On March 17, Legend Story Studios announced the banning of Drone of Brutality in Classic Constructed and Blitz, as well as removing it from future Welcome to Rathe Unlimited printings. The announcement to ban Drone likely came as a shock to many people, as many expected either Ira’s hero, Snapdragon Scalers or Flic Flak to be targeted. The decision to leave these cards untouched further elucidates the fact that LSS has no plan to ban cards based on what a group of players may perceive to be “overpowered.”
Drone of Brutality is, without a doubt, a powerful and sometimes oppressive card, but the reasoning behind the ban goes a bit deeper than that. LSS’s decision to ban Drone of Brutality was primarily motivated by the way Drone “breaks” the rules of Flesh and Blood.
One of the core tenets of FAB is that “every card counts,” and Drone actively avoided this by being recycled into the deck as a recursive threat after being played or used to block. This led to decks that employed Drone of Brutality as an endgame win condition and could function on the idea of “pretty much nothing counts because Drone will fatigue the opponent and win the game.”
In the current Blitz meta, Drone of Brutality is most well-known for being played in the infamous Ira Control deck. While Ira Control has many win conditions and can often win the game with the use of Snapdragon Scalers, Drone gave the deck the insurance to win almost any endgame/fatigue scenario.
Nevertheless, with the departure of Drone of Brutality, the Ira deck will likely still be a top contender. The card will be most missed in the Ira mirror or any control mirror for that matter, where the strategy of both competitors was to drag the opponent into the endgame and win. I strongly believe that Ira Control will remain popular throughout the Skirmish season and continue as a top deck. However, with the banning of Drone, I see plenty of room for a more aggressive Ira archetype to have it’s time to shine, something akin to what we’re currently seeing in the New Zealand meta.
Drone of Brutality has been a problem card long before the Blitz Skirmish season in 2021. The card’s power was first recognized by players all the way back in 2019, where it was a true menace in Welcome to Rathe Limited. In Sealed especially, opening two Drone of Brutalities gave you a huge advantage over most other decks in end game scenarios. The ability to block with Drone multiple times throughout the course of a game was also huge, sometimes effectively saving you five to ten life without expending any cards.
Looking back at the Top 8 deck lists from The Calling Auckland, Sydney, New Jersey and Austin (Limited), you can see a high prevalence of Drone of Brutality in winning decks. Furthermore, players who picked up on Drone’s power early during the drafting portion of the events were able to exploit it by drafting multiple copies in their deck (at TC Austin, I had a Drone passed to me almost as late as pick five!).
The true power of Drone of Brutality, however, was yet to be realized. Fast forward to The Calling Auckland Constructed 2020, a new deck archetype would emerge, called “Ninja Turtle.” Ninja Turtle at the time was most similar to the current iteration of Ira Control that we see in Blitz, with its main turn-by-turn play line being Kodachi, Kodachi, four-plus power threat (ex: Pounding Gale, Snatch, Fluster Fist).
Despite this repetitive play line and large amount of life gain in the deck, Ninja Turtle actually had just one core game plan: fatigue the opponent out of threats and kill them with Drone of Brutality. Sasha Markovic piloted the deck to victory and employed this strategy nearly every game in the Top 8. Due to the Swiss portion of the tournament being timed, Sasha’s deck ran cards like Razor Reflex (Red) along with some Ninja combo lines to surprise opponents and win within the 60-minute time frame.
Once in Top 8, the untimed portion of the tournament, the Ninja Turtle deck would cut all of these accelerator cards and play to simply fatigue the opponent out and kill them with Drone of Brutality. Drone of Brutality was essentially the only card that mattered in the deck and the player piloting was happy to block with or lose any card while playing toward the Drone endgame.
Hero: Katsu, the Wanderer
Weapons: Harmonized Kodachi
Equipment: Breaking Scales, Fyendal's Spring Tunic, Mask of Momentum, Snapdragon Scalers
(3) Drone of Brutality (red)
(3) Enlightened Strike (red)
(3) Flic Flak (red)
(3) Fluster Fist (red)
(1) Open the Center (red)
(1) Pounding Gale (red)
(3) Razor Reflex (red)
(3) Sigil of Solace (red)
(3) Sink Below (red)
(3) Snatch (red)
(3) Unmovable (red)
(3) Flic Flak (yellow)
(1) Hurricane Technique (yellow)
(1) Mugenshi: RELEASE (yellow)
(3) Remembrance (yellow)
(3) Sink Below (yellow)
(3) Springboard Somersault (yellow)
(3) Tome of Fyendal (yellow)
(3) Unmovable (yellow)
(3) Flic Flak (blue)
(3) Fluster Fist (blue)
(1) Head Jab (blue)
(3) Lord of Wind (blue)
(3) Rising Knee Thrust (blue)
(3) Timesnap Potion (blue)
(3) Unmovable (blue)
(3) Whelming Gustwave (blue)
(3) Wounding Blow (blue)
See the full deck at: https://fabdb.net/decks/MdXzwNZY/
Arcane damage, in theory, was a counter to Drone of Brutality, with the card’s efficacy being significantly reduced when it was not able to block physical damage. Nevertheless, Ninja Turtle remained a competitive deck throughout the Road to Nationals/Nationals season and Drone of Brutality still remained at the core of that deck’s game plan.
Fast forwarding to the 2020 Skirmish season, we know Drone of Brutality has been a prominent and meta-shaping card, but it still pales in comparison to cards like Flic Flak or Snapdragon Scalers in terms of impact on the format.
So why now? Why was Drone of Brutality banned towards the end of Skirmish season and seemingly after it had it’s time in the limelight?
It would be logical to speculate that Drone of Brutality has the potential of becoming too oppressive when combined with new cards or classes in Monarch, but I don’t think so. In my eyes, Drone of Brutality was so strong that it was almost an archetype in and of itself. The concept of exhausting cards without losing any deck value over the course of a game was too strong and led to non-interactive gameplay.
Drone of Brutality also overshadowed cards like Last Ditch Effort as well as many endgame strategies employed by other decks. The Drone endgame required no set up and was guaranteed to be there, no matter what you or your opponent decided to do during the course of the game.
With the exclusion of this card in future formats, players will need to put more effort into crafting endgames and tracking their deck value throughout matches. The banning of Drone of Brutality is an overall healthy choice for the game and it’ll force players to recognize and obey the core tenet of “every card counts” moving forward
What are Your Thoughts on the Banned and Restricted Announcement?
- Were you surprised that Drone of Brutality was banned?
- Do you think Ira needed to be targeted more with the B&R announcement?
- How much will the Ira Control deck/Control decks in general be impacted by this change?
Until next time, cheers!