When told as a history, the L5R story focuses on the big players -- Toturi, Hantei, Hitomi, Kisada, and others in positions of power. But if L5R were to be a movie, it would focus on characters with more character. The main character, as Daniel Comrie points out, would be Ginawa.
He's the single most well known personality in the game. The only Personality more ubiquitous is his comrade-in-arms, Toku. He's fought from the beginning of this game through two story arcs, and will be in the third, despite being so old even dirt would look up at him and say "Grandpa!" As a Dragon friend of mine once stated, "If you don't own him, you're not allowed to play." If L5R were a movie, the only choice to portray him would be Toshiro Mifune. He hangs around with an assassin who dresses up in white. He hunts Ninjas in his spare time and cuts up anyone who thinks he's a wimp. He's one of the Twelve Ronin. He's arguably the second most badass ronin in the game. His weapon of choice is a cursed blade that has drunk the blood of hundreds if not thousands of opponents. He's the one, the only,
Wow. This guy's been around a bit.
As is the custom for this sort of article, we'll start with the earliest version of him.
Ginawa's basic version is nothing really special. There's nothing extraordinary about him. Normal stats. Normal cost. Therein lies his benefit - while he is nothing special, neither is he inferior. In earlier days, Ginawa was the quintessential Rent-A-Samurai. Any clan hurting for manpower and unwilling to take the ever-eager-but-not-terribly-capable Toku could work out a deal with Ginawa for a reasonable four gold. His dash honor requirement meant even those deep in the Scorpion's gentle ministrations could afford his services. As a member of Toturi's Army, he's not eligible for very many unusual cards in a non-Toturi deck, so typically he served until the Oath of Fealty fell and he gained a more useful clan trait. He's just a smidgeon more useful in a dueling Toturi's Army, deck, though. Vigilant Keep of the Monkey gives him +1C, making him a better duelist by far in anything other than a mirror match, and he can attach all of the Followers his previously measly one Personal Honor would not allow, such as the Twelve Ronin. [Most players with experience in sealed deck environments throw Ginawa straight into their decks. 2F for 4G is (or at least used to be) the measuring stick of personality efficiency. -- ed.]
The Experienced Ginawa, on the other hand, has a definite direction. His cost increases by four, and he only gains +1F/+1C and +1PH. His ability, however, is decidely anti-Ninja. "But that ability sucks!" you counter. "They can refuse by paying six gold!" Well, let's examine that for a moment.
The average Ninja deck packs a Gold scheme along the lines of 3 Ninja Stronghold, 3 Jade Works, 3 House of Contracts, and 3 Assassins. The Ninja Strongholds cannot pay the refusal cost at all, and the House of Contracts only pay 2 to stopping Ginawa's ability (since it's not the cost of an action card). That leaves the Jade Works and Assassins to pay for the refusal, and those are usually helping out with the purchase of the Ninja's many expensive Personalities. Generally, Ninja players can either start accepting the duel, or they can start getting along with a lot less money, and if Ginawa has a Bloodsword, they will frequently opt for the second. "What about Scorpion decks?" Not so much pay dirt here. Scorpions typically have more money to throw at Ginawa when he goes Ninja hunting.
Amusingly, the Experienced Ginawa's ability can be used to challenge the Experienced 3 Toturi, though he will probably lose miserably. On that note, don't forget Ginawa can challenge Kolats, too, though he won't get the 4C bonus. The Experienced 3 Toturi can bow to make a Personality Kolat until the end of the turn. While not as terribly efficient as the Experienced 2 Matsu Hiroru for killing Kolats, Ginawa can chase around Kolats, be they real or temporary, quite well. Or, for completely bizarre shenanigans, you can bow Toturi to give Ginawa the Kolat trait, and then hand him the Night Medallion to make him 6C (12C when dueling Ninja) and raise the cost of refusing him to 8G.
[Some players even used the experienced Ginawa as a counter to Kitsuki Kaagi's Journal in the later parts of the Hidden Emperor story arc. -- ed.]
The Experienced 2 Ginawa, while relaxing from his Ninja-hunting somewhat, is still fearsome in a duel, since he can now attach a bloodsword for free. He still has an innate duel, but it's now anti-dishonor, somewhat. Whenever a Personality would cause an honor loss (to someone besides their own controller), Ginawa can step in and challenge the offending party to a duel. Notice that YOU do not have to be the recipient of the honor loss -- Ginawa doesn't like dishonor period, regardless of who's being dishonored. In this manner he can be a bargaining chip in multiplayer, but that's an article for another day. [Note that a Personality must be causing the honor loss. Casting The Wind's Truth doesn't cut it. He has issues with exp3 Bayushi Goshiu, Kakita Yogoso, Matsu Hokitare, or Samurai playing Defend Your Honor. He can challenge a Samurai who's bowed for Lessons of Honor, but only when the honor is about to be lost. He can also challenge an Oni if the associated honor loss is tossed elsewhere with The Wind's Truth [ZCotW#150]. -- ed.]
