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Understanding Blitz Before The Calling Las Vegas, Part 1

We are only a couple days away from Calling Las Vegas that will be both a Team Trios Calling while also being the world premier of the newest set, Uprising, and I am absolutely stoked. 

Before diving into the decks, let’s talk a little bit about team formats. Team Blitz Constructed tournaments follow the following rules: No team can have more than one copy of a given hero on a given team (for example, if one player is using Kano in a Team Constructed tournament, no other player on that team may use Kano as their hero). No players may also use cards that are banned in the Blitz format format. Besides that, the format conforms to all other basics for Blitz Constructed: 

  • Maximum of 40 cards per deck 
  • 11 slots for equipment and weapons. 
  • 30 minute time rounds 

If this is your first team event, it will be a completely different experience compared to events past that were exclusively an individual affair. A large part of this means working together well with other people.

A key to remember is that the majority of players, myself included, respond better to positive feedback compared to negative feedback. If you’re on a team where people are jumping down each others’ throats, it can greatly reduce one’s motivation and confidence to play well. I’ve seen this song and dance play on more than one occasion, where one teammate is berating another for a bad mistake, and the berated player starts to become indifferent about playing well or listening to their teammates out of frustration or spite. This dynamic breeds does not breed success. It’s not always possible to control your teammates or how they choose to react to different situations, but it is possible to control your own actions and be the kind of teammate that elevates your team to the next level.

With that being, said I also caution too much involvement in your teammates’ games. I like to go by the rule of not offering advice unless asked. There is so much contextual nature to every turn in Flesh and Blood that a quick glance and suggestion may end up to your teammates’ detriment and may even be to your opponent’s benefit should you forfeit free information! So make sure to discuss with your team in advance on how to best share advice during a match. 

Lets get onto the main topic and discuss what I believe to be the top five decks of Flesh and Blood right now. 

 

 

Header - Oldhim

Oldhim // Frostbite (Regular)

Let’s start with the perceived best deck in the format, Oldhim. Fresh off a tournament win at Battle Hardened New Jersey in the hands of Donovan van Beek, it is the deck on everyone’s mind heading into Las Vegas.

Donovan’s list has taken the Blitz metagame by storm. Where previously players were opting for a more aggressive build of Oldhim, Donovan has opted for the complete opposite, boasting a whopping 19 defense reactions and two Sigil of Solace!

Sigil of Solace (Red) (Regular)

This deck has no agenda with respect to ending the game fast and will turtle up until you’re out of resources while slowly bleeding you dry 15 turns down the line. This is in stark contrast to the aggressive lists that dominated in popularity during the swiss rounds.

The defensive build offers two key advantages. First, it lowers the overall variance of the deck. Having one game plan in mind, minimizing damage, means that you are less susceptible to the overall swings between turn cycles that an off hand can yield if you were playing aggressively. Say you were an aggressive Oldhim deck that just wrestled tempo from an angsty Runeblade player and you drew a handful of red, you would have no option but to give up tempo, a potentially game-losing scenario in a format as fast as Blitz. 

The second advantage is the edge you gain in the mirror. Guardians in general lack additional action points in order to go wide, meaning the best they can do is go tall – astrategy very exploitable by a deck running 19 defense reactions! 

In my experience, Oldhim has a favorable matchup against the field at large with the exception of Rhinar. Playing so many defense reactions means that you are extremely susceptible to intimidate card effects. For example, if you get intimidated three times and are left with a defense reaction in hand, you’ll have no resources in order to cast your defense reaction! 

At the end of the day, both versions of Oldhim are viable but I will be leaning more towards the defense version of the build moving forward! 

