Name: Benjamin Dodd
Hometown: Nelson, New Zealand
Favorite Food: Dhal Curry (Vegan and Gluten free)
Favorite Color: Yellow
Favorite Music Artist: Nujabes
Favorite Spice: Ground Paprika
Favorite Fab Card: Life for a Life (red)
Favorite Non-Fab Game: The Imposter Kings
Who am I? Why am I here? What am I doing?
Hello, my name is Sam Dando. Some of you may know me. Some of you may not. I began playing Flesh and Blood in 2021 during the release of Monarch. Since then, I have competed in a number of tournaments and been fortunate enough to top some in the process. If you haven’t seen my name on GEM or seen me across the table at an event, you may have seen me across the vending booth for MinMaxGames. I began working for MinMaxGames in 2022 and can frequently be found slinging cold foils and harassing other players at events.
I first met Ben Dodd by a mere act of fate. It was a few weeks before the release of Outsiders and I was vigorously testing on Talishar to prepare for the Chicago Brawl event which was going to occur the release weekend of the set. Uzuri had piqued my interest immediately upon her reveal but after a week of experimentation, my conclusion along with the rest of the community was that she was unplayable garbage. So I ran back to the comforting arms of Briar and continued my testing. Shortly after, I see on Talishar someone with the title “looking to test against Briar.” I figured it would be my pleasure to aid this poor soul while simultaneously boosting my own ego. Once I joined the lobby, an Uzuri was staring back at me. It was even better than I could have imagined, a free victory to start my day.
But my expectations were completely shattered, I was bested. How could this be? Uzuri is trash, I’m amazing, the math just didn’t add up. This person, “Redodd”, graciously thanked me for the game and departed. Did I miss something? Was there more to Uzuri than people thought? I immediately went to discord and scoured the servers for any trace of this player. To my surprise, I found him quite easily. In fact, he even shared his list and was publicly giving away all of his testing information. I thought, “who is this guy?” Well, if you didn’t guess it already, this was Ben Dodd.
Some of you may know me as the first person to put Uzuri on the map with a surprising top 8 out of nowhere at the Chicago Brawl event. But I am here to set the record straight. Although I was the one piloting the deck, it was because of Ben’s big brain that I was even there.
Our Uzuri journey together started off quite humbly, by him humbling me of course. I’m quite honored to be able to write this blog today in celebration of his accomplishments and shred, sorry, shed* further light on Ben Dodd. Many of you reading this have probably just heard the name Ben Dodd after his recent Calling victory in Melbourne, becoming the first player added to the Roll of Honor for Uzuri, Switchblade. But to many players who have been deep in The Pits for a while now, Ben Dodd is legendary.
I always joked with Ben that when he finally won an event, he owed me an interview. And would you look at that, today is that day. On November 12th, 2023 we hopped on a call and chatted for about two and a half hours. We talked about Uzuri, Flesh and Blood, life and how all of those things intertwine. This blog is quite extensive and not your typical FaB interview. Much of it is a conversation between two friends. But what I chose to keep in the blog are all things that I think any player can find value in. If you are looking for specific topics, I have categorized each part of our conversation. Within each category you will find bolded statements that I felt were profound, thought provoking, or the biggest takeaway. Keep in mind, the format of this blog retains the original flow of conversation. There is a natural progression between topics and questions were asked with this in mind. I found Ben to be insightful, genuine, and a great vibe. I think you will too.
So, without further ado, I present to you my playtest partner, Uzuri confidant, and good friend.
Calling Champion Ben Dodd.
Dando: So how do you feel post Calling champ?
Dodd: I’ve settled back into my normal life now. For a while, it was just kind of a lingering….I don’t even know how to describe it. Sensation, of just, what even happened? But I’m back in my happy little life at home and it feels good. I’m really excited for the next tournament. I’m so sad I can’t go to Worlds on such short notice.
Dando: Yeah I was really hoping you’d find some way to go to Worlds. While we are on the topic, how do you feel about Uzuri for Worlds? Would you even play her if you were going?
Dodd: I would play Rhinar or Uzuri going into Worlds. I think Rhinar has a better matchup spread. But I know Uzuri very well and you have to play the deck that is the best choice for you and not the best deck for the tournament.
Dando: I completely agree. I was actually feeling pretty poorly about Uzuri going into Worlds but after seeing how much Bravo and Mech there is floating around, I’d feel pretty good about taking Uzuri. But again, you are taking the gamble of dodging the Dromais and Iyslanders. At least you could shore up those matchups.
How do you approach the Iyslander matchup?
Dodd: I think Iyslander you can actually shore up because you do have the disruption and solid options like Sigils. It’s obviously like a “do you draw Shake Down kind of matchup”.
Dando: Or Surgical Extraction.
Dodd: Most of them will be on Bullander and when they are, I think you can be pretty favored. You get to force them into red arsenals and then suddenly your deck is turned online.
Dando: How was your experience with Iyslander at the Calling?
Dodd: I played two and I managed to win both. It can be very brutal on either side. I’m definitely not confident when I sit down across from an Iyslander, you can get demolished, but there is a lot of game for sure.
