Hunting for Hunters
Lurking in the Beastgrave are a myriad of…well…beasts…
The latest set of underworlds warbands have arrived onto our boards equipped with the new aim of hunting and avoiding being hunted. This new set of skills unique to newer warbands is known as the Hunter/Quarry mechanic. The idea of kitting out specialised fighters to take down powerful enemy behemoths sounds incredibly thematic and could be an interesting element to play with in the game!
So, on a scale from Paul Blart to Predator, just how on is this hunt?
Looking at the new fighter cards on your Beastgrave warbands, you’ll see the Hunter keyword littered everywhere except on Draknar (not salty). You can also upgrade fighters to become hunters, with each of these upgrades usually providing some sort of additional bonus should the Hunter interact with an enemy Quarry.
There are no inherent advantages for a Hunter interacting with a Quarry. You need one of the aforementioned upgrades even if you are already a hunter. With the slew of Hunter fighters arriving on the board I understand this decision. If all Hunters already had advantages against Quarries it would go against the Briar Queens Survival Instincts to ever equip that card. That’s fine though, as long as there’s good incentive to equip Hunter upgrades to Hunters in order to enjoy the Hunter Quarry interaction (he says setting up a future section in the article…).
No fighter (so far) is innately a Quarry. The Quarry keyword is applied by using Gambits or equipping upgrades. Given the presence of Hunters and the expected interaction of Hunters hunting Quarrys, it may seem counter intuitive to apply this keyword to your own fighters. Fortunately cards which turn you into a Quarry apply powerful stat boosts (like permanently being on guard, or being immune to Gambits) in order to help ease the pain of being hunted by Gnarl, the deadly tracker that he is.
Whilst hunters need upgrades to get permanent advantages against Quarries, what Hunters do get for having the keyword is access to a slew of Gambits unique to them. There are also Objective cards which can only be scored by Hunters. So even before you get access to your free pushes and re-rolls, you can still benefit from your predatory instincts.
So it seems the game is set up to create powerful single fighters (Quarries) which seek to avoid a potentially less powerful but skilled Hunters equipped to take them down on the other side.
Before we delve into the interactions, lets home in on the Hunters a little more.
Tools of the Trade
After flicking through the cards from Beastgrave you’ll see the Hunter keyword cropping up a fair bit. Sometimes on cards that you’ll gloss over reasonably quickly, but occasionally you’ll get a real gem. Let’s have a look at a few of the cards that really put Hunters (and by extension, Beastgrave Warbands) further up the tier list.
Trap made its way onto the restricted list during Nightvault, due to its ability to buff up successful attack actions. Other gambits that add plus one damage to the next attack action could be wasted if an attack missed, but Trap could wait until you knew you were successful. Trap has since rotated out of Championship play, however if you are a hunter you needn’t say goodbye to this powerful card. Beastgrave warbands can access an unrestricted copy of Trap as long as a Hunter has made the successful attack action. This means that Hunters find it easier to eliminate 2 health fighters with ranged attacks, in addition to having an easier job finishing off tougher 4 wound opponents. They can also combo Snare with Pit Trap for a cheeky two damage boost! Just be wary of cards like Aggressive Defence which prevent your push back.
Tome of Offerings ability to allow single fighters to farm glory from low health opponents made horde warbands very dangerous to play during Nightvault. Restricting the card has helped to curb the power of Tome, by at least forcing players to give up another powerful effect to include the card in their deck. Yet again Hunters get access to an unrestricted version of a previously restricted card, albeit this time with some key differences to the wording. Trophy Belt requires an adjacent enemy fighter to be taken out of action to gain glory. Stormsire being able to cackle manically in the middle of an opponent’s board as he did his best Darth Sidious impression was the primary reason why Tome of Offerings felt so oppressive. Trophy Belt will usually force you to commit a charge to gain the benefit of its effect, limiting the number of times a single fighter can proc the bonus glory in a game. You also gain spent glory unless your target was a quarry, however in practice I’ve found that I’m rarely unable to equip upgrades by the time a Trophy Belt fighter is doing the dirty on an opponent.
Brought To Bay
Advancing Strike was another card that became so prevalent in Shadespire that it was restricted in Nightvault. Hunters have access to an unrestricted version. I personally feel a pattern beginning to develop here. Its worth pointing out that like Trophy Belt, Brought to Bay is a slightly down tuned version of the original card. Advancing Strike was scorable by gambits as well as fighters attack actions, where as Brought to Bay requires your Hunter to do all of the work himself. This does mean that you cant be scoring the card with Snare.
With Spectral Wings coming back, Cover Ground coming back and Gathered Momentum being released into Beastgrave, running really fast is suddenly becoming an incredibly profitable pastime. For aggressive warbands wanting to Surge their way to victory before swinging at an opponent, these speed based objectives come in very handy. The fact that Hunters have access to a second Spectral Wings not only makes it much easier for them to close with opponents, it also makes it much easier for them to make bank whilst they do. Its nice knowing that when Stabbit flies into the enemy and somehow ends up stabbing his own wolf in the eye, he at least gets you points for showing up and trying.
