Flesh and Blood Basics – Aggro vs. Control

Stepping into the world of Rathe can be intimidating. There are so many faces to learn that it feels like being the new kid in school. You may not immediately know what each hero’s personality will bear, or if it will be your jam, but what you do know is what kind of personality suits you. Finding the hero you can vibe with should begin from a broad perspective, keeping things very basic and relatively superficial. Know the styles of play and which sing to you.

In card games, we can simplify the spectrum of ideologies into two major chunks: aggression and control. The further we delve into it we can discover the extra layers such as combo and midrange, with options aplenty for each. To keep your introduction to Flesh and Blood digestible, keeping the landscape into a basic split of aggro vs control will be a great launchpad for deciding what suits your style, and which heroes bring the tune you’re looking to rock.



Header - Aggression

Being in the driver’s seat is an attractive prospect. In Flesh and Blood, aggro is pretty much posting up in the left seat and not worrying about the brake pedal. It’s a very common starting point for newer players who haven’t yet learned the fundamentals of how to block, what to block or when to block. Being the aggressor often just throws the whole philosophy of blocking and shreds it like a gold foil Tunic. 

Aggro in Flesh and Blood may seem very simple from a bird’s eye view – which is likely why so many newer players gravitate towards this ideology – but in reality it’s tricky to pull off successfully. You would think that eliminating the entire aspect of blocking from your mind would free up a ton of bandwidth for you to concoct some devastating attack turns, but the most aggressive of heroes are not so straightforward. There is artistry involved that surges beyond simple paint-by-numbers game plans that will seem pretty obvious at first glance. It isn’t easy being the aggressor.

When deciding whether aggression is your jam, you need to be okay to play the game uncomfortably. The best aggro decks will want you to preserve a full grip of cards to truly unleash hell on your opponent. Maintaining tempo is how aggro ultimately crosses the finish line first. Along the way to that victory though, you’ll be taking your licks from an opponent who will either look to outright race you to zero or who will pick and choose their spots to steal the momentum away from you. Playing these styles of decks will really shorten the game clock, and can get very unnerving for the uninitiated. Trading blows can tilt the new-comer, but knowing the reach your deck has as an aggressor will make taking a bump of 15 damage a lot more palatable. You may need to study the Flake decision tree of blocking:

  1. Is there an on-hit effect? No.
  2. Is it lethal? No.
  3. Am I blocking? No.

The appeal of aggro lies in the constant pressure you’re applying to your opponent. A consistent onslaught of attacks that synergize well generates an offense that becomes more than the sum of its parts. Ninjas are often the most prominent in this genre, as their combat chains can stretch to seven or eight attacks deep under the right circumstances. The problem is that these attacks need to be cobbled together intricately. Going face may seem barbaric or boneheaded, but painting a masterpiece with your primary colors is something aggro players will need to do regularly. Sequencing is a key skill to develop, as you will regularly be stitching together a myriad of attacks to weave through your opponent’s defenses. There is plenty of room for big braining in aggro.

  • Heroes to consider: Katsu, Fai, Briar, Dash
  • Key cards for the style: Scar For A Scar, Enlightened Strike, Art of War, Snatch


Header - Control

For some, the concept of aggression seems juvenile, erratic and utterly classless (can you tell I’m a control player?). Perhaps you’re more calculated and protective of those precious life points. You’ve gone so far as to naming each one. You definitely want to preserve them, and shudder at the thought of them being chipped away. All of them are important, so you turtle up and play the long game. Control is certainly the option for you.

Playing this style of deck will require a lot more evaluation of your hand and attention paid to the give-and-take of the game. Control is about mitigating damage and waiting for the right opportunity to strike back. Aggro decks will seem relentless in their pressure, but they will eventually stutter or whiff on a hand. Knowing how to identify these hiccups and capitalize on them will meticulously, yet gradually, pave your way to victory.

Playing control isn’t just about packing your deck with Defense Reactions and donating your hand to blocking. Though that is a viable strategy, there are more ways to win than fatigue. To borrow a boxing term, control decks are often playing rope-a-dope. That is, they’re dodging and absorbing shots for minimal damage while exhausting their opponent, occasionally finding the smallest margins to weasel in a jab here and there. Over the course of the game, the aggressor will tire out; they will either exhaust their potent combo lines, have expended all their major attacks or flat-out run out of cards entirely. It is at these junctures that the control player can pounce and swing the pendulum in their favor.

Anothos // Seismic Surge (Regular)Winter's Wail (Regular)

The control heroes will have a lot of reliance on their weapon as their most reliable threat. Having a built-in method to efficiently swing for damage is how you will wear away at your opponent’s equipment durability, or just have them slowly shed life. Weapons like Anothos, Winter’s Wail or the Waning Moon allow you to turn one pitch card into sustained damage pressure. Presenting damage at break points of four or more or through pockets of Arcane will create awkward blocking scenarios for your opponent, either buying cards from their hand or sneaking in free and clear. This frees up three cards plus an Arsenal card to deflect the opposing assault. It may seem boring, but a consistent swing for four by Winter’s Wail each turn becomes torturous for an aggro player who’s spent all their equipment.

Ultimately, the control game is about patience. Pitching your major threats early in order to recover them later can feel wrong, but trading damage early on with an aggressive foe will not bode well for you. Seeing Crippling Crush or Oaken Old in the late stages of a match will be significantly more impactful. If you’re able to stand firm against the temptations of throwing vanilla damage at a feisty opponent, and you have no qualms about watching the game clock trickle ominously into the danger zone, control may be your flavor.

Splitting the hero pool into two neat piles – aggro and control – is oversimplifying the complexity and individuality of each hero. There are degrees of each, and various ways to play any particular hero. Dash appears as an aggro option, but could very well turn the tables, buckle down and lean on her Teklo Pistol for an irritating pew-pew style chip away. For those out there just getting their feet wet, understanding the basic ideology of each archetype, along with the heroes that thrive within those guidelines, should be a rough enough map to get you pointed in the right direction on your journey into FAB.

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