Hello, my name is Stephen Didion. I go by Spector on the Discord Chat. I piloted this Deck List to 6-3 as the Crab Challenger at Worlds and I am the one who chose the Crab Clan’s keeper of Earth role as well. Here is my report for the tournament as well as some thoughts regarding the state of the Crab Clan in general.
DAY 1 SWISS
Goals going in: So my goals for Winter Court 2017 were pretty simple. Main goal was to make Day 2, which involved basically going 4-2 and earning 34 tournament points. My secondary goal for Day 1Z was to be top in faction for Crab to earn the bid dial.
Disclaimer: To those people whose name I forgot I do apologize. I actually meant to jot names down after games of opponents but I left my notebook in the hotel room :/.
Round 1 – Loss vs. Lion (0-1, 1 point)
So the day started out with a matchup that, while I wasn’t wild about, I had been doing fairly well against in testing before coming to Worlds. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t start well. Lion got off to their typical quick start which put me on the defensive pretty much right off the bat.
He got a few breaks in early and was on Stronghold going into turn 4. However, unfortunately, this was coupled with the fact that he was an extremely slow player. He would read every card I put out and was extremely deliberate with every decision he made. This got bad enough that it took him 5 minutes to declare a conflict on turn 4.
I was able to hold off his stronghold attack and was only down 1 province (2 breaks to 3) but time was called before I could declare my first turn 4 conflict. I considered going for a win con involving 2 breaks that theoretically could work, but he had card advantage and more characters on the board, so unless things went perfectly it failed. I conceded and took my point.
After the game I did talk to a few judges who did say that anyone taking more than 2 minutes to change the game state was opening him or herself up to a judge call for slow play. So in the future I guess I will try to be more proactive in that.
At this point I’m getting close to being in a tilting headspace since I still feel like he slow played me from the start, so I wandered off for a few minutes to calm down before round 2.Despite still being early in the day, I was already feeling like I’m nearly in crisis mode, as I only have 1 more loss to play with before the day 2 goal is in jeopardy. Also at this point I’m figuring best in faction for the bid dial on Day 1Z is pretty much shot.
Round 2 – Win vs. Crane (1-1, 11 points)
So this game was everything the first game wasn’t for me. I got off to a fast start by going second, buying Shuichi with 3 fate, and using a Mountain Does Not Fall on him to get him in 3 conflicts. He also got honored turn 1 by Shameful which just made him basically an unstoppable wrecking ball the entire game.
More importantly however, the game was just infinitely more enjoyable. The pace of play was much better and my opponent was an amazing person. We had a nice chat throughout the game and it was very much a pleasant game.
Round 3 – Win vs. Crab (2-1, 21 points)
So I’m now 1-1 and off the snide so to speak. Next opponent I get paired up with is a fellow crab player. Interestingly enough the crab mirror is probably my least played game so far. So the game plan going in was to always make sure there was a sac target or two Incase he attempted to Crab me.
The actual game plan turned out to be get Shuichi out turn 1 again, honor him, buff him up to stupid levels of power, and never let him die while riding him to victory. This one started close then slowly got lopsided for me as I slowly just took control of the board state. No Way of the Crabs showed up, but I slowly put my opponent down to 2 honor while getting way ahead on board state. He eventually conceded due to those reasons. A very good game. In a bit better spirits now, 2-1 going into the lunch break, but still have a lot of work to do.
Round 4 – Win vs. Damian Miller, Crab (3-1, 31 points)
Lunch is over, time to get back to work. As it turns out we get some more crab on crab action. I got paired with a guy who plays somewhat locally to me, just not at a store I consider my home store(s).
So up to this point I have yet to see a Way of the Crab. After mulligans, I now have 2 and 1 assassinate. Feeling good so far. And then the flop happens. Damian hits holding, holding, holding, and Kisada. Good grief. He plays Kisada and prays I don’t have Way of the Crab. Kisada gets Crabbed. At this point the game is probably decided. Damian makes some good plays during the game to salvage some of it, but the damage was done by the opening flops. One win to go at this point, nerves and stress are back with a vengeance.
Round 5 – Win vs. Jesse Anderson, Dragon (4-1, 41 points)
So, sadly, I don’t remember nearly as many of the specifics of this game as I would like to. I do remember that it was a very back and forth, grindy game from the get go. Over a few turns I was able to get up on both breaks and honor until time was called. I believe at time I was up by 1 break and on honor, with Jesse having the favor. He graciously conceded. Another fantastic and enjoyable game. Also, 4-1!! And we are now qualified for day 2.
Round 6 – Win vs. Michael Summers, Lion (5-1, 51 points)
So day 1 Swiss comes to a close back where it started, with a crab vs lion game. This actually turned out to be a matchup of top crab vs top lion on the day. I was able to find my Way of the Crabs and assassinates early as well as get the Intimidating Hida engine going and put Michael down on board state, breaks and honor early.
