The Emerald Dojo
A Legend of the Five Rings Strategy Site
Masters of the Court
Updated 31 May, 2021.
Trained in etiquette and courtesy, the noble Crane ensure that the courts of Rokugan exude elegance and refinement. Not to be outdone in the field of battle, the Crane are also capable of fielding small-but-well trained armies, and their duelists are among the most deadly in the empire.
Crane players like to control a game of Legend of the Five Rings by frustrating their opponent's plans. They achieve this by cancelling key events, returning attachments to their owners hands, and discarding important characters. Crane also have access to a vast bureaucracy of courtiers, and they excel at honouring characters to capitalise on their high glory. Their powerful duelists can control the flow of battle, and even prevent attacks from being declared. Success (or even just participating) in duels can also lead to significant benefits.
This primer guide looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the Crane clan, and their most commonly-played cards.
Strengths and Weaknesses
High-glory characters: Many key Crane characters have 2-3 glory, and with with a multitude of efficient ways to honor these characters they can offer sustained value the longer a game continues.
Accessible cancels: Crane can use their honored characters to interrupt opponent's key events, and they can also use their duelists to interrupt events in conflicts with Defend Your Honor.
Character kill effects: Noble Sacrifice remains an efficient kill effect, and one of the few that can be played outside of conflicts. Duel to the Death can also be played in tower-dueling decks, although it requires a little more set up.
Dueling: While the rivalry between the Kakita and Mirumoto dueling schools is ongoing in the lore of Rokugan, most accept that in the Living Card Game it is the Crane who hold the upper hand. Crane duels offer ways to bow, blank, and send home characters, with Kyuden Kakita providing excellent benefits for mere participation.
Hand destruction: While not a particularly common archetype, Crane do have access to a number of cards which can reduce their opponent's hand size.
Honor victory: A relatively new archetype for the Crane, achieving an honor victory with Seven Fold Palace is now possible.
High-glory characters: High glory is great, provided these characters are honoured. If they are neutral then high glory is merely wasted potential. When dishonoured, their high glory becomes a real problem. This can make the Scorpion matchup particularly problematic for Crane players.
Expensive: There is no getting around the fact that key Crane characters are expensive. This, added to the fact that there are no real way to generate or discount fate, means Crane players can easily be squeezed for resources.
Straighten effects: While Crane have access to Return the Offence, and the less-played Kakita's Final Stance, each of these is vulnerable to cancels, and each requires an opponent's participating character to take effect. The only other reliable Crane ready, Magistrate Station, is now on the banned list.
Supplementary card draw: While Crane do have some cards that allow the top card of their conflict deck to be revealed and played, this provides situation benefits at best, and pales in comparison to the more direct card draw available to other clans.
The most commonly-played Crane stronghold, Kyuden Kakita synergises well with the Crane duelling archetype. The reaction should be used each turn to achieve maximum value, and it is worth noting that the participating character does not need to win the duel to become honoured. If the outcome of the duel is not significant, a Crane player can simply bid low to potentially draw honour for an opponent, whilst also gaining future value from having an honoured character.
Alternatively, if you want to try to win by reaching 25 honor, Seven Fold Palace could be the choice for you. Because it is a reaction to winning as the attacker, you will still have to play an interactive game with your opponent; but if you can keep the momentum, you might be able to become a paragon of honor in the eyes of the empire before your opponent is able to stop you. Since there are not many Crane cards that directly gain honor, you will have to rely on honored characters leaving play over the course of the game.
Tsuma provides a reliable way to have an honored character on the table, albeit from a highly vulnerable 3-strength Eminent province. On a good day it can put a powerful character into play with an honoured status token and a number of fate. On a bad day it reveals a Holding and is immediately destroyed by the first enemy attack.
Pledge of Loyalty is the only in-clan save effect available to the Crane. It can be used to prevent a character with no fate from being discard during the fate phase, or when they would be discarded because of a kill effect.
While such effects are powerful, provinces with strength 3 are difficult to defend, and the character must have an honored status token that can be discarded.
Crippling Taxes allows key cards in an province row to be discarded as an Action during the dynasty phase. This can prevent an opponent's key characters from being played (this works best with the first player token), and it can also discard dynasty events or important holdings.
Note that all cards in the province are discarded (and not refilled faceup) by Crippling Taxes. This allows it to clear, for example City of the Rich Frog, or a province with multiple face up cards.
