Thoughts and Baubles: July 2021

by Alex Truell, Mark Chamberlain 17th July 2021 3 : 42
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 living in the U.S. who was fortunate enough to come across Flesh and Blood before Crucible of War (and therefore, before the game exploded in value). I was hooked fast in no time.

Strategically, I try not to follow trends, instead fixating on cards and tactics just outside the mainstream. Now that you know a bit of my background, you can view my thoughts through the proper lens. As a player who cares about the competitive environment, but doesn't have to live in it. As an optimist who loves the game, but can take a step back to critique it. And as 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.

Unsolved Heroes

When a new set releases, bringing with it a fresh competitive landscape, there's a volatile period of mass experimentation. Players try anything and everything, decks rise gloriously and fall just as spectacularly, and impressions begin to solidify.

At some point, one deck will leap to the forefront. Experimentation has brought about something fantastic, and as those good results get reported, more and more players align their own decklists with this sleek, well-vetted version. Exploration of alternatives begins to find direction: a new brew must now measure itself against the People's Champion.

This was Prism. This is Chane.

While focus is directed toward decks that answer the questions threatened by these tyrants, alternatives are left under-developed. But while efficiency would call this a prudent choice, the whole story is much more interesting. Because while the People's Champion gets iterated upon again and again, continuously developed and honed into a perfect contender, those alternative options remain raw and unrefined. Their puzzles remain unsolved.

Before I go tossing that term around any more, let's define 'solved'. For the purposes of this discussion, a 'solved' hero has the following attributes:

  1. They win games (they can have bad matchups, but overall they work).
  2. They have a commonly accepted decklist and strategy.
  3. They utilize their central thematic abilities and cards.

Chane, in his present form, is a solved hero. He wins games, obviously. There's a general consensus as to how he's supposed to be run and which cards form the core engine. And he's fully utilizing the Shadow Runeblade strategies.

Azalea is not solved. While she does rely heavily on the things that make her unique- arrows, hero ability, etc- she doesn't win games. And because of that, there's no generally accepted decklist; you'll find a wide variety of 'options' players swear by, with some drastically different lists and strategies.

Likewise, Prism is not solved. She does win games, but the strategies that get her there are varied; moreover, she's leaving many of her core strategies behind as most builds heavily pursue the Heralds with little regard for the Soul Shields. Prism has untapped potential, and merits more exploration and experimentation.

As the meta stands- skeletal as it may be while we await the Road to Nationals results- I would call the following heroes 'unsolved' for Classic Constructed:

  1. Azalea
  2. Boltyn
  3. Dash
  4. Kano
  5. Katsu
  6. Prism
  7. Viserai

Unsolved Decks are the Key to a Thriving Meta

In the past week, I've been actively digging into Boltyn. And what I've found so far seems to point to a wide open field of possibility. This is a hero with access to both the Warrior and Light card pools. A hero who can equip 4 different weapons (though no one's talking about giving Boltyn a Dawnblade). A hero with more equipment options than any other.

There is no general consensus. I'm utterly without direction, and that's so exciting.

Because if Chane is still at the forefront of the meta, that means the deck that takes his throne hasn't been discovered yet. And perhaps it's hiding in Boltyn's card pool. If not, perhaps Boltyn can oppose all the decks that are trying to usurp Chane. Counter the counters. That's a valid meta call too.

Unsolved decks are so important, because in the unsolved lies the potential for change.

And so we persist with Azalea. We go back to Dash. We test new strategies with old heroes, letting go of preconceived notions to embrace something we haven't tried before.

Don't Believe Anyone Who's Got It All Figured Out

OK, I should qualify that. There are top tier players running top tier decks and getting top tier results who can rightfully claim that they have their particular deck figured out for that moment and that meta. If Matt Rogers tells me that he figured out Dash for the CRU meta, I'll let that one stand. But short of that, anyone's claims of absolute understanding should be treated with extreme skepticism.

I say this because anyone who's unwilling to take another look at a card has closed themselves off from growth. Even if you've tried a card and it's failed, the meta may shift around you and present a fresh opportunity for it.

Keep trying things. If it feels right to you, absolutely run it! Somewhere in that card pool is a build that will completely surprise you. And somewhere in that unsolved region of the game, the next meta leader may be hiding, just waiting to be discovered.

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.