In the era following Prism reaching Living Legend, it has become exceptionally clear that, when it comes to Flesh and Blood’s Classic Constructed format, we live in the world of Ice:
Just a few weeks ago, I took the brave decision to take Iyslander, Stormbind into a room where Prism was still one of the most played heroes at Pro Tour Lille – and it really paid off! – which I was amazed by: I’d mostly chosen to take the deck to the event to get reps in with her prior to Nationals, a room I assumed Prism wouldn’t be in, but through a combination of good luck, tight play, and reasonable matchups around her, I was able to finish 10-3 in 13th place out of over 570 players, good for some prize money.
At that point, I was hooked – Iyslander offers play patterns no other hero possibly can due to the flexibility of playing in both player’s turns, and all the extra decision points that brings! – I quickly found myself perfecting my list for a new metagame to make my best attempt at becoming UK National Champion.
Alas, I failed – Draft treated me poorly overall, but Classic Constructed did not, with Iyslander being one of the best performing heroes in the event despite not reaching the top 8, and myself going 5-1 with her in the CC rounds, good for 14th place and another handful of cash.
Given the abundance of options Iyslander has at her disposal, I’m here to walk you through the list I played, explain some sideboarding choices and popular play patterns, and hopefully help you get a grasp on if Iyslander is the deck for you!
Will I enjoy playing Iyslander, Stormbind?
I’d like to preface this section with a bold statement: I believe Iyslander is one of, if not the best deck in the game right now – but also one of, if not the hardest to play optimally.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of playing Iyslander, Stormbind in Classic Constructed in order to break down why this is:
- Decisions! – Iyslander as a hero plays an abundance of things at instant speed, often during the opponent’s turn, and in a game where the number of cards you have limits ALL factors of the game, this means you have significantly more ways to use each card than the average hero. If many micro-decisions that all feel important appeal to you, you cannot do better than Iyslander
- Non-Repetitive Gameplay – Unsurprisingly, the above point means that nearly every game you’ll play with Iyslander plays out in different ways, but beyond that, she even has multiple entirely different gameplans into various different heroes – be that Aggro into Dromai, Tempo into heroes like Visceri and Briar, and a Combo/OTK into Guardians like Oldhim. If you’re the kind of player to get bored of decks quickly, Iyslander might have you covered.
- Adaptable To Different Metagames – Iyslander has many all-star cards in the core of the deck, but also has a selection of narrow, powerful tools to attack specific heroes, such as Channel the Bleak Expanse, Scour or Hypothermia.
- Massively Rewards Familiarity – Iyslander will make you wrack your brain – with so many micro decisions, games can often go very long and be very grindy. Iyslander is a hero that thrives on you knowing the role of each card to not only increase the pace you make choices, but actively punish your opponents by convincing them a play is correct when you have it covered.
- Access To a Variety of Matchup-Warping Cards – Cards like Channel Lake Frigid, Blizzard and Hypothermia can be such game-enders vs Aggro, and cards like Channel the Bleak Expanse, Brain Freeze and Scour can lead to such turn-ending blowouts.
- Decisions!? – Sadly, this isn’t just a pro. You’ll find yourself making way more choices than the other player, many of which can be game-losing to get wrong. Iyslander is the definition of high floor-low ceiling, and will very much punish you for errors. Additionally, choices make for long games and grindy, difficult boardstates: Iyslander offers very little in the way of a break between rounds.
- Susceptible to “Unwinnable Matchups” – While this is less of a concern than pre-Prism, the Iyslander vs Prism matchup has shown us that Flesh and Blood has card types, keywords and abilities like Spectra that Iyslander as a Wizard has absolutely zero tools to deal with. If more of these heroes come in the future, or you’re choosing to explore Iyslander in Blitz, you need to be able to accept that if you sit down opposite one of these heroes, the game is probably already over and there’s next to nothing you can do about it, and you do not get any “auto-win” matchups in exchange.
- Power Cards Are Often Narrow – Iyslander relies on her power cards to win specific matchups, but those cards aren’t universally good. Drawing bucketloads of Channel Lake Frigid will likely secure you a game vs Fai, but likely do absolutely nothing into Oldhim. Additionally, you need to draw some of these power cards to be able to hold your own into certain matchups: if you can’t draw Frost Hex or Insidious Chill until the late game vs Bravo, for example, you’ll find the game rather difficult.
- Targetable – If opposing heroes want to beat you, they often have incredible tools to improve the matchup significantly. As we’ve seen from the recent evolutions in Oldhim’s strategy, becoming more aggressive and Red heavy, Iyslander’s chances in a matchup can become much flatter if an opponent wants to target you.
- You Must Know Every Hero’s Plan into You – Much of Iyslander’s Power comes from encouraging your opponent to slip up: Making plays that encourage them to do what you want them to do. You simply cannot do this if you’re unsure what their plan is into you, or what they want to be doing. Unlike heroes with more linear gameplans, a lack of understanding of any single heroes gameplay and play patterns is often going to end in defeat when you’re eventually paired against them.
