Iyslander primer: key cards to consider when building the Ice Queen (part 2)

Iyslander primer: key cards to consider when building the Ice Queen (part 2)

by Steven Jennings Leave a comment

By EthnicSmokea   In part 1 we discussed Channel the Bleak Expanse, a card that can be quite devastating against many of the current aggro decks when played at instant speed on their turn. In part 2, we will discuss the disruption we want to do on our turn. Command and Conquer / Erase Face                              What am I, an ape? Physical attacks? In MY wizard deck?   Yes (except the ape part). Let’s go over the reasons why these cards shine in this wizard deck in particular.    1: Your opponent’s armor   Back when Kano was the only wizard in town, aggro decks could afford to ‘disrespect’ Kano and not bring any Arcane Barrier equipment, with the idea being that if they do run into the 1 Kano in the room (you know who you are) they can just try to race them. For example, if I were to bring Briar to a tournament, pre-UPR, I would have been reasonably happy to only have Shock Charmers as my protection for Kano’s Aether Wildfire turn, and stick to my gameplan of going face the rest of the game. Of course, this does not always get you there, but it gets you there enough times to not need to dedicate more sideboard slots for a deck you are already quite unlikely to face.    However, this gameplan does not work against Iyslander - she will slow you down and chip away at you while doing so, and so the aggro decks now have to bring AB. To give a specific example: you don’t want to have your turn abruptly ended by a Hypothermia or Channel Lake Frigid but also be unable to pitch your remaining cards to block the follow up 3 damage from Waning Moon.    So, with the aggro decks now packing AB, we can punish the consequences: their equipment with block values on them are now collecting dust in their sideboard. And that means that while the aggro decks with fridges (looking at you, Runeblades) are usually somewhat resilient to cards like CnC and Erase Face, they no longer have this resiliency when against Iyslander. Couple this with the fact that a lot of the cards in these aggro decks block for 2 (looking at you, Fai), CnC and Erase Face become even more difficult to deal with.   2: Iyslander’s playstyle thrives on 2-3 card hands   The combination of Iyslander’s hero ability and weapon, Waning Moon, means that we are very incentivized to use at least 2 cards on our opponent’s turn - 1 card to play from arsenal, and 1 card to pay for it and waning moon. This leaves us with at most 3 cards on our turn, and to keep this cycle going, ideally we use 2 of them and arsenal the third.    This means that we are looking for the most disruptive thing we can do with only 2 cards, which is where Command and Conquer and Erase Face fit in perfectly. Not only are they on-rate for damage (note that they do the same damage as a red Aether Hail + Waning Moon on your turn), they have potentially devastating on-hits on an already armorless opponent. So, either your opponent is forced to block with cards from their hand (thus reducing the damage they get to deal you next turn), or they take the on-hit effect (thus also reducing the damage they get to deal you next turn). This means that you can afford to block less on their turn, and so allows you to keep up the tempo.   3: It gives you the edge in the mirror   Um, what? Iyslander doesn’t care about either of these on-hits.    Yes, that’s true. A CnC against Iyslander just prompts them to respond with that card in arsenal, and Erase Face’s on-hit only matters on rare occasions. To understand why these cards are still good in the mirror though, let’s take a look at the chest piece both players will bring: Alluvion Constellas.      Since 1 charge on this is half an activation of Waning Moon, we can equate 1 charge on this being equal to 1 resource. That means that this chest piece basically says “the first point of arcane damage you block each turn is free”.   This generates a lot of value in the wizard mirror where both opponents are firing arcane damage at each other on both turns, but what if you were the wizard that was firing physical damage on your turn instead of arcane? You force your opponent to use 2 cards to block 6 physical damage instead of giving them the option of using 2 cards to block 6 arcane damage (say, if your alternative was an Aether Hail + Waning Moon), which, with this chest piece, effectively denies them 1 resource that turn cycle. Might not seem like much, but in a long game (and the Iyslander mirrors do go long), it adds up.   Conclusion And that concludes this 2-part series on the cards which I feel are being overlooked in Iyslander. As with most card choices in Flesh and Blood, these are not always going to be auto-includes, particularly since the nature of the hero is such that it needs to adapt to what it is trying to shut down. However, with the current trajectory of the meta, Channel the Bleak Expanse, Command and Conquer and Erase Face are all cards I will look to consider for any Iyslander list.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland with Oldhim

