Dawn of an Era: A 2021 Retrospective

17th Dec 2021 Nicola Price

In 2019, Flesh and Blood premiered to a crowd of 120 in Auckland, New Zealand, officially debuting a few short months later with the release of Welcome to Rathe. Our first series of Calling events came shortly after, with events taking place in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States, in Austin and New Jersey. Looking forward to 2020, carefully laid plans were derailed by the arrival of a global pandemic, and events were rescheduled and restructured to match a changing landscape. Play Anywhere debuted early to provide players the chance to host their own games, and the Blitz format was revealed the following month, with its fast-paced gameplay allowing stores to host smaller gatherings in shorter time frames.

Second waves of Covid meant that our plans for 2021 had to be restructured once again, and the result was a brand new event series which paved the way for players to take centre stage and become the first - the first to reach 1,000 XP, the first to be National Champion, the first to forge a new playstyle, the first to attend a professional level FAB event in their country.

It's been great to see players around the world engaging in the competitive spirit, and challenging themselves in professional level tournaments. Interviewing various players and champions throughout the year, two of the most common themes have been the joy of playing with local communities, and thriving on the challenge of higher level play.

As we take a look back at 2021, we look forward to providing players around the world with even more opportunities to challenge themselves, engage in local communities, and enjoy great games in the Flesh and Blood.

January kicked off the year with a first look at the upcoming set Monarch, and the first competitive event of the year. The Calling came to Auckland in the first month of 2021, ushering in a brand new year of professional play.


The Calling: Auckland 2021

Over 150 players battled it out in FAB's youngest format to earn their share of $10,000, and after 2020's Road to Nationals series in New Zealand, it came as no surprise to anyone that Jacob Pearson would rise to win the event, taking the title as Ira, Crimson Haze. Fellow Top 8 players featured runner-up Aaron Curtis, Jordan Nelson-Fussel, Calum Gittins, Matt Rogers, Kieran McEntegart, Jason Thomson-Sheck, and Jasin Long. Jacob has since joined LSS as a member of the Game Development team, and Kieran as a member of the Organised Play team.

Event Highlights

As the first Calling event of the year wound to a close, excitement was building around the recent announcement of a brand new event series called Skirmish. This brand new event format was targeted at creating meaningful and accessible high player for players worldwide. Despite the challenges of Covid, we wanted to give players and stores the opportunity to support organised play as much as possible, and provide everyone the opportunity to come together as a community.

Coming on the tails of the Calling: Auckland, Blitz was introduced the world as a competitive format, giving players the opportunity to hone their skills for the year ahead.

Skirmish poster

Skirmish, Season One

In September last year, it had appeared as though Covid-19 was coming under control, and discussions were in place to prepare for a Pro Tour, but a new wave of lockdowns saw the team looking to create a tournament series that could provide players a step above weekly Armory events. Making events available both online and off meant that the events initially planned for 16-32 players took off worldwide, with 65 players participating in just one event on the very first weekend.

From February through to March, players from all around the world gathered for increasingly large events, until Most Excellent Comics and Gaming set a new record, with over 150 players from 12 different countries taking part in their Skirmish event.

When Scar for a Scar was selected as the art for the first season of Skirmish, no one realised how prophetic it would become. Ira, Crimson Haze, the very first hero of Flesh and Blood, became the superstar of the first competitive events of the year, mirroring the key art of the season.

Another exciting outcome from this event series was watching players from around the world fight to become the first player in their country to reach 1,000XP, plotting out spreadsheets and timetables, seeking to participate in as many events as possible.

In November 2020, Cayle McCreath of New Zealand became the first player in Flesh and Blood history to reach 1,000 XP, after a year of competing in events. The next player to reach the 1,000 XP milestone in their country was Jacob Burns, who first started playing in June 2020. Jacob Burns, a full-time student with a full-time job, managed to fit Skirmish events around all of his other commitments, narrowly beating out fellow U.S. player Rob Cygul to become the first in his country to reach 1k XP.

