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How to play Flesh and Blood: TCG’s rules, keywords and how to build a deck explained (Sponsored)

Go from choosing your hero and putting your first deck together to finding victory in the arena.

Image credit: Legend Story Studios

This article is sponsored by Legend Story Studios. To find out more about Flesh and Blood, including where you can participate in local events, visit the official website.

Flesh and Blood is one of the hottest new contenders in the trading card game scene, arriving in late 2019 as a rival to the fantasy battles and rich deck-building strategies of Magic: The Gathering. If you’re yet to give it a go, you’re in the right place: here we’ll be teaching you how to play Flesh and Blood, from making your first deck to entering the arena.

How to play Flesh and Blood

Flesh and Blood will be familiar if you’ve played MTG or a competitive card game of its ilk. Two players (or more, depending on the format) construct their deck from a number of characters, attacks, abilities and equipment cards, looking to whittle their opponent down to zero health before they are defeated themselves.

There are a number of rules and ideas that make Flesh and Blood far more than just another Magic-a-like, though. From the use of a hero card that starts the game outside of your deck - who can be kitted out with weapons and equipment - to the ability for players to defend and react to attacks, launching straight into their biggest attacks from their first turn without needing to wait, Flesh and Blood has plenty of unique gameplay concepts and rules that it’s definitely worth brushing up on before you play.

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know in order to play Flesh and Blood, from its basic rules and turn-to-turn action to putting together the card pool and deck to lead you to glory. Read on to find out how to play Flesh and Blood!

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How to build a Flesh and Blood deck

1. Decide on a format

Before you start building your Flesh and Blood deck, you should decide which format you wish to play. Each Flesh and Blood format has specific rules for deck-building, which may change the number and type of cards you are allowed in your deck. For example, the fast-paced Blitz and multiplayer Ultimate Pit Fight formats use 40-card decks, while the Limited formats Sealed Draft and Booster Draft require a minimum of 30 cards that you construct by opening booster packs.

Here we’ll cover the rules for building a Flesh and Blood deck for its flagship Classic Constructed format. In Classic Constructed, you must have a minimum of 60 cards in your main deck and 80 cards in total (plus your hero card) across your entire card pool, with up to three copies of each unique card permitted. A card is considered a copy if it has both the same name and pitch value as another card.

2. Choose a hero card

Your hero represents you within the world of Flesh and Blood, and begins the game outside of your deck - similar to your commander in MTG’s Commander format. Unlike commanders, however, your hero card can never leave play.

Your chosen hero card in Flesh and Blood determines how much life you have (listed in the bottom-right corner), the number of cards you draw each turn - known as intellect, and noted in the bottom-left corner - and which cards you can include in your deck, as they must either be universal cards or in the same class as your hero (listed at the bottom of the card). Each hero also has their own unique ability that you can activate during the match, working to give you the upper hand against your opponent.

There are both young and adult variants of heroes; in Classic Constructed, you likely want to use the adult version of your chosen hero.

3. Select weapons and equipment

Like your hero, weapon and equipment cards are not counted as part of your main 60-card deck, but do count towards your total 80-card card pool.

At the beginning of a Flesh and Blood match, you may choose up to two weapons and one equipment card of each kind to start in the arena (faceup on the table) alongside your hero.

Your hero serves as the leader of your deck, and begins the game faceup in the arena. | Image credit: Legend Story Studios

4. Create your main deck

If you’re a Flesh and Blood beginner, you may wish to focus simply on creating a single 60-card deck to practise with at first. Flesh and Blood’s deck construction rules allow players to have a total card pool of up to 80 cards, from which they can form their main 60-card deck for each match.

While weapons, equipment and other arena cards that begin the match on the table are counted as part of your card pool, they are not included in your main deck. Your chosen hero card does not count towards your total card pool and is not included in your main deck; they start in the arena.

You may only include cards in your main deck and/or card pool if they match your chosen hero’s class or talents. There are also a number of generic Flesh and Blood cards that can be included in any deck or card pool, regardless of the hero selected. Some heroes and cards may introduce additional rules for creating your card pool, restricting the number or type of cards permitted or allowing additional copies or types to be included.

You should also make sure that all of the cards in your card pool are legal to play according to the latest Flesh and Blood banlist, especially if you are competing in an official tournament.

5. Fill out the rest of your card pool

While advanced players may wish to skip straight to this step when building their Flesh and Blood deck, beginners may prefer to focus on making a single 60-card deck before thinking about their wider card pool.

