No monk is an island. But he can cast one. This week, Brian Bankler bears bright ideas about an obsucre little card that you probably tossed in your commons pile and neglected,
River around the Hill is one of those Kiho that makes you stop and think "What would I use that for?"
The first thing that most people think of is Enlightenment decks. Once you get out a Ring, then you probably don't need a fair chunk of your deck as support cards. For example, Iaijitsu Art and Double Chi or Void Strike is the standard way to get the Ring of Fire these days. Well, once you've gotten it, you use River around the Hill to get rid of the cards, which lets you draw the cards you need to get for other rings. As a bonus, since it's a Kiho it gets you one-third of the way towards the Ring of Air.
However, there are plenty of other reasons to use River around the Hill. First of all, there are cards that are very good in the early game, but not very good in the late game. The ultimate example is Take the Initiative, which is simply amazing...if it is in your opening hand. Otherwise, it sits there as a one-focus piece of cardboard just waiting to be drawn on a turn when you could have desperately used anything else. There are plenty of other examples, though. Charge is good early on, but later on you can afford followers or fate cards that pack more oomph than temporary two force. Breach of Etiquette can really slow down your opponent, but after you Breach once, you may find yourself winning the honor race.
And then, of course, there are situations where cards that you expected to be good aren't. Breach and a whole slew of cards are useless against the Shadowlands and Ninja. If War Weary hits, then you may want to trim out all of your smaller followers, since you can only play one a turn. Or your deck may be particularly vulnerable to one deck, so you throw in a few cards specifically to deal with it. For example, Distractions of the Flesh can slow down the Turbo Enlightenment decks, and Tsuchi-do can really ruin a Ninja's day. But if your aren't playing those decks, then River around the Hill can get rid of these cards before they get into your hand. If you are playing them, then you can use one River around the Hill to get rid of the rest. If you are playing with high-chi or monks, you can bloat your deck out with cool cards that are useful sometimes. I'd recommend having other ways to use the cards that you get early. [Agasha Gennai is an excellent Personality for clearing out flack. -- ed.]
Notice that you don't have to actually discard any cards to use River around the Hill. You discard "up to" the chi, which includes zero. Why would you do that? Well, you get to reshuffle the deck. If you've got Malekish and you know that the next few cards are useful, but not what you need just now, you can reshuffle the deck. If the cards are useless, you can of course get rid of them, but you don't have to.
Finally, River around the Hill combines very well with the increasingly powerful Path of Wisdom. Path of Wisdom's only special ability is that it comes back into your hand after you discard it (during your end phase). But there are plenty of cards it combines well with. Bayushi Aramasu, Kuni Yori, Agasha Gennai, Shoshuro Chian, Duels (with Bo-Sticks!), Retired Advisors, the list goes on and on. River around the Hill lets you get Path of Wisdom and put it into your discard pile... and then it comes into your hand, ready to be used for whatever nefarious purposes you have in mind.
If you are running a lean and mean deck, you certainly don't need this card. But in a casual game, or in a deck with a few 'gotcha' cards, definitely consider putting a River around the Hill. Also, since you plan on having a few useless cards and you want to be able to get to the River, you should probably have a Grove of the Five Masters, so you can fetch one quickly.
[Additional: The Ruins of Isawa Castle may want to give special consideration to River around the Hill. Their stronghold ability allows them the possibility of constructing a rather large fate deck with various situational Kiho. If you judge that some of those Kiho aren't going to help you much, you can bow your Stronghold and a Personality to remove the chaff from the wheat. And if Kuro casts it, you even get a card out of the deal.
Also, among the Fire and Shadow spoiler leaks lurks Hanoshi, a Monk who may be more than happy for you to transfer cards from your deck to your discard pile.
Those interested in River around the Hill may want to consider, in addition or in stead, Wisdom the Wind Brings. WtWB gives you the added bonus of knowing what's coming up and the ability to pick through your Dynasty Deck (and look at various other face down cards. If you cast with sufficiently high chi, you're likely to see enough cards so that, barring a reshuffle, you wouldn't end up drawing anything below that point anyway. River around the Hill probably warrants more consideration for a multiplayer deck. You'll see more cards, and you'll have more uses for situational cards.
River around the Hill isn't the only way to remove Path of Wisdom from your deck either. Isawa Norikazu experienced 2 can do that and remove an entire deck of Lesser Oni from contention at the same time. Look for more on Nork in a few weeks in part two of the Superior Tactics Mad Shugenja series. -- ed.]
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