The Imperial Herald
A Legend of the Five Rings Publication
Welcome to the November edition of The Imperial Herald. Along with the usual round up of news and competitive events, this month we have the arrival of the Temptations cycle, some innovative and spicy fiction from FFCG, and an interview with jmart#6576 of the Discord League!
With the end of the Dominion cycle last month we now have the beginning of the Temptations cycle, the fourth in this iteration of Legend of the Five Rings.
Pack 1 - Twisted Loyalties features a number of powerful, but thankfully not too broken, cards, including two significant swords in the game's lore: Kunshu the imperial sword of the Hantei, and Chikara the Crab clan ancestral sword.
As mentioned in the last Herald, Tyler did a lengthy interview with the Court Games podcast in which he discussed his current design philosophy for the game. It was interesting to note that he felt the Inheritance cycle (his first as lead designer) was somewhat underpowered, while the opposite was true for the Dominion cycle. He believes he has gotten the power balance at a much more reasonable level for Temptations, and the community satisfaction with the currently released and spoiled cards seems to reflect this.
The Jigoku developers have continued their streak with Twisted Loyalties going live very soon after the official card images were released.
Complete photographs from pack 2 of the Temptations Cycle, Honor in Flames, appeared in the wild this month and been added to the Spoilers channel in the L5R Discord.
There is certainly some spice here, with Curse of Misfortune sure to shake up the tower meta by adding restricted to each other attachment on the attached character.
As an attachment without a triggered action this is no immediate counterplay to this for a character which already has a large number of attachments. Once in play it can then be removed, but as a powerful tech card we can expect this to be a regular inclusion in decks for the immediate future.
Full a full breakdown of the spoiled cards check out episode 184 of The Jade Throne Podcast.
Pack 4 of the Temptations cycle: The Temptation of the Scorpion was announced this month, with the first official mention of the infamous black scrolls!
For those unfamiliar with the lore, the black scrolls were created after the Day of Thunder to contain Fu Leng lest he ever rise again to threaten the empire of Rokugan. In the original iteration of the game the opening of these scrolls led to the Second Day of Thunder, widely considered the high point of the CCG story.
The first black scroll to arrive in the LCG, The Skin of Fu Leng, appears incredibly powerful, albeit with some significant costs and restrictions. Likewise, the man who traditionally opened the black schools, Yogo family Daimyo Yogo Junzo appears impressive in his own right, giving the Scorpion yet more powerful tools to play with.
Temptations Cycle Expectations
Following on from out round table postmortem of the Dominion cycle in October, this month Severijn and I decided to share some of our expectations and experiences for the new cycle.
Based on the name and the Mahō theme, there are certainly some implications towards the second day of thunder which is pretty exciting! I am not clear on how great dire will be as an ability, but it is an interesting design space to hide powerful abilities behind and I like how Mahō makes it dynamic. I am also hoping that there might be a third stronghold for the Phoenix clan in one of these packs because it has been several years since the last one. While I am hoping for a new stronghold, I hope that it will be one that isn't as narrow as Kyūden Isawa. The most recent spoilers made it clear that towers will be more of a liability with attachment removal that can address multiple attachments as with Sanguine Mastery and Curse of Misfortune. Sanguine Mastery in particular is something decks built out of Isawa Mori Seidō are looking forwards to, as it allows Phoenix to splash another clan without dropping conflict deck attachment removal from the menu.
I have been exploring the first pack quite extensively. It has a lot of things to offer to Phoenix. Two good duels in Make your Case and Heresy! make a splash for Crane's own duels and duel pay-offs more appealing. For other clans, I am pleased to see cards that shore up some gaps in the other clans or give them new options, like the cheap, practical movement cards and good courtiers for Unicorn. The most exciting of the cards of the first pack for me has been Guardians of Rokugan, which has a lot of potential in Phoenix because there are two spectacular hits in Shiba Tsukune and Fushichō and Phoenix has all the necessary tools to win a defensive conflict by a lot. If each of the packs is of this quality, we have much to look forward to.
"Reactions on winning? I might have a few..."
I'm liking what I'm seeing so far. There is a sense of desperation to both the Mahō trait and Dire keyword, and this is reflected in the general collapse of stability in Rokugan in the ongoing lore. That said, I still don't think we've seen the fully synergistic possibilities for each clan that will come from stripping fate of characters and letting them unleash their true power with Dire abilities.
It is a running joke in Unicorn chat that we haven't gotten powerful playable cards for a while now, but I remain quietly confident that my beloved Way of the Unicorn and Ring of Binding will come into their own when the full suite of Unicorn Dire abilities are revealed. In the meantime, I'm toying with a Crane-splash Wealth of the Crane build that makes full use of Moto Stables, Reserve Tents, and Nimble Noyan for move in overkill. I'm also interested to see whether Curse of Misfortune returns the game to the more midrange style of gameplay which was originally intended when the game was conceived.
