Managing Life Differential in Flesh and Blood

I think anybody who’s played their fair share of card games has heard the mantra “life is a resource.” From Magic to Yu-Gi-Oh to Hearthstone, almost all major TCG’s incorporate the idea of the bringing your opponent to zero is the main way to win the game. Even if you’re playing Flesh and Blood as a newcomer to the TCG scene, you’ll quickly become acclimated with the idea that it doesn’t matter if you win with one life remaining or 20: it’s all the same. 

Nevertheless, I too often notice turns where players (usually newer ones) seem to take the idea of using life as a resource overboard, soaking absurd amounts of preventable damage too keep a three/four-card hand. In most instances, those are the turns that begin to build up an insurmountable life differential between you and your opponent and no matter what you have following it up, those differences are sometimes just too big to overcome. 

Other times, life differential can be slowly built throughout the game, with those chips of two or three damage adding up to become differences of 10 or more life between you and your opponent. In slow, chip-away type games, this kind of lead can at times be devastating to fight against and represent your chances slipping away many turns before your counter runs to zero. 

Quick Note: When stating +/-X life in the following subheadings, this accounts for the max total life differential between both you and your opponent, not +/-X on both sides. Ex: 28-32 or 38-40 both constitute being within +/-4


Header - Small Life Differentials (+/- 4)

Aside from a few heroes, you’re going to be starting each game from the same life total, so before we talk about managing big life differences, it’s good to talk about the small ones. When the life differences between you and your opponents is less the three or so, I many times notice a sort of rhythm that begins to flow from turn to turn as gameplay begins to follow an approximation of the following rules:   

  1. An unblocked attack each turn threatens to equalize or reverse the life differential in favor of the attacker. 
  2. Weapon use is frequent.
  3. Attacks are generally connecting for less then half of their total damage output each turn.

The first point here is the most important aspect of this style of play and dictates for a large part the flow between players. Attacking for at least four or more every turn makes sure your opponent must choose between blocking with two cards or taking some damage back.

When possible, try to set up Arsenal, auras and other items that your hero ideally wants on the field when ready to swing momentum in your favor. Keep in mind though that this shouldn’t come at the cost of sacrificing pressure on your opponent. Not attacking usually leaves them with a life lead from their previous attack along with a four-card hand. Momentum and life-leads combined make for a fearsome foe.


Mask of Momentum


To come out of this sort of play with a lead, try to find ways to boost your attack to seven or more damage or threaten with tricky on-hit effects like Ranger, Guardian, and Ninja can. Attack reactions and bluffs on them are great ways to do this as well. Any one of these combos will usually end up with your opponent dropping down three cards instead of the usual two. If you have prepped your Arsenal and board correctly, you should be able to take a strong life lead or momentum from there, barring a poor draw. 


Header - Large Life Differentials (+/- 7)

Trying to swing momentum back when down a good chunk of life is a tricky thing, which becomes even trickier the closer you are to zero. Chances are, a full hand for your opponent’s can hit just about as hard as yours can, which creates a bunch of problems for you when generating momentum.I too often notice turns where players… seem to take the idea of using life as a resource overboard… In most instances, those are the turns that begin to build up an insurmountable life differential between you and your opponent and no matter what you have following it up, those differences are sometimes just too big to overcome.

I frequently see players at this point in the game who take a large preventable chunk of damage just to try and swing back the momentum in the game. This isn’t a good strategy in almost every case, except if swing is big enough to not only equalize what your opponent hit you for, but also the life differential between you two. Most decks can’t manage this with even their best hands, so most of the time these things usually just leave you on the bad side of the exchange anyway.

Controlled aggression, on the other hand, is the key to the game here. Keep in mind, your first and foremost responsibility is to not let the differential get out of hand. The moment the life difference balloons to more than 15, your chances of winning drastically shrink. In most cases, smart defense and knowing what’s left in your deck will allow you to prepare your Arsenal and board state for your time to strike back. Barring horrid draws, patience and smart blocking will eventually get you to the point where you’ll be able to force your opponent to give back some momentum, and then some life. 


Header - Closing Games with Life Lead (+/- 7)

It’s easy to get carried away with a life lead. Thinking that “okay, now I’ll just cruise and eventually win” will often lead to looking back and wondering where your lead went. Remembering what got you to that point is key and will help you equally keep the lead.

Controlled aggression is the name of the game, just like when you’re playing down in life. If you have the life lead or momentum (maybe both), making sure your opponent blocks for at least two cards a turn is the key to stalling out their comeback. As the game goes on, both of you will inevitably get closer to zero. The longer you hold the life lead, the more your opponent will have to make a suboptimal aggressive move in a rush to get the life total back even.




I usually try to play leads with even more caution then regular thanks to this. Since you already have the lead, there’s no need to force plays or aggressive attack unless they have been properly set up. Therefore, putting a defensive reaction in Arsenal as a brick wall to any offense your opponent tries to throw at you will force them to reset all over again while at low life. This works very well against big, desperate Guardian or Brute attacks as well for obvious reasons.


Header - Wrapping Up

I tend to compare Flesh and Blood many times to tennis, in the way that the back and forth of the game occurs, and how players alternate in asking each other questions and receiving answers.

Amid all these momentum swings though, it’s easy to forget the real goal of the game: to get the player across from you to zero before they do the same to you. Although the exact strategies and catching up/closing out techniques you’ll use will vary from deck to deck, learning when to retreat and sit back, along with when there’s blood in the water are both needed tools for any player looking to capitalize this competitive season. 

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