Before we get started, I have a brief announcement: starting this week, Flesh and Blood will be a permanent part of my editorial staff at Cards Realm. Therefore, I will be producing weekly content on the website regarding the game, addressing deck techs, content aimed at beginners, analysis, reviews, among other topics.
My focus will be mainly on the Blitz format, as it is the modality practiced at Armory events in most regions of Brazil and works as a good entry point and method of learning the game.
As mentioned in my last deck tech, where we dissected Chane, the Shadow Runeblade, Flesh and Blood was released about two months ago in Brazil, and since then, the game has grown in popularity recently. Dynasty, which came out last month, introduced some new heroes and featured a new class: Assassin, with Arakni.
Arakni caught my attention the moment it was announced, as the classes in Flesh and Blood are always very faithful to the themes we usually associate with them in other media. And just as Runeblade caught my attention for its similarity to classes like the Dark Knight or Holy Knight from Final Fantasy, assassins is another of my favorite classes in the gaming universe, like in Dragon Age: Inquisition, or the Assassin Cross in Ragnarok and, of course, Ezio Auditore from the Assassin's Creed franchise.
Soon, the curiosity to know if the strategy applied to Arakni would fit the concept of playing with an assassin emerged. And the hero demonstrates yet another proven case for the franchise to adapt well some of the classic examples of the fantasy universe for the card game.
As the first of its kind, the extent of the card pool for Arakni is still small and is set to expand with the 2023 releases. The strategic concept of Flesh and Blood for an Assassin deck today consists of three key elements: manipulation of the opponent's topdeck, recursion and a high cost and power efficiency.
The new hero focuses mostly on the Contract theme — when an Attack Action with that ability hits the opponent, they banish the top card from their deck, and if its contract condition is banished, you create a Silver token, which can be used to draw more cards on late-game, but whose main use is to recur your equipment, as they allow you to return them equipped to Arakni for the price of two Silvers.
Another highlight of the Assassin class is that most of its attacks cost 0 or 1 and attack for 4 or 5, in addition to blocking for 3. This makes all the Attack Actions on the list excellent both for spending more than one card from the opponent's hand to protect themselves, or to guarantee at least two or more in your hand the next turn if you need to block.
However, the price to pay for this efficiency in numbers is the lack of cadence, since none of its attacks today have go again, which makes Blacktek Whisperers essential for the archetype, as it grants at least one extra attack on the turn, and if you hit two Contract conditions, you can return it from the graveyard the next turn and repeat the looping.
Another notable quality of Assassin cards in Dynasty are the Attack Reactions, which increase the power of your Actions and open new precedents for interaction in combat by having effects that reduce the defense of your opponent's cards.
These qualities make Arakni a solid hero to build around, with many variants. He fits best in the Midrange category as his deck doesn't seek to overwhelm the opponent with a massive streak of attacks in the fewest number of turns, but both aggressive and Control-oriented variants are also plausible for the hero in Blitz and Classic Constructed, while on Commoner, he needs to take better advantage of combat tricks to establish an advantage.
The only weapon available to Assassins today is Spider's Bite, a piece of equipment very well-designed for the archetype's proposition, as every interaction with it is punitive: since it attacks for one damage, it's preferable to block with equipment instead of cards in hand, but the Piercing ability increases the power of Spider's Bite in that case.
If the opponent chooses to take damage, their attack actions will have less defense that turn, so as the game progresses and armor is spent for effects and/or blocks of stronger attacks, the knife gradually becomes more punishing for the opponent.
However, because it costs two resources, there are rare times when you can attack with two knives, leaving Arakni's other hand "free" for another equipment category, where we have Arcane Lantern for matchups against Runeblade or Wizard and Ornate Tessen to help recycle your hand with some spare resource on your turn. We still have two copies of Spider's Bite for games where we have to deal with small allies, like against Dromai, or where there's a need to capitalize on small but accurate attacks.
The base setup for the deck includes Arcanite Skullcap (which can be replaced with Crown of Providence, as the usefulness of both varies in the Metagame), Fyendal's Spring Tunic for extra value as the game goes on, Cracker Jax is the only arms equipment that interacts in any way with the proposed strategy.
Bracers of Belief was another option, but due to the number of cards with Pitch 3, it's preferable to have the guaranteed power boost. Another early setup option would include Ironhide Gauntlet or even Ironrot Gauntlet if you need to be more defensive.
While Mask of Perdition pales in utility when compared to more useful generic helms like Arcanite Skullcap, the Blacktek Whisperers boot is the core equipment for an Assassin deck, and pretty much the engine that makes the archetype viable.
Of course, you can replace it with Snapdragon Scalers, and even though there are some advantages to the common boots — we'll discuss that further below in the budget version — the potential to offer one go again per turn without spending any cards in hand makes it a staple for the archetype.
