Bravo's got a good thing going for him. The Guardian class is known for durability and consistency. Thanks to heavy armor and, most famously, his trusty Anathos, Bravo can bide his time, blocking heavily while still swinging for decent damage. The high Pitch costs of Guardian cards (and synergies tied to the Pitch Zone) have a side effect of staving off fatigue. And every few turns, a big attack makes its way into his hand, giving incentive to give that hammer a rest.
But while most classes have split decisions to be made during deck building, every card in the Guardian card pool supports this play pattern. 'Every', in this case, is hardly even hyperbole: look at the Majestics for Guardian (the place where you'd typically find archetype-defining cards).
Big attack looking for Dominate, big attack looking for Dominate, means of paying for big attacks looking for Dominate, big attack, big attack...
You have to expand your search parameters to include Super Rares before you find something different. Forged for War points toward a defensive build, drastically improving your Equipment defenses for a round. Add in Stonewall Confidence, and you almost have a thing around heavy defenses. But are those two cards enough to build an archetype around?
Thus far, the answer seems to be "no". These cards certainly have seen use, but as 'spice'- or at best 'detours'- in what is otherwise a standard Blues and Hammer build.
As a stubborn deckbuilder obsessed with gimmicks and novelty, I've put a fair amount of thought into what else you might be able to do with Bravo. And I don't mean, "using Sledge of Anvilheim instead of Anathos".
My favorite of these attempts is one I've alluded to before, and will discuss more another time in an Exploring the Fringes article: the Bravo Encore build, which uses cheap Blue attacks ahead of the typical big Guardian attack. It's fun, but it's not supported by the class. And while you do feel pretty clever playing Promise of Plenty into Disable, Bravo is basically hammering a square peg into a round hole.
Perhaps the alternate that holds the most promise for future support is a build focused on Auras, but what that's even attempting to do has thus far eluded me.
Contemplating this article, I even sought out everyone's favorite Bravo guru, Cayle McCreath. He wasn't ready to call Bravo a one-note act:
Guardian definitely has other builds available, [but] me personally, I prefer the less riskier of the options whilst sticking to Guardian's strengths.
And isn't that the whole story in a nutshell? Every line I've followed has come to the same conclusion: the Hammer Blues just sound better.
Is that really all there is to Bravo?
Toward the end of our conversation, Cayle threw me a curveball, one that pushes past the scope of this opinion piece and hints at a deeper discussion to be had:
Rumor has it Sasha played against Guardian in a dev challenge back in WTR era that was a lot different from what mainstream Guardian looks like today...
Perhaps there's a Unicorn Bravo out there, but until I see it, I'm calling Bravo a one-trick pony.
Alex Truell is the editor for the Rathe Times. Alex is a casually competitive player overseeing the growth of a Flesh and Blood scene in Ripon, WI. Alex is a player who cares about the competitive environment, but doesn't have to live in it; an optimist who loves the game, but can take a step back to critique it; and a deckbuilder who revels in novelty.
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