From the game's debut, the Ninja class has been a cornerstone of the Flesh and Blood meta. Recently, however, Katsu has fallen on hard times. Tales of Aria brought with it two new heroes that really brought the hurt to Katsu: Briar and Oldhim.
What was particularly devastating was that these heroes pressured Ninja players in completely different ways. Briar’s offensive potential, combined with her defensive capabilities, forced Katsu to play defensively and leverage the efficiency of Flic Flak; on the opposite end of the spectrum, Oldhim’s sturdy defenses pushes Ninja players to max out on offensive potential and set up powerful combo turns.
These two strategies were relatively incongruous, making it difficult to effectively incorporate both into a single decklist. Thankfully, Legend Story Studios leveled the playing field with a Banned and Restricted Update that has cut Briar down significantly. While Katsu also loses a card to the banning- since many CC Ninja decks used Plunder Run- he stands to gain more than he loses by the metagame space created by Briar’s absence.
But where do we go with our favorite Ninja, and how should we be looking to build him moving forward into Everfest?
An Open Field Where Briars Once Grew
The bannings, and the debut of Everfest, will cause serious ripples across the format, and only time will tell which hero emerges as the strongest once the dust settles. However, I predict that many of the decks that were strong before the bannings will continue to be contenders. This includes Oldhim, Bravo, and Viserai, all of whom were unaffected by the bans.
But I also believe that Chane will still be a major contender in the Everfest meta. Prism and Boltyn are also in a good position to attack the meta as they were decks that were significantly held down by the presence of Briar in tournament play. With her fall, these heroes will likely rise to take their place.
Katsu will also be well positioned with the new set incoming. Furthermore, the absence of Plunder Run in the format will serve to slow many of the aggro decks down, leading to a grindier format overall. This will make a midrange variant of Katsu the strongest to bring into the open field.
Midrange Katsu will be well positioned with the new set incoming.
Building for Midrange
While midrange Katsu got a bad rep in the Monarch era, I do think it can find success now. The variety found in the competitive field has never been higher, and so there is increased value in having a flexible strategy that can be geared to defeat a variety of archetypes.
However, building a midrange deck can be a difficult process. I typically like to work backwards when making my list, looking first at my ideal configuration for each of the top decks, and then melding each of those different configurations into one 80-card list. My midrange decks will go through many different iterations, so don’t be afraid to fiddle with the numbers and customize your deck to your own liking.
I typically meld packages from several archetypes into one 80-card list.
Also, don’t be afraid of 1-ofs in a deck like this, since each slot is highly valuable when trying to pivot strategies. Furthermore, cards that are flexible gain increased value, since they can fulfill different roles in the deck with only 1 card.
I won't be giving you an exact decklist in this piece, but rather discussing the packages that you'll want to consider. Let’s take a look at some of the different strategies that Katsu will be wrapping into one midrange package.
The Aggro Package
In the Monarch meta, we saw many Ninja players favoring a hyper-aggressive strategy, utilizing the threat of Mask of Momentum and efficient attacks to exert consistent pressure on your opponents. This package will generally look to utilize the power of Katsu’s many on-hit triggers to exploit your opponent’s defensive inability.
A common strategy utilizes cards like Heartened Cross Strap, yellow Surging Strike, and 0 cost attacks like Scar for Scar to put as many attacks on the chain as possible.
This strategy is most potent against set-up decks, since your aggressive pressure punishes them for spending time setting up. You'll want to lean into this package against Chane, Viserai, Prism, and similar opponents. Often, you want to focus on pushing damage and keeping tempo to prevent your opponent from pivoting towards their powerful late games.
The Defensive Package
We also saw heavily defensive Ninja variants in the early days of the Monarch meta. These decks looked to leverage the hyper efficiency of Flic Flak as well as Harmonized Kodachi to whittle the opponent down over time.
In general, this package will look to block with 2 cards, then pitch a card and swing with both daggers and 1 attack to set up a Mask trigger. While in the past these defensive decks were often looking to fatigue their opponents, more modern defensive decks will often look to win the damage trade against their opponents while building towards a powerful combo turn.
This deck will often include Breeze Rider Boots and a plethora of 0-cost defense reactions to wall off the opponent. This strategy can be good against Ranger decks, Briar (at least what I expect her to evolve into), and Warrior decks.
The Combo Package
Combo and Aggro are typically very similar strategies in card choices, but will differ in how the overall game plays out. Against defensive decks, a hyper-offensive strategy can be vulnerable to fatigue if you are unable to break through their defensive wall. As a result, it is often better to play patiently into these decks and set up as many powerful combo turns as you can. This will include leveraging Art of War to build a combo chain, or Ancestral Empowerment to push over an on-hit effect.
This archetype did suffer somewhat from losing Plunder Run, as it was one of the most powerful effects in the format to set up around, but it is still effective when combating defensive and control decks. The Guardian decks, as well as defensive builds of Dash, can struggle to punish your set-up effectively, and a well-timed combo turn can push through massive amounts of damage.
Putting It All Together
My midrange decks will typically include packages for each of these strategies, to varying degrees based on what is prevalent in the metagame. Facing down lots of aggressive decks? Sleeve up a deck with a more defensive slant, while still including cards to be able to pivot into the other strategies you need. The trick is figuring out just many slots each archetype requires and how you can distill it down to only its most essential parts. This will let you to most efficiently combine different strategies within the same deck.
Ultimately, the most important thing when building a midrange deck is practice and experimentation. Each slot in the 80 is extremely valuable, and you want to make sure you get the most out of each one. To do so, you will need to have a clear plan against each matchup and understand the cards you want to build around to take down your opponent. Will you look to utilize Flic Flak and Katsu’s efficient weapons to whittle your opponent down, or blow them out with powerful combo turns centered around Art of War?
Right now, my decks is midrange with an aggressive slant to punish decks that can be slow out of the gate. There are a plethora of options available to prospective Ninja players, and things will only expand once Everfest is released. Katsu is primed to take a jump in power level with the influx of new cards, but any work that is done now will still be applicable once the new tools are released. So sleeve up those Kodachi and get ready to slice up your opponent’s!
Nick Gabler is a Minnesota based card game lover who has been playing Flesh and Blood competitively since the release of Monarch. Nick is always talking about and exploring the competitive side of the game and you can find additional strategy content at his Patreon page, the Body Brigade (https://www.patreon.com/bodybrigade).
Appreciate the breakdown! Can’t wait for some spicy ninja reveals!
Great article! Excited to see what comes of katsu.
Awesome article! Would love to see more for this guy!
Incredible work. Everfest has already been kind to katsu so very excited to adapt my list to more new stuff
Awesome article! I appreciate how easy it was to understand while still having a lot of detail and depth to it! I hope we can see something like this for all the new stuff coming out in everfest!
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