Now that Wave 5 has been released, I believe that Yan Lo is one of the masters that got the most significant boost in power. I’ve been playing Yan Lo quite a bit of late and I decided to do a write up on his current state.
Core Mechanic: Chi
I think in order to understand how Yan Lo works, you have to start with his chi mechanic. Chi is a stacking condition that increases his casting actions by +1 per chi (max +3 to Ca) and can be reduced to gain his ascendant upgrades. This means that Yan Lo wants to start stacking up chi quickly, in order to both ramp up his casting and to attach key upgrades quickly. Typically he begins the process with a (0) that lowers his chi condition by the cost of the upgrade and then attaches it. Once he has a single ascendance upgrade, he can then “upgrade” it in later turns without using a (0) if you take the Follow Their Footsteps upgrade (see upgrades for details).
This easiest way to gain chi is to discard a card when Yan Lo activates, which means Yan Lo is often playing with a less then ideal five card hand. Yan Lo also has an aura that grants him chi whenever any model is killed in it by an ENEMY MODEL. The final base card method of gaining chi is though Yan Lo’s attack, Spirit Barrage. The goal here is to either deal severe damage or kill the target in order to gain chi +1. This is often done turn one, by attacking and/or killing a friendly model in order to obtain additional chi. If you take this route, there are several options of targets, but you want either a cheap model that will die after two attacks or you want a model that can absorb all the damage, which is later healed. Here are some options:
- Clockwork Trap (2ss) – The trap is as cheap as they come and has armor +2. This means you dealing severe damage will leave it with 1 wound left, so you can get chi +2. The downside is the trap adds no additional activations, it takes at least one severe out of your hand/deck, it doesn’t drop a corpse/scrap, and it can’t go defensive to assist you in getting a straight flip for damage. This is one of the cheapest methods in the way of hiring cost, but a bad starting hand with no severes can screw up your chi generation and it does make you vulnerable to an aggressive opponent.
- 1-2 Goryos (7-14ss) – The Goryos have a (0) action to summon a seishen at the cost of a 6+ card and 2 wounds. The plus side of Seishin is that they give you an additional activation and you don’t need any severes in your opening hand/flips. The downside is the hiring cost for the Goryos isn’t cheap, especially if you are taking two of them. That said, they are a solid model if you aren’t expecting a lot of Ca attacks from the enemy and I think a single Goryo is fine in any list. This is the most consistent method of producing 1-2 chi on turn one, since you don’t need to rely on cheating/flipping severe damages, but it does take a chunk out of your hiring pool.
- Railworker/Shadow Effigy/Terracotta Warrior/Wastrel (4-5ss). All of these models give you an extra turn one activation, can go defensive on that activation to assist in getting a straight for severe damage, can take two attacks for chi +2, and they all drop a corpse/scrap marker. The downside is it is costing you a 4-5ss model. But if you take Toshiro, the cost of this is reduced to a card and some wounds, since you can summon a model off the corpse/scrap marker. This method is in-game resource intensive and a hand without a severe can screw it up, but going defensive gives more reliability then the clockwork trap method.
- Izamu/Samurai (8-10ss). Both of these models are armor +2 and have plenty of wounds to absorb two severe attacks from Yan Lo. The good side of using one of these, is that you have no “wasted” hires since the model isn’t being killed and it is something you would hire anyways. The downside to this method is that you need to hit severe damage twice, which is going to be rough on your hand. You also need to be wary of aggressive enemies who will take advantage of your diminished hand and wounded model. This method doesn’t “waste” any hiring SS, but is very in-game resource intensive.
Over the course of my playing with Yan Lo, I’ve discovered that a single Goryo is my personal preference. The Goryo provides consistency, in-game adaptability, and isn’t locking in a lot of crew selection before seeing the scheme pool. While it is true you won’t generate chi as quickly with this method (especially if you want obtain the 4ss Blood Ascendant at the top of turn 2), I have found that grabbing Blood Ascendant turn 2 isn’t needed or even desired in many cases.
