For anyone competing in the first Pro Tour and Calling New Jersey, the next two weeks are going to be a mad-dash of testing, brewing, and theory crafting. One of the best skills you can work on is being able to see the decision trees that happen within each turn cycle.
Sometimes you want to maximize or minimize damage, other times you’re happy to lose a card’s worth of value in service of a larger game plan. Games of Flesh and Blood are won on the margins of an incredible number of “small” decisions, and learning to gain even a single point of damage can translate into wins.
Professional TCG players have been known to spend years analyzing high profile matches for better lines, thinking through levels of detail that you just can’t imagine sifting through during a game. A wonderful perk about Flesh and Blood is that a lot of the sequences from game to game are similar enough to find patterns in, while varying enough to keep us coming back for more. Particularly when learning a new deck in testing, I try to run through as many “what’s the play” sequences as I can with each hand. The more patterns you’re able to recognize in your deck, the less mentally taxing games will be to play, and you’ll better understand when to deviate from your normal game plan.
I’m going to lay out some board states, give you the relevant variables as well as a few possible plays to choose from. Take your time to think through the options, and let me know in the comments if you’ve found a better line!
Scenario: It’s your opponent’s turn, and they are attacking you with a Winter’s Wail threatening a Frostbite.
You: Briar, Warden of Thorns
- 19 Life
- In Hand: Nimblism (Red), Earthlore Surge (Blue), Channel Mount Heroic, Revel in Runeblood
- In Play: Channel Mount Heroic with one counter, Fyendal’s Spring Tunic with one counter
- Arsenal: Entwine Lightning (Red)
Opponent: Oldhim, Grandfather of Eternity.
- One card in hand
- 25 life
- Stalagmite, Bastion of Isenloft with no counters, Fyendal’s Spring Tunic on two counters, Crater Fist with no counters, Crown of Seeds and Nullrune Boots
- No blocks. Play Nimblism, pitching Channel Mount Heroic. Create a Runechant, pitching Weave Earth. Attack with Entwine Lightning. Arsenal Revel in Runeblood.
- Block with Arcanite Skullcap and Grasp of the Arknight. Play Nimblism, Revel in Runeblood, creating an Embodiment of Lightning. Pitch Channel Mount Heroic and Weave Earth to make a Runechant with Grasp. Attack with Entwine Lightning. Attack with Rosetta Thorn.
- No blocks. Play Nimblism pitching Channel Mount Heroic. Play Revel in Runeblood, creating an Embodiment of Lightning. Pitch Weave Earth to make a Runechant with Grasp. Attack with Entwine Lightning. Attack with Rosetta Thorn.
- Block with Arcanite Skullcap and Grasp of the Arknight. Play Nimblism, Channel Mount Heroic pitching Weave Earth, creating an Embodiment of Lightning token. Attack with Entwine Lightning. Arsenal Revel in Runeblood, keeping the newly played Channel Mount Heroic
We get to keep Channel Mount Heroic around for another turn, where we hope to get at least two attacks in for a value of 6 damage that it provides. We do end up ‘wasting’ Revel in Runeblood, it directly translates into 4 damage with a weapon attack we wouldn’t otherwise have. Putting it into our arsenal could result in a truly explosive next turn, but we are also opened up to Oldhim’s Ice Defence Reaction to place it on top of our decks, significantly reducing the chances of getting full value from Channel Mount Heroic.
Oldhim is able to consistently block 9 points of damage, while attacking with Winter’s Wail and threatening to slow down our turns. Maximizing larger turns on the back of Channel Mount Heroic is our best way to apply enough pressure to outlast the Grandfather of Eternity. This is why I would shy away from Option 4 – while we will have a CMH around next turn, we lose the one in play to do so. In a grindy matchup like this, I want to have access as many turns of CMH as possible, so I’m happy to pitch one back into the deck to see again later.
Not using the ‘free’ block with the equipment may seem like an odd choice, but it allows us to save them for a later turn when we may not have remaining resources to pay for a Frostbite token. With this line of play we have a leftover resource to pay for the Frostbite from Stalagmite should he choose to gift us one.