Defensive Oldhim

Donovan van Beek Oldhim - Battle Hardened New Jersey

Hero / Weapon / Equipment
1 x Arcane Lantern
1 x Crater Fist
1 x Crown of Seeds
1 x Fyendal's Spring Tunic
1 x Ironhide Legs
1 x Nullrune Boots
1 x Nullrune Gloves
1 x Nullrune Robe
1 x Rampart of the Ram's Head
1 x Sledge of Anvilheim
1 x Winter's Wail
Pitch 1
2 x Fate Foreseen (1)
2 x Oaken Old (1)
2 x Sigil of Solace (1)
2 x Sink Below (1)
2 x Staunch Response (1)
2 x Turn Timber (1)
Pitch 2
2 x Staunch Response (2)
2 x Turn Timber (2)
Pitch 3
2 x Autumn's Touch (3)
2 x Break Ground (3)
2 x Burgeoning (3)
2 x Channel Lake Frigid (3)
2 x Earthlore Surge (3)
2 x Evergreen (3)
2 x Macho Grande (3)
1 x Pulse of Isenloft (3)
2 x Staunch Response (3)
2 x Turn Timber (3)
2 x Weave Earth (3)
1 x Winter's Bite (3)
2 x Winter's Grasp (3)

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Aggro Oldhim

Justin Wong Oldhim Deck, Skirmish - Mighty Ape

Hero / Weapon / Equipment
1 x Crater Fist
1 x Crown of Seeds
1 x Fyendal's Spring Tunic
1 x Heart of Ice
1 x Ironhide Legs
1 x Nullrune Boots
1 x Nullrune Gloves
1 x Nullrune Hood
1 x Rampart of the Ram's Head
1 x Winter's Wail
Pitch 1
2 x Channel Mount Heroic (1)
2 x Command and Conquer (1)
2 x Endless Winter (1)
2 x Fate Foreseen (1)
2 x Oaken Old (1)
1 x Sigil of Solace (1)
2 x Spinal Crush (1)
Pitch 2
2 x Autumn's Touch (2)
1 x Remembrance (2)
2 x Winter's Bite (2)
Pitch 3
2 x Autumn's Touch (3)
1 x Awakening (3)
2 x Blizzard (3)
2 x Channel Lake Frigid (3)
2 x Glacial Footsteps (3)
2 x Polar Blast (3)
1 x Pulse of Isenloft (3)
2 x Sow Tomorrow (3)
2 x Tear Asunder (3)
2 x Turn Timber (3)
2 x Winter's Bite (3)
2 x Winter's Grasp (3) 

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Header - Kano

Kano (Regular)

The other deck on everyone’s mind is the blazing fast Wizard himself, Kano. Not only did Kano have a breakout performance at PT New Jersey in the hands of Team Arsenal Pass, but it also managed to take home second place in the Battle Hardened New Jersey in the hands of Mark Johnson! 

Mark Johnson Kano - Battle Hardened New Jersey

Hero / Weapon / Equipment
1 x Arcanite Skullcap
1 x Blood Drop Brocade
1 x Cracker Jax
1 x Crucible of Aetherweave
1 x Fyendal's Spring Tunic
1 x Gambler's Gloves
1 x Metacarpus Node
1 x Ragamuffin's Hat
1 x Runaways
1 x Storm Striders
1 x Talismanic Lens
Pitch 1
2 x Aether Flare (1)
2 x Aether Spindle (1)
2 x Aether Wildfire (1)
2 x Blazing Aether (1)
1 x Emeritus Scolding (1)
1 x Forked Lightning (1)
2 x Reverberate (1)
2 x Tome of Aetherwind (1)
2 x Voltic Bolt (1)
Pitch 2
1 x Chain Lightning (2)
2 x Lesson in Lava (2)
2 x Sonic Boom (2)
2 x Tome of Fyendal (2)
Pitch 3
2 x Aether Flare (3)
2 x Emeritus Scolding (3)
2 x Energy Potion (3)
1 x Eye of Ophidia (3)
2 x Gaze the Ages (3)
2 x Potion of Deja Vu (3)
2 x Reverberate (3)
2 x Voltic Bolt (3)
2 x Zap (3) 

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There are too many small lines to go over in depth as a lot of the smaller combo lines are situational and done on the fly. Mark ended up making a Deck Tech video and recap regarding his time at NJ at can be found here! 

