The Emerald Dojo
A Legend of the Five Rings Strategy Site
Deckbuilding in a post-Rally world
Updated 31 May, 2021.
Rally cards from the Dominion cycle have changed the way we build decks for the Imperials Law format forever. These are cards which add another dynasty card face-up to the province they are in once they are revealed in the dynasty phase. When these were added to the game, it certainly took a while for me to re-learn how I would be building decks going forwards and how I should count them for my deckbuilding composition.
This article will explore the impact Rally has on deckbuilding and I hope to give you a bit of an answer in how many cards with Rally you should play.
Not this kind of Rally!
The most common card with Rally.
How does Rally work?
Rally appears only on dynasty cards. When a card with Rally is revealed in a player's province, that player fills the same province with another card faceup. The second card is coming in faceup, which is relevant to the Rally mechanic: Rally triggers only when the card is revealed, i.e. turning a facedown dynasty card faceup. Adding a card faceup will not trigger Rally.
Some cards will reveal dynasty cards with their action, like Staging Ground. You can always see which card will trigger Rally by checking if the card specifies turning a facedown card faceup. On the other side, cards that do not trigger Rally will ask you to add a card faceup or refill the province faceup.
Staging Ground turns the facedown cards faceup, effectively revealing them. A card with Rally revealed this way would trigger its Rally keyword and add a second card faceup.
Akodo Gunsō specifically asks you to refill the province faceup. The card added is never facedown and will not trigger Rally.
The card added faceup by Rally is in the same province as the Rally card itself. This allows you to have multiple cards faceup in one province. Please take note that you will not be adding any cards to a province until the last faceup card is either played or discarded from the province. This is especially notable for City of the Rich Frog which refills to 3 cards as its default. This would still only happen once all cards on it are removed. Finally, the Rally effect will reshuffle your deck to add a new card if you run out of cards, and it can happen during a card's effect (for example, during Stoke Insurrection).
Effects of Rally cards on gameplay
Rally's effect can be summarized in these factors:
Your deck is effectively thinner and more consistent.
Your rally cards are real cards and substitute cards with similar effects.
Rally cards increase your dynasty draw per Rally card in the initial reveal.
We will now explore these effects, one at a time.
Your deck is effectively thinner and more consistent
Rally cards add a second card whenever they are revealed, which means that Rally cards do not eat up a dynasty reveal slot. Let us assume I have one card with Rally in my deck, and it is completely blank of any text whatsoever other than Rally. When I reveal it, I draw another dynasty card. In this scenario, my deck size went down from 40 to 39 because that one rally card always replaces itself. Great! I have a smaller deck now which means I will see my best cards more often than before.
Things change a little once I add a second Rally card though. At this point, there is a small chance that my blank Rally card draws the second Rally card when it is revealed. This could be a disaster because now I only drew 3 non-Rally dynasty cards for my flip.
This illustrates that we have two effects to account for: The effect of deck thinning and the counter-productive Rally-into-Rally which removes a non-Rally dynasty card for this turn.
The next step is looking at how significant of an effect this is, but first we'll cover the two other factors.
Your rally cards are real cards and substitute cards with similar effects.
Rally cards were initially thought of to be dynasty events like A Season of War, but throughout the Dominion cycle, it was clear this could be on characters or holdings too. This changes the dynamic significantly. Rather than looking at this purely from a thinning perspective, we should talk about what we want from the Dynasty flip in general. You want your dynasty flip to provide you with just enough cards to buy every turn, and for those that you do not buy to give you something else instead. Here is an example:
This is a pretty good flip, because you have enough fate to buy that Ethereal Dreamer without fate, the Shiba Yōjimbō with 2-3 fate and then two holdings that draw you a card or give you a useful ability for the conflict phase. You want your dynasty deck to provide you with a flip of 4 cards that you can use every turn of the game.
Rally dynasty events would not change this dynamic that much, because it would add in a new option that you have for this dynasty phase while giving you the same draw as shown above. It is adding an option, but it does not help you with the primary objective: Finding good characters to buy for the turn. Even the secondary objective of giving you non-characters that give you abilities or resources isn't helped by those.
This changes when those Rally cards are characters or holdings, especially when these cards are great even without rally.
A lion card of exquisite quality, and that is before you factor in Rally!
Pretty on-par with most 2 drops in Phoenix, but also a Rally card.
These cards are not eating up space that would contain filler cards, but they are directly competing with holding and character slots in your deck composition, because they are legitimate cards in their own right. Add the Shiba Pureheart shown above to your dynasty flip and you can buy him over the Shiba Yōjimbō because he is cheaper, allowing you to fate the Ethereal Dreamer too. You have more options than before. But a key difference is that Shiba Pureheart will draw another Rally card. You could have the full dynasty flip from our example and a Shiba Pureheart. This leads nicely to our final point:
Rally cards increase your dynasty draw per Rally card in the initial reveal.
