The Emerald Dojo
A Legend of the Five Rings Strategy Site
Seekers of Wisdom
Updated 31 May, 2020.
Mysterious and elusive, the Dragon clan seek to know the world through their devotion to meditation, study, and action. Located in remote mountainous regions, many Dragon live their lives without setting foot beyond their borders, creating an aura of myth about their clan which they are generally happy to maintain. Their monks spend multiple lifetimes honing their skills, often with no idea where this will lead them. In battle, however, they are able to use their impressive skills (embodied in their mysterious tattoos) to overwhelm and disarm opponents.
Most competitive Dragon decks focus on one key character: Togashi Mitsu. In both his earlier and later iterations, Mitsu is capable of winning games singlehandedly through impressive recursion or ring manipulation, along with the support of key events, attachments, and provinces. Beyond this, Dragon dueling decks can also be encountered at tournaments, as can decks which rely on the action abilities of Togashi Yokuni and Niten Master.
This primer guide looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the Dragon clan, and their most commonly-played cards.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Powerful characters: The original tower clan, Dragon have access to a number of extremely powerful dynasty characters. These can be loaded with attachments and then prevented from bowing after key conflicts.
Kung fu skills: Dragon players can make use of powerful effects that come with playing a larger number of cards during conflicts. Such effects include continual skill increases, gaining fate for characters, and resolving ring effects.
Attachment control: Dragon have access to Let Go, the single most effective attachment control card in the game.
Stronghold defense: Dragon have arguably the most powerful stronghold province in the game: Sacred Sanctuary. When used carefully this can allow a powerful character to participate in three of the four conflicts each round for no resource outlay.
Ring manipulation: Dragon players have multiple ways to place fate on rings, and then make use of this fate to improve their economy or gain powerful effects.
Tower defense: A Dragon deck that relies upon one or two key characters is vulnerable to effects that dishonor, bow, send home, or kill these characters. With no in-clan cancels or save effects, these costly investments can quickly become liabilities.
High glory: With limited ways to honour their own characters, the high glory on key Dragon characters can easily be abused by some opponents.
Cost: While Dragon can build an economy based on fate on rings, this is not always reliable and their clutch attachments can be expensive.
Holdings: Dragon holdings are rarely competitive play due to their lack of synergy with popular archetypes.
Much of the Dragon clan philosophy revolves around the Buddhist concept of letting go of earthly attachments. This is somewhat at odds with their core stronghold which focuses on gaining value from attachments. Then again, the Agasha do make some nice toys.
Mountain's Anvil Castle provides a reliable boost to military or political conflicts throughout the game. Under optimal conditions it can buff a character with two attachments in Round 1, when +2/2 makes a significant difference during conflicts. And while the effect of the stronghold diminishes as the game continues, it is never unhelpful.
Monk gameplay is designed to mimic kung fu movies in which a flurry of punches and kicks overwhelm an opponent. This is represented in game by cards such as High House of Light which reward playing a large number of cards during conflicts. The +3 province strength is very nice, although the 7 influence is abysmal. That said, Monk decks tend to work best with in-clan cards, often to the point of not including splash cards at all.
Thought should be given as to when to use the Action ability. If used early it provides protection against cards such as For Shame!. If used later, it can help a key character stay on the board for longer.
A card with two nifty benefits, Iron Mountain Castle can almost be considered a +8 fate stronghold as decks built around it will almost always include 1 or 2-cost attachments that can benefit from it (and Daimyo's Favor further leans into this effect).
The additional restricted text is interesting. It can, for example, allow an additional Fine Katana, Ornate Fan, Ancestral Daisho or Kitsuki Method to be played on Niten Master to prevent having to discard so many attachments. They can also be used to power up Mirumoto Raitsugu so that he can duel opposing characters more confidently. Thus, Iron Mountain Castle helps to encourage archetypes outside of the Togashi Mitsu + High House of Light staple, although none of these have as yet unseated it.
Thankfully, Restoration of Balance received an errata changing its interrupt timing from "when revealed" to "when broken". That said, it can still cause significant disruption to an unprepared opponent, who may be required to bow, send home, or even discard their own character if the consequences of a Restoration break are too dire.
As a fire province it can be played alongside Upholding Authority, meaning small pokes (or protection from province abilities) is recommended to avoid significant hand loss when clearing the Dragon row.
