Hello everyone and welcome back to Wardens of the Midwest! Joe from Cincinnati here and, yea, I know I haven’t written an article in a while. About 3 months actually. Since Gencon in August. That’s mainly because I haven’t really played this game all that much for the last 3 months. There were no major tournaments that I was going to go to (since I had already made plans on the weekend that Worlds ended up being on), My wife and I just moved into our new house the day after Gencon, so I also had a bunch of new things involved in furnishing and caring for a new home taking up my free time. But most importantly, the hangover from Gencon and the second cycle of this game, in general, made me want to take a short break. I still followed the news of the game and interacted in the community but, by the time Worlds had come around, I had played 3 games in the previous 3 months.
The reality of our second role being Seeker of Earth (seriously, what was that? I still don’t get it) in combination with the fact that my favored play style (Crab splash Unicorn tower, for those of you who’ve never read or watched my content before) got very little help from this past cycle weighed a little heavily on me (by the way, I’m sorry if my frustration with the meta rubbed anyone the wrong way during those months :P). Since the meta of Gencon (pre-pack 5), Dragon had gotten more weapons in Mitsu and Void Fist, Crane got a legitimately incredible province that completely revolutionized the Crab-Crane match up in Magistrate Station (Turns out ready actions are good. More on that later) and Scorpion got Duty (to partially negate our best path to victory against them) and a few other good cards from the Scorpion box, thus increasing the difficulty in each of those match ups. Some called me pessimistic regarding Crab’s outlook in the Worlds, but I felt like I was just being realistic.
I was optimistic in one regard, however. I had a good feeling about getting Keeper of Water at Worlds. Going into Worlds, I figured we’d probably end up having 1 or maybe 2 Crabs make the top 16 and select either 4th and 5th for our role. While Crab was not at the top of the meta, they were still good at beating average to above average players (dishonor is a very mistake punishing win condition) and we have some extremely talented pilots for Crab. It’s just the best players (those who make minimal mistakes) that Crab struggled to beat and those start showing up around the top 32, generally :P.
I assumed Seeker of Air, Seeker of Fire and Seeker of Void would all be scooped up by the top 3 finishing clans, which would be some combination of Dragon, Crane, Scorpion and Phoenix. So all we had to do was stay above Unicorn and Lion and we would likely be riding the wave into the new Kotei season!
There was a fair amount of drama once the top cut came around. The top 2 seeded players being unexpectedly knocked out in the top 64, the rumors of a Scorpion player reportedly planning to take Keeper of Water if he made top in clan simply to fuck over Crab players (before he got his ass knocked out of the tournament by the top Crab player, Pablo), the top seeded player going into the top 16 being a Crab who WASN’T playing unicorn splash (By the way, huge props to Pablo for coming up with that deck, which you can find with a description of how its played in the link here), the Crane Shogun changing his choice of role selection from Seeker of Void to Seeker of Fire specifically because he didn’t want Dragon to take Keeper of Water and fuck over Crab players (It’s a shame Crane didn’t win that custom card vote), but this article isn’t really about any of that. What I’m here to talk to you about, after this WAY too long introduction is…the impact the new roles for each clan has on Crab’s match ups with said clans as well as what we can expect from each other clan moving forward.
First is the obvious.
What does Keeper of Water do to help the Crab clan?
