The Fires of War – Phoenix Clan Strategy Article – by Andrew Summerhill

The Fires of War

By Andrew Summerhill

When I went to the Legend of the Five Rings World Championships this year, I went filled with elation and excitement, looking forward to the thrill of games without the usual trepidation of playing with my favourite Clan, the Phoenix, that I’ve had at other points in Ivory. Let’s face it, with every Sensei printed until the A Line in the Sand expansion giving us a weakened economy, a Stronghold whose Ability most players hardly use, and a generally lower power level of Personalities, it’s been hard for Phoenix players to feel the same passion and competitiveness that other Clans have enjoyed. But at Worlds, I felt all of this and more.

Why?

Because I was playing with the Koiso Sensei.

Playing Koiso Sensei freed my mind of the usual restrictions I think many of us players have imposed on ourselves. As many players had written off Koiso Sensei as uncompetitive, I stopped trying to find ways to get the most out of X, or manipulate the best result of Y, and instead focused on building a deck that I enjoyed playing. In every game, I felt like something cool happened, created special moments–burning units to the ground, incinerating my own men in order to stop an Honor gain in Battle Resolution…in other words, a plethora of happenings which, after the game, I could look back at and enjoy.

And then the weirdest thing happened; I started winning games.

Once I enjoyed playing the game again, I started to notice the patterns and plays that made it better. And now, with The New Order upon us, I’m more excited to be a Phoenix Clan player than I have been in a very long time. Not only does The New Order bring new options to my new favourite Sensei, but I think that the much-maligned Rae Sensei finally got the “shot of adrenaline” it needed to become a powerful but, more importantly, a fun deck in its own right. New cards like Bushido’s Scourge and Fire Kami’s Greed provide new and exciting options for Shugenja decks in general, but especially for the Phoenix, who can make use of Isawa Tenkawa with his incredible 5 Chi to cripple the enemy with huge Fear and Force-penalty Actions. Meanwhile, Final Ruin provides an aggressive answer to nearly any problem, with its ability to destroy cards with relative ease. Even better is that all of these spells allow the targeting of your own Samurai, allowing you to use them to great effect with the aforementioned Rae Sensei in order to keep the pressure on your opponents in every Battle without risking your precious Shugenja. Moreover, Tenkawa brings more than just his 5 Chi to the table, as his Open Action will help deal with Political decks trying to affect your cards in the action phase, or with Attachment “hate”, that can be the bane of Shugenja decks.

For my Fire Shugenja, I’m excited by the new options provided by Isawa Nomura and Isawa Fujigawa, both of whom instantly find a spot in my deck. Nomura allows a reactive amount of Force to suddenly hit the table, meaning my opponent suddenly has to deal with a surprisingly high-strength unit. Fujigawa helps deal with some of the harder match-ups facing Phoenix players, thanks to the Unstoppable and Courtesy keyword combination. Going second, when you’re used to going first, can affect the game of even the best player, so having an edge that will help offset that loss of momentum is a massive boon, especially when it allows your spells to be fully effective nearly all of the time. This is especially true when you end up destroying one of your Spells for a Ranged Attack, only to have a well-timed Turtle’s Shell disrupt your whole plan.

It’s not just the Spells and Shugenja in The New Order that benefit those Phoenix players with a more military mind-set, as we got some great utility actions that help keep the fires burning. Jade Ascension is an almost auto-include for many decks now, allowing you to get the greatest use of your Spells, and as the rightful masters of the Elemental kami that we are, lose no momentum for doing so. Sulphurous Swamps will help ruin a Defensive and/or Political player’s day when timed right, as he’s forced to discard most of his Fate Hand to try and stop your assault, whilst Honed to a Razor’s Edge allows Absent movement to Battlefields combined with a straightening effect, potentially twice per instance of the card thanks to the powerful Discipline Keyword.

By putting these powerful cards into the Arc environment for Phoenix, we get a deck that looks something like this:

The Eternal Temple of the Phoenix – Koiso Sensei
Dynasty (40)
1 Dark Audience
3 Alchemy Lab
2 Earthborn Temple
3 Famous Bazaar
2 Nexus of Lies
3 Productive Mine
3 Silver Mine
2 Temple of Serenity
3 Isawa Fujigawa
3 Isawa Hibana
3 Isawa Hikarou
3 Isawa Ikariya
1 Isawa Kaname, Advisor to the Ruby Champion – exp
3 Isawa Muira
3 Isawa Nomura
2 Isawa Orinoko

Fate (40)
3 Firestorm Legion
3 Family Sword
3 Burning Spirit
2 Final Ruin
3 Fire Kami’s Greed
1 Searing Siege
2 Steal the Candle’s Flame
3 The Dragon’s Talon
1 A Game of Dice
1 Creating Order
2 Fall Back!
3 Honed to a Razor’s Edge
3 Relentless
3 Sneak Attack
3 Sulphurous Swamps
2 The Turtle’s Shell
2 Way of the Phoenix

The deck focuses on one thing only, and that’s the complete destruction of your opponent’s forces once you get to Battle. Burning Spirit and Isawa Nomura mean that with a well-placed Sneak Attack, your army could be as much as 12 Force higher than the opponent expected before the Battle has even begun; this is an incredible amount of pressure to put on the enemy. Alchemy Labs can raise that total even higher, or ensure your Ranged Attacks do even more damage and are more resilient to Ranged Attack-altering effects. As every personality is an Isawa, Family Sword provides a great Force:Gold ratio and you can attach it as soon as you’re ready, never having to worry about saving it for the “right” Personality, because you can just move it to another Personality when you wish. Supporting cards like Turtle’s Shell and Relentless mean that the opponents actions don’t “stick to you”, ensuring you can keep those high Force units contributing to the Battle, while the Koiso Sensei itself means that fully half of your deck can be destroyed in a pinch to either ensure victory or deny your opponent honour from Battle Resolution.

All in all, the deck plays aggressively, attacking Turn after Turn, always costing your opponents for every defence they undertake. As long as their cost for fighting battles is higher than yours, then you’re well on your way to proving that, just like their namesake, the Phoenix can always rise from the ashes to greatness!

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Posted on November 5, 2014, in l5r and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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