If it wasn’t for Red Squadron, Luke Skywalker wouldn’t have had the cover he needed to stuff a torpedo into the bowels of the Death Star. If it wasn’t for a cohesive fellowship of determined souls, Frodo would have been gobbled up by Nazgul at Weathertop. The most perilous journeys often require a supporting cast to help carry the burdens of improvement and progression. For those who may not be able to sound the Horn of Gondor to aid the mission, there are ways you can improve at Flesh and Blood with limited resources at your disposal.
Unless you’re splitting proverbial atoms in your garage on weekends, you’re not looking to discover new layers of the science behind deck building. Nobody is expecting you to break open a meta on your own in your spare time. Oftentimes, the road most travelled is that way for very good reasons. They are the route of choice for the masses because they are proven to be reliable and steadfast. There is no shame in netdecking, so be sure you’ve scrubbed the stigma of using a well-known strategy.
Once you’ve shed that misplaced shame, you’ll realize that having a small or otherwise inexistant player base to play with isn’t as massive of a hindrance as it may seem from afar. The community is out there doing the work. Thousands of games are played daily, each one an oar of a massive ship rowing in the right direction. Not being aboard that vessel can feel lonely, as you only know the direction in which they’re heading without hearing the discussions on deck. What you can do, however, is follow the direction. You don’t need to be the one who discovered the ideal Viserai list to arrive there.
The map is always being drawn and filled in, with new pitfalls and shortcuts being added daily. Though you may not be the one charting new territory, you can always ensure your finger is squarely on the pulse of the meta through a myriad of outlets. They’re out there like beacons keeping you pointed in the direction, swaying you away from turbulent waters. Even the most high-level, macroscopic views of the meta are clues that can keep you on track. A quick glimpse of the ProQuest pie charts and you’ll realize that it is a three-horse-race, swerving you away from perhaps wasting time on trying to finally crack that elusive unicorn Azalea deck.
The closer your ear is to the ground, the more information you’ll uncover. Being dialed into the right frequencies will save you a lot of time in the lab.
Short and sweet, but relevant. Trying to fit a square peg through a round hole only chews up time, and the poor square peg. Your worst enemy is stubbornness, so get real with yourself. If your mission is to improve and win more competitive games, understand that there are no style points. It is all W’s and L’s, and pride can often make for more spectacular failures than methodical wins. Creating a homebrew is definitely rewarding, but keep the agenda in mind. You want to show up to the Battle Hardened event to pick up wins and possibly Top 8, not pull off a miracle that requires you rolling sixes on Scabskin Leathers with the perfect hand. Save that for the Armory events.
This seems simple enough, but there is a shocking amount of worry that is invested in picking the right hero, without really digging into how that hero operates or works. Settling on Prism may have been the first major obstacle to conquer, but without understanding the style or finesse of the deck, you’re going to be spinning your tires. You’ve essentially chosen the paint job on your new car without knowing if it’s automatic or manual. Believe it or not, not even Starvo pilots itself.
Winning games of Flesh and Blood isn’t easy at any level, so the best approach is to master the variables you have access to. Nothing is more vital to this than having a deep understanding of the intricacies of what your deck is looking to do. Your deck is so much more than a hero and a weapon. You should know the nuts and bolts behind the engineering to best pilot it under any conditions. The terrain won’t always be smooth and forgiving, so when it starts to get choppy, you know the limits of what your deck can take and how to survive the onslaught. Before the practical tests of shuffling up against a real opponent, dig into the theoretical aspects to better position yourself for a successful ride.
Is your deck aggressive? Control? Opportunistic? Combo?
Determining the identity of your deck will help guide you from a broader perspective. Every matchup is different, and your strategy will have to adjust based on the opponent across the table, but solidifying the ground you’re standing on is an important element to being left standing when the dust settles. When you know your avenue to victory, that can often be enough to power through the unknown.
As the competition ramps up, and you’ve gained more experience in the field, you’ll have a better understanding of how to adapt to the evolving game state. Until then, the best thing you can do is lean on your strengths, of which will be a deeper understanding of how your deck operates, and the lines to victory. Play to its strengths instead of calling audibles before the snap. Sticking to the plan means playing the tune you know, and sometimes that melody will get you to the finish line when all hell is breaking loose.
Treat your deck like a torch in the darkness. When the path gets dark and murky, it is your most reliable tool.
The old adage of being your own worst enemy might be true if you’re trying to drum up inspiration for your emo garage band, but in Flesh and Blood, you can be one of your own best assets. Not having a partner to play against presents challenges when wanting to run test matches or practice, as you will never truly be able to play a match from both sides of the table without bias or influence. The good news is you don’t need an opponent to hone certain aspects of your skill.
Goldfishing might be a term you’ve heard, but many average players are either unaware or undervalue the importance of the habit. Goldfishing is the practice of playing your cards without an opponent, seemingly without resistance, until you’ve accomplished your goal and “won” the match. Basically, you’re playing your hand and dealing damage to a crash test dummy that is meant to smile and take it… kind of like playing against Starvo that fuses every turn.
The benefit in doing this is to train yourself to recognize the lines of play based on the hands you draw. Developing that muscle memory can be crucial in games where the clock is breathing down your neck and decisions need to be made. Shuffle your deck, draw your hand and start dealing the pain. It may seem like a silly endeavor, but this is something the pros are doing constantly. It seems idealistic, but by running through these exercises, you are building the bridges in your mind that will translate to cleaner play when it matters. Should your opponent stumble or have a weak turn, you’ve already got the neurons connected in the right way to understand the proper sequencing of your Katsu combo line. Own your side of the yard, and keep it neat and tidy.
Or Chewbacca. Honestly there is too much nerd culture in my brain to determine which one is the better analogy, but ultimately we should all be able to find a partner willing to test games with us. I understand that this may come off as cheating, given the nature of this article is how to improve without a team, but having a partner-in-crime will be the single most impactful factor in improving your gameplay. You may not have a dedicated core of individuals pooling experience and theory for the good of the group, but there can always be a friend who will sit across from you and root for your success.
Finding that person, be they a close friend or someone you have a good rapport with from your local game store, will significantly accelerate your progress. They don’t need to be good at the game, but someone who can be the cannon fodder along your guns-blazing trek to glory. The value presented by merely having a novice player throw cards at you is immense. This is where your goldfishing habit will awaken the muscle memory in you to truly measure just how far you’ve come. How well do you know your deck when your opponent is making unorthodox plays? Handling the absurd or unfamiliar makes for better refinement to your play when you’re then met with more challenging plays. Training yourself to handle the curveball means you’re more likely to smash the inevitable fastball down the middle.
Many hands make light work, it’s true, so be prepared to be patient with your progress. As you work solo, start planting the seeds of establishing a reliable testing team. Networking is a skill that can pay dividends just as fruitful as knowing how to play an Oldhim mirror. Just because you’re alone on the ocean now, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be firing flares into the night sky. You’re one of many who are seeking the same goal: improvement. You’ve been chasing that ship on the water for awhile, so why not try to find your own crew to row with you.
Patience is important in this endeavor. What you need to keep at heart is that progress needs to be measured in larger clips of time than from week to week, tournament to tournament. Keeping a healthy perspective of where you are is crucial, so make sure you give yourself credit. Too much microscopic evaluation will leave you feeling unaccomplished, or worse, overconfident. Chart your journey and get a bird’s eye view. Over time you’ll see just how damn close to Mordor you ended up, despite the detour at Moria.
You’re not losing if you’re learning.