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Checking on Rhinar: The State of Brute in Outsiders

1 year ago

10:08

By: Colin Bell

Tagged: Rhinar, Opinion, Meta

Bravo, Showstopper recently won Battle Hardened: Bologna. Katsu, the Wanderer is poised to 'Flying Kick' his way to the front of the meta with the release of Outsiders. But many forget that just a few months ago it was a different Welcome to Rathe hero that was poised for a comeback.

After the release of Dynasty last November, many thought Rhinar, Reckless Rampage was well positioned in the meta. He had just taken two spots in the Canadian National Championship top 8, won the National Championship in Malaysia (our subscribers can check out a deck tech with Nitya Kalaichelvan here), and taken two spots in the San Jose Calling Top 8, which Chandler To ended up winning with his value-focused Rhinar deck.

When Dynasty spoilers started trickling out, many observers listed Rhinar among the winners, with cards like Skull Crack and Savage Beatdown looking to be strong additions to the deck.

Card image of Savage Beatdown (Red)
Card image of Skull Crack (Red)

However, as the Dynasty metagame began forming with ProQuest Season 3, it turned out to not favor Rhinar as much as many thought, and he remained right in the middle of the pack - literally. According to the ProQuest Season 3 metagame breakdowns on fabtcg.com, there were eight heroes that won more ProQuest events than Rhinar, and eight heroes that won fewer. He was played between 4-5% each week, and ended up taking home 16 wins.

More disheartening for fans looking for a New Brute Order, were his results at what are considered higher-tier events. Callings and Battle Hardens usually attract more players, and for this reason can be harder to win for a specialist on an “off-meta” deck. At smaller events, they're able to tailor their gameplan to what they expect with a fair degree of familiarity with the local scene.

There have been four Battled Hardeneds and two Callings in 2023, and so far there have been no Scabskin Leathers gracing the tables of the Top 8. Worse yet, among the two Callings (which is just a step below the World Championship on Flesh and Blood’s official OP Pathway), only three players converted to day 2 on Rhinar (1 of 12 in Auckland and 2 of 30 in Indianapolis). After what seemed like a promising end to 2022, Rhinar wasn’t able to recklessly rampage his way through the Dynasty meta like some had predicted.

You can blame one of those failed Rhinar attempts on editor Alex Truell, who talks about his Calling: Indy attempt - and what he learned from changing decks in the 11th hour - here.

However, the meta is quickly approaching a New Horizon (see what I did there?) with the release of Outsiders, and any time the meta shifts, a deck that previously wasn’t seeing success might find its way into the fold. Specific predictions for how the metagame will change after the release of Outsiders is outside the scope of this article, but for now we’ll just assume a few things:

  1. Isylander and Oldhim aren’t going anywhere
  2. More Ranger
  3. More Ninja

Numbers 2 and 3 might vary at Pro Tour Baltimore in April, but as people reading this are much more likely to be attending Armories and Road to Nationals events (coming up in May), I think we can safely assume they’ll be true at those levels.

A Rough Road

So, how does this look for Rhinar? Well, I wish I could say that this shift means that our big green friend is going to start rocketing his way up the living legends leaderboard, but sadly it doesn’t appear that will be the case.

Card image of Iyslander, Stormbind
Card image of Oldhim, Grandfather of Eternity

In my mind, Rhinar has a decent matchup into Isylander and Oldhim, where he can swing big attacks while preventing damage efficiently. The problem is that those decks can do things to disrupt Rhinar, while he can’t do the same in return. It’s true that there can be games when you’re able to value trade with the ice witch, where your big turns - fueled by Bloodrush Bellow - are far bigger than anything she can muster. But there are also games where Channel Lake Frigid is almost always around and you’re never able to play that big turn, or games where she strings together Aether Iceveins and you’re always on the back foot.

Against Oldhim, while there are times that you’re intimidating his hand in a way that he has to play sub-optimally and you’re able to finish him off with a turn where you’ve triple or quadruple intimidated him. He’s also sometimes able to simply hit you with too much disruption through things like Endless Winter and Spinal Crush just as you’re ready to flip your Bloodrush Bellow from arsenal and go to work. These matchups don’t seem to change much in the Outsiders meta, with the possible exception of the fatigue versions of Oldhim pulling back from the landscape.

