He's won Battle Hardeneds, the Calling, and even Pro Tour: Baltimore - Michael Feng is undisputedly one of the best players in the world. Michael loves to travel to new places, meet new people, and beat them in great games of Flesh and Blood. But even when fueled by the adrenaline rush of the competitive play circuit, Michael still loves rocking up to a local game store for a good old fashioned Armory!
Armory Events are the backbone of Flesh and Blood.
For me, they are where I have made lasting friendships, created hilarious memories, and slowly but surely, improved my skills. I have always wanted to encourage all Flesh and Blood enthusiasts, from new players to seasoned competitors, from casual collectors to enfranchised investors, to attend Armories. Today I am grateful to be able to share my experiences and why I believe attending Armory Events is one of the most important things you can do as a Flesh and Blood player.
Not everyone can attend Armories on a regular basis. There are so many great reasons to do so, but there are also many conflicts and limitations that prevent players from attending. Whether it be due to finances, logistics, timing, a lack of players… There are players who actively want to go, but simply can't. This is why I ask players who have the means and the opportunity to go to Armories not to take them for granted. It is a privilege and a luxury, to which not everyone has access to.
I am no stranger to the feeling of being unable to access Armories. I started trying to get into Flesh and Blood in early 2021. At that time, there were no stores in the greater New York City area that supported Flesh and Blood. Instead of Armories, my first in-person experience was an On Demand Welcome to Rathe Unlimited Sealed Deck event, which I (politely) coerced my trading card game friends into playing. I had so much fun ripping open packs, learning about attacking and defending, and I was hungry for more. But it wasn't until April that I was able to start attending regular Armories. Since it was during the height of the Covid pandemic, these events were played online via webcam. During this time I lost many times and ate a lot of humble pie.
I won my first Armory on April 25th, 2021. By that time, I had played in four Armories, four Skirmishes, and several On Demand and Play Anywhere sessions. According to my GEM history it was a 3 round event, and I had a bye. But I still remember the feeling it gave me. Armories were first and foremost my foot in the door, but they also built a desire within me and momentum to keep me going.
I attribute a lot of my early success to Armories. On a local scale I barely ever went undefeated. When I did pick up wins, I would remember how I won - the specific matchup, equipment load outs, who went first, which hands I played well, which hands I didn’t play well. Winning (even if I was already in the 0-2 bracket) helped me build confidence. When Road to Nationals 2021 started, I felt that my attendance at Armories had given me some really huge advantages:
- Experience with making mistakes such as missed triggers. I made those mistakes at Armories and was determined not to repeat them.
- Knowledge about my local metagame to help me build my deck and sideboard.
- Familiarity with the local game stores so I could show up on time and stress free.
I still attend Armories to this day to improve my competitive performance. While I do sometimes practice for major events with others online, I strongly believe that in-person play is invaluable, particularly for drafting. I feel blessed that the greater New York City area now has quite a few Armories and that our player base LOVES to draft. With a little extra effort and planning between us, we were able to draft Outsiders in-person over a dozen times in preparation for Pro Tour: Baltimore. My results hopefully speak louder than my words: I couldn't have won the title without Armories!
Our local Armory community feels like a big extended family. My most cherished memory is Sean Yang’s farewell Armory. Sean is from New Zealand, he graduated from NYU, and was heading home. He brought boxes of promos, playmats, and cards (including Legendaries) to give away, making sure every participant had something to take home. We drafted Monarch, his favorite limited set, and ate pork buns brought by Dennis Zhang, another New Zealand local who had stayed to hang out post-Pro Tour: Baltimore. If you ever visit New York City and have a free evening, please join us!
Armories also help me mentally, as I have begun associating tournaments with positive and relaxed feelings, which helps me feel less nervous when attending bigger events. I remember being at a Battle Hardened and needing to go 3-0 to make Top 8, and one of my best friends and teammates Brodie Spurlock remarked “just think of it as an Armory!” - I didn’t end up making Top 8, but the sentiment really helped calm my nerves and I played much better than I would have if I was nervous.
This year I’ve learned that Armories can be more than just Classic Constructed or Booster Draft practice for competitive events, but also opportunities to experiment with casual play. Earlier this year, Legend Story Studios introduced the ability for stores to run Casual Play events with beginner-friendly formats like Ultimate Pit Fight, Commoner, Shapeshifter Sealed, and Blitz Preconstructed. I personally love Shapeshifter Sealed - being able to Kodachi for 1 into Disable for 8 off two blues is an incredible rush. The casual formats have a much lower barrier to entry than Classic Constructed, Booster Draft, or even Blitz, and are such a great way to introduce new players to the game. They’re also unique and quirky, with so much to explore and enjoy. I hope to see savvy store owners, perhaps with a little input from their local players, start to run more of these events.
If you’re reading this and you're completely new to the game, I first want to thank you for making it this far! I highly encourage you to attend an Armory as soon as you get the chance. Check out the Event Locator to see where the closest Armories are. I also recommend communicating with the stores that host these Armories in order to join the store’s Discord server or a regional server, and connect with players or store staff who can answer any questions you have before the Armory. If the event requires you to bring your own deck, ask if someone can loan you one. The Flesh and Blood community is incredibly generous, trusting, and welcoming. Never be afraid to ask!
If you’re an experienced player, I hope what I have shared is valuable insight. If none of these things resonate with you, let me ask that you attend an Armory with the goal of helping your fellow players have a good experience. You can be there to answer questions, give (or receive) advice, or even just help create a good vibe!
If you’re more of a collector and don’t really consider yourself a player, I still hope that you’ll consider attending an Armory. There is a certain beauty in seeing the cards you value as collectibles also valued as game pieces that bring people together. It may sound silly, but if the monetary value of your collection is important, then it's in your best interests for this game to grow, to draw more eyes, and to attract more players and collectors. What better way to build this exposure than to be physically present at your local game store playing and enjoying the game?
If you’re already a staunch stalwart of Armories, you have not just my gratitude, but the gratitude of your local game store, community, and the fine folks at Legend Story Studios. If you're hoping more people attend Armories near you, I hope I have given you some talking points to motivate and encourage others. If Armories are the foundation of organized play, you all are the bedrock. In other words, YOU rock!
Armory attendance matters to me. When more of us attend Armories, we increase Flesh and Blood’s footprint at the local game store. This gives store owners more reasons to carry the game, stock singles, and host events. This cascades to more players being exposed to the game, then more events, then more stores, and so on and so forth. Your simple act of attending an Armory may seem like a small ripple to you, but our small ripples combined create giant waves. Let’s be that wave together!
See you at the next Armory Event!