Blocking in Flesh and Blood is an underrated aspect of winning games. Simply due to nature, we pay more attention to bombastic attack actions and/or long, overwhelming chain links pushed out by those on offense. However, many times it’s equally a solid defensive play which can entirely swing a match around. As we will explore in this article, defense is much more then simply prevention of life loss. Proper blocking can many times be a way of controlling blowout turns, playing the game at your tempo and even be a vital part of your endgame strategy.
Not every class needs to be extensively defensively focused, and some classes greatly lean into their strong defenses compared to others. Brute, Guardian and Warrior for example are all jam-packed with 3-defense cards as their attack actions. In addition to a few strong class defense reactions, this makes them ideal candidates for defensive strategies. Other classes may have centerpiece cards which allow defensive playstyles to work. Control Ira, with her Flic Flaks and a bunch of combo cards allows for a great defensive playstyle.
On the other hand, Runeblade, Ranger and Mechanologist have many times potent defensive hinderances. In the case of the former two, many of their powerful cards block for only two, and in the case of Mech, the class’s items do not block at all. However, this does not mean they can’t be made to be strong defensively. Control Dash was/is one the foremost performers in Classic Constructed, with a defensive playstyle that’s stronger then even the most prominent defensive classes.
It’s however important to recognize your deck’s/classes strengths. A class with strong defenses should naturally lean into slower playstyles, while an aggressive deck has to learn to choose their spots to defend carefully.
For those classes/decks with a strong defensive aspect, they can very well control the tempo of the match. Blocking with nine or more every turn means your opponent will not be getting much damage through, and hence you can then choose when to finally lose life and strike back with a good hand.
This is a valuable trait that allows Brutes to have massive Bloodrush Bellow turns and Guardians to set up their big Crippling Crushes. For these decks, keeping life total high is crucial, as when the time comes, they will have it to absorb some damage so they can strike back with their game winning turns. When constructing a defensive class then, make sure your deck is plentiful with 3-block cards, as every point of defense will count for a point of life. For the few cards that don’t defend, make sure these are high impact as these will determine the few offensive turns that win you games.
Sometimes it’s about living to fight another day. I can’t think of any card game that exemplifies this more then Flesh and Blood. When playing against heroes who can really dole out punishment turn after turn, such as Ira and Dorinthea, it may seem fruitless as the opponent consistently starts their turn off with either of Spoils of War, Steelblade Supremacy, Warrior’s Valor (Red) and so forth, as you consistently must block with basically your entire hand.
Keep in mind, however, you’re doing much more then damage control here. Every time you stop a big turn, you also eliminate the threat of that turn coming again. Going along with our Warrior example, a Warrior’s Valor (Red) into a Steelblade Supremacy into Dawnblade is a large threat, but if you block with your whole hand many times, the Warrior won’t be able jump over that block value of 10, 12 or more.
Although it may seem like you’ve given the Warrior momentum here, it’s only for the short term. The long-term goal of this sort of defending is two-fold:
- Removing the big “threat” cards from your opponent’s deck
- Setting up your big turns/bottom of your deck
I spoke a little on the first point above, but I want to elaborate on the second point now. While defending, it’s pointless if you can’t strike back at some point. As you’ll find, if you’re constantly defending with three or four cards, you’ll run through your deck very quickly. As a result, if you pull one of your win-condition cards in hand, you may consider simply defending with everything but that card to either place it in Arsenal or pitch it for a weapon swing so you know that it’s going to be there late game when your opponent runs out of gas.
This is the real crux of defensive playstyles; the early offensive player may slowly find themselves in deep water as they run out of gas and their opponent starts to find more of it. This only occurs if you can save most of your game-deciding cards in your own deck through. Discarding them for defense will be a poor use of resources and cause the entire playstyle to wither away.
This last point may seem a bit mute, but it must be reinforced how important defense reactions are in Arsenal in defensive playstyles. Since cards on average block for less than they attack, big offensive turns usually triumph over big defensive turns. Therefore, keeping a strong defense reaction in Arsenal is the key to leveling this playing field.
I too often see players draw a defense reaction, Arsenal it next turn, and then immediately defend with it as soon as possible to gain card advantage. This is a poor use of a powerful card, and rather sticking with the game plan to defend from hand will be more fruitful. Keep your defense reaction set to neutralize a truly dangerous dominate or big damage turn from your opponent. Remember, this playstyle is all about neutralizing the opponent’s biggest threats, not about gaining tempo prematurely.
Alright, so we’ve covered some main points in how to efficiently build and play a defensive style deck, or even how to play defensively when you don’t have momentum. The few things to always keep in mind are:
- Build you deck with many 3-block cards.
- Don’t block with/protect high impact cards.
- Protect your life total.
- Play to exhaust your opponents’ threats.
- Be patient/timely with your use of defense reactions.
That about sums it all up. Even if you play a more offensively oriented class, learning to defend is an art that separates the wheat from the chaff not only for defensive classes, but also for aggressive classes. Master this, and you’ll find yourself quickly winning games by landslide margins and understanding how to control the game in a whole new manner.