Card image of Azalea, Ace in the Hole
Card image of Fai, Rising Rebellion

Ranger and Ninja though, have historically been aggressive classes, which is where Rhinar struggles the most. As of the writing of this article, according to Talishar data for March, Rhinar has a 37% win rate into Azalea, 42% into Lexi, 31% into Fai, and 38% into Katsu. Talishar data is, of course, flawed, but I don’t think any of those numbers are very far off the mark.

Azalea - the slowest of the four decks - is probably the best matchup, but still tough. Her dominate forces us to choose to arsenal defense reactions and play the game on her terms, or put a more aggressive card in arsenal and hope we’re able to play it out around her disruption.

Lexi presents an especially difficult matchup due to the wide range of ways she can be built. With the release of Outsiders, it seems likely that many players will be tempted to push her to fuse seldomly, and instead mostly rely on Voltaire, Strike Twice to give powerful arrow attacks go again, circumventing fatigue strategies with Three of a Kind, Art of War, Rain Razors, and Quiver of Abyssal Depths.

Card image of Katsu, the Wanderer
Card image of Lexi, Livewire

Katsu can be very tough, because while our cards can compete with his on a pure numbers basis, when they start triggering on-hit effects they can snowball out of control in a way that our deck really can’t - and unfortunately for Rhinar, some of Brute's best cards also don’t block (Pulping and Wild Ride, for example). It can be really punishing to draw multiple non-blocking cards against decks with on-hit effects.

A Path Forward

So what can we do about it? Well, the good news is that there are options to respond to Ranger and Ninja, and they don't even ask us to move away from Rhinar's playstyle.

When Rhinar is at his best, he’s “trading up” on turn cycles. Blocking with two cards and then playing a red that comes in for seven or eight. Or blocking with one card, playing Savage Feast off a blue, and following it with a club swing and a card in arsenal - which is 14 damage and an arsenal card starting with a four-card hand. If you do this all game and punctuate it with two 18-20 damage Bloodrush Bellow turns, you’ll be in a good spot.

Card image of Fate Foreseen (Red)
Card image of Sink Below (Red)
Card image of Springboard Somersault (Yellow)

Fate Foreseen and Sink Below continue to be good options. These 0 for 4’s are the epitome of value in Flesh and Blood. These are likely even more playable into Lexi if lists that use her hero ability less frequently are more common, as you won't be playing through Frostbites on your opponent’s turn. They’re also one of the only ways to stop Azalea’s dominated attacks. Another reaction that used to see play in Rhinar but has fallen out of favor is Springboard Summersault. It has to be played from arsenal to realize it’s full value, but if a yellow fits your gameplan better than a red, it might be worth looking at.

That All You Got? was already strong against Fai’s Phoenix Flames, and is even better against Katsu’s Kodachis, since they never have their power buffed. This Round’s on Me is also very strong against both Ninjas, but Katsu especially, effectively shutting off his weapons for the turn.

Card image of That All You Got? (Yellow)
Card image of This Round's on Me (Blue)

More block from your equipment also seems like it could be useful to stop the Ninjas' on hits or be able to deal with Azalea’s dominate when you don't have a defense reaction in arsenal. Skull Crushers can stop a Kodachi and delay a Mask trigger, letting you keep a bigger hand when you do want to keep as many cards as possible for a Bloodrush Bellow. And despite the power of Crown of Providence in Rhinar, don’t overlook Arcanite Skullcap; stopping on-hits twice a game can sometimes be better than a one-time hand fix. In games against aggressive decks that don’t last long, Barkbone Strapping can often provide as many or more resources than Fyendal’s Spring Tunic, and with battleworn instead of blade break.

