Ancient Secrets – Lion and Scorpion

It is time to start revealing the clan cards from Ancient Secrets. Today we start with Lion and Scorpion. Both clans are united in having deep, well-established card pools, with solid foundations that enable diverse strategies. That presents an interesting challenge for the design team, how to bring new cards for those clans without pushing established themes too high in power-level.

The Lion in the Field

In Lion you can play honor, dishonor, or conquest. You can play it favoring wide or tall strategies, and you can mix and match strongholds to make unique builds. Most strategies of the Lion are supported by a solid Commander foundation. If that base gives power to Lion, it also reduces the difference between different builds, as you can often count on seeing at least a few Commander cards being used.

As we’re trying to expand what Lion can do, focused on increasing diversity, it was a clear decision for Design to not create cards supporting Commanders directly. We looked at Lion from other angles — the Commanders are supported enough at the moment, so we put our focus on making Followers more distinctive in their gameplay and also a few other pieces to push secondary Lion themes.

The Lion clan found their landing site in the Fortune’s Field. A vast open area, defined by a fertile valley with a large growth of wild rice. The Lion will find that easy rice production convenient to grow and support the vast armies that they rely on.

The Fortune’s Fields supports both strategies based on Followers and those that rely more on characters. Notice that the effect lasts the whole round, increasing the window of opportunity for it. The interaction with Followers can be valuable, as we have a few other cards in the pack to support Follower-based strategies.

Once those fields are cultivated, they can provide even greater rewards to the Lion. When the harvest is especially bountiful, the whole empire will recognize the greatness of the followers of Akodo. But Lion Clan, beware! The wealth of the region might draw envious eyes, and protecting open fields like that can be quite a challenge.

In the expedition all kinds of Samurai came to Sanctuary. Some came looking for glory, like the Relentless Gloryseeker, who’s eager to throw himself into danger to make their ancestors proud. Gloryseeker is built to work out of Hisu Mori Toride, but the ability is open enough that it might also find use in other decks, especially as the Berserker trait is also getting some love in this expansion pack. Honor is found in sacrifice, glory to the heroes!

But we also find other less heroic, but still important, duties in the Lion Clan. The Ikoma are renowned for their scouts, masters of reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. In Sanctuary those abilities are put to use in tracking wild game, as the hunter helps feed the Lion forces. Make no mistake, the tracking skills of the Ikoma Master Hunter can also be put to work against the enemies of the Lion Clan. They will be watched from up close. The duty of a scout is not without danger, though. Once the Hunter sets its target, they must follow their prey every time it moves, which can sometimes also be exploited by the enemy.

The Follower strategy is a new angle for Lion, which started development in Through the Mists with the stronghold Pride. It is a solid strategy as a source of cheap stats, but it was still missing some extra pieces to give itself a unique identity distinct from simple towering. In Ancient Secrets we put forward a few extra cards to wrap up that concept.

Kinki is a lion cub, being trained by lion boy as his companion as he grows into a beastmaster. Kinki might be just a cub for now, but it can already pack a strong bite or send you back home in fear.

Promising Hohei adds a second dimension to the Soldier followers generated by Pride. The Soldier tokens accumulate over the rounds, placing facedown conflict cards on the board. The Promising Hohei can replace a Soldier token with itself, bringing one of those conflict cards into Lion’s hand. This turns Soldiers from mere skill bonuses, into a source of card search. It can also give a second breath to Followers who trigger effects when they enter play.

And last in the Follower support, we have Corner the Prey. This is the capstone card for the Follower strategy, once the clan assembles their vast horde of samurai together with their Followers, facing the might of the Lion becomes an extremely risky endeavor. It is a flexible event that can be used both for earlier hits, taking care of smaller opponents without needing to sully your honor with Assassination, or it can be saved until later for dispatching whoever dares challenge the Lion troops on the battlefield. It is a costly Tactic, costing not only fate, but also time to prepare the troops, and the permanent loss of those Soldiers and the skill they represent. Alas, that is war, and even victory takes its toll.

But there are other ways to serve the Lion legions. Sure, the Ikoma can scout and track, but they can also be The Lion’s Shadow.

The Ikoma know that in war every strategy is valid. The Lion’s Shadow embodies that, by slipping in beyond the enemy’s forces, be it open skirmishes or in the deadliest battlefield of all, the courts.

The Lion’s Shadow is also a Title. In Ancient Secrets, we will see a few Title cards, and they follow common patterns.

A Title is an attachment, with restrictions on who can hold them, and some conditions that make them Ancestral. While attached, the Title confers an ability to whoever carries it. As with Battlefield attachments, each character can only have a single Title at a time, and if a second Title is played on a character, the first one gets replaced.

In Ancient Secrets we have 4 Titles total, 2 of them being Neutral.

The Scorpion in the Fortress

Similar to the Lion, the Scorpion comes into Ancient Secrets with a well-developed card pool. They enjoy diverse strategies, with less variety on their character line-up, but more choice in what types of tricks they bring to the table.

But even with that large array of possibilities, the Scorpion remain short of good choices when it comes to strongholds. It is very hard to build a highly competitive deck in Scorpion without using Kyuden Bayushi. On the one hand, the benefit provided by Kyuden Bayushi is very impactful, but on the other hand the alternative strongholds all miss the mark. They don’t miss by that much though, and in Ancient Secrets we try to tackle that, as we focus our support on Seven Stings Keep and Shiro Yogo.

