The Rathe Times logo

Preparing for Skirmish Season- November 2021

2 years ago


Banner Skirmish

Preparing for Skirmish Season- November 2021

Narrated by Mark Chamberlain


This article is narrated, but requires a Rathe Times subscription to experience.

In part 2 of Skirmish preparation, Drew Cordell 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 opens with the content of Part 1, and continues with this article beginning at the 9:15 mark.

Building on Part One, this part of the article will focus purely on preparing for November 2021’s Skirmish season which runs from November 13th-December 5th. In addition to the 6x XP per-win up for grabs, it’s also an opportunity to win an incredible Razor Reflex playmat, and scoop up a Cold Foil Oldhim for the collection. Because I wasn’t able to attend Nationals this year, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to prepare for this upcoming Skirmish season, and have been practicing both Blitz and draft ahead of the events I plan to play. I will seek to provide insight for both draft and Blitz, though I will spend a lot of the time in this article talking about the Tales of Aria Blitz meta, as the majority of the Flesh and Blood community has been so hyper-focused on everything except Blitz for months now.

Tales of Aria Blitz

Blitz will be a much different format than we remember from June 2021’s Skirmish season. The champions of yesteryear- Kano, Ira, Dorinthea, and Bravo- all look different now. While Chane was showing up in force and performed decently well, the format as a whole looks a lot different thanks to the introduction of three new heroes, all of which I expect to deeply impact the format.

The Power 5

Card image of Art of War (Yellow)

Going into the Tales of Aria Blitz meta, I expect the Power 5 to be just as impactful as before, if not more. I define the Power 5 as Art of War, Enlightened Strike, Command and Conquer, Arcanite Skullcap, and Fyendal’s Spring Tunic. Each of these cards has seen wide-range play across many decks and strategies.

Card image of Command and Conquer (Red)
Card image of Enlightened Strike (Red)

While Art of War has slightly fallen out of favor for some meta decks, many lists are making great use of C&C and eStrike. In a ‘fast’ format poised to be dominated by aggressive decks like Briar, it’s no wonder Command and Conquer remains a powerful tool in slowing down the game, and forcing out two-card blocks from hand to preserve the arsenal slot.

Card image of Arcanite Skullcap
Card image of Fyendal's Spring Tunic

For many classes, Briar included, Fyendal’s Spring Tunic and Arcanite Skullcap remain the premium equipment items for their respective slots.

Though it is a bit of a financial speculation and may be slightly out of place in this article, it is likely that LSS will be targeting cards like C&C for a reprint, as $114/copy at the time of writing creates an artificial and arguably unhealthy barrier to entry for new players. If you don’t already have yours and can hold off, consider waiting for the upcoming supplementary set spoilers to see what will be getting a reprint. Plenty of powerful decks and strategies can be played without including a single copy of a Power 5 card.

Expect Runeblades

At first glance, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a lot of Briar in Blitz, especially the hyper-aggressive lightning variants. This deck is a lean, mean, green fighting machine. Expect to see a lot of Rosetta Thorn coming at you for 2&2 across the table.

Card image of Duskblade
Card image of Rosetta Thorn

In Blitz, Briar also has access to Duskblade, which will punish control-based decks that don’t have the capability to flip the offensive switch and pressure the Runeblade player to take cards from hand- a necessary play to prevent Duskblade from snowballing out of control.

It will also be interesting to see how many people approach Runeblade with either Chane or Viserai. Both have some compelling new tools and can capture impressive value with Duskblade or Rosetta Thorn. I expect any Chanes in the format will take a much more conservative approach to their Soul Shackles, and Viserai will provide a more combo or midrange focus for Runeblade players who want to get away from Briar for the time being.

An Icy Rivalry

Another new contender, and the deck I will personally be sleeving up this season, will be Oldhim. The elemental guardian has a great matchup into Briar thanks to both Rampart of the Ram’s Head and Crown of Seeds- when paired with Nullrune equipment, Oldhim can stop three damage from an activated Rosetta Thorn with only a single blue pitch.

