Lasombra Newletter August 2007
Another month; another newsletter. This month I thought I'd take a
long overdue look at the Black Hand trait and how it interacts with
the clan of Shadow. The Black Hand trait has been looked at in
previous newsletters of course, but I feel that the release of Sword
of Caine means that a new general overview is now necessary; to see
what membership in the Black Hand offers the new G4/G5 vampires, as
well as what the new Black Hand library cards mean for the old guard.
Rather than try to compress everything relating to the Black Hand
into a single newsletter I plan to spread it out over the course of
this newsletter and next month's.
THE BLACK HAND
The Black Hand trait is something like an unusual discipline in that
it is shared by a number of vampires across various clans and gives
them access to a number of cards that they would otherwise be unable
to play. Probably the best parallel to draw though would be that of
the Anarch trait. Neither trait seems to get played much, probably
due to the fact that decks that want to make use of them must first
ensure that the vampires in the crypt obtain the trait in question;
otherwise the Anarch/Black Hand module simply becomes a module of
dead cards. The Black Hand trait appears more playable then the
Anarch trait for the number of important reasons, the primary one
being that it is easier to build a crypt containing Black Hand
vampires. Although (prior to Sword of Caine at least) there were more
options for making a vampire an Anarch (including a card-less action)
no vampires are innately Anarchs and thus all the Anarch cards in
one's deck are unplayable until one can convert at least vampire to
the Anarch cause.
By comparison there are a significant number of vampires who possess
the Black Hand trait out of the box and most of them have at least
minor discipline overlaps. Short of a few tricks only Sabbat vampires
can join the Black Hand and while it gives them access to a number of
interesting support cards it is unlikely to provide an entirely new
possibility for ousting, though it theoretically can support an
already present strategy nicely.
The original Black Hand set offered an interesting combination of
cards which provided an interesting mishmash of effects and an
advantage over other Sabbat vampires (as the Black Hand is an elite
faction within the Sabbat they have some significant authority other
their Sabbat brethren). These included cards that provided intercept,
increased bleed, a conditional permanent rush, card cycling
opportunities and increased hand size; the most powerful cards being
the Watchtowers. Although the Sword of Caine set hasn't really given
the trait an increased focus it has provided a number of new
complimentary effects, including increased access to untap effects,
increased voting capacity and a number of new (easier) ways to make
vampires Black Hand members. So what does this offer the clan of
MEMBERS OF THE BLACK HAND
At the present there are five Lasombra who claim membership in the
Black Hand, two of them in Group 2, one in Group 3 and two in Group
Clan: Lasombra (group 3)
Disciplines: DOM obt pot
Sabbat. Black Hand Seraph.
Clan: Lasombra (group 3)
Disciplines: DOM OBT pot qui
Sabbat. Black Hand: You have +1 hand size while Henri is in combat.
Ermenegildo, The Rake
Clan: Lasombra (group 4)
Disciplines: DOM OBT pot
Sabbat. Black Hand.
Appius Claudius Corvus
Clan: Lasombra (group 5)
Disciplines: DOM OBT POT cel nec
Sabbat. Black Hand. Seraph: +1 stealth.
Clan: Lasombra (group 5)
Disciplines: CHI DOM OBT POT
Sabbat. Black Hand: Saul may burn a blood during your discard phase
to untap another ready Black Hand vampire.
A couple of things become apparent; firstly every single one of these
vampires has DOM, with all but Banjoko having OBT as well. None of
them share any out of clan disciplines. The G3/4 pair has a lower
average capacity(with an exceptionally young Seraph) while the G4/5
pair has a higher average capacity but increased access to out of
clan disciplines. A number of other Black Hand vampires share slight
discipline overlaps with these vampires, but one can always convert
other Lasombra into members of the Black Hand to support them. There
are a number of ways to do this:
+1 stealth action. Requires a ready Sabbat vampire.
Put this card on the acting vampire and move one blood from the blood
bank to this vampire. This Sabbat vampire is Black Hand. A vampire
can have only one Blooding.
Released in the Black Hand set Blooding is an action that allows a
Sabbat vampire to join the Black Hand and gain a blood in the
process. Although the blood gain is helpful the main problem with
Blooding is that it is an action card and can thus be blocked,
despite its innate +1 stealth. Since the acting vampire doesn't untap
afterwards it's also perhaps a bit ineffective, as you'll have to
wait another turn to be able to act.
