I'm home from work today, so I'm taking this opportunity to post a couple of what I like to think of as discussion articles. Articles where I spew out my thoughts on strategy/deck construction and then hope it leads to an interesting discussion. I haven't seen anyone go over the Provinces in detail, so I'm going to take a look at those here. Included my current pick for provinces of that element with each clan.
Ancestral Lands, Entrenched Position, Defend the Wall (Crab)
The two neutral provinces both have 5 strength, which is fantastic, and an additional +5 against one conflict type. I would almost always choose to run an Earth province even if running a Seeker role of a different element, and would strongly consider putting it under my stronghold. The choice seems pretty easy most of the time - if you are stronger in military, chose Ancestral Lands (+5 against political), if you are stronger in political, chose Entrenched Position (+5 against military). For balanced clans (Phoenix, Dragon), I tend to lean toward Entrenched Position, because it's my impression that the strong military clans (Lion, Crab, Unicorn) are more numerous and focused than the strong political clans (Crane, Scorpion). This may change a lot based on meta, especially outside of the core-only environment.
For Crab, it seems like a really difficult choice between Defend the Wall and Ancestral Lands. I am currently running Defend the Wall, but I'm uncertain if it's actually better than Ancestral Lands. The ability is good, but how many times will you resolve it - likely once, IMO. I have experimented with putting it on the stronghold in place of the more standard Rally to the Cause, because I figure that a battle at the stronghold will have a better chance of being heavily defended (and thus better chance to trigger it), and if they want to try and win the game, they can't avoid it.
Crane, Scorpion - Entrenched Position
Lion, Unicorn - Ancestral Lands
Phoenix, Dragon - leaning toward Entrenched Position, but both are good
Crab - leaning toward Defend the Wall, Ancestral Lands is a close second
Elemental Fury, Rally to the Cause, Endless Plains (Unicorn), The Art of War (Lion)
Rally to the Cause seems to be the early favorite here, but both are interesting, if a little tricky. Rally to the Cause seems most helpful if you are playing a balanced clan, expecting the opponent to send characters to a military conflict that are stronger in military and characters to a political conflict that are stronger in political - if you are equally strong in each, then you almost always will profit by switching the conflict type away from what your opponent wanted to declare. Even if he used Iuchi Wayfinder to look at the province, it doesn't help, because if he declares the "wrong" conflict type, you just leave it alone. However, it also seems to be popular in more focused clans, figuring that if the province gets attacked in the conflict type you are weaker in, you will switch it. This seems to be the idea behind putting it under the Crab stronghold - if they attack your stronghold in political, you switch it to military where you are stronger. The question that occurs to me is - if you are strong in military, and they attack your Rally to the Cause in military with strong military characters, how often will it be helpful to shift the conflict to political, where it is likely both the attackers and your defenders are weaker... Sometimes, certainly, but maybe not often. So, this is probably a little controversial, but personally, I tend towards avoiding Rally to the Cause in a focused military or political deck.
Elemental Fury, on the other hand, is even harder to figure out - it lets you switch the ring, which can be extremely useful, but figuring out all the permutations is likely to make my brain explode. I kind of need to experiment with it, I think. I will say that it seems good in a deck that wants to push honor or dishonor, as you can move your opponent away from Air and Fire as needed. You do have to be careful about Fate on rings though - you don't want your opponent to get the Fate off of two rings on the same attack (it's fully under your control, of course, but sometimes Fate on a particular ring will prevent you from switching the ring the way you want to). I do think that Elemental Fury can be good in Dragon despite their affinity toward extra Fate on rings - Void can be so destructive to a well-equipped character. All-in-all, I think this element is the muddiest in terms of who wants which province.
For the clan specific ones, The Art of War seems to give Lion some card draw that they are otherwise missing, but I could still see an argument for Elemental Fury to protect Earth (for card draw) or Fire (high glory characters) or even Air (since Lion has a pretty good honor game). For Unicorn - Endless Plains is so good and can punish / discourage lone attackers, I don't think there's much choice. Just don't put it on your stronghold.
Phoenix - leaning toward Rally to the Cause, but good reasons to favor Elemental Fury
Scorpion - leaning toward Elemental Fury
Unicorn - Endless Plains
Lion - leaning toward the Art of War, but considering Elemental Fury
Crab, Crane, Dragon - totally up in the air / I can't decide
Fertile Fields, Manicured Gardens, Secret Cache (Scorpion), The Art of Peace (Crane)
In my opinion, the neutral Air provinces are some of the weaker provinces. If running a Seeker role, I would tend to skip either the Air or Fire element. Of course, one of the two clans to select a Seeker role this season is Scorpion with Seeker of Air, so I have to assume they had a reason for it. The abilities on Fertile Fields and Manicured Gardens are perfectly fine, I just don't feel like they're that impactful for an ability that is likely to be triggered once or maybe twice. Yes, the extra card or extra Fate could end up winning you the battle, but I don't think it's as likely to do so as some of the other abilities. On the other hand, a lot of the very strong abilities are only "when revealed", while Fields and Gardens are once a turn if they get targeted again, so if Air really is weakest, it's not by a whole lot. Fate often feels like it's worth more than card draw, so Manicured Gardens seems more popular, but there are a lot of free conflict cards that can swing a battle, so for clans without a lot of draw abilities, I would consider Fertile Fields too.
