A Review of the 2024 Flesh and Blood US National Championship

2024 US National Championship

Greetings and salutations my fabulous FAB folks! I’m Donnie K, and welcome back to yet another installment of our coverage review series here on FABREC! Today we’ll be taking a look at the Classic Constructed rounds that were featured at the US National Championship event in Minneapolis. Lets get to it!

Transcendence in the City of Lakes!

Part the Mistveil had a HUGE impact on the Classic Constructed metagame at the 2024 US National Championship. But before we get into the numbers, the coverage was brought to us by Savage Feats via the official Flesh and Blood YouTube channel. The stream quality seems to just get better every time ManSant gets behind the camera. As a community, we’re lucky to have Savage Feats working to bring us these streams.

On the other side of the camera, as always, we had a stellar casting team too. Bryan Gottlieb, Craig Krempels, Pankaj Bhojwani, and Erik Lonnquist were an all-star cast of entertainment and game knowledge. I’m not overselling when I say that, overall, this was one of the best streams we’ve had.

Now, on to the reason you’re probably here.

The Numbers We Always Want to Know…

Again, Part the Mistveil was a huge shift in the metagame from Heavy Hitters season. I’d say it was basically the TCG equivalent of a nuclear bomb hitting the competitive scene. The “fallout” is going to take some time to fully settle.

Day One

US Nationals coming so close on the heels of Part the Mistveil‘s release didn’t leave competitors much time to prepare. That didn’t stop the Mystic crew from dominating the field though. All three of the new heroes appeared in the top five most represented decks on Day One. In fact, 38% of all the heroes in the main event were released with Part the Mistveil.

With 69 pilots (insert mandatory “nice” here), Zen, Tamer of Purpose was the most played hero in the room. Azalea, Ace in the Hole and Kayo, Armed and Dangerous tied for second with 58 players each. My personal favorite hero, Nuu, Alluring Desire, was fourth with 57 pilots, and Enigma, Ledger of Ancestry had 55. From there, the meta was spread amongst 20 other unique heroes in the field. In fact, the only currently legal adult hero that wasn’t present at all was Betsy, Skin in the Game.

Day Two

At the end of Day One, three players still had undefeated records, and each had played Illusionists in Classic Constructed (two Enigmas and one Prism). Leading the pack of 207 competitors going into Day Two were Michael Hamilton, Aaron Grace, and Austin Somers. The top five most represented heroes changed positions, but otherwise stayed the same. Kayo, Armed and Dangerous and Zen, Tamer of Purpose were tied for most representatives on Day Two with 27 each, Nuu, Alluring Desire and Azalea, Ace in the Hole tied with 24 each, while Enigma, Ledger of Ancestry only had 19 remaining.

The only Day One heroes who didn’t make the cut to Day Two were Arakni, Huntsman, Olympia, Prized Fighter, and Teklovossen, Esteemed Magnate. Every other hero had at least one player still in the running for the 2024 US National Championship title.

Top 8 Elimination

After eight rounds of Classic Constructed and six of Draft, the final hopefuls for the trophy, title of Flesh and Blood US National Champion, and $10,000 prize were named. Three Zen, two Enigma, one Azalea, one Kayo, and one Prism stood ready to fight it out, and we were treated to several highly entertaining games. The Top 8 players after 14 rounds of Swiss were as follows:

  1. Aaron Grace (Enigma, Ledger of Ancestry)
  2. Jacob Shaker (Zen, Tamer of Purpose)
  3. Evan Herndon (Zen, Tamer of Purpose)
  4. William Bradshaw (Azalea, Ace in the Hole)
  5. Andrew Rothermel (Kayo, Armed and Dangerous)
  6. Nathan Lapham (Enigma, Ledger of Ancestry)
  7. Michael Dalton (Zen, Tamer of Purpose)
  8. Austin Somers (Prism, Awakener of Sol)

Feature Match Highlights

As per usual, we’re going to focus on the Classic Constructed feature matches from the event. If you’re still preparing for your own National Championship or you’re just a fan of limited in general, I’d suggest going back to watch the stream for highlights and insights. You’ll get more out of it that way. Or better yet, gather your friends at your LGS and crack some packs!

Day One (Four Rounds Classic Constructed, Three Rounds MST Draft)

Round Two – Mara Faris (Dash I/O) vs Michael Rutkowski (Levia, Shadowborn Abomination)

After losing Dromai to the realm of Living Legend, the Empress of Volcor, Mara Faris, had to find a new main hero. She seems to have landed on Dash I/O for the moment and faced Michael Rutkowski and Levia, Shadowborn Abomination in Round Two of US Nationals. Mara’s gameplay was as smooth as ever as she quickly established tempo. Michael was initially content to play defense in the beginning to set up the graveyard for Levia’s big turns later in the game. However, Dash I/O is a hero that doesn’t ever want to pump the brakes or slow down, and Mara took a huge life lead quickly.

