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by Handsome Dan
3 months ago  (3 months ago)
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Hey y'all, I'm Dan, fresh from the Phoenix Kotei. I had a blast and I'm still pretty wired after my flight back home so I figured I'd do a writeup on my deck for those asking. This deck ended up going 5-1 during Swiss, which was enough for Lion Hatamoto (finally) and a Top 8 finish. I'm not going to do a Battle Report for this one, but my two losses were to Dragon/Crab (Mind's Desire) and Crab/Unicorn (Kotei Winner MoZi). Instead of doing a Battle Report, I want to talk about some of my thought processes in deck construction and preparation for this event.


After a disappointing run at Worlds 2018, I was unsure of my future with Lion. I wasn't sure if the meta had just left Lion behind, or if it was my own gameplay that was stagnating. This caused me to go into a rabbit hole of trying all kinds of different cards, splashes, and strategies that I had either previously dismissed or disregarded as not being good enough. My hope was that in all of this, I would find something new and exciting that could be a consistently good deck in the current meta.

Needless to say, I was unsuccessful. Partly because of fundamental issues with Lion as a clan (which I've already written on at length) but mostly because I was trying to play things that were forced or otherwise just outside of my comfort zone. After thinking, whining, and self-deprecation, I finally decided to return to the deck that I was most comfortable with.


There has been a lot of chatter about Lion's HMT stronghold, almost all which has been negative. The stronghold is blank, it requires overcommitment, it's worse than the Unicorn version, etc. While these statements all have merit, the fact still remains that HMT provides Lion with the ability to have huge swings in momentum and blow opponents out of the water. The effect may be inconsistent and difficult to trigger, but the threat is always there. YnS, on the other hand, provides a constant and steady boost, but one that offers little upside otherwise.

If you're wondering if HMT is better than YnS or vice versa, I don't have an answer for you. As it always has been, it ultimately comes down to a playstyle and deckbuilding preference. Both are equally viable in their own rights, but to me, the upside of HMT is necessary to survive in this generally unfavorable meta.


Prior to Worlds, I was convinced that Keeper of Fire was the superior role to Seeker of Void. However, the roles rotated, and for our Keeper role we were left with Keeper of Earth, which at the time seemed like the best available role for us. After initial testing, however, it was clear that Keeper of Earth was a vastly inferior role to our previous Keeper of Fire. As a result, I began to test and play with Seeker of Void--a fine, solid role, but with one major drawback: only 9 influence. As covered in Fro Ttop's recent Lion primer, Dragon splash suffers on Seeker roles in HMT since most of the important cards cost 2 influence, leading to some awkward and suboptimal splashes. While I enjoyed Seeker of Void's economy and powerful province row, the lack of Keeper Initiates and oomph from the Dragon splash was noticeably missing.

Accordingly I went back to Keeper of Earth. It's not the most glamorous role by any means, but the most important part for me was that it gave me back Keeper Initiate and Tattooed Wanderer, two cards that are integral to my HMT playstyle. Would I prefer this to be any other Keeper role? Certainly, but it's the one we have and I was set on making the most out of it.


As the pre-CotE meta draws to a close, I still believe (as I always have) that Dragon splash is a necessary evil for Lion. I tried a number of Crane, Crab, and even Phoenix splash decks, and all ultimately end up having the same issue: no efficient attachment removal. Attachments continue to be the bane of Lion's existence, whether it's Cloud the Mind or Talisman of the Sun or even some of the new threats like Force of the River. Dragon splash feels like a low impact splash when compared to some of the juicier options like Reprieve and Political Rival, but it offers a modicum of consistency to keep an otherwise volatile deck from spinning out of control.


Having settled on a stronghold, role, and splash, it was time to start making my deck--which wasn't hard, because my deck has changed very little from its inception at the beginning of Elemental Cycle. I swapped out any role locked cards and went to optimize my decks. On the dynasty side, my main goal was to maximize the number of Bushi was running to ensure that I always had a sacrifice target available. The conflict side was similarly optimized to attain maximum consistency in draws, with as little toolbox as possible and only a couple tech choices.

This process meant that a few things ended up getting left out that I typically run or at least considered running. Ikoma Prodigy left the deck in favor of other Bushi, and with it left For Shame. I tested both Writ of Authority and Vengeful Oathkeeper, but neither were consistent enough to ultimately make the cut. The card I ultimately missed the most was Ageless Crone, whose ability has grown less impactful over time but still can come in handy in a number of situations.

The last cut from my deck was Implacable Magistrate on the dynasty side. Implacable Magistrate was a tech card I had considered specifically for the Crab and Unicorn matchups, as they lack ways to honor characters to combat her ability. She would have come in handy, but the decision came to cut her after I realized I didn't pack her with me on my trip. Whoops :(


As I stated earlier, my deck hasn't changed much, so all of the standard HMT suite is there. The staple Lion cards, Akodo Toshiro, maximum capacity military buffs in the conflict deck. My effort in deckbuilding this time around was to optimize the deck as much as possible to enable the HMT gameplan: maintain a board presence while constantly refilling your cheap bodies each turn, be it from dynasty or from hand. I once again returned to my old friend Satoshi, who helps with both of those things. He remains a decently-statted body worth investing into, and he helps populate the board with Keeper Initiates and targets for Kitsu Spiritcaller. Satoshi's inclusion will forever be a point of contention in Lion, but I continue to stand by him through thick and through thin.

