The Year of Rhinar
By Dimos K
Rhinar has long been one of my favourite heroes in Flesh and Blood, as has the Brute class as a whole. He was the first hero I played in an Armory (drafted, back when he was the laughing stock of Rathe), and he was my rep of choice for the early Skirmish seasons. I think Rhinar is a fantastic hero in Classic Constructed, Blitz, and in Limited formats. In fact, I was even preparing to take him to Nationals until red-line Briar became popular. It was a very generalist deck where the aim was to go 50/50 into as many heroes as possible. If you’re curious, here’s the link to it.
I’m betting that Rhinar will come in big in 2022 because he has access to so much utility and so many counters to many perennial threats. Rhinar’s Intimidate ability functions as a great equalizer. If you want to play defensively to set up a strong board like Viserai, Dash, or Prism, Intimidate puts the game on a strict clock. Intimidate can break through even the strongest of Oldhim and Bravo’s defenses and ensure that they cannot fatigue in the matchup. To add to this, Rhinar has access to varied utility cards such as Bonehead Barrier, Argh Smash, and Reckless Swing. In a midrange or control meta, Rhinar shines very brightly. If there were continued major events in the Crucible of War era, I am confident that Rhinar would have dethroned Dash as the best hero (possibly with some interference from Katsu). Here’s a deck profile for Dan McKay’s Rhinar deck that won Red Riot Games’ big international tournament at that time.
Rhinar can effectively counter any non-aggro meta threat in the game just by adding a few cards to his deck list. These additions are sometimes specific cards like Argh Smash, Unmovable, Bonehead Barrier, or Pummel (key against Sabres Boltyn). There are also more general cards that give strong strategies against a variety of decks, such as being able to pivot between Mandible Claws and Romping Club. Rhinar’s access to both of these weapons is half of what makes him so versatile (the other half being unparalleled access to Intimidate and specific utility cards). Like plenty of Brute attacks, Mandible Claws kind of suck when not paired with Bloodrush Bellow. In concert with Bloodrush, Mandible Claws will usually deliver a turn dealing at least 18 damage and two Intimidate triggers. This is excellent at smashing past any defense your opponent can muster. Conversely, Romping Club, with its base power of four, is one of the best standalone weapons in the game. A strong weapon gives a deck an effective default plan of blocking and grinding out an opponent with Club swings. Combine the strength of Romping Club with the strength of Barraging Beatdown, and Rhinar has a very strong grinding game plan when required. This complete reversal of gameplan, from an aggressive combo plan with Mandible Claws, can be achieved for the low price of one sideboard slot: the Club itself. This breadth of different strategies with little investment makes Rhinar an excellent, versatile threat into any meta that is not hyper-aggressive. As a contrast, Bravo requires much more sideboard investment to switch up his game plan from grinding to something more aggressive. Due to an absence of a weapon with Go Again, Bravo needs to put attacks with Go Again into his deck. Most commonly these are Zealous Belting and Rouse the Ancients, both of which are contingent on supporting cards in the deck (likely mediocre blue six-power Guardian attacks taking the place of powerful blue Guardian utility cards).
The main reason that Rhinar struggles with very aggressive decks is that so much of his strength is tied to Intimidate, which is largely irrelevant to aggressive decks that weren’t going to block anyways. Any aggressive deck worth its salt will be running efficient attacks and on-hit effects, both of which Rhinar severely lacks. Rightfully, Rhinar doesn’t have on-hit effects or efficient attacks, because those in concert with Intimidate would be completely unfair. Maybe he gets some pseudo-on-hit in Everfest similar to Barraging Bighorn or Barraging Beatdown. Overall, I do not feel that Rhinar “needs” any additional cards. He is good at what he is good at, and he has corresponding weaknesses. I think it is important to emphasise that this is fine and that not every hero needs powerful cards to “fix” them and make them powerful in every single meta.
In a meta dominated by anything other than aggressive decks, Rhinar will be a top-tier contender, and I think that is how 2022 will shape up. Everfest will likely bring a lot of utility and “answer” cards, similar to how Crucible of War (the previous supplemental set) did. Snag, Argh Smash, Find Centre, Meganetic Shockwave, Feign Death, Reaping Blade, Aetherize, and Gambler’s Gloves are just some of the cards with unique utility effects that counter specific strategies in other decks. While aggro has continued to be a popular deck type, it has been dealt with effectively as the 2021 Nationals season has gone on. The final say in this will be the (hopefully) imminent New Zealand and Australian National Championships, which I will be watching with hope.