What to Expect at World Championship: Barcelona

24th Oct 2023 Matt di Marco

Content creator, interviewer, and commentator, Matt di Marco a.k.a. WatchFlake is the host of the Instant Speed Podcast, has written content for fabtcg.com, and is a regular member of the commentary team at Flesh and Blood events. Matt is here to give you the rundown on what you should watch out for at World Championship: Barcelona, whether you're competing in the main event or enjoying the vast spread of excitement on the table.

Bringing the common language of competition and gameplay together in the Flesh and Blood has been the mantra of this game we all have grown to love since its conception by James White many moons ago. A year’s worth of events, from the casual card slinging of your weekly Armory, to the prestige of Pro Tour in Baltimore, USA, have all coalesced into a massive celebration of Flesh and Blood happening in Barcelona.

The World Championship is the pinnacle of competitive FAB, bringing planet Earth together to crown the next top dog. Michael Hamilton of the USA is the reigning World Champion, but heavy is the crown that so many other players covet. A horde of capable contenders will arrive in Spain seeking the title of the best in the world. This event is the crown jewel of the Flesh and Blood 2023 calendar, and I want to make sure you’re well prepared, no matter how you plan on participating.

GUARDIAN Tectonic Rift (AsurMisoa)

The Showstopper

The centerpiece of the weekend will undoubtedly be the World Championship tournament. A year of grind and toil reaches a spectacular zenith that ends with crowning a World Champion. The field is as fierce as ever, led by the current champ Hamilton, whose reign of terror has relaxed somewhat in the passing months. Hamilton’s presence around the North American tournament scene has been limited, but he leads a pack of pro players that will make every round of this three-day tournament incredibly grueling.

The complexion of Classic Constructed will undoubtedly look different with the ascension of Briar to Living Legend status, with Lexi following suit. Two mainstays of the 2023 meta will step aside, giving a wide lane to an array of viable heroes to pick up where these previous stalwarts of dominance once stood. Heroes we all know and love will jockey for position, but a lot of the narrative will follow the arrival of Bright Lights to the card pool. FAB’s latest draftable set introduced a trio of new options for players to explore, expanding on the Mechanologist class with a souped up tool box that would make Dash smile. Meanwhile, Teklovossen has his own ideas, and if fantastical history has proven anything, don’t ever count out the dude with the funky facial hair who builds things in a cave with a box of scraps. Meanwhile, we may see the artistry of Maxx Nitro throwing a wrench in the works, providing extra hype to the tournament. With just over a month for players to get acclimated to this new Flesh and Blood landscape, many competitors may rely on the familiarity of decks they’ve come to trust and perfect over the past year, but ignoring the gears and cogs of Bright Lights is a foolish approach.

Draft will be a major part of the skillset that Worlds competitors will need to perfect in order to be one of the last few standing when the Top 8 is announced. Nationals season was a sobering experience for many who underestimated - or flat out ignored - the importance of being a talented drafter. The hopes and dreams of prospective champions evaporated upon conclusion of the draft rounds where their perfect 4-0 records transformed into an ugly 4-3, and they were left in the dust by those who really put the time in. Classic Constructed is definitely the bread and butter of competitive Flesh and Blood, but in order to succeed, you need to round out your skillset.

GUARDIAN ALP_S Crippling Crush (Wisnu Tan)

Forged for War

With the departure of Briar from the picture thanks to the heroics mounted by Charles Dunn at USA Nationals, and Lexi soon to be a memory, players won’t have much time to readjust to the new scenery. Having endured a harrowing volley of arrows since Outsider’s release, the real-estate freed up by the next Living Legend rotation opens up a lot of options. The common thread of strategy was to either be the villain, or build your deck to beat them. Lexi was the climate of most metagames, and was the wind you adjusted your sails to. Oftentimes, you were a victim of the relentless gusts, but many were resilient to the siren song of the Elemental Ranger, opting rather to buck trends and tech to beat her. That is no longer the case, meaning that many of the heroes that played soft into Lexi, or drastically loaded up their sideboards to confront her, will be given a broader margin to shore up other match-ups instead of bending to the wills of the Livewire.

Initially the favorite seems to be Dromai, whose tournament presence is healthy, and whose conversion rate is strong. The hero is hardly a breeze to navigate, but without the premiere aggro lists to worry about, she may have a little more breathing room to amass an imposing fleet of dragons. Dromai is already a top tier deck, and given she can pivot from grindy control to redline aggression, she has the flexibility to adapt to each matchup from an ideological perspective, making her an easy favourite to place well in the tournament.

