How to Play Your Hands – A Different Perspective

Recently, we went through the Monarch Sealed phase. The prereleases, Skirmishes and The Calling were all exciting events. I only got to play in the more casual ones, but this helped me to notice an interesting pattern. Prism was extremely popular throughout the Sealed events. Some events saw 50 percent or more of the field taken by Prism. It’s a new class after all, but there must have been a deeper reason for this. This is where looking through the lens of “How many cards in hand does this deck like to play?” helped me to see an answer. Each deck can be broken down into this simple classification. Some decks like to play with two-card hands, some decks like to play with four-card hands and some with zero-card hands. Each deck’s strategy can be associated with this classification. Prism is a great two-card hand deck. All you need is a pitch card and powerful herald to threaten a big attack. But why does this matter? Let’s take a look at some tips on how to play your hands.


Header - Learning New Heroes

Looking at the game from this angle will help you pick up new heroes with ease. Take aggro Katsu for example. This is a great example of a four or five-card hand deck (by five I mean four on hand and one in Arsenal). You want as many cards as possible to threaten big combo attacks. The more cards you have, the greater your damage output exponentially.


Leg Tap (Red)Surging Strike (Red)Mask of Momentum

One card usually means only one damage each from the Kodachis, while five cards can threaten huge bursts with things like the Leg Tap combo line or Surging Strike combo line. These get stronger with the threat of on-hits, such as the Mask of Momentum. This is why usually you see aggro Katsu players take large sums of damage in order to keep their hand, just to deal a significant chunk of damage back. Knowing that aggro Katsu is a five-card hand deck, can help you adjust your playstyle to learn the deck better. As a rule of thumb, you’re better off not defending and pressuring your opponent with attacks.

When I learned Bravo, I had the same mindset. I would take a bunch of damage and just to try and have the biggest turn possible with my big attacks. This strategy didn’t really work because Bravo benefits from a different playstyle. It’s a one or two-card hand deck, with the occasional four or five-card hands for the pivotal spike turns, such as the dominate Crippling Crush turns. The deck gains advantage by leveraging the big hammer swings and saving those key cards for later. 


Header - Finding Information

Looking at the game through this lens can work in reverse as well. Paying attention to how your opponent uses their hand gives you information on their strategy and can help you find a way to counter it.

As a rule of thumb, aggro decks tend to use all four or five cards and gain advantage through tempo and pressure. Control decks play zero to one-card hands, focusing their efforts on defending and mitigating threats, eventually wearing their opponents out of threats. Combo decks tend to play either zero-card hands or the full five when they go off. Midrange is characterized by using anywhere between one to four cards, usually in the two or three-card hand range – two good defensive cards and two strong offensive cards. 

With many heroes expanding in the ways they’re played, it’s more important than ever to find out what kind of a strategy your opponent is playing. For example, if you notice that the opposing Katsu player is using most of their cards to defend with, rather than attack, it’s a good indicator that they’re playing a control variant of Katsu rather than aggro. You should adjust your game plan accordingly.

A big lesson for me in adjusting the number of cards I want to keep for my turn came with Rhinar. The deck is inherently powerful as a midrange deck, but I noticed that my three-card hands were weak. Playing a Barraging Beatdown followed by a Pack Hunt (Red) let me intimate twice, but a simple double block meant I wasn’t gaining any value. I was trading three cards for two, giving my opponent an advantage on their next turn. I noticed that my one-card hand was decent – swinging with the Romping Club for four while the powerful full hand intimidates using five cards was extremely deadly. Once I focused on using only one or five-card hands, my performance with the deck improved dramatically. Finding those sweet spots for your deck will help you gain an advantage in the game.


Header - Streamlining Your Play

Time is a scarce resource in the game of Flesh and Blood. Making correct plays quickly helps to stop going to the dreaded draw. This is why knowing how many cards you want to keep in hand as a general rule can help you speed up the defense step. Playing control and need to stall? Great, dump that hand and mitigate the damage. Going aggro? Take damage and dish it right back. Of course, this is just a rule of thumb and each case is context dependent, but knowing this quality will save you some time.


Header - Evolve Your Game

Going back to my Prism example above, it seems that the most common way people like playing the game is using two-card hands. It’s just so nice using a couple of cards to stop some damage and still unleash a strong attack with the couple remaining. Unfortunately, as well as it can work for Prism, the other three classes in Monarch are a little bit more complex and require a more subtle approach to using your four-card hands.

Levia can often play as a defensive one-card hand deck, while changing into a four or five-card deck at a pivotal time. Boltyn strikes me as a zero or five-card deck. Having a huge charge turn is exponentially more effective for each attack you can unleash on that turn, while the strong defensive values help you mitigate damage on big turns from your opponent. Chane can mix and match between one to five cards, depending on your banishes and your pitch order, and requires very complex thinking in Limited. 

The more complex the heroes get, the harder it is to simply play a midrange game plan. As we see more heroes in the future, having an idea of the optimal amount of cards you need on your turn will become more and more relevant. If you want to improve your gameplay, start paying attention to how your deck functions on one, three or even five cards. Play around with those depending on who you’re facing and thinking of the game through this lens should improve your results.

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