Walking in a Winter Wonderland with Oldhim

by Steven Jennings Leave a comment

  By Dimos   Oldhim is currently the only hero in Flesh and Blood to have an explicitly defensive ability built into his card. This gives him a lot of versatility since that ability is generally fed by blue cards. That means that the cards that power his big, powerful, high-cost Guardian attacks can also work as efficient defense by cutting an opponent’s big turn short through denial of on-hit effects or denial of an entire card. Resource cards rarely perform double duty like this, and it is a unique luxury for Oldhim. The trade-off is that most of the Ice and Earth cards only block for two. This makes otherwise-mediocre cards like Winter’s Grasp and Autumns touch auto-includes in just about every Oldhim deck. There are also other treasures in the three-block camp such as Channel Lake Frigid, which should be in every Ice hero deck ever. What all of this adds up to is this: Oldhim should be built like an aggro deck, not a control deck because his resource cards provide him enough defense. There are caveats to that, such as if you’re trying to do something very, very specific like running every big defense reaction possible with the aim to fatigue other Guardians (which was recently popular in Blitz). The standard for aggro in any Guardian deck doesn’t mean a shortage of blues, it just means enough reds to see one impactful one each turn to provide powerful disruption (Oaken Old, Spinal Crush, Pummel etc.), or high-damage output (Zealous Belting, Rouse the Ancients, Enlightened Strike). This is all enabled by a profoundly flexible defensive suite of cards, primarily Crown of Seeds, Winter’s Wail, and the Guardian shields. I recently wrote an article about how good Crown of Providence is because it allows for one arsenal fix per game. Crown of Seeds lets you do this every turn. Now, prudent use of Crown of Seeds is not to use it every turn, as it often leads to awkward pitch stacks (very relevant for a hero that shines on the second cycle like Oldhim), and sometimes an Oldhim player will use the arsenal for what it is designed for and doesn’t want to lose the premium card they’ve placed there. Crown of Seeds was strong enough to get banned in Blitz, and was a frequent call for bans in the Bravo, Star of the Show era of the game. It is an insanely powerful card that gives Oldhim access to a unique speed in this game. Getting access to a second deck cycle up to three turns before your opponent is an advantage that I cannot overstate (only Kano can beat him in this race). With all of those thoughts in mind, let’s look at some specific information for each constructed format. Classic Constructed Considerations: Oldhim’s mixture of disruption and defense allows him to excel against most of the aggressive decks in the format. He has the aforementioned flexibility to build a more aggressive deck to deal with the set-up and midrange decks that he often struggles against. In the current Classic Constructed metagame I would definitely build a more aggressive Oldhim deck. Some defensive staples like red Sink Below and blue Staunch Response are a bit too good to cut in the name of pure aggression, and red Oasis Respite is efficient defense when combined with Crown of Seeds while providing effective insurance against Kano. The rest of the sideboard space should be dedicated to some mix of aggressive cards. For Oldhim these generally fall into one of two camps: raw damage and disruption. Raw damage cards include Enlightened Strike (which is single-handedly an argument to run Snapdragon Scalers), Zealous Belting and Rouse the Ancients (and the six-, seven- and eight-power blues to support it). Thunder Quake is also a strong contender for the raw damage slot, but that slot is likely better afforded to disruptive cards. Some key disruptive cards that should be in the deck are Oaken Old (fantastic to recur with Sow Tomorrow), Spinal Crush (fantastic to Dominate with Polar Blast), Command and Conquer, Endless Winter, Tear Asunder, and even Amulet of Ice. I’m particularly keen on Amulet of Ice currently, as the relative strength of Oldhim’s Ice react has increased, which mitigates Amulet’s lack of blocking value. Additionally, triggering the effect can be an amazing end-game tempo swing on your first fused Oaken Old. Even if they can block that actual on-hit effect, the Amulet ensures that you still strip cards and steal tempo. I am also partial to Red Disables due to the high base power and viability with Pummel (possible off of two pitched blues and a Tunic counter). Even though Crown of Providence weakens the relative strength of arsenal disruption, it is a one-time use and your opponent will be using their arsenal more than once. There are also some cards that I consider to be hybrids between raw damage and disruption, such as Righteous Cleansing (which I think that some Oldhim decks are well-positioned to run right now) and Pulverize. Both of those cards shine against certain decks and are very lackluster against others. Art of War is also a