The Emerald Dojo
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Phoenix Clan Meta Guide
Updated 26 December 2020.
Welcome to the meta guide for Phoenix! I will try and guide you through some key ideas and concepts on how I approach the game playing Phoenix in today's meta. Currently, there is an overview of some of the popular Phoenix lists of today down below, but I plan to expand this by going in-depth on each of these in time. First, here's a handy overview:
The current state of Phoenix
When the Dominion cycle was completed, the game shifted who was on top dramatically. For Phoenix, things were going alright until the final pack arrived, which knocked Phoenix down a peg to the middle of the pack. The main contributors for this were Weight of Duty and the prevalence of cards that cancel events. On top of that, Crane and Scorpion got a bit faster and more explosive which gave you less time to assemble your game plan. Both of these factors in addition to developments like Crab playing more cards that dishonour characters have significantly diminished the potency of Phoenix's established decks. The most common Phoenix decks are the old school Seeker of Void Value Shugenja list and the Seeker of Air Echo Bird deck. Both lists rely on resolving powerful events like Consumed by Five Fires and Forebearer's Echoes. This cycle saw a new cancel out of Scorpion and cards that mitigate their effect, notably Lion received a card that allows them live through Consumed by Five Fires in Called to War, and then there's Stoke Insurrection which can conjure up extra participants from your deck built to deliver big characters.
Now that we are a couple of packs into the temptation cycle, things are looking up. Scorpion can no longer run Forged Edict and City of the Open Hand has been gutted, meaning the dishonour strategy lost its biggest tool to get you in range of its dishonour kill. Stoke Insurrection will no longer pull two big hits. Magistrate Station is gone, so Crane is no longer readying their characters as freely which makes them slower at least. Common Cause hitting the list means that Crab's powerful cards have been broken up a little, too.
Phoenix received a couple of cards that could lead to new strategies, such as Guardian Dojo and Guardians of Rokugan. This is a really good thing for Phoenix, because it expands the clan's potential laterally, making it more versatile and unpredictable.
The bane of non-uniques and the Seeker of Void row.
In conclusion, Phoenix dropped off from its dominating position in mid 2020, but it is back on the rise. (You cannot keep down the immortal firebird's rebirth!) Still, I think we can improve further, but we will need to delve in undiscovered territory a little and break out some new tricks to get there.
In the next section we will go through the main archetypes and discuss how these are changing.
There are three established archetypes in Phoenix right now: Value/Midrange, Echo Bird and Pass. These are the most common Phoenix decks you will run into at a tournament. I want to call out that these are archetypes, and not exact decklists. Within these archetypes, people still make various choices on which restricted card they bring as well as the exact make-up of the dynasty and conflict decks. While these are the most common archetypes, there are also other very playable archetypes that did not make the list down below because they're not as common, or because they lost a vital part to the restricted list.
The Value/Midrange deck is ancient: it has been around since the original core set in some fashion. You might as well call it the first deck that Phoenix played at tournaments. Its current shape is a far cry from the juggernaut it used to be when it could play its busted cards like Isawa Tadaka and original Kyuden Isawa. Still, the deck had a lot of power to lose and even as a shadow of its former glory, it is still a very capable deck but ultimately very honest.
The main game plan is to build up a board of powerful Shugenja and fade your opponent's full board with a Consumed by Five Fires or just run over them with classic Phoenix tempo plays like readying a big honoured Shugenja with one of its spells and busting down a province with Supernatural Storm for 3-5.
Step 1: Get a big Shugenja, and honour it.
Step 2: Ready said big Shugenja again and again and exhaust defenders.
Step 3: Finish off opponents by creating too much of a resource gap.
Its current shape is played out of Isawa Mori Seidō and has a larger focus on honouring its own characters so that it can utilize Isawa Mori Seidō's ability on their own characters and ready them as big honoured threats. Here is an example of this type of list:
The deck is characterised by its Dragon splash for Let Go, and a 1 cost conflict character (usually Ancient Master and sometimes Tattooed Wanderer). The inclusion of Let Go is due to attachment removal being a thing Phoenix does not have in-faction themselves as a conflict card (...for now). Ancient Master plays the role of an impromptu defender of Sanpuku Seido and Shameful Display, a body to throw in the Way of the Crab meat grinder and a high glory character with which to grab the Imperial Favor at the end of the turn.
