FAB101: Arakni and the Assassin Class
Arakni joins Flesh and Blood as the game's first Assassin hero, bringing a mix of old-school, value-oriented gameplay that hearkens back to Welcome to Rathe while introducing a new axis to attack your opponent across by manipulating their deck.
Arakni debuted in the expansion set Dynasty - the first time Flesh and Blood has introduced a fully-formed new class in a non-draftable product - and burst onto the scene in dramatic fashion by slaying the Emperor of Volcor.
Compared to other classes with expanded card pools, it may seem like there aren't many options available to Arakni; but this hero has surprising variety in their builds, and you will often find yourself making tough decisions about what cards to cut from your deck to keep it within the legal limits.
The first thing we need to understand is Arakni themself. As the game's first Assassin, Arakni is chiefly concerned with two things: Contracts and Silver. These two concepts go hand-in-hand and are crucial to understanding how Arakni helps you get an edge on your opponents.
Arakni's hero power reads:
"Whenever you play a card with contract, you may look at the top card of target opponent's deck. You may put it on the bottom."
This ability gives you two significant advantages over your opponent during the game:
- First, you gain knowledge of your opponent's deck.
- Second, you get to shape your opponent's upcoming turns, either by leaving a poorly timed draw on top or tucking a potent option on the bottom.
This effect rewards you for playing as many contract cards as possible, and for knowing your opponent's gameplan. The more often you trigger Arakni's ability, the greater an advantage you gain over the course of the game in terms of knowledge and disruption.
The other reason you'll want to play a high concentration of contract cards is because that's how you generate silver. Silver tokens on their own don't do much: you can spend three resources to draw a card, which is not very efficient as far as hand cycling goes. But Arakni has other uses for silver, which brings us to the Assassin's loadout.
Tools of the Trade
Mask of Perdition and Blacktek Whisperers both enhance your contract attacks in different ways, but they share a few key features.
First, they each block for 1 and have battleworn. This means they'll stick around even after you've blocked with them, which will allow you to use their activated abilities. Second, once you've put them in your graveyard by using their activated abilities, you can re-equip them at the start of your turn by paying two silver each. This lets you block with them again and re-use their activated abilities.
This recursion effectively lets you gain one life for every two silver you generate over the course of the game. In addition, it gives you a steady supply of block to turn off on-hit effects from 4-power attacks like Snatch by blocking with a card from hand plus the one point of armor on your equipment.
At the moment, Assassins only have one class-specific weapon to equip: a pair of Spider's Bite daggers. It costs two resources to activate, attacks for one damage, and automatically has go again so you'll be able to continue your turn.
When we compare these stats to other heroes, Spider's Bite leaves a lot to be desired. Katsu's Harmonized Kodachis attack for one with go again as well, but only cost one resource. Kayo's Mandible Claws cost two and have conditional go again, but they attack for three each. Clearly, Arakni's weapons aren't bringing as much pressure as other heroes' are. So where is the value in these?
If you hit a hero with one of these daggers, then you make it more difficult for them to block with their attack actions later in the turn. This can make it nearly impossible for certain heroes to deal with your attacks efficiently. Something like Command and Conquer - that could normally be blocked by two attacks with three block each - now costs your opponent three or more cards to stop it.
All of this may make your opponent consider blocking the Spider's Bite attack with a piece of equipment, but this is where we come to Spider's Bite's final ability: Piercing 1. This new keyword from Dynasty makes it so the Spider's Bite will get past all but the best armor, as it increases its power by 1 if your opponent puts any equipment in front of it.
In the right matchup, Arakni's weapons can end up being the most impactful part of their arsenal. Skillful application of these venomous tools during your turn will often play a major role in shaping success or failure with your attacks. And that's important, because it's your attacks that will be granting you the silver you need to buy back your armor.
Each of Arakni's attacks carries a contract that rewards you for finding certain types of cards with Arakni's ability. For example, Annihilate the Armed gives you a silver anytime you banish an Attack Action from your opponent’s deck.
There are a few important things to note about these contract attacks:
- First, each of these attacks has an on-hit effect that banishes the top card of your opponent’s deck if they hit a hero.
- Second, the contract effect attached to these attacks remain open as long as you keep the combat chain open. So if you can give one of these attacks go again and play another contract attack, then you can get the effects of both contracts on the second attack.
For example, if you follow up the aforementioned Annihilate the Armed with Fleece the Frail, you would generate 2 silver for banishing a Snatch off the top of your opponent’s deck: one for it being an attack action and one for it having only 2 defense.
Arakni’s assassin attacks broadly fall into two categories: 0-cost attacks and 1-cost attacks. All of these attacks are significantly above-rate compared to their generic counterparts (Wounding Blow and Critical Strike) thanks to their in-class synergies.
Each attack threatens to banish a card from your opponent's deck with a hit. It also lets you shape your opponent's deck. And thanks to Arakni's equipment, each attack you hit with can gain you half of a life point through the silver generation.
