The Emerald Dojo
A Legend of the Five Rings Strategy Site
Crab Clan Meta Guide
Updated 25 October, 2020.
Before the restriction of both Kuni Laboratory, Iron Mine and Keeper Initiate the Crab clan used to be on top, but now that the Dominion Cycle and Pack 3 of the Temptations Cycle are out we had powerful card Common Cause put on the RL list and we have fallen behind again. We got some good new dynasty characters Hida Etsuji and Pious Guardian in Dominion Cycle along with a new conflict event Ceaseless Duty, a new conflict character Apprentice Engineer and a new Crab holding Fire and Oil. Although all these cards are very good some of our tough opponents also acquired good cards and along with our nerf to our power card Butcher of the Fallen we struggle to be on top of the list. Apprentice Engineer has opened us the option of playing Iron Mine or Kuni Laboratory and creates an deckbuilding option of going with higher value characters or low cost characters that are buffed from Kuni Laboratory. Finally a neutral card that will effect our decks is Weight of Duty, a province with a text that naturally fits with the sacrifice theme of the Crab Clan. Due to this being a Meta Guide it is natural that our deck choices will be very affected by our main competitors in the meta, Lion, Dragon, Crane and Phoenix as all of them have the tools they need to win against us. We also need to point out that Scorpion and Crane got nerfed which is pretty good us we struggled a lot with them. Crab clan design feels to have a different approach and we seem to get more and more aggressive oriented cards than our old grind to victory theme like our new stronghold that was spoiled Castle of the Forgotten, I need to admit that I have no interest in this Crab approach as the reason I played Crab in the first place was to grind my opponents to victory and saying pass as my favorite conflict action, but we will work with has been giving to us.
In my opinion Crab has three major deck archetypes: Tower, Swarm (Crabbits) and Emperor Crab.
Tower used to be our only deck option until after the release of Crab pack. It was back then that our tower deck was bad because we were losing in simple math against enemy tower decks and a new theme was introduced to Crab decks with us going wide. Both strategies have evolved but our tower options was still lacking the power to beat the enemy towers due to our numbers being lower, but with Hida Etsuji we can change that: not because we got extra force, but the fear of an opponent Tower deck attacking Meditations of the Tao and us removing x2 fate from them has given us the opportunity to fight the mid-late game against them. That will lead us in making a deck that is built around Hida Etsuji and of course his ability naturally combos with Talisman of the Sun and we need a certain province row to exploit his ability and pack 3 of Temptation cycle introduced a great card to help in this situation a new province The Eternal Watch.
I can see crab playing Unicorn, Phoenix, Dragon and Scorpion splash. We will try and cover all the 4 splashes while presenting a deck built around that splash. Keep in mind this is just an approach on how I see it as a player. There will always be other options and maybe better ones. In addition, we will also take a look in the three archetypes we talked about earlier.
All Crab decks share something similar: there is no easy way around when you make mistakes on micro choices, like how to spend your fate, which ring to choose or when to spend a certain card are a few examples. This is due to the fact that most of our playstyle resolves around value gain and not tempo, thus making a small mistake might even take away our win. Finally, Crab decks have a specific way that can deal with this, and this is where experienced players shine against us as they need to have a specific game plan on how to stop us from winning, even like planning ahead of the game which character they should Cloud the Mind, which attachment to hate or which winning condition to peruse when we are overflooding the board with stats. The Dominion Cycle gave us a powerful card: Butcher of the Fallen, that was nerfed in the latest errata but we got some very strong cards in pack 6: Apprentice Engineer and Fire and Oil.
Before we start there are some points I want to mention. Our stronghold options are not that great at moment. Shiro Nishiyama is bad and I don't see it doing anything. I think there is an old school article from an old school Crab player, Joe from Cincinnati, about the reasons behind Nishiyama being bad, but quick points are 10 honor, defense does not make you really win anything (only not losing), you need to commit more than 1 character to make it count, so probably as a result all our Crab decks will have to include Kyuden Hida even if it does not combo that well with the deck.
Tower Crab - Unicorn Splash
The first deck I tried in this meta is Unicorn splash as I really enjoy the mid range strategy. It was very early for me to realize that the deck needed a way to fight Scorpion and specifically Stoke Insurrection and their Dishonor on Characters synergies, Crane and their incredible tempo and Phoenix with their counter mid range Seeker of Void build. The list features Hida Etsuji with the aim to force your opponent attacking provinces that you can trigger x2 with Etsuji's effect and try to play most attachments on a single character that so can get them in most of the conflicts gaining value from attachments on him/her.
Another thing you need to keep in mind is when to honor switch as we really want to keep our Watch Commander on while having cards to play for ourselves. Although we have some non-bid card draw options like Kaiu Envoy they might not be enough to keep our gears going so I believe it is better to play 1-2 Watch Commanders first and force your opponent to lose some honor and if they stick on board then bid 1.
