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State of the Flesh and Blood Meta After the Briar Nerf

What was supposed to be my first article detailing an in-depth Briar guide was quickly upended by the sudden ban/errata announcement by LSS. Some may be surprised by this, but I’m glad the Briar menace was knocked down a peg. To quote James White, “Briar has clearly been the best deck in Classic Constructed since her release, winning 63 percent of the Living Legends points from the National Champs season alone!”

Let me state unequivocally, and for the record, that I am happy a change was made to Briar. It was clear that a nerf of some sort was needed to reign in the elemental queen’s dominance over the metagame. However, I do think the ban of Plunder Run was a bit of an overkill and may have unintended consequences on lower tier aggro decks and other decks still to come. 

I know some of my fellow Briar players may feel disheartened by the news but allow me to share some wisdom I have procured over the years of traversing B&R announcements across multiple Trading Card Games. All Trading Card Games have two things in common:

  1. They’ve all had dominant decks that have defined metagames that were ultimately knocked down to size by the ban hammer.
  2. There will always be another dominant deck. Period. Fullstop.

That’s why, at this point, I think it’s kind of a cliché whenever someone immediately rejoices about a change to a top tier deck they don’t like. Because although these moments are exciting, they are also fleeting, and before long something else will emerge as the clear Tier 1 deck. Therein lies the golden question: what is the next best deck? Obviously, this question is impossible to answer with Everfest on the horizon and will soon become more clear as the spoiler season rolls out, but there is value in understanding where the metagame is, so that we may make more informed decisions on where the tools Everfest brings will take us. 

 

 

Header - The Winners

Let’s start with which decks got better and stand to gain the most with the recent bans and erratas. 

  • Prism, Sculptor of Arc Light
  • Bravo, Showstopper
  • Viserai, Rune Blood

Prism, Sculptor of Arc Light

Prism, Sculptor of Arc Light (Regular)

After Chane got the ban (nerf?) hammer, the community at large felt that Prism was poised to dominate the metagame. After all, it had just won the Vegas calling under the play of Tyler Horspool, followed by a win at the first ProQuest of the season in the hands of Jack McHalffey.

However, the winning streak was not meant to continue, as the prevalence of Briar grew and people quickly learnt that Briar was one of Prism’s less favorable matchups. Now that Briar has taken an exit from the main stage, I will definitely be picking up my copies Herald of Erudition and Vestige of Sol!

 

Prism by Jack McHalffey - The Calling Dallas ProQuest

Hero / Weapon / Equipment
1 x Dream Weavers
1 x Halo of Illumination
1 x Luminaris
1 x Nullrune Gloves
1 x Phantasmal Footsteps
1 x Vestige of Sol
Pitch 1
3 x Blinding Beam (1)
1 x Command and Conquer (1)
3 x Fate Foreseen (1)
3 x Herald of Protection (1)
3 x Herald of Triumph (1)
3 x Phantasmaclasm (1)
3 x Prismatic Shield (1)
3 x Sink Below (1)
3 x Wartune Herald (1)
Pitch 2
3 x Celestial Cataclysm (2)
3 x Genesis (2)
3 x Herald of Erudition (2)
3 x Herald of Protection (2)
3 x Herald of Triumph (2)
3 x Merciful Retribution (2)
3 x Ode to Wrath (2)
1 x Pummel (2)
3 x Soul Shield (2)
3 x Tome of Divinity (2)
2 x Unmovable (2)
3 x Wartune Herald (2)
Pitch 3
3 x Herald of Protection (3)
3 x Herald of Ravages (3)
3 x Herald of Rebirth (3)
3 x Herald of Triumph (3)
3 x Wartune Herald (3)
Others
1 x Great Library of Solana

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Bravo, Showstopper

Bravo, Showstopper (Regular)

Up next is the star of the Everfest carnival himself, Bravo, Showstopper. Like Prism, Bravo was slated to be one of the metagame’s next top tier heroes, which never quite came to realization thanks to the pesky elemental queen. Taking runner up in the Dallas ProQuest, piloted by Jasiel Diez, the hero was poised for a big season. Unfortunately the Showstopper became second to old man Oldhim, as the Frostbite tokens and inherent defense reactions proved to be the tipping point in the Guardian vs Briar matchup. With Briar now out of the spotlight, and the metagame settling into more of a midrange setup, it’s time for the more aggressive Guardian to once again claim the spotlight in the main show.