The gap in Phoenix's conflict deck. Most common card Phoenix splashed since 2017.
The most played conflict character by Phoenix. Grabber of favour, defender of shrines.
The Imperial Favor matters a lot for this deck, because its restricted card is invariably Consumed by Five Fires. This big, powerful event hangs over the opponent's plays, ready to pull the rug from under them when they develop enough bigger threats to deal with. As an event, you want Censure as a means to provide at least a modicum of protection towards resolving it.
This restricted card locks the deck into a seeker role, and the most common one is Seeker of Void. This role allows Phoenix to run a really nasty row of provinces. The row is almost invariably Sanpuku Seido, Shameful Display, Upholding Authority and a second Void Province, usually Kuroi Mori or Pilgrimage. The Midrange deck is relatively light on tricks, and relies heavily on Sanpuku Seido and both Void provinces to hold off the opponent. As the Phoenix player, you want the opponent to overcommit so that you can effortlessly break two other provinces, and you especially want them to do this not knowing which one they will be dealing with so that you can hold them off with a token defence. Upholding Authority is there to clear the way for Consumed by Five Fires or to snipe a problem card should cancellation not be an issue. Recently, the second Void province even sees some experimentation with the new Weight of Duty.
For a while now, the stronghold province was an on-reveal Water province, in particular Retire to the Brotherhood. The idea with this province is that you want it to buy you a turn of respite. Against a deck that rushes for the finish line, this will hit most of their characters already. Against slower, more powerful pushes with fated characters, you will strip that fate off the characters with Consumed by Five Fires first, ensuring the big characters leave play as soon as the assault begins. As mentioned in the primer, the new characters enter at home, and this happens after attackers are declared but before defenders are assigned.
Great until revealed too early
The missing province right now is the Air element. The reason for this is that Phoenix favours a tougher row over the economy that Air provinces typically provide, and Upholding Authority is key for disrupting the opponent's hand which is also highly valued. There is a thought on my mind to run Driven By Courage or Smuggler's Cove as a stronghold province because of how unreliable on-reveal effects have become with the advent of Doji Diplomat. Especially Driven By Courage which provides a benefit when you are the aggressor. Another option would be to put Weight of Duty on the stronghold which trades resilience of your row for the ability to hurt the opponent's Void provinces. This would be pretty good against clans with multiple Void provinces, but especially Crane. I do not think this trade-off is in my favour most of the time though, but it is a thing you can decide to do if you have Weight of Duty in your list. Against everyone else you would swap Weight of Duty back to the row.
On the character front, the exact composition varies between player to player, but there are a couple of common elements:
You will run characters with the Shugenja trait almost exclusively, because you need a high density of them for Supernatural Storm. The cheap characters are generally all Shugenja to power up Supernatural Storm with. The top end is also all Shugenja, because you want big bodies to ready with Against the Waves and Clarity of Purpose.
Some of the 3-4 cost Shugenja are added to the deck with the explicit goal to disguise them with Isawa Tadaka later.
You also run three copies of Shiba Yōjimbō to protect your Shugenja.
Recently, you will run 1-2 copies of Hantei XXXVIII as your second stringer for protecting Shugenja and also to disrupt the opponent's game plan.
Early pressure, cheap and efficient
Protection for everyone else
The top-end Shugenja, usually themed around the Void ring
The exact Shugenja ran vary, but you can usually expect these to make an appearance:
Ethereal Dreamer to as your overstatted 1-cost character.
Solemn Scholar as the most common 1-cost character. Her ability is really powerful and you can exploit her reliance on the Earth ring to goad defenders and feel out if your opponent has options to play around her ability.
Student of the Tao, which supplements each of the three row provinces that Phoenix will defend with her high glory and the ability to defend the Void provinces without presence. This is one of the main candidates to be disguised by the Earth Elemental Master and frequent drag queen Isawa Tadaka. This is usually also the character you want to open with.
