Leveling Up the Berserker Runt: Brewing the New Kayo

by Kevin Brayer 27th January 2024 9 : 50

Brutes’ inconsistency is about to be a thing of the past. Mostly.

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Kayo, Armed and Dangerous is packed with interesting text, so let's break down the ramifications of each of his abilities.

You have 1 weapon zone.

This is the drawback ability that justifies the other two abilities. Getting to use only a single 1H weapon means that Kayo's options are fairly limited.

Kayo 1

Mandible Claw is likely to be Kayo's signature weapon, and is most likely to be the default choice. Since Kayo will be discarding frequently, Claw represents onboard access to extra action points, which is quite valuable.

The only option that could potentially outperform Claw is Ball Breaker, as it's basically a miniature Romping Club. While Claw is the easiest way to guarantee that Kayo can attack at least twice (and ideally three times) on a Bloodrush Bellow turns, Breaker being +1 damage can actually be huge if your deck has ample go again and Agility generation.

Mini Meataxe has all the flaws of Ravenous Meataxe without any of the payoffs, so it's not really an actual consideration.

Attack action cards you own get +1 while they are in any zone other than the combat chain.

Kayo is innately one of the best clash heroes. As a Brute, you already wanted 6's, but now we get access to a pile of 5-power cards that previously weren't options (or at least, weren't good options).

Pro Tip: Notably, this will not increase Kayo's access to poppers, and ironically will likely lead to him having a lower density of actual poppers than other Brutes.

I cannot overstate how huge this is for Kayo's resource base. Just for the sake of comparison, let's look at the blue 6 options for both Rhinar and Kayo.

Blue 6s Rhinar gets to run:

  1. Wrecker Romp

Blue 6s Kayo gets to * choose * from:

Before Heavy Hitters was spoiled, I had it in my head that Brutes would take anything. If LSS printed a blue, 6-cost, 6-power, non-block card, Rhinar would snap that up and say thank you. Now, with Kayo's ability and the new Brute blue 5s in the set, we're spoiled for choice. If you would have told me two months ago that there would be a Brute who might not run blue Wrecker Romp, I'd have called you crazy. And yet, here we are…

The first time you discard a card with 6 or more attack during each of your action phases, create a Might token.

This is where the potential lost value from our lone 1H weapon is made up. Instead of intimidating on discard, Kayo gets to bank a point of damage for next turn. This does cool things like make Command and Conquer or Send Packing harder to fully block, but it's also just very important points of value for the deck to get. Without any built-in access to evasion (like intimidate, dominate, or overpower), Kayo will be relying on overwhelming defensive strategies with more damage than they could possibly block out.

Brute Power Cards & Agility Generators

Bloodrush Bellow, Swing Big, Beast Within. This trio needs no introduction. They're immensely powerful cards that have been staples since they were each printed, and it shall remain so with Kayo. These should probably be the first 9 cards in any Kayo list.

Bare Fangs and Wild Ride gain a ton of value in Kayo. More of the deck qualifying as 6's means they'll miss far less than they ever did in Rhinar, and the Might token gives you a guaranteed point of value, where in Rhinar the intimidate trigger sometimes doesn't matter. The value here is so good that it'd be entirely reasonable to run the yellows of either of them, as they still qualify as 6's.

Kayo 2

Cast Bones gets its own paragraph. This card is incredible, and will be essential against Guardians or other heavily-defensive decks. Cast Bones is a Runeblade card in disguise, except you don't have to jump through hoops to bank 5+ damage for next turn. It's worth noting that Cast Bones cares about the number of Might tokens you have after it resolves, so getting your Kayo might before you Cast Bones makes you far more likely to get the Agility token.

Kayo 3

Agile Windup also gets its own paragraph. There's a reason this is the Extended Art card in the Kayo Blitz deck. Versatility is the name of the game here.