 

Bravo by Jasiel Diez - Calling Dallas ProQuest

Hero / Weapon / Equipment
1 x Anothos
1 x Arcanite Skullcap
1 x Crater Fist
1 x Mage Master Boots
1 x Nullrune Boots
1 x Nullrune Hood
1 x Tectonic Plating
Pitch 1
3 x Crippling Crush (1)
3 x Fate Foreseen (1)
1 x Mangle (1)
3 x Pummel (1)
3 x Sigil of Solace (1)
3 x Sink Below (1)
3 x Spinal Crush (1)
3 x Zealous Belting (1)
Pitch 2
3 x Disable (2)
2 x Lead the Charge (2)
1 x Remembrance (2)
3 x Righteous Cleansing (2)
1 x Tome of Fyendal (2)
Pitch 3
3 x Buckling Blow (3)
3 x Cartilage Crush (3)
3 x Chokeslam (3)
3 x Cranial Crush (3)
3 x Crush Confidence (3)
3 x Crush the Weak (3)
3 x Debilitate (3)
3 x Disable (3)
3 x Pummel (3)
3 x Rouse the Ancients (3)
2 x Show Time! (3)
3 x Staunch Response (3)
3 x Tear Asunder (3)
3 x Unmovable (3)

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Viserai, Rune Blood

Viserai, Rune Blood (Regular)

With two-thirds of the Runeblade heroes already receiving significant nerfs, it’s time for the original Runeblade hero to step up to the plate. Bloodsheath Skeleta and Sonata Arcanix remains the best two-card combo in Flesh and Blood. The combo was so good that the world’s number one player and fellow colleague Matt Rogers recently piloted it to a Top 4 finish at the Orlando Calling, where he narrowly lost to runner up Joel Repta playing the soon-to-be-banned Lightning Briar. If the world’s number one player thought enough about the deck to pilot it against a room full of broken Briars, the future is looking pretty peachy for Viserai post-ban. It only gets better for Viserai as one of the new spoilers for the upcoming Everfest set, This Round’s on Me, slots perfectly into Viserai as it plays perfectly into his defensive style while also acting as Gorganian Tome copy two to four, arguably one of the best ways to start off a turn for Viserai. 

 

Viserai by Matt Rogers - The Calling Orlando

Hero / Weapon / Equipment
1 x Arcanite Skullcap
1 x Bloodsheath Skeleta
1 x Crown of Dichotomy
1 x Grasp of the Arknight
1 x Reaping Blade
1 x Rosetta Thorn
1 x Spellbound Creepers
Pitch 1
3 x Amplify the Arknight (1)
2 x Command and Conquer (1)
3 x Enlightened Strike (1)
3 x Meat and Greet (1)
3 x Mordred Tide (1)
3 x Rattle Bones (1)
3 x Read the Runes (1)
3 x Reduce to Runechant (1)
3 x Rune Flash (1)
3 x Sigil of Suffering (1)
3 x Sink Below (1)
3 x Sonata Arcanix (1)
3 x Spellblade Assault (1)
Pitch 2
3 x Mauvrion Skies (2)
3 x Ninth Blade of the Blood Oath (2)
3 x Read the Runes (2)
3 x Runeblood Barrier (2)
Pitch 3
3 x Amplify the Arknight (3)
3 x Become the Arknight (3)
3 x Dread Triptych (3)
3 x Mauvrion Skies (3)
3 x Oath of the Arknight (3)
3 x Spellblade Assault (3)
1 x Vexing Malice (3)
3 x Whisper of the Oracle (3)
Others
1 x Gorganian Tome

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Header - The Losers

What decks got worse?

  • Azelia
  • Lexi
  • Katsu
  • Chane
  • Oldhim
  • Briar

Ranger – Azalea / Lexi

Azalea, Ace in the Hole (Regular)Lexi, Livewire // Rosetta Thorn (Regular)

Poor Ranger players can’t catch a break. Just when it looked like Ranger was playable with several different configurations of Lexi, they get knocked down a peg from the collateral damage of the most recent bans. I myself think Ranger is an extremely interesting archetype but has some fundamental issues that are currently not overcome by the current available card pool. I hope future sets bring more Ranger support and that when briar one day becomes a living legend, Ball Lightning and Plunder Run can become available for Lexi and Azalea players to once more enjoy.

Katsu

Katsu, the Wanderer (Regular)

Katsu has fallen from its glory days when various aggro/control versions wreaked havoc on the format. I myself was interested in exploring the depths of aggro Katsu once Briar met her inevitable fate. However, a large part of Katsu’s power lies within the good Plunder Run turns, and I’m afraid that the collateral damage may be too much for the Ninja to rise to reclaim a Tier 1 status in the foreseeable future. 