You not only get more selection in what to buy with Rally cards adding to your dynasty flip, but you also just draw more cards in total. This is relevant especially when you have the fate to use these cards, like here:
Thanks to Shiba Pureheart's Rally you get an extra card to use with the Guardian Dōjō
Revealing more cards than the normal 4 is excellent. You have more options to buy both because you just have more to choose from, but you can also just buy extra cards beyond the 4 card limit you dealt with before.
Now that we talked about what Rally does, we should measure just how significant this effect is.
How pronounced is Rally's effect?
Now that we know what Rally does to your deck, we should try to get a feel for how much this matters to your deckbuilding strategy. This requires a bit of maths, and I am not a mathematician. Fortunately, a player that goes by kranasAngel [discord రాఘవ<(Any ≠ He/She)#0976] did this effort for us, and you can find the results in the spreadsheet found down below. Don't worry. I'll be here to help you make sense of it.
Here are some definitions:
Number of Rally cards: Just how many cards with Rally are in your deck.
E(Cards seen): This is how many dynasty cards will be revealed on average in a dynasty reveal that has 4 fresh cards when you account for the number of Rally cards in your deck.
E(Non-Rally Seen): This column provides the average of non-Rally cards seen in a 4 dynasty card reveal. This is where we account for the possibility to reveal a second Rally card with the Rally keyword.
ΔCardsSeen: This is the difference of how many extra cards you will see in a dynasty draw on average compared to a deck with zero Rally cards, i.e., the extra reveals from Rally on average.
ΔNon-Rally Seen: This is the difference of how many non-Rally cards are shown in a dynasty draw on average compared to a deck with zero Rally cards, i.e. the average number of non-Rally cards that you do not see because of Rally cards finding only a second Rally card.
Consistency: This is a percentage result of how many non-Rally cards you will see in a 4 cards dynasty reveal over how many non-Rally cards are in your deck. For example, if you reveal 4 cards and you have zero Rally cards in your deck, you will see 4 out of 40 non-Rally cards, or 10%.
%ChangeInConsistency: This is percentage difference for the previous column compared to the situation where there are no Rally cards in your deck.
%ChangeInNonRallyCardsSeen: This is the percentage difference of ΔNon-Rally Seen compared to the situation when there are no Rally cards in deck.
ChanceOfSeeingAtLeast 3 Non-Rally Cards: The chance to see 3 non-Rally cards in a 4 card dynasty flip.
ChanceOfSeeingAtLeast 4 Non-Rally Cards: The chance to see 4 non-Rally cards in a 4 card dynasty flip.
Note that some columns with raw input were hidden because they're just calculations that brought us to these numbers.
To keep it straightforward, let us look at the Stronghold situation with 4 facedown provinces first.
In practical terms, every Rally card you add leads to an increase in the consistency of your deck by 0.26%. This makes sense because of the deck thinning effect. No diminishing returns here. I also want to point out that consistency gives you an overall idea of how frequently you will see a card. You can see that the baseline is 10% (4 out of 40 non-Rally cards), and when you have 12 Rally cards in there you have 13.08% consistency, or a 3.08% increase. This means that the overall chance to see one particular card isn't much higher than it used to be before, because seeing any one card just wasn't that likely at the baseline either. A different way to look at this is just by measuring how much of an increase this is compared to the baseline: For 12 Rally cards this 3.08% increase translates to a change of 30.77% increase comparatively. That's a pretty good increase, but keep in mind that this is deceiving because you are still not that much more likely to see one card come up!
While the above increase is linear, we see diminishing returns for the chance to see 3 or 4 non-Rally cards in each flip. This effect only comes up when the second Rally card is introduced to your deck because you need two non-Rally cards to make this happen. The odds at seeing one Rally card add the other Rally card in this case is 0.13%. This is negligible. This chance goes up with bigger increases for every Rally card we add however. In other words, the more Rally you add, the more likely you become to see less non-Rally cards per dynasty flip, and this likelihood of seeing less non-Rally cards increases beyond the linear trend. To put this in numbers again, if I have 3 A Season of War in-deck as my only Rally card, I have an 98.46% chance to see 4 non-rally cards each dynasty draw. If I have 3 A Season of War and 3 copies of a different Rally card, this drops to 92.41%. The decrease from 0 to 3 Rally was 1.54%, whereas this decrease from 3 to 6 Rally is 6.06%.
Of course, Rally cards are not blank, so as long as these cards don't change how playable your deck remains you are in the clear. This is what makes Rally characters and holdings especially appealing. That is not to say that dynasty events with Rally are bad though. Those add an entirely new option to your deck that needs to be bought like a character, but it doesn't achieve the same goals as your holdings or characters.
