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Confronting the Horror: Part 2

Last week I was discussing potential decklists for each investigator, as well as offering advice on how to build for that investigator to be flexible enough to support solo or two-player campaigns. Without any more preamble, I’ll continue the discussion here so we can see what would be most effective for Skids, Agnes, and Wendy.

01003

Smooth Criminal

Skids’ greatest asset is his flexibility, and his greatest flaw is his low Willpower. To make Skids work I think you’re going to need to focus on mitigating that weakness and on maximizing his action economy to maximize his effectiveness.

skids-decklist

If Skids’ greatest strength is action economy, he’s going to need a lot of resources… I mean a lot. Leo De Luca, a card many have argued is the strongest card in the game, costs a huge six resources, but if you can land him early and keep him alive then he’s going to give you an obscene number of additional actions. Likewise, if Skids can afford to spend 2 resources every round then he can also gain a fourth, or even a fifth action, making him almost as effective as two investigators. Therefore, Skids’ success and failure is going to revolve around his ability to make money.

Naturally, Burglary is the most important piece of any Skids deck. Even if you don’t want to take your free action with his ability, you should always take it to burgle so that the free action you didn’t need generates a net of 1 resource. This can be risky, of course, since you’re going to need to successfully investigate and you’re going to need to draw a chaos token, which is usually a dangerous proposition, but if you’re not willing to take a risk then you shouldn’t be playing green cards.

Since every investigator needs to be able to deal with enemies, Skids has two options: kill them with one fell swoop (Backstab) or kill them the normal way (Machete). Between the Guardian and Rogue classes, there’s plenty of ways to handle enemies, whether it’s evading, dodging, stabbing, or detonating. You could choose to include guns instead of the Machete, but I’m partial to not relying on bullets so I went with the blade. Note that Skids is going to need plenty of skills to both keep his costs low and to make sure he can pass the many tests he’s going to be making during a scenario.

Which statistics should Skids focus on? Agility is an obvious one, since he’s good at it and most Rogue cards support it, and Willpower is a necessity for surviving certain treacheries. Between Intelligence and Strength, I’d say it depends on what your partner is running in a 2-player campaign, but in a true solo environment I’d prioritize Intelligence over Strength. At the very least, you can use cards like Backstab and Sneak Attack to replace it. Managing the skill icons in your deck is going to be a tricky dance.

This brings me to the final piece: how to keep Skids from going insane. As it happens, that’s pretty difficult. Guts and Unexpected Courage give you access to some Willpower-boosting skills, and Physical Training provides you a talent, but other than that, both Guardian and Rogue classes are light on willpower boosting. Hopefully this will change, but otherwise I expect to see Skids relying on the two skills pretty heavily. It might be correct to exchange Hard Knocks for Physical Training for the additional willpower, but this version of Skids is already light on additional agility. Leave a mention in the comments: how do you handle Skids’ low willpower?

Upgrade Options:

The Best Skids O’Toole

Police Badge (2) – I said Skids needed more Willpower, and interestingly, this card is an option for that. Not only that, but it’s using a slot that isn’t otherwise being used by Skids, and even provides him yet more ways to gain additional actions. It’s a bit expensive, but if anyone can pay for it then Skids can.

Leo De Luca (1) – Remember how I said Leo might be the best card in the game? Well then upgraded Leo should be incredible, and since he only costs 1 experience, he is! I suspect this will be a staple for many Skids players simply because of the low cost and the huge advantage it gives you in that you can now play him on turn 1 for no real action cost. The Leo that sticks with you the whole game is the best Leo.

Elder Sign Amulet (3) – I usually don’t recommend taking the defensive neutral assets, but I think there’s a place for it in Leo’s build instead of the Police Badge. It costs more experience and doesn’t improve your Willpower, but if you don’t expect to see more than a couple treacheries that test your willpower, this could do more work protecting you from enemy-generated horror. It’s not like Skids necessarily needs the additional actions a lot of the time.

Skids the Cheater

Hot Streak (4) – Remember how I said that Skids wanted money? This might just be the best source of money for any character. It’s expensive as hell but totally worth it. Take it whenever you have the experience available.