Yan Lo can also hire a couple of other models that are able to grant him chi. The first model is his totem the soul porter. It can give out chi to other models when it damages enemies with its close attack. The attack is a Ca 6 so it is likely to hit, but you do run the risk of getting him killed since he isn’t incredibly tough. The soul porter can also give out chi by doing his (0) to sacrifice himself to grant any ancestor chi +1. And while both of these abilities can give you chi in a pinch, I don’t see either method as efficient ways to generate early chi. The second model is his niece, Chiaki. The problem with Chiaki is you have to build up chi on her first with her (0) action and then transfer it over to Yan Lo. This is both slow and inefficient, so you shouldn’t be using this as a primary method of chi generation either.
Core Mechanic: Ascendant Upgrades
So now that we’ve talked about how to generate chi to attach his Ascendant upgrades, lets discuss what the upgrades do for him.
1ss – Ash Ascendant: The cheapest of the upgrades grants Yan Lo Impossible to Wound and gives him a (1) tactical action to pulse out a condition to enemies, that deals damages to them when they walk or charge. The (1) action is a good way to drain cards from an opponents hand/deck, since it causes a Wp duel, and it can be effective against a “spam” crew like Ramos’ spiders, since the condition it applies deals the damage and not the pulse. That said, you won’t be using this action in most games and really you just want this upgrade for the Impossible To Wound ability. Since this upgrade is so cheap to attach, I find myself flipping it in and out as needed early in the game and then I’ll permanently attach it late in the game if chi is plentiful.
2ss – Spirit Ascendant: This upgrade gives Yan Lo both Incorporeal and a (2) tactical action that lets up to three friendly spirits near him take a (1) action. In my experience this is probably your most versatile upgrade since both Incorporeal and the tactical action are useful in the right situations. Incorporeal with 12 Wds and soulstone prevention goes a long way in keeping a front line master like Yan Lo upright during a game. It also lets you get around terrain and other models which is quite important for a master with a slow Wk of 4. The amount of work you get from the tactical action will depend on your crew composition, but many of my lists include the Soul Porter, Izamu, and a Goryo to maximize its potential. I should also note that the Soul Porter’s AP can be used to push Yan Lo forward as well, so if you needed to walk him forward always, your basically spending 1AP to give 2AP to some good models. I also quickly discovered that if Anna Lovelace is stopping Yan from doing much (since she shuts down lightning dance) early in the game, I found it useful for Yan to give out his AP to other models. Also as a quick note, this tactical IS NOT A CAST, which means you can’t use casting expert AP for it. As for when I go for this upgrade, typically this is the first upgrade I purchase on turn 1 since I normally have Chi +2. Then on turn 2 alot of times I switch it back to Chi +2 so I can be at Ca 8 for his turn two activation and then (0) to grab it back once his activation is done.
3ss – Bone Ascendant: This upgrade grants Yan Lo a (2) tactical action to place himself 8″ and then take a close attack with (+) to the attack and damage against all enemies in range. As with the Spirit Ascendant tactical, this is also not a cast so you can only do it once a turn unless you are fast. This upgrade usually doesn’t come into play until turns four and five when you have plenty of extra Chi and Blood Ascendant attached. At that point though, Yan Lo can wreck a crew if he is allowed to get three or more attacks off this with Ca 8 and min 3. But even barring a perfect situation, its may be worth using this to attack a single model if your holding a RJ in hand for damage since its a single focused attack vs two unfocused attacks from a charge (not to mention you’ll get better positioning). Also don’t forget that it is an 8″ place which may be worth using even if there is no enemies he is placing next too (say you need to get out of a bad situation).
4ss – Blood Ascendant: This is the “big daddy” of the upgrades and gives Yan Lo both Casting Expert and a (1) attack that deals a minimum of 3 damage. This upgrade gives Yan Lo 5-7 actions a turn which allows him to get quite a bit of work done. It is also worth nothing that this (1) attack is a Ca action that can go up to Ca 8 with chi and it heals all your ancestor models when it kills its target. As for when to attach this one, I typically am putting it on turn three with his Follow Their Footsteps upgrade (see below). I’m sure some of you are saying, but Kyle you want this upgrade ASAP and you can get it on turn two consistently! To that I say, yes you can have it turn 2, but unless a lot of models have died in Yan’s aura, your left with no chi and stuck at Ca 5. Personally, I am of the opinion that if you can’t attach this and still be at least Ca 6, then you should be using that chi elsewhere. Now as a secondary note, how you attach this upgrade matters because you generate AP early in the activation, so if you are using the (0) to attach it, you don’t gain the casting expert AP that round. Instead you should be attaching this via Follow Their Footsteps, because both the discarding for chi and the changing of your ascendant upgrade with Follow happens before you generate AP for the turn. Anyways the actually process is as follows:
- Yan Lo chooses to first discard a card for Chi +1.