Agile Windup is effectively a split card, both an attack and non-attack action. The attack portion is just a 2-block Raging Onslaught, which would normally not make the cut in constructed. The secret is that the Instant ability to discard it to make an Agility token is just blue Mauvrion Skies in disguise. Except it's not actually Mauvrion Skies, it's even better. Discarding Agile Windup on your turn is roughly equivalent to playing a blue Mauvrion Skies next turn, and it hitting, because you get your Might token regardless.

Passing an entire card's worth of value to your next turn can represent a ton of value, allowing you to either block with an extra card on the following turn, or to operate with an effective six card hand. If you need Agility in a pinch, you can even discard during the opponents turn, you lose out on the Might token this way, but there are plenty of hands that can make it worth it regardless. On turn zero, discarding an Agile Windup is like putting a second card in arsenal or getting to play an action card on your opponent’s turn (depending on who goes first). You can even use Agile Windup to setup your next turn while under the effects of Spinal Crush, Red in the Ledger, or Warmonger's Diplomacy. Agile Windup does it all.

Kayo 4

Runner Runner pulls double duty as both Agility payoff and enabler. Its Brute typing means that it functions with Lead with Speed and Bloodrush Bellow, which makes it a great fit for the deck.

Clash of Agility is going to be an all-star role player in Kayo against decks like Katsu, Fai, and Dromai. Getting 3 defense and an Agility token from a single card that doesn't take an action point is fantastic.

Lead with Speed is the last best Agility creator. It works nicely with the Brute weapons costing 2 resources, and as another guaranteed source of an Agility token, is good enough to be in contention for Kayo’s very few slots for non-attacks.

Kayo 5

Wage Agility is a fine card, but probably doesn't make the cut as it's a 2 block that isn't as flexible as Agile Windup. Test of Agility's potential downside is very real, as giving your opponent an Agility for their next turn while they're currently attacking you is very bad. Because of the potential risk, Test of Agility is probably just a niche sideboard option against Ninjas and Boltyn.

Kayo 6

Rounding out the Agility options, Smashback Alehorn is just a worse blue Agile Windup in Kayo, so it probably doesn't make the cut. Take it on the Chin finds itself in a similar situation, comparing unfavorably to both Clash of Agility and Test of Agility.

Other Brute & Generic Options

This brewing article would be incomplete without a nod to Berserk. In conjunction with Bloodrush Bellow and a bunch of Pulpings and Wild Rides, Berserk has the potential to let Kayo pop off for some absurdly powerful turns. Playing Berserk before BRB means that you get 3 cards from BRB instead of 2, and your draw and discard attacks now effectively just draw you a card. The ceiling of the Berserk deck is insanely high, but the consistency is certainly a question mark. We just got a Brute that we can make very consistent, so I'm not sure if I want to immediately go back to pushing the variance envelope.

Kayo 7

No Fear is a very powerful defensive tool for Kayo. From arsenal, it can be 6 damage prevention for a single card, which is a great rate. From hand, the ceiling is 5, but even that is still great (just look at Flicker Trick). The downside is, it's another card that isn't an attack, and it's not great against decks looking to go wide, but it's powerful enough that it could contend for some of the non-attack slots.

Send Packing is just a Brute Command and Conquer variant with extra upside in that it removes the option for a defense reaction in arsenal to be played against it.

If you want more disruption as Kayo, we need to dip into some generics. There is some anti-synergy with the few buff cards we're looking to play in Bloodrush Bellow and Lead with Speed, but beggars can't be choosers when it comes to disruptive effects for Brutes.

If you're in the market for more Brute go again, these are your next best options. Pulping will look great against decks that aren't trying to block you out (and is an important piece of the Berserk puzzle), but against decks running plenty of defense reactions, Pulping is not where you want to be.

The math on Madcap Charger is firmly "okay". As a 3-card hand, you can get 9 points of value (either with an action point floating with Mandible Claw or an extra point of damage with Ball Breaker), which isn't the worst but also isn't anything to write home about in CC. I view this as more of a Romping Club Rhinar card.

