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Building Briar: Sowing the Seeds of Success

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Building Briar: Sowing the Seeds of Success

Narrated by Mark Chamberlain


This article is narrated, but requires a Rathe Times subscription to experience.

With any new release come new heroes, new cards, and most importantly new deckbuilding options. Briar gave us an unexpected new hero for the Runeblade class, so of course we had to get the #runebois jokerjake7 and Hannibal to provide their opinions.

Card image of Briar, Warden of Thorns

First, let's talk about the new mechanics coming in with Briar. She is an Elemental Runeblade, meaning she has access to new Talent cards specified in her ability. In this case, she has Earth and Lightning Essence, allowing her to include Earth and Lightning cards in her deck. This gives her access to six different card types: Generic, Runeblade, Elemental, Elemental Runeblade, Earth, and Lightning cards.

Card image of Embodiment of Earth
Card image of Embodiment of Lightning

Her ability also introduces two new tokens: Embodiment of Earth and Embodiment of Lightning.

Whenever she deals damage with an Attack Action, she makes an Embodiment of Earth token. For each of these tokens, your Non-Attack Actions have +1 to their block value! Which feels great to have a successful aggressive turn followed up by being able to efficiently block with just one or two Non-Attack Actions.

Pro Tip: Note that if an effect would have that Attack Action deal damage outside of its power, it counts that as a separate instance! An example would be if you play Bramble Spark to have your next Attack Action deal 1 Arcane damage and that Attack Action also hits, it would make two Embodiment of Earth tokens: one for the Arcane damage, and 1 for the on-hit damage.

The other token, Embodiment of Lightning, is created when you play your second Non-Attack Action in a turn. This token acts similar to a Quicken token, with the exception that it won’t give weapon attacks go again.

Card image of Bramble Spark (Red)

The last major mechanic to know as you prepare to play Briar (and any other Elemental hero) is Fusion. This effect is usually shown as "X Fusion", with X being one of the Elements. These effects are found on Elemental and Elemental Runeblade cards, and are activated as the card is paid for by revealing the required element(s) from your hand. For example, if you play Bramble Spark, which has Earth Fusion, you may reveal an Earth card from your hand to have Bramble Spark considered “Fused”. Bramble Spark has an additional effect if it was “Fused”: a bonus to the power of the next Attack Action.

With the new mechanics introduced, let's dive into the meat of this article: the decklists.

Earth-Focused Briar - by Kevin Brayer

Earth Briar has a very different approach and strategy when compared to the Runeblade decks that came before it. While Viserai has focused on midrange and OTK versions, and Chane has come to define the aggressive package all Runeblades are capable of iterating on, Briar is the first Runeblade to have a chance at a real fatigue gameplan. Earth Briar looks to consistently attack with large, buffed, fused attack actions, forcing opponents to either block heavily to preserve health or take damage, empowering our defenses with Embodiment of Earth tokens.

Card image of Force of Nature (Blue)
Card image of Tome of Harvests (Blue)

This deck takes full advantage of the powerful cards available to Briar: Blossoming Spellblade, Bramble Spark, Fulminate, Force of Nature, and Tome of Harvests. It also includes all-star generics like Tome of Fyendal and Command and Conquer. While the deck is focused on Earth Fusion, you'll notice some key Lightning contributors made the cut as well- Electrify, Flash, and Ball Lightning.

Card image of Blossoming Spellblade (Red)
Card image of Fulminate (Yellow)

Blossoming Spellblade is going to be nuts whenever it gets to deal damage. When fused, Blossoming Spellblade is one of the most "must block" cards in Flesh and Blood. Not blocking fused Blossoming Spellblade is like not blocking a Mugenshi: RELEASE with Combo active: bad things are very likely to happen to you. A short list of possible things you can do:

  1. Draw cards at instant speed via Gorganian Tome, Tome of Fyendal, or Tome of Harvests.
  2. Play buffs like Bramble Spark, Weave Earth, or Fulminate from your graveyard, fusing, and getting an action point from its Go Again.
  3. Playing Flash for multiple Go Agains.
  4. Playing an Energy Potion to set up for future turns.