The deck has a really good chance against most of the clans but it will be hard to win against Scorpion, Crane and Phoenix in that order. Against Phoenix I would suggest to try and punish their round 1 where they can't really do much except getting carried by their provinces, and as for Scorpion it will always be a grind war if you can stay alive after most of their stuff are over you can win.
Finally, for the rest of the match ups just put everything on either Kisada or Etsuji and ready those, while knowing when to low bid is gonna get you the win. The obvious counter to Hida Etsuji is Cloud the Mind but not many lists are playing that card nowadays. As for Crane you need to somehow get the tempo of the game while ensuring you always have a higher military stat character on board, you are required to try and break provinces in order to force them out of keeping all of their powerful holdings on board for too long and this is why this deck plays three Season of War.
As you can see the list I choose to present here features some odd choices. We are not playing Fight On in favor of Obsidian Talisman, Defend the Wall over Upholding Authority or Vassal Fields, and Into the Forbidden City instead of Meditations on the Tao. This is due to which clans we want to meta check, with Scorpion and Crane being our top priority, plus what I evaluated during my tests. Obsidian Talisman is amazing tech card when our characters are 100% protected against all the Scorpion tricks and against Crane and Phoenix we can play it on their characters and never allow those to gain the honor state. Meditations on the Tao is a great card with good synergy with Hida Etsuji but I found out that in the end people can play around that so I shifted to a Fire province they cannot beat, which against Scorpion I will just put it on my Stronghold and have The Pursuit of Justice on row. This is a very good deck but it is countered by the meta having too many anti-tower decks and that it is worse against the top Clans (Scorpion and Crane).
Hida Etsuji has an amazing ability we want to exploit in this list by featuring provinces that can trigger twice forcing our opponent to maybe pass their conflicts. And, with the help of Talisman of the Sun making this fear greater, when this happens we should try and push breaks and not fall into the trap of just passing too. The aforementioned is the reason why I ended up in choosing Into the Forbidden City instead of Meditations on the Tao and playing Jade Tetsubo as the character removal option. Finally against Scorpion there is no need to have Into the Forbidden City on row so we choose to swap it with The Pursuit of Justice .
I do not need to say much about our dynasty characters; most of them are there to support our tower targets Hida Kisada and Hida Etsuji. There are some match ups that Etsuji falls behind Kisada: the rule of thumb is that against tower decks tower Hida Etsuji is better whereas Hida Kisada is better against non-tower decks.
A Season of War is mainly a tech card against Crane or Lion that want to stack up their holding and pass their conflicts to avoid Hida Etsuji. It also enables us to play the long game and kill our opponents with dynasty reshuffle.
The main feature of our deck is our powerful attachments that besides the stats also provide some very powerful effects. The attachment that really outperformed my expectations is Obsidian Talisman and it was so good it replaced our Fight On role/slot. The reason behind it is that given the match up we can either attach it on our characters and never let them get to dishonor state or attach it to Crane and Phoenix Characters and never let them get to honor state. Given that we have enough honor to fuel that the best thing about Obsidian Talisman is the (unlimited part). Speaking of unlimited, our core set power card Watch Commander is also here but due to this deck being a tower deck and not like when we used to play Spyglass we cannot get fast to the dishonor state so we need to keep it in hand and force our opponent to lose honor in a key conflict. When they need to play many conflicts we also have Favored Mount to force our Watch Commander and Jade Tetsubo in most conflicts.
Gaijin Customs is the reason we play Hunting Falcon as a more consistent way to have it active on turn one. The key point of having many ready effects is that we can fight well against Consume by Five Fires by only using one character that we can protect through our saves and force him into all the conflicts.
The deck has a really good chance against most of the clans but it will be hard to win against Scorpion, Crane and Phoenix in that order. Against Phoenix I would suggest to try and punish their turn 1 where they can't really do much except getting carried by their provinces and as for Scorpion it will always be a grind war if you can stay alive after most of their stuff are over you can win, I will not comment on Stoke Insurrection getting one of higher cost characters along with Vanguard Warrior as this is probably a concede turn. Finally for the rest of the match ups just put everything on either Kisada or Etsuji and ready those, while knowing when to low bid is gonna get you the win. The obvious counter to Hida Etsuji is Cloud the Mind but not many lists are playing that card nowadays. As for Crane, you need to somehow get the tempo of the game while ensuring you always have a higher military stat character on board. You are required to try and break provinces in order to force them out of keeping all of their powerful holdings on board for too long. There is also another deck that really counters this one and that is infinite Let Go Lion deck which was made and is played by my Greek friend Kostastakias, which abuses Exposed Courtyard to play as much Let Go as he can destroying our powerful attachments and thus are winning condition.
The obvious thing the deck lacks is attachment hate when in the past we used to have our glorious Karada District now we need to really on Jade Tetsubo and Into the Forbdden City to get some of on board threats out of the way.