Your card pool may contain a maximum of 80 cards, following the same rules as your main deck - they must match your hero’s class or talents, be legal to play, and follow all other deck-building rules and restrictions. Your hero is not counted as part of your wider card pool, but weapons, equipment and other arena cards are, even though they don’t start in your deck.

When you play Flesh and Blood, you may construct your 60-card deck for each match out of your total card pool - this allows you to switch up your strategies, react to your opponent’s cards and try new combinations between each match.

Your decks and cards should typically be laid out like so on the table. | Image credit: Legend Story Studios


  1. Place your hero card faceup on the table. Your hero card never leaves play. Place any weapon and equipment cards selected from your inventory faceup next to your hero; you may choose up to two weapons and one equipment card of each kind. Your hero, weapons and equipment begin the game in the arena, but weapons and equipment may be destroyed during play.
  2. Shuffle the rest of your deck.
  3. Set your hero’s life to their starting value, as listed in the bottom-right corner of their card. (You could use dice, an app or a counter, for example.)
  4. Determine the starting player randomly - rock-paper-scissors, a coin flip or rolling a die are options.
  5. Each player should draw a number of cards equal to their hero’s intellect, listed in the bottom-left corner of their card.
  6. You’re ready to play Flesh and Blood!

Flesh and Blood rules

During each player’s turn in Flesh and Blood, the active player performs at least one action during their Action Phase before drawing cards to refill their hand to their hero’s intellect value during their End Phase. If the action performed includes the instruction ‘Go Again’, the player can perform another action during the same turn. (Using multiple actions with ‘Go Again’ may allow for many actions on the same turn.)

Once the active player has drawn cards during their End Phase, play passes to their opponent - and so on, until one player wins!

1. Action Phase

At the beginning of the Action Phase, the player gains one action point. Playing an action card or using an ability that includes the word ‘Action’ in its text costs one action point.

Although players can only perform one action as standard, using actions with the instruction ‘Go Again’ provides them with an additional action point, allowing them to perform another action that turn - or even a number of actions, if several actions have ‘Go Again’. Unused action points do not carry over between turns.

Playing or using an action

To play an action card from your hand or use an action on a card - such as those listed on your hero or a weapon card - you must pay the resource cost. The resource cost of an action is listed in the red circle in the top-right corner of the card when playing a card from your hand, or alongside a card’s ability text when using the action on a card.

Resource points

To pay the required cost, you can obtain resource points by placing cards from your hand in your Pitch Zone - this is known as pitching. When a card is pitched, it generates resource points equal to the number of resource icons in the top-left corner of the card: between one and three. (The colour of the strip at the top of the card also signifies their pitch value: red for one, yellow for two and blue for three.)

Resource points obtained by pitching cards persist until they are spent or the end of your current turn; they do not carry across between turns. You can only pitch cards if you need to generate resource points for a cost; you can’t pitch cards simply to discard them.

Your hero, equipment and weapons start the match on the table, with everything else in your deck. | Image credit: Legend Story Studios

How do attacks work in Flesh and Blood?

When a player uses an Attack action, they must resolve combat with their opponent.

The card used to attack is placed into the Combat Zone. When cards are added to the Combat Zone, they contribute their attack value - noted in the bottom-left corner of the card, next to the spear icon - to the current attack. Cards may also activate abilities when they attack, as indicated by the card’s text.

Once the attacker has committed all of their attacking cards for the current attack action and calculated their total attack value, the defending player has the opportunity to defend.

The defending player can defend by placing cards from their hand into their own Combat Zone. Each card placed in the Combat Zone provides defence equal to the defence value listed next to the shield icon in the bottom-right corner of the card. The defender may use as many cards as they like from their hand to defend against an attack, as long as they have a defence value. Defending with cards does not cost resource points, and the defender can choose not to use any cards to defend with.

Once the defender has committed all of the cards they want (or are able) to use in their defence, both players have the chance to use reactions. Attack and defence reactions cost resource points to activate - generating and spending resource points by pitching cards as with actions - with the activated cards placed into the respective Combat Zone.

The attacker may play as many attack reactions as they want (or are able to) first, before the defender uses their own defence reactions. Reactions activate immediately when played, adding their attack or defence value and triggering their effects as written. After the defender has used their reactions, the attacker may choose to respond with more attack reactions - before passing back to the defender, until both players pass.