Ice has been arguably one of the most powerful aspects of Flesh and Blood, as its disruptive capabilities can rattle the carefully laid plans of even the most skilled players. Without Lexi, Oldhim, or dare I say Starvo in the picture, the last beacon of frosty hope shines with Iyslander. She took Hamilton to the promised land with what was then an innovative build. “Bullander” may be less popular these days, but being the only hero with ice in her (aether) veins means she may be an attractive option (providing she lives through Pro Quest season). While many players competing will have certainly had their fair share of experience into the hero, it doesn’t mean she is any less threatening. Some of the world’s best players may land on Iyslander as their deck of choice, understanding that the work you put into perfecting her is rewarded in droves. She’s a value-based hero that plays within the greasy margins of the rules, and can snatch a win from right under your nose while you’re sitting pretty on that dominated Crippling Crush that you’re so proud of.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t throw a healthy amount of hope behind Bravo. My favourite hero seems to have consistent showings at tournaments, yet their conversion rates are rather paltry. It always seems like Bravo is just coming up short, and those that do manage to make it to the Top 8 don't always seem to consistently advance to inspire confidence in our barrel-chested big boy. Without the looming presence of Lexi, Bravo will have more opportunities to be the aggressor, a spot that he typically had to concede to the consistent advance of a Lexi who reliably flung breakpoint damage with annoying on-hit effects. Suddenly, Bravo can step in and play party crasher, rather than be relegated to merely being the long-haired goon who blocks for a ton and maybe swings a hammer. Skilled Guardian players will be able to throw down against Dromai, and potentially be the beatdown to Iyslander, putting Bravo in a spot where the meta may shine favorably on those who trust in the big bonk.

It is certainly worth giving some significant respect to the original ninja Katsu. While never blowing away the field, the elder statesman of ninjutsu has had impressive results in the past few months. Old school FAB players who leaned on Katsu early in their careers will find comfort and familiarity, banking on expanded combo lines to drive home a victory. Newer players might not have the same level of repetitions into the hero, and can easily be blown out by a single underestimation or miscalculation. Katsu is a hero that can sometimes grow a rose out of a pile of… shuriken.

GUARDIAN ALP_M Forged for War (Adolfo Navarro)

Emerging Power

Not all heroes will have the same fighting chance when push comes to shove, but many players will try to game the meta and find advantages by rewarding their hunches. While not all of Rathe’s combatants are built the same, there are some dark horses out there that will certainly ring the right bells. It is always worthwhile to keep a watchful eye on some of the fringe options that could make waves at Worlds.

Mechanologists had the biggest overhaul lately, as Bright Lights provided more than enough new nuts and bolts for a skilled player to fine tune their machinations. While old school Dash, Inventor Extraordinaire has been a mainstay of the competitive scene for years, the arrival of a new crop of tinkerers will get some looks by the boldest of pros. Matt Rogers, one of Dash’s most proficient pilots, explained that Dash I/O has the most intrigue surrounding the new batch of heroes. If there is a hero to make waves, she is the one to do it. He’s been putting in a lot of time to break open this enigma of a hero, and many eyes will be following any soul who decides to ride or die with the new Dash.

Runeblades took a significant hit this year. Briar crossed the rainbow bridge, and much to the chagrin of many, she took every Runeblade player’s favourite toy with her. The loss of Rosetta Thorn will factor in to how Runeblades, a class that has historically performed very well at major tournaments, will approach Worlds. Reaping Blade has often been the de facto option, but Viserai and Vynnset players will need to do some soul searching to determine whether this is the path they want to walk. I suspect some die-hards will lean on the reliably above-rate paint-by-numbers attack patterns of non-attack, attack, weapon swing, but my guess is that unless someone finally cracked open that Bauble and found Rosetta Thorn 2: Rosetta Thorner, then Runeblades may be left in the dust.

Finally, I have to give my ritualistic written sacrifice to Kano. Look, I don’t have the mental capacity to play Wizard. I don’t calculate hyperspace jumps in my head, and I can’t smell colors, but for those out there like Alexander Vore or Peter Buddensiek who dream at instant speed, Kano is most definitely a hero to keep an eye on. It is an option that is often meagerly represented, but heavily rewarded. The meta might be ripe for a devout acolyte of the arcane to hit us with the perfect recipe of razzle dazzle and take a spot in the Top 8. I’ve always said that in Flesh and Blood, there are heroes who are the problem, and heroes who are the solution. Kano may be aligned to capitalize on an unsuspecting global meta.

GUARDIAN ALP_C Emerging Power (Fedos Barkhatov)


It’s happening. It is finally happening. As James White announced on the Instant Speed Podcast months ago, the Living Legend format gets its maiden voyage as a Battle Hardened tournament on the Sunday of the festivities. Dust off your Duskblade, recover your Rosetta, acquire your Awakenings, and liven up your Luminaris, because we are about to get freaky. Honestly this event might garner as much attention as the World Championship itself, as it is truly the wild west out there.

