The Spectre of Spectra

by Red Riot Games CA

By: Dimos K


 Flesh and Blood is a game that prides itself on consistency and balanced cards. There are limits to what a card can and cannot do. For example, only defense reactions can block for more than three without some difficult or expensive condition. The base power for an attack card is four plus its cost, again barring conditions. The Illusionist class is one of the few exceptions to this idea. The average Illusionist attack has two more power than it should, but also has Phantasm. This is a mechanic that breaks the cost curve of the game, but is mostly fine because of its large drawback. Your extra damage (and often strong on-hit effects) can be entirely blocked by a single card. There are some issues with this, mainly with classes who don’t run six-power cards and have been iced out of competitive play because of it. Poor Dorinthea. This mechanic on its own is interesting, it establishes the theme of the class and effectively rolls it into gameplay. However, it left Prism with a massive weakness: any deck that has 6-power attacks as resource cards. Guardian and Brute frequently run thirty or more cards that can pop Phantasm. To make up for this glaring weakness, Prism gets access to another unique keyword: Spectra

Spectra is the messiest keyword in the game. The amount of rules clarifications, specifications, and changes that have been required for it since Monarch was released outstrips any other interaction in the game. Every single event I go to, either as a player or judge, always has Spectra as the single most frequent point of confusion. I am inherently wary about design when a keyword creates this many issues. Spectra is also probably the most powerful keyword in the game right now. The fact that Spectra prevents the attack targeting it from resolving Go Again is massive. I wrote a large amount about board state, and the sheer power of permanent effects that stay in the arena (weapons, equipment, items, etc.). Auras with Spectra end up doing one of two things: stick around for a long time, or require the opposing hero to take most of their attacking the aura and not Prism. Outside of Go Again, it is extremely difficult to generate action points. Currently, the only cards that can generate action points that help destroy Spectra are: Achilles Accelerator, Time Skippers, Scabskin Leathers, Hooves of the Shadow Beast, Lead the Charge, Sand Sketched Plan, High Octane, Timesnap Potion, and Blink. Back Alley Breakline can also technically generate action points, but only in a roundabout way. From our list of action point-generating cards, there is only one that does anything beyond generating an action point. High Octane is a great card, and shines fantastically against a Prism focussing on Spectra auras. Outside of Mechanologist, there are no beneficial ways to generate action points. In essence, generating an action point costs one card from hand, and using that to destroy two Spectra auras in one turn usually takes at least two more cards. The best trade any non-Mech hero can hope for is three cards (or a piece of equipment and two cards) to destroy two Spectra. Three cards is also generally the cost to Prism to put up two auras (assuming it is one four-cost Light aura and one blue Illusionist aura). The main difference here is that Auras do something while in the arena, or have strong effects on their destruction. The trade is the same number of cards between both heroes, but Prism sees a strong upside. This fits generally with the play pattern of the game, as basic 0-cost attacks hit for four while basic cards only defend for three. Except that auras are generating way more than one point of value for Prism. They are generating at absolute worst, one point of value per turn as Luminaris attack, in addition to what their actual effects are.

From a design perspective, Flesh and Blood is a game built around Go Again to generate action points. By removing that as a viable option for most classes against a Spectra-heavy Prism, it severely restricts the options that classes have against the hero. I think that the power of Spectra was very well-balanced when Prism was limited to a maximum of 15 expensive-to-play Light auras. But with the advent of 12 more free blue auras, I think the Spectra snowball is dangerously close to tumbling out of control. Luminaris hasn’t gotten a mention yet this article, but it should because the card just does so much, and it is what makes the blue auras effectively free to play. Non-attack actions that don’t have Go Again are usually awkward, but with a source of infinite Go Again from Luminaris, dropping a blue aura at the end of the turn is always an option with little opportunity cost. If a Light Illusionist is going to exist, I would love to see LSS print more cards that generate an action point and do something else. This is to effectively parallel the Spectra auras that cost an action point to destroy and do something else while they are present or destroyed. Alternatively, expanding the non-token aura-destroying class options beyond Runeblade’s Runic Reclamation and Wizard’s Scour could be interesting to see. All of this and I haven’t even talked about Miraging Metamorph, which is probably one of the highest power cards to grace FaB so far. But that’s for another time. 


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