Superior Tactics Toritaka Mariko

I apologize for the less-than-weekly posting. I've been quite busy, but will try to post two articles a week for the next few weeks. Spirit Wars is coming soon, and with it nearly complete knowledge of the Gold environment. If you have some old cards to talk about, write about them now before the Spirit Wars rush!

One of the few storyline tournaments which has multiple cards to show for itself, the Mountain Shogun tournament brought the Falcon Clan under the wing of the Crab Clan. While players haven't found much use for Toritaka Genzo (he _is_ off the box for Kyuden Yoritomo), Oliver Volland (aka Kaiu Atrovent) has some insight into a more tempting personality who somehow missed the Falcon Clan trait...

She must be Greek, for she gives presents before she attacks. But unlike a specific Horse her presents may be useful to the Trojans...

Toritaka Mariko - Common Personality (SotE) - 4F - 2C - 0HR - 5G - 1PH
Crab Clan Huntress * Samurai
Immediately after Mariko's controller assigns her to attack, the defender may draw a fate card.

Toritaka Mariko is probably the most talked about Crab Personality in Soul of the Empire. Let's start the analysis with the good things: her stats are excellent, and it's a personality who'll come off a Jade Works, Iron Mine or Empty Crevasse in her home clan with more than 2 force. 0 HR is not bad for most decks.

While the good is obvious, lets get straight to the bad part: giving your opponent card advantage is a horrendous thing. Take a look at the game, and all the cards that let you draw other cards. Look at how sought after and valuable they are. Most cards let you discard a card to draw a new one, like Agasha Gennai or the Retired Advisor, or let you choose once from a bunch of cards like Banish All Shadows. Spells that let you draw cards are usually destroyed afterwards. The bottom line is that anytime you give your opponent a chance to draw a card, you are giving the opponent an advantage. Not necessarily the upper hand. But what did people expect for 5 Gold and 4 Force? A special ability to boot? [One way to measure card advantage with other sorts of advantages is in terms of turns. Ignoring various card drawing effects, a player draws one card per turn. This is, perhaps, a third of the new raw resources a player acquires in a turn. Thus, attacking three times with Mariko gives your opponent the equivalent of a turn of raw resources. Of course, this is a fairly inexact measure -- a player who keeps control of the Imperial Favor doesn't get as proportionately large of a bonus, for instance. -- ed.]

Now lets talk about what to do with her disadvantage. You may

  1. Step around her disadvantage
  2. Take the risk
  3. Use it to your advantage

1: Stepping around her disadvantage

There are two ways to avoid her disadvantage and work with her without giving presents:

1.1 Defense

Toritaka Mariko is most helpful on defense, for her 4F will discourages many military decks from attacking early. Her low gold cost makes her a first turn personality for her home clan, the Unicorn and Yoritomo's Alliance. Combine her with her Crab cousins Rik'tik'tichek and Hiruma Zunguri and there is some defensive force out to hide behind. If you're going on a honor victory, her 1 PH isn't that helpful, but easy to pay for. You may even sacrifice her to A Terrible Oath if aiming on the Darkest Magic. [A 4F personality is pretty nice with The Citadel of the Hiruma, but you need to keep your Stronghold unbowed for that. -- ed.]

1.2 Move to the battles

There is a way to attack with Toritaka Mariko and not letting your opponent draw a card: move her into a battle. Accessible Terrain is rock solid in a lot of attack decks anyway because of the power of attack + Rallying Cry + Accessible Terrain. Relief also has some potential, especially if you've got personalities whose abilities wreak havoc and then bow them (e.g., Purusha). Way of Deception and Forced Marches are to be considered. [Note that Mariko must already have been in a battle to use Forced March. But you get two battles for the price of one. Also consider Warhorses and the Northern Provinces of the Moto -- ed.] Be careful that The Huntress has dead-eyes, followers, tokens, force boosters, weapons, or something else so she can take out a province on her own. The Crab Oni decks use lots of movement tricks anyway, so The Huntress could earn her place in those decks, but take care that you can manage her zero honor Requirement. [Flying Carpet is my favorite movement card, but if you can afford 11G for an item, you can afford 6G for Hida Unari. -- ed.]