Sure Gamble (3) – Another interesting way to make sure Skids can survive the many skill tests he’s going to be attempting is to pack an event that turns a failure into a win. This card is fantastic for the same reason Lucky! is, but it costs a lot of experience and can only be used once. I’m going to take it as early as I can in my Skids decks, but it’s far from necessary and might not be worth it in a lot of circumstances.

Alternatives to Leo De Luca

While I’ve praised Leo as one of the best cards in the game, I don’t believe that’s strictly true, and it’s certainly not a reason you should always include him. Skids’ own ability, after all, gives you an additional action in each round, so the extra action from Leo might not be necessary if you can instead fill the Ally slot with a character that can generate the same value by helping make sure you pass your skill tests rather than letting you test additional times.

Beat Cop (2) – Beat Cop is great for Roland, and he’s actually great for Skids for basically the same reason. This puts Skids with a Machete into a base of 5 Strength, which is a great place to be starting every fight test. And for those small enemies you don’t have time to attack, he can take them out for you. I would never recommend a level-0 Beat Cop for Skids, but the upgraded version is definitely worth it.

Cat Burglar (1) – This is for the player who expects to be engaged with enemies but doesn’t want to have to deal with them (or their attacks of opportunity). The extra Agility takes what’s already your strongest stat and makes it even better, so you can evade enemies even more effectively, and if you don’t want to draw from that pesky chaos bag then you can simply use the Burglar to relocate you to an adjacent location… without all the enemies following you. It still costs an action, but it doesn’t require an evade test and lets you disengage from each enemy rather than just one.

01004

Queen of Hyperborea

If Daisy is all about mitigating the effects of the encounter deck, then Agnes is all about taking them on, head-on. The Mystic class is another high-risk/high-reward class, capable of generating very powerful effects at low cost but in danger of also causing bad side effects if the wrong chaos token is pulled.

agnes-decklist

In part 1 of this article, I discussed how my optimal strategy is to choose two skills to be good at, one to be passable, and one to never use. Agnes presents an interesting conundrum because depending on what you need your group of investigators to do (assuming you’re not playing solo), it’s possible for Agnes to take that in two very different directions. Her willpower needs to be her primary statistic for obvious reasons, and agility should be the other good skill thanks to the fact that she can’t take too much damage, but whether to make the passable statistic intelligence or strength makes for a very different kind of Agnes.

The decklist I’ve proposed sacrifices Strength for Intelligence, as a solo investigator can’t win without some means by which to discover clues. If you pair Agnes with a high-Intelligence clue-finder like Daisy, Rex Murphy, or even Roland, it shouldn’t be too difficult to simply exchange the “Look What I Found!”, Flashlight, and Perception with something like a Leather CoatKukri, and Overpower.

Otherwise, Agnes wants to utilize her ability to dispatch small enemies so she can focus her Shriveling on larger enemies. All of her spells can be used to mitigate the encounter deck, which makes her a powerful tool with which to control what gets drawn while other investigators do most of the clue-finding. Some are adept at killing enemies (Shriveling and Blinding Light) while others take care of treacheries (Ward of Protection) and still others control what comes off the deck in the first place (Scrying). Just be careful, because with cards like Drawn to the Flame and Dark Memory, it is possible to empower the mythos beyond what you can handle.

The thing that’s going to make Agnes more powerful than other mystics is going to be the critical Survivor card she has access to: Lucky. This card is essentially identical to another set of Unexpected Courage, with the 1 cost allowing you to save it for when it’s actually necessary. As we’re going to see with the last investigator, having access to 4x Unexpected Courage means you don’t have to spend as many card slots deciding which skills you’re going to be good and/or bad at, as you can just save your cards for the tests that actually end up being relevant. For that reason, I look forward to adding more Wild skill icons to my Agnes decks as the card pool grows.

agnes-upgrades

Upgrade Options:

Slippery Mystic

Blinding Light (2) – I suspect this will be the first card that most Agnes players upgrade, as it halves the card’s cost and doubles its effectiveness. The risks are also increased, but I think that’s absolutely worth it when the payoff is a 1-cost attack that deals 2 damage and exhausts the enemy. This is one of the better Mystic cards as it is, so it’s something I would expect Agnes to purchase early and often.