This ability is relatively straightforward as dishonor protection -- something Toturi's Army doesn't really need all that much. Lion and Unicorn spring to mind as clans that would need that ability the most, and I don't think either clan would cry about having a 5F/5C 0HR Samurai, either. (Why did I call him 5F/5C when he's printed 4F/4C? In my area, it's a custom to describe Ginawa as he would be carrying around a Bloodsword, because he gets them so often.) Just be aware that he bows for both duels.
On a side note, for those that own Heroes of Rokugan, this version can attach Judgment for free, consequently he's a handy assistant to dishonor. That Ginawa, what a contrary guy. [He can attach Ambition as well. Give him Daisho Technique, and he can almost get a full set! -- ed.]
So he's good against dishonor and Ninja. So? What's making me want this guy in my deck really bad?
How about the Experienced 3 version? Gone are all pretenses of dueling, as during the battle at Volturnum, Ginawa avenges his lord by slaying the Ninja Shadow-Walker and casting aside his bloodsword to save his new lord, Toturi, from death at the hands of the Shadow. Story drawling aside, Ginawa has a potentially awesome ability.
Think of it this way. When this version of Ginawa attacks, he has a potential Force bonus equal to the Force of a Personality in your opponent's provinces, and when he defends, he's a walking Plain of Fast Troubles. On top of this, if he's attacking, he pilfers an opponent's Personality and denies them the use of that card, but he robs you of one of your own cards when defending.
All said, extra Force is always a good thing in military decks. Unfortunately, from time to time, you'll come to a herd of face-down Provinces. How can this be fixed? Quite easily, as a matter of fact. Essence of Air can fix the problem, as can Shiryo no Shosuro, the Emperor's Underhand, Soshi Jomyako, and any of a number of other cards.
The virtues of pilfering your opponent's Personalities cannot be extolled enough - many expensive Personalities who sometimes spend multiple turns in provinces are just begging to be recruited by Ginawa. Good examples include Jama Suru, most Clan Champions, Isawa Tsuke, Kuni Yori Experienced 3, Toturi, and most Personalities from Heroes of Rokugan. [Note that if you can reshuffle the Personality into your deck before the battle wins, you can draw the personality again, even if it originally came from your opponent's deck. -- ed.]
Don't bet on his ability against Naga, Ratling, or Horde players, though -- he can only pilfer humans.
Many were hoping that everyone's favorite ronin would come full circle with the return of the Akodo at the end of the Hidden Emperor arc and return as the Lion Clan Champion with Ikoma Tsanuri's death. Alas, 'twas not to be, but his newest version is no small catch, either. A huge Lion Personality with the Tactician trait and a manageable honor requirement! Lion players be still, your prayers are answered!
His ability in this version doesn't exactly seem sterling at first. "Skip an attack phase? By the time he's out I want to be attacking every turn!" But take a step back and examine. With 6C and the Toturi's Army trait, he is an ideal addition to a Vigilant Keep of the Monkey deck, and if you don't intend to attack, having one extra card to duel with is always desirable. And no one says his ability MUST be used. Go ahead, forget about it, attack. That's what Lions do best. Attacking, not forgetting, that is. [Akodo Ginawa's ability deserves a copy machine. Since you've already given up your attack phase, why not maximize the ability -- give up your ability to attack again so that your Ninja Shapeshifter can draw a card as well. Then send him on an attack as an ally. Alternatively, get your attacking out of the way before he draws the card by using Ambush, Seize the Day!, or Twist of Fate. -- ed.]
He's a Tactican, and consequently receives a fat 6F bonus when fighting at White Shore Plain, and is available for all other hot Tactican cards, such as the Lion's Pride and even Luring Tactics (if he's got a red hot Bloodsword, so much the better).
He's also the Akodo Daimyo, which makes him able to play Strong Words (my personal favorite), The Emperor Returns, and Passage of Time. All in all, a solid addition to both Toturi's Army and the Lion Clan's arsenals.
He's Ginawa. What more can be said?
[Additional: Note that, no matter how expensive Ginawa has gotten, he remains aligned to Toturi's Army, which means that Toku can do his Duty to the Clan. Enterprising players should always look for ways to use penalties to their advantage. Not attacking can be an advantage, for instance, if your opponent wants you to attack, using cards like Will of the Emperor and Today We Die. -- ed.]
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