Lessons from Flesh and Blood’s Four Design Principles

The recent ban announcement from Legend Story Studios has shaken the Flesh and Blood world. Drone of Brutality has been banned. One of the main reasons was that Drone broke the third principle of Flesh and Blood, which is “every card counts.” Today, I’ll be exploring the four tenets and outline some lessons we can learn about the game.


Header - 1. Start Full

You’re ready for battle. You have all your equipment prepared, you’re fresh and focused. As the battle continues, you begin to fatigue. Your equipment becomes battle-worn and it’s harder to throw a powerful blow. One of the beauties of the game is how well the mechanics of the game simulate the real battle. This is an unusual approach to trading card game and a fresh take on an old classic.


Ironrot LegsIronrot GauntletIronrot PlateIronrot Helm


Blocking with equipment is the best example of how you can improve your gameplay. For example, say you’re playing Bravo versing a Katsu with four Ironrot pieces of equipment at your disposal. Your opponent starts the game by attacking with Kodachis. You quite like your hand and don’t want to leak life, so you simply block up each hit with a piece of equipment. This might save you some life, but you’re giving up something a lot more powerful than just one life.

You’re giving up the ability to block a crucial attack at the late stages of the game when it really matters. Fast forward to the late game, it’s almost over. You’re at five, you’re opponent is at one, but you have no equipment left. They attack you with a Leg Tap (Red). You need to block it, because giving them a Katsu trigger into a Rising Knee Thrust (Red) presents lethal. You’re forced to double block. The opponent swings with two Kodachis, you drop to three, followed by a Snatch (Red).

Now, you’re in a pickle once more. Those two pieces of equipment are so much more valuable in this late game scenario because of how the break points on those attacks work. Each equipment block saves you a card – something much more valuable than one life at the start of the game. Being at three with two pieces of equipment, creates a much more favorable game state. You can use the two equipment and two blocks for three, leaving you with two cards to pressure your opponent again on your turn. A Cartilage Crush (Red) might be enough to stop your opponent in their tracks. 


Header - 2. Reduce Variance

Randomness has always been a key component of trading card games. Some cards are powerful, others enable the power cards. More often than not, these play singular roles in the game.

In Flesh and Blood, cards fulfill many roles. This leads to a vast combination of different decisions that a player can make every turn. Making the correct decisions will get you closer to winning – not because you got lucky, but because you outplayed your opponent. This is where strategy comes in. 


Romping Club


This example comes from my own game plan against Warrior. You’re playing Rhinar against Dorinthea. She spits out pressure every turn. You end up blocking with two to four cards per turn and trying to pressure back with a Romping Club swing. She usually takes the four or blocks with a card and takes one.

The back and forth is pretty even and life totals don’t change much. The main difference is that while Dorinthea is pitching blues to enable efficient turns, you’re pitching blues and yellows to swing with weapon. Every third turn, you use your Tunic counter and pitch a red to attack.

Fast forward to the late game, life totals are similar, but the opponent’s drawing hands of four blues while you’re constantly getting well-tailored hands with a blue, two yellows and a red. As your opponent runs out of gas, now you can really pressure. Intimidating three or four cards out of their hand when they’re on five is much different when they’re on 35.


Header - 3. Every Card Counts

Drone of Brutality (Red)


All those decisions – pitching, defending and playing cards, have consequences. Defending and playing cards use them up. Pitching cards preserves them for later. This decision point for each card creates an interesting tension. Do you defend this attack with your power card? Do you use it on your turn or pitch it for the late game? The clearest examples of using immediate power spike for the cost of late game are boost Dash and Katsu. The boost mechanic and Katsu hero ability give you a short term gain for long term detriment.

This rule can dictate your strategy. Imagine you’re a Rhinar player fighting Bravo. You keep getting hammered with Anothos for six each turn. You respond with your Wrecker Romps for eight, Pack Hunts for six and Savage Swings for seven.

Despite keeping up on damage output, you’re using up two cards a turn for your attack – the attack and the self discard – and you use up two cards to defend. However, the vigilant Guardian isn’t using up any cards for their attacks. If this back and forth continues, eventually you’ll run out of cards to pressure with because you’re losing four cards, while your opponent only loses two per turn.


Header - 4. Reward Good Decisions, Not Luck

On top of the multitude of options you have every turn, Flesh and Blood rewards utilizing the synergies presented to you in each class. The rares and Majestics are not always game breaking – they’re often only powerful in very specific scenarios, which you’re encouraged to create in order to get value out of them.


Steelblade SupremacySharpen Steel (Red)


Let’s look at Steelblade Supremacy and Sharpen Steel. When placed side by side, the majestic has a higher cost and a lower attack bonus. The ability of drawing a card is powerful, but overall Sharpen Steel is cheaper and easier to take advantage of in a game. If your opponent blocks up your attack, regardless of which pump you use, Sharpen Steel is just more cost effective for the pump it provides.

However, Steelblade Supremacy has a much higher ceiling if used in a particular way. When set up with cards like Ironsong Determination, Spoils of War and Twinning Blade, the benefit of having a Steelblade Supremacy can far outweigh what Sharpen Steel can do.

The main way you can really utilize these powerful cards is through setting them up with other complementary cards. By actively finding the pairings, you’re actively making decisions that’ll further your game. Drawing an Ironsong Determination, playing Energy Potions and waiting to draw a Steelblade Supremacy can create that power turn. The Majestic on its own is comparable to commons, but with the right set up, it can really shine. This is an example of how luck plays a small part in getting an advantage in Flesh and Blood. Simply drawing the card won’t necessarily give you that advantage – good decisions will.



The four principles of Flesh and Blood’s design give us a great template to what the core of the game is really about. The lessons I’ve outlined are just the tip of the iceberg of tension points, interactions and qualities of what makes the game great. Next time you play with your friends, keep these in mind and see if they can help you improve your game. 

Scroll to Top