As in most TCGs, Flesh and Blood has clear main archetypes. These are aggro, control and set up (alternatively known as combo). Midrange is a combination of aggro and control and acts as a “best of both worlds” strategy. Knowing how these archetypes play out and interact is useful and necessary to win games. It’ll make it easier for you to identify what your opponent is trying to do and how to counteract their strategy and ultimately take the victory. Refer to the diagram below:
“Offense is the best defense” is the mantra of this archetype. By applying constant pressure, you’re able to strip cards from your opponent’s hand or inflict some serious damage. By stripping their cards, you’re effectively reducing their ability to hit you back.
The key component to this strategy is streamlined pressure combined with consistency. You want to be able to hit them hard turn after turn, because any room for movement can result in shifting of the tides in the tempo and you might find yourself on the defense. In general, aggressive decks are not good defensively. A lack of defense reactions and generally low defensive values on aggressive cards means if you’re blocking, you’re losing.
The best examples of aggressive decks can be a redline Azalea, Katsu, Dorinthea and boost Dash. You want to put on pressure constantly and win quickly.
In Flesh and Blood, control is all about negating your opponent’s threats. Each deck has a finite number of threats and a finite number of big, explosive turns. Control decks aim to negate those and either put pressure back once those threats are removed or to fatigue the opponent.
Fatigue is why control decks are often more interested in cards left in decks rather than life totals. Once you stop all of your opponent’s main threats, you’re unlikely to lose the game from loss of life, hence being on low life doesn’t matter. If they start drawing only blue pitch cards, you should be able to defend all damage and slowly chip away until they have nothing left.
Great examples of this strategy are Bravo, OTK Viserai and Dash control. These decks aim to stop all the opponent’s threats while slowly grinding them out with weapons or setting up that one lethal blow.
Set up decks are based around accumulating resources to one big turn and pushing through what your opponent can defend with the four cards they draw.
Potions are the iconic example of what set up decks are all about. By using cards like potions, you’re able to pass on the resource from one turn onto a future turn. This is a massive deal in a game where players draw up to their intellect, which is usually four cards. Being able to pull off a six or seven card hand means you can usually inflict a ton of damage in a single turn – significantly more than your standard four or five card hand.
Examples of set up decks are OTK Kano, Pistol Dash and Bravo.
So you know the main archetypes, but how does that help you win? Well, understanding these will help you identify the general plan of your opponent. You can use the cheat sheet below to shortcut the path to victory.
Control Beats Aggro
In general terms, control decks run many defensive options that stop aggro from achieving their goal. After a while, the control deck can simply wait until the aggro deck uses all remaining threats or wait for them to have a bad turn.
In general terms, defending is more efficient than attacking. The simplest example of this is looking at Razor Reflex (Red) compared to a Sink Below (Red). The offensive card costs one and gives three to defense, while the defensive equivalent costs zero and defends for four. An example can be an aggressive Azalea versus a staunch Bravo. Azalea might shoot a ton of pumped-up arrows, but the Bravo has many defensive tools, such as Staunch Response (Blue) and Stonewall Confidence, while the Anothos hits are powerful and don’t use up any cards from deck.
If you’re struggling to beat an aggressive deck, think of ways to improve your defenses. Play cards that block for three and try to minimize the cards that don’t block well. Remember to keep your life total high and negate their threats mindfully.
Set Up Beats Control
Set up cards have a major flaw – they don’t block. Good thing control decks play reactively, giving you plenty of time to drop those impactful set up cards without much punishment. While the control player is building up their defenses, you can slowly build up your resources for a one big turn. Energy Potions, Timesnap Potions, Induction Chambers, Runechants or Emerging Dominances are all examples of those set up cards that help you push over a defensive opponent.
Another way to play set up is to wait for that two-card combination that’ll help you overcome the defenses. Classic examples can be Surging Strike and Whelming Gustwave, Ironsong Determination and Steelblade Supremacy or Command and Conquer and Pummel. Arsenal is an amazing way of helping you set this up. Use it wisely.
