Swinging the Ban Hammer: Flesh and Blood’s New Restrictions

Swinging the Ban Hammer: Flesh and Blood’s New Restrictions

by Steven Jennings Leave a comment

By Dimos Although I don’t usually write about Banned and Restricted announcements, this most recent one has changed some precedents that I would like to comment on. As of January 30th, Flesh and Blood is getting a shake up at the top of the meta. Belittle is banned, Winter’s Wail is banned, and Amulet of Ice and Hypothermia are suspended because they’re too good in Iyslander. LSS outlined that this is because Fai, Oldhim, and Iyslander were all too strong. I think that this is true at the highest level of competitive play, but less so at a medium level of play (like an average ProQuest). Either way, I do not disagree with lowering the power level of the affected heroes. I’m going to provide a bit of commentary on each of the bans, as well as provide some overarching thoughts about what kind of precedent this sets going forward. Winter’s Wail is banned. This card is what really caught me off-guard and led to me writing this article. It is a profoundly powerful weapon, that I absolutely agree with. However, Winter’s Wail is (was?) synonymous with Oldhim’s identity, and I feel like it made playing him. It was a very important part of his theming and play pattern. Perhaps I would be less unhappy about this ban if there was a better alternative than the objectively-below-rate Titan’s Fist. Other extremely powerful weapons that enabled decks to dominate the game such as Rosetta Thorn and Luminaris went untouched as they were the Signature Weapons of heroes that would rotate out via the Living Legend system. As such, I’m surprised that Winter’s Wail wasn’t given the same live-and-let-die treatment.     The Winter’s Wail ban widens the gulf between the haves and the have-nots in FaB. I think this is some unintended collateral damage, but is a very bad feeling for those whom it impacts. Oldhim has always been an expensive hero, largely due to the large amount of Legendaries required. However, there were some very strong mid- and low-budget builds that centred around the power of his now-banned Majestic-rarity cards like Pulse of Isenloft and Winter’s Wail. Now those builds are entirely offline and I struggle to see a deck for Oldhim that is both viable and affordable. I think this puts Oldhim very far out of reach for newer players who have not committed hundreds of dollars to their decks. The natural ladder of progression from a Blitz deck with a few upgrades to including the $1 to $5 Majestics to incrementally adding powerful Legendaries has been disrupted. Oldhim definitely did need to lose a bit of strength (perhaps Glacial Footsteps) because, as I have previously discussed, his ability to use a wide pool of resource cards as utility, defense, and disruption provides him with a massive amount of flexibility to be more aggressive. The LSS article explains that Winter’s Wail is too strong in conjunction with the shield options that Oldhim has. Which I also agree with, but I’m surprised that Stalagmite was not banned instead. The duality of Stalagmite and Rampart of the Ram’s Head gives Oldhim a near-perfect option into basically every opponent. The general heuristic is that Stalagmite blocks for 11: three from its actual armor value plus the assumption that each Frostbite should be preventing at least four additional damage by ending an opponent’s turn early. Two Frostbites on demand for zero card commitment from Oldhim will be, I think, more of a thorn in the side of any aggressive deck that plays against him than Winter’s Wail is. The threat of Stalagmite Frostbites is a calculation that opponents must constantly play around. The Frostbite from Winter’s Wail required a card from Oldhim and could be prevented. Additionally, if Oldhim was swinging a frosty hammer, he would have been less likely to use his disruptive hero ability with that same pitched Ice card, due to the limited number of Ice cards in the deck. LSS said they are particularly hesitant around banning Legendary-rarity cards because of how players value those cards (both financially and sentimentally). I agree with this in premise, but I think this should be refined to only include Legendaries that are core to a hero’s identity and/or gameplay. Mask of Momentum is what makes Katsu tick. Lexi would probably be a gimmick deck without New Horizon. However, Stalagmite is just one of the four or five Legendaries that a full Oldhim deck brings to events. I do not think that banning a sideboard or utility Legendary like Stalagmite, Alluvion Constellas, or Heart of Ice would cause the same negative sentiments as banning a “core” Legendary would. This is where I feel like the Winter’s Wail ban hurts the most – it feels like the core card to Oldhim’s identity. It evokes those same sentimental feelings of loss in me that LSS outlined in their rationale for not banning Legendaries.      Hypothermia got banned because it was an instant-speed way to deny entire turns from significant portions of the cast. I agree with this, as it can’t be paid through (like Blizzard) or interacted with in any meaningfully accessible way. I find it interesting that it is only Suspended until Iyslander leaves. There are profoundly strong uses of it by the other Ice heroes even when it consumes an action point. I’m sure that some serious re-evaluation will occur when Iyslander does reach Living Legend. Lexi can use it after an attack with Go Again if the opponent has not blocked to deny the majority of their next turn, similar to how she does with Arctic Incarceration. Oldhim can use it to buy a turn against some of his largest weaknesses from opponents who can set up a stronger endgame board state than he can. Being able to deny the strength of a full board from Dash or an Illusionist for a full turn is nothing to sneeze at. This is an example of a card that I think could end up in the “mistakes we don’t talk about” category because of how integral Go Again is to attacks in FaB (see Spectra as a mechanic).      Amulet of Ice was used by Iyslander as an opportunistic disruptive play against most opponents and as a game-ending set-up in conjunction with Frost Hexes and Ice Eternal. While I don’t think its controversial to think that Iyslander could lose a bit of power, this feels like a very key combo piece to remove from her kit. However, I look forward to seeing how Iyslander builds around this new restriction. Perhaps there’s some end-game combo with some combination of Sigil of Permafrost, Freezing Point, and Ice Bolt. Oldhim lost access to Amulet of Ice as well, which he doesn’t particularly care about since his preference is Insidious Chill (another crazy card). Lexi got the short straw here, as she wasn’t offending anyone by using Amulet of Ice. Belittle is banned, partially because it is so heavily above rate (often touted as costing one resource and returning six points of value with Go Again), and partially because of how it warps deckbuilding. Belittle combined with blue Minnowism allows for a single resource to become four resources, which allows decks to effectively use red Belittles as blue cards that deal damage as a bonus. This card has long been called to be banned, and I don’t think it’s surprising that the inevitable has happened. I think this is the least controversial and interesting of the bunch.  