Close Call (2) – Similar to how Blinding Light gives you a cheap way to dispatch and/or evade an enemy, Close Call is the Survivor equivalent. The two resource/two experience cost on this isn’t prohibitive, meaning an Agnes with a lot of agility support can use this to “permanently” deal with a troubling enemy. Note that this also doesn’t have to be someone that Agnes evades, meaning you could play this to shuffle away an enemy that Skids or Wendy evaded at the same location. I don’t think this is as important for Agnes to purchase unless she’s leaning more heavily into the “enemy management” role, considering she already has several viable options for dealing with enemies.

Master the Chaos

Lucky! (2) – Another upgrade I expect to see a lot of Agnes players take, Lucky! gives you a better version of Unexpected Courage #3-4. Being able to field most of the flexibility of the Survivor class is already a huge boon for Agnes, and this is the absolute best iteration of that ability. However, I may be biased as this version of Lucky! is my favorite card in the core set.

Grotesque Statue (4) – For mystics that want to lean more heavily into their control of the chaos bag than simply getting Lucky, Grotesque Statue gives you a 4-use version of Wendy’s ability to draw the best of two tokens. It’s very expensive in experience and takes up a hand slot, but the effect is about as powerful as it gets, and really streamlines your ability to vanquish the encounter cards you’re attracting. It’s not like Agnes uses her hand slots for anything else, in any case.

Hyperspecialization

Book of Shadows (3) – If you’re building a hyperspecialized deck for 3-4 player campaigns, there are a couple of other cards that might be worth considering. The Book of Shadows is the first one; though you might see it and think it’s a potent card for the Mystic class in general. The problems I have with the Book are threefold: One, it is very expensive at four resources and three experience. Two, it costs you an action to use. Three, its passive effect is rarely relevant. If I’m spending all those resources and experience to simply convert a hand slot to an arcane slot, it’s not worth it (I’ve never run out of arcane slots, though my spells also tend to run out of charges pretty fast). And if I want to use the book as it’s intended, to recharge your spells… there simply isn’t enough actions in the game for this to be relevant. However, if you’re paired with someone like an efficient Roland or Skids who can make up for your action disadvantage and can do most of the investigating for you, then a spell-heavy specialized build is something that might work for Agnes.

Aquinnah (1) – Aquinnah also has a similar situation, where it seems strong but is otherwise very expensive and narrow for what she does. She only costs 1 experience, but 4 resources and 1 action for no passive effect on an ally is restrictive, and unless you find yourself engaged with two enemies, she does nothing for you. Now, when you do have 2+ enemies she suddenly becomes incredible, so she’s someone I’d at least consider when building a fighting Agnes at high player counts. But with only 1-2 players I don’t think you should include her in most campaigns at only 1-2 players.

01005

Talented Orphan

Our final investigator is Wendy Adams, the Survivor whose statistics emphasize the versatility of her class, but whose weakness is so extreme that building a deck for Wendy almost forces you to build it in a particular way.

wendy-decklist

Wendy’s biggest weakness is not Abandoned and Alone, but rather the “1” printed at the top of her card. I consider a skill value of 2 to be almost prohibitive, but a 1 requires so much work to make effective that I don’t think it can be reasonably done. It’s a big handicap, making Wendy unable to kill enemies, but on the other hand it does make your deckbuilding decisions easier: focus on maximizing her strengths and find other ways to mitigate her meaningless Strength.

Maximizing Wendy’s strengths isn’t terribly difficult; Dig Deep improves your willpower and agility, and between Flashlight, Perception, and “Look What I Found!” she’s perfectly good at finding clues. Beyond the obvious, I’ve found that the most effective Wendy I’ve used has been the Wendy that’s capable of drawing a lot of cards, because if Wendy can’t succeed at her skill checks then she’s not all that great. That means that a Wendy that can’t keep her hand full isn’t an effective Wendy, which is why I believe she places the highest premium on the neutral “talent skills” (Perception, Guts, etc) and on cards that can draw her cards for doing standard game actions.

