The Emerald Dojo
A Legend of the Five Rings Strategy Site
Updated 30 January 2021.
Shrine Maiden is a staple in competitive lists. She is a good card advantage machine with her ability to draw her controller Spell or Kiho cards when entering play. Consider Shrine Maiden's ability carefully when building a Phoenix deck: the more cards with the Spell trait that are included, the higher the hit rate when playing Shrine Maiden. Usually, this means you want at least 23 hits for Shrine Maiden to get a 60% chance at picking up two Spells. Note that Shrine Maiden's ability can find both Spell events and attachments. The part where Shrine Maiden discards non-Spells is generally not that important, except whenever you are reliant on finding one of those cards to win the game with (e.g. Isawa Tadaka).
A recent addition, Wandering Mediator is locked to the Air role, and for good reason. Two political skill on a 1 fate conflict character is above rate. Her ability invites you to play with multiple Air provinces, though it is not at all a necessity. Her ability might never come up and she would still be a good conflict character. Her Courtier trait is especially useful in dishonour lists because that lets her play For Shame! which is pretty common in lists with that game plan.
More of an event than a character, Feral Ningyo is Phoenix take on Banzai!. Restricted to Water conflicts only, but not maxed out at one and with a political stat. In a pinch, you can even play it just as a character against your opponent. A noteworthy interaction is against the Crab champion and Shredder-lookalike Hida Kisada: The action of Feral Ningyo will get cancelled by Hida Kisada, but because the card is in your hand rather than in play, the game will not remember that you used its ability. Consequently, you just get to use its ability again right away and this time Kisada will not stop you. It negates Kisada's ability! Neat! The second noteworthy interaction is that you can use its ability when it is in play if you happened to have bought it earlier just so that it shuffles itself back in the deck. This is ideal, because you want to build to the endgame of drawing three copies every single turn of the game.
The place where you see him is in any Keeper of Water list because of how easy it is to win conflicts with a swarm of these, especially as most lists are not at all specialized in stopping multiple characters in one conflict.
While not as grossly overpowered as his early Dynasty version, the conflict Isawa Tadaka remains a rock-solid character. While it is totally fine to buy him at full retail, he is often brought in play using disguised for the extra flexibility this provides in readying a character for cheap and/or removing it from a conflict. Outside of this, his ability to shred the opponent's hand is amazing, especially in the post-policy debate world where this is a rare ability. He does this unsavoury practice by removing characters from the dynasty discard pile, so when you run Tadaka look to cycle Dynasty characters whenever possible, and when playing against Phoenix, avoid discarding cards when breaking provinces.
One thing to remember with Tadaka's disguise is that he does not carry-over any lingering effects from the character he is disguised over. This is important when you disguise him over a character that carries the effect from Inferno Guard Invoker, effectively removing any penalty from the honouring effect. A second thing to remember is that Tadaka's disguise on the first turn enables his ability because you just put a character in the discard to feed his ability.
The strength of Phoenix lies in its fate control and great fate economy with all its ready effects. This makes a couple of core set cards very easy to include. Generally speaking, if your idea to win involves readying a lot, you should play Fine Katana and Ornate Fan. The other common attachment is Cloud the Mind to leverage that Shugenja density Phoenix tends to run. From Phoenix themselves, you commonly don't see many other attachments, but if you do, these are commonly:
Embrace the Void provides a handy fate boost each turn as long as it stays in play (and the attached character has fate). Multiple copies can be played, but the effect of each can only be used once per turn. That said, more than 1 fate can be returned through Embrace the Void, provided this happens in a single instance. Most commonly, more than 1 fate is removed from a character in a single action through Consumed by Five Fires, resulting in it, and Embrace the Void, being placed on the restricted list. Be careful when playing against it with your disguised characters. Disguising a character moves all the fate from the old to the new character in one instance, which Embrace the Void can intercept. Another thing to be aware of is that it might be combined with Karmic Twist, so your non-unique characters might become a liability.
Even though the best part of Embrace the Void is its potential to mess with your opponent, playing this on a 3-fate character and recouping that cost over multiple turns can lead to an economical advantage that could overwhelm your opponent once this translates in an extra character in the late game.
In recent times, Embrace the Void can also help recoup costs incurred from playing the more expensive Mahō cards, making it a little more interesting in decks built around the mechanic.
Phoenix is usually pretty light on attachments outside of neutral 0 cost attachments, but once every blue moon you will see any of these three.
Studious is a cheap pay-off card for your Scholars. Adding Sincerity means Asako Tsuki will at least draw you another card if/when she gets murdered. As soon as you also win a conflict with it, you have gained a significant advantage. Of course you need to win first, but the floor on this card is pretty high if you don't. You just need enough Scholars, really.
