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Superior Tactics #9: Yokatsu Sensei

I hope everyone's had a phat Tuesday. I've got a few more cards lined up for the coming weeks, but I've got some space for anyone who wants to get a word in before people start oggling Fire and Shadow cards. I'd like to ask anyone interested in writing an article on something in Fire and Shadow to wait a week or so after the set's hit the shelves so that you (and others) can look at the full range of options available for a card. But now, on with the show!


Bayushi Tasogare here again. This week we take a look at the teachings of a man who has been reviled for his choice of political allies, Shinjo Yokatsu. Somewhat ironically, his Sensei card has been reviled as well, for its benefit seems minimal compared to its drawback.
Yokatsu Sensei
Crab. Lion. Scorpion. Shadowlands. Unicorn. Sensei.
You cannot attach more than one Follower per turn to each of your personalities.
Battle: Once per turn, attach a Follower to one of your personalities in this battle. Pay all costs.

Most people looked at this card and went, "HUH? What's the !@#!@ point??" And I agree, for most of the Clans mentioned, there are few uses for Yokatsu Sensei. Let's look at them.

  1. Getting Followers into battle that have problems being assigned or moved into battle.

    There are three Followers that qualify for this:

    1. Imperial Palace Guard. This is a big Follower, but destroys itself if you assign. Yokatsu Sensei is one of the set of 'movement' cards that enables this card to be used offensively. Its bonus is that it is constant, therefore eliminating the need to have the movement card in hand. Considering its 8 Force while you have the Favor, this is most likely a 'combo' for Lion attack decks, especially those with Ryozo who won't use the Favor anyway.
    2. Mercenaries. The big-bad cost effective 4F/3g Mercenaries that are a drain on your resources. Well, with Yokatsu Sensei, you get one free use of them, essentially. [As cautious as one should be about a phrase like "The first hit is free!", don't discount the surprise value of a sudden 4F Follower. Especially if you're about to Wedge. -- ed.]
    3. Gaijin Mercenaries. Small wonder that the other Mercenaries expect to be paid. Cf. Mercenaries.

      This use, to me, helps the normally cash-poor Lion the most, along with the favorable Imperial Palace Guard connection.

  2. Surprising opponent with battle action Followers

    For this use, my own Scorpion Clan can probably use Yokatsu Sensei the best. Attaching Spearmen as a Battle action is one small step away from Arrows from the Woods for surprise value. Imperial Legion (ironically) is another prime Follower that suggests itself to the Scorpion military. A bonus to the Yogo Scorpion players out there is that you can bow all of your personalities who you wish to bow, and then attach the Followers to those personalities who are still straightened.

    Another surprise you can pull on your opponent involves the old Follower stand-by, Stand Against the Waves. Say you have 2 personalities without Followers, and one Follower and Stand in your hand. You can declare an attack, attack 2 Provinces, assign one Personality without Followers to each Province, and then whichever he blocks, throw the Follower on the Follower-less Personality, and then Stand.

    Another use the Scorpion may find with Yokatsu Sensei would be with their Movement Personality, Bayushi Marumo. Since his movement ability is restricted by the number of Followers on him, you can have one Follower on him (say, Ashigaru), and then use Yokatsu Sensei to place another on him (assuming the Ashigaru was attached in a previous turn), taking a Province.

  3. Gaining more use out of the Cavalry Trait

    This is probably the best use of Yokatsu Sensei, as befits the teachings of the Daimyo of the only primarily Cavalry army in Rokugan. A long-time complaint of Unicorn players and other aficionados of Cavalry lies in the relative lack of Cavalry Followers vis-a-vis Infantry Followers. In most players' opinions, the Cavalry trait costs too much to lose it to gain good Followers (i.e., infantry Followers). [One might wonder what sorts of Followers a cavalry unit might like to attach. Imperial Honor Guard is one nice choice, though Yokatsu may have to Sneak Attack to get them there in time. War Dogs, Ikiro, The Damned, and other Followers which won't stick around long won't hamper your future outmaneuver options. And, of course, an infantry Follower usually has more Force for a given gold cost than an otherwise equal cavalry Follower. -- ed.] Now, the Unicorn have some ways to get infantry Followers into a battle without hampering the advantage given my their steeds (Shinjo Yasamura nonexp, Iuchi Katta, Shinjo Yokatsu nonexp, and the original Unicorn stronghold), and there are also some spells which do this, but none effective enough to warrant the inclusion of infantry Followers in their decks.