- He chooses to use his ability off Follow Their Footsteps to discard any Ascendant upgrades he wants to increase his Chi (need at least Chi +4 for Blood)
- He reduces his Chi to attach Blood Ascendant. Yan Lo then generates AP for the round and has 4 AP.
The Purchased Upgrades
The new upgrades Yan Lo starts with really changed how he plays and I feel the two new upgrades are basically mandatory. Now the third slot would be a matter of debate, but thanks to our Terracotta Warriors we can switch upgrades as needed.
1st Upgrade Slot: Follow Their Footsteps: I’ve already mentioned this 1ss upgrade several times previously, but what it actually does is two-fold. First it gives Yan Lo chi for each instance of the opponent scoring VP.
This means if they score 3VP from three different sources, Yan gains Chi +3 since they are independently calculated. This also means that if all 3VP for a scheme is scored at once, you only gain Chi +1. As of the latest errata it has been clarified that all scoring at the end of the turn is done at the same time, so you can only gain +1 Chi from end of turn schemes. This doesn’t mean you can’t get more then +1 Chi a turn though since some schemes score mid-turn such as Frame For Murder. The second part of this upgrade allows Yan upon activating to discard a Ascendant upgrade to gain chi equal to its value and then he can attach a new Ascendant upgrade by lowering you chi equal to its value. This basically gives you two options, you can either “throw back” a cheaper upgrade and then attach one of the more expensive ones or as I find myself doing early in the game, throw back an upgrade to increase my Chi for the activation and then reattaching the upgrade after the rest of his actions are done with his (0). Honestly, this upgrade is mandatory for Yan Lo since it gives him both flexibility and access to more Chi.
2nd Upgrade Slot: Awakening: This 1ss upgrade adds two core changes to Yan Lo and a new trigger which is just a bonus. First off, he may now take the lightning dance action as (0) instead of of (1) action. Lightning dance is arguably the premier ability on Yan Lo and now you can do it without “wasting” your AP. Previously this would’ve been a bit of a problem due to him having multiple good (0) actions, but this upgrade also addresses this issue by giving him instinctual, which allows him to take two different (0) actions every turn. This allows Yan Lo to take up to 7 actions a turn with the right upgrades and someone giving him fast. And if those changes weren’t enough, you also gain a new trigger on lightning dance that lets you deal damage and slow the enemy target so long as you keep it in base contact. The reason this upgrade is mandatory is because Yan really wants to be using multiple (0) actions each turn. Prior to this upgrade, Yan had to spend his (0) to attach upgrades which meant he rarely had the chance to use his amazing (0) heal, but now he can consistently cast or do more dancing.
3rd Upgrade Slot: This one can vary since you do have access to terracotta warriors who can swap your upgrades around for you. That said, I don’t always take a terracotta with Yan Lo so I bring Reliquary for the sheer power of re-summoning in key models. I did try Fortify The Spirit at first, but since the trigger isn’t built in and Yan Lo is already pretty tough, I found it to be underwhelming. Outside of those options, Brutal Khakkha has been replaced by Blood Ascendant and Misdirection feels a bit overkill. I think Equality may have some place with certain scheme pools since Yan is in the middle of the enemy crew often and Servant of 5 Dragons is always decent if you expect a lot of Wp duels, which is a huge weakness of Yans.
Yan Lo’s Actions
Spirit Barrage is Yan’s base attack. It starts at Ca 5, but naturally with Chi is can increase to Ca 8. The main use for this attack is twofold. First it has a built in trigger to give you Chi when you deal severe damage or kill any model. This is how you are getting your second Chi on his first turn. Secondly, while this attack is worse then your Glowing Mouth Light off Blood Ascendant, it does have a 12″ range. It also isn’t a terrible attack if you need to attack a ball of enemies and you don’t have the Chi for both the Blood and Bone upgrades (and if you deal enough damage you may very well have enough Chi for both after that action).
