What a tournament. 157 players. The biggest Flesh and Blood event to date. Tensions were running high from the get go. $10,000 of cash prizes were on the line. I don’t even have to mention the gold foil legendary giveaways! Many players have been testing for months for this event.
When approaching this metagame, it became clear a deck that beats Ira and Kano was a top priority. In some initial testing, I found a lot of heroes have a good game versus one deck, but struggle against the other.
As a new father, I didn’t have much time to test for the tournament, so I decided to stick with what I know and test Rhinar. The Brute has been my staple class for quite some time, so I was determined to streamline it to best the two main heroes. Unlike Classic Constructed, the Wizard matchup is a lot harder for Brute in Blitz.
My Session Blood podcast co-host Kieran and I have both worked tirelessly to improve the matchup against Ira and Wizard. The Ira matchup in particular seemed extremely hard to win consistently. We mainly tried the combination between Mandible Claw and Bloodrush Bellow. The deck had a reasonably decent matchup against Kano, but we just couldn’t get an edge versus Ira.
The week of The Calling arrives and we both started getting cold feet. We both practiced one of us on the Brute and the other on Ira a bunch of times, but time after time Ira would come out on top. Then I had a realization – I spent all this time practicing against the deck and using it for testing, I actually have a decent understanding of how it works! I played around with other classes, mainly Warrior, but in the end caved and made up an Ira list.
Hero: Ira, Crimson Haze
Weapons: Harmonized Kodachi, Harmonized Kodachi, Zephyr Needle
Equipment: Breaking Scales, Fyendal's Spring Tunic, Mask of Momentum, Nullrune Boots, Nullrune Gloves, Nullrune Hood, Nullrune Robe, Snapdragon Scalers
(2) Command and Conquer (red)
(2) Drone of Brutality (red)
(2) Enlightened Strike (red)
(2) Flic Flak (red)
(2) Leg Tap (red)
(1) Pounding Gale (red)
(1) Razor Reflex (red)
(2) Sigil of Solace (red)
(1) Sink Below (red)
(2) Soulbead Strike (red)
(2) Torrent of Tempo (red)
(2) Flic Flak (yellow)
(1) Sigil of Solace (yellow)
(2) Torrent of Tempo (yellow)
(2) Crane Dance (blue)
(2) Find Center (blue)
(2) Flic Flak (blue)
(2) Fluster Fist (blue)
(2) Rising Knee Thrust (blue)
(2) Rushing River (blue)
(2) Soulbead Strike (blue)
(2) Whelming Gustwave (blue)
See the full deck at: https://fabdb.net/decks/egqzgVqg/
I opted for a midrange list that ran seven defense reactions in the form of six Flic Flaks and one Sink Below and a bunch of aggressive cards like Leg Tap (Red) and Pounding Gale. This allowed me to put pressure in the Kano matchup while being able to maintain control versus physical damage decks.
My main issue was the practice. The only deck I practiced against was my own Brute list. A few days before The Calling, I asked Jordan Nelson-Fussell for a quick introduction to the mirror match and got slapped around four games in a row. Okay, that would have to do. I played a few games against Dorinthea and one against Kano and that’s about it.
The day comes. Emotions are running extremely high. The atmosphere was insane. Almost 160 people battling it out in a full shopping mall. Let’s get started!
I sat down at table 44, after seeing that my opponent was no other than the winner of the first Flesh and Blood Calling Event, Isaac Olssen. I sat for a while, my opponent nowhere in sight. After a few minutes I hear “Karol! You’re on the feature table!”
Round 1 – Isaac Olssen – Dorinthea
Isaac carried an aura of confidence about him. I sat down, felt extremely nervous and the bright lights and camera crew didn’t make it any easier. “You’ve played this matchup a few times,” I told myself to calm the nerves. We get started.
Isaac goes first. He throws out a Dawnblade attack, which I overblock. He has the Glint the Quicksilver to side step my block. I’m forced to take damage on the first turn. At least I’m hopeful he didn’t draw anything decent from his Enlightened Strike.
I try my best to pressure him with Kodachis on my turn. He swiftly blocks up relevant attacks, but I’m able to get some damage through. I try my best to limit the Reprise triggers my opponent is able to capitalize on.
Eventually, we’re both low, after me taking a huge attack with a Steelblade Supremacy backed by a Razor Reflex and drop to two. My opponent is on the same life. I attack with Kodachi and go for a cheeky Razor Reflex of my own. No Sigil of Solace or defense reaction from my opponent gives me my first win. Afterwards, Isaac shows me two Ironsong Responses. I feel validated for playing around Reprise.