Doji Diplomat, Doji Whisperer, Callow Delegate, and Chancellor's Aide represent Crane's entry-level Courtier characters. Their participation in conflicts enables the use of For Shame! (which is an automatic bow for the recently-unrestricted Steward of Law, a conflict character), and Esteemed Tea House. Callow Delegate can also use its ability to fuel Voice of Honor.
Doji Diplomat also provides powerful synergy with cards that require face up provinces such as Wealth of the Crane.
Brash Samurai represents outstanding value for just 2 fate. His ability easily allows him to become a 4/3 (and thus a threat to most provinces), and also helps to enable Voice of Honor. Like all 2 costers he is vulnerable to Assassination, but can be readied by Elegant Tessen.
Daidoji Netsu is interesting. At first glance his text appears innocuous, but it can shut down a number of opposing archetypes. He completely negates Hisu Mori Toride, preventing Unicorn (or occasional Lion) players from enabling their second military conflict. He also stops Crab players from utilising Way of the Crab, at least during the Conflict Phase, along with their myriad of sacrifice effects.
Importantly, however, Netsu only prevents other characters from leaving play during the conflict phase. He himself can still be targeted (and as he only costs 2 fate he can be discarded by Assassination).
Doji Challenger has a number of things going for her. She has strong stats (especially when honoured), and carries the Duelist trait. She can also harpoon opposing characters to a conflict while attacking, a powerful ability which requires very little set up (in comparison with other characters with such an ability).
Harpoon abilities can be used to pull a strong character to a conflict they are not suited to. For example, Utaku Tetsuko must be attacking to use her passive ability, but Challenger can force her to defend and then bow. It can also be used to deny Display of Power. At 3 fate cost she is outside of Assassination range, although as a non-unique she cannot be duped in the dynasty phase.
Kakita Kaezin is a common Duelist for the Crane. He is particularly effective against swarm decks, but less so against towers.
There is a cat-and-mouse game that can play out with Kaezin's ability. Unlike most duels, Kaezin's does not bow the loser, but rather, sends characters home. These characters can, however, be used for later conflicts. In some cases, one or both players may be hoping to intentionally lose the duel. For the Crane, this honours Kaezin with Kyuden Kakita and leaves him ready for a subsequent conflict. For the opponent, a weak character can accept and lose the duel, resulting in all other characters being sent home, and thus still available for later conflicts.
Daidoji Kageyu features the useful Disguised keyword, which effectively offers a free stand during the Conflict Phase. His ability is also powerful, especially when an opponent forgets about it, which is possible while he is still sitting waiting patiently in the province row. If revealed mid conflict this means forgoing his ready effect after the conflict, so consider carefully where he can be used to gain the most value.
Cunning Negotiator features the powerful Rally keyword and excellent political stats, becoming a whopping 7 when honoured (all-but guaranteed due to his in-built duel and Kyuden Kakita). The duel itself is situational at best, but can be used to gain an extra use of Shameful Display or Manicured Garden under the right circumstances.
Asahina Takamori is an interesting character. On a good day, when honoured, he offers decent stats and the ability to lock a key character out of conflicts for an entire turn. On a bad day, he offers no stats and, in the face of a swarm opponent, or one with plenty of movement abilities, little-to-no influence on the game.
He is a rare case of a character with both Courtier and Shugenja traits, and his awesome potential means he sometimes sees competitive play.
Sometimes loved, sometimes hated, always respected. Kakita Toshimoko's ability to lock down a game has seen him added to the restricted list.
Kakita Toshimoko can stare down a vastly-superior force (either military or political) and bring them to a halt by initiating a single duel (even if bowed). If Kakita Toshimoko wins the duel the conflict is drawn and no winner is declared (and no ring claimed).
He has decent—if not outstanding—stats, and will generally need to be honoured with a number of attachments to assure victory. Note that his opponent can choose who accepts the duel, and that Finger of Jade and Stay Your Hand will cancel this. Note also that if the duel is drawn his interrupt is cancelled and the opponent wins the conflict as normal.
In addition to the ever-handy Covert keyword, Master of the Court provides an additional way for Crane players to cancel an opponent's events. Importantly, this can be reused once per round, provided Master of the Court can be honored as needed. Ideally, this should be down through free methods such as Tsuma, Callow Delegate, Savvy Politician or Kyuden Kakita.
In addition, it is worth noting that because Master of the Court's Interrupt is not an event, it cannot be cancelled by the usual cancel events. It can, however, still be stopped by Effective Deception, and Master of the Court can still have his text blanked by Cloud the Mind and other such effects.
Kakita Yoshi, despite belonging to a famous Duelist family, must face his opponents in court due to a family curse which leaves him unable to lay his hand upon bare steel.