Another very cool community resource that I have been enjoying working through is the “What would Kano Do?” (WWKD) puzzles to help you play through a lot of interesting game scenarios that will strengthen your on the fly decision making. You can find those here.

In general, a lot of your combo lines will look similar to the above scenario, courtesy of the WWKD, and all follow the general principles of casting an Aether Wildfire, preferably with a buff from Crucible of Aetherweave and Metacarpus Node threatening six damage, followed by a flurry of Wizard burn spells, culminating in a Blazing Aether

Aether Wildfire (Regular)Crucible of Aetherweave (Regular)Metacarpus Node (Regular)Blazing Aether (Regular)

How you get to that spot is often the tricky part, so here are some general tips. You are allowed to hold priority after using Kano’s ability, which allows you to pitch down to one card in hand, activate Ragamuffin’s Hat placing the card you want to cast on top of your deck, followed by the resolution of Kano abilities allowing you to cast the card you just placed on top of your deck with Ragamuffin’s Hat! 

Ragamuffin's Hat (Regular)Potion of Deja Vu (Regular)

Another line that is often popular is starting with a Potion of Deja Vu in play, with either an Aether Wildfire or a Blazing Aether in Arsenal with the other in the hand. This allows you to over pitch your hand to Kano’s ability, allowing you to again hold priority activating Potion of Deja Vu to put back one of your power cards on top to be cast at instant speed with the other to be cast at instant speed with Storm Striders.

How do you play against Kano?

First let’s examine their weaknesses. They start at 15 life, and usually have one  good shot of killing you a game. As such, priority number one should be to optimize damage output in order to give your Kano opponent as few turns as possible to set up Potions and a favorable pitch stack. 

One also has to be honest with themselves about what the average pitch value of their deck is. Just because you run Arcane Barrier 3 doesn’t necessarily mean it’s correct to run it as you may not always have the resources to sink into it. As such, it may be correct to play Arcane Barrier 2, Spellvoid 1 and keep in a Snapdragon Scalers or Goliath Gauntlet if your deck is largely red line in order to maximize damage output while still having the ability to blunt their chip damage.

Snapdragon Scalers (Regular)Goliath Gauntlet (Regular)

Knowing when to turtle up is also crucial and if your Kano opponent starts by casting an Aether Wildfire on your turn, it’s often optimal to block every point of damage you can. If you’re a Runeblade player, my recommendation would be to play a Spellvoid 2 equipment, Arcane Barrier 2 and Snapdragon Scalers. This will allow you to block four out of six damage presented from Aether Wildfire, forcing them to really have a good sequence of cards in order to kill you while maximizing the pressure to go off before they are ready. If you want to be super safe and think that your deck has an optimal number of blues, you can play Arcane Barrier 3 and Spellvoid 2 to play super safe against the combo turn. 

What about when the contents of your deck does not allow you to play aggressively? Such is the case for defensive Oldhim players. The good news is that with so many blues, you can run Arcane Barrier 4 in addition to Crown of Seeds, allowing you to block up to a whopping five damage from a single card! 

Crown of Seeds (Rainbow Foil)

The play style you should embody is priority number one: take as little chip damage as possible, while priority number two being to constantly pressure your opponent with a hammer attack. A key to this strategy is to not use Crown of Seeds too recklessly on your opponent’s turn so that you have the extra damage prevention should they decide to go off on your turn with an Aether Wildfire. It is a delicate dance between not leaking extra damage versus going shield down with Crown of Seeds.

A good rule of thumb is to identify the combo potential of the Kano player turn by turn. Do they have a Potion of Deja Vu in play? Do they know the pitch order of the upcoming cards or are they random? You’re usually safer to use your Crown more liberally earlier in the game where the chances of big combo turns are lower compared to the mid/late game when the Kano player is fully loaded with Potions and a desired pitch stack. If it seems that your opponent is setting up for a late game pitch stack, it’s often optimal to sit an Oaken Old in your Arsenal, springing it on your opponent before the turns they’re trying to go off in order to disrupt them. 