This month we had a lovely halloween fiction, an intriguing 'Choose Your Own Adventure'-style story, and the beginning of the next narrative arc of the game's narrative, including the arrival of aforementioned black scrolls.
An Impossible Task by Lisa Farrell allows you to make your own choices at key points throughout the narrative, with the option to submit your final outcome to influence the ongoing Legend of the Five Rings narrative.
The story places you in the role of a ronin serving in Ikoma Tsanuri's Lion army as she attempts to retake a village from the Unicorn. The interactive story can be replayed multiple times to achieve multiple endings, with knowledge from previous runs able to help you in new attempts.
As a Unicorn player I encourage you all to fail in your task to retake the village, but I suspect the Lion may fare better in this endeavour. Nevertheless, the experience is truly innovative and I urge you to give it a try if you haven't already.
The Yogo Curse, Part 1 continues the fallout of the assassination of Hantei XXXVIII by his eldest son, Satori, as the Yogo family daimyo, Yogo Junzo, struggles to contain the curse that now resides within the blade. Dark omens greet the arrival of a mysterious Phoenix shugenja, and the stage is set for yet more trouble to come.
How this story of the black scrolls will play out with respect to fictions, novellas, tournament story choices, or even more choose your own adventures stories, is anyone's guess, but it is certainly an exciting time to follow the ongoing Legend of the Five Rings story.
While sporadic in-store tournaments are being held around the globe, the majority of competitive play continues to take place in online spaces.
November saw the end of Season 28 of the Discord League. Congratulations to @LoinGroundBurguer - LGB, and to all of the top of clans!
This month also saw the introduction of two new formats of the Discord League: the Skirmish League and the Beginners League. Each looks to be a great way to welcome new players into online games, so be sure to suggest them to friends who might like to dip their toes in the water.
Discord Clan War
The Swiss portion of the Discord Clan War is now over and, as of the time of writing, we are now in the quarterfinals of the single elimination. Leandro Ferreira will play the winner of Stefanos Michalakis and Giannis Kouris's game in the semis, while Oskar Bladh will face either Louis Bui or Javier Querol in his semi.
The tournament continues to be a juggernaut of organisation and excitement for the community, with Mind's Desire also preparing some shiny prize support for participants and winners:
November also saw the end of the Race to Jigoku, and the following Jigoku Championship. Another mammoth organisational event, the tournament ended with MoZi (Jared Wright) ultimately crowned victorious in a grueling 2-1 battle against Daidoji Erik (Erik Baalhuis).
By Sukoa Marda#3711
The sands have settled and a champion has been crowned. Congratulations to Liam (#PaddyOlly) for taking out the title with his Dragon deck "We can be Kiho's". If you want to see the deck, I believe it is still up on Bushi Builder, very fun and very worthy of winning.
Paul (#PaulofHallett) was a worthy runner up with Unicorn and his deck "Unicorn Midrange". The deck name might not be the most impressive thing in the world, seriously Paul up your name game, but the deck is fantastic and has a few off centre options which look fun. Just like Liam's deck, you can find it in Bushi Builder.
The final was a very close affair with both players playing exceptionally well in one of the best games of L5R I've seen. The game is on the HCRD Twitch channel and I highly recommend anyone who didn't see it to go check it out. In fact, you can check out all the Top Cut games on that same channel.
Australia continues to buck the trend with clan performances, I think most people can agree a Dragon/Unicorn final showdown demonstrates just how far off kilter we are. And for a further demonstration of how we are really on another planet, here's a quick breakdown of clan performance:
Lion was the most successful clan with a win rate of 62%. Crane was the least successful with just 33% win rate. The other clans were Dragon 56%, Unicorn 56%, Crab 54%, Phoenix 50%, and Scorpion 45%.
And for a bit of state pride, Western Australia took out the honours with a 68% win rate.
Ok so what's next? Registration for the next APAC league will be going up early December with a January start date, and we are working through plans for other online events in the new year including a drunken league! More details will be released in the not too distant future.
That's all for now though, cheers guys!
Interview - jmart#6576
Following on from last months interview with Cbass#9999 of the L5R Discord, we now have jmart#6576 - one of our leading community events organisers.
Hello jmart and thank you for giving us your time this month. Perhaps we can start with you introducing yourself and telling us how you became involved with the world of Legend of the Five Rings?
Howdy! My real name is Joel Martin, and I live in Madison, WI (near Chicago). I grew up in Minneapolis, my parents actually live just a couple miles from FFG! I started playing L5R way back in 1997, when I first picked up a "Storms Over Matsu Palace" box that included pre-made decks for lion and phoenix, and I've focused on those two clans ever since. In old5r I played both clans equally and was pretty successful around the country. Never won a kotei but made top 8 quite a few times and finals twice. Now with new5r I have two young kids (boys age 6 and 3) so I can't really travel to tournaments, but I still love to play when I can (mostly phoenix, trying crab right now) and support the community.
You'll be familiar to many players as an admin and voice of the Discord league. How did you become so involved with this part of the community competitive scene?
