Wandering the Road to Nationals: A Katsu Deck Guide

by Max Thomas, Mark Chamberlain 21st August 2021 5 : 53
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.

Road to Nationals is in full swing, and players across the world are battling for their spot at the National Championships. We have seen all 12 Heroes make Top 8, and 9 of them have taken home the coveted Rainbow Foil Extended Art Tunic.

Data has been meticulously tracked by the community’s own TowerNumber9, and can be viewed on Google Sheets here. A quick glance makes it is clear that Chane has a leading position in this new meta.

But we're not here to talk about Chane (subscribers can read competitive insights on Chane here). Today, we're talking about the hero standing right beside him on the podium: Katsu, the Wanderer.

Header Katsu

On the first weekend of the Road to Nationals season, I took down a 38-player event with Katsu. (You can read my tournament report here, and view that decklist on FABTCG's site here.) The following week, I piloted the same deck to the finals, taking 2nd against my good friend Sam Yuen's Bravo list. I finished those two weekends with 16 wins and 2 losses.

The Decklist

Today, I'm presenting a slight modification of that list, aiming to slightly improve our matchups against the major forces of the meta.

The strength of Midrange Katsu lies in its flexibility. We can win games through damage, and we can win games through 'control'. We use the term 'midrange' to describe the deck as a whole, because it can land devastating attack combos but also has access to the best defense reactions in the game. It lands squarely in the middle between Aggro and Pure Control.

What does 'control' mean in FaB?

Every decklist has a set number of powerful red cards that they can use to push into the opponent’s life total. A Katsu control deck aims to play a long game, mitigating our opponent’s powerful cards with defense reactions and blocking, while at the same time gaining incremental advantages through the use of our Harmonized Kodachis and potential Mask of Momentum triggers.

Turn Cycles

Your average turn cycle (opponent’s turn, then your attacking turn) will often be blocking with 2 cards- preferably a Flic Flak and a Combo card- and holding a blue 0 cost card to pitch, and a red attack action. This strategy allows you to mitigate quite a bit of damage and still return fire, chipping in with Kodachis and threatening a potential Mask trigger and Katsu ability to go even wider for the maximum punishment.

When an opponent blocks from hand to stop your triggers, you are creating virtual card advantage. Let’s say an opponent blocks with 2 cards from hand. Their next turn is now 50% weaker, giving you an opportunity to soak the damage and come in with a full powered 4-5 card hand, changing the tempo of the game dramatically.

This is exactly where Midrange Katsu truly shines. And even when an opponent is presenting one of their stronger turns with a 4-5 card hand, you will have no problem laying down your entire hand to stop their damage. Take a turn off, and live to fight another day.

Key Cards

Understanding the power of Flic Flak is of paramount importance. It is my belief that Flic Flak is one of the strongest cards in the game. Here's why.

Card advantage in Flesh and Blood is a concept misunderstood by most due to the core mechanics of the game, and further obvuscated by each player drawing to their Intellect with each turn cycle. Card advantage is only gained when the card can be used before you'd naturally re-draw your hand, or when the card you took from your opponent can't be replaced before it's used. Command and Conquer drains a card from your opponent, while Mask of Momentum often gives you a usable card as you execute your go-wide turn.

Flic Flak offers what I call 'virtual card advantage'. It does not draw you a card, but it does net you 1 card worth of value. If you block with a red Flic Flak and then block with a Combo card, you will have blocked 9 points of damage with only 2 cards; to block for 9, most heroes have to use 3 cards!

A pair of Harmonized Kodachi are a Ninja’s best friend. With a very low opportunity cost (Kodachi usually has 'go again') and 2 damage spread across two sources, these weapons are inconspicuously powerful. Most heroes have to get an opponent to 0 to win the game; Katsu just has to get his opponent to 1. When an opponent is at 1 life, they're in a “Kodachi Lock”, and are now forced to block every attack the Ninja makes. Maximizing your Kodachi chip damage- and utilizing them to turn on your Mask of Momentum- is key to victory with this deck.

Fluster Fist- specifically in red- is just a generally good aggressive card. You can search for it with Katsu to apply additional pressure for 0 resources when an attack action lands.

You play Remembrance to fatigue your opponent. Getting back your Surging Strike combo pieces, or powerful cards like Command and Conquer, can close out games when your deck is thin and you are out of gas.