Because each contract attack is looking for a certain subset of cards (attacks, non-attacks, reactions, low-cost, high-cost, go again, and low defense) you can tailor your selection of attacks to match what you expect to see in your opponent's deck, increasing the odds of generating silver with your banish effect. (This is especially potent in Classic Constructed, where sideboarding can tailor your deck upon seeing the opponent's hero.)
In addition to all of this, Arakni has access to three even more powerful attacks at the Majestic rarity: Leave No Witnesses, Eradicate, and Surgical Extraction. Each of these attacks has a regular contract effect, but adds the ability to banish multiple cards, thus potentially generating multiple silver in a single hit.
Leave No Witnesses banishes the top card of your opponent's deck and a single card from their arsenal. Combined with Command and Conquer, this means you can threaten your opponent's setup plans up to six times in a single game.
Eradicate banishes cards from the top of your opponent's deck based on the amount of damage it deals. If you combine this with another contract effect, you could find yourself reliably generating up to 4 (or more if you pump this attack with a reaction) silver off of this one attack, setting you up for multiple recursions of your equipment.
Surgical Extraction banshes the top card of your opponent's deck and also lets you look at their hand, select a card, and banish it. This is easily the most powerful of these effects, as it lets you directly disrupt your opponent's plans for next turn; but at 2 cost, it is also the most expensive of Arakni's attacks, so it can be difficult finding the resources to do this and something else in the same turn.
Getting a Reaction
With all of this potential value in Arakni's attacks, your opponent is heavily incentivized to block. Attacking with Spider's Bite before your contract attacks can make it slightly more difficult for your opponent to deal with them - for example, a single blue pitch lets you swing a Spider's Bite and then a 1-cost attack, which is impossible to block with even two attacks from your opponent's hand. But in the event that your opponent decides they have to block one of your attacks, you still have the ability to force through a hit thanks to the wide array of attack reactions you have access to in Arakni.
Cut to the Chase is a direct damage increase, similar to Razor Reflex or Ironsong Response. In addition to this damage increase, Cut to the Chase also lets you look at the top card of your opponent's deck and place it on the bottom - essentially granting you another activation of Arakni's ability. In addition to pushing your attack over your opponent's defenses, this reaction helps you dig deeper into your opponent's deck to find a card that satisfies your current contract.
Shred is a different beast entirely. Instead of increasing the power of your attack, Shred reduces the defense of one of your opponent's blocking cards. The red Shred has enough defense destruction to completely counteract an opponent's 0-cost defense reaction while costing you zero resources. Also worth noting: if you use Shred on an equipment with Temper while it's defending, that equipment will be destroyed at the end of combat because you reduced its defense to zero.
These are both clearly powerful effects. Cut to the Chase is more universally powerful, as you can use it whether your opponent blocks or not and it can help you find targets for your contract. But Shred has a higher numerical effect if your opponent has blocked and you can use it on a card blocking your Spider's Bite if you want to force through the hit with your weapon and add that defensive penalty to your opponent.
While it's still early days for the hero and the class, the current thinking is that there are two prevailing strategies you can take with Arakni: Aggressive Midrange and Defensive Fatigue.
This build of Arakni tries to present a potent threat each turn. The goal would be to attack with two contracts every turn using Blacktek Whisperers and other effects that give go again like Razor Reflex and Even Bigger Than That. By attacking twice a turn, you can theoretically generate two silver each turn, which lets you more consistently resurrect your equipment and grind out value through its blocking power.
Another version of this strategy is to try to present a disruptive hit effect every turn by supplementing your majestic contract attacks with generics like Command and Conquer, Erase Face, and Pummel. If you can slow down your opponent's turns with your attacks, then you won't take as much damage on your turn and you can eventually kill them honestly.
This build of Arakni relies on the fact that every single class card in your deck blocks for three - and you can gain more blocking power from your equipment. By supplementing your tankiness with defense reactions like Sink Below and Fate Foreseen - as well as life gain from cards like Sigil of Solace - your goal is to outlast your opponent's threats until they run out of deck. The advantage you have with Arakni over other decks of this type are your attacks that banish cards from your opponent's deck when they hit. This means you have a proactive gameplan for fatiguing your opponent instead of a completely passive one.
This take on the deck can also benefit from running generic attacks like Command and Conquer and Enlightened Strike, as these large and threatening attacks also block for 3. Another version of the deck may run high-value attacks like Barraging Brawnhide or Fyendal's Fighting Spirit to gain additional advantage on your turn by forcing your opponent's life total closer to 0. After all, the best way to fatigue someone is to make them block with multiple cards.
Hopefully this overview of Arakni gives you an idea of what the hero is capable of. There is still a lot of room to explore this new class as we all adjust to the post-Emperer world this notorious assassin has created. And as we move forward into Outsiders, I'll expand on this piece to continue guiding your Arakni exploration.
May your blades be always sharp and filled with venom.
Joshua Kehe is a competitive player on Team Magnolia from St. Louis, Missouri, USA. He placed top 4 at the Calling Orlando in 2021 on Chane. Joshua is now obsessed with everything Arakni.
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