Until we see more card drawing enter the card pool for survivors and rogues, I expect Wendy will rely on cards like Pickpocketing and Rabbit’s Foot to keep the card flow going. Pickpocketing is perfect, considering how often I expect her to be evading enemies, though the action and two resources to initially play it is significant. Rabbit’s Foot is actually a card I don’t like terribly much in a Wendy deck; Survivor cards aren’t very well-positioned to maximize on successful skill tests, meaning they need to succeed on more skill tests overall to have the same effect as someone firing a gun or casting a spell. To that end, I don’t want Wendy to be failing tests. And then there’s the added awkwardness of taking up the same slot as her signature asset, which is a powerful card advantage engine in its own right… but until we get a better source of card draw for Survivors, this is what we get.

Making up for Wendy’s inabilitiy to kill enemies isn’t easy, but Rogues at least have ample resources in that regard. Backstab and Sneak Attack both allow Wendy to turn an evade check into killing an enemy, though both have issues with larger enemies that might be able to survive a single backstab or sneak attack. Otherwise she’s basically relegated to evading every enemy she sees, which can be an issue in a combat-heavy campaign like the Night of the Zealot. For what it’s worth, Wendy is quite capable at evading about everything she sees. (Note: I’d exchange Stray Cat for Elusive if I were playing Wendy in a solo campaign.)

wendy-upgrades

Upgrade Options:

The Jack Of All Trades

Lucky (2) – You might have seen a theme: one of the first cards I expect most investigators to upgrade is the in-class card that can be upgraded. This is no exception. level-2 Lucky! is a better version of Unexpected Courage in every way, and since it’s not named Unexpected Courage, you can run four copies of that powerful and versatile effect. The difference between the level-0 Lucky and the level-2 Lucky isn’t huge, but Wendy also doesn’t have as many great options as the other investigators, so I expect to see this as her first upgrade in most circumstances.

Leo De Luca (1) – You might have noticed that I didn’t include the lauded Louisiana Lion in my decklist for Wendy, despite raving about it in Skids’ section. I don’t think it’s any worse with her, but Wendy tends to have far fewer resources than Skids does, which makes that 6 cost much more prohibitive. Reducing the cost by 1 isn’t a huge effect, but the ability to play him on the first action of the game makes him far more valuable, and the experience cost of 1 is small enough that I could see myself adding Leo to a lot more Wendy decks than I might otherwise expect.

Temporary Victory

Will To Survive (3) – Survivors have a lot fewer generically powerful cards, even if they can have some powerful effects. Compare Will to Survive with the Grotesque Statue in Mystic. Both allow you to gain an almost complete control over the chaos bag, but where the Statue costs an extra experience and an action, it gets you an additional use and also allows you to spread them out over multiple rounds, saving those chaos bag advantages for when they’re most important. Will to Survive is very powerful, but it’s also very temporary, and using it to negate one or two chaos bag pulls is a pretty steep price for my four resources and three experience. I’m not certain whether this card is worth it or not, but if you’re playing a campaign with certain crucial moments, then this will be invaluable.

Cat Burglar (1) – This is a curious one, as it seems to only do things that you’re good at (improving your agility and helping to avoid enemy engagement). However, the fact that the Cat Burglar can move you in addition to disengaging all your enemies means that there might be some potential with having him as a means by which you can stay one step ahead of the mythos, always avoiding engagement until you’ve completed the investigation. Unfortunately, the burglar doesn’t help mitigate the fact that those enemies are liable to build up until there’s nowhere you can go to avoid them, so you need to be able to complete the investigation quickly.

Attacking the Mythos

Close Call (2) – There are a number of enemies for which Sneak Attack just isn’t enough. For those enemies, you can use Close Call to generate basically the same effect but regardless of remaining hit points. And if you’re in a very combat-heavy campaign, you can run Close Call and Sneak Attack for even more ways to dispatch enemies!