After Jacob, a number of players were close behind; Dante Delfico of Canada, Eugene Phua of Singapore, Sharif Shaaban of the United Kingdom, Luke Fletcher of Australia, Christian Weißling of Germany, and Mariusz Suchanecki of Poland.



As the Skirmish season wound to a close, the Monarch preview season kicked off, revealing a brand new element to Flesh and Blood. Where Welcome to Rathe established key gameplay mechanics, and Arcane Rising introduced arcane damage to the game, Monarch revealed the final puzzle piece for the fundamental mechanics of Flesh and Blood: Talents.

Monarch was themed around the iconic battle between Light and Shadow, featuring Solana's warrior and illusionist duo, Boltyn and Prism, versus the Demonastery's brute and runeblade, Levia and Chane.

The pre-release weekend for Monarch saw fan favourite Prism dominate the battlefield, lighting the way to an all-new metagame for the competitive scene. But while Prism burst into the spotlight, there was another hero waiting in the wings, planning how to undermine Ira's command over the Skirmish meta, and conquer it for himself.

Skirmish Season 2

Skirmish, Season Two

The second Skirmish season saw Ira remain at the top of the meta game, somersaulting her way from tournament to tournament despite the ban of Drone of Brutality. Like the previous season, Dorinthea and Kano weren't far behind, making the most of their strengths to undermine the leader of the Crimson Haze. Tall Dorinthea, a standout star from the first Skirmish season, once again rose to the challenge, with the build changing and developing alongside Ira to loosen her hold on the Blitz format. With the fall of Drone of Brutality earlier in the year, Ira players had to adapt to a new playstyle, and Dorinthea rose to the challenge. Kano players once again made the most of the wizard's challenging, but dynamic playstyle to usurp the ninja leader.

But as the season went on, Chane crept his way up the rankings, and this was very clearly showcased at the second Calling event of the year in Auckland, New Zealand. While the main event saw players drafting Prism in large numbers, very closely followed by Levia, Chane and Boltyn, the Classic Constructed ProQuest event saw five Chane players in the Top 8.

Top 8 The Calling Auckland June 2021

The Calling: Auckland (Monarch)

With much of the world still in varying stages of lockdown, the Calling returned to New Zealand with over 200 players turning out for the event. In the Top 8 Matt Rogers read the signals better than most, and spotted that Chane was wide open; ending up as the only Chane player at the table he had the pick of the cards and ended up taking down Kiki Labad on Levia in the final to claim a Calling Championship to go with his New Zealand National Champion title. Meanwhile, Wynton Bedford took out the competition at the ProQuest event with his Katsu deck, mirroring the fight taking place between runeblade and ninja in the Skirmish meta.

Originally, this Calling event was planned to be part of a two-part series called the Calling: Monarch Season. A sister event in Melbourne was initially announced for 11th June, but was postponed to July after Covid lockdowns meant that the event couldn't go ahead. After lockdowns continued across the country, a smaller Pro Tour Invitational took place instead, leaving space for the Calling or a National Championship once Covid restrictions lifted.

Skirmish Season 2 Carousel Image

As the second season of Skirmish continued, Chane began to rack up more and more wins across the events, slowly creeping up on Ira's lead. At the crux of the final weekend, we hit a grand total of 246 events across 26 countries, with over 6000 players participating worldwide.

A number of players turned up the heat for this season of Skirmish; Alex Chiu, Chris Smith, Dan Groseclose, Dante Delfico, Dennis Aah Xiao, Drayton Ganz, Eric Lerer, Galaxy Yang, George Ferris, Kelvin Law, Larry Johnson, Michael Caronchia, Sebastian Golla, Sebastiano Cavallo, Sie Ruei, and Tony Chen all ended the season with two wins apiece, while Jarel Chia finished out the Skirmish season winning three events.

By the end of the season, the ninja had 32 events under her belt, Dorinthea had 16, and Kano won 11. Chane ended the season with a comfortable 21 wins, with his eyes set firmly on the second half of the year.

