Of all the reveals and breadcrumbs left by Legend Story Studios ahead of their latest Flesh and Blood expansion Uprising, slated for release on June 24, 2022, one of the lingering mysteries is that of a potential fourth hero. Iyslander the Ice Wizard, Dromai the Draconic Illusionist and Fai the Draconic Ninja have all been announced as the main characters of this latest chapter into Rathe, exploring the fiery lands of Volcor. One last mysterious challenger may yet to step foot into the fray, and many amidst the community are doing their best sleuthing to figure out who, if anyone, is left to make a splash this summer.
The detective work can go back to an interview James White did on the Instant Speed Podcast published on February 2, 2022, wherein White was asked: “What currently uncreated class would you love to add to the game in the future?” White immediately references the Flesh and Blood lore book that is ripe with Rathe history, pointing people to the list of classes that exist within the realm.
What White alludes to in his response is there are many we should be looking forward to seeing that we have to rub elbows with. He specifically mentions Bard, Alchemist and stops short of saying Necromancer, alerting the community that we have plenty of new heroes left to make acquaintance with. “They’re coming,” he warns with a grin on his face. “Eventually you’ll get an Assassin, a Bard, an Alchemist. All in good time.” The first seed is planted that leads me to believe a fourth hero is lurking.
The next question is what truly cracks this nut open. White was asked “Are there any particular things from the early days of development that you’re still holding out on releasing?” White responds by advising us that there’s a hero – specifically an Ice hero – that we will get to meet mid year. This hero, alongside Rhinar and Katsu, was one of his original brainchilds that spawned his eureka-like epiphany surrounding the fundamental cycle design of most Flesh and Blood cards. The story of how he came to this three-color conclusion is quite fun to hear, and adds some enlightening real-life lore to the game.
The significance of this response is in some of the choices of words White uses. First, he mentions that this hero is an Ice hero. At first glance, we can easily just associate this to Iyslander. The reason why I don’t believe it is Iyslander is because of how White introduces this mystery hero. He says that we will “get to meet” them mid year. This falls nicely within the Uprising release date of late June. The timing fits, and the insinuation that we get to “meet” the hero suggests that they’re brand new. Iyslander was introduced in Everfest back in February, so it won’t be Iyslander we meet, but someone new.
Furthermore, White refers to this hero as him. Iyslander self identifies as a woman, as taken from the Journey Into The Forgotten lore piece released by LSS ahead of their expansion into Volcor:
“Spirits spoke to me in words of cooling compassion, teaching me to harness the winter within. Kindred kindness of frost and time that raised me into the woman I am now.”
The new hero, referred to by James White as “him”, is an Ice hero whom we will get to meet mid year.
Some of the logic behind arguments for a fourth hero are rooted in the design of the set. It was advertised as a draftable set akin to Tales of Aria or Arcane Rising, rather than a supplemental set that we’ve seen with Crucible of War and Everfest. These sets are meant to support a Limited format, be it Draft or Sealed. In order to have a healthy Limited format, balance amidst the card pool is needed to ensure that no singular hero has a distinct advantage. This is above and beyond mere power levels of the printed cards. What matters here is that within the individual pack you’re busting open, will there be a fair amount of class and talent cards for each player to comfortably and viably draft a winning deck?
On that track, you could infer that the card pool having two Draconic talented heroes, Dromai and Fai, would balance itself by having two Ice-centric heroes, of which we already know one being Iyslander. In previous sets, such as Welcome to Rathe, no talents existed, and we got four base classes to dive into. In Monarch, the introduction of Light and Shadow talents divided the four heroes along these lines. Moving into Uprising, it can be a fair thought that a fourth hero, purely from a perspective of balance, is absolutely needed.