Both clan-specific provinces seem very strong - I haven't experimented at all with Crane and Scorpion yet, so I don't have much to say about them, but would definitely include their respective provinces. Secret Cache can be strong under your stronghold (give you something you need to win that last ditch defense), or otherwise (something in the early game to help you get set up). The Art of Peace, obviously, should never go under your stronghold. It suffers a little for being one of those provinces that doesn't help you win, but gives you a reward for losing. However, several clan-specific provinces work that way, and the reward seems to be generally worth it.
Crane - The Art of Peace
Scorpion - Secret Cache + Manicured Gardens (?)
Lion, Dragon - leaning toward Fertile Fields, but it's a tough choice
Phoenix - leaning toward skipping it with Seeker of Void, otherwise Manicured Gardens
Crab, Unicorn - Manicured Gardens
Pilgrimage, Shameful Display, Kuroi Mori (Phoenix)
Everyone loves Shameful Display, and that ability is really, really good, but I've been experimenting with Pilgrimage in some decks lately, and I've never been unhappy when it's the target of a conflict. 5 province strength is strong, and the ability says "if you can't win by 5, then just don't even bother". It has definitely saved me from a few ring triggers.
That said, if you're likely to have a high Glory character to honor or if you're planning to put dishonor pressure on your opponent, Shameful Display is hard to pass up. It's annoying if it gets attacked solo when you don't have defenders available (had one game playing against Crab where I expended everything to win my first defense and keep him from having any way to sacrifice in order to activate his Berserker, and then his second attack was unopposed with the 3/0 Berserker solo and happened to choose Shameful Display (no affect because there weren't 2 characters to target), and broke it. Crab had no cards in hand to break the province if it had been a 4. But still, Shameful Display is the go-to for most clans in Void.
Kuroi Mori is incredible for Phoenix, and makes me happy they chose Seeker of Void. The ability to act as either a Rally to the Cause or Elemental Fury as needed is sweet, especially in a clan that is pretty balanced between political and military - and not just on reveal, but once a turn, even mid-battle if you have a reason for waiting. The only thing that makes me sad is that the Phoenix, with their high glory, balanced stats, and ring manipulation, will have to choose between these two provinces after the next Winter Court.
Crane, Scorpion, Lion - Shameful Display
Phoenix - Kuroi Mori + Shameful Display
Dragon, Unicorn - Pilgrimage
Crab - leaning toward Shameful Display for dishonor pressure, but Pilgrimage is close
Meditations on the Tao, Night Raid, Restoration of Balance (Dragon)
To me, fire seems to be the most schizophrenic element. I can't figure out what effects are supposed to be in-sphere for fire. Isawa Masahiro seems to be the fire card that's most straightforward in terms of theme - he has a discard effect because he's throwing fireballs. Makes sense. But discard effects are too nasty to just throw around in the game, and characters don't have hit points, so direct-damage effects are hard to model. The Fire ring is used to honor and dishonor characters. Something having to do with "belly fire," maybe? Agasha Swordsmith uses Fire to forge weapons, I suppose. Display of Power is about transformation and rebirth, which makes some sense. I suppose with Night Raid, you've got people going out and burning the enemy's caravans - it seems like a stretch, but okay. All that still doesn't help me understand why Meditations on the Tao is Fire element. Nor why that causes a fate to be removed from a character - I thought fate removal was a Void effect?
Anyway, enough about confusing theme - Night Raid and Meditations on the Tao are both potentially strong effects that can easily whiff. If one character attacks your Night Raid, your opponent has to discard 1 card. Not that great. But on the other hand, if you manage to get 3 or 4 attackers, it can be devastating. I could easily see skipping Fire if you are playing a Seeker role, but if you run Night Raid, it wouldn't be a terrible province to put under your stronghold - attacks on the stronghold are more likely to include a lot of characters than attacks on any other province, I would think. Meditations on the Tao, on the other hand, can whiff if there's no Fate on any attacking characters, and is probably a poor choice on the stronghold because it doesn't affect the current battle, but just (mostly) hurts board position for next turn. For that same reason, Meditations is probably the most consistent of the Fire province effects, but a little hard to get excited about because it doesn't help in the current battle. Meta-wise - Night Raid is more punishing for swarmy "wide" decks, while Meditations is more punishing for "tall" decks.
Restoration of Balance is kind of similar to Night Raid, but hurts more if they have a lot of cards in hand. Honestly, I'm not sure if it's any better. For an opponent who has loaded up their hand, it can be horribly painful, but if they are low on conflict cards, it can totally whiff as well. All in all, Fire provinces all feel kind of high-risk, high-reward, which maybe is the theme of the element...
Dragon - leaning toward Restoration of Balance, under the stronghold, but Night Raid might have the same effect
Scorpion, Crab - leaning toward Night Raid to assist in dishonor/card pressure, though Meditations on the Tao can help with playing the attrition game
Unicorn - leaning toward Meditations on the Tao
Crane, Phoenix, Lion - undecided