With the second season of Skirmish coming to a close, the competitive scene was really starting to heat up. Two new announcements are made: a Road to Nationals circuit, in preparation for a season of National Championships in twenty-five countries, and the Calling: US season. Amidst the excitement of the coming Road to Nationals season, the upcoming booster set Tales of Aria is announced, with the world premiere set to take place at the first Calling event in the United States.

Road to Nationals 2021

Road to Nationals

Running from July 31st to September 5th, Road to Nationals heralded the first Classic Constructed event series of the year, offering PTI's to any players who could fight their way into the Top 4 of an event.

The very first weekend of events sees 35 instances of a Chane player into the Top 8, as the hero smashes his way into the Classic Constructed meta. He is very closely followed by Katsu with 31 players, who also wins 5 events, as compared to Chane's 3. Other strong contenders at the start of the season included Prism and Bravo, tied with 18 Top 8 placings, and Dorinthea close behind on 13.

95 players show up for Card Merchant's in-person Road to Nationals event, marking one of the largest competitive events to take place at this level of the competitive circuit, while Boltyn and Prism both claim several wins over the first few weekends.

In the midst of the Road to Nationals season, Flesh and Blood officially welcomes its 2000th store, marking a milestone in the history of the game. As the fourth weekend of Road to Nationals events approaches, the first Tales of Aria spoiler drops, revealing the theme of the upcoming set, and a new Talent: Elemental.

As the Tales of Aria preview season begins in earnest, the Road to Nationals season only continues to pick up the pace, with the warriors Dorinthea and Boltyn, the ninja Katsu, the guardian Bravo, and the ever-present runeblade Chane battling it out for dominance over the metagame.

The final two weeks of Road to Nationals coincide with the Tales of Aria preview season and the beginning of the Calling series in the United States, making for one of the busiest periods of the year in the world of Flesh and Blood.

Brendan Patrick racks up his fourth win in a row, and with the final events of the season, the Road to Nationals series wraps up with over 150 winners crowned. Chane's presence in the meta is undeniable, finishing out the season with 67 wins. Katsu follows with 29, Boltyn with 20, Bravo with 18, Dorinthea with 13 and Prism with 12.

Tales of Aria pre-release poster (Digital)

Tales of Aria

Building on the fundamentals of Monarch, Tales of Aria introduced three heroes instead of our usual four, creating a triad of Ice, Earth, and Lightning to showcase the power of the Elemental talent. The new heroes Briar, a runeblade of earth and lightning, Lexi, a ranger of lightning and ice, and Oldhim, a guardian of ice and earth, formed the trinity of heroes that would enter the post-Road to Nationals metagame and shake it from the ground up.

All three heroes brought a completely different playstyle to the table, and with a new event series about to begin, the world premiere of the game would play out in a way it never had before.

Las Vegas Facebook Post

The Calling: Las Vegas

In partnership with Channel Fireball, the Calling series sought to kickstart a return to major in-person organised play. Four events across Las Vegas, Dallas Fort-Worth, Cincinnati, and Orlando would take place from September through to November, culminating in the first National Championship in the United States


Las Vegas kicked off the series with a bang, becoming the largest Flesh and Blood event to date by a landslide. 877 players gathered for the world premiere of Tales of Aria, followed by over 1,000 players gathering on the Saturday. The Professor from Tolarian Community College, William Jensen, Saint Hung, and cosplayers TappyToeClaws, Christine Sprankle, and Olivia Gobert-Hicks were among the guests for this massive event, hosted by the coverage team, consisting of competitive TCG player Tannon Grace, and long-standing community members RedZoneRogue and DMArmada.

Mirroring the Road to Nationals season turnout, Chane took up a large slice of the battlefield, closely followed by Katsu, Bravo, and Prism. Yet in an upset of the meta, it was Tyler Horspool who won the event with his Prism deck, dominating a Top 8 with five Chane players.

