Superior Tactics #30: Shady Dealings

Congratulations to GenCon winner Justin Walsh. I took a quick look at his deck posted on, and immediately spotted one of its major strengths -- the ability to bring out big cards without spending much time or energy building resources. By building ahead of the standard "gold curve," Justin can do damage early. To further illustrate this point, Craig Edwards (who placed in the top 32 this weekend) told Superior Tactics his thoughts on an oft-overlooked card,

Shady Dealings - Uncommon Action (IE, EE, OE) - 0G - 3Fo
Reaction: Play to pay up to 5 gold of the cost of a Fate card you are putting into play. Bow your Stronghold if it is unbowed. Your Stronghold may not straighten until, as a limited action, you bow holdings paying 5 gold to "repay" this card.

One of the initial things about Shady Dealings is that it's economy in your fate deck, in the style of One Koku, Bountiful Harvest, People's Expense, Mujina Miners, Blessing Upon the Lands, and now Nature Provides. But unlike all of those, Shady Dealings lays out five gold on its own.

Now, the problem. Most deck builders don't design around spending too much money on the fate side of their deck, and most of their economy is reserved for dynasty. For this reason, many people avoid Shady Dealings altogether, because they feel the drawback is harsh for the slim amounts of fate cards they need to actually purchase.

Contrary to this popular attitude, I like five free gold, and I like it in multiples. The thing with Shady Dealings is that it's not just five gold, and leaving your stronghold locked, it's five gold per Shady Dealings. Also, Shady Dealings is five *quick* gold, especially if you run a box with nearly all free money.

My favorite application of Shady Dealings is in 3G clan Strongholds, because 8G is a magic number for Heavy Infantry, which is a nice big 5F follower, generally all you need to slap on a guy to take a second turn province. Also, coupled with Kaede Sensei and other tricks, you can cycle to see two to three Shady Dealings easily in a game. And of course, leaving a 3G SH bowed every turn is only a loss of 2G if you don't use a Shady Dealings that turn, and you got the 5G at a better time.

To show the potential of Shady Dealings, I'll use examples from decks I've made and/or seen played.

At one point Brandon Flores was playing a Shinomen deck with Shady Dealings for consistent second turn provinces, which I liked. Naga has a plethora of strong personalities that come off the box first turn, and a handy set of free money. The problem is paying for a big second turn follower with just the box and the free money you got first turn. So what Brandon did was use Inheritance and 2 Shady Dealings to increase the odds of being able to drop something large on his second turn. [SH+SD buys a Heavy Infantry. SH buys a Naga Bushi while a Forest and SD buy a Naga Guard. SH+SD+any other gold buys a Naga Vipers. Each of these options (on one of several 3F off-the-box Personalities) provides a unit with at least 8F on the second turn. -- ed.]

With a second turn Heavy Infantry in mind, Water Monk can use Shady Dealings to great effect. With a first turn Yoshun, Maseru, or damn near anyone, a second turn Shady Dealings + SH for Heavy Infantry on a guy is a lot of force [your opponent] doesn't get to defend against. Of course, the danger in Shady Dealings is that you aren't ever going to want to pay back the five gold, so using it without getting first turn money isn't advisable. On the other hand, buying a first turn Prayer Shrine and getting a free Shioda to 6f turn two doesn't sound bad to me. :)

The deck Fox should be most afraid of in L5R currently, Yodin Unicorn, can also use Shady Dealings very well. Considering you drop the game down to a one personality per turn level, stacking that personality with expensive fate cards is the way to go if you want to beat out another military player. Couple that with the fact that they more than likely can't defend against you until you've dropped multiple huge followers or Armor/Sword/Gohei's Daisho/Burden of the Word/etc, and the game is pretty much yours. [In this case, Shady Dealings isn't intended for second turn use as much as midgame use, when you've got a few Holdings out, but need a big lump of cash. -- ed.]

Anyway, that about wraps it up for this little rant on Shady Dealings. If I missed something, or am blatantly wrong somewhere, drop me a line at Word.

Craig Edwards
Dannik on #l5r/#frpg
'Ewok' to the rest of the world

[Additional: Silly Ewok, Shady Dealings isn't just for Followers. It buys Action cards too. Shady Dealings makes Kolat actions easier to play; Ruined Scorpion can use it to play a Test of Honor. But Shady Dealings really shines when paying for variable-cost Actions. Shady Dealings buys two and a half more Ninja with Out of the Shadows, and is just one gold short of two Ashigaru with Peasant Levies. Shady Dealings and the Undead Stronghold will buy Moto Tsume a 4F Ashigaru Levies follower. And why not give your Geisha Assassin a raise? More than a score of spells cost 5G, including Earthquake, Fist of Osano Wo, Essence of Air (to get more free gold), and Kuro's Fire. If most Phoenix decks didn't rely on using their stronghold each turn, they might really dig this card.

Shady Dealings does more than buy big cards for poor clans. A 4G box can buy two Berserkers on the second turn, for instance. Or the Nezumi can buy a Chitatchikkan and a Ratling Bushi. A Tactician deck can fetch a Ring with Kaede Sensei and attach a Lion's Pride.

Nor do Shady Dealings happen only with flashy startups looking for venture capitalists. Clans with an established financial base can often benefit from a loan, playing several fate cards in preparation for an attack and unbowing their strongholds during the next turn. And if the Clan Sword you bought with a Shady Dealings proves the Force swing needed to win the game, who cares if your Stronghold can't straighten?

Note that you can't take any actions provided by your Sensei or printed on your Stronghold while it's bowed, so some clans lose more than a few turns worth of gold from Shady Dealings. Shady Dealings thus works best in a Stronghold without actions and which isn't the centerpiece of the deck's economy. The ability to use corrupt gold helps as well. Prima facie promising Strongholds include Warrens of the Nezumi, Sepulcher of Bone, Spawning Grounds, Ruined Fortress of the Scorpion, Dark Path of Shadow, Heart of the Shinomen Forest, New Akasha, Yogo Towers, Kosaten Shiro, Iron Fortress of the Daidoji, Mountain Keep of the Dragon, Iron Mountain, Toturi's Army, and Kaiu Walls all look promising. The 4G stronghold can add Elite Heavy Infantry, Imperial Honor Guard, and Naga Vipers to the list of terrifying turn two troops. -- ed.]

Card text copyright FRPG, 1995-2000.
Article text copyright Craig Edwards, 2000, edited by Trevor Stone.

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