10 Mistakes We've All Made
Flesh and Blood is an incredibly nuanced game. With three roles for every card, a constant cycling of cards, and the strategic use of card stacking for the late game, there are a lot of decisions to be made from your four-card hand. And that leaves a lot of room for mistakes.
I've taught the game to a lot of new players- but beyond that, I've had the opportunity to follow the development of many of these players for over a year. In doing so, I've noticed some consistent, repeated mistakes that we all make- ones that I know I've been guilty of myself.
Today I'd like to address 10 mistakes we've all made- not to call anyone out, but to help us all spot the traps we fall into, and hopefully to begin climbing back out of them.
Is there any better feeling that drawing your opening hand and finding three blues and a Crippling Crush? Or perhaps you've got a deliciously wide hand of Draconic attacks with a Lava Burst at the end. A strong start sets you up for a strong game, right?
But an opponent is seldom in a better position to defend than on the first turn of the game. Because the 2nd player gets to re-draw their hand after the first defense, they're free to throw all 4 cards into blocking- and even stand to benefit from the opportunity to 'mulligan' less effective elements of their hand for a stronger turn two.
In the first few turns of the game, you should consider carefully the likely path of your game.
One of the benefits of a strong offensive is how it steals tempo and sets the opponent on their back foot. You give that up if you throw it on turn one. Instead, arsenal that key attack and launch it when the consequences of blocking really matter.
But this goes beyond turn one strategy. In the first few turns of the game, you should consider carefully the likely path of your game. Will you see the second cycle of your deck? Do you expect your opponent to use equipment and armor early or late? That key attack may be more important for you later- and by pitching it, or sliding it into arsenal, you can set yourself up with a closer right when you need it.
Partial Blocking "To Take The Edge Off"
Take it from an Azalea main: blocking only part of an attack is as good as blocking none of it. That hit effect is still gonna impact you, your life total is still gonna drop, and now you have less cards in hand for your own offensive.
Of course, not every class does hit effects like Rangers. If it's just numbers, why not slow the bleed?
Attacks always pressure on two fronts: life total, and tempo. As defenders, we often choose to give away one to maintain the other. And as attackers, we usually have one we'd prefer to impact. Your life total is a resource- ultimately, you only need 1 point of health left at the end of the game, and anything more is, effectively, tempo we didn't need to give up. That said, we cannot afford to make mistakes giving away life in favor of tempo.
A partial block lets your opponent make progress on both fronts. They take some life and they take some tempo. At it's core, it's a midrange defense strategy, one that sits in a balanced middle and offers no advantage to us. It also means that, whichever axis our opponent truly wanted to hit us on, they did.
Attacks always pressure on two fronts: life total, and tempo. As defenders, we often choose to give away one to maintain the other.
But not every class can make use of a full grip of cards. There are certainly circumstances where 'taking the edge off' an attack is better than what you could have done with that blocking card, were it still in your hand during your own attack phase.
Many players toss a partial block when they're not sure of the right play, or feel that either way they lose. In fact, a partial block is a much more skill-testing play than it seems, and should be done with clarity of intent.
Full Blocking Without a Reason
It's super easy to over-value your life total, and feels good to answer your opponent's attacks with full blocks that shut down their advances. But what's your game plan? Are you actually stalling toward something? Or simply dragging out the game to a fatigue state?
I have a mantra while I evaluate incoming attacks: if it's just numbers, I don't need to block it.
At this point, you should be mapping out your own attack phase, and if you have cards that will be left over at the end of that, go ahead and trim some damage. But if you've come to the table with a competent deck, your damage efficiency should be such that blocking with cards that could be attacking is a bad exchange. And sacrificing your damage output to stop them from taking any of your health is losing sight of your actual endgame: bringing them to zero.
Equipment Blocking Without a Reason
Equipment blocking without a good reason is a bad decision. Take both of the above and compound it by lost opportunity of your equipment's effects or the ability to block wider than your hand can allow- that is what's at stake when you slide a piece of armor onto the chain.
Of course, armor is made to be broken. You don't want to lose a game with your New Horizon still equipped. But there's no reason to throw Arcanite Skullcap on turn one- and I've seen it more than once.
Your equipment is essential to staying alive while you piece together a pivot turn. Or to stave off a hit effect than would ruin your big payoff turn. If you use it for anything less than that, you might as well Cash Out for all the use you're getting out of it.
Changing Strategy While Defending
I'm really drilling down on poor choices while defending- and look, I get it, nothing makes you jumpy like facing a barrage of attacks- but once you've decided on your course of action, for the love of Sol stick to it!
This is the result of a turn going wider than you expected, but let's look back and apply the lessons we've already learned. You don't need to 'trim damage' off attacks when 'hit or miss' is what really matters. And you don't need to fully block damage just because you can. Your cards are probably worth more on the attack than on the defensive. That's all still true across multiple attacks.
If your hand was good enough to hold when the first 0-for-4 with go again came out, that's still true when the second one drops, and the third. Look, you knew what they were up to! It's just numbers!