At four fate, it opens up a little, and you can expect any combination between Isawa Ujina, Inferno Guard Invoker, Prodigy of the Waves and Isawa Atsuko. On occasion you may also see a Fearsome Mystic played here as well. Ujina, Atsuko and Fearsome Mystic play into the anti-fate strategy, whilst Inferno Guard Invoker shores up some of the military issues Phoenix can have. Prodigy of the Waves is another option that synergizes with removing fate, and serves as a force multiplier with her ability to ready.
A new trend is to also include Isawa Tsuke over Fearsome Mystic or even Inferno Guard Invoker as the final piece to the anti-fate pressure that acts also as a pile of stats.
Why play this deck? What are the limits?
This deck has a very strong core to it and is very straightforward to play. You are trying to build up across multiple turns and get to an overwhelming position, enabled by the pressure you put on your opponent's fate. The deck relies heavily on its provinces to slow down the assault and weather the storm (proverbial, not supernatural) until its bigger characters start dominating conflicts. Its conflict deck has good tools to catch back up and react to your opponent's game plan, with a side helping of shredding their hand.
The big looming threat is Consumed by Five Fires pulling the rug out from under your opponent's position. The deck also mandates the opponent plays into this pattern, because if you let this deck have its way, it will produce a big honoured body and ready it over and over while busting the province row.
The main weakness in this deck is in how fair it is until it plays a Consumed by Five Fires. It does not break the regular fate economy until you get there. It also doesn't burn your opponent's honour outside of the uncontested conflict and the odd Air ring. It does draw some extra cards, but we are looking at an extra card or two every turn, nothing too spectacular.
The conflict deck is very light on tricks. It is a bunch of cards that increase strength, neutral tricks like Cloud the Mind and Assassination, and 8-9 cards that ready characters. There is nothing in there like a surprise conflict bow, send-home or kill on a character. The few effects like this that it does play are all in the dynasty deck and thus on-table. Even worse, its biggest trick is very pricey and therefore telegraphed, allowing the opponent to play in a way to get it cancelled.
The final weakness is in its lack of movement, which is common to most Phoenix decks. Its only ways to add a big defender or attacker to a conflict is by playing Isawa Tadaka for full retail from hand, or through a Favorable Ground.
The opening hand, opening plays, and Mulligans versus Clans
In general, you are looking to play a longer game in the 4-5 turns range. Early on, you intend to grab the Imperial Favor so that you get more control over what will happen in subsequent turns while you start stripping your opponent's hand with Isawa Tadaka and Earth rings. Attrition by cards in hand, as well as fate on-table is a big part of how Phoenix wins their games. It speaks to reason that Void is the other ring that Phoenix values very highly, and I prefer that one to any other.
The other way how you deal attrition to your opponent is by forcing them to spend more cards than you in a conflict. This is achieved by honouring one of the Shugenja of 3 fate and higher and presenting that threat over and over, aided by Phoenix's high printed glory, the Isawa Mori Seidō bonus and your ready effects. Your opponent is aware of this, and they will try to undo this by resolving Fire rings against you or use tools to dishonour your characters, especially if you do not have Shiba Yojimbo in play.
You want to be the first player always, because it provides you the biggest chance to get the passing fate, another tool that helps towards attrition.
Taking all of the above in mind, the ideal dynasty opening involves Student of the Tao, one or more holdings like Forgotten Library and an Ethereal Dreamer. The conflict hand wants a Court Games, an Ancient Master or a ready effect and two more zero cost cards. You are always looking for a way to honour one of your characters, so you want Court Games in just about any opening hand alongside a way to ready a character. As a general rule, you want to keep cards in your conflict hand that cost 0 because you are investing a lot in characters every turn, and you have a lot of density in the conflict cards that cost fate that you want to see on turn 1, like a ready effect. The final card you want in any opening hand is an Ancient Master to snipe the Imperial Favor with at the end of the turn.
Down below are sections covering how you want to deviate from this against the various clans.
Against Crab, you want to open with multiple 1-cost characters and you should mulligan aggressively towards those. In the dark, I am assuming that Crab will have some number of Way of the Crab and Assassination. You want to avoid getting blown out by that combination. This changes if you have more information on what your opponent is playing. Some more prominent players are known to play only one Way of the Crab for instance, in which case you should go for an opening with just one 1-cost character and a 3-cost character with a 2-3 fate on it, depending on the odds of getting passing fate. In the dark, you want a multitude of cheap characters, and that's basically all I am looking for.