Dando: It’s very momentum based right? If you are able to break their knee cap with disruption, it can be very hard for them to recover. But if they get you on an Insidious Chill/Aether Ice Vein cycle, you also don’t get to play the game.
Dodd: Exactly, and you need to be ahead. If they get ahead, you don’t get a chance to come back in the game. In a lot of games of FaB, you can draw it out and claw your way back in. But if Iyslander is ahead and you get in Storm Striders range, it’s so far gone.
Dando: I’ve also found in that matchup that I almost never want to swing dagger. I see a lot of Uzuris do this in the matchup where they try to pressure with dagger or play Orbitoclast but I find every time I swing dagger, I get uber punished by a Channel Lake Frigid or Blizzard and then I have to give up my entire turn. Do you find this as well?
Dodd: Yes, I’ll be sitting there on turns where I can attack with dagger or just hold extra resources. I just choose the extra resources because it is safer to pitch for AB1 then it is to swing dagger.
Dando: How do you get a good read as to what could be in their arsenal?
Dodd: It’s hard to say but usually I will look at what cards they have blocked with and what they did on their turn, then imagine if you were on that side of the table, what does their hand look like? There will be cards that you can rule out as not making sense. It’s not 100% but if you pay attention to it, it’s a little puzzle. If they block with a Channel Lake Frigid and then arsenal something, alarms will start going off in your head. CLF is their strongest card versus me. Are they just bad? No, you should assume your opponent is good. You should trust them that blocking with it was correct.
Dando: Hmmm interesting, I usually assume my opponent is bad. Maybe that’s my problem hahahaha.
What kind of player are you?
Dando: Would you describe yourself as a feel based player? Do you count ratios, estimate probability, or do you just feel it out? I would describe myself as a very feel based player which is why I like Uzuri. Based on my instinct, I determine how I want to punish my opponent. I look at Michael Feng as a very calculative and value oriented player. He’s always trying to make sure he can extract the maximum amount of value out of each card. Sometimes, I just do stuff cause I want to.
Dodd: I kind of lean into both. Heavier on the feels. But you have to do a lot of grunt work to get to the point where your vibes are correct. And that grunt work usually includes math and going back and analyzing your lines. After you’ve done that thousands of times, then you’ll be put in situations where you know what to do. I’ll find myself doing something and someone will ask me why I did it. There will be a really good reason why I did it, but I don’t know why I’m doing it. I’m not 100% aware of those decisions in the moment but I can reflect on it and understand where my head was at.
What is your playtesting process?
Dodd: The less you know, the more broad your playtesting should be. The more confident you are, the more specific your playtesting gets. When I’m first working with a deck, it doesn’t matter who I’m versing or what deck they are on, it’s just about slamming that paint on the wall and seeing what happens. Getting raw data. You don’t even have to play that well to be honest, just putting yourself in that space is enough. Then you can start paying attention to the specifics. It’s like how we met, I was just on Talishar looking to test the Briar matchup specifically. I just sat there all day waiting to play with Briars and figure out my gameplan.
What were you thinking during your Dromai match in Top 8?
Dando: I went back and read some of our early chats before this interview and we used to discuss a lot about how to beat Oldhim. One of the things you told me was “I know when I’m winning the game and I know when I’m losing the game, I know how they feel.” That’s kind of why I asked if you were a feel based player earlier. So in that Dromai matchup, when you flicked both of your daggers to get the four damage, is it because you’ve been in those situations so many times that you just know the four damage is far more valuable than keeping my dagger?
Dodd: The Dromai matchup is difficult because, every single turn, all of the data you use to make a decision changes. How many poppers have I been through, how many dragons have I seen, how many rakes (rake the embers) have I seen, what’s the current board state, what are the health totals, etc… The reps definitely help me to know I don’t need the daggers here. Once they are in a certain health range, I have enough damage to kill them.
Dando: So you really value the damage over keeping the dagger for the rake. By the time they even found a rake they were at such a low health total it didn’t even matter.
Dodd: In that matchup specifically, I value my own threats far more than theirs. Uzuri has one strength above all heroes.... Well there is still wizard. But Uzuri is very good at killing the opponent once they are in lethal range.
Dando: For sure, as I’ve played Uzuri I have learned that every point of damage I inflict on my opponent just makes me stronger.
Dodd: Exactly, so I value my damage far greater than my opponents. On a different hero with a different gameplan, I would prefer to block for six then attack for five. But in Uzuri versus Dromai, if someone asked me “would you take ten damage to deal five to the opponent” I might say yes. Them being at 35 is so much easier for me to deal with then them being at 40, exponentially. That means they will have to play around Shred an entire turn cycle earlier or risk dying to it.
What is your favorite card in Uzuri?
Dando: Speaking of Shred, Shred is one of my favorite cards in Flesh and Blood. I also think it is one of the most powerful cards in FaB. How do you feel about Shred?
Dodd: I love Shred, I don’t think it’s my favorite card but it has won me basically every game I’ve played with Uzuri. It is the core gameplan. Reduce their life total to three or six and then Shred to get the damage through. It is very powerful, it’s a block three, run the rainbow.
Dando: So if Shred is not your favorite card in Uzuri, what is? You can’t say Codex of Frailty. I would say Shred is one of my favorite cards but it is not my favorite card in Uzuri.