Deckbuilding in Flesh and Blood – Starting and Refining Part Two

Deckbuilding in Flesh and Blood – Starting and Refining Part Two

by Steven Jennings Leave a comment

By Dimos   Welcome back to this two-part article series about deckbuilding in Flesh and blood. Last week’s article focused on the individual elements of cards and how stats add up across your 40- or 60-card deck. Today’s article is looking at bigger picture ideas. What is your deck trying to do? “Win games” is never a specific enough answer. There needs to be intention behind how the deck is structured, both in the main deck and in the sideboard. I will also briefly discuss what to do when you’re uncertain of what some next steps could be for a given deck. Intentionality is a key part of structuring a deck. What is the aim of the deck? It can be trying to fatigue opponents, it can be trying to throttle opponents with constant aggression, it can be responding to what your opponent is doing in varied and efficient ways. It can be just about anything, so long as you and your deck are prepared to enact that strategy. There are many different philosophies of how to go about this effectively. Some builders like to focus on maximizing value in their decks, ensuring that each and every card provides four points of value. Many Kassai Blitz decks aim to block with a couple cards and then respond with a two-card hand that deals eight or more damage and makes use of the cost reduction that her hero ability provides. Additionally, they get an extra point of value from removing a battleworn counter from Valiant Dynamo, advancing their efficiency. Recently I built a Viserai deck that centres around the new Runeblade cards which care about which card was pitched to pay for them. The overall idea was to overpitch for Cryptic Crossing and Deathly Duet with a non-attack and an attack, activating the fullest extent of their abilities, and use the two floating resources from the overpitch to follow them up with a Pummel. This actually worked a lot better than I expected it to. As I refined the deck down, the Pummels and Cryptic Crossings became more of a sideboard package to provide disruption against the aggressive decks, like Fai, that usually outcompete Viserai. The aim of the deck is to extract the maximum amount of value out of the specific cards, as when both effects of a Deathly Duet are triggered it effectively provides eight points of damage for a two-cost card.   Intentionality and specificity can also be used as a workaround to not having key Legendary equipment, as some single-use Common or Majestic equipment can open the door to previously unavailable combos. Heartened Cross Strap allows even the largest of Guardian attacks to be both Dominated and Pummeled by Bravo. Mask of the Pouncing Lynx allows Katsu to play out two Tiger Swipes on a Crouching Tiger turn, almost always ensuring that one hits and allows for the large damage extension that the tiger cards are looking for.    Personal expression and doing what you want is also important. This is a game after all, and whether or not you want to win, fun is always going to be an important component. The Pummel Viserai deck I mentioned above is something I put together to make Viserai more appealing to me, as someone who likes to have disruptive options available. It’s not the best Viserai deck out there, but the disruption it has gives it access to some unique advantages that more streamlined decks do not have. In my personal estimation (that weighs both function and fun), this was worth it for my deck. Another example of this is people who are very focussed on developing decks for heroes that the broader community finds to be lackluster (such as Boltyn or Levia). One nice bonus of personal expression is that people generally react less perfectly to an unexpected card, deck, or situation, than they do to one that they have practiced against. Consider what your strategy would be if you sat down and your opponent revealed a Levia to you. How would you sideboard? How would you play your game? Do you even know if they’re playing a high or low Blood Debt deck? With Pummels? How much recursion and cards playable from the banished zone do you have to worry about? Odds are that your answers to those questions are a lot more uncertain than if your opponent revealed Briar, Fai, or any other popular hero. Even though I talked about how important intentionality was earlier, sometimes it’s easier to just put 100 cards together and see what works. Particularly if you’re newer to the game, starting with a