If you haven't seen the latest news from Legend Story Studios, start there...
Drone of Brutality is Banned from Blitz and Classic Constructed
...I think everyone was expecting a Flic Flak restriction when the article was teased- including me- but this change also makes sense. It's imperative for a young game to really solidify its design philosophy, so that it have something sturdy to build on for future growth. If LSS has a goal that every decision about how and when to use a card feels important, then its not a good idea to print something that undermines that. LSS did a great job of explaining how Drone offended against that tenet in their article.
What Does a Banned Drone Mean to FaB?
"As the battle rages on, you expect to hear the dull hum of inevitability. The subtle droning that has, so many times in the past, signaled the presence of otherworldly endurance beyond what any mere mortal could hope to achieve. How could anyone hope to overcome an enemy that does not tire? But that sound does not come. Their esoteric secrets have failed them, leaving you facing an eminently mortal foe. This fight will end as the gods intended, in the Flesh and Blood."
-Kevin Brayer, on the banning of Drone of Brutality
First off, I think it's very important to emphasise that the ban is coming from a game design perspective and not from a game balance perspective. This distinction in fundamental to interpreting intent, and for predicting the future of LSS' use of this heavy-handed tool.
A lot of people look at a Ban/Restricted list and think it reflects what's too strong to be allowed to survive. But there's a lot more that goes into it than that, especially for a game as young as Flesh and Blood.
You absolutely cannot build on top of a foundation that can, at its worst, say "your cards don't matter", and in that sense I think LSS is absolutely correct in making this ban, even if it isn't necessarily important for game balance at the moment. Having multiple 2-cost 6 damage cards in your deck isn't necessarily overpowered, but it does reward poor play with your other valuable cards. By removing Drone, LSS emphasizes the skill required to have consistently powerful engames without an insurance policy, which I think is an incredibly important part of the game.
Drone was one of my favourite cards, but I think this change is a good idea for the future health of the game.
Drone and Constructed
In the Classic Constructed format, the class most affected by this by far is Brute. Drone was an absolute staple for Rhinar, especially against some of the pillars of the meta. Being able to discard a card without getting one card closer to fatigue was very important, as well as keeping a 6+ power card in your deck for late game effects like Sand-Sketched Plan and Reckless Swing. While the Pure Control/Club build for Brute is one of my favourite decks, I feel like this single change could be enough to knock it down to the point where it's no longer viable to play strictly Control; a concurrent gameplan will be necessary.
Despite this, I don't think it will change Brute's tier at all, especially with the new success of the Art of War/Claws build that recently won the Red Riot 2K. This archetype has been around since the release of Crucible of War, and the ban of Drone might be enough to turn it into the main Brute build.
Drone and Blitz
As far as Blitz is concerned, Drone of Brutality has been a staple for Ira, and has seen play in other decks as well. In the Australian and North American metas, Drone has been prominently utilized to allow Ira to fatigue any deck in the game while being able to deal 8 damage from a 2 card hand in an infinite, endgame loop. I don't think this will be enough to deter people from playing Control Ira, but it may be enough to shift them further towards the middle of the road.
As Matt Rogers said in his reaction, the removal of Drone actually makes Ira stronger, because you get to remove your worst card that was only included because your opponent also had it. However, I think his assessment of Drone as Ira's worst card is largely because Aggressive/Midrange Ira is the dominant force in the New Zealand meta.
On the whole, Drone of Brutality was never a meta-defining card, but leaving it in the game as it is would be a considerable risk for the future health of the game. LSS has made a difficult call, but I think it will be one for the betterment of the game as a whole. Despite this, it is still hard to say goodbye to such an icon of the early days of Flesh and Blood. Until we see it again, in this form or the next, farewell.
Steven Young (@WizardofAlf) has been playing Flesh and Blood from November of 2019, and has been casually growing his collection ever since. He is an avid Wizard main, having played the class since before the release of Crucible of War, and is an advocate for its viability in the Classic Constructed format. He loves picking people's brains for opinions and new ways to think about the game, and is an active community member on both the community Discord and Facebook pages.
This gives me confidence that LSS cares about their game enough to make these kind of decisions. Hopefully we won't need this kind of action again any time soon, but it's good to know that it's an option if needed.
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