Ash Analysis: Exploring Alternative Resource Mechanics in Flesh and Blood
In Flesh and Blood, there are three main resources that you use each turn: the cards in your hand, your action point(s), and the resources generated by pitching cards. There are also peripheral resources like life, the number of cards remaining in your deck, and your usage of equipment. Juggling all of these throughout the course of a game is often challenging enough without introducing more complex management mechanics. Currently, there are four heroes who exemplify this in game. Levia has to manage her graveyard for a high density of six-power attacks, Dromai has to manage her ash, and Boltyn and Prism, Awakener of Sol both have to manage their souls.
Levia’s management changes as the game ebbs and flows depending on what hand she draws. Prism’s management is quite binary – if there is a single card in her soul, she can generally do what she wants. Many of the uses of her soul rely on a card having been put into her soul, usually resulting in a net-zero scenario. Boltyn and Dromai, however, have much deeper management mechanics in my opinion. This pair of articles will dissect how these bankable, usable resources have similarities and differences, and why ash is an inherently stronger mechanic. Ash being a stronger alternative resource mechanic is also part of the reason why I think Dromai has seen so much more success than Boltyn, as I will discuss next week. For today, we’ll take a dive into the numbers behind Dromai’s dragons and ash.
In order to evaluate the differences between these two resource mechanics, we have to take a look at some of the numbers. We’ll start with Dromai and ash. The easy math on ash is that it should be worth about two points of value. Ideally one wants to pitch blue cards, generating three resources, instead of red cards, which generate one resource and an ash. Therefore, in order for one resource and an ash to be worth three resources, an ash should be worth two resources. But the great thing about ash is that it lasts until it is used, functioning almost as a more restrictive Energy Potion. Being able to develop a permanent board state for later use is generally a good tool to have in this game, as I’ve discussed previously.
Moving on to Dromai’s dragons, which are all permanents (stay in play until they’re killed), have Phantasm, a health value, an attack value, and usually have Go Again. Phantasm generally allows a card to get two more points of value than would normally be allowed. Comparing Brutal Assault and Enigma Chimera shows us a clear example of this in its base form. Each dragon’s health value effectively represents damage that is being redirected from Dromai to the dragon, functioning as life gain (unless Phantasm is triggered). Each dragon’s attack represents stacking damage each turn since Go Again is so readily available to them via Dromai’s ability. This leads us to three different scenarios for our dragon math: a dragon is destroyed by Phantasm, a dragon is killed by opposing damage next turn, or a dragon is let to live for two or more turns.
Let’s examine two different dragons for this purpose: Azvolai and Kyloria. Azvolai costs one card and one ash to play. In our first scenario, you receive one card from your opponent if it is popped by Phantasm. When this happens, you are now down an ash but otherwise even. If Azvolai is allowed to attack, it will deal three damage, and demand three damage to kill, effectively being worth six points of value from a single card and an ash (great value!), and it has Go Again, allowing you to extend that value further. The six points of value mentioned above assumes that you have nothing to use your Go Again action point on and is assuming your opponent has exactly three damage with Go Again on their next turn. It is worth more if they do not have that perfectly efficient play. If Azvolai is left to survive for anything more than one turn, it becomes worth an additional three points every turn and quickly gets out of hand.
Kyloria costs one resource, one card, and an ash. However, if you pitch a red card, Dromai’s ability makes an ash, meaning Kyloria usually costs exactly two cards. For those two cards, you get either one card to trigger Phantasm (a net negative), six points of value at minimum between its attack and health (not terrible), or a continuously scaling value of four damage and potentially drawing a card every turn (fantastic once again). This math can get even better when you factor in the Phantasm-avoiding dragons like Miragai or Cromai. In short, all of Dromai’s dragons can create board states which easily spiral out of control unless the opponent has specific and efficient ways to deal with them. This is also thanks to the Luminaris-like effect of Dromai’s hero text. All of this value advantage comes from the fact that ash and dragons both have the potential to last multiple turns.
This multi-turn value that oftentimes provides efficiency the first turn that it is played is a unique advantage for Dromai and allows her to compete at the top of the FaB meta right now. Without a six-power attack to trigger Phantasm, each of Dromai’s dragons becomes a good standalone play within any given turn cycle and quickly becomes some of the most efficient value-based plays in the game if they remain unanswered. The drawback of Phantasm is very real for Dromai, as it also removes Go Again from her dragons when triggered, shortening the turn and reducing the value of that cycle. However, if Dromai can manage to set up a turn where she can create three dragons, even if Phantasm is triggered, her remaining dragons still require answers from the opponent. Any time I am playing Dromai and I have a three dragon turn, which usually happens about once a game, even if Phantasm is triggered on one of them, I am happy having two bodies still on the board. This often nullifies my opponents entire next turn, leaving the door open for a strong play from me next turn.
Initially, I did not think that Dromai’s playstyle would appeal to me in constructed formats, as it seems somewhat antithetical to the direct combat and back-and-forth elements of Flesh and Blood. However, introducing the alternative resource mechanic and an entirely new axis on which to evaluate card value have made it an enjoyable deck for me to play. I recommend trying her out if you never have before, if only to learn some good tricks against her. With all of this said, I do think that Dromai does have many dull matchups that frequently feel like non-games because she can have such a large advantage against classes without natural Go Again who do not use six-power attacks as resource cards.
Next week, we will look at the thankfully-simpler math behind Boltyn Charging his soul and compare these two resource systems. As a spoiler, I will say that I think Dromai’s ash and dragons are stronger because they last across multiple turns, whereas Boltyn struggles to carry any earned advantage between turns. We’ll also consider how slight tweaks to the design of these mechanics can radically change how they operate.