Lightning Dance is Yan’s premier ability. It lets him place next to an enemy model and then place that enemy next to one of your models up to 8″ away so long as it stays in LOS. This allows you to isolate enemy models, throw models next to your slower beaters, break up aura synergies, jam the enemy crew with Yan Lo, and just otherwise be very disruptive to the enemy. The fact that LD can be Ca 8 also makes is very hard to resist by most models. The number of applications for this ability is numerous and one of the reasons Yan is both extremely fun and extreme difficult to play since you typically have a lot of options. Personally, I prefer to use LD to throw enemies in bad positions like next to a clockwork trap or a model that it is ill equipped to handle (like non-caster next to incorporeal Goryo). Since you are positioning the enemy, this also makes schemes like Dig Their Graves and Setup extremely easy to pull off if the model has already activated. Also don’t forget some crews just fall apart when you start yanking things out of friendly auras, plus you can tie up quite a few models with an Incorporeal and Impossible To Wound Yan sitting in the middle of them.
Transcendence is a (1) action that lets you pulse out Armor +2 to a friendly model per Chi you spend on it. The ability is quite useful in the right circumstance, but honestly I’ve not found myself using it all that often because of a couple reasons. Yan doesn’t want to use it early because he needs his Chi for his own actions and it doesn’t become plentiful until later in the game. But then you run into the second problem, which is late game Yan with Ca 8 min damage 3 Yan usually is more useful killing enemy models and re-positioning them, instead of Armoring up allies. I’m not saying the ability won’t get used or shouldn’t be used, I’ve just not found myself in situations where this was clearly the best action to take.
Ascendance is his (0) action to grab upgrades which I’ve previously covered.
Instill Youth is Yan’s second base card (0) action, which lets him heal other models up to 4 Wds. The amount healed is based on how much over the TN you go and since this action is based off your Ca, it is clearly better to do this with a Chi buffed Ca so you can use a lower card to greater effect. This action is very effective since many of the models in your crew reduce damage in one form or another, so your crew can take a beating and stay upright. You’ll basically use this every turn if you need it, unless you really need another LD for Yan.
Turn 1 Yan Lo
Yan Lo first activation almost always involves discarding a card for Chi +1 and then killing a summoned seishin for Chi +2. I usually am activating him later in the turn, but often before my beater model in case my opponent pushes a bit to far forward. Of course, if your opponent does put a model close enough for you to Lightning Dance (I’ll call it LD from here on out) it next to said beater model then go for it if it isn’t going to put Yan in a position to get wrecked by the enemy crew. Otherwise, most of the time you’ll have the option of just moving Yan up to position him for Turn two LDing or you can alternatively use his (0) to grab Spirit Ascendant and then use it to give 3 spirits an action. Typically the last thing I’ll do on his turn is (0) heal off the 2 Wds on the Goryo which summoned and then (0) to grab one of his defensive upgrades.
As far as positioning Yan, I would keep him towards the middle of the board for a couple reasons. First off, he is slow and if you take him off into a flank, there is a good chance he will end up sending a turn just walking back to the fight. Second, you want to keep as many models in his aura so he can ramp up as much Chi as possible early in the game. Third, if you are going the Fury of Yomi route, you’ll want to keep in range of 3 spirit models.
Turn 2 Yan Lo
At this point in the game, there will likely be a lot of things happening and I can’t cover all the nuances, but generally this is when Yan Lo gets to have fun. If models have started dying around Yan and you’ve managed to get to get at least Chi +5 (between Chi and throwing an Ascendant upgrade back with Follow), then I would go for Blood Ascendant. More commonly though, I turn my Ascendant upgrade back into Chi and start dancing around the board to really screw up my enemies placement. What you focus Yan on is really going to depend on the scheme pool and the enemy crew, which is to say you’ll have to make your own decisions on this one. Here are some rough ideas you can follow though:
- “Yank” out backline support models like Terracotta Warriors so your beaters can kill them quickly (or have Yan do it)
- “Tar Pit” enemy models that lack to tools to effectively hurt Yan Lo
- Setup your schemes like Dig Their Graves or Setup by throwing enemies into positions to score them
- Activate late with Yan and throw enemies out of scoring positions for Extraction or Guard The Stash
- If opponent is using buffing or debuffing auras throw them behind someone like Izamu to block the aura reaching other models. This works great for things like Zipps anti-interact aura.
