#FABDad: Better Games Through Cardboard Philosophy!


Greetings and salutations once again! Welcome back to the #FABDad series, where we discuss strategies for being a responsible adult and still working on getting better at Flesh and Blood!

Today’s topic:

Victory Through Goals and Reflection!

Mark Rosewater wrote a Magic the Gathering article many years ago discussing the different mentalities of card players, and he coined the names Timmy, Johnny, and Spike, to describe them.

To paraphrase that masterwork, Timmy is a player that’s probably here for the experience of playing the game. Winning is more of a secondary concern compared to everybody involved enjoying themselves, and often, Timmys are the players who show up to the table with less competitive or “meme” decks for the fun of it. (Things like Lexi, Livewire wearing a Crown of Dominion for example.)

Johnny wants to win more than Timmy does, but he wants to do so in a unique or flashy way. In Classic Constructed, I think most Kano, Dracai of Aether players could be classified as Johnnys since Kano either wins big or flares out. But either way, he gets at least one big blaze of glory to try and make something happen.

Spike’s idea of fun is winning. Winning games is the most important aspect of playing for them and they’ll often just play whatever the “best” deck is for the current meta. The better their record at an event, the more fun they’re having.

People don’t usually fall neatly into any general categories though. Most of us are a blend of countless ideas, philosophies, and goals and what we want to do with our hobby can change from one weekly event to the next. I fall somewhere in between a Johnny and a Spike myself. That means I’m not likely to ever register a deck for an event that I know is probably going to lose a lot of games due to its power level. To me, winning is fun and my goal for Flesh and Blood is to be competitive, but still play a deck/hero that I feel strongly about. (Also, because switching decks all the time to follow the meta isn’t financially feasible for me. “Real life” things keep my collection functional, but relatively small.)

So, What’s a “Reasonable Goal” for Someone at My Skill/Commitment Level?

Well, it depends on what you want from this hobby. Everyone’s goals are unique to them. For a try hard #FABDad like myself, my personal goal is to win the games that I can win and learn from the ones I don’t so that I can get better for the next one. Set small goals that can lead to the bigger things down the road. Personal example, I played at the Calling in Baltimore with Katsu, the Wanderer to a 5-3 record and missed the day two cutoff. However, I finished with a positive win record for the day and that’s the specific goal I had set for myself while planning for the event. I met my goal, and because it feels like I’m getting better at the game, I’m happy with my result.

Setting a Small, Attainable Goal as a Stepping Stone to the Big Ones? Makes Sense. What Else?

Taking the time to understand where you’re at in your skill level is also a critical factor in improving and setting goals. Honest self-reflection will do more to improve your game than most anything else you can do. There is a difference between honest self-reflection and being overly critical with yourself, though. Every game of FAB we get to play is an opportunity to learn something about our deck, about our hero, or about the meta, that translates to growth regardless of winning or losing. Beating yourself up for making mistakes is not a healthy or reasonable place to be (in life or in gaming).

It can sound cheesy to say there are more opportunities in losses than in wins, but it’s true. Losing will force you to confront the negative results that came from decisions you made in a game and by identifying those errors you will take steps forward. When you’re learning to play Flesh and Blood, losing is a part of the process that we all go through. Don’t carry a loss further than where it stops being educational.

Philosophy is Nice, but What’s Something I Can Do Regularly that Will Make Me Better?

One of the things that I’ve done (and still often do) after a loss at my locals is ask my opponent what they thought of the game. Was there anything that I did that seemed odd to them? Things like a heavy block at a weird time, a line that could have been more efficient, a spot that I should have held back a little, etc. What I’ve found by doing that, is that this community of gamers wants to see newer players get better and having a humble frame of mind and asking for help will almost always result in the opponent questioning lines you might not have realized were subpar, then going over the game in a way that’s meant to help you improve, not to belittle you.

Take every opportunity you have to learn from players who are better at Flesh and Blood than you are.

Alright, so Conversations With Myself About My Goals and Conversations With Others About My Play? Can Do!

Understanding yourself and your own skill level is the key to managing your expectations, goals, and growth in FAB. Finding time for a little self-reflection and an honest discussion with the player in the mirror about what you want from your game time will do a lot to help focus your experience toward where you want to be. Working at staying humble and maintaining a learning frame of mind has improved my focus in games and made dealing with “tilt” easier. The lessons I’ve learned have translated to some success at the Armory level thanks to the patience and guidance of more experienced players, and my next goal is to have decent results in the upcoming Road to Nationals season.

So, my fellow #FABDads, set your goals as high as you’d like, don’t lose the fire, and don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

What are your FAB goals? Where do you see yourself skill wise? Are you a Timmy, a Johnny, a Spike, or a blend like me? Are you a confident master of the game, do you see yourself at the bottom of the mountain and starting your path up, or are you somewhere in between? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so let me know in the comments below!

Further reading:

Common & Conquer Part 2: Hero Complex(ity)

Outsiders: Multiplayer Card Design and the Concept of Role Compression

What to Ask and How to Answer – Part 2

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.