The term Winter Court was generally applied to any extended court that a member of Rokugan's nobility held for the duration of winter. It was considered a time of great political opportunity, as well as a place where those of all walks of life can demonstrate their skill and ability. During the first week of the Month of the Rooster , the Emperor officially announced the location of his Winter Court for the year. Winter in Rokugan was an extremely harsh time of year, with freezing temperatures, strong winds, and large amounts of snowfall.
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Hello there, dear reader. While we are already a fortnight into , I hope that the memory of the World Championship in November is not too far away for us to speak of it. It was not my first journey to a Legend of the Five Rings World Championship, but it was my first time since Fantasy Flight Games had taken over the game.
It was also my first time out to the Twin Cities of Minnesota, a long overdue trip due to a decades long friendship there. Those who follow me on Twitter will have likely already seen and read most of what I am about to share, but for those of you who missed it, it was quite the trip. In some ways my trip nearly ended before it began, as I did not earn the honor of standing among those with an existing invitation.
Throughout both and Fantasy Flight Games had been issuing invitations to the Winter Court Main Event to the winners of store-level Elemental Championships, as well as premiere level Kotei and Grand Kotei. The only Grand Kotei I attended in that time was Gen Con — an experience people might recall as not going spectacularly well.
My performance at several Elemental Championships in New England were slightly better, but not quite enough to clinch an invite. This left me with one final option: qualify for the main event via the Last Chance Qualifier on Wednesday, November 6th. As this meant playing at 10 AM on Wednesday morning, my journey to Winter Court began earlier than most attendees. From there we grabbed some coffee and met up with the rest of the first wave of the New England L5R crew heading out to Minnesota.
With that in mind, I would like to give a special shout out to Drew Hogan of the New England L5R community for his amazing contribution to the ever-escalating struggle to have the best nerd-bling in L5R. When he first started to reach out to the community for their interest in Clan mon vinyl stickers, I inquired about having one made using the old L5R Naga faction symbol. He was happy to accommodate, and I am now the proud owner of a card box representing my first and true faction loyalty.
Little did I know then just how long it had been since anyone had seen the old Naga symbol. To each and every one who called out this as the Snake Clan mon, especially Tyler Parrott and Tsar Agus, let me assure you: this is not the Snake Clan mon. This is not the Chuda family mon. This is the Snake Clan mon. Note the difference. Upon landing in Minneapolis I was able to meet up with the always entertaining Dragon Clan hatamoto and competition ballroom dancer, Alex Jacobs.
A never-ending bowl of delicious grilled meats and vegetables was exactly what I needed after a long day of travel, and I would like to extend the highest of recommendations for this restaurant to anyone travelling to the Twin Cities area. The service is excellent, the food is on point, and they brought out two rounds of red bean dumplings for the table which were simply delicious. Wednesday morning brought us the first day of competition.
After a morning spent searching for a good cup of coffee always a challenge for a New Englander , we headed back to the FFG Center in time for the morning announcements. The energy in the hall was palpable, bringing me back to the first time I attended an L5R World Championship all the way back in at Gen Con.
That tournament marked an achievement I had sought since I started playing L5R in , and this moment felt similar. It hit me hard that morning in Roseville just how long L5R had been part of my life, and how good it felt to have that sort of energy back.
This was the most people I had seen gathered to play L5R since the Kiku Matsuri Launch Event at Gen Con , and it felt for the first time since that event that FFG had begun to truly understand the sort of game it had taken on when it purchased it.
They had initially planned to stream the footage, but broadcasting difficulties prevented it. However, you can catch the first footage of their efforts on their YouTube channel.
I was also fortunate enough to get a moment with Jeanne Kalvar of the Court Games and The Table Is Yours podcasts, as well as the reigning World Champion Erik Baalhuis, who was providing origami paper for folding paper cranes.
CraneClan pic. As we prepared for the Last Chance Qualifier to begin, Matt Holland stood before the gathered players with the news we were all hoping to hear. After some consideration, the decision was made to allow all players of the LCQ to play in the Main Event as if they had qualified with a high enough record.
While this was hardly unanticipated, the reaction from the community was so jubilant that it showed it to be the correct move. Many players gathered in that crowd with me told me that it was like a storm cloud disappearing into a sunny day, as all the tension just went out. Rather than a day of tense competition, this would be a day of effective practice.
And as anyone who plays the LCG can tell you, every day of practice helps. While I would not call myself the most devoted Dragon Clan player, I have been playing them since the release of Children of the Empire with regularity and have garnered a reputation as one of the better Dragon Clan players in New England. Although I was most practiced with the Daisho Dueling Dishonor deck, such as the one I had brought to Gen Con, I decided after evaluating the meta to bring a variant on the strongest deck the Dragon Clan had to bear.
Niten Master was the backbone of the deck, allowing me to build a powerful singular character whom I could ready twice per round and thus use to attack twice while still defending once. Most Dragon Clan players running the Niten Master deck rely on the Seal of the Dragon to give one of their stronger Characters the Monk trait to open up the ability to play the powerful Event, Void Fist.
As my decklist illustrates , I instead leaned harder into the Bushi package. In hindsight, I still feel I made the right choice. This was the matchup I knew was coming, but sometimes you just do not see the Niten Master in the first two rounds. My opponent did see a Doji Challenger, and that was all it took. My second round matchup was against Katie Bentley, a Minnesota local who was playing a Keeper of Air Scorpion Clan deck making use of the Imperial trait.
This time Niten Master showed up early, and it was a fast match from there. My experience in the Scorpion Clan matchup carried me to victory.
Just 1 more point of Military skill and they would have had the game. However, I was able to rally on the counterattack and take victory. My fifth and final round came against Michael Kroeker, playing for the Phoenix Clan. One of the strongest decks in the meta, I knew this match was going to be a challenge. Still, I lucked into the perfect opening turn and carried that momentum to a victory.
We all had earned a ticket to the Main Event simply by playing, but it felt good knowing that I earned my spot all same. Before heading to dinner, I checked in with the Event Desk to determine out my schedule for the following days, which had been broken down into Groups A and B. Knowing I would have an early day, I turned in afterwards. Too early, as it turned out. For I was awakened with a AM notification that there had been a mixup in the sorting and that people were to be sorted alphabetically — by Clan.
This only dimly made it through my sleeping mind, and so I still awoke early with the intent of playing early Thursday.
I really should have known better. Perhaps if I had been more successful in my quest for decent coffee…. With some lingering confusion, I checked in with the Event Desk early and was assured that there was no change to when the Dragon Clan players were scheduled, and that I was correctly slotted for Group B on Friday — the exact opposite of what my 2 AM update had told me. With that I sought out Matt Holland personally to confirm this.
He pulled out his laptop, and began checking spreadsheets. He located my name quickly, and nodded. Unfortunate accident, or carefully laid plan? This brings us to the end the first half of my Winter Court experience. Until then. David Gordon is a regular contributor to the site. A storyteller by trade and avowed tabletop veteran, he also has a long and complicated past with L5R. These are his stories.
He can be reached on Twitter. This is the short link. The Meek Informant Crew. My fancy new Naga box. Ahh, good times.
Winter Court Letters
Winter Court Hosts