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Focusing a Widening Field

When developing expansions for a TCG, there are a few ways you can go about it. You can build on what you already have, growing taller as you give more power and more options to the decks that already exist. You can go deeper, and add new layers to the strategies that you introduced from day one. And you can go wider, adding to the number of decks available to choose from. Most TCGs utilize all these to varying degrees, but tend to have a particular dimension they really focus on. In the case of Flesh and Blood, LSS has firmly come out on the side of wide expansion, giving us new heroes to helm new decks with each expansion.

And for a player like me - someone who hates to leave good cards sitting in a box or a trade binder, who loves getting into the creative work of deck building, who craves the experience of every aspect of a game and the novelty and variety that comes with that - it's easy to fall too far down the rabbit hole.

I am a self-professed Azalea main. I got into the game because Azalea appealed to me; my first deck was Azalea; the first Legendary I sought out and traded for was a Skullbone Crosswrap; and if there's one hero I will confidently offer my opinions on from a place of confident expertise, it's Azalea.

And yet, from time to time I'll have a local point out that they've never played me on Azalea. And not newbies either. I pride myself on playing a diverse roster of decks and keeping our local scene varied; but at the cost of repping what I'd consider to be my core identity as a FAB player.

The Too-Wide World of Rathe?

Flesh and Blood utilizes its wide roster of heroes to great effect as an alternative to power creep - the tendency of game design to strictly and objectively improve the value of cards as new expansions are released. While decks undeniably improve with new cards - look at the radical improvement Blade Flurry provided to Warriors across the board - the plain fact is that most sets push forth new decks while providing limited infusions of added power to existing decks. Bravo gained a little with the release of Heavy Hitters, while Victor and Betsy rushed up to join him despite lacking his years of history.

That wide expansion strategy is a siren's song for me. At present, I have 15 Classic Constructed and 19 Blitz decks built in real life - only two of those decks (Uzuri for CC and Blitz) share non-equipment cards between them. Our local scene alternates between Blitz and CC every other week; so in a year, if I attended every week and I rotated through all my decks, I'd play most of them twice.

When I did the math and realized that, it struck me that I wasn't giving myself time to really revel in any of these. And aside from internal identity and, perhaps, the time and attention I give them, how could I even say I was 'maining' anyone?


2024 is going to be different.

While I still want that variety of experiences, at this point FAB has grown too expansive for the time I'm able to carve out for it. I need to double down on my favorites. They deserve it.

For me, that means more Azalea, Dash, Kassai, and Prism (though I'm braced to let her slip in favor of a hypothetical blue Illusionist, should Part the Mistveil deliver that). These decks have play patterns that resonate with my natural strategic inclinations, and the heroes and aesthetics especially appeal to me. (Yes, all my favorite heroes are women - somehow, LSS keeps pairing my favorite strategies with women.)

Part of that is getting more comfortable with adjusting my CC decks for Blitz on the fly. My mains all get the 'honor' of CC builds; but that means half the Armories of the year, I can't run them. I could leave Blitz nights for experimentation and novelty, but that would put additional pressure on CC events to be used exclusively for my mains - Teklovossen, who clearly requires the CC format for any hope of success, would never see the light of day.

And part of that is getting over the skewed internal narrative that, if I don't change what I'm playing, I'm contributing to a stale local environment. Which, on its face, is absurd. I love the specialist phenomena. When I think of how some of my locals have wrapped their identity and their skills thoroughly in a hero, it fosters a character and local flavor that's anything but stale. We've got a Boltyn prodigy, a Dorinthea master, a Betsy loyalist, a Dromai faithful, and by reputation I'm supposed to rep Azalea.

It's Okay to Follow Your Heart

If any of this is speaking to you, here's the message I need to hear, and maybe you do to: it's okay to play what you want to.

Sometimes, what I want to play is something new and novel. It's fresh from new booster packs, or it's a brew from the internet that caught my eye, or it's some bad-idea jank that I just have to test (Korshem Briar, anyone?)

Sometimes, what I'm really craving is that classic Ranger gameplay: load the bow, buff the arrow, ruin their plans with an on-hit effect. Azalea's gameplay is peak FAB, to me; and there's no good reason I should deny myself the best gameplay experience this game offers.

I truly believe in the idea that games are a social contract, and it's on me as much as you to ensure our shared experience is a good one. And yes, sometimes that involves changing it up for the sake of variety. But perhaps I've been hyper-vigilant about this in the past. My deck choice is not where mutually beneficial rec time starts and ends.

Play what you like. It's an old concept, but it's high time I actually took it in.

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