His earlier iteration requires the Imperial Favour to make use of, but the effect is a powerful one: a 2-fate discount on events is helpful, and a 3-card draw is spectacular.
His more recent version, which suggests he has had way too many late nights, provides a powerful late-game ability which allows him to dishonour up to 4 opposing characters as payback for encroachments upon Crane lands. This is a wonderfully thematic ability which fits the recent waning and waxing fortunes of Yoshi and the Crane clane.
Doji Hotaru is the official Champion of the Crane clan. The earlier version is (oddly) not a Courtier, although this was changed in the more recent edition. Complementing the Core Set version of Akodo Toturi, the original Doji Hotaru can double the effects of the contested ring when attacking in a political conflict, and it has been ruled that she can also resolve the contested ring upon a successful political defense. Her updated version is suited for decks seeking an honour victory and works somewhat like a reverse Watch Commander.
Her brother, Doji Kuwanan (see here in matching card art) declared himself Champion of the Crane clan and is very much a Bushii, rather than a Courtier. His ability is powerful, but due to the prevalence of cheap stands his is an expensive bow and so he does not see regular play.
As cool as Daidoji Uji is in the lore of Rokugan, he has proven problematic to introduce in the card card. His first iteration needed to be errata'd as it originally allowed any played characters to enter play for one less fate. The result is a useful, if not overwhelming, character who sometimes sees play.
The new version of Daidoji Uji showcases his ingenuity and tactical genius by allowing you to search your entire conflict deck for 4 cards. You have to find a way to honor him in order to play those cards, but the Crane have many ways to do that. He can fit in any type of deck, but shines especially when you are relying on specific cards from your conflict deck for strong combos. While he has not been around long enough to see an official Imperial Law, he has already been banned under the Jade Edict.
There is a lot going on with Esteemed Tea House. Essentially, it means that if a Crane player has a Courtier character in a conflict they can return an attachment on a participating character to its owner's hand. Copies of this attachment cannot played again this phase.
The action can be used at conflicts at any province, not just the one to which Esteemed Tea House is attached (the Courtier, however, does need to be present). As a holding it does telegraph its ability clearly, but with +2 province strength it is quite resilient.
When playing against Tea House it is worth playing duplicates of key attachments before important conflicts. While two copies of Finger of Jade may seem excessive, it is better than playing one and keeping another in reserve, as the use of Tea House's ability will result in both becoming unplayable.
Kakita Dojo allows Crane players to regularly initiate duels in conflicts. The participating Crane character will almost inevitably be a Duelist—likely honoured and loaded with attachments—leading to a bowed opposing character as well. Alternatively, it can be used to simply bid low to honour a character with Kyuden Kakita (the opposing character is probably not a Duelist, and thus there is little risk of the Crane character becoming bowed).
In all of this, it is easy to forget the Kakita Dojo also causes the losing character's text box to be blanked until the end of the conflict.
Proving Ground deserves an honourable mention in Crane holdings as it is often included in dueling decks. While it takes up a slot in the row while providing no bonus to province strength, it can draw up to two cards a turn for as long as it stays in play.
Note that unlike Kyuden Kakita, the character must win the duel to receive a benefit.
A New Name provides a nice +1/+1 for 0 fate and also allows the attached character to benefit from cards that require the Bushi or Courtier traits. While A Perfect Cut could be a target for the former, it is the latter that usually provides more benefit from synergy with For Shame! and Esteemed Tea House. A New Name is not restricted, so multiples can be added to a key tower platform to provide extra stat boost for duels and conflicts. It is Void role locked, however.
Formal Invitation allows a key character to be moved to a political conflict and, even while bowed, initiate duels and benefit from the Courtier trait. It is free, and provides a nice +1 political bonus.
Duelist Training offers a consistent way for Crane to bow opposing characters, and also synergises with Kyuden Kakita and Proving Ground. Note that its controller can choose who accepts the duels (unlike many powerful duels which give the opponent this option). Cards can also be used in place of honour to pay for higher bids, although this is usually only done as a last resort.
Steward of Law is not only a cheap Courtier, his ability enables some interesting interactions during conflicts. First, though, it is worth noting that his text reads "cannot become dishonored" rather than "cannot be dishonored". The difference is subtle, but important, as it means that a character with an honored status token can be dishonoured to become neutral, but a neutral character cannot be dishonoured as this would mean they "become dishonored".
Confused? Don't worry, you'll get the hang of it.
