If you, like myself, have played other Trading Card Games over your gaming lifetime, you’ll more than likely be familiar with the best-of-three games structure of matches. From Magic: the Gathering to Pokémon, the best of three format is very common for casual and competitive play. If you’re a past or present Magic player, you’ll also be familiar with the concept of the sideboard, sometimes called the side deck in some other TCG’s. The idea is that this additional set of cards to be used for tweaking your deck between those best-of-three games to take out and put in cards that might help your specific match up or alter the way your deck plays. Flesh and Blood, however, breaks the traditional best-of-three and sideboard formats that many of us are used too. It’s for that reason a different approach is required to preparing for a game of FAB.
A match in Flesh in Blood is best-of-one, with the focus squarely on setting your deck up appropriately for the match prior to the commencement of a best of one game. Think of it like gearing up for the battle. It’s a unique prospect, preparing for a match with almost no information other than knowing the opposing hero. It can be a hard and sometimes daunting task, but one that tests the strategic mind of both players. The pre-game procedure, as it’s called in Flesh and Blood, starts with both players revealing their heroes. From there, each player chooses the weapon or weapons to play, the equipment and the final deck to present.
In Classic Constructed, you have 80 cards, made up of your weapon or weapons, equipment options and main deck cards. No set sideboard as such as it’s best-of-one. However, from those available 80 cards, you’ll be able to leave a handful of cards out of any given match up, in what can be referred to as pre-boarding or setting up the deck. At the end of the pre-game procedure in Classic Constructed, you must present a 60 card minimum deck. One way you might approach it is having a 60 card deck plus 20 additional cards to utilize for the weapon slots and equipment load out plus other deck cards that come in for certain match ups. Use those spots to have three weapons to choose from, two head equipment or simply keep it lean and have 75 cards to work with for the main deck plus one weapon and the standard four equipment. How you configure your armory loadout is your choice!
For Blitz, in contrast to Classic, you’ll have a set 40 card deck, but you have 11 equipment and weapon slots to select from. With the pre-game procedure, there’s always room to make decisions that have some influence on the outcome of the match, even before the game has begun.
Setting Up for Success in the Pre-Game Procedure
As I see it, there are three key steps players should move through when preparing their deck in the pre-game procedure. All of these ensure you will be in the best position to get the right deck configuration and loadout to set yourself up with the best chance to take out the match.
- Know your strategy and identify your opponent’s strategy. Firstly, know how you want to play your deck through the course of the game to navigate to victory. What’s the game plan? You should also be assessing the hero your opponent is playing and decide upon the most likely strategy they will employ for the game.
- Does your strategy need to be adjusted or changed? Decide upon your role in the game and that of your opponents. You might need to change up your game plan or strategy if it doesn’t line up well with what you believe your opponent plans on doing.
- Utilize your full suite of cards and setup to support your game plan. Make the required changes to your deck to ensure you have the right cards to execute the strategy, whether that be the original or adapted game plan. If it’s Blitz, make sure the armor loadout fits the plan. If it’s Classic Constructed, ensure you have the right cards in the final deck you present to the opponent for the cut before turn one.
These three steps are the core of how, as a Flesh and Blood player, you should be going about setting up decks, weapons and armory loadouts in the pre-game procedure. It can be boiled down to understanding, adapting and enacting. From there, it’s game time and if there is a fairly clear game plan for you to follow in the given match up, then you have a blueprint to stick to. It won’t always be a hard and fast set of rules like “block these cards and only attack with cards X and Y,” but generally you’ll have an idea like “remove all the defensive cards and be the aggressor, only block the opponents attacks that can cause significant damage or when my hand is weak on offense.”
Simple right? The term “easier said than done” might apply here. Exactly what you should be doing during these three steps can take some repetition and practice to get a good handle on. There is certainly a bit more too it, so let’s dive in.
Step One: Your Strategy and the Opponent’s Strategy
In Flesh and Blood, like many other TCGs, a great place to start is to identify the role both players in any given match up will fit into. For example, it could be the aggressor role and the control role. It might sound a bit simplistic, and it’s true that linear roles don’t fit perfectly in Flesh and Blood, but starting simple, especially if you’re just starting out in Flesh and Blood or learning a new hero/deck, is an advisable approach. You should have a general strategy or role in mind, a way you want to play games of Flesh and Blood with your deck.