Following this trend, you are looking for an Ancient Master in your opening conflict hand just in case. A second card I look for is Let Go, because both Reprieve and Watch Commander are excellent cards to hit with those, and those can show up very early in the game, too. Thinking about the long-term, Cloud the Mind is another good keep, because Crab has several characters with pretty amazing text boxes, in particular Yasuki Broker who must be stopped if you want to temper their economy.
Against Crane, you want to play one big character with 3 fate every turn for the remainder of the game until the turn comes when you can safely fire a Consumed By Five Fires. Because they have a similar strategy to yours, you want to play Fearsome Mystic as first player if you run that card in your deck. Inferno Guard Invoker is another great option, especially because this is a match-up where you want Isawa Tadaka in play early to shred the Crane's hand of Voice of Honor. I am also digging for a Favorable Ground because that lets me retreat from a conflict if Crane is still unable to ready their own characters efficiently. A third card I look for is Shiba Yojimbo so that I can stop one of their duels very early on, or a Storied Defeat if they start duelling my large characters effectively. Starting with a Shiba Yojimbo and an Ethereal Dreamer sounds like a great place to start from.
On the conflict side, I am looking for Let Go to deal with the future Duelist Training or one of the Unicorn attachments like Favored Mount and Talisman of the Sun. Finding a Court Games is even more important than normal, because you want to stop their ability to play Voice of Honour on Consumed by Five Fires. If you are playing Magnificent Kimono, this would be one of the clans to keep it against. If you run only one Consumed by Five Fires, you should try to mulligan for it, too. Your best ready effect is Isawa Tadaka, because it cannot be prevented by them, and it gives you a way to get out of Asahina Takamori-jail, whom is mercifully rare to see.
Against Dragon, you want to play one big character with 3 fate every turn for the remainder of the game until the turn comes when you can safely fire a Consumed By Five Fires. The exact same strategy as you have against Crane, really. Dragon does not have any answer to Consumed by Five Fires outside of trying to discard it with Kitsuki Investigator. I am looking for Shiba Yojimbo against them early on, and I hope to bring Hantei XXXVIII in play on a later turn to put a stop to most of their stronger effects.
On the conflict side, I am again looking for Let Go, but this time to play on the Cloud the Mind they bring to the table, as well as the attachment du jour that they are playing with. I will be looking for Censure in this match-up as well, because I intend to play a Cloud the Mind on the Kitsuki Investigator on later turns and need to stop their opposing Let Go. Dragon is a clan you can just break with incidental fate removal with your characters, Void rings and ready effects to just grind out their characters so that you do not need to rely on a Consumed by Five Fires play later on.
Against Lion, you need to identify what type of Lion you are playing against. I will generally keep any card draw effect against them because if it is honour Lion, you need every single one of those that you can muster. Student of the Tao shines in this match-up, because bowing Lion is difficult, but sending home generally works unless if they happen to play Unicorn in the splash. The plan is to get each of your characters honoured because the Conflict deck against Lion is not great.
On the conflict side, Let Go for Tactical Ingenuity is a good start. Isawa Tadaka would also be crucial against Honour Lion because conflict cards are at a premium in that match-up.
Against Phoenix, Imperial Favor is the thing that you fight over. Most Phoenix decks rely on powerful events, and the one to shut off those of the opponent is more likely to get ahead. I will be looking to buy either Inferno Guard Invoker or Student of the Tao to grab the Imperial Favor with. As with any solo-character opening, you want to find Favorable Ground as well so that you can retreat from a conflict the opponent cannot afford to lose, just so that you have more glory on the table. You hope to resolve Hantei XXXVIII against Phoenix to really shut them down.
On the conflict side, there is nothing special you are looking for other than the basics and Isawa Tadaka to potentially grab favor with, as well as try and snipe Consumed by Five Fires with when things aren't going your way. I generally do not like Let Go or Cloud the Mind against Phoenix, because neither is crucial to the early game and it is just okay later on.