Once you've decided on your course of action, for the love of Sol stick to it!
But even if you decide you need to save some life, please don't take Fai's Emberblade and then inefficiently block the Phoenix Flames! Correctly identify the attacks that you can effectively stymie- ideally, ones with hit effects of some consequence. Don't start blocking just because the turn went too long!
Playing Out Your Hand
We've finally made it to our own attack phase, and following my absolutely-not-a-hard-and-fast-rule of "it's just numbers", you've got a 4-card hand! Surely you just unload now, right?
Well there's this thing called an arsenal. If you're new to the game, it's a place where you put your leftover cards so you can draw more. But once you've got a few dozen games under your belt, you start to see how the arsenal lets you float a card from one hand to another.
5-card turns can unlock some truly powerful sequences. The damage output can easily overwhelm even the most determined defender.
Unless you see a window to push damage, take every opportunity to set your next turn up for an even bigger payoff. The more 5-card hands you see, the better your outcomes are likely to be.
Prioritizing Cards Over Weapons
Unless you're playing Dorinthea, the attacks in your deck are always going to be flashier than the weapon you brought. (You can read my thoughts on the role of your weapon in my last article.) But every time you pitch that attack to instead swing your weapon, you put off fatigue by another card- and save that attack for a stronger endgame.
Consider your breakpoints. Consider the threat both attacks present, and how effective that threat really is this turn versus a later turn. Taking the previous topic into consideration, there are times when a 2-card hand is better used to swing your weapon and arsenal a card than played out. If you can't mount a threatening attack sequence this turn, set yourself up to do so next time.
Wasting Your Buffs
Breakpoints matter. Attacks for 1, 4, and 7 are incredibly useful for actually pushing damage through. Attacks for 3, 6, or 9? Too easy to efficiently block! Even 2, 5, and 8 aren't ideal, as they allow efficient blocking with a 2.
In most cases, your buff is coming from a card. While you're asking your opponent to use an extra card to block all the damage, you're also spending an extra card to do that- ultimately, it's a net zero exchange.
(This leads to a bigger question about the value of buffs compared with go again attacks, and whether +3 non-attack actions are actually that valuable, but that's bigger than this article.)
When you play a buff, have a reason for it: move the damage value into a breakpoint lane, or make a full block a more expensive prospect while attacking with a hit effect. And as we said earlier, don't break an equipment to move a 4-damage attack to a 6!
Living and Dying by Efficient Pitch
As I'm nearing the end of this, I'm realizing how much these topics tie together into a mindset approach: don't do more just because you can!
We all love pitching a blue and spending all those resources by the end of our turn. It feels like you're getting everything you can out of your hand. But it also leaves no room for disruption- and with Ice heavily present in the meta, extra resources are more important than ever.
Floating pitch needs to be a regular part of your gameplay or it's not really a bluff.
On the flipside, pitching can be a tell, especially for reactions. The Pummel Bluff is a familiar play by now (floating 2 extra resources on the attack to make it seem like you intend to attack react); but floating pitch needs to be a regular part of your gameplay or it's not really a bluff.
Pitching is also a mechanism by which you can clean out your hand, making room for new cards and digging further through your deck. Inefficiently pitching an unneeded red before your blue can move that card along (while also contributing to your bluffing game).
Sabotaging Your Own Endgame
You know that feeling when everything has gone right for the first half of the game, but then you just can't close? You just can't find any power cards? Did you... maybe use them all at the start of the game? Did you spend the whole game pitching blues and now you're drawing them all? Did you burn all your equipment to block early and keep your health up, and now every defense phase sees you giving away your hand just to stay in the game? Has your weapon become your ill-suited primary attack?
(I told you this was all a mindset change.)
You can only steal power for the early game if you're confident you won't see the late game- otherwise you need to play now while thinking about closing later. It requires intentional planning. By changing your state of mind from "How big can I make this turn?" to "How can I position my power spikes for the greatest impact?", you'll find yourself bringing that opponent to zero more often.
We all make mistakes. But fortunately, not every game is a World Championship. There's plenty of time to fail, and to learn from our failures. Some of the recommendations I've made above will, inevitably, prove to be my own undoing, and I'll be flipping my position on them telling you to 'make the most of every pitch' and 'take the edge off damage' because some new dynamic has entered the card pool. TCGs are evolving games that require you to regularly evaluate your own gameplay patterns. When something isn't working, try another approach and move on.
Alex Truell is the editor for the Rathe Times. Alex is a casually competitive player overseeing the growth of a Flesh and Blood scene in Ripon, WI. Alex is a player who cares about the competitive environment, but doesn't have to live in it; an optimist who loves the game, but can take a step back to critique it; and a deckbuilder who revels in novelty.
Thank you for this great article, very interesting.
I recognized myself on many points. I will add one: not being able to give up my hand because it seems very strong and in the end taking 15 damages to propose only 9 during my turn.
Man, we've all been there! Ha ha!
Man, we've all been there! Ha ha!
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