    Enter Yokatsu Sensei. How does this help, you ask? Since any infantry Followers you attach will be ideally attached in the Battle Action segment (after your Cavalry have avoided your opponent), you can attach Infantry Followers to your Cavalry Personalities, and have the best of both worlds.

    Ah, what's this? They no longer get to assign as Cavalry? A purely temporary advantage, you say? Not necessarily so! As noted previously, the Unicorn Clan has various methods of dealing with 'infantry'. Katta seems to find his way into almost every Unicorn deck, for his -HR if nothing else. Now, his innate ability can help you retain the edge your Infantry Followers give you. Karasu is the next-best shugenja. Why, you ask? As Trevor Stone aptly pointed out in his article [Superior Tactics #1] on Karasu, you can move Followers as an Open action, including in battle. Say you have Shinjo Shirasu with Mercenaries, and another Shirasu. Assign the Follower-less Shirasu as Cavalry, then move the Mercenaries onto him with Karasu (incidentally, again not having to pay them). This tactic works well, except when you are reliant on Battle Maidens, as they will only attach Cavalry Followers. You would therefore have a very 'Shinjo' flavored Unicorn deck.

Now, these are all plausible uses for Yokatsu Sensei. But what about the detriments to using him? First, you can't dogpile your Followers onto one Personality. Anyone who has faced off against a Tattered Ear Tribe onslaught knows how scary Ratlings can be. However, most Ratling decks would be using Ak'tok'tuk Sensei anyway, and therefore would not be able to play this.

Second, you can be hurt by giving your opponent actions against Follower-less Personalities. As I am a Yogo Stronghold player, I know how much damage this can generate. Perhaps of more concern to Cavalry personalities is Refugees. You can also be hit by your opponents' Stand Against the Waves if you are not careful.

Third, you need Follower cards in hand. Since Yokatsu Sensei does not override the Follower Regions' 'Limited' keyword, you can only attach card Followers with his ability.

As a final word, note that all of the Clans who can play with Yokatsu Sensei have useful Cavalry Personalities. Here are a few good 'combos' to play with each Clan, with Point III in mind.

Yokatsu Sensei, perhaps not worth his weight in rice, but in my opinion more useful than the average player gives him credit for.

Bayushi Tasogare
Scorpion Clan Superior Tactician

[Additional: Yokatsu Sensei brings out an important strategy consideration: the value of surprise. Normally, playing with Followers sacrifices possibilities for surprise for permanent force. With Yokatsu Sensei, you can have your surprise and keep it to. Sort of. Your opponent knows you're playing with Yokatsu, and thus should expect you to pull out a Follower at any moment. Whether it's a Bandit Gang (who still must be paid) on quick defense or whether it's an Ogre Warriors tossed onto Toku at an undefended province, your opponent should be ready. But most aren't. In the heat of battle, players count force on the table, factor in a few cards in their hand, and forget that Yokatsu Sensei can be a decent card. The restriction of one Follower per turn per Personality makes Yokatsu Sensei a better choice for a deck with a few Followers and other miscellaneous cards than one which likes to toss a couple Ashigaru on a Personality on the second turn and point him in the direction of the opponent. If your opponent doesn't know what sorts of Followers you've got, he may be in for a pleasant surprise. Or you could bluff. Play Yokatsu Sensei without any Followers in the deck, and occasionally grumble something about Naga Pearl Guardians not liking you.

Also, for those who like to bend the rules, check out Barracks. Yokatsu can attach to it, since Barracks accepts Followers, but Barracks isn't a Personality, so it isn't limited by the "one per turn" clause. For more tips on Barracks, watch this spot in a few weeks. Anyone who's had experience with decks using Barracks, let me know your reflections.

A point I neglected to make before sending this article out, your Stronghold must be unbowed to use Yokatsu Sensei. This prevents its use for second-turn defensive reserves, and may throw a wrench in your tactical plans (keep your Stronghold unbowed when you go into battle, or you may find your plan unable to come to fruiton. -- ed.]


Card text copyright FRPG, 1995-2000.
Article text copyright Scott Hebert, 2000.

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