Card image of Crown of Seeds
Card image of Nullrune Boots

While Oldhim doesn’t have a ‘bad’ matchup in the format, the match against Dorinthea can go to fatigue, where Oldhim will usually come out on top. It is incredibly important to pitch for a late game strategy of closing out the game with dominated attacks such as Oaken Old and Tear Asunder. Oldhim also has a great match against Ira, thanks to the tax of frostbite counters and cards like Channel Lake Frigid and Heart of Ice that prevent Ira from gaining value from zero-cost defense reactions. Both of these cards are strong performers against Kano as well.

I have written a full guide for Oldhim in Blitz that will be published to Rathe Times shortly. You can find the Oldhim list that I will be playing in my Blitz events this Skirmish season here.

Lexi is likely to emerge as well, thanks to her offensive capabilities and disruption. Ice builds tax Ira heavily and disrupt her previous strategy of leaning in on Harmonized Kodachi and an endless stream of zero-cost defense reactions. Taxing Briar can also be an effective strategy against more aggressive variants. I expect to see a strong showing of Lexi in this format, though I do question her viability against Oldhim.

From Chane's Shadow...

Levia in Blitz has impressed me leading into this Skirmish Season, especially when equipped with Mandible Claws. Skilled Levia pilots armed with Gambler’s Gloves, Claws, and Carrion Husk will present incredible offensive power against even the most defensive of decks.

Card image of Carrion Husk

Levia’s greatest enemy is variance itself, where one ‘brick’ of Scabskin Leathers or simply missing on a graveyard banish can spell disaster thanks to Blood Debt. Expect to see some Levia in your Blitz events, and expect her list to be more streamlined and aggressive going into this season.

Old Favorites

I’ll make a prediction: Ira as we knew her in Blitz is gone. I don’t believe ninja players, in good conscience, can play so many zero-cost defense reactions into a field that is likely going to include Lexi and Oldhim wielding Heart of Ice and frostbite tokens. Ira will be forced to adapt into a more aggressive shell that relies on attack actions and go again rather than gaining maximum value from defense reactions. I have my doubts that Ira will be able to do this as well as Briar, even with Harmonized Kodachis and the ever-looming threat of a Mask of Momentum trigger.

Dorinthea remains a strong contender in Blitz. Dawnblade is as reliable as ever, and Dorinthea is built to be able to present a valid and reasonable attack every turn, even in the face of resource taxation via frostbite tokens. With typically good matchups across the format, a linear and proactive gameplan, and the inevitability of Dawnblade once it scoops up a couple counters, I expect Dorinthea to remain the premium Warrior in the Blitz format and one who will show up in great numbers at any reasonably-sized event.

Kano definitely took a bit of a hit in his own format thanks to the introduction of Heart of Ice. While good Kano players can play around this, Heart of Ice forces Kano to choose whether or not to play out their hand at the start of their opponent’s turn each time. The icing on the cake? Heart of Ice also has Arcane Barrier 1. I expect Kano to still be a regular contender of the format, but likely show up a bit less if Lexi and Oldhim are as popular as I expect they will be.

With the probable downsizing of Ira players in Blitz events, Bravo has a much more reasonable playing field against the rest of the contenders. Just like Dorinthea, newer versions of Bravo present a proactive gameplan, and have the capability to close games thanks to powerhouse and signature cards like Crippling Crush. Of course, Tear Asunder has taken the honorable slot of Towering Titan in the list and has the capability of closing out games on its own thanks to its powerful synergy with Anothos.

Against the current field, I’d take a defensive approach to Bravo and think he is quite powerful. Bravo doesn’t face the same time constraints Oldhim does, and there may be value in selecting Bravo for your event if you are a seasoned Guardian player for that fact alone. If I weren't running Oldhim, this is the Bravo deck I'd be playing for Skirmish.