Overall I think the deck is really good but is not that great on a tournament environment as it can be hard to win against Scorpion and Crane.
Emperor Crab - Dragon Splash
Second deck on our radar will of course be Emperor Crab. This deck was introduced by Pablo Pintor Espinosa and gives this deck a way to spend our resources from Gallant Quartermaster and Yasuki Broker to a character that can lock the game: Hantei XXXVIII.
The main strategy of the deck is to pressure on resources and when you have a good board and fate to spend buy Hantei XXXVIII, then it is pretty much over as you will most likely never lose favor and you can choose when to win a conflict that you really care about with the emperor's actions. The deck has Let Go to stop annoying attachments and many conflict characters that will help survive early rounds and win favor, and after that you just need to flip the emperor.
The only match up this deck suffers against is Unicorn as they are very fast and will probably break you by round 2. Scorpion decks playing three Fawning Diplomat can also be annoying for the deck, but unless they are playing Shosuro Ibuki too we can still buy Emperor with one fate to counter their Fawning Diplomat. This deck abuses the amazing economy our clan has. Finally Hantei XXXVIII can keep in check Crane and their tower while our Way of the Crab plus Assassination has been nerfed against them due to their 0 cost character Doji Diplomat.
Crabbits Anti Tower - Scorpion Splash
The third deck we will talk about is Scorpion splash. I see Scorpion splash as a way to try and counter tower decks even further, as we can play as a Scorpions buying only a low cost character and hard passing while using Hige's Sermon and Way of the Crab plus Assassination package along with Goblin Sneak and Shosuro Miyako to pressure conflicts/board.
The list you see above is used by my fellow Clan War teammate Jeremiah Blitz with very good results. The deck resolves around not letting your opponents board do anything while you can break their stuff with our nerfed power card Butcher of the Fallen.
There is another way to build Scorpion splash by using the new power card Stoke Insurrection and all of our possible save mechanics. Although it sounds fun it can be very inconsistent as we don't really have a way to protect a 4 cost event. Sadly due to the reason mentioned above about Way of the Crab this deck is not that good as it used to be against Crane.
Crabbits Aggro - Dragon Splash
Before I tested this deck I thought this was going to be our strongest deck as I really thought that Apprentice Engineer plus Kuni Laboratory was going to be very strong. In the end, though, I realized that the numbers the deck can achieve were not that great against the current meta, and the honor loss made the Scorpion match up even worse.
Overall this deck features a card that I had not given much attention to, The Crushing Wave as a way to active Weight of Duty. After my test this deck felt medium in power level as you can manage to do 1-2 breaks early on but after that it loses much of its explosive power.
Phoenix Splash Mid Range
Finally our last viable splash is Phoenix and this is due to Isawa Tadaka. Tadaka is so powerful that he can get rid of many threats we have can't really deal with. He is also a card that again can help us finish a game and spend our strong economy on. The downside of this deck is that I think it is best with a Seeker role due to it being fate hungry, but this way it loses Defend your Honor but it gains Pathfinder Blade.
Again this splash is weak vs Unicorn and their move home effects, against Scorpion and their kill/dishonor effects and against Phoenix and their Consume by Five Fires/Cloud the Mind. I am not so sure on how this deck can perform in the current meta as I have not given that much attention to it lately.
General Tips on Matchups
As we pointed out in many times by now it is difficult for us to win Crane and Scorpion for many reasons. Crane have so much tempo and so much protection from Way of the Crab and our towers might not be able to stop them due to Esteemed Tea House and their broken way to find them consistently with The Wealth of the Crane. As for Scorpion, City of the Open Hand can dishonor us pretty fast while destroying us with a good RNG and Stoke Insurrection.
Our Lion matchups depend of which list they run. If there are playing honor Lion we can easily bid 1 turn while using our in clan draw mechanics to apply pressure on them and use Student of Anatomies to stop their honor gain abilities. Their tower list or the Kostakias version I mentioned above require certain playstyle with our different archetypes to beat them, but I think we are effective against them if we play the correct deck list.
Unicorn is one we can win with all of our archetypes as we have the tools to stop their gameplan.
Phoenix is a tricky one but with our tower tactic we mentioned above and our other lists abusing Fire and Oil and ways to grab the Imperial Favor we can beat them with ease.
As Pablo Pintor Espinosa pointed out recently, I would not choose to play Crab in a big tournament if I want to win that tournament.
To sum up Crab is in a good spot again in the meta as it has always been and this is due to the fact that our value engine playstyle fits perfectly with how Legends of the Five Rings work where small "wins" or "investments" pile up to finally win the game. However, this is not true for only one clan in Rokugan: Unicorn, and this is why unless we have a way to move our characters back in or play an aggressive approach we can not outvalue them.
I enjoy that finally Crab is in a spot that can play many builds and depending on the meta we can adapt to the best approach.