Sacred Sanctuary allows Dragon players to put up fierce resistance on their stronghold. Although the province strength of 2 is weak, the reaction provides outstanding value, allowing a key character to ready (and thus join as a defender), and remain unbowed at the end of the conflict. This character is also immune to bow effects (although send home and discard effects will still work if High House of Light not used in a timely fashion).
In practice, Sacred Sanctuary allows a key Monk character to participate in three conflicts every turn. If the Dragon player has the First Player token they can attack with a key character, and then ready and defend with Sacred Sanctury. The character then remains readied at the end of the conflict, and is thus able to declare as an attacker or defender in a subsequent conflict.
If the Dragon player does not have the First Player token they can defend as usual in their first conflict, and then trigger the stronghold for their second defence, thus readying a key character who will subsequently be able to declare as an attacker for the final conflict of the phase.
When a powerful Monk such as Togashi Mitsu (old or new) is honoured and supported by multiple attachments or events this can be a real headache for opponents.
Sacred Sanctuary has also ensured that Seal of the Dragon is the only 'Seal' card to see competitive play.
Doomed Shugenja offers outstanding value on a limited time frame. Her stats of 3/3 are hands down the best in the game for a 1 drop, but, without fancy tricks (which are probably not worth it) she will only stick around for one turn. Said fancy tricks could include Ancestral Daisho or Kitsuki Method which return to hand when the attached character leaves play, but these attachments are generally considered too expensive to play competitively. Saves such as Reprieve are possible, but as a non-unique character she cannot be duped in the dynasty phase so it's generally better to let Doomed Shugenja burn out rather than fade away.
It is also worth noting that Doomed Shugenja has the Limited keyword, although this does not significantly hamper most Dragon archetypes.
Togashi Initiate offers several benefits. He is cheap, and his ability turns him into a handy 3/3 when attacking (although this may gift one fate to the opponent depending on the ring chosen). As a Monk he can be used to play Hurricane Punch for a cheap boost that also provides card draw, or alternatively he can be left straightened to add his glory to the Imperial Favour count. Finally, When leaving play his honored status token can (usually) be used as a nice honor buffer.
The Agasha family invented the katana and so it follows that their celebrated smiths should be represented in the card game. Swordsmith's ability provides repeated value, although he is prone to being assassinated (his action should be used before the first conflict to avoid this).
His ability works best in decks with a fair number of attachments. This suits both a tower archetype which plays a large number of cheap attachments, and more contemporary decks which focus on expensive attachments such as Way of the Dragon, Dragon Tattoo, and Togashi Acolyte (although he unfortunately cant get monks that are attachments). Furthermore he has the handy Shujenga trait (as do most of the Agasha family) which allows hm to find and then play Cloud the Mind.
The fact that the conflict deck shuffles any unused cards (rather than discard them) means that any event cards (especially Void Fist) placed on the bottom of the conflict deck by Togashi Mitsu can potentially be redrawn much sooner.
The Kitsuki family believe in understanding the world through rationale thought and deliberation. Such behaviour is considered almost heretical by most Rokugani, but is nonetheless capable of impressive results.
Kituski Investigator is likewise capable of impressive results, being able to remove a key card from an opponents hand once per turn. His stats are sub par to compensate for his powerful ability, although he does reach 5 political skill when honoured.
Under optimal circumstances his ability should be used on a political defence, allowing the 1 fate that has been spent for his ability to be recouped in the next attack. His ability can be replicated with Way of the Dragon, provided he can participate in a later conflict (his ability can only be used once per conflict).
Be wary of playing Investigator against the Unicorn as cards which flip a political conflict to military (such as Captive Audience or Khan's Ordu) will render the Investigator all-but-useless for the turn.
A Core Set card, Kitsuki Investigator later gave rise to an entire Kitsuki archetype based on hand knowledge and manipulation through the Shiro Kitsuko stronghold. Sadly, this has not proven competitive and rarely sees play.
A most tranquil philosopher, this character provides valuable utility. While expensive for his stats, his ability discounts this over time, and the honor gain is a useful buffer against dishonor decks.
Togashi Gaijutsu is an interesting card, and an even more interesting character. In the original AEG timeline of Legend of the Five Rings it was revealed that the Dragon clan champion, Togashi Yokuni, was in fact Kami Togashi himself, still alive and continuing his oath to defeat Fu Leng's armies. In the FFG timeline, Yokuni was defeated (and killed) by Okuma no Oni at the Battle of Cherry Blossom Snow. Things took another turn, however, when it was revealed that Togashi Gaijutsu (the monk responsible for inking the tattoos on initiate monks with the blood of the kami), was in fact Togashi this time.
