Flesh and Blood Nationals Season Paints an Abstract Portrait for Worlds

Two weekends worth of National Championship action have been resolved, and a few yet are left to be sorted. While all eyes will be on the final days of the tournament circuit, many are looking beyond to the big show: the World Championships in San Jose, California in November. The best players in the world will descend upon the golden state to fight for the most prestigious title ever awarded in Flesh and Blood, and while fans may be confident in which players might be in contention, doubt will continue to swirl around what the meta may look like.

Much like The Calling: Singapore acted as an early warning system for Pro Tour: Lille, the National Championship series is what many are hoping will add some clarity to the metagame puzzle ahead of Worlds. The best players in their respective countries will no doubt be bringing their most devious and worn-in brews to the tournaments, amplifying the significance of the data collected. What we are seeing, however, hardly dispels much of the uncertainty surrounding what the Worlds meta will shape up to be.



Header - Moving Targets

The chatter since Prism retired is that Oldhim players no longer need to feed the karma monster ahead of major tournaments. The Illusionist terror that feasted on Oldhim no longer prowls the swiss rounds, allowing for the Elemental Guardian to emerge with more confidence. Being as close to Starvo as you’ll get, many players have christened the Grandfather of Eternity as the new Chosen One, efficiently maintaining a healthy life total while patiently lining up brutal punishments once their opponent has sputtered out. Oldhim is top of the list for a lot of players, seeing as it has won more National Championships (seven) in the first two weeks than any other hero. Favorites, however, aren’t quite guarantees.

Oldhim, Grandfather of Eternity // Oldhim

From week to week, players are studying the data and analyzing the deck lists and gameplay footage to get ahead of the ever shifting curve. The “right deck” is a constantly moving target. Your aim may be true to nail the bullseye in week one, but without a constant finger on the pulse of the competitive landscape, your next shot will land a mile off of the target when you need it to count most. Oldhim is a very safe bet to play, and many prominent players are leaning on the versatility of Guardian, but with predictability comes risk. The flavor of the week will change. You can be certain that the best minds in Flesh and Blood are deep in their secret labs trying to discover the missing herbs and spices to corner a meta that has been turbulent since Uprising. Copying the blueprint of last week’s Nationals results isn’t an easy pass to reliable results. You’re not taking “the best deck;” you’re taking “the best deck” last week.


Header - Metas Collide

The truth is that Flesh and Blood is a very regionally-driven game, with metas and choices becoming critically dependent on your read of your area. Though Talishar (formally FAB Online), has been churning out hundreds of games daily, it is a mere drop in the bucket compared to what would be needed for a digital client to truly sift through the science experiments and spit out the global consensus of what the top tier decks are. The game is pockets of players adapting to their local scene, climbing the tournament ladder of qualifiers until they finally meet head-on at a Pro Tour or World Championship.

Dromai, Ash Artist // DromaiIyslander, Stormbind // Iyslander (Regular)Dash, Inventor Extraordinaire // Death Dealer (Regular)

Glancing at the results of the first two weeks of Nationals, the Top 8 brackets have been littered with heroes that weren’t anywhere on the radar for pros and casuals alike. While Briar was no secret, many were rewarded for leaning on Dromai as the new authority against Guardians, having the Illusionist well represented in so many Top 8s. Iyslander has been skillfully refined to nimbly maneuver around the aggressive field, while Viserai continues to surprise with strong showings across the board. Beyond that, though, we catch more Dash players succeeding, altering their style to a more control-oriented pistol spam approach. Dorinthea winning in Romania has a lot of fans happy, while Fai has regained some of that swagger it seemed to have way back in June.


Header - An Intimidating Field

Rhinar, Reckless Rampage // Seismic Surge (Regular)

One particular hero has spilled the most paint on what is becoming one hell of a messy canvas. Rhinar hasn’t been too much of a talking point, given the discussion often revolves around whether to play Oldhim, or pivot to any of the handful of viable alternatives. The Brute resurfaced upon Nitya Kalaichelvan’s win of Malaysian Nationals on the savage hero. Going right for the jugular, Rhinar can circumvent the defensive capabilities of the Guardians on patrol, peeling their hand away with intimidate triggers, and showing their opponents the true meaning of getting pummeled.

In week two, amidst what many might consider one of the toughest contested competitions, Tariq Patel managed to secure his second National Championship (in his second country, to boot) in Canada playing Oldhim. Standing in his way, however, was Ian Smith, swinging hard. Rhinar cut through a powerhouse field in the great North to fall just short to arguably the best player in the game. Not far behind was Clay DeAngelis throwing haymakers on Rhinar as well, losing in the quarter finals. Though the hero was quiet in many other tournaments, the fact that it kicked down the doors in Canada while having won Malaysia could be a cause for some concern. Not many heroes are cool with taking it on the chin, and against a meta that has slowed down considerably, finding effective ways to convert on attacks may come down to players putting their faith in Rhinar, the dice rolls and discarding sixes.


Header - Beauty In The Chaos

Nationals season has provided a lot of great entertainment and discussions. The games have been stellar, the decks have been masterful and the players have agonized for weeks trying to make heads or tails of what the tournament will shape up to look like. There are very few conclusions to be drawn from the fragmented clues we’ve been left after these exciting past two weekends. Players preparing for the biggest tournament in Flesh and Blood history aren’t looking to be cute or overly dynamic; they’re struggling to assess the future and choose a hero, let alone settle on an 80-card list.

With narratives shifting from day to day and meta pies looking like a roulette wheel, being in the shoes of a World Championship competitor is a daily game of fortune telling and espionage. Who has the inside scoop? Who is going to break out the next Promise of Plenty Briar? From the side of us spectators though, this is one hell of a ride. The logic points to Oldhim having a strong presence, but where do we go from there? Beyond that, what the hell will Blitz even look like? This chaotic maelstrom of spilled paint has created quite a mess, but if we frame it right, it’s art I can appreciate.

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