consideration for Oldhim, as it can do double duty on both attack and defense. Oldhim is not without his weaknesses though. While he excels against aggressive decks regardless of his deck build, he needs to use the majority of his deckbuilding space to shore up his poorer matchups into set-up decks. His weakest matchup is currently Prism, although she has been kept in check by the current prevalence of strong aggro decks. There’s a lot that Oldhim can try to do to improve the matchup, but very little that he can do effectively. Dash can be a thorn in his side, as her inevitability of setting up Pistol-buffing items outclasses his late game. Oldhim has a few tools into this matchup, with the easiest options being Command and Conquer and Pummel, with fused Oaken Olds and Pummels in the late game. Oldhim struggles more in this matchup than Bravo due mainly to a lower density of disruption in his deck. But the old Guardian tricks against Dash remain effective such as Last-Ditch Effort, Forged for War, and Tome of Fyendal. The newer threat of Dromai can be a challenge for a more conservative Oldhim list, but he can definitely hold his own with an aggressive package that includes Zealous Belting, Rouse the Ancients, Enlightened Strike to kill the threatening Dragons, with powerful Guardian attacks to disrupt the creation of, or trigger Phantasm on the other Dragons. Iyslander is a matchup that can be very difficult for Oldhim, as Iyslander’s disruption prevents Oldhim’s high-damage turns, and she doesn’t care about most of Oldhim’s disruption. Adding to that, Iyslander also has the inevitability of Frost Hexes in her deck, which can frequently result in a 20-damage game-ending turn. Depending on what you think your meta will be, you should adjust your 80 cards to favour the more prevalent matchups. Overall, I think Oldhim is in a decent spot in this metagame and can perform well. However, I think that Bravo has him slightly outclassed right now, due to the sheer power of disruption in this meta, which Bravo has better access to with his on-demand Dominate. Erase Face has been a popular topic of discussion recently, but I am not too keen on it in Oldhim decks currently. This is mostly because it doesn’t impact the decks that Oldhim struggles with. Although it denies Prism’s Luminaris effect, it does not stop her ability to play out two Auras on a turn. It will buy you a turn, but that turn will only result in her having a stronger board state. Dromai, Dash, and Bravo don’t care about class or talents in 90% of situations either. Blitz Considerations: I think that Oldhim in Blitz is some thoroughly trodden ground, and there are plenty of amazing, tournament-winning lists available on the official Flesh and Blood website. The one new wrinkle is the Crown of Seeds ban. The obvious replacement is Crown of Providence, which I think opens a unique door for Oldhim in the format. It allows him to run some interesting tricks with Heave cards (even mediocre ones like yellow Thunder Quake). With the maximum of 8 Heave cards (rainbow Thunder Quakes and a pair of Pulverizes), you’ve got at least a 60% chance of Heaving something on turn zero or one. That discount can allow you to play out a pummel aggressively on the next turn (which you have either a 55% or 70% chance of seeing depending if you’re running four or six). Either way, there will be some powerful damage and disruption afforded in the early stages of the game. Crown of Providence can be used to then clear out the Heaved card if it gets stuck there or if the Seismic Surges it generates get used on a more disruptive Guardian attack like Oaken Old or Spinal Crush. Commoner Considerations: Here is what I’ve recently run in Commoner to a significant degree of success, admittedly only at the Armory level. Against aggressive, wide decks, the main gameplan is to use the defense reactions and Oldhim’s ability to buy some time until you can cobble together some disruption, as Chokeslam and Crush the Weak hit just about every fast deck in the format very hard. One of the core plays in this deck is to use both aspects of Oldhim’s ability on one turn by pitching one blue card and one red or yellow card. The floating resources can then be used to pay for Brothers in Arms, Ironhide equipment or Quell. The decks primary weakness is other Guardian decks, as other than Pummel, the closest thing to relevant on-hits in the deck are Chokeslam (which only forces them to arsenal a Pummel rather than playing it) and Icy Encounter. This means that efficiently using Pummel, Unmovable, Glacial Footsteps, and Macho Grande are your only tickets to victory. If you find yourself running into more Guardian decks, you can add extra Macho Grandes, Glacial Footsteps, and Unmovables. An additional consideration is Glacial Horns, mainly as a sideboard equipment if you think that your opponent is running defense reactions. Destroy Glacial Horns to freeze the defense reaction in their arsenal, then play out a Macho Grande or fused Glacial Footsteps to close out games or push a dangerous amount of damage. 