Las Vegas Highlights

Then, on the tails of the first Calling event in the U.S., the banning of Seeds of Agony forced a shift in the meta, pushing Chane players to revisit their decklists and strategies ahead of the two Calling events due to take place the following month.

That same weekend, the Tales of Aria pre-release took place, and the release of a new set created a brand new stage for players to evaluate which heroes they would take to upcoming events.

As players around the world began reconstructing decks, the third season of Skirmish events was announced, due to follow on the heels of the National Championships, and wrap out the year with another batch of Blitz and Sealed format events.

Calling Dallas 2021 Facebook Post

The Calling: Dallas Fort-Worth

This event saw Day 1 begin with 502 players sitting down to construct their Tales of Aria sealed decks, fighting for a place in the Day 2 cut. Players only had a short period of time to prepare for the sealed deck format at this event, with a little over a month to learn the set from the ground up.

Player Nam Vo took a unique approach to the meta, tackling matchups with defense rather than offense. Being the only Oldhim drafter at the Top 8 table gave him access to a solid card pool, and combined with his slow and steady play, he fought through a field of runeblades and defeated Lexi player Nick Zimmerman in the final to take his place as winner. Meanwhile, in the Classic Constructed ProQuest, the post-Chane meta saw Jack McHalffey's Prism defeat Jasiel Diez's Bravo in the final match.

Dallas Fort-Worth Highlights

Calling Cincinnati 2021 Facebook Post

The Calling: Cincinnati

The following weekend, the Calling: Cincinnati opened with over 500 players, eager to test their skills in another two-day tournament of Tales of Aria sealed deck and draft. For this event, coverage came courtesy of Tannon Grace, Rob Cygul, and Andy Joseph (better known as GarbageAndy).

The meta for this event was now dominated by Briar players, taking up over 50% of the battlefield. despite this, the Top 32 saw a much more balanced breakdown, with an almost even split between twelve Briar players, eleven Oldhim players, and nine Lexi's.

In the Top 8, two Oldhim's and two Lexi's faced down four Briar's, culminating in a battle between Michael Feng's Oldhim deck and Tariq Patel's Briar. The guardian reigned supreme, and with the aide of a red Glacial Footsteps, Michael Feng stepped into the title of the third Calling champion in the United States. In the ProQuest event, fellow guardian Stewart McGirt won against Alex Keeler, with Bravo beating back Chane to claim the victory.

Cincinnati Highlights

National Championship Cover Image

National Championship

With the Calling: Orlando on the horizon, the highlight of the year was about to begin: the 2021 National Championship series. While New Zealand, Australia, and Singapore were unable to hold their Championship events due to ongoing Covid restrictions, 22 countries crowned their National Champions, many of them for the very first time.

In Castleford, England, Living Realms hosted the first National Championship of 2021, and the first in the United Kingdom. Bravo and Briar were neck and neck for most-played hero, with Katsu, Prism and Lexi also featuring heavily on the battlefield.

The grand final of the Championship saw George Rodger and Matthew Foulkes face off with two heroes of Aria, playing as Bravo, Showstopper and Briar, Warden of Thorns, respectively. This is the point where Briar first showed her hand in the metagame, with a deck making the rounds which would overturn Chane's prior hold on the meta.

US National Championship

In one weekend, the Calling: Orlando wrapped up the United States Calling series, and the US National Championship heralded a powerful new contender on the international battlefield. 414 players took their place in the hall for the National Championship, 526 players contending in the Calling event, with New Zealand National Champion Matt Rogers joining Tannon Grace for live coverage of the day's events.

Briar's strong presence in the metagame overtook Bravo's previous hold, and two familiar names slowly began to emerge from the pack. Michael Feng and Tariq Patel, the finalists of the Calling: Cincinnati, broke into the Top 8 of the National Championship, right on the back of the Calling event. The Top 8 was flooded with the power of the arcane, with one Lexi facing two Chanes, and six Briar players. In the quarter finals, Michael Feng won his Chane mirror match, and Tariq Patel his Briar mirror match, each taking their place at the table for the final match of the Championship.