Magnificent Kimono is a pet card of the author, and it is one of the better tools Phoenix has in-faction to honour their characters with. Pride can be as much of a benefit as a drawback, but key here is that you get to decide when you deploy it. If you are dropping Isawa Tadaka for your final conflict when there are no defenders, Magnificent Kimono will honour you without any further investment. If your opponent is under-committing on an attack, you can make them pay dearly for it. A great opening strategy with Magnificent Kimono is to buy a Fearsome Mystic and attack with it on political Void. Many players will not defend because that's giving you the Void ring for free because they likely bought a character with fate on it. Even if they did, the Fearsome Mystic might still win it regardless. You get to honour her pretty commonly here with Magnificent Kimono and ready her after the conflict with Isawa Tadaka. This card shines hard against both Scorpion and Crane. Scorpion will dishonour your large character straight away which means the kimono is all upside there. Against Crane, this goes under the Voice of Honor shields and render them unplayable.
A much more specialized card is Erudite Prestige. You need Courtiers and lots of 0 cost cards (like the other two here), so it can find a home in decks with lots of auxiliary draw. Once you have a list that meets these conditions, it can quickly go over any opponent's political numbers, forcing them to bow or send home your political character. If you want to commit to this fully, it is recommended to splash Adopted Kin so that you get to recoup all of it.
Phoenix has received many cards that can deal with dynasty cards like holdings. A recent addition to this is Kyofuki's Hammer. Unrestricted, free and a Spell, this card has the hallmarks of a innocuous little amplifier. The card isn't great value by itself (though not without merit either), but with this most recent addition there might be enough density of this effect to really mess with the dynasty deck of your opponent. With unlimited reactions, this is a card you want to stick on a character that can be ready for multiple conflicts like Prodigy of the Waves or Chikai Order Protector. If you can get this working reliably, it could add up to a 5-point honour hit for your opponent and win you the game that way. For other cards that go well with this, look for A Season Of War, Isawa Eju, Magnificent Lighthouse and Bustling Academy.
Peacemaker's Blade prevents characters from declaring as attackers. It is cheap, but still allows the attached character to defend (with +3 military). It also does not stop characters being moved into a conflict once it is underway. Playing this on the opponent can backfire spectacularly when they have enough restricted attachments. They can play a third restricted attachment on the card and discard the restricted attachment of their choosing, i.e. the Peacemaker's Blade.
Pacifism is more exclusionary, but also more expensive. For 2 fate it prevents the attached character from participating in any military conflict, whether by declaring as an attacker or being moved in. It has no effect on political conflicts, and cannot be played during conflicts. Be careful not to walk your character with Pacifism into Kuroi Mori, because getting the conflict type flipped to military sends you home bowed!
When combined with the Scorpion attachment Stolen Breath, it is possible to lock down many, if-not-all, of an opponent's characters. Such a strategy is expensive, vulnerable to attachment control, and ineffective against swarm decks, but in other circumstances can be powerful when combined with effects that punish players for not declaring or participating in conflicts.
Phoenix might not always play Banzai!, but they will always play Court Games with the high glory numbers that is found on their characters. The other neutral cards you see in Phoenix are Censure in Isawa Mori Seido, or Walking the Way in Kyuden Isawa. Beyond those, Phoenix tends to play quite a number of events in total, especially Spells for the earlier Shrine Maiden or simply because Spells in Phoenix tends to be some of the most powerful cards.
Supernatural Storm synergises very well with the many Phoenix Shugenja. Unlike cards such as Banzai! (once per conflict), Fine Katana (2 per character), or A Legion of One (no more than one friendly character), Supernatural Storm can be played 3 times in a battle on any participating character, with the possibility of a fourth thrown in from Kyuden Isawa for good measure. Also, and easily missed, Supernatural Storm is a rare political buff, making it invaluable outside of military conflicts. Generally, you need to go wide with this card to be worth it after the Kyuden Isawa errata. If you can get this to +3/+3, it becomes worthwhile to play, but you should aim for +4/+4 and higher for it to trade efficiently on a card-per-card basis.
The support card for the Shiba, Purity of Spirit makes the high glory downside sting much, much less. No longer will Tsukune be dishonoured after a fire ring attack by the opponent. You get to defend with her instead, use Purity of Spirit and either win the conflict, or lose it and discard any status token on her afterwards. Because of Shiba's high average glory, this will generally speaking act like an impromptu Banzai!.
These 3 spells represent the primary Phoenix bow and ready control resources.
Against the Waves can be used to ready a friendly Shugenja, both inside or outside of conflicts. If recurring this Spell with Kyuden Isawa, remember that the stronghold can only be used during conflicts, and thus is unable to ready a key character after a conflict is completed. It can, however, be used in this way to ready a bowed character at home. Now errata'd to only target friendly characters, Against the Waves is rarely used to bow a Shugenja, although this can be done to prevent dangerous 'on break' provinces such as Upholding Authority and Restoration of Balance from triggering.
Clarity of Purpose prevents opposing card effects from bowing the targeted character (who does not need to be a Shugenja), and also prevents said character from bowing as a result of political conflicts. It can still be played in military conflicts, but will only offer the first of these benefits.
A powerful card, Clarity of Purpose ensures that a key character can remain unhindered in the current conflict, whilst also participating in another this round. The character is still vulnerable to discard and send home effects, and if the conflict is switched to military they will bow as usual at the resolution.