Iyslander primer: key cards to consider when building the Ice Queen (part 1)

Iyslander primer: key cards to consider when building the Ice Queen (part 1)

by Matt Day Leave a comment

By Pankaj ( EthnicSmoke) Bhojwani   I have been testing out Iyslander in Classic Constructed for a few weeks now (over Tabletop Simulator, since the physical cards only became available this past weekend), and have gathered some thoughts on certain key pieces that I think are being overlooked. With the meta still being very fresh, this is by no means a definitive guide on cards that absolutely must be played in Iyslander, but rather a primer on what cards should definitely be considered when you are looking to build the latest wizard to enter Rathe. Channel the Bleak Expanse The story around this card is the epitome of the idea that “you cannot build a control deck until you know what you are trying to control”. Not that Iyslander is a full control deck (and to be honest, archetypes like control/tempo are pretty murky in Flesh and Blood anyway), but you get the idea. This was not a card I had in the first few iterations of my list, but it become something I looked towards when I realized that the only games I was losing when against Briars/Fais/other aggro decks were ones where they managed to resolve multiple Belittles over the course of the game. Since most of Iyslander’s “bread-and-butter” disruption taxes your opponent 2 resources on their turn (referring to cards like Winter’s Bite, Arctic Incarceration, Aether Icevein, and to an extent, Cold Snap), Belittle perfectly answers Iyslander’s disruption as it immediately provides 2 resources to your opponent (when used to find a blue Minnowism, which most players will do when against Iyslander), on top of being attached to a 3-power go-again attack. While most red-heavy aggro decks can be slowed down tremendously by being taxed an extra 2 resources, Belittle solves that issue for them and so I looked into Channel the Bleak Expanse as an answer. Note that ‘silver bullets’ (i.e. cards that don’t do much except answer a very specific threat) are typically bad in Flesh and Blood (for example, Dissolution Sphere in Dash as an answer to Viserai). However, it turns out that Channel the Bleak Expanse does a lot more against the popular aggro decks right now than just neutering Belittle. Against Fai, it also stops Art of War, Flamecall Awakening, Engulfing Flamewave and Mask of Momentum. Against Briar, it stops Force of Nature, Snatch, Tome of Harvests, Gorganian Tome, Sonata Arcanix (playing CBE in response to a Sonata that they pitched for is pretty much game-winning on the spot) and any cards they might want to fuse. With Viserai potentially having a resurgence right now, CBE can also hit Become the Arknight, Drawn to the Dark Dimension and Sonata (again). These cards, along with the fact that some players are looking to play yellow Belittles as well as the reds, means that you can safely arsenal CBE and reasonably expect to be able to hit something with it on your opponent’s turn. The drawback of CBE also must be discussed, and that is the fact that it stops your own fuses. However, since you are the one in control of when the CBE enters the arena and when it leaves, you have a lot of agency over how much this really affects you. Note that keeping CBE around at the end of your turn is optional, i.e. you can choose not to keep CBE at the end of your turn even if you have the required number of ice cards in the pitch zone, allowing you to fuse that blue aether icevein you put in your arsenal when it comes to your opponent’s turn. So really, the drawback of CBE only affects you when you play it at instant speed on your opponent’s turn and so CBE is still around when it comes to your turn.  But, how much fusing are we trying to do during our main phase anyway? Red Aether Icevein is definitely one of them, and maybe Encase (though I am not opposed to blocking with Encase if I just used a CBE on my opponent’s turn), but aside from those the disruptive attacks I believe we are most happy to use on our turn do not require a fuse at all - and that brings us to part 2.

Some Heat in Uprising: Exploring Crown of Providence and Equipment Usage in Flesh and Blood

Some Heat in Uprising: Exploring Crown of Providence and Equipment Usage in Flesh and Blood

