Brute brings an air of chaos to Flesh and Blood not present in any other class. Whereas Rhinar & Kayo of the Savage Lands Brutes embrace that chaos and entropy, Levia- as the Shadow Brute- seeks to control and contain it, predictably wielding the unpredictable.
Editor's Note: If you haven't read the FAB101 on Rhinar yet, you may want to do so to get a broader understanding of the basic Brute class.
I tend to avoid mechanics of added variance in TCGs when I can. Whatever it is, I tend to unfavorably roll dice, even within much larger sample sizes where my luck should creep toward the expected norms of the probability distribution curve. Understandably, I was hesitant to pick up Levia when was revealed in Monarch, but felt drawn to her kit nonetheless. I’m glad I took a chance on Levia.
Levia is built for players who want to wield chaos against their opponents and race against a clock of assured self-destruction. As Levia, you will need to maintain your graveyard and fuel it to pay the additional costs for your effects- failure to make regular recurring payments on what you owe can cost you the game in the blink of an eye. But with that risk/reward ratio comes the ability to generate some of the most impressive damage output in all of Flesh and Blood, on top of having some serious armor density and protection thanks to the extremely potent but slightly situational armor that is Carrion Husk. Yes, that one card alone is significant enough to list as a reason for choosing to play as Levia.
Carrion Husk may be one of the best cards ever printed for Blitz, and I don’t say that lightly. Having the ability to defend for 6 with one piece of equipment means that we can easily carry a hand of four into an attack round and flip lost tempo back in our favor. It’s also especially potent in Levia, as we have many ways to not take damage from blood debt (unlike Chane).
While Levia deals in the familiar themes of the Brute- namely, a predisposition toward strong attacks and an element of random chance- she differs in some fairly significant ways.
First off, you'll note that Levia gains no inherent advantage from discarding cards. In fact, Levia gains no inherent advantage from her hero power at all! Instead, she offers a way out of a bad situation- one that your card choices will put you in.
Indeed, every advantage Levia has is a result of her card pool. The Shadow Brute subset of cards may not look much different from the standard Brute card pool; but instead of paying for their above-grade power levels with cards from hand, they pay for them with banishes from your graveyard. That means Levia doesn't need to regulate her hand in the way that Rhinar does. She can also put more cards toward defending- every card Rhinar discards from hand is 3 damage he didn't block last turn. As long as you're steadily moving cards to your graveyard, Levia doesn't care how they got there. The Shadows only care that they're available as payment when she wants to harness their power.
What We Do In The Shadows
In addition to the transactional purpose of banishing cards, you'll also find many Shadow cards can be played from the Banished Zone. Ghostly Visit, Void Wraith, and Deep Rooted Evil form a 1, 2, and 3-cost suite of attacks that can be played whenever you have an extra action and resources. Howl from Beyond lets you strategically buff from outside your hand. Guardian of the Shadowrealm can be recurred for those games where you know you'll need to be highly defensive. These cards will end up back in your graveyard after use, giving you more fuel for banishing as a cost.
If I've made it sound like Levia is nothing but positives so far, brace yourself for the other shoe to drop. Levia literally cannot play her Shadow Brute attacks without enough cards in her graveyard to banish. What's more, her Shadow cards have Blood Debt, an end-of-turn damage penalty for having those cards in your Banished Zone. This is where we cycle back to Levia's hero power: she can avoid the penalty of Blood Debt each turn if she banishes a 6+ power card. Your task, then, is to find a way to get them there.
Every. Single. Turn.
Rules Tip: This is a deck where it's extremely important that you remember what goes into the graveyard and when. A non-aura, non-attack action card, for example, does not remain on the chain after playing it. While many players will leave it on the table for reference, for the purposes of Levia's random banishment from graveyard, it's essential that these cards go to graveyard immediately. Similarly, equipment- when destroyed- goes to the graveyard. If your sleeves don't match across all your cards, or if you're one for hard-casing your legendaries, you'll need to be prepared with a fair method of randomly choosing cards.
High Stakes and Grave Consequences
In the opening turns, before your blood debt has accumulated, you should block more than you normally would to get a nest egg of resources into your graveyard. With every hand you draw, look to maximize its damage output so you can minimize how much you are forced to block from your opponent the next turn. Levia prefers to always be attacking versus investing cards from hand to defend with, since every card we lose from hand makes it that much harder to protect ourselves from the blood debt that has accumulated. Cards like Pulping, Deadwood Rumbler, Reckless Swing, and Wrecker Romp will fill your graveyard on their own. These cards are key to refueling the graveyard and keeping your strategy sustainable.
Go again is crucial to Levia’s strategy. Many of Levia’s attacks are extremely efficient for their cost, due to the fact that they will also need to consume cards from your graveyard. Having the ability to give powerhouse attacks like Graveling Growl go again means you’ll establish some truly massive attacks. Generate go again on some of your attacks with Scabskin Leathers/Hooves of the Shadowbeast, Art of War, Bloodrush Bellow on top of Mandible Claw, Shadow Puppetry, and more. Go again is essential to our ability to pump out some incredible damage output.