At the end of the day, Kano is a very situational deck and thus the responses to Kano are also very situational. While I have laid out the ground work theory to both play and play against Kano, there is no substitute for empirical testing, so get out there and jam some games! 

 

Header - Rhinar

Rhinar // Rhinar, Reckless Rampage (Regular)

Rounding out our top three decks for Calling Las Vegas, we got the cleanest, meanest, stroke of genius you have ever seen. Rhinar has the ability to both disrupt while putting a huge amount of damage on the board. But despite being an offensive looking deck, the way the deck plays out is oftentimes very defensive… until it’s not. 

Bloodrush Bellow (Regular)Barraging Beatdown (Red) (Regular)Alpha Rampage (Regular)

To not speak in riddles, your most powerful turns usually involve Bloodrush Bellow or the combination of Barraging Beatdown and Alpha Rampage. There are small combos in between, but in the majority of circumstances, if your hand does not contain one of the two above combination of cards, your game plan should usually involve blocking with one or two cards while returning volley with a big attack to chip away armor or valuable life points to clear a path for your powerful combo turns. This mindset is about the general heuristics of how I approach playing Rhinar and how I anticipate Rhinar players will play against me. 

Against Oldhim (the defensive version), you want to set up turns where you are intimidating three or four cards before pushing in damage. Don’t be afraid to drag out the game if you draw your copies of Bloodrush Bellow early, in order to set up a devastating one-turn kill combination in the second cycle. 

With respect to what version of Rhinar I enjoy playing, I came across this video by The Teklo Foundry shortly after the release of Everfest and have really been enjoying the deck. Since that time Heartened Cross Strap has been banned, but fret not as Barkbone Strapping is a very suitable replacement. 

Here is a link to The Teklo Foundry’s updated Brute deck and you can further watch a more in depth dive into the deck that includes some very powerful combos! 

Rhinar OTK by The Teklo Foundry

Class: Brute
Hero: Rhinar
Weapons: Mandible Claw
Equipment: Arcanite Skullcap, Barkbone Strapping, Deep Blue, Gambler's Gloves, Goliath Gauntlet, Ironhide Gauntlet, Nullrune Gloves, Scabskin Leathers, Skullhorn

(2) Alpha Rampage (red)
(2) Barraging Beatdown (red)
(2) Command and Conquer (red)
(2) Massacre (red)
(2) Pack Hunt (red)
(1) Pulping (red)
(2) Savage Feast (red)
(2) Swing Big (red)
(2) Wild Ride (red)
(2) Barraging Beatdown (yellow)
(2) Barraging Big Horn (yellow)
(2) Beast Within (yellow)
(2) Bloodrush Bellow (yellow)
(1) Savage Swing (yellow)
(2) Smash Instinct (yellow)
(2) Wrecker Romp (yellow)
(2) Barraging Beatdown (blue)
(2) High Roller (blue)
(2) Reckless Swing (blue)
(2) Sand Sketched Plan (blue)
(2) Wrecker Romp (blue)

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The trick to playing against Rhinar is to choose a hero that has a good range of Armor. Rhinar does not play well from behind, so your primary goal will be to wrestle tempo from the Brute player and give them your armor on their attempted pivot turn in order to continue to keep on the pressure. Keep in mind that while Rhinar does have some of the lowest floors in the game due to his inherent level of variance, he also has one of the highest ceilings, and should your Rhinar opponent run hot, there is likely nothing you will be able to do to survive the reckless onslaught!

That wraps up part one of this article on what to expect and understand heading into the calling Las Vegas. In part two, I hope to discuss the powers of Kassai and Runeblade along with their places in the respective metagame. I hope you enjoyed this week’s article. Feel free to leave your thoughts, ideas and suggestions in the comments. You can also reach out to me on Twitter @TariqPatel10. 

As always, stay happy and healthy!

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