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Briar, Plunder Run and Ball Lightning – Flesh and Blood Bans

The new Flesh and Blood bans and errata released from Legend Story Studious has shaken up the community entirely. Although many were intensely frustrated by Lightning Briar’s dominance, I don’t think even they expected the errata/ban on her crucial cards to come when it did.

If you haven’t heard, LSS has made two key bans in Classic Constructed, being all colors and versions of Ball Lightning and Plunder Run are banned, alongside a ban in Blitz of Ball Lightning and Duskblade. The even larger news alongside this was the errata of a hero card for the first time in the game. Briar, Warden of Thorns will now read as to only create a maximum of one Embodiment of Earth a turn, only from her first attack that connects each turn. The rest of the text on Briar was untouched. To get a better idea of what these bans and erratas mean for each of your decks, let’s break them down card by card, alongside giving some solid alternative for your decks to replace the new holes in them. 

 

 

Header - Plunder Run

Plunder Run (Red) (Regular)

When looking at the game from a historical sense, the Plunder Run ban will be a very solid decision going forward. Plunder Run was always poorly balanced – it’s counterpart in the set, Force Sight, brings many similar benefits at a reasonable one-cost. Why Plunder Run was consequently given a zero-cost was always baffling in the sense that they had got the design right already with Force Sight. Since you can easily argue that the latter’s benefit of Opt 2 is not as strong as Plunder Run’s draw a card effect, the decision is even more surprising in that sense. 

In most of today’s decks, Plunder Run was used to kickstart big five card hand turns and/or turn tempo by forcing blocks with smaller two or three-card hands. In the former situation, seeing Plunder Run’s being played out of Arsenal was like watching your opponent pour kerosene over the fire that is your life total. I think the LSS official statement worded it well enough, that you would just need to block and pray to get out of the turn unscathed.

This is also compounded when you introduce Runeblade into the mix. Since they get extra benefits for playing non-attack actions, even playing Plunder Run from hand was a decent enough play. The main cost to the card in other decks would be that it required set up in Arsenal to be effective. However, in Runeblade, this was no issue thanks it being effective as a non-attack action with go-again as well. Briar was particularly able to abuse this at times, gaining incredible tempo playing Plunder Runs as one-half of an Embodiment of Lightning token and drawing more of her zero cost attacks. Overall, I’m particularly happy with this ban and enjoy that we got it out of the meta early enough compared to what could have been an issue card for years down the line. 

Alternatives 

Since Plunder Run was a great generic in aggro decks, many other decks outside Briar will be missing it, here are some solid alternatives to play instead. 

 

Header - Ball Lightning

Ball Lightning (Red) (Regular)

I’ve heard a lot of people disagree with this ban, but I like it a lot. I really dislike what Ball Lightning represents in Flesh and Blood. As a straight aggro card, it removes a lot of decision making in terms of how to play it, and when combined in certain sequences, especially with Sting of Sorcery and other Ball Lightnings, it can be incredibly brutal.

In addition, cards such as this one can only grow in power level in time, as new attack reactions and ways to exploit the damage buffs increase. I like that LSS took a stand to remove a card they knew would represent design issues for years down the line. Already archetypes like Death Dealer Lexi and Zero Cost Briar could absolutely exploit this card to strong effect, and Shock Charmers activations could blow out people who didn’t respect it enough the block it when played. Overall, it’s an unhealthy card, and one I was happy to see removed from the meta. 

Alternatives

Although I disliked the card itself, I do agree it presented valuable slots in Lightning decks. Let’s see how we can replace it (Everfest will likely also include another viable alternative). 

  • Elemental Ranger – Lightning Surge (Red) (solid card out of Arsenal that interacts with Lexi’s ability, represents a fuse option and can present a breakpoint at the end of the chain to push through your on-hit effects
  • Elemental Runeblade – Flash and/or Lightning Surge (noth cards are great in your Arsenal and can allow some nasty go-wide turns in hybrid and Lightning decks).

 

Header - The Briar Errata

Briar, Warden of Thorns // Titan's Fist (Regular)

Okay, so before I preface this, I want to note that I absolutely despise erratas, and think it isn’t healthy for any game to really have them. That being said, if you must errata something, at least let it be a hero or an easily obtainable token.

In that column, LSS at least gets a checkmark for making life as easy as it could be in a poor situation. However, I really do hope this is a one-time incident. A lot of players have come into this game as a safe haven from other TCGs after being burned from them. For what is still a newer game in this market, Flesh and Blood would be wise to capitalize on this free trust and loyalty people have to game with few blemishes on it’s history. I understand that any company will make mistakes, but you only get so many strikes with people before some tongues start to sour. 

On the errata itself, I think this is a much cleaner and balanced Briar then before. The previous Briar was impossible for midrange decks to pivot into, hence forcing complete aggro or complete control as an alternative to it. For those who did bravely play midrange decks into Briar like myself, you’ll know the toughest part is finishing the game off. Since in the early and midgame you’ll simply be trading blows back and forth, the life totals can be fairly even. However, come late game is where she could always squeak out enough value from a single card block of five or six and subsequently continuously present lethal to you until you died. This was almost truly consistent across all midrange matchups against Briar.

In simple, this violates the back-and-forth nature of Flesh and Blood, and simply put, the blocking of a single non-attack action isn’t punishing enough to her offensive output for it to matter that badly in the endgame. The new change makes it so she can regularly block for 12 or more if left with one Embodiment of Earth, and simultaneously still play her game plan with Embodiment of Lightnings.

I think this leaves Briar in a similar spot to where Chane was after the Seeds of Agony ban. Although it was a reset for her player base, there are still many ways to play her incredibly successfully. I think Earth/Hybrid Briar in particular, abusing cards like Electrify (Red), Channel Mount Heroic and Force of Nature could be a tremendous wrecking ball of a character. After a slight lull in player base, look out for a resurgence of Briar players similar to the one we saw with Chane this previous US National season.

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