The Emerald Dojo
A Legend of the Five Rings Strategy Site
Disciples of the Void
Updated 30 January 2021.
Masters of elemental magic, the Phoenix clan and their powerful Shugenja are the caretakers of the empire's soul. Being principally priests, courtiers and scholars, they value peace and harmony above all else. Unlike other pacifists, they act this way out of necessity: They rely upon the Kami and any conflict the Phoenix participate in will anger, damage and unbalance the Kami. This means any fight the Phoenix clan gets into hurts the empire and comes at a great cost. They are resolved to end conflicts quickly and decisively to minimize this.
Phoenix are not what they were when their leader, Jose Luis Saenz won the rank of Shogun, but they remain formidable opponents in Legend of the Five Rings. They can play a variety of game plans both long and short term, and a staple in all these is the ability to reuse a character in multiple conflicts by readying them, or preventing them from bowing in the first place.
The masters of the elements can manipulate the five rings to powerful effect, and most Phoenix decks will have the Shugenja and Spells they are famous for. Beyond this, Phoenix are, together with Dragon, a clan that prefers balanced stats and powerful character abilities above raw power and a skewed strength distribution.
This primer provides an overview of the basics of what the Phoenix are about in the card game. First, lets review the strengths and weaknesses of the clan. Next, we will go a little deeper on the cards that are most commonly played in competitive games. For easy browsing, I have split these across multiple pages for strongholds, provinces, dynasty, conflict cards and the latest cycle.
Faction Strengths and Weaknesses
Tempo: Phoenix characters and Shugenja in particular can be readied/prevented from bowing fairly easily, allowing Phoenix to re-use characters in multiple conflicts.
Masters of fate: With cards like Embrace the Void and The Path of Man, the faction can trade cards for fate or discount its own cards, leading to a pretty strong fate economy. Add to this Phoenix's ability to remove fate from the opposing player's characters and you can quickly get to a point where Phoenix will have a large resource advantage the longer the game goes.
Powerful actions on characters: Phoenix has middle-of-the-road military and political stats on most of their characters, but makes up for this by having excellent abilities on them.
Great defence: Many ways to bow or send home characters along with powerful provinces make Phoenix excellent at halting the opponent's progress.
Potential to snowball: Letting Phoenix honour their characters or letting them get to the critical mass of Shugenja gives them such a spike in power that they become hard to stop.
Powerful Auxiliary draw: Be it with holdings, passing or Scholars, the Phoenix have an easy drawing extra cards at a very cheap investment.
Fragile characters: The average Phoenix character has a lot of glory and unremarkable military and political stats. Just like honouring their characters lets them snowball games, dishonouring those same characters stifles their game plan. Add to this the following issue:
Honouring comes with downsides: Phoenix has several ways to honour a character in-faction, but there's always a catch. You have to bow a Shugenja to do it, you need to win the conflict or you cannot have the active province break. They are similar to Crane that honouring their characters is often part of the game plan, but unlike Crane they have no point-and-click methods to do so outside of neutral cards.
Reliance on rings: Several frequently played Phoenix cards require you to have claimed a specific ring for those cards to use their action, or they only work during conflicts with a certain ring element. The actions themselves are worth it though, but again, you have to go after specific rings and need to decide which of these you should go for first in a turn.
Little movement for your own characters: Moving your opponent out is easy, but moving your own characters in is hard. Phoenix is soft to any effect that prevents them from participating, be it covert or send-home effects.
Powerful cards are conditional: The power and flexibility that Phoenix conflict cards offer comes at a premium cost in fate or another inconvenience.
The Phoenix Game Plan
Taking the faction strengths and weaknesses into account, the basic Phoenix game plan is this: disrupt your opponent's progress by attacking their resources (commonly the fate on the opponent's characters) or stopping their conflicts from breaking your provinces with powerful abilities that send home or bow the opponent. While you are impeding your opponent's game plan, you are adding more and more to your board and getting those characters honoured. Eventually you will either have more characters in play than your opponent, or you can virtually have more characters in play because you ready those characters during the conflict phase and overpower your opponent with sheer numbers, often aided by cards that increase in strength as you develop your board more such as with Supernatural Storm.
This basic plan is found in the two most commonly seen Phoenix deck archetypes, though those two approach it from a different direction. Essentially the Phoenix grow stronger over time and that is something you should leverage. There are times when this is not the right play, however. Sometimes you might be facing a deck that will overpower you in the late game that can defend against your ways to break those strategies. Here you take the role of the aggressor, which is characterised by breaking two provinces on turn one. Here you are playing for a shorter game and intend to buy a 3 or 4 cost character with a couple of fate and re-use that character a second time to break two provinces.
While the above is the most common game plan, Phoenix can also play both the Dishonour and Honour victory conditions which intend to stop you from breaking their provinces whilst they move closer to their victory condition as time goes on. Going even further from the norm, Phoenix can also play a blitz game if it really wants to, but lacking a way to produce extra conflicts, it does not compare to the factions that can do this.
What is new in the guide?
For returning readers, this section contains information on what I have been changing, along with dates:
31 January 2021: Added a page for all the cards interesting for Phoenix that have been released from the new Temptations cycle. Bustling Academy has been added to the Dynasty page as a mainstay entry. Driven by Courage and Courteous Greeting are added to the Provinces section.
14 February 2021: Added Inquisitive Ishika to the Dynasty cards. Congratulations for becoming relevant after 3 years!