- If against Anna Lovelace, use Fury of Yomi to push forward your crew to engage quickly
Now I would advice you to be very mindful of a couple of things in regards to Yan’s position. First off, try not to leave him next to unactivated models that can threaten him with a good Ca attack or just a high damage attacks in general unless the situation is desperate enough or its getting you points. Second, you’ll want to position yourself near the action so you can collect Chi off kills made by other models and to keep near your own models if you are using Fury of Yomi.
Turn 3+ Yan Lo
By turn 3, Yan should have enough Chi to start killing off any non-heavily armor enemies in his way. Once the killing begins, you’ll often have plenty of Chi to start “wasting” it on things like Transcendence if you need to keep your models alive. Usually, by turn three I also will need to start resummoning models that died back into the game like Izamu and the Emissary.
My Core Crew
While the scheme pool can change up several of my options, I think of the combinations I’ve tried I’ve found I like to run with the following:
(1) Yan Lo (Awakening, Follow Their Footsteps, Reliquary) – 4ss cache
(2) Soul Porter – 3ss
(3) Monk of Low River – 4ss
(4) Goryo – 7ss
These four models have proven themselves to be great models that make it into all my lists thus far. After those slots are filled, then I start thinking about what I need for the scheme pool.
Typically, my fifth model is a 9-10ss “Beater” model that can deal some damage and ideally absorb some damage of its own. My top picks here are Izamu, Obsidian Statue, or the Shadow Emissary. Each have their own merits, but personally I tend to stick to Izamu since he hits hard, can take a beating, and can be summoned back by Yan when he dies. That said, I think the Obsidian Statue does have some good synergies with Yan with his (0) Dark Energies aura which increases the damage of Ca attacks. He also is my preferred choice for Interference/Reconnoiter because of his scrap generation when combined with Toshiro’s summoning.
My sixth model is often a 8-11ss support model that greatly assists with the scheme pool. My usual picks range from Sensei Yu, Sun Quiang, Toshiro, or the Shadow Emissary. The default choice is the Shadow Emissary because he serves as a secondary beater that can also be resummoned by Yan, but specific strategies and schemes will change the choice. In Extraction and Turf War, Sun Quaing gets the nod since he can shutdown the enemy crew from scoring by making them peons. As previously mentioned in Interference/Reconnoiter then Toshiro with Command The Graves makes it in the list for his ability to summon in more models. Finally, if the pool is very scheme heavy then I may swap in Sensei Yu instead of the Emissary since he has more synergy with those types of schemes.
That leaves you with 10-13ss left to fill out the rest of your crew based on the scheme pool. Common options that I’ve been taking include:
- Another 10ss Beater/Support (usually Shadow Emissary if you didn’t take it already)
- Terracotta Warrior to protect your other models and swap upgrades as needed
- Charm Warder to help protect your other models and disrupt summoning
- Obsidian Oni if you want extra scrap for Toshiro summoning
- Guild Pathfinder so you can summon traps which are great models to throw enemies into to tie them up
Obviously that list doesn’t include many other great 10T models, but it gives you a good baseline to expand from as you get more games with Yan under your belt.
I think Yan is a solid generalist master right now for any scheme pool, but he does have one obvious weakness and that is his terrible base Df and Wp. Now while a Df 5 isn’t good for a master, I think that it is offset by his defensive abilities and access to healing. The real problem is his Wp 5 which leaves him susceptible to Horror checks and any number of negative effects that force Wp duels without targeting Yan directly. The only real answer is to either include Servant of the Five Dragons to increase his Wp or to avoid enemies that generate those duels. Well there is a third option which I do plan on using and that is just not taking Yan Lo against Ressers and Neverborn. Sure, he can do fine against some of the masters in those factions, but several of the popular ones also cause him fits which are less pronounced with other 10T masters.
Well that is all I have to cover for Yan right now other then possibly going over what schemes are good for Yan, but I think you can figure that out easily enough on your own. If you have any questions post them below.