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Bottomdecking: Master of Mayhem

Decision: Should You Play Rewrite Master of Mayhem?


No, you shouldn't play this card.  Yes, GW should reissue it with clearer rules text.

Factor: Templating and Editing

Master of Mayhem is certainly the worst written card in Shadespire; it may actually be the worst written card we've seen in a card game.  Initially, there was some discussion about whether the card could simply be played after your third action, no matter what it was.  While the card could certainly be interpreted in that way, we think that argument isn't exactly in good faith.  While the Ninth-grade Nepalese child who learned English by reading Ulysses that wrote this card certainly didn't do a good job at it, we do think he or she probably didn't intend it to simply be scored after the passage of a certain amount of time in the game.

The real problem lies in the fact that the card uses language that is extremely unclear in describing what exactly triggers it's scoring.  Nowhere in the (rather lengthy) rulebook description of Scatter are cards or actions referred to as things "that Scatter" as they are on Mayhem.  Instead, the player "resolves a card or action with Scatter X" on them.  So this begs the question: which cards or actions "Scatter."?  Some of these are obvious: Black Powder Sphere, for example.  Others, not so much; let's look at a few.

Does Baffling Illusion count for Master of Mayhem?  Like the exact amount of Methamphetamine that it took to produce Master of Mayhem, we may never know.  Baffling Illusion certainly has the potential to create a Scatter Effect.  However, it's unclear who would create it.  The opponent "Scatters X," but you played the card.  Should you get credit for it?  Should they, if - against all good sense - you are both playing Master of Mayhem?  What if you play Baffling Illusion and your opponent doesn't make a Move action?  You've certainly "used" a "card that scatters," per Mayhem, but it hasn't actually done anything (like GW's editing department, zing!).  Mysteries abound.

Your opponent casts Imbue With Life and you're one objective token away from scoring Infestation; what should you do?  Take Infestation out of your deck and eat it, then reflect on whatever childhood trauma caused you to put that card in your deck in the first place.  But if that's not an option (an 11 card objective deck will get you DQ'ed at a tournament), maybe you play Confusing Reflection in order to try to control the outcome.  So you resolve the Scatter.  But did you use an action or card that Scatters?  Probably not.  Did they?  Hard to say, since you resolved the Scatter. 

Finally, a simple card!  Obviously I can use the action on Chained Spite to partially trigger Master of Mayhem.  But can I also count playing Chained Spite as "using" a "card that scatters"?  If someone asked me when I "used" Great Fortitude, for example, I'd certainly indicate the time at which I played it on my little plastic man.  Most likely, we shouldn't count playing Chained Spite towards Mayhem - but like the drinking water at an off-brand Alabama Motel 6, it isn't exactly clear.

There are more examples of cards that interact with Master of Mayhem in unclear ways due to its poor templating and editing, but let's move on to some other problems with this card.

Factor: Keyword Support

Prior to its purchase by Fantasy Flight, Legend of the Five Rings was a CCG that ran for over 20 years.  For the first 14 years or so, there was exactly one card with the keyword "Philosopher" on it.  This wasn't uncommon, keywords often went unused if they weren't attached to rules text.  However, in 2009, L5R released Ikoma Tobikuma, who could give himself the Philosopher keword with an action.  This was totally different from a character having a "flavor" keyword printed on them.  Having to use an action to gain a keyword almost certainly meant that it would be useful in some way; and as added evidence, Tobikuma could use the same action to give himeself "Naval" or "Cavalry"instead - keywords that were attached to powerful rules text.  No doubt Philosopher would have to be an amazing keyword to compete with Naval or Cavalry!

The original L5R CCG died shortly after Gencon 2015, despite assurances at Gencon from that dirty snake Bryan Reese (I may be bitter) that there was no intention to end the game.  In the six years between Tobikuma and the end of L5R, they never printed another card with the word Philosopher in the text.

Unfortunately, Scatter suffers from a similar (though not as extreme) lack of support in Shadespire.  Excluding Master of Mayhem, there are 13 cards that have the word Scatter on them.  Of those, 3 are warband-specific (Mollog, Eyes, Stormdads).  Of the remaining 10 power cards, Vertigo almost certainly can't trigger Master of Mayhem.  That means, at best, you can run 10 cards in your power deck to try to score Mayhem - of which you must use 3 of them in a single round.  

In any given 5-card power hand, you've got a 50/50 chance to draw enough scatter effects to trigger Master.  Similarly, you've got a 25% chance of drawing Master of Mayhem in any given 3-card objective hand.  Without do-overs, you're looking at a 12.5% chance of having both in hand.  Of course, this calculation - and all others in this article - assume that you're playing a 20 card power deck, because you are not a sentient pineapple.