Against Scorpion, the card you look for is Ancestral Shrine, especially if there is a Keeper role showing. You do not want to buy 1-cost characters against them, because you do not want to give them the opportunity to drop their own honour with Assassination. You want to find Shiba Yojimbo above all others, because that's the best weapon against their cards that dishonour/kill one of your characters.
Of course, this means that you need your protective measures here as well. Isawa Tadaka is again key in this match-up, in particular to strip the dishonour-a-character effects first and Backhanded Compliment second. If you happen to play Finger of Jade, this would be a good time to mulligan for them so that your Shiba Yojimbo isn't going to get murdered as easily. If you are like me, this is where you keep Magnificent Kimono too, because that card is all upside versus Scorpion.
Against Unicorn, you need to just stay alive and grab that Imperial Favor. Unicorn decks lose steam quickly with their heavy military blitz strategy. You really want to be first in this match-up. You are looking for Favorable Ground because most Unicorn strategies involve stopping you from participating in a defence. You also want Ethereal Dreamer to smash provinces with, and commonly on political because Unicorn is not playing much to stop you from doing just that. You want the cheap character to poke with early on because Endless Plains discarding your big characters is an easy way to lose a game.
On the conflict side, you favour any military pump that you can muster, as well conflict characters to add as an additional defender or attacker if they are leaning on Assassination. You don't care as much about ready effects, Court Games and definitely not about Consumed by Five Fires. Let Go is an okay card to keep because those Curved Blades can gut you if you cannot answer that with stats of your own.
Potential Changes and Updates
After Atonement, having high glory and a plan involving Void Provinces for defence is less reliable than before and other decks have just become stronger and still run lots of cards that help against the big events. This lead Phoenix to look at the other seeker roles:
Seeker of Air for a better early economy and change the splash to Crane for Soul Beyond Reproach to make it easier to stay honoured.
Seeker of Earth for more reliable bow effects.
Beyond that, I am more and more a fan of playing one of the various anti-holding tools present in Phoenix because almost each clan (come on, Dragon) has valuable holdings to put in the bin.
The scourge of Gencon 2019, Phoenix's other very common archetype is named for Fushichō, Phoenix’s giant 6-cost Mythic avatar. It runs out of Kyuden Isawa, whose spell-recycling ability is fundamental to the deck’s operation. It can be identified via its Seeker of Air role. Here is a recent list:
Essentially, this is a tempo/control hybrid deck, utilising A Season of War, Walking the Way and sometimes City of the Rich Frog to dump a large number of dynasty cards into the discard pile. From there, the Lion splash card Forebearer’s Echoes can bring a character into play from down under during a military conflict for a cost of 2 fate, with Fushichō being by far the preferred target. Not only is Fushichō an imposing 6/6, she also has an incredibly powerful leaving play effect that allows you bring another large Phoenix character into play, for free, with 1 fate included.
The big bodies in the Echo Bird archetype vary, and most commonly it runs a Void sub-theme, with Isawa Tsuke or Isawa Kaede as its main Fushichō target, and often Isawa Atsuko to pump Void conflicts (which Kaede automatically creates when she attacks). The deck is also notable for its high count of 1-cost Shugenja who can be powered up to disproportionate sizes with the other part of the Lion splash, My Ancestor’s Strength, and for the incredibly high number of spells that it runs.
Echo Bird is an explosive archetype, and among the more aggressive decks in the current environment. It can create overwhelming board positions out of nowhere, but can also struggle defensively, and relies more than most decks on variance. Nevertheless, this is trade-off of defensive ability for explosive power, and it remains a strong Phoenix archetype.
In the current meta, it is more dynamic and active than the classical Seeker of Void Midrange/Value deck which makes it suitable to a meta where many characters enter play without getting bought in the dynasty phase. Still, it runs in the same issues as mentioned earlier, though it is at least a little less easy to hurt with dishonour effects and it can power through cancellation effects a little with Kyuden Isawa.
When you are playing this deck, you are looking for Fushichō in the dynasty flop because your entire splash revolves around this card. The other cards to look for is again a Forgotten Library and an Ethereal Dreamer. Your ideal opening is two Shugenja that you can buy with fate on them. This deck is faster than the midrange/value archetype, but it is building up a critical mass of Shugenja to fuel Supernatural Storm with. You want to play this spell for a gain of 4 or more strength.
