Bravo continues to place well in the Road to Nationals season, marking Guardian’s place as one of the top four “meta” heroes consistently putting up results across the world. As a defensive class able to weather out an immense storm of offensive pressure, Guardian finds a natural home in the hands of control players in Flesh and Blood.
As the Road to Nationals meta has evolved, so to has the “standard” build for Guardian. Over the past two months, Guardian players all over the world have shifted the strategy of the deck to improve their matchups against Prism, Chane and Katsu. This article will explore some of those changes, as well as discuss some of the cards that have found a home within the winning Guardian decks all over the world.
1 Bravo, Showstopper 1 Anothos 1 Arcanite Skullcap 1 Crater Fist 1 Mage Master Boots 1 Nullrune Boots 1 Tectonic Plating 1 Time Skippers 3 Crippling Crush 3 Fate Foreseen (Red) 3 Pummel (Red) 3 Sigil of Solace (Red) 3 Sink Below (Red) 3 Spinal Crush 3 Zealous Belting (Red) 3 Disable (Yellow) 1 Remembrance 3 Righteous Cleansing 1 Tome of Fyendal 3 Blessing of Deliverance (Blue) 3 Buckling Blow (Blue) 3 Chokeslam (Blue) 3 Cranial Crush 3 Crush the Weak (Blue) 3 Debilitate (Blue) 3 Disable (Blue) 3 Pummel (Blue) 3 Rouse the Ancients 3 Show Time! 2 Snag 3 Stamp Authority 3 Staunch Response (Blue) 3 Towering Titan (Blue) 3 Unmovable (Blue)
Since May, I have continually tested and redesigned my Guardian list for the emerging meta. Special shoutout to Mark C. for using my deck list to take first place in Colorado at Dungeons & Jawa’s Road to Nationals event and validating the shifts in my deckbuilding to better tackle the emerging meta – despite the fact that I could not attend a single Road to Nationals event of my own for personal and professional reasons.
So where does the Road to Nationals season leave us ahead of the much anticipated Tales of Aria release? Well, Bravo is in a great place. The more proactive approach in many matchups, and the ability to pivot to more of a midrange deck has positioned Bravo as one of the best meta choices in Classic Constructed. Current iterations of Bravo do not have a single terrible matchup in the current meta – one of Bravo’s greatest strengths at the moment.
The resource curve or pitch ratio has shifted more aggressively with all these meta changes. Instead of looking to thin the deck throughout the match and swinging for six up until the critical pivot turn of chaining two massive attacks, the deck looks to launch more proactive pressure throughout the game while holding up defensive tooling when there are breaks in the pressure output.
Zealous Belting (Red) is perhaps here to stay for the long haul. This card has been an absolute powerhouse in many matchups in enabling a more proactive strategy in Classic Constructed. All that’s required to fire off this pressuring attack is a six-power attack action card. The go again gives an avenue to pair either an aura or a swing of Anothos on the tail end of this attack. In my own testing, this card was one of the best tools against Prism for creating pressure on those opposing Spectral Shields, while still being able to deal with those pesky auras. Naturally, this makes a wonderful Pummel target as the attack cost is so low.
Speaking of Prism, many Guardian players are also running three copies of Disable (Yellow) to have additional yellow strip pitch cards to deal with Great Library of Solana, a card that can be game-ending if played early by the Prism player and left unchecked. Look to hold a yellow card and aggressively use Show Time! To find another yellow if you don’t draw into one first.
Sigil of Solace (Red) provides invaluable life-gain in a pinch. This has been especially useful in the late game against Chane when Bravo needs to pivot to a defensive strategy as the Chane player burns through the remainder of their deck and (hopefully) does to their own blood debt, fueled by the guaranteed damage from their banished Carrion Husk.
With all the decks running Command and Conquer (C&C), Sigil of Solace (Red) can be used to bait out an early C&C, making the opponent think it’s a Crippling Crush. Because Sigil isn’t a defense reaction, it can be played at instant speed during the combat interaction.
Of course, this card has taken the slot of Blessing of Deliverance (Red), which provides more utility outside of the life gain. It is one of the best tools to enable an empowered Anothos swing, and create lasting value going into the next turn. The need for more proactive life gain has caused this shift, but don’t be surprised if Guardian players look for ways to reincorporate this card back into the deck as the meta continues to evolve.
Righteous Cleansing provides additional pressure and a relevant, on-hit crush effect that can disrupt your opponent and banish valuable cards. The information gained from knowing exactly what will be in your opponent’s hand in two turns cannot be overlooked.
Tome of Fyendal and Mage Master Boots has become a better choice over simply running Ironrot Legs for one point of defense. When the simple combo is pulled off from Arsenal, you can gain extra life and potentially have a huge turn with the extra cards in hand. Against Chane, look to end a go again turn with Tome from Arsenal to gain some life and reload the Arsenal slot.
If you come from Magic: the Gathering, it feels like that uncomfortable lull in the meta where Dredge has fallen out of favor so many decks become comfortable running less graveyard hate in the sideboard, only for Dredge to return with a vengeance. In the current Flesh and Blood meta, less and less players are committing valuable slots in their deckbuilding to include extra copies of Arcane Barrier. Kano (or perhaps the rumored Wizard from Tales of Aria) will be primed to take advantage of this vulnerability in many decks/strategies.
I’ll admit, I have been one of the more conservative Guardian players when it came to cutting extra Nullrune equipment in favor of more sideboard cards, but I too have moved from four pieces of Nullrune gear to just one. It would be scary to go up against a skilled Kano player with such a streamlined set of equipment, but the current benefits against some of the tougher matches in the format so far outweighs the risks of facing down a Wizard on the other side of the table. Will all of that change with Tales of Aria? It’s still very early in spoiler season, so we will see.
Here’s to hoping we get some exciting new cards for Guardian with Tales of Aria – Bravo’s home region of the world of Rathe. Until then, I look forward to watching the last of Road to Nationals season and seeing how other Guardian players are building Bravo to tackle their local meta.