If you're reading this, then you, too, have succumbed to the temptation of the power held within the Demonastery. For those willing to delve deeply and invest the time to learn, Runeblade can be a complex and rewarding class to bring to tournaments of any size.
As of the release of Crucible of War, Flesh and Blood's lone Runeblade Hero is Viserai, Rune Blood. Once a powerful martial warrior in his own right, Viserai was imbued with the power of the Arknight Shard, allowing him to augment his physical abilities with arcane power.
The Runeblade class is unique in that it is currently the only hybrid class, dealing both arcane and normal damage. It is highly versatile, being able to field respectable Aggro, Midrange, and OTK Control builds in both Blitz and Classic Constructed. The combination of sword and sorcery is represented on Runeblade cards in a number of ways, such as the power buff Nebula Blade receives when you've played a non-attack action that turn, but the most common is in the form of Runechant tokens. Runechants are the core mechanic of the Runeblade class.
As a Runeblade player, Runechants do a number of things for us besides hitting our opponents for extra damage when we attack. Most Runeblade cards (and all Runeblade Attack Actions) involve Runechants or arcane damage in some way. Some cards have their cost discounted, others create new Runechants when an attack action hits, and some just give you Runechants no matter what.
Rules Tip: When you attack and cause Runechants to trigger, each Runechant becomes a layer on the chain and will resolve before you move to the Defend Step.
The Runeblade Tax
From the beginning of the game when players select their equipment, opponents will know that they'll need at least one instance of Arcane Barrier 1 in order to reasonably repel our onslaught of arcane damage. While the four Arcane Rising classes each have a piece of class equipment with Arcane Barrier 1, none of the Welcome to Rathe classes can say the same. (Brute has Arcane Barrier 2, which isn't as effective against Runeblade- more on that later.)
This "Runeblade tax" on our opponents takes a very real toll on their ability to block our physical damage. Warrior players against other purely martial classes would probably run an equipment setup like this:
This equipment represents 10 defense over the course of a game. From my own playing experience, Warrior opponents will generally choose Arcanite Skullcap as the cut for a Nullrune Hood. So just by virtue of the class we're playing, we have deprived them of 3 defense that would have been very helpful in stopping some of our powerful Runeblade attacks and on-hit effects.
Why wasn't the Arcanite Skullcap's Arcane Barrier 3 sufficient? It's because of how Arcane Barrier works, and because of how Runechants work. "Arcane Barrier X" requires you to pitch equal to X to prevent X arcane damage from a source. But Runechants are each a separate instance of arcane damage. This makes Arcane Barrier 2+ inefficient, as you'll have to pitch 2 for every Runechant individually. It also allows Arcane Barrier 1 to completely suffice- you can pitch X resources to cover X instances of 1 arcane damage.
Damage on Two Fronts
Ignoring the synergies with our other cards for a moment, Runechants represent a separate source of damage whenever we attack our opponents. From a purely damage dealing perspective, this is advantageous due to it forcing our opponents to split their defensive efforts between the two damage types. This effect is easy to overlook initially, but it’s nearly the equivalent of having Go Again and a second attack action stapled onto our attacks.
Additionally, our arcane damage adds a new defensive angle that our opponents must consider, which is pitch value. It's not uncommon for Ninja or Warrior players to block aggressively with a red heavy hand, comfortable in the knowledge that the single blue they're holding should be able to fuel their entire next turn. But what happens when we're attacking with 6 Runechants? Not only do they still potentially need to block the normal damage we're sending at them, but against our Runechants there is only a single block 3 in their hand. They now need to weigh the cost of taking a bigger chunk of damage now versus the quality of their following turn.
High Cost Cards at Discount Prices
Many Runeblade attack actions are overcosted relative to other classes' attacks with similar power. Just compare Viserai's cards to Rhinar's:
But Ninth Blade of the Blood Oath isn't just a plain 9 power attack for 9, and therein lies its power. Many Runeblade cards receive discounts to their cost based on the number of Runechants we have built up.