Pulling off a good Blossoming Spellblade turn is rarely going to be easy, but if you pitch stack well and set it up, Blossoming Spellblade, alongside Fulminate, is this deck's best way to really pull ahead of opponents. Notably, both of these powerhouses are the toughest fuse cards to get full value out of, which brings me to Pulse of Candlehold...

Card image of Pulse of Candlehold (Yellow)

Don't play it. Basically ever. Pitch it, block with it, and we'll just about always be able to get it back, but if you play it and it gets banished, you're out of luck and your best fusion tool is gone forever.

"But Kevin, defense reactions exist. Won't Ninjas and Guardians just out-defend you and eventually fatigue you first?"

I'm glad you asked, dear reader. Let me introduce you to Rites of Replenishment and its sidekicks, Sow Tomorrow and Evergreen.

Card image of Evergreen (Blue)
Card image of Rites of Replenishment (Red)
Card image of Sow Tomorrow (Yellow)

Picture this.

You play and fuse a Bramble Spark, then you play and fuse a Rites of Replenishment. At a minimum, you can now put another copy of Rites of Replenishment from your graveyard onto the bottom of your deck.

If your arcane damage connects (and note that you can target yourself to get the Rites trigger if card conservation is more important than life conservation), you can put a non-attack action on the bottom of your deck.

That non-attack action can be that same Bramble Spark you just played.

Rinse and repeat.

This is the first time since Drone of Brutality that a hero has had this level of card recursion. Have you ever played Command and Conquer 7 times in a game? Well with Rites of Replenishment, now you can.

Card image of Crown of Seeds
Card image of Fyendal's Spring Tunic
Card image of Grasp of the Arknight
Card image of Spellbound Creepers

Let's cycle back to the equipment suite. The primary loadout all plays into the gameplan for a longer game. Crown of Seeds and Grasp of the Arknight provide solid resource sinks, allowing us to strategically set up our pitch while getting bits of value in the short term. Fyendal's Spring Tunic is here to smooth things out for us, and any time that you get to activate Crown of Seeds with it or start your turn with an Electrify or Sow Tomorrow without expending a card is going to feel like you got away with something. Spellbound Creepers are just the best in slot for our deck- but Jake will go more in depth on this shiny new toy in the Lightning Briar section below.


While the list in this article doesn't have a clear cut sideboard plan just yet, there are some safe assumptions we can make about certain matchups. With 15 adult heroes now in the game, I won't be going over all of them, but here are my thoughts about how to approach most of the top performing RTN decks:

When it comes to Chane, we need to come out of the gates swinging. Go first if you can, and attack big, early, and often. Don't worry about setting up for the late game, since it probably won't get to that point. Early damage will buff the bit of defense we'll play via Embodiment of Earth tokens, but top priority is pressure.

Katsu can effectively play aggro, midrange, or control, which makes it tough to decide how to sideboard. If you're in the dark, keep your Command and Conquers in and possibly trim on some of the 'cute' cards like Ball Lightning that can't block. Utilize Crown of Seeds to prevent the second Kodachi damage (every third activation is free thanks to Tunic!), and watch out for the key Combo lines while you push damage wherever you can.

Once you've figured out what type of Katsu deck it is, let that inform your play. Against control, recurring Command and Conquer via Rites of Replenishment is quite strong, given their large number of defense reactions. Against aggro, you should be able to win the race; when Briar races, she also buffs her defenses.

Nothing groundbreaking here. Bring in all the 6's and buckle up for a slog. If you're confident it's an aggressive Herald Prism, trim to 60 to maximize the density of 6 power attacks.

Against the more controlling Prisms (which should see an uptick in play, given its success at the Calling Las Vegas), it's less important to be on a lean 60, and more important that you keep the number of Auras under control while chipping away at their health. Going for a big Blossoming Spellblade turn is very risky against them, as they can potentially nullify it with a well-timed Arc Light Sentinel.