Dodd: Let me pull up the decklist and take a look. This is where the vibes come in.
*Ponders for a bit*
Dodd: Okay, I think I know what my favorite card is in Uzuri. It might be cheating because it is equipment, but Flick Knives is my top card for Uzuri. When it was revealed, I didn’t think much of it at all. One armor blade break, whatever mate. Throw a dagger, I guess. But the playlines are so interesting. I really love how the threat is always there and deciding when to correctly throw your dagger is such a high skill element of Uzuri. It’s actually incredibly important for winning games. You know, the top 8 game vs Dromai on stream for example. My Flick Knives was so crucial. They played the second Sand Cover and I decided not to Flick. I’m waiting and then I see the third and decide to commit. Verse aggro decks, you have this fun game of, do I throw my dagger immediately to make sure I get that one damage value. Or, do I float it while I still have my Blacktek armor up and then maybe I can force a Shake Down on hit with a Flick. In the finals vs Dash I/O, I didn’t throw my dagger which was a mistake. I then got T-boned and was forced to give up my armor. I lost one damage, that could have lost me the entire match. Deciding when to throw your dagger can decide the entire game.
Dando: I continue to find new powerful interactions with Flick Knives. The way I decide to use it is always so important. There are games where I can look back 6 turns and think, dang I should have not thrown that dagger hahaha. The fact that you are saying “your d-react is not going to effectively be able to stop my break point” is so powerful. How long do you keep that threat? That’s part of the power with Uzuri, you have so many threats that your opponent always has to play around forcing them to make a worse decision to risk not getting punished.
Dodd: Flick Knives is for sure my favorite card in Uzuri. The dynamics are incredible.
Dando: I would say Death Touch has to be my favorite card in Uzuri.
Dodd: Mhmmmm yeah that is very fair. We love Death Touch.
Dando: It’s a 1 cost, you can swap it, you can play it out of arsenal with Tunic, you can play it with Nimblism, you can Blacktek it to get go again, you can Snapdragon it, you can Codex it, you can Shred it.
Dodd: It is the deck! I think that is a great point. People look at the deck and think Shake Down, CnC, these are the things people are scared of. I’ll block, play my Isolate, they’ll say no block, I swap and then they go “oh no let’s see what it is”, I swap in Death Touch and there is a sigh of relief. It’s not one of the ones they care about. But from my perspective, Death Touch is THE CARD. It ties the entire deck together. It is the constant power of the deck.
Dando: The toolbox effects with the Plague Tokens keep showing their power to me the more I play the deck as well. Bloodrot is so impactful. Damage is your win condition but it can be disruptive too. There are so many times I put my opponent in a position where a Bloodrot will threaten lethal or make Flick Knives threaten lethal on the next turn. It can immediately switch the game for my opponent from, I was winning to I’m now going to lose. I think that’s why we have kept Nimblism in the deck for so long too. Death Touch for 9 is one of the most powerful plays in the deck.
What is Uzuri’s secret sauce?
Dodd: One of the cards I was thinking about as my favorite was Nimblism. You know this but for the people reading, back when we were building and I had the base list. We were trying stuff out and once we added Nimblism, it just sang. It harmonized with the entire deck. It’s so good. People have told me to cut it because “zero for threes” don’t win events and there is no synergy unlike Briar where you get half of an embodiment. Anyone who thinks Nimblism is not a good card, they can just go away. This card is everything to me.
Dando: Even when we added the one of Nimble Strike, it just made me like Nimblism even more. With Codex too, there are so many interactions with Nimblism. My Leave No Witnesses for 7 off a Codex is so much more powerful than it would have been if it was only 4. Even with Flick Knives up too, it just makes everything so much more difficult for my opponent.
How do you view value in Uzuri?
Dodd: Value is a very interesting thing and it’s useful to view value as a ruler. Rulers are useful, but you can’t paint a picture with just a ruler. You need to freehand it. There are so many times in a game that what you care about is the way your hand interacts with your opponent's hand. The way your gameplan interacts with theirs.
Dando: Especially in Uzuri, it’s not about what your card does. If you had no opponent sitting in front of you, Uzuri wouldn’t do much. The entire deck focuses on the way your opponent interacts with you.
Dodd: Entirely, you have to play Nimblism to feel how it changes that interaction you mentioned. The difference of when you play Codex, stripping them of a card from hand when they add something to their arsenal and then playing Leave No Witnesses, then doing that with a Nimblism are two entirely different outcomes. It completely changes how your opponent’s next turn will play out.
Dando: What is something that you classify as a “power turn” in Uzuri?
Dodd: Uzuri is not about the power turns, I’m not trying to do that. Here is a good example of what I’m talking about as hand interaction and the way your gameplan lines up being more important than math. In my top 4 game against Michael Feng, we played this long Lexi vs Uzuri game and he is playing incredibly. Making me work so so hard for this win. He is at nine life with New Horizon up as his only armor, he is attacking me, and about to have one card in arsenal at the end of his turn. I decide to tank his whole turn, keeping a blue so I can swing Spider’s Bite instead of blocking for three with it. So I have the choice of using my card to block for three damage or swing for one with Spider’s Bite. I chose to swing with the Spider’s Bite next turn because my hand is Nimblism, Enlightened Strike, and one other card. I get to present E-Strike for ten damage after he takes the Spider’s Bite going from nine to eight life. Now, one card block is not enough to protect him from lethal and he has to give me two cards or give up the New Horizon and his arsenal card to not die.