Did you know?

lore

Misterians have a special festival once per year known as the Rite of Passing. This celebration happens when the veil between worlds is thinnest, and the world of spirits is closest to the world of the living. When night falls, Misterians wear ornate ceremonial masks to hide their faces and make them indistinguishable from those of the spirits. The artwork for Mask of Momentum just that: a Misterian wearing one of these masks, whilst various lanterns of the festival rise up into the night sky.

Timesnap Potion is usually just a blue pitch card that costs 0, fueling Kodachi attacks. But it is also useful against Prism and her Arc Light Sentinel turns. I have also used it to set up against control mirrors, fueling a turn that looks like "double Enlightened Strike into Command and Conquer" to quickly turn the tempo of the game in my favor.

Pounding Gale is much like Fluster Fist, but with 1 extra point of damage when you have a resource to spare. It’s also a great card to keep in a turn cycle, paired with a blue pitch card to Kodachi, Kodachi, Pounding Gale for a 7 damage turn with a potential Mask trigger.

Plunder Run should always be put into arsenal. It's effective at creating an extremely large aggressive turn, and if you can stick a Mask trigger too, you've drawn 2 cards.

In this deck, I save the Razor Reflex to shortcut a combo, such as jumping from a red Whelming Gustwave directly into Mugenshi:RELEASE.

Strategy

Our deck consists of 73 cards. We do not start with any cards in a conceptual 'sideboard'; we simply remove cards that don’t fit with the strategy we choose against our opponent. Generally, we will take the control route and play in a style that mitigates damage, waiting for an opening to go for a critical combo line turn.

When you sit across from any hero, you get to choose how you want the game to play out. Do I want to be the aggressor or the defender? The aggressor wants to take control of the tempo of the game immediately and begin asking the questions first. The defender wants to take a back seat and play a reactive game, answering the opponent’s strongest turns with ease, knowing fatigue will win you the match in the end.

Even in the role of the defender, you will still be able to play powerful aggressive turns to put yourself in the driver's seat. Look to arsenal your combo line cards, such as Surging Strike, red Whelming Gustwave, and Mugenshi: RELEASE if you can. These give you the option of a powerful turn down the line.

Against another deck that plays in a controlling style (Bravo, Dash, a Katsu mirror) you will usually want to pitch your aggressive cards to the bottom, saving them for the late game when they will have more impact and the opponent has less defense reactions.

I have added a single copy of Remembrance to help with the Bravo matchup, as he has gained popularity and many skilled players are choosing him to win events. The goal here is to play a 67-card deck, hoping that the Bravo player will cut down to 60. If they do, you will have a 10 card advantage (7 cards, +3 from Remembrance) to hopefully run them out of cards first. You will rely heavily on Kodachi chip damage in many control matchups.

Matchup Guide

Here is a handy Sideboard / Matchup Guide that I have created for my Ninja friends to print and take to your next Road to Nationals Event.

Ultimately, I think this deck is a fine choice if you are looking for an invite to the National Championships. It rewards careful play and intimate knowledge of the other heroes.

Max Thomas

Max Thomas has been a competitive Flesh and Blood player since the release of Monarch, with a focus on analyzing the meta and building against it.

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.

Discussion (58)

Mark Chamberlain
CONTRIBUTOR
11 months ago

As a guardian player, ninja gives me a lot of trouble. Thanks for the insights!

Rayvwen
MEMBER
11 months ago

That lore bit about the Mask of Momentum is really interesting! I've been holding off on the lore book until I can grab a physical one but I can't wait to get my hands on one.

Christian Mendoza
READER
11 months ago

Shout out box comment- I love the bit you added about the lore of the Misterians and the festival. Flesh and Blood’s design possibility for characters, unique mechanics and amaZing feels so endless. Additionally, I really appreciate how you consistently draw together concepts from other games and bring them into terms with Flesh and Blood. Grasping concepts like hand advantage can be difficult in a back and forth game like FAB, but your articles help readers really grasp the functionality of all the different sequence lines and what they accomplish.

