I apologize for the delay since the last article, I was busy with school and then went out of town. I'll post a few more articles from the backlog over the next few days, and after that I've an empty queue. Now's the time to send insights about your favorite (or least favorite) Fire and Shadow cards. This set has a lot of cards with interesting and subtle uses, which makes them perfect candidates for Superior Tactics.
This week, Brian Bankler explores the possible uses for the wrong path.
"The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao." -- Lao-Tze (Tao Te Jing)
The False Tao may very well be the most overlooked card from Ambition's Debt. [Probably because, if you're looking at Ambition's Debt lists, you won't find The False Tao, since it's from Honor Bound. -- ed.] It's easy to see why, it gives the other player permanent force, but only turns off rings for a turn. But that trade is very good. As any who has every played against a Crane Honor Runner will tell you, force is nice, but actions win or lose the game. And the Elemental Rings have some very nice actions indeed. [Of course, they're no longer reacting, they're just played at reaction speed. -- ed.] The False Tao does only counter five cards, but they are five of the most important and often-played cards in the game. Examining each ring:
The Ring of Air will probably be the card that the False Tao is used against the most. Partially because it's so easy to put into play and partially because it is so effective. There are plenty of spell effects that a deck could worry about redirecting, from Touch of Death to Chasing Osano Wo. Giving up 1 Force to guarantee all of your spell effects go where they were aimed is a small price to pay. If you have lots of nasty targeted spell effects, the False Tao is a very good way to ensure that they get through.
The Ring of Earth probably won't be targeted often, but when it is it should invariably give your opponent +1F and cost him a province. A good trade, indeed. The best users of the False Tao in this case will probably Unicorn, who are no doubt tired of the Brotherhood constantly starting with the Ring of Earth against them. But the Brotherhood can use it too, if they start with the Ring of Water. [If your opponent's only option is to throw a spud in the way to save a province, a 1F for -3 Province Strength trade is well worth the effort. -- ed.]
The Ring of Fire is probably not worth targeting, unless you are a dedicated dueling deck. It's also difficult to stop another dueling deck with the Fire Ring, since they can always issue an Iaijutsu Challenge as their first limited action.
The Ring of Water is an excellent target for the False Tao, since it often means lost provinces if it's out. Again, the Brotherhood are likely to be the people most often hurt by the False Tao.
Finally, the Ring of Void is an excellent ring to shut off, and most decks tend to play with it, if only "Just in Case". The only problem with shutting off the Void Ring is if the player manages to empty his hand when the False Tao is bowed (after having targeted a Ring) or during his Dynasty Phase (using Merchant Caravans) and puts the ring out then, when it is too late to do any thing about. But even so, the False Tao will keep them from ever getting more than one use from the Void Ring. Against dedicated card flow decks (like Mantis Empty The Hand) this is a crushing blow. Also, some decks actively try to deplete your opponents hand, using Kuni Yori or Shosuro Chian. Those decks need The False Tao to keep the opponent from simply dropping the Ring of Void and ignoring your deck.
Having looked at the rings individually, does the False Tao really help against turbo enlightenment decks? Not much more than against individual rings. The False Tao prevents the rings from affecting play, but not from being in play. But the ability to turn off a ring may still prove crucial to the game. [Current rulings state that the Ring is not considered to be in play at all, but that won't stop someone from winning through Enlightenment at the beginning of your turn. -- ed.]
There is another aspect to the False Tao, though. Who to give the force to? Ideally you'd like to give the force to someone who can't use it very well. Good choices are personalities who the controller wouldn't want to risk in battle, like Bayushi Goshiu. Also, if you are planning on killing a personality (via a duel, Remorseful Seppuku, or Touch of Death) then give them the force bonus first. And if you are playing with Peasant Revolt you should remember to bump as many 2F personalities up to 3F as possible. [Furthermore, Ninja are well known for caring less how much force their opponents have -- ed.]
The False Tao can really start to shine in multiplayer games, though. First of all, you have more targets. And The False Tao can also be used during battles to give one of your allies +1F, assuming they have a Ring in play. [Actually, you can pump force even if someone doesn't have a Ring in play. You can also hit a Ring of someone who lacks personalities. -- ed.] Also, if you are a small ally in a large battle, never overlook the possibility of using The False Tao (and other means, probably) to force the battle into a tie. Sure, the two main players get some honor, but the resulting carnage can make the game easy for anyone who didn't commit heavily.
Finally, are there better ways to deal with Rings? Well, if you are mainly interested in stopping or slowing enlightenment, definitely. But if you want to turn off a ring or remove it from play, not really. Doom of the Brotherhood is an event, not very reliable and it will also keep your ring out of the game. There are several cards that put a ring back in hand. This can be devastating against the Water Ring, but are usually just inconveniences to Air and Void. Also, cards like Led from the True Path or Bleeding the Elements have some pretty strict requirements.
Still, The False Tao isn't such a flexible card that you can just drop it into a deck. But if you know what Ring you need to turn off and why, this is a great way to do it.
[Additional: Some side effects of blocking off a Ring arise when cards check for a Ring. You can't use Finding the Harmony to cycle the targeted Ring. Prayer Shrines produce less gold while Robes of Shinsei, Brothers of Thunder, and Hitomi Dajan have less force. Turning off a player's only Ring may save your province thanks to Death of the Ki-Rin. The Monk Acolytes lose their respective abilities. You can destroy the Vows of the Brotherhood. Or you can even, say, hide the Ring of Earth before Oni no Jimen eats a Region.
There aren't many ways of dealing with The False Tao. If you can get its controller to attack, the whole unit bows and can't be used on your turn. Of course, you can Ninja Thief or Ratling Thief it to one of your guys or kill the controller.
A cunning player, when she finds a card which has a drawback, thinks of ways to use that drawback to her advantage. Team play is one such instance; pump your teammate's Personalities. Another is if you plan to take control of that personality. Or perhaps you improve your largest foe, only to copy him with Ninja Shapeshifters and hold him tight with Iuchi Karasu. Or you can lull your opponent with a false sense of security in his newfound force, only to play In Search of the Future. And any force bonus in battle can be compensated for with a Hoshi Wayan or three. Sure, we Monks seek the True Tao, but while we have a copy of the false one... -- ed.]
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