#FABDad: Expenses and Specializations!

Command and Conquer
(Command and Conquer | Art by Fajareka Setiawan)

Welcome back to another installment in the #FABDad series! This week I’m throwing my two cents into the arena regarding an issue that’s been all over social media for the last little while:

Dealing With The Price Tag!

Without diving too deeply into the hot button issue that caused a Twitter storm, a video was recently released that listed how much it costs to play most of the major card games at a competitive level. This video has Flesh and Blood listed as the most expensive game to get into, and its not particularly close.

The biggest barrier to entry for FAB, at least in the Classic Constructed format, is certainly the cost of the competitive tier staples like Command and Conquer, Fyendal’s Spring Tunic, and Crown of Providence.

As of the writing of this article, getting a playset of just those five cards (three Command and Conquer and one each of the equipment) at their cheapest near-mint versions would cost a player around $650. That’s an intimidating statistic to someone who is just giving FAB a try for the first time. Unfortunately, any invested player will probably tell you that, due to their power level, those cards are almost essential for decks you’d want to build for high level play.

Considering the amount of money involved, that information has probably stopped more than a few starry-eyed new FAB players in their tracks. A lot of us #FABDads with a love for cardboard live paycheck to paycheck (or close to it), and we need to make every hobby decision with real life in mind. (Real life should always take priority over cardboard, by the way. Regardless of how fun the game, or how engaging the community is, that’s the bottom line.)

So How Does Someone On a Budget Get Their Hands on Those Staples?

Honestly, I’d suggest you don’t worry about getting the staple cards unless you decide you want to try your hand at competitive Flesh and Blood above the Armory level. These cards are very good and they will increase the strength of most decks (they’re expensive for a reason, after all), but they are not needed to enjoy the game with your friends.

If you do make that choice, the first thing I strongly recommend you do is to sit down and fully recognize your budget. I’d suggest you look at your last few months’ bank statements, take notes on where you’re spending your money, and list out each and every one of your recurring bills.

Knowing what you’ve got coming in and going out sounds basic, but sometimes the basics are easy to skip over. Assuming you’ve got more coming in than you have going out while meeting all of your obligations and life necessities, that leftover free space will contain your free/disposable income or hobby budget.

I’m Comfortable With My Financial Situation, but I’m Not Really Made of Money. What Are My Options?

Once you know what you’re working with, you can form a plan for how to acquire the expensive staples one at a time if your budget is tight. If you’re in a hurry, there are payment options available through sites like PayPal that will spread the total cost into four payments paid every two weeks. That’s something I’ve used a few times myself to cut the cost of a purchase into more palatable bites when I wanted to get several items for a deck.

I’m not so financially free that $650 is something I can afford to spend on cardboard on a single paycheck, but spreading that same amount into four payments around $160 each is something I can reasonably do. (Loose math, rounded numbers. I’m not trying to be exact here.)

Ok, That Number Is Still Intimidating, and I Don’t Know That I’m That Committed Yet.

And that’s completely fine! Like I said, you don’t need the power cards to have a good time playing the game or even to enjoy some success in your local scene!

What’s much more important than having access to the power cards is knowing your deck inside and out. If you’re trying to make every dollar stretch like I am, you should focus more on finding a hero that you enjoy and get the class cards that you need first.

One of the best things about FAB is that outside of the big generic hits, most class cards are relatively cheap. If you take the generic good stuff out of a Katsu deck, you’ll still have a reasonable Classic Constructed deck for less than $200.

Dash, Inventor Extraordinaire is one of my favorite heroes to point new players towards because she doesn’t need most of the great generic cards to be highly competitive, and can steer away from all of them completely if she wants to. (Merrick Kemp claimed the trophy at Calling Baltimore with Dash, for example, and his whole deck can be built for just over $200, excluding the sideboard.)

What Would Be the Point of That Though? Shouldn’t I Want to Play a Wide Range of Heroes to Be Competitive?

You certainly could, and some players do just that, playing whatever hero strikes their fancy each week. However, I believe there are at least two major benefits to devoting your time to a single class of heroes. First, you can concentrate your spending on singles to only the cards you know you need for that class. Meaning you only need to spend your hard-earned money on a narrow section of the game that you want to engage with directly. Second, by focusing on building and playing only a certain type of hero, you grow yourself into a class specialist.

As a specialist, not only do you get your deck to a competitive level faster by focusing on the cards you want/need for it, but you’ll also develop your skills by playing with that hero repeatedly. The more reps you put into a hero, the more of that hero’s full potential you’re able to unlock. And by the time you can get the generic power cards, you’re well on your way to strong finishes at the high-tier events.

Flesh and Blood is a game that exponentially rewards players for staying with one hero over time and some of the absolute best players in the professional scene are specialists.

The Best Players on the Scene…?

Michael Feng won Pro Tour Baltimore with his Oldhim, Grandfather of Eternity deck thanks to the number of games he’s played with it, and he’s one of the most consistent top-finishing players in the world. Mara Farris has built a strong reputation thanks to the amount of devotion she’s given to Dromai, Ash Artist. She finished second at that same Pro Tour behind Michael, and had a string of Top 8 finishes under her belt before that. Joshua Lau and Nathan Crawford of The Card Guyz are known as specialists with Dorinthea Ironsong and Briar, Warden of Thorns, playing their heroes even into hostile metas to the top tables in event after event.

All of these players use the staples to supplement their class cards in the finely tuned top level decks they’ve been successful with, but I’m sure they would agree that familiarity with your hero and knowing what they’re capable of doing turn over turn will bring you greater success than any individual cards ever could.

What do you feel like the biggest barriers to entry for new Flesh and Blood players are? Do you have the staples yet or are you still working on adding them to your collection? What hero do you see yourself being able to focus on and specialize in? I’m available here and on Twitter as @DracoHominis87. I’d love to know your thoughts, so feel free to reach out!


PSA – I mentioned that I’ve used payment options that split up the cost of an order myself. That has worked well for me, but it might not be good for everyone. Don’t get yourself into debt over any hobby and don’t use credit to make purchases that you can’t afford. Putting yourself into a bad financial situation will put strain on every aspect of your life, the least important of which being the card game you’re trying to enjoy. Don’t bite off more than you can chew just to keep up with the Joneses in your local meta, and you’ll be happier in the long run.

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.