Dando: I have played E-Strike for ten damage so many times in this deck it is crazy.
Dodd: Yeah, going tall like that is not Uzuri’s usual. So when they are around ten life and they are expecting six damage and an on hit, you change it up. They take the Spider’s Bite and suddenly they have to block lethal but their whole hand blocks for minus one. You’ve suddenly flipped the script on them. That was a power turn from me in that game. He ended up blocking with his entire hand to preserve life hoping I wouldn’t draw a go again card on my next turn.
Dando: Of all the heroes in the game right now, what was it about Uzuri that drew you to her at release and has kept you playing her throughout the last seven to eight months?
Dodd: From release, she just had the most interesting kit to me. That hero power is so cool. So I started building right away and had a lot of fun. But ever since you top 8’d on my deck way back, I have wanted to take it to a big tournament. My first chance to do that was NZ Nationals this year and I did not make top 8 due to some drafting errors on my behalf…..but I was undefeated at Nats in Classic Constructed. So I knew “I can do it with Uzuri”. Then the Calling was the first Classic Constructed event that I got to show that off…..As far as what I like about her, I enjoy the feeling of control that Uzuri gives every single game. She is very very consistent and you are always the player with agency. Aggro decks can be fun to play because you just get to go ham with it but the opponent can strip your agency from you quite easily. And control decks, decks that like to block a lot, oftentimes are a bit too passive for my liking. But with Uzuri, no matter who you verse, you get to bring a gameplan to the table and try to execute on it. And that is so satisfying. There is always something for you to do.
Dando: That is such a good answer. That is such an amazing encapsulation of everything I love about Uzuri but I probably wouldn’t have been able to dictate that. Prior to playing Uzuri, I was more aggro pushed. I loved Katsu and Briar was more what I had gotten my tournament accomplishments from. But when Arakni came out, I was really drawn to Arakni. Probably because it has a similar essence to Katsu where it forces your opponent into a midrange gamestate. When you are playing against an aggro deck, they could care less about what you do, they just want to play their game. So something I say a lot when I drop a CnC for example is “interact with me!” because it finally forces them to recognize you as an opponent and they have to do something about it. So I think Assassin has idealized that no matter what you are playing, you are going to have to respect me and recognize what I am doing because if you don’t, I am just going to punish you forever.
Dodd: I find it very ironic how Uzuri’s game plan is demanding respect from the opponent and then she is always seen as a bit of a “C Tier” pick competitively. People will say it is a good deck but it has too many bad matchups and there is a mirroring between the gameplay where she is saying “Block me Block me! I dare you!” and then in the tournament scene there is that same sentiment.
What is the skill ceiling for Uzuri?
Dando: I would correlate the skill ceiling of the deck to, “how much respect can you milk out of your opponent?” I think the mind games can really play into your gameplan. I will have times where I just hold extra cards in my hand to make my opponent think I have something when I don’t. Throughout the tournament, how often did you find yourself bluffing or trying to make your opponent play into you poorly?
Dodd: I think I am less on the bluff grind than you are *chuckling*.
Dando: What are you trying to say *chuckling*?
Dodd: I know you love the, “Block me” mentality. Like if I can block with a card, I’m probably going to. I need a good reason for everything. One thing I do think about a lot though as I play is what my hand looks like and what their likely response will be.
Dando: Okay…that’s pretty similar right?
Dodd: One thing that is my goal is to never be punished by my opponent playing correctly. If after we play out the turn cycle and they called the right thing versus me and I feel like I came out on the negative of that exchange, then I think I played wrong. It is my goal to make sure there is no way that my opponent can outskill me.
Dando: I know exactly what you are saying, I think that is the perfect summary statement to wrap up what I was saying about what makes up the skill ceiling of Uzuri. How much respect can you demand is important but it is really that. Can you play in a way that, as the punisher, you cannot be punished by having your opponent play around you correctly. I think that is really where the skill is shown as an Uzuri player, you are always the one in control. You will never get got by your opponent and are truly dictating the decisions.
Dodd: Exactly and I think that is what is so addictive about getting good with Uzuri. You have so much control of the gamestate. Even in your bad matchups, like you’ll see even verse Dromai, Oldhim, anything, you have so many tools to claw your way across the finish line. If you are staring them down every turn just clawing one inch closer, they start to feel like they can never win.
Dando: Hahaha yeah for real. I feel like my pitch stacking has gotten so much better playing Uzuri as well. You can just make such a brutal second cycle for your opponent. Whether it's the continual dominated swaps with six attacks, Nimblism with Codex, Nimblism with Isolate or even just an Isolate for three with a yellow Shred to push that last three damage and they just lose. I call that last win condition, “Little Man Beatdown”. It’s so relentless.
Dodd: You have so many good ways of ending the game. Yellow Isolate with a blue shred can just end it. It’s a lot of fun.
