We've been following the Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) Living Card Game (LCG) from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) since its release last year, starting with the Core Set, the first cycle The Imperial Cycle, and the first Clan Pack, Disciples of the Void. The latest release for the L5R LCG is the six packs of the Elemental Cycle. This cycle follows the same pattern of the first cycle and includes six packs of 60 cards (3 copies of 20 different cards) released weekly over a six week period. This time though, each pack follows an elemental theme by focusing on one of the five elemental rings of Water, Air, Fire, Earth, and Void, with the final pack wrapping up the cycle.
For those interested in the differences between an LCG and a collectible card game (CCG) or trading card game (TCG) check out our Core Set review for full details, for those who want the quick summary, purchasing one of the packs of the Elemental Cycle will give you access to all copies of the card you will need for your decks, so multiple blind purchases of packs aren't necessary.
Rather than review the packs as we have in the past, we're going to highlight some of our favorite and interesting cards from the packs. Giving scores to the packs is very dependent on what decks you are running and if you are playing competitive L5R LCG, which means you will be looking to purchase every pack anyway. So with these articles, we are looking to inspire deck ideas and concepts, and highlight some useful cards to those playing competitively or casually. It's also worth noting that our card picks might not be the most powerful cards from the set but just our favorite effect or themed cards.
Breath of the Kami
Our picks from the air themed pack, Breath of the Kami, are Isawa Uona, Shinjo Shono, and Kudaka.
Isawa Uona is a great air themed Shugenja who allows you to effectively remove a non-unique character in a conflict after you play an air card. It's also a reaction, and she doesn't have to be part of the conflict herself. She won't fit into every deck, but if you have enough Air cards, her effect over the course of the game could be quite potent.
Shinjo Shono is a stat heavy character that plays well into an outnumbering strategy to boost lost cost swarm characters if they have the cavalry keyword. Pride makes him honored if he wins a conflict, further boosting his stats.
Kudaka is initially worth mentioning because she is the first Mantis character for the L5R LCG and one of four from this Cycle. Her ability is also quite potent with the right deck built around claiming the Air Ring, and would make claiming the air ring reward you with honour, fate and a card draw. It can also be done twice a turn, so copying or duplicating the effect with a card like Seeker of Knowledge, or Way of the Dragon means that it would be a very rewarding ring claim and would make it highly contested by your opponent.
Our picks from the Earth themed pack Tainted Lands are Apprentice Earthcaller, Kuni Yori and Spreading the Darkness.
Apprentice Earthcaller is a solid defensive Crab character that can be used to rip stats boosts from opponents. It will only affect characters without attachments, so there are some limitations, so it will only work on boosts from played cards, but as the Apprentice doesn't have to be in the conflict, it will give you opponent some pause before committing.
Kuni Yori has always been an interesting character, walking a line along evil and forbidden knowledge. In the L5R LCG, he empowers your units during Earth conflicts. His ability is also very thematic, in losing one honor to discard an opponents card, playing in to those on the outside judging his abilities and research. The Crab have always had an interesting relationship with the Shadowlands, and Yori really pushes that theme, which is great to see coming across in the LCG.
Spreading the Darkness also follows the forbidden knowledge theme, providing a huge boost and lets your character become immune to your opponent's card abilities. It doesn't make them immune to everything, but restricts their ability to shut the character down. The 2 honour cost means that it won't fit in every deck, but can be incredibly effective in the right situation.
The Fires Within
Our picks from the Fire themed pack, The Fires Within are Chikai Order Protector, Soshi Shiori and Shiksha Scout.
Chikai Order Protector is a powerful card, but also very thematic. The Phoenix are a very Shugenja orientated clan, and as a result, have always employed yojimbo (bodyguards) to protect them from physical threats when they are distracted using their magics. The Chikai Order Protector practically oozes theme with her ability, that when she is in a conflict with a Courtier or Shugenja, she doesn't bow, meaning she can be used to defend or attack again and with a solid stat line, her inclusion will be well received.
Soshi Shiori is a great addition to dishonour decks, and even decks that don't focus on dishonour can cause some uncomfortable situations with Shiori. Being able to use her ability after you win a conflict an unlimited amount of times per turn means that you could be looking at 4 dishonour loss a turn for your opponent, if you are able to win 4 conflicts a turn. Using mimic and additional play effects on top can be brutal. She has a high cost, but played right can make her game changing.
Shiksha Scout works well with the Unicorn Clan mechanics of outnumbering, like those of Shinjo Shono detailed earlier, but we list the Scout here because it's the first Naga card to emerge in the L5R LCG. We hope to see more of them in future sets, but as the Scout has the creature trait and not Naga, we might not see any developing themes with them.