I also mentioned earlier that Keeper of Earth had a very mediocre province row, and that continues to be true. One of the reasons I wanted to switch to playing Seeker of Void was to get a province row with a little more bite (namely Upholding Authority). After my switch back to Keeper, I needed to try to find another source of possible bite for the row, and stumbled across Fro Ttop's discussion on Unicorn with Appealing to the Fortunes over Shameful Display. Naturally, Unicorn can use the province a lot better than us since they have Talisman, but I still found it to be fairly effective, if nothing else but for the surprise value. Its impact can be minimal at times, but more often than not it can allow you to sneak in some extra force for your next conflicts, or trigger extra abilities you wouldn't have gotten the chance to, such as with Miya Mystic or Satoshi.

My final tech choice was on the conflict side with Sabotage. Originally I had put the card in as a cute joke, saying that if I were going to run an Earth role, I might as well run Earth-locked cards. But the more I tested the card, the more I liked it. Very few times is the card actually dead, as at worst you can use it to knock off a dynasty character your opponent was holding onto for next turn, and at best, you can destroy a Kanjo District or an Imperial Palace on an otherwise untouchable province. I don't know if I would consider running more than 1x, but it definitely ends up paying off more times than not.


A long time has passed since my first write-up on my HMT deck. Gone with those times are any illusions I have that this deck is a true threat, but I think that with the changes that I have made and the experience I have gotten over time, I have refined this deck to at least be able to compete in this meta. This is largely due to the decline of Scorpion following the new RL, as one of our previous worst matchups became much easier to manage. This leaves Dragon as the only terrible matchup, with Crab being quite unfavored as well. Unsurprisingly, my two losses at the Kotei came to those two clans. Were this meta to continue, I would experiment more with running more send home cards to try to help mitigate the effectiveness of towers.

HMT (for both Lion and Unicorn) seem to have an unwarranted reputation for being easy and mindless to play. I was accordingly quite surprised when Fro Ttop chose to use HMT for his Lion primer deck. While I think that HMT's gameplan is straightforward on a superficial level, to play it effectively you need to make careful use of your cards, read and gauge your opponent's remaining resources, and know when it's finally safe to attempt to go all out. There will be those games where you can close your eyes and dive face first and still win, but too many times have I seen Lions get off to a hot start but burn all their gas before they can make it to the finish line. Lion is a much more unforgiving clan than most, and so you must be very precise with your decisions lest you be burned for your mistakes.


Fortunately, Children of the Empire is right around the corner, and some of the big problems with the deck will hopefully be addressed. Dragon splash will likely be deemed no longer necessary, freeing everyone to play the Crane, Crab, and what have you splashes that we've long waited to play competitively. This also means I have no idea what I'm going to be playing come February 14th, nor do I know what is and isn't going to be optimal. However, should HMT continue to be a viable option, I will be returning to this build as a starting point.
 Hall of Honor
Kotei - Top 8 - Hatamoto
Date: 01/26/19 thru 01/27/19
Description: Phoenix Kotei
Location: Glendale, AZ
comment Comments
I like this deck. Gratz for your top8 in Phoenix!
Very nice version ! I love it, ty and congratz for your Hatamoto title. You deserve it.
Just a question. I want to add Imperial Magistrate back in the deck. What would you remove ? Honored General ? 1x tactician apprentice ? Something else ?
@CKlink, the Deathseeker was supposed to be Implacable Magistrate.
Ok, it's what i changed after my last testing session. Thank you
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Stats
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Roles
No Role
Keeper of Air
Organized Play Role
Increase your deck building influence value by 3.
After you win an conflict as the defending player - gain 1 fate.
Seeker of Air
Organized Play Role
You may replace 1 province of any element with an additional province while deck building.
After an province you control is revealed - gain 1 fate.
Keeper of Earth
Organized Play Role
Increase your deck building influence value by 3.
After you win an conflict as the defending player - gain 1 fate.
Seeker of Earth
Organized Play Role
You may replace 1 province of any element with an additional province while deck building.
After an province you control is revealed - gain 1 fate.
Keeper of Fire
Organized Play Role
Increase your deck building influence value by 3.
After you win a conflict as the defending player - gain 1 fate.
Seeker of Fire
Organized Play Role
You may replace 1 province of any element with an additional province while deck building.
After an province you control is revealed - gain 1 fate.
Keeper of Void
Organized Play Role
Increase your deck building influence value by 3.
After you win a conflict as the defending player - gain 1 fate.
Seeker of Void
Organized Play Role
You may replace 1 province of any element with an additional province while deck building.
After an province you control is revealed - gain 1 fate.
Keeper of Water
Organized Play Role
Increase your deck building influence value by 3.
After you win a conflict as the defending player - gain 1 fate.
Seeker of Water
Organized Play Role
You may replace 1 province of any element with an additional province while deck building.
After an province you control is revealed - gain 1 fate.
Support of the Phoenix
Increase your deckbuilding influence value by 8.
You may only spend influence on cards.
Support of the Scorpion
Increase your deckbuilding influence value by 8.
You may only spend influence on clan cards.
Support of the Unicorn
Increase your deckbuilding influence value by 8.
You may only spend influence on clan cards.
Strongholds
Stronghold
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Provinces
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Dynasty Fate Distribution
Conflict Fate Distribution
Trait Distribution
Dynasty Initial Draw Probability & Mulligan by Card
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Dynasty Initial Draw Probability & Mulligan by Trait
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Conflict Inital Draw Probability & Mulligan by Card
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Conflict Inital Draw Probability + Bid by Card
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Conflict Initial Draw Probability & Mulligan by Trait
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Conflict Initial Draw + Bid Probability by Trait
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☐  40-45 cards in each deck
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☐  Maximum influence not exceeded (1 other clan only)
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