Preparing for the Triple Format of Worlds
This year, I found myself unable to attend either Nationals or Worlds thanks to an unfortunately-timed business trip. However, my loss may be your gain, as without a “dog in the fight” myself, I am happy to share my thoughts on preparing for the event.
Flesh and Blood Worlds 2022 is being played as a three-format event. Players will compete in Classic Constructed, Uprising Draft, and Blitz in their battle for the title of World Champion.
Day One will begin with an Uprising Draft (three rounds), followed by five rounds of Classic Constructed.
Day Two will feature a second Uprising Draft (three rounds), followed by five rounds of Blitz.
Day Three will be top eight only, and all these games will be Classic Constructed.
The first thing that jumps out at me when looking at this schedule is that Uprising Draft is the most important format when it comes to making top eight, as it has not only the most games of any format before the cut – six instead of five – but also the earliest games of the event. It’s important to note that the way tiebreakers work in Flesh and Blood means that losing games later in an event is much better than losing games earlier in the event; a player who loses late will have an advantage over a player who has the same overall record but with earlier losses.
Uprising Draft is the most important format when it comes to making top eight
This same principle means that Blitz is the least important of the three formats to be prepared for; Blitz will be the last rounds before the cut, and while obviously these rounds are also important, their placement in the overall format means that a Blitz loss – since it will be guaranteed to be closer to the end of the event – will not be as costly for one’s chances of making the cut as a loss in other formats.
(That said, if you don’t make the cut, the Battle Hardened event on Sunday will be a Blitz event.)
However, while it is not as important as Uprising Draft for making the initial cut, Classic Constructed is the format for all games after top eight.
(Additionally, if you were to do poorly on Day One at Worlds and switch events to the San Jose Calling, that event is itself being played as entirely Classic Constructed.)
Overall, I think that I would rank the formats thusly, in terms of importance to one’s performance during the “first phase” of the tournament:
- Uprising Draft
- Classic Constructed
As a result, I would strongly encourage players who are unfamiliar with Uprising Draft to dedicate some time to practicing that format in particular, as it will be very important for one’s performance at Worlds.
Next up would be Classic Constructed. This is the game’s “core format” competitively and the one that will be played in the cut (and at The Calling). I think it’s important to be prepared for this. If you aren’t already familiar with the meta, you should probably familiarize yourself with it quickly – take a look at what decks have recently been achieving tournament success, what tactics might be used to counter those builds, and so on.
That said, it’s also important to consider what heroes you’re stronger with personally and what opponents may be planning to counter. Going into this competitive season, my pick for Classic Constructed was actually Dorinthea Ironsong (yes, really), as I think she is a very strong option against some of the aggressive Runeblade and Ninja decks that have been prevalent, while also having solid play into more defensive plans with an adapted strategy. Further, Dorinthea is a hero that I have a lot of experience with (in fact, I think she was the first hero I ever played in Flesh and Blood), and one that many are less prepared to counter – as well as one that is unusually punishing of mistakes from opponents. That said, I would want to intensify my practice against Iyslander and Oldhim, two matchups I had been avoiding earlier thanks to length and a desire to target the (at that time more prevalent) aggro mirrors.
It’s important to consider what heroes you’re stronger with personally
One other thing to note when it comes to the format: this is a really long event – and while it’s spread across several days, you should be aware that you may not be making decisions at the same level during your sixth or seventh game of the event than you are at the outset. If you find yourself prone to “tournament fatigue”, it might be prudent to avoid taking heroes that are less familiar to you or that require more complicated decision-making.
Lastly, we have Blitz. Blitz is a format a lot of people probably aren’t as familiar with competitively, and I would consider it the least important of the three, but given that several games will still be played with this format it behooves you to familiarize yourself with the setting to at least some degree.
Preparing for Draft
Uprising Draft is a controversial format in Flesh and Blood, with some prominent players skeptical of it compared to previous sets. Unlike some previous draftable sets of Flesh and Blood, there are only three relevant characters instead of four. Further, Iyslander shares few cards with Fai and Dromai, making a pivot more difficult than it might be in other draft formats. In general, Fai is often considered the “powerhouse” hero of the set for draft play – but in turn, that means other players might be competing more strongly for Fai cards, making it harder to get a deck with similar card quality to what you might find with Dromai and Iyslander.
In general, I think that draft fundamentals are still in play here – but recognize in some cases “staying open” may prove more difficult than in other FAB sets, where it’s often easy to keep at least two heroes open – for example, a player drafting strong Earth cards early on in a Tales of Aria draft can pivot towards either Briar or Oldhim.
