Flesh and Blood Finally has Another Onboarding Point: New Player Considerations in Heavy Hitters

by Red Riot Games CA

By Dimos
Flesh and Blood’s newest set, Heavy Hitters, is reminiscent of Welcome to Rathe, the game’s first set. The classes and play patterns are similar, and they’re both very fun to play. However, I think the most significant similarity is that both of these sets represent a wide-open door for new players to enter through. Prior to Heavy Hitters, FaB has had a series of sets that have been less-than-welcoming to new players. Since Everfest in February 2022 (over two years ago!), I feel like Outsiders has been the only accessible onboarding point for new players. The mechanics of the set are reasonably simple to learn, and the decks and heroes had some significantly broad appeal to players (at least in my observations). However, there was not too much excitement in the set - and created few “wow” moments to draw newer players in. Some of the other sets released in this window were expansion sets – meaning they were not playable in draft or sealed formats and that each pack came with fewer cards split across more classes. This makes it a challenge to build a deck from just buying some cards and increases the information barrier required to get started. The remaining draftable sets in this timeframe (Uprising and Bright Lights) were polarizing for reasons like rules complexity, pace of play, constructed-format impact, or a mix of the above. While Round the Table is a solid introductory product, it is also very self-contained. Add in how isolated the Ultimate Pit Fight format is from the rest of the game, and it becomes difficult for a newer player to transition to the more widely-played formats. But now we have Heavy Hitters to bring new blood into the arena. The set gets a lot of things right, combining successes of previous sets and creating brand new highlights for new players.
Kayo, Armed and Dangerous [KYO001] (Heavy Hitters Kayo Blitz Deck)  Rainbow Foil | Red Riot Games CA Knucklehead [HVY009] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA

Even though Heavy Hitters has a bit of a contrived theme, it flows excellently. Games are consistently exciting with heroes from the set in both constructed and limited formats. The sealed format is quite strong, something that has historically eluded the gamemakers, and something I’m glad they’ve finally cracked. Draft is interesting, with meaningful differences between each of the six heroes. This allows different numbers of each class to get drafted at every table and still feel like there are eight balanced decks playing against one another. Looking at the data from the first week of Road to Nationals Classic Constructed events, it looks like the new heroes are contenders without being oppressive against old heroes. Overall, it feels like the set has hit the sweet spot in multiple ways, making it easier to bring someone new into the game. This is the first set in a long time that I am going to drag some non-FaB friends to play at Armories and draft nights because I think they’ll really enjoy it. 

Rhinar [RVD001] (Classic Battles: Rhinar vs Dorinthea)  Cold Foil | Red Riot Games CA Monstrous Veil [HVY010] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA

If you’re not sold on Heavy Hitters yet, I recommend you play around with the cards – they’re much more convincing than I am. But, in addition to being a fun experience, what makes Heavy Hitters a better experience for newer players than giving them any other accessible, draftable set? In short, I think that Heavy Hitters has some of the best budget options and advancement pathways of any set in Flesh and Blood so far. The last time that this was a viable option was probably with Fai in Uprising. However, starting with a draft in that format would be a challenge due to the rules complexity required to play in a set with Dromai and Iyslander. But now there are six new viable budget options for decks to build. Some of these budget decks will be better and simpler than others, due in part to requiring fewer cards from previous sets.

Kassai [KSI001] (Heavy Hitters Kassai Blitz Deck)  Rainbow Foil | Red Riot Games CA Hood of the Red Sand [HVY099] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA

I recently sat down with a friend of mine to show him Heavy Hitters. He’s new to FaB and card games, but has experience with board games. We played some sealed, which he really enjoyed, then showed interest in building out his sealed deck into a proper Blitz deck. I let him go through my spare cards, which was mostly the Heavy Hitters bulk I had on hand. By the end of it, he had two very playable decks in Betsy and Kayo that could plausibly go 2-2 at an average Blitz Armory. I think there are three key elements in this process beyond the accessible rules and back-and-forth gameplay: the Rare headpieces, simple deckbuilding constraints and pathways, and affordable, powerful cards in this set and elsewhere.

Olympia, Prize Fighter [HVY092] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA Prized Galea [HVY098] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA

Each hero in Heavy Hitters has a specialization helmet at the Rare rarity. And they’re all fantastic. Many outcompete the three generic Legendary headpieces in the game (Arcanite Skullcap, Crown of Providence, and Balance of Justice), for about 30 cents each. While they may warp limited games, they’re a godsend in constructed formats. Four of them have a floor of Temper 2. Three extra health is fantastically strong in this game, particularly in the newer-player-advertised Blitz format. Generally, this amount of armor value has previously been locked behind much more expensive Legendary equipment. Rhinar’s Monstrous Veil and Kassai’s Hood of Red Sand only block for one, but have strong effects like the other helms. Most actively work with each hero’s power and main deck engine. Betsy’s and Olympia’s allow them to Wager, turning on their hero text so they can get the party started and start their gameplan of continuously making powerful tokens. Victor’s helps him block and generate Gold, which also allows him to draw a card and have a reroll for future Clashes. Kassai’s draws a card, allowing her to extend her turn, discount her next sword swing, and provide her more tricky options through attack reactions. Kayo’s helmet blocks for three, which is great. And possibly opens the door for a very desperate play if he’s behind – definitely the worst effect of the lot. Broadly, these are all Legendary-tier equipment that can slot into a new deck for pennies. They’re accessible, they’re powerful, and they’re a great way for new players to organically discover how strong blocking equipment is.