Decklist Breakdown and Card Highlights
The “Core Cards” you play in every matchup for this deck come to a total of 42, meaning you’ll need to select 18 of the sideboard cards to join them in any given matchup. When doing this, it’s important to consider your overall blue count – Iyslander cannot afford to draw too many multi-red hands, so you should be aiming for between 38-42 blues in every matchup. In several cases, a card can make the cut over another seemingly better option simply because it is the “least terrible blue” in a matchup where we need some more.
- 3x Aether Icevein
- 3x Encase
- 2x Freezing Point
- 1x Nourishing Emptiness
You’ll be seeing a lot of Aether Icevein – it’s just the most powerful arcane tool that we have in every matchup, offering a good rate of damage and relevant disruption, becoming even more powerful alongside Insidious Chill and Amulet of Ice. It’s actually thanks to those two aforementioned cards that I feel that having all your red arcane effects be able to fuse is so important – we have to take damage to establish critical game pieces, so when we do take a turn to play one of our few big damage effects, it has to trigger those game pieces – which is mostly the reason Encase makes the cut over Aether Hail. Freezing Point is lacklustre vs aggro opponents, often being expensive and clunky, which is why the third finds itself in the sideboard, and Nourishing Emptiness, while weaker than before, continues to be the best payoff for a deck that already wants to run next-to-no attack actions.
- 3x Aether Icevein
No, seriously – it’s that good that we’re even playing the yellows. Yellow Icevein is still capable of scoring a hit above most heroes Arcane Barrier, and blocks 3 AND pitches to Waning Moon when it doesn’t, making it the perfect flexible damage effect.
- 3x Aether Hail
- 3x Aether Icevein
- 3x Channel Lake Frigid
- 3x Cold Snap
- 3x Frost Hex
- 3x Frosting
- 3x Ice Bolt
- 3x Ice Eternal
- 3x Insidious Chill
- 2x Amulet of Ice
- 1x Heart of Fyendal
Unsurprisingly, most of your staples are blue to maximise Iyslander’s Hero Ability – and we’re looking to tick a few boxes when we look what’s making the cut here:
- Ice Card
- Blocks 3
- Damage or Disruption?
- Does it play well alongside Waning Moon?
It’s important to tailor how much blue damage and blue disruption you have to the expected metagame, but you are going to need a good mixture of both. Most of these cards make the cut off of ticking more of these boxes than the alternatives, but if you’d like a detailed card by card breakdown on these, you can find it in the YouTube Video above. Many people ask me if the Heart of Fyendal is worthwhile given it’s a little pricey, and while I do not think you need it, I do believe it’s very good and should be played if you have it – I’d be looking to play the third amulet of ice if you don’t.
- Coronet Peak
- Fyendal’s Spring Tunic
- Ironhide Gauntlet
- Storm Striders
- Waning Moon
Many of these won’t need an explanation, as they’re known to be “best in slot” – but we’ll do it anyway. Coronet Peak offers a combination of powerful disruption that most players just don’t use enough, utility block, and an easy way to fuel effects like Channel Lake Frigid. Fyendal’s Spring Tunic not only provides extra resources on power turns, but often pays for Storm Striders, Oasis Respite, or Cold Snap without the need to use a card to do so. Ironhide Gauntlet offers more armor vs dominated attacks and problematic hit triggers, and Storm Striders is an effect the deck is fundamentally built around: It lets you play many different cards when you shouldn’t be able to, and kill opposing players in their own turn – it’s a very silly, very powerful tool. Waning Moon is also a core part of how the deck is built, and is simply the best weapon Iyslander has by a lot.
- Nullrune Hood
- Alluvion Constellas
- Metacarpus Node
These are all matchup specific, offering extra arcane barrier in varying amounts vs Wizards, Runeblades and Dromai. Constellas is solely the card responsible for winning vs Visceri and is very important in the mirror match too, while Node has secret potential in being able to close games a little faster, and buff a blue to kill a problematic Themai from Dromai.
- 3x Ice Bolt
- 3x Oasis Respite
- 3x Sink Below
- 3x Fate Foreseen
- 1x Freezing Point
The defensive suite here come in vs a multitude of matchups – Iyslander is commonly looking to block with two cards to allow for Moon+Arsenal or Coronet+Arsenal play patterns, so making sure those two cards block for as much as possible is often great, and particularly good vs dominate attacks or Dawnblade swings. Sink Below can also help fix multi-red hands in a pinch. Oasis Respite was, in my opinion, just a mistake, allowing for you to have a defence reaction that prevents ALL of Rosetta Thorn, doesn’t count as blocking from hand vs Dominate, is good vs Wizard, gains you life, and much more – it only finds itself in the sideboard as you really cannot afford to have any defensive cards in your deck at all vs Dromai. Ice Bolt exists mostly for Dromai and the mirror, matchups where racing or tempo is important, while the last Freezing Point offers another high-damage fuse effect in more controlling matchups. When boarding these in, be mindful to watch that blue count so you don’t end up with too many multi-blue hands.