Round 2 – Rommel Estalilla – Kassai
Rommel is a player I’ve played against before and have high regard for. I was excited when I heard someone was repping Kassai and doing really well with her down in Wellington. I haven’t tested this matchup, but decided to do my best.
Just as in my previous game, I was doing my best to avoid Reprise triggers. Rommel was putting subtle pressure with the Cintari Sabres, which slowly added up. After a Spoils for War and some sword hits, he was able to stack up nine coppers, which started getting scary. I did my best to block up when necessary and utilize the rest of my hand to chip away with Kodachis and the spare cards.
I slowly forced Rommel to block up with his armor to stop leaking damage and triggering my Mask of Momentum. Eventually we both got quite low on life, with Rommel sitting around the four life mark. I set up my pocket play of Enlightened Strike for seven, popping my Snapdragon Scalers to Kodachi for two and then one, followed by Command and Conquer for six. Rommel thought about the block for a long time, as he was worried about the Razor Reflex on Enlightened Strike. Eventually he made the right call to double block it, but my following attacks were too much to stop.
Round 3: Adam Little – Rhinar
A fellow Rhinar enthusiast! Adam is another player from Wellington, who was great to catch up with. We were both helping each other out, trying to work out how to make the hero work, before I made the switch to Ira. Luckily, my practice mainly involved playing against this hero, so I was confident going into the game.
Adam did use a very different set up than I did, which made the game tricky. He used Goliath’s Gauntlet and Romping Club as his equipment and weapon, which I haven’t tested much. In the game, I tried my hardest to preserve a high life total, blocking all the damage I possibly could, keeping a defense reaction in the arsenal and using Sigils of Solace to gain life.
Adam had a huge turn, dropping a Awakening Bellow (Red) into a Barrwging Beatdown and Alpha Rampage, discarding a Massacre to Intimidate my whole hand. I felt very intimidated. I dropped from 23 life to 11. I was able to get my hand back and try my best to put pressure back on. Chipping away with Kodachis and throwing out big attacks meant I was able to stay in control of the game, slowly dropping my opponent’s life total.
Adam dropped an Energy Potion and was gearing up for another big turn. I haven’t seen a Bloodrush Bellow yet, so I was getting worried about a blowout turn. Dropping down to one, Adam was able to keep a three to four card-plus arsenal. Here we go. He rolls Scabskin Leathers and hits two Action points and leads off with a Pack Hunt. This is a very tricky block. If he has more Barraging Beatdowns, I might get punished for blocking this attack. If he has more Intimidates, I get punished for not blocking and saving my life total.
I see both red Barraging Beatdowns in the graveyard. I think on it for a bit, after which I decide to double block the attack. He drops a Barraging Beatdown (Yellow) and attacks. A defense reaction from arsenal is the only thing I use to preserve my life total and drop to six life. It’s a safe number, as two Reckless Swings won’t kill me. Adam drew one of the Reckless Swings, but it wasn’t enough and I win with Kodachi pressure.
Round 4: John Jaurigue – Dorinthea
Another great Wellington player! John is a legend, coming second at New Zealand Nationals and being an all round great Dorinthea player. I’ve versed John twice before, both games being incredible nail biters where we both almost fatigued. We drew the first time and I ended up losing the second time. Rematch time!
John opts to go second. This allows me to strip a few cards with my attacks, setting up for a fatigue strategy late game. I feel safe with a Flic Flak (Yellow) in my arsenal. John pitches a blue and swings in with a naked Dawnblade. Like my previous Warrior matches, I don’t want to get blown out by Reprise. John plays a Razor Reflex and an Out for Blood. Ouch. I decided to save some life by blocking with the Flic Flak. I take six and drop to 14.
I try to put as much pressure on my turn with three cards and arsenal a Sigil of Solace (Yellow). John blocked my second Kodachi with his Courage of Bladehold and took a chunk of damage. He quickly popped the Courage and my worst nightmare unveiled. John dropped a Spoils of War, Steelblade Supremacy and an Ironsong Determination. An attack for eight with dominate, two resources up and a card in hand. All I could do was block for three and take a huge hit. I drop to nine and John draws another card, activates Braveforge Bracers and swings in for seven with dominate.
