The Outriders: Part Two — Dominate With Just Keep Swinging Bravo

The Outriders is a series about variant deck builds looking to challenge the meta and surpass traditional constructed decks in Flesh and Blood. In Part Two, I’d like you to meet Just Keep Swinging Bravo. This iteration of the Showstopper wants to utilize multiple medium-strength attacks nearly every turn to keep the opponent off balance while threatening debilitating Crush and hit effects.

Bravo in a field of stars glowing with the aurora's shine. He's next to some of the iconic attacks from the deck list.

Bravo — Just Keep Swinging

I’ve always been a midrange player in card games, so after familiarizing myself with the heroes from the first four sets, I quickly settled on championing Bravo, Showstopper. With this hunk from Aria, I get to enjoy the finer things in life — like blocking, dominating, and pummelling. However, the standard Bravo list has not always been the most meta-friendly companion.

I have created a tasty custom brew for every tournament I took the big man to. Against the hordes of Starvos, I crafted a beautifully defensive version with Red Stonewall Confidences, three copies of Remembrance, and three Imposing Visages. It tested well and received some lovely compliments from Starvo opponents, but ultimately, it didn’t become a household deck in the meta as I crashed and burned in several OP events.

Now, post Uprising and Dynasty, things have changed. We have a rebellious ninja creating long combat chains, an Elsa look-alike swinging Wounded Bulls, and Dash boosting into oblivion. I wanted a deck that could maintain a higher damager-per-turn threshold while maintaining the capacity to block like a good Guardian should — hence Just Keep Swinging Bravo was born.

For more on Snapdragon Scalers with Guardian heroes, check out my latest article in the Rathe Times.

The List

Class: Guardian

Hero: Bravo, Showstopper

Weapons: Anothos

Equipment: Crater Fist, Crown of Providence, Fyendal’s Spring Tunic, Nullrune Boots, Nullrune Gloves, Nullrune Hood, Snapdragon Scalers, Tectonic Plating

(2) Chokeslam (red)

(3) Crippling Crush (red)

(3) Enlightened Strike (red)

(3) Out Muscle (red)

(1) Pulverize (red)

(3) Pummel (red)

(3) Sigil of Solace (red)

(3) Spinal Crush (red)

(2) Steadfast (red)

(2) Unmovable (red)

(3) Zealous Belting (red)

(2) Even Bigger Than That! (yellow)

(3) Buckling Blow (blue)

(3) Cartilage Crush (blue)

(3) Chokeslam (blue)

(3) Cranial Crush (blue)

(3) Crush the Weak (blue)

(3) Debilitate (blue)

(3) Disable (blue)

(3) Imposing Visage (blue)

(3) Macho Grande (blue)

(3) Rouse the Ancients (blue)

(3) Show Time! (blue)

(3) Tear Asunder (blue)

(3) Thunder Quake (blue)

(2) Unmovable (blue)

See the full deck on Fabrary.

Key Differences

What sets this list apart from the more standardized Discord lists are a few critical decisions to make our game plan of increased damage output possible.

  • Includes Enlightened Strikes
  • Equips Snapdragon Scalers
  • Out-swings with Out Muscle
  • Stands Strong with Steadfast

Many Bravo players have become familiar with the standard play pattern of Block, Block, Create a Seismic Surge, and Swing Anothos. This 6-6 value exchange cannot compete with most decks in the contemporary age of Flesh and Blood.

As Zach Bunn mentioned on a Team Covenant stream, getting 14 points of value per turn cycle is how you start winning games consistently. That advice helped to solidify my core concept of this deck.

Generally, in Flesh and Blood, players can expect to have about 12 points of value with any four-card hand. Of course, value can be described in many different ways in card games. In Flesh and Blood, we’re primarily looking at three metrics for value:

  1. Damage output
  2. Defensive capacity
  3. Effects — conditional or otherwise

Any card’s value is always defined by the context of the current game state. For Bravo, an early game Crippling Crush while the opponent has an arsenal and all their armor is far less valuable than that same Crippling Crush at the end of the game when the opponent has used up their armor and defense reactions.

For more discussion on value, check out these resources:
Episodes 31 and 32 of the M-n-R podcast
Team Covenant’s FAB Foundations series
This discussion on Vazerum Presents
Several articles in The Rathe Times

As I said before, the most basic playstyle with Bravo is to use two cards to block (6 points of value from 2 cards) and two cards to swing Anothos (6 physical damage presented with a bonus resource for the next turn) offers a solid 12-13 points of value.

One way to immediately increase Bravo’s value creation is to use the seismic surge resource to replace the Anothos swing with a bigger attack. For example, Bravo can still sacrifice two cards on defense before attacking with a Red Chokeslam with reduced cost from a 4-card hand. This line of play increases damage and adds an often-relevant Crush effect.

Another way to increase the Showstopper’s value is by adding a sweet complement of go again attacks into the mix. This list brings in several go again packages to out-value the opponent turn after turn.

Zealous Muscle

Zealous Belting is a known commodity for Bravo. With a Red Zealous Belting and 2 blues that cost 3 in hand, Bravo can threaten 11 damage off of that 3 card hand. Naturally, Zealous Belting is also a lovely Pummel target when necessary. 

Is using 3 cards for 11 damage good? Let’s examine what some other heroes are doing with 3-card hands.

