On March 29th, we released Ancient Secrets: an expansion set with 72 new cards. Since then, we learned more about the cards in the set and absorbed feedback from the community. That new data lead us to a few updates on the cards released in the set. In this article we will go over the changes and bring some light on their reasoning.
All the changes mentioned below were already incorporated into Emerald DB and released on Jigoku on May 5th. Unfortunately we couldn’t publish this article earlier due to personal reasons. Thank you for your patience. And if you want to stay closer to the news, join us in the L5R Discord server.
One of our goals for Ancient Secrets was releasing impactful cards, balanced by their interactions with the larger card pool and by the complexity of using them during play. But even with that initial goal, we ended up being a bit too cautious with both Phoenix and Scorpion.
Ceremonial Robes is a versatile card meant to fit in many different kinds of Phoenix. The key for that card is indirect synergy.
After further play, we noticed that Ceremonial Robes was missing some minor advantage to make the 3 fate investment worth its slot. A member of the community suggested giving it scholar, an idea that was a perfect fit for the card.
The addition of scholar to Ceremonial Robes connects the card to a larger part of the phoenix toolset. The trait allows Robes to be honored by Asako Tsuki, to carry Studious, to further control their dynasty options with Bustling Academy, and many other current and future possibilities.
Paranoid Hososhi brings a powerful ability, and has the potential to twist some matchups into a complex knot. The continuous fate drain forces the opponent to adjust their playstyle as a way to accommodate this spirit.
The Hoshoshi’s impact is heavily dependent on timing. Be it the difference between a first round Hososhi vs a fourth round Hososhi, or in the delayed payoff for their fate advantage.
Once the patterns to play around it got developed, it was clear that the Paranoid Hososhi’s weakness to timing was excessive. The risk of Assassination, or the play around with bowing this tiny spirit before the end of the phase were too large.
By turning Hososhi’s ability into an Action we reduce the timing issues faced by the card, and also increase the interaction of it with other effects like the Ring of Water and Isawa Ujina.
The Disloyal Oathkeeper comes as support piece for Scorpion’s shugenja tricks. Its goal is to expand the elemental traits available to Scorpion, to make Illusionary Decoy more accessible.
Its powerful ability sets their cost line at 3 fate: any less would be unbalanced. But for the Scorpion to play a character in that price range, they must integrate well into the structure of the clan.
By giving the Courtier trait to Disloyal Oathkeeper it becomes easier throw that character into the mix, as they still keep access to some key tools of the Scorpion like For Shame! and To Govern the Land.
Sneak Attack was designed to be used in key conflicts as a tool to disrupt the defensive plans of the opponents of the Scorpion. Its cost is low at 0 fate and 1 honor: being 0 fate makes it always available; the minor honor cost, coming at reaction speed, can turn on a few Scorpion effects that rely on lower honor, like Forgery.
Even considering the reasonably low cost for the card, its effect ended up underwhelming. Stealing the initiative can be decisive in a few scenarios, but it is harder to exploit than initially thought.
To give some extra value to the card, we improve its secondary ability. The new version temporarily removes cards from the opponent’s hand instead of merely peaking at them. Combined with other effects for hand control, this extra advantage should make Sneak Attack more interesting.
Kagi-nawa comes as a utilitarian alternative for Fine Katana, with extra control opportunities when attached to a Shinobi.
The Military bonus was raised to +2 to match the bonus from Fine Katana.
One of the main aspects when balancing cards is their interaction with the card pool. A card has many qualities in how they operate: the most obvious are fate and honor costs, following those we have requirements and restrictions. Those are easily read, but we also have other more discreet qualities like timing, tactical requirements, potential for counterplay, and many other semi-invisible qualities.
With Long Journey Home, we hit home on the impact and expected play patterns for the card. But after further play, we learned that the effect was still lacking some counterplay potential. This balancing is on the level of fine tuning, and for that we chose a minor touch by rewording the card to target the affected character.