Aggro Beats Set Up
As mentioned before, set up cards don’t block. Nothing more frustrating than trying to defend against a highly aggressive deck with a bunch if potions in hand. Aggro is extremely punishing for any deck that attempts to roll over resources from one turn to the next. This is why setting up is generally simply too slow to be a viable strategy against an aggro deck.
If you are waiting for that two card combination, you are often forced to block with one of the pieces, making the other redundant. Aggressive decks will often leave you with one or two cards in hand and it is often very hard to do anything with this for a deck thst relies on a critical mass of cards to have significant impact.
While these three general matchups are nice and straightforward, I’m going to throw a spanner in the works. That’s right, you can build a deck that’s aggro AND control. Welcome to midrange!
Midrange decks blur the lines between the three archetypes, often including elements of two or even three of them in one deck. You might have noticed I mentioned some decks multiple times in the above archetype examples. This is because they can be both!
For example, Midrange Rhinar can present explosive, aggressive damage, while also being able to go on the back foot, block well and chip away with Romping Club, controlling the pace of the game.
Although in general, when I refer to midrange, I talk about the blurred lines between aggro and control, and it’s important to be aware of the different archetype combinations. Why, might you ask? Because the archetype or playstyle can shift during the game. Control decks can have set up elements. Set up decks can put pressure and take an aggro route.
OTK Viserai is an example of a control deck that sets up a large amount of Runechants to win the game.
Dash Control is a control deck that sets up with Induction Chambers and other items to ultimately win the late game.
This is especially important in Classic Constructed, where you have extra cards to play around with depending on the matchup. Having cards that let you shift your core strategy is essential to making sure your deck can win a wide array of matchups.
For me, the most exciting thing about the game is that, in Flesh and Blood, you can shift your core strategy during the game. This is a very crucial aspect of the game and an important one to winning games. If you’re an aggro player and run into a heavy control player and they’re constantly neutralizing your threats, chances are you’ll lose that matchup and keep losing that matchup unless you shift your strategy.
Let’s imagine you’re an aggressive Katsu player. You’re facing a Runeblade and are still unsure how the opponent is going to play this one out. You included a few defense reactions in your deck and a couple of Energy Potions.
A few turns into the game, you notice your opponent is stacking Runechants, neutralizing your attacks with defense reactions and not attacking you back. Chances are, if you keep on running out your attacks as they come, you’ll play into your opponent’s strategy, barely dent their life and eventually get smacked with a wall of Runechants in one turn.
First, let’s identify your opponent’s strategy. They’re not attacking and defending a lot. This is a clear signal that it’s either a control or OTK Runeblade variant. The defense reactions are not useful for the early or mid game, so do not Arsenal those – they’ll get stuck there for the majority of the game.
Second, adjust your gameplay accordingly. What beats control? Set up. You can use those Energy Potions and set up a powerful turn of either a Surging Strike in Arsenal and wait for Whelming Gustwave (Red), or set up a huge Plunder Run (Red) turn. By leveraging those powerful cards together, you can overwhelm their defenses and push through some serious damage.
Another example is playing a classic Control Guardian. You’re facing a Kano player. You start off by slowly grinding them down with Sledge of Anvilheim swings, keeping cards to pitch and protect yourself. The opponent blocks most of the attacks and drops potions into play, while pitching blue pitch cards to activate Crucible of Aetherweave to the bottom. Then, you notice they are slowly pitching away cards like Stir the Aetherwinds and Forked Lightning. You realize that they’re setting up for late game and not pressuring you on their or your turn.
Time to adjust your strategy. What beats set up? Aggro. You can afford to loosen up your play and push through damage with dominated and undominated powerful attacks like Crippling Crush in the hopes it pressures their life total and gets rid of key cards from their hand. You might leave yourself vulnerable to getting Kano’d in response, but pressuring is much better than being a sitting duck and playing into their plan.
The best games in Flesh and Blood not only see players actively adjust their game plan during the game to gain an edge, but they showcase both players adjusting their game plans numerous times as their opponent does the same. I hope the archetype triangle can simplify the general strategies for you and give you an easy reference on how to counter them. Remember, it’s always better if your opponent is playing into your strategy than you playing into theirs.