Today is the next installment of our Emperor Edition Design Diaries where one of the designers of L5R will explain our goals for the mechanics of a clan. This week’s clan will be Mantis, written by Thomas Kwong.
“Steel is powerful, but nothing compared to the power of the coin.” – Yoritomo Hama
Mantis magistrates are unlike any other magistrates in the game. While the magistrates of other clans will focus on a manipulating personality’s dishonorable status or checking for corruption, Mantis magistrates are focused on gold costs. They are solely a military theme, using some control actions to make their attacks easier.
Mantis magistrates will still have primarily battle actions with some action phase control. Those actions will be geared solely to weakening an opponent’s board position to make way for an attack. Mantis magistrates will have equal or lower, but rarely higher, force than most military decks and lower chi than most other magistrates to balance this higher instance of action phase control. Many of their actions will cost gold or have an optional gold cost that will improve the end effect. The Mantis brand of economic warfare does not focus on attacking your enemy’s holdings, but rather it focuses on manipulating and attacking the gold cost of the enemy’s personalities and attachments. Some holding disruption will exist, but not to the extent of the Yasuki.
Kalani’s Landing is a stronghold of versatility and possibilities. The ability increases the range or lowers the cost of your actions, but the traits are the most important aspects of the card. Straightening each phase gives a Mantis player a reliable four gold whenever they would need it. To balance this, the stronghold will not pay for attachments. Much like the personalities themselves, the cost of this theme’s access to action phase control is a reduced ability to threaten provinces. Certainly nothing will prevent you from playing with attachments, you simply will not be able to use your stronghold to pay for them. Much akin to having a good battle action that does not work while bowed.
Children of Thunder
“We share our souls with a power beyond understanding. We are one with the power of the storm.” – Moshi Yokohime
Thunder is an element all about aggression and tempo. Logically, this theme is designed to be military-focused and particularly intent on getting enemy armies out of the way.
Thunder shugenja will be exclusively thunder, with no elemental keywords, and will often have naval. Their abilities will normally be proactive battle actions or actions that improve other battle actions. Likewise, thunder spells will be focused on tempo enhancement or battle actions designed to harm enemy units. Most of these actions will be ranged attacks, but bowing, movement, and force manipulation will be common as well. The primary drawback facing thunder shugenja is the limited access to the kickers on other spells, though this is true for all non-Phoenix shugenja. Spells will all have interactions with their keywords and thunder shugenja will not be able to get the maximum potential out of non-thunder spells. Thunder, being an aggressive element, focuses less on the defensive like earth. This makes thunder more vulnerable than an element such as earth, a vulnerability made up for by the sheer aggressiveness of thunder. As the saying goes, sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
Suitengu’s Torch shows both this theme’s ability to control tempo and their aggressive action set. The reaction makes sure that key actions will be unstoppable. Combined with naval, thunder decks will have the upper hand in any attack. The battle action provides an aggressive option for any engagement, removing presence without costing fate cards, but also enhances your tempo control by forcing the opposing player to spend an action moving their key personality back to the battlefield. As it is also a thunder action, the reaction can be used in conjunction with the battle action to make sure the target actually goes away.
Spirits of the Forest
“Do you feel the eyes upon you? Turn aside and I will convince them to spare you.” – Kitsune Denhei
The Kitsune theme is a defensive shugenja honor deck, but one not centered around the shugenja themselves. Instead, as the name implies, this theme focuses around nonhuman spirits, with the shugenja in a supporting role. This theme will be predominately geared towards defending against an attacking army, but will have the tools to compete with other honor decks.
Most Kitsune shugenja will have the earth keyword and the ones with actions will usually be reactions to entering play that create Mantis-aligned nonhuman spirit personalities that will have a wide array of actions or traits. Everything from defensive battle actions to actions that help win the honor race. The spirits the Kitsune summon will be the real work horses of the deck. Fate support will come in the form of earth spells designed to be used to keep their performer at home and Strategies that interact with the Nonhuman and Spirit keywords. The possibility of this theme becoming a swarm military theme is reduced greatly by giving the Kitsune extremely low force, giving most of them honor requirements greater than two, and by making many of their reusable actions only work on attacking units.
The experienced Kyuden Kitsune returns as the home for this theme. Its trait makes their send home actions more powerful, along with preventing unopposed movement and its action provides a consistent honor-gaining action that is independent of an opponent’s choice. The action should help the Kitsune keep up and even pull ahead despite starting at a slightly lower family honor.
“Argue about your technique all you like. You will never see me cut you down from a league away.” – Tsuruchi Isas
All of the scout themes will feature ranged attacks, but ranged attacks are the Mantis’s primary focus. Like many classic Mantis decks, it should be aggressive, with a focus on attrition.
Mantis scouts will be like most scouts in that they are generally lower in gold cost with average corresponding force. This fits nicely and serves to balance the heavy emphasis on ranged attacks by naturally slowing the deck enough to remove potential problems from this extra lethality. The more fragile nature of such personalities also helps keep them from being too powerful. Their abilities will almost universally deal with ranged attacks in some way; either modifying them in some way or creating them. Mantis scouts will also frequently have Naval and when combined with a ranged attack ability they will have a potent tempo advantage. All of the scout themes’ initial strongholds have actions that grant reconnaissance in order to make sure scouts can actually use their actions. This removes the need for recon actions on personalities, opening up space for actions that are more useful, and allows for more balanced recon strategies, which previously had to be too strong so they could merit inclusion.
Ranged attack decks have typically had problems with an inability to manage high force threats. Koshin Keep changes that by making sure no foe too large to be brought down and has the side benefit of making sure that ranged attacks will still do something even if the destruction is negated. When playing Koshin Keep, you will be able to do what the Mantis do best; keep shooting them until they stop moving.