Victor Goldmane [VIC001] (Heavy Hitters Victor Blitz Deck)  Rainbow Foil | Red Riot Games CA Golden Glare [VIC004] (Heavy Hitters Victor Blitz Deck) | Red Riot Games CA

Another reason why I think this set is so good for onboarding newer players beyond the simplicity of the rules is the natural pathways of deckbuilding in this set. Each hero has a clear direction to build themselves in, and can do so very effectively through Heavy Hitters cards. Betsy wants to Wager more than anything, and there’s only so many cards that allow her to do so (all of which are pretty good, if occasionally soft on blocking). Throwing a deck together with a bunch of cards that say “Wage” on them and adding generally good supporting class cards is a great way to build her, and is pretty close to the deck’s non-budget optimal build. Kayo allows you to run yellow and blue five-power attacks without sacrificing your consistency on Brute synergies. This allows double-dipping with his most powerful cards like Bare Fangs while keeping a strong resource base. Both of these broad lines were identified by my friend in his deckbuilding and he really enjoyed the experience of coming to those decisions through his own logic and discovery. I supplemented some aspects of it by introducing some cards from older sets, like Smash Instinct, Savage Feast, and a selection of Common and Rare Guardian Crushes. This deckbuilding simplicity continues through the set. Victor wants ways to make Gold and block effectively, both of which are clearly delineated through Heavy Hitters cards like Test of Strength, Test of Might, and big-damage Guardian attacks. 

Betsy [BET001] (Heavy Hitters Betsy Blitz Deck)  Rainbow Foil | Red Riot Games CA Good Time Chapeau [HVY055] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA

Betsy is my first vote for the best budget deck to build – and not just because I saw it happen firsthand. Although Betsy may not necessarily be the strongest deck in the game, her pieces come together quite naturally, which is an important first step. However, what I think stands out about her is the upgrade path. Betsy performs excellently with Big Bet and Primed to Fight, both of which are very affordable as key pieces. Although she is not a top-tier hero when fully kitted out, she is a viable budget deck. She requires no key Legendary equipment as her affordable (but fashionable) hat is the main power piece in her engine. However, each equipment that can be used in Betsy can also be used in any other Guardian, both of whom are strong meta contenders. Betsy offers a very open door for new players to step into, build a deck with cheap key pieces, upgrade it however much they want, then swap over to one of two strong heroes depending on their preferred playstyle. The only unused cards will be Good Time Chapeau and Bet Big, neither of which have a price tag over $1 and won’t feel like a waste. Overall, a newer player can figure out how to build a deck using her, can do it without breaking the bank, and then convert that deck into other decks down the line. I think these three things show what FaB does best (organic gameplay and approachable deckbuilding) while mitigating some of its drawbacks (siloed card usage and convertibility into other decks or archetypes).  

Bet Big [HVY057] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA Primed to Fight [HVY058] (Heavy Hitters)  Rainbow Foil | Red Riot Games CA

Kayo would be my second choice of budget deck to build, but is likely to be more powerful. Throw in a lot of six-power attacks, some blue five-power attacks, some spare Bare Fangs, and then just let it ride. The reason that this isn’t my first choice of deck to build is because a lot of the upgrades feel either marginal, or can significantly change the strategy (Bloodrush Bellow or Berserk). Knucklehead is great at blocking, but it doesn’t advance the playstyle or learning of the deck at all. Additionally, the deck does not lend itself too much to convertibility for other heroes or archetypes. That being said, it’s not a total dead end, can become very powerful, and is, most importantly, a lot of fun to play.

Bare Fangs (Red) [EVR008] (Everfest)  1st Edition Normal | Red Riot Games CA Pack Hunt (Red) [1HP025] (History Pack 1) | Red Riot Games CA

My final message with this article is to get anybody you know who’s on the fence about the game to finally start playing. It’s an easy set to pick up and play and it offers accessible options for diving into Blitz or Classic Constructed. The current variety of viable heroes means that no one is iced out of having a reasonable chance to win. Yes, Legendaries are still expensive, but they’re less necessary now than they have been since the number of options keeps increasing. I don’t think there’s been a better time to jump into this game since the Welcome to Rathe/Arcane Rising/Crucible of War era.  




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