Recently, we’ve seen a number of strategies in Flesh and Blood focused on setting up key kill turns or maneuvering towards certain hands for a specific game state. From one turn kill (OTK) Viserai decks looking to stall and stack up 30 or more Runechant tokens to Wizard in Blitz setting up a final combo turn.
Over this last weekend, a $2k online Classic Constructed event was taken out by a Rhinar deck piloted by Dan McKay that looked to set up large Intimidate turns with Bloodrush Bellows and Mandible Claws. Since in Flesh and Blood you can easily get back through your deck, often more than once in all formats, setting up these “big turns” is not only realistic, but can be relied upon as being a consistent game plan when done with the right deck shell and strategy.
A lot more has been said about setting big turns in Flesh and Blood since Crucible of War’s release and I think there are two key reasons for this.
First, Crucible brought with it a host of great cards for many classes that enables these setup turns to be possible. Cards like Mandible Claw and Beast Within for Brute, Towering Titan in Guardian, Bloodsheath Skeleta and Rattle Bones for Runeblade, Metacarpus Node for Wizard and Plasma Purifier for Mechanologist all help with setup. These cards, in combination with other existing cards from the first two sets, allow classes to build these decks focused around either crafting one big turn or setting up multiple large turns that force damage through.
Second, Flesh and Blood has released now across many regions in the world and has been out for almost 17 months. Players are experimenting, learning more about this game’s depth and the opportunities within to leverage the synergies of a number of cards. New ways are being discovered to attack weaknesses of the early top decks that valued consistent damage turn after turn in order to whittle down opponents on each turn cycle. The cards required for these decks that incorporate some form of setup turns do exist already.
Has every class got an option for these big turn orientated decks? Maybe. Are they all viable competitive options right now? Probably not, but some certainly are and there’s some big damage to be dealt and game states to be setup to win the mid to late game!
So, more and more seems to be spoken about “setting up a big turn” or “setting up an end game,” but how exactly are these set up? Furthermore, how do you set them up without compromising the early to mid-game and surrounding turns on route to that pivotal turn X or turns X, Y, Z?
Pitching for the late game and setting up a big turn can be one and the same thing, but they aren’t mutually exclusive. At a base level, pitching for late game could simply mean ensuring you pitch to set up turns once you get back through your deck avoiding drawing all blues or a hand full of reds. This allows you to guarantee your late game still has some gas and resources to keep pumping out turns of pressure while an opponent might be now only into their resource cards.
You might even pitch specific cards you want to see later on because of how they’ll line up with your opponent and enable your late game strategy in the matchup. Take Singing Steelblade in Warrior, for instance. You might pitch this early and look to line it up late game when your opponent is out of, or low on, defense reactions.
Taking it a step further, one way of setting up a big turn can come from pitching your cards in a certain way and order. Make a conscious effort to set up a sequence of cards on the bottom of your deck that you’ll then draw into to execute a planned turn as you get to the late game.
An example of this setup can be seen in Blitz, with Wizard decks able to pitch four blue cards followed by a combination of Forked Lightning, Blazing Aether and Stir the Aetherwinds. Once the Wizard player gets back to those four blues in hand and two Energy Potions in play, they can then activate Kano’s ability to flip those three cards off the top and play them. There are many other big turns that different classes and heroes can set on the bottom of the deck to enact big late games. However, it doesn’t have to all be meticulous setups with exact cards.
Pitching for late game could simply mean ensuring you pitch a couple of key cards for a big turn and fill out the rest of the hand with interchangeable pieces that come up.
Take for example Rhinar in Classic Constructed. Early game, you can easily pitch a Bloodrush Bellow for the late game and, around it, some number of six-cost attacks like your Wrecker Romp (Blue), Riled Up (Yellow) and drop a Beast Within, Savage Feast (Red) or Massacre around it to help with executing your big Bellows turn. This is a much looser setup then with Wizard, but still revolves around pitching to set up that key endgame turn you’re looking for.
Expanding on the Brute example, your pitch setup could really be as simple as knowing you want to have Reckless Swing late game to deal those last two points of damage. Pitch Reckless, pitch a six attack value attack action and bake for 15 turns.
Another key concept in setting up is utilizing the Arsenal and playing for specific hands.
Big setup turns involving a number of cards working together to set in motion a big turn don’t all need to be driven by pitch and deck order setup. Another key way these big turns can be set up is by playing for a specific four or five card hands. The key to getting these turns together without setting the deck order is by utilizing your Arsenal.
