With the release of Uprising, we’re going to shortly see the fourth hero in the game with access to the Ice Talent. However, the fact that each of these heroes play so differently besides being all tied through the Ice element is an incredible showcase of Flesh and Blood’s talent and class systems at work. Although Ice focuses primarily on resource and card disruption, the way each class uses it, either proactively or reactively, can result in very different gameplay. In addition, since Ice isn’t really a element known for high damage output, combining offense with disruption effects is something that looks very different hero to hero. If you’re looking to hop into a hero with access to this awesome card pool, but not sure which one, this piece is exactly for you. Let’s breakdown all the heroes associated with the Ice Talent and exactly note down their playstyles, strengths, and weakness.
Rangers are a class that has no weapon, poor defenses and blade-break equipment. This means the main way in which the class interacts with the opponent’s offense is through additional card effects and on-hits. Relevant on-hits which force discards or create Frostbites are the cream of the crop when it comes to Lexi’s Ice builds. In addition, Lexi has the unique ability to bypass the opponent’s interaction completely and create a Frostbite upon reveal of an Ice card from Arsenal. This means her playing out her turns with multiple cards – at least one to reveal from Arsenal, one to pitch, one arrow to shoot, and ideally one card to fuse with and put into Arsenal. This subsequently means that the hero needs three cards at minimum just to get anything done, and prefers having four, five or six-card hands to really start pushing damage.
Lexi’s relationship with her Ice effects is thus innately intertwined with her offense. In a sense, her Ice discard and Frostbite effects are the only thing between her and a ceremonial breakdown on the defensive end. Stop shooting fused arrows, and any smart opponent will see the opening and push in with strong amounts of damage.
This leads into the largest issue with Ice Lexi decks, which is their damage output. Due to disruption being key to her game plan, most heroes simply prefer to block her out and prevent both damage and disruption from coming through, and rather try to continuously chip in with weapons or strong attacks occasionally. This allows heroes to keep up with her damage output during the early/mid game when it is highest, and then start attacking more heavily into the late game when it drops down.
To get around this, Ice Lexi leverages the last pillar of the Ice talent, which is disrupting the opponent’s defense. Cards like Winter’s Bite allow her to draw cards out of the opponent’s hand early so they can’t be used for blocking, whereas cards such as Polar Blast and Weave Ice are fantastic options to gain damage buffs and dominate on elemental attacks. In a perfect Ice Lexi game, these sort of defensive disruptions allow her arrows to hit and disrupt simultaneously, preventing the opponent’s offense as a result.
This strength is unlike any Flesh and Blood hero, where her offense innately disrupts the opponent’s. Most heroes have on-hit effects that are positive for them, such as draw a card, search your deck for X card or create X tokens, and so forth. Lexi is only hero who has an entire offensive base structured around not letting her opponent hit her back. In essence, this is truly thematic for a Ranger hero, one who can strike from afar with and stop others from engaging with her, but it comes are a price. If Lexi has even one slow off turn or doesn’t disrupt to a great enough magnitude, then she’ll have to pay to hard price through her life total to gain tempo back.
When running Ice Lexi, it’s done or die, but if you’re the type of player who likes to walk that fine line between complete domination or total letdown, then Ice Lexi is truly the archetype for you.
Oldhim has a much different relationship to Ice than Lexi does. As much as Ice is used a disrupter in Oldhim’s offense, particularly with cards such as Snow Under or Winter’s Wail, the main goal is very different. Since Oldhim’s defensive capabilities are much more complete than Lexi’s, heavy disruption is only a nice benefit in Oldhim rather than a necessity. Rather, Oldhim functions more like a pure control hero, using Ice to slow down the game and the opponent’s threats. Using Frostbites and on-hits to keep the opponent’s offensive ceiling at bay lets Oldhim’s defensive capabilities shine, while subsequently pitching away strong offensive cards to present a much more offensive late game.
In pure Ice Oldhim builds, Channel Lake Frigid can be especially deadly. Don’t be surprised to see Channel turns last for two or even the odd three counters, while he in between consistently presents low damage, high disruption threats like Frost Fang, Command and Conquer, Winter’s Wail, Icy Encounter and more. The peak of this gameplay style is probably Stalagmite, which can be timed well to stop loads of damage coming through with a Frostbite created in the middle of an opponent’s combat chain of attacks.