League has been an important venue for me since its earliest days since it's the easiest organized format for me to play with my busy schedule at home. Early this year the existing league admin team announced that they were ending the current league system and were looking for new volunteers to keep things running. I immediately raised my hand since league was so important to me and I wanted to make sure it stayed active for the community. Little did I know how important it would become with covid just around the corner! The new team decided we wanted a new architecture to manage the league, so WorkerBee and Siri got working on that while I kept the fire going with the "March Madness" tournament. The new system was ready by April and we've been rolling with that ever since! The admin team has grown a bit since then as well, with Shalassa and Medalliah joining up.
While there are so many great online tournaments going on at the moment it is hard to imagine L5R without the Discord League.
You mentioned that the league means so much to you, what is it about the event that you find so appealing, and which brings so many players back each month?
For me personally it's the only event that strikes the balance of being competitive enough to always be a challenge, but without the all day commitment of traditional tournaments. I can't say for sure, but I have to imagine that's the appeal of Discord League for many of our players, letting them can scratch that competitive itch on a regular basis while fitting it into their own schedules.
Jigoku lives in a legal grey area where FFG cannot officially acknowledge it, but Tyler has tacitly referred to it during interviews (to the points of recognising its role in the game's survival). Can you ever see a world where FFG recognises the league with something like prize support?
I hate to say it but that seems unlikely to me. If they were going to do it by now I think they would have done so with covid going on.
Sadly I think you're right, cool as it would be.
Joining something as established as the league might seem daunting for new players. What advice would you give for people who are thinking of giving it a try?
It's not for everyone, but if you want to get better it's really the best way. You get 3-5 guaranteed serious games each month that won't be jank like you see in many random games on Jigoku. For anyone wanting to improve, the way to do it is with organized games plus finding a mentor to provide feedback on your play. Clan War has helped a lot of people with that (shout out to Matt Beck aka Algahra who upped my game big time) and the same thing can apply with league, you just need to find a mentor in your clan chat.
You mentioned Clan War there. Can you tell us about your experience with this over the last few months?
Clan War was hands down the most fun I've had doing anything with new L5R. Shout outs to MD for doing a great job organizing an incredibly complicated event, and to my team captain Erik Baalhuis for creating a great team culture. The event was terrific for three main reasons. First, the team collaboration and camaraderie was a real game changer for me in terms of engagement with this community. I got to know 10-15 of the guys on my team really well, and through them have even gotten to know guys from other teams as well. Multiplied across the eight teams, it's been great for the whole community. Second, the forced clan diversity was really good for the community, especially given how top heavy the meta is right now with Crab, Crane, and Scorpion dominating other events this month. Giving people a ton of games and content with more diversity is good for everyone. Finally, I personally got a ton better at the game playing in Clan War. Maybe some players just come to this game naturally good at it, but for me I was stuck at a kind of middling level just grinding away month after month. The mentorship and feedback I got from guy on my team like Erik, Algahra, Christian, Pintor, and Calimsha, just to name a few, really took my game to a new level. Before Clan War I'd never even made it past the first round of Gold Cup, and since this experience I made the cut in Clan War and now made Top 8 in Gold Cup two months in a row. I owe that success entirely to those guys!
That's fantastic to hear :). I think only two of us aussies braved the earlier starts to compete in the tournament, but I've only heard great things from them. It sounds like it has been a wonderful success.
Before we go there is one other big tournament that has just wrapped up: the Jigoku Invitational. Can you give us any insight on that event and it's impact on the community?
Happy to! We realized around May that in-person events for the year were likely to be all or mostly canceled, and felt that it was important for the community to still have a highly competitive structure to keep people engaged. We also wanted to encourage people to participate in the online events (mostly the Discord League and monthly LLO tournaments) and so came up with a system to support both of those needs. We went back and counted points from the previous 18 months, and then players could continue to score points throughout the summer and fall this year. The top players in each clan (plus some "ronin") were invited to a double-elimination tournament last week. Feedback has been great on the event, with many top level players saying that this "Race" finally got them to participate in these online events in order to pursue a spot in the Invitational. We were also able to create a ton of really great content for the community to see the very best players in action. I'm excited to host the Race again next year and see how things progress once (hopefully) we have paper L5R back in the mix.
That's fantastic mate. I know I've really appreciated the work from yourself, MD, and all the organisers, and it's been great to watch along to.
Well I think that's all we have time for this month, but thanks again for taking the time to share your story, and thanks for all the work you've done to help the community :)
There was a lot to cover this month from the first official reveal of the black scrolls, the end of the massive Jigoku Championship event, and Jmart's great insights into the organisation that goes on behind such online events.
There is really is nothing else like Legend of the Five Rings in the word of hobbies. I can't think of another game that has its own ongoing story that is shaped by the players, and such a passionate base of players, especially through tough times. Keep supporting those events, coming up with bizarre and janky deck designs, and inviting new players to the game.
In the meantime, stay safe, pray to the kami, and I'll see you next month.