In this 2-part article, Drew Cordell gets you ready for Skirmish season with general advice about the format. Part two is available exclusively to our subscribers, and covers the specific strategic considerations related to the Tales of Aria meta.
Our subscribers can also listen to audio narration of both articles by clicking the audio link above; it will transition from this article directly into the next.
Skirmish season is an exciting element of the organized play cycle. It provide an excellent opportunity to amass a ton of organized play experience points, thanks to Skirmish’s massive 6x XP multiplier. It's also a more competitive environment than your standard Armory event- though it still maintains a casual spirit that lets you have fun while flexing your competitive muscles.
Skirmish also offers incredible and highly sought-after prizing, thanks to the organized play kits that are provided. (For winter 2021, each Skirmish prize kit contains 8 cold foil promo cards, two Skirmish-exclusive playmats, and 24 rainbow foil promo cards exclusive to the Skirmish season.)
With all the XP and prizing up for grabs, it’s an exciting time to be a Flesh and Blood player- but you'll want to bring your A-game! In addition to in-person events at local game stores all over the world, there are also many Discord-based webcam Skirmishes that are available to play. (Due to concerns about how to oversee webcam games, and not wanting to incentivize cheating, many online Skirmishes will distribute all Skirmish kit prizes randomly to participants.)
Follow my tips below to get yourself in prime fighting shape for the Skirmish ahead!
Book Your Events Early- Then Practice those Formats
Thankfully, most stores running Skirmish events will post their events earlier rather than later- usually well before the Skirmish season actually starts. This can be a great opportunity to map out and plan what events you would like to play during the season. This is also your best opportunity to delegate your practice time and preparations going into the season ahead of time.
Let’s say you’ve signed up for three different Skirmish events: one draft and two Blitz. In the past, you’ve played a lot of Blitz and have a general idea of what you will be facing up against during these events. On the other hand, you’ve only played one draft event in your time with Flesh and Blood, and are not super comfortable with the format as a whole, or the new set which just released.
(Now, this scenario may be a little more complex and non-linear compared to the reality most players will face, but it does provide value in decision-making and how to split up your practice time.)
Schedule your Skirmish events as early as possible, then practice as much as you can ahead of the events.
If I was the player in this scenario, I would personally divide my practice time 50/50 between draft and Blitz. While I am much more familiar with Blitz and feel generally comfortable against the field, I am playing two Blitz events versus only one draft event, so putting in practice time toward Blitz may pay off better for me as a player. On the other hand, while I am only playing one draft event, I’m much less comfortable with it as a whole. By putting half my practice time for the upcoming Skirmish season into draft, I can improve my performance at this event as well as any future drafts I may play.
There isn’t always a straightforward answer to how to divide your time, but in general, any time you can spend practicing will benefit you versus not practicing at all. Schedule your Skirmish events as early as possible, then practice as much as you can ahead of the events.
Don't Be Afraid to Play What's Comfortable
Even in the face of uncertainty in a new meta that is under-developed and largely unexplored, there is value in leaning in on what you are comfortable with. If you’re a lifelong Ira player and feel much more comfortable with Ira, don’t be afraid to pilot her rather than some of the ‘meta’ decks that are generating a lot of buzz. Just look to local groups, conversations boards, Discord, and your local communities to understand what kinds of decks you may face. If your upcoming Skirmish season event(s) are Blitz format, try to grab some pick up games on Discord and play against a wide variety of heroes and strategies to tune your deck to what you perceive the new meta will be.
Playing from your comfort zone can be a great strategy to employ to maximize your XP-gain and chances of winning prizes at your events.
Personally, I’ve leaned into my comfort zone by piloting Bravo into a field of Iras (a ‘bad’ matchup for Bravo) and still managed to come out on top in Channel Fireball’s Skirmish event. There is always value in playing what you are comfortable with and know, even if that deck/hero isn’t perceived to be a top meta choice. In fact, if you have less access to new cards, or less time to prepare for the upcoming Skirmish season, this can be a great strategy to employ to maximize your XP-gain and chances of winning prizes at your events.