Perhaps the most blatantly obvious change when taking Keeper of Water over Keeper of Earth is the ability to include Fight On. It’s a 1 fate event that allows you to choose a bowed character you control, ready it and move it into a conflict in which you are the defender. This works extremely well with Spyglass, Watch Commander and the “tower” philosophy of getting your main character into as many conflicts as possible. It also counters a large number of powerful effects that other clans typically use on offense. Cards like Void Fist, A Fate Worse than Death, For Shame, Admit Defeat, Bayushi Kachiko, Against the Waves, Kanjo District, Lion’s Pride Brawler, Press of Battle and any other bow or “bow and send home” effect that FFG releases in the future. Not only that, but it also pairs extraordinarily well with The Mountain Does Not Fall. One of the biggest concerns with Mountain is, what if you play it on your character and then your opponent uses some card to bow or bow and send home that character, hence making your Mountain do essentially nothing? You just spent a fate and one of the most valuable conflict cards in your deck for nothing. Well, Fight On allows you to counteract whatever effect they just used to negate Mountain and bring your character back into ready position in the conflict (it’s important to note, Fight On can only be used on a bowed character. So if you Mountain a character and then they’re Outwittted home, you can’t Fight On them back into the conflict. You can, however, Fight On a bowed character in the conflict.) This not only improves your conflict presence with your towers, but it also allows you to be far more aggressive on the attack, because you know that you can always Fight On your attacker back in for defense. You can over commit on attack and not worry about them giving up the province and taking down a province of your own! At first glance, it looks like a defensive only event, but in this way it actually acts as an offensive tool as well. I could keep writing, but I think you get the hint. Like I said, turns out ready actions are good. Fight On is an S tier card and fits perfectly into our existing Unicorn splash tower deck (but it fits in every single deck anyway, even Pablo’s 0 attachment deck). Having this card also allows the Unicorn splash tower decks to stop worrying about how to fit Gaijin Customs into their deck and go full in on 3 Wayfinders, 3 Spyglasses and 2 Talismans, all of which are very important cards in the meta right now.
This one is important for a few reasons. First, it’s a shugenja. This is incredible because, to this point, the only shugenja Crab had access to in the dynasty deck were expensive shugenja like Steadfast Witch Hunter, Kuni Yori,, Kuni Ritsuko and Kudaka, bad shugenja like Apprentice Earthcaller and then Miya Mystic, who not only gets in Satoshi’s way (because they’re imperial) but also are kind of play and pitch characters. You don’t see people fating Miya Mystics very often, so they last 1 round on the field typically. While we made due with Kudaka, WH and Yori (as well as some help from our conflict characters like Iuchi Wayfinder), it sure is nice to have access to a low cost shugenja that is worth fating and keeping around for multiple rounds. Second, the Tenkinja’s ability to reduce the cost of events at the cost of honor is a valuable effect as well. Crab Unicorn’s conflict deck is rather expensive, as it is filled with 1 cost attachments that may or may not be Let Go immediately, so any card that can offer some economic relief is very welcome. Third, 1/2/2 stats are pretty nice. I mean, they suck when you’re dishonored, but getting this character honored makes for a pretty beefy stat stick and, at worst (when dishonored), they can still help you get favor, something Crab isn’t all that great at.
Now, before you say anything. Yes. I understand that, technically, we could run Upholding Authority even with Keeper of Earth. But come on. A 5 province strength province with an on break ability is just terrible. We’ve seen this before with Before the Throne. It is just too easy for your opponent to farm (send their weak pokes into it, which won’t break the province, in order to avoid province effect consequences while still requiring you to either defend the conflict or allow an unopposed/lightly defended ring be handed to your opponent where you get no benefit at all) 5 PS on break provinces. 3 PS on break provinces, on the other hand…are amazing. And we’ve seen that nearly all the other clans have moved to Upholding Authority because, as it turns out, getting to see your opponent’s entire hand and discarding as many as 3 cards from it (if they have 3 copies of any 1 card) is pretty extraordinary. With it, we can remove conflict characters that could potentially open up a fate phase Way of the Crab player. We can remove Let Gos and Calling in Favors (and other attachment control) to help our attachments stick around. We can remove those high impact effects like AFWTD/Void Fist/For Shame. And, perhaps most importantly, we can just gain an idea of what our opponents are capable of for the rest of the round. And, if you’re honor pressuring them to the point where they have to bid 1 the following round, then you can know the majority of their hand for several turns! There was a reason so many Crabs ran Policy Debate back before the Restricted List, even though it CLEARLY wasn’t designed for us. Because hand knowledge is just that powerful, especially for the goals Crab has in this game.
This card I’m a little more uncertain of, as it is likely best as a stronghold province and may or may not be approximately equivalent to Rally to the Cause. But being able to flip Kisada from a 7/2 to a 2/7 in a political defense (or Shoju from a 7/3 to 3/7) is pretty great. This one will require testing.
While not necessarily on my list of cards to play in the Unicorn tower splash, Press of Battle offers a strong synergy with a “Crabbo Labbo” style or “Pablo” style deck. Lots of low cost characters that allow you to use this free bow action to further…press your advantage :).
