This article is geared toward helping players improve the clerical tasks of Flesh and Blood upkeep at a competitive level with some tips and tricks to become faster and more accurate with what pitched cards are coming up, which threat and power cards remain in your deck, what key cards are already in your graveyard and roughly how many cards are remaining in your deck – all without breaking the Flesh and Blood no note-taking rule or requiring a photographic memory.
Months after starting my own journey with Flesh and Blood, I’m finding I’m learning new things about the game constantly – even as a seasoned TCG player and “student” of FAB. I’m always trying to improve as a player, polishing and tightening my own gameplay so I can push the limits of what I can do competitively and boost my understanding of the fundamental and advanced mechanics of the game. One general bucket of improvement I’ve strived toward is improving my “clerical upkeep” while I play. This is a rather mundane list of tasks and activities that can be bundled together as one general concept. When combined, improving on this skill will help you improve as a player and let you lean into your mastery of game sense and knowledge.
I would consider a number of tasks, activities and statuses as clerical upkeep during a game of Flesh and Blood. The more you can commit these to memory and snap to the desired conclusion versus manually having to calculate it, the more efficiently you can play. This is especially important in matches that are grindy, or if you play a slower deck like Bravo or Oldhim (like me).
Here are some clerical upkeep elements in a game of flesh and blood:
- How many “power” cards are in my graveyard? These are the influential and powerful cards in your deck, the outs or win conditions that will serve to pressure your opponent and advance the state of the game toward your victory.
- Knowing the key cards to the matchup and how many copies are left in your deck is critical.
- Unless you’re approaching your second cycle and the cards you pitched at the start of the game, what are the rough odds of drawing a combo you need?
- How many power cards are in my opponent’s graveyard?
- Know the rough odds your opponent has the attack reaction or card combo that’s going to make your life difficult. Game sense and knowledge of your opponent’s deck and what is likely to be in it is crucial to this understanding.
- What cards did you pitch for the late game? When can you reasonably expect to draw these?
- Did you pitch to surround these power cards with the resources and auxiliary cards they need to be played to full effect?
- What power cards did your opponent pitch early in the game? When can you reasonably expect your opponent to play these?
- Roughly how many cards are in your deck and your opponent’s? How about graveyards?
- Practice this skill by taking your deck, pulling a portion of the cards off the top then trying to guess how many cards are left. With practice, you can hone this skill to less than a 10 percent margin of error just off a quick visual check of your deck’s contents. Note: This can be much harder to do with your opponent’s cards but if you can gauge your own cards, your opponent will likely be close by depending on your strategy and theirs.
- State of the game
- What are both life totals?
- How much armor block does your opponent have left? How much armor do you have left?
- When do you plan on using your armor to block?
- How many defense reactions have they played this game? How many more do you expect?
The list goes on. As you can see, when evaluated alone, each element of clerical upkeep is simple and requires little time or effort. But when combined, these can be taxing additions to playing a game of Flesh and Blood and can eat into your time on the clock. Improving these skills and the efficiency of which you are able to do them will do wonders to helping you prevent a game from drawing out—an outcome that neither player will likely want.
Naturally, these skills will improve as you practice playing Flesh and Blood, but there are some active tips and tricks you can implement to improve.
Minimize how many times you look through your graveyard and be strategic when you do it. If your opponent is taking a long time to decide how to block, this is a great use of time to look through your graveyard then. Don’t be afraid to ask to see your opponent’s graveyard or ask how many copies of a certain card are in it – this can be crucial to decision-making in tough turns where you need to evaluate the risk/reward of certain plays, just try to minimize how often you do this if you expect time may be a concern in the match.
Be mindful about tracking your pitch (and when you work up to that level, your opponent’s too). You don’t need to have a photographic memory to be good at Flesh and Blood, but remembering core cards that were pitched on both sides and pitching with the intent to draw certain hands in the late game is essential to improving at some of the highest levels of play. The pitch system is complex, but it pays dividends to better understand it and how the mechanic plays into the overall outcome of the game.
Specifically for pitch-tracking, you want to pitch for a late-game plan, and that looks a little bit different with each and every deck and game plan. To start, if possible, I like to include one foil copy of each card in my deck. This gives a visual indicator and can help you better remember which version you pitched. If you pitch a non-foil, you’re going to see another non-foil, and a foil version of the card before you see the second non-foil. If you pitched a foil, then you’ll see both non-foil cards.
An obvious tip, but one that I’ve seen cost many players the game, is pitching too many reds together or crafting an unplayable hand. For instance, pitching four non-attack actions back-to-back with Briar and drawing into that hand later in the game. Or as Guardian, pitching four reds together and not being able to play any of them. Pitch to craft hands that you want to draw in the late game. You can’t always predict what the state of the game will look like when you eventually hit your pitch (if you live long enough to draw it at all) but you can set up for success by being mindful of how you pitch.
Each game I play when trying to remember exactly which card I pitched to start the game (the first card I will draw when I hit the second cycle of the deck. I make a mental note when I hit that card, to recognize it. Try to predict when you will draw this card and at what point of the game. What were the indicators you were approaching the pitch? If you had to guess with just a visual check, how many cards were left in your deck? This is something that takes a lot of practice, but is essential to improving this part of your game.
Another exercise is after the game closes, go through the bottom of the deck until you hit the oldest card you pitched during the game. Try to recall the order of color pitch for the rest of the cards if you can, then look for any notable pairings where you intentionally pitched to put certain cards together. This can really help. Again, you don’t have to have a photographic memory to leverage this skill, but it is something that rewards active practice and some recap and analysis on your part after each and every game of Flesh and Blood you play.
Mindful practice and understanding of clerical upkeep concepts is essential to improving as a Flesh and Blood player. These skills will improve passively the more you play, but I do believe being mindful of them will help you improve on the concepts much faster with minimal additional effort on your part. These are skills that I am still working to hone myself – especially as I battle against Control Oldhim’s worst enemy – the round timer.
What other clerical upkeep elements do you track in your own play? Join the conversation and let me know in the comments below!