Reaching top cut in any sort of Flesh and Blood tournament play requires a lot of things to fall in place. In larger tournaments of six or more rounds in length, even great players with high win-percentages over 65 will struggle to make all the pieces fit.
However, for those aiming to win it all every time they can, understanding tournament structure and a few key pillars of competitive play is necessary to consistently pursue that potential. Hence before we get into tournament success, let’s take an overview of general round structure in GEM (Flesh and Blood’s tournament software) and understand the algorithm as well. This will help us not only understand the importance of certain rounds, but also make decisions about our tournament lifespan as well.
In a large tournament, for every seven rounds or so, you can at max lose one or two matches. If you’re on the latter side of that affair, you don’t want those losses to come in the early rounds. Flesh and Blood’s tiebreaker formula will give the edge to those who lose later in the tournament. This means losing in round one or two is much worse compared to losing in round six or seven.
Of course, there’s reason to this. The pairing system in Flesh and Blood matches up the winningest players with each other round after round, meaning Round 1 wins/losses are usually against players of lesser strength, and later round losses come against players of high caliber (if you’re winning).
Now, the system isn’t perfect, and chances are you could get matched up against very strong opponents in the early rounds, in which case taking a loss is almost imminent. If you’ve lost early, it is important to be realistic with the fact that (in a seven-round tournament/Skirmish) you most likely will not be getting into top cut unless you go perfect from here on out. If you take a second early loss, then you need to consider what you’re now looking for out of the tournament. Some tournaments are long affairs, and unless you’re grinding XP or staying for randomized prizing, it can be wise to sometimes let go and drop the event if you need to prepare for another tournament later in the same day, or simply have work outside FAB.
Okay, so you’ve got past the first two rounds without any big scars, and now you get to the middle rounds. These are the rounds that will define your position overall in the tournament and are the rounds that usually separate the wheat from the chaff. This is also when the matches will start to get tougher and tougher, as you consistently match up with players who also had early round wins and are winning through the tournament.
In these rounds, it’s extra important to play with a focused and attentive mind, as winning consistently here should set you up clearly for the Top 8. Hopefully, if you have had a good sleep the night before and are well hydrated, you can maneuver your way through these games unscathed.
I cannot overstate how important this is. Resting the night before and staying hydrated and full of some snacks will help you gain the small mental advantages needed over those opponents who lack in these aspects. You will make less misplays and capitalize on your opponents’ ones.
If you made it through to here, then you’re almost at the finish line. For those that have taken an early loss, you may have fight for your lives a little depending on how early that loss was. Since you don’t get to know the record of others outside of wins, losing here could mean giving your opponents the slight edge in tiebreaking procedures. For those with an early loss, these rounds will simultaneously be the hardest so far in terms of quality of opponents and in terms of pressure to perform.
However, if you’ve made it through with a clean record, then you most likely won’t need to worry about Top 8 enrollment here; what you’re playing for here now is seeding. In Top 8 Flesh and Blood play, the first-round turn order is often decided by the player with higher seed. That means if the deck you play cares a lot of going first or second, then winning here will be investing in your future success in Top 8 and beyond.
If you’re thinking that I’ve just been telling you so far to always win, you’re partially right. As much as it is enormously difficult task to do, Top 8 players must defy odds and find ways to win and statistically outperform their opponents to the point where it seems almost impossible to replicate when looking from the outside in. Although it may seem that way, once you take a closer look you will see there is some sense behind what seem to be random chance. Some of the main aspects you need to master before breaking through consistently into Top 8 are the following:
1. Master Your Bad Matchups!
To slightly alter the Tyson quote, “Everybody has a plan until they get kodcahi – kodachi’d.” Applying this philosophy onto your own play and understanding how your deck can break down in certain matchups is key.
In large tournaments, sometimes purely through rough luck, you’ll run into your worst matchup repeatedly. For many, this can mean internally conceding defeat even before the match starts. This aspect of top players is a big deal on what allows them to succeed repeatedly, as they have a strong set game plan against these poor matchups and try to execute it as well as possible. Although your win rate will always drop against these players, you must squeak out any percentage points you can, making the tactical adjustments you need improve this win rate. If you can even get one more win than usual against these heroes, then chances are your odds of making Top 8 just went up significantly and you hopefully will not be seeing that hero again anytime soon.
2. Consider Your Good Matchups
In the same way, make sure you know how your opponent will/is changing to accommodate you. If usually beat Ira as Bravo eight times out of 10, take into consideration that your opponent probably knows this, and is going to keep ways to affect your gameplay accordingly. Although this then becomes a little bit more of a chess match, the top players will 100 percent be doing it.
In these favorable scenarios, watch how your opponent has adjusted (aggressively/defensively/neutral) and accordingly adjust yourself to not fall into their traps. Since your general gameplay should win out against theirs statistically, adjustments don’t have to be as drastic as you would need to in a poor matchup. However, being prepared for a push/strong defense from their side is a wise precaution to take when your opponent knows that they’ll have to make the better plays to win this matchup.
Please get a good night’s rest. You’ll absolutely feel the sharpness and energy course through you much more then anything else. Playing 10 to 20 big Flesh and Blood tournaments in a month might get you a lot of XP, but performing well in even half of those will run up your XP just as quickly and earn you the prizes you need to fund other tournament play.
Sleeping is a key part of succeeding at the top level, and your health in general. To some of those hardcore XP grinders out there, if a tournament is not going to reward you well, go to bed and take a crack at it another day.
This may be redundant, but you must find a way to win or lose within time. Drawing is the death of many players chances of making Top 8, and so endgame plans are a must. Sometimes your opponent will simply stop you no matter what, but in playtesting your deck, make sure to have ways to finish games either tactically or through simply good card combinations.
Flesh and Blood has no room for draws, and they’re counted as double losses between both players. This is obviously unfavorable, and if your opponent is playing particularly slow, give them a gentle nudge by saying “your move” or “your go now.” Most people understand the nudge and move it along, but if the problem ensues, tell them gently one more time that you don’t want to run out of time, and if it’s bad situation then call a judge.
A draw is a bad outcome for the both of you, and telling your opponent is often helping them as much as it is you. To add on here as well, playing at a snappy pace allows you extra time when you finally do need to make those heavy decisions and need the time to decide. Playing quickly before that will make sure your opponent is more likely to allow you the time to think when it does come around.
5. The Not So Small Things
In the same manner as rest, staying hydrated and well fed is a key through big a Flesh and Blood tournament. Plan out your mealtimes if a large tournament takes a full day so you won’t have to worry about it later. Always keep a water bottle beside you not only for hydration, but also so you can drink between matches and slow down your mental processing between turns.
In between matches, try to take some time off. You’re a good player and don’t need to stress about other matchups more then you need to. Looking at more Flesh and Blood in an already seven-hour tournament day is going to wear out your mind faster than necessary. Use your down time to take a break, wander around and freshen your legs and maybe even grab some fresh air. Lastly, make sure you thank the organizers and local game stores running these events. They require a lot of admin and hard work to organize and put on in a way that pleases all the contestants.
Alrighty, that was a long one! Still, it was well deserved. Tournament play in Flesh and Blood is a joy that more and more players are starting to delve into. With the hopes and dreams of many players to make National events at the end of this Skirmish season, squeaking out crucial XP and potentially tournament wins not only improves your chances of making Nationals, but succeeding at this level as well. As you may have gotten from this article, Flesh and Blood tournament success is as much about enjoying and living that lifestyle and culture as it is about playing the game.