In the runeblade v runeblade rematch, Tariq showcased his unique approach to Briar, Warden of Thorns, cashing in his PTI from Cincinnati to win the National Championship after just a few short weeks of intense preparation.

At the Calling: Orlando, Michael Hamilton's Oldhim won over Joel Repta's Briar, and Team Covenant's Zach Bunn won his Briar mirror match, both displaying a clear-cut understanding of the game and the current meta in their rise to the top.

US Nationals Highlights

After the UK and US National Championships kicked off the season with a bang, the season began in earnest, with twenty more Championships to take place around the world. In Canada, Yuki Lee Bender proved to the world that Lexi could freeze out the competition and beat Briar at her own game, Lee Derk Hua of Malaysia used the tools of the trade to win as the mechanologist Dash, Yorgos Samara piloted the ancient guardian Oldhim to victory in Greece, and in the final National Championship of the season, Italy's Pietro Gerletti won as Kano, Dracai of Aether.

A massive congratulations are in order for all of our National Champions this year, who navigated a shifting metagame and mastered the matchups to claim their place as Champions.

National Champions of 2021

Event Poster - Skirmish

Skirmish, Season Three

To round out the year, our third season of the Skirmish event series got underway, providing players with another round of Blitz and format tournaments to sink their teeth into. With the Classic Constructed metagame flipped on its head after the National Championship season, the Blitz meta was primed to see the year out in style. Season Three also provided a brand new season of Draft events, a welcome arrival after two years of lockdowns and Covid restrictions.

Three very clear frontrunners in the Blitz meta emerged right out of the gate, with established Skirmish champions Ira and Kano joined by the newest runeblade Briar, surfacing in the top matches of both formats.

Briar's aggressive gameplay and gentler learning curve saw her popularity skyrocket since her debut in the metagame, finishing out the season in the same way she began. With one eye on her Ice counterparts, Oldhim and Lexi, she ended the Skirmish season managing to maintain her momentum in the competitive scene.

Sliding into the final month of the year with her blade at the ready, Briar was matched by original golden girl Dorinthea, utilising the power of the Dawnblade to drive back the Warden of Thorns. While Briar finished out the season with 37 victories, Dorinthea was hot on her heels with 31.

The classic and timeless ninja Ira maintained her firm presence in the Blitz metagame, and while her momentum has slowed since Jacob won the Calling with her in January, Ira has established a long-lasting impression on the format.

Ira did not, however, beat Oldhim's presence on the field of Skirmish events. The ice guardian's power is undeniable, able to slow down a match with his defense reaction cards and abilities, able to follow up the shield with his powerful attacks.

Honorable mentions for the year include Kano, who has remained consistent across the entire year of Blitz events with his ability to break the system with his instant-speed attacks, Chane, who burned bright and fast in the wake of the Shadow, and Prism, who seems to have yet to reach her full potential with her powerful Heralds.

Everfest Landscape Art


As we look to the new year, there's a party on the horizon, with the Everfest on its way to a town near you. A brand new supplementary set, Everfest will give the heroes of Rathe a brand new set of tools to shake up the metagame for 2022, perhaps setting the stage for a new hero to become the star of the show.

OP 2022 Prize Support no text

Pro Play 2022

It only gets bigger from here! 2021 was a landmark year for Flesh and Blood, creating an organised play circuit that could provide competitive, accessible events for players worldwide, but 2022 is shaping up to be even bigger and better, with $1,000,000 USD in prize support for professional level play!

Keep your eyes on the horizon for announcements and news about this exciting new era in the Flesh and Blood.

Tales of Aria Key Art

To all the stores who hosted players around the world, thank you for all of your hard work and dedication in providing your communities a place to hone their skills, meet fellow players, and play great games.

To all of our players around the world, who participated in events during the year from your local Armory to your National Championship, thank you for being a part of your community, and joining us in the Flesh and Blood. We look forward to a brand new year of events with you in 2022!