Once all reaction cards have been resolved, damage is calculated. Damage inflicted is equal to the total attack value minus the total defence value, counting all cards - including reactions - in the players’ respective Combat Zones. The remaining damage is dealt to the defending player’s hero, reducing their life total. If at least one damage was dealt by the attacker, the attack is considered to have hit - this may allow for certain abilities to activate as specified by their text.

Many attack actions allow the current player to ‘Go Again’ and gain another action point - this may be used to make another attack, which triggers a Chain Link.

If a player makes multiple attacks during their turn - for example, by using a ‘Go Again’ action - they create a Chain Link. All of the cards added to the Combat Zone by both the attacker and defender during the previous attack remain in the Combat Zone.

The cards committed by the attacker and defender during each separate attack action are considered as a group known as a Chain Link. If you are making your second attack (or defence) of the same turn, the first attack/defence is known as Chain Link 1. If this is your third attack or defence of the turn, the second attack/defence is Chain Link 2 - and so on.

Chain Links may be referenced by specific effects and abilities on cards.

At the end of a player’s turn, most of the cards in each player’s Combat Zone are sent to their respective graveyards. Weapons and equipment aren’t sent to the graveyard, returning to their designated zones - allowing them to be used on future turns.

Flesh and Blood is set in a fantasy world with its own rich lore. | Image credit: Legend Story Studios

2. End Phase

Once you cannot - or choose not to - play any more actions or make additional attacks, your turn concludes with the End Phase.

During the End Phase, the active player places any cards currently in their Pitch Zone to the bottom of their deck in any order.

Then, the active player may add one card from their hand to their Arsenal, if it is empty. Your Arsenal is one card that is kept facedown on the table, and is not considered part of your hand. Because it is not part of your hand, the card in your Arsenal cannot be pitched for resource points or used to defend (except if it is a defence reaction). However, you can play the card from your Arsenal on your turn by spending its action cost as normal.

Your Arsenal can only have one card in it, and you can’t swap the card currently in your Arsenal for another card - you must play the card in your Arsenal to empty it, allowing you to add another card to your Arsenal at the end of your turn.

Finally, the active player draws cards until the number of cards in their hand is equal to their hero’s intellect value. On most turns, only the active player refills their hand at the end of their turn; however, at the end of the very first turn of the game, both players draw up to their hero’s intellect value.

Then, play passes to your opponent.

How to win Flesh and Blood

You win a game of Flesh and Blood by reducing the life of your opponent’s leader to zero - as simple as that!

Unlike many other trading card games, you do not lose Flesh and Blood when your deck runs out of cards. Instead, if your deck is exhausted, you simply continue to play without being able to draw additional cards. Bear in mind that while exhausting your deck may not mean an instant loss, there’s a good chance that your opponent may very well win anyway if you’re left defenceless…

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Flesh and Blood keywords explained

  • Combo: Cards with the Combo keyword can typically be played after another card with the Combo keyword (which normally names the specific card it can Combo into) in order to gain bonus effects. The Combo keyword is usually found on Ninja cards.
  • Crush: When a card with the Crush keyword deals four or more damage to a defender while attacking, its Crush ability is activated according to the card’s text. The Crush keyword is usually found on Guardian cards.
  • Dominate: When a card with the Dominate keyword attacks, the defending player can only use a single card from their hand to defend against the attack. This includes defence reactions from your hand, but does not include defence reactions from your arsenal.
  • Intimidate: When an Intimidate ability is activated, the defender must banish a random card from their hand facedown until the end of the turn. Intimidate may be triggered multiple times in the same turn. The Intimidate keyword is usually found on Brute cards.
  • Reprise: The Reprise keyword is activated when a player uses at least one card from their hand to defend against an attack from the card with Reprise. This does not include the use of equipment cards or defence reactions from a player’s arsenal; only from their hand. The Reprise keyword is usually found on Warrior cards.

Where can I play Flesh and Blood?

While learning how to play Flesh and Blood at home with friends is a great way to get started, you can also head to your local game store to practise your skills against likeminded players.

Many local game stores offer free Learn to Play decks, which give you the chance to try out its gameplay without needing to think about how to make your own deck or which cards to buy first. Once you’re familiar with the basics, you can then start to customise your own card pool and find a favourite hero to use!

For those who’ve mastered the rules and want to test their skills against players, more than 1,800 game stores around the world run weekly tournaments known as Armory Events. These Armory Events are the first step onto Flesh and Blood’s competitive ladder, which offers over $1 million in prize money across dozens of events during its yearly pro play circuit, culminating with its World Championships.

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