Whether or not this was planned from the beginning, or conceived in a fever dream by Robert Denton III as he furiously penned the final fictions to a deadline, is unknown, but it is cool, nonetheless.
In game, Togashi Gaijutsu is a Monk who sees occasional play, but his stats are sub-par and 3 fate is a lot to pay for ready, even if it is repeatable. That said, his (—) military can save him from many duel effects, but does leave him vulnerable to being sent home if a conflict is switched to military.
Mirumoto Raitsugu is a capable duelist who delights in stripping fate from unsuspecting opponents. Miromoto Hitomi is another staple character in Dragon dueling decks who can bow or dishonor up to two opposing characters, reflecting her mastery of the niten (two swords) technique.
When equipped with a pair of Fine Katana and buffed with Mountain's Anvil Castle, Raitsugu and Hitomi can reach 9 and 10 military respectively. With cards such as Favorable Ground or Hawk Tattoo they can also be moved to multiple conflicts to use their abilities on the most valuable targets.
Where things get interesting for Raitsugu is with By Onnotangu's Light, a province at which all participating characters are considered to have no fate. If placed on the stronghold, this allows a towered-up Raitsugu to slice up key characters, repeatedly if Way of the Dragon is attached. Such a deck is not a competitive stape, but it is worth keeping an eye out for.
Ready effects, like bow effects, are powerful. Niten Master can ready twice per round, provided weapons are available to attach to him.
The removal of Niten Master from the restricted list, combined with the arrival of the free Sharpened Tsuruhashi, led to a brief resurgence of Niten Master decks, but his lack of synergy with either Monk or Duelist archetypes has seen this wane, although the arrival of the in-clan Inscribed Tanto has led to another mild resurgence.
Togashi Ichi can used his Disguised keyword for a free stand on a non-unique Monk, and he offers decent stats (particularly when honored).
His Action is very rarely used, but is always spectacular when it goes off.
Togashi Yokuni is a rare example of a character with Bushi and Shugenja traits, and his high glory can be a blessing or curse depending on one's deck and opponent.
Where things get interesting is with his ability.
Never play a Border Rider with Yokuni on the table: to do so is to give a Dragon opponent's 5/5 character a free ready. Indeed, be careful of playing anything that will offer Togashi Yokuni a significant benefit. His owner, meanwhile, can use his ability to gain an extra use of one of their own significant character abilities, whether that be Agasha Swordsmith, Kitsuki Investigator, or Togashi Mitsu.
While his lack of Monk and Duelist traits is regrettable (he is a common target for Seal of the Dragon), Yokuni still brings enough to the table to justify his inclusion in most competitive decks.
Togashi Mitsu is a true one man army, in both of his incarnations.
His original version becomes an impressive 7/6 when honoured, and he features the Monk trait and valuable Covert keyword. During conflicts he is able to recur a Monk, Tattoo or Kiho card from the discard pile, which can lead to multiple Void Fist during key conflicts. With careful plays he can be kept on the board indefinitely through High House of Light, and he can avoid bowing after conflicts through Indomitable Will, Centipede Tattoo, or Sacred Sanctuary.
The more recent version of Togashi Mitsu was initially scoffed at, but has since proven a fearsome opponent. To begin with, his 5 political skill is valuable, and, although he cannot Covert an opposing character, he at at least cannot be coverted himself.
Where things get interesting is his ability.
Ring effects represent the fundamental mechanics through which players interact with the game. Togashi Mitsu can, after 5 cards have been played, resolve any one of these powerful effects. And, with Way of the Dragon, this effect can be resolved twice to, for example, strip 2 fate from an opposing character or enable a 4-card swing from two Earth rings.
Playing against either Togashi Mitsu is challenging. While he is expensive, he be kept on the board long after his expiry date and can participate in multiple conflicts per phase with Sacred Sanctuary or Indomitable Will. When the time comes to break Sacred Sanctuary this must be done with overwhelming force, as a series of smaller attacks will simply be resisted each time.
While it lacks the Rally keyword that is common on dynasty events, Cycle of Rebirth is still a useful card. If Dragon have the first player token it's Action can be used to prevent important opposing characters from entering play (or dynasty events from using their Action). It can also be used to cycle key holdings back into an opponent's deck.
Notably, it can also be used to 'thin' one's own deck to more quickly access important dynasty cards (usually Togashi Mitsu).