clear idea of what exactly this deck wants to do can be a challenge. If you don’t know where to start, I would remember the following: Class cards are generally stronger than Generic cards (and block better); cards, especially Majestics, from within the same set are more cohesive with one another; and certain equipment can make or break a deck. If I had no clue where to start, I would put all the decent looking class cards for a hero into a stack, add some staple generics (Sink Below, Pummel or Razor Reflex, Snatch, Scar for a Scar, etc.), and try to make sure that the Majestic cards are able to do their job (e.g., the Fuse cards can be Fused, Aim Counters can be placed if relevant, there’s enough blues to pay for them all etc.). Then I would play a bunch of games and take out what isn’t working. Torrent of Tempo and Soulbead Strike look like amazing cards as they block for three, do the right amount of damage, and usually have Go Again. I always put them in my Ninja decks to start with. Despite this, they almost always get cut because they just aren’t good enough to compete with other cards and can make hands awkward. They’re great cards, but they aren’t usually the best card in any given deck slot. Even as an experienced player, there are certain cards that I try in most decks even if they may not seem a great fit initially. My personal favourite cards to do this with are Energy Potion, Timesnap Potion and Flock of the Feather Walkers.             Once you have the cards you like, it's time to start fine-tuning down until you have a core set of cards (usually 45-60) that you bring into every matchup. Even if you really like all 72 of your cards and want to run them all the time, I can guarantee you that those extra slots above 60 could better be used for some type of tech against specific opponents. Defense reactions are necessary against certain decks, disruption is necessary against others. Every hero has access to these tools, and they are frequently popular sideboard options. To add to those standard options, I usually like to reserve the last few spots for either very specific matchups or for addressing very specific weaknesses of a class. A sideboard is critical in FaB since you only have one game to use it and get it right. This is where the game may be slightly less friendly to newer players, as it is harder to adapt mid-set when the set is best of one. You need that knowledge as a prerequisite. I subscribe to the philosophy that I have X playable cards in my deck (usually around 72) and I’m looking to cut a certain number before each match. Some matches I cut none and run everything I have to avoid fatigue. Some matches I run the leanest 60 that I can, with a focus on defense reactions to help me survive until I see my combos in the second cycle of the deck. The best way to figure out what to bring when is to just practice and play. This can be done quickly and casually on Talishar.net, or in specific testing conditions with friends in person. If you keep losing against a particular hero, dedicate a good chunk of your sideboard to them. During the Monarch meta, my Bravo deck had 8 sideboard cards dedicated to Chane and 10 dedicated to Prism, with very little consideration for any other hero. And it was effective, because that is what was needed at the time. Finally, you should always consider any additional resources or keywords that your deck needs. If you’re building an Elemental deck, the amount of Fuse cards and Fuse targets is critically important, if you’re building a Ranger deck, the amount of arrows you have is crucial. There is no correct answer for these ratios, it all depends on how much you want to rely on the given card type. Some Ranger decks aim for roughly 25 arrows, hoping to shoot one per turn for 10 or more damage, ensuring that the key on-hit effects land and disable the opponent. Other Ranger decks run 36 or more arrows, seeking to give them Go Again and fire as many per turn as possible, extracting maximum value from Rain Razors and Three of a Kind. Hopefully by reading these articles you have discovered something new to think about, or a new way to think about things while building your deck. This was far from a comprehensive guide, but I think that aligns with what the deckbuilding experience is at its core: an exploration. You can poke your head down different paths, tunnels, and alleyways until you find that gem that clicks. Whether that is a specific deck, combo, or just a new way to use a card is up to you. I wish you luck and fun as you go through this process.  

