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Lucaxiom · 1539
An Ode to Springfield
The Springfield M1903 is an universally panned card, and holds the ignoble distinction of being the only card to ever receive a buff through the Taboo List, not a nerf. The most popular review of it on this website is a scathing satire on its ultra-restrictiveness, and it is distinctly absent from almost every single guardian deck published here. As a result, it likely sits collecting dust in most people's collections, never to see the light of day.
But you know what? Nuts to that! It is a cool card for the unorthodox playstyle it encourages, and what's more, it has all the supporting cards needs to make it viable, and dare I say, even good?
It certainly earned its salt during the 4-player Path to Carcosa I tested it in; our party won the first five scenarios with ease, even as we upped the difficulty from standard to 'stan-hard'. Even scenario 6 on hard difficulty was a success, albeit narrowly. And we only lost scenario 7 (and thus the campaign) on stan-hard difficulty via advancing the agenda (through Ancient Evils-esque abominably bad luck) one round off of winning!
So curb your objections, and at least hear me out as I detail a definitely unique, probably decent Mark Harrigan deck with Springfield M1903 as la Pièce de Résistance, including an upgrade path and thematic nature of the deck in its entirety.
Let's begin with the one upside to the Springfield's name; at 4 resources and (with the taboo list in effect) 3xp, it is easily the cheapest combined resource/experience cost weapon that reliably does +2 damage (I have to include the condition 'reliably' because technically, the The Hungering Blade can also do +2 damage, but at maximum in one of every three attacks, so I discount it).
And I continue to hold the belief that Mark is the poorest of all guardians. Summarising that view-point in a sentence; he has a restricted card pool that disallows the use of economy cards available to other guardians, combined with the best card-draw engine in the game which necessitates an accelerated resource-expenditure to pay for all those extra cards, AND on top of that, he's dissuaded from including 0-cost skill cards in his deck thanks to an on-demand Unexpected Courage that makes them redundant. So yes; budget cards are the order of the day in a Mark deck, and late-game weapon are not an exception.
The downside to that cheap-ness is one of the lowest boosts in a 3+ exp weapon, a low ammo count, and of course, the condition of not being able to attack engaged enemies. This is where Mark's stat-line, card-selection, and ability come into play to enable the Springfield M1903.
At 5, Mark currently holds the title of highest attribute of all the guardians. As a result, he simply does not need as many skill-boosters as his fellow guardians. This is why .32 Colt is viable on him, and for the same reason, why the Springfield is also viable on him. Together, he hitting at 5+3 = 8, all but guaranteed against 4 attack enemies on normal difficulty, and a high likelihood of success on hard difficulty, without need for other boosts.
As for the low ammo count and restricted use, we go into more detail in dealing with those in the Upgrade Path section.
Of course, we can't start a campaign with Springfield M1903, so the .35 Winchester will be a place-holder until such a time that 3xp is gained. The Winchester is a decent inclusion not just for its similarity to the Springfield, but for it synergy with "Eat lead!" and Warning Shot, both of which also synergies with .32 Colt, which is basically and auto-include in a Mark deck; cheaper than standard weapons, more ammo to work with, and with less of a boost, which as stated above, isn't a problem for Mark.
We take the standard .45 Automatic to round out the number of weapons in this deck to 6, so as to guarantee a gun early on. Bandolier in turn does allow for the equipping of all these weapons should the opposite occur and they all turn up at the same time, but it real use is to hold a Springfield and Colt at the same time for flexibility.
As for added economy, Emergency Cache is self-evident, but Act of Desperation is the true stand-out, essentially giving any fire-arm one more bullet in the chamber, AND refunding the cost of the gun you played, so as to play another rapidly and keep the momentum going. Very efficient and desperately needed.
Other than Vicious Blow, everything else is damage/horror healing, soak, or cancelation. Flexible healing is heavily desired; in my mind, Mark Harrigan is a glass cannon(igan), whose true health/sanity thresholds are 5/3, not 9/5. He should never take damage from any source other than through Sophie; the less said about horror (and Shell Shock), the better. This is another reason why I think the Springfield M1903 play-style suits him well; you can keep yourself at arm’s length to avoid unnecessary damage.
For damage/horror that slips through, First Aid and Hallowed Mirror offer the option to heal either as needed, while Emergency Aid and Second Wind grant you two more uses of Sophie for two more card-draw and two more Unexpected Courages. Guard Dog is the lowest cost to health threshold ratio among guardian cards, and offers more close-combat option to fall back on should sniping fail, and Dodge is the 30th card without much justification, and can be swapped out without altering the deck much.
That's everything... well, except Hiding Spot.
A Sniper's Nest
Hiding Spot is a very versatile card, and for the first scenario or two, it's liable to be used either on your squishier or less evasive allies, or for its icons. It can even provide a breather round when weapons need replacing or damage/horror has mounted-up and needs managing, so it entirely viable to use it on yourself to delay enemies for a turn.
