Learning the Blitz Format — Staple Cards

In most games and most formats there tend to be staple cards that crop up in a wide range of decks. Blitz in FAB is no different so in this article I’m going to run through some of the key cards that we’ve seen rise to prominence so far. A number of these are like Classic Constructed, however there are some notable examples of cards that are particularly strong in the 20-ish life format. The idea here is to analyze the strength of these cards and help explain why players consider them so critical.

The majority of these will be generic cards as they are the only type that can be played across multiple decks, but I’ll be looking at a few class specific options also for those who may be wondering about the underlying logic behind their staple status.

#1: Sigil of Solace (Red)

Sigil of Solace has seen a decent amount of play in Classic Constructed but has quickly become an early all-star card in Blitz. While some of the following applies generally to both formats, I also want to look at what makes Sigil particularly strong in Blitz.

Part of the reason lies in the asymmetrical power of life gain in Blitz compared to CC. A standard attack for 6 can still be blocked by two cards for 6. Gaining 3 life from one card in Blitz, however, is effectively like gaining 6 life in Classic Constructed considering you start on 20 as opposed to 40. While Sigil of Solace (red) is seen as an auto-include in a lot of Blitz decks, we’ve also started to see the yellow version played in some versions of Ira Control and other control decks to take full advantage of this. While you might be wondering why a class like Wizard that starts on 15 life doesn’t play it, the negatives of blanking on a Kano activation or Sonic Boom tends to outweigh the positives.

Sigil of Solace (Blue)Sigil of Solace (Red)Sigil of Solace (Yellow)

Another benefit of Sigil is that it’s a great card to play on the first turn of the game. When going first, you may not necessarily want to use up your hand as the defending player will also draw up to a full hand at the end of turn. Allowing your opponent a free mulligan, or using up premier attacks in a format where you only have two copies max of each card, means that using up your hand may hurt more than it helps. Having access to a card that immediately gives you a life advantage while thinning your deck is a significant benefit. The same applies to a certain degree when going second, as often you may be able to block with two to three cards and play a Sigil without giving up card advantage.

A similar logic applies to Sigil during a game. Often you may have hands when you can’t efficiently use your whole hand. Cards you don’t use make your turn less efficient as you are always drawing up to a full hand at end of turn. Sigil provides a release valve for these turns, while also being a useful card for bluffing as you can fake out an attack reaction or follow up attack in the knowledge that you can play Sigil at instant speed once you’ve used up your action point.

Finally, Sigil just has a lot of utility in a bunch of situations against multiple decks. Against Wizard, it provides a key source of cheap life gain at instant speed which can be critical against a deck where you simply can’t block out a large portion of their big turns. It can also throw off the math (especially when in Arsenal) when they’re trying to calculate lethal damage, which also applies to slower OTK-style Runeblade decks. You can also use it to survive through big dominate attacks from Guardian, escape a Kodachi or Teklo Pistol/Induction Chamber lock against Ninja and Dash, and play around potentially lethal damage defense reactions like Steelblade Shunt and Reckless Swing.

Pro Tip: If you’re worried about Command and Conquer, Sigil is an excellent card to place in Arsenal. The strength of CnC comes from it forcing a block to protect your Arsenal, so being able to essentially “block” for 3 from Arsenal (6 damage – 3 life gain) can be massive!

#2: Command and Conquer

From the moment Arcane Rising was released, Command and Conquer has been a powerhouse in Constructed formats. CnC has the unique effect (outside of Disable in Guardian) of threatening your opponent’s Arsenal card, thus introducing a new level of complexity into the game almost single-handedly.

Playing CnC completely changes the blocking calculus as your opponent is often relying on their Arsenal card to set up their turn or cannot afford to suffer the value loss of having their defense reaction destroyed for no benefit. This was often utilized to great effect early on in decks like Guardian and Brute by combining it with Pummel to get blowout turns where you get a two-card block, Pummel, then strip an additional card and destroy their Arsenal card. Decks like Dash would also sometimes play Goliath Gauntlet to try to force a three-card block on a critical turn to maintain the tempo and prevent a comeback.

