Brute Force and Blood Debt

12th Jul 2022 Hamish Chisholm Brown

We're pleased to welcome Hamish Chisholm-Brown as a guest writer for the Road to Nationals season! Hamish is a competitive Flesh and Blood player who placed in the Top 8 of the UK National Championship in 2021. He's a member of the dedicated UK Flesh and Blood podcast, Push the Point, and will soon be attending the European Champion's Battle at the Calling: Utrecht. We're excited to welcome him on board for his second article of the season!

Welcome back! How are you? All good? I do hope so. Before I begin, I would like to thank everyone who read my first article and gave me some feedback and praise. That really helped me build confidence in my ability to write my thoughts down in my own way. I must also give huge credit to Jake Armes and Jason Hamer for proofreading my work. They made sure to retain my thoughts and the way I would describe things, while making it all sound…English. Mucho Love.

So, let's get on to the article. Now buckle up buttercup because this is going to be SAVAGE!

Welcome to the Savage Lands. A place where “might makes right”, the strongest survive and swing big is the rule of law! We are talking about a class with tenacity and sheer power that can't be understated! Listen well, readers, as we delve into the Brute.

Article Banner Rhinar, Reckless Rampage

Rhinar, Reckless Rampage

I would like to begin this journey with the first hero I ever played when the game was demonstrated to me at my local store: Rhinar. The beast with the ability to randomly discard cards and make your opponent groan with annoyance as you Intimidate the card he wanted to use to block your frenzied attacks.

Rhinar has a unique ability in Flesh and Blood. He consistently makes the opponent randomly move cards from their hand to the banish zone when he attacks, and occasionally when setting up an attack too. This creates interesting scenarios and leaves the opponent unable to control exactly how they get to defend against him.

When Rhinar is in the swing of things, he can put together a devastating attack that leaves your opponent wide open to the massacre that awaits them. This is executed by stringing together non-attacks with Intimidate on them and attack actions that also have the Intimidate keyword, or discarding a card with 6+ power from hand to trigger Rhinar's ability.

The notable non-attack action cards are Barraging Beatdown and Bloodrush Bellow. Both of these cards are premium tools to really push past the defenses of your opponent, forcing them to take unchecked damage. This can then be followed up by an Alpha Rampage, Bare Fangs, or Pulping to land a lot of damage in one hit. Rhinar can also make good use of Mandible Claws and Bloodrush Bellow to strip cards from the opponent’s hand, and come in for a 3-hit knockout combo!

Scabskin Leathers are also a key piece to really extend your turn. They are a risky piece of equipment as you are rolling the dice, literally, to see if you have a big turn, the same turn, or end your turn. Regardless, if you need something to dig you out of a tough spot, then you can always pick up the die!

Scabskin Leathers
Barraging Beatdown (1)
Bloodrush Bellow
Alpha Rampage
Pulping (1)

This might seem like he is an attack face, dice rolling, swing first think later kind of hero; but he is also surprisingly tough, with all his cards from Welcome to Rathe blocking for 3, even if it’s a non-attack action. This defensive toolkit gives Rhinar the space to slow down and build his next turn when necessary. Usually, this is where his combination of cards will not return more damage back to the opponent than Rhinar would take. With Romping Club, you can always wait and pitch key cards for later in the game, and chipping 4 damage back with no loss of cards. Rhinar can take advantage of Barraging Beatdown and swinging the club to really give the opponent a tough choice on whether to take a large chunk of damage or over-block. Swing Big is another card that shows that with 2 cards, you can output damage that other heroes wish they could achieve so easily.

Rhinar can be best placed as a Midrange hero — this means he can ebb and flow with the game pace as it develops. From blocking hard to swinging back for 7 or 4 damage, to making the opponent lose their whole hand and dealing 15 damage that can’t be stopped. Reading the pace of the game and making your openings is key to mastering Brute. Even against the Illusionist class, who struggle to land impactful Dragons and Heralds, you need to keep an eye on the board state. Heroes like Bravo and Oldhim who like to give big attacks back can struggle to match Rhinar's 'straight out-of-nowhere' damage and cost-effective attacks. You will soon find yourself chipping away at their HP before you know it. Your aim as Rhinar is to get the opponent down to below 20 HP while maintaining your own HP to land the killing blow or to get their HP to around 2 to get to that Reckless Swing range.