Put this card on a Sabbat vampire in your uncontrolled region who is
not Black Hand. While this Sabbat vampire is controlled, he or she is
Black Hand. This card remains in play, even when the vampire is in
the uncontrolled region. A minion may have only one Cadet.
One of the new options presented to us in Sword of Caine, Cadet has a
few things to recommend it. Firstly, as a master card it cannot be
blocked and is far less likely to be prevented than Blooding. Also,
being a trifle you should still be free to play another master card
should you so wish. The theoretical disadvantage however is that the
vampire you wish to play it on must be in the uncontrolled region,
making the card ineffective once you've influenced out the vampire in
question. Theoretically the value of the card rapidly decreases as
the game goes on and it's a card you really want to see in your
opening draw. To be sure of that however you'd need to include a
large number of copies, all of which would take up deck space, all of
which would have a high probability of becoming dead cards. Perhaps
some sort of clever trick involving Descent into Darkness is
possible, but as it stands Cadet is not ideal.
Requires: black hand
+1 stealth action. Requires a ready Black Hand vampire.
Put this card on a younger non-Black Hand Sabbat vampire who has
performed a successful action this turn, and untap that vampire. The
Sabbat vampire with this card is Black Hand.
Mustajib is interesting. It's an action just like Blooding and
therefore can be blocked, but it allows you to untap the younger
vampire who becomes a member of the Black Hand, reducing some of the
cost of having to take an action in the first place. Although the
targeted vampire must be younger (and perhaps therefore less
effectual), an older vampire is also probably that much harder to
block, making the action itself for likely to succeed, though the
younger vampire must have performed as successful action himself
earlier in the turn if he is to be a viable target.
When this card is moved to a vampire, that vampire gains 4 blood,
becomes Sabbat and untaps, or that vampire can choose to burn this
card instead. The vampire with this card is Black Hand. If he or she
was already Black Hand when receiving this card, he or she is a
A tricky one. This is one of the few ways to make a non-Sabbat
vampire a member of the Black Hand (and Sabbat), but it seems to
require far too many moving parts. It's difficult enough to build
trophy hunter decks, which require a large number of additional
cards. Throwing the Black Hand into the mix as well just seems
suicidal. This card would probably be used more often as a way of
making a Black Hand trophy hunter a Seraph, though I'm not sure I see
a vast value in that myself.
Clearly there is no perfect option and choices must be made as to
which of the above cards suit the aims of ones deck in question.
Stealthier decks or those that have access to multi-acting are
probably better of using the actions, while those that have little
hope of sneaking past casual intercept has best make use of Cadet.
After all this effort one must ask what the actual value of joining
the Black Hand actually is. Here I want to take a look at a number of
cards and discuss how they interact with our clan.
LIBRARY CARD FOCUS
Put this card in play. Tap to discard one card if you control a ready
Sabbat vampire. Tap to draw two cards if you control a ready Black
Hand vampire. During your discard phase, control of The Admonitions
passes counter-clockwise until it is controlled by a Methuselah who
controls a ready Sabbat vampire (or is burned if there are none).
Card cycling is obviously an important part of VTES, there are a
large number of decks that include the Barrens for this very purpose,
a card that the Admonitions is obviously quite similar to. So how
does it compare? Firstly one has to note that if you don't control a
ready Sabbat vampire then the Admonitions is useless to you and will
most likely go towards helping someone else at the table (or just
burning). Even if you do control a single Sabbat vampire the Barrens
is probably a better choice, other than the fact that you're more
likely to have to contest it. The card's value becomes apparent when
you control a ready Black Hand vampire; it lets you draw two cards,
reassess your hand and discard those cards you don't want. Obviously
the value of the Admonitions is somewhat metagame dependent; if
everyone else around you plays Sabbat then this card is probably a
poor addition to your deck. However a Black Hand rush deck could
consider rushing other Sabbat vampires at the table to secure you're
the exclusive use of the Admonitions. As combat decks can run into
trouble if they get jammed on problematic cards this seems like a
Chronicle of the Lost Tribe
Requires: black hand
+1 stealth action. Requires a ready Black Hand vampire. Unique.