Aquinnah (1) – As I explained with Agnes, there’s some real value to be had with Aquinnah, but only if you think you’re likely to see two enemies at the same time. In that sense, she’s almost like the anti-Machete, as she does nothing when you’re fighting only one enemy but if you can survive until you have two enemies, she can turn one on the other and simultaneously protect you and defeat the forces of the mythos. That said, you need to be able to tank a lot of horror, and unless you have some way to draw enemies to you then you’re mostly sitting around waiting for them to build up, costing you, at the very least, an evade action every round. But in higher player counts I can definitely see this being an effective way to keep the enemies from overwhelming the group while you focus on completing the investigation.

dunwich-investigatyors

A Post-Script on Dunwich Denizens

In these last two articles, I’ve offered a potential decklist and deckbuilding suggestions for each core set investigator, and my priorities have been to present them as versatile solo-capable investigators. If you’re thinking about using these suggestions for deckbuilding with the investigators in Dunwich Denizens, I think you’ll have some success. However, due to the different deckbuilding restrictions for those investigators, I’m not sure that they’re going to be as effective in the “versatile solo investigator” role. Each one is allowed to take up to five level-zero cards from outside of their core class, but is otherwise restricted to a single class to choose from. This means they’re going to have more weaknesses despite the fact that they can take any level-zero card. Here’s some initial thoughts I have on building for each investigator:

  • Zoey Samaras: Zoey’s going to be all about killing enemies, and with only 2 Intelligence, it’s going to be difficult for her to find enough clues to make it in solo. She could make up for it with cards like Evidence, Working a Hunch, and Drawn to the Flame, but you’re going to need to find an enemy almost every round for her to kill or else she won’t be able to do much. Intelligence is definitely going to be the “dump-stat” when I build for Zoey.
  • Rex Murphy: If you thought Daisy couldn’t handle enemies, you haven’t seen Rex fight. He’s better at running away, but that won’t get enemies dead, so I’m not sure that he’s even capable of attempting a campaign as combat-heavy as Night of the Zealot. In multiplayer, however, his incredible ability to find clues is going to make him invaluable.
  • Jenny Barnes: Jenny is the exception because of how extreme her versatility is. With no bad statistics and an ability that gives her 2 resources every turn, you can basically choose to build Jenny in any way you want. However, having access only to Rogue cards is still going to make it difficult to have a ton of clue-finding ability, and she’s going to encourage you to make her evasive and combat-capable thanks to the green cards we currently have available.
  • Jim Culver: Jim has the capacity to perform well in solo play for the same reason that Roland, as Agility is a statistic that’s fairly easy to ignore. However, I suspect he’s going to be very inconsistent out of the core set because his ability to stay alive will be dependent on his ability to find his trumpet. Still, when you can use spells to discover clues, kill enemies, and evade bosses, it’s hard not to be flexible. In multiplayer, I think he’s going to fill the combat/support role due to the healing ability on his trumpet, but Jim is a pretty vanilla investigator going just by his investigator card.
  • Ashcan Pete: His dog is pretty phenomenal, but he isn’t. This means that while he can be pretty versatile, his lack of action economy is going to be problematic. Unfortunately, he can’t get Leo De Luca (1), so anything that gives him free successes is going to be critical. Most importantly, however, he’s going to want to make sure to draw lots of cards so he can get lots of uses out of Duke. I think card draw is something survivors are going to be in need of for a while.

closing-image

We have lots of options for how to build each investigator, so hopefully these articles have given some ideas on how to build for them. What do you think? Is the advice good? Am I completely off the mark? Leave a comment and tell me how you prefer to deckbuild for these investigators!

~Dav Flamerock

2 Comments to Confronting the Horror: Part 2

  1. Johann's Gravatar Johann
    February 7, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Hi Dav,
    Thanks for all the good articles, I’ve read everything you’ve written both in Star Wars LCG and now Arkham horror LCG. Some of your ideas have helped me now win 2 regionals so keep them coming 🙂

  2. Eric's Gravatar Eric
    February 22, 2017 at 9:55 pm

    Great write up and excellent information. Your write up definitely show the depth of thought that goes into building a deck. Well written, thanks.

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