The sister card to Kakita Dojo, Mirumoto Dojo unfortunately does not see a lot of play due to the lower frequency of Dragon dueling decks, and what is generally considered a weaker effect. Like Mirumoto Raitsugu, the Dojo removes fate from the duel's loser (which is discarded if the winner is a duelist). This is fine, but lacks the immediacy of the bowing and blanking effects which come with Kakita Dojo.
Ancient Master and Tattooed Wanderer are both 1-cost conflict character cards which feature a monk standing on one leg with palms pressed together. Thus, they are easily confused, but it is important to recognise the difference as both offer excellent value in their own way.
Ancient Master has two distinct purposes. At 1 cost for 2 glory he is an excellent tool for obtaining the Imperial Favor when played in the final action window of the conflict phase. Clans will sometimes splash Dragon for this purpose (which also provides access to the excellent Let Go). Ancient Master's stock has also gone up in recent times with the High House of Light archetype as, when played as an attachment, his ability enables additional cards to be played during conflicts.
Tattooed Wanderer can add the Covert keyword to a character as an attachment, thus enabling an enemy tower to be potentially bypassed for just one fate. He also has solid stats (but no glory) if a conflict character is needed in a pinch.
While he can be used as a conflict character in a bind, Togashi Acolyte works best when played as an attachment on a key character. Once attached, every subsequent card played in a conflict adds +1/+1 to the attached character, and this effect stacks with multiple Acolytes.
2 fate is a lot to ask, but this value is recurred the longer the attached character remains in play—a relatively easy prospect with High House of Light and Togashi Kazue. Togashi Mitsu also has a habit of turning up in every key conflict in a game, and for his controller to play a bunch of cards while he is there. Thus, it is not uncommon to see Togashi Acolyte provide very impressive value over time.
Togashi Kazue (protagonist of the excellent novella The Eternal Knot by Marie Brennan) is a 3/3 for 3 conflict Monk. Her impact, however, comes when she is played as an attachment on a key character.
Once attached, she can move fate from another participating character to the attached character. This works against both friendly and unfriendly targets, meaning fate can be stolen from an opposing tower and added to one's own. Kazue's initial 3-fate cost is recurred after two turns of this (each use of her ability is effectively a 2-fate swing), and she can be used to speed up the demise of important opposing characters.
If an opponent begins to avoid facing Kazue's character, fate can simply be moved from a lesser character on one's own board to keep an important character in play indefinitely.
Dragon have a number of attachments that provide an economic boost, often through interaction with fate on rings.
Daimyo's Favor is a free attachment that provides a 1-fate discount each turn. The act of playing the card, using the action, and then playing another attachment, helps to increase the number of cards played in a conflict, assisting with cards such as High House of Light. These actions can also can also be used to draw out a conflict while waiting to see what lines of play an opponent is pursuing, or to 'waste' an action if Hida Kisada is in play.
Jade Masterpiece helps to maintain an economic advantage over an opponent by denying access to fate on rings. It can be used before declaring a conflict as an attacker to ensure that maximum fate is claimed when choosing a ring, or to shift fate away from a desirable ring when an opponent is preparing an attack.
The Togashi monks who reside in the High House of Light spend multiple lifetimes developing their skills through meditation and training. As part of their initiation, these monks receive mysterious tattoos inked from the blood of Kami Togashi himself. These offer supernatural abilities to be used in the eternal battle against Fu Leng and the minions of Jigoku.
In game, these Tattoo take the form of attachments which can be searched for with Ancient Master or recurred with Togashi Mitsu.
Centipede Tattoo is a free attachment which ensures the attached character does not bow after conflicts it loses. If attacking alone with Indomitable Will in hand this effectively means the character will not bow after the conflict unless otherwise interfered with.
Hawk Tattoo received an errata which reads "Attach to a character you control". Prior to this it was the ultimate harpoon, capable of moving characters to conflicts in which the had no business participating. It still sees play, most often in dueling decks which require presence in multiple conflicts, or in Monk decks to enable Void Fist.
Dragon Tattoo was the cause of some consternation when announced, but did not initially see a great deal of play. At first reading it suggest that Banzai! can be played twice, offering a massive +8 military for -2 honour. It has been ruled, however, that the maximum of once per conflict restriction on Banzai! stands. Dragon Tattoo can, importantly, still be used to play multiple Hurricane Punch or Void Fist, but thankfully not the now-banned Policy Debate.