So with hunters bringing what almost amounts to three extra restricted slots to the table for warbands able to utilise them, what happens when the enemy turns up with their natural prey. Hunters must love a good Quarry to munch on, right?
Wrong. Call off the Hunt.
Ok so maybe don’t call it off, we’ve already established being a Hunter gives you access to some pretty powerful cards. Outside of these cards however, being a Hunter really stops mattering. As I mentioned earlier, there are no inherent bonuses for Hunters interacting with Quarries. You have to equip an upgrade to the Hunter.
So far there are 2 neutral options.
Even if you are attacking a Quarry, only Predatory Instincts really sports a bonus I would consider taking. The issue is, how often are you attacking a Quarry?
All of the Hunter bonus effects require a Quarry as a target, meaning against the majority of targets your upgrade will simply be providing the Hunter keyword. We’ve established that the boon of the keyword is access to Hunter specific cards. The thing is if you didn’t already have access to the keyword, you probably wont be building a deck with cards that benefit from it. So essentially these upgrades are not going to be used for providing the Hunter keyword, and are useless for the 90% of the time you aren’t attacking Quarries. The issue is the 10% of the time (generous estimate) that you are attacking Quarries they aren’t even that great.
The long and short of this is you are never going to see a Hunter/Quarry interaction in Beastgrave in the current meta.
This card is exactly how the Hunter/Quarry interaction cards need to be designed. Its worth noting that this upgrade does not provide the Hunter keyword. As we mentioned earlier, the provision of the Hunter keyword is only a bonus you can take advantage of if your warband has hunters already and you want
Draknar more fighters to be hunters. Outside of this instance the fact the upgrade makes you a Hunter is not going to be taken advantage of, so we won’t really miss that aspect on this particular upgrade.
Hunter/Quarry upgrades need to be good enough to include without needing to interact with a Quarry, with added bonuses in case the targeted fighter is a Quarry. That way you won’t be wasting an upgrade slot on a card that you will almost never benefit from.
Won’t that just mean every Hunter deck packs cards that mean they can easily combat Quarries though??
Quarries get powerful bonuses on upgrade cards that are meant to have a downside. Currently they don’t. Powerful Hunter cards are required to keep the Quarry cards in check. Even if you have an upgrade like Eye of Kurnoth, you have to equip it, and have an enemy Quarry in range to use it. Powerful Hunter cards wouldn’t eliminate Quarries from the game, they would bring the Hunter/Quarry interaction into it.
Given the lack of good Hunter Upgrade cards, Quarries must laughing their way to the proverbial Beastgrave bank by now.
Currently Quarries aren’t being punished for being Quarries. Having said that, what are they gaining for being Quarries?
Well there are a limited number of cards that provide the Quarry keyword, but currently we have one very strong effect in Survival Instincts, one situationally strong effect in Hidden Presence, and one decent effect in Stoneform (though this is objectively worse than Survival Instincts). If Quarry cards continue on the current trend, more cards will entice people to risk the Quarry keyword. Especially when currently being a Quarry isn’t a risk at all.
The Briar Queen is currently a prime example of a fighter who benefits immensely from Survival Instincts and loses nothing. A tooled up Briar Queen can be hitting for 4 damage with Great Strength, and defending on 3 dice only failing on double supports if you get Spiritbond, Survival Instincts and Spectral Armour equipped. You also can’t be knocked back! Getting all the upgrades on the Queen is no mean feat, however she quickly becomes unstoppable if the bonuses stack. The Quarry keyword attached to her currently provides no angle of attack for budding Hunters.
The quality and quantity of Quarry cards will cause increasing Quarry quantities.
Sound the Horn
Currently Hunters don’t have any incentive to tool up against Quarries even though Survival Instincts is a prevalent enough card. Other upgrades do at least as good a job against Quarries and also work against the rest of the fighters Hunters will come up against. The risk/reward of targeting Quarries just doesn’t make it worth taking cards like Predatory Instincts. Currently though, Quarries aren’t running away with the game either.
It’s possible that designers erred on the side of caution with Hunters and Quarries in Beastgrave, making the cards specific to the interaction weaker. However if a couple of powerful Quarry cards become prevalent, Hunters will struggle to hunt if they don’t have cards to back it. Eye of Kurnoth in my opinion is currently an example of the direction the Hunter upgrades should be taking.
Hunters have access to good cards, and cards inflicting the Quarry keyword are strong. Currently however, there’s very little incentive to try and have Hunters hunt the Quarries. Even so, the mechanic still holds promise and I look to the future of Beastgrave to allow the real hunt to commence.
Soon we shall see if The Beast is Slain.
See you next time!