At the top end of the rarity, it is very possible to consistently pull off Doomsday in your games. Doomsday gives us a guaranteed blood debt banish each and every turn, which can allow us to get defensive and block with more cards than we normally would. This is an incredibly powerful finisher that can end games on the spot.
Power cards like Pulping, Bloodrush Bellows, and Endless Maw can simply push too much damage for your opponent to reasonably defend on a single turn. As games come to a close, simply generating sources of go again and presenting 12+ damage every turn will overrun even the most stalwart of foes.
Our hard-hitting, cost-effective cards like Pulping and Deadwood Rumbler can’t defend. Primarily, we lean on Carrion Husk for its incredible defense, alongside our sheer aggression, to keep our opponents from doing a lot on their turn. Drawing too many cards that don’t defend can be catastrophic for Levia. With great power also comes those (thankfully) infrequent cases where Levia simply dies to the variance of a bad hand.
Get creative with ways to get out of blood debt or enable unique interactions. For example, you can close the combat chain after using Mark of the Beast before Levia’s ability will trigger at the end of turn. This means that even if Mark of the Beast is the only card you have banished on your turn, that you can still escape blood debt.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Your equipment should serve to bolster your strategy of aggression, improve your ability to defend yourself, and maintain tempo. Carrion Husk is a key tool, as mentioned above. Ebon Fold also gives us a way to enable a combo, and a safety valve to prevent us taking blood debt on that off turn where we can't manage a 6+ banish.
But primarily, we should talk about weapons here. Weapons make up a critical component of our go again strategy. They will often serve as the second attack, following a big swing that we managed to pin go again to.
While other Brutes tend to use weapons as fallbacks as they posture for control (a 3-card block can still leave a pitch card to swing a Romping Club for 4), Levia's growing blood debt doesn't allow us to stray from our primary strategy. As such, the weapons we choose are less about consistent options and more about explosive damage.
I've spent plenty of time alluding to the Mandible Claws, so it's time we directly talked about them. The primary use of these is in tandem with Bloodrush Bellow for an explosive turn that's likely to feature 3 attacks. But they also do fine as a minor prod for a bit more damage when you have leftover actions and resources after your primary attack. Because Levia doesn't fall back on her weapon often, Mandible Claws suit her well- they are a weapon of opportunity, not reliability, and they don't actually swing often.
Hexagore, the Death Hydra is a mid-game power spike. As I've repeated several times, Levia can't afford to fall back on her weapon, but instead uses it for extra value in a turn where she managed to go wide. Hexagore represents massive damage output from a weapon; and as you accumulate blood debt, its cost to you shrinks until it vanishes completely. When you look at the damage exchange, Hexagore is already worth swinging after only a few banishes; don't be afraid to take a little damage to use it!
Ravenous Meataxe serves as a repair kit to a bad turn. If you find yourself running out of fuel in your graveyard to pay for your big Shadow Brute attacks, the Meataxe will guarantee you at least 1 more card in there. Unfortunately, if you find yourself needing that fix, you're probably having an off turn. As with the other weapons, Meataxe is at its best when it's paired with an extra action; you'd rather add fuel in the same turn you burn it.
Somewhere to Start
Early after Monarch’s release, I wrote a free Pro Series article on Levia for Blitz: a ruthlessly aggressive, cutthroat machine designed to pump out 12+ damage each and every turn with the idea that you simply won’t give your opponent time to catch their breath and counterattack with anything remotely threatening. Keep on the pressure, and they’ll be long dead before you run out of gas in the tank or ways to pay for your blood debt. That decklist has been updated for the ToA meta, and now leverages Mandible Claws. If you’re on a budget or upgrading your Blitz starter deck, try this build instead.
The goal of this deck is to go wide and hit for 12+ damage each and every turn while banishing one 6+ power card from your graveyard once you have started the blood debt engine. On your power turns, you’ll look for some incredible ways to use Bloodrush Bellow and Art of War on top of your Mandible Claws to pump out some insane damage. Everything in this deck is hedged toward your ability to manipulate the variance and odds of randomness in your favor. It’s hard to lose a dice roll or have a random discard mechanic misfire when you stack the deck in your favor.
The final list lands at 11 non-6 power attack cards. This means that 72.5% of the list meets the criteria for Levia and many of the other additional bonus effects in this list. As long as you can banish a 6+ power card every turn, you won’t take any damage from blood debt, regardless of how eager your debts may be to consume you.
A Dangerous Game
As you get more and more familiar with the interactions and possibilities of Levia, you will learn to appreciate her unique playstyle. Like all heroes, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.
When you’re ready for the next step in your Levia journey, I’d recommend you pick up a Pro Rathe Times Subscription so you can read Mark Chamberlain’s take on Levia for Classic Constructed.
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: https://www.patreon.com/DrewJCordell
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