Command and Conquer

The strength of CnC is that it can both force interaction from your opponent or be a devastating hit if you can catch them off guard. Consider a game state where your opponent has an amazing hand and either a set up card in Arsenal (Bloodrush Bellow, Plunder Run, Stir the Aetherwind) or a defense reaction. They may be willing to take 3-4+ initial damage from your first attacks to get off their combo next turn or preserve the defense reaction for an on-hit trigger threat. Assuming they take this damage, and you follow up with CnC, you’ve now forced them to block or give up their Arsenal, meaning you’ve gotten ahead on damage and blown up their plans for their turn. There are also situations where your opponent double blocks your first attack(s) (say an Enlightened Strike for 5, or Warrior attacking with Spoils of War) and is left with a defense reaction + one other card in hand. A CnC here is effectively unblockable unless they have multiple equipment blocks.

In addition to the above, CnC is an excellent ‘space creator’. On an otherwise average turn you can use it to force out a double-block from your opponent with a two-card hand, or even one blue card with CnC in Arsenal. This serves to buy you time until you draw a better hand by allowing you to potentially take a turn off blocking the next turn.

Pro Tip: Always be aware of your opponent’s available Equipment when planning out a future CnC play. While burning Equipment blocks is never really a bad thing, you don’t want to be caught off-guard by a card + double equipment block on CnC if you were taking damage on their turn thinking you could force a double block on your turn.

#3: Enlightened Strike

My Session Blood co-host, and fellow ChannelFireball writer, Karol Ruszkiewicz has already provided an excellent summary of the pros and cons of Enlightened Strike (which I highly recommend checking out!) Given that, rather than go through this card at length I’ll instead try to briefly summarize the strengths of ES. The ability to “tuck” or hide a card on bottom with ES is great, but for more info on that check out Karol’s article as he covers that point in more detail.

Utility utility utility. At its core, this is the reason why so many players choose to play the full two copies of ES in their Blitz decks. Individually, all three modes of ES are already pretty good by themselves but the ability to pick and choose your spots for the best mode in any given situation is what really pushes this card over the top. Starting your turn with an ES for 5 with go again or ending it with an ES for 7 are both very strong plays. It can function in a similar manner to CnC to a certain extent like that, by using up all your resources then finishing off your turn with a surprise ES for 7 from Arsenal to use the final card in your hand and make them pay for not blocking earlier.

Enlightened Strike

The card-draw mode of ES is probably the most difficult one to use. You want to be very aware of the number of threats remaining in your deck compared to the number of “dead Arsenal” blue cards left when looking to finish off your turn with this play. On Ira for example, while it’s great to live the dream and draw a Springboard Somersault to place in Arsenal, you’re often leaving 2 damage on the table if you instead draw something like Find Center off it. A cool play I like to do is using the draw mode with two to three cards left in hand when you have Snapdragon Scalers up on a critical turn. This puts your opponent in a position of not wanting to get blown out by Razor Reflex, but also facing down the threat of a two to three card hand if they double block the ES and you crack the Scalers. I find this play particularly strong if you can combine it with Plunder Run, as it can force a three-card block (to block for 8) to stop the draw trigger and you can still carry on your turn right after!

#4: Sink Below (Red) / Springboard Somersault

 Defense reacts that can block for 4 are pretty, pretty, pretty good. At a basic level, therefore you’ll see players generally look to include at least some copies of these in Blitz decks. Attacks for 4 are a classic break point in FAB as most cards only block for 3. These defense reacts allow you to shut down relevant on-hit trigger attacks like Leg Tap (red), Meat and Greet (red), Snatch, Soulbead Strike (red), and Spoils of War + weapon (with a single Equipment block, while also preventing reprise) just to name a few. The ability to play them in the defense reaction step is also critical to preventing blowouts from attack reactions such as Pummel and Razor Reflex. These cards, however, have additional strengths beyond this that merit their staple status.

