An Introduction to Control in Flesh and Blood

Welcome to Control 101, an introduction to Flesh and Blood’s control archetype. As a long-time control player in Magic: the Gathering and Hearthstone, it was inevitable that I would be drawn toward Flesh and Blood’s more control-oriented heroes. The economy of Flesh and Blood works different than most other card games. Control in Flesh in Blood is more complicated than simply casting an endless stream of counterspells and eventually sticking a late-game threat to the board after the dust settles. There’s a certain element of back and forth to Flesh and Blood not found in many other games – something I find engaging and exciting each time I sit down for a game.


Header - The Heroes

First, the end-state goals of what the games are going to look like in Flesh and Blood will differ from deck to deck and hero to hero throughout the archetype. By playing control, you want to set up for a game state that will reward your patience and the fact that you managed to weather the offensive storm from your opponent. Without that payoff in mind and sight, there is no incentive to pursue this type of strategy.


Bravo, ShowstopperViserai, Rune BloodKatsu, the WandererDash, Inventor Extraordinaire

As Bravo, your end state is to set up two back-to-back dominated Crippling Crush. As Viserai, perhaps that means comboing off with a massive Sonata Arcanix and detonating upwards of 20 Runechant tokens then playing out an explosive hand. As Katsu, that means getting your opponent to low life and forcing them to block each of your Harmonized Kodachis with a card from hand. As Dash, that means setting up an array of Plasma Purifier and Induction Chamber for multiple four or more power Teklo Plasma Pistol shots per turn.

Multiple heroes and classes can play a controlling game. It’s as much of a match-specific role as it is an archetype. Many of Flesh and Blood’s premier “control” cards are also printed as generic cards, meaning any hero can include them in their deck construction. Cards like Fate Foreseen (Red) and Sink Below (Red) are so efficient at defending that they are included in many decks in multiple formats. Blocking four damage with one card is exactly what we want to be doing with a control strategy – these two cards in particular are all-stars in most control-based strategies. 


Header - The Control Game Plan

Control is possible in Flesh and Blood because defending is inherently more resource-efficient than attacking. There’s an action economy of Flesh and Blood, and it’s usually a lot more costly to attack than it is to defend. This is evident by dividing the value of any attack by the number of cards it took to play the attack (including the cards that were pitched for the attack).


Surging Strike (Red)

Take for example a Surging Strike (Red) played with a blue pitch. Playing this card costs the Ninja player two cards from hand to output five damage with go again. This presents 2.5 damage/card spent to pull off the attack, leaving the Ninja player with two cards in hand and one resource floating. The defending player can block the attack with two cards from hand that block for three, or simply one four-defense defense reaction, taking one damage but keeping three cards in hand.

As a control player, you want to lean on your defensive tools to block as efficiently as possible while setting up for your late-game strategy, whatever that is. The goal of playing control isn’t to fatigue your opponent and cause them to run out of cards in their deck, in most scenarios, this isn’t a valid strategy due to time constraints. The goal is to weather the storm and cause your opponent to burn through the main threats in their deck so they can’t reasonably close out the game if they weren’t able to break through your defenses earlier on. In this game state, you will ideally still have the powerful threats you need to close out the game while your opponent does not.


Header - Control Strategizing

Usually, you’ll have some kind of strategy to approach the end-game state you are aiming for. Most controlling decks, outside the likes of Sonata Viserai (who just likes to hoard Runechant tokens until it’s time to combo), want to be presenting some form of reasonable counter attack each and every turn. If you’re playing Guardian, that means swinging your trusty hammer on most turns of the game with a single card pitch after blocking and defending heavily. Any Guardian player knows that hammers do wonders to erode your opponent’s armor, life and cards from hand as the game draws on.

As Control Katsu, you want to set up with the attack pattern of slicing and dicing with both Kodachis each turn and blocking out almost everything your opponent will throw at you otherwise. Dash will want to play a controlling game by eventually building an engine of items that can force multiple unfavorable blocks from your opponent’s hand per-turn.

While the strategies of control decks will differ, the overall concept of staying healthy and preserving armor through the early and mid-game will remain constant. As a control player, you usually want to be healthy enough to take a big hit from your opponent and drop a lot of life in order to pivot and flip the tempo of the game in your favor when it’s time. Understanding when and how to do that will be improved the more you play and understand the economy of Flesh and Blood combat and actions. Eventually, you’ll understand what it means to win a turn cycle (have a much better turn than your opponent) as though it were second nature.


Header - Equipment

Weapons play a very important part in the control archetype. They are always available, and most importantly, don’t require you to send a card to the graveyard in order to attack with them. This means you can keep your card count high while threatening to take cards from your opponent’s deck and hand (hopefully some power cards that you don’t want your opponent to be able to play).



As the game draws on, your weapon will likely be able to strip some cards from your opponent’s hand that they then won’t have access to for the remainder. While we don’t try to win through the strategy of fatigue and “decking” our opponent, the reality of attacking with your weapon does lend positively to the strategy of control and plays an essential role. Always having access to your weapon means you can launch a counterattack with as little as one card from hand, letting you block for nine or more points of damage with the other three if needed. Let’s take for example Anothos. When enabled by having two three-cost or higher cards in the pitch zone, it threatens to take two cards from your opponent’s hand off of a single blue pitch which will be returned to the bottom of your deck once the combat chain closes.

Of course, control in Flesh and Blood isn’t all defense and swinging around a weapon. Most control decks will have the capability to output some impressive offensive power in a pinch via attack action cards. This is especially important in the early and mid game if you have the opportunity to push some early damage through or setup for a powerful combo by putting a card into your Arsenal. Properly identifying when your opponent has an “off turn” is also helpful in knowing when to put on the pressure and try to flip the tempo in your favor.

This is a skill that you will learn early on and is evident when your opponent is only able to attack for a few points of damage when you expected a lot better. Be ready to capitalize on situations like this, and look to present a counter attack and set up your Arsenal for the next turn cycle.


Header - Conclusion

Soon, I will write Control 201, the next step that will build and expand on many of the topics presented in this article as well as introduce entirely new ones that will help take your understanding of control in Flesh and Blood to new levels. Learning and understanding your core fundamentals and some of the concepts presented in this article will do wonders to helping you jumpstart your dive into Flesh and Blood’s control archetype. While the control archetype isn’t for everyone, there is a certain reward to playing patiently and watching all your hard work and dedication to the end goal come to fruition when the pieces you have built fall into place. 

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Do you enjoy playing Control in Flesh and Blood? What questions about some of these concepts do you have? Get involved with the conversation and let me know in the comments below!

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