Hello! My name is Joe and I am a guest writer here. You may know me as Joe From Cincinnati. I post videos and write articles and stuff and Will has asked if I could help him out as he launches his new website dedicated to L5R content. I love L5R content so I agreed to provide an article to his website at half my normal rate. My normal rate is zero dollars, so he’s getting quite the bargain, I’d say!
For those of you who know me, you may have read my article about how I manage my fate, which can be found here (https://www.wardensofthemidwest.com/how-to-manage-your-fate/). It is a set of guidelines I use to help me decide when to buy a character, how much fate to put on that character, and how to accumulate and appropriately spend the fate that I collect during the course of the game. They weren’t iron clad, but applied to most situations during a normal game of L5R. Well, that article is almost 8 months old now and it’s a bit outdated. Rather than trying to re-write it all from scratch, which I imagine would be the simplest way of doing things, I wanted to leave it as is and write an addendum to it here. Not only does this provide a bit of a track in terms of where the meta stands and how it is evolving as time goes on, but it’s also much easier for me. And since I work for free, I’m going to do it however I want to do it. Before I begin, I want to credit Daidoji Micah, from the Discord group, for popularizing the method of fate use discussed in this article (as well as Micah and Mind’s Desire for reading over the article, for accuracy). As far as I can tell, he was the first person playing in this way that was documentable via the Discord League Tournaments (Which you can play in if you join on the L5R Discord Group. Just use this link, create an account and find the discord league channel: https://discord.gg/bNsuFGG )
In my original article (https://www.wardensofthemidwest.com/how-to-manage-your-fate/), Guideline #1 states that my most common strategy was to put 2 fate on my characters that cost 3 or more fate. At the time of writing that article, I truly felt that was the best strategy to maximize your fate efficiency while simultaneously maintaining a lasting board, especially in Crab. However, with the developments that came from the first cycle, I have actually been putting 3 or even 4 fate on my characters a lot more often. The main reason for this is because, in the past, the only way you could lose a character with 2 fate on them in a single round was if you ran them into a Meditations on the Tao and then your opponent Ring of Voided them. Or, in some cases, if your opponent was able to trigger a ring twice with the likes of Akodo Toturi or Doji Hotaru. Well, the game is evolving and there are now more ways of removing 2 fate in the same phase. There are cards such as Guardian Kami and Kami Unleashed that could assist in triggering a ring either unexpectedly (with Guardian Kami) or twice (with Kami Unleashed). In addition, there is A Fate Worse than Death which, while expensive, is extremely good at removing fated characters from the board in combination with the Void Ring/other fate removal effects. Meditations on the Tao has become a bit more reliable as well with the release of the Unicorn card, Talisman of the Sun. With this card, if you attacked with a character with just 2 fate on it, your opponent could very easily Talisman of the Sun them into Meditations, remove a fate and then use one of the previously mentioned methods to remove the second fate. For all these reasons, I feel 3 or, in some cases, 4 fate on your key characters may be most wise, depending on the board state and the point of the game in which you are in. In many games I’ve played and watched in the last few months, you’ll often see dynasty phases consist of a Buy 1 big character with 3-4 fate and pass occurring on both sides of the board and then 1 costers coming out during the conflict phase as conflict characters.
Now, obviously, I do not wish to mislead you. When you’re playing against Crab, you probably shouldn’t do this. Or, if you do, be very wary of the Fate Phase Way of the Crab. You always have to play with the Way of the Crab in mind in that match up.
Why Has This Become the New Meta?
This is solely my understanding of where this strategy came from and why it has become popular, so forgive me if your experience differs or if you feel I am wrong either in how this meta developed or even in correctly identifying the trends of the meta in the first place. But let’s go through the reasons why I think the high fate meta has grown past the 2 fate meta that was established, in part, by my original article.
The most obvious answer is shown right above this section. The increased number of ways of removing fate has made 2 fate less robust than it was in the core set days. If the key to removing a character is getting them to the fate phase with 0 fate remaining, that timer ticks down much more rapidly than it did in the core set environment because of the new cards and strategies that have surfaced since the beginning of the game.