Put those five new aspects of the deck together and you have yourself a deck that has raised in power level very quickly. And that’s not even to mention the fact that Keeper of Water naturally makes your opponent less likely to attack you with the water ring for fear of you defending to win and gaining a fate and keeper initiates (similar to how the Earth Ring wasn’t used against us all that often with Keeper of Earth). And what did we lose when we lost the Keeper of Earth role? …Fuckin….Sabotage? Like…that’s it? Wow. Oh, and Specialized Defenses. Big losses there…
I guess now I’ll talk about the other clans…
What Did Other Clans Gain/Lose with the New Roles?
Let’s go down the list alphabetically:
Going from Seeker of Air to Seeker of Fire yielded these results for Crane:
- Soul Beyond Reproach
- Mark of Shame
A relatively short list, but an extremely impacful one. Both of those cards made a lot of Crane decks and were very powerful in those decks. SBR allowed Crane to honor any character all the way from dishonored status to honored status. This card significantly weakened the impact of the Fire Ring on their characters and made attempting to dishonor their high glory characters into a major momentum swing play. Not only that, but it, as well as Mark of Shame, really helped Crane players set up impactful Noble Sacrifice plays. All they needed was one of these cards and a fire ring to kill any character they wanted to (barring cancels and negate effects, of course). These losses are not to be underestimated.
- Feast or Famine
- Imperial Librarian
- Icon of Favor
Also a relatively short list. But Feast or Famine has been a meta defining card for a while now. I don’t think I need to go into too much detail regarding it. It’s an amazing province that can win games on its own. Imperial Librarian and Icon of Favor, on the other hand, are a bit more subtle as cards but definitely impactful. Icon of Favor partially replaces SBR in that it offers additional honoring effects for Crane. It isn’t a “point and click” ability like SBR is, but it does offer more glory and the ability to honor the character when you win a fire ring. Crane already wants to do fire ring all the time anyway because of their glory and honor effects, so this card may slot right into SBR’s spot. Imperial Librarian is a little bit less of a requirement, but increasing glory is good for Crane, who often have their guys honored, and 2/2/2 for 2 courtier is a nice little stat line.
Impact on the Match Up
Overall, I believe Crab came out of Worlds gaining points in this match up. Losing SBR gives Crane fewer on demand honoring effects, which in turn slightly weakens Magistrate Station. Gaining Fight On gave Crab more flexibility in conflicts as well as answers to a few Crane tricks, such as For Shame and Admit Defeat. Feast or Famine is as dangerous as ever, but now that it is restricted, Crane has to give up whatever restricted card they had in order to run it, whether that was Policy Debate, Mirumoto’s Fury or any other RL card. If I were to grade the match up change on a scale from -5 to 5, I’d say it is +2 in favor of Crab.
Going from Seeker of Fire to Seeker of Void yielded these results for Dragon:
- Feast or Famine
I know. Scintillating, am I right? Obviously, there are void specific cards as well but I dunno if many of them will see that much play out of Dragon. Pilgrimage isn’t a Void only province, so this isn’t a new card to Dragon, but it essentially is a straight swap with Feast or Famine in the current Dragon Crab deck, so I figured it was worth pointing out. As any Scorpion player can tell you, being able to play Shameful Display and Pilgrimage in the same row is pretty strong.
Impact on the Match Up
Again, I believe Crab’s match up has improved against Dragon. They still have Restoration of Balance, but losing Feast or Famine makes their province row less of a mine field and more just “really really good.” I’d take running into Pilgrimage unexpectedly over running into Feast or Famine unexpectedly every time. Not only that, but Fight On is great against Void Fist and also allows you to play more aggressively, which is always helpful against Dragon. And, without having to run Gaijin Customs, you can now safely run all 3 Wayfinders in the Unicorn splash, which helps find Restoration and avoid it until it doesn’t hurt you as much. Give it another +2 on the -5 to 5 scale for Crab.
Going from Keeper of Fire to Keeper of Earth yielded these results for Lion:
- Feast or Famine
- Upholding Authority at 3 PS
- Writ of Authority?