Dando: Those are the moments why you play Uzuri.
Bravo is a highly favored matchup?
Dando: With the meta shifting now for Worlds, where do you see Uzuri being positioned? I have been telling people I really don’t see Uzuri doing well in the meta with Lexi leaving, but I’m also starting to double back on that. I think that she is still well positioned across the board outside of Dromai and Iyslander being tough. I don’t know if you have heard this but a lot of people have told me that they think Bravo is an extremely unfavored matchup for Uzuri. I don’t think I have dropped one Bravo game in a tournament. I love that matchup.
Dodd: Bro, people that think Bravo is favored into Uzuri either don’t know how to play Bravo or don’t know how to play Uzuri.
Dando: I totally agree, I very rarely lose against Bravo unless they super high roll me. Outside of that, in a normal grind game, I can always find the advantage.
Dodd: I think the thing that is so good for Uzuri into Bravo is that Bravo is incentivised to play a slow game because if they are taking risks, it’s not a great idea. It doesn’t feel like the right choice to play super risky. So I’m 100% confident I can beat the block hammer strategy. The deck (Uzuri) is just built to have enough damage.
Dando: The way I always describe it to people is “what can Bravo do with a two card hand at best?” It’s like play a three for seven attack, make a surge and play Command and Conquer, or make a surge and hammer. Now what can Uzuri do with a two card hand? A very wide assortment of absolutely brutal things. So when it gets to that point in the gamestate where you are trading two card hands, Uzuri is just way better.
Dodd: I think that is the perfect way of saying it. Also, what can Uzuri do with a three card hand? You just get to block three on the hammer, take three, then play out a gas three card hand. And then when you don’t have a good three card hand, you just play out a two card hand. When you have a good five card hand, you get to play out a good five card hand. They have to hit the threats you actually care about. Uzuri is HIGHLY favored into Bravo.
Is Uzuri a good pick for Worlds?
Dando: I’m pretty convinced now, even though I may not tell people this, that Uzuri is a good reaction to the current meta. I think it’s hilarious too that the fall off of Uzuri players has been insane since Lexi left the meta. People jumped off the Uzuri train sooooo fast. But I think that can just show the power even more for people like you and myself that can just sneak into a tournament, unexpectedly.
Dodd: I so wish I could take Uzuri to worlds, because NO ONE respects it. It’s so funny how I win a Calling, we finally get a major Uzuri win, and then the respect just plummets even further than it was before.
Dando: *Laughing hysterically*
Dodd: So it’s an even worse deck now than it was before AND no one cares about it.
Dando: But that’s perfect right? That’s the perfect position for an Assassin. You never want people to expect you or respect you.
Dodd: She WAS good cause Lexi was around but that was tech choices and Uzuri has a lot of them. If the meta was 50% Dromai and 50% Iyslander. You can easily build an Uzuri deck that beats them. You have to pick what you are teching for.
Dando: The list that you ended up on at the Calling was the realized vision to what we had been trying to work on a few months prior. The “Purpzuri” list. A list In between blue line and red line that still had the strengths of both. And I think that list was pretty close to the perfect “Purpzuri” list. You can still slide that scale a little bit more to the left or right and adapt your ability to play into other matchups.
What about Dash I/O?
Dando: So are you going to take my suggestion now and put Erase Face in the sideboard for Dash I/O?
Dodd:........Yeah. I’ll admit, I was not favored into Dash I/O going into the tournament-
Dando: I tried to tell you dude…I think it’s hilarious how before the Calling I told you that you should consider playing Erase Face in the side for mechs and your response was “what mechs?”
Dodd: Yeah, what mechs *sighs*. It was rough, I lost a game in swiss (to Dash I/O) and I barely got there in the finals. I was feeling very unfavored in that matchup. But with Lexi going away, some more space for tech, and knowing the game plan more, I think you can get that matchup incredibly favored.
Who is Uzuri’s true arch-nemesis?
Dando: So, we have been talking a ton about matchups but that’s because we love talking about matchups. I want to talk about one more matchup and then we will get to a few more general questions. Azalea, man. Another deck that people seemingly always say is well positioned but the respect is never there for it. Again, the number of people playing it is so low and I think she is in a really good position right now. I know we have talked a lot about it, I’m constantly trying to run the matchup into Levi Rauch, and it’s tough. I don’t know what I need to do, but it is such a rough matchup dude.
Dodd: 100%. I find it so funny how people’s perception of Uzuri’s matchup spread is so incorrect. When you watch a livestream or a tier list video and they talk about Uzuri, they always say it’s favored into Azalea. Which is not true. That is actually one of the matchups I am most scared of. Teching against it is very difficult. There are not actually that many answers to what they are doing. There are no “get outta jail” free cards. A defense reaction, sure, it is useful but it does not feel like you are winning. That’s just staying afloat. Then you have matchups like Fai where somehow people think Fai is higher value than Uzuri and will out damage you. That’s not how the game works. It doesn't matter what their value per turn is when they don’t get to do that.
