What to Expect at Pro Tour: Los Angeles

4th Mar 2024 Matt di Marco

Content creator, interviewer, and host of the Instant Speed Podcast, Matt di Marco a.k.a. WatchFlake is here ahead of his appearance on the Pro Tour: Los Angeles commentary team to shed some light on what the Pro Tour experience is all about, what to expect from the event, and how to get the most out of your weekend!

Flesh and Blood enters the Deathmatch Arena with more vigor than ever before. The momentum carried by Heavy Hitters is seemingly relentless. Having splashed onto the scene in February, the latest draftable set has rattled cages and kicked up dust throughout Road To Nationals season. A legion of worthy combatants will don their war paint and descend upon Los Angeles, USA, to throw mud at the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. The first Pro Tour of 2024 will be one of the most anticipated tournaments ever. Once again, my friends, allow me to show you to your seats, because the gladiators are going to make a mess of those who are unprepared. Here’s what to look forward to at Pro Tour: Los Angeles.

adrenaline rush with logo

Enter the Arena

I have been beyond lucky to have travelled far and wide to take part in some of the biggest and best events that Flesh and Blood has thrown. Two World Championships, three Pro Tours, and over a dozen Callings and Battle Hardened events. I still get the same excitement from the moment I step into the venue for the first time. This might be your very first major event, and the pomp and circumstance of the entire affair can be intimidating. The stages, the endless rows of tables, the sea of people… there is a lot going on. Pro Tour: Los Angeles will be more of the same, but I assure you that everyone is there for the same reason. We are all there to enjoy the game and bask in the beauty of the community that was built by the very same people you’re present with.

There is a lot to take in, but the first thing you’ll want to notice is the smiling. Take solace in the vibe, and let it quell some of the initial anxiety of what may be your first ever Flesh and Blood event. Trust me, you picked a good one to attend. No matter what you’re there for, we all orbit the same nucleus of card gaming. We are all friends here, so don’t be afraid to ask questions or spark conversations. Show off your binder of goodies and pull the trigger on some sweet trades. You’re going to see content creators floating around that you recognize, and I encourage you to say hello. Take pictures (with permission!) and start your journey through the massive venue. There is a lot to look at and do, but you’ve got all kinds of time, so pace yourself. I promise you that there is something there that sings to you that will be the highlight of your experience. A lot of the joy of a Pro Tour is finding that glimmering moment that makes the whole trip worthwhile.

double down

Double Down

There have been three Pro Tour champions in the history of the game. In 2022 the Bossman Pablo Pintor of Spain broke the ice in New Jersey, USA, winning the first ever Pro Tour from the banished zone. Later that year Matthew Foulkes of the United Kingdom proved that Belittle and Minnowism went together like Briar and go again, winning the Pro Tour title in Lille, France. Last year, ‘Sure Thing’ Michael Feng cruised through a grueling field in Baltimore, USA, to reinforce a growing legacy of excellence by adding a Pro Tour championship to his accolades. Along each player’s journey was the ongoing task of competing against a field that grew tougher with each win they earned. The players they face will be a tall challenge to overcome, but they will have formats to navigate that have yet to truly settle.

The beauty of Pro Tour competition is that it can humble those who are too narrow-sighted. In order to step foot into the do-or-die hallowed grounds of a Top 8, you’ll need to excel in both Classic Constructed and Booster Draft formats. Spending most of your prep time honing your skills in Classic Constructed may pay dividends by scoring an impressive record, but too many stories of glory were squashed too soon in tournaments past because of not enough focus lent to practicing the drafting element. A caution-to-the-wind approach to drafting will leave you lining up for side events on Saturday, so a lot of work and toil will be put into the slap-happy Heavy Hitters Booster Draft format. This is where a lot of journeys will meet their bitter end. Reading signals will be a skill to brush up on, and players will have to test their courage to pivot late, or trust their instincts and double down on gut feelings. Ultimately, Booster Draft will be a major focal point of how players will be preparing for the tournament. The only thing they’ll be wanting to leave to chance is what they open in pack number one. After that, it’s all 4-D chess being played in 8-person pods of death.