Earth Becomes Sky was significantly hyped upon its announcement, when clans were still role locked and players were scrambling for either an Earth role for this, or an Air role for Forebearer's Echoes. While it has not quite lived up to the hype, it is still a commonly-played card in Earth decks, both Phoenix and Scorpion.
Playable whenever a character readies (whether in the usual framework effect in the fate phase, or through a card or ring effect), Earth Becomes Sky can be used to bow them again. Note that it does not target a character so cards such as Finger of Jade will not protect against it, however, cards that prevent characters from being bowed, such as Ready for Battle, do still work.
Cloak of Night prevents the chosen character from being targeted by opponent's card effects. It synergises well with glory-focused Isawa Mori Seido decks, and, like the stronghold, can be used on a dishonoured character to further lower their skill for the current conflict. It can be utilized on both your own and your opponent's characters to stop further targetting of that character (for instance, when you intend to bow a character that can be readied with the opponent's own Against the Waves. As an Air Spell it can can also be used to bow a non-unique character with Isawa Uona.
Fresh from Atonement, Magistrate's Intervention is a new punisher cards for the defensive Pass decks, or decks high on Courtiers in general (and these tend to run Haughty Magistrate too, as it happens. A 1 cost Way of The Scorpion that can only be used on defence is not great, but at least there is Isawa Mori Seido to help make it sting a bit more. The maximized effect is clearly even better, and more geared to hitting towers that keep getting readied and sent on the attack. Time will tell how great this card ends up being, but it at least gives the Courtier lists a new tool to play with.
Display of Power costs two fate, one honour (for an unopposed conflict), and a conflict card. Is all of this worth it just to claim a ring? Yes. The answer is yes.
The titular rings are a key component of Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game. The reason Display of Power is so, well, powerful, is that it can deny an opponent the ring they most need. Are they on low honour and desperately need to resolve the Air ring? Denied. Are they low on cards and need the Earth Ring? Denied. Do they need to remove the last fate from a Phoenix character with the Void Ring? Denied. Oh, and said fate will now be removed from their character instead.
Display of Power also denies card effects that rely on claimed rings. Does a Unicorn player need a military conflict to enable Shiotome Encampment? Nope. Does a Lion player need to claim 2 rings to use Heroic Resolve? Nope.
When playing against Phoenix (and Scorpion with an Earth role) expect Display of Power to follow any unopposed conflict. This requires that you select rings that will not affect you too badly if your opponent claims and resolves them. It is argued within the community that this breaks the game: the elemental rings are a fundamental part of the framework, and to deny their benefits is unfair, even for the cost of 2 fate and 1 honour.
As of recently, the effect of Display of Power was found too disruptive, and it allowed some very passive decks that never defended. The latest imperial decree has taken the action to restrict Display of Power.
Currently tied for most expensive event in the game, Consumed by Five Fires, is nonetheless capable of costing an opponent far more. It can cost your opponent so much more that it was put on the restricted list even.
Suppose an opponent has 3 characters in play: A 5-cost character with 2 fate, a 3 cost character with 2 fate, and a 2-cost character with 1 fate. A single Consumed by Five Fires can strip all the fate from these characters, causing them to leave play at the end of the round unless another card intervenes. An opponent has lost 15 fate worth of investments (not to mention attachments and status tokens) for the cost of only 5 fate.
While not quite a fair comparison (the characters will still contribute during the current round, and may have been in play in previous rounds), this shows what an impact Consumed can have on a game.
The elephant in the room is cancel effects. If interrupted, Consumed by Five Fires will cost its owner 5 fate for no benefit at all. Be very careful playing it against, for example, Crane if they have more honoured characters, Scorpion if they
have non-dishonoured courtiers are less honorable and have 1 fate, and anyone who has the favour. Also avoid playing it in conflicts against opponents with Keeper roles and high-military characters, because they will hit you with Defend Your Honor.
Consumed by Five Fires is also Seeker locked so there is no reason to fear it in Keeper decks. If an opponent is running a Seeker role, however, it is a common pick so be wary of putting too much fate on key characters.
Phoenix's conflict cards are overall powerful, but not inside of conflicts. There are many Phoenix conflict cards that do not affect conflicts at all. Instead, a lot of Phoenix conflict prowess is in effects that help towards the future. The most notable example is Consumed by Five Fires, which ensures you are entering the next turn with many more characters than the opposition, but there is also fate generation in Embrace the Void, card advantage generation with Isawa Tadaka or effects that ready a character for later in the turn (now more evenly distributed between all factions than before).
The conflict cards that do affect conflicts are commonly tied by conditions like Supernatural Storm's Shugenja requirement or Feral Ningyo's Water ring conflict. Often, the way Phoenix wins its conflict is by setting up the future conflict with ready effects to create a strength advantage or with powerful character abilities.
Gaps in the conflict deck thus far are attachment control, cheap conflict characters that can brawl and especially movement. These are often found in the cards that Phoenix splashes.
For further reading on the other card types, check out the links below: