Azalea remains a fan favorite class, able to shoot arrow after arrow from Arsenal and constantly find the right arrow for the right time. Her unique abilities make me believe that she’ll make a tournament breakthrough sooner than later.
For the grim aesthetic of Azalea, there’s something wonderfully fresh and vibrant about her class. It may just be me, but playing Ranger is addictive in a way no other class is. With a strong hand, Ranger can have access to five or six cards a turn. Pair this with some of the most devastating on-hit effects in the game and Azalea winds up dealing tons of damage turn after turn while making opponents miserable.
Make no mistake though, Ranger is not the easiest class in the book. For newer players, the restriction to attack only from Arsenal can be frustrating and limiting. Learn her quirks however and it can be some of the most enticing and rewarding gameplay in the entire game. To get to this point though, it’s important to know the key gameplay patterns, cards and strategies used to fully maximize the engine between Azalea and her arsenal of cards (pun intended).
A quick note: As Azalea’s cards have varying effects coming out of Arsenal, I shall use [AR] to indicate when a card is coming out of Arsenal in a line and has its respective effect activated.
- Skullbone Crosswrap – I cannot overstate how important this piece is to Azalea. The card’s Opt 1 when you fulfil its flip-over “cost” and Azalea’s hero effect combine to give you essentially five cards a turn, with the top card of your deck playing a factor in each turn.
- Red in the Ledger – Azalea’s signature arrow causes problems for almost every deck in the meta right now. Red in the Ledger feels truly “Ranger,” a difficult-to-block arrow that has a devastating on-hit effect which limits your opponent to one action next turn.
- Rapid Fire – The more and more I play Ranger, the more I like this card. Innate reload and giving every arrow you shoot this turn go again feels like big value for no cost. Add in that it pitches for two and you got a heck of a card.
- Remorseless – The fanfare around Remorseless comes from its on-hit effect, which takes a life away from your opponent next turn for each action card they play. I like this, but I love it for its conditional ability which prevents the opponent from blocking with defense reactions from Arsenal that chain link (Ira *shudders*). With dominate, this card is almost always push through damage.
- Take Aim (Red) – This one may vary from deck to deck, but I think Take Aim is solid card for Ranger. Zero cost giving Reload and plus three to your next Ranger attack turns into a card that’s more versatile than most think. Giving plus three to your Ranger attacks is also a great boost to a lot of four and five arrows that sometimes just cut the deal when it comes down to raw damage.
- Nock the Deathwhistle – A sure-fire way to get the arrow you want into Arsenal with dominate, Nock the Deathwhistle represents your entire toolbox of arrows ready at your disposal. Add in that its blue pitch and you got a must-have for Azalea lovers.
Sic ‘Em Shot (Red) [AR] 🡪 Death Dealer 🡪 Hamstring Shot (Red)/Sleep Dart (Red) [AR]
These sorts of plays are what Azalea does best. She generally can’t go as wide as Ninja or as tall as Guardian, but you can be darn sure that she has the nastiest one-two punches in the game.
Sic ‘Em Shot (Red) is enough damage that it merits a block on its own, and then using Death Dealer to reload ideally a strong five-attack arrow into Arsenal and fire again is the ideal scenario here. Since Death dealer gives you a draw, you should draw enough pitch to finish this line or ideally allow you to fill the Arsenal again at the end of your turn.
I’ve used Hamstring Shot/Sleep Dart here (depending on opponent’s hero ability) to fill in as the final arrow here. These arrows have threatening enough hit effects that even if your opponent decides to let some damage through, their next turn will be hampered even with two or three cards in hand.
You can essentially play any five-attack arrow in that last slot, although I recommend not using a Red in the Ledger/Remorseless here as to maximize their on-hit effects. You want your opponent playing with an almost full hand of cards.
Take Aim (Red) 🡪 Remorseless/Red in the Ledger [AR] (with dominate)
Even though Take Aim is generally considered more of a “tall build” card for Azalea, I still really like it in almost every Ranger deck. Sometimes you just really need those extra bits of damage/on-hit effects to connect, and although four to five damage is great over the course of a game, its not exactly the best number to rely on when you absolutely need to swing momentum back.
In the case of this line, four or five damage on Red in the Ledger or Remorseless can still be blocked out with equipment and a defense reaction in Arsenal. However, when you tack another three on top, then you almost assure a hit to pass through or an above-average swing of tempo going back your way as they must block with multiple equipments, possibly their Arsenal and their hand to adequately stop the card.
Even without dominate, Remorseless and Red in the Ledger are threatening enough with their on-hit effects that most of the time you’ll be dragging three cards out of hand for the block.