While Booster Draft may be what makes or breaks the tournament for some of the players, Classic Constructed is the pinnacle of competitive Flesh and Blood. Competitors will throw more coal onto this fire than anything else leading up to game time in L.A. The format where every shred of life matters will take center stage for the majority of the tournament, testing the intuition, skill, and endurance of the field. Navigating a gauntlet of the world’s best Flesh and Blood players is taxing enough, but the payoff of victory begins well before a player decides on what to pitch and what to play. Triumph starts with the lab work that has begun since Heavy Hitters began spoiling cards months ago.

glory seeker

Gladiators at the Ready!

The first steps to becoming a champion were taken in early January, when Heavy Hitters was fully spoiled and the secrets were out. The fires of innovation burned hot with creative new builds emerging over the weeks since the set’s release. A multitude of major tournaments around the world have put the newest contraptions to the test, with little certainties hammered down. The meta is as turbulent as it ever has been, and to much of us spectating the event, that is the kind of chaos we want to grab a front row seat for. Having a firm grip of the ebbs and flows of the meta is paramount to success at this elite level of competition, so who is setting the tone moving into a post-Heavy Hitters landscape?

Who better to set the tone for the spotlight of Hollywood than our smug friend Victor Goldmane. A standout in an exciting roster of new heroes, Victor has stolen the hearts of many Flesh and Blood fans for his posh demeanor, but his power in the arena is what will endear him to the competitive ranks. The latest Brute Kayo, is the epitome of ‘less is more’. He has leapt from being the HVY draft anchor, to unloading a metric funk-ton of rolling damage at an opponent. Kayo has emerged as the pace car when it comes to high levels of damage output. Meanwhile no other hero can boast the cheers and adoration of Kassai, who has made a triumphant return to Flesh and Blood seeking to turn money into mayhem.

There are a significant number of sleeper picks to consider. Kano has always been the one of the most feared heroes in the field. Don’t deny it, the chatter and buzz that circulates at any tier event is how many Kanos showed up, and who is playing the deck. With a string of Kanos winning Road To National tournaments, the mind games commence. Will players insulate against Kano with sideboard hatred? Will they anticipate that Kano players will move off the hero if Wizard hate prevails? Better yet: do Kano players even care? Meanwhile, Illusionist purists and Prism fans alike have taken turns at the drawing board looking to be the architect to truly solidify Prism’s foundations as a meta definer. Great players have been following the breadcrumbs left by developers Chris Gehring and Bryan Gottlieb who have been adamant that this is a hero poised to light the world on fire.

money where ya mouth is

Let the Games Begin

The action will be heavy amidst the main event that will span three days, however there is a plethora of other fun things to do if you’re not competing for the Pro Tour Championship. These events truly are a celebration of the game, and a major focus will be on having an array of activities to immerse yourself in to fit your level of competitive fire. From Calling to cosplay, artists to vendors, there are plenty of side events to keep you busy and connected to Flesh and Blood.

Casual gamers who look to dodge the intensity and sweat of a Calling or Battle Hardened will have a laundry list of side events to dig into. Draft, Sealed, Classic Constructed, Blitz, Commoner, and my favourite Shapeshifter Sealed, will all be on tap to quench your thirst for battle. These shorter tournaments will typically run three to four rounds, and chew up a small portion of your day, so you’ll be able to experience a variety of game types throughout the weekend. Keep in mind, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from setting roots at a vacant table and jamming a UPF game with whoever is brave enough for the chaos of multiplayer. You might catch one of your favourite Flesh and Blood personalities looking for a match. If you see DM Armada, you can put his Wizard skills to the test, and throw him off his game by telling him that Flake has the better taste in candy. He loves that.

