It’s been suggested a few times that Flesh and Blood is a distant relative of Poker, with the bluffing and mind games within the game baring many resemblances to the classic card game. Even the infamous Twinning Blade full art card takes many design cues from classic Poker cards. In the same vein then, many aspects that make a great Poker player make a great Flesh and Blood player: hand evaluation, ability to read opponents and the theme of this article – bluffing.
For any sort of bluff to work, there needs to be an active threat to your opponent, or the ability to devastatingly neutralize an opponent’s threat. When thinking of this in terms of Flesh and Blood, you must evaluate the two main currencies of the game, life total and momentum (usually represented by card advantage). Bluffing in Flesh and Blood should ideally give you a boost to one, or both aspects within any game.
Reactions are the primary concern any opponent is going to have on an attack coming at them. While the base attack of any card is on the board when it’s played, various attack reactions can give anywhere from +1 to +6 in some cases. This creates circumstances where opponents have to respect the effects of losing life or on-hit effects that can be activated when these reactions are played. Let’s take the queen of this type of gameplay, Dorinthea, as an example.
On the table, you’re only attacking for three, but as any opponent scarred by Dorinthea will know, two cards in hand with two pitch floating can easily boost a Dawnblade to 9 attack before you know it. Opponents must be wary to not only the attack offensive potential, but also the ability of Dawnblade to attack again in this case if it does connect.
This is the beauty of reactions. While you know you can only boost to 6 attack with Ironsong Response (Red), your opponent has to take a gamble in blocking. If they block for 6 and you did have two reactions, then they’re in deep waters as Dawnblade gets to hit them again and possibly get a counter on it next turn. If they do overblock, and you don’t have the means to go over the top of their block, then you simply get an extra card in Arsenal when there wasn’t one before.
Leveraging this sort of bluff is a valuable tool for any class who plays attack reactions with either a big damage output or dangerous on-hit effects such as Azalea. If you’re trying to bluff in this manner, make sure to keep some pitch on the table so your opponent is very aware of the possibility of an attack reaction coming. Sometimes, you can even smarmily go out of your way to tell them “I have two floating,” which can alert them to the possibility of this occurring and force out the overblock.
You’ll see very often with newer players that they’ll look at their hand, see a blue and immediately pitch it to play whatever cards they happen to have that turn. This tendency to pitch the highest card first is common among even competition players and can be leveraged to trick your opponent into playing the game you want them to. Let’s look at Bravo for this example.
Let’s say you have in hand a Stonewall Confidence (Red), Towering Titan (Yellow) and Unmovable (Blue) with a Pummel (Red) in Arsenal. In this case, you would play Anothos by purposely pitching Stonewall Confidence (Red) and Towering Titan (Yellow) even though you usually wouldn’t pitch them. This means Anothos would just be swinging for four damage, and many times your opponent would assume that this is since you couldn’t activate Anothos’s ability to boost it to 6 with your current hand state.
In addition, due to Anothos having no-on hit effects, you can very easily induce a block out of your opponent for only three, with them assuming they’ll take one damage this turn. In the reaction phase however, you can play Pummel (Red) from Arsenal pitching your Unmovable (Blue). This means Anothos will get the pitch-cost boost and go to six, along with the boost from Pummel of +4. That’s a whopping 10 damage!
Your opponent will be forced to play a reaction here or more likely take seven damage from the weapon swing as they didn’t block the whole play originally. Although similar in concept, this kind of play is slightly different from the one mentioned above, as instead of trying to tell your opponent you have enough pitch to attack with, you’re trying to fool them of the opposite.
The last part of this article is an underused aspect of bluffing with defense reactions, instants and so forth. There are only a finite number of “difficult” or almost unstoppable plays/combinations your opponent can hit you with each game, and chances are you’ll almost always see one of these plays from your opponent’s side once a game.
Knowing this, certain classes may prefer to bait these plays out, sticking something like an Unmovable (Red) in Arsenal and waiting to shut down the opponent’s best cards. However, this can also be done with cards such as Sigil of Solace (Red) or Reinforce the Line (Red). Cards that hurt your Arsenal such as such as Command and Conquer or Remorseless can be made much less efficient when they have nothing to target, alongside doing less overall damage as these instants can help you gain life/add defense.
These sorts of bluffs are not as directly impactful as the two other styles above, but your opponent losing value on their turn by playing a strong card and not having much to show for it will slowly help empty the gas out of their tank. So next time you have a Sigil in hand, keep in mind it’s not always best to immediately play it like it’s going to be intimidated away or such.
All in all, bluffing is a vital aspect of Flesh and Blood that seems to be getting only more and more integral to high level play as the meta progresses. With the addition of new instants coming in Monarch, along with a flurry of other meta-defining cards, it’ll be more important then ever to keep your opponent on the backfoot, making them fear an ace up your sleeve – whether you have it or not.