Card image of Cut Down to Size (Blue)
Card image of Humble (Blue)

As far as new options are concerned. LSS did give us some ways of dealing with the same heroes that were improved in this set. Humble looks very strong against Azalea and Katsu, shutting off their hero abilities that let them fix hands that aren’t drawn perfectly. Cut Down to Size is great against any hero whose hands scale exponentially and don’t want to be blocking. Many Rhinar players will immediately gravitate towards the red versions of these cards when they see that 6 power, but don’t overlook the blue version; Rhinar needs to play a good amount of blues, and there aren't many strong ones in Brute. A blue two-block is a little easier to swallow than a red because the card is really in your deck to be pitched, and on the turns where you do play it it doesn’t feel so bad coming in for four damage on a two-card hand when it gets at least one card from your opponent. And let’s be honest, no one is going to pine over the loss of Clearing Bellow.

Card image of Command and Conquer (Red)
Card image of Pummel (Red)

Now is also a great time to point out that these are both two-cost attacks that are great targets for Pummel. While it remains a controversial topic amongst Rhinar players, it does give a class with no on-hit effects something to threaten the opponent with. I haven’t mentioned Command and Conquer thus far because everyone knows how strong that card is, especially against Rangers; but if you are running Pummels and you draw one with a C&C and a blue card while your Fyendal’s Spring Tunic is up, you’ll be doing one of the strongest things any deck can do in FaB.

Detours

Lastly, I’d like to mention a couple decks that I don’t expect to impact the meta as much right away, but are still new and therefore will likely see at least some play: Riptide, Lurker of the Deep and Uzuri, Switchblade.

Riptide doesn’t seem like much of a problem. Based on anecdotal experience and backed up by Talishar data, he seems to be the weakest of the new heroes; and on top of this Rhinar’s intimidate mechanic usually shines against defense reactions, forcing opponents to not play them optimally. The only caveat is that if you’re trying to eliminate the possibility of being blocked by two cards (either for the effect of Pulping or Barraging Beatdown) you’ll need to assume a defense reaction will be coming from arsenal.

If Riptide turns out to be a more aggressive, redline-style deck utilizing the first part of his hero ability rather than the second, it may end up being harder than I’m giving it credit for, but if that is the case then it will fall under the same strategy that I’ve talked about for the other aggressive classes.

Card image of Riptide, Lurker of the Deep
Card image of Uzuri, Switchblade

Uzuri should still present Rhinar with a favorable matchup, as it seems like she’s not a hero who’s about speed. We can hopefully also force her to play awkward hands with intimidate and utilize the defense reactions we’ve already talked about to negate her hero ability. One thing to keep in mind is that Uzuri seems like she’ll excel at messing with her opponents' arsenal with cards like Leave No Witnesses and Command and Conquer having the chance of popping out of her hand with her hero ability anytime she attacks with a card with stealth. Because of this, be willing to aggressively play from your arsenal instead of trying to set up the perfect five-card hand.

While I've explored some options here, there is no silver bullet available to Rhinar in the new meta, no one card or one maneuver to give you easy wins. The victories are going to start to come not when you figure out the new spice everyone has been missing, but when you learn how to play optimally against these heroes. Is the tried and true advice of “block the second Kodachi” still the trick against Katsu? Against Azalea, what on-hits do we need to throw our equipment in front of and which don’t bother us? Can we block with three cards and swing club against Lexi until she’s out of threats, or do her new arrows force us into a race?

If I had to take a deck to a competitive event tomorrow, I would probably show up with a “block aggressively, play Bloodrush Bellows” deck. I don’t think we can afford the risk of the zero-block cards that the aggro club lists rely on, and I don’t think a defensive club list is good enough in today’s Flesh and Blood. Hands won’t always line up in a deck that’s looking to rely on Bloodrush but also wants to play defense reactions - but that’s the risk I think we may have to take.

Rhinar, Reckless Rampage has been described in the past as a deck that’s 50/50 into almost everyone; and while that’s an oversimplification, there’s some truth in it. There’s no matchup so lopsided in either direction for Rhinar that it’s over when heroes are revealed. The good news is that Flesh and Blood is a game that rewards the skill of the pilot, so if you've taken the time to figure out your matchups and strategies with the Brute, you can tilt those 50/50’s in your favor and win games.

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