Out of all the contracts released up to this point, I think that this one is the most popular by the community. So many Three Hunters decks were released and played that I personally grew a bit tired of them. But that hasn’t stopped me from playing with the contract, as it can be a lot of fun.
I know that the contract is technically called: “Forth, The Three Hunters!” after the quote from Aragorn at the start of the Two Towers, but for simplicity’s sake, I will just call it the Three Hunters contract. I know that there is a Fellowship sphere event of that name, but nobody is going to get that confused. Let’s take a look at the way you build for this contract, as well as the ups and downsides of playing this contract.
Much like Fellowship, this contract has a distinct A and B side, and you will want to flip over the contract as soon as possible. The real goodies are on the B-side of the contract, but that is not to say that the A-side doesn’t help you. The first line of the contract is one you should keep in mind when building your deck for this contract. You are not allowed to have any allies in your deck. This contract focuses on your heroes, and only they may play a part in your deck. It wouldn’t be much of a Three Hunters deck if you had 17 characters under your control. That’s not hunting Orcs; that’s a hiking event!
Not being able to have any allies in the deck will obviously hurt you in your action advantage, but also a lot in your utility. Where Grey Wanderer decks start off with little action advantage, they can get to a point where they have as much utility as a regular deck. Three Hunters decks are more restricted since you only ever get to use the abilities of up to 3 heroes. This means that you will be struggling to heal, lower threat, draw cards and do other things that you usually rely on allies for on the A-side of the contract. Your attachments, side-quests, and events will have to pick up the slack here.
This is not to say that the deck cannot control any allies; you just cannot have them in your deck. Players can still get objective allies from a quest or receive allies from other players like Emery, Ceorl, and the encounter deck allies. But unlike with the Fellowship contract, there is no real point to having allies in the deck other than to share a picture later of a Three Hunters deck with 10 characters.
Enough about the ally restriction to your deck; you will be getting a few other things with the A-side of the contract. The first major thing is that each of your heroes gains an additional Restricted slot. This is huge, as Restricted attachments tend to be more powerful. You can now wield three of them on a single hero, boosting their stats more or giving them access to more abilities. You can even push to four Restricted slots if you add Golden Belt to your hero, allowing them to wield 4 weapons at once, or get a ton of hitpoints with Citadel Plates, Ancestral Armor, Ring Mail, and Raiment of War. It should be pretty obvious that cards like War Axe, which scales to the number of Restricted attachments you have, are pretty powerful to include in your deck.
To help you fill all these Restricted slots, the contract has a little cost reduction for each Restricted attachment you play on your heroes. This discounts the first Restricted attachment you play on each hero each round. This has no limit, so 1 cost Restricted attachments become free! It helps you to get going a lot faster, and you can start with pretty impressive stats on your heroes on round 1 even!
On this side of the contract, your goal is to load up your heroes with at least 2 Restricted attachments each. At that point, you may flip your contract to side B. All heroes must have two slots filled before you can flip, so not 4 Restricted attachments on 1 hero and just 1 attachment on another. This can be a bit difficult if you are not finding the right attachments quickly, causing you to have to wait on this side for a little while longer. Note that you only flip the contract during the Refresh phase. So if you have just played your second Restricted attachment on your last hero during the Planning phase, you have to wait until the end of the round before flipping over.
Flipping to side B of the contract is something that should be done quickly so you can reap the rewards of this contract. You lose the cost reduction of your attachments but gain a few things in return. First, you get +1 willpower on each hero for each Restricted attachment that they have. Since you just flipped, it means you have at least +2 willpower on each of your heroes. This is great, as three heroes usually fall behind on traditional decks in terms of willpower after a few rounds. This makes up for that. With Golden Belt and the extra Restricted slot from this contract, you could even get +4 willpower to each of your heroes, which is amazing.
But willpower alone won’t get you to the finish if your heroes are slowly dying to enemy attacks or direct damage. You need healing, and with the lack of allies in your deck, you will need a solution. Luckily, the contract allows you to exhaust it to heal 1 damage from each of your heroes. This does not sound amazing, but healing 3 damage each round is pretty huge. You can now take 3 points of Archery damage each round without caring too much, and with Elrond on the table, you heal 6 points all at once. It helps to keep your heroes going if they do not have a lot of hitpoints remaining from the time you spent at side A. It also means you have to rely less on cards like Self Preservation to heal your heroes, which can get pretty expensive.
Once you have flipped to side B of the contract, you cannot flip back to side A. You can lose all your attachments, but you will still be at side B. This means that the cost reduction you had at the beginning is now gone, so be sure to play as many attachments as you can during the first half of the game. I have found that Three Hunters decks generally have enough resources left by the end of the game, so that shouldn’t be much of an issue.
