be interrupted by cards such as Finger of Jade. This is different to cards such as Frostbitten Crossing (which targets a character). Also, because Mystic is a character, his action cannot be interrupted by events such as Censure.
If Miya Mystic succeeds in removing Cloud the Mind from Lion's Pride Brawler her powerful ability is active once again. Note, however, that if Lion's Pride Brawler uses her ability, is blanked, and then has the blanking effect removed, she cannot use her ability once again. Unless a card is discarded and recurred, or returned to hand then re-played, it will 'remember' whether it's ability has been used or not for that round.
Attachment Removal Strategy
There are decks with a large number of attachments, and there are decks with a large number of ways to remove attachments. At the beginning of the game, however, neither player knows how many of each their opponent is running.
Suppose a Unicorn player is running the following attachments:
These attachments can be loosely categorised as low-impact card (Katana and Blade) and high-impact cards (Talisman and Barcha).
Their Phoenix opponent, meanwhile, is running the following cards that remove attachments:
Again, these can roughly be categorised into low impact (Miya Mystic, a dynasty character), and high impact (Let Go, a conflict event).
Depending on their stronghold and role it can be assumed that the Unicorn player is running at least Curved Blade and Talisman, and that the Phoenix player has Miya Mystic. Beyond this, neither player knows to what extent their opponent is planning to use attachments, or attachment removal. Importantly, the Unicorn player does not know the Phoenix player's splash: while Dragon is common, it is not guaranteed.
The Unicorn player is looking to gain maximum value from their attachments. In particular, they hope to use Talisman to protect key provinces and their stronghold, and Barcha to swing key conflicts. The Phoenix player, for his or her part, is hoping to recognise which attachments provide maximum value and remove them.
Thus begins the cat-and-mouse game of attachment removal.
The Phoenix player will likely play Miya Mystic as a deterrent. As a dynasty character his ability is clearly telegraphed, but it can also contribute to Supernatural Storm and will provide one glory towards the Imperial Favour count if unbowed.
The Unicorn player will likely wait until the following turn to play attachments (assuming Miya Mystic has no fate), or play low-impact attachments to bait his action.
Each player is also holding high-impact cards in reserve.
The Unicorn player is hoping that Miya Mystic will be used to remove Fine Katana or Curved Blade, allowing a more-powerful Talisman of the Sun or Adorned Barcha to be safely played. The Phoenix player is hoping that an unexpected Let Go can then be used to remove such powerful attachments before they significantly impact the game. How this plays out will depend on which cards are drawn, the available resources, and the board state.
In this example each player is running a relatively high number of attachments and attachment removal cards. By contrast, if the Unicorn player were running a small number of attachments, and recognised early that their opponent had a high number of cards with attachment removal, it makes sense to shift to characters and events as the primary tools for winning conflicts. Any free attachments that are not removed should be considered a bonus, and more expensive attachments should only be played as a last resort.
Alternatively, if the Phoenix player were running only a small number of attachment removal cards, and recognised early that their opponent has access to a large number of attachments, it follows that they should wait patiently to remove only high-impact attachments, and accept that low-impact attachments will remain in play.
Common Attachment Removal Cards
Let Go is a powerful card that has ability to discard expensive attachments for no cost to the person playing it.
Whilst most cards have specific requirements that must be met before they can be played (Censure requires the Favor, a boosted Banzai! costs an extra honour), Let Go suffers no such restrictions. It is also a relatively-cheap 2 influence, allowing for other useful Dragon cards to be taken alongside it in a splash package.
The best way to counter Let Go is to recognise early whether an opponent has access to it. Most Dragon players will run it as a 3x, but if a non-Dragon opponent plays a Tattooed Wanderer or Ancient Master, it is a good bet they also have Let Go. Once this is confirmed, look to bait it with low-impact attachments or cancel it, if able. Only play high-impact attachments if you are confident you will be able to gain value from them.
Knowing whether to run Let Go yourself is dependent upon the meta. If powerful attachments are common it is a reasonable choice. If not, it may sit dead in your hand. That said, decks with no attachments are rare, and having a 0-fate event that can discard Watch Commander the moment it hits the board is always reassuring.
Miya Mystic is a neutral character from the Core Set. It's high cost and awful stat line are vindicated by its powerful ability, and there is an argument to be made that it should be a 3x in all decks.
As far as playing the card is concerned, the big difference between Mystic and Let Go is that, as a dynasty character, Mystic clearly telegraphs its ability. Thus, it's significant cost can be wasted if it is assassinated or clouded before its ability can be used. It is also a clear signal to an opponent that playing expensive attachments this turn is risky. That said, such a warning has value in itself, and can provide a buffer against said attachments for the current turn.
A final reminder for playing Miya Mystic is to not forget to use its ability. There is an action window following the final conflict in the Conflict phase which is the last opportunity to trigger the Action to discard an attachment. That said, doing so will forfeit Mystic's 1-glory contribution towards the Imperial Favor glory count.
Disciple of Shinsei shares many similarities with Miya Mystic. He is a neutral character, he costs two fate, and he can discard an attachment. The decision to play one or the other depends on the cards available to one's clan and the win condition for the deck.
While Miya Mystic is a Shugenja who can contribute glory towards the Imperial Favour, Disciple of Shinsei is a Monk with much better stats.
Importantly Miya Mystic can be used at any time in the Conflict phase (but must be sacrificed to do so). Disciple of Shinsei, by contrast, must wait until he leaves play to use his ability.
