Strategy and Sideboarding with the Brute Queen
Nitya Kalaichelvan claimed the title of Malaysian National Champion piloting Rhinar into a field of 48 players, culminating in an incredible victory against Bravo. After initially discussing her decklist with One Two Juice on YouTube, Nitya agreed to go in depth on her strategy and sideboarding for the Rathe Times.
As someone whose prior experience with trading card games was vague mentions of Pokemon and Magic: the Gathering, Flesh and Blood has truly been a whole new world to me. I remember thinking to myself when I stumbled upon this game, "Yeah, I’m not going to get addicted to this game..."
...and now I go for Armories three times a week, and the card collection is beginning to spiral out of control...
I started out with Katsu and Levia, but I didn't really connect with a hero until I stumbled on to Rhinar.
You may ask yourself, "Why play Brute?" Because Brutes are fun! What other hero can lean into the luck of the dice and the luck of the draw? Then there's the rush of discard mechanics!
But beyond that reckless facade, Rhinar actually has a surprising number of options to diversify the build and cater to your own playstyle and the mechanics you like! Do you feel like rolling? Bad Beats, Rolling Thunder, and High Roller are there for you. Do you want to lean into the draw and discard mechanic? There’s always Wild Ride, Pulping, and Bare Fangs. This means you get to have fun tweaking your deck and running whatever makes you happy.
The great thing about Brute is nobody’s really sure which Brute build they’re going up against. Leading up to Calling: Singapore and Nationals, I’ve tweaked my deck to include some of the abovementioned cards, or even items such as Energy Potion. A Bravo player didn’t think I was running three copies of Reckless Swings, so the variance in Brute builds is really fun to see!
Before I dive in depth and explain my deck, I wanted to start off by thanking my teammates in Cracked Baubles: Kai Young, Benjamin Foo, and Mark Siew, as well as Jose Lau. The discussion of our decks and matchups were all crucial in the choices I’ve made in building my version of Rhinar, Reckless Rampage.
The aim of my mainboard is to balance both Romping Club and Mandible Claws, i.e cards that I can work with regardless of when I see them. As I’ve mentioned on One Two Juice, 18 blues allows for great Bloodrush Bellow turns on Claws and allows me to threaten Pummel every time Tunic is up.
The choice of blue pitches here is truly my own personal preference of denying defensive decks the choice of defending with intimidate, because hey, I don’t need a special on-hit effect if my on-hit is death, do I?
The theme continues with my choice of yellow pitch cards. Wrecker Romp sits at a breakpoint, Barraging Big Horn lets me threaten a go again, and Smash Instinct adds to the intimidate plan.
Why not Pack Call, you may wonder? It is principally the same reason I only run two copies of Beast Within: I’m minimizing the emotional damage I take from Rhinar’s card pool. I really hate the idea of potentially sending my Bloodrush Bellow to the bottom; in contrast, I don’t mind not securing the dominate/go again option on Pulping/Wild Ride because I generally roll Scabskin Leathers before I play them out anyway. Brute power always comes at a cost- choose the costs you're willing to pay.
For my red pitch cards, we have the good old staples: Swing Big, Pack Hunt, and Command and Conquer, all cards that are 6+ attack and cost 2, making them choice targets for Pummel. These are cards I love to move into arsenal, to time them with Tunic turns.
- Romping Club
- Mandible Claw x2
- Nullrune Gloves
- Skull Crushers
- Alpha Rampage x2
- Cadaverous Contraband (r) x2
- Erase Face x3
- Fate Foreseen (r) x3
- Massacre x2
- Pulping (r) x3
- Sink Below (r) x3
- Wild Ride (r) x2
- Pummel (y) x2
- That All You Got? x2
My guardian matchup notes actually do change depending on who I’m playing against, but I defer to playing the more defensive Club build. Skull Crushers are added here to turn off crush and Oaken Old effects. I always prioritize putting my defense reactions in arsenal even over my 2-cost cards like Swing Big. The aim here is discipline!
If you watched the finals, you saw that I generally go for the Reckless Swing kills here, as the gas runs out in the second and third cycle of the game. I generally watch out for the Tunic turns, because if Tunic is up, intimidating all cards from hand is very difficult. Also, Oldhim can prevent 1 damage with Crown of Seeds if you choose to go the way of Death By Reckless Swing!
My illusionist sideboard options haven’t changed for Prism hitting LL status, but the gameplan certainly is different. There's a lot more consideration in controlling Dromai’s board state, i.e choosing when to pop the dragons, because you are throwing away your own threats every time you do so.
My plan is to intimidate Dromai’s whole hand and keep the Dragon/ Ashwing / Ash counts low. While Miragai, Cromai, and Passing Mirage are generally prioritized, I do make a call to ignore them if I feel the kill is within sight with either all intimidates or Bloodrush Bellow. In line with this plan, I sometimes don’t even trigger phantasm on cards such as Dunebreaker Cenipai, because I feel you can more easily sacrifice life than your 6s. This is not a matchup where you go on a reckless rampage- it’s very much a cautious rampage.