The poor get poorer (unsure why the best clans get first pick at Worlds, but I guess it incentivizes…winning? Otherwise, who would want to win Worlds, am I right?). To be fair, now that Feast or Famine is restricted, I question whether Lion would have played it over Charge anyway, so losing Keeper of Fire isn’t a major loss for Lion. Even still, this significantly weakens Lion’s province row. Pair this with the fact that now, with an earth role, Upholding Authority is weaker (by being stronger) and you got yourself a recipe for a lot of frustrated Lions. At least having keeper of Earth incentivizes Lion to go for the Earth ring more often, which makes bid 1 lion better…I’m trying to find the upside, guys.
Impact on the Match Up
I think every clan’s match up vs Lion improved simply because they lost one of the most powerful cards in the game. The fact that they didn’t really gain all that much from their new role just makes it even worse for them. And, of course, the fact that Fight On helps counter Lion’s Pride Brawler (you can choose not to defend the attack and then Fight On whoever they choose to bow with LPB. Not a game breaking play, but solid.) Since Lion is not great on defense, this allows Crab to go on the offensive better as well. On the plus side (for Lion) I guess they can Sabotage our Iron Mines…? All told, I figure this would be a +3 on the scale for Crab, simply because Crab gained several good new cards and Lion did not (and in fact, lost two very potent provinces). Also, the hardest part of the Lion match up was balancing who you can afford to attack with and how much effort you have to put towards defending, and Fight On makes those decisions easier. Along the River of Golding Toturi before he plays WotL is pretty funny too, I imagine (although Rally was also very good against Lion.)
Going from Keeper of Water to Keeper of Air yielded these results for Phoenix:
- Synergy with their Water cards like Tsuki, Ningyo and Prodigy and their Keeper Role.
- The aforementioned Water role cards in the Crab section.
- The ability to run Backhanded Compliment and Seeker of Knowledge in the same deck with keeper role implications.
- Seeker of Knowledge + Keeper role synergy
- Kaito Kasori + Keeper role synergy
- Kudaka + Keeper role synergy
- Mark of Shame
- Soul Beyond Reproach
It’s not surprising that the Phoenix clan has the most cards that synergize with different elements. The water synergies are all very powerful but, to their credit, they remain powerful even without the Keeper role being attached to it. Phoenix will still like playing Prodigy, Tsuki and Ningyo even if they don’t pair with Keeper initiates. In addition, this is a good role for dishonor Phoenix players, especially out of their old stronghold, Isawa Mori Seido. And gaining all of those air role synergies will go very nicely with their existing card base. While it may not be playable in a competitive tier 1 deck yet (due to the lack of attachment control), the potential for SBR in a high glory IMS phoenix deck is pretty exciting. If either Phoenix or Crane gets a viable attachment control option, Phoenix Crane could be very interesting. Mark of Shame is also a good card, just in general.
Impact on the Match Up
This is the first match up that I think is either net zero or possibly negative for Crab post Worlds. I’m leaning towards 0 simply because the cards we gained are just too good, in general, but we didn’t gain as much ground vs Phoenix as we did the others on the list so far. There are a few things that went our way, however. Because so many of Phoenix’s cards have a synergy with the water ring being claimed rather than personally winning it, such as Prodigy and Tsuki, they can often just throw a water ring out there and not really care if they win or not. Against Keeper of Water, that nets us a fate and keepers. In addition, the Mantis Tenkinja is a shugenja that allows us to play Cloud the Mind but doesn’t hurt us much if they choose to Against the Waves it. Prior to this role, all of Crab’s shugenja choices (outside of Wayfinder and Mystic) were expensive, like Kudaka, Witch Hunter and Yori. If you played those cards against Phoenix in order to activate Cloud the Mind, you could be walking into a bunch of cheap bow effects by your opponent on your expensive characters. Now, we can play shugenja to activate Cloud while not having to worry too much about AtW. Phoenix is probably feeling pretty good with this new role, overall. The good newsis Crab didn’t really need to gain all that much against Phoenix, as it was already a fairly good match up. But the potential for Phoenix’s dishonor deck improving is quite scary, as Crab has only 10 starting honor and no reliable ways to regain honor. Let’s call it a net 0 on the scale.