Last but not least, there is a linear increase to the amount of dynasty cards you see each turn. At 10 Rally cards you are seeing 5 dynasty cards on average, or 1 extra over the default. This is a pretty big effect to me, but we should now add perspective to this by looking at the effect of City of the Rich Frog.
Looking at the City of the Rich Frog tab, you can see that its effect is much larger than those 10 Rally cards in our example, because we reveal 6 cards which is twice the increase from the 10 Rally cards. In fact, if you want to approach the effect provided by City of the Rich Frog on cards drawn and consistency, you would need to add 20 Rally cards to your deck. Now, you can add Rally cards to a deck with City of the Rich Frog and this has great synergy in terms of consistency as these amplify each other's effect on cards revealed and gains in consistency.
In skirmish, the same trends discussed above are also present. The main differences are that the overall effect is larger because of the lower deck size, with a 0.34% extra consistency per Rally card added versus the 0.26% from stronghold. This applies to the degree of diminishing returns of seeing 3 non-Rally cards too.
In conclusion, there is a deck thinning effect which contributes a few percentages to see a card show up in a flip. There is a Rally-into-Rally effect that gets worse the more Rally we add, but that doesn't really matter that much if we still have the right cards for our dynasty phase. The largest effect is that you just see more dynasty cards in a turn. The effect of Rally for consistency and extra dynasty cards is relatively minor compared to the effect of City of the Rich Frog.
With these numbers to our disposal, let us look how this changes things in deckbuilding.
Adapting your deck for Rally
Your dynasty deck has a couple of objectives:
Seeing your best and/or crucial cards as frequently as possible.
Producing a good dynasty flips for most turns in the game.
Don't lose the game because you burned through your dynasty deck before winning the game (or be prepared to pay the price).
For the first item, the best thing you can do is to trim your deck to the minimum deck size of 40 for stronghold and 30 for skirmish. If it was the only objective, you would be adding all Rally cards that you could legally add to your deck. This isn't the case for most decks because getting to your best cards is usually not worth playing a bunch of bricks in your deck. You want your average dynasty reveal to yield a good combination of holdings, events and characters to use for the current turn, which I weigh higher than seeing my optimal cards. I generally do not need my best character to win a game for me. I just need good, serviceable characters to work with, and need those at the right time.
Next, there is the question of decking yourself, and I am happy to report that not much has changed here. Even if you go for a high number of Rally like 10 and City of the Rich Frog, you would see 7.5 cards on average and deck out in 5 turns. This is not likely, because this drops off quickly once City of the Rich Frog is broken, and many games conclude before the 6th turn. It is also something that you can control: When you run low on cards you might not want to refill all provinces every turn, or maybe you stopped doing so earlier because you have great holdings that you want to keep around.
That said, Rally and City of the Rich Frog do make it easier to discard an opponent's dynasty deck. You could, for example, play Isawa Eju and Secluded Shrine and discard a whopping 9 cards from City of the Rich Frog every turn. Add more options like this and you can likely discard the opponent's full dynasty deck before the game concludes on provinces. Even so, I wouldn't be too worried because you can take the 5 honour hit from reshuffling just fine if there is nothing else that is decreasing your honour. If you are really worried there is Slovenly Scavenger to bail you out. And as a plus, your opponent is spending cards to do this, whilst you have cards to break their provinces. You should be in an alright shape on that front.
Given all of the above, my advice would be to start by just working out your core idea first, and then fit in the Rally cards that make sense for this idea. The exact amount of Rally that you should play depends on which of these factors you weigh the highest. For most of my decks, I would weigh getting a good dynasty flip highest of all. If so, then I will play the Rally cards that help me with my overall strategy and that keep the dynasty draw potential intact. If I am really looking for a combo however, I would add in every Rally card under the sun and supplement my bad dynasty draws with outstanding conflict characters. I have not found many situations that necessitate me doing so though.
Now, if I am a deck that goes horizontally and that hopes to buy many characters in a turn because that's crucial to my success, I will add the Rally characters even if they do not really fit the strategy all that well otherwise. For example, a deck with Guardian Dōjō out of Keeper of Fire might still play Student of the Tao even though there are better characters at that cost to get honoured because you're interested in just having extra dynasty draw so that you can buy an extra character next to the Dōjō.
As a very minor edge case, there are also decks that need facedown cards to operate, like a deck with Force of the River. In decks like that, I would probably not run any Rally cards or just one trio of Rally cards if they help out with something else critical to my success like A Season of War to deal with holdings.
