The Path to Enlightenment
Discover the Mystical Dragon Clan with Guest Writer Kilian Downey
"Find your own path."
–Way of the Dragon
The enigmatic Dragon are hard to define. With a focus on individuality, the Dragon Clan run the gamut from introspective detectives to monks who have become masters of the martial arts. Their themes in Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game are just as diverse, with plenty of options on how to approach the unique conflicts of the game. Today, guest writer Kilian Downey unravels the mysteries of the reclusive monks of the mountain.
Kilian Downey: Do you like monks with magical tattoos that may or may not have driven them to the edge of madness? How about hardboiled detectives who upend the norms of their society in search of truth and justice? Perhaps you like master alchemists raining down fiery potions? Or steadfast samurai, a sword in each hand, ready to duel to the death? Well then have I got a clan for you! Even if you don’t connect with any of these things (and I’m not sure how that’s possible) the Dragon have got something for you because, more than any other clan, the Dragon accept and even embrace individuality.
This acceptance is borne out of the pursuit of enlightenment for which the clan was founded. Other clans ignore the path towards enlightenment entirely or pursue it through strict adherence to a single ideal. Samurai and monks alike grasp endlessly in their pursuit. Most fail, not understanding what the path is, or how to traverse it. The Dragon Clan, however, are not like most of their peers. Whether it’s the pragmatic Mirumoto, the mystical Agasha, the insightful Kitsuki, or the mysterious Togashi, all who call themselves Dragon understand the truth. Enlightenment is not at the end of a path—it is the path itself.
All are welcome on the path and all who earnestly seek enlightenment are welcome in the temples of the Dragon. Each path towards enlightenment is unique, just as no two people journey the same path up the mountains. In their mountain temples, the Dragon are set apart from the rest of the empire: geographically, philosophically, and culturally.
Actions that would be unthinkable for the samurai of any other clan are accepted and encouraged within the Dragon. The Kitsuki eschew testimony in favor of evidence. The Agasha pursue potions and elixirs as eagerly as they do the favor of the spirits. Even peasants may raise their place in the social order if they earnestly pursue enlightenment with the Togashi. There is no clan that has more diversity of thought, more adaptability, or more outright strangeness than the Dragon.
The diversity, adaptability, and yes, even the strangeness of the Dragon Clan has been captured beautifully in their design for the LCG®. This diversity can be seen chiefly in the fact that their design doesn’t box you into a rigid playstyle. If you want to build up a single, giant character and take your opponent’s stronghold at the end of turn two, you can do that. Just recruit a Niten Master (Core Set, 64) and give him a Fine Katana (Core Set, 200) or two. On the other hand, if you want to slowly eat away at your opponent’s hand while saving up fate to grind them out in a long game, you can do that too. Drop a Jade Masterpiece (Tears of Amaterasu, 14) on a Kitsuki Investigator (Core Set, 61) and watch your opponent’s resources dwindle. When you're deckbuilding for a Dragon deck, few cards are off-limits. In addition to having their own Monk theme, the Dragon have Bushi aplenty and Shugenja enough to play Spells. Dragon can even comfortably run Courtier cards, as their two Courtier characters are both quite good and go into most decks. If you love bringing a personal flair to the decks you build, then the Dragon gives you all the tools you could want.
The adaptability of the Dragon is reflected in the design of their characters, who tend to have balanced stats, and in the Dragon attachments, which often provide a static skill bonus and another mechanic to generate value. Because of this, the Dragon can not only use value or tempo based strategies, but they can pursue either strategy out of a single deck by simply changing their playstyle.
This means that players who favor a particular style can have fun with the faction regardless of their preference, but it also means that a skilled Dragon player can adapt to whatever is needed in a particular game and still have a chance to win from any board position. Looking at the Dragon stronghold, we again see the adaptability of the clan. On the face, Mountain's Anvil Castle (Core Set, 3) is simple—it gives a strength boost to a character with attachments. It's the myriad ways in which you can use this ability that make it so interesting. Some of these uses are obvious, like boosting a character’s skill to crack a province or raising your character's skill before they initiate a duel. Other uses, however, are more subtle.
The way that I most enjoy using the stronghold is to force my opponent to use cards. Sometimes, simply using the stronghold in the normal course of play is enough to draw additional cards from your opponent’s hand. This is certainly nice when it happens, but, thanks to the Dragon’s access to Ancestral attachments, these kinds of scenarios can be purposefully engineered turn after turn. Because Ancestral attachments return to hand when the character they are attached to leaves play, these attachments, combined with the stronghold, allow an unthreatening character like Togashi Initiate (Core Set, 55) to transform into a threat that must be answered. Moreover, unless an answer targets the attachment itself, you’ll simply be able to repeat the process again next turn with a Togashi Mendicant (Meditations on the Ephemeral, 105) or a Doomed Shugenja (Core Set, 54). Beyond Ancestral attachments, the Togashi have their Tattoos, the Agasha have their Spells, and more than once I’ve used an opponent’s Pacifism (Core Set, 174) or Cloud the Mind (Core Set, 202) to boost the character it was attached to. If you love the puzzle-solving aspect of finding the right line of play in card games or if you just hate feeling like you're out of choices, then the Dragon put you in a good spot.
Finally, the Dragon have access to some of the most unusual card effects in the game. They can manipulate fate on rings in a way that nobody else can. They have a holding (The Chrysanthemum Throne, 66) that can attach to their stronghold. Their Champion (Core Set, 65) is a Bushi and a Shugenja. Kitsuki Yaruma (Tears of Amaterasu, 6) can flip provinces facedown. They have conflict characters that can be played as attachments. Togashi Tadakatsu (Disciples of the Void, 15) allows the defender to choose the element of a conflict. All of these cards are unique within Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game and that’s what makes them so much fun. Basically, if you enjoy having your opponent say “Wait, what?” and then read your card with a confused look on their face, then look no further.
So, there you go. I’ve given you the lowdown on the Dragon and why they’re my favorite of the clans of Rokugan. They’ve got the tools and they’ve got the talent. There’s plenty more I could say, but much like the Dragon, each player’s path will be their own. So, sleeve up some green guys and see if you don’t have a good time.
Kilian Downey is a contributor to the Jade Throne Podcast and a Dragon Clan Hatamoto. You can check the Jade Throne Podcast out here . Special thanks from Kilian to all the Team Tsunami guys.
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