Which Flesh and Blood Draft Set is Right for You? Part One
This is the first of two articles aimed at helping you find the right set of Flesh and Blood to draft with your local community, play group, or friends. Keep an eye out for part two next week.
Draft is a unique format available in several card games that has players build a deck from a very limited pool of cards while competing against others over those cards. There are two key phases to a draft session: putting your card pool together and playing games against opponents. It can be a bit of a learning curve because it demands on-the-fly card evaluation and deckbuilding technique. Both of those skills are generally built over time, hence why starter decks exist. However, playing Welcome to Rathe draft is one of the things that really captured me about Flesh and Blood. Other than playing with a starter deck to learn the most basic rules of the game, a draft event at a local shop was my first significant FaB experience. It was a great way for me to be exposed to all the cards available in the set and to a myriad of different decks and playstyles. As such, draft is a format that I am a supporter of for players both green and weathered. However, FaB’s draftable sets are not made equal. Some are newbie friendly while others can be very punishing if you haven’t done your homework. I think that the sets ranked from friendliest to most challenging are: Welcome to Rathe, Tales of Aria, Arcane Rising, Monarch, and Uprising. My first recommendation is to familiarize yourself with the general play patterns of the heroes from each set before you draft them, then to work your way through the sets from simplest to most challenging. Today we’ll be discussing the sets that are best suited to newer players - Welcome to Rathe and Tales of Aria.
Welcome to Rathe: Ease of drafting 8/10, Ease of play 9/10, Depth and replay potential 8/10. The best default option that accommodates a diverse range of players.
Welcome to Rathe (WtR) was FaB’s first set, and is by far the most beginner friendly set to draft. The set uses only the most essential of the game mechanics in the form of on-hit effects and reactions. There isn’t arcane damage, instant-speed shenanigans or complex and dependant interactions. The only common tripping point for many players is the importance of the separation between Go Again and being able to attack a second time with Dawnblade as Dorinthea. This is a four-hero draft set, which makes it a bit easier to easily read draft signals and end up with two people playing each hero in an eight-person pod. The generic cards in the set are very powerful and are generally applicable in any deck. There is some distinction in the generics between the cost of cards, with archetypes that look to employ zero- and one-cost cards (like Nimblism, Nimble Strike, and Flock of the Feather Walkers) and two- and higher-cost cards (like Sloggism, Regurgitating Slog, and Demolition Crew). My favourite thing about this set is how easy it is to pick up and play with only a cursory knowledge of the game.
Crucially, each of the heroes can be built in different and distinct ways. One could play Rhinar in three different drafts and have entirely different decks every single time. Rhinar has strong fatigue builds available due to the card-efficient attacks and weapon swings when he is not using discard effects. There is the “default” build that allows him to choose all the six power attacks and employ discard effects such as Primeval Bellow to break past defences. He can also build a deck on low-cost aggression, employing Nimblism, Nimble Strike, and Flock of the Feather Walkers in concert with powerful one-cost Brute cards like Savage Feast and Savage Swing. This deck makes efficient use of every pitched blue card. All of the other heroes have a similar breadth of options available to them, with Katsu in particular being extremely flexible. If you are willing to draft outside of what you know, I am confident that you can build a new, viable archetype of deck each time you draft Welcome to Rathe. This is the draft set that best accommodates players of different skill and experience. Even though I have been playing this game since WtR was in Alpha, I am confident I could draft this set with someone brand new to the game and we would both have a positive experience.
Tales of Aria: Ease of drafting 9/10, Ease of play 7/10, Depth and replay potential 9/10. A strong option for inexperienced players who have some experience with card games, but are new to drafting.
Tales of Aria (ToA) is my personal favourite set to draft because of the flexibility that the drafting process provides. So long as everyone knows the general rule to try and pick some Earth, Lightning, and Ice cards early, it is very difficult to go wrong in the rest of the process. I have been in pods with four Briars and still had it be a well-balanced experience. This is a three-hero set, which can lead to some awkward distribution of heroes between eight players, but the prevalence of Earth, Lightning, and Ice cards balances things out quite effectively. The fact that each hero has access to three distinct card pools (their two elements and their class-specific cards) gives each one a minimum of three viable decks to build. Even more options are available if you get creative. My personal favourite is the unexpectedly aggressive Oldhim deck that runs entirely on Entwine Earth, Earth cards, and anything that can buff the attack value of Entwine Earth. I find it much more interesting that the popular fatigue Oldhim deck, and also functions as a bit of a way to thin the strength of fatigue Oldhim by increasing the draft competition for his three-block cards.
This set introduces some mechanics that are important to keep an eye on, especially for newer players. You cannot use a card to Fuse and then pitch it to pay for the same card that was Fused, arcane damage and “typeless” damage require distinctions from attack damage, and Ranger comes with a sometimes-challenging amount of arsenal management. Additionally, using Oldhim’s defense reaction to try and block future arcane damage can be a bit of a learning curve. Unfortunately, there are some cards in the set that can tilt the balance of the game in certain directions, such as the imbalance in the quality of Majestic-rarity cards (including the weapons), and how only a couple of defense reactions can invalidate the average Lexi deck. The standout in this set is how easy it is to draft a decent deck. Simply telling a new player to match the colours on cards (yellow and blue for Lexi for example) is enough. At a ToA draft skirmish, one player had to step out for the duration of the drafting process and was replaced by someone who had never played FaB before. The deck that the clueless player drafted made top 8 when piloted by the other player upon his return. This being said, there can be significant knowledge gaps between experienced and newer players in the play portion of the event that can make things feel unbalanced. If there is a significant gulf in game familiarity, ToA may not be the draft set for you. If the skill levels are relatively equal, I think ToA is the overall best draft experience, due to how rare it is to end up with an unsatisfying deck.
Next week some of the more advanced draft sets will be discussed as we delve into Arcane Rising, Monarch, and Uprising. In the meanwhile, I encourage you to go back to basics and try out some WtR or ToA drafts with friends. Maybe you get a box as a gift for the holidays and want to share the joy through drafting together rather than just ripping the packs open in 15 minutes. As always – I will end my draft article with a recommendation to put a copy of each Token (heroes, weapons, and others) available in the set in front of newer players during the drafting phase. This allows them to have references for some of the most important and ever-present features of their decks when choosing their cards.