Deckbuilding in Flesh and Blood – Starting and Refining Part One

Deckbuilding in Flesh and Blood – Starting and Refining Part One

by Steven Jennings Leave a comment

By Dimos   With the recent increase in new interest for Flesh and Blood, I’ve had a few questions come to me about deckbuilding. Let’s try to answer a couple. This is going to be a two-part series that aims to explore some of the concepts and philosophies of deckbuilding in this game. These articles won’t be any type of comprehensive guide, as that is generally best presented on a class-by-class basis. However, I hope they provide some guidelines and ways of thinking for players new and old alike. In the process of deckbuilding – two key things should be considered: the micro and the macro. The micro aspects include individual cards and what they do, how much they pitch for, block for, etc. The macro aspects, to be discussed next week, include the core idea behind the deck, your personal expression, your intentionality of design and play, and how that has to shift each game (including sideboard building. I would also like to note that all of these deckbuilding ideas generally apply to constructed formats (like Classic Constructed or Blitz) and limited formats (like Draft and Sealed) alike. Today’s article focuses on the micro: the individual aspects of cards which are usually printed on the corners. Each card in FaB has a pitch value, a block value, an impact on action points, keywords and its unique text. These functions should almost always be balanced in the context of a four-card rotation each turn. Let’s go through each element.             Pitch Value: Red cards are the most powerful cards to play in Flesh and Blood, in terms of raw numbers. Generally, we want to maximize the amount of those we can have in the deck to help develop a proactive game plan. We want to have more cards that we want to play (not pitch or block with) in our decks. However, we still have to pay for them somehow. Establishing your resource base is crucial in most card games, and FaB is no exception. Most classes want one blue card per turn because it allows them to play out the highest amount of powerful red cards without needing to pitch a second card. Assuming a 60-card constructed deck, and the idea that most classes want to see one blue card per turn, it would serve to reason that 15 blues is a good starting point. However, most decks are punished heavily by not drawing a blue card each turn due a dearth of yellow cards in the average deck. Because of this, our concern now becomes how we can have the best chance at having exactly one blue in hand while minimizing the chances of not having any in hand. 17 blues is generally a good number to start with. Some decks go higher, pushing into 20 or so. When building your deck, I recommend trying different builds ranging from 15 to 21 blues and fiddling with the amount until you find your preferred balance. If you want to dive deeper into the exact odds, I highly recommend playing around with a hypergeometric calculator online. These ratios of between one-in-four and one-in-three cards being blue hold true for other formats like Blitz and Limited. There are notable exceptions to these blue ratios, such as Guardian, where the number of recommended blues is closer to two-thirds of the deck. Other decks do not need three resources each turn due to alternative resource generation (such as by utilizing Death Dealer’s card draw), which can allow an even leaner blue count. A quick word about yellow cards: No one really likes them, no one really wants them. They aren’t as strong as reds and can’t fund full turns like blues can. But sometimes they’re just too good to ignore. A lot of the best majestic-rarity cards in the game are yellow and are worth having in your deck because of their unique text and powers. Beyond the use of yellows for uniqueness, they are otherwise used for redundancy. Yellow cards that come in other colours are usually only used when the deck is looking for the fourth (or ninth) copy of a card that is just so good. When evaluating these cards, keep an eye out for cards that have effects independent of their numerical effect. For example, Plunder Run was not run as a rainbow because of the +3/+2/+1 power effect, but because of the draw-on-hit effect, which does not change depending on colour. Mauvrion Skies provides Go Again at every colour, and Chilling Icevein can force a discard at every colour. Both of these effects are better options than the next best red alternative, even if the red alternative threatens one extra damage. It is because of this that the mentioned cards are frequently run in the generally-substandard yellow. Conventional wisdom also states that blue cards should also serve as additional resources, such as blocking three damage, or being used for Talent purposes like Fusing. The blues available to each specific class or deck archetype may change this. Elemental heroes that require fusing usually use their blue cards to fill out their Earth/Ice/Lightning requirements and leave space for stronger red cards that get powerful effects from their fusion. For example, blue Winter’s Bite is a popular Ice card for decks that require Fusing because it can be used to pitch or fuse and is a standalone playable card to arsenal and play out next turn. Zero-cost with Go Again and an independent effect from a resource card is a gold standard. The only problem is that it only blocks for two. The block value on FaB cards is one of their most important values in my opinion. It doesn’t matter how proactive, aggressive, or perfectly-tuned a deck is, it will eventually have to block. This could be because an opponent has forced it by presenting an on-hit effect, or simply because not every hand can play out every single card every turn due to a shortage of resources or action points. My personal favourite class has long been Guardian, which used to run around 52-54 cards that block for three or more in a 60-card deck. Now, because of some strong Generic and/or Talent options, most Guardian decks are running 13 to 20+ cards that block poorly. Luckily the class has the saving grace of high-cost defense reactions that allow bad-blocking blue cards to pay for high-blocking defense reactions. Beyond that, I am always nervous knowing that I will have to block at some point with a card that defends for a suboptimal amount. Looking at the base rates for the attack values of cards (four power for zero resources, five power for one resource, etc., at red), one can see that the ratio of sacrifice for a “downgrade” from a red to a yellow is, at most, a fourth. A downgrade in blocking from three to two is a third, which is, and feels like, a much more noticeable drop. If you have built your deck to be proactive, which is generally an excellent plan of attack, and you are often coming up short and having to make painful blocking decisions, I advise revisiting the average block value of your aggregate hands and individual types of cards. When classifying these card types, I like to separate them into resource cards, marginal cards, combo cards, and must-plays.  Resource cards have been discussed previously. Marginal cards are cards that can improve your turn but are not strictly necessary, and are most commonly non-attack action buffs. Combo cards require other specific cards and large hands to work, and usually block in pairs. Must-play cards are cards that are too powerful to not play because either they are core to your strategy or are too efficient. Tuning the balance between how much your deck can and is willing to block takes time and playtesting. It will also depend on what other decks are popular at any given time.   Action points are another important consideration, as decks generally want to make use of every card they draw. The easiest way to do this is to employ a generous amount of cards with Go Again. However, cards with Go Again are usually weaker than those without, almost always blocking for less, and often also having reductions in power. This is another process that requires trial and error. Consider that if you are consistently ending your turns with a spare action point, you are losing out on at least one point of damage each time. There can be multiple ways to remedy this. You can add chain-ending cards without Go Again but with some on-hit effect, add more cards with higher block values (Go Again cards often block for two), or utility cards that consume action points such as Energy Potion. Overall, deckbuilding is a process of coming up with an idea, putting a sketch together, then erasing the rougher edges as you iterate through and see what works in context. Context is always crucial in deckbuilding, since no card exists in a vacuum.  A card is always being played against someone who has a plan of their own. Next week I will be discussing some broad conceptual ideas in deckbuilding such as personal expression, building a sideboard, and some steps on how to work through the process of iterating and refining. In the meanwhile, I encourage you to review some of your early deckbuilding efforts and review them to see how they have evolved into your more recent decks. 

