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Superior Tactics #19: Ishikawa

Usagi Satsui, the Hare Clan representative in Otosan Uchi recently visited the grave of a man who fought bravely during the fall of the Hantei.

Ishikawa - Rare Personality (SCC1) - 3F - 4C - 5HR - 9G - 3PH
Unaligned Samurai. Captain of the Imperial Guard. Unique. Imperial cards being attached to Ishikawa have their gold cost reduced by three.
Political Battle: Bow Ishikawa if you have the Imperial Favor and target one opposing human Personality with a Personal Honor of zero. That Personality is sent home without bowing. This is considered a use of the Imperial Favor but you do not discard the Favor.

Sure, Toku may be Captain of the Imperial Guard nowadays. And while he does a pretty decent job of it, perhaps the guy who used to fill the position isn't so bad either. In fact, he fits in well at the Palace.

First off, his stats are average, having decent force and chi. Not being in clan is a killer for most people, especially with a high gold cost, but being Imperial, he's 2 less for a Palace player. On top of that, he's an Unaligned Samurai, so the Basecamp produces 4 when paying for him. And with the Wave Men or Creating the Monkey Clan, his price can be dropped even further. 5 HR is easy for the early Toku, and you're there. The 3 PH makes him a target for Strength of Purity, as well as another card I'll discuss later, but unfortunately, you can't gain honor for it (without other cards). [The Otaku Palaces may also acquire an early Ishikawa with a first turn Silk Works. Of course, it's been a while since I've seen a Unicorn deck creative enough to include unaligned infantry personalities. -- ed.]

He also has another nice trait, however. Imperial cards attached to him cost 3 less. This combines very nicely with the Palace's discount, making Imperial cards thrown on Ishikawa a whopping 5 less. Sounds good? Well, very few Imperial cards attach, and most of them are Followers. But the followers that can attach are a good lot: Imperial Legion, Imperial Honor Guard, and Imperial Palace Guard. Yep, free Legions. IHG off a Basecamp. Feeling defensive? 4 gold gets you an 11F unit with the Palace Guard. And do I need to mention that the Palace makes followers even cheaper?

There's one more Imperial card to throw on Ishikawa, and it's an item. The Imperial Standard. His 3 PH lets him attach it, and at 5G, it comes out on him for free. You also need to throw the favor, but since TA starts with the favor, that's not much of a problem. This can get pretty nasty pretty quick when the rest of the Imperial Guard shows up... picture this. Basecamp and Toku turn 1, Ishikawa turn 2. Now, on turn 3, hand him the Standard, an Imperial Legion, and an Imperial Honor Guard... all free. That's 14 force by turn 3... and you still haven't spent any gold yet.

Now, about that ability of his. Quite simply, you'll rarely get any use of it. Not only do you need the favor, you also need to bow him (and lose the force of his Imperial followers), it counts as the Favor (makes it easy to cancel), and affects a very small class of personalities. There's not a lot of 0 PH humans out there... even most Ninja have at least a 1, and most of the people affected by the ability will never see a battle anyway (Taka, for example). There are a small few, however. The Flying Moto Bros. (Tsume and Sada), Hida Amoro, and any dishonored personality are the only people you'll use this on, and even then, it'll probably be canceled. The best use of his battle action is probably to play Iron Cranes on him. It takes away an ability you'll never use, and get an extra +1/+1 to boot. [If Ishikawa is defending Ryoko Owari, he can send just about anyone home. And who says you can't use Secrets on the Wind or Unrequited Love? It's true that Toturi's Army isn't a particularly staunch dishonor clan, but the aforementioned Otaku are known to send their magistrates in search of rapscallions. The experienced Doji Yosai and Kakita Yoshi may also find interest in Ishikawa's ways. -- ed.] [My trusty spoilerbot was not available when I originally edited this article, and I thus neglected to note that Yoshi can't copy Ishikawa's ability. Yosai is still just fine, though. Mea culpa. -- ed. 6/13/00]

While Ishikawa is right at home in TA, other clans probably won't want to hire him. Because of his ability, he fits in well with dishonor decks, and dueling decks. However, Scorpion doesn't have the honor to hire him, Phoenix would rather have someone who can cast a spell, and Crane and Dragon are better off with Toshiken Exp, who has a similar, more useful ability, and is a much better dueler. [Of course, Toshiken won't help you when faced with the mad Kuni Yori leading a horde of undead followers. Or indeed a lone Crab berserker. He will send home an honorable shugenja with a pesky spell attached, though. -- ed.]

Ishikawa sure as heck isn't for every deck, but he does make a nice addition to an HTB [Honorable Toturi Beatdown] deck. And while Toku's always off Monkeying around (heh heh), Ishikawa is always ready to kick some ass in the Emperor's name. Whoever that may be, nowa days.

[Additional: A few notes about Ishikawa's ability. It's political, so can be stopped by "Enough Talk!" (which is now in vogue thanks to Rise From the Ashes), The Emperor's Left Hand, Dashmar, The Fair Voice of Lies, and oddly enough, his boss, Hantei the 38th. It's a use of the Imperial Favor, and thus canceled by Confusion at Court and rendered useless by Command of the Kami. It sends the target home unbowed, so she can move back in with Accessible Terrain, Relief, Way of Deception, Shinjo's Breath, or any number of other fief movement cards. It's also stopped by the standard "stay here cards" -- A Test of Courage, Root the Mountain, Tsuchi-do, and even Cornered. A significant number of the above cards receive frequent use, especially in decks with 0PH personalities, so don't depend on using Ishikawa's ability.

It's true, Ishikawa joins the ranks of the game's many subpar personalities. His ability is eclipsed by Ikoma Tsanuri and any number of fate cards. His 3F/4C/3PH are matched by the much cheaper Seppn Nakao (who shouldn't really be used as a measure of "average personality"). The small number of attachable Imperial cards hardly warrants his inclusion. He's hardly noticeable among Toturi's band of stellar personalities. But Ishikawa, along with many other unused Scorpion Clan Coup cards, has flavor. A deck intent on breaking into Otosan Uchi might include Ishikawa to symbolize their willingness to bribe the guards. His ability gives players the chance to call out the dishonorable scum on the board. His traits, abilities, and stats all contribute to the portrayal of his character -- he's a no-nonsense commander who inspires his troops, loyal to the emperor with strict orders to keep the disreputable members of the empire far from the Hantei. It's cards like this that bring depth to the game. It's not just a bunch of creatures moving from one piece of land to another, it's an Empire of unique individuals. If only the vibrant characters and the Personalities worth use coincided more often. -- ed.]

Card text copyright FRPG, 1995-2000.
Article text copyright James Major, 2000, edited by Trevor Stone.

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