Fortune and Fate

Learn About the Draft Side Event at the 2019 Winter Court


"I fear you are searching for the perfect answer. Sometimes there is none, and you must still make a decision."
   –Agasha Sumiko

At the upcoming Winter Court World Championship, you can experience the Emerald Empire of Rokugan like never before through participating in the new Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game draft side event, hosted by developer Tyler Parrott! Represent your Great Clan at the Winter Court in this unique side event, earn prize tickets that can be redeemed for exclusive prize wall rewards, and potentially spar with Tyler Parrott himself! Now, join Tyler as he details this exciting side event!

Tyler Parrott on the 2019 Winter Court Draft Side Event

Each winter in Rokugan, the champions and emissaries of the Great Clans gather together to determine the policies and alliances of the coming year. For some, it is a chance to outwit rivals, elevating themselves and their clan in the eyes of the Emperor. For others, it is a chance to renew bonds of friendship and share experiences that forge future alliances. For all, it is often one of the more spectacular events of the year.

The Winter Court is much the same for players of the Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game. For those attending on November 6–10 at the Fantasy Flight Games Center in Roseville, Minnesota, the chance to play their favorite game and connect with the global Organized Play community is looking to be a varied and exciting opportunity. The main attraction, of course, is the World Championship that will be played out over that weekend, but there will be plenty of other events for those not competing in the main tournament.

Ongoing games allow players to accumulate victories for their clan in a persistent contest for the Emperor’s favor, while another ongoing game series encourages players to experiment with all ten elemental roles. Space will be made for games of Enlightenment multiplayer and/or player-organized casual matches. There are even RPG events on some days for those interested in exploring the rich stories that Rokugan has to offer. But for those seeking something new, fate has allowed for a unique Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game experience that will truly present a challenge of skill and the chance to find new and creative uses of cards that may not always make it into decks.

For the first four days of Winter Court, I will be running five special draft events that will challenge players’ deckbuilding abilities as much as their play skill. In each of these events, seven players will sit down at a table with me and we will draft cards from a common pool until we each have a pair of decks, a row of provinces, and a stronghold that our opponent is trying to break. After Winter Court, the tools players will need to draft with their friends will be made available online, but this represents the first opportunity for anyone to play an exciting and dynamic new format of Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game!

Drafting Samurai

If you're unfamiliar, drafting is a type of game format in which players are given a small pack of cards from which they must choose the strongest, or their favorite, to add to their deckbuilding pool, before passing the remaining cards in the pack to the player sitting next to them. Packs are passed around the table in this way, with each player taking a single card at a time, until each player has a collection of cards they have specifically chosen for their power level or synergy.

Using the cards that you have drafted, you'll build a pair of decks to play against the other players in the draft pod in a contest to see who was able to build the strongest decks and/or pilot those (often not optimized) decks to victory. Because this process requires randomized packs of cards, drafting is a format most often found in collectible games rather than Living Card Games®. However, the draft pool I have constructed creates random packs that can be drawn from, played with, and returned to the box to be repeated again at a later date with the same—or different—players. Importantly, the draft pool can be built with the contents of a single collection, including three Core Sets and one copy of each other expansion.

Because decks that have been drafted are often not optimized in the same way as standard constructed decks, they often look very unique and involve a more creative use of cards. This often requires the mixing of factions, and this new draft experience allows that to happen in both decks—often leading to unexpected card combinations!

Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game requires several specific card types to construct a deck, so when drafting from a limited card pool, it is possible for a player to fail to find a key piece. Perhaps every other player picked up a stronghold right away, leaving you with nothing that remotely matches your drafted clans, or you were able to secure a province of every element except Earth. The draft pool compensates for this by giving each player a ten-card draft starter that contains unique, “Draft format only” cards, ensuring that every player ends up with playable (and fun!) draft decks.

The draft starter supplies each player with a stronghold, five provinces, and eight roles so that they can focus on drafting their conflict and dynasty cards. That said, not everyone ends up using the same stronghold and provinces, as the draft pool also contains most of the strongholds and provinces you’re used to playing with… but if you want to upgrade your deck, you have to draft the stronghold or province out of a pack!

During the draft, players select one card at a time from packs of sixteen cards, each curated by the developer to maximize the fun of the experience. Twelve of these cards are “commonplace” cards, each included in the draft pool in triplicate (except singleton provinces) and chosen to provide base functionality to decks. Some may be very strong, but most of the time these cards support a particular clan’s playstyle rather than incentivizing players to commit to that clan.

The final four cards in that pack are “distinguished” and only appear once in the entire draft pool. This is where players can find the most powerful effects in the game, and/or incentives for constructing a particular style of deck. Moto Nergüi (Disciples of the Void, 17) and Meishōdō Wielder (Core Set, 113) may be commonplace, but the more powerful or specialized Utaku Tetsuko (Underhand of the Emperor, 16) and Iuchi Shahai (All and Nothing, 91) are distinguished enough to only appear once, making them much more valuable cards to select.

At the end of the draft, each player will end up with 80 cards from which they will build two 30-card decks with a stronghold and row of provinces. For players who do not end up with enough dynasty or conflict cards, their decks can be filled out with Wandering Rōnin and Good Omens, respectively—though I don’t recommend it!

New Roles

To make the draft work, eight new “Draft format only” roles are used. These roles unlock most of the cards in the draft pool but require players to commit to two (or three) clans. Per the text on the seven Allied roles, a player may include any number of cards of their allied clan, ignoring influence values—dynasty, conflict, and provinces. This means that if I have a Unicorn stronghold and I’m Allied with the Scorpion, I can include every Unicorn or Scorpion-clan card that I draft in any of my decks!

The Allied roles also contain a plethora of traits, as the card pool for draft is expanded to allow all elementally-locked cards to exist in the same decks. The limited card pool already restricts players’ ability to access powerfully elementally-locked cards, so that deckbuilding restriction is mostly ignored in draft. This can result in some powerful deck constructions if the correct cards are chosen!

But there is also an eighth role, which suggests greater power at a greater cost. This is the Allies of Convenience role, which represents a daimyō who can call upon no allies of note, but whose position allows them to hire or recruit samurai from neighboring clans in a short-sighted attempt to vanquish their foes. The Allies of Convenience role allows a player to include cards from two different clans that don’t match their stronghold, nearly doubling the available options to draft! However, that added flexibility comes with limited power: they cannot include unique cards or provinces from those two additional clans and cannot include role-restricted cards at all!

If a player wishes to pursue the Allies of Convenience role, they may prioritize non-unique cards from several clans, allowing them to bring together effective combinations of potentially synergistic cards but without getting to use some of the more powerful cards available. Playing For Greater Glory (Core Set, 168) to put fate on a Shiba Yōjimbo (Core Set, 89), Hero of Three Trees (​Shoju’s Duty, 116), and Army of the Rising Wave (A Champion’s Foresight, 96) can be powerful, especially when the counterattack is defended by Mirumoto’s Fury (Core Set, 159) or Display of Power (Core Set, 179). But when Phoenix and Lion are both only Allies of Convenience, that player misses out on powerful cards that they could only include if they had Allied with one clan or the other.

Draft opens up a huge array of new strategies and tactics that aren't usually employed in Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game. For example, if a player recognizes which clan the other players are not drafting, that player can capitalize on the availability of the clan and end up with a consistent collection of synergistic cards. Imagine if you figured out that no one was taking the Crane cards—you would get one or more good Crane cards from every pack! But figuring out which clan is available can often be difficult, especially when different players evaluate the power level and importance of cards differently. Will you collect the right combination of cards to formulate a successful strategy?

Glory in Victory

The draft event at Winter Court will take place on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Two draft events will be run on Wednesday for players not participating in the Last Chance Qualifier, because they already have their invitation to the World Championship tournament. A draft will run on Thursday and Friday for players not playing in the World Championship that day, and another draft will run on Saturday morning for players who did not make the top cut.

One player from each Great Clan will be selected for each event, resulting in seven players who will be drafting alongside—and potentially playing against—myself. These players will be drawn from registration lists where players sign up under the clan that they will play in their primary tournament (whether that’s the World Championship or the Last Chance Qualifier). Of course, each player can only draft once during the Winter Court so that more people get an opportunity to participate! If drafting is not your thing, don’t worry­–there are several other side events being hosted throughout the Winter Court that you can participate in!

Each player who participates in the draft event, as well as many players who sign up but are not able to play, will be given a draft starter so that they can use it when drafting with their friends after the event. In addition, players who do well during the event will win prize wall tickets: a tangible reward for illustrating their deckbuilding skills and ability to adapt to unexpected game states!

Drafting is one of my favorite ways to play games, as every game is wholly unique. By adapting this format for Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game, I hope to inspire players to engage with this great game in a new and exciting way and provide a way for a larger group of players to play together. I had a ton of fun developing and playtesting this format, and I think that players will enjoy it as well!

I look forward to getting to meet and play Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game with many of the players who will be attending Winter Court next month. For those who are not attending, this format will be made available after the event through downloadable files on the website. But for those who attend and participate, they will be given the exclusive first opportunity to try the format. And who knows, maybe they’ll find something unexpected when they open up their first pack to draft!

I'll see you at Winter Court!

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