Drew Cordell shared with us his showstopping design for competitive Bravo last month. (That article is essential reading before heading into this one.) His build was designed to combat the threat of Chane. In this article, Drew takes aim at another heavy presence in the meta- Prism- as he attempts to round out Bravo's matchups for the Road to Nationals events.
I’ve been hard at the grind with my Bravo Classic Constructed list ahead of Road to Nationals. Unsurprisingly, Bravo has been putting up excellent results across the RtN reports, remaining one of the top contenders in the format. With a great mix of defensive and offensive tools, Bravo is able to do exceedingly well against many different decks.
Frankly, while my defensive & reactive ‘toolbox’ deck list was doing quite well against Chane, Dorinthea, and Katsu, it's been struggling against Prism's Aura variants that have emerged since I wrote my last article. In fact, that matchup was borderline unwinnable; in my 20+ games of testing against Aura Prism, the win rate was bad, with almost half of all of my games against Prism going to time in the round. Despite how well my deck was doing against all other major contenders in the format, the Prism matchup was simply unacceptable as I continued to explore and test the deck.
The meta is continually changing, and I’m closely watching the results of Road to National tournaments all over the world to get a better understanding of what each class is trying to do. I suspect my decklist will continue to evolve over time as the meta shifts.
Pro Tip: One of the best things you can do as a competitive player is to remain vigilant about updating your decklist! You should always be on the lookout for changes in the meta, looking to improve your outcomes against emerging trends and identifying your weakest cards. A truly competitive decklist is never finalized!
Creating a More Proactive Gameplan
There were a number of proactive cards and gameplans that Guardian has access to, many of which emerge from what Guardian is trying to do in the Blitz format.
Against Prism, not being able to deal with an early Great Library of Solana by simply not having the yellow count to support it was creating an oppressive matchup. I found myself wishing for more yellows in the deck every time the Library hit the table. To combat this, I upped the count of Righteous Cleansing (some great tech against Prism and many other decks in the format), and went out of my way to include three copies of Disable (Yellow).
Zealous Belting (Red) has been an all-star against Prism in fixing my win rate and creating a game plan that can better withstand the onslaught of go-wide pings. This gave me the ability to pressure early and often against Spectral Shields while also holding back the resources to swing Anothos into a Spectra aura before they can stack and get out of hand. In this matchup, Zealous Belting remains a high-priority target for Remembrance as the game draws on. Because it only costs two resources, Zealous Belting is a great Pummel target to try to force out some discards with the on-hit effect.
Against decks that aren’t Chane/Prism, I have opted to go with the Mage Master Boots/Tome of Fyendal combo to gain a lot of life, draw cards, and do something else big on the same turn. Time Skippers remain a must against Prism, and Nullrune Boots can be extremely helpful against Chane on big turns where the Chane player stacks a lot of Seeds of Agony or other sources of arcane damage. This combo can net a lot more value than the single point of defense from Ironrot Legs, and isn’t too difficult to pull off.
Kano has not been making many appearances in Classic Constructed, and though I’m hesitant to do so, it does make sense to drop the extra Nullrune protection in favor of more sideboard cards in the main list. With these changes, the main deck, excluding equipment, grows to 73 cards, with up to 13 cards that can be removed in any given matchup. Of course, if Kano players start to emerge to exploit the lack of Nullrune in the format, it will be time to cut some cards from the main deck to have that protection plan in place.
What Got Cut?
To make room for more of those essential yellows and the new reds, Exude Confidence was cut from my list. While Exude Confidence remains a powerhouse of Guardian (especially in Blitz), removing additional blue cards and adding more yellows does create negative synergy. Exude Confidence does little to bolster our position in the game if we are already behind against Prism.
Blessing of Deliverance (red) was cut to support more proactive life gain against Chane via Sigil of Solace (red). Of course, Blessing of Deliverance has tons of additional utility with being able to set up a 6 power Anothos swing, but in games down to the wire against Chane, the guaranteed gain of three life at instant speed can be essential. Sigil was primarily a tool used in Blitz when the extra life gain represented a much larger percentage of total health, but its merits cannot be overlooked against Chane.
