Player Strength perfectly gamed with pics and stuff

There is, I think, a path to player strength which most players follow. Some jump quickly up the levels usually dependant on other card games experience and willingness to practice/work.  This post will be an attempt to assign stages to this so  players can attempt to ascertain exactly where they are.

Stage 1: Total Newbie.

This stage is actually emptier than you would think as for a player to sit here they not only have no experience at L5R they also have no experience at any other CCG/LCG. Players here won't even understand the basic concepts let alone the traps/structures. These sort of players need delicate handling from the more experienced players to ensure they firstly enjoy the game and secondly so they move as quickly out of the stage basement as possible. It is easy to get very disheartened at this level.

This is not the way to react to Stage 1 Players play

Stage 2: L5R Beginner.
 New players to the game come in here. A lot of what goes on will go completely above the players head and though they may be capable of completing a game there is not a lot of direction or understanding even of their mistakes. A lot in the game is surprising to a player at this stage and opposing decks all seem drastically overpowered as they do not know how to respond but have enough knowledge to complain

Stage 2 player after getting hit with another sneak-deadly (old 5r speak!)

Stage 3:  Intermediate. 

Getting to this level means understanding where the more obvious mistakes were made. But still making them.. A lot. The information overload of the game is so large that even at a level where players understand what they have to do they still repeatedly miss obvious advantages. As examples they forget the fate for having a seeker province displayed or forget to use manicured garden. They lose track of what is happening where and perhaps use banzai in a political conflict. At this level the player tends to over commit to battles they do not need to win. So will spend 5 cards winning a conflict that gets them the air ring when they are both on 11 honour.

Surprises still occur for Stage 3 though they get to be more unusual

Stage 4: Things Clicking more.

The player now makes less mistakes (though they are still frequent) but now starts understanding patterns of actions better. They start getting a feel for what their opponents want to do. As an example a player here will defend  a conflict and then go for, say, the earth ring on return but realise they should have perhaps taken water to prevent the opponent using their second conflict to unbow the powerful character they attacked with 1st conflict.  At stage 4 a player will often see the best line of play just after they no longer have the ability to use it. Games are still lost on knowledge but it tends to be opponents actions that surprise. I.e Player A attacks with a strong character leaving a 2 coster behind to defend and the opponent assassinates the low coster and gets two free attacks.  Or when facing Crab they buy an expensive character with fate and promptly get 'Way of the Crab' played against them.

Yes indeed

Stage 5: Comfort.

Now the player commits very few obvious mistakes and those that they do cause causes them to mentally note a better way of doing things next time (I.e a Crane player facing a Scorpion with Guest of Honor and Hotaru out plays Way of the Crane to honour Hotaru. The Scorpion promptly cancels it. That player may think 'next time I should save that card for the first conflict with Guest in, that way the Scorpion wont be able to cancel it. Unless the player wants to draw out the cancel of course') . At this stage wins will accrue from players lower down the scale (prior to this it is simply a matter of who makes the most errors) now a single error from a Stage 1-4 player is usually enough to eke out a win

Damn it I should have done that differently

Stage 6: Steady Dominance:

 The player now regularly wins random matchups and only has challenging games against good opposition. In the discord league players who regularly get in the cup are at this level. They will also dominate local store competitions and be the big fish in the small pond. Some will be early Hatamoto's

Stage 6 players are so cool and get to hang out with all the erm...

Stage 7: The power of the force

Power Players (or big league coffin hunters to use old5r parlance). Players here regularly get to the high stages of the cup (top 16+) and will do very well at Koteis and other major competitions. Most can easily aim for late Hatamoto placements.

Stage 7 players do whatever they please and still stomp all over the opposition

Stage 8: Bullet Time

Very few of these players exist but they are recognisably the top dogs in the player world. The phrase 'bullet time' was actually coined by an old5R player (and Matrix fanatic) in his 'How to be a Shogun' articles. So for amusement here is his reference concerning Bullet time decks (not relevant to player strength but, damn, that man could write)

Bullet Time wins. Bullet Time is about the destruction of one's enemy totally and completely. Bullet Time decks are more consistent that Grandma after her Prune juice and Bran flakes. Bullet Time decks are mean; as in kick a three legged dog with pointy toed shoes on mean. Bullet time could be sitting across from Grandpa on his death bed with 12 personalities in play, at 38 Honour while poor old Grandpa only has a Gifts and Favours in play and Bullet Time would contested Holding and take the Gifts. Tournaments are all about Bullet Time. An advanced deck can make the tournament cut, but can't consistently win in that environment. Bullet Time decks are not guaranteed to win because they must compete with other Bullet Time decks, but they almost certainly make the cut. This article is about getting to Bullet Time.

Even a bullet time players cat will do you damage

So there are my assumptions as to player stages. With me I started at Stage 2 and remained at that for Season 1 of the discord league. I went up to Stage 3 for the pre-season and Season 2 and hit Stage 4 for Season 3 and 4. Its only in Season 5 that I think I have hit the Stage 5 level. I am not sure if I can make the hop to Stage 6 or 7 though as the players at that level have a work ethic/natural talent/dedication to the game that I cannot match.

With regard to the league a lot of players enter the discord league between Stage 2 and 4 and get beaten into the ground because the base standard is so high. If you can recognise what Stage you are at you can perhaps either temper expectations or just work on improving your game play. Most of the time this can only be done by playing and with familiarity with the game. Getting beaten in the League actually helps with this as does watching the Leagues many excellent casters casting the strong players games. So am I right or wrong - especially concerning the more advanced stages 6&7 (and more?) which I haven't reached so am only guessing at.…Comments welcome


  1. Entertaining article and provides a nice set of (somewhat) quantifiable goals for a player to progress through. And, hey, gifs ...


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