Chane

Chane, Bound by Shadow // Chane (Regular)

Thanks to Spellbound Creepers, Chane utilized Plunder Run the best out of any current deck, including Briar. A ban on Plunder Run is yet another blow to the powerful Shadow Runeblade. However, this isn’t the last time we will see Chane; expect them to solidly adapt and utilize any new cards headed their way. As sick of it as you may be, you have not seen the last Soul Shackle.

Oldhim

Oldhim, Grandfather of Eternity // Shiver (Regular)

Oldhim may be a surprising hero to see on this list, but I promise it makes sense the longer you think about it. With the banning of Plunder Run, aggro decks as a whole took a substantial hit. As touched on above when discussing Bravo, take away the ability of a format to output a hyper aggressive deck and you take away the need for a hyper defensive deck to exist. While Oldhim will still be a viable hero moving forward, competitive players have to answer the difficult question about whether giving up a solid mid range tool box in Bravo, is worth the extra defensive capabilities of Oldhim as the format moves away from hyper aggressive decks. 

Where Does This Leave Briar Moving Forward? 

Briar, Warden of Thorns // Titan's Fist (Regular)

Short answer… I don’t know. 

Do I think Briar is still tier 1? Maybe, but it will require some help from Everfest. 

Do I think Briar is unplayable? No 

The most obvious direction moving forward is a swing away from the Lightning builds and further towards the heroic version. Christian Hauck, winner of German Nationals, gives us a good blueprint to work from. 

 

Briar by Christian Hauck - Germany Nationals
Hero / Weapon / Equipment
1 x Aether Ironweave
1 x Arcanite Skullcap
1 x Bloodsheath Skeleta
1 x Grasp of the Arknight
1 x Rosetta Thorn
1 x Shock Charmers
1 x Snapdragon Scalers
Pitch 1
2 x Arcanic Shockwave (1)
3 x Ball Lightning (1)
2 x Bramble Spark (1)
3 x Channel Mount Heroic (1)
3 x Coax a Commotion (1)
3 x Command and Conquer (1)
3 x Enlightened Strike (1)
3 x Entwine Lightning (1)
3 x Exude Confidence (1)
3 x Lightning Surge (1)
3 x Plunder Run (1)
3 x Ravenous Rabble (1)
3 x Scar for a Scar (1)
3 x Sigil of Suffering (1)
3 x Snatch (1)
3 x Sonata Arcanix (1)
Pitch 2
3 x Ball Lightning (2)
2 x Evergreen (2)
2 x Plunder Run (2)
Pitch 3
2 x Autumn's Touch (3)
2 x Ball Lightning (3)
3 x Earthlore Surge (3)
3 x Force of Nature (3)
2 x Sting of Sorcery (3)
1 x Timesnap Potion (3)
3 x Tome of Harvests (3)
3 x Weave Earth (3)

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This deck already utilized only six copies of Plunder Run, while also being able to pose multidimensional threats without the need to exclusively rely on Ball Lightning and Sting of Sorcery, something the red line Lightning version lacked. 

My first take would look something like this:

 

New Briar by Tariq Patel

1 x Arcanite Skullcap
1 x Bloodsheath Skeleta
1 x Grasp of the Arknight
1 x Rosetta Thorn
1 x Shock Charmers
1 x Snapdragon Scalers
Pitch 0
1 Gorganian tome
Pitch 1
3 x Arcanic Shockwave (1)
3 x Bramble Spark (1)
3 x Channel Mount Heroic (1)
3 x Coax a Commotion (1)
3 x Command and Conquer (1)
3 x Electrify (1)
3 x Enlightened Strike (1)
3 x Entwine Lightning (1)
3 x Exude Confidence (1)
3 x Lightning Surge (1)
3 x Lightning Press
3 x Ravenous Rabble (1)
3 x Scar for a Scar (1)
2 x Seek Horizon (1)
3 x Sigil of Suffering (1)
3 x Snatch (1)
2 x Sonata Arcanix (1)
Pitch 2
2 x Evergreen (2)
3 x Lightning Press

Pitch 3
3 x Autumn's Touch (3)
3 x Earthlore Surge (3)
3 x Force of Nature (3)
3 x This Rounds On Me
3 x Tome of Harvests (3)
3 x Weave Earth (3)

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While the future metagame is uncertain, it’s an exciting time to be playing Flesh and Blood and I can’t wait to see where Everfest takes us! Anyways, that’s all for today. Please feel free to leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions and suggestions in the comments. You can also feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @TariqPatel10.

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