Winning in Each Stage of the Game

Today, I continue fleshing out my collection of theory articles for Flesh and Blood with a look at the different phases of the game, and the general tactics you want to use for each of them. Of course, different heroes and decks play differently, but there are common play patterns and it’s good to be aware of them.


Header - Phase 1: The Opening Turn

The opening turn is unique in FAB. The player going second draws back up to four at the end of the turn, which changes how things play out dramatically. Let’s walk through it.


When You Go First


On a normal turn of FAB, you look at your hand and figure out the most efficient way to attack your opponent. You then attack them, because you want to use up the cards in your hand, and in general it’s a good idea to try and win the game.

When you’re going first, that is not the case. Since the opponent is redrawing at the end of your turn, they have no reason not to defend with everything they have, making attacking not all that great. Instead of forcing the opponent to choose between defending and having a weak turn or taking damage to have a normal one, they just can dump their hand and have it both ways.

So, what should you do on turn 1?

Ideally, you have good setup options that don’t involve attacking. There are a few heroes that are great at this, like Viserai. When going first, Viserai really wants to just make some Runechants and not attack. An opener of activating Grasp of the Arknight plus Read the Runes is incredibly strong – you get a full turn of value without giving them an opportunity to use the only benefit of going second, the free redraw.

Another hero that can do this is Kano by using his hero power to play on the opponent’s turn. You just pass, and on their turn start blasting them with instant-speed Wizard actions.

Even if you aren’t a hero that’s fully equipped to take advantage, you can still make some headway. I would attack if you have nothing better to do, but I highly prioritize putting a card in my arsenal, and would take any setup action possible on this turn.


When You Go Second


When going second, things flip around. You’re the player who wants to defend all-out, which makes things much simpler. The main takeaway here is that it’s almost always worth defending to the max with cards from hand, and I’d happily toss a card to stop even one damage. You’re just redrawing for free, so the only reason not to is when you have the perfect synergy hand.


Header - Phase 2: The Midgame

The midgame is basically turns two through five or so, depending on where each player’s health totals are at. Since FAB doesn’t use a resource system that ramps up (like Magic or Hearthstone), the midgame effectively starts as soon as it’s turn two, and only transitions into the late-game once one or both players are near dead.

Midgame strategy is the broadest and most hero-dependent. Your hero is going to do whatever it’s meant to do, and general advice isn’t all that applicable. Still, there are a couple main things to keep in mind:

  • When deciding what to do each turn, think about what your overall game plan is and what you’re building towards. Each turn isn’t played in a vacuum, and you should be advancing your game plan as best you can with every action you take.
  • Don’t be afraid to utilize your Arsenal. It’s often better to take one less action to Arsenal something good because it can help in overloading their defenses on a critical turn (something I mention every article, because it’s that important).
  • The most common tradeoff you’ll face is when to take a bunch of damage to have a better next turn versus when to defend and resign yourself to a weak or nonexistent following turn. There’s no shortcut to answering this, but consider how much your counterpunch will do, what defenses they have and what you’ll do when you take a bunch of damage.
    • For example, dropping to one or two life against Ninja decks can be really dangerous, because Harmonized Kodachi gets so many attacks per turn. Once you’re forced to block every one damage attack, you run out of cards way too quickly.
  • Be sure to keep in mind what your opponent is trying to accomplish as well. There’s someone sitting across from you and they also have a plan.

Mastering midgame play is one of the hardest parts of the game and it requires a lot of practice with the heroes you bring to battle. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, one of the best ways to get around that is to just try and master one hero’s play patterns and then expand from there.


Header - Phase 3: The Endgame

This is my favorite part of the game. When it’s been a close match, and both players are at two to five health, a pattern emerges. Every time someone attacks, it’s for lethal, and the opponent has to expend a lot of their hand stopping it. Their equipment is used up, they have to use almost everything to stay alive and all they can muster the next turn is a feeble weapon attack or sometimes just an “Arsenal, go” turn.

This phase of the game is tricky, but full of action (that’s why I like it so much). It really tests your ability to manage your resources, as you have to figure out how to stop all their attacks while still counterpunching, and getting every bit of value you out of your cards. A common sequence will be something like “block with three cards on your turn, then pitch my last card to make a weapon attack,” after which the pattern repeats itself.

There are a couple ways to get an edge in Phase 3:

  • Take a turn off attacking to put something good in your Arsenal, or cast a setup card like a Potion. By giving up a weak attack, you can often put together a slightly stronger one and the opponent will be on fewer resources.
  • Be the first to attack all-out to force them to discard their hand. If you’re ahead here, the cycle goes as such:
    • You attack, they expend their resources to block. Their turn then sucks, so you don’t need to block.
    • You start your turn with a full hand and get to pressure them again. Attacks are largely more powerful than blocks, so this will eventually wear them down and let you get that critical damage through.

You can’t always take the initiative because sometimes they’re the ones who get the first attack in, but good planning in Phase 2 will let you start the final stretch ahead. One of the biggest risks of the “take a bunch of damage to set up a good attack” play is that both players end up near-death, but the opponent has the first crack at attacks, which can get you trapped in the cycle I detailed above.“[Phase 3] really tests your ability to manage your resources, as you have to figure out how to stop all their attacks while still counterpunching, and getting every bit of value you out of your cards.”

The most common ways to break out of this, as the player who is behind:

  • Having good defense reactions, as those are very efficient.
  • Save one last scrap of equipment to let you block with it and keep an extra card in hand.
  • Be playing Kano, and attack them on their turn with your fresh hand of cards (a little narrow, but it’s Kano’s greatest strength).
  • Have a good weapon attack because those tend to be the lightest on resources.
  • As mentioned above, completely skip out on attacks for a turn to Arsenal something good and have the ability to set up a nice comeback turn.

Phase 3 is really exciting, and the game hinges on the smallest margins. With good practice, you can come out ahead, though sometimes you just end up short no matter what you do.


Header - Being Unphased

These general guidelines will help you have better plans and make better plays, even if every game is different. Recognizing patterns is a key part of success here, and these general tactics give you a leg up. Until next time, may you always go first with Kano and Viserai.

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