Bloodrush Bellow into Shadowrealm Horror presented a potential swing back in Levia’s favor, but one of the three banishes for Shadowrealm was a miss. Mara cashed in her Balance of Justice to swing back with a five-card hand of her own and Michael dropped to single digits first. Despite how close the game looked in the end, Michael wasn’t able to keep enough cards to turn off Blood Debt. The writing was on the wall for Levia, so he went ahead and extended the first bump.

Round Three – Noah Geiger (Nuu, Alluring Desire) vs Pat Eshghy (Zen, Tamer of Purpose)

Nuu, Alluring Desire seems to be all the rage on Talishar, but Noah Geiger put his faith in the new Mystic Assassin to carry him to the trophy. Meeting him in the 2-0 bracket was Pat Eshghy and Zen, Tamer of Purpose. I’m not sure what credentials Noah might have on his resume, but Pat definitely has a few.

There were unusual choices on both sides of the arena. Nuu was playing Traverse the Universe in the head slot and Zen was playing Mask of the Pouncing Lynx. Both players had a bit of a clunky start as well. Noah wasn’t able to quickly find real disruptive pieces and Pat had a disappointing first Art of War turn. Pat finally did have a breakout turn where he played Shifting Winds of the Mystic Beast and managed to play four Bonds of Ancestry. Noah took most of it, keeping a Bonds of Agony and Just a Nick in reserve. That was good enough to rip a Bonds of Ancestry from Pat’s hand and two more from the deck. It didn’t make a difference though. The Tigers kept coming turn after turn and eventually they clawed away Nuu’s last life point.

Day Two (Three Rounds MST Draft, Four Rounds Classic Constructed)

Round Eleven – Andrew Rothermel (Kayo, Armed and Dangerous) vs Aaron Grace (Enigma, Ledger of Ancestry)

Aaron Grace had made it through every Swiss round in the event undefeated thus far with Enigma, Ledger of Ancestry and started things off with a “baby” Manifestation of Miragai. Andrew Rothermel and Kayo, Armed and Dangerous seemed to be the favorite in the matchup thanks to Brute big numbers. Aaron claimed the first “win” of the game by taking no damage off of Kayo’s first Bloodrush Bellow turn, preserving the Manifestation. Preserving it until Andrew popped the ward with a Reckless Swing in the reaction step the next turn, anyway.

A few turns later, Aaron sidestepped Andrew’s very effective use of the Scowling Flesh Bag. With Miraging Metamorph gone, Restless Coalescence came from the arsenal. Kayo wasn’t quite aggressive enough to keep Enigma from constantly refreshing the board, and Andrew threw in the fist bump from one life when Aaron blocked with his Traverse the Universe.

Round Thirteen – William Bradshaw (Azalea, Ace in the Hole) vs Nathan Lapham (Enigma, Ledger of Ancestry)

Even though this was a backup game, I feel obligated to call it out based on things I’ve written about in the past. William Bradshaw and Azalea, Ace in the Hole met Nathan Lapham with Enigma, Ledger of Ancestry at a 10-2 record. Both players were live for Top 8 and a loss here had the possibility of knocking them out of contention. The early action was ran at double speed because it was a backup game, but the highlights are that the life totals stayed even as they dwindled. Also, Phantasmaclasm is a scary card.

The Problems

The nerves were running high and that started a snowball of issues when Nathan played out Manifestation of Miragai and ended his combat chain with a Warmonger’s Diplomacy. Will had taken 16 damage to keep his hand and the Warmonger’s appeared to be a devastating blow against his Ranger. Still, he managed to clear the board while playing under its effect. On Nathan’s next turn, he played a Spectral Manifestations, and then attacked with the Spectral Shield illegally since he was under Peace. Neither player realized the mistake and Will gave up the Tunic to stay at one life from the attack. The judges decided to issue Nathan an IP2 penalty for the error but left the board state as it was.

Will’s next attack presented 14 on a dominated Amplifying Arrow, then Rain Razors pushed it to 17, with an Inertia and Bloodrot Token on hit. Nathan had to give up a Manifestation of Miragai from arsenal to live at two. The tokens were put on the board on Nathan’s side as they should be, but both players missed the triggers again. Nathan sent two Spears of Surreality, stripping Will’s hand and should have been dead to the Bloodrot token, but instead drew four cards (forgetting the IP2 penalty).

Will was forced into a blocking position and Enigma kept up the pressure to eventually end the game. However, a third-party at the event later called all the problems with the game to the attention of the head judge. Nathan was gracious enough to admit to making every mistake and requested that the game result be reversed in Will’s favor. Both players still made the Top 8 cut because they won in Round 14, but the reversal pushed Will into the higher seat.

Top 8 Elimination

Each game from the top cut was streamed one at a time and were incredible to watch. Some were the highest of high rolls, some were extremely technical and required perfect navigation from the player. And they delivered. The games I’ve picked below have some of my favorite moments.