At this point, I’m extremely worried. I could block three, take three or more and have Sigil as backup, or block with equipment. I thought about it. A Rout is the worst case scenario. I’d take 10 and with Sigil I’d survive on one. I decided to not block and save equips for the second Ironsong Determination turn. I blocked for three and learnt it wasn’t the worst case scenario. John played a Singing Steelblade, fetching a Rout and getting 11 damage – exactly lethal to take me out.
Our previous games went to time, but this time John took me out in two minutes. Mad props to John. Great player. I definitely felt humbled and cannot wait for another match!
Round 5: James Read – Bravo
I felt confident in my Bravo matchup, even though I’ve never played it. My opponent tried his best to get a Crippling Crush to connect, but I had a defense reaction in the arsenal each time. Eventually I was able to get a good lead with Kodachis and conservative play.
Round 5: Nish Nimmagadda – Ira
My first mirror. In my handful of testing games, I found this matchup a total grind. Both players gain slow, incremental value over a long period of time. Nish is a great player and I knew this was going to be a tough matchup. I won the dice roll and opted to go first.
I want to strip as many cards as possible as early as possible, as fatigue is my strategy. Utilizing every resource, every point of damage and timing Flic Flaks to maximize value on the extra defense boost. I pitched an Enlightened Strike and Command and Conquer early to set up play early. We went head-to-head for damage, but I knew I had my setup coming.
Eventually, I let some damage through to drop the combo. Enlightened Strike into Snapdragon Scalers into Kodachi swings followed by Command and Conquer. This was enough to really swing the tempo in my favor and send my opponent blocking till the end of the game.
Round 7: Sean Stanley – Ira
As soon as we sit down, Sean tells me he’s a big fan of Session Blood! It’s awesome to hear players use the content to improve their game, so we have a good chat about that.
The game itself turned out to be very neck and neck mirror match. I punted on a Pounding Gale attack, letting my opponent pop Breaking Scales and get one damage and a Mask of Momentum trigger in. Ouch, that’s a big misplay, but I’ve learnt it for future games.
I see Sean playing a lot of spicy cards through his blocks and pitches. Ancestral Empowerment, Remembrance and he even dropped a Potion of Strength. I pitched away a big Enlightened Strike setup turn when he pitched Remembrance, meaning I had a big window when my opponent’s hand wasn’t most suited for blocks. The plan worked and I was able to use the Enlightened Strike to gain tempo for the remainder of the game.
Round 8: Rohan Khanna – Kano
My first Kano matchup and it was no other than my dear friend and testing partner Rohan! Rohan became a bit of a legend at local armories and tourneys as he won many in a row undefeated. I knew this was going to be tough, as I simply did not test the matchup much.
I won the dice roll and decided to go second so I could pressure Rohan’s cards and life total. He plays a Voltic Bolt (Red) for six and I defend three by pitching a Flic Flak (Red) and a blue. On my turn, I decided to go balls-to-the-wall aggro. I attack with Kodachi – he takes it (14). I attack with Needle – he takes it (11). I Leg Tap (Red) – no blocks (7).
At this point, I’m trying to figure out if he can deal 17 damage to me in response to my final attack. I think Stir Forked Lighting can only do 16, so I go for it and attack with Enlightened Strike for seven. Rohan says “looooose,” which makes me worried.
He pops Talismanic Lens. He thinks for a bit, saying “I can save my Striders and put you to three or pop them and get you down toone.” Oh no, I thought. I overextended my attack. Looking back, I think I should have put the Leg Tap in arsenal and hold a card up for my Enlightened Strike attack.
He blocks with Fyendal’s Spring Tunic and drops to one. He follows up with a huge combo of Lesson in Lava into a Chain Lightning into a Blazing Aether, dealing a total of 16 damage and putting me to one. Turn two of the game and we’re both on one – now that’s Blitz.
I draw up. He draws up and passes. I attack with Kodachi. Rohan goes for a Kano ability, hits a Tome of Fyendal and continues digging. He can’t find enough damage to push through my arcane barrier 3 and I get away with murder.
Round 9: Matt Rogers – Ira
The boogeyman himself. I haven’t faced Matt in a long while, so I’m very excited to finally play him.
The game kicks off in a very Ira-like fashion. We both try to get as much incremental value as possible. Matt runs Life for a Life (Red), which puts in work as the second attack. Am attack for one then five that gains life followed by one is hard to block. I misplayed a Leg Tap (Red) attacking for one, two, then four, meaning he’s able to utilize his Flic Flak well.