Which Flesh and Blood Draft Set is Right for You? Part Two

Which Flesh and Blood Draft Set is Right for You? Part Two

by Steven Jennings Leave a comment

By: Dimos   Last week I gave my general opinion on Flesh and Blood drafts (they’re great!) and went into some detail about Welcome to Rathe and Tales of Aria, the two friendliest sets to draft with. You can read that here. Today I will be going into depth about the remaining draftable sets: Arcane Rising, Monarch, and Uprising. These three sets are a bit more challenging to draft, and can really test player skill at higher levels. Considerations about fatigue, card management, combos, and large pivot turns become more crucial in these sets for all decks and archetypes. Most crucially, it is much easier to draft a meaningfully weaker deck with these more advanced sets. This can leave a negative experience for players that are caught unawares and made drafting mistakes after the games have been played. Arcane Rising: Ease of drafting 7/10, Ease of play 7/10, Depth and replay potential 7/10. An integration of new game mechanics that can accommodate players of different skill levels. Arcane Rising is not as easily available as it used to be, at least not without a price markup. However, if you plan on cracking a box to hunt for the perpetually in-demand cards within, I recommend doing so with a draft group to get some games out of those packs. This is an excellent draft set for intermediate players who are familiar with the mechanics of the game and know how to efficiently manage their cards to accommodate fatigue. One of the major strengths of this set is the availability of different difficulties of heroes. Dash drafts and plays in a very straightforward manner, usually attempting to beat down the opponent with powerful, consistent Go Again or judicious usage of Convection Amplifier’s Dominate effect. Meanwhile, Kano and Azalea can have very complex play patterns based around unique resource management (arsenal, top of deck, arcane damage, etc.) and frequently requiring pitched combos to close games. Something significant that I think ARC draft introduces is the idea of taking significant risk in the middle of your own turn. Dash’s Boost mechanic, and Azalea and Kano’s hero abilities all sacrifice resources to gamble about what’s on top of your deck for a bonus. Some riskier players may appreciate this, while more methodical players may look for Opt effects to reduce variance, such as from Talismanic Lens. Although the Generic cards are not as strong as Welcome to Rathe, they enable enough play patterns for each hero that they aren’t usually terrible choices.   An often-discussed issue with Arcane Rising draft is the format-warping strength of Induction Chamber. In a format where weapons are not powerful on their own, this is an item that makes Teklo Plasma Pistol able to fatigue nearly every other deck available (assuming enough Arcane Barrier to slow down Kano). There are other such powerful cards in the set, but none to the same extent. With how super rares are distributed, this means that there is an Induction Chamber available in roughly one in four ARC drafts. Another subject of in-box variance is the availability of arcane damage prevention. Without enough Arcane Barrier or arcane prevention, Wizards have a tendency to run away with games. This is usually a knowledge check on the players at the table, and people should know to take Arcane Barrier when it is available. I also recommend getting a Salvage Shot or Over Loop if you’re playing Azalea or Dash to help with fatigue risk.   . With all of this being said, there is a lot of flexibility in how decks can be built in Arcane Rising, and it is vastly underexplored due to being released at the outset of the pandemic. It is also a good set to choose if players have very different experience levels, as newer players can draft a simpler Dash deck while old hands can develop their Kano or Azalea combo and deck-tracking skills. Monarch: Ease of drafting 8/10, Ease of play 6/10, Depth and replay potential 6/10. A solid all-around set that employs more game mechanics and offers multiple drafting tensions (classes, talents, and specifically-used generics) accessible to intermediate players. This is another format where players will need some knowledge, such as how difficult it can be to block arcane damage, how to manage the destruction of Phantasm cards, and the risk and reward of large combo turns. This is a set that I think is roughly as challenging as Arcane Rising, and is primed for intermediate players looking to expand how they work around large pivot turns. Even though this set can be more mechanically challenging and require specific knowledge, it is also hard to draft an actively bad deck. Each of the four heroes has their own pool of class cards and shares their Light or Shadow pool with one other hero. Additionally, many generics also get split between heroes along high- and low- base power considerations. It is rare that Boltyn or Chane (whose class cards have low base power) will draft cards like Zealous Belting, just as it is rare that Prism or Levia (whose class cards have high base power) will draft a Belittle. This number of different pools with reduced competition makes most decks at least passable.   