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The Art of the Block Part One — the Basics of Staying Alive

You’ve sat down at the table and shuffled up your deck. Your hero and weapon are at the ready. You’ve drawn your opening hand, and now it’s time to try and solve the game’s most important question…

How do I make my opponent dead?

It might surprise you to learn that the key to making your opponent more dead than you are is to learn how to manage your hands effectively while defending. But it’s true; Flesh and Blood is a game that is won and lost on how well you maximize the value of each and every one of your hands. The most common time you’ll have to make that decision is when your opponent comes charging at you with big knife and you have to work out how to duck out of the way!

Working out how to optimize your hands is essential for all aspects of the game. Sometimes blocking with one too few or one too many cards can have huge implications for your next turn. Today’s article is all about understanding what you should be thinking about when your foes come swinging at you.

Opportunity Cost and Maximum Efficiency

Unlike many games, Flesh and Blood gives you a constant flow of cards to make use of. Effective management of your hand usually involves finding a purpose and place for every card in it during each “cycle” (your opponent’s turn followed by your turn). Whether it’s pitching, defending, attacking, or storing it in your arsenal, your best bet is to find some way to make use of a card.

The reason for this is simple: every card you don’t use is a card that you don’t draw. And every card you don’t draw is a missed opportunity.

Take the following example:

Bravo comes at Rhinar with his trusty hammer Anothos (6 attack). Rhinar chooses to defend with one card from his hand for 3 defense, taking three damage. This leaves him with three cards in his hand for next turn.

On Rhinar’s next turn, he pitches one of his cards in order to swing in with his Romping Club for 4. Bravo defends with one card from his hand for 3 defense, taking one damage. Rhinar selects one of his two cards in hand to place into his arsenal, then draws three more cards, refilling his hand.

What was the problem in the above scenario?

Quite simply, Rhinar had an extra card in his hand that he could have defended with, and chose not to. Had he chosen to do defend with his card, he could have saved himself some extra damage, and he still would have drawn a replacement for it. There wasn’t any real reason for him not to defend there; he didn’t need the extra card to pay for costs or to attack with, and he had another card that he could have stored in his arsenal. It was, quite simply, a wasted card, and he received a deserved bonk on his head for that move.

Outside of some rare matchups, a player needn’t worry too much about burning through all of the cards in their deck, so there really is no real cost to your cards being discarded. Use your cards wisely, and use them often.

Offense: A Great Defense

One thing to remember about Flesh and Blood is that, outside of the very first turn of the game, players only refresh their hands at the end of their turns; as such, any cards that they discard to defend with means fewer cards that they’re able to attack with. Accordingly, the more pressure you can put on your opponent to defend, the less pressure they’ll be able to throw back at you or the more life they’ll have to give up in order to do so.

Take the following example over a series of four turns:

Bravo has just sent his ultimate move, Crippling Crush (11 attack), at poor Rhinar. Bravo had to pitch his whole hand in order to do that (so three cards total plus the Crippling Crush, for a total of four cards). Rhinar has a choice; he could defend with three cards (a total of 9 defense) or four cards (a total of 12 defense).

If he blocks with three cards, he’ll take two damage, but he’ll be able to swing back with his Romping Club (4 attack). If he defends with his whole hand, he’ll take no damage, but he’ll simply have to pass his next turn, allowing Bravo another full hand to devastate him with.

Rhinar decides he wants to fight back, and takes the two damage to the chin. He then swings back with his Romping Club (4 attack). Bravo defends with one card (3 defense), taking one damage.

Cycle Summary: One damage to Bravo, two damage to Rhinar. Bravo is on a three-card hand.

In the above exchange, Rhinar managed to make it so that Bravo’s hand for his next turn is only three cards and not four. As such, there’s no way that Bravo will be sending another Crippling Crush his way!

This time, Bravo only swings with Anothos (6 attack). Rhinar defends with two cards from hand (6 defense), taking zero. Bravo’s remaining card ends up in the arsenal. Now, Rhinar has a two-card hand with which he can try and be aggressive with…or he can simply swing with his Romping Club again, and arsenal his remaining card. Rhinar chooses to go at Bravo again with his Romping Club (4 attack). Bravo defends with a card from hand (3 defense), and takes another point of damage. Rhinar places his remaining card in arsenal.

Cycle Summary: One damage to Bravo, no damage to Rhinar. Bravo is on a three-card hand. Both Rhinar and Bravo have a card in arsenal.

As you can see, by holding off on defending with his last card in the first cycle, Rhinar was able to chip away at Bravo’s life total and reduce the pressure on him in the next one. Even just a small amount of offensive power each turn can really help to relieve the pressure that comes back at you!

RhinarRomping ClubBravoAnothos

Managing Your Life Total

Your life total can be seen as a resource in itself; you can use it in place of losing cards from hand in order to launch a powerful attack, hopefully in turn justifying the loss of life. Usually, I often think along these simple lines:

Will keeping this card enable me to threaten more damage than it would save me by blocking with it?

If the answer is yes, I’ll give up some life to use it. If the answer’s no, I’ll block with it. Simple as that.

Take for example Yellow Sharpen Steel. This provides +2 attack to the next weapon attack that turn, but can be used to defend for 3. If I was trying to toss up whether to keep this or use it to defend with, I’d probably be using it to defend with as it has more value there.

The above is a very simple scenario to demonstrate the point, but I should emphasize that this is not the only consideration that needs to be thought about. However, this is the starting point I would use for your first forays into the game, and it’s still the one I always fall back to “when in doubt”.

One factor to consider, however, is that by losing more life earlier on, you’re giving up the flexibility to do so later on, meaning you’re going to have to defend with more and more cards later. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that you’re making use of all of your cards each turn; failing to block and being left with one extra card early in the game may mean needing to block and failing to be aggressive later in the game. These consequences are hard to predict, but in a game as tight as Flesh and Blood, it really does matter.

As I come to the end of this article, I realize there’s still so much more to cover; as such, look forward to part two of this article, where I’ll be tackling much more challenging concepts, namely the importance of understanding the aggressive options belonging to each class, managing multiple attacks in one turn, and why 4 is a magic number.

Let me know in the comments if you found this article helpful, as well as any other questions you may have! I love keeping the conversation going and helping out with more specific examples too.

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