- You are playing Bravo, Showstopper at 35 life after taking five from Sonata Arcanix
- Cards in hand are Pummel (Blue), Chokeslam (Blue), Rouse the Ancients, Crippling Crush
- Command and Conquer in Arsenal
- Seismic Surge in play
- Nullrune Boots and no counters on Arcanite Skullcap, Tectonic Plating, Crater Fist
Your Opponent on Viserai is at 13 life
- Blocked last turn with a Swarming Gloomveil
- Played Mordred Tide into Sonata Arcanix, earning two Meat and Greet (Red), Swarming Gloomveil, Spellblade Assault (Blue), Shrill of Skullform (Blue) and one unknown card
- Attacking with Rune Flash and 14 Runechants, with two Runechants in play
Bonus Question: What is the highest damage output card they could have as the unknown card in their hand? What are you planning to play around?
- Take 14 Runechants. Block with Pummel and Rouse the Ancients.
- Pitch Rouse the Ancients and Pummel to Nullrune Boots to prevent six Runechants, taking eight. Block with Tectonic Plating and Crater Fist.
- Take 14 Runechants. Block with Crippling Crush.
- Pitch Pummel to Nullrune Boots, taking 11 Runechants. No blocks.
The key here is to calculate the damage your opponent can do based on the information you’ve been given. While Sonata Arcanix to effectively draw five cards is extremely powerful, you gain a lot of information about how to block through the turn.
Mordred Tide means every attack action card will be making two Runechants. So far, we know about 18 damage currently coming our way – two Runechants sitting in play, six each from Swarming Gloomveil and the two Meat and Greets and four from Rosetta Thorn for a total of 42.
Since the attacking Rune Flash has no on-hits, we’re better off waiting to block the on-hit effect from Meat and Greet to effectively negate an extra two damage by denying the creation of two more Runechants. It can be intimidating to take so much damage from the first attack when we have ways to block, but by planning out our turn in advance, we can try to squeeze out some additional value.
It’s also worth considering what the mystery card in their hand could be. Since all of the red attacks they have already have go again thanks to the arcane damage dealt by Sonata Arcanix, Mauvrion Skies (Blue) for example would represent two Runechants off of the Viserai trigger and Mordred Tide, and potentially two more from an on-hit.
We have potentially 18 points of damage negation/blocking between our cards in hand and equipment in play (if we fall below 13 life for Arcanite Skullcap), along with 35 life. Hopefully they can’t deal 53 points this turn.
In this spot, they could have a Become the Arknight, discarding one of the blue attacks to fetch a Revel in Runeblood, which would increase their total by nine. Given they seem to be on the OTK plan for Viserai, it is less likely they have Revel in their deck, so I wouldn’t put too much stock here.
I would be most concerned with a Rattle Bones for the Swarming Gloomveil, meaning eight additional points coming our way, or even intentionally closing the chain to threatening a third on-hit we would have trouble defending.
This is less of a scenario and more of a question. When is the optimal time to play Even Bigger Than That!?
This one is a little abstract but I think it’s important to talk about. Being an instant, it’s easy to imagine playing immediately after having dealt damage because you don’t want to deal too much and lose all your potential hits. You’ll also limit yourself to attacks without go again to make use of the Quicken token, but in a deck like Katsu, the order of operations makes all the difference.
Similarly if we think of casting EBTT only when we know we’re going to want a Quicken token, there are going to be times we miss the window for max value.
We’ll most often want to play EBTT in the reaction window after that attack that deals damage. In this case, if the first Kodachi hits and we attack with the second, playing it before damage happens gives us the best chance at hitting a card from the top of the deck.
This information is also helpful information if you’re playing against EBTT. If you’ve know that they have one in their hand (say off Ravenous Rabble), you might be inclined to block smaller sources of damage like Kodachis in favor of taking damage in chunks of five to nullify the effect of the card. It’s a very niche situation, but it can certainly come up.
Scenario: You are playing Chane against a fatigue Oldhim. You have the first turn, what’s the play?
- Pitch Rift Bind and Howl from Beyond to create a Runechant with Grasp of the Arknight. Arsenal Shadow of Ursur.
- Pitch Shadow of Ursur to play Howl From Beyond, activate Chane and attack with Vexing Malice. Arsenal Rift Bind.