Note, this includes the cards that we weren't exactly sure could even trigger Mayhem, as detailed in the section above.  If we stick to only cards that quite obviously can trigger Mayhem, you're down to eight.  Now you're down to a 29.6% chance of having 3 or more appropriate Power Cards in a 5-card hand, and a 7.4% chance of having them at the same time as you draw Master of Mayhem.  This is approximately the same chance you have of being afflicted with asthma as an adult, so if you're wheezing while reading this article, maybe give Master of Mayhem a shot. 

Factor: Spells

Of the 8 universal cards that can definitely trigger Mayhem, 4 are spells.  The warband specific-options for Eyes and Stormdads are also spells.  Mollog has a non-spell warband-specific card, but they don't have a wizard, so they're down 4 other options, leaving them at a -3 card penalty to score Mayhem against even non-Eye/Stormdad options.

So, most likely, if you're gonna try to run Master of Mayhem, you're going to need to run spells.  First, that means all the Shadespire season 1 warbands are out, as well as the Profiteers and Mollog.  Second, and perhaps more importantly, there is yet another murky rules area we have to cross.  If you fail to successfully cast a spell, does it count as "using" a card that "scatters?"  Probably not.  No scatter roll occurs, the scatter tile is never placed, and nothing about the game state changes (unless you double-critted yourself into a point of damage).

Three of the four universal Scatter spells only require a Lightning to cast, while the fourth requires a single critical.  For a 2 die caster, this means those spells have n 89% and 31% chance of being successful, respectively.  While 89% certainly isn't bad, the chance of failure should at least be factored into our calculations.

Factor: Putting it All Together

Lets put it all together.  Let's say you play Eyes of the Nine (why!?), and you really want to score Master of Mayhem - maybe for thematic reasons.  You've packed your deck with 4 ploys and 5 spells that can all trigger it.  You're going to mulligan your hand aggressively in order to get and score Master of Mayhem.

In any given starting hand, before mulligans, you will draw Master of Mayhem and 3 scatter cards just under 10% of the time.  The rest of the time, you'll need to mulligan.  After factoring in all of the possible permutations of initial mulligans, you'll have 3 or more scatter cards and Master of Mayhem in an aggressively mulligan-ed first hand 28.68% of the time. 

Now, you're equally likely to draw any of the 5 spells or 4 ploys as your 3 scatter cards.  The ploys have a 100% chance of triggering Mayhem, but the spells don't.  Rather than mess about with every possible permutation of 3+ cards, we'll just use an average here.  Assuming a 2-die caster, your average card will have an 85.89% chance of triggering Mayhem.  Which means that overall, you've got an average chance of succeeding on all 3 cards of 63.36%.  So, when you put all those numbers together in the magic number machine, your chances of having the cards you need and successfully using them on the first turn of any given game is about 18% - all for 1 glory.   Not Great.  

18% of people admit to stealing printer paper from work.  So if you are like the rest of us, and lie about stealing printer paper from work, probably don't play Master of Mayhem (no, that's not how statistics work).

Factor: Snirk

Or I guess you could just play Snirk.

Alternate Path: But Wait!

Should you play Master of Mayhem even if you are playing Snirk?  Without power cards, you'll still need 3 activations to score Mayhem, assuming our spinning nightmare-son lives that long.  What else could you score with 3 activations?  Well, out of Gerblins, you can score Keep them Guessing in 2 activations, without power cards, and get twice the glory.  Or you could score Mad Scurry for 2 glory with a single activation (using Drigzit and pals on the new 3-starting-hexes-together-board).  Similarly, if you spin well - and the odds are decent -  you can score Obliterated for 2 glory with a single Snirk-activation. 

So for less effort, you can easily score twice as many points.  There are also plenty of 1-glory options that can be scored with minimal effort in three activations.  Master of Mayhem is simply sub-par. 


Master of Mayhem is poorly written, poorly conceptualized, and poorly integrated into Shadespire.  It's effort-to-reward ratio is astronomical out of non-Gerblin warbands, and it's odds of success in a Snirk-less warband are abysmal.  Even with Snirk's dizziness paraphilia on your side, you've likely got better options.


  1. I enjoy reading your articles, generally they are informative, quick to read, and some times a bit dry. This however had a dry, wry sense of humor that made it fun to read. There was also a sense of exaggerated frustration that was equally amusing.

    Is it weird that you have made me want to play the card more now?

  2. Not weird at all - I often get the same reaction when someone tells me not to do something. =)


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