With the exception of massively powerful cards like Luminaris and some Phantasm interactions, a lot of games will come down to player skill expression. This can manifest either through planning and executing large combo turns (oftentimes off of the rare Specializations) or through gradual incremental advantage. There is the ever-present caveat that all draft decks are imperfect and can be subject to some dead draws. This can be especially stark if you draw a lackluster hand and your opponent then sees their V of the Vanguard or other massively explosive combo card. The Blood Debt and Charge mechanics can push decks of the same hero into being somewhat similar to one another, with the only significant differences being in key combo cards and the chosen generics. Some of the fantastic standalone generics that will be highly contested are those with enough power to pop Phantasm attacks and the single-card closer of Surging Militia.   Uprising: Ease of drafting 3/10, Ease of play 4/10, Depth and replay potential 6/10. A set that places more importance on the drafting phase than the game phase, Uprising requires extensive knowledge and is geared towards experienced players. Uprising is an extremely punishing draft format. I have previously discussed this here, so I’ll try not to rehash those points too much. Receiving three less cards makes a big impact on the baseline quality of a deck, and poorly-drafted decks can lead to games that are more one-sided than in any other set. This format requires experienced players who know how to specifically draft FaB and Uprising. Due to the general weakness and/or hyper-specificity of the Generic cards, a greater importance is put upon the class cards which are hotly contested from pick one or two. In most other FaB sets, many players prefer to draft only Generic or talent cards until pick five, six, or seven. In Uprising, this strategy of “staying open” for that long will almost always result in a thin deck. This set is a draft experience for players who have extensive FaB experience and want a lot of the focus on the draft evening to be on the actual drafting of cards rather than the games played afterwards. This is a perfectly valid preference, but all players around the table should know what they’re getting into and do their homework beforehand. Uprising drafts are usually won or lost when choosing your cards, as the in-game play can often feel linear or subject to poor card draws. Iyslander and Dromai in particular feel susceptible to these bad-feeling draws, as Iyslander wants some offensive blue Ice or Ice Fusion cards to arsenal, and Dromai needs to generate Ash. If these requirements cannot be met, it feels as if these heroes are not fully functional and as if they’ve lost a turn. Additionally, plenty of knowledge of game mechanics is required, particularly Iylander’s instant-speed interactions and the importance of the layer step in killing dragons. There are few clear archetype distinctions for Fai and Iyslander that can be built reliably. Opportunistically however, there are options for Fai to focus on cards that interact with Phoenix Flame or even a fatigue build. Dromai has a few deckbuilding options, being able to centre around named dragons, Ashwings, or Cenipai attacks depending on which cards present themselves.   Conclusion Overall, I think Flesh and Blood offers excellent draft experiences. Now that there are five different sets to choose from, most being readily available, there are options for everyone. Whether your group is brand new to the game (Welcome to Rathe), generally familiar with the game (Tales of Aria), a mix of experienced and inexperienced (Arcane Rising, Monarch, and Welcome to Rathe), or very experienced (Uprising), there is a good choice for you. Everything discussed is my own opinion and should not be taken as gospel – some of my own FaB pals disagree with some of my takes here. Regardless, we still have fun drafting any set. As always – I will end my draft article with a recommendation to put a copy of each Token (heroes, weapons, and others) available in the set in front of newer players during the drafting phase. This allows them to have references for some of the most important and ever-present features of their decks when choosing their cards.   

