By Bryan Reese
When we made the decision to include four strongholds per clan in Emperor Edition, we had a decision to make. What are we going to do with the strongholds in the expansions? After a bit of debate, we settled on going two directions. The first direction was to redo strongholds that initially failed. We are human and sometimes our ideas for strongholds just don’t pan out the way we thought they would. This would give us a second chance at getting it right for that theme.
The second method was to give a new route to an existing theme. This is what you have already seen in Embers of War. In this method, we aim to give an existing deck you already love to play a different direction and feel, while following similar lines.
So, if you are a Lion Scout player, you have two options after Embers of War. The first is from Emperor Edition, The Golden Plains. The Golden Plains guarantees you reconnaissance and a terrain, albeit a terrain with no ability, to make sure you can always activate your best abilities that require terrains or reconnaissance. However, it has an interesting twist in that it actually discourages Lion Scouts, the masters of terrain, to play with terrains in there deck. While you will certainly wish to play with a few of the strong terrains, it starts getting inefficient to play with too many, much like any other deck.
So in Embers of War we decided to give Lion Scouts The Marshalling Fields, a stronghold that encourages them to lay with a larger number of terrains in their deck. By getting around the one terrain per battle rulebook restriction, and by making them desirable to play, via card draw, we have given Lion Scout players a new way to build the same deck. In the case of The Marshalling Fields, much of your Dynasty deck will be the same between it and The Golden Plains, however, there will be some significant differences in the Fate deck. Beyond the encouragement to play with terrains, there are two other subtle differences. First is you are not guaranteed a terrain each battle, so some powerful cards, such as Well Prepared, as not guaranteed in The Marshalling Fields as they are in The Golden Plains (though I will definitely still be playing with Well Prepared in my Lion Scout deck). The second difference is the lack of reconnaissance, meaning you will need to include other ways to gain Reconnaissance if you wish to receive some of the powerful triggers on your Scout cards.
The second theme that we gave a makeover to is the Unicorn Tactician theme. As you are likely aware, the Unicorn Tacticians break from the standard Unicorn deck in that they are largely, though not exclusively, made up of infantry personalities. Their infantry tacticians tend to stay and operate from home while their cavalry personalities go to war. Their stronghold, The Khan’s Estate, works well with this theme, giving them an extra card, but forcing that personality to stay at home to plan for battle. The new stronghold in Embers of War, The Ki-Rin’s Path, flips this on its heads and gives your tacticians the ability to gain cavalry, and an extra force, and go to battle. This extra versatility allows them to follow standard unicorn tactics for the first couple of provinces, attacking unopposed, and then switch to their more powerful tactician version when cavalry is no longer needed. Again, this should provide a similar, but uniquely distinct, deck for the Unicorn tactician theme.
Lastly we have The Plain of Glass, a Spider stronghold which gives the Iweko’s Conquerors theme a second option for building their decks. The differences between The Plain of Glass and the Keep of the Dead are subtle, yet important. In the Keep of the Dead, you are more encouraged to build one large unit that does all of your heavy lifting, as you only get one use of Conqueror every turn and your stronghold can move in only one unit. The Plain of Glass encourages more units with your ability to use Conqueror twice in a battle. This distinction should affect the way you both build your deck and play your game. Another important difference is the traits. The Keep of the Dead ignores follower’s honor requirements, increasing the access of which followers you can play in your deck. A powerful tool for sure, but not as powerful as the trait on The Plain of Glass. It allows you to attach your followers during battle, even unopposed. This will be a massive advantage when you find your opponent tactics have left you short in being able to take a province. Flooded Pass, Ring of Earth, Heavily Engaged, Doji’s Guidance, and many other powerful cards lose a lot of their power against The Plain of Glass.
I hope that you find these new options interesting and that you like your first taste of what you can expect in the future, stronghold that give you good alternatives, while not completely overshadowing their predecessors. Enjoy!