Our second Jump Start series continues with the return of guest writer Tommy "Fresh" Hendricks to share his tips and tricks to broadening your understanding and improving your game play skills at local Armory events. Tommy is a steward of the game, and host of the Fresh and Buds podcast which regularly discusses the many different aspects of Flesh and Blood.
Like any great game, Flesh and Blood brings people together in the spirit of competitiveness and cooperation. This is embodied in events and tournaments at all levels, whether it is Michael Hamilton and Christopher Iaali battling it out for the World Championship or it’s the final round of a local Armory between two buds. Although the differences in stakes between those two situations is stark, they are connected as different parts of a player’s journey. Folks like Michael and Christopher have worked hard to get to that level of play, while the two friends playing at the Armory are actively working on their understanding of the game. Even though there is a great deal of learning that can be taken away from larger tournaments like Callings or Worlds, the true battleground for improvement is at local Armories. So, let’s look at ways you can use these events to actively improve your understanding of the game.
Practice Makes Perfect
As the NBA Hall of Famer, Allen Iverson, once said, “We’re talking about practice.” Like many skilled activities in life, we cannot expect to have natural talent and perform well with no work put into it. The same is true with Flesh and Blood. This is where practice comes in!
There are some core tenets of practice that I like to use, especially with games like Flesh and Blood. One of the most applicable methods, and arguably the most important, is repetition. The more you do something, the more comfortable you will be with that thing. Repetition in card games is unique since inherent variance will present multiple situations and outcomes each time you play. But that is all the more reason to get the reps in since it can be applied to the game in a few different ways such as learning how your deck plays and how the different interactions within it work. You can also see how your matchups against the other heroes play out. This is so important because it allows you to recognize key moments in a game and capitalize on them as they arise in different tournaments you attend. A great place to get this valuable practice is at your local Armories.
While there is a lot to be said about the merits of practicing the game at home, that option is likely best for players who have a firm grasp on the game already and are preparing for high level events. Armories, however, are perfect for getting to the point of having that deep understanding. And the main reason for this is that attendees are playing for something, while the stakes are still relatively low.
A great benefit of these local events is the incredible promos and playmats that are provided for the players who come every week. Those who come out on top will receive the rarest of the promos provided. With this, players have an incentive to play their best and to take it seriously. This is the ideal environment for meaningful practice with opportunities to learn. When you are presented with these competitive situations, you are not only pushed to play better, you also have a chance to witness and take note of your opponent’s play. The more you are matched up against skilled opponents, the more chances you get to witness moments of high level play. Sounds a lot like repetition, doesn’t it?
However, just because everyone is playing for something, doesn’t mean it is all serious business! The stakes are relatively low and the main goal at these Armories is for the players to have fun. This creates the perfect environment for learning. Although competitiveness can be a wonderful thing that pushes games to the highest level of battle and contest, it can also breed a domain that makes it difficult to be open with one another if pushed too far. Being open is incredibly important if you want to learn in this game. This is because when you are comfortable with your fellow players, you are able to do something that can truly push your understanding of the game even further: ask questions!
Ask and You Shall Receive
Something I have found as I’ve travelled around my home state of New Jersey playing Armories, is that everyone’s local “metas” vary greatly. Perhaps your store is chock full of hammer-wielding Guardian players, or maybe the players at your Local Game Store are constantly changing up decks each week. Either way, this gives you a stellar opportunity to get experience against a diverse field and to gain insight on how each matchup and deck works. Additionally, the best way to gain that insight is to ask your opponent questions!
During the first few stages of your journey, odds are your average opponent will have been playing for longer than you have. This is great news! With that experience, comes knowledge. If you are open with your opponent and you are willing to ask questions, they can help you. The learning curve in Flesh and Blood is rewarding, but certain concepts can be challenging until you see them in practice or had them explained to you. For example, in the days of Tales of Aria limited season at my local Armory, Michael Feng had given me pointers on how to pilot Oldhim to victory in the mirror when I asked him after our match. Until that point, I had been struggling with the format in general, and specifically that matchup had been a challenge. A few short weeks after that happened, I won my first Armory! I used the knowledge and understanding gained from a player with more experience than me to up my game.
You can take this even further by asking questions about card choices, deckbuilding, and more. The advantage is that most of your fellow players are more than willing to help because more players mean a healthy game that will continue to grow. And don’t be intimidated by the best players at your Local Game Store either! They were once in your shoes and recognize the initial challenges of the game. You can learn from these players in other ways as well. You can accomplish this through observing the way in which they play and taking note of their decisions.
Just Think About It
As you play more and more games of Flesh and Blood, in general or at Armories, you will begin to notice play patterns that don’t make complete sense to you, yet. This is great because that means you are thinking about the game critically. However, it can be easy to forget about what happened and you may fail to dig deeper for a better understanding of why that play pattern resolved that way. This is why I implore all new players to make a note whenever these situations come up. The best way to do that is to quickly jot it down on your life total pad, or even in your phone. That way you can continue the game and then investigate it after the fact, or even ask your opponent/other players at the Armory.
Thinking critically about Flesh and Blood is the best way to actively improve your understanding of the game while you aren’t even playing. In the heat of battle, it can be difficult to keep track of what you would like to learn more about, so making these notes can alleviate the pressure of focusing on too many things at once. It is also an excellent way to correct your mistakes in future scenarios. It is extremely rare that even the best players in the world will play a whole game perfectly. So, take stock in what happened during the game and recognize your mistakes. Nevertheless, do not dwell on them, learn from them!
Begin to Believe
The first few steps to achieving a greater understanding of Flesh and Blood can be daunting, and if you let it, discouraging. But I am here to tell to not get discouraged. Every player’s journey is different. Some will pick up the game and perform at a high level soon after beginning. Others will take a bit longer. But that is okay, because it is a game and there is no rush! We are here to have fun and to learn. To achieve both of those things, all you truly need to do is believe in yourself.
So, unless you are playing against Rhinar, don’t be intimidated and enjoy the process!
Tommy "Fresh" Hendricks is a player of Flesh and Blood, and host of the Fresh and Buds weekly podcast. The opinions expressed in the above article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Legend Story Studios.