Heavy Hitters Comes Out of the Gate Swinging

by Red Riot Games CA

By Dimos

Flesh and Blood’s latest set, Heavy Hitters, is now officially out and it seems to be a smashing success with nearly everyone. I’m fairly biased towards the set since it features all three of my favourite classes. The set parallels Welcome to Rathe through its class selection and focus on a simplicity of gameplay. This is going to be the first in a series of Heavy Hitters articles. Next week we’ll be taking a dive into the wonders this set does for budget players. For today I’m going to be doing a run through of some of the banner elements of the set and some general design thoughts. We’ll be covering the design of the sealed set, how that impacts constructed formats.

Wage Might (Red) [HVY149] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA Clash of Vigor (Red) [HVY177] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA

If you’ve been paying attention to the FaB scene recently, I’m likely not the first to tell you that Heavy Hitters Sealed is a fun experience that feels pretty good all around. My favourite thing about it is its approachability for both new and veteran players. It feels like the first set in a long time that I can introduce a card game novice to and confidently think they’ll have a good time. This being said, as someone who has played all of FaB’s limited formats on release, Heavy Hitters still offers a depth of play for the more experienced. The set features new mechanics that play very well with variance (Clash) and back-and-forth decision making (Wager), while also rewarding forward thinking and set-up plays (Vigor, Agility, and Might tokens). I think that the set may gravitate towards a consensus hero in Sealed with time, but it is refreshing not to see that hero be immediately obvious (like Briar, Fai, or Teklovossen were). This is another strength of the format – the meaningful deckbuilding decisions to be made in sealed. Should I run 30 cards or 35? Which class should I play? Which hero in that class should I play? The most important question I found myself asking when building my sealed deck is “Am I winning this game by out-valuing my opponent from turn-to-turn, or by putting together one or more big combo turns?”. In Heavy Hitters, I think either strategy is viable roughly half of the time, depending on which cards have access to. Answering these questions is what makes any limited card game experience fun, and this set asks them in compelling ways.

Gold Take it on the Chin [HVY160] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA

The set certainly evokes a lot of the same feelings and play patterns as Welcome to Rathe did, and that parallel is no accident. While Welcome to Rathe is generally regarded as the best FaB limited set so far, it isn’t perfect – particularly in Sealed. I think Heavy Hitters does something better than Welcome to Rathe: it doesn’t allow for default fatigue strategies. In Welcome to Rathe Sealed, the go-to strategy was to play Bravo with as many three-block cards. You could consistently rely on the strength of Anothos to run your opponent out of cards. In Heavy Hitters, it feels like almost every card only blocks for two, even the defensive ones. This encourages people to play their cards, which leads to a more engaging back and forth. However, this has its costs for new heroes in Constructed formats. 

That being said, all that glitters isn’t gold – no matter how many tokens you make. My main hesitation in this set centres around how explosive some turns can be, and then be immediately followed by more explosive turns. In one of my prerelease games I strung together consecutive turns of 16, 19, and 14 damage as Kayo. That game didn’t feel like much of a game because of how quickly and decisively it ended. Across the room, another player was making it known that the same thing was happening to him. On the other hand, I had a couple of games come down to a tense one or two life tightrope walk which felt very exciting for both players. Variance is always an element in card games, but depending on the type of variance it can lead to positive or negative feelings. Clash is a very positive-feeling form of variance so far. Having your opponent deal so much damage that you couldn’t do anything to play the game certainly leads to negative feelings. I hope these successive powerful turns are not frequent occurrences, because they may tarnish an otherwise-fantastic set for onboarding new players.

Agility [RNR029] (Rhinar Hero Deck) | Red Riot Games CADown But Not Out (Red) [HVY213] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA

My biggest question in this set (for limited formats) surrounds Down But Not Out. This is a card that really shapes how games are played – you simply need a strategy to defend against it. Does it warp the entire experience of the set? I think it does, I just don’t think it's in a negative way (at least not with current understandings of the set). I’m curious to see how people’s perceptions of this card shifts with time, both as a powerful play and as a card that dictates how games are played even when it is not present. I think there could be a whole article devoted entirely to it, its design, how to play with and around it, and how to evaluate it. For now, I’ll leave it at this: I think it’s cool but can lead to some stolen games which can create mixed feelings.

Good Time Chapeau [HVY055] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA Prized Galea [HVY098] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA

Moving on to the constructed side of this set, we see some old elements and some new elements. There are plenty of old elements in the simplicity of cards. Most cards have minimal text and even the wordier cards are explaining something that ends up being quite simple in practice. It is a very easily understandable set – and this translates really well to the pre-constructed Blitz decks that are available for the Heavy Hitters heroes. These finally (almost) feel like decently-powered starter decks that people could take to an Armory without being completely washed away. A lot of this comes from how strong some of the Rares are in this set – namely the specialization head pieces. We’ll dive more into that in a forthcoming budget-friendliness discussion.

Olympia, Prize Fighter [HVY092] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA Betsy, Skin in the Game [HVY045] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA

The other big thing I’ve noticed with the constructed impact of this set is that two of the new heroes, Olympia and Betsy, are locked into running a lot of two-block cards. As heroes whose abilities are entirely reliant on the Wager keyword, they are functionally blank without running cards that allow for Wagers. The issue is that nearly every card that allows one to Wager only blocks for two. Guardian and Warrior have historically not had the strongest numbers on offense, but they have been able to fall back on nearly every class card blocking for three. For Betsy and Olympia, this is no longer the case. Their offensive numbers remain below-average, in line with their classes, but now their defensive numbers are taking a significant hit. Betsy can partially get around this by focussing on the relationship between Gold generation and Good Time Chapeau, but it still requires more than a few two-block cards to do so. Olympia does have options to Wager some attacks with two three-block pump cards, but it still feels thin when playing a 60-card deck. It is quite possible that a lot of these cards did block three previously, but were changed to block two for the sake of balancing limited formats. Importantly, reducing the block ability of these cards would prevent block-only fatigue strategies from becoming dominant. It does not surprise me that these two heroes are the ones that appear to be much weaker (at least for now) in constructed formats, since it is so difficult to overcome low blocks.

 Wage Vigor (Red) [HVY189] (Heavy Hitters) | Red Riot Games CA

Overall, I am very excited for what this set does and will do. I think it’s fun, I think it’s going to shake up how the game operates, and I think it’s a great onboarding time for new players. If you know anyone who’s been on the fence about trying FaB, I think now is the time to push them towards it. It’s more affordable, more balanced, and more mechanically-understandable now than it has been since Welcome to Rathe was first released. 



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