2. Taking the risk

It's acceptable to let your opponent pick up one Fate card at the cost of one Dynasty card if you manage to destroy one of his provinces. A Dead Eyed Die-Tsuchied Mariko coming at a player on the second turn is stopped by few things. [Of course, Refugees is one, so you might want to substitute Berserkers for the hammer. -- ed.] If you use Gohei's Daisho on her, you level the card advantage and give her a force boost big enough to take a Crane or Unicorn province on her own. If your opponent draws a card, there is always the chance that it is not immediately useful in a battle, like a spell or a follower. But take care: he may use the card he drew immediately to stop you, or keep that card and use it in his next turn. Even if it is a totally useless card against your deck, what you have done is given your opponent the ability to cycle through his deck and get to the card he needs to stop you.

If you want to take the risk of giving your opponent useful presents, you have three possibilities:

2.1 Attacking the Undefended

Mariko works well with Counterattack or Suspended Terrain. If your opponent can't assign anyone to defend (i.e. because they are all bowed after attacking), then they're not likely to be able to use the card (or cards) they just drew. There is a surprise moment in this tactic and you may combine it with defensive elements, maybe playing Outflank on The Huntress before counterattacking. Even in a defensive deck, your opponent may be more careful attacking you the next time, what may buy you precious time.

2.2 Denial

Fate card Denial with Kolat Interference sadly won't work well with Toritaka Mariko, for it says "current player" instead of "target player". The alternative is a deck based upon action denial, like Test of Courage, Flee the Darkness, Confusion at Court, Sneak Attack combined with Deadly Ground, Crushing Attack, The Great Silence, Hida Kisada Inexperienced (use him with Lieutenant Sukune) or even Night Battle. In such a concept there are bigger chances that your opponent can't use what you are giving him, even if he draws battle actions or terrains. You may enhance such a strategy with the Events March of the Alliance, Winter Warfare and Enemy of my Enemy. But even if I repeat myself: whether you stopped action in your phase or not, your opponent still get the extra card. He may use it now. He may use it later. If nothing else, he will cycle his deck.

[Consider combining Kolat Interference and Counterattack. And attacking with a Void Dragon will be a good way to nullify any delayed threat your opponent might draw. One might be tempted to use Way of the Void, but it looks as if Mariko's player is creating the effect, rather than the opponent. Of course, a player-created effect isn't defined anywhere, so if this is clarified, I'll update the web version of this page. -- ed.]

2.3 Blind attack

Of course, you could ignore Action Denial or movement tricks and attack every given round head first with three Mariko and their overwhelming 12 Force. Don't do this. I repeat: don't do this.

If you counterattack a military deck with three Mariko and hope for the best, your opponent will draw three cards. On your next attack, he draws three more. So in two turns, including his end phase, he has drawn seven cards thanks to you. In his own attack he holds eleven cards and a much better chance to walk your provinces. You've given him the deck flow to get his Rallying Cries, Force Boosters and Counterattacks. Who's chances are better of having the needed cards in hand?

Any time you let a defensive deck draw a card you are increasing your chances that he will draw something to help defend against your attack, like Entrapping Terrain, Block Supply Lines, To Do What We Must and so on. Are you prepared to deal with all the possibilities three extra defensive cards can do to your Hunting Trio?

An Enlightenment player may draw finding the harmony, an event player may draw his last Black Scroll, Obsidian Item or whatever. I'm sure you got my point.

In the endgame, you can make the choice to send three Mariko in the attack, if you're sure you could win anyway. But then again, it's Legend of the Five Rings, where a single twist (or card) of fate can make the difference.

3. Use it to Your Advantage

Finally, you could use the card drawing of your opponent to your advantage. Playing with Doom of the Dark Lord can make this a goal, but remember that your opponent may, not must, draw a card if The Huntress attacks. [Unfortunately, there aren't any cards which improve as your opponent's hand size increases. And dueling decks should definitely keep away. -- ed.]


Obviously Toritaka Mariko is a personalities with an ability you usually can't work with, but have to work around. How big is her disadvantage? Does she help out your opponent enough to make a difference? Is the benefit she gives your opponent larger than the benefit she gives you? These are the questions you should answer before signing The Huntress to your army.

Kaiu Atrovent
Crab still wondering what the shadowlands The Huntress is wearing on her head...

[Additional: Of course, some players will forget about Mariko's trait if you don't make a big deal of it. Of course, it's honorable to remind your opponent of the option to draw, but don't trust a Scorpion player to do this. One should never rely on the inattentiveness of an opponent, but it doesn't hurt when it happens. -- ed.]

Card text copyright FRPG, 1995-2000.
Article text copyright Oliver Volland, 2000, edited by Trevor Stone.

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