The Art of “Not” – Holding Back in Monarch

Correctly evaluating your hand and making the right play is a key aspect of playing Flesh and Blood at a high level. Sometimes, not doing something is actually the best thing you can do on a given turn. Monarch has put even more of an emphasis on this, particularly with the blood debt mechanic, which can really punish you if you over extend too much while rewarding those are able to execute their plan at the perfect moment. In this article, I’ll mostly be focusing on the Limited format and some of the intricacies I’ve come across so far.



Header - Not Attacking

There are actually quite a few situations where attacking can actually be a detriment to your overall game plan. For example, on the first turn of that game, you give your opponent the opportunity to block with cards they do not necessarily want in their hand by attacking. This allows them to sculpt a better hand for their second turn as they’ll also draw up to four cards at the end of the turn. In some cases, simply passing and placing your best card in the Arsenal could be the best option.

Some of the classes, in particular Levia, have further constraints that require careful consideration before you decide to unleash the Bellows of Hell on your opponent.


Convulsions from the Bellows of Hell (Red)

Because many of the powerful Shadow Brute cards require you to banish three cards from your graveyard, often only triggering if it includes a card with 6-attack, you’ll quickly fill up your banished zone with a significant number of cards with blood debt. In many instances, these cards can’t be played from the banished zone and the only way to pay for these debts is by triggering Levia’s hero power – which requires you to banish more cards with six attack – and fills your graveyard with more blood debt cards, and so on and so on.

This can get you into trouble pretty quickly if you haven’t set up your graveyard well enough or positioned yourself in such a way that your opponent is forced to continue blocking, allowing you to continue pummeling them with attacks until you either kill them or die trying. In the context of the Monarch Limited format, this will often mean it’s correct to hold off on playing powerful cards that banish from your graveyard before you’re ready to keep going as once you start you can’t really stop.


Header - Not Using Activated Abilities

One of the biggest advantages Chane has is the ability to make additional action points with his hero ability, but Soul Shackles do have a real cost which needs to be taken into consideration in some matchups.


Soul Shackle

While aggressive decks will often look to go toe-to-toe with Chane, control decks will instead look to disrupt Chane’s game plan. They can simply wait as he struggles to play all of his banished cards and succumbs to an unpayable blood debt or eventually runs out of gas in the deck. Boltyn has a similar ability but quite different restrictions and considerations.


Take Flight (Red)

Charge is an incredibly easy but inefficient way of getting cards into your soul. While most of the charge cards deal decent damage on their own, the fact it costs you an entire card for not much gain to charge on the turn you play it can be a big detriment. To make the most out of this, you really need to make the most out of the extra action points you do have. This might mean saving a soul card for a bigger turn, even if it might be the most efficient play to attack with a weapon at the end of a chain. Speaking of not playing efficiently…


Header - Not Playing Efficiently

Setting up big turns has always been a key aspect of Flesh and Blood. Chane in particular takes this a step further as you not only plan around the cards in your hand, but the top of your deck also plays a big part later in the game after you’ve created a few soul shackles. Since they burn through your deck at a rapid rate, particularly in draft and sealed, pitching specific cards to use later can be very important to ensure you have enough gas in the deck to finish the game later.


Seeds of Agony (Red)

Excess red cards in your hand can be pitched first, allowing you to better set up the bottom of your deck even though you may not need to use the additional resources. On top of this, it may be beneficial to leave certain cards with blood debt in your banish zone to use later, especially in the early turns where you want to set up more damage on a subsequent turn or trigger cards that rely on arcane damage or non-attack actions to be played . Similar situations occur when playing Prism as well.


Spectral Shield

It may be tempting to use excess resources to create Spectral Shields at the end of your turn, but in some cases, particularly if you only have one card in your soul, this means you’re then forced to protect it on your turn before you get a chance to attack with it. While this might not seem like such a big deal, Prism tends to have far less go again or buff effects than many of the other classes, instead relying on Heralds to push through damage. In particular, getting a few extra points of damage in with a spectral shield against players stack with 6-attack cards can be the difference between winning and losing a game.


Header - Not Using the Arsenal

Effectively utilizing the Arsenal has always been key aspect of Flesh and Blood, but in this set in particular, the available options for this slot are much less appealing


Sink Below (Red)Fate Foreseen (Red)Rise Above (Red)

Sink Below (Red) and Fate Foreseen were very powerful in the previous Limited formats. While Rise Above from Monarch certainly has its place, it just doesn’t have the raw efficiency that either of the premium defense reactions in Arcane Rising or Welcome to Rathe had. On top of this, its also a rare, meaning there are generally just less defense reactions going around.

Sometimes, this will mean you’re faced with hands were you might be tempted to Arsenal a subpar blue card in the early game. More often than not though, this can be a big mistake. Once these cards are in there, the only way to get them out is to play them, which can mean taking a entire turn off. This can put you behind or mean you can’t put a high value card in the Arsenal to use on a later turn if needed. The second point is probably the most important because some cards just feel absolutely broken in this format if you play them on a five-card turn


Soul ReapingV of the Vanguard

These two cards from Monarch in particular offer so much more than anything else in the format but really shine when you’re able to set up four (or more in the case of Chane) cards to play with them. This often means playing as efficiently as possible and then Arsenaling it at the first opportunity.



This is just scratching the surface of what the Monarch Limited format can offer. Every time I play, I come across more lines and viable options for every deck. It’s far and away my favorite Limited format so far and I can’t wait to play with some of the best in the world this weekend at The Calling Auckland. Good luck to everyone attending – I’m sure I’ll see some of you there!


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