Finally, we have our arcane anti-damage package which, in addition to Arcane Lantern, guarantees the prevention of three damage every turn with a blue pitch, essential to play against Iyslander or Kano, especially now that Storm Striders has been unbanned.
Blitz is a naturally aggressive format, and although we have more reactive variants in its Metagame and cards like Sink Below (1) and Fate Foreseen (1) to protect and extend the game, I consider being proactive as a crucial element in it.
So, the goals on my list are: guarantee a decent amount of damage per turn with two to three attacks, resort to cost efficiency to attack with Spider's Bite and/or play around Channel Lake Frigid, and/or Frostbite, and have at least two proactive plays per turn. Therefore, staples like Command and Conquer were left out due to their higher cost.
Because all Assassin cards so far have 3 defense, we aren't often punished with having to spend three or more of them to block a single attack, and we can perform well with just two cards in hand per turn in later stages due to the high-power and low cost of our attacks.
The Majestics are the other big reason to play Assassin: they all attack for four and offer some advantage beyond the creation of Silvers if they hit. Among them, stand out mainly Leave No Witnesses, for costing 0 and offering a pseudo-Command and Conquer if the damage connects, and Surgical Extraction, capable of ruining the opponent's plans by taking an essential card for the next turn's sequencing from their hand.
The last Majestic on the list, Regicide, is a very conditional attack that should only be used under specific conditions, as you'll lose the game at the end of the combat chain.
However, in longer matchups where many pieces have been banned and/or where you have enough information that the cards in the opponent's hand cannot block it, and it can close the remaining damage to win the game, it becomes great due to its cost. Bear in mind, however, that it will be used 90% of the time to pitch three resources or block an attack.
To complement them, we have a set of almost all Attack Actions that attack for 4 or 5, based on their costs and the odds of them hitting the right card on top of the opponent's deck.
As for generic cards, we have Scar for a Scar for its built-in go again into a condition that we have no trouble achieving, in addition to the staple Enlightened Strike, with the potential to guarantee a second attack on the turn, one card in the armory, or seven damage for 0.
To round out the list, we have methods to grant an extra amount of damage or go again to our attacks with Captain's Call (2), as well as Attack Reactions to pull the extra damage and/or force the opponent to consider if you have one of them in the arsenal or hand at inopportune moments.
The budget version removes some critical parts from the list that are heavily priced, such as Surgical Extraction, Enlightened Strike and Blacktek Whisperers. This alters efficiency in many ways, especially the amount of damage and attacks dealt each turn and their range.
Snapdragon Scalers is the closest we have to Blacktek Whisperers, and although it doesn't offer the same recursion and efficiency, it has the advantage of granting go again even if the attack doesn't hit, in addition to being able to use it into any Attack Action costing 1 or less, increasing the usefulness of cards like Enlightened Strike or Snatch (1).
Since we don't have the boot to return with Silver tokens, Mask of Perdition becomes our go-to helmet, as it offers synergy with the main theme on the list. Deep Blue can guarantee a good pitch even with a hand filled with red cards. You can also opt for Ironhide Plate in that slot.
Without Enlightened Strike, we have to pick our poison between securing an extra card in hand with Snatch (1) or going again with Overload (1). As both require Captain's Call for better function, Snatch gets the priority on the list for widening the damage scope and the penalty for not effectively blocking it against a Razor Reflex (1).
The rest of the majestics are replaced by Rob the Rich's other colors, but can be switched with any Assassin Attack Action that attacks for 4 and 3 respectively.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The Assassin class came out in Dynasty with solid equipment, attacks and reactions that guarantee the construction of an efficient and powerful deck, capable of dealing a decent amount of damage per turn and pressuring the opponent with little or no resources.
Additionally, Arakni's top manipulation mechanic makes it powerful in the hands of a player who knows the match they're up against and knows how to identify the key cards on their opponent's list.
However, the lack of go again attacks and needing Blacktek Whisperers every turn to keep the engine running means he has some poor turns, with only one activation of Spider's Bite and one Attack Action, which are easily punished in Blitz against archetypes that populate the board with allies, like Dromai, or strategies that attack multiple times in a single turn, like Ira, Crimson Haze.
Equipment Setup Guide
Arakni and the new Assassin class is Dynasty's main highlight for the Flesh and Blood universe. While some of his elements don't benefit the hero in a fast format like Blitz, Arakni features a solid and adaptable Midrange strategy capable of holding up well against a variety of different strategies.
Perhaps its true home is in Classic Constructed, where the games are more attrition-oriented, but its archetype needs more support in sets coming out in 2023 to give it room in the format.
Thanks for reading!
Be the first to comment