As neutral characters cannot "become dishonoured" while this character is participating in the conflict they must, for example, automatically bow to For Shame!, or accept Duel to the Death, leading to some clutch situations if an opponent is not careful.
Political Rival can be used to evade a tower character when attacking in a political conflict, or to shore up a political defence. He is also another Courtier, but cannot be duped in the fate phase.
Note that Political Rival's (—) military means he cannot be military dueled, but he will be sent home bowed if the conflict is switched to military.
An honourable mention, Niten Pupil can sometimes be found a home in a variant of the Crane dueling deck (look for the Water role when the game begins). Niten pupil becomes a 4/4 after honour dials are revealed for her first duel of the phase, and the Kyuden Kakita increases this to a 5/5 once the duel is complete. Not bad for 2 fate. Like Brash Samurai she is vulnerable to Assassination, but can be readied by Elegant Tessen.
Gossip is an interesting card that generally requires a strong understanding of the meta, or at least the more common lines of play from each of the clans. If a Crane player correctly identifies what an opponent is planning to do Gossip can be used to prevent a key card from being played that phase. If the Crane player misreads the board, or their opponent did not have the chosen card in hand, Gossip may be a dead play, but at least it does not cost fate (although no other Limited cards can be played that round).
Try Again Tomorrow offers an efficient way to send home key characters from conflicts. It is free, and most Crane decks run plenty of Courtier characters.
While usually used on defense to send home attackers, it can also be used as a tactical feint to send home one's own attacking characters if victory in the current conflict is not vital.
Voice of Honor is Crane's go-to cancel and should be expected as a 3x in all competitive decks. Way of the Crane can usually ensure that Crane players stay ahead in the honoured-characters race, and this is supplemented by a myriad of other effects that honor characters.
Way of the Crane, like Way of the Scorpion, offers one of the few ways to change a character's status outside of conflicts. It offers excellent value over multiple turns when played on characters with high glory, and is the go-to method for enabling Voice of Honor.
Duel to the Death is one of the few character-removal effects in Legend of the Five Rings, but it is not easy to pull off.
It costs one fate and the opponent can choose to dishonor their character to the duel. This generally means that Crane players only initiate duels against dishonoured characters, or pre-play Steward of Law in the conflict to negate the dishonor option. The Crane player will also generally bid whatever is required to secure the win, meaning the opponent should probably just bid one.
Finger of Jade and Stay Your Hand can both be used to cancel the duel.
Return the Offense and Kakita's Last Stance offer Crane players some ability to keep characters ready after conflicts are resolved.
Return the Offense is a powerful swing card for key conflicts. If the political duel is won the winning character will not bow at the end of the conflict and the loser cannot be readied during the conflict. This turns off the popular Fan of Command and In Service to my Lord (at least for the current conflict). It does cost one fate, but the potential benefit is significant.
Kakita's Final Stance is less-commonly played, but it does provide two powerful effects. For one fate it prevents a character from bowing from the likes of For Shame!, Kirei-ko, or the many duels that bow the loser. It also prevents the character who participated in a duel from bowing at the end of the conflict (note that they do not need to have won the duel). It is only playable in military conflicts, however.
Noble Sacrifice telegraphs its intention quite clearly. When a Crane player honors a cheap character of their own, and goes out of their way to dishonour a powerful character belonging to their opponent, a 'bridge throw' is probably in the works. If this is the case, an opponent will need to quickly attach a Finger of Jade, enable another discard save option (such as Reprieve), or find a way to honor the potential target character.
Note also the Noble Sacrifice can be used outside of conflicts and during any action window.
The quasi-sister card to Mark of Shame, Soul Beyond Reproach allows a dishonoured character to immediately become honoured, and thus stay ahead in the honoured/dishonoured race.
It costs one fate, and is Air-role locked, but still sees regular play.
Highlight the Flaws gives Crane some protection against their opponent's province row by canceling a triggered ability. The card is well balanced: while it costs one fate and is Fire-locked it will protect against both Action and Reaction abilities.
If a Crane opponent has a Fire role then Highlight the Flaws is almost certainly in their deck, but if not it can be safely forgotten about.
Crane decks may appear delicate, but their characters are powerful and their events impactful. They cannot prevent everything, however, so avoiding wasting cancels unnecessarily, and watch out for sneaky opponents who will bid high in key duels.
Beneath their immaculate presentation and silver-tongued language lies a clan equally at home in the courts and on the battlefield. Capable of turning its fortunes with the stroke of a pen or the slash of a katana, Crane are always a clan to watch.