Henry Moore
READER
11 months ago

Super tight list, love it! Grats on the finishes as well, very impressive :)

CinCityGames
MEMBER
11 months ago

Great article! As a Katsu player I'm always looking for more content. 2 questions I have out of the article. 1 is do you ever keep a blue Flic Flak in hand to pitch if you know (pending your other cards in hand) that you'll be able to swing heavy on your next attack? 2, why not Heartened Cross Strap? I have found it extremely useful when I have used cards to defend but know for instance I might be able to set up a Lord of Wind combo on my attack and use the strap to pay for Surging Strike. Thanks!

David Christensen
READER
11 months ago

I need to get better at setting up combos instead of just attacking with whatever I draw into. Thanks for the insight. I'm looking forward to giving ninja a try. Just need to pull a mask one of these days.

Justin Mathews
READER
11 months ago

That would be sweet if they had a Rite of Passing type card in a future set to go along with Mask.

David Melendez
READER
11 months ago

Great read! Gave me a greater insight into the deck as I was having problems against it. Looking forward to sleeving this up and testing against it to get a better understanding of it!

Matthew Robbins
READER
11 months ago

The Misterian people are secluded and focus on self growth. Outsiders could not survive because they live in treacherous lands, but also, absolutely beautiful . They live amongst the mountains and do not concern themselves with outside issues. I am enjoying learning more about the Misterian people and the Grandmasters which reside there!

Simon Roh
READER
11 months ago

Always quite hard to understand sideboarding, as FaB has been my first TCG i've gotten into and am always grateful for articles like these giving insights on each cards and also the potential sideboarding cards for each matchup

Paul Smith
READER
11 months ago

I enjoyed your description of card advantage in fab, and how that relates to Flic Flak.

Jacob McAdams
READER
11 months ago

As a Chane player, gaining insights into (arguably) my toughest opponent is invaluable. It always feels like I'm playing chess against y'all! I will ask; do you think control Katsu or aggro Katsu has the more favorable matchup against Chane? It would help me to better prepare for what is to come in Vegas! Also - 'Obfuscated" is spelled with an 'f" :P. Cheers!

Austin Renna
READER
11 months ago

It's quite funny, and something I need to remind myself to do more when I play as Katsu, but it's using his actual ability! He's so strong even without it, the text may as well be blank. Great write-up! I went 3-3 with Dori at two RTN Events, hoping to make a Katsu CC Deck and try to train myself with him more.

Ryan Rich
READER
11 months ago

The flexibility of ninja definitely give me some trouble when playing against them. One turn they can swing for 15+ damage and the next they can full turtle with defense reactions.

Turtle
MEMBER
11 months ago

Regardless of the class I play, Ninja is always a handful. I really appreciate the insight here. The lore in the call out box was insightful as well, since I love that stuff.

Papyr Collective (Brendan)
READER
11 months ago

Thanks for the great article! It really articulates Katsu's complexity - and his innate ability for flowing, powerful turns due to his ability. I can't wait for more articles like this exploring other heroes!

kyle m
READER
11 months ago

Misterians basically are secluded people who work hard to improve them selves and focus on that mostly. They live in the mountains were they train and live their daily lives.

Omar Bouras
READER
11 months ago

Thanks for the deep dive! As a non frequent Katsu player it helps a lot because he takes a lot of knowledge to actually wield correctly

Connor Chamberlain
READER
11 months ago

I've been struggling to get my head around Katsu but this helped out a lot. It might be time to make a few additions and take it for a spin.

corey ellis
READER
11 months ago

Timesnap and Remembrance are quality spice. Timesnap in particular can help close out some otherwise challenging end game matchups.

N1MP0
READER
11 months ago

These recent Katsu article series helped me prepare against it, cheers ^^

Muhamad Fachrul
READER
11 months ago

Great read! Especially enjoyed your breakdown on card advantage and how Flic Flak relates to it. I'm still a relatively new player, and it's interesting to see how the introduction of new heroes may change the makeup of a deck (specifically referring to Timesnap for ALS here). Keen to see how this deck performs against the elemental heroes (especially under the effect of frostbite!)

Shu Wei
READER
11 months ago

Amazing article and write-up. I just bought all the cards required for a Katsu deck and can't wait to try it out! One thing that I think would greatly help new players is to include a "showmatch" or a sample gameplay video (either TSS or Webcam) so that new players can watch through an entire game. This allows those new players to see how the deck works in a live situation as well as understanding the decision making process.

