Although not really the first thing that comes to mind when looking at Flesh and Blood, recursive gameplay is alive and well in our game, and arguably one of the most underutilized strategies available today. Famously headlined by the now banned Drone of Brutality, recursion in a game so taxing on resource management can be extremely potent. Even with the banning of Drone, today’s recursion archetypes are alive and well. Today we’ll be exploring this side of Flesh and Blood in deep, starting from a general overview, delving into how different talents, elements and classes are currently using recursion, and how can you apply it to your game.
Recursion in TCGs involves playing out the same cards multiple times after they have already been used. In the case of Flesh and Blood, this mainly refers to cards that have already moved to graveyard through blocking, attacking or card effects, although there are recursive gameplay loops in the game as well. A great example of a gameplay loop is Endless Arrow, which returns to hand if it connects for any damage when it attacks. Find a way to give it go-again, say with Voltaire, Strike Twice or a Perch Grapplers activation, and you have a card that may continuously attack your opponent as many times as you’re able to load it into arsenal.
Although the above turn is a fun turn cycle, some of you may be respond saying that “outside of one nice turn, how does this help me win the game?” This is a fair question; many times recursion can seem very “cute” in its gameplay loops, meaning they do recur, but they aren’t necessarily effective at dealing damage or controlling tempo. To effectively play out a recursive game plan, you must understand how large a role the strategy plays into your deck’s win-condition. As we’ll speak of later, some decks can be entirely built around the concept, whereas others can effectively use it as a turn cycle win or option B in the face of difficult matchups.
Lastly, to properly understand the value of recursion in FAB, you need to have a strong idea of threat density. In short, the concept speaks to the number of “power cards” left in your deck, which are going to contribute very strongly to your win-conditions. Usually late game, one player is going to have a higher threat density then the other, meaning one player has a substantially stronger deck than his opponent does at that point. Managing your threat density so that you’re in the stronger position late game is crucial to tipping the scales in your favor.
For most classes, this is done through pitch tracking and resource management, however, recursive strategies, which can access and replay cards which were already used almost always have the upper hand in this case. The ability to reuse your biggest offensive threats over and over means you can maintain strong tempo throughout the match, without having to worry about finding yourself out of gas to finish the game later. As we’ll shortly see, this element of recycling is a crucial half of recursive strategies and must be executed properly is you wish to win your games.
A big distinction I like to make between recycling and true recursion is the interaction between multiple cards. Usually, truly recursive cards will be able to self-activate their effects, this would include cards such as Evergreen, Deep Rooted Evil, Ghostly Visit, etc. These cards require little to no help to find themselves playable multiple times in a game.
On the other hand, cards like Sow Tomorrow, although powerful, can at times mean that you’re taking your foot off the gas to recycle your threats for later in the game. However, decks with a strong amount of recycling will find they rarely run out of gas and are able to keep presenting solid turns very late into the game.
In addition to this, recycling allows for a unique level of dynamism to the gameplay of your hero. Since you know you can recycle, it’s easy to test the waters with your strongest cards early and see how your opponent reacts, and mentally note down what combos are working/not working. As all these strong cards wind up in graveyard, you can recycle them through the midgame to uniquely craft your second or third cycle of your deck in response to your opponent’s playstyle. This allows incredible facility to pivot into both aggro and control decks during the game, something not seen heavily in Flesh and Blood outside this archetype.
For those who haven’t yet experienced it, Levia is the truest recursive hero in the game. Many of the strongest Levia builds rely on the consistent replaying of cards such as Howl from Beyond (Red), Deep Rooted Evil, Tome of Torment, etc. Her ability to continuously play cards out of banished, put them to graveyard, and subsequently banish them again through her action cards results in incredible gameplay cycles which allows for an extremely high ceiling of damage output over the course of the game.
In essence, this extremely recursive gameplay style allows for her to be basically impossible to fatigue in the right hands. This style of gameplay is different from the recycling since it shortcuts the entire time frame of drawing the card. In exchange for potentially paying blood debt, Levia’s recursive power always keeps her central cards face up on the board, playable out of banished any turn she wishes. As with most brutes, her randomness can always be turned around into your favor, and a smart player keeping tight check on the cards within graveyard will be able to recurse simple gameplay loops with cards like Howl from Beyond (Red) while to opponent starts to fatigue out of their best cards simultaneously.
Outside of Levia and the Earth element, other classes also have access to recursive gameplay mechanics here and there. Ranger has the incredible option of Endless Arrow, whereas Ninja can use Hurricane Technique to represent two attacks rather than one. Runeblades have great options such as Rattle Bones to pry out cards from graveyard and utilize them again on the same turn.
These sort of one-turn explosive loops are possible due to recursive gameplay and can allow for incredible burst damage over the course of a turn cycle. If your hero can play out these sort of turns, I highly recommend having them as supporting cards or sideboard cards to your core. Not only are they extremely effective at drawing back tempo, but they represent multiple instances of damage without taking up much needed offensive resources. For most heroes outside Levia, relying solely on recursion is foolish as a strategy to win games, but including it in your sideboard with a strong idea of what you want it to do in your deck (early and midgame cycle wins) is incredibly strong.
The price of power is not cheap. Recursive gameplay is many times slow to set up and requires support around it to effectively take over the game. In the case of the gameplay loops such as Endless Arrow and Hurricane Technique, both require supporting cards and a hit effect to pass through, and in the case of Rattle Bones, it comes at a high resource cost instead. This means randomly including these recursive support cards without considering what you need to effectively utilize them is much more foolish than anything. Make sure your deck has a strong plan A that is supplemented when you draw these cards, rather than you’re changing your game plan just to play out these gameplay loops.
In the same manner, Levia and decks high on recycling effects need to be cautious they don’t get caught off guard by aggro strategies that can blow out their life total before they get set up. These sort of game plans are by nature slow and scaling. Over the course of time, you’ll take the lead, but if the game lasts four turns, chances are you aren’t ever going to get the chance to recurse much of anything in the first place. Decks putting recursive gameplay as their plan A need backups in steady fundamental gameplay as well, whether that means relying on a weapon, presenting above curve attacks, or simply creating a bunch of on-hit effects, the plan B supporting this game plan must be solid at the fundamentals and allow you the time necessary to set up your plan A.
All in all, we’ve covered a large chunk of recursion in FAB here today. Although it’s by no means fault free, it represents a way to get around the extremely tight resource curve in Flesh and Blood game, and consequently it will become an extremely important piece of certain heroes moving forward.