The Lack of Viable/Reliable Targeted Kill
This may be even more prominent than the first point. One of my favorite things about this game is the fact that the fate system allows for much less direct character destruction in the game. You don’t need to print answers to big characters as often when the game naturally kills characters over time anyway. There is no equivalent to Wrath of God or Valar Morgulis (from Magic and Game of Thrones, respectively) because, by and large, there is no requirement for resets to allow someone to come back from a deficit. The fate system provides that comeback mechanic for the losing player automatically. However, a byproduct of this fate system is that less targeted kill was printed as well. The only cards in the game that discard your opponent’s characters from the game are Assassination, Bayushi Shoju, Deathseeker, Endless Plains, Fallen in Battle, I Can Swim, Mirumoto Raitsugu, Noble Sacrifice and Way of the Crab (as well as Bayushi Aramoro previewed from the Scorpion clan pack and a new province for Lion that was previewed from the second cycle, Raging Battlefield). If there’s a card I am forgetting, let me know in the comments.
Each of these cards, however, has a rather restrictive targeting requirement or requires some sort of set up to accomplish. Assassination only hits 2 cost or less characters. Shoju and Aramoro need to reduce your character’s skill to 0, which often requires some sort of combo or set up (otherwise, why would they attack/defend into these characters?). Fallen in Battle requires your opponent to lose a military conflict by 5 and then your only targets are the ones in the conflict (which, if you won by 5 or more, what is that “valuable” character doing in that conflict?), I Can Swim has a dishonored requirement as well as a bid requirement that is relatively easy to predict and play around. Noble Sacrifice (which I think is the best 3+ character removal in the entire game at the moment) requires you to sacrifice an honored character to discard a dishonored character, which requires set up and costs you a character. Way of the Crab typically only hits your opponent’s worst character, so it requires set up to hit a valuable card. And then Deathseeker, Raitsugu and Raging Battlefield can only discard characters that have zero fate on them, meaning your opponent typically only lost that round’s worth of value for that character anyway (which is bad, but not a huge deal in the long run).
And even these kill abilities can often be mitigated or canceled through a variety of effects, such as Iron Mine, Reprieve, Finger of Jade, Voice of Honor, Censure, Forged Edict or just good old fashioned “avoiding the trigger.” I.E. Don’t put your dishonored characters into a conflict when your opponent is playing Scorpion cards, has 2 fate and bid more than you that round. Or don’t put your fateless character into a conflict against Raitsugu or your 2 strength political characters in a conflict against Shoju Etc.
This lack of targeted kill has made it extremely reliable to buy a character with several fate on them and, barring a disaster, they’ll remain in the game for the duration of their fate. And, as I discussed in my original article, every single fate you place on that character, over time, is worth whatever that character is worth. If you have a 4 fate character with 2 1 fate attachments and an honored token, you’re getting at least 6 fate of value for every 1 fate you place on that character. Which leads us nicely into the next section.
The Value of Attachments Has Gone Up
This may not have been an adjustment made due to any new cards entering the game. But it’s certainly an adjustment made because people’s playstyles have changed over the course of the game. Those of you who play the game competitively probably recognize that, chances are, your opponent will be running some sort of attachment control in their deck. Many people opt for the Dragon and Scorpion cards as a splash clan because of Let Go and Calling in Favors. Others have resorted to filling their deck with Fire Elemental Guards and/or Miya Mystics. However, whichever way you slice it, attachments are being recognized as huge value in this game. In some match ups, not having attachment control can often spell disaster. For example, if you are running a deck with no attachment control vs a Dragon or Crab player, odds are you’ll lose that game. Why is that? Because attachments are really good.
Between Spyglasses offering 1 to 2 free cards every round, Reprieves saving massive characters to last another round, Watch Commanders sapping your honor, Pathfinder’s Blades cancelling your province effects and Talismans of the Sun redirecting you into their most powerful province effects, there are a large number of attachments that can wreck your game plan merely by existing (not to mention the slew of 2 and 3 fate attachments that can absolutely destroy a game if left unmolested). And, with a higher fated character, those attachments will remain in the game longer and will cause more chaos to your game plan unless they are dealt with. There’s a chance this point could be taken as a “the Chicken or the Egg” scenario, but either way, high fate characters and powerful attachments go together like cheese and wine.