Take, for example, Dash midrange decks with the High Octane and Tome of Fyendal package. These decks can guarantee scary, significant damage High Octane turns by setting either Tome or High Octane in Arsenal when drawn and simply waiting to draw the other piece. As long as they have a card with boost in hand when they get either Tome or Octane, they can very easily set the big turn in motion with a five card hand like this one below:
Outside of your two “combo” pieces, these cards are all fairly interchangeable as long as there’s a boost card to give you the additional action to play Tome of Fyendal after playing High Octane, drawing two cards to continue the turn. Setting up this turn is all done with the flexibility of the Arsenal to hold that card, awaiting its accompanying four cards in hand.
You can even do this with the earlier Rhinar and Bloodrush Bellow example. Bellow is drawn and set in Arsenal, and when a hand comes up with a combination of cards that can guarantee a significant damage turn with the Bellows, you’re off to the races. The below examples would all constitute good four card hands that can easily enable that setup Bellows in arsenal to be justifiably played.
Of course, not every deck can set up big turns simply by Arsenaling the key card that enable that marquee turn, waiting for the right four accompanying cards. Many can though and the key is that you can’t just settle for any old four cards to join your setup – you need to know what combination of four cards is right for your plan. Other decks might need to utilize the pitch setup to get these if they have very specific requirements or very few replaceable cards, like Wizard in a one turn kill combo.
If you’re looking to set up big turns, keep in mind if you’re overcommitting to setups and how to strike the balance.
Having an end goal in mind, such as crafting a turn that’ll break the game wide open for you either by utilizing your pitch and deck order or via Arsenal setup, is going to see you winning a lot of close games you otherwise might be on the wrong end of. However, there’s opportunity for your opponent to counter these setups and strategies, and if you blindly commit to them no matter what, you can easily end up worse off.
One way in which this can happen is with your pitch order. If you’re focused on getting a combination of resource cards mixed with good red “gas” for the late game to the bottom of your deck, it mustn’t come at the expense of pushing damage or applying pressure in the early to midgame. If you consistently make your early turns weaker to enable better late game turns, the pressure on your opponent will be limited and they might either kill you before you get to your setup state or they may simply be too far ahead for it to matter.
Pitching cards like Warrior’s Valor (Red), Singing Steelblade and Steelblade Supremacy for the late game can be a potent setup. However, some number of these cards are going to be required early on to force through damage or take cards out from the opponent’s hand.
One other pitfall can be overcommitting to your setup plan and having the payoff really not be worth the cost you paid for it.
Let’s take the earlier example of the Bloodrush Bellow Arsenal setup play. With Bellow all setup in Arsenal, two turns later you draw into a hand that has a combination of four cards that you want and will allow for a big Bloodrush into Mandible Claw plus attack action turn. On your opponent’s turn, before you get the chance to unleash our five cards, they play Warrior’s Valor (Red) plus Steelblade Supremacy in an attack for eight, threatening go again and drawing a card.
The Warrior player could easily push over 20 damage and win a counter on Dawnblade here if you’re completely tunnel visioned on your big turn to come. The damage you take here and gain for your opponent could be massive, and if you aren’t killing them on you turn, it’s likely they’re actually going to win this turn cycle with their turn being more important long term than what you have set!
Often it’s just correct to abandon, or delay your setup in favor of stopping the opponent and reassessing for a future turn. In the example above, you could easily find another strong four cards to pair with the Bellow for a turn where the opponent is dealing/threatening significantly less.
In Flesh and Blood, setting up big turns to swing the tempo of the game, push damage, win turn cycles or finish off an opponent is really in the core of the game’s design. You can see this illustrated with just a short glance at cards like High Octane, Bloodrush Bellow, Ninth Blade of the Blood Oath, Blazing Aether and the list goes on. I hope that my breakdown of ways to utilize these kinds of cards and setup the turns in game are helpful. Finally, just to recap the key fundamentals of setting up turns in Flesh and Blood…
- Pitch and set deck order to guarantee certain draws and combinations of cards in the late game.
- Utilize the Arsenal through the game for key cards that are the backbone to your setup turns, and wait for the right four cards (advisable for decks where pieces are interchangeable rather than specific).
- Don’t sacrifice your entire early game just to setup for certain turns and/or the late game.
- Know when to abandon, delay or reimagine the plan.