Superior Tactics #40: Poorly Placed Garden

Feng Shui is the art of correctly arranging one's home to maximize chi flow. Apparently, the latest fashions in the court require a lower flow of chi. From the front-lines of the court scene, Superior Tactics reporter Jeremy Sher (aka Yasuki Qume) brings this report.

Following the tradition of inauspiciously named, non-battle related, yet extremely powerful Fortifications started by Empty Crevasse, Spirit Wars bring us the following Gold-legal Fort:

Poorly Placed Garden - Common Holding (SW) - 5G
Limited: Bow the Poorly Placed Garden to gain 2 Honor.

When Empty Crevasse was first revealed, the general response was: "Looks like Kaiu Walls Crab got a big boost." After all, The Great Walls of Kaiu is the Stronghold most clearly associated with Fortifications, and Empty Crevasse even has the Iron Mine trait to further accentuate its Crab-ness. Then players noticed that Empty Crevasse has a great cost/production ratio for any clan, on par with standard Holdings like Gold Mines and Stables. Finally, perceptive Phoenix players started digging out their Isawa Taeruko and using them in conjunction with Empty Crevasse to make all sorts of money. In the end, Empty Crevasse appeared to give more of an advantage to the Phoenix than to the clan it was originally designed for, the Crab.

Poorly Placed Garden (PPG) is an obvious counterpart to Empty Crevasse. Like the Crevasse, it has no built-in battle-related function. Like the Crevasse, it is a cost-reduced, Fortification version of another nearly identical Holding, in this case Fantastic Gardens. The lowered cost (5G, compared to Fantastic Gardens' 7G) is intended to make up for the supposed disadvantage of having the Fortification trait. And there is something of a disadvantage involved. After all, Fortifications, unlike Holdings, are attached to Provinces. A battle that doesn't go your way, or a Province-destroying event like Desperate Measures, can smoke your unfortunate PPG while your Fantastic Gardens would have remained safe in Holding world. In addition, you can't attach two copies of the same Fortification to the same Province, so if you turn up a PPG in a Province that already has one, you may be forced to discard it.

Just as we've seen with Empty Crevasse, however, having the Fortification trait can also be a major advantage, the sort of advantage that more than outweighs the drawbacks and makes PPG's 5G cost look like a real bargain. Its low cost, combined with its Fortification status, make PPG into a very powerful Honor card that a number of clans can make good use of.

Poorly Placed Garden in a Non-Gold Environment

Fortification Advantages For Any Clan

The fact that PPG is a Fortification may be a drawback in some cases, but in others it is an advantage:

Certain clans' attributes make PPG an even more useful card.

Crab Clan

Once again, Crab is the most obvious beneficiary of PPG. The Crab defensive deck, which has always been good at resisting attacks, but has previously lacked a clear-cut way to win, now has a crucial Honor-gaining card that should make this sort of deck truly viable.

A Great Walls of Kaiu player gets PPG for a mere 1G, and Empty Crevasses for free. This is a pretty incredible deal on its own, but the Crab have plenty of clan-specific Fortification tricks available to make it even better. The PPG may not be helpful in battles by itself, but Defenders of the Wall still gain +2F from it when defending. Shiryo no Yasuki can make a Holding cost 3 less gold, so PPG becomes free. Shiryo no Kaiu lets you grab a PPG from your deck and attach it wherever you want as a Limited, paying the normal 1G cost. When getting a PPG in this way (i.e., during the Action Phase), you could then use Kaiu Endo's Reaction to turn the face-down card in the PPG's Province face-up. Kaiu Suman can fix the problem of PPGs appearing in Provinces that already have one attached. Who knew that the Kaiu family had so many good landscapers?

Entrench, Kaiu Castle, and Architects of the Wall are all more cost-effective when used in a Kaiu Walls deck. Entrench lets you get a PPG as an Open and attach it to a Province for 4G. So, just like with Empty Crevasse, you can use Entrench to attach a PPG on your opponent's turn by bowing your Stronghold, then bow the PPG for 2 Honor on your turn. Architects of the Wall not only lets you retrieve a PPG, but attach it for free. Again, you can then bow the PPG for 2 Honor during your Action Phase. If you put Rebuilding the Kaiu Walls in your deck and it resolves, Fortifications will cost 8 less gold for you, making all PPGs free.

With all its defense-oriented Personalities, such as Hiruma Zunguri, Toritaka Mariko, Rik'tik'tichek, and now Hida Tsuneo, the Crab can defend a PPG Province pretty well.

[Examine a similar card -- Shinsei's Shrine. For the added cost of 1G, a Kaiu player doesn't lose his dynasty production and gains the honor in time to lobby for the Imperial Favor or buy a personality with a high honor requirement. And there are more Fortification support cards than Region helpers. Where can I sign up? -- ed.]

Crane Clan

Kosaten Shiro players were disappointed when Fantastic Gardens was ruled to cost 6G for them, but now they have access to a 2 Honor-producing Holding that comes off their Stronghold. PPG's Fortification status may even serve as an advantage for a dueling Crane player, as a normally passive opponent may decide to go military in order to put a stop to Honor gains. Then you can chop up your opponent with your duels.

Other good Crane-related cards from Spirit Wars that work well with PPG are Fields of the Sun and the Experienced South Wall of Otosan Uchi. If you manage to attach one or both of these cards to the same Province as a PPG, your opponent will have trouble stopping your Honor gains whether he attacks the Province or not.

