Listen to any Flesh and Blood podcast or general livestream commentary and you’ll often here pro players talk about the importance of a two-card hand. As you’re going to learn throughout the course of this article, the concept of a two-card hand is a fantastic, albeit rudimentary, measure of the potential success a hero, and more importantly deck, can have in a meta.
Having a four-card hand on your turn is a rare luxury in Flesh and Blood outside the first and the second turns. Most of the time, blocking up 50 percent or more of your opponent’s attack is the ideal play.
For those of you hearing this and thinking “four card hands really aren’t that rare,” it may be time to revaluate your playstyle a little. There’s nothing wrong with taking damage to have a four-card hand, but you must be sure that this is a game-breaking hand. A full turn’s worth of damage alongside potential on-hit effects your opponent can trigger is an extremely dangerous price to pay for a momentum or damage swing.
This is where to basic concept of a two-card hand comes in. To block up at least 50 percent of most oncoming attacks (over an entire turn), you’re going to need two cards. This leaves you with the remaining two to attack with on your turn. The average efficacy of this duo in putting pressure back on your opponent and taking tempo is what’s referred to as the two-card hand.
In essence then, the two-card hand concept is all about tempo and momentum. Although you can win games without having strong two-card hands (ala OTK Viserai and Brute), having a strong two-card hand usually means you’re going to be controlling pace of play for most of the game. For classes with strong on-hit effects such as Warrior and Ninja, this is the core of their game plan to win most games and is what makes them so difficult to play against.
Two-card hands are a central facet of any high-end deck, and when deckbuilding, it’s important to take into mind what a two-card hand for your hero will look like. To get a better understanding of how strong two-card hands can let us win games, let’s look at Ira, Crimson Haze, who has one of the strongest two card hands in Flesh and Blood.
The two cards above are just an example in this generalized concept, but pitching a blue to attack with two Kodachis and then playing a strong attack action is typical of Ira’s two-card hands.
In this scenario, she can threaten eight damage over three attacks. This is very strong and, combined with the great on-hit effects in Ninja, very often results in two to three-card blocks from the opponent. Doing this much damage while being able to block up on the opponent’s turn is what makes Ira so tricky to play against and allows her to subsequently turn momentum and eventually games into her favor. The core of this ability is her two-card hand, with the opponent knowing that if they decide to decide to trade blows over the course of the game, they may very well lose.
On the other hand of this spectrum is Rhinar, who arguably has one of the poorer two-card hands in the game. Many Brute attacks require three cards in hand – one to pay for the attack and another to pay for the additional random discard cost. This on it’s own eliminates the possibility of most two-card hands having any significant value offensively.
On the other hand, most attack actions in Brute that only use a two-card hand are not very powerful on their own. Notable examples such as Pack Hunt (Red), Smash Instinct (Red) and Predatory Assault (Red) come to mind. On their own, these cards are six or seven damage coming through from one card, which is easier to block than the damage spread out over three cards like Ira. It also gives the opponent the choice of simply taking the damage as there are no on-hit effects in the entire class.
Although Brute has the unique ability of getting through damage by intimidating, the two-card hand theory still applies. In most cases, Brute and fourth blows in Flesh and Blood will not work to Brute’s advantage.
We looked at an example of a strong and a weak two-card hand, but understanding how to apply it to a deck is a different matter.
In the case of Brute, we saw that trading blows with our opponent is not the optimal playstyle to assume. So, for most Brute players, other win conditions must be brought into play. You can see this in the current meta, where top performing Brute decks are those which rely on extremely explosive turns, intimidating everything the opponent has and then attacking while the opponent’s guard is down.
If you don’t have the ability to maintain a strong two-card hand, you should consider your alternate win conditions. Archetypes such as Boost Dash or Go-Wide Azalea get exponentially better with each card left in hand, so you may not be blocking much at all, simply trying to win the game before your opponent does.
Other decks which don’t care for tempo much can hold off until they’re ready to strike back in big blows. This accounts for heroes such as OTK Viserai, Bravo and so forth. Keep in mind though, the concept of the two card is strong enough that even with varying archetypes, the decks which hold the best two-card hands seem to consistently wind up at the top of the meta.
In this sense then, if you aren’t playing heroes which heavily punish with two cards such as Ira or Dorinthea, it’s still important to consider what a two card hand looks like for your deck. Maximizing the efficiency of this concept while still catering to your win condition will often be to key to seeing success on the competitive level for the more niche classes.