Dando: When playing against Azalea, to me, there are three ways the game will go. Uzuri is a deck that will mutate its gameplan depending on how the gamestate is playing out. Decks like Fai don’t do that. Fai always wants to be attacking more than he is blocking. If you are doing that, you are probably winning. With Uzuri into Azalea, if you get an early game aggression and are pressuring them with Leave No Witnesses and CnC, a good Azalea will revert to orientating themselves to have a strong second cycle and surviving. If they survive that early game onslaught, you are in such a bad position. They can just flip the tempo and it becomes so hard to close the game. Especially if they are playing Sigils and d-reacts, that extra health makes it so difficult to overtake them.
The second one is, if they get the early game aggression. You immediately have to just hope you get d-reacts and can put them in the arsenal. You then have to hope you can get them in a position where you can threaten fatigue. Which is also very difficult when a deck can dominate an arrow for 15 damage with three on hits. So you have to hope they can’t dominate their 15 damage arrows and you can just throw your entire hand to block.
Dodd: Yeah it becomes a very uphill battle.
Dando: Then the third one is an actual midrange gamestate, which I feel is also a losing position. I think they can just midrange better than you can.
Dodd: Which is impressive to say the least. I can honestly say Azalea is one of the decks I’m most scared of. I think that deck is slept on. When I say that deck, I mean the hero because you can build it more aggressive, you can build it more defensive, it has so many tools. The things that I love about Uzuri, I think Azalea has that too. They constantly have options, gameplans, control, threats, answers, they have it all. I would not be surprised if Azalea wins the World Championship.
Dando: Yeah I’m feeling really good for Levi. I hope his draft goes well because I think his Classic Constructed rounds are going to go well for him. Like you said, Azalea and Uzuri share a lot of similar characteristics. I agree with that. But there is something that feels intrinsically different about them. I know lore-wise they are arch-nemeses. But to me, Uzuri wants the opponent to engage with them. They want to punish their opponent and capitalize on their mistakes. Azalea doesn’t want her opponent to play the game. She wants you to be locked in a position where you get stuck playing very inefficient hands.
Dodd: She wants to keep some distance between the two of you. It feels like she is keeping you away from interacting with her. You are trying to walk towards her the whole game and she is firing arrows that are pushing you back. Where Uzuri is pulling her opponents towards her. Come close to me, let’s get this up in the face. Shred, stab, flick a dagger. There is definitely a palpable sense of distance and space with Azalea.
Dando: I’ve always liked Azalea but every time I’ve considered playing her, it just doesn’t resonate with me the same way Uzuri does.
Dodd: Yeah the feel of playstyle is so palpable in Flesh and Blood. It’s unlike any game I’ve ever played before.
What do you think is the most Important thing to know in FaB?
Dando: When you sit down at a table and are about to play a game, what is the most important thing to know?
Dodd: It’s your gameplan. “Who am I?” is the most important thing to know. What are my goals? What does getting there feel like? You need to know your matchup. You want to sit down and every play you make feels like you are walking down a path that you’ve walked down before. Somewhat poetic but that’s the way I lean.
Dando: I wanted to hear you say it in a few different ways because one of the things that bothers me the most in this game is when someone wins on a deck that people weren’t expecting to win, what is the first question people ask?
Dodd: “WHAT’S THE LIST???”
Dando: Exactly! I feel like people are asking the wrong question every time, especially in Flesh and Blood of all games. You can take a deck that has won any high level event, attempt to play with it and you will lose. When you win an event, the first thing I want to know is “what were your matchups, how did you play them, and how did you win them?” Those are the best things to know. I’m not sure if it’s because it is the simplest answer but that is the question (what’s the list?) people always gravitate to and I think it is the wrong question to be asking.
Dodd: 100%. Who am I? Why am I here? How do I do it? There are a lot of things that are important but the mental game means so much. I made many mistakes during that tournament. But the one thing that I never failed, was the mental game. I was in there playing to win, always. I think that is the most important thing for sure. When I played against Michael Feng, I missed my Tunic twice. In that finals match, I misblocked with armor after seeing my opponent’s hand. With perfect information, I misplayed. Those are things that I could be ashamed by but the only thing you can do when you are sitting there is accept the situation for what it is. What’s the life total, what’s in the graveyard, what’s on the combat chain, what do I do?
Make the next play.
Do you play other games?
Dando: I know you came from Magic but do you play a lot of games? Video games, board games, other card games?
Dodd: I’d say more than the average person but not as much as some people. I learned Magic when I was very young, about five or six years old. My brothers taught me how to play. We would play board games or with a regular deck of cards. I love strategy games. I’m much more of a turn based guy. I really struggle with games that require input ability like shooters, fighting games, etc… I love those games but I’m just bad at them hahaha.
Dando: What are your other favorite games outside of Fab and Magic?
Dodd: Well I don’t play Magic anymore, we don’t have to talk about that… I’ll give you one from nostalgia and one that is a great recommendation for any FaB players out there. My favorite game of all time is Heroes of Might and Magic III. I used to play it with my dad and my brothers. I love that game, it is the pinnacle. Live orchestral soundtrack, pixel art, shout out Heroes III. Now something along the lines of FaB, one of my favorite games at the moment is “The Imposter Kings”. It’s a small indie game made by a guy in America and it’s a little deck of 18 cards that you shuffle up and both draw a hand from then verse each other. So it’s a 1v1 strategy card game that gives me the feeling of playing a great finals match of FaB or Magic every single time you sit down and draw up. Check out “The Imposter Kings”, it’s incredible.