The contract has a lot of positive aspects, which explains why we have seen it being used so much. The cost reduction at side A helps you get your deck together a lot faster. The fact that you have no allies in play protects you from some treacheries like Undisturbed Bones and Curse of the Downfallen. You will also always have an advantage during quests that punish you for having a lot of characters in play. Mount Doom is the obvious example, but there are plenty of other quests that have locations that scale with the number of characters you control. Ruins of Belegost, Challenge of the Wainriders, and a fair few Ered Mithrin quests punish this.
You also get to boost your heroes to stupid levels of power. With so many attachments in your deck, you can really get their stats up high for cheap. The added restricted slots help with this, and the bonus willpower at side B will even increase the value of all these attachments. Cards like Celebrian’s Stone and Silver Circlet now become +3 willpower attachments once you flip.
These high stats on your heroes also ensure that they will be doing well in combat against higher-level enemies. Conflict at the Carrock should not be a problem, as your heroes will be decked out with so much armor that the trolls cannot put a dent in them. You will have more issues with the Sacked! treacheries, though! The extra willpower on your heroes also makes them exceptional questers in cases where you can only send a limited number of characters to the quest, like stage 5B of Foundations of Stone. It also makes them useful for Hide tests during A Shadow of the Past, and Escape tests in the Dead Marshes. Just make sure you have cards like Windfola in play so that you can recommit a hero if an encounter card removes them from the quest.
There are also a couple of downsides to this contract. While you may be doing ok in Hide and Escape tests, you will not be doing great during Sailing tests. That requires you to exhaust characters to sail, and with you only having 3 characters and a Ship, you won’t have an easy time staying on course. Other quests that harm your action advantage are also going to be difficult. Nightmare Passage through Mirkwood comes to mind, where you have to exhaust characters to resolve encounter cards continuously. That is just going to be difficult for your deck, especially if you are not using/finding readying attachments like Fast Hitch or Unexpected Courage.
Many decks will also struggle with willpower in the early game. You will have to be carried by team members or hope that the encounter deck is kind to you while you wait to flip your contract. Three Hunters decks often run the Tactics sphere for the many attachments that help in combat. This is great, but it does cause you to lose out on willpower with at least one hero or be forced to use Tactics Eowyn to compensate. Early healing is also difficult. If you are facing a lot of early direct damage or undefended attacks, you may end up losing a hero before you flip the contract. Fellow players can help mitigate this, but ideally, you would like to not have to rely on others for this.
With your Restricted attachments discounted at the start of the game, you will also find yourself playing cards faster than you can draw them. Unless you are playing with access to Lore or are running Elven-Light, you are going to run low on cards quickly. As I mentioned, it is likely that you will be running at least 1 Tactics hero, limiting your options to just Foe-Hammer. There are some options in Neutral; Open the Armory is the obvious inclusion here, though it can only find you Weapon or Armor attachments. If you are looking for events or other attachments, you are going to be top-decking for a while. Adding in heroes like Beravor could work, though you are sacrificing action advantage for cards, which is a difficult decision to make sometimes.
You will also be running a lot of unique attachments in your deck, most likely. While this may not be as many as a Burglar’s Turn deck, you will still want to get things like Celebrian’s Stone and some mounts like Windfola and Snowmane in your deck. This might conflict with other decks, so consult fellow players before you bring this deck. If everyone is bringing Three Hunters decks, then I am certain there will be a conflict here and there.
Towards the end of the game, you will also find yourself with a lot of spare resources since you can no longer play attachments on your own heroes. You will need a way to use these resources with your heroes so that you do not waste them. In multi-player, you could still play attachments on the heroes from other players or move resources to Bifur, for example. But in solo, you can get stuck with 10+ resources on your heroes if you max out your attachments quickly. Be sure to include cards like Song of Hope, Rod of the Steward, Steed of the Mark, or the traditional Blood+Fire combo to keep going. This will require some specific heroes to use with.
There are also some treacheries and shadow effects in the game that are going to hurt badly as they discard attachments. Some just discard 1 attachment, in which case you should be fine, but on rare occasions, you can lose all of them, and you are sent back to the beginning of the game. If you have already flipped your contract, then you have to pay full cost for attachments now, taking you out of the game for a while, especially if you have used the majority of your card draw at that point. Famous examples include the Leaves on Tree treachery from Druadan Forest, Weighed Down from the Ered Mithrin cycle, and Befouled Equipment from NM Return to Mirkwood. Quest stages in Dunland Trap and Foundations of Stone are also going to be hard to endure with this contract, at least the treacheries could be canceled!