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Sink Below is widely considered to be the best defense reaction due to its ability to both smooth out your hand while simultaneously protecting or hiding important cards in your deck. You’ll sometimes find yourself with a hand full of red cards but no blue, or three blue cards and a defense reaction. You may even have multiple cards that block for 2 (or even 0) and need to dig for an additional card that blocks for 3. Sink Below does everything you want it to as a defense reaction while often turning lemons into lemonade at the same time. It also comes in handy when you draw a hand with critical cards to your strategy such as Mordred Tide for Runeblade, Bloodrush Bellow for Brute, or your single copy of Tome of Fyendal in decks that run Mage Master Boots primarily for that purpose. The ability to protect these cards by sending to the bottom is particularly strong in Blitz where you can only run two of each card as opposed to three in Classic Constructed.

Sink Below (Blue)Sink Below (Red)Sink Below (Yellow)Springboard Somersault

Springboard Somersault is a lot more simple – it’s a yellow card and therefore pitches for two resources. It is the only defense reaction in the game that can block for 4 and isn’t red. There is a clear downside in that it is underwhelming if you’re forced to block with it from hand, but players will generally tell you the positives outweigh the negatives. Most decks will want to run some amount of defense reactions for the reasons mentioned earlier. Springboard gives you access to a powerful defense reaction while not having to overly compromise your resource base.

#5: Talismanic Lens – Wizard (Kano)

Talismanic Lens is a staple only in Kano, but I wanted to address why players are choosing to run this over Arcanite Skullcap. Skullcap seems like a great choice for a 15 life hero, especially because you’re almost always going to get the full value out of it (a block for 2 and then 1). Furthermore, Wizard starts with only one Equipment block on Fyendal’s Spring Tunic which has blade break and tends to run zero defense reactions.

Lens is generally the Equipment head slot of choice for Kano due to the damage window it can create and the additional certainty it grants. As I like to say when playing Kano “I can’t see without my glasses!” Kano deals damage in bursts, often in windows where your opponent may only have one to two cards in hand. This is the reason cards with built-in opt like Cindering Foresight, Eye of Ophidia, and Gaze the Ages are so highly valued in the deck. You want to give yourself the best chance possible to hit a relevant “spell” (or non-Attack Action in FAB-speak) when you are relying on your hero ability to push through damage in the opportunities you create.

Talismanic Lens

A common sequence may look something like: you play Chain Lightning and Snapback on your turn, your opponent pitches two cards to prevent the damage with Arcane Barrier, then they begin their turn with two cards in hand. At this point they likely have three to four resources available to prevent damage and will probably have even less once they pitch one card to play something/attack. Talismanic Lens is a huge boon here as it massively increases your odds of hitting a relevant spell while also giving you certainty about how you want to structure your turn. You’ll generally want to save Lens for a mid-game turn where you have multiple blue pitch cards to get the maximum value out of it, but don’t be afraid to use it aggressively if you see an opening!

Pro Tip: Talismanic Lens also pairs well with Sonic Boom to ensure you’ll get value out of the triggered ability!

#6: Zephyr Needle – Ninja (Ira)

 This one isn’t super complicated, but I have come across a few people asking about Zephyr Needle. The primary reason Ira plays this is to punish Wizard, a deck that generally plays no defense reactions. Ira’s hero ability means you can attack with Harmonized Kodachi for 1 and then Zephyr Needle for 3, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be able to break it.

It can also be useful against aggressive builds of decks such as Dash, Ira, and Runeblade (although Runeblade may still run two Reduce to Runechant (red), or just generally in later tournament rounds if you know for sure your opponent is playing a deck with little to no defense reactions. You’ll need to be cautious when playing it against decks that have clear aggro/control variants such as the ones mentioned, however, as losing one of your weapons in the first few turns makes for a difficult mountain to climb.

Zephyr Needle


 I hope this article helped to give an insight into the reasons why you’ll often encounter a number of these cards in competitive Blitz play, or even helps you play around them at your next tournament.

As always, if you have any feedback, questions, or requests for future articles, feel free to send an email through and I’ll do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.

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