Put this card in play. You get +1 hand size. Any vampire with a
capacity above 4 may steal this card for his or her controller as a
Obviously increased hand size is a wonderful thing, but given the
Lasombra's general inability to muster much intercept you probably
won't be able to defend the Chronicle of the Lost Tribe. That said
there are a handful of Lasombra with at least inferior Auspex and
Obtenebration can provide a little intercept, so this isn't a card to
rule out at first glance.
Put this card on any Black Hand vampire. This vampire may tap this
card to prevent 1 point of damage in combat or to gain a blood. This
card doesn't untap as normal. This vampire may burn a blood to untap
this card during his or her untap phase.
A lovely card for its flexibility. Corporal Reservoir can provide
slight protection for agg-poke or allow you to gain a single point of
blood when you really need it. As the card is only a trifle it won't
eat up your master phase action, so for Black Hand vampires it's
simply superior to Life in the City. Note that there's no limit to
how many Corporal Reservoirs you can put on a vampire, so a couple of
these in a Black Hand deck where blood is an issue could be a good
Put this card on a Black Hand vampire. Vampires must burn 1 blood to
attempt to block this Black Hand vampire. A vampire can have only one
In and off itself this Dominion doesn't seem too powerful, but the
ability to wear down blockers through minor attrition shouldn't't be
ignored, especially when combined with stealth. Multi-acting vampires
in particular could stand to gain a lot from this, providing both a
disincentive to block as well as blood loss.
Ebony Fox Hunt
Cost: 1 pool
Cancel a blood hunt called on a Black Hand vampire you control. You
may play this card during your turn.
If you're considering committing diablerie rather than Grave Robbing
this should provide some protection in case you can't be sure of
dominating the political arena.
Requires: black hand
Cost: 1 blood
Requires a ready Black Hand vampire. Do not replace until the end of
this action. This vampire gets +2 intercept. If the acting vampire
is Sabbat, this vampire gets an additional +1 intercept. If this
vampire does not successfully block this action, he or she is tapped
after action resolution.
The conditions of this card obviously make it quite unforgiving, it
costs you blood, you don't replace it until the action ends (making a
resulting combat more dangerous for you) and if you fail to block
you'll get taped out. Still, the Lasombra don't have vast amounts of
intercept available to them, a card that offers +2 or a possible +3
intercept is therefore definitely something to consider, especially
if you plan to be defending cards such as the Chronicle of the Lost
Put this card on a Black Hand vampire. This vampire can tap any card
(including a minion) as a +1 stealth (D) action. A vampire can have
only one Remover.
Remover can give smaller Black Hand vampires something useful to do,
taping possible blockers, (or ambush targets), or master cards that
could pose a problem, such as the Ventrue Headquarters. Given the
increased amount of untap effects now available to Black Hand
vampires the value of Remover has probably increased, offering some
tap and bleed prospects.
Cost: 1 pool
Put this card on a Black Hand vampire. This Black Hand vampire can
enter combat with any younger non-Black Hand vampire as a (D) action.
A vampire can have only one Shakar.
The value of this is obvious. Put it on a large combat monster and
get to work. Luca Italicus strikes me as vampire who would have
something to gain from Shakar if he were made a member of the Black
Hand; look our for a deck best month.
Watchtower: Chosen are Called
Cost: 1 pool
Master: watchtower. Requires a ready Seraph.
Put this card in play. You may use a master phase action to draw
three cards (discard down to your hand size afterward). Burn this
card if another watchtower enters play. Burn option.
We Lasombra have access to the smallest Seraph in the game; it would
be foolish not to consider the watchtowers. Watchtower: Chosen are
Called is great because it provides some very strong card cycling
opportunities, doesn't require a political action like Watchtower:
Greatest Fall, while offering an effect that suits the Lasombra
better than Watchtower: Four Ride Fourth
Cost: 3 pool
Master: unique location.
+1 hand size. During your untap phase, a ready Black Hand vampire you
control gains 1 blood. Any Assamite can burn this card as a (D)
action that costs 1 pool.
If you really want the extra hand size and can afford its cost
Weeping Stone is probably better than Chronicle of the Lost Tribe as
short of any Assamites you won't have to worry so much about
defending it, while combined with a blood doll and a Black Hand
vampire it can actually pay for itself over time.
That's it for this month. Next month the star of the show will be the
new cards from Sword of Caine, as well as a deck staring Luca trying
to make use of a number of them.