Cards to include
Any and all Restricted attachments are auto-includes for your deck. Cards like Horn of Gondor might not be on the top of your list, but in a multi-player game, it can still do some work; plus, it is a free Restricted slot filled for your heroes! Just scan through your binder for any Restricted attachment that works well with the traits on your heroes, and put them in the deck.
Players also enjoy putting the One Ring in their Three Hunters deck. This is because the Ring will fill a Restricted slot from the start of the game. That means you just need 5 other Restricted attachments to flip your contract. The One Ring will also work well on a hero fitted with a ton of attachments. Strength and Courage, and Inner Strength, are very popular for this contract, along with the One Ring.
Since you already get 3 Restricted slots as well as +1 willpower per Restricted slot filled with the contract, it makes sense to increase the number of slots even further. 3 copies of Golden Belt are therefore often seen in decklists with this contract. You can now wield 4 swords at once, greatly improving your ability to deal damage or defend against attacks across the table. Even if you fill the extra slot with something you do not really need, you are still getting an extra point of willpower. Because you have so many Restricted slots open, Raiment of War can be a quick way to fill those slots with a single attachment. You might not get as big an increase in stats as you would get with more specific attachments, but boosting all your stats by 1 or 2 is pretty nice. The extra hitpoints you get are especially useful in the early game.
One of the big things that you will want to include in your deck is card draw. If you have access to Lore, then it should not be an issue, thanks to the many events that sphere has access to. Drinking Song is especially useful, as you can shuffle away duplicate attachments that you no longer need. For the other spheres, it may be a bit more difficult. Spirit has Elven-light but will need a hero like Arwen to discard it too. Leadership can put their extra resources to use with Rod of the Steward, and Tactics will need to start killing enemies in order to trigger Foe-Hammer. In any case, make sure to run 3 copies of Open the Armory. This can get you attachments up to 10 cards deep in your deck. In Valor, it can even play attachments for free, but I doubt you will need to use it at that point since you have likely maxed out your attachments by the time you hit 40 threat.
If you ever want to upgrade your heroes beyond their Restricted attachments, you could consider running the many Dunedain Signal attachments to boost stats even higher. This is fun to do, and you can even move them around if you need it, but it does come at the cost of consistency in your deck. If you draw these in the early game, they will not be discounted or fill a Restricted slot on your heroes. This will delay the rate at which you flip your contract. It’s a decision you have to make for yourself, as there are decent Restricted alternatives in Leadership, like the Shining Shield and Valiant Sword (though these require Noble heroes).
Archetypes that work well
This contract is not really fit for archetypes, but more for smashing those archetypes’ best heroes and attachments together to make a fun deck. You will have to be careful with traits like Hobbit since they will not have access to Bill the Pony to boost hitpoints. It’s not impossible to get going, but other archetypes will have an easier time.
Rohan is one of these archetypes. Aside from their unique weapons and armor like Golden Shield and Herugrim, they have access to a wide selection of Restricted Mounts. These will help to boost stats and to keep heroes ready. If you are bringing hero Elfhelm, you can even get better stats on your heroes and can continue to improve them by giving everyone access to multiple spheres. You will have to avoid a lot of Rohan events, though, which mainly focus on their ally-discard mechanics.
Noldor are also very solid with this contract. They have a lot of attachments that otherwise rarely see play and can draw extra cards with Elven-light. Elladan and Elrohir are a popular duo with this contract, as you can spend extra resources to ready them up. This makes you rely less on finding readying attachments early. Noldor can also discard extra cards from hand to boost their attack with Elven Spear or their Defence/Willpower with Protector of Lorien.
Beyond the standard archetypes, some heroes are also very popular. I think many of us have at one point used Grimbeorn the Old with this contract, as he can both attack and defend for a lot, especially if you attach 3-4 Restricted attachments on him. He is a very popular hero with this, but make sure you have backup defenders and attackers in case he becomes incapacitated by a Condition attachment or something.
There are a ton of decks that use the Three Hunters contract, but I’ll list only a few of these since many of them run the same heroes and follow the same principle. Experiment for yourself with some of these decks and be sure to post your own decklist in the comments.
- Grimbeorn-style: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/19204/strengthandcourageftgrimbeorn-1.0
- Rohan-Mounts: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/14327/rohansmightyhunters-1.0
- The Canon Three Hunters: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/20671/killerthematicthreehunters-1.0
- Noldor: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/14205/forththethreechildrenofelrond-2.0
- Personal take on the contract ft Na’asiyah: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/23601/ifitsstupidbutitworksitsnotstupid-1.0
With this contract now finished, I have come to the end of discussing contracts I actually run often. There are still some like Burglar’s Turn and Bond of Friendship to discuss but expect that those will take a little more time to do. The rest will follow soon, as well as some other content than contracts. I am also busy updating some older articles in the meantime, so keep an eye out for those.