Thoughts and Baubles: December 2022

by Alex Truell, Mark Chamberlain 9th December 2022 8 : 32
This article is narrated by Mark Chamberlain, and is available only to subscribers. Subscriptions are currently managed via the FaB DB Patreon page. You must purchase Supporter+, Majestic+ or Legendary+ to get access to The Rathe Times' Pro Series content.

My name is Alex Truell. I'm the editor for the Rathe Times. I'm a casually competitive player overseeing the growth of a Flesh and Blood scene in Ripon, WI.

Strategically, I try not to follow trends, instead fixating on cards and tactics just outside the mainstream. I view this game through the lens of a player who cares about the competitive environment, but doesn't have to live in it; an optimist who loves the game, but can take a step back to critique it; and a deckbuilder who revels in novelty.

Thoughts and Baubles is an editorial space for the Rathe Times, where I discuss the game and respond to the community.

First up, some housekeeping.

The holiday season is upon us, and along with that are traditions and events with family and friends. That... makes it hard to get writers to commit to big projects, most notably our Pro Series articles. Because I'm not interested in tarnishing the reputation of these pieces, I won't push out a Pro Series piece simply to say we hit our scheduled benchmarks; and while we do have articles planned throughout December, they may not always land on the 'twice a week on Tuesday and Friday' that you've come to expect from us. (I trust you've got holiday pastimes of your own to attend to, so you probably won't even notice if we're less dependable that usual!)

Looking ahead to 2023, I'd love to know what you'd like to see from us! Are there players you'd like to hear from? Heroes you want to read about? Cards and strategies you're dying to know how to develop? Go ahead and jump down to the comments section now, I'll hold your place up here. You were at the ad break.

Got your suggestions in? Thanks! Now, on to my Thoughts and Baubles!

Clues to the Future

One of my favorite ways to engage with my card collection following a new release is to scour the cards for setups - odd or under-utilized cards where the designers laid the groundwork for future themes and strategies. One of the longest running among these is Forged for War, an armor-boosting aura for the Guardian class that forecasted the current design of the Guardian card pool (even if the strategy has struggled to find its footing).

Dynasty is chock full of these sorts of cards; and with the recent announcement of Outsiders promising a journey to the Pits, it's an exciting time to engage in some good ol' speculation. Here's what I'm seeing as I read the cards.

Assassin Expands

The debut of the Assassin class in many ways reminds me of how Mechanologist debuted: with a host of effect-redundant cards that ultimately served as the baseline for future strategic variations. Contract is a mechanic essential to the class identity - but now that we have those contract cards covering the core elements of every deck in FAB, the class is primed for exploration.

Narratively, Iyslander transitioned us from Aria to Volcor with her debut in an expansion set. This time around, the story follows Arakni, from the throne room of Volcor to the base of operations in the Pits. But unlike Iyslander, we have an adult version of Arakni already - leading me to believe the Assassin class will develop under the watch of a different hero in Outsiders.

The character most prominently featured on Rob the Rich is in strong contention. With a fairly well-developed design and appearances on multiple cards, 'Rob' could be the latest example of LSS' easter egg game (see Vipox). But personally, my money is on the figure wearing the Blacktek Whisperers. The sole Assassin card to evoke the Metrix/Pits region of Rathe, it also gives off the vibe of a character introduction.

As for mechanics? We've seen equipment that can be bought back with silver, but with entire contract mechanic revolving around silver acquisition, I can't imagine we're done with it. Further development may see coins used in more ways. Alternatively, we may see more cards akin to Regicide - single-copy attacks that target a particular hero, with massive payoffs - that could simply encourage you to spend your silver on cycling cards.

At this stage in the game, a new class needs rapid support to get up to speed alongside the well-established 9 we already have. It's hard to imagine we don't see Assassin re-featured in Outsiders.

Mechanologist is the Weirdest Class

Speculation about the essence of Mechanologist has existed since Crucible of War, and with a deep dive into the Pits rapidly approaching, it feels like this conspiracy is finally coming to a head. Just look at the preview art!

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I'm not saying that Mad Maxine has to be a Mechanologist, but there definitely seems to be a salvage program going on down there! (Will we finally justify the card art on Skullbone Crosswrap?)

While all other classes have diversified their available CC heroes, Mechanologist has stayed firmly tied to Dash; and even in Blitz, the only alternative - Data Doll - is an enigma all her own. (Is that the mind of Data Doll being transferred out on Cognition Nodes?) And Dynasty's additions to the class continue to paint an isolated picture, specifically calling out Mechanologist or Boost (a mechanic that functions only with Mechanologist cards), or hinging on Hyper Driver (which, again, talks about Boost). The lady doth protest too much, methinks!

It seems inevitable that the Mech hero pool expands - but will it continue to stand alone, or expand as a new tag on other classes?

Personally, I'm predicting a new Crown of Dominion-type effect: a "Scavenger's Hood", perhaps, that says you may include Mechanologist Items in your deck. It's a legitimate question whether or not anyone could make good use of such an effect - my money's on Convection Amplifier for the card that breaks the concept - but thematically, it's a slam dunk.

Steam-Powered Weaponry

Even if Mechanologist doesn't become a Talent/dual class, I think the potential for Warrior in a steampunk dystopia is pretty high. Folks have been talking about Mechanologist Warrior since Blade Runner's art was revealed, but it could just as easily be a steam-powered sword for the Warrior class getting the job done.