Ultimately, one good way to prepare for draft is simply to… play drafts, and to review not just the outcome of the actual games but also the drafting decisions being made. In general, I think reviewing the specific draft picks can be more important in some cases than reviewing the gameplay of the individual draft games, though of course both are relevant!
Preparing for Classic Constructed
Classic Constructed is, in some ways, an easier format to prepare for because the deck you bring is known to you in advance. Further, there have been many prominent Classic Constructed tournaments recently, giving us a much better sense of the metagame. While there was a recent banned and suspended announcement, its impact on Classic Constructed is limited. Oldhim, the most successful deck in the format, got Pulse of Isenloft removed; this makes Oaken Old more difficult to fuse and prevents easy “double dipping” on Oldhim’s defense reaction – by no means inconsequential changes – but at the same time only a single card is directly affected, and Oldhim builds will probably remain strong.
Right now, I think you should have plans as to how to respond to a few popular decks that are likely going to be present in the environment. The most prominent competitive builds at present are Oldhim decks (both more aggressive and more control-oriented builds), followed by three broadly aggro builds – Briar, Fai, and Viserai. If you have a majorly bad matchup into any of those, you might wish to reconsider. Additionally, I would watch out for Iyslander (especially the new Wounded Bull build from US Nationals).
For more information on the prospective metagame, I’d recommend checking out Yichin Liu’s article reviewing the Nationals metagame over at the Flesh and Blood website.
Lastly, I recommend having your sideboard honed. One good piece of advice that I learned from the Arsenal Pass guys is that you should consider the major matchups and exactly what your sideboard changes will be in each one.
Preparing for Blitz
Of the three formats, Blitz has had the most upheaval recently, with recent changes nerfing several popular builds. Historically, Wizards have been very strong in Blitz, but the recent banning of Storm Striders throws that into question. Similarly, Briar took a major hit with the loss of Bloodsheath Skeleta. These changes – especially with respect to Wizard – are substantial enough that they may really shake up the format, hence requiring more testing to come up with a really solid build.
Instinctively, my tendency might be to go for a build that does well in a slower game with more “exchanges”, as we saw in some earlier Blitz metas. Kassai, Cintari Sellsword or Ira, Crimson Haze might be good picks for this style of play, as they both have very high efficiency in a long game. That said, it’s possible that with Oldhim having already been hit hard by earlier Blitz nerfs, one might be able to do well with a “classic” aggressive Blitz deck like Chane or Dorinthea. This area will need a lot more testing.
That said, if you don’t have time to dedicate to the format (and do have the Dori experience), copying Quang Dong's Dorinthea build that won the Vietnam National Championship might be a reasonable tactic!
General Tournament Advice
Depending on how you got your Worlds invite, you may or may not have experience with playing lots of large tournaments. I would strongly recommend the following non-metagame related tips:
- Get good sleep!
- Don’t stay out late partying when there’s still tournament games to play! If you guys want to go out for a big celebration with other competitive players after the tournament, that’s cool, but wait until it’s over (or at least until you’re out!).
- If you suffer heavily from jet lag, try to get your sleep schedule normalized before the tournament if flying in from another time zone. A tournament of this length is likely to be tiring even for locals!
- Bring a water bottle and potentially snacks/gum (if allowed at the venue) as well. You don’t want hunger or thirst to distract you!
- If you need to use the bathroom, do so early in a break between rounds rather than late, as players can receive penalties for arriving late to the table!
- You may want to use fresh, clean sleeves for your deck to avoid a potential penalty for marked cards. Similarly, you may wish to avoid using foils (or may wish to use only foils), at least when it comes to cards that will be shuffled into your deck.
- Mindset is important. I would generally recommend not swapping your deck at the last minute and in fact backing off testing a bit in the day or two before the event. Go in with confidence, not second-guessing!
- Be aware that you might end up playing on stream, especially if doing well. This generally isn’t that big a deal, just stay cool and focus on the game, not the audience.
- Relatedly, if you are ever in a game where audience members seem like they’re influencing it with loud discussion, crowding the table, etc., don’t hesitate to call a judge and get them out of there!
We've had a couple other writers tackle the subject of tournament preparedness, so if you've got extra time, check out Kiki Labad's quick advice here, and Mark Chamberlain's extensive guidance here.
That all being said, Worlds should be a blast – while I can’t attend this event, I’ve been to World Championship events for other games before and have had a great time.
Best of luck to all those who are attending! Personally, I'll be hoping that Dori takes it all!
Davis Tower Kingsley
Davis Tower Kingsley (aka TowerNumberNine) is an experienced competitive player of several games, including several LCGs and miniatures games. He now runs the TowerNumberNine channel with Flesh and Blood gameplay commentary on both YouTube and Twitch, as well as a personal gaming blog at towernumbernine.com.
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