Alex Truell
ADMIN
11 months ago

I'm really impressed with the way Katsu seems to make his way into the upper tier of every meta. It's articles like this that pull back the veil to show why.

Byron Bonilla
MEMBER
11 months ago

This was a great read. Even though I'm a Prism player I find it very useful to see how this deck plays out and what to watch out for (Timesnap Potion). I also really like that there is a decklist that shows some of the cards that can be played in this deck. I really like the insight included with the "sideboard" matchup against Bravo, going in with the gameplan to fatigue them.

Daxter
READER
11 months ago

Lovely insights for my favourite class. Now if only that damned mask were to lower in price... :P Hopefully we'll start seeing some reprints soon for legendaries and other expensive cards (looking at you, CnC)

Tommy Mains
CONTRIBUTOR
11 months ago

The lore in this game is so incredible. I'm glad Mask is holding its value. Ninja having three playable characters is wild. I'm excited to see the other classes catch up.

Jake Smith
MEMBER
11 months ago

This has been my favorite article so far and the first one that brought me to The Rather Times. I recently started playing and was looking for as much information on the Katsu deck as I could. Luckily, I found it all in once place with a solid deck list, a tournament report and SB guide. Absolutely excellent content and presentation.

Chris Donati
READER
11 months ago

Fantastic article! Hope to see more content like this for the other Heroes!!!

Tim Bunn
READER
11 months ago

Great read! I've been playing Katsu since I started playing this game. It's nice seeing players understanding how to properly pressure with Ninja. It's not as mindless as "kodachi kodachi x".

Edgar Leroy de Pedro
MEMBER
11 months ago

Awesome article! I've also read the other Katsu article (https://rathetimes.com/articles/mindfulness-according-to-katsu) which focuses on a more aggressive build and now I'm torn which one to try! I play Ira Blitz more and playing Sink Belows, Flic Flaks and Sigils in an attempt to fatigue an aggressive Hero (e.g. Chane) in the format is something I'm used to. However in CC, given the larger deck count, stretching the game for the long-run seems a bit tricky. I like your addition of Fate Foreseen. While the deck will play slower than most Katsu builds (who plays it like Mike Tyson), the long and steady, incremental damage approach does make sense (like Mayweather). Now I need to meditate to decide which approach to play (Aggro or Control). Thanks again for the insights!

Christopher Yee
MEMBER
11 months ago

Thanks for the write up! Had been searching for some guidance on mid-range Katsu having tried abit of the control and aggro variants. I particularly like the ability of the deck to pivot into different playstyles based on matchup. Currently still have alot of testing to do but this deck will definitely be part of it. Cheers!

Ricci
READER
11 months ago

Really like the tidbit on the lore. It makes it even more flavorful focusing not just on the gameplay but also on the background of our heroes.

Matthew W
READER
11 months ago

Thanks for the info, the midrange flexibility style really suits a 'ninja' class.

Victor Marques
MEMBER
11 months ago

Answering @CinCityGames question (IMO of course 😆): --- Question: Why not Heartened Cross Strap? I have found it extremely useful when I have used cards to defend but know for instance I might be able to set up a Lord of Wind combo on my attack and use the strap to pay for Surging Strike. --- I think it should be an ok substitute if you don't own the Tunic, but I think it underperforms vs Tunic because: 1. Half the deck's attacks cost less than 2 it means the Cross Strap would go underutilized. 2. The Cross Strap can only be used once while the Tunic can be used multiple times (especially in a control/midrange deck in Classic Constructed). 3. The resource from the Tunic can be used for anything while the Cross Strap can only be used for attacks.

Derrick Cantu
MEMBER
11 months ago

I encountered a deck like this at RTN and it was brutal. I ran out of cards in my hand before the mask could even be triggered, then it did, then more cards were drawn making the chains even longer. With TOA coming out, I'm excited to see what the new meta brings to this matchup.

Matt
READER
11 months ago

I really appreciate this article and having now played this deck for a week or so, it's improved my matchups against Katsu when I play as Chane. There's a lot to learn from playing other heros, aside from your main. I suggest trying it! Thanks for the article and congrats on the win!

CATS
READER
11 months ago

Is Remembrance really necessary? Wouldn't a third copy of Mugenshi for the Lord of Wind combo fulfill the same purpose?