Imagine a 1-handed dagger with the ability to remove a counter and gain go again. Ironsong Pride could be part of a package that stores up counters of a 2nd type, and if things get desperate you could always remove those to keep your turn going. A steam dagger into a Quicksilver Dagger could make a Kodachi attack pattern for a low-to-the-ground Warrior with the unpredictability of attack reactions.

Warrior is a class that needs a fresh perspective. There's only so many ways you can give a sword +X with an attack reaction - and with attack reactions firmly locked behind the Light, it's going to take a drastic reimagining to move forward in an interesting way. A fusion of tech and weapon expertise seems an ideal way to stretch into new territory.

I'd also argue that Warrior is one of the safest classes to cross-pollinate with Mechanologist, as there are no synergies to be found between the sword and the pistol, while Boost strategies directly conflict with what we currently know as Warrior. If Emperor was the experiment, I think a Mechanologist Warrior could be the logical conclusion.

Either Way, Azalea Loses

I see Outsiders going one of two ways for Azalea and the Ranger class.

Option 1 says Rangers are inherently tied to the Pits, and we get a brand new Ranger hero to carry the set (think Tales of Aria for Guardians). This forces Azalea to compete with a 3rd Ranger, with a host of new arrows to support them. I see this as a bad outcome for Azalea specifically- and at a moment where she just developed some fresh potential.

Option 2 takes its cue from cards like Long Shot and Blessing of Focus, identifying Azalea as a unique character in the Pits as a deadly urban Ranger and instead saving a Ranger refocus for a more natural setting, such as Misteria or the Savage Lands. In this scenario, Azalea retains her edge against Lexi on the merits of legitimate card support from Dynasty- but if you're looking for more to push Azalea, you'll have to wait for the Pits-themed expansion on the other side.

Personally, I tend to think the latter more likely. Ever since Poison the Tips, I've been waiting for a Ranger with a 'hunt to survive' aesthetic; but a 'one with the wind' type could just as easily align with the sensibilities of the regions beyond the Veil. If Savage Lands or Misteria are in the near future, Ranger seems like an ideal class to slide into one of those narrow themes.

This reminds me a lot of the situation with Kano when Uprising was announced. Considered the obvious choice, Kano ended up excluded from the set, missing out on a Draconic tag and the talent-restricted Wizard cards in Iyslander's package. Being tied to the region isn't necessarily a sign that we're going to see major support for them- and I think Azalea's odds are long at this point.

Brute is a Way of Life

While the term 'Brute' consistently gets conflated with the people Rhinar and Kay call kin (LSS, take note: terms like Legendary and Brute should mean just one thing), Levia has shown that the Brute class is identified by self-destructive strategies and go-for-broke power. Sounds a lot like the Dregs...

While every denizen of the Pits is exposed to the toxic environment on a daily basis, some are unfortunate enough to be exposed to a larger dose. A collapsed tunnel, a mining accident, steamtech failure or simple human error can cause all kinds of dangerous chemicals to overflow into the Pits, damning everyone they touch to the same dark fate.

Dregs are the result of these accidents. Once human, they have mutated beyond recognition, irreparably damaged and transformed into something that barely resembles their former selves. They are mindless, soulless creatures, who operate on the sole purpose of survival, attacking anything in their vicinity and eating anything in order to stay ‘alive’.

Hinted at in Pits lore and card art since Arcane Rising, the strange creatures seen throughout the Pits may be a fit for Brute classification. A new spin on the classic 'discard your 6s' gameplay could give purpose to all the 5s and below that fill space in Brute card cycles.

That said, Pitfall Trap notes that the dual-headed werewolf depicted "ain't a dreg", so we may be looking at something more arcane in nature (Runeblade bois perk up). And there's nothing in the Brute card art to suggest a change in identity is coming. But as I'm looking toward Outsiders' identity, Brute emerges as a possible wildcard class, and one that's due for support.

An Absolute Wildcard

Absolutely nothing about the Pits says Illusionist- but we've been deceived before. Like Assassin, Illusionist is a class that just needs more development, especially with Prism having achieved Living Legend. Dromai's mechanics narrowly confine her to dragons, leaving an untapped pool of fascinating cards waiting for a hero to utilize them.

Two game mechanics jump out at me as I look over the Illusionist card pool. First, there's major color affinity present in the class, and blue lacks its champion. Second, Dynasty pushed Spectral Shields hard, alongside a more generalized Ward theme. These two elements could point toward the identity of our 3rd Illusionist hero: a more defensive build with high-resource pitching at its heart.

Thematically, a recluse Illusionist taking refuge in the Pits and surviving on misleading visitors seems like a cool idea - though like Ranger, I think it more likely that Illusionist returns with a Misteria or Savage Lands themed set.

What Do You Think?

I'm sending you back to the comments section again. What do you expect from Outsiders? And what clues to the future have you found in recent releases? Join me in some idle speculation, and happy holidays to all our readers!

Background music is Lone Wolf | Adventure by Alexander Nakarada | Music promoted by Chosic | Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Alex Truell

Alex Truell is the editor for the Rathe Times. Alex is a casually competitive player overseeing the growth of a Flesh and Blood scene in Ripon, WI. Alex is a player who cares about the competitive environment, but doesn't have to live in it; an optimist who loves the game, but can take a step back to critique it; and a deckbuilder who revels in novelty.

Mark Chamberlain

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.

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