The Ritual Mask of Death and Decay

Editor: J. Marbella

In this issue:
I. Introduction
II. Clan Lore or From What Underworld Did These Vampires Come From?
III. Vampire of the Month
IV. Card of the Month
V. Deck of the Month
VI. Conclusion

I. Introduction

"Nothing - nothing - burns as hot as the wound left by the knife of treachery, especially when it has been left to fester for eons." - Harbingers of Skulls, The Guide to the Sabbat.

Welcome to the first issue of the official VEKN newsletter for the Harbingers of Skulls, a.k.a. The Ritual Mask of Death and Decay [until we find a better name that is :-) ]. I was originally going to publish the first issue last week, before the Bloodlines pre-release, but it would've been a bare bones newsletter. A certain person, who wishes to remain anonymous, wisely suggested I wait until after the pre-release and get some HoS cards in my hands. I'm glad I took his advice.

This newsletter will be committed to detailed discussion of the Harbingers of Skulls bloodline for Vampire: The Eternal Struggle. So in the days and months to come, you should prepare yourselves for decks featuring the HoS, read strategies that highlight this bloodline's strengths and ways to avoid their weaknesses, discussion of cards and minions that work tightly with their disciplines and abilities, and if we are lucky to receive any good ones, some fiction as well ;).

We begin the first issue with a brief introduction of the HoS, spotlight on Egottha and The Slaughterhouse, and a deck that uses both featured cards to the best of their ability.

Top of Page

II. Clan Lore or From What Underworld Did These Vampires Come From or A Possible Story of the Clan's Genesis

Vampire lore is as murky and dark as the world they inhabit. Trying to figure out who sired whom, and who diablerized whom, what is true and what is false when it comes to clan mythos can easily deplete that bottle of Tylenol you keep in your medicine cabinet. This is true more so for the vampires who call themselves the Harbingers of Skulls. The most information you can find about them is in the V:TM Guide to the Sabbat handbook and that isn't
saying much. So here is a brief introduction to them…

The Third Generation of Caine's curse produced what is known as the Antediluvians. In basic legend, there were 13 Antediluvians, who are the founders of all 13 clans. One of the Antediluvians was Cappadocius (Death) who founded the aptly named Cappadocians. In the 1300's Cappadocius Embraces a family of Venetian vampires, the Giovanni, in order to gain more insight into the nature of death. In 1444 Augustus Giovanni diablerizes Cappadocius and purges the Cappadocians claiming and renaming the clan after himself. However, the souls of the murdered Cappadocians remained in the Underworld,
driven mad by their desire for revenge. These banished Cappadocians were recently freed by the Cappuchin and are back in the land of the living, likely through some deal made by a Cappadocian named Unre. She joined up with the Sabbat and her clan is the Harbingers of Skulls.

There are roughly 31 known Cappadocians in V:TM and Bloodlines will
give us 5 of them:
- Agaitas, The Scholor of Antiquities,
- Anisa Mariana Lopez,
- Egotha,
- Gisela Harden, The Winnower, and
- Unre, Keeper of Golgotha.
The clan disciplines include Auspex, Fortitude, and Necromancy. White Wolf Bloodlines web preview on the HoS hinted that they might be high-capacity (ancient) minions with special abilities leaning towards resource denial, and boy(!) did WW give HoS resource denial in VTES!

Top of Page

III. Vampire of the Month

Harbingers of Skulls. 7 capacity
Sabbat: During your untap phase, if Egothha is
ready, your prey burns the top card of his or her
library. If that card is a master card, Egothha gains 1

At first glance Egothha seems like he has no disadvantages. For a 7 capacity vampire with all in clan disciplines at superior (plus inferior Obfuscate for some stealth) AND a practical special ability makes Egothha a real bargain. A minion you can easily bring out in 2 turns and start making your prey wish she were seated somewhere else on the table is always a good thing.

Burning your prey's top library and gaining 1 blood if it is a Master card makes having a Blood Doll on Egothha give you 1 pool every turn ("Burn the top of your library… aHA! Master card, Egothha, Blood Doll, Me"); not a bad substitute for a bloodline that has no access to a hunting ground. These days though, Methuselahs try to keep the number of Master cards in their library to a minimum, 10-15 Master cards, so gaining 1 blood on Egottha has a 11-14% chance of happening in a 90-card library. Not great odds if you ask me, particularly when your prey gets to play a Master card every turn, thereby, reducing the odds even more. The beauty of Egottha's ability is not in the blood gain, but in denying your prey a valuable resource in the game, your prey's library cards; and if it is a focused and combo-intensive deck, getting rid of key cards makes ousting your prey a little easier to do. You just need to keep Egottha "ready" during your untap phase; and by having a Secure Haven or using Superior Fortitude to prevent damage, that shouldn't be too difficult to accomplish [just be careful of Banishments, I know these Cappadocians… I mean Harbingers of Skulls don't want to go through all that again!].

However, discarding your prey's top library card in some ways could be disadvantageous too. Just like Dr. Jest's ability, you could be helping your prey get rid of cards she doesn't need. Helping your prey cycle out undesirable cards and getting to cards that she really needs more quickly can put a dampener on your plans by allowing your prey to oust your grand-prey that much easier. Also remember that as much as milling your prey out of library cards could hurt her, you still need to oust her by making sure she runs out of blood. Like most everything though in the World of Darkness, everything comes at a price… but for a 7 capacity vampire with all in clan disciplines at superior and a practical special ability, this Methuselah would be more than willing to pay that price.