- 3x Fyendal’s Fighting Spirit
Solely for Dromai, these are just the best phantasm popper that this deck can play, gaining life while doing that job and pitching to Waning Moon when it isn’t – many folks still prefer a more flexible or powerful card like Command and Conquer in this slot, which I understand, but I really do like my cards to make a lot of resources in this deck, as you can often be quite resource hungry, especially vs Dromai.
- 3x Arctic Incarceration
- 3x Blizzard
- 3x Brain Freeze
- 3x Hypothermia
- 2x Energy Potion
Blizzard, Brain Freeze and Hypothermia are all tailored to attack more aggressive matchups, with Hypothermia shining particularly well vs Runeblades and the upcoming Kodachi Fai lists. This cards, like the blues in the core, try to tick as many boxes as possible, but often look to give up block value and flexibility in exchange for raw power in particular matchups. Artic Incarceration is the most flexible of the blues, offering 6 damage in the late game vs Frost Hex matchups, and providing light interaction in other matchups while cheaply turning on Waning Moon – this means it’s often the blue that copies are boarded in of when the blue count needs to be increased slightly. Energy Potion comes in vs Guardian to enable larger, more game-ending Frost Hex/Ice Eternal combos, and can sometimes just pay for a “free” Waning Moon or Ironhide Gauntlet too.
Iyslander has many great tools at her disposal, some more narrow than others, so we definitely can’t explain why we’re not running them all – but I will quickly cover some of the more popular choices in other lists across the web. If you’d like to know why I’m not playing a card, and it’s not mentioned here or in the YouTube Video, reach out to me at HowlingMines and I’ll be happy to help.
- Sigil of Permafrost – I’ve always thought this card was a trap, performing poorly for me into Oldhim sporting Heart of Ice, and not feeling particularly easy to weave into common play patterns in other matchups – now that we find almost all guardians becoming even more aggressive, giving us less time to set up, we often find we have to go for “imperfect combos” over full combo while still missing pieces. In that world, we need flexibility, and Sigil just doesn’t offer that.
- Channel the Bleak Expanse – I’ve only really missed this card into specifically Belittle, finding it overkill in most matchups where it has over powerful targets. Additionally, it now affects me more negatively since I’m championing the full nine copies of Aether Ice Vein, and the effect is symmetrical. If you’re looking for a tool to attack Belittle, this is probably it, but you’ll have to make some concessions to your deck to make it work that I currently feel cause more harm than good.
- Scour – A tool that my list from Lille was utilizing, the absence of Prism and a decreased amount of Visceri in the metagame meant this card no longer warranted the space.
- Isenhowl Weathervane – Much like Sigil of Permafrost, this card was my preferred plan into Guardian in Lille that simply no longer has the time to be set up. I have seen some Australia Isylanders having success with builds built around this card having great success into aggro matchups, however, so that’s something to keep an eye on.
- Exposed to the Elements – A powerful tool vs the mirror, Oldhim and AB4, Exposed is slowly finding a home in more and more decklists. I think it may be a better mirror breaker than Nullrune Hood, and I’ll be looking to test that more in the future, but prior to Nationals, I just failed to find space for this card that didn’t massively disrupt the plan of another matchup.
- Command and Conquer/Erase Face – The argument that regular old attacks get better the more people respect Iyslander and bring an increased amount of Arcane Barrier is a strong one, and definitely deserves more testing in the future – that said, I found in my testing that CnC underperformed vs Aggro, and many heroes still had armor such as Crown of Providence or Flamescale Furnace that they still wore against me, often blunting the impact of these effects. Add this to the fact that they don’t naturally fit my preferred playstyle with the deck,
Matchup Specific Sideboard Plans
The decklist link above (and HERE again) take you to the deck build on FaBrary, a fantastic online platform where you can track game data, build decks, and even import them directly into Talishar (Flesh and Blood’s fan-made online client) with custom sideboard plans for each matchup – as a result, all my plans for EVERY hero are hosted there, and talked through in detail in the YouTube video if you’re looking for further clarification of who/what/when/where and why.
Iyslander has quickly become my favourite hero in Flesh and Blood, offering powerful and flexible plays alongside meaningful, plentiful decisions – and I truly believe she’s currently one of the best heroes in the pre-world championship metagame. If you enjoy what she’s all about, I’d recommend getting those reps in, as you’re going to need that experience if you want to pilot her successfully at the highest level.
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Thank you so much for all the love and support as I begin my journey into exploring Flesh and Blood content creation – it’s been a pleasure having you along for the ride so far!
Until next time, stay safe out there!