by Bryan Reese
When setting out to design Seeds of Decay, I was in an interesting position. First, the power level of Emperor Edition is higher than it has been since Diamond and Lotus Edition. Higher than I prefer in all honesty, and we are working on scaling that back in the next arc, but more on that later. For now I had the challenge and opportunity of creating another expansion for Emperor Edition that would create new and dynamic options for the player base while making sure the power level of Emperor Edition did not get out of hand. This effort is shown throughout Seeds of Decay, but none more so than with the Strongholds.
Monastery of New Thought is the new Dragon Stronghold, and it shows a different take on the Dragon Monk deck. Dragon Monks, as you likely well know, have not been performing as well as we would like in tournaments, so when it was time to design the Dragon Stronghold, a new take on the Monks seemed like the perfect fit. With this stronghold, the emphasis is taken off Kihos and put more heavily on the mystical fire breathing tattooed men of the Ise Zumi. As you can see, the Stronghold clearly has some teeth. Not only does it permanently give you an extra one force every turn, it also also provides you with a very solid battle action. This Stronghold is representative of some of the ways that the Colonies are altering and changing the way the Togashi Monks see the world. Separated from the traditions of Rokugan, not everything is the same as it once was. With this new Stronghold, and the tools given to the Dragon Clan in this set, we aim to see the tattooed of the Ise Zumi regain their former strength.
About a year and a half ago, Adrian Burton, L5R’s illustrious Art Director, has an idea. What if we made a Mantis Stronghold that was simply one MASSIVE ship? We all instantly loved it and Aramasu’s Legacy was born. The next step was to figure out what kind of mechanics we could associate with a ship Stronghold. Well, raiding and pillaging seemed to be a pretty good fit, but the last time this was tried, all of the non-Mantis players hated it. So rather than dismiss it, we evaluated why the players hated it. Well, the main thing they hated was the massive amounts of control the deck spewed forth, locking down an entire board before they even got a single action in the Action Phase. The second problem with raiding was the massive gold acceleration you got. The last main problem with raiding was raid actions which divided the Mantis Personality base.
So we aimed to fix these problems. The last two were the easiest to fix as we simply won’t make those mistakes again. The first one was also not that complicated to address: we would not give the players access to Personalities such as Tsuruchi Etsui. With this in mind, we sent it off to playtest and sure enough, it is a solid Stronghold that provides a brand new deck type while not eclipsing their old decks. I am personally really looking forward to seeing this Stronghold in action, and I am sure Mantis players are too.
Lastly we have The Castle of Order. Ever since the days of Shiro no Soshi and Ninjutsu, I have wanted to bring Ninjutsu back in a more balanced form. The core concept behind Ninjutsu is brilliant. My Ninjas are hiding in plain sight (Shiro no Soshi turned them face-down) so you don’t know who the best target for your action is. The biggest problem with Ninjutsu was the timing. Ninjas revealed themselves in the middle of other player’s actions, creating all sorts of mechanical and rules issues. I have always contended that if they revealed themselves on your action, instead of in the middle of your opponent’s action, the face-down mechanic could work. And so that is what I set out to do with this Stronghold, and I tried. Very, very hard I tried. Unfortunately being face-down simply did not work, so I tried a new way to represent Ninjutsu, allowing you to select the target of your opponent’s action. In this way, your opponent thinks he is attacking your powerful Ninja, but in actuality, it turns out he is attacking the red shirt Ninja. And this feels very Ninja-y, thinking you are attacking one enemy, only to find out that you are attacking an entirely different one. The aim is to give Scorpion Ninja players a new dynamic way to play, and hopefully get the deck up to tournament speed, as it has not had much tournament success this arc.
And that is our look at the Seeds of Decay Strongholds. They bring a unique, flavorful, and fun angle to each of their respective clans, and I expect we will start seeing them in play as soon as players get tear open their starter decks. Enjoy!
Check back next Tuesday for another article of this series: the set’s story!