Calling in Favors can 'steal' a target attachment and transfer it to a character controlled by the Scorpion player. Even when used against the ubiquitous Ornate Fan, Calling in Favours can still provide a 4- skill swing in a political conflict.
It's 1-fate cost is noteworthy, and it does require the Scorpion player to dishonour a character, although the latter condition is more often a benefit than a cost as it helps to enable Forgery.
Esteemed Tea House is one of those cards that really needs to be played against to 'get'. There is a lot going on in its card text, but this can essentially be boiled down to 'the Crane player can temporarily remove an attachment if they have a Courtier participating in a conflict'.
It is important to note that while the Courtier must be present in the conflict, Esteemed Tea House itself need not: its ability can be used during a conflict at any province, whether on the offensive or defensive.
It is also worth noting that the attachment is not discarded, but returned to its owner's hand. However, copies of that card cannot be played again that phase. With this in mind, if 2 copies of an attachment are in hand, it may be worth playing both before the conflict, ensuring that if Esteemed Tea House is used to remove one, the other remains in play. By contrast, if the first is played during the conflict, it can be immediately returned to hand, leaving two dead cards for the phase.
It is also worth remembering that the holding itself provides a +2 bonus so be prepared for a costly win to discard it.
The Restricted keyword refers to an attachment needing to be held in a character's hand. Hence, only two Fine Katana can be equipped by a character. An attempt to counter the popular tower meta deck, Curse of Misfortune makes all other attachments on a character become restricted, and thus only two attachments in total can remain attached.
This is a powerful effect which has had a meta-warping effect on the game, even though the card itself does not see regular play. It costs one fate, and is useless against decks that have no intention of putting more than two attachments on characters, but nonetheless it in the right circumstances it can swing a game.
Also, it can be used to remove unwanted attachments from friendly characters (such as Cloud the Mind), but this does limit said character to just two attachments as a result.
Niche Attachment Removal Cards
There are two provinces with the power to remove attachments that occasionally see play: Frostbitten Crossing and Into the Forbidden City.
Note that their targeting conditions are slightly different. Frostbitten Crossing, while more impactful, targets a character rather an attachment (and thus can be stopped by cards such as Finger of Jade or Shiba Yojimbo), while Into the Forbidden City targets an attachment, but only one.
Agasha Hiyori is an interesting character. Hers is the only card that can blank an attachment (much like Cloud the Mind can blank a character). She belongs, however, to a clan which already has the most powerful attachment control available (Let Go).
Agashia Hiyori rarely sees play. Unless the meta requires extreme attachment control the Monk Disciple of Shinsei remains a more efficient option for Dragon players who are looking for more than 3x Let Go.
Bayushi Collector is the second of the two in-clan methods of attachment control available to the Scorpion. A 2-cost conflict character, he can be used to discard attachments on dishonoured characters (the dishonoured token is also discarded).
The requirement to dishonour a character is not difficult for Scorpion, and the ability to gain added value from collector over multiple turns is beneficial. That said, the initial set up of playing multiple cards to remove a single attachment, and the loss of the target character's dishonour token, are both regrettable.
While Bayushi Collector does see play, he is much less common than Calling in Favors.
When first announced Hand to Hand was praised as the Lion equivalent to Let Go. Unfortunately, the fact that it can only be played on a participating character in a military conflict, and its potential to backfire, has resulted in only minimal use in competitive play.
Hand to Hand's 0-fate cost is appealing, as is the fact that it is a conflict card. At the time of its release Lion were not playing heavy-attachment decks and so Hand to Hand was a reasonable inclusion. With the release of powerful attachments in the Lion clan pack, however, it has become less common due to the risk of an opponent continuing the effect.
Inspired Visionary is an interesting card that can frustrate an opponent. As a very cheap Shugenja he can be used to power Supernatural Storm and he also contributes 1 glory to the Imperial Favour count (it is best for him to be readied at the end of the Conflict Phase so he can also use his ability in the Fate Phase.
The most recent Phoenix in-clan attachment control, Sanguine Mastery is the only event which allows more than one attachment to be discarded. The costs are high (a Fire role, one fate from a character you control, and a dishonored character), but with Isawa Mori Seido this can allow a significant number of attachments to be discarded in one fowl sweep.
Iuchi Rimei's ability, while not strictly attachment removal, does allow the the manipulation of low-cost attachments played by an opponent.
Her ability allows powerful attachments to be moved to other (preferably bowed or non-participating) characters. This is particularly desirable for towers with powerful duels at their disposal. Key attachments such as Watch Commander or Finger of Jade can also be moved between an opponent's characters as needed.
Her ability can also be used to move detrimental attachments such as Cloud the Mind away from one of your own key characters.
Attachments can have a powerful, lasting effect on a game of Legend of the Five Rings. Much like deciding how much fate to put on a character, deciding whether or not to play an attachment is an investment that must be carefully weighed against the current board state and match up.
As with cancel effects, clans that prefer a more straightforward militaristic approach (such as Crab and Unicorn) have little in the way of dedicated attachment control. Clans with a more subtle, political approach (such as Crane and Scorpion), by contrast, have more reliable forms of removal available to them. The clan which pursues a philosophy of casting off material attachments, Dragon, naturally has the most reliable method of attachment removal of all.
Always keep an eye on the current board, and an opponent's discard pile, when considering whether to play attachments. If their imminent removal is likely, it might be better to save your fate for characters and events to help achieve your win condition.