Picking your Poison: Drafting Archetypes

by Red Riot Games CA

By Dimos K


Let me preface this article by saying that Flesh and Blood is the only TCG I have ever drafted. I have also played some board games that involve deck building and drafting. Maybe that means that you should take what I say with a grain of salt. Maybe it means that I can view Flesh and Blood drafting without the biases of former Magic drafters. In my time drafting Flesh and Blood, it has quickly become my favourite format, and I’ve done decently at events of all levels. 

My main takeaway from drafting so far has been that your deck archetype matters more than your hero, and probably more than drafting your seat. I’ve read, listened to, and tried to take on board generally good drafting advice, but a strong emphasis on archetypes are something that I have not seen significantly discussed outside of these three LSS articles (which are a great starting point, but are not comprehensive). Some of the most clear archetypes are wide versus tall in Welcome to Rathe, or different base powers (3 or less or more than 6) in Monarch. A cohesive Belittle and Minnowism engine can be a strong enough archetype to win regardless of whether it is being supported by Chane or Boltyn’s class cards. It’s always nice to be an uncontested drafter because it provides options. Options of pitch ratios, archetypes, and the option to run a 40-card deck to try and fatigue your opponents. However, with enough intention, you can put together a strong archetype even if you are splitting a hero with two others at the table. 

This opinion may be a bit controversial, but I am comfortable being the third drafter of a hero in a row if I know my archetype and am confident that it is not being taken from me. This is predicated on two key factors. Firstly, the first half of pack one has strong cards to guide me in the direction I’m going in initially, and I will have first pick of all the best cards from pack two. Secondly, because of my strength of belief in the power of archetypes over classes in Flesh and Blood. 

I recently played in a Tales of Aria draft, where I was receiving the scraps from two Oldhim drafters immediately to my right. The situation became quite clear towards the last five cards of pack one in our seven-person pod. Pivoting to Briar was an option, as I had primarily Earth cards up to that point, and had received some Runeblade cards in the last few cards of the pack. But I stuck with drafting Oldhim because I had a couple red Guardian attacks. My deck was very clear in my head. It was going to be an Earth-based beatdown deck that aims to put out seven to eight damage off of two card hands. Against my instincts and most general advice for Tales of Aria limited, this deck generally preferred to go second (except against Lexi), in an attempt to set the tempo. By putting out big attacks, I’m threatening to close the game in three turns if my opponent tries to steal tempo back by not blocking. I could have done something similar with Briar, but I chose not to because I think that Oldhim has a stronger endgame by pressuring more consistent 7+ damage attacks. Once an opponent is down to five life, they are forced to block with two cards if Oldhim plays judiciously and focuses on key breakpoints (Cracker Jax is fantastic for this). In Tales of Aria, Oldhim is far and away the best at trading two-card hands, and this philosophy took me to a 3-0 draft. I did not have the best Guardian cards in the pod, nor did I have the strongest draft pool in the pod. But I did have the most coherent archetype of the Oldhims in the pod, and that carried me through. Beatdown Oldhim, as I like to call this archetype, is much more powerful than people give it credit for. It was not even included in the Oldhim draft article put out by LSS. I usually run a lean 30 to 32 cards in the deck if this is my strategy, not the 37 to 40 recommended in the article. There is room for a lot of creativity in draft decks, and you can use that space to make yourself something strong, unexpected, and not-heavily-contested. 

Let’s explore another set, and another archetype that works excellently with less-than-ideal cards. The Brute class, as a whole, is centred around 6-power-or-higher attacks. In Welcome to Rathe, Rhinar is heavily focused on 6-power cards by virtue of his hero power and other conditional effects from discards. Barraging Beatdown is one of Rhinar’s best cards in Constructed formats. For draft purposes, I generally consider Barraging Beatdown to be a way to force a two-card block on Romping club, because of how rare it is to intimidate three cards and ensure the bonus damage. In Draft, there is one Brute card that can function independently of any other card in the deck: Primeval Bellow. This is a card that I would be comfortable building an entire archetype around, even without “enough” 6-power cards for any other Brute deck. It is at its strongest in a three-card hand with a 6-power to discard, as a red would buff Romping Club to 10 damage, with one Intimidate from Rhinar’s ability. However, I consider this a bonus and would be plenty happy with just a Romping Club attack for 9 damage from a three-card hand. One of the key strengths of the card is modularity, as Primeval Bellow makes for strong hands with any number of cards. This gives you a lot more flexibility with your blocks depending on what your opponent presents. With four cards, Primeval Bellow can buff an attack action card and deal 12 (or so) damage with one or two Intimidates. With three cards, it can buff Romping Club. With two cards, it can be arsenaled after a plain Romping Club swing. If you’re forced to block with everything but your last card, Romping Club on its own is four damage (the best one-card hand in the set). Overall, this lets you build a strong Rhinar deck even without the cards that are normally associated with the key engine of the class.

This low-6-power-card alternative archetype also applies to Levia, as Monarch has a similar Brute card that does not care about interacting with 6-power cards. Unworldly Bellow allows Levia to efficiently play and recur Shadow cards such as Void Wraith, Ghostly Visit, or Howl from Beyond even if all the prime 6-power Blood Debt Brute cards have been taken already. It is not as independent of an engine as Primeval Bellow because it requires decent attack action cards to buff, but is a solid archetype regardless. 

The moral of the story here is that I think archetypes are more important than heroes. There can be three Briars at the top of the same draft pod if one goes Earth, one goes Lightning, and one aims for arcane damage. When you’re trying to draft your seat (including reading and sending signals), put some serious consideration of what archetype you’re aiming for. An archetype can be built around a single card, or around a couple key combo pieces that you managed to secure early (such as equipment). 


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