In trying to predict the meta for Malaysia’s Nationals, I didn't expect many Mechanologists- and sure enough, we only had 1 Dash! I didn’t think it was necessary to put in Argh…Smash!, and instead opted for Erase Face.
The plan was really simple: put in all my 6s. The idea behind this is not giving Dash time to set up her board state and really pushing through raw damage-per-turn by either rolling for Scabs, siding in Gamblers’ Gloves to keep pressure up, and leaning hard on Wild Ride and Pulping.
As Ninjas will always threaten a Mask of Momentum draw, I prefer playing Club in this matchup.
I generally am choosing to block here until I see a pretty good hand to take back tempo. That All You Got! is great, even if they choose to Razor Reflex the Kodachi, as it means they can’t Razor Reflex a Snatch and we take those wins where we can get them. Skull Crushers also go in here for those awkward breakpoint blocks.
There is a slight change in sideboard options between the two Ninjas. Of course Katsu doesn’t care about Erase Face, so Alpha Rampage (+2) and Massacre (+2) are prioritized to maximize damage but also still blocks for 3! For Fai, we put in Cadaverous Contraband (+2) and Erase Face (+2) instead. While Kodachi Fai isn’t so concerned about Erase Face either, it’s still a Pummel target.
Another matchup that tests discipline! Lexi is such an explosive deck, but there’s a chance their hand bricks up and here my plan involves waiting for that moment. Lexi is generally not going to block a Club for four (which also has the benefit of not caring whether Fatigue Shot hit the last turn), so she’s going to lose health steadily until I can hold either Command and Conquer / Pummel or Bloodrush Bellow.
Taking tempo back from Lexi is truly an uphill battle, as Rhinar can’t match their raw damage output per turn. The decision-making on when to block and when to go off is very important.
Ahhh! The bane of Rhinar’s existence, because if you intimidate Runeblade cards, they look at you, laugh, and say "blocking? What a novel concept. Anyways, now here’s 20+ split damage."
I hated these matchups so much that these were my matchup notes for Briar and Viserai in May:
"RACE and KEEL!"
"See Channel Mount Heroic? Just concede and go have lunch."
I struggle the most in this matchup, so I generally aim to race. All my 6s go into this deck, even if Erase Face isn’t particularly great against Briar (the superior Runeblade, it looks like for now).
While I would side in Nullrune Gloves for Viserais (they are a lot more efficient generating runechants), Gamblers’ would be my choice for Briar. My plan is to aggressively roll for Scabskins early game, keeping them low before they see their first Channel Mount Heroic, a key pivot tempo-stealing turn for them.
Dorinthea is a test of game knowledge, mind games and patience. New cards from the Classic Battles set such as Glistening Steelblade and Run Through mean that using defense reactions appropriately will be very crucial in this match up. (I cry for justice for our green boi!)
I am usually calculating the maximum damage a Dorinthea player can do by looking at their hand (each card is perhaps adding +3 to the damage Dawnblade can do) and graveyard. Steelblade Supremacy is, of course, a huge turn for them, but do watch out for Twinning Blade and Glint the Quicksilver!
I lost against a great Dorinthea player in Nats here, so I won’t elaborate much beyond practicing will be very important for this matchup. (These are my own personal notes as well.)
While there are matches in which you feel intimidate just makes it easier for the aggro decks to go “blocking is not in my dictionary”, the opposite is true for the wizard matchups. Intimidate is a great mechanic against both wizards, as they want to assess the situation before showing their hand, but we don’t give them that option.
I would run Romping Club against both wizards, using Barraging Beatdown first before going into Bloodrush Bellow, siding in the no-blocks and That All You Got? (mainly for the pitch). Do be cautious about their explosive turns!
This is another with differences between the heroes. Alpha Rampage (+2) goes in vs. Kano, along with Cadaverous Contraband (+2). I also use 1 less copy of That All You Got? in this matchup. When facing Iyslander, it's Erase Face (+3) to cut off fusions; we drop 1 copy of Massacre as well.
If you don't see a sideboard guide for a matchup above, it's because I didn't anticipate seeing them at Malaysian Nationals and haven't had the time to specifically test against them. Ten months in and I still feel like there’s so much to this game- especially looking at how incredibly diverse the meta is becoming! I look forward to continuing to learn and to diversifying my own hero expertise.
Nitya Kalaichelvan first stumbled onto Flesh and Blood through a Learn-to-Play event at her Local Game Store (Invictus Forge). She was immediately hooked by the depth of the game, as well as the vibrant and supportive community. The only gambling she does these days is rolling dice with Rhinar, Reckless Rampage - which she hopes to see more people trying out!
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