Rules Tip: Costs are calculated before discounts, so even if an effect would make your card cost more, it could still be free if you have enough Runechants.
The cost reduction of Runeblade attacks makes for some very scary turns for our opponents. Attacking with cards like Arknight Ascendancy or Amplify the Arknight for zero cost frees us up to either block aggressively or spend our resources on damage buffs like Sloggism or Pummel.
Rules Tip: The cost requirement on Sloggism and Pummel only cares about the printed cost of the card, so you can Pummel your Arknight Ascendancy even if it was free.
Arguably the most potent tool in our Runeblade Discount Armory is Bloodsheath Skelata. With excellent defensive stats and a powerful one time use ability, Skelata is the whole package. You can use it to quell some early aggression, and destroying it will frequently allow you to play anywhere from 2 to 6 resources' worth of cards for free.
Rules Tip: Bloodsheath Skelata's ability applies to non-Runeblade cards too. It works very well with Sloggism and Oath of the Arknight.
Discounting our cards is obviously very powerful, but we're limited because each time we make use of our Runechants for a discounted attack, we expend all of our Runechants (no, you can't choose to save any of them for later). Arknight Ascendancy is much less impressive if you actually have to pay full cost to play it. This brings us to the all-important subject of generating Runechants.
First, let's examine Viserai's Hero ability more closely.
Whenever you play a Runeblade card, if you have played another 'non-attack' action card this turn, create a Runechant token.
Viserai's ability has two steps.
- You play any 'non-attack' action card
- You play any Runeblade card
Step 1 only needs to happen once to enable Step 2, and Step 2 can trigger any number of times in a turn. So as a Runeblade, what we want are proactive 'non-attack' actions with Go Again, and then all the rest of the Runeblade cards we play in that turn will net us a Runechant. Fortunately we have many solid options for fulfilling Step 1, such as Mordred Tide, Oath of the Arknight, Mauvrion Skies, Gorganian Tome, Sloggism, Plunder Run, Come to Fight, etc.
Rules Tip: If you play Mordred Tide and it triggers Viserai's hero ability, you only get one Runechant since Viserai's trigger resolves before the Mordred Tide.
Step 2 is accomplished easily enough, but the requirement of the Runeblade card type is not free. Enlightened Strike and Command and Conquer are two of the best attacks Flesh and Blood has to offer, but I don't run them in my Midrange Runeblade list as they tend to put a stopper on Runechant creation. (The first time you have to pitch to play a Reduce to Runechant, you'll understand.)
When it comes to producing Runechants, Mordred Tide is in a league of its own. Zero cost with Go Again, and it can block for 3 when you need it. The only thing it doesn't do is play well on its own!
Which brings us to the easiest way to produce Runechants, which is simply by playing cards that say "Create Runechants". Each of these cards produce respectable amounts of Runechants on their own, but when combined with a Mordred Tide they go into overdrive. Playing Mordred Tide into a Read the Runes sets you up for a free Arknight Ascendancy turn, and Spellblade Assault does almost as much setup work even while getting in for damage of its own!
Last but not least, we have our Runeblade Legendary equipment, Grasp of the Arknight. While you should always strive to end your turn with Runechants in play, in practice that's not always feasible. That’s where Grasp’s activatable ability comes into play. For the cost of 2 resources, Grasp will create a Runechant for us (provided we don't currently have any), which is very important for ensuring cards like Reduce to Runechant are viable plays. The efficiency of Grasp falls off pretty harshly if you already have Runechants in play, but it's still nice to have the option available.
Now that you're familiar with the core aspects of the Runeblade class, here are some decklists that put these concepts together into a cohesive game plan. (Current lists are just for Blitz, but I will be updating this Primer periodically and will add lists for Classic Constructed probably with the post-Monarch update.)