3-Card Viserai

The most common 3-card Viserai line involves 1 blue card to pitch, any color of Mauvrion Skies, any color of Shrill of Skullform, and attacking with Rosetta Thorn. Since Viserai can run every color of Mauvrion Skies and Shrill of Skullform, the value of this line is dependent on the versions in hand.

At the low end of blue Mauvrion Skies and blue Shrill of Skullform, the line can top out at 10 points of mixed damage. At the high end, with both cards being red, the line can present a whopping 14 points of mixed damage.

3-Card Fai

This aggro ninja will typically utilize a larger hand than 3 cards on offense, but let’s assume he lost a card from Winter’s Bite or Pummel. We’ll stick with 1 blue card to pitch, 2 cards played, and 1 weapon activation — red Mounting Anger, which banishes Lava Vein Loyalty, Searing Emberblade, Lava Vein Loyalty from the banished zone with +1 attack, Fai activation, and a Phoenix Flame to round out the turn. This line produces 12 points of damage.

3-Card Iyslander

With an empty arsenal slot on her turn, you can expect something like this example for a typical 3-card turn. Simply attack with Wounder Bull for 8, pitching 1 card, and arsenalling another.

Wounded Bull gives Iyslander a clear 8 points of value and the arsenalled card represents an unknown amount of worth to be determined on her opponent’s turn. The low end is likely 1 arcane damage from Frosting (which also opens up the opportunity for a fully-powered Waning Moon for 3 additional arcane damage).

3-Card Boost Dash

For this example, we’ll assume that no items are in play. Dash has a blue pitch card, a red Throttle, and a red Zipper Hit. Dash opens with red Throttle, boosts it, and follows it up with Zipper Hit. This line produces 11 points of damage. I’ll note here that boost Dash often has items in play to give her some free resources (Teklo Core) and or a power buff for her attacks (Teklo Pounder). 

3-Card Out Muscle Bravo

I could go on and on, but when analyzing these 3-card combos, I felt that Bravo was in an excellent position to add more cards to the deck that could add redundancy to the Zealous Belting line. Previously, I’ve tried simply adding yellow Zealous Belting, and I’m still considering adding some copies to this list. Instead, I kept coming back to Out Muscle.

With 2 blue cards to pitch and a red Out Muscle in hand, we can present 12 damage instead of Zealous’ 11. There are some caveats with Out Muscle, though. The opponent could, of course, block the attack with a 6-power attack of their own to nullify its go again. Ideally, in this situation, we would have a pummel in arsenal to capitalize on our resources and the hit effect from pummel.

Besides adding a point of damage to the Zealous Belting line, it also acts as a popper for the Dromai match, fuels Anothos’ hunger for 3-cost cards, and can power even wider lines of play.

Beyond Two Chain Links With Bravo

My greatest joy with this deck has been attacking more than once per turn with Bravo. And one way to improve on a second attack is by adding a third.

This animation shows a common approach to three attacks in a turn for this deck using Rouse the Ancients, Enlightened Strike, and Anothos.

Similar lines are available with the following:

  • Zealous Belting → Out Muscle → Anothos
  • Rouse the Ancients → Out Muscle → Anothos
  • Lead the Charge → Out Muscle → E-Strike (from Arsenal, draw a card) → Anothos
  • E-Strike (draw a card) → Snapdragon Scalers → Out Muscle → Anothos

The constant threat of pummel and the various Crush effects make these higher-damage turns a persistent threat to the opponent’s hand and their action economy.

The combinations are remarkable and make calculating the value of each hand an enjoyable experience that has made this deck a joy to pilot. Being capable of presenting over 100 damage each turn keeps this Bravo deck on pace with several contemporary aggro builds with the added benefit of having a higher blocking threshold and plenty of blues for the icy matchups. 

The Best Offense Is Complemented by Great Defense

Initially, the only defensive options I had in the list were 3 red Steadfasts. I even toyed around with only 1 piece of Nullrune equipment. After extensive testing with variations of the list, I ended up settling on adding Unmoveables over Sink Belows.

It’s hard to disagree with the champ when Michael Hamilton says that Sink Below is the best card in the game because it probably is. However, I only wanted a few red defensive slots in the list, and I have judged that bigger blocks are more valuable in this current meta.

Steadfast

I truly don’t know why Steadfast hasn’t become a Bravo staple. Maybe I have played the Kano matchup with Brandon too often, but being able to reduce an Aether Wildfire to ashes is far too exhilarating to leave this beauty from Everfest in storage.

As an instant, Steadfast does not count as a defending card, so it’s a great trick against Dorinthea and dominated attacks. Since the effect lingers to stop additional damage from a single source, it can also prevent multiple Teklo Plasma Pistol shots. In the Iyslander matchup, it doesn’t completely cover up a Wounded Bull or Fyendal’s Fighting Spirit, but it is capable of nullifying an Aether Icevein to avoid further hand disruption.

Unmoveable

When I was first designing this deck, I assumed there would be far more ninjas than brutes in the meta at large. And while Fai certainly has better averages than Rhinar and Levia, the brutes received some fancy new cards in Dynasty to keep their player base sated. 

Naturally, both Unmoveable and Steadfast can also satisfy Anothos’ thirst. Red Unmoveable from arsenal is also a boon against Bull-lander, Dorinetha, and any guardian mirror match.

Final Thoughts

Bravo remains my favorite hero. This deck can do great things with the right pilot and opponents. However, it’s not S-tier and may not even be scraping into the A-level.

If you’re looking for a new approach to the Showstopper, this might just be the build for you. Of course, there’s also Royal Bravo to consider.

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