With the new ban and suspended announcement, we saw a rift in the metagame just weeks before the biggest tournament in the history of Flesh and Blood – Pro Tour New Jersey. Many players from around the world were taking a stab at predicting how the high caliber event will pan out in terms of hero representation, country representation and top performing decks. While many predictions were straightforward, I want to outline some key points that could help you in preparation for future events of this level.
Players play to their strengths
After the ban and suspended announcement, players were in a race to find the best decks in the format. The common findings were that Viserai was nowhere near as playable as before, Chane became the premier aggro deck and Bravo, Star of the Show was slightly curbed down in terms of power level. Some top players even predicted Prism to drop in representation.
Chane was seen as a favorable deck against Illusionist and the deck’s main favorable matchup -Bravo – was thought to have been losing representation. Matt Rogers even predicted that Chane might be the most represented hero at the Pro Tour, predicting the turnout to be between 25 to 35 percent of the field due to the sheer power of the Runeblade. These predictions assumed players would be quite flexible in terms of switching between heroes and playing more meta decks, rather than sticking to their strengths.
The actual representation told a different story. Prism showing was as strong as before the ban and suspended announcement, Bravo remained at the top of representation by a big margin and Chane saw 80 players, representing 20 percent of the metagame. However, the biggest shift came for Viserai. The Skeleta suspension singlehandedly caused the hero to drop from third most represented at the Calling Indianapolis to only being played by six players at the Pro Tour. This suggests many Viserai players switching from Viserai to Chane, while many Prism and Bravo mains cited complexity of Chane as the reason they remained with their trusted hero over switching to the dark side. While the top decks saw little change in representation, the lists themselves were a true sign of innovation and experimentation.
Prism players showed a very strong showing on day two, converting much better than Chane and Bravo, with a 63 percent conversion rate compared to 52 percent for the Guardian and 45 percent for the Runeblade.
Hedge for fringe decks, or bring one yourself
The big talk of the Pro Tour was the combined successes of all seven of the Kano players, with Alexander Vore and Sasha Markovic making Top 8 and Hayden Dale making Top 16 with the hero. Their success can partly be attributed to the lack of anti-arcane damage equipment, but also the inexperience of their opponents in a fringe matchup. The element of surprise worked like a charm.
Many players focused heavily on the top three decks, often leaving the fringe decks to the sideline in terms of testing and preparing for, giving them an edge. With an 80 card total, spaces are very limited and it’s especially tough to prepare a list that is ready for each and every matchup. This showcases the importance of hedge pre-board options.
By hedging, I mean picking those final slots that are effective into a particular common matchup, but are amazing into a fringe matchup. An example of this is Bravo lists running Shock Charmers. We saw some Star of the Show players using the legendary against Chane. Shock Charmers allowed the Guardians to stop a pivotal arcane damage burst from Rosetta, stopping the Runeblade players from getting multiple Spellbound Creepers activations while also netting two life.
The card can be compared to the standard choice – Crater Fist. It doesn’t stop the Creepers interaction, but does help against on-hits and usually nets three life over the course of the game. While either option can be argued as the correct choice for the Chane matchup, Shock Charmers offers amazing utility against a fringe matchup like Kano. It can stop a powerful on-damage spell like Sonic Boom or trim the damage ceiling of a card like Aether Wildfire. Taking this into consideration, the card offers tremendous benefit for the price of one slot in the 80 cards.
Successes of Kano, Briar and Lexi also prove that bringing an underdog deck can bring results. Even the most rigid metagames offer room for exploration and innovation. Having the element of surprise is especially powerful in the highest level of play, where any slight edge can result in a win.
The world caught up
With the majority of premier events being held in Oceania and North America, we had the privilege of getting top level play showcased from those two regions. Players from New Zealand, USA, Australia and Canada have strongly held top spots in the Elo rankings for both Limited and Constructed play. With the world slowly opening back up to international travel, the Pro Tour finally offered a platform for players from other regions to showcase their skill, and they did not disappoint. We saw European players take four out of eight spots from the Top 8, winning the biggest Calling event and taking out the Battlehardened event, showing the world of Flesh and Blood and Europe can hold their own in terms of top level play.
Personally, I do wish to have seen more representation from Asia, as many of the Asian countries still suffer from restrictive lockdowns, making it difficult to travel internationally. Overall, I hope the regional representation continues to increase going into Pro Tour Lille and the World Championship coming at the end of the year. Hopefully we continue to see travel restrictions being lifted and players have the opportunities to represent their countries and give unique flavors to the world metagame.
The Pro Tour was an amazing event, showcasing talent from all over the world, it showed some tremendous innovation and adaptation to the ever-changing metagame and allowed us Flesh and Blood fans to enjoy some of the world class, top level play from all over the world with the clean and professional streaming. I hope this article helped players to get a very rough idea on how metagames form and how it’s possible to give yourself options within the restrictive 80 cards they can bring to the table. I am delighted at the results from the first ever Flesh and Blood Pro Tour and cannot wait to see what our top players will come up with at the next Pro Tour and the first ever world championship event later this year.