Which Flesh and Blood Draft Set is Right for You? Part One

Which Flesh and Blood Draft Set is Right for You? Part One

by Matt Day Leave a comment

By Dimos This is the first of two articles aimed at helping you find the right set of Flesh and Blood to draft with your local community, play group, or friends. Keep an eye out for part two next week. Draft is a unique format available in several card games that has players build a deck from a very limited pool of cards while competing against others over those cards. There are two key phases to a draft session: putting your card pool together and playing games against opponents. It can be a bit of a learning curve because it demands on-the-fly card evaluation and deckbuilding technique. Both of those skills are generally built over time, hence why starter decks exist. However, playing Welcome to Rathe draft is one of the things that really captured me about Flesh and Blood. Other than playing with a starter deck to learn the most basic rules of the game, a draft event at a local shop was my first significant FaB experience. It was a great way for me to be exposed to all the cards available in the set and to a myriad of different decks and playstyles. As such, draft is a format that I am a supporter of for players both green and weathered. However, FaB’s draftable sets are not made equal. Some are newbie friendly while others can be very punishing if you haven’t done your homework. I think that the sets ranked from friendliest to most challenging are: Welcome to Rathe, Tales of Aria, Arcane Rising, Monarch, and Uprising. My first recommendation is to familiarize yourself with the general play patterns of the heroes from each set before you draft them, then to work your way through the sets from simplest to most challenging. Today we’ll be discussing the sets that are best suited to newer players - Welcome to Rathe and Tales of Aria. Welcome to Rathe: Ease of drafting 8/10, Ease of play 9/10, Depth and replay potential 8/10. The best default option that accommodates a diverse range of players. Welcome to Rathe (WtR) was FaB’s first set, and is by far the most beginner friendly set to draft. The set uses only the most essential of the game mechanics in the form of on-hit effects and reactions. There isn’t arcane damage, instant-speed shenanigans or complex and dependant interactions. The only common tripping point for many players is the importance of the separation between Go Again and being able to attack a second time with Dawnblade as Dorinthea. This is a four-hero draft set, which makes it a bit easier to easily read draft signals and end up with two people playing each hero in an eight-person pod. The generic cards in the set are very powerful and are generally applicable in any deck. There is some distinction in the generics between the cost of cards, with archetypes that look to employ zero- and one-cost cards (like Nimblism, Nimble Strike, and Flock of the Feather Walkers) and two- and higher-cost cards (like Sloggism, Regurgitating Slog, and Demolition Crew). My favourite thing about this set is how easy it is to pick up and play with only a cursory knowledge of the game. Crucially, each of the heroes can be built in different and distinct ways. One could play Rhinar in three different drafts and have entirely different decks every single time. Rhinar has strong fatigue builds available due to the card-efficient attacks and weapon swings when he is not using discard effects. There is the “default” build that allows him to choose all the six power attacks and employ discard effects such as Primeval Bellow to break past defences. He can also build a deck on low-cost aggression, employing Nimblism, Nimble Strike, and Flock of the Feather Walkers in concert with powerful one-cost Brute cards like Savage Feast and Savage Swing. This deck makes efficient use of every pitched blue card. All of the other heroes have a similar breadth of options available to them, with Katsu in particular being extremely flexible. If you are willing to draft outside of what you know, I am confident that you can build a new, viable archetype of deck each time you draft Welcome to Rathe. This is the draft set that best accommodates players of different skill and experience. Even though I have been playing this game since WtR was in Alpha, I am confident I could draft this set with someone brand new to the game and we would both have a positive experience.   Tales of Aria: Ease of drafting 9/10, Ease of play 7/10, Depth and replay potential 9/10. A strong option for inexperienced players who have some experience with card games, but are new to drafting. Tales of Aria (ToA) is my personal favourite set to draft because of the flexibility that the drafting process provides. So long as everyone knows the general rule to try and pick some Earth, Lightning, and Ice cards early, it is very difficult to go wrong in the rest of the process. I have been in pods with four Briars and still had it be a well-balanced experience. This is a three-hero set, which can lead to some awkward distribution of heroes between eight players, but the prevalence of Earth, Lightning, and Ice cards balances things out quite effectively. The fact that each hero has access to three distinct card pools (their two elements and their class-specific cards) gives each one a minimum of three viable decks to build. Even more options are available if you get creative. My personal favourite is the unexpectedly aggressive Oldhim deck that runs entirely on Entwine Earth, Earth cards, and anything that can buff the attack value of Entwine Earth. I find it much more interesting that the popular fatigue Oldhim deck, and also functions as a bit of a way to thin the strength of fatigue Oldhim by increasing the draft competition for his three-block cards. This set introduces some mechanics that are important to keep an eye on, especially for newer players. You cannot use a card to Fuse and then pitch it to pay for the same card that was Fused, arcane damage and “typeless” damage require distinctions from attack damage, and Ranger comes with a sometimes-challenging amount of arsenal management. Additionally, using Oldhim’s defense reaction to try and block future arcane damage can be a bit of a learning curve. Unfortunately, there are some cards in the set that can tilt the balance of the game in certain directions, such as the imbalance in the quality of Majestic-rarity cards (including the weapons), and how only a couple of defense reactions can invalidate the average Lexi deck. The standout in this set is how easy it is to draft a decent deck. Simply telling a new player to match the colours on cards (yellow and blue for Lexi for example) is enough. At a ToA draft skirmish, one player had to step out for the duration of the drafting process and was replaced by someone who had never played FaB before. The deck that the clueless player drafted made top 8 when piloted by the other player upon his return. This being said, there can be significant knowledge gaps between experienced and newer players in the play portion of the event that can make things feel unbalanced. If there is a significant gulf in game familiarity, ToA may not be the draft set for you. If the skill levels are relatively equal, I think ToA is the overall best draft experience, due to how rare it is to end up with an unsatisfying deck. Next week some of the more advanced draft sets will be discussed as we delve into Arcane Rising, Monarch, and Uprising. In the meanwhile, I encourage you to go back to basics and try out some WtR or ToA drafts with friends. Maybe you get a box as a gift for the holidays and want to share the joy through drafting together rather than just ripping the packs open in 15 minutes. As always – I will end my draft article with a recommendation to put a copy of each Token (heroes, weapons, and others) available in the set in front of newer players during the drafting phase. This allows them to have references for some of the most important and ever-present features of their decks when choosing their cards. 