Tales of Aria Draft

In addition to Blitz, many stores will be running their Skirmish events as draft events with Tales of Aria. If you are new to draft, it’s a fun and compelling format, but one that requires some practice learning the formalities and mechanics that occur behind the scenes during the deck building process. Thankfully, there are tons of resources available to improve your own draft game and prepare ahead of your Skirmish season event.

If you are completely new to the draft format, DM Armada has a fantastic introduction video that breaks down how draft works, and some specifics of Tales of Aria draft in particular. You can view that video here.

Another great place to look for extra insight into the Tales of Aria draft format is on the official Flesh and Blood website. The game developers have published a fantastic 101 series for drafting each of the new Tales of Aria heroes and provides some draft archetypes to look out for and how to build each hero: Drafting Briar 101, Drafting Lexi 101, and Drafting Oldhim 101. These articles are short and sweet, and packed full of great information to look to in your own drafts. Archetypes provide fantastic templates for deck building, and give you a strategy and line of play to pursue for the event.

If you are drafting a class that neither of your neighbors in the draft pod are drafting, then you’ll usually have more capability to prioritize certain draft archetypes and build a very strong deck. To do that, focus early on cards that keep your options open, while watching for what is missing from packs that are passed your way.

Card image of Deep Blue
Card image of Mark of Lightning
Card image of Plume of Evergrowth

Look to draft equipment and generic element cards early. You will be surprised how quickly equipment cards will go in the draft format. You should be prepared to take them early and often, and don’t be afraid to pass up certain rares and majestics if it means getting a powerful piece of equipment that can be used across multiple classes. Try to prioritize Plume of Evergrowth, Deep Blue, and Mark of Lightning if you see them- these are fantastic pieces of equipment that provide a lot of utility, and can help streamline your strategy and aid as a crutch for any deck building shortfalls at the end of the draft. Meanwhile, generic element cards will provide a backbone to ground your deck to early in the draft.

In one of the Tales of Aria draft side events I won at the Calling Dallas/Fort Worth, I drafted equipment and generic element cards early, ending up with an Oldhim deck that was able to win with hammer and fatigue after recurring a red Summerwood Shelter with Plume of Evergrowth to get around all the dominate and on-hit from Lexi at the top table. I can’t overstate the value of having strong utility equipment, as well as powerful ‘generics’ to lean on in a draft. It simplifies the deckbuilding process and provides a bit of a barrier for any shortfalls in your deck that may otherwise hinder your chances of winning.

To improve at draft, I would recommend watching as much coverage as you can of both US Nationals and from the Callings. You will get a feel for some of the powerful decks in the format, and some of the archetypes that have performed well in this format.

Another way to improve is to play as many drafts as you can. Naturally, it’s impossible to play draft online via Discord webcam, but there are groups that will draft on Tabletop Simulator and the Flesh and Blood mod. Keep every draft deck you build in paper. You can use these decks to test and play against your group to improve your understanding and matchups in the format.

If you are buying sealed product, use this as an opportunity to practice draft and sealed rather than just opening your boxes outright. Limited is a very rewarding format, and one that is extremely fun to play. Using every opportunity to practice the format as possible will also do wonders in helping you improve as a player if you do have competitive aspirations for the game. You are bound to play in some limited-format event eventually!

Closing Thoughts

I hope these tips and tricks have been helpful for your preparations for November 2021’s Skirmish season. I expect we will see a much different Blitz format than we are used to, and experience many shake ups across the board for Tales of Aria Draft. Though Briar is certainly strong, I believe Oldhim and Lexi are perfectly capable of performing well in the limited format as well and remain viable candidates for draft. I wish everyone the best of luck going into the Skirmish season, and can’t wait to see how it pans out!

Discussion (0)

You must be registered and logged in to participate in discussions.

Read next...

Clay unravels the Ninja scrolls and delves into the heart of expert Katsu play: managing the combat chain.

by: Mark Chamberlain & Clay DeAngelis

1 year ago

Get deep into the mathematics of this game engine with a close look at Value, Tempo, and Initiative across several games, before applying the concepts to Flesh and Blood.

by: Max Dieckmann

1 year ago