The Emerald Dojo
A Legend of the Five Rings Strategy Site
Updated 31 May, 2021
There is nothing more satisfying in a card game than making a critical play at the right moment. For a cunning opponent, however, there is nothing more satisfying than canceling a critical effect before it can resolve.
Cancel effects are a significant aspect of Legend of the Five Rings play. One of the most gruelling experiences for new players is facing an opponent who seems to know exactly what to cancel and when. However, the most common cancel effects come from a relatively small pool of cards. Knowing these cards, and and the specific requirements to trigger them, can significantly improve the playing experience.
While not exhaustive, this guide covers the essentials of cancel mechanics, the most commonly-played cancel events, and a number of niche cancel effects that it is worth being aware of.
Desolation is 2-fate event from the Crab clan pack Defenders of Rokugan. While this card rarely sees plays, it is helpful for understanding how cancel effects interact with the game. Note the location of the dash (—) in the card text. Essentially, anything written before the (—) is a requirement to play the card, while anything written after the (—) is an effect to resolve if the event is successful.
To initiate Desolation a player is required to pay 2 fate and lose 2 honour — a significant outlay. The effect, however, is also significant: an opponent's entire province row is blanked for the current phase.
Censure is a neutral event that requires the initiating player to hold the Imperial Favour. If this requirement is met, Censure can be used to interrupt an event before it resolves.
Suppose Censure is used to interrupt Desolation. The interaction between these cards takes place at the (—) in the card text of Desolation. If Censure is successful, the effects listed after the (—) in Desolation do not resolve (and thus no provinces are blanked). It is worth noting that Desolation is still considered to have been played (and cards such as Watch Commander will still trigger). In addition, the costs listed before the (—) are not reimbursed: the player who initiated Desolation still loses 2 fate and 2 honour.
The value of a cancel effect thus increases the more expensive the card that is interrupted. Using cheap cancels to deny powerful 'hay makers' cards such as Cavalry Reserves or A Fate Worse than Death provides a significant resource advantage.
Cancel effects can also be cancelled. As long as the requirements are met, players can continue to interrupt each others' cancels until an effect successfully resolves.
Common Cancel Events
Censure is a neutral event that allows a player with the Imperial Favor to interrupt an event before it resolves. It is favoured by clans who are best able to claim the favour and who gain the most benefit from it (see The Imperial Favour).
Telegraphs that suggest an opponent is interested in the favour, and thus Censure, are cards such as The Imperial Palace, Ancient Master, and Ikoma Kiyono. Also be wary of cards that 'cheat' to gain or deny the favour such as Fawning Diplomat and Bayushi Shoju.
The simplest counter to Censure is to deny an opponent the favour. This does not mean that you hold the favour yourself - only that they do not. If neither player holds the favour, a win or draw in the next glory count will ensure that Censure is unplayable. If an opponent does have the favour, however, a win is needed in the next count to turn off Censure.
If an opponent has a Keeper role, and is playing a military or duel-focused clan, there is a good chance they are running Defend Your Honor.
Defend Your Honor is a neutral, Keeper-locked event that requires the initiating player to win a duel for the cancel to take effect. Note that Defend Your Honor can only be played during a conflict, and that there must be participating characters for a duel to take place. If an opponent is towering up a character before a conflict, it might be worth doing the same to counter Defend Your Honor. Alternatively, not assigning defenders, or denying an opponent the opportunity to defend (through Covert or cards such as Pacifism), can counter Defend Your Honor.
The replacement for the now-banned Forged Edict, Forgery, significantly, costs one fate, and also requires that the Scorpion player have less honour than their opponent. This encourages Scorpion players to play powerful cards such as Assassination to lower their honour, also playing into the hands of Alibi Artist. The one fate means Scorpion players must monitor their resources carefully, and are vulnerable to cards which steal fate such as Goblin Sneak.
Scorpion is also a popular splash, so expect Forgery to show up in an opponent's 'red' deck.
Crane players have many ways to honour their characters so it is not difficult for them to meet the requirement of having more honoured characters than their opponent. Thus, expect to encounter Voice of Honor as a 3x in all Crane opponent's decks.
To deny Voice of Honor it can be tempting to race an opponent to have more honoured characters, but unless your deck is specifically tuned toward this purpose such a strategy is inadvisable. Baiting Voice of Honor with low-impact events can work against inexperienced players, but veteran players know how to wait. One's own cancels can be used to counter Voice of Honor, but again, experienced Crane players will attempt to deny these board states. Sometimes the only way forward is to play with the hope that an opponent does not have Voice of Honor in hand, or the grim satisfaction that they will have one fewer after they cancel a key event.
Like Forgery, Voice of Honor is also a popular splash card, so be wary of it in decks that are allied with the Crane.
Niche Cancel Effects
Phoenix do have access to a cancel. It's expensive, and the cancelled card will probably be played again next turn, but it is a cancel nonetheless.
The Support keyword means the card is only really tuned for multiplayer and rarely sees competitive play.
While not strictly a cancel effect, Doji Kuzunobu denies the ability to use reactions in a conflict. Note that this is a passive, not active, ability, and thus is 'on' all the time. As long as he is in a conflict it is impossible for any player to trigger reactions. It is worth noting that a Crane player cannot choose to ignore Kuzunobu's ability: it is a framework effect that must be enforced while he remains in the conflict.
