“Draw a card” – perhaps the three most tantalizing words for card players anywhere. In Flesh and Blood, card draw has drastically changed in scope from the game’s inception with Welcome to Rathe. During those days, cards which had the ability to draw were very limited in their number, and the subsequent interactions with their abilities was few. Even then however, the power was apparent – cards like Mask of Momentum, Bloodrush Bellow, Steelblade Supremacy and Show Time! are still staples of their heroes today, all centered around those three magic words written upon each of them.
However, back then, card draw was simply a bonus or added ability given by certain special cards, but not necessarily the pillar of deck design that it can be today. To elaborate, although cards like Steelblade Supremacy and Bloodrush provided ample power turns, the card draw provided there wasn’t a recurring theme throughout cards in all Dorinthea and Rhinar builds of the time. Today, searching “draw” as a mechanic on fabdb will net you many more results and options, and showcase to you just how far that side of the card pool has come. Make no mistake, this expanded pool of cards has changed Flesh and Blood in many ways that I love, and today we’re going to breakdown exactly how it’s allowed so many decks in Flesh and Blood to increase their consistency and playability.
The power of card draw in modern Flesh and Blood stems from the game allowing so few resources to manage turn to turn. In comparison to other card games, where board states and card advantage can be consistently built on the board or in hand, FAB classes generally don’t rely on overpowering board states to win games (asides from certain archetypes of Illusionist and Mechanologist). Even for the ones that do exist, the board states are usually temporary or easily interacted with. This allows FAB to be designed in a way where players don’t need to be drip fed cards in hand like in other games, and rather can be allowed to redraw up to maximum hand size at the end of every turn.
In terms of design, this means many decks will draw through their entire deck in an entire game, and hence the overall variance game to game is reduced since all cards are at least seen once by each player. However, this also means players who draws through their entire starting 60 first, and then start playing with their pitched cards, have a definite advantage. If you’re keeping track of what you’re pitching, reaching back to your pitch stack before your opponent means you are now playing with much more complete information of the game state than your opponent is.
For heroes who don’t use typically tutors, such as Lexi, Briar and Oldhim, this is particularly important to their success. Tutors are powerful pieces, and not having access to them in the class leaves a hole to fill in terms of power level. For these heroes however, they can lean into the fact that they almost never have to shuffle their deck and utilize cards that include lots of draw power to access their deck in a more aggressive manner rather than searching and shuffling. With the access to Earth cards, Oldhim and Briar also have the added benefit of cycling through their deck quickly while simultaneously setting it up at the bottom with the pitch and earth’s many recursive effects.
For those heroes with tutors and extensive shuffling, card draw can be is less relevant to the endgame but more relevant to the here and now. These classes can particularly use draw to explode offensively and snag a controlling hold on the game’s tempo. Although most classes can’t definitively control tempo turn to turn, a single good draw effect can swing the damage output of your turn greatly in your favor and allow you to draw out a full block from the opponent. As many who have played Flesh and Blood know, the game is becoming more and more expansive in its combo turns, and a full block can easily mean you can punished the turn after as your opponent can start leaning into you with five-card hand after five-card hand.
The Tome “cycle” of cards, which is expanded upon every set, is by far one of my favorite recurring aspects of Flesh and Blood. I love how each Tome of fairly card neutral in terms of when you look at it in a vacuum and comes with an opportunity cost to play. For example, Tome of Harvests has the incredible ability to draw you three cards, however it requires three cards from you to fuel its play in the first place. Similarly, Gorganian Tome allows you to draw a card with no additional costs, but the opportunity cost of playing it comes from the card being one of the only cards in Flesh and Blood with no ability to block, pitch or attack. However, there are some Tomes that are invariably more powerful than others.
Although it’s a classic, I think Tome of Fyendal is a notable example. Although action points are a valuable currency, the game now has many ways to allow you to circumvent the action point cost of this Tome. If you can do so, Tome of Fyendal can leave you easily with leftover resources and life gain values in the range of four to six life. This means not only will the rest of your turn likely be solid due to the card draw giving a variety of options, but the overall life swing with Tome of Fyendal can allow you to close or widen the current life gap between you your opponent.
Although Tome of Fyendal may be the steadiest of them all, I put Tome of the Arknight as the one that can absolutely blow out games to the highest proportion. In Viserai in particular, good deck building and gameplay patterns can allow this Tome to hit surprisingly often, making it perhaps one of the most dangerous blue pitch cards in the game. The ability to set it up in your stack so it hits its draw is a powerful late game ability, made easier by the fact that this Tome pitches blue. However, even when played in the midgame, it’s a powerful catchup mechanic for Viserai, or simultaneously a powerful blowout mechanic should you already be winning. In addition, since it only costs one, it isn’t necessarily the end of the world should you miss its activation, due to Viserai usually gaining benefits from playing non-attack actions anyways.
All this is to illustrate that the Tomes have incredibly potent abilities, and albeit they are gatekept by sometimes difficult hurdles, most of them have payoffs that become more and more relevant as five-plus card hands become more and more dangerous. However, just throwing in Tomes and card draw without a point is useless, and many times you will be much better served by having other more consistent pieces in your deck. The next time you think about adding or removing a Tome from your build, think carefully about its role in your deck, whether it’s an important catalyst for your gameplay, or is it an integral cog in a longer game plan. If it fits into neither of these slots, then many times simply playing these high opportunity cost cards is quite silly, as drawing cards for the sake of it ends up being a waste of resources and crucial tempo.