The Imperial Herald
A Legend of the Five Rings Publication
Welcome to the Imperial Herald for the final month of 2020. Much has been made of the year that was so we'll refrain from echoing what many others have said, and simply hope that everyone is safe and well with (at least some) family and friends.
In this issue we have the usual round up of Legends of the Five Rings news and events, a breakdown of the new Imperial Law, a great interview with Ikoma Tomoya and Zarzuckett: the two primary develops of the Jigoku platform, and the arrival of the Phoenix clan meta guide here on Emerald Dojo!
In the Wild
The second pack of the Temptations cycle, Honor in Flames, was released this month and then quickly added to Jigoku.
The pack features a powerful new version of Daidoji Uji who can tutor his owner's entire conflict deck for the four most desirable cards, which can then be played at will provided Uji is honored.
Curse of Misfortune can be used to disable large tower characters (although I seem to use it to get rid of Cloud the Mind more often than not), while Shoshi ni Kie briefly granted Crane players the ability to reveal Magistrate Station at will, until the ever-contentious province was finally banned later in the month.
Laying Down the Law
Despite an open letter from some prominent community members calling on head designer Tyler to use the next Imperial Law to institute sweeping changes to the card pool, the most recent changes to the restricted and banned list instead followed the usual pattern of curtailing problematic red cards and tweaking the remaining card pool.
The ever-morphing City of the Open Hand was again errata'd (and unrestricted) to no longer cause an opponent to lose honour. Tyler seems confident that this will be the last change to the core stronghold and there seems to be widespread community agreement on this. The repeatable honour gain still allows Assassination and such honour-losing cards to be played at will, but the loss of a passive honour drain will require Scorpion players to work that little bit harder to reach Backhanded Compliment range (welcome back, Bayushi Shoju).
Stoke Insurrection now has some restrictions (only characters up to a total of 6 fate can be brought into play), while, in Tyler's words, the new Bayushi Kachiko will join her husband on the restricted list. The final red card to be affected, Forged Edict, was moved from the restricted list to the banned list.
Crane were also hit with the aforementioned Magistrate Station being banned and Doji Diplomat restricted. Expect to see Kakita Toshimoko in most Crane decks now, while Doji Diplomat remains an option for players who still enjoy Wealth of the Crane.
Finally, Crab were hit again with Common Cause being restricted.
With the latest update now in the wild a few of us would like to offer our thoughts on the changes.
I'm generally happy with the update and its fun being in the wild west again as top-tier clans adjust to the changes. Scorpion are back on dishonour, but I have to say I miss the punchy military-focused Kyuden Bayushi decks. These were fun to play against as Unicorn, and it's a little sad to be facing the numbing inevitability of dishonour again. That said, it is a win condition in the game and as such deserves to see play.
The power of Doji Diplomat, Kakita Toshimoko and Wealth of the Crane did need to be curtailed, although oddly enough I didn't mind seeing Doji Diplomat as I've been playing Wealth of the Crane in Unicorn to riff on Reserve Tents, Moto Stables and Nimble Noyan. This deck is a blast, although it's very vulnerable to A Season of War which I was secretly hoping would be restricted (always a long shot).
I'm also fine with Common Cause being restricted as it's zero cost was really -1 or -2 for Crab players. There are still a wealth of cheap readies available to most clans, and while this was a point of contention in the open letter, I think this is something that needs to be embraced, rather than chaffed against at this point.
Right up to the release I wasn't sure at all what would be on the imperial law, but I quite like the suggested changes. On the whole, this should help condense the clans in terms of power level to be more on an even playing field.
The errata to City of the Open Hand is harsh and puts it at a similar level of Seven Fold Palace. This had been a long time coming, and it mandates that dishonour decks import a new source of recurring dishonour with cards like imperial Bayushi Shoju. Banning Forged Edict reverts us to before I started having trouble resolving Consumed by Five Fires. This means that only Crane has a free cancel in-clan, which is an enormous deal. Being able to pre-empt a cancel that costs fate with a Goblin Sneak is a really big deal. I am sure that Scorpion will find new things to do, as has been the trend forever.