Quarterfinals – Jacob Shaker (Zen, Tamer of Purpose) vs Michael Dalton (Zen, Tamer of Purpose)

Jacob Shaker and Michael Dalton were both on Zen, Tamer of Purpose for the event. Their lists had a few key differences though. Jacob was running Amnesia, where Michael was running Censor, for example. Michael was hit by one of those Amnesias on Jacob’s first turn when he Transcended The Grain that Tips the Scale and Path Well Traveled to get over Michael’s first blocks. Jacob took firm control of the game for a while from that, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. (Not that a Top 8 competitor at the FAB US Nationals isn’t good too.)

Michael’s turning point in the game came in the form of a TRIPLE Art of War turn. The first Art of War was in the arsenal when he drew the second. That one drew the third. He had no choice but to play the third in order to find a combo starter. For playing the third Art of War, he was rewarded with double Transcend cards to go with his Sacred Art: Jade Tiger Domain. There was a tense moment where Michael was worried about Jacob responding to Pass Over with Preserve Tradition. But Jacob didn’t have it, so Michael got to go off with his triple Art of War comfortably from there.

Jacob wasn’t quite finished though, and popped off on his own turn, but wasn’t able to match the output that Michael achieved, so the game ended on Michael’s next turn.

In the other quarterfinal games, Aaron Grace’s Enigma demolished Austin Somer’s Prism, Andrew Rothermel’s Kayo eliminated William Bradshaw on Azalea, and Evan Herndon’s Zen ripped through Nathan Lapham’s Enigma.

Semifinals – Aaron Grace (Enigma, Ledger of Ancestry) vs Andrew Rothermel (Kayo, Armed and Dangerous)

In a rematch from the Swiss feature match, Aaron Grace and Andrew Rothermel met again in the semifinals. Andrew quickly found a Bloodrush Bellow to save in the arsenal, then managed to protect it with another perfect use of Scowling Flesh Bag. That helped him establish a solid life lead quickly while Aaron struggled to set up a board state. Andrew methodically kept up the pressure, throwing Brute numbers turn over turn, grinding Enigma down. Anytime Aaron went to establish a presence in the arena, Andrew had the perfect answer. Nothing overly flashy happened in this game. Just a patient man, executing his revenge strategy effectively and making his way to the finals.

The other semifinal game was a mirror match between Evan Herndon’s Zen and Michael Dalton’s. Evan’s spicy tech, Zephyr Needle, made a HUGE difference in the mirror.

Finals – Evan Herndon (Zen, Tamer of Purpose) vs Andrew Rothermel (Kayo, Armed and Dangerous)

Speaking of Zephyr Needle, the chat and the casters were questioning what Evan was thinking playing Zephyr Needles into a Brute. Shows how little we knew. Evan quickly lost the Needles to Andrew’s methodical blocking pattern, but they had already served their purpose. In an aggro mirror, neither player wants to be the first one that has to block. Both typically want to play five-card hands to maximize damage in the race. However, if you don’t block the Needles, they are very above rate for weapons. The Needle makes the opponent choose between destroying the weapon and sending a smaller hand back on offense or letting Zephyr Needle continuously build value unpunished. Neither are great options for an aggressive hero, and Kayo definitely falls into that category.

In fact, Evan was able to send big bursts of damage over Andrew’s blocks even with his weapons destroyed. Despite several points in the game where variance seemed to be firmly on Andrew’s side, Evan was able to keep his foot on the gas all the way to the national title. Evan Herndon won the 2024 Flesh and Blood US National Championship with Zen, Tamer of Purpose!

Final Thoughts

Flesh and Blood TCG is the best card game on the planet with the best viewing experience. ManSant’s work behind the camera, the casting, and the live blog all combine to make viewers like you and I feel like a part of the action. It all came together beautifully at US Nats and I only wish I’d been there to play great games myself. Congratulations to Evan Herndon for the victory and for completely changing the way the rest of the world is going to play Zen.

Zephyr Needles…. WOW.

Further Reading:

Where to Start in Flesh and Blood

The Power of Unknown Information in Flesh and Blood

How to Win a Flesh and Blood Mirror Match

Donnie is an enthusiastic nerd and family man who grew up playing TCGs, starting when Pokemon cards were the hottest thing on the playground. After playing Yu-gi-oh and then Magic the Gathering for years, he found Flesh and Blood in December of '22, sold all of his other pretty cardboard rectangles, and dived into FAB head first where he discovered a deep love for go-wide strategies involving the use of Ninja cards. Be Like Water is his current favorite card, because he gets to do a terrible Bruce Lee impression every time it's played. (Much to the annoyance of his brother who hears it a lot.) Donnie has been married to his lovely wife since Halloween 2008 and has two beautiful daughters that he couldn't be more proud of.