An Esteemed House player may choose to stick with Fantastic Gardens, which have the same Gold cost as a PPG. But Kosaten Shiro players now have access to a very fast Honor-gainer that they can buy first turn and does not fill up the Province like Shinsei's Shrine, a factor that should make this already powerful Stronghold even more effective. [If the esteemed player uses either Plans Within Plans or Twist of Fate, Poorly Placed Garden might be a better card, since it can get an extra use. Five province strength could be a problem, though. -- ed.]

Mantis Clan

Aside from The Great Walls of Kaiu, Kosaten Shiro, and the Unicorn Strongholds, Kyuden Yoritomo is the only Stronghold that can pay for a PPG by itself. I suppose that if you want to play Mantis Honor, PPG will go into your deck, although there are obviously more competitive clans available for Honor running. Kyuden Yoritomo's high Province Strength, however, will help keep your PPGs safe.

Phoenix Clan

Isawa Taeruko + Empty Crevasse is already a very strong combo, and Taeruko + PPG is at least as strong. By herself, Taeruko can retrieve PPGs as an Open and make them cost 2G, which lets you use her on your opponent's turn and bow your Stronghold to make up for the gold difference. Throw a Naginata or any other +2C boost on her, and she makes PPGs free. Once again, PPG, unlike Crevasse, does not enter play bowed, so a PPG retrieved with Taeruko allows for an immediate 2 Honor gain. The result is that an early-game Taeruko gives a Phoenix player even more flexibility than before. Get all three Taerukos out and you can quickly fill your Provinces with Empty Crevasses and PPGs. This is so good that I can imagine other clans might start using Taeruko as well. Combine this with the Eternal Halls of the Shiba's 7 Starting Honor, and I don't see the sentiment that Phoenix is fading away any time soon.

Unicorn Clan

All the Unicorn Strongholds produce 5 gold, making them all candidates for PPG usage, although The Otaku Palaces is the most popular Unicorn Stronghold by far. As with the Crab, PPG really adds something to Unicorn Honor. The Unicorn have a massive selection of 3PH Personalities, many of whom are commonly used in Unicorn decks already: Otaku Kamoko, Otaku Tetsuko, Otaku Sahijir, Utaku Xieng Chi, and Iuchi Karasu exp2. Spirit Wars brings us Ide Gokun and the 4PH Utaku Yu-Pan. Make a deck out of this group and you never have to lose sleep over Test of Honor or not have someone to play Strength of Purity on. Throw in PPG, and you get turn-by-turn Honor gains on top of what you're getting from putting Personalities in play for full cost.

The Utaku Palaces' straightening Reaction has always made it strong against attacks, and it allows you to be a bit more militaristic than normal for an Honor deck. Iuchi Karasu exp2 keeps dangerous Personalities away from your Provinces. With the right gold buildup at the beginning of the game, the Unicorn can run for Honor very quickly, and PPG only makes them faster.

Of course, any clan can use PPG, but these are the ones that I think are most likely to use it in a non-Gold environment.

Poorly Placed Garden in the Gold Environment

It's a bit of a challenge to speculate how particular cards will be used in Gold, but I can say with some certainty that PPG will be popular in the Gold environment for many of the same reasons that it will be popular in pre-Gold. PPG's power will be mitigated slightly due to the disappearance of a number of Fortification-related cards in Gold. Entrench, Architects of the Wall, Rebuilding the Kaiu Walls, Shiryo no Kaiu, Defenders of the Wall, Teach the Mountain, Fortified Ground, Kaiu Castle, Kaiu Endo, and Kaiu Suman are all gone. The result is that no clan will be able to use PPG as anything but an Honor-producing Holding; in other words, it won't count toward something like Defenders of the Wall or Fortified Ground. Plus, Gold will put an end to the practice of searching through one's Dynasty deck and attaching a Fortification from it for a reduced cost. So PPG will be slowed down as an Honor-gaining card, and all will be well in the completely balanced and optimized world of Gold.

Wait a minute, Isawa Taeruko will be in Gold. So forget about everything I just said. Unless she is MRP'd, Taeruko will continue to cause Phoenix to be considered cheap, even in Gold, as she will become the only way to search for Fortifications in one's deck. If anything, her power will now be even stronger, as Gold has apparently been designed to dissuade fast military rush strategies, the sort of strategies that destroy PPGs. [And let's not forget that Taeruko is affordable for any clan in Gold -- you won't gain her 2 personal honor as she enters, but when she fetches a PPG, you make up for it on the next turn. -- ed.]

In general, the clans that use PPG effectively in Gold will be the same ones that can use it best now. The Great Walls of Kaiu will still buy them cheap. Kosaten Shiro will still get them off the Stronghold, as will The Utaku Palaces and the Northern Provinces of the Moto. Phoenix will keep using Taeruko. Honor strategies may become more popular in general, as Gold drops anti-Honor cards such as Deeds Not Words, Loss of Face, Rise From the Ashes, Kisada's Funeral, and As the Shadow Falls. If this is the case, expect PPG to become a very commonly played card for a long time to come, and expect a few people to call it broken.

Yasuki Qume
Crab Clan Garden Placer
(Jeremy Sher)

[Additional: Anyone so ambitious to build a Nezumi honor deck will find their 12 province strength to keep their Poorly Placed Gardens safe. ("You put the garden next to a rat pack? No wonder your rice was exchanged for a pine cone.") Another interesting trick is to attack your opponent with your favorite sacrificial scrub. During the battle, play Entrench, and attach a Poorly Placed Garden to your opponent's province. You maintain control of the Garden, and your opponent can't get rid of it by attacking. Behind enemy lines. Now THAT's a bad location for a garden. -- ed.]

Card text copyright FRPG, 1995-2000.
Article text copyright Jeremy Sher, 2000, edited by Trevor Stone.

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