by Steven Jennings Leave a comment

By Dimos K   Uprising officially releases this week, and with it comes something Flesh and Blood players haven’t seen in a very long time: a new generic Legendary card. Crown of Providence shares an equipment slot with the previous universal favourite of Arcanite Skullcap.  Skullcap has long been the best “this class has nothing better to put here” equipment. It doesn’t allow for explosive plays like Snapdragon Scalers, and it doesn’t enable uniquely efficient 4-resource turns like Fyendal’s Spring Tunic. It really only adds three life to whichever hero chooses to run it. The conditional Arcane Barrier 3 on it rarely if ever gets used outside of desperation-blocking the 2 arcane damage from Rosetta Thorn. No self-respecting Kano player would ever allow it to be used to ruin their kill turn, but maybe it will have some use against Iyslander’s new tricks and Waning Moon. The effective Battleworn 2 effect of Skullcap is unique, as most helmets in the game either block poorly or have Blade Break. Some classes have strong equipment in the head slot and have long eschewed Skullcap as an option. These same classes will likely have little interest in Crown of Providence. For everyone else, Crown of Providence is Arcanite Skullcap but much, much better. I believe it to be a strict and universal upgrade over Arcanite Skullcap as the go-to generalist headgear. Crown of Providence has a couple of mechanical strengths and what I consider to be a major conceptual strength. Mechanically, it can attempt to fix a bad hand or a bad arsenal, and conceptually, it represents a single-card, always-present pivot card. The hand and arsenal fix mechanic has different impacts for different classes, but everyone sees a direct and strong benefit. Most generically, it can turn a card that doesn’t block into one that does. This extends to an action card in the arsenal. Swapping that out for a three-block card to use on a follow-up attack can effectively make Crown of Providence block for five. Runeblades can use Crown of Providence to filter out all non-Attack Action hands or all Attack Action hands into something more balanced. Resource-hungry classes can swap reds for blues, blues for reds, or even expensive attacks for cheaper attacks. Boltyn can turn any card in arsenal into a card that either Charges or acts as Charge fodder. Any defending hero can help mitigate the effects of Intimidate or possibly deny bonus damage from Barraging Beatdown. Recently, Hope Merchant’s Hood has been gaining a lot of popularity as Flesh and Blood has sped up. Crown of Providence has significant similarities to Hope Merchant’s Hood but with armour value. It also has a few additional limitations. If it is being used to find another blocking card to save life, it needs to be against an attack that has Go Again, which is a limitation mitigated by the two armour points it has. It can also only replace one card rather than any number of cards. However, all of this pales in comparison to the fact that Crown of Providence can apply to an arsenal card. Crown of Providence allows for one free bad arsenal choice per game. This is, I believe, massive for strategic planning and card advantage throughout the game. How many times have you been caught with an extra card in your hand because your opponent’s turn was less offensively threatening than you had predicted? Or when you held the tempo in the game and drew something so mediocre that you couldn’t play out all your cards while maintaining a decent arsenal target? Crown of Providence solves both of these issues. Guardian players are free to arsenal a trash blue card because it will still generate card advantage when Crown of Providence’s effect is triggered. Brute players can do the same. And just about anyone can benefit from being able to arsenal a surplus blue and then try to turn it into an extra red in hand next turn. The only universally perfect arsenal cards in Flesh and Blood are cards that cost 0, have Go Again, and have a stand-alone effect. There are few of these in the game, and they often don’t make it into arsenal because they will fit perfectly into the flow of any turn, including the turn that they are drawn. These cards are rare, and being able to play them out while arsenaling some extra resource card is a significant boon offered by Crown of Providence. The ability to swap out a card from hand is fine, but being able to swap a card out from arsenal is uniquely powerful. Crown of Providence provides a unique choice of using defensive equipment offensively, which is a major conceptual strength. Generally speaking, equipment in Flesh and Blood is either offensive or defensive. Explosive cards generally block poorly, or penalize a player for using them to block. Snapdragon Scalers, Heartened Cross-Strap, and Goliath Gauntlet have no defensive value, Spellbound Creepers have Blade Break 1, and New Horizon destroys all cards in arsenal when it is used to defend. In contrast, defensive equipment such as Braveforge Bracers, Grasp of the Arknight, and Tectonic Plating provide excellent armour but little explosive power. They instead offer incremental benefits. There are some exceptions in powerful Temper equipment like Bloodsheath Skeleta and Courage of Bladehold, and also in Crown of Seeds. These are cards that can be used very effectively on both offense and defense. They also happen to be some of the strongest equipment in the game, with Bloodsheath Skeleta being banned and Crown of Seeds being the focus of frequent calls for a ban. I believe that Crown of Providence will be a very popular choice for similar reasons. It won’t be as strong as class-specific explosive cards like Bloodsheath or Bladehold, but it can provide an excellent tempo swing and turn some strong defense into strong offense. Having a card that is perpetually on the board that swings from defense to offense so seamlessly is a very powerful tool that was previously only afforded to a lucky few classes. In many ways, this piece of equipment is a single-card pivot. If the game is moving faster or slower than you thought it was when you arsenaled that defense reaction or combo piece, Crown of Providence lets you switch gears for free.   I think that using Crown of Providence optimally will involve a slight recalculation on when to use equipment blocks in Flesh and Blood. Arcanite Skullcap introduced this concept in certain ways, as it was common to see a “tempo block” with it. If a player knew that they were coming in for a large turn soon, they would block aggressively with Arcanite Skullcap to take advantage of the +1 armour effect from being at lower life. This would be done not to block a relevant on-hit effect (as is conventional FaB wisdom), but simply to get one extra life point of value because they expect that they will be on higher life than their opponent for the rest of the game. Similar thoughts exist for Temper and Battleworn equipment that is destroyed by its own effect (Breaking Scales, Courage of Bladehold, Barkbone Strapping, Bloodsheath Skeleta). Crown of Providence will have to be used in a similar way. Although it will always provide an extra two life in the form of armor, it may not always be used to block at the perfect time to deny on-hit effects. I don’t think this is a downside relative to Arcanite Skullcap, as the second point of defense on the older headpiece is conditional. Overall, I think that if you are using Arcanite Skullcap, you should swap to Crown of Providence. I would probably run Crown of Providence even if it only blocked for one. 