This is where Earth Briar should hopefully get to shine. Trade swings back and forth while using Crown of Seeds and Grasp of the Arknight to help you pitch stack for the late game. If you can land a Blossoming Spellblade turn, all the better- but the final plan here is to continually recur Rites of Replenishment until you can run Bravo out of cards.

Boltyn is probably going to hate playing against Earth Briar. We attack aggressively, and if they hold cards back to attack and charge, we're going to get to buff the defensive values of Boltyn's least favorite kind of card. They are not going to be pleased when we full block a charged Bolt of Courage or Express Lightning with a single non-attack action, preventing damage and on-hit effects while denying the Boltyn damage buff and his chance to give Go Again.

Finally, I want to emphasize that this deck is a starting point for a new Runeblade archetype. It is chock full of good ideas, but there are a lot of questions that still need to be answered. Here's a sneak peak at the list I'm using to evaluate this deck during refinement:

  1. Do we have enough Earth cards to make sure we're fusing consistently? Enough Lightning to dual fuse reasonably?
  2. Should we just be playing all 9 Bramble Sparks?
  3. How many Sow Tomorrows is enough? Which colors?
  4. Is Channel Mount Heroic truly a powerhouse, or just too expensive for the hassle of keeping it around?
  5. Does Explosive Growth really belong in this kind of deck?
  6. Is Ball Lightning too big of a liability with its 0 defense?
  7. How many more generic cards can we add without being a detriment to the primary fusion game plan?

And we have plenty of other cards to consider as well. Basically any Earth card is worth looking at, but I have my eye on Summerwood Shelter (red) and Autumn's Touch (blue) in particular. Even a role player like Rejuvenate, which at first glance looks like a plainly worse Sigil of Solace, might make sense for us as we can recur Elemental actions pretty easily. Beyond that, generic attacks like Enlightened Strike, Exude Confidence, and Pursuit of Knowledge could all find themselves making the cut.

All in all, I think Earth Briar looks like an incredibly fun puzzle to solve, and I am excited to see if I can crack it before US Nationals in November (even though that means a ton of work over the next six weeks!)


Lightning-Focused Briar - by Jacob Smith

If you couldn’t already tell from the card effects, Lightning focuses on Go Again. Our goal with this deck is to get as many attacks in per turn as possible. Along with that strategy, we have a lot of ways to deal chip damage, which also enables Briar’s ability to get Embodiment of Earth tokens. This is key for us to be able to block a lot of damage with just one card, leaving us with as many cards as possible to attack with.

Card image of Ball Lightning (Red)

The bread and butter of this deck is Ball Lightning, as it boosts our chip damage effects, such as Shock Charmers, Sting of Sorcery, Rites of Lightning, Arcanic Shockwave, Electrify, and Inspire Lightning.

Another big part of this deck is Break Points, which are power numbers that are hard to block with one or two cards. These are usually 4, 7, and 10 power. The key cards for hitting those numbers are Art of War and Plunder Run, which also provide a variety of other useful effects that feed into the go wide with attacks strategy.

Card image of Art of War (Yellow)
Card image of Plunder Run (Red)

We get a few new interactions in this set that are a bit complicated, but very powerful. These mainly revolve around playing a Non-Attack Action with Go Again as an Instant while you have 0 Action Points, which puts you at 1 Action Point- letting you continue your turn. Runeblade isn’t new to this concept, as Rattle Bones was able to pull this off if you have dealt Arcane damage in that same turn. The difference is that we have access to it on an Equipment (Spellbound Creepers) and on an Attack Action (Vela Flash).

