In early August, Drew Cordell shared a refined Bravo list that he'd prepared for Road to Nationals competition. This build boasted strong matchups into both Chane and Prism, seen as powerhouse threats to Bravo. (Our very own Mark Chamberlain proved its merits when he piloted that decklist to a 1st place RtN victory.)
Since the release of that article, many readers have asked Drew for a follow-up that specifically discussed sideboarding and matchups. Throughout this matchup guide, Drew will be referring to the decklist in the previous article.
With Road to Nationals ramping up to full swing, Drew Cordell explores his latest iteration of competitive, Classic Constructed Guardian after almost a month of heavy testing, designed to improve the Prism matchup without making sacrifices against any of the other top contenders of the format.
All matchups are different. You can use these as starting points, but they may not represent the best cards to subtract from the deck based on your local meta or preferred playstyle. Feel free to experiment and see what works for you!
The core equipment set is Anothos, Arcanite Skullcap, Tectonic Plating, Crater Fist, and Mage Master Boots.
Against Chane and Kano, we equip Nullrune Boots instead, for some minor defense against arcane. Against Prism, opt for Time Skippers.
Matchups and Sideboarding
Against Brutes, we tend to run a high card count, as this match will get grindy. Rhinar will try to disrupt our ability to block through intimidate, so zero-cost defense reactions played from arsenal will have additional value. Brute can also present some tall sources of damage, which we'll want to have the ability to defend efficiently.
Levia will either go super wide or present big attacks via attack action cards and Hexagore later in the game. Look to defend, and search for an opportunity to pressure back, forcing Levia to take damage from Blood Debt by losing too many cards in hand. This is usually through either Pummeled attacks or cards like Crippling Crush- which can be catastrophic for the opposing Levia once her Carrion Husk has been destroyed. In my opinion, Levia (CC) is not consistent enough to pose a truly legitimate threat against Guardian in the current meta.
In the mirror, we want to shift to more of a midrange deck while still being able to grind it out and defend against our opponent. Holding up armor to try to avoid detrimental dominated crush effects is crucial to playing this match well. Cards like Zealous Belting and Pummel (on undominated attacks) allow us to punch back hard, while Anothos continues to chip in and wear our opponents down. Just be warned, their Anothos will be coming at you too.
Aim to put pressure whenever possible and hold up defense reactions to play from arsenal in a pinch. Use Remembrance to pull back big threats like Crippling Crush and Righteous Cleansing, and use dominate to close out the game. Play quickly, but don’t get sloppy because this will be a grind for time.
Katsu can be a tough match. Try to keep your life and equipment up until the late game. Lean into Pummel as a way to get around Flic Flak and push damage through. Your opponent will try to poke you down with Kodachis, which make blocking a hassle. Look to play Remembrance to bring back offensive threats, and try to go in big with Spinal and Crippling Crush to disrupt Katsu. We want to be swinging back with Anothos for six whenever possible. When using Zealous Belting, look for opportunities to Pummel it up and force a discard.
Hold up defense reactions and be ready to use armor for Command and Conquer when protecting a valuable card in Arsenal. Play Sigil of Solace to arsenal and try to bait the Katsu player into playing their C&C thinking they are targeting a Crippling Crush.
Beware the low-life zone! The last place we want to be against Katsu is at or below four life, where a single Kodachi + red Razer Reflex represents death. Being forced to block Kodachi with a card from hand puts us in a situation that is very hard to escape without the help of Sigil of Solace.
As stated in the primary article, Prism was the primary consideration while refining Bravo for RtN, and represents a major threat. Try to play quickly and efficiently, as this match can often take a lot of time to play and neither player wants it to end in a draw.
Zealous Belting is one of the powerhouse cards in this matchup, and allows us to pressure the opponent for five and then swing in with Anothos to destroy an aura. Zealous Belting is one of the best targets for Remembrance later in the game.
Aim to aggressively use Show Time! to tutor up a yellow card if your opponent plays an early Great Library. We run more yellows now to deal with this threat and prevent the opponent from snowballing too much value.
Use Time Skippers to destroy two auras in one turn. Otherwise, always destroy your opponent’s auras, and look to use Pummel and dominate your big attacks to break Spectral Shields before they get out of hand. This is a very grindy matchup, so play with the intent of winning in the late game. Try to hold up armor as long as possible for the late game, or for when you are trying to swing the tempo. Beware of Prism’s own Pummels in the Phantasm attack builds, and assume they are red. Remember, Pummel cannot be used to power up Spectral Shields or aura attacks with Luminaris.
Soul Shield is our biggest obstacle to play around, since Prism doesn’t have a lot of armor or defense outside of her Spectral Shields. It’s often worth it to not dominate your attacks in favor of holding up a Pummel to make your opponent’s life more difficult.
Play as fast as you can timewise, but not to the point where you get sloppy and make mistakes you wouldn’t otherwise.
The Mechanologist matchup is where our 2-block cards shine, as they can effectively block Pistol. Look to pressure your opponent early and often, as Dash doesn’t do a great job on the defensive front. Pummel will continually annoy Dash and ensure the crush effect for Spinal Crush will shut down your opponent on their next turn.