Adding Doji Diplomat sounds like the right choice to me, as it allows other factions to more easily still splash Wealth of the Crane (though whether I can make this work in Phoenix, I am tentatively negative on that). I believe the Doji Diplomat-based decks will still be around, as they should, but knocking Magistrate Station out definitely makes things feel more fair. It had been one of the major "lose on the attack" provinces for as long as it was in the game. I have played games where this was active on the stronghold from turn 1 (a very fortunate triple Doji Diplomat opening) and that felt like an uphill battle similar to playing against Scorpion before the first imperial law.
Common Cause getting restricted splits up the power Crab has over a new card. I think they'll be fine; They weren't playing some other very decent ready effects like The Mountain Does not Fall. At least this makes their potential on zero fate much worse once you can cross off Common Cause as their restricted card, and that feels right to me. It'll be interesting to see which of the excellent cards from their list we'll keep seeing. I think it might be a good idea to keep playing Common Cause or at the very least pretend that you are until you have to show your pick.
This was a healthy change, yet I think some things could bear an update later on. You do not want to change everything all at once, so lets first play and see where we end up with the fallout of this update and the influx of new cards.
This new Imperial Law update has provided a number of changes that, frankly, were a long time in the making. The addition of Forged Edict to the Banned List will no doubt improve the overall health of the game, and arguably should have happened earlier. The addition of Magistrate Station to that list isn't as poignant to me, but I definitely understand the rationale behind it. Restricting Common Cause is an indirect nerf to many Lion decks, but overall I'm not that upset if it sees less play in the future.
Overall, I would call the changes wrought by this update to be generally good for the game as a whole. Frankly, it surprises me a little that some of Lion's less interactive cards didn't get hit by it, but I guess that's because Lion doesn't (yet) dominate the meta. Still, we all know there are a number of yellow cards that, while they may not be overpowered, they don't lend themselves to a particularly fun game for the opponent, and these should probably have been seen to.
Beware of Phoenix Bearing Gifts
This month's fiction continued to show why we can't have nice things in Rokugan.
The Yogo Curse, Part 2 follows the Scorpion clan's attempt to contain the curse on Kunshu, the now-cursed blade of the Imperial family. Predictably, this goes badly, with the story playing out much like the scene of No-Face's rampage in Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away. The story is powerfully written and, if events play out like they did in the CCG, will likely lead to the Second Day of Thunder in the not-too-distant future.
Meanwhile, in a case of art imitating life, the 'Red Lion' deck is becoming a reality as, having lost the benefits of imperial favour, a de-clawed Ikoma Ujiaki must seek an alliance with the disgraced Bayushi Shoju in The Careful Gardener.
Who Let the Dogs Out?
Along with another season of the Discord League, this months competitive play also saw the end of the massive Discord Clan War.
Discord Clan War
After months of preparation, group stages, and the finals bracket, fellow Rokugani Mad Dogs Giannis Kouris (SlyNight) and Oskar Bladh (DirtyDeeds) faced off in the final game. Crane were ultimately able to overcome Unicorn with Giannis taking the title! Thanks again to Aniel (Mind's Desire) and the other organisers for putting the impressive draft tournament together, and you can watch the final game here.
Season 29 of the Discord League finished this month and congratulations go to Gold Cup Champion, @Osan and Silver Cup Champion @Ginawa, and to all the tops of clan and top 8!
Groups stages for the inaugural Discord Skirmish and Beginner leagues are also complete, with winners from the gold and silver cups to be announced shortly.
Following on from last issue's interview with Discord League organiser Jmart, this month we have a roundtable discussion with Jigoku devs Ikoma Tomoya (TheOutcast) and Zarzuckett.
Hello and thanks to both of you for being part of this month's interview! Perhaps we can start with each of you introducing yourselves and telling us how you became involved in L5R?
Ikoma Tomoya: I only learned of the setting early-mid 2018. I was doing consultancy and one of the people there said he was going to the local game store to play card games. I knew the place and hadn't been there in a few years and I was looking forward to get back into playing something. He introduced me to Netrunner and L5R. I was immediately hooked to L5R's setting and art. And I loved the challenge the game gave me. I got to honor out with Lion and Way of the Chrysanthemum in my first game, very memorable.
Zarzuckett: Hey, thanks for having us! I got started with L5R, some friends of mine who had played Old5R a long time ago picked it up again a year before the sale to FFG, and I kind of picked it up to play with them for fun (and wasn't very good at it). Same friends went to Gencon for the launch event and brought back several copies of New5R, and we've been playing since. I love card games in general, and really enjoy the mechanics of the L5R framework, and so I've really enjoyed the game, way more than I was expecting when we first cracked open those core sets.