He did claw his way back into the game though, and, via a charge and for greater glory, made it 3-2 with a Toturi and a few weenies on the board. Thankfully I was able to win a void conflict and knock Toturi off the board so he wasn’t around the next turn. I got a good flop as first player with Day 1 MVP Shuichi coming into a board for lion that consisted of an honored general and weenies. Coverting the general on my stronghold attack lead to a concession and sealed the game for Crab.
DAY 1 SWISS THOUGHTS:
So, overall 5-1 on the day. Rebounded from a 0-1 start to claim top in faction for the day and 4th overall. Did not see much of Kisada or Way of the Crab, but Shuichi was a beast for me this round and single handedly won games. At this point I have 2 days to rest up and watch some buddies play on days 1A/B until Saturday morning rolls around for Day 2 Swiss. At 5-1 I pretty much control my own destiny for the cut if I can win out.
DAY 2 SWISS:
Round 7 – Loss vs. Travis McDaniel, Phoenix (5-2, 52 points)
So first round of day 2 I get the matchup that I’m least prepared for in Phoenix. I’ve played the matchup some, but never against a top flight Phoenix player. Travis played incredibly well, and for the first 2 turns basically had his way with me. He controlled my guys when needed and he got 3 breaks in 2 rounds. Crap. The one and only thing I have going for me is I’m able to defend the stronghold a bit and lower him down to 3 honor. I’m able to declare an undefended conflict solo with an Intimidating Hida after he failed an all in stronghold attack while he’s at 3 honor. Undefended Air plus hida trigger is a line to victory….usually. Except he’s Phoenix so…..display of power. Crap. Against the waves. Double crap. Undefended attack into my stronghold following that up. RIP. Also having a Witch Hunter Clouded immediately upon entry and Kisada pacified didn’t help the crab effort lol.
Round 8 – Win vs. Lion (6-2, 62 points)
So this game devolved into exactly what I didn’t want a game with Lion to become, a province breaking blitz. I prefer to build up a board while defending lion’s attacks until I have a superior board and then grind him out. This turned into a nightmare scenario where we province traded to 3 breaks apiece. We are now going into a turn where Lion is going first with a shot at breaking my stronghold. We both go all in, and I’m at a point where I’ve played all the military buffs I have. Let me tell you something, it’s a shitty feeling when you just have to wait and wait and wait to see if he has a charge with an honored general sitting on his provinces. Thankfully he came up somewhere between 1-3 short of breaking. Phew. On the next turn I go in hard first conflict and he concedes. A very good, albeit stressful game.
So at this point we find out I finished 25th and second overall in crab to Dave Hoyland. However since he also didn’t qualify in top 16 (21), im eliminated at this point. However, 10 minutes later, we find out he dropped to go play Netrunner, so I’m now the Crab Challenger for the top cut.
During the hour lunch break I find out that since Hoyland did finish Swiss as top in faction he will get the Hatamoto title, however, since I’m the “last crab standing”/furthest to advance, I’ll get to make the role pick. Spoiler, we got Keeper of Earth, which is basically exactly what we wanted going in.
Top Cut play in game (Challenger Round) – Loss vs. Gabriel Caban, Dragon (6-3, eliminated)
So originally I was slated to play Kyle Van Koevering, a lion Hatamoto who I had gotten a pickup game with earlier in the week. That game was going to be a tough, uphill battle. So when we found out someone in top 16 dropped and matchups were repaired, I was happy to see I was getting to play Dragon, which I feel most Crab players (myself included!) view as a favorable matchup.
Gabriel was an amazing opponent (finished top 8 iirc, losing to Mark Armitage) and he played what I considered to be a amazing game. I will say I wish I either had slightly better flops of card draw this game though lol. First turn I saw 2 Witch Hunters, bought 1 (which was immediately Clouded :/) and an Envoy. For the rest of the game until last turn I never saw another 4 or 5 cost dude unfortunately. Also for card draw, 0 way of the crab and 0 assassinates until the 2nd to last turn (assassinate).
Anyways, the game was amazing. He got a commanding board presence and was pushing conflicts, while I pushed him hard on honor. It came down to a final push at my stronghold with him and 2 honor and a dishonored character. If I win, I follow up with an undefended conflict (Kisada had Mountain) and dishonor him out. However, he routed a defender home and won an amazing game.
Post Winter Court Opinions on the “State of Crab”
State of Crab
So Crab got 7th at worlds. So now this week we get to hear how Crab sucks, Crab choked, Crab has lots of woes at worlds, Crab can’t compete with the top clans and all that good stuff. Honestly, hearing all this makes me want a Jade Tetsubo around to hit people with.