(Sam from the Future: I have looked further into this game and it is truly incredible. I highly recommend every FaB player check this game out and give it a try. You can acquire all the resources to play for free on the website. I’ll play you between your FaB rounds at the next tournament I see you at. I’ll always have a deck on me. Check it out here: https://theimposterkings.com/)
How has Flesh and Blood changed your life?
Dando: The readers don’t know this but you have quite an addictive personality. You have a huge grindset and have played hundreds upon hundreds of games on Talishar.
Dodd: I’m very obsessive. I have a strong focus and I think the key for success in my life has been to channel that in a positive direction. Watching ten hours of Youtube a day is not that. But playing FaB is. I really respect LSS for the whole ethos of Flesh and Blood being in the flesh and blood. It’s the nature of tournament play that people will use online resources to practice. If I could walk down to my local game store and play against people for eight hours a day, I would. But I can't, so Talishar is a great tool. It’s important to focus on the human aspect.
Dando: How would you say FaB has made your life better despite the thousands of dollars that you just won?
Dodd: Hahahaha yeah well that’s the easy answer and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that helped a lot. It’s the people. It’s the friendships. I’m getting to talk to you now. I’ll be heading down to Queenstown with a bunch of friends that I made through FaB. There are a lot of studies in Psychology that show without a doubt that strong connections to other people in your life is the most important thing for mental health. Having a sense of meaning in one’s life can be found through positive connection with other humans. Flesh and Blood is a great way to have that. Show your love for other people, spend time together. That’s what it’s all about.
Dando: It’s pretty mind blowing to think how quickly Flesh and Blood has become such a huge part of my life. The full-time job I have now is because of FaB. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m biased since I am so involved in the game, but I’ve never been a part of any hobby or experience related to gaming that has brought people together at the level that I’ve seen with FaB. It’s hard to articulate that to people but I think there is something really special about it. It’s like you said, it’s always the people. That’s everyone’s answer. I don’t know how you luck out with that but there is something about this game that provides that experience.
Dodd: It’s just a very good common ground.
Dando: Overall, there is this large feeling of familiarity and family that is very key to the FaB experience. It has had such a positive impact on my life personally.
Dodd: University was not a very positive experience for me. I was very passionate about Psychology but the degree and what University was just killed all motivation that I had. I did not make any friends. I have a strong set of friends from high school but all throughout Uni I would talk to people, go to parties, crack some jokes, whatever. But it’s very hard to break through that barrier of, I’m living my life and you’re living your life. But as soon as I started playing FaB, people would ask me for example, “we’re going up to the Calling in Auckland, do you want to come?” I just thought, ehh why not? I’m playing my Rok because, of course I was haha. It’s like… that’s just given?
Dando: It’s so weird, you just meet these people through the game and then you are across the country playing in a tournament.
Dodd: And of course you might as well stay in the same house because it saves money and you end up chatting at 12am after everything. Then you think, so who are you because I don’t know you? Who’s your partner? What’s your life story? What do you care about? Why are you here?
Dando: Like how we are talking right now. Literally from another country across the world and we are talking because of FaB.
Dodd: And I’m going to see you in LA for Pro Tour.
Dando: …..It’s wild
Dodd: You say “ignoring the money” but the truth is the money is such a big deal. I get to live my life now in a way that is freeing. All of that coming from this thing that I like to play and I just tried to be good at. I built this deck because I like building decks. It’s ridiculous. I’m going to go so hard for Pro Tour and Worlds next year. I am fully committed.
So what’s next?
Dando: Now that you have gotten a taste of how being a pro can pay off, what’s next for you with the game?
Dodd: Calling Queenstown, that’s going to be good. I’m really hyped for the next set. I love sealed, it’s actually one of my favorite formats. I know sealed is- look, people love to complain. People are always complaining about everything. But I think it’s such a bad mindset to be finding things you dislike, instead of enjoying things for what they are. That’s something I always try to embody in my life. My friends and I in high school would go play MTG midnight releases in NZ. Staying up late, busting packs, playing sealed at the local game store, it’s just such good memories for me. So I’m really hyped for sealed and Queenstown…After that, if there are any Callings in Oceania, I’ll be going. And then Pro Tour and Worlds. You can’t be result oriented so I don’t know how I’m going to do at those events but I want to play perfectly. I want to put on an unbelievable performance. I didn’t do that at the Calling (Melbourne). I reviewed the footage and I did so many things wrong in so many of my games. But that’s where I’m heading.
Dando: That’s a very good perception to have. It is such a gargantuan task to go into a TCG with the goal of winning money. You can spend a lot of money upfront to go to an event and the cards just don’t fall the way you want them to that day. On the M-n-R podcast, I remember Roger once saying, “In card games, you could do everything perfect and still lose. But that’s life.” Things will happen in life that you can’t control but you have to learn how to go about it, handle it, be better, and then move on. Where is your perspective and motivation on playing a card game with the intent to make money?
