At Home in Aria: Updating Bravo for the ToA Meta

by Drew Cordell, Mark Chamberlain 6th January 2022 5 : 50
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After an extended focus on Oldhim, I’m thrilled to pick up Anothos again and explore how Bravo plays with some of the new additions to his toolkit. It’s as exciting as ever to return to some old favorites like Anothos, Pummel, Stamp Authority, and Crippling Crush that I haven’t had access to (or couldn’t include) in the revisions of Oldhim that I have explored over the past month. I’m thrilled to be here today sharing my take on Bravo.

Without further ado, let's get the show started!

The ToA Meta and My Design Philosophy

It is clear that Briar is a defining player in the Tales of Aria meta. This influx has also seen a reduction in Prism's presence, since Briar is such a tough match for both popular versions of yesteryear’s Prism. Briar is one of the decks to beat in this new format, and so it's prudent to shift Bravo to a more defensive shell that is designed to handle the impressive damage output Briar is able to push out. In turn, this build is also better at preventing Briar from building up too many Embodiment of Earth tokens for when it is time to throw some big dominated attacks her way. Of course, with this type of defensive package, also comes concern that the Prism matchup is further hurt in the case that Briar does recede from the meta for whatever reason.

My previous version of Bravo (which our own narrator, Mark Chamberlain, used to win his Road to Nationals) took more of a ‘toolbox’ approach to the meta, prioritizing sideboard spots to tune the list to any match, while also enabling a proactive strategy in the matches where it mattered. My newest version focuses more on the ‘core-60’, taking a more defensive approach to the current meta, and in particular, tuning the Briar matchup so that it is in our favor.

While I haven’t done enough testing to say with confidence that this list is better than the popular midrange versions of Bravo making headway right now, I am confident that the choices I have made here are a good response to both Earth and Lightning Briar, improving the matchup in our favor.

While the main 60 feels solid and like a good approach to what we are seeing in the current meta landscape, it’s likely that the sideboard will continue to evolve. If I had been able to go to Nationals this year and had to play Bravo over Oldhim, this is the list I would have been playing for the weekend.

The Decklist

Your core equipment is Arcanite Skullcap, Tectonic Plating, Crater Fist, and Mage Master Boots, with Anothos clutched firmly in both hands.

With the sideboard, we have an impressive maximum life gain of 24, including the first pitch of Heart of Fyendal. While it will rarely work out to be that much, efficient use of life gain does help us hold our own in matchups where we need to be able to take a big hit to execute on our gameplan of playing two back-to-back dominated Crippling Crush to close out the game. The inclusion of both Blessing of Deliverance (Red) and sideboard Sigil of Solace (Red) gives us the sustain and value needed to capitalize on going first at the start of game.

Budget Consideration: No Heart? No problem! Just sub in your choice of 5-power blue attacks that block for three. I like Crush Confidence, personally.

Defensive capability comes in the form of defense reactions, extra life gain, and the inclusion of Rampart of Ram’s Head. (We'll talk more about when to use the shield further down.) We also run Arcane Barrier 2 against Briar and Rosetta Thorn to be able to more efficiently defend against the weapon when it is activated. Having the ability to defend three damage off an activated Thorn with a single blue pitch is exactly the kind of defensive capability we need in a match like this to weather some hits, and protect our game plan when it’s time to close out the game.

Of course, one of the most powerful new Guardian tools is Tear Asunder. You want to be able to pitch this for the late game when your opponent’s armor is worn down. This makes a great target for Anothos, but can also be set up on an attack action card for devastating results. It’s important to pitch these for the late game unless you are confident the attack will connect and you can steal the tempo.

Another notable inclusion of this deck is Stamp Authority. While many Guardian lists are cutting this at the moment, without the possibility of a turn-one Towering Titan anymore, it’s important we can use something like Stamp Authority to set up for success from the start and capitalize on going first. A great first turn with Stamp includes playing it out with a Seismic Surge token and/or Blessing of Deliverance, then putting the last card in hand to arsenal and drawing five. The prevention of on-hit effects will also do some powerful things in this format and cannot be overlooked.

Outside of pitching for a late game, keeping armor/life healthy and gaining value wherever possible, you want to play out the standard lines of play with Bravo. For longtime players of Bravo, this deck will feel familiar and comfortable once you’ve gone through a few reps. And though I’ve been playing nothing but Rampart of Ram’s Head since September due to my Oldhim focus, I’m told some Guardian players do have a little bit of friction learning how to use and interact with the new shield. Once you learn how to use it, it will feel like second nature.

Rampart of the Ram’s Head is a good counter to control Dash and helps us efficiently defend against a barrage of pistol shots each and every turn with minimal resource investment. Rampart also provides great value against Briar- especially with Nullrune 2- since that means we can defend three damage off an activated Rosetta Thorn for a single blue pitch. In matches where this weapon/equipment combination is viable, our game plan shifts to something more reactive, in that we want to block out and grind with our smaller hammer for four until it’s time to flip the tempo and close out the game. While it’s certainly a nice bonus, Rampart of Ram’s Head can also be used in a pinch to help get around dominated attacks when blocking an extra one point of damage means all the difference for the game, or for preventing an on-hit effect.

Future Considerations

I am exploring integrating Forged for War with this deck. With Rampart of Ram’s Head in the list, this package gains exceptional value against Dash, who needs to break the combat chain to go wide and present multiple sources of damage on her turn. Forged for War is a card that I am considering for Oldhim's sideboard as well, as it is a powerhouse in certain aggro matchups when combined with Rampart.

Command & Conquer has been making an appearance in many aggressive CC Bravo decks in the format. Its ability to pressure arsenal and deny five-card hands makes it a strong option, especially when paired with the promise of a Seismic Surge token off a single blue pitch, or Pummel on top to force the effect of C&C and a discard if the opponent decides to block out the attack for exactly six. C&C is a great option against Briar, and one that I will be watching closely as a valid sideboard card for the format. With this more controlling shell and the reintroduction of Blessing of Deliverance (Red), C&C has been omitted from my Bravo list at this time. (For Guardian players looking to get great use of their C&C playset, Oldhim may be the deck for you. Check out my Pro-series on Oldhim here.)

Matchups and Sideboarding

As always, my updated Bravo list will also include a sideboarding and matchup guide to help you out with the deck, and some of its crucial matchups. Follow the link below!

Drew Cordell

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:

Mark Chamberlain

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.

Discussion (4)

Tommy Mains
1 year ago

Great write-up. I main Bravo still and I've gone back and forth from a very defensive shell to opting back into Rouse the Ancients and Zealous Beltings for mid-range.

1 year ago

hi drew, i like your guide about the guardian, is the reason why I signed up for the subscription, I wanted to ask you what do you think about replacing the Heart of Fyendal with pursuit knowledge?

Drew Cordell
1 year ago

Hey Daniele, I appreciate you reaching out! Unfortunately, Pursuit of Knowledge isn't a great swap for Heart at this time. I'm a huge fan of Pursuit of Knowledge, in fact, it's one of the pet cards I always look to explore when new sets release. There's nothing quite like playing Pummel on top of it to force two awesome effects. Typically, I'd recommend simply swapping Heart with a three+ cost blue pitch card that defends for three, ideally with at least 5 power to help with Rouse the Ancients. Keep an eye out for Everfest spoilers and some other potential swaps/additions for Heart!

1 year ago

sure! i have to unboxing an everfeast case! i swap Hero in this week from oldhim to bravo and i play very confortable with this list, i have lost only against Dorinthea. ok then, i put inside crush confidence thanks and im waiting for another your deck tech!

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