Welcome to Oldhim 101, where you will learn to wield the elements to devastating effect.
Oldhim rewards a higher degree of patience, and a renewed focus on how to best pilot Guardian. By nature, Oldhim is more defensive than Bravo, Showstopper or Bravo, Star of the Show.
Rathe Times has an excellent FAB101 on the Guardian class from Bravo's perspective. Many of those concepts will carry over into Oldhim, and I would highly encourage the read.
Oldhim’s inclination toward defense is evident in his hero power, which offers both utility and the option to defend yourself without losing cards from your deck in the process. While you may use it many times in the game, it is often less optimal than simply defending with a card for three. When you can pair it with both an activation of Rampart of the Ram’s Head and Crown of Seeds, you can generate an impressive four defense without losing a single card from your deck in the process of defending yourself. (More on the equipment later.)
Oldhim’s core gameplay loop revolves around getting defensive, and trying to set up a card in arsenal each and every turn. You may also look to prioritize pitching in a way that will ‘pitch stack’ your cards and help you set up for powerful back-to-back Oaken Old fusions, creating the capability to swing the tempo in your favor and win the game on the spot.
Previously, we were able to take damage at opportune moments and come back hard with Awakening. But with its recent banning, it’s less viable to lean on a single card to instantly flip the tempo in your favor. This means that fatigue-based strategies with Oldhim are more time consuming than before and require much more careful calculation. You can still play defensive without completely turtling up and failing to put any counter-pressure or disruption on your opponent.
Card Legality: Awakening has been banned in both Classic Constructed and Blitz.
A Hammer and Shield
Unlike Bravo, Oldhim prefers a shield. Strangely enough, Rampart of the Ram’s Head is often the preferred shield of choice over Oldhim’s own signature shield, Stalagmite. Oldhim pairs the defense of Rampart of the Ram’s Head with the power and offensive utility of Winter’s Wail with great success. In some matchups and configurations, Sledge of Anvilheim can be a valid configuration, though it’s much less common than Winter’s Wail.
Equipment of Choice
To play Oldhim at the highest competitive levels, you will need access to Rampart of the Ram’s Head and Crown of Seeds. Paired with Oldhim, these are some of the best legendary cards in the game. This isn’t to say you can’t play Oldhim without the legendary helmet and shield, but you’ll have a much better experience with them in most cases.
Finally, Oldhim will usually want either Ironhide Legs or Mage Master Boots, and will almost always prefer Crater Fist in the arms slot for added defense and utility.
A Base of Blues - And Elements
Just like Bravo, Oldhim will want plenty of blues on hand, and lots of Earth and Ice cards to fuse for individual Elemental attacks that grow more powerful when you can meet their fuse criteria. Cards like Blizzard, Channel Lake Frigid, Autumn’s Touch, Glacial Footsteps, Tear Asunder, Winter’s Grasp, Winter’s Bite, Disable, and Thunder Quake can make a strong foundation of blue cards to help support Oldhim’s gameplan. You’ll want to have enough individual Ice and Earth cards to reliably fuse toward Oaken Old as well as Endless Winter.
Much like Bravo, Oldhim can generate some strong offensive attacks- though outside of cards like Zealous Belting, Enlightened Strike, and Rouse the Ancients, Oldhim will have a hard time attacking more than once per turn. Oldhim prefers to hit hard with a single attack and often pair it with some disruption or offensive utility.
Cards like Endless Winter, Oaken Old, Pulverize, and Spinal Crush will make up the majority of Oldhim’s offensive suite. All of these attacks are very powerful in their own right, and some of the built-in disruption they offer will make your opponent’s turn less effective. In general, Endless Winter, Pulverize, and Spinal Crush should be played during the early- or mid-game, and you should look to attack with Oaken Old toward the end when you can close it out. Fill in the gaps of your offensive and defensive plan with Winter’s Wail.
Even Stronger Defense
A lot of Oldhim’s defense comes from the combination of his hero power, Rampart of the Ram’s Head, and Crown of Seeds. Along with those, Oldhim likes to add in cards like Staunch Response and Pulse of Isenloft. Blizzard is also a surprisingly powerful defensive option against aggressive, go-wide decks.
Extra defense reactions like Fate Foreseen and Sink Below are also fantastic inclusions in the sideboard for Classic Constructed, and can help you more optimally defend against many aggressive decks. Use Oldhim’s Earth defense reaction ability to prevent on-hits or attack reactions from pushing damage through. Use his Ice reaction ability to deny your opponent the ability to put a card into Arsenal.
Utility and Control
Channel Lake Frigid, Tome of Fyendal (paired with Mage Master Boots), This Round’s on Me, Winter’s Bite, Sow Tomorrow, Art of War, and Tome of Harvests help fill some utility within Oldhim’s kit. Each of these cards adds some flexibility and versatility in a number of situations that you won’t find in either the offensive or defensive packages. These cards can help you control the your opponent and disrupt what they are trying to do. You’ll want to look for creative ways to use these to bolster what you’re doing on your own turn and how you are interacting with your opponent’s plan.
Pro Tip: When paired with Earthlore Bounty, Tome of Harvests can help set up some very powerful back-to-back turns, as well as allow you to ‘hard cast’ cards like Pulverize by paying the 10-resource cost. Pulverize hits extremely hard- if you can pay its equally enormous cost to play it.
Putting Together the Plan
In general, you want to try to defend optimally, get a card into your arsenal, and activate Crown of Seeds and Rampart of the Ram’s Head almost every turn. Look to pitch stack in a way where you can set up one or both back-to-back Oaken Old fusions to end the game while you work on whittling your opponent away with Winter’s Wail, threatening a frostbite whenever possible. Defend yourself and keep your life total high, but don’t be afraid to play out some of your offensive attacks and maintain the tempo if you have the cards.
Racing the Clock
Oldhim is a very compelling hero, though he does reward practice and expertise. Oftentimes, the round clock will be your greatest enemy in the field of competition (outside of Prism) so it’s essential to build muscle memory and use your equipment interactions as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Practice the motions of using Rampart of the Ram’s Head and Crown of Seeds and physically manipulating the cards and dice.
Practice, practice, practice, and play as quick as you can without impacting the quality of your play.
Many games will get close to time in the round, but with enough practice, you can close out the game with some time remaining. Pummel, Tear Asunder, Pulverize, Glacial Footsteps, Rouse the Ancients, and Oaken Old are all reliable tools to close out the game.
If you’re playing in an event that has a formal cut to Top 8 and you make it, congrats! You no longer have to worry about the round timer and gain an inherent advantage over your opponent. Just make sure you are playing reasonably quickly.
I hope this 101 guide was helpful. When you’re ready to take your understanding of Oldhim to the next level, read through my journey of refining Oldhim from Tales of Aria preview season over many weeks and tireless practice and development. Become a Rathe Times Subscriber, and you can continue reading up on our Elemental Guardian through my 4-part Pro Series feature, Refining Oldhim on a Blank Canvas.
Love what you're reading? Why not join the Rathe Times as a subscriber? Subscribers get access to all Pro Series content (currently 56), written by some of the best players and authors this side of Rathe! To subscribe, head to the FaB DB patreon page and select a Supporter+, Majestic+ or Legendary+ tier.
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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