Welcome back to my Flesh and Blood Fundamentals series, another article geared toward helping you improve your own understanding of the game. This article is intended to hold its own as standalone content, however, it will provide even more value to you as a reader when paired with the other content in the series. Many fundamental concepts in Flesh and Blood tie together to create synergies. Better understanding of one single fundamental concept will aid in your understanding of others – and how they tie together. Ultimately, when you make these fundamentals a mindful part of your play and practice, you will improve as a player. For today’s piece, I’ll be breaking down the armor of the game, how to use it and what’s available.
Flesh and Blood Fundamentals Series Articles:
- Flesh and Blood Fundamentals: Bread and Butter
- The Economy of Flesh and Blood Combat
- Improving your Clerical Upkeep
- Learning How to Pitch in Flesh and Blood
Armor plays a crucial role in Flesh and Blood and is an iconic part of the game we love and play. Alongside your weapon(s), it represents something inherent to your character, class and strategy, providing on-demand access to helpful utility or life-saving defense to help defend against heavy-hitting attacks. The flexibility in different class and generic armor, as well as all the different choices for each slot, makes gearing up for a fight an exciting and thematic part of any game of Flesh and Blood. With each piece of armor comes new exciting opportunities within the game.
Armor follows Flesh and Blood’s core design tenant of start full: at the start of the game, you have full access to your resources, armor, life, cards, etc. As the game goes on, your hero becomes tired, takes damage and your armor breaks and falls off. Combat is messy and almost never just one way. It’s back and forth, and the proper use of your armor and equipment can mean the difference between life and death.
While armor is inherently powerful, it also comes with opportunity cost. This is especially felt in the Classic Constructed format where each piece of equipment you add to your list of 80 cards will take away your ability to have an additional sideboard card in the main, shuffled deck that your hero will draw from. By choosing to include one piece of armor in your list, you potentially forgo the option to use another.
Just like with deckbuilding. It’s always important to identify the opportunity cost of including any piece of armor in your deck list. Will it be relevant in enough matches to be worth including instead of another option? Is this piece of armor really that good with my class? Does this armor synergize with the cards in my deck better than another potential option? Will this armor provide enough helpful utility in enough situations to make it worth including?
If you aren’t an experienced deck builder, look to decks that have done well in recent events and try to make sense of their equipment lists. Many times, their equipment will be very similar if not identical to decks that leverage the same hero, even if the contents of the deck vary greatly.
In Classic Constructed, it’s usually better to err more toward a conservative approach, bringing a few extra pieces of armor that may be needed in certain matches, such as Arcane Barrier 1 or 2 to be able to defend against Wizard or Runeblade and their arcane damage sources.
Outside of incredibly powerful class-specific equipment which often features a great blend of defense and utility, most armor pieces will make you choose between defense and utility. Do you want more defensive bulk? Well, you will likely have less flexibility with the utility and function of your armor outside of bolstering your defenses and staying alive. Want more utility? You’ll have to use it to get more creative and do some efficient things.
Let’s look at a simple example:
Ironrot Legs vs Snapdragon Scalers
Ironrot Legs simply defend for one point of damage then break with blade break at the close of the combat chain. Snapdragon Scalers, on the other hand, do not defend at all, but they do allow you to give an attack action card with cost one or less go again, providing purely offensive utility and helping set up a single powerful turn on use. Both of these equipment pieces are generic, meaning any hero can use them should they so choose.
Up until this point, every piece of generic equipment outside of legendary rarity will make you choose this binary distinction of defense vs utility. With class-specific equipment, you will find a mix of both defense and utility. Oftentimes, class equipment is meant to be the most powerful option in many slots while generic equipment and ‘off-meta’ choices can provide new avenues for deckbuilding, or a pinch of utility in niche situations that may be crucial to an unconventional approach to piloting a hero.
Legendary equipment like Mask of Momentum, Scabskin Leathers, Tectonic Plating, Braveforge Bracers, Grasp of the Arknight and others illustrate this concept of duality between defense and utility in class-specific armor.
With the exception of certain generic armor pieces that socket well into many strategies (Arcanite Skullcap and Fyendal’s Spring Tunic), there is usually more armor density and utility to be found in non-generic counterparts.
Of course, certain classes like the Shadow Brute (thanks to Carrion Husk) and Guardian will usually have access to higher armor density than many other classes. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone given the mechanics and themes present in their classes.
A Bravo player outfitted with Arcanite Skullcap, Tectonic Plating, Crater Fist and Ironrot Legs clocks in at 10 points of armor density. Levia wearing Arcanite Skullcap, Carrion Husk, Gambler’s Gloves and Scabskin Leathers clocks in at a massive 12 (without any armor coming from the arm slot) with the stipulation that six of that block power must be consumed in a single hit to Carrion Husk and that the player will lose the husk entirely and have to deal with its blood debt if they don’t use it in time.
In the Classic Constructed format, it’s not uncommon at all to see lists running five to seven pieces of equipment, including the weapon. Players often will cut their equipment set to the bone, prioritizing one set with maybe one or two swaps for certain slots in a hyper-tailored attempt at preserving more card slots for sideboarding within the main deck. In the Limited formats, especially draft, it’s not uncommon at all for armor to be picked much earlier in the packs. If you want a full set of equipment in Limited, you either need to get lucky with your pulls or prioritize pulling gear that you can use with your class. I have had both drafts and sealed pools with zero pieces of armor, and others with a full set. Both can be viable options if you evaluate the opportunity cost and try to make the best deckbuilding decisions you can with the information you have on hand.
Armor use will always be situational. There are no golden rules on armor that will always apply 100 percent of the situations you will encounter. With that said, here are some general guidelines that can help you evaluate some situations where it can be beneficial to use and/or consume your armor.
- The utility offered will put enormous pressure on your opponent, retain, or recover the tempo in the game at the right time. Perhaps you have put a power card into your Arsenal and plan to use it next turn. Using your offensive utility armor pieces will help give you your best chance of forcing your opponent to block with more cards from hand, thus giving you the cards you need to pay all your resource costs for your power card and turn.
- You have your “best case” combo using certain cards in your list and the corresponding armor piece. IE, Goliath Gauntlet into Flying Kick or Stony Wootonhog in my Competitive Ira Midrange Commoner decklist. In this case, these are the only two targets that can legally take advantage of the offensive utility offered by Goliath Gauntlet.
- You need to get around dominate to stay alive or avoid a nasty on-hit effect.
- You need to keep your life total high or keep more cards in your hand for a power play that should be more powerful than anything your opponent was doing this turn.
- You want to defend efficiently against awkward breakpoints (incremental increases in stats that make blocking inefficient, awkward, and difficult, IE blocking an attack with four power with either a card from hand and taking one damage, or blocking with two cards for six total defense.)
- Your armor piece has a recurring ability (using it won’t destroy the armor piece and the ability has go again.)
- The use of the armor will turn an otherwise mediocre turn into a strong one.