Monarch Spoiler: What Do You Get For The Shadow Brute Who Has Everything?

Welcome! I’m sure a lot of you are here for the first time because of the spoiler. If you want to know about me there’s an intro post here. The short version is that I got into Flesh and Blood in July 2020 thanks to Team Covenant’s content. I write long-form articles about FAB with a slant towards finance, but I also cover art, design, game news, and whatever else strikes my fancy. It’s spoiler season, so I’m not going to screw around with a long preamble (don’t get used to it). Instead I’ll drop the spoiler right here, and then everyone who wants to stick around for the full article can grab a drink and meet up with me on the other side of this bombshell:

So, as the Queen of Cold Foil Commons (that’s what I’m calling myself now), this is already very much in my wheelhouse. When I first got the spoiler, I was especially excited because it was an equipment. Then, after I saw “Shadow Brute” and processed the implications, I was like, “weird.” Brute is the class I’ve played least; Rhinar’s not really my thing… But then Levia got spoiled. Body horror, especially blending the beautiful and the grotesque is very much a thing I’m interested in. Also, with the way the spoilers have been shaping up, Levia looks like she’s going to have a very interconnected kit with some combo potential, which is right up my alley play-wise. This brings us back to “Hooves of the Shadowbeast,” which is an incredibly metal name. I’m well aware that a name that long will invariably get shortened when people type it; it’s something I myself had to think about when writing this piece. So I want to get in before everyone starts calling them “Hooves” because having a good shortened form is important (it’s CRU not CoW, you heathens). So, if you feel a need to shorten “Hooves of the Shadowbeast,” they are now “Shooves.” You’re welcome.

Quips aside, this card is amazing! Nathaniel Himawan produced a great piece here. The muted blues and greys really make the unnatural pinks and purples of the flames stand out (this palette is also used on Levia’s Adult and Young cards). Shooves, much like Bloodsheath Skeleta and Reaping Blade, have a distinct biomechanical design; they aren’t worn in the way of traditional armor so much as they appear to be merged with the wearer’s (host’s?) flesh. Aesthetically, they’re a perfect stylistic fit for Levia in all her tentacular glory. And that’s an important point considering the Shadow Brute class/talent restrictions: these are very much Levia’s exclusively (at least until we get another Shadow Brute). Somewhere, in a secluded forest, Rhinar is pounding some sort of jaguar-beast into a fine paste while a tear rolls down his cheek as he thinks about his Scabskins and what could have been.
This seems like a good time to note that I am by no means a particularly skilled FAB player. I burnt out on Tabletop Simulator back in the fall, and I’m still waiting on my chance to be vaccinated, so it’ll likely be a couple more months before I can really start getting games in. Normally this wouldn’t be a huge problem. I recognize my lack of expertise and can seek help from people who have put in way more time than me. However, in accepting a preview card, I agreed to not to leak anything related to Shooves, and I take that sort of thing very seriously.

This put me in a bit of a jam, but, as with so many things relating to my experience with FAB, I just so happened to be in the right place at the right time. A few hours before Legend Story Studios reached out to me to ask if I’d like to preview a card, I was in the FAB Discord observing a discussion about how good Snapdragon Scalers were. This conversation involved Discord user Grendel, who hopefully doesn’t mind me quoting him here. Grendel is a fellow early US adopter from back before FAB exploded in popularity. Significantly, he specializes in Brute and plays in one of the few areas of the US that has had an active in-person meta since before Crucible was released. He also loves to dispense hot takes. Here are some things he had to say about Snapdragon Scalers: “They [literally cannot] make boots better then snap dragon outside of snap dragon with armor,” “I consider running snapdragon all the time, and I play brute,” and finally, ’Snap Dragons is arguably better [than] Scabskins.”

Every once in a while, it feels like the universe conspires to hand you exactly what you need. From my laywoman’s perspective, Shooves seema whole lot like a “Snapdragon with armor.” Scalers give you that much coveted “go again,” with the restriction that it goes on an attack action with Cost 1 or less. Hooves of the Shadowbeast offers you an action point if you manage to banish a card with 6 or more power. How easy is that? Well, pre-Monarch spoilers, you had Beast Within and Art of War. And at this point, you have a grisly cornucopia of other options largely centering on cards depicting mangled flesh and viscera. It seems pretty safe to say that you’re going to have ample opportunity to use Shooves. Let’s look at those two pre-Monarch enablers real quick.

Beast Within seems like it has the potential to do some downright silly things for Levia in general. If you discard it to an Attack, Beast Within digs until it finds a 6 power card, it banishes that card briefly before putting it into your hand, and the little vacation that card takes to your banished zone turns on Hooves of the Shadowbeast, which gives you the option to grab an extra action point if you can capitalize on it. And that last part is the key. While Scabskin can offer you the potential for multiple extra action points over the course of a game, you are literally rolling the dice in hopes that it doesn’t backfire and blow you out. Shooves only gives you one additional action point, but it won’t whiff; you get to use that point when you can be sure it’s going to be a big deal for you.

And then we have Art of War. AoW has some pretty spectacular interactions with Shooves. In addition to guaranteeing a 6 power card in your hand gets banished, it replaces itself and the banished card as part of the deal. Oh, and it will also hook you up with an addition +1 power on all attack actions you play on the turn, which, hey, you coincidentally have a bunch of cards in hand and an extra action point! Beast Within and Art of War were both already strong cards, so the fact that they play well with Hooves of the Shadowbeast and Levia is incredibly appealing. Beyond the old cards that will find new applications in Levia decks, our girl is bringing a ton of options with her. I’m not going to rehash all of her spoilers here, but around the time this article is live or shortly after, her cards in the Monarch spoiler gallery should be mostly filled out.

One aspect we haven’t touched on yet concerning Hooves of the Shadowbeast is financial value, which I know is sort of supposed to be my thing. We’ll skip over the obvious element really quickly: the cold foil version will be valuable. If you want them in cold foil (I assume all the equipment in Monarch will be available in cold foil), you’ll need to either open them in a first edition box or be prepared to pay a fairly decent chunk of cash. However, the thing that is actually really exciting to me about these is that they’re going to be super cheap in their non-foil version. One of the questions that the community has debated on and off is, “Will the cost of seemingly-mandatory Legendary equipment be a problem for recruiting new players?” In the face of that question, Shooves shows a willingness on LSS’s part to print Commons that compete with established class Legendarys. While we can’t be sure that Shooves are as good as they appear to be until people actually get to play with Levia, I think that they’re likely going to be her default Legs choice; meanwhile, Scabskin Leathers are going to have to make a strong case for why you’d take them instead, especially in Blitz, and that’s awesome!

Monarch spoiler season is off to a wild start, with each day’s offerings making me reevaluate so many things. If you told me last week that the class I was going to be excited about in Monarch was, of all things, Brute, I would have given you such a look. But then our gore-soaked Shadowborn Abomination arrived on the scene, and here we are. Hail Blasmophet!

*Header Image: Monarch Key Art by Carlos Palma Cruchaga

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