Now, unfortunately, Rhinar does come into some awkward places when it comes to the very aggressive heroes. Intimidating someone’s hand is a very powerful ability and can be likely to cause damage. But when your turn is over, the cards you intimidated to return to their hand. Heroes like Fai, Katsu, Briar, Boltyn, and Viserai will take the damage to make sure they can output more damage back.

The tough spot is also that some of Rhinar’s best attacks don’t have a block value. Rhinar also lacks on-hit effects in his class cards, which means that most of the time, it's just damage taken with no lingering effects. Not to underestimate that the damage number is high, but most aggressive heroes can easily output more damage in their turn on average. It’s a fine balance.


Levia, Shadowborn Abomination

The queen of gore and horror! Levia came out the blood-soaked gates of Monarch to a mixed reception. She has powerful attacks that don’t need you to discard from hand, unlike Rhinar, and this is a positive step to being able to play them easier after blocking — but this additional cost has changed to randomly discarding cards from hand to discarding 3 cards from the graveyard. This wouldn't be an issue if it wasn't for the text, blood debt. With every card being thrown into a dustbin (the banished zone) just to play, you have to be really careful how far you are willing to push it. Levia’s ability does help to keep that in check, but you have to put in the cards that have blood debt on them just to trigger her ability. Not all Shadow cards mind you; Art of War and Beast Within are great cards to include that don't increase the blood debt count.

Some Levia decks out there really want to push their luck! They will lace the deck to the teeth with blood debt and be as aggressive as possible. This playstyle is also backed up by playing Doomsday (possibly the most mental card in the game) to summon Blasmophet, an easy-to-play ally that can attack for 6 damage with no cost.

Like Rhinar, Levia can also play more safely by making good use of her blocking power and then turning up the heat when the time is right. Levia has access to the best equipment in the game to stop the opponent's tempo, Carrion Husk. This has to be timed well as it will tick her health down slowly if you don't banish 6-power cards, but regardless, it's a huge chunk of damage that can be mitigated by one piece of equipment. Again, like Rhinar, Levia has access to some great non-attack action cards that block for 3, and the inclusion of Skull Crushers has given Brutes in general more ways to stop attacks that deal more than 3 damage.

Art of War
Beast Within
Blasmophet, the Soul Harvester
Carrion Husk
Skull Crushers

Levia also has an edge over Rhinar that she doesn't need to worry about sacrificing cards in hand to play her attacks. This gives her options to utilize attack reactions like Pummel, with little risk of losing the attack reaction in the process of playing the attack.

Levia can also use Howl from Beyond to really pump her next attack at any point she feels it's needed. She can also include Brute staples such as cards like Swing Big in the mix, Levia has been given more tools to control the early and mid-game pace and not lose the high damage, low resource approach throughout the pace of the match. And when the opponent starts to get low, she can really put on the pace with the power Shadow Brute cards like Endless Maw and Dread Screamer to really push that last bit of damage through. And remember, getting as low as 2 Health in any Brute class is always in Reckless Swing range, and likely a swift death. Like Rhinar, Levia can make sure the Illusionist and Guardian Class are put under duress with a number of 6 Strength attacks and high damage yet cost-effective attacks that all make it tricky to balance as a defender.

Now for the drawbacks of Levia. It should be said that blood debt is real. The Embra of íArathael are fickle and the debt must be paid. When the blood debt cards start to mount up, Levia is gambling her health and possibly her life on which cards are drawn. It is not uncommon to see Levia lose to her own blood debt rather than the killing blow of her opponent. This, coupled with her need to keep cards to trigger her ability, becomes tougher to manage if her health is low. Aggressive heroes like Fai, Katsu, Briar, and Viserai will push damage harder than most, which can place Levia in a tough spot to manage that pace of aggro. You might need to give more to the Embra than you would feel comfortable to win that race.