But as the title suggests, its ultimate purpose is to be plopped down in a central-esque location so that good ol' Mark can sit pretty and snipe at enemies within range, without worrying about getting engaged upon. And how that works might not be immediately obvious just by looking at Springfield M1903, but it's rest of the 'sniper' suite of cards, Telescopic Sight and Marksmanship that reveal its function.
With cards that ignore the aloof keyword, inducing aloofness in enemies becomes the fun part of this decks strategy. With a Hiding Spot down and a Telescopic Sighted Springfield M1903, non-elite enemies spawn scratching their heads, before losing their heads, and dead enemies can't discard Hiding Spot, thus you perpetuate your 'click-on-heads' romp through the encounter deck's forces.
So really this deck is a combo-deck, needing four cards: Springfield M1903, Telescopic Sight, Hiding Spot and Marksmanship to truly roleplay a dispatcher of long-range death. Usually combo-decks are un-reliable, but again, Mark has the best draw engine in the game, so it has a decent chance every of being pulled off in its entirety.
And if you can't pull it off due to bad luck? Well Mark's backup plan is... Mark himself. One .32 Colt is enough set-up to making him combat-ready. Guard Dog is enough to make him combat-ready. 5 should really not be underestimated.
Elite-enemies with the hunter keywork. Enough said to be honest. NON-hunter elite enemies on the other hand, are a cakewalk (minor Path to Carcosa spoilers: turns out, PoC has a non-hunter elite enemy; it died, getting shot in its gormless face with absolutely no risk to myself, for a free victory point). For the most part however, elite enemies tend to have the hunter keyword, so this is definitely not a boss-killing deck.
A second main weakness of this deck is... well, Springfield can target enemies engaged with other investigators, so you'll occasionally be playing a dangerous game where losing means three damage on one of your allies. Having a good evasion-focused investigator helps tremendously with this, and I had such a partner in the PoC campaign that make things much easier. Mark himself is no slouch at evasion; Sophie or a committed Hiding Spot gets you to 5, which will help in a pinch.
If you've been paying attention, the first three upgrades are obvious: Springfield M1903, Telescopic Sight, and Marksmanship, for a total of 14xp, replacing .35 Winchester, Dodge, and Vicious Blow respectively. And really, that's the late-campaign tech taken care of; all future upgrades will be pretty much entirely geared towards economy.
Starting with .32 Colt (2). It might seem odd to start with this over "I've had worse…", but .32 Colt (2) does more than provide a one resource discount; it alleviates the need for six weapons in the deck, because now we have an 'infinite' ammo weapon. In effect, we've opened up the replacing of the .45 Automatic, the tied-highest costing card of this deck.
And boy are we going to shave off eight resources off the total cost of this deck by replacing said .45 Automatic with Well-Maintained. Well-Maintained allows for any Springfields to be a two-in-one weapon package, especially after you use Act of Desperation, which now returns the Springfield, AND the resources to pay for it, AND the Telescopic Sight as well to your hand, freeing you of the mandate to have drawn the second one! Cool eh? At least I think so.
Now you can get "I've had worse…", which puts you have 24xp spent, past the point of the mandated upgrades; everything else after is not as pressing. Warning Shot and "Eat lead!" can go right about now; certainly their usefulness have diminished with the exclusion of the .45 Automatic and the .35 Winchester. What I would recommend as further upgrades are:
- Extra Ammunition: further cost-savings, since it's cheaper (and faster) to reload than to replace the weapon.
- First Aid (3): more healing; enough said.
- Ever Vigilant: further cost-savings, though dubious as there aren't that many assets in the deck.
- Stick to the Plan: one Emergency Cache, one Hiding Spot, and one Act of Desperation, to have your economy and one combo piece readily available. Again dubious; Mark's draw should be enough most of the time.
- Ambush: If you're going to be sitting still, why not? It's further protection from getting engaged unwillingly.
Theming and Conclusion
Mark Harrigan is an army veteran, if Shell Shock didn't give it away, but to imagine him as an army marksman is an interpretation unique to this deck. The .32 Colt, the .35 Winchester and the Springfield M1903 are rather old weapons too, for 1925, which is Arkham Horror's setting, but that fits perfectly for a man who would likely be familiar with weaponry from the war 9 years prior.
Perhaps he also moonlighted as a medic, what with First Aid, and Emergency Aid. Personally, I prefer to think of the healing in this deck as more metaphorical, indicative of a broken man, constantly over-exerting himself over the guilt of Sophie's fate, and only pulling himself back from the brink through patch-work and provisional means. Even his closest companion is not going to fix the mess of his mind (little anecdote: the dog got named 'Zebulon' by the other investigators in the Path to Carcosa campaign when it went on a quadruple killing spree in scenario 6).
So, there you go. Show the horrors that humanity has invented a few horrors of its own. War is hell, and Mark's bringing it to the mythos; God help us all.
EDIT. Corrected the name Guard Dog was given by my party.