Card image of Spellbound Creepers
Card image of Vela Flash (Red)

The following examples are the most important combinations with these effects:

Vela Flash (fused with no go again) into Plunder Run (as an instant before Vela Flash hits)

1. This refreshes your Action Point because Plunder Run has Go again, allowing you to continue attacking.
2. If Plunder Run is played from arsenal, it gives +x power to the next attack, forcing your opponent to consider where they want to spend their blocks.
3. Plunder Run gives Vela Flash an on hit effect that draws you a card, feeding into your ability to keep attacking.

Vela Flash (fused with no go again) into Electrify (as an instant before Vela Flash hits)

This is similar to Plunder Run, with the added benefit of being a Lightning card.
1. If played from hand, it can be used to Lighting Fusion before playing it to refresh your Action Point and gain the on hit effect.
2. If played from Arsenal, it draws you a card, but won’t be able to be used for Fusion.

Note: Both Electrify and Plunder Run are “when next attack action hits”, so even if Vela Flash is blocked, the on hit effects will apply to your next attack action!

Vela Flash (fused) into Tome of Fyendal/Inspire Lightning/Energy Potion

This allows you to still get off these Actions without Go Again, as Vela Flash allows you to play them as Instants.

Spellbound Creepers into a Non-Attack Action with Go Again

This allows you to refresh your Action Point when you don’t have Go Again on your attack. Just remember, it costs 1 Resource and will destroy the boots at end of turn if you don’t deal enough Arcane damage.

Spellbound Creepers into a Non-Attack Action without Go Again

This allows you to start the turn with an Action without Go Again, and is most important for Tome of Fyendal (and sometimes Energy Potion). Just remember, it costs 1 Resource and will destroy the boots at end of turn if you don’t deal enough Arcane damage.

The last thing I want to talk about here is the Sideboard Guide. Now with this being a very early look at the meta, the sideboard might change, but I still think it's a good start.

Energy Potion x2: These are quite useful when you expect to be dealing with Frostbite tokens. You still have to pitch to activate it to gain the 2 Resources, but it offsets the cost so you can continue your turn relatively unhindered.

Tome of Fyendal (2nd copy): I bring the second one in against some really aggressive matchups to heal some damage, mainly Lightning Lexi and Aggro Katsu.

Summerwood Shelter x3: I bring these in when I’m worried about Dominate- so mainly Bravo and Oldhim. This card, along with Embodiment of Earth Tokens, allows you to block a bunch of the damage with just one card.

Chains of Eminence x3: I bring these in against Chane and Lexi, as they are the ones most likely to reveal cards, making it easier to name cards they have access to. (Chane face-up banishes, and Lexi has face-up Arsenal cards.)

Exude Confidence x2 & Command and Conquer x2: I bring these in against any deck I think will have plenty of Defense Reactions or Instants.

In conclusion, I expect Briar to be a force to be reckoned with. Her ability to pivot between aggression and defense, along with the opponent not knowing if she is going Lightning or Earth, will give her a distinct advantage in the upcoming meta. Enjoy trying the new Runeblade and aim to become a Thorn in your opponent’s side!

Discussion (4)

Author Mark

Mark Chamberlain

2 years ago
We tried out the earth briar last night vs Ezus Oldhim, and it was a great match. When I bring it the updated bravo against it the game got tighter, but I only brought one nullrune so briar got there in the end. It's a pretty cool list! Next, week try lightening...


2 years ago
another great article! I played Brair at pre-release and won the event going 4-0. I focused my deck around the unblockable damage and pushing trhough with rosetta thorn. Only match that came close was the mirrior I faced in round 3.
Author Kevin

Kevin Brayer

2 years ago
As an addendum to the Prism matchup section for Earth Briar, Arc Light Sentinel doesn't actually "nullify" your Blossoming Spellblade turn, but if you try and buff it in advance to force through damage via Bramble Spark or Weave Earth and they know you've cycled back to your pitch cards, they can play it to waste your buff and force you to spend your turn popping Spectra. Because of this it might be best to not buff your Spellblades in advance against Prism :)

Samuel Heller

2 years ago
Excellent article, gave a great explanation of some of the combo's and strategies against top tier decks :)

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