First we have Scorpion’s landing site in the Jade-Colored Rocks. That abandoned fortress hides many mysteries, and its defenses made the location unassailable by attackers. This is represented in the province by its constant attrition. Every time one of the foes of the Scorpion approaches the fortified islands, they will face hardship. Sacrifices will have to be made if they want to even try and touch ground.

The fortified rocks are protected by Ancient Stone Guardians. Those astounding creatures are hard to avoid, and deliver mighty blows to anyone who threatens their charges. Once defeated though, their vanquishers might acquire some dark secrets and mysterious treasures in their remains. That is not exactly the most honorable thing to do, but it can be hard to resist.

Starting on our support for Seven Stings Keep and Shiro Yogo, we have two new tricks up our sleeves.

Illusionary Decoy comes to solve a core issue of the Seven Stings Keep strategy. While the stronghold provides ambiguity about how the Scorpion will attack, for experienced players visualizing the possible scenarios is a puzzle that can be solved without much struggle. The stronghold depends on a large variety of available characters for the attacks, otherwise the options are limited and easy to manage. The Illusionary Decoy increases the complexity of the puzzle by adding a hidden element to it. Once Seven Stings declares an attack, the opponent must consider not only the character in play, but the threat of some of those attackers being illusions, as a Decoy comes into play to take their place in the conflict. The Decoy can also be used as an additional troop when that is convenient, and even as a defensive tool. For all of that functionality, the Illusionary Decoy does require a Shugenja in play to control them — but if the Scorpion player achieves their goals, they might be able to recover their Decoys to use them again on the next conflict, or the next round.

The second piece is Sneak Attack, a tool for quickly dispatching any defenders before they have the opportunity to act. Combined with character removal, blanking, or send home, Sneak Attack lets the Scorpion player take control of the offensive in key conflicts. It also gives them a peak at what kind of counterplay the opponent might have in their hand, so they can adjust their plans in the moment if they see something that foil their strategy.

To sustain the Illusionary Decoy, and explore other Shugenja tricks, we bring the Disloyal Oathkeeper. This Shugenja is ready to turn the tactics of the opponent against them. Following the tradition of Yogo Shugenja being connected to the Earth element, the Disloyal Oathkeeper increases the elemental coverage for Illusionary Decoy, making it recoverable via the ring of Earth, while the Soshi Shugenja cover the Air element. By replaying their opponent’s events, the Oathkeeper frees the Scorpion player to pack more reactive cards into their conflict deck, as the basics like Banzai! or Assassination, can possibly be learned from their opponents… if they’re foolish enough to try those while the Disloyal Oathkeeper watches.

Following on the approach of adding speed to the Scorpion’s sting, we bring the Zealous Inspector. As the card pool evolved we now find multiple tools to remove dishonor tokens spread across many clans. From Prepare for War to Belief in the Little Teacher, passing by classics like Soul Beyond Reproach, the Scorpion can often find themselves unable to exploit the dishonor status in their opponents, as a dishonor effect gets immediately cleaned by a rehonoring effect. The Inspector comes to give Scorpion a way to handle those scenarios without power creeping the environment with stronger and stronger dishonor effects. Instead of trying to overpower the honoring effects, we add speed. Immediately after dishonoring their opponent, the Zealous Inspector is eager to deliver fast punishment. This extra speed is valuable for Shiro Yogo’s blanking effect, and it’s also valuable for all types of dishonor punishment that Scorpion has been using since the game began. And then, if the Inspector is combined with Sneak Attack, the scariest sequences can be deployed on the Scorpion offensive.

To further strengthen the control options of the Scorpion clan, we bring two versatile cards.

The Kagi-Nawa can be used as a simple Weapon, nothing too impressive, but that can be an important tool in certain matchups. Where it shines though, is when the Kagi-Nawa is used by a Shinobi, enabling it to ensnare an enemy, dragging them into the conflict, or helping bring an ally into the fray. This versatility should make it a valuable tool in the Scorpion arsenal. And maybe even in the Daidoji arsenal, why not?

And last, the Jade-Colored Rocks happen to be populated by a few different species of snakes. The Shosuro waste no time, and their research on how to best explore the medicinal properties of snake venom is well under way. The Underground Ophidiarium is a discrete source of card advantage, but its main value is in increasing the utility of some Poisons that are dependent on matchup or board state. This allows the Scorpion to employ Poisons as a kind of toolbox. As the masters of reactivity and control, that fits the Scorpion playbook and hopefully brings into the game some cards that have seen little play to this day.

The Otter in the Water

The second Otter card of the set is the Yatakabune Port. The Otter have settled as neighbors of the Lion Clan, and their mastery of navigation should also be of use to the Scorpion (or maybe they will prefer trading with the Mantis?).

The Yatakabune Port represents the Otter as traders, connecting the different clans of the empire, sharing stories, products, and experiences.

The Otter are also protected if they are attacked. Attacking a benevolent minor clan like the Otter is sure to attract the ire of all the good Samurai of the empire.

And that’s it for this week! Thanks to Siri for his detailed write-up, and to our play testers, who continuously work on improving the cards with us, try to find potential game-breaking plays, and help to shape the biggest Emerald Legacy set to date.