Way of the Dragon is the only 'way of' Philosophy which takes the form of an attachment. It's high cost is not justified by its stat boost, but it provide an extra use of the excellent abilities on Dragon characters. This allows, for example another discard from an opponent's hand with Kitsuki Investigator, or another recursion with Togashi Mitsu.
Consider the text of Duelist Training. It is not the attachment itself which can initiate a duel. Rather, the attachment adds an additional action to the character's text box. Note also the wording of Way of the Dragon, which allows the attached character to trigger each of their abilities an additional time. With both Way of the Dragon and Duelist Training attached, the Dragon character is able to use Duelist Training twice to bow two opposing characters. This synergy is then effectively doubled each time a new Duelist Training is attached to the character.
Justicar's Approach offers a similar effect, and while it has not quite lived up to its initial hype, under the right circumstances it can put significant pressure on an opponent. It can only be attached to a Courtier, usually necessitating a Void role and Crane splash for A New Name. It provides only a minimal stat boost for its 1-fate cost, but it can be initiated during any type of conflict and, depending on the target's status, will either dishonour, bow, or discard them. Way of the Dragon allows more duels to be initiated, meaning characters can be moved more quickly to the the desired state.
Dragon duel decks, then, have the capacity to put an inordinate number of dueling actions on tower character with Way of the Dragon. Assembling such a character takes time, meaning the deck is vulnerable in its infancy, but once it builds inertia it can be very difficult to stop.
Let Go is an excellent card. It has no cost, no restrictions, and can remove any attachment on the board. It is also only 2 influence, making it a popular splash choice (along with Ancient Master and Tattooed Wanderer).
While its popularity fluctuates somewhat with the meta, expect to see it consistently as a 3x in Dragon, and in decks that are vulnerable to powerful attachments.
Outside of the much-maligned (but occasionally popular) mantra cards, these four cards represent the current suite of Kiho cards available to players. They are the flurry of punches, kicks, and stances practised by Monk characters, and synergise with effects that reward playing a high number of cards during conflicts.
Hurricane Punch is the bread and butter of any Monk deck. It is free, adds +2 military, and draws another card. The sooner in a game it is played the better, as this stocks the discard pile with potential cards for Togashi Mitsu to recur while also powering High House of Light.
Iron Foundations Stance is interesting. Its effect is powerful, but as with High House of Light a decision must be made as to whether to play it early in the conflict to gain the protection it offers, or later to gain additional value from the card draw. This will largely depend of the opposing clan and board state (in particular, whether or not the target character is dishonoured).
Wildfire Kick and Void Fist are two 'finisher' cards that are particularly effective against swarm and tower decks respectively. Each require some build up, which can be assisted by Shinto Monastery. Each can also be recurred with Togashi Mitsu. Note that Void Fist requires that the opposing character be of equal or lower military skill to a participating monk. Togashi Acolyte can ably assist here.
Listed as a Technique rather than a Kiho, High Kick nonetheless synergises quite well with the Monk archetype. In the best case scenario a 1-cost Monk is bowed to also bow a high-skill opponent. This is an expensive trade, however, costing 2 fate for a single bow. That said, being able to shut down the ability of a key opposing character is a nice bonus.
There are two events which synergise with the Dragon dueling archetype: Magnificent Triumph and Rising Stars Kata. Both work best if a duel has already been won, which does little to help win the duel itself (although Rising Star Kata does at least give +3 duel pre-duel, but then gives up the extra +2 to help win the conflict).
Magnificent Triumph can give the target character a rare political buff, with the added bonus that they cannot be chosen as the target of events.
Mirumoto's Fury, Indomitable Will, and Swell of Seafoam represent the current suite of bow/no bow Dragon cards. The first (a restricted card), can be used to slow down an opponent's advance in the early game when fewer provinces are revealed and an opponent is less likely to have their cancels online.
Indomitable Will works best on a tower character (usually Togashi Mitsu), and can be played both offensively and defensively. It works well in both the early and late game, although it does require the target character to win the conflict.
Swell of Seafoam arrived with the Under Fu Leng's Shadow and is similar to Clarity of Purpose. It does not protect from bow or send home effects, but will keep the character ready at the resolution of the conflict. The ability to honour the character is a nice bonus, and the requirement that a Kiho card be played first is usually not a problem for Monk decks.
The fortunes of Dragon decks have waxed and waned over the course of the game as key cards have entered and left the restricted list, or been banned altogether. While different archetypes have come and gone, Togashi Mitsu, continues to dominate the meta, and has come to define tower gameplay for the LCG.