- Midrange builds with Viserai gravitate towards cards that augment more expensive attacks such as Sloggism and Pummel. Since this deck wants those live as often as possible, you'll notice that every attack action in the deck costs 2 or more.
- Keeping up velocity is very important for this sort of deck, as you want Reduce to Runechant to always be free and your attack actions discounted as often as possible. Every attack action in the deck is a Runeblade card to maximize our chances of ending our turns with Runechants in play.
- Rattle Bones and Become the Arknight are key cards in this deck as they increase our access to Arknight Ascendancy. Become the Arknight helps us find copies in our deck when we're adequately set up (or find Mordred Tide to help set up), while Rattle Bones become virtual 3rd/4th copies of Ascendancy when the game goes longer.
- Bloodsheath Skelata is one of the biggest threats to our opponents, since with just 3 Runechants it can allow you to play Sloggism into Arknight Ascendancy for no cost. Try to use this to either shut the door on an opponent if you're already ahead or to steal back tempo if you find yourself behind.
- Aggressive builds of Runeblade care a bit less about keeping Runechants in play at all times, opting for a more "go wide" strategy that aims to attack multiple times per turn. It can accomplish this via Go Again from Mauvrion Skies, Meat and Greet, and Razor Reflex.
- Enlightened Strike is in the deck as it is too good and versatile to not include in such an aggressive build, but keep in mind it won't trigger Viserai's passive, nor can it receive Go Again from Mauvrion Skies.
- Razor Reflex can't be used on Amplify the Arknight, even if it was fully discounted. Despite this anti-synergy, Amplify is too good on rate not to include in an aggressive build. However, unlike Pummel, Razor Reflex can buff our Runeblade weapon attacks, as both Nebula Blade and Reaping Blade are swords.
- Consuming Volition is a good tool for forcing opponents to block with an extra card or piece of equipment that they normally wouldn't want to. Keep in mind that it doesn't matter if you connect with arcane damage on its attack or an attack earlier in your turn. This makes it a great follow-up play to a Mauvrion Skies empowered attack, especially if you started the turn with a Runechant in play.
- OTK (One Turn Kill) Runeblade is by far the most defensive and passive style. You play many defense reactions in hopes of stymying your opponents aggression, and most turns you will end up blocking with most or all of your hand. The non-Runeblade defense reactions help you find the cards you need and bury the ones you don't until later in the game, while the Reduce to Runechants help you bolster your Runechant count.
- Ninth Blade of the Blood Oath is the usual finisher for the deck. Once you have built up an insurmountable number of Runechants, you break your Bloodsheath Skelata, play a free Sloggism into a Ninth Blade to deliver your single finishing blow.
- Avoid using your own Sigil of Solaces until your health is low enough that healing wouldn't put your life total equal to or above your opponents. Reaping Blade's passive is crucial to this deck, as every point of life they gain is a setback to your setup game plan.
- The exact number of Runechants you need varies from opponent to opponent, but the general number to aim for is around 32. Opponents will see the writing on the wall when you get close and will try and arsenal a defense reaction or a Sigil of Solace, plus they get to save all their armor for your singular attack, which combined with a defense reaction can block most of the normal damage. Meanwhile, the most that a 4 card hand can do is prevent 12 arcane damage if their hand consists of 4 blues, so as long as you don’t allow them to gain life during the game, 32 Runechants will usually be enough.
The Demonastery welcomes all, but mastering Viserai and the Runeblade class is a complex and difficult proposition. Some may fall, finding themselves vessels for the Demonastery's many necromancers, but those that rise to the challenge will ascend and join the ranks of the Arknight.
Kevin Brayer (@Hannibal in Discord circles) is an author for the Rathe Times and has been playing Flesh and Blood since the release of Crucible of War. A Software Developer living in the US, he is a competitive player with a background in MTG. He loves putting time into mastering archetypes and is looking to make his mark by bringing everyone's favorite Arknight into the competitive scene. Kevin is excited to give back to the community by sharing his insight, humor, and love of all things Demonastery.
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