For example, playing a Warrior deck, your plan could be to play as the aggressor, staying mostly on the offensive to keep tempo and force the opponent into poor defensive situations. You have your strategy down, but how about what your opponent wants to be doing? Perhaps your opponent is on playing a Bravo, Showstopper deck in Classic Constructed and they’re focused on taking the control role. Their game plan might be to utilize cards primarily on defense to preserve their life and wait for you to burn through your red line cards, get to the late game and then use big attack action cards like Crippling Crush to breakthrough and swing the tempo of the game before finishing it off. You won’t always know exactly what your opponent wants to do, but you can take a pretty good guess based on what you know the hero does well. You’ll get a better feel for how each hero plays as you get more and more games of Flesh and Blood under your belt, but knowing how the opposing player wants to play the game is going to help you work out how to beat them!
Step Two: Adjusting Strategies and Adapting Game Plans
So, you know your strategy and you have an idea of how the opponent will play, but what about when your core game plan just won’t line up favorably with what the opponent wants to be doing? What if they already have the upper hand against your strategy by default? The next step in your pre-game procedure thinking should be how to adapt to strategies. Not just identifying, but understanding what the opponent wants to be doing and make the necessary changes on your end.
Let’s take the earlier example of Dorinthea, Ironsong versus Bravo, Showstopper. Based on the aggressive game plan out of the Warrior deck, there’s a very distinct possibility of having a difficult time winning a game. Simply running all the powerful red line actions and reactions straight into the Bravo’s Stone Wall of defenses will very likely not benefit you. Taking turn after turn playing cards such as Warrior’s Valor (Red), Singing Steelblade, Spoils of War and Sharpen Steel (Red), big Bravo comfortably throws their unimportant, redundant blue cards and defense reactions like Staunch Response (Yellow) and Unmovable (Blue) in the way, ready for the Warrior deck to run out of steam. The window then opens for some dominated whacks by the Showstopper!
This is when it’s time to adjust the strategy, identify and adapt. The way to win this match could be to swap gears, pull back the aggression as the Warrior and make sure the pressure can be spread out to maintain some gas in the deck for when the opponent is gearing up for their late game tempo swing with cards like Spinal Crush and Disable (Red). As the Warrior player, having identified the plan of the Bravo player, you would know generally how they want to play this match out over a longer game. By adapting, you won’t allow them an easy run, instead flipping the plan to draw out all or most of Bravo’s defense reactions, pitching enough red cards early so that when they cycle back through you still have pressure to apply. This isn’t the stock plan of aggression, but rather a plan to play a battle of attrition. This example of Warrior and Guardian is just one match up; every deck and hero can go through this process. It just takes some practice and recognition.
Step Three: Setting Up Your Deck to Execute the Game Plan
Now that you have a set game plan, be it the stock plan you came in with or an adjusted strategy for the opposing hero. The game before the game is well underway! It’s time to arm yourself to execute this game plan, getting the right combination of equipment and weapon based on what you have available and the right deck configuration to shuffle up.
What would this look like with the Warrior example? Setting up to support the amended plan, firstly you’ll assume the only weapon is Dawnblade in the 80 cards. Equipment wise, let’s say there is just one option for Arms, Legs and Chest slots but that there are two options for the Head slot in Ironrot Helm and Hope Merchant’s Hood. Hope Merchant’s Hood means shuffling the deck at some point which can interfere with the game plan of pitching and spreading red cards throughout the deck for late game, while Ironrot can help block on a potentially crucial crush turn. In terms of which cards to play, the Warrior player has 74 cards to choose from. A wise choice could be to only omit three Eirina’s Prayer (Red) and to present 71 cards in order to help execute the amended game plan. Go long and fight through all the defense reactions by utilizing cards like Warrior’s Valor (Blue) early while saving Warrior’s Valor (Red) for later. Fatigue could be an issue here for the Warrior and every card is going to count with this strategy.
You’ve followed the pre-game procedure steps. You know your strategy and you have identified what you believe is the opponent’s plan, amending your own where necessary. You’ve set the equipment loadout up appropriately and kept or removed cards to help with the plan before presenting a minimum 60 cards ready to battle. This will all take place in the space of under five minutes. Pre-boarding and getting your deck right in the pre-game procedure isn’t, and shouldn’t be simple, but it’s an important part of the game which, when done right, can give a real edge.
I’ll leave this article off with two last general tips about the pre-game procedure that I think are important to keep in mind.
- Be ready for the pre-game procedure and the matchups you might face. Your deck should be setup in a way to deal with what could or might be sitting across the table from you. Use the 80 or 40 + 11 in Blitz wisely!
- Learn as you play and adapt your pre-game procedure with your learnings. If you try strategies that don’t work, that’s okay. Figure out what went wrong and go back to the drawing board. Maybe you need to change a few cards in the deck or perhaps swap out an underperforming piece of equipment.
Most of all, have fun playing your games and enjoy the challenge that’s, in essence a bit of a game before the game.