The Restricted List
I could literally go card by card and explain why the restricted list has made this game a whole lot more friendly to the high fate meta, but I’ll keep it down to its key points:
- Charge was restricted. This slowed games down because most decks can no longer bring a 5 cost character into the game for 1 fate. This means fewer breaks, which means more even keeled games (not that it has slowed the game down considerably, because both sides typically lost charge. It just made games a bit more predictable and “what’s on the board” matters quite a bit more.
- Mirumoto’s Fury was restricted. This has made big ass units much more deadly. With the best 1 fate answer to a huge unit being restricted, now you can dedicate your entire turn’s worth of fate to one character and, reliably, win a conflict with them more often.
- Slightly decreased the occurrence of Dragon and Scorpion splash. With some of the most common “pairings” with Let Go and Calling in Favors being restricted (Mirumoto’s Fury and Forged Edict, respectively) it has made these two splash choices slightly less appealing. This has made attachments a little bit more resilient and makes having characters that last longer get significantly more value out of their attachments. These two splashes are still everywhere, of course, but not to the degree that they were pre-restricted list.
A Renewed Perspective on Province Breaks
Okay, this final point may be just me. There’s a chance no one else feels this way but, in the beginning of the game, there was this natural sense that…you should try to keep your provinces from breaking early on. Especially since a lot of players were coming from the original L5R game by AEG, where province breaks were just awful (as they decreased how many provinces you could buy characters from each round). Early on in this game’s life, a break on turn 1 was typically considered a success for whoever was able to secure it. This made people often want to buy at least 2 characters on turn 1 to help protect their provinces while also being able to attack. A byproduct of this philosophy was that you’re putting less fate on characters so that you could buy an additional 1 or 2 coster in addition to your big character (this same philosophy was why you would often see people buying big characters with 1 fate, which I’ve discussed at length in my original article). But, as the game evolved, the perspective on provinces seemed to change a bit. You can even see this philosophy show through when it comes to deck building decisions.
Here’s a question for you: Why is Public Forum not in every single freaking deck?
Because province breaks often don’t matter.
In fact, lower province strength is actually considered a GOOD thing in this game in many instances. The obvious case is for provinces with on-break abilities, but many provinces with on-reveal abilities become weak points after they are flipped and the defending player would prefer to direct attacks into a province with an active ability. Otherwise, that province becomes a blank province that your opponent can ‘farm’ (attack to either gain a ring or force you to defend) without having to break with their weaker conflict (such as the political attack for Lion and Crab and the Military attack for Scorpion and Crane). The obvious exception is any province commonly used on the stronghold benefits enormously from a high province strength even if it has an on-reveal ability that leaves it blank past the first attack, such as Rally to the Cause.
How bizarre is that? Could you imagine if a character being 1 strength was actually superior to them having 3 strength? Well, imagine no longer because, when it comes to provinces like Feast or Famine, you’d often rather NOT break it than break it on the turn you randomly run into it (unless you have Pathfinder’s Blades or a board state such that the ability cannot fire). In these scenarios, a province break is actually considered a failure on the part of the attacker.
That’s why these new provinces from the second cycle, such as Upholding Authority, are so funny to so many people. It GAINS province strength when the province element matches your role? On a province that only does something when it breaks? Talk about a weird design choice. And it’s indicative of a fundamental disagreement between the players and the designers in regards to what makes a province with an on-break ability good. And, turns out, higher province strength is not one of those things, in the players’ eyes. In many games, the only breaks that really matter are the third one and the final one (third one opens up your Stronghold, final one loses you the game).
This mentality allowed for the high fate meta to become the trend because, when you’re less worried about your provinces breaking, you’re more inclined to invest in just 1 character per round. So, a turn 1 “Buy 1 character with 3 fate, pass” is not uncommon at all. This will likely lead to 2 passed conflicts on turn 1 between the 2 players (or more) so that a board state can be built more effectively for turns 3 and 4 (when the shit really starts to go down.) If that means you can’t defend an attack on turn 1 that causes a break, so be it. You’re building for the future.
And with that, I think I’ve covered all that I set out to cover. No longer can people claim that I invented the 2 fate meta or reinforced the 2 fate meta (Aneil…). I hope you enjoyed reading. Let me know if you have any questions or comments about the article. If you want to read more, you can find me at Wardensofthemidwest.com and on Youtube as Joe From Cincinnati here (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCANGv5_alwyAdmW9nUAvMrA).