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L5R Deckbuilding: Crab

Today we will be focusing on the Crab clan. This clan has a special attachment to me as my very first deck way back in the day was oni crab. Ogres and various Oni swearing fealty to the crab clan to invade the crane are things that I have fond memories of.

Crab is also a nice change of pace from the other clans we have discussed so far because they function very differently from the rest. We have to include cards for them we would not really consider in other clans. Finding the right mix of characters and holdings in a crab deck is also a challenge as their economy cards require a holding to be in play.

The final deck can be found here.


As always everything starts with the stronghold. Our house would of course be Shiro Nishiyama. Our ability is to bow the stronghold to provide a bonus of 1 military and 1 political to each of our defenders for this conflict. The stronghold provides us with several tips on how to build our decks. First we want to be defend. Therefore we have to have cards that either unbow our characters or prevent them from bowing on defense. Second it suggests going for a wide board rather than a tall one to maximize the bonus we get.

Looking at the other cards available to us we also see that there are multiple cards that cost your Opponent honor. Watch commander and Intimidating Hida both ask your opponent to pay honor for certain things. If we were to bid high with our opponent then their effects would be diminished. This leads us to a dishonor strategy where we bid low. Next we have cards which work of holdings so we have to include things which will provide us holdings on demand. Third we have our theme of persistence (for those who do not know kisada was named fortune of persistence) which allows us to maintain our board state for longer than our opponent. It is not uncommon for a kisada who charged in first turn to last for the entire game. Our theme of sacrifice (spending our whole lives on the wall) lets us make the most use out of all our cards. We don’t have anything else to specifically cause dishonor loss like phoenix has so it will only be our secondary win condition.

Knowing all this we can come up with our basic strategy. We bid low to deny our opponent cards and pressure a dishonor victory all the while drawing cards ourselves using other methods. Our win condition will be province destruction relying on our military might while we try to delay our opponent by defending our provinces.


Our home lineup will be manicured garden (a very good case can be made for fertile fields), shameful display, meditations of the tao, and defend the wall. While our house province is either rally to the cause or elemental fury. We design our provinces this way because we are going to be defending from the start and not just at our final province. Every province provides some sort of recurring benefit when attacked. No free pokes for our opponent.


The most apparent thing about the crab is how lopsided their stats are toward military. Kisada himself best illustrates this at a whopping 7/2. This means we have to put cards that specifically help us to defend against political challenges. We also include multiple low cost cards to benefit from the house bonus and to be sacrificed once they are bowed for the turn.


Holdings are particularly important for crab. Additional card draw and fate generation depend upon them. Despite this we are still only including 6 holdings in our deck because we cannot risk clogging our flop with cards that we cannot play. We rely instead on our conflict deck to provide us with the holdings we need when the cards that require them come out. Normally I would include 6 card draw holdings for a deck who plans to bid low every turn. Favorable Ground is just too good an effect not to include since we are running 3 rebuilds to potentially recur it.

1 cost

Hida Guardian, Kaiu envoy, and Otomo courtier make up our one costs. The most controversial decision made here is the replacement of the eager scout for the otomo courtier. Yes eager scout costs 0 as opposed to one and can be sacrificed for way of the crab. In practice though the scout has 0 military skill and 0 political skill. The only value he ends up providing is his eventual sacrifice. The otomo courtier at 2 politics already provides one of the highest political values in your deck. She provides you with the option to conduct a political probing attack that must be defended and can be used for defense as well. With the favor and the house she can provide 4 political defense. This is very useful for the early game. Later on she can be sacrificed for anything short of way of the crab just like the scout.

2 cost

Hiruma Yojimbo, vanguard warrior, shrewd yasuki, and keeper initiate make up our two costs. There is really nothing controversial here. These are some of the very best cards available to crab. It is important to note that all of our 2 costs are assasination magnets so you should think twice about putting more than one fate on them. Remember assassination has a cost which denies our opponent even more cards.

3 cost

Intimidating Hida and 1 borderlands defender make up our 3 slot. I can already hear the complaints about everyone favorite berserker not making the cut. In my experience crab does not have any problem with military. They even give lion a run for their money. Politics is where they suffer the most. I cant afford to include a 3 cost card that cannot be used for political defense in a pinch. The hida and borderlands defenders are more of a personal choice. I find that the hida actively pursues my win condition by forcing my opponent to attack or lose honor.

4-5 cost

Shuici, Kisada, and Witch hunter. These are your main attackers. Any of them that make it to the board will most likely stay for the remainder of the game. Remember that the witch hunter is a shugenja. She can be targeted by against the waves to bow her.


The conflict deck is divided into 4 parts. Force Boosts, Defense, Longevity, and Card Draw.


As usual we have Banzai, Court Games, Katana, Banzai, Charge, and the fan. This is actually the most boring part of deck building to discuss. Due to the limited amount of cards available these cards will show up in every deck. Hopefully we get more variety after the first cycle comes out. Usually the only difference you will see is whether or not the deck contains charge


Mountain Does Not Fall is actually a controversial card among crab players. Some find that they do not need it anymore as the witch hunter provides a ready effect while others find that it is an automatic 3 of and even include indomitable will from dragon (this is a bad idea). I would normally not include it but was able to cut a stoic gunso and way of the crab to include two.


Repreive in conflict and vanguard warrior in dynasty make up this section. Repreive is actually the most critical attachment in the deck, more important than watch commander or even spyglass.

Conflict Characters

We have 5 in this deck. 3 luchi wayfinder and 2 stoic gunsos. I have a bias towards one cost conflict characters. Anytime I have access to one it is an immediate 3 of. Our other choice is Stoic Gunso. He is an effective 5 force for 2 fate which is just a lot of value which earns him a slot in the deck.

Way of the Crab

One of the things you may notice in the deck is there are only 2 way of the crabs. I find that the better your opponent is the less opportunity you will have to use way. This does not mean they are useless. Just the threat of way of the crab forces your opponent to make sub optimal plays. I would never run 0 copies but I am comfortable dropping them down to 2 to make room for other stuff I may need. It may even be possible to drop it down to 1.


Our chosen splash in this deck is unicorn. 3 spyglasses augment our card draw since we are committed to bidding low. The 3 wayfinders are mentioned in the previous section and the one captive audience is there just in case we need it for the final push. Spyglass also works better in crab than in other clans because there are so many quality attachments. Watch Commander, Reprieve, and Spyglass that let go cannot target them all.


Crab is very weak to bowing effects. They need their ready to be able to engage in multiple conflicts per turn. To counter this lion would also be a viable splash. 3 ready for battles protect against this and 3 sashimonos work as well because let go has better targets. A single copy of for greater glory would work as well. Scorpion would work as well. Crab has very little glory and can steal items with little consequence. Court Masks also provide a reusable source of political buffs to make up for the lack of card draw. It would even work better than court games in crab as they get nothing for being honored.

This post first appeared on TSUKES THOUGHTS – When The Mainstream Gets It Wrong, please read the originial post: here

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L5R Deckbuilding: Crab


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