The Ebb and Flow
Our picks from the water themed The Ebb and Flow pack are Flooded Waste, Asako Azunami, Yoritomo and Hawk Tattoo.
Flooded Waste is a solid Crab Province, but its one of our favourite cards in this set because of how it fits the theme so well. When revealed, narratively a flood stops all attacking characters from reaching it to attack and that feels incredibly thematic. It's also a solid defensive Crab clan card.
Asako Azunami is the Phoenix Elemental Master of Water, so we had to include her in our top picks for the water theme pack. She's only the second Elemental Master to appear so far, following Isawa Tadaka and has a great, if restrictive ability. Like Tadaka, her ability is centered around the Ring of her element, but can be hugely impactful if she is able to resolve it. Timing is also key, as players will want to bow their opponents biggest threat before they use it, but also be able to straighten their own character after they have attacked with them.
Yoritomo had to be a pick of the Ebb and Flow pack, not only because of his incredible water themed artwork, but because his fighting style in the fiction is defined by fighting on sea-faring transport. His card in game is a solid 3/3 character, that boosts by the number of fate in your pool, which means that if you don't spend fate, he gets bigger, but will also becomes a target for your opponent and if you're not spending fate to bring out other characters, that could leave you open. It is one card that we are looking forward to exploring in future decks.
Hawk Tattoo is included because we found it a very interesting card. One fate for a +1 Military, plus being able to pull a selected opponent's character into a conflict. Plus, if played on a Monk character, you can take another action. We really like the boosting chained combo feel that this card has to it, which is how monks would work thematically for us. It will be interesting to see if a chained theme deck can be developed.
It's also worth noting in this pack the card Ofushikai, for which the full art card was included in the L5R Novella, The Sword and the Spirits. Which means that the card is now fully released and legal in tournament decks.
All and Nothing
Our picks from the Void themed pack, All and Nothing are Bustling Academy, All and Nothing, Shosuro Sadako and Discourage Pursuit.
Bustling Academy is one of our favourite cards from this Cycle. I love the set up of having a Scholar as a requirement, in-keeping with the Academy theme, but then being able to discard a potential powerful character from your opponents pool, or even cycling through one of your own is very interesting and something we will be looking to explore further.
All and Nothing is mainly in here because we felt it was like hearing the title of the movie said during the dialogue, and we liked that. We also love the Void name and feel. Being able to resolve a ring of your choosing, means that you could double up on a ring that turn and being able to draw a card afterwards means you are not losing out including this in your deck, as you will get the card back from playing it, and with 0 cost, it is indeed all, and nothing.
Shosuro Sadako is another one of our favourite cards from the Cycle. We've only seen the Shadow trait once before, previously in this Cycle, so it may be a building theme. My love of the Scorpion Clan and Shinobi is also no secret. Flipping the dishonoured trait into a positive is something that we're very much looking forward to exploring as the LCG develops. And the flavour text, incredible.
Discourage Pursuit is included because of the immediate tie to Sadako, doubling up on the positive for dishonour for 0 cost, combos very nicely.
Our picks from the final pack of the Elemental Cycle, that ties them all together, Elements Unbound, are Hisu Mori Toride, Tengu Sensei and Minami Kaze Regulars.
Hisu Mori Toride is included because of the incredible feel thematically it has tied in with the L5R setting. The fort is constantly disputed between the Lion and Unicorn, so both of the Clan's have access to their own version of the Fort, which are pretty much identical. The artwork is also nearly the same, with colour changes and subtle differences. It's great that two players could be playing against each other, with the same fort, representing the battle constantly taking place throughout Rogukan.
Tengu Sensei is one of our picks because it's great to see the Tengu make an appearance. The Tengu are mythical creatures from Japanese folklore and while it doesn't have the Tengu trait, meaning we might not see a building fore of them, having them appear is interesting. The card itself is a powerful denial option. Covert usually means that when you declare an attack with that character, you can chose one of your opponents characters that then can't defend. The Tengu Sensei goes one further and also stops that character attacking for the phase.
The Minami Kaze Regulars are a high cost, solid stat unit that has an interesting currency building reaction. If they win a conflict in which you outnumber your opponent, you can draw a card and gain one fate (on top of the Ring claim if attacking). Combing them with keeping a unit unbowed, and winning a couple of conflicts a turn with them, could build into a solid resource building mechanic for a deck, something worth exploring.
What do you think of our card choices? What are your favourite cards from the Elemental Cycle? Let us know in the comments below.
These packs from the L5R LCG Elemental Cycle were provided by Asmodee UK.