The conflict opening hand contains ideally your non-Spells cards like Shrine Maiden and Isawa Tadaka. There is a risk that your Shrine Maidens would be discarding other copies of either of these cards which hurts you in the long-term. Another high-priority card is Walking the Way in case that you did not find Fushichō yet. Depending on whether you have Isawa Uona coming up, you might need to dig for an Air card, too.
The Phoenix ‘Pass’ archetype is one of the newest to emerge, with Mediator of Hostilities finally creating a critical mass of card draw effects, enabling a strong, reliable, bid-1 deck out of Isawa Mori Seidō . It is the successor to the earlier pure dishonour Phoenix builds and it will generally run a Keeper of Air role.
The above list is prior to the December 2020 Imperial Law. See below for suggestions on how to make up for Forged Edict.
The game plan is to win through dishonour. It will consistently bid one on turn one puts a lot of decks under immediate dishonour pressure, while also paying for Assassination as a key, early defensive measure. The deck plays a Scorpion splash, which is so that none of its key Courtiers disappear thanks to Forged Edict and to give it reach on an opponent’s honour loss.
The deck does not need to attack (though it will if this prevents a bunch of ring fate) and focuses its attention on holding its ground. Strong defensive provinces, hand disruption and more resource generation are the name of the game. It tries to keep attackers at bay through Pacifism-style effects and Courtier control. In the late-game, it will drop Shiba Tsukune, whose ability grinds out most players with her constant attacks on resources or honour.
It is not without issues though: The deck falters badly against Lion, can get overrun by Unicorn like any other, and has a difficult time against Scorpion dishonour. Its games also go long, which can make it exhausting to play in a tournament situation.
In recent times, it received Asako Lawmaster as another powerful political body that opens up the way to win through honouring out (though it generally wins way faster through dishonour). This new addition might make a different splash altogether for Crane and honouring effects more and more of an option. The current consensus is that an extra honour engine might be needed to really make this as easy to do as dishonouring the opponent (more on that in the next section).
On the whole, this deck has fallen a out of favour because Scorpion is both better at this and the match-up against Scorpion is tough, which is all too common. It can also feel very fragile because you are using low-statted characters as your dynasty strategy and expensive attachments, both things that can be punished severely. Recently, the deck lost Forged Edict, which means that it can no longer save its characters from Assassination early on. This could be the straw that broke the camels back, because this deck is reliant on carrying over a 2 drops over for multiple turns to have a chance. It will likely either play it risky and play a different restricted card, or it needs to move into a different clan to splash. Within the Scorpion splash, it could move on to Mark of Shame, and add Inspired Visionary to the dynasty in order to recycle Mark of Shame and draw a card doing so. Outside of the splash, it might morph in a different deck, which is discussed in the next section.
Other ideas and cards on the rise
After learning about the most common archetypes, next are some of the cards that have potential to start a new archetype. Down below are some of my favourite picks from the Temptation cycle.
The first card we want to look at is Guardian Dojo. This holding lets you honour your character cheaply and en masse, something Phoenix was not able to do before. It does have some issues. You cannot fate the characters bought this way (though you can discard a duplicate in case of a unique character). It is also positional. You want this in your two central provinces so that you have more opportunities to buy characters honoured.
Buying characters honoured, but only for one turn means that you want to play this with small characters, lots of them, and hope to pressure your opponent while slowly climbing to an honour victory (or at least staying outside of dishonour range).
Down below is a deck for this, designed by none other than the current shogun:
Honorable Swarm has the strategy in the title. You need to find Guardian Dojo, and from that point forwards you are buying your characters honoured. With numerous honoured characters, breaking through provinces should be relatively easy because not many play cards that deal with a swarm strategy. You are also applying pressure on honour because each character leaving play lets you climb to 25 honour.
The deck runs City of the Rich Frog as a key province, both to dig more quickly for its key card and to enable you to buy several characters from there with an adjacent Dojo. the rest of the row is similar to that in Midrange/Value Shugenja, except Weight of Duty is always part of the row because it goes so well with a swarm strategy.