Stonewall Confidence was a great tool against many go-tall decks of the format, but at only two cost, it simply did not support the strategy of the deck as it evolved. With the most recent changes, this defense-heavy card creates some negative synergy with the proactive gameplan we are trying to establish in the games where this card was previously a great choice.
I was enjoying Forged for War in many matchups, but ultimately it needed to be cut to support more offensive yellow tools in the deck, including the additional copies of Righteous Cleansing and Disable. This further supports our strategy to become a more proactive deck and lead the charge with some offensive attacks from the start, rather than just sitting back, blocking out, and thinning the deck so we can chain back to back Crippling Crushes in the late game.
Mangle is a card that I will miss greatly, and I am looking to find a way to reintroduce to this deck. It’s criminally undercosted at four resources, and its only real drawback is that it is a red pitch card. Unfortunately, it had no value against Prism other than raw numbers. Though it's an excellent addition against many other decks, it was cut to further streamline the matchup against Prism without sacrificing any other matchup.
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Here's what Bravo's deck looks like after the adjustments noted above.
Taking a proactive approach against Prism is ideal for our strategy, otherwise the match is close to unwinnable. Against non-Prism decks, however, we play a standard, although more proactive, Guardian game plan as outlined in my Pro Series article published early last month.
Against aura Prism, if your opponent spends resources to drop a Spectra aura, start the turn by getting aggressive and coming in with Zealous Belting targeting them directly; if we use this attack to try to hit the Spectra aura, the go again text will not resolve. Don’t be afraid to Pummel this attack to push some damage through and break some Spectral Shields (even if your opponent has Merciful Retribution up and you will potentially take some damage when the shields pop, so long as you are healthy enough to not worry about the damage). After the Zealous Belting, use your hammer to clear out the Spectra auras.
- Use large dominated attacks like Crippling Crush, Disable (Yellow), and Righteous Cleansing to put on the pressure and break shields.
- Use Time Skippers on a turn to break two auras at once and keep Prism from snowballing value.
- You can attack a Spectra aura with Rouse the Ancients without revealing cards for the additional cost. Even though this attack is zero power, it will trigger Spectra.
- Hold a yellow card and aggressively use Show Time! to tutor up a second yellow if your opponent plays a Great Library of Solana.
- Gain life wherever possible to help sustain against the endless pings for one damage that Prism will present if you cannot pop her Spectral Shields.
- Put pressure on Prism early and often. By continuously pushing big damage through, you will make it hard for Prism to commit to playing her auras.
In other matchups, Zealous Belting can be used as a means to be more aggressive and swing for larger amounts of damage each and every turn while still allowing us to have the defensive and utility tools to sustain ourselves in the fight.
These changes do not invalidate the strategy or considerations of my previous article, just represent the next iteration designed to handle the ever-changing meta as it relates to building a highly-competitive deck for Road to Nationals. As always, you will better your odds through practice and experience. Tailor this list even more to your local meta and what you expect to encounter at the Road to Nationals. Good luck out there!
When you're ready, continue on to the matchup guide linked below.
Have any questions? Let me know in the comments!
Drew Cordell's article on refining Bravo for the Road to Nationals was met with a huge response, and its impact continues to grow- our very own Mark Chamberlain won a RtN piloting this deck! Now, Drew answers the call for a matchup guide in this addendum to the original article.
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. While he specializes in Guardian, Drew also writes about a wide range of Flesh and Blood concepts and classes across all skill levels. You can get full access to ALL of Drew’s decks, one-to-one mentoring designed to take your play to the next level, and much more at: https://www.patreon.com/DrewJCordell
Our narrator, Mark Chamberlain, is a long-time card game player-- but they're all sitting on the shelf while he practices Guardian in Flesh and Blood. Mark is based out of Colorado Springs, USA.
I lost to two Prisms last weekend at my RTN. I decided not to run the beltings the day before. I have regrets....
Curious about your sideboard choices into the matchup - do you side out your Defence reactions and snags?
As a Chane player, how much does Reaping Blade mess up your plans - is it worth an include?