The weekend is jam packed with options to satisfy your level of interest, energy and vibe. Sometimes you just don’t want to sling cards anymore, but would rather have them signed. Some of the most talented artists in card gaming will be at the tournament to sign your playmats and cards, as well as chat about their work. You might want to stand by and watch as some of the content creators rip packs and share their unearthed treasures. Vendors will have displays of goodies and rare gems to sell and trade. Tell them Flake sent you. There is probably no discount, but the puzzled look on their face is sometimes worth the attempt.

One of the jewels of the weekend is the always innovative cosplay contest. If you think that the fiery competition is restricted to the card table, you are mistaken. There is an arms race when it comes to cosplay, as every incredible participant consistently raises the bar from event to event. Eser Unger impressed the crowd and judges in Barcelona at the World Championships, sporting a knight’s armor with technical expertise, beauty, and grace. Each event radiates with more than foam and fabric, as the cosplayers dazzle us with performance and showmanship. This is a spectacle that quite often steals the show. I highly recommend that if you’ve never seen a cosplay contest, mark this on your to-do list. Flesh and Blood cosplayers are some of the best in the world. Get a front row seat, and prepare to be part of the show. You’ve been warned.

bigger than big

In the Crowds

It’s important to note that these events can be overwhelming. The travel, the pressures, the anxiety of being amidst a crowd of strangers… I want to make sure that you know that it is okay to feel buried with such a full, exhausting weekend. Amidst the turbulence of a Pro Tour weekend, you may lose grasp of the happiness you travelled to Los Angeles for. Here are some tips to keep that within reach:

  • Know your surroundings. There’s a good chance you’ve never been to L.A. It is a massive city, with a lot of blinking lights. It buzzes and hums and the sea of humanity may mean you’ll have to swim upstream to get around. Get your bearings early. Learn the area of where you’ll be staying, and where the convention center is located. Having the map planned out in your mind will alleviate a lot of the headaches when you’ve got 10 minutes to get to your seat and you don’t know which way is up.
  • Come prepared. Be aware that you’re going to be in an unfamiliar setting, in an unfamiliar city, without your normal routines. Making sure that you have everything you need the night before the event will set you up for success the next day. Your deck complete and sleeved, an extra set of sleeves, your playmat, a life pad and pen, snacks, water, phone charger, and cash are all important. Put them in your bag and you’ll sleep easier.
  • Be polite. Being polite and courteous goes a long way. You never know who is sitting across from you, and as nervous as you may be, they may be existing in their own personal struggle. Be mindful of the humanity around you, and lead with love and kindness. Never assume anything, and communicate honestly with the players around you. It will make for a better experience for everyone involved. And yes, proper hygiene is part of a greater respect for humanity.
  • Mistakes happen. Flesh and Blood is a very complex game. It’s hard, and nobody is perfect. Not even Twitch chat or Youtube comments. When there is confusion, just call for a judge and let them sort it out. That’s what they’re there for, and they do a damn good job.
  • Take a breather. Most people attending aren’t there to be Pro Tour Champion. Keep in mind why you made the trip to Los Angeles, and how to make it the best it can be. Have fun, see your friends, and dive head first into the wonderful, inclusive culture that is Flesh and Blood. Take breaks when you need them, and sign up for the events you want to. Regret is a heavy burden to fly home with.

Pro Tour is a marquee event for Flesh and Blood’s competitive circuit. The world’s best players will be there grinding it out for fame and fortune. There is a lot to be wide-eyed about, but ultimately the mission is the same: to come together and share in a common passion. We are all there because we love the game. There is so much adventure to discover in the margins, though. As thrilled as I am to watch elite gameplay, I am equally as excited to have a late night ramen with Majiin Bae, or hear about Brodie Spurlock’s latest dietary adventure when he tried mustard for the first time, or getting to cameo in a clever video experiment with DM Armada. You might find me walking the halls looking to catch up with the friends I’ve made over the years playing this game. It started in Orlando in 2021 for me, and now here I am excited to add another chapter to the story in Los Angeles.

This game transcends the cardboard and dice. It truly is a community built upon a bedrock of fellowship and fair play. Don’t lose sight of the special moments.

See you in Los Angeles. You are loved.