While he rarely sees play, Kuzunobu can be dealt with by preventing him from participating in the current conflict through Covert or send home abilities, blanking his text box using cards such as Cloud the Mind. Failing this, the conflict must be played with the knowledge that reactions cannot be used to gain an advantage.
Effective Deception is a Scorpion province that can cancel a triggered ability during a conflict at this province. Note that this can cancel any triggered ability, whether an action, interrupt, or reaction.
This is important.
Suppose a 2-cost character is declared as an attacker against a Scorpion province. Expecting trouble, Finger of Jade is attached to protect against Assassination or other shenanigans. After the province is revealed as Effective Deception the Scorpion player does indeed play Assassination. Finger of Jade is triggered to interrupt the event, only for Effective Deception to cancel this effect.
No other card can cancel a triggered ability from any source.
A Scorpion player can also use the ability at any time in the conflict until the province is actually broken. Don't be surprised if Hisu Mori Toride cannot trigger because a patient Scorpion has waited until the end of the conflict to use Effective Deception.
Finger of Jade is a common 1-cost neutral attachment that can be sacrificed to cancel an effect that targets the attached character.
There are several important points to note here, the most important of which is the wording "that targets attached character". Cards such as Assassinate, and For Shame! can be cancelled by sacrificing Finger of Jade. However, cards that do not directly "choose" the attached character, such as Way of the Crab and Court Games will not trigger Finger of Jade.
Another important point to note is that the attachment itself can be removed without triggering the interrupt. Let Go can remove Finger of Jade, thus leaving the attached character vulnerable. Again, however, the wording is important. Frostbitten Crossing is an attachment-removing province that targets a participating character, rather than a particular attachment. Finger of Jade can interrupt this action, thus saving any other attachments on the character.
Hida Kisada, aka the "Great Bear", is a mighty Champion. Not only is he an impressive 7 military, he will automatically cancel his opponent's first action in any conflict provided his owner is undefeated this turn. This applies to action abilities on event cards, and cards already in play.
There are a number of points to be aware of with Hisda Kisada. Unlike Doji Kuzunobu, Hida Kisada does not need to be participating in a conflict to use this ability. Also, interrupts and reactions do not trigger him: he will only respond to an Action ability. Finally, if he enters play after his opponent has already played an action in the conflict he cannot cancel subsequent actions.
There are several ways to deal with the Great Bear. Blanking his text will do the trick, as will using a weak first action to get his ability out of the way. It can be tempting to go all in to win the first conflict of the turn, but only do this with a strong hand and/or board state. Crab are very efficient, particularly when defending. Sometimes it is better to wait until a later conflict to try and turn the tide. It can also be tempting to wait until Hida Kisada leaves play, but don't count on this — Crab players have many ways to keep their characters on the board.
Master of the Court is a 4-fate Courtier with the ability to cancel an event by discarding their honoured status token. This is a powerful ability, especially when the character is honoured in a cost-effective way each round by cards such as Kyuden Kakita, Savvy Politician, or Callow Delegate.
Notably, because Master of the Court's ability is not an event it cannot be canceled by another event, although it is still vulnerable to Effective Deception, or effects which blank a characters text such as Cloud the Mind.
Shiba Yōjimbō is a Phoenix character who does what every good bodyguard should: protect their ward.
Note that Shiba Yōjimbō text follows the same wording as Finger of Jade and thus will only protect from triggered abilities that target a Shugenja you control. She will not protect from non-discriminating attacks such as Way of the Crab. Her action is, however, reapeatable, and can be used once per round.
Stay Your Hand is a specific event that cancels a duel that has been initiated.
The decision to run Stay Your Hand depends on the current meta. If powerful duel effects such as Defend Your Honor or Kakita Toshimoko are common then playing Stay Your Hand is reasonable. If not, it may be dead card that sits in hand for the entire game.
Yogo Kikuyo is a Scorpion conflict character who can be put into play to cancel the effects of a Spell event.
'Put into play' means a character does not need to be paid for (as opposed to 'playing' a character). Kikuyo thus has the potential to cancel an opponent's Spell event, and enter play as a free 2/2 Shugenja (although she cannot have fate put on her).
The decision to play Kikuyo depends on the prevalence of Spell cards in the current meta. Generally, because she does not synergise with Scorpion Courtier or Shinobi decks, she does not see competitive play.
From the moment an opponent's role and stronghold are revealed you should begin considering the potential for cancel events to be played against you.
If your opponent has a Keeper role and military-focused clan then expect Defend Your Honour during conflicts. If they are playing Crane or Scorpion or then Voice of Honour and Forgery respectively. If they have plenty of high-glory characters (Lion and Phoenix) then Censure should be expected.
There are also a myriad of other niche cancel effects to consider (and plenty that were not included in this guide); however, in practice it is the most-common event cancels that you should be looking out for.
By constantly scanning the board state, and your opponent's discard pile, it is possibly to make reasonably-educated guesses about which cancel effects an opponent has access to at any given time. If you expect to be cancelled, it may be best to invest more in characters and attachments rather than expensive events for the time being. It is also possible to 'bait' an opponent's events with low-impact events, allowing you to more confidently play your powerful events to influence the game in your favour.
With practice, it is possible to efficiently play around an opponent's cancel effects most of the time, whilst also ensuring you have access to your own cancels when needed. Cancels are very much a part of Legend of the Five Rings, so make sure you are familiar with them.