Use Tectonic Plating for Anothos and pressure your opponent’s life while keeping yours high. Look to set up a Tome of Fyendal + Mage Master Boots combo in the game to regain some life and stay ahead of your opponent.
Overall, this has been a very easy matchup for me in the 15+ games I have played against Dash in CC with this list. Currently, I have only lost one time out of those games to Dash with this setup.
Azalea is annoying to play against, but ultimately doesn’t have the consistency/power to pose a truly viable threat against us (that is, until Tales of Aria releases). Increase the Tension does prevent us from playing defense reactions- which can be extremely annoying- but we have tools to counter pressure.
Mainly, Azalea cannot defend well. It’s much easier for our crush attacks to land. Gain life with Sigil of Solace and Tome of Fyendal and put loads of pressure on your opponent. Since we run a higher red count in this match, look to use Sink Below to draw into another blue when it’s needed.
The most popular variant of Viserai at the moment is the Sonata build that is going around. To win this match, we need to be able to gain life while they build up their engine, as well as constantly put on the pressure to close out the game. Get aggressive, hit hard, and look for opportunities to close out the game and survive a big sonata turn. Thankfully, we have a lot of armor density and can survive the ‘big turn’ better than most other classes.
Chane is a challenging match. You have two choices, and you usually need to decide within the first four turns of the game which you are going to take. As you practice this match more and more, you’ll learn the crucial signs of when it’s time to commit one way or the other, usually from either your draws or your opponent’s plays. Sigil of Solace (Red) has replaced Blessing of Deliverance (Red) in the list to create more proactive life gain. Play Sigil of Solace to arsenal and try to bait out the Chane player into playing their C&C thinking they are targeting a Crippling Crush.
First option: get aggressive and pressure Chane relentlessly. Thanks to Carrion Husk and Grasp of the Arknight, Chane has a ton of defense and can invalidate one of our giant crush attacks. Often times, that can be all Chane needs to completely flip the tempo back in their favor. Hit hard and often until your opponent is forced to block with Carrion Husk, and try to get to a point where you are pushing massive damage at your opponent each and every turn so that their blood debt stacks and they take more and more damage from being unable to play their cards. Zealous Belting can create additional pressure to make our opponent’s life more difficult.
Option two: turtle up completely and make your opponent deck themselves before they can kill you. With this strategy, you will almost always be looking to shuffle three copies of Blessing of Deliverance back into the deck with Remembrance and keep your life total and armor as healthy as possible. It’s okay to block with all four cards from hand if you think you can hold out until your opponent burns through their entire deck.
Choose one path or the other. If you walk between the two and fail to commit, it’s almost always going to be a losing battle.
We run a high card count in this ~50/50 match, as the games can go long and we want to ensure we still have plenty of gas in the tank. Look to block out Dorinthea, store defense reactions in Arsenal, and prevent Dawnblade from getting a +1 counter for as long as possible. Don’t be afraid to let Dawnblade get a counter if you are confident you can retaliate with a dominated Crippling Crush that your opponent won’t be able to defend. Next turn, they more than likely won’t be able to hit you with Dawnblade with only 1-2 cards in hand and will lose the counter.
Lean into Zealous Belting to put more proactive pressure on the opponent.
Block a ton in the early game to thin the deck and increase your threat density, then look to flip the switch and put Dori on the backpedal.
Watch out for Rout, Ironsong Determination, and Steelblade Supremacy. Understand their deck, how it works, and what damage your opponent could present at any time. It’s fine to overblock if it means you keep Dori from snowballing too early in the game. Most of all, practice, practice, practice this matchup as you’re more likely than not to run into at least one Dori at the top tables in events.
Treat Boltyn as a go-wide hero, and respect his ability to put out some staggering damage in the biggest turns of the game. Thankfully, we run a lot of non-attack block three cards that do a good job of getting around Boltyn’s hero ability and giving him a harder time of giving attacks go again, even if he has charged this turn.
Use Spinal Crush to hinder Boltyn for a turn and turn off his go again.
Play proactively, but keep your life up as much as possible. If Boltyn pressures too much, look to flip the tempo with cards like Crippling Crush later in the game. Boltyn’s weakness is his reliance on high card count to play efficiently. If we can counterpressure often and consistently enough, he will have a hard time regaining the tempo.
Kano is a lot less rampant in CC than Blitz. Unfortunately, to strengthen our matches against Chane and Prism, we have cut three of the four pieces of Nullrune equipment from the list.
Try to kill Kano as quickly and effectively as possible, leaning into the extra Arcane Barrier from Arcanite Skullcap if you truly fall behind Kano. This match is rough with only one piece of reliable Nullrune, so we want to end it quickly. Gain life with Sigil of Solace and Tome of Fyendal, and try to store a Sigil of Solace in arsenal for a pinch. Your opponent may miscalculate what they need for lethal if you time the Sigil right and are patient enough with it.
Drew Cordell has been casually competing at high levels of Magic: the Gathering for over a decade before discovering Flesh and Blood and playing obsessively. Drew is also an Amazon-Bestselling science fiction and LitRPG author and maintains a top 10 writer status in Games & Gaming on Medium.
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