Dodd: It’s an incredible gift and opportunity. I’m going to give it my all to realize that gift. If I waste away all my Calling winnings flying to these other tournaments and I lose all of them, that’s okay. I haven’t lost anything, I’m just where I was before. Just keep moving forward one step at a time, it doesn’t really matter. As much as I truly love FaB, I think it doesn’t matter what you are doing, it only matters how you do it.
Dando: What do you mean by that?
Dodd: If you are deciding what University to go to, what degree, what job you want to end up with, what person you end up having a committed relationship to….just anything in life, I think people focus too much on finding the right choice or worrying about making the wrong one. When really the most important thing is to just approach it in a positive way. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to play and for the opportunity to try and win the next tournament regardless of the outcome.
Who is Ben Dodd?
Dando: Something that I think is very unique about FaB is that who you are as a person, really reflects in your play. Whether it’s because of how you identify with the hero you play, how that hero plays and how it reflects who you are as a person, and how you approach- we’ve talked a lot today about how you approach the game, your mindset. You know when I sit down and play Uzuri, my main goal is to disrespect my opponent. That’s just who I am. I want them to walk away knowing I just BODIED them. That’s fun. Who are you and how do you think that comes across when you play FaB?
Dodd: Now that’s a hard question…
Dando: You’re tied to Uzuri for some reason, there is something about that hero that speaks to you. That’s kinda why I have ordered the questions today like I have because I wanted to get a feel before I got to this question. I think there might be some answers but it also might not be a reflection of you, it might be more about what you just said, “it’s not about what I’m doing but how I do it.” So what is it about how you play FaB, how you play Uzuri, what about it represents you?
Dodd: One of the most important things to me is truthfulness, being genuine, honesty- there are all these synonyms but that core underlying concept of “realness” *chuckles*. There are 100 ways to say it. Being authentic is something that I strive for. Being authentically myself when I’m speaking with people, my emotions, how I’m feeling. That love for an experience you are having for a game you are playing, for that person you are talking to, for the opportunity you are given. That’s the most important thing to me in my life. It’s kind of funny because Uzuri is not authentic AT ALL. She is constantly swapping and lying. But I only ever play decks that I have built. People will often say, why don’t you play this deck or that deck. But for whatever reason, I’ve never been able to play a deck that I did not build. But that’s because it has to come from me. It has to be authentic. The cards I’m playing have to come from myself. This Uzuri deck I built and thought of…obviously it’s not just mine because there has been so much collaboration. But this deck feels…..real to me. Then you take that to the tournament and it’s like, well, this is me. It’s Ben Dodd, playing Uzuri, got the black nail polish on, you know just putting something out there.
Dando: I think that’s honestly why we have resonated so well. All those things you said are the things I value the most as well. It’s interesting that we connected so quickly on Uzuri which is the most treacherous, lying, deceitful deck right? Yet we both value authenticity so highly…..I don’t know how to take that hahahaha.
Dando: It’s weird.
Why is being authentic important in FaB?
Dodd: It’s interesting how FaB rewards that “authenticity.” These one tricks and specialists that really LOVE their deck. Michael Feng, incredible player. When I was against his Lexi, it felt like nothing I have ever played before. He’s just so good. The way he blocks, amazing. But he didn’t win on Lexi. He won the Pro Tour on a backup deck that wasn’t the optimal choice he was planning on taking but it was the deck he loved. He ended up back on it in a quirk of fate because someone didn’t have a deck, so he lent them his Lexi. Then it was like, well I’m back where I was, it’s back to Oldhim. That’s what got him there. It’s just interesting the way life works out.
Anything else you want to share?
Dando: Anything else you want to share before I stop recording? We got over two hours of material I can go back and write a blog about but if you got anything else to say, I’d love to hear it.
Dodd: Uhhhh nah, that was a pretty good chat. I think we managed to cover it all.
Shred, You’re Dead
As Worlds looms upon us and we are rapidly approaching the end of 2023, I just want to briefly reflect on this year of Flesh and Blood. Codex of Frailty…..just kidding, everyone relax.
It was a year of change. Changes in set design. Changes in the LL system. Changes in power level. Changes in limited play.
Change is hard.
But it is a necessary process and one that comes with great rewards when done properly. LSS has done an amazing job to lay the groundwork for 2024. I have no doubt in my mind that Flesh and Blood will continue to prosper for one reason, the people. Every event I attend is a family reunion. The people who work at LSS care about this game. So if you are attending Worlds, tell James White thank you. Tell the Devs thank you.
I understand that I am privileged to be able to attend many large events around the country but it starts with your local community. The first weekly FaB armory I attended was in a Subway but our collective love for this game made those some of my favorite memories and it is a large reason why I’m still a part of this game today. As Ben said above, “I think it’s such a bad mindset to be finding things you dislike, instead of enjoying things for what they are.” We are lucky that we happen to enjoy the best TCG on the market. So kick back, take a break, enjoy Worlds and I’ll see you in 2024. Trust me, you won’t want to miss it.
Again, special thanks to Ben Dodd. I don’t know what my FaB 2023 would have looked like without you.
Peace, Love, and until next time,
Sam “DripDrop” Dando