Uprising Limited Initial Impressions - Iyslander

Uprising Limited Initial Impressions - Iyslander

by Steven Jennings Leave a comment

By: Yuki Lee Bender   After having the privilege of attending the Uprising world premiere sealed event and doing one Uprising draft, I have some initial impressions I want to share on Iylsander, the hero I played the most during limited events. I want to give the disclaimer that this is based on a very limited sample size and is merely a starting place. It’s highly likely that things will become more nuanced with more time to explore and learn the format. However, hopefully this can serve as a guide that will help folks jump in to limited for their Pre-Release and Release events. Iyslander Iyslander is excellent at playing a tempo gameplan where she attacks on both her own turn as well as her opponent’s turn with arcane damage that is difficult to block, while also disrupting the opponent. She often wants to trade small amounts of damage back and forth each turn cycle, and find small advantages in efficiency as she taxes her opponents and chips them for damage on their turn.   Playing as Iyslander Waning Moon is an extremely impressive weapon and I believe activating it as much as possible, especially on your opponent’s turn, is key to winning with Iyslander. As a result, this means you want the majority of the blue non-attack actions you intend to play to cost 0 or 1 resources so you can play that card and activate Waning Moon off a single blue.   As Iyslander, you always want to go first in every matchup, both because you can deal Arcane damage on turn 0, usually forcing the opponent to use Helio’s Mitre right away. You also have strong turn 0 plays like Sigil of Protection, Healing Salve or Arctic Incareration which fit nicely into the decks core gameplan. Additionally, going first allows you to set up your arsenal right away to start playing on your opponents turn. Having a blue card in arsenal at all times is a huge priority and something you should actively be looking to do every turn if possible. Iyslander is very particular about her card economy, and planning this out is an important part of building and playing her correctly. Generally every turn cycle you will want to: Pitch 1 blue to play a 0 or 1 cost non-attack on your opponents turn, and use Waning Moon. Arsenal another blue non-attack so you can repeat the process next turn. Use the remaining two cards to block on your opponents turn, or disrupt/attack on your own turn.   Because you are basically locked into pitching a blue to play your arsenal + Waning Woon every turn, you want your remaining two cards to be as flexible as possible. For this reason I think red 0 costs, especially ones that block 3, are premium as they give you a lot of flexibility to make plays such as defend with 1 card and play the remaining 0 cost on your turn. However, more expensive cards can be good for allowing you to take a more aggressive role in the game, and some premium 2-3 cost reds are still very good.   To see the difference between 0 cost and 1 cost cards in action, consider the following hands, assuming there is also a blue Aether Hail in arsenal: This hand will likely want to pitch Sigil of Protection to play Aether Hail from arsenal, and pay 2 for Waning Moon to deal a total of 5 damage and give your opponent a frostbite. Additionally, you will want to save a blue Aether Hail in hand to arsenal next turn. That leaves you with a few possible lines for your remaining cards. You can block with Frostling and Icebind for 6, you can block with Frosting for 3 and attack with Icebind fused on your turn for 3, or you can not block and attack with ice bind for 3 fused, pitching Frostling to Waning Moon for a total of 5.   Now let us consider the same hand but with a 1 cost red action instead. You still want to pitch Sigil of Protection and save Aether Hail. However your choices for the remaining cards becomes much more binary. You can block for 6 with Frosting and Red Aether Hail. Or you can save both to play Aetherhail and attack on your turn with Waning Moon for 6. The 1 cost red trades a higher damage output for less flexibility. This by no means red cards that cost resources are bad, it just means they are less flexible and so in my eyes slightly less preferred.   Building Iyslander As of right now, my ideal ratios for Iyslander are approximately: 20-22 blues - prioritizing 0 and 1 cost non-attack actions, especially ones that deal or prevent damage. 8-10 reds - prioritizing 0 and 1 cost cards that deal damage or prevent damage. Attacks and non-attacks are both good at red.   While Iyslander is definitely played best with a very heavy blue count, she can still function at lower blue counts. My sealed deck for the Uprising World Premiere in Vegas had 14 blues which I would put as close to the bare minimum, but still felt serviceable. Yellows can be a decent replacement for blues if you have a fair amount of 0 cost blue cards. Spellfire Cloak can also help make up for resource light hands. I ended up going 4-0 with Iyslander after starting as 1-1 with Fai, for a total record of 5-1 at the event. Here is my sealed deck for reference. I do not think this is an especially ideal sealed pool, and I’m playing quite a large number of cards I would prefer not to have to play, but Iyslander feels fundamentally very strong. Overall, I found the deck to perform much better than it looks on paper.   Here are some very rough power rankings for many of the common and uncommon cards I would look to play for Iyslander in limited. Keep in mind these are only based on initial impressions and are subject to change. It is not an exhaustive list of all the cards, but generally cards not on the list I would try to avoid playing when possible. Within each category, cards are not listed in any particular order.    Please remember these power rankings are only a rough guide and should not be used as a pick order. The overall composition and synergy of your deck is very important, and the value of these cards can shift greatly depending on what your deck needs. You may very well have to aggressively draft blues as you want such a large blue count and are somewhat particular about which blues you are hoping to put in your deck.   Best of the best - cards I would take aggressively in early picks of the pack. Strong Playables - cards I am happy to take once I start to feel committed to Iyslander. Seeing lots of these cards might steer me into the deck. Solid Roleplayers - cards I generally am happy picking towards the middle of the pack, but usually won’t make me want to draft Iyslander. These are cards I’m generally quite happy with with when I draw them. Playables - cards you can put in your deck, but feel more like filler. Often these cards don’t feel fantastic when you draw them. .