The dynasty make-up features many cheap characters as one would expect with no character costing over 3 fate in total. It does not play any unique more than once because a duplicate for a cheap character just is not as good as another character to buy. One of the subthemes of the characters is the Scholar trait, specifically so that it can activate Bustling Academy so that you can see more dynasty cards (it can discard a face-down card in a province adjacent to Guardian Dojo) and Studious because this deck needs all the card draw it can get in absence of Forgotten Library. Another feature of the dynasty deck are all of honour-generating cards, like Ancestral Shrine and Asako Lawmaster, which enable its honour victory.
The conflict deck features a Crab splash for Rebuild and Apprentice Engineer to ensure Guardian Dojo can be brought back even if it gets discarded, giving the deck resilience once it found the dojo. The only other conflict character it runs in this splash is Seeker of Knowledge, which is very helpful in creating extra Air rings for when you want to honour out. Asides from the usual suspects, a notable card in here is Mono no Aware, which is much more one-sided than it is in any other Phoenix deck.
For the dynasty mulligan, you are looking for Guardian Dojo of course, but the common opener of a Student of the Tao with potentially a 1 cost character is still very viable here as a way to buy time for finding the Dojo with A Season of War and Walking the Way.
The conflict opening hand is mainly looking for a way to ready, a cheap interaction card like For Shame!, the card advantage engine Studious and Walking the Way if you have not found the dojo yet, and Rebuild if you have.
The deck plays fairly defensively early on, because there is a lot of potential riding on City of the Rich Frog. If you can let that province live, you are in an excellent shape for the remainder of the game. After it is done with its set-up, it will start looking for Ancestral Shrine so that you can start skyrocketing in honour.
The bidding strategy for this deck relies a little on the opening hand and the type of opponent, but from turn 2 onwards, you should consider bidding 1 in order to limit your opponent's options whilst you let your strong dynasty strategy do the talking.
The deck is overall still new, but it packs quite the punch. Currently, this deck is kept in mind for when Phoenix moves into Seeker of Fire for Sanguine Mastery. This will allow Phoenix to play another good Scholar which has great synergy with Guardian Dojo: Imperial Librarian. This one increases everyone's glory, which will favour itself because it is a swarm deck. Another thing is on whether another splash would be better. You could go for a Lion splash and a Water role for Renowned Singer and Logistics, for card advantage and a way to keep Guardian Dojo around respectively.
A card from Twisted Loyalties that piqued my interest was Guardians of Rokugan. This card has a lot of potential in Phoenix specifically because Phoenix is good at winning big on defence and it has two excellent hits in Fushichō and Shiba Tsukune. Getting free characters in play is a powerful result, and those two will give great value even if there are no more conflicts this turn. Even lesser hits like Inferno Guard Invoker or the new Steward of Cryptic Lore could give you exactly what you wanted for a future conflict. I have brewed two decks with this thus far: A Keeper of Water version, and one out of Seeker of Air.
Another item from Temptations that seemed fairly strong are the two new duels: Heresy! and Make Your Case. Both of these duels focus on fate on characters, making them a natural fit for Fearsome Mystic, Isawa Ujina and Isawa Tsuke which have synergy especially with Heresy! and enough political prowess to pull off either duel without working too hard. While I merely tried one splash, I tried this with Storied Defeat as a way to make these duels relevant to the conflict at hand. This felt very powerful because it was cheap on the conflict deck's fate budget, and bowing/dishonouring a character is exactly what I feel the Midrange/Value Shugenja list was too light on. For the list I made on this, check it here.
Phoenix is in an alright spot. It has a good card and fate economy. Its core ideas remain powerful and there is a wealth of deck archetypes that can be built towards competition in its card pool. You have read how Phoenix still struggles a little in the early game, where it prefers to just hold its provinces and play for a turn where it has enough fate to really develop its core plan, but other than that Phoenix has all the things it needs to thrive.
I am a big fan of the presence of a new swarm deck within Phoenix, which makes us less predictable and also much more versatile. This is a great development, because that means everyone can play strategies on opposite sides of the spectrum within one clan.
Soon, Phoenix will receive a new way to deal with attachments which will open up the splash options for players that do not wish to play without attachment control options.
It is a great time to be playing Phoenix, because it has something for everyone and the future is looking ever bright.