Top of Page

IV. Card of the Month

The Slaughterhouse
Clan: Harbingers of Skulls (with Burn option)
Cost: 1 Blood
Master: location
Tap to burn up to 2 cards from the top of your prey's library
"Death and decay. Decay and death. But the soul survives, even in our
inhuman shells. Comprehending the passage of the soul through the
physical cycle requires accelerating the process whenever possible."
- Anisa Mariana Lopez, Harbingers of Skulls

Well was there ANY doubt as to what card will be featured first?! ;-) The Slaughterhouse has probably been the most talked about card since Bloodlines has been released; with many of those saying that it could quite possibly be broken. Let's see why it is such a great card and why many are up at arms…

PRO: In order to play it, you need to have a HoS controlled and ready, so no problem there. It costs only 1 pool, and you can tap and have your prey discard the top 2 library cards the same turn you bring it out. It is non-unique, so you can have several Slaughterhouses out at once. Just like Egothha, it denies your prey a valuable resource in the game, her library cards.

DIS. It doesn't help you bleed your prey or reduce their pool; and since the HoS are lacking any bleed punch you have to find some other means to oust your prey. Having several Slaughterhouses out a time, means that many more times you may want to defend it and being a target of almost anyone on the table.

So is The Slaughterhouse broken? Powerful yes, but broken no, for there are several ways to get rid of it (it's a location that could be destroyed with Arson, Rampage or stolen with a Disputed Territory and a Master card that can be discarded by a Sudden Reversal); and for all the library burning it does, it still doesn't deplete your prey of blood, which is what you need to do to earn that VP… nor does it help keep your predator off your back…

Top of Page

V. Deck of the Month

Name: Revealing Death, Decay & Dementia
Description: The HoS are great at denying your prey of library cards, with Egothha, Agaitas, and a couple of Slaughterhouses, you could reduce your prey's library by 5 or more each turn. However, the HoS are severely lacking of any bleed punch. Of the 5 HoS available to us, only Unre has a +1 bleed modifier and at 9 cap, she is pretty expensive to be used in that manner alone. So I looked elsewhere for that much sought after bleed punch. The !Ventrue have AUS, FOR and DOM, and would be an obvious choice to mix the HoS with, but I am not terribly fond of Venture in whatever inclination, so I decided to go with the !Malkavians instead, because 1) I wanted to keep the other half of the deck simple, by using stealth-bleeds, 2) HoS and !Malk
share AUS (TMs, TCs, and Revelations), and 3) I've always wanted to play with Escaped Mental Patient. Deck is simple, use the HoS, The
Slaughterhouses, and Le Dinh Tho to deny your prey of library cards and the !Malks to bleed stealthily. Scrying Secrets and Revelations are there to deny library cards some more. Remember that Kindred Spirits give you 1 pool if the bleed is successful.

Crypt: (12 cards)
2 Agaitas (AUS for NEC, Harbingers of Skulls, 6)
1 Artemis (aus cel DEM for OBF, Malkavian Antitribu, 6)
1 Boy Toy (dem, Malkavian Antitribu, 2)
1 Claven (aus dem obf, Malkavian Antitribu, 4)
1 Dolphin Black (AUS DEM OBF, Malkavian Antitribu, 6)
3 Egothha (AUS FOR NEC, obf, Harbingers of Skulls, 7)
1 Gillian Krader (ani dem, Pander, 2)
1 Gisella Harden (aus dem FOR NEC, Harbingers of Skulls, Priscus, 7)
1 Le Dinh Tho (aus dom NEC, Nagaraja, 5)

Library: (90 cards)
Master (17 cards)
2 Auspex
3 Blood Dolls
1 Dementation
1 Institution Hunting Ground
2 Minion Tap
1 Obfuscate
7 The Slaughterhouse

Minion (73 cards)
5 Cloak the Gathering
3 Enhanced Senses
2 Escaped Mental Patient
5 Eyes of Chaos
3 Haunt
1 J.S. Simmons
9 Kindred Spirits
3 Lost in Crowds
3 My Enemy's Enemy
5 Revelations
2 Scrying Secrets
7 Skin of Steel
3 Swallowed by the Night
1 Tasha Morgan
2 The Call (!Malk version of Enchant Kindred/Govern the Unaligned)
5 Telepathic Counter
5 Telepathic Misdirection
3 Voice of Madness
6 Wake with Evening's Freshness

Top of Page

VI. Conclusion

Well I hope you enjoyed this first issue. The next issue should be out in January 2002 (and hopefully a website to go with it), a lot of time for us to play with the new toys given to us courtesy of Bloodlines. It is quite obvious that when WW announced a new deck arch-type with the release of Bloodlines, they meant resource denial and they intended the Harbingers of Skulls to spearhead that effort. Whether resource denial would be a consistent and winning alternative to stealth-bleed, voting, or rushing remains to be seen…

Special thanks to Jason Liang and Ian Kemp for providing a lot of background material on the Harbingers of Skulls.

If you have any deck submissions, HoS strategy, fan fiction, comments or suggestions, send them to me at Until then, put on your masks, wear your shrouds and cloaks, and dance the ritual of death and decay…

J.A. Marbella