Pro Flesh and Blood Players Tank, and You Should Too!

Burn Them All
(Burn Them All red | Art by Riordan Delmiro)

Let’s break a bit from my standard intro so I can tell you a story that happened to me last week at Battle Hardened: Pittsburgh.

I was talking with Yuanji Li, a friend of mine and featured caster of the weekend, about meta commentary on how to bring body language, overall demeanor, and those “in the tank” moments into the commentary booth. In this conversation, he mentioned to me a sign of a great player that he was on the lookout for, and it’s all to do with how a player goes in the tank, and how they play after the fact.

What is the Tank?

“In the tank” or “tanking” is just a term for that long pause in the midst of a round where you assess the entirety of the game to inform your next hand of decisions. In Flesh and Blood, the fresh draw of hands turn by turn leads to quite a few of these moments, especially as the game goes longer. Some of the best players are even known for how long they take in these moments (looking at you, Brodie Spurlock!) What Yuanji brought to light for me is how impressive the exact timing of these moments can be.

Let’s build a scenario.

You’re Rhinar, Reckless Rampage, playing against Dromai, Ash Artist. You have a Sink Below in hand and they lead their turn with a Ravenous Rabble. You have a general game plan here to just leak as little damage as possible so that you don’t lose to the eventual Burn Them All. So you snap play the Sink Below because it blocks for its full four value and couldn’t have popped a dragon anyway.

This is a pretty linear play and not necessarily wrong, but there’s a difference between what Yuanji would be looking for to call this play calculated or hasty.

Ask the Right Questions!

As soon as the first action is taken by your opponent, you get to assess the turn cycle. When Dromai plays the Ravenous Rabble, there are still up to four more cards to be played, and Ravenous Rabble is likely the least interactive part of all of it, being just a vanilla four damage. However, if you take a moment to go in the tank, you build yourself a window to prepare for the entire turn cycle.

Rather than answer threats as they come, you have your first puzzle piece in front of you as to how to play the turn in your favor. Take this initial moment to spend a minute asking yourself some of the questions we’ve already established in this article series:

Ask WHAT is the game state – Check the Ash count, dragons on board, cards seen that are critical for this turn, like Command and Conquer, Snatch, and Dustup.

Ask HOW your hand gains the most value – Look for what to do with your action point for the most guaranteed value. Here’s a hint: if it’s Swing Big, then play Swing Big.

Ask WHERE you get punished on blocks – Remind yourself what hit effects are likely in a Dromai deck, or how much they can force your hand with a Dominia or Lost in Thought.

“It’s not a question of asking yourself these questions on every decision point during the turn, but something you should go in the tank for early on,” says Yuanji. This builds your confidence about the turn cycle and helps you save time since there is no two-step process of how your hand plays on defense versus offense – it’s the same hand (this is a huge learning curve for new players!) If you map it out as early as you can and think about this turn on both sides, then playing a Sink Below on the Ravenous Rabble starts to have multiple layers.

The Tank Experience

So now, with the Ravenous Rabble coming at you, you go in the tank. You read your hand and only want to play the Sink Below, hold a popper in case of dragons, and then play a two-card hand. You obviously don’t want to just eat damage, but you’re also wary of Dromai refusing to swing dragons with a light board. Instead, they’re likely to go for a strong chain ender like Dustup or Command and Conquer.

You go deeper into the tank.

If you Sink Below on Rabble, it’s stronger into the Command and Conquer follow-up since you’d waste less life this turn cycle. If you don’t block and save the Sink Below for Dustup, you deny Ash and Aether Ashwing, a huge value swing for Dromai.

You go even deeper.

If you don’t block with Sink Below and assume they swing with dragons, you get to keep it in arsenal, where you’ll have future flexibility to always block four vanilla or a future Dustup or Snatch.

You go way deep.

Keep the hand, and full send it with a Scabskin Leathers line (no pls don’t).

Regardless of what you do, if Yuanji sees someone tanking on what seems to be a benign attack, he would call this the mark of a strong player. There should be near-to-no snap plays in FAB, unless exact answers line up, like an Oasis Respite on a Aether Wildfire.

But how do you know something’s an answer? Because you asked a question in the first place.

In this series of What to Ask and How to Answer, we’ll continue to cover scenarios and questions that push us to become better FAB players. This past weekend in Pittsburgh showed us what a post Lexi, Livewire world looks like, and wow did it bring some absolute grind games to camera! With longer games like Bravo, Showstopper mirrors and even more complex aggro decks like Dash I/O, FAB is more of a mental load than ever, and yet somehow even more enjoyable.

With these articles, I’ll be sure to keep you guessing less and asking more.

Ethan ‘Man Sant’ Van Sant is known for his commitment to Levia and his coverage of FaB events as Savage Feats. He has a light background with Yugioh and Pokemon, but Flesh and Blood is the first TCG that has fully consumed him… As willed by Blasmophet.