Another absolutely awesome wrote up. Thanks for this!
James V, for Prism, I run 60-62 cards. If you are running Snag over the 2x Crush Confidence, side those out, otherwise, keep them in for the card count. - all defense reactions except one unmovable (for pitch alone) are removed. Hit hard and often and don't let the spectral shields get out of hand!
@Michael Thompson, thanks for reading!
@Larry Johnson, Reaping blade is of course frustrating to play against as a Bravo player, but its impact isn't super significant. I am always strategic in watching my life total and aim to be at the same as yours, or one point below throughout most of the game. Bravo players who are not intently strategic with their life totals and who do not thoroughly consider the ways Reaping Blade impacts the tempo economy of the game will be disrupted significantly. With this current iteration of Bravo, Sigil of Solace allows me to gain life at instant speed and control the timing in which I gain that life. My goal against you as a Chane player is to get aggressive while you are ramping up the shackle count, then hunker down and weather the storm and wait for an opportunity to force you to block with Carrion Husk to start that unavoidable blood debt clock. Reaping Blade is powerful in that it is super efficient damage-wise for its resource cost to attack. It will pose more of a roadblock to Guardian once (and if) we are able to make the move away from Sigil of Solace and back toward Blessing of Deliverance (Red). If you are not as concerned with resource constraints with your variant of Chane, Nebula Blade could certainly be the better of the options at the top tables. Hope this helps!
Very interesting read! Do you plan on doing a sideboard follow up for this article as well? Would be interested to know what you consider the core of the deck with this updated version.
I would also like to see an updated sideboard guide if possible.
So Im curious why you don't use a yellow Zealous Belting instead of red. It bumps your yellow count to handle library for the cost of 1 damage from ZB, a good trade IMO and it lowers your Red count so you are more likely to not draw multiple reds in hand which can really kill momentum for a Bravo.
@Alex and Jefferey Stamm, I was greenlit for a sideboard guide on the Rathe Times. Stay tuned for that update!
@Gabe Maurer. You could consider the yellow pitch version, however the red version remains the best option at the moment, in my opinion. The updated list has enough yellows to where we wouldn't select a card just to have another yellow. In matches where we run the Red Zealous Belting, we typically remove reds to make room for it. Though the overall pitch ratio of the deck has shifted to something more aggressive, the extra damage threat makes it more relevant with minimal detriment to the rest of the strategy and lines of play. Stay tuned for the updated sideboard guide!
Your explanation of card choices helped me understand the meta a bit more. Thanks and I look forward to side board article.
Really loved this article and how well you explain your reasoning behind decisions. Can't wait for the SB guide!!!
I wonder how TOA will change peoples Bravo lists.
Looking at the guide what was the main reason to drop red staunch? Was it just to make room for the Belting?
@Jacob Irby, Staunch was dropped as the pitch curve became more aggressive. We had to make the shift to more blue defense reactions to accommodate the extra reds and yellows in the list elsewhere.
@Jeanette, TOA will give Bravo some more tools and choices. He will still be top of the meta for CC competing with all of the Runeblades, Katsu, Lexi, Oldhim, Prism, Boltyn, and Dorinthea quite well.
I'm considering not running Sink Belows or Fate Foreseens with my Bravo list in order to run more blues, essentially. My list has made swinging with dominated red attacks more consistent. With the number of three-blocks and other defense reactions, I've still had high success rates in aggressive match ups, but I do have to eat a decent amount of damage if I'm racing. Have you piloted a list without those cards before with Bravo?
@Tommy. If you are going to be playing a more aggressive/midrange list, you can play CC Bravo without them, however these cards are invaluable against aggressive decks in blocking efficiently while our opponent is forced to commit more resources to try to push damage through. By design, defensive cards are more efficient for their resource cost (resources and cards) and play into this economy. The main two strengths of these cheap and efficient defense reactions is to prevent damage, and enable us to swing back with Anothos after preventing that damage. This style of play is what makes Bravo so consistent and defensive. In short, I would not play Bravo in CC without at least the Sink Belows prior to ToA. With the shifts in the meta from there, who knows, but I'll be experimenting heavily.
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