Drafting 101 - Draft Archetypes

Drafting 101 - Draft Archetypes

by Steven Jennings Leave a comment

By: Yuki Lee Bender   Limited and in particular Draft is my favorite way to play TCGs and Flesh and Blood is no exception. The card game I played before Flesh and Blood is Magic: The Gathering where I almost exclusively played draft. When playing Magic I honed my draft skills by consuming content and drafting as much as I could, with the best players I could. Coming into Flesh and Blood I noticed many players are not comfortable navigating drafts and I also noticed a general lack of draft content. With Uprising just around the corner, it feels like the perfect time to dive into some draft fundamentals. Draft Decks, Not Cards This is one of the most common and clichéd pieces of advice players usually receive when asking how to improve in draft. The idea is simple - by drafting cards that synergize together and all work towards a coherent game plan, your deck will function much better than if you just draft the strongest cards in a vacuum and put them in a deck. The problem with this advice is that it is easy to understand conceptually, but it is not very actionable. Exactly how one goes about drafting a deck instead of a pile of cards is very nuanced and is not readily apparent from the statement alone. The key to drafting a deck is to understand the different archetypes in a draft format. A draft archetype is usually built around a set of key cards that play well together and form the backbone of your strategy. Generally archetypes consist mostly of commons and maybe a few rares, because those are what you tend to see most commonly when drafting. The basic strategies behind these archetypes can be very simple and can usually be summed up in 1-2 sentences. Using Tales of Aria as an example, you might draft an earth Briar deck that wants to play Bramble Spark, Earthlore Surge or Weave Earth followed by a big earth attack to swing for 10-12 each turn. This might be completely different from another Briar deck which could be focused on effects that deal 1 arcane damage and Ball Lightnings to help increase this arcane damage to slowly chip your opponent out. Lightning Lexi wants to flip up a lightning attack in her arsenal and present 2-3 attacks for 5 each turn. Fatigue Oldhim is often designed to defend with 3 blocks, pitch blue earth cards to his hero ability and swing his hammer for 3-4 each turn. Each of these are examples of archetypes or strategies that these heroes can employ.  Generally each hero has more than one archetype they can be drafted as; this is by design as Flesh and Blood is designed for 8 player draft but only has 3-4 heroes per set. Two players on the same hero often will not be drafting the same archetype or game plan. A good check to see if you’ve drafted a deck with a game plan is to see if you can sum up what your deck is trying to do in 1-2 succinct sentences, once the draft is complete. If you’ve drafted a deck with a clear strategy you should be able to do this.  If you are trying to maximize your chances of winning you should be drafting an archetype because you identify that it is “open”. A deck that is open is not being drafted by other players sitting near you and is very valuable to be able to identify, because it means you will have less competition for that deck which should result in a stronger deck on average. This is commonly referred to as “drafting your seat” and is done by “reading signals”. These are topics that have had many articles dedicated to them in their own right and won’t be fully looked at here. However, one of the most important parts of reading signals is understanding what archetypes exist and what the key cards for each archetype is. Usually if you start receiving multiples of those key cards, especially later on in the pack, you can assume that particular deck is likely open and there’s a chance you should be drafting it. Archetypes as Roadmaps As I get more familiar with a format, I usually have a rough idea of what archetypes or strategies exist in the format, as well as what an ideal version of that deck looks like. These deck outlines are something every strong drafter I know has in the back of their mind and can really help guide you during your draft. So, what does a deck outline look like? To see an example of this in action, let’s consider one of my personal favorite's, Ice Lexi. Usually this deck wants to attack with a single dominated arrow using Shiver in order to push damage and detrimental effects. In order to fuse her ice arrows, Lexi needs to reveal an ice card which she will want to arsenal to use on her next turn. Additionally, Lexi primarily wants ice non-attack actions so she can play them from her arsenal and still attack with an arrow that turn. If you arsenal an attack like Winter’s Grasp, it ensures your next turn will be a low impact one. The perfect complement to this strategy is pump effects like Overflex, Invigorate, Weave Ice and Ice Quake which help push damage and ensure your detrimental effects connect.     