He thought that in the beauty of the world were hid a secret. He thought that the world’s heart beat at some terrible cost and that the world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.
―Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
A challenge of designing alternate art decks is finding cohesive art to help tie the various parts of the deck together. An artist that I discovered recently, Anato Finnstark, has a striking style which makes for dramatic player cards. Other than the heroes (which feature work by kimberly80), all of the cards from this deck feature Anato’s work.
While we’re on the subject of artists to recommend, the quote above is an excerpt of a Cormac McCarthy novel from which this deck takes its name. All The Pretty Horses is a work of heart-rending beauty and I encourage any of my readers who enjoy fiction to check out the entire Border trilogy. I read these books out loud to Mrs. Beorn and we both enjoyed them immensely.
This deck is another in a series of designs I’ve been testing which are all built around the Forth, the Three Hunters! contract. Appropriate to it’s title, this deck is built around restricted Mount attachments, so hero Elfhelm is a natural choice as the fulcrum. To compliment his all-around stats and ability, we have two heroes with very specific responsibilities. Core Set Éowyn is our dedicated questing hero, and Grimbeorn the Old is our combat specialist. You can find the full deck list on RingsDB.
The contract itself grants an additional restricted slot to each of our heroes. Golden Belt grants another slot. This means that we have the potential for 4 restricted attachments on each of our heroes. With so many attachments in the deck, there is a multitude of combinations of which cards to put on each hero. Rather than enumerate all of these combinations, I will outline the ideal attachments for each hero, and then discuss some strategies for arriving at that ideal.
As our dedicated quester, Éowyn’s ideal attachments come with little surprise. Even before we flip to the B-side of the contract, Celebrían’s Stone and Silver Circlet each grant 2 willpower for 1 cost (thanks to the reduction from Side A of the contract). With Elfhelm’s willpower bonus, Windfola also provides 2 willpower but as long as it is the first restricted attachment you play on Éowyn during the planning phase, it costs nothing. Her fourth restricted attachment (after she dons a Golden Belt) is typically overkill, so the first copy of Golden Belt we draw should be reserved for Grimbeorn.
This highlights one of the more important strategic aspects of Three Hunters decks – deciding the order in which you play restricted attachments on each hero. Strider is not restricted, but naturally belongs on Éowyn. Ordinarily, giving a single hero so much willpower is a risky strategy, but Windfola ensures that she will not be removed from the quest by some troublesome encounter card effect. It is possible for Éowyn to quest for 16 in this deck, and that does not count her ability. Even without a perfect load of attachments, she easily becomes the best questing character in the game, especially in multiplayer where everyone can boost her willpower after encounter cards are revealed.
As the dedicated combat character, Grimbeorn’s ideal attachments are mostly obvious, though a bit more involved than Éowyn’s. Grimbeorn’s action is quite powerful, but it comes at a resource cost. Steward of Gondor remains the single most efficient form of repeatable resource acceleration. We are also taking advantage of the fact that it grants the Gondor trait, which makes Gondorian Shield that much more effective.
Because Grimbeorn acts as both defender and attacker, we want to improve both of these stats. We also need readying effects to allow him to defend multiple enemies. Once we have multiple restricted attachments on Grimbeorn, War Axe is our most powerful weapon. Golden Belt only makes the Axe that much more effective. With Elfhelm’s help, Firefoot grants 2 additional attack. It also grants the ability to kill multiple enemies, in the case where Grimbeorn has enough attack to overkill one of those enemies.
Assuming he has Steward and the Golden Belt to allow a fourth attachment, the ideal attachments for Grimbeorn are: Gondorian Shield, War Axe, Armored Destrier, and finally Rohan Warhorse (if you need more readying) or Firefoot (if you need to kill tougher enemies). It won’t always be possible to get exactly the attachments that you want, but Grimbeorn’s 5 hit points combine with the healing provided by the contract’s B-side to make him a robust defender.
Gondorian Shield is useful, even without Steward, as it can help him survive until we find more support. Round Shield is another option, as it is free, and it does a good job of protecting a dedicated defender who is more likely to face adverse shadow effects. Regardless of whether Armored Destrier is available, one of copies of Unexpected Courage should usually go on Grimbeorn, especially in multiplayer games where his sentinel is vital for fending of attacks in early-game attacks.
Elfhelm is our one hero with a less clearly defined role. Typically, he serves as a questing hero, but readying effects like Snowmane or Unexpected Courage allow him to support Grimbeorn in combat. The choice of which attachments to give him depends on whether we want him to aid us as defender or an attacker during combat. In either case, Snowmane is an excellent fit, as it grants him a defense bonus and gives him repeatable readying.
As a defender, Gondorian Shield, Golden Shield, and Armored Destrier are all excellent options. As an attacker, War Axe is again the best choice of weapon but Spear of the Mark and Firefoot also work. Don’t forget that Round Shield is always an option, regardless of Elfhelm’s designate role. We can always play different restricted attachments later, and discard less desirable cards like Round Shield once they have outlived their utility. The goal with any Three Hunters deck is to take maximal advantage of the cost reduction afforded by the A-side of the contract so that we can get 2 restricted attachments on each of our heroes as quickly as possible, and flip to the B-side. Once we are on the B-side of this contract, each of our heroes can best fulfill their roles.
This deck has proved quite effective in multiplayer games at our local Austin group, but I suspect is could excel at many solo quests as well. I hope that you all have as much fun playing with these contracts as I do. Anyone interested in obtaining printable copies of this deck for their own use, please contact the hall. Happy hunting!