Do you remember your first contact with online play, whether through Tabletop Simulator or Jigoku?
Zarzuckett: It was through Jigoku, and I was pretty nervous to try it out. Playing with a new system vs what I assumed would be better players was intimidating, but after a few games I had figured out the UI and found that I enjoyed being able to play on my own time instead of at the weekly open play day at my local store. I don't remember my first game!
Ikoma Tomoya: It's the same for me. The person that introduced me to the game immediately told me about Jinteki the online Netrunner platform and Jigoku (ringteki). I was used to using browser clients or apps like that when playing MtG or Yu-Gi-Oh, so it wasn't exactly a new experience. I think the first games went as smoothly as I'd like.
It's one thing to play through Jigoku, but another to become involved in the programming side of things. How did you find yourselves working behind the scenes?
Ikoma Tomoya: Early 2019 I was just excited to be part of the L5R community and wanted to do something for the people that needed the online platform in between events. At the time I just went over to the Jigoku discord, talked to @Jadiel and @DaidojiOdi, setup my environment and started coding cards. It's still the case for anyone who wants to help today. Me and @Zarzuckett will get you set up.
FFG recently spoiled cards for Pack 5 of the Temptation Cycle, Coils of Power. Can you briefly take us through how you would code a card like Repentant Legion?
Zarzuckett: For that particular card, the first is considering some questions around the templating.
(1) Have we ever had an effect that reads "fill a province" before? City of the Rich Frog says "fill this province to 3 cards", and the process of doing that is just putting cards from the top of your deck onto the province, and so we can deduce that's how this card works.
(2) An order isn't given for filling provinces, so I guess we do left-to-right?
(3) What happens if you have 3 or less cards in your dynasty deck? Are you allowed to trigger? Do you reshuffle and keep filling? The Rich Frog "fill" effect can't deck you, so we don't have precedent to rely upon for this.
(4) If you break your own Province while attacking (ex: via Raze to the Ground), does that count for the trigger ability? (ex: if this had Smuggling Deal played on it, do I get two triggers if I use Raze to break a province?)
(5) If you break your own Province while defending, do I get to trigger the ability?
Ikoma Tomoya: So yeah rules checking is an important first step. here's my summary.
- We would check any specific rules interactions and whether or not the rules cover all of the card text.
- Simple keywords or recurring constant text like 'No attachments' are usually directly translated by the existing framework without us needing to anything, of course that code has to be written at one point, but unless something new comes up that doesn't require any work. Messenger of Misery from the 2nd pack of the Temptations cycle is an example
- Then we program any abilities that can't be parsed through text alone onto the card. Like the Reaction present on this card.
- We write as many tests as needed depending on core functionality and specific rules interactions or edge cases we know of.
- Then me and @zarzuckett validate each other's (or anyone who made the card) work.
Zarzuckett: yep. Once the rules questions are ironed out, that's how it goes
Sometimes we need to make assumptions about rules if Tyler doesn't get back to us. Some recent examples are Stoke Insurrection and Spectral Visitation, where we made decisions to make them work as we felt was intended since the cards didn't really work as written
I had a vague idea of how much went into that, but it really is an amazing amount of work. Are there any general misconceptions about Jigoku and the work you do that you come across regularly?
Ikoma Tomoya: The work is light when me and Zar work together. There was a rough time for 2019 till like worlds where it was basically only me. It's definitely rough on the motivation for the most part.
Zarzuckett: The usual with software development - people really underestimate the amount of effort that goes into user experience updates. Minor UI tweaks that get asked for are usually much more complicated to implement than to dream up. People are pretty forgiving about bugs, which is nice, but I don't think they grasp the full scope of how much testing we do to ensure that most potential bugs get squashed in development.
Ikoma Tomoya: Skirmish definitely took a lot of work on your part.
Zarzuckett: Skirmish was definitely a big undertaking. Probably took me over 40 hours to get it launch ready. Most cards have about a 20/80 split on testing (writing tests and ensuring it works in edge cases requires 80% of the effort of implementing most cards).
Ikoma Tomoya: Unless the card requires us to do things differently like the new Daidoji Uji, it's as Zar says. Very little work that isn't covering edge cases by writing tests.