A few pros and cons of this very fun class:

The Good:

  • Having access to Scabskin Leathers is a blessing in my opinion. It is said that rolling a 1 and losing your turn is…well it's devastating to be honest. But getting 2 action points at any point is quite simply the strongest ability in the game. You just need a bit of luck. Card games always require a little luck to be on your side. All heroes need a good draw from an Art of War or chance to have some good cards to be banished to really bring the pain. None of the heroes can use it when it suits. This is a great asset to have whenever you need it.
  • Mandible Claws with Bloodrush Bellow is a powerful Combination. Both heroes can take advantage of these weapons and it's very difficult to mitigate
  • When the opponent is at two life or less, the Doom clock is ticking for them due to Reckless Swing. It's rare to find a hero with that much power to end a game on the opponent's turn.
  • With a combination of Mandible Claws, Bone Crusher, Fyendal’s Spring Tunic and Scabskin Leathers, I don't know any hero in the game that can deal two attacks of 4 damage with 1 Blue card. That is insane value. Yes you need to roll a 5+ on a dice. But why not when you probably can only do 1 attack for 3 damage.

If you want to play a hero that can get a cost effective attack after a decent turn of blocking, this is the class for you!

The Bad

  • Brutes do require more luck than most heroes to really shine through. Scabskin Leathers rolling a 1 can and does happen. This also means using Gamblers Gloves, a card with no other value than to save your unlucky rolls — a tricky situation to have when picking equipment. You can choose to not play it, but then you are at a larger risk of lady luck failing you.
  • The lack of on-hit effects in their class cards is sometimes a factor. There are some great cards such as Erase Face and Command and Conquer that do, but a lot of their non-attack cards that pump damage do not affect these. Some heroes are happy to take raw damage to present more back.
  • Some of their cards don't defend. Since Monarch’s release, the Brute class cards have started to print powerful attacks with the trade-off with no way to use the card to block damage. This is a double edge sword that can bite you back.

The Ugly

Here is a small summary of good and bad matchups.

  • Dash is always at risk of losing their powerful tools to the card Argh... Smash!. A great hero to play against and a good back-and-forth game.
  • Prism and Dromai will struggle to get any powerful attacks to land, but will need to focus on building their board state and block out strong attacks to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Oldhim’s strong blocking techniques face tough times when every attack is at a low cost and a high point of damage. He struggles to stop the chip damage that comes from Brutes. He will need to put some pressure back on the Brute player and utilize some powerful attacks himself.
  • Fai and Katsu can make blocking effectively very tricky. The brute class will need to know what are the big threats to ensure they are blocked, to try and see this game though. The lack of strong blocking equipment may prove this difficult. The dice might need to come out and hope for lady luck’s blessing.
  • Runeblades are probably a Brute's biggest threat. The split damage across physical and arcane is hard for them to deal with, so really pushing the boat out and taking bigger risks is their way to win the game.

I hope this was an enjoyable article about a very fun class! Which Brute will you be? A high roller? Or a Beast Within? I foresee both of these heroes making it to the top spots in the Road to Nationals events, due to their ability to bring the pain in situations that don't seem possible. And just for some evidence, I went to a Road to Nationals this weekend and lost round 1 to my partner in crime Dmitri, who played Rhinar! Cut to the chase, he played 3 cards that pumped damage and intimidated 3 cards in my hand. The damage was coming in for 13. I have 6 health, Rattle Bones and 2 defense in equipment. The Rattle Bones felt…fitting. As they say, GG.

Writing articles in general has been a wild ride and I loved every minute of it! I hope this has been informative, interesting or entertaining to read. If you want to hear more ravenous rabbles with two other amazing humans (Simon Denning and Dan Tripp), check out our podcast! We like to…Push the Point on lots of topics. I will be at the Calling in Utrecht and more Road to Nationals this July, so hope to see you there!

Hamish Chisholm Brown is a competitive Flesh and Blood player and author of content relating to gameplay and strategy. The opinions expressed in the above article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Legend Story Studios.