However, just as Oldhim loves to slow down games, time can equally be his worst enemy. Disruption is by no means a replacement for damage itself and getting to opponent to zero life can be a challenge for Oldhim within the 50-minute time span of Classic Constructed. Keeping your play pace fast, while trying to quickly pass through your deck with cards like Crown of Seeds, Polar Blast (From Arsenal) and Tome of Harvests can be a boon to eventually switching up a gear and using an effective pitch stack to come at the opponent with huge Guardian attack actions that have dominated slapped onto them.
If you’re the type of player comfortable with reactive gameplay and enjoy setting up for the long game rather than simply controlling tempo turn after turn, than look to Oldhim. The hero not only has the defensive tools to suit your style, but similarly the offensive potential to finish off games in style should you be skillful enough to prepare those big swings.
I’m not going to keep this section too lengthy since ‘Starvo’ is going to be shortly put into Living Legend status, however I do want to do my due diligence and note how this hero used the Ice builds in comparison to Oldhim.
Both being Ice Guardians, the two have a lot in common, however their game plans can be drastically different as well. Similarly, to Oldhim, Starvo can play the long game as well, using Ice consistently through Winter’s Wail to slow the game down and set up the bottom of the deck. However, Starvo can equally use Ice as a short-term disruptive tool to gain tempo. Oddly enough, it was only the third Ice hero introduced in Bravo, Star of the Show that was truly able to utilize this capacity of Ice well.
Although Lexi does utilize it similarly, her game plan mainly revolves around always presenting disruption so she doesn’t lose control of the game. Starvo, on the other hand, uses it more to generate breathing room on defense. Using solid Ice cards like Channel Lake Frigid and Winter’s Wail allows Starvo to block with less cards on the opponent’s turn and subsequently activate his fuse ability and punch through with huge Guardian attack actions.
Personally, I believe this is the strongest usage of Ice, and one of the many reasons Starvo was able to Living Legend to easily. Usually lacking in offensive power, Ice heroes usually can’t punish offensively as much as they wish to, however the expanded card pool of Starvo allowed him to circumvent this natural disability and rather utilize Ice effects to create windows in which he could have taken over the game. Enjoy your last few competitive games with Starvo and I’m excited to see how he holds up in the LL legacy format over time.
Finally, Iyslander is the only pure Ice-talented hero, and presents a very potent form of disruption when combined with the unique abilities of the Wizard class. Although her entire kit of cards is yet to come out in Uprising, she already shows signs of hero that can make the most out of her ice toolbox.
Since Wizards demand resources to block their attacks, Ice disruption effects, particularly those that force discards or resources out of hand, are quite a boon to allow Wizards to attack the opponent more freely. As with most Wizard cards, the price of their ability to be played at instant speed is that they don’t necessarily do as much damage as we would expect from standard physical damage cards. This means playing them normally into an opponent’s hand full of resources will lead you to slowly lose the game as you’re unable to strike into them as much as they are to you.
This leads us into the interesting combination which Iyslander brings to the table: the ability to turn defense into offense instantly (literally). Most turns, her ability to play out any Ice card out of Arsenal means that your offense is surely going to be disrupted. Furthermore, the introduction of many Ice Wizard cards in Uprising will allow her to create a Frostbite as she simultaneously pings you for damage on your turn. This constant strain upon your resources upon your turn is what makes her such an interesting hero. Her targeted onslaught with Ice and damage means this one resource will be stretched out much too thin, and you’ll be giving up resources to prevent damage that could have been otherwise used to attack her, or vice-versa.
However, Iyslander is incredibly card-hungry, and she equally needs many resources to keep pace with this sort of disruption and damage throughout an entire match. Unlike Oldhim, she doesn’t necessarily have great defensive abilities, and although her cards do block better than a Lexi, the tempo loss to doing so in Iyslander is very real and getting stuck without a card in Arsenal or any Ice cards to disrupt with can be a difficult scenario for even top players. Realistically, Iyslander needs the game to be played out at her pace, too fast and she won’t have enough time to ping damage through and set up a larger kill turn, and too slow/too much Arcane Barrier and she won’t have the offensive firepower to consistently push through damage.
If you’re an experienced player who looks to control the state of the game, and loves playing with as much information from your opponent as possible, Iyslander is quite possibly the correct hero for you. However, unless she gets some beginner-friendly tools in Uprising, I would stay away if I were just getting started in Flesh and Blood. Incorrect usage of her disruption and damage dealing cards might feel some beginners frustrated as it feels like they get the cold shoulder.