With the new wording Long Journey Home becomes exposed to “armor” effects like Finger of Jade, High House of Light, or Above Question.
For future design, expect most effects to target the characters affected by them. Raising the value of protective effects.
With the release of Through The Mists Unicorn received their 4th stronghold: The East Wind.
The first version of The East Wind allowed the Unicorn player to use provinces from themselves and the opponent. Not long after being released, it became evident that something was wrong with that stronghold. A matchup against The East Wind (version 1) was ripe for a negative play experience (NPE), as the Unicorn player would turn your own provinces against yourself. At that time it was understood that using the opponent ‘s provinces was the source of NPE. So the stronghold received an errata to only work with their controller’s provinces. Surely this would solve the NPE, right?
Unfortunately, no. The East Wind carries many issues in its hull.
A central point in balancing a province is that it can be avoided. Provinces are designed with the assumption that the opponent can avoid their effects by changing their play patterns: if a province is too strong against your deck, you attack another place. The East Wind removes this assumption, and in doing so it fundamentally breaks the balance of all Action provinces in the game. Both current and future provinces.
Another key aspect in province design is that their effects trigger once per round. The game has already seen a few cards that enable triggering provinces multiple times. Cards like Keeper of Secret Names and Hida Etsuji. Both cards are good cards and saw their share of play. Both cards are also understated high cost characters priced at 4 Fate. The East Wind delivered those abilities at zero cost, and in a stronger format that worked even while attacking.
Last but not least, The East Wind carried a flaw in being extremely susceptible to randomness. Many games were won by Unicorn as a result of the opponent’s first attack revealing an extremely strong province for the matchup (e.g. Meditations on the Tao and Courteous Greetings). On the flip side, many games were lost by Unicorn because the opponent never flipped the one province that mattered in the matchup. Both cases lead to a grindy game tainted with NPE where the winner is known on first conflict, but the game still takes many rounds to reach its conclusion.
As explained above, the concept of The East Wind is flawed at its core. That stronghold cannot be redeemed. It’s with that consideration that we choose to issue an errata that changes it into a completely new concept.
The new version of The East Wind is a versatile stronghold that explores Unicorn’s unique relationship with foreign cultures and the many learnings that come from Unicorn’s openness and curiosity.
The new stronghold can be used for card advantage by combining cards with matching Traits.
It has two triggering conditions combined:
- After playing a Foreign card like Sand Road Merchant, Compass, or Ujik Tactics.
- After playing an out-of-clan card, meaning a card from one of the other 7 clans except Unicorn. Neutral cards do not count as out-of-clan. Usually a card coming from the splashed clan in their conflict deck, or potentially a card taken from the opponent through effects like Trading on the Sand Road or To Connect the People.
Once the condition is triggered, the Unicorn player can search the top of their deck for any card that matches any Trait with the card they just played. An Ashalan Lantern would match any of Lucky Coin, Unleash the Djinn, or Trading on the Sand Road.
In case the Unicorn player does not find any matching card, they gain 1 fate instead. Note that when searching for a card, the player can choose to not find a card even if they see a matching card on the top of their deck. Finding a card on a search action is optional. Due to this, the Unicorn player can always choose to gain fate when using The East Wind.
We expect this new version of The East Wind to open up a vast field of possibilities for Unicorn, with many interesting and fun decks to explore.
This errata of The East Wind will be valid for the Nuremberg Kotei! And if you have not signed up yet, what are you waiting for? Join us!
And that’s it for today’s update! We hope our reasoning helps you to understand the thought process of our changes. In addition, we changed the home screen of jigoku.online. The chat is gone, you’re now greeted with links to our two main discord servers, the L5R server and the L5R tournament server.
The update of The East Wind is already live on EmeraldDB, so go ahead and craft your decks! The update to Jigoku will follow within the next hour.
You can also download the 300dpi version of The East Wind with and without bleed section. The other documents as well our versions at DriveThru/Azao will be updated over the next three months.