- Pitch Howl From Beyond and Rift Bind to create a Runechant. Activate Chane. Pitch Shadow of Ursur to attack with Rosetta Thorn. Arsenal Vexing Malice.
- Pitch Shadow of Ursur to play Howl From Beyond, activate Chane, and attack with Vexing Malice. Pitch Rift Bind to attack with Rosetta Thorn.
We want to play for a strong late game by pitching as many powerful Blood Debt cards as we can to try and power through the consistent blocks and Oldhim can present. While attacking let’s them filter towards a powerful hand, seeing those banished to Soul Shackles later will result in a high damage output turn.
Vexing Malice (Blue) is lackluster out of Arsenal, but we only really need it to annoy them into using cards to block damage while we sculpt an endgame.
- Tear Asunder’d Anothos attacking for seven dominate
- One card in hand, no resources floating
- In Play: Passing Mirage
- Arsenal: Unmovable (Yellow)
- In Hand: Haze Bending, Prismatic Shield (Red), Merciful Retribution, Herald of Protection (Blue)
- Fyendal’s Spring Tunic with three counters
- Block with Herald of Erudition. Take four, discard Prismatic Shield and Haze Bending
- Pitch Haze Bending to react with Unmovable for a full block. Attack with Herald of Erudition pitching Merciful Retribution, with no Phantasm from Passing Mirage.
- Pitch Haze Bending to react with Unmovable for a full block. Play Merciful Retribution pitching Prismatic Shield and Herald of Protection, attack for one.
- Play Merciful Retribution, pitching Herald of Protection and the Tunic resource. In response to the on-hit trigger, play Prismatic Shield.
By getting a little tricky with the timing of our Prismatic Shield, we can effectively “trade” the seven life from the attack without losing the value of any of our cards. We get to present a powerful board state that will be able to apply pressure on future turns, as well as keep the Unmovable to protect the Soul Shields from being destroyed.
- 20 life
- Four cards in hand, one in Arsenal
- 11 life
- Six Runechants
- Arsenal: Rattle Bones
- In Hand: Revel in Runeblood, Ninth Blade of the Blood Oath, Become the Arknight, Rattle Bones
- Graveyard: Meat and Greet (red and blue)
Activate Skeleta, Rattle Bones from Arsenal targeting Meat and Greet (Red). Attack with Ninth Blade. Pitch Become for Spellbound Creepers and play Revel to get our action point back, ending up at six Runechants again. Attack with Meat and Greet. If allowed, attack with Rosetta Thorn.
If we get our way, this could be a 30 damage turn. We’ll be left with Rattle Bones to Arsenal or put on top to Oldhim’s ability. Blizzard could affect the Meat and Greet, but at the cost of three life and another Runechant. We will also be left with a floating resource, meaning a block with Stalagmite wouldn’t slow us down either.
This scenario originally came from a Blitz video with Rob Cygul, but is a great reminder of the intricacies of Viserai. There were some comments made on Twitter with a line close to this one, but I think this line present the most threatening turn.
- 34 life,
- Attacking with Ravenous Rabble for four, revealing Nimblism (red)
- 37 life
- In Arsenal is a Winter’s Grasp (Blue)
- In hand: Macho Grande (Blue), Pulse of Isenloft, Oaken Old, Disable (Blue)
- Block with Disable. On your turn, pitch Macho Grande for a fused Oaken Old.
- Pitch Disable to Crown of Seeds, block with the drawn card. On your turn, fuse Oaken Old.
- Pitch Disable to Crown, block with Macho Grande, on your turn Winter’s Wail.
- No blocks. Fused Oaken Old.
Fused Oaken Old is of course a powerful play, but sculpting the circumstances you play it is where you can gain an edge. Preventing even a single damage from using Crown of Seeds before damage in this situation will allow Briar’s Skullcap to block for two, meaning the Nimblism will block for three thanks to an Embodiment of Earth, and the three equipment will mean Oaken Old only ends up taking out a single card from their hand.
Hopefully the above puzzles were interesting and thought-provoking. Completing these exercises will give an edge when the time comes to solve novel problems in a tournament situation.
Let me know in the comments if I missed anything, or if you’ve found an even better line of play. As always feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @TariqPatel10