Crab does not suck nor is the faction in a bad place. What happened at worlds was simple. Good players lost to other good players. It happens. If we replayed day 2 of worlds, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 2/4 Crab 5-1s go 2-0 and have byes in the Cut.
So where is Crab right now game wise? I think we’re still solidly middle of the pack. Crab is indeed a tempo faction. Just not in the same way other people are. Where other people want to speed the game up and win on turn 3-4, I strongly feel that Crab wants to slow the game down and win on turn 6-8 by grinding your opponent slowly out of the game. And no I’m not encouraging people to play slowly or what not, I just feel Crab are at their best (and conversely most other factions at their worst) when the game extends in number of rounds played.
Crab does a few things very well right now. We have a strong Military, we can apply strong dishonor pressure, and we are very good at keeping boards under control. Crab is also one of the more resilient factions when it comes to keeping important people on the board.
Military wise, Crab is close to tops in the game numbers wise. If I remember correctly, Crab has the best Military value per fate spent per dynasty character in the core set, coming in ahead of lion. Kisada, Witch Hunter, Intimidating Hida, Shuichi and Hiruma Yojimbo all shine here.
For dishonor, Crab have quite a few means to pressure an opponent with. Watch Commander is one of them. Such an amazing attachment. Forcing an opponent to commit cards to win a conflict and then making them spend honor to play for those cards just wins games. Late game this becomes a “spend what little honor you have or let me win the conflict” type card. Intimidating Hida is another card that helps us with this. He forces your opponent to declare 2 conflicts a turn or lose an honor. To avoid this perhaps your opponent is forced to let one of your attacks through undefended or only use a minimal defense allowing us to break. Either way we win. Finally, due to the amount of secondary card draw Crab has access to (Envoy, Yasuki, Funeral Pyre, Storehouse, Spyglass if splashing Unicorn, Earth Ring), Crab is typically quite content bidding 1-2 all game long. At worlds this year in 9 Games, I bid more than 1 once, in my opening loss to lion. Every other bid all tournament long was 1.
Lastly, Crab are quite good at controlling the board in most situations. Way of the Crab and assassination are our primary tools for doing this. Aside from this board control, Crab are just quite resilient. We tend to be a faction who nearly always assigns 2 or more fate to 3+ cost characters, as well as having other tools (reprieve, vanguard warrior) to help keep people around longer.
So everyone wants to know the best splash for each faction. For me and how I play Crab, that’s currently Unicorn. I like the utility they offer me in card draw and swapping political conflicts to military. However, Unicorn is not the be all and end all of Crab splashes. I think that what faction you splash is much more of a play style and “taste” thing than a right or wrong answer. I think all 6 different splashes can work in Crab as long as you play accordingly. The ones I’m most looking forward to in the upcoming Imperial Cycle are probably Unicorn and Crane for switch play, Dragon or Lion for more offensive looks, Scorpion for a hard dishonor deck, and there is a janky Phoenix build I want to try for fun with Embrace the Void and Tetsubo :).
As a whole, I think Crab is pretty balanced in our matchups (excluding Unicorn as an outlier, as they still badly need cards and I feel currently we are a very bad matchup for them.) I think our unfavorable matchups (for me, Lion and Crane) are at worst 35/65 or 40/60 in our opponent’s favor. Hardly unwinnable. I also think our best matchup(s) (Dragon) is at best about a 60/40 or 65/35 in our favor. Phoenix and Scorpion rank somewhere in between with for me Phoenix being a bit less favorable and Scorpion being favored for us.
So in conclusion, I think Crab is in a perfectly fine place. We are likely a middle of the road faction that does have its nuances and takes skill to pilot well. If you are new to the faction, don’t be discouraged if the games don’t go how you want early. L5R as a whole is a complex game and Crab faction that I do not consider to be pick up and play friendly. Joe From Cincinnati has done some fantastic articles about getting started with the Crab Clan that I highly recommend (Can be found at www.WardensoftheMidwest.com). Also Crab chat on L5R Discord is a great resource for anything. Feel free to hit me up anytime on Discord (I’m Spector or Kuni Spector) and if you see me at a convention (usually sporting a fedora and shades) come over and say hello.
I’d like to thank a lot of people who helped with theorycrafting and playtesting for Winter Court that helped make this turnout for me possible. Hatamoto Ryan Rockett, Justin, Ernest, Rich, Alex, Ryan, Jordan, Jonathan, Chi, Ian, and all the players I’ve been getting games with while testing at Island Games in Centerville, VA. My buddy Q for always being there to discuss competitive gaming in general. The wise Hatamoto Merholtz for his fantastic advice of “Don’t fuck this up,” concerning our role choice. And finally to Hatamoto Joe From Cincinnati for the constant discussion the last month or two about deck options, tweaks, what’s been working and what hasn’t and just being a soundboard in general. Everyone’s contributions were appreciated!
Remember your ABC’s people: