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My First Sword

There's a tradition among Legends of the Five Rings gamers that the bigger regional tournaments are called Sword Tournaments, because the prizes include one or more Japanese swords. I've never won one of these. I've never really wanted to own a sword all that much, though I know many fantasy gamers are big collectors of… Well, not historical weaponry exactly. More like bigger, unbalanced Hollywood remakes of various hand-to-hand weapons.

But earning a sword, that's different somehow. On Saturday, I visited Rainy Day Games in Aloha, Oregon, to play in their first sword tournament, and came home with a tanto, the smallest of the three traditional samurai swords.

First off, Rainy Day is great venue. They stock everything, and it's organized. The place is large and well-lit; it's also spotlessly clean. The staff is helpful but not overbearing.

If you don't play L5R, you might as well skip the jargon section, but yes, I've written up the
The five rounds of Swiss started on time, a minor miracle for anyone who has attended large tournaments. Thanks to TO Greg Zuvich for that, and for keeping things going smoothly all day.

Of the 40 players, the clan breakdown was 5 Crab, 7 Crane, 7 Dragon, 4 Lion, 6 Mantis, 2 Phoenix, 3 Ratling, 1 Scorpion, 1 Shadowlands, and 3 Unicorn. I was playing a very corrupt Mantis deck with Black Heart of the Empire, fine-tuned by my buddy Sigfried just the day before.

Round 1 vs. Michelle Hammer, Crane/Underhand
My early Ambush/Overwhelmed wiped out Tanitsu, Kolat Assassin took out her next personality, and in general I killed courtiers to allow my samurai to assign. Without defenders, she could put up a defense.

Round 2 vs. Chris Allen, Dragon/Ring of Water
I got exactly one Personality, and just couldn't defend against his mass of small, speedy attackers. It wasn't even close. Luck ran against me, but at least it was over quickly.

Round 3 vs. Chris Deitz, Dragon/Ring of Fire
I made at least two mistakes this game, such as shooting the large Monk instead of the monk with two Takao's Jingasa's, but he made several more mistakes, such as playing Lessons too early and playing a Strategic Crossroads with only two people he could pull into the battle -- and at a battle where I had presence. His Enlightenment victory stalled at two rings.

Round 4: Mantis Player with Kyuden Gotei/Left Hand
I won this game by turning my opponent's Ambush against him. The critical play was his third turn Terao ambushing my bowed Nobumoto plus Tsuruchi Legion. I played Call to Arms to straighten, then navally range attacked Terao. A major force swing that was supposed to set him up to take provinces instead set me up to do the same. He put up a fight to the end, but the momentum was all mine from that point.

Round 5: Caroline with Phoenix/Left Hand
I hated this match before we even started, because Caroline was one of the people I drove down with, and we're both good players. In fact, at this point, 3 of my 5 opponents were people I regularly play against in Seattle. Worse, the winner of this match would be in the finals. The loser would not make the cut.

The game started slowly, with her gold development weak. In her only mistake of the game, Caroline forgot to favor home an attacker, costing her a second province and likely the game. I know I got lucky in this particular matchup, and I wish I'd been paired against a different opponent. But them's the breaks.
4-1 and off to the finals

The Top 8 were 2 Crab, 2 Lion, 2 Mantis, 1 Unicorn, and 1 Dragon.

Round of Eight
I played best 2 out of 3 against Chris Bowyer, a Unicorn player and a good one. In game 1, I started poorly and was quickly down two provinces and it looked very grim indeed for me. The MVP card of the game was Defensive Screen, which allowed me to make a comeback by whittling down his army with impunity. The comeback was tough, but I figured I could take him in round two with a decent start.

In game two, I saw first turn Daidoji Merchants, second turn Marketplace and Hiruma. Pretty much the ideal gold start. From that point on, I Overwhelmed to save a province, then used Hiro and the Tsuruchi Legion to wipe out his attackers, again dominating the mind to late game despite losing provinces early.

Round of Four
I played this round against Yasuki Jeremy, a Seattle area Crab player of long standing. Crab is not an especially good matchup for my deck type, but I thought I had a few tricks that might have done swung it my way. The first game went very badly for me, with Jeremy going first, pulling lots of Force and followers, and a mid-game Champion. I just never held enough to defend well.

The second game I took a chance and bought a second-turn Kitao. This turned out to be a good idea, as she got me a third-turn province, but then again, Kuon hit the table. If I hadn't made the mistake of declaring an attack, Kitao could have challenged Kuon, and the game would likely have gone my way. Instead, we both lost our biggest units, and the slow Crab accumulation of hard-to-kill berserkers got me. Also, I was not aware that Kieketsu's ability works on followers, but according to the rules, followers have 0 Chi. It might have made a difference. It might not.

The second game was infuriating, because I hate making mistakes. I especially hate it at the tournament level when I've allowed my opponent to take back a play, but he doesn't return the courtesy. At the time, it just made me angry, which oddly enough made me play with much more concentration. And besides, what kind of fool expects courtesy from a Crab?

I lost in two straight and I was out of the finals, finishing in 4th. The top 4 were David with Dragon, then Jeremy with Crab, then Jamie with Crab, then me with Mantis. What's especially nice about this is that of the so-called first-tier clans, only Mantis finished in top 4. No one expected Crab decks or Dragon decks to dominate. Lion made top 8. Crane and Phoenix didn't even make the finals. That's strangely satisfying.

Deck list might be available on request, but I'm not typing it up again now. I have about eight cards I'd change, maybe nine, to deal with Water Dragon. I'm finally convinced that Overconfidence should be part of every winning deck.

In the end, it boils down to me losing to Jeremy in the semi-finals, and Jeremy lost in the finals to David Silverman's Water Dragon. Or if you are an optimist, I beat Chris Bowyer to seize a spot in the top four. Either way, by that time it was 9 o'clock, so the TO handed out prizes, including my tanto for fourth place.

The 10 Seattle players enjoyed a celebratory dinner together, then split into separate cars to make the long drive back north. Danny insisted I drive back with him, and I didn't object, since I felt awkward about driving back with Caroline, the person I had knocked out of the finals.

The tanto is now up on the mantel; a well-made reproduction of the traditional blades, with a real edge on it, about 15" long. I like the look of it.


( 2 sutras — Your wisdom )
Feb. 25th, 2004 10:28 am (UTC)
Good job
Congrats, Wolfgang.

I know that the katana I won last summer is on my wall, too. :)
Feb. 26th, 2004 03:13 pm (UTC)
Congratulations! Can't wait to see the new acquisition!
( 2 sutras — Your wisdom )

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