Weapons Decide Decks: Exploring Alternatives

Weapons Decide Decks: Exploring Alternatives

by Steven Jennings Leave a comment

By Dimos  Weapons are one of the most important card types in Flesh and Blood. They can determine the entirety of a hero’s or deck’s strategy. Some weapons are universally lauded as fantastic while others are viewed as unplayable. In between those extremes is a very interesting spectrum of alternative strategies that I believe are underexplored. These options may not be the best, as it is very difficult to compete with the efficiency of Rosetta Thorn or the opportunities provided by Luminaris, but they are worth investigating. These strategies are often most viable at the Armory, Skirmish, or Pro Quest levels, as the novelty and surprise are often enough to make your opponent uncertain about their decisions or leave them with ineffective sideboarding options. This article aims to explore some of the more interesting and viable alternative weapons that you may not have considered or previously dismissed. Alternative weapons can be objectively worse than their counterparts (Bone Basher and Romping Club), or functionally similar with minor differences (Anothos and Sledge of Anvilheim). Some weapons require entirely different playstyles and decks, such as Raydn from Cintari Sabers or Annals of Sutcliffe from Rosetta Thorn. Today we will be discussing Quicksilver Dagger, Hexagore, Death Dealer, and Surgent Aethertide in a bit more depth.              Quicksilver Dagger is the main card that inspired this article, as it further develops an archetype for Warrior that has not been popular since the Crucible of War era, where it saw some meaningful success. This style of deck integrates attack action cards with on-hit effects after weapon swings. Using reactions as a way to hide information from opponents and force them into uncertain decisions has been discussed before, and remains an important aspect in Warriors’ playbook. With the advent of Quicksilver Dagger, which addresses Warriors’ issue with action points, you can further press your opponents into making difficult decisions. In addition to deciding how much to block because of the threat of reactions, they now have to decide which attack to block. Offering your opponent more chances to make mistakes, or at least guess wrong about what your follow-up is, has proven effective. The general turn under this game plan would be to begin with giving Cintari Saber Go Again, through either an action or a reaction, which allows for Quicksilver Dagger to also attack with Go Again. Ideally, when Quicksilver Dagger attacks, you will still have one or more cards in hand. Your opponent is now forced into making a decision whether they block the dagger or keep their cards. Dedicating a card to block a single point of damage is almost never ideal, but with the threat of reactions possibly increasing the attack to four damage, it may be necessary. If your opponent does over-block, you are now free to play high-value attack action cards with on-hit effects.  Snatch and Command and Conquer are foremost among the options, but there are many other strong attacks to end the chain with. Command and Conquer in particular is a strong option because players tend to arsenal defense reactions against Warriors, as discussed here.     Hexagore is a fantastically powerful weapon, offering six damage for two resources with no activation restrictions. This puts it ahead of both Rok and Rosetta Thorn, except for its unique, self-damaging downside. In order to mitigate this, a Hexagore deck needs to be consistently filling the graveyard and banishing cards quickly. Over time, Levia has expanded the tools available to her to accomplish both of these goals. In Dynasty, Levia got Berserk, which includes an interesting clause that directly banishes any discarded six-power attack, which will likely have Blood Debt. This can be a way for Levia to skip her usual requirement of having three cards in the graveyard to banish, while still turning off Blood Debt. Additionally, Berserk often represents a free card into the graveyard, as it aims to replace itself. This increases both the risk and reward of the deck as it requires more cards with discard effects. Luckily, these cards, such as Pulping and Wild Ride, also work well with Hexagore. Graveling Growl, as an attack that deals seven damage and costs one resource, is the highest attack rate in FaB currently, and is always satisfying to play, as the reward is almost always worth the restriction. This parallels my feelings towards Hexagore, as the cost and damage for both cards are similar, and both are very satisfying to end the turn with. Hexagore decks are most effective in an aggressive beatdown strategy rather than a fatigue strategy due to the high Blood Debt requirement. Fatigue Levia can be very effective through the recycling of Howl from Beyond, but that is rarely a situation that a Hexagore deck finds itself in. This deck is not for the faint of heart, as attacking with Hexagore in the early game and taking two or three damage is often necessary to apply pressure and maintain tempo. Levia is not a hero without problems, but this type of press-your-luck deck can be both fun and powerful, if inconsistent.   Death Dealer has one of the strongest effects in the game. Paying one resource to draw a card and refresh your action point is better than Gold or Silver. The caveat of being forced to interact with arrows is a significant downside, as it makes turns without arrows very challenging. It has long been my belief, even if better Ranger players disagree with me, that Azalea should run a deck with 15 to 20 blues. Three of these blues should definitely be Tri-shot, as they can mimic the effect of Three of a Kind in a deck with a high number of arrows. Oftentimes, Death Dealer is used as a way to allow a deck to run fewer blues, however I think that it should be used to extend turns with an already-pitched blue. I find similarities between this and how Brutes craft their Bloodrush Bellow turns when they draw two cards, wanting desperately to begin the turn by pitching a blue. Additionally, a strong base of blue cards allows Death Dealer decks, with Three of a Kind, Tri-shot, and Rain Razors to use Perch Grapplers effectively. A high amount of card draw, from Death Dealer, Tri-shot, Three of a Kind, and possibly even Art of War, combined with unlimited Go Again from Perch Grapplers, often results in very explosive turns. With so much card draw, and ways to pay for the turn, even Rapid Fire is playable in this deck (although it does reduce consistency as an additional non-arrow card).     Surgent Aethertide is a new card that hints at the future to come. Although the activation only deals one damage, it provides a buff of X, based upon the damage dealt. It may be possible to buff this damage in the future. For the time being however, Surgent Aethertide is Wizard’s entry into a Runeblade playstyle that weaves attack actions and arcane damage together on the same turn. Once again, this style focuses on denying your opponent information to create bad guesses, much like Quicksilver Dagger does. The use of cards such as Life for a Life that provide Go Again and on-hit effects is the general idea behind this deck. Attacking with some arcane damage, through the staff, forces the opponent to decide whether it is worth pitching an entire card to block a single point of damage. If they do, you can play out the rest of the turn with attack action cards to make their pitch inefficient. Attacks like Rifting and Snatch are standouts here, and classics like Command and Conquer never go amiss. If they do not block it, you can now play powerful arcane damage actions like Sonic Boom, Lesson in Lava, or Mind Warp.   I think that Kano is better suited to this than Iyslander, who already has her own partially-martial archetype. The only way a Wizard could try to poorly mimic a Runeblade and get away with it is because of the explosiveness of instant speed damage to close out a game. In order to do this in a deck with attack action cards, Opt is a very important keyword in this deck. This could see the return of Talismanic Lens as a headpiece and the use of the new Surge keyword from Dynasty. Prognosticate lets you Opt, Mind Warp offers disruption to your opponent, and Aether Quickening allows you to keep an action point for further follow up attacks or spells. While this deck is interesting and worth a try at an Armory, I think there needs to be further support for this archetype before it becomes broadly competitively viable. For the time being, I think this a fantastic way to try and capture the very fun experience of playing Kano in limited with an increased power level.

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