When it comes to an “anything goes" format, it is anyone’s guess who will emerge victorious. Given that Mick Foley isn’t a playable hero in the game, questions about who is the true legend of hardcore will swirl until the dust ultimately settles. Every card in the game is legal, and the debate has raged all year as to what deck is the true north star and guiding light of Flesh and Blood supremacy. This format will attract the curious if not the nostalgic, but one thing’s for sure, it will definitely entice the most chaotic. Expect more turbulence and bodies flying than mating season in the Bonobo enclosure.


Show Time!

The beauty of these big events is that there is so much to do without having to sweat the pressures of intense competition. There is an abundance of fun to be had no matter what your investment is with Flesh and Blood. Something to make you smile, something to capture your interest, and best of all, a community out there to share this beautiful event with.

This year’s World Championship is poised to blow last year’s out of the water, with enough options and activities to appeal to every walk of FAB life. The main organized events aren’t for everyone, but those who still want to shuffle up and play this wonderful game will find ongoing opportunities to play a myriad of different side events. Drafts, Sealed, Blitz, Ultimate Pit Fight, or my own favorite Shapeshifter Sealed will give those not hungry for the intensity of a Calling or Battle Hardened an opportunity to showcase their own skills in a more casual environment. There will be no lack of opportunity to play the game in a variety of formats, so even the most casual of card slingers can get their fill at their own pace.

Understandably, though, there is only so much focus you can devote to laying a ripe smackdown on your opponent on the battlefield, so this event comes heavy with other activities to spectate or participate in. You will get to meet James White and have your shiniest and precious cards signed, and ask him when Brutes will get blue 6-power. You can be a part of the developer panel and ask Bryan Gottlieb when Brutes will get a blue 6-power. You can meet many of the talented artists who have lent their stellar skills to not drawing a Brute blue 6-power.

My personal favorite is the Cosplay Contest, where the world’s most talented cosplayers will bring the beautiful world of Rathe to life with their exceptional portrayals of your favorite characters and cards. I always ask to host these events for two reasons. First, it means I don’t have to judge the event. Second, it’s because it is the best seat in the house to witness the life breathed into Flesh and Blood by incredible people. Seeing Carolina Alvarado immaculately embody Exude Confidence, or Rachel Stoddard summon my most vivid nightmares by becoming Data Doll incarnate is a surreal experience. Everyone should put this event on their planner, because these cosplayers aren’t just in it for the cool prize of a Taylor card, they are in it to exhibit their true passion for the game.

Honestly, there is so much to do during these events that it is a very good idea to go into the venue with a plan. Having a schedule of the events that are going on will keep you centered and on track so that there are no unfortunate misses of some of the fun that will be happening around the event venue. Being well prepared isn’t just good advice for a top level competitor, it goes for anyone who wants to maximize the EV on their weekend. That’s nerd-speak for do more stuff; have most fun.

GUARDIAN ALP_S Show Time! (Alexander Mokhov)

Smack of Reality

It’s important to note that these events can be overwhelming. The travel, the pressure, 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. I myself deal with depression and anxiety, and without talking about it, it can become a lot to digest, especially with something as global as Worlds. The most poignant piece of advice that I want to impart on you is that this event is made to be a celebration. It is a joyful event, and when that is in jeopardy, then you need to ensure that you are taking the right measures to look after your mental health as a priority. To do that, here are some tips to alleviate stress and have a great experience:

  • 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 your bag and you’ll sleep easier.

  • Etiquette and procedure. 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 hellscape. 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.

  • Resolve disputes properly. Flesh and Blood is a very complex game. It’s hard, and nobody is perfect. Not even Twitch chats or Youtube commenters. 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. Arguing won’t get you anywhere except becoming tilted, so when there’s friction between yourself and another, get one of the judges involved, and they’ll get things sorted by the letter of the law.

  • Mistakes happen. Not everything is cheating. There is this fascinating obsession of rules auditing where everyone wants to be the whistleblower on some pumped up alleged cheating accusations. Please realize that mistakes will happen, and jumping to conclusions does nobody any good. If you suspect foul play, call the judge.

  • Remember why you’re here. Most people attending aren’t there to be World Champion. Keep in mind why you made the trip to Barcelona, 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.

smack of reality

This event is the most anticipated of the year, and for good reason. The world is coming together to play Flesh and Blood, but it is so much more than that. For myself, this is a blessing of an opportunity to see my friends from around the world. I get to laugh with Pablo Pintor, I get to share stories with Joshua Scott, I get a sturdy hug from Hayden Dale, and be reminded how pathetic my physique is by Matthew Foulkes. This game has reshaped my life in the most positive ways. I hope that you yourself will be able to renew your love of this community, if not forge your first fond memories of what is one hell of a beautiful world.

See you in Barcelona. You are loved.