Deck proportions and Rally
Competitive decks are built with a certain distribution in mind for its dynasty cards. This comes back to the idea that you want to be able to utilize as much of your dynasty flop as possible to achieve your deck's goals with. This is most seen in the number of holdings versus the cost distribution of the characters. If you have a deck full of cheap characters, you may want to limit your holdings because you need to buy a certain number of characters each turn to thrive. If you have a deck full of chunky, expensive characters, then you will load up more on holdings to compensate for your reduced number of character buys each turn. Of course, you should do this distribution while accounting for how much fate you will need for your conflict deck, as always.
Over the years, I worked out some proportions on how I build my Phoenix decks. A common distribution was:
10 characters of 1-2 fate
18 characters of 3+ fate
These numbers aren't set in stone, but this was around what I have for a slow Phoenix value deck (though I have simplified it to 3 buckets for this section).
When I account for Rally, I will assume that my deck size is effectively lowered by the amount of the Rally cards in there, which isn't true as mentioned earlier, but I want something easy to calculate that won't be totally off from where it actually is.
Let's say I am playing a Seeker of Fire deck intent of holding out while it honours big characters. I would add 3 Student of the Tao (because we want to run City of the Rich Frog as our second Void province), 3 Celebrated Renown, 3 Shiba Pureheart and 3 A Season of War. 12 Rally cards in total.
In this situation we need to look at our proportions again, because I will assume our Rally cards are dropping the deck size (which is not true, but the number you get to will be not that far off from the actual number). I will also account for City of the Rich Frog which increases our dynasty flip to 6 cards. Next, I will evaluate the chance each of the things I need in the context of Rally and adjust my proportions accordingly. Let's assume I only care about the three parameters shown above.
I will use a hypergeometric calculator to make this easy for me to figure out. This is a tool that lets you find the odds of finding a certain cards in your deck. Check out the images below to see how I enter it and where the numbers come from.
The old holding number.
Population size (40 cards);
Number of successes in population (12 Holdings);
Sample size (4 cards in Dynasty flip);
Number of successes in sample (Odds to find one holding).
78% odds to find one holding (and 35% to find two)
Now with Rally:
Population size (28 non-Rally cards);
Number of successes in population (6 Holdings);
Sample size (6 cards in Dynasty flip);
Number of successes in sample (Odds to find one holding).
80% odds to find one holding (and 38% to find two). Both are overestimates, because we did not account for Rally hitting another Rally card.
Playing around with the number of successes in the population gave me similar odds when I get to around 6 holdings. When I repeat this exercise for the other ones, I get to:
5 characters of 1-2 fate
9 characters of 3+ fate
Now, this brings you to 20 cards total, meaning you have the same consistency as before with these buckets of cards, but you still have 8 slots to do what you want with. In truth, it is even a little crazier, because you should count Rally cards that fall in these buckets as part of those, too. In other words, My Shiba Pureheart make up 3 of the 5 characters of 1-2 fate, and the Student of the Tao make up 3 out of 9 characters of 3+ fate. This leaves me with 14 dynasty slots to do what I want with. This is the yield from the extra consistency that 12 Rally cards and City of the Rich Frog provide.
In this case, let us just make the deck more consistent overall and assign slots purely based on the distribution of the original. This was 30% holdings (12/40), 25% 1-2 cost (10/40) and 45% 3+ cost (18/40). Multiplying these odds with the 14 freebie slots give us 4.2 holdings, 3.5 1-2 cost characters and 6.3 3+ cost characters. We can't do much with the decimal numbers, so after rounding I have to 4 holdings, 4 characters of 1-2 fate and 6 characters of 3+ fate. After including these into the previous list, we get:
9 characters of 1-2 fate (including 3 Rally)
15 characters of 3+ fate (including 3 Rally)
I did not account for the events at all here, but what we can say is that this is much more consistent for each bucket than the original deck we started out with. From here you would tweak it based on what the needs of your deck are. As for accounting to dynasty events: This is up to you. It is an entirely novel concept to what came before, and I count them as a separate bucket. I generally keep them rather low in number when I aim to get passing fate, and raise the number if I know I am not getting the passing fate anyway, though primarily the card must earn inclusion on its merit before I look at proportions, and sometimes the effect is too good to pass up on or crucial to the plan.
So that's the low-down on Rally and the effect it has on your deck. There are different aspects to it and the most pronounced is that you see extra dynasty cards. Your gains in consistency are noticeable, but you need to go deep to get on the level of consistency that your conflict deck has. It does give you more freedom on how you want to customize your deck while guaranteeing the consistency that you had prior to including Rally cards. Even so, I would aim to play the passable Rally cards that fit your strategy first and don't overdo it unless if you are playing a dynasty combo that just wins.
And that's all I had to say on the topic. Thanks for reading, and good luck building with Rally in mind!