Matt baited my first Command and Conquer with a Sigil of Solace, giving him a solid lead. I decided to do a similar play, so I arsenaled a Sigil of Solace hoping to bait a Command and Conquer. It was stuck there for a while, but I ended up drawing my second one. At this point, I needed to think outside the box.
I took Matt’s hits and kept a four card hand plus arsenal. I attacked for one then seven with Command and Conquer and two cards up. He went into the tank. I check my graveyard and see some used Sigils of Solace. After piecing it together, he asked “Do you run Pummels?” I just smiled and waited for the block.
After a bit of thinking, Matt decides to not call my bluff and doesn’t block the attack. It hits for seven and I strip a defense reaction from arsenal. I play the Sigil of Solace and pass. At this point, I’ve caught up in life total and feel ahead in the game. We traded a number of hits and eventually both dropped to one. I have the tempo, stripping three cards per turn, while Matt strips two. I’m waiting on my Drone of Brutality (Red) for the final push. I save a Torrent of Tempo (Red) in my arsenal, waiting to strip four cards. Matt Flic Flaks my second Kodachi. I think about it. If he doesn’t have a combo card, I force a two card block, but if he has it, I lose my tempo.
I decide to run it out and he has the block for five. Eventually, he draws the Drone of Brutality first and is able to break through the stalemate and win the game. I got so close, but not close enough. Ultimately I have a think about it and realize playing out that Torrent wasn’t the correct play. Two mistakes during the game added up to a loss. I remember those and try to focus on next rounds.
Round 10: Jason Thompson – Sheck – Dorinthea
Another Wellington Warrior in my path. This win secures the top 8 spot for both of us, so it’s an extremely important game. I know Jason is a very strong Warrior player and I just don’t want to repeat the blowout from round four.
The game starts off a bit slower than my previous Dorinthea game. We both trade blows. I stay mindful of not letting my opponent trigger Reprise, but I try my best to keep my life total high. I slowly chip away at Jason’s life total and armor. We both get to roughly 10 life.
I set up the pocket play of Enlightened Strike for seven into Command and Conquer for seven. Jason blocks well, but drops down to four life and only two or three cards in hand. I feel confident. A Warrior with a low number of cards isn’t nearly as threatening.
He swings with Dawnblade and I block for three. An Overpower (Red) threatens a huge chunk of damage. I could drop to one life and pressure lots on my turn. I decide to play a Flic Flak (Red) and take two, dropping to five life. I have a Razor Reflex (Red), an Enlightened Strike and a Pounding Gale to pressure.
I decide to end the game here and swing with Kodachi. My opponent declares no blocks. I go for Razor Reflex. He had the Steelblade Shunt, putting me on four. I attack with Kodachi then Pounding Gale for five, threatening Breaking Scales. My opponent blocks with one card and drops to one. I arsenal the Enlightened Strike, feeling confident with my opponent on one. I’m on four and my opponent has only two cards and Courage of Bladehold left. He says “I hope you don’t have a defense reaction” then pops the Courage, plays a Sharpen Steel and Ironsong Determination for seven dominated.
My heart sinks. I didn’t draw a defense reaction or Sigil of Solace. The attack was lethal. I lost and was out of contention for top 8. I could have played the last hand a number of ways that would’ve guaranteed strip an extra card or forcing a block with the Courage of Bladehold, but I got too greedy with the Razor Reflex and got punished.
Round 11 : Cayle McCreath – Bravo
Cayle and I both sat down disappointed, as we knew we weren’t going to top 8. At least my opponent had a fresh gold foil Arcanite Skullcap from the night before to show off in the matchup. We played super quick, trading blows turn after turn. Cayle got a couple of Pummel (Red) to connect on his Anothos, as well as a Righteous Cleansing, removing a Drone of Brutality from my top five cards. I kept playing aggressively, stripping his life total and armor. Eventually I was able to chip away with Kodachis for the win, as we were both on one life. The game took around five minutes total.
Overall, I ended coming in eleventh place, which was a solid result for the amount of practice I put in. I do regret not switching to Ira earlier and getting more games in. I feel every game I played could have been winnable. Even against John, I feel that I had a shot, despite his god draw.
The silver lining was that three of my teammates made the top cut, showing that practice and dedication get results. Massive shout out to Calum and Jordan, who put in the time to really streamline their lists and master their matchups. They were all well deserved Top 8s. Overall, the tournament was an amazing experience and I have to give massive props to the team at LSS for putting up an exceptionally memorable event!