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The Benefits of Set Piece Testing and Play

If you’re playing Flesh and Blood competitively at any level, you’ll be familiar with the concept of testing. Adding in certain cards and pieces into your deck, either in the core or the sideboard and subsequently seeing how the deck performs. You may be testing specific matchups, gameplay revisions, card interactions, and more. For those who are serious about honing their decks down, this can mean countless hours of testing, playing hundreds of Classic Constructed games from the get-go. Although this has merits, there’s also another type of testing which has great benefit but isn’t used as much in the Flesh and Blood scene. This is set piece testing, used widely in pro sports and e-sports events to simulate certain game states and subsequently how to play/react to them. In a game such as Flesh and Blood, which is so crucially defined by low variance and tempo management, set-piece gameplay is a great way to simulate constructed gameplay without the time demands that the latter has on your schedule. Let’s take a deep dive into why this sort of testing is so valuable, and how to efficiently use it to up your game.

 

Header - Setting Up a Set Piece

Just like real testing situations, you must have a goal in mind before setting up a set piece. This may be looking into a deck’s late game performance, how it deals with tempo leads and losses or even simply testing hands/combo lines. As you can imagine, setting up a set piece will change dramatically depending on what you’re looking to test your deck upon. However, there are still some important aspects to keep in mind. Let’s run through the set up of a piece between Dorinthea Ironsong and a Bravo, Showstopper player. In this case, we would like to see how Dorinthea can claw back tempo from the Bravo player, noting specifically how many turns it took her and which cards were instrumental in doing so. In this case, we’re going to play it out assuming a midgame state. 

 

Dorinthea IronsongBravo, Showstopper

So, what does a midgame state look like? In our scenario, we want to claw back from no tempo, so we shall assume we just blocked with our entire hand and that the Bravo player has a moderately strong card in Arsenal. Since we just blocked up, and the Bravo player must have taken some damage themselves to swing with a strong hand, we’ll assume we have a slight life advantage of about five life. Since we’re around midgame, we’ll say the life totals are hence 27-32 in favor of Dorinthea. Now that we’ve got most of the board set up, the next key piece, and arguably the most complex to set up properly, is the deck.

 

Spoils of WarSinging SteelbladeIronsong DeterminationIronsong Response (Red)

To accurately simulate this, you’re going to need to remove some of the threats from your deck alongside a group a random cards. Since we’re four or five turns in, we’re going to remove about 20 cards from the deck, alongside four prominent threats in the deck such as Spoils of War, Singing Steelblade, Ironsong Determination and Ironsong Response (Red). In removing threats from the deck, I usually go with the thumb rule of one for every five cards I remove randomly. This means to remove 20 cards, I’ll manually choose four threatening cards to discard, and another 15 at random. This is to help adjust decks to the game state of mid-game and helps bring your set-piece to a more realistic game point where you won’t have all the options available to you in your deck. Depending on how hard you want to be on yourself, you can modify this formula as needed. However, I recommended starting out conservatively with what you remove on both sides (you and opponent), as going overboard with it can give you unrealistic extreme game states where you can almost never swing back or win the scenario you have created.

Another aspect to consider is life total. Since we’re testing the deck’s ability to bring tempo back, we’re going to assume we just blocked with our entire hand. This leaves us with usually a moderate life advantage over the opponent who just attacked with a relatively large volume of cards. Although this can change difficulty to difficulty, I’ve found the following rules of thumb help a lot to dictate how difficult the life differences can be to come back from: 

  • 1-5: Easy 
  • 4-9 : Moderate 
  • 10-15 : Hard 
  • 15+ : “Somebody please come save me!”

When simulating games where you’re starting with considerably lower life, I like to climb up the ladder of difficulty one by one to get an accurate reading of just how much life total my deck can usually manage to come back from, and what my deck’s threshold is of life difference where I simply can’t get back into the game for the most part. 

 

Header - Overlook

Okay, so we’ve got the stage for our set piece gameplay. Dorinthea is up by five life, although she just blocked with four cards and has no card in Arsenal. She would pass her turn to the Bravo player, who subsequently has a five-card hand due to his card in Arsenal and his draw of four cards. Once both players are ready, they would draw up to this game state, and start life play. Here, you’re not trying to make any special decisions based on your scenario, but simply play the game state as you would in an actual game, and in this case, try to build up a card advantage and eventually turn tempo around back towards you. 

 

Header - Standard Set Pieces

Although you can do set pieces for basically any board state, here are some of the one I find the most useful and practice often myself outside of regular gameplay. Practicing these will help you understand your win conditions much better and be much more confident in your own strategic ability as a Flesh and Blood player in almost any situation. 

 

Name Cards Left in Deck Life Differences Threats in Deck
Late Game Closeout <15 <3 <3
Mid Game Tempo <50 <10 <13
Late Game Comeback <20 >5 <5

 

Header - Wrapping Up

Set piece testing is a great way to simulate specific scenarios quickly and efficiently in place of Constructed gameplay. Whether you’re trying to get confident in high pressure situations or simply test out specific instances of gameplay, set piece training is critical to getting in lots of repetitions in a time efficient manner. The next time you get out for a testing session, try getting in some set piece play to up your game! 

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