The key to having success with this archetype, or any archetype, is correctly identifying which cards fit best into the strategy, and perhaps more importantly, what ratio to have each of these cards in. For example, if I were to build Ice Lexi I would want roughly the following mix of cards: At least 13-15 arrows (some of these can be blues) 6-8 pumps (such as red or yellow Overflex) 8-10 ice non-attack cards 8 blues   Having a clear image of what the ideal version of your archetype looks like will greatly improve your ability to draft it, as it informs your entire draft process and can act as a sort of road map to your draft. Usually, as I am drafting a deck I am trying to make sure I check all the boxes for that archetype. I like to take an inventory of what I have so far and how I’m doing during the review period between packs. For example, if I am drafting Ice Lexi, after pack 1 I might count that I have 4 blues and 5 ice cards already, but only 2 arrows and 1 pump. This tells me that in the future I should be prioritizing those premium arrows and pumps since I need a lot more of them, and while I do want a few more ice cards I can be less aggressive when taking them unless they also act as pumps.   Another reason that having a clear image of what the ideal finished version of the deck should look like, is it can help you identify which cards are the highest priority to pick and which cards are the strongest signals that the deck might be open. Going back to our example of the Ice Lexi archetype, pumps are easily the most important and the least replaceable type of card. Without them, Lexi really struggles to have sufficient damage output, especially into Oldhim fatigue. Additionally, the cards are not very replaceable, because Overflex and Invigorate are the only cards at common which offer this effect. Weave Ice, Weave Lightning, Lightning Press and Ice Quake are all rare and are often highly sought after cards for a variety of strategies and tend to get picked quite highly. Furthermore, pumps are much more effective at red than they are at yellow. For all of these reasons, you will usually see a much lower amount of pumps and so, you should prioritize taking them when you can. In contrast, while Blizzard Bolt and Chilling Ice Vein are easily your best options for arrows in this archetype, there are plenty of other arrows that can still fill your attacking and blocking needs in a pinch.  Ratios for Draft One important thing to consider when building decks is the optimal ratios for different card types in your decks. Jasin Long wrote an excellent article titled Numbers Game - Getting the Right Ratios in Flesh and Blood that I would highly encourage people to read, but I will summarize a few key takeaways they apply to limited here.    Jasin explains that as you include more of a card type such as red, yellow, blue, lightning or ice, your odds of drawing that card type increases. However, the probability of drawing exactly 1, 2 or 3 cards of a given type peaks at 7.5, 15 or 22.5 copies of that card type respectively, in a 30 card deck. This gives us a good starting place for ratios in your limited decks, but don’t be afraid to deviate from them a little bit.    As a rule of thumb your 30 card draft deck you should include approximately: 8 of a card type you want to draw one of per turn (ice cards to fuse with or blues in most aggressive decks). 15 copies of a card type you want to draw two of per turn (reds in most aggro decks, and blues in aggressive guardian decks). 22 copies of a card type you want to draw three of per turn, (blues in defensive Oldhim decks that want to play expensive defense reactions and pitch an earth card each turn). Discovering Archetypes With Uprising coming out soon, we will all be new to the format and we will have to discover the archetypes for ourselves. Usually in these early stages, I focus on identifying cards that feel particularly good or bad to play. Additionally, I try to pay attention and take note of any particularly effective card combinations as I play them or even as my opponent is playing them against me. The more experience I get drafting a specific archetype, the more refined my mental image of that ideal completed deck becomes and the better I get at drafting it.  You probably won’t have an optimal mental image of an archetype the first or even fourth time you draft it, but thinking about your outline for different archetypes and refining them is one of the keys to learning a format.   For those looking for more serious draft prep, perhaps for an Uprising Draft Road to Nationals event, I would highly recommend building multiple 30 card “draft” decks for each hero. When building these decks, I treat it like building a constructed deck where I put together an ideal or optimal version of the deck. In order to make sure the decks are close to actual limited decks I impose the following set of restrictions: 30 card decks. Commons and Rares only. Maximum 2 copies of each pitch for common cards. You may wish to limit this to 1 copy for especially contested cards like Bramble Spark or Ball Lightning. Maximum 1 copy of each rare.   This exercise is best done after you at least have an initial impression of how the commons play together. The benefit to building these decks is that the process helps solidify your mental image of what the finished deck should look like and can help you identify and discover new archetypes altogether. You could take this to the next level and compare your archetype outlines with other player’s and talk about why you both chose the cards you did. It can also be fun playing these decks against each other, however I wouldn’t put too much weight on the power level of these decks, since often more powerful decks are more contested during the draft process and tend to be balanced by having lower card quality.

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