Death Dealer 🡪 Place Ridge Rider Shot (Red) into Arsenal (Draw and Opt 1) 🡪 Ravenous Rabble (Red) 🡪 Ridge Rider Shot (Red) or the five-attack arrow with dominate from top of deck.
Okay, bear with me here. I know this looks a little complex but, let’s work through it. This play sequence perfectly illustrates the engine of Azalea and the smooth card swapping feeling that Ranger is all about.
This play starts with an empty Arsenal and both Ravenous Rabble (Red) and Ridge Rider Shot (Red) in hand. Playing Ranger, you won’t always be able to load your Arsenal every turn-end, so having plays ready for those situations is equally important.
Here, Death Dealer allows you to place Ridge Rider Shot (Red) into Arsenal face-up, hence activating its effect of Opt 1. As Death Dealer was the first effect to activate, you’ll draw your card first before resolving the Opt 1. In this case, you’re looking for a red pitch card, ideally an arrow to swap into Ridge Rider’s spot.
Once you’ve opted, it’s time to play Ravenous Rabble, ideally hitting a red pitch card on top to give it four attack. If you’ve been following, you’ll realize that this combo essentially lets you look at the top two cards of your deck, one with Ridge Rider Shot (Red) and one with Ravenous Rabble (Red). If one of those two arrows is a strong “on-hit” effect arrow, then this combo really shines, hitting for nine total damage along with a on-hit effect, dominate arrow being played off the top of your deck.
Even if you miss the red pitch arrow out of the two cards on top, then you still can shoot Ridge Rider Shot for four and Arsenal the card you drew from Death Dealer. You can see why I love this combo line here, and it’s not without merit. Going from no cards in Arsenal at the start of your turn, you deal eight or nine damage and finish with a card in Arsenal. This combo is one of my favorite momentum swingers with Azalea that dishes out just as much as the best one-two punches in the game.
Making straight-up gameplay patterns for Azalea is slightly different then other classes just due to her ability to draw/Opt so well during her turn with Death Dealer. That’s why most of the optimal plays are with two or so cards in hand and can frequently change from turn to turn as you get to see what’s on top of your deck.
In this case, Ranger then becomes a class much more a class of knowing what’s left in the tank and making sure you maximize the outflow and variety of pressure on your opponent each turn. For Ranger then, it’s best to keep in mind some basic strategies and techniques for when you don’t have an obvious play already set up in hand.
- Maximize your ability to set up the top card of your deck each turn: When momentum is not fully on your side, it’s more important then ever to have your on-hit effects connect to keep your opponents from running away with the game. Whether with Ridge Rider Shot, Skullbone Crosswrap, Nock the Deathwhistle or the variety of other ways Azalea can look through the top one to two cards of her deck, dominate is usually your best bet to keep your opponent in check when you start with fewer cards in hand.
- Don’t be afraid of using Azalea’s ability blind: Sometimes, the better play is just one more card away. I see it way too much where Ranger players seem to use the Opt ability on their cards as a peek instead. If the card isn’t right for your turn or your next draw, it’s fine to sometimes put it at the bottom and possibly swap out a poor card in Arsenal without knowing what’s on top of your deck. Knowing what your deck consists of is important to this tactic though. If you know that there are a lot attack reactions/instants left in your deck, then this could be a dangerous thing to do. Keep in mind your general deck structure though and what cards have already flown out of your deck. If you do, you can generate a solid probability of what you’ll be looking at the top of your deck. Remember – you’re only usually doing this on turn with a low impact card in Arsenal, so taking the risk to flip into a strong generic or arrow with dominate is usually an upgrade from the previous card.
- Ride your opponent’s life total down: Yes, runaway wins are great, but rather rare in competitive FAB, and your opponents will be striking back with many heavy hits of their own throughout the game. Ranger usually runs many swing cards such as Life for a Life (Red) and Scar for a Scar (Red), which reward you for having less life. Don’t get carried away though – Azalea has a rough time coming back from a large life difference. Ideally, you should be within plus or minus two life of you opponent. A game where you consistently trade blows with your opponents, staying within that range and keeping those lower life cards active allows you to sweep in when you sense blood and grab the last bit of momentum to win the game.
Ranger is by no means the easiest class to master, but the reward of shooting arrow after arrow from Arsenal and entirely controlling the match tempo is well worth it. Although scorned by the tournament crowd so far, I have no doubt the class will eventually make its breakthrough as more and more experienced players take a crack at making this heroine shine in the competitive scene.