Zarzuckett: A fun Jigoku fact: the card I have implemented that took the most time and had the most problems is Negotiation Table. If you asked a bunch of people, I doubt anyone would guess it was that one.
Ikoma Tomoya: I doubt people actually know the card :-)
Mine would be Greater Understanding. Took a bit of work to come up and make what it is now.
I guess it's a little like an iceberg: most of the work is hidden below the water and people only seen the polished finished product at the top. Also, I'm afraid I've never used Negotiation Table, and I think it's a real shame that the unique premise behind Greater Understanding doesn't result in more use!
Zarzuckett: Please don't use Negotiation Table, I think it might be held together by sawdust and dreams :-)
(Take that as a challenge, readers)
If people would like to support the platform, either financially or through working directly, is there a way they can help out?
Zarchuckett: Financial support is a really difficult topic to address, because we're really operating by the good graces of FFG alone and we don't want to do anything that could jeopardize that. That being said, I think the best way to contribute financially is to contact the server admin (@Gryffon on the main server) and offer to donate to help cover hosting fees.
We're always looking for more developers to help, but it's important to come in with proper expectations. Your first three or four cards are likely to be frustrating, not work properly, and require either me or @TheOutcast to walk through every part of the implementation with you. But if you stick with it, it gets way easier and you can start meaningfully contributing with consistent throughput. Getting extra help with the routine work allows the two of us to focus more on the Uji2s and less on the Brushfires, which usually means better turnaround for packs, less burnout, and more robust implementations (shoutout to @Arash for coming on board during Cycle 5).
You mentioned how busy the project was in 2019 with all the clan packs coming out, and just yourself programming for much of it @TheOutcast - are you able to use the downtime now that things have caught up to make any long term plans or goals for the site?
Ikoma Tomoya: @zarzuckett being here does allow for a lot more room to do things if I find the time, yes. One thing I would like to do is redesign the whole lobby to something better looking and more community driven. I'm thinking more along the lines of featured streams and links to podcast or other resources rather than the one note chat. But I need to check ongoing code merges from the more up-to-date Games of Thrones LCG code base before I can start.
That sounds really cool! I was also wondering how much contact you have with the folks at FiveRingsDB and Bushi Builder regarding integration with Jigoku?
Ikoma Tomoya: We stay up to date with @WorkerBee over on the L5R Discord who works on maintaining FiveRingsDB to ensure the data is there for new pack releases or any issues with that data. Aside from that those integrations have been set up a long time ago by @Jadiel, @ChudaRichii and everyone else present at the birth of Jigoku. We barely need to touch those unless something inherently different in data would occur like the shared clan limit on disguised Isawa Tadaka.
A potential new integration from the FiveRingsDB and BushiBuilder side would maybe be sideboards if those become relevant for the future.
That would be really cool as well. Now is there anything else either of you would like to mention or shout out before we finish up?
Ikoma Tomoya: Just that I'm very thankful for all the content being organised by the Discord community and that I hope to see lots of them in person after covid blows over.
Zarzuckett: I'll second that the content being generated by the community is great to see, participate in, and watch. This is a really tight-knit community and that definitely gives me motivation to make sure Jigoku stays up to date with high quality work.
Thanks guys, it's been a pleasure having you both. I'm not sure the Legend of the Five Rings community could have survived without Jigoku over the last couple of months, and we really do all appreciate the (unpaid!) volunteer work you both put in.
Zarzuckett: Thanks for having us!
The Emerald Dojo
Here at The Emerald Dojo we are happy to announce our latest edition to the Clan Meta Guides - Phoenix! Severijn has prepared a full overview of the competitive archetypes available to the keepers of the empire's soul, and I encouraged you to take a look whether you are playing with or against the Phoenix clan.
Poogin has also updated the Scorpion guide, and we will endeavour to refresh all of the others in the in new year.
2020 has been, well, 2020. That said, we're nearly there folks and I'm cautiously optimistic for 2021. It's a real shame that the 2020 World Championships couldn't happen in Spain (a contingency of us Aussies already had some plans underway). The game is suffering from the lack of live events, but I think Tyler is doing an excellent job of effectively solo-developing the game while the community—from tournament organisers to online developers—are all doing their bit to ensure the scene remains active and engaging.
The world is a better place with Legend of the Five Rings, so let's all work to make the next year better than the last. With that in mind: stay safe, pray to the Kami, and I'll see you next month.