Going from Seeker of Void to Seeker of Air yielded these results for Scorpion:
- Pilgrimage and Shameful Display in the same row
- Jurojin’s Curse
- Mark of Shame
- Soul Beyond Reproach
Oh man. Mark of Shame and Soul Beyond Reproach. These are two MASSIVE boons for Scorpion. They have in clan attachment control with Calling in Favors and Bayushi Collector, so they are not as bound to certain splashes as many clans are (in this particular meta at least). So being able to run Mark of Shame and Soul Beyond Reproach can set up some pretty terrifying situations for their opponents. After using self dishonoring effects like Calling in Favors or Forged Edict, they can use SBR to bring that character all the way up to honored status, which is incredible. But then the ability to, on demand, dishonor a character with MoS (in addition to Way of the Scorpion) is insane. The capability to set up multiple Noble Sacrifice targets is pretty terrifying. In fact, I think Scorpion may have improved as much as Crab with this new role, if not more so. They’re the one other clan I feel got a straight upgrade in role. I know a few Scorpion players enjoyed playing Jurojin’s Curse, but I doubt they’ll turn their nose up at MoS and SBR :P.
Impact on the Match Up
I dunno guys. This hard match up may have gotten harder! Crab is all about keeping characters on the board and Scorpion getting more options for removal (or just fucking with your characters, generally) as well as giving them honoring options to keep their dishonor effects from actually costing them honor is pretty insane. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this match up went down. I’ll give it a -2 on the scale. If it weren’t for Fight On being a very good answer to A Fate Worse than Death it’d probably be a -3 or -4. Seeker of Air is so incredibly strong for Scorpion. There’s no doubt that they hold it in the same regard as Crab does Keeper of Water.
Going from Keeper of Void to Seeker of Water yielded these results for Unicorn:
- Talisman of the Sun (in the Keeper of Void role, they can still play it in Keeper of Fire)
- Keeper Initiates
- Aforementioned Water role cards, especially Press of Battle.
- Chasing the Sun
- Pathfinder’s Blade
- A few other seeker role cards that may or may not have any impact
Unicorn was the last clan to pick (despite the progress the made in the 2nd cycle) but they still ended up with a pretty decent role, I think. While they didn’t get a very good province line up out of it (although they do have one of the few clan specific Water roles, which kind of helps), they got a few good card options, like Press of Battle and Pathfinder’s blade. They also are able to, for the first time, run Chasing the Sun. Now, I know it was kind of laughed at when it was first revealed, but as more impactful “on break” provinces like Upholding Authority and Feast or Famine are released, Chasing the Sun may actually be worth a few slots if you don’t have access to other province control items. Not a great option, of course, but it’s something.
Impact on the Match Up
Honestly, Feast or Famine being put on the restricted list will have a vastly higher impact on this match up (and all of Unicorn’s match ups) than this role change. Keeper of Void was never used after Gencon anyway, so it won’t be a huge loss. There weren’t any major Void role cards used by Unicorn, so if Unicorn wants keeper, they can still use KoF without losing much compared to KoV. Press of Battle works perfectly for Unicorn because they like declaring military conflicts and often have more characters in the conflict. Overall, Crab improved while Unicorn did not (and actually regressed because of Feast or Famine). I’d say Crab is +3 in this match up for those reasons. And this was already a match up Crab had under control.
I guess this article is just a 4300 word way of saying I’m feeling pretty good about Crab right now! Is there anything else to say or did I say too much already? You decide. Let me know. I hope you enjoyed this little indulgence of mine and gained…something out of it. At the very least, I gained something from writing it because it makes me feel relevant again (well…sort of. I’m just a washed up shit poster, after all 😀 ) By the way, yea. The featured image is a Crab surfing a wave…of water.
…I thought it was clever at the time.
EDIT: did I write too much? Apparently not! Because there have been requests for a sample deck list for Crab Unicorn Keeper of Water. So here we go!
This is what I’d call the “standard” Crab Unicorn build. There are variations that I’m currently playing with, for example one that removes Favorable Ground for Funeral Pyre and Kaiu Shuichi for Yasuki Broker and then adding 2 to 3 For Shames into the conflict deck at the expense of 1 Cloud the Mind and some number of Fine Katanas.
And, of course, Oguri is in there mostly because Fight On allows him to attack, use his covert, and then potentially defend and use his text box (since those two aspects of him previously had nothing to do with each other [other than not being covertable, I guess]). Hida Guardian bit the dust in exchange for Oguri. If you don’t like Oguri (which I don’t blame you for), you can always swap them back in.
None of this is groundbreaking, but if you’re looking for a template, this is what I would recommend :).