I am three months into collecting and playing Flesh and Blood and just attended a Monarch Pre Release. I took a moment after the event to sit and think about this game, compared it to other games and what, if anything, makes this game special. To keep this article somewhat organized, I’ll have two distinct topics. This first article is going to be about my experiences of the gameplay, and the second article is going to be about the collectible/financial aspect.
I have played several games, and I have played in three events, two of which were with Young Heroes, Blitz and Sealed, and one Classic Constructed event. It’s fair to point out that I might be jumping the gun by giving my views of a game with such few repetitions. It’s a fair point. However, 20 years of gaming has given me some insight about the mechanics of games, and if I able to be unemotional about a game I do not have to play a game a number of times before I decide if I like it or not (I still try to convince myself that I liked 8th edition WHFB). Take this article for what it is, another gamer giving his honest thoughts about a game.
Flesh and Blood has two formats: Limited and Constructed. Limited is further broken down to Sealed and Draft. Still, for these purposes, I am clumping them together. Constructed is broken down into Blitz, Classic Constructed, and Ultimate Pit Fighter. The differences in these three subcategories are too vast to clump together, so I will separate them for this article and unceremoniously ignore Ultimate Pit Fighter as I pray for a PVE format (ala Flesh and Blood meets LOTR LCG).
I genuinely love playing games in a Limited format. There is something about having to play the cards you are dealt that is exciting, and forces you out of your playstyle comfort zones. As we learned from the previous article, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. However, after four games with young Bolton this past weekend, I felt ready for more. I wanted to get more cards and unlock his full potential in an 80 card Classic Constructed game. Now, I’m not saying I won’t play sealed or draft Monarch when Unlimited comes out, because what’s better than buying packs and playing a game immediately, but I’m not itching for more Limited at this time.
A constructed format, but fundamentally different to Classic Constructed. It’s fast, concise, and gets you playing a bunch of games in a short amount of time. If this was the design intent, it hits the nail on the head. I enjoy having a beer and rolling up to a webcam Armory event with a One Turn Kill (OTK) Viserai build and playing for jank. I’m not even sad that I have to change strategy when moving to a Classic Constructed format. I think it gives the characters more, well, more character.
Yes, when the you are a young buck, you might have one or two tricks up your sleeve or can win by skill alone, but when you ‘grow up,’ you have a more extensive tool kit based on their experience. To me, that’s what I LOVE about this game. The RPG feel to the characters (and a bunch of background lore online). I love what Blitz does to grow and flesh out Flesh and Blood (bad pun?) but after a few Blitz events. I’m ready for more.
This is where Flesh and Blood shines. Simply setting up these games is epic. It starts by presenting your hero to your opponent. This gives me visions of knights presenting themselves before jousting (specifically the most underrated movie of all time, A Knights Tale), then going back to their corner like a fighter and tweaking their gear or strategy before the match. This is simulated by choosing your armor and weapons and trimming your deck from 80 to 60 cards.
Then the game begins, and the first turn feels like a free turn. Like round one of a heavyweight fight, both fighters feeling eachother out. Some players use turn one and the “free draw up” to set up their next turn, arsenal a card or lay down auras. In contrast, other players take a swing right away either try to get ahead on the damage track or force their opponent to block with a sound card early and get it out of their deck.
As the game progresses, the boxing/UFC analogy continues to ring true (another bad pun). You’re not swinging for the fences every round. You want to set up future turns but still apply pressure. Momentum is a tangible feeling in this game, and it feels natural because, at any turn, you can lose it. Most of the time, if you do, it’s not because of your cards or draws but how you played your cards. I think that is the true brilliance in this game design. There is an emphasis on decisions more than luck of the draw.
In the game’s final stretch, minor hits that were simply absorbed early on have to be carefully managed. Health is a resource in this game in a different way to others. Most of the time, you can completely block incoming damage, but you are left doing nothing on your turn, which only keeps up your opponent’s momentum. Just like in real-life sports, if in the closing turns of a Flesh and Blood game, if you can manage to put yourself in a position to win, you still have a shot. This has not been my experience playing MTG where one ‘gotcha’ moment or one answer to a specific threat changes the course of the game.
If you like Limited MTG formats, you’re going to like the Flesh and Blood Limited formats. Tokens are like basic lands, and they are freely available. The only difference between MTG and FaB is that draft booster boxes are not going anywhere in FaB. There’s no set booster or collector(s) booster in FaB. Well, the collector booster is the 1st edition, but it’s just a draft booster with maybe an alt art card and cold foils. I’m honestly terrified of what is going to happen to the draft booster in Magic the Gathering.
Blitz is a great way to accumulate cards for a specific class without buying boxes of Unlimited. It’s also a great entry point for new players and seasoned players to learn unique character playstyles. I could also see the value in running a fun, competitive blitz event where you see how much jank you can put in the proverbial tank. With only 20 life, some wild stuff can happen, and if your deck is a dud, your beatings will be over quickly. Not knocking the blitz format; I don’t see it as the premier format.
Classic Constructed is a gamers format, not everyone wants the same thing out of a game, and that’s fine. Blitz is a great format, but Classic Constructed has layers upon layers to learn and play through. To me, it feels like Legacy MTG but different. Flesh and Blood decks, by design, have archetypes that you essentially pilot; you might have a similar shell, but the guts change, which is very similar to Legacy. I like this a lot; I think it adds to the sense of community even more because you have a baseline of knowledge or tactics that gives you a shared experience with other players. Your deck is the framework to which you solve the game’s puzzle, with your opponent’s deck being the primary variable. Maybe Weiss Swartz is also similar and even more restrictive. Unfortunately, I have yet to explore that space besides Joker vs. Batman Ninja with my daughter (no, I don’t care if the cards are low on the power curve, it’s Batman… in Feudal Japan.. game-set-match).
The beauty in these three distinct formats is that you don’t have to make a hard decision to choose what you want to play. You could draft with your friends many times; then, with the cards, you accumulate you can start playing Blitz or buy a Blitz deck, and you’re off to the races. If your still looking for more, you could take that same Blitz deck, add some character-specific cards or equipment (which is usually your rarer cards you’re going to be getting through the singles market), and your off playing Classic Construct.
There is no market comparison to this setup. I can’t play Maverick in Legacy, Modern, Pioneer, for example (is Standard even a format?). Some shells can do this, but generally, players flock to one format over the other in paper Magic. Whereas if I have a friend who just started and has a Blitz deck, I can easily trim down my Dorinthea deck from Classic Constructed to Blitz.
In short, I love the gameplay of Flesh and Blood. I love how the three formats are organized and how over time, you could play yourself, from having no cards, to getting cards by drafting, to playing Blitz, then finally the premier format Classic Constructed.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for Part 2 Collectability & Finance.