Ryan Baker
MEMBER
11 months ago

Great write-up! Would love to hear the pros and cons of midrange vs aggro in this meta that seems to reward aggression so much. Are there cards that midrange runs that improve certain MUs that aggro struggles against? Or is it more playstyle preference?

Karol
MEMBER
11 months ago

Ninja is so consistent class - with several different approaches (turtle and aggro) in my opinion is the best class at this moment, securing high places both in CC and Blitz. I really wonder how it'll explode once it's released as a Talen class!

Jeannette
READER
11 months ago

Mid range Katsu with access to great defence cards and wonderful combos sounds powerful.

Tyler
READER
11 months ago

I'm just getting into Katsu and I would not have thought to throw in some Fate Foreseens into the deck! I might have to experiment around with that.

Robert Martini
MEMBER
11 months ago

I'm surprised to see only 1 Ancestor and no art of war given that try to play a "reactive" sideboard. I like to play at least 3 blue dance as well given that it's great kodachi fuel and blocks for 3

jacalope
READER
11 months ago

That piece about ninja lore in FaB is so interesting. The more I learn about the lore, the more I love this game. I am so excited to learn more about this world!

Toqtamish
READER
11 months ago

Love to see more lore stuff or even full on lore articles.

MajorMayday
MEMBER
11 months ago

Great article! The lore bit was interesting too.

CriticalClover
MEMBER
11 months ago

As a non-Katsu player knowing their lines/goals/desired end state is just as important as knowing my own. I think balancing the threat of a mask trigger with defending too much from hand is an important key to going against Katsu.

Jessie Quinn
MEMBER
11 months ago

The way the wording is for Mask of Momentum, and the Lore around the masks, I wonder if we will see more Mask equipment cards down the line that push on different flavors of Ninja play. Also love the provided matchup guide, nice touch on including that for folks.

Jace Velez
READER
11 months ago

This article was the last nudge I needed to build katsu! I've seen play but reading the breakdown for the general strategy is awesome. Just need to get my mask and I'll be ready for ninja! This was also a great read for playing against katsu.

Xeniaton
READER
11 months ago

This Friday is gonna be my first tournament (unofficial) with 16 players, first time playing against someone else than a friend of mine I've discovered the game with. I decided to go with Katsu because my winrate with him is good, and I happen to have been lucky enough to get 2 Ancestral Empowerment from a box. This article helped me a lot in preparing the first version of my Deck. Time to go and try it against my opponent.

Nick Allen
READER
11 months ago

I've been running Katsu quite a bit lately and favorite part is attacking with the first part of a combo piece like Surging Strike and putting my opponent it awkward blocking positions. For example they have decide if they want to block out the Surging Strike so I can't use Katsu's ability and risk me having the Whelming Gustwave naturally or save the blocks for the Whelming Gustwave.

Erik Simonson
MEMBER
11 months ago

I’ve really enjoyed learning and playing Katsu. I think Find Center has been exceptional against a lot of the more popular decks and doesn’t get the love it deserves.

Kevin Lanik
READER
11 months ago

I like flexible heroes, like Katsu, that can present aggressively or defensively depending on the matchup and this article does a great job of laying out how to build with flexibility in mind. Well done!

Nathan Taylor
READER
11 months ago

I think this just inspired me to brew Katsu. also that extended art tunic is gorgeous.

Kevin
READER
11 months ago

Interesting lore on misterians. Well written article. Sideboard guide is quite handy.

Jordan Liv
READER
11 months ago

Great write-up! Ninja is a class I've been passively looking at building, and it's been interesting to see the subtle changes that define each archetype. Comparing the Combo line options and seeing who picks what is fascinating and really makes Katsu feel like a fighting game character more than anyone else.

Lazaeus
READER
11 months ago

after seeing katsu as an everpresent hero during road to nationals, i was very surprised to see him fall off nearly completely in the calling las vegas. also, is flicker wisp supposed to be displayed?

Sam Files
READER
11 months ago

I added Rememberances to my katsu deck awhile back. It can really help in long matches. Unfortunately, I didn't pull enough flic flaks too fill out my deck and Prism was able to bowl me over. Anyone got suggestions on how to deal with prism as Katsu?

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