Further insights can be squeezed out of the basic stats for the new expansion. Delivering 226 cards, Uprising is very close in number to several other sets that boast four total heroes. WTR and ARC published 225 and 219 respectively. Those who might argue that there isn’t enough card space to support four heroes need only look at the first two draftable sets as a rebuttal. These first two sets, heroes didn’t have talents, so there wasn’t much latitude needed to build a playable hero. When Shadow and Light crept into the talent pool, Monarch exploded to 307 cards, making it the biggest set to date. Knowing that Draconic and Ice are key ingredients in this set, can 226 cards be vast enough to give four heroes their proper due from a class and talent pool perspective?
The only set to offer a trio of options was the three-ring-circus that is Tales of Aria. The set contained 238 cards, with talents and elemental cards cross-pollinating the vibrant and unique hero pool. If UPR truly does only have three heroes within it, it would be closely mirrored to that of ELE, with heroes sharing pools of cards to expand accessibility. Building a large library of cards for a new talent is important, as it gives players many plausible ways to compete as the new talent. Thus, if we are only getting the three heroes, we shouldn’t be surprised if Draconic cards are more abundant than Ice. Fleshing out the Draconic options will be critical to getting these new heroes off the ground and offering both an Illusionist and a Ninja some common ground to pull from.
There is a very intriguing approach taken by Yuki Lee Bender, the Canadian National Champion. What Yuki suggests in a Twitter post is to pay attention to the numbering of the hero cards. Where they literally appear in the print run from the set can be an important clue. Looking at past sets, The first Majestic rarity card falls after the hero tokens, weapon, Legendary and common equipment. The first Majestic is the sixth card listed. One of the only Majestics we have seen has been Dracona Optimai as UPR-006. This means that Dromai is our first hero at UPR-001. We don’t know where Fai the Draconic Ninja might fall on the checklist, but we do know that Thaw, a Draconic Attack Action, is a Majestic living at UPR-086. With Iyslander slotting in at UPR-101, we could be looking at a pool of 100 cards catering to Dromai and Fai, covering Illusionist, Ninja, and Draconic themes, and the next 50 supporting the Ice Wizard. The next 70+ could be generics, totalling the 226 advertised card pool.
This logic works if you are settled on there actually being generic cards to pull from. Tales of Aria didn’t have generics among the 238 card set. No generics have been revealed for UPR thus far, so what can we deduce from these facts? In ELE, the three heroes are numbered ELE-001, ELE-031 and ELE-062. Each hero received 30 class specific cards, and then plenty more Elemental, and element-specific pieces that can be shared based on their Essence (Ice, Earth, Lightning). UPR might be running down the same approach with no (or very minimal) generics, and looking to push the card count beyond 200 with the mysterious fourth hero everyone is waiting on sharing the card pool with Iyslander.
Finally, there is the lore. It is not a sure thing when interpreting the stories and legends surrounding the world of Rathe, but sometimes you can make some pretty educated guesses. Like a movie trailer, LSS has been releasing wonderfully written glimpses into the happenings within Volcor; the politics, citizens, rulers and oppressed alike all have a bit of their narratives explored in the In Flames lore drop. Here we learn of the disconnect and turmoil plaguing the land of Volcor, and the struggle within its borders:
“Assassination has become virulent among these Dracai, this arcane nobility. The ruling houses fight fire with fire as they struggle for dominance over this already fractured land. I had expected Volcor’s politics to be heated. I did not expect to see a Dracai melted into a puddle of scorched fat in her own chambers.”
There are ongoing assassinations occurring, which leads one to postulate that the new hero we will see could be an Assassin. James White alluded to a class we all want to see, having referred to the lore book as a clue. Was this misdirection? I don’t believe so. Though I’m not fully sold that the new hero is an Ice Assassin, I firmly believe that there is indeed a fourth hero with an icy demeanor.
Naturally we won’t have a definitive answer without more of the variables coming clear. I, like the vast majority of Flesh and Blood players, am starving for more information. On the Flesh and Blood website, LSS has a locked-and-loaded article waiting to fire off on June 4 that will start populating the card gallery for the new set. That is too many weeks away without any more details. I suspect that there will be an announcement at the Pro Tour in New Jersey that will have James White sharing his beloved creation to the community. Until then, though, we’re left to throw guesses at the wall and wait to see which stick.