Breakneck Battery gets unconditional go again which is nice, but if we don't want Madcap Charger, we probably also don't want Breakneck Battery.

We have some better sources of go again in the generic pool with Enlightened Strike, Ravenous Rabble, and Zealous Belting, and conveniently all of these cards are still 6's for Kayo's purposes. Same issue of not working with Bloodrush Bellow, but it'll be up to your testing to determine if that is too much of a liability or not.

If Guardian and defensive decks are giving you a hard time, Kayo does have some options for evasion. Intimidate is especially strong on a turn where you're attacking wide via an Agility token, and Predatory Assault's dominate is more ideal for a particularly tall setup turn.

Apex Armory

Kayo 1

We touched briefly on weapons before, but as long as we're discussing equipment here, let's hit them once more. I think Mandible Claw vs Ball Breaker will depend on your build. A more midrange deck might value the extra point of damage on Breaker more than the go again on Claw, but that is one of the biggest things to test and figure out.

Kayo 8

Apex Bonebreaker immediately becomes the default arm choice for Brutes. Gambler's Gloves might still see some sideboard play against Illusionists where you might need to be rolling Scabskin Leathers more frequently, but the nearly guaranteed 5 points of value that Bonebreaker represents is fantastic. As far as arcane barrier goes, this is the slot to give up if you're facing Wizards (since Bonebreaker will basically have no text against them).

Kayo 9

Brutes might have the best suite of head equipment in the game at this point. Scowling Flesh Bag and Knucklehead are both extremely powerful (remember when Arcanite Skullcap was in every deck and people just hoped they would get 3 defense out of it?). The activated ability on Knucklehead isn't going to be relevant in most games, but on-board access to an absolute Hail Mary if things are looking dire is pretty awesome, and Temper 2 is just great stats.

Skullhorn is the big arcane barrier option, and will be in the board for Wizards. The new legendary Balance of Justice could see play if the meta lines up in a specific way, but the first two options are more versatile and generally good.

How crazy is it that I just talked about four great options for head equipment and didn't even mention Crown of Providence?!

Tale as old as time. Tunic continues to be great, and Brute doesn't have another better option outside of Heartened Cross Strap in the most aggressive of matchups.

Scabskin Leathers remain unique among legendary equipment, and even if you prefer the ability of Beaten Trackers, two extra armor block is tough to say no to. I imagine both with see play, but it will be matchup and first/second dependent. Nullrune Boots are the other potential slot for our arcane barrier 1. I think this is the better slot against Runeblades since you generally avoid rolling Scabs (especially now without Gambler's Gloves) whereas Bonebreaker can still get its full five value against the them.

The Final Draft

In order to maximize Kayo's consistency, we want to keep our number of non-6's to an absolute minimum. The first six inclusions would be Bloodrush Bellow and Cast Bones, with No Fear and Lead with Speed not far behind. Agile Windup lets us cheat on NAA numbers given their dual use nature. My initial lists have had at least 54 6-power attacks, which doesn't leave a ton of wiggle room, but it does let you hit your random discards in the realm of 90% of the time, which is far better than Rhinar odds running the same suite of cards.

This version is probably a little blue heavy, and it's missing a few cards that I debated in this article, namely Ball Breaker and Beaten Trackers, but I think this would be a great place for anyone to start their testing and explore from here.

All in all, I think Kayo has great potential to be a real player in the meta. My test games with him so far have been a blast, and the deck kind of feels like Earth Briar in how it plays. Kayo is ushering in a new era for Brutes, and I love what he does for the whole Brute class, allowing us to go back over tons of existing cards that haven't been an option due to missing that all important 6th point of power. LSS truly nailed it on this one. Happy hunting!

Kevin Brayer

Kevin Brayer is an author for the Rathe Times and has been playing Flesh and Blood since the release of Crucible of War. He is a competitive player with a background in MTG, and spends his time honing his Runeblade skills. He enjoys giving back to the community by sharing his insight, humor, and love of all things Demonastery.

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