Understand the Field
Legend Story Studios continues to mix up the Skirmish season formats, assigning different formats to different stores. This keeps things fresh, as well as gives stores the opportunity to stand out from each other.
The most-recent competitive season in both Road to Nationals and Calling events that were hosted in the United States gave players wide exposure to Flesh and Blood’s Classic Constructed and limited formats (both Draft and Sealed). Now, players are returning to Blitz and Draft for 2021’s November Skirmish season.
How do you plan to beat some of the top meta decks in the format? What is your approach to playing these matches? How will you develop your own game plan while disrupting your opponent’s?
In Skirmish seasons close to new product releases, the meta will be perceived as more open and unsolved. This can make it more difficult to prepare. My advice is to watch spoilers closely, and work to evaluate them based on their perceived power, looking for potential synergies that may come up in your games. In limited, hone up on your fundamentals like pitching if you haven’t had a lot of exposure to the format in the past.
If the format is more established and you don’t predict many surprises, how do you plan to beat some of the top meta decks in the format? What is your approach to playing these matches? How will you develop your own game plan while disrupting your opponent’s? Knowing the answer to these questions ahead of time will do wonders in improving your results at Skirmish events over the long term.
The more practice and preparation you can put in ahead of time, the better. Look for a practice group where you can jam a ton of reps against a wide variety of decks and strategies.
To predict the future, look to the past. What decks performed well in the previous Skirmish season?
To predict the future, look to the past. What decks performed well in the previous Skirmish season in this format? What has changed since then? Will any new contenders force out previously-popular meta decks? I always like to take a look at the Skirmish decks of yesteryear and try to predict how they have changed. If you know players who play some of those classes/decks regularly and have expertise, ask them what they think and get a pulse on the ‘health’ of their pet deck. The more information you can gain on the field, the better.
Go In With The Right Mindset
Make no mistake, Skirmish events will bring out competitiveness in Flesh and Blood players. While still casual events, the XP and prizes on the line do provide ample incentive for players to show up and play the best they can, proving to their local communities that they have what it takes to beat the field. When I play in a Skirmish, I treat it no differently than I would a Calling, or Road to Nationals event- it’s an opportunity to validate my mastery of my deck, and my fundamental understanding of Flesh and Blood. I play to win, but also to enjoy my games at the same time. Skirmish events are judged at casual rules-level enforcement rather than professional, but you should always aim to play clean and fair, and enjoy your event and the game as a whole.
Skirmish events are an opportunity to validate my mastery of my deck, and my fundamental understanding of Flesh and Blood.
If you lose early, avoid tilting at all costs. Even when you put in the practice and reps, you will have ‘off-days’ where you don’t perform as well as you know you could have. Pick yourself up and keep moving forward. Understanding this reality is crucial to improving as a player. At the end of the day, each loss is an opportunity to look back on and improve. Sometimes, there are obvious mistakes that you can look to avoid in the future. Other times, there are no obvious mistakes and perhaps there was some bad luck on your side, or your opponent just got the cards they needed when they needed them. While Flesh and Blood does a great job at minimizing variance, it still exists within the game, and being able to recognize it when it happens on either side will benefit you.
Having a positive mindset and being extremely willing to learn from both your wins and losses will help you improve as a player, and in general, improve your Skirmish performance over time.
For insight specifically into the November 2021 Skirmish Season, continue to Part 2 here.
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
Our narrator, Mark Chamberlain, is a long-time card game player-- but they're all sitting on the shelf while he practices Guardian in Flesh and Blood. Mark is based out of Colorado Springs, USA.
one small correction. stores don't get to choose what type of event they will run. LSS tells you which type you are going to run and then you are free to schedule the date.
Oops, that's on me. The author had that correct, but I misread it.
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