Hi and welcome to part 1 of a 5 part series on deck building options in Arkham Horror: the Card Game. In this article we’re going to cover the most common type of option so far which is: level 0 to 5 cards of the investigator’s main class and level 0 to 2 cards of a fixed secondary class. Just in case that was too generic or if you’re not familiar with deck building options, there’s an example below.
In a general sense, this deck building is very strong and each combination by itself can lead to many different deck and play styles. Fortunately, each investigator with these options is graced with an ability that almost always complements the deck building. The interaction between the two can vary in effectiveness from both a mechanical and thematic perspective. Coming up, we’ll take a look at the currently released investigators that possess this restriction, but first, let’s take a trip down memory lane.
Our first love
The 5-2 split was first introduced in the Core Set, where each investigator followed this rule and no investigator shared a secondary class with one another. When the game was young it almost felt like this was the default deck building restriction. That didn’t last too long of course, due to Dunwich Legacy adding it’s own special set of options, but that’s a topic for another post. The point I want to stress here is that this group feels like the default deck building options and in a way, it is. It’s the least complicated of the existing stipulations and it gives full type access to the investigator’s secondary class. Most of the other restrictions we’ll see limit the secondary either card types, quantities or both.
The biggest advantage to this option, as mentioned, is unrestricted access to each of its classes, albeit with a level restriction on the secondary class. This means that when creating a deck you’ll need to balance between skills assets and events from both classes but also that you’ll have all of those options when considering what strategy you want to take. As a general rule, decks need a mix of assets, events and skills and with the 5-2 split you can take any of those from either class. Let’s give an example with a newly released investigator, Sister Mary. She can lean into guardian access to wield guns and supplement her 3 combat stat with cards like Vicious Blow. On the other hand, she could lean more into her Mystic access to cast spells that deal damage or find clues, a strategy that plays well into her 4 willpower. Two sister Mary decks that rely on the different strategies above will look very differently and each will make their own use of the nun’s high bless generation.
So what is the drawback to this combination? It’s present mostly behind the scenes when designing the game. As we’ll see, there is only one investigator so far that has unrestricted access to level 3 cards of multiple classes. We’ll leave that one character for a future article, but in the meantime, what is the impact of this figurative line in the sand? Well, let’s take a look at some level 3 cards. Stick to the Plan in Guardian, all of the Seeker untranslated cards, Ace in the Hole for Rogue, Will to Survive and Dayana Esperence in Mystic (as well as many of their spell upgrades). The permanent talent cycle (e.g. Higher Education and Keen Eye) also starts at level 3, taboo adjustments aside. All of the Circle Undone multi-class cards, such as Enchanted Blade, upgrade into their single class variants at level 3. There are more examples, but it’s pretty clear that there’s a power level jump at this level. The result is that investigators with the 5-2 split miss out on some very good off-class cards.
So, with this balance between options and restrictions, the question becomes who makes the most use of their stipulations? I want to stress before moving on that having deck building not tightly coupled with their ability doesn’t make any investigator worse or less fun to build for and play with. The analysis we’re doing is from a design perspective and mostly for fun. That said, let’s split this category of investigators into even more categories!
Just plain good
The first group of investigators is made up of those that can exist mostly independently of their deck building. To them, the options are just plain good. For some, there could be a couple of strong off-class cards that they enjoy, but the main class is where the real power is. It’s almost as if their card pool existed by itself and was joined with an ability that only generally benefits from the secondary class. I’ve also put here investigators that don’t have strong thematic tie to their off-class.
To start, I’ll go over the core set investigators who fall into this category. Wendy Adams and Agnes Baker both have secondary classes that compliment their signature abilities and stat line well enough, but not much besides that. Wendy capitalizes on her high intellect and agility with Rogue events while Agnes makes use of some horror healing and soak from Survivor. Besides that and maybe a few key cards, there’s not much that links the front and back of these character’s cards. Thematically, there’s also very little that ties them to their secondary classes. Besides the Survivor class being generically applicable to most investigators, Agnes doesn’t have much to tie her to the class and neither does Wendy, the orphan to the reckless, selfish Rogues.
My next two picks are also from the core set and I accept that there will be arguments against this and I could see fitting these two in the next category. The main reason I place them here is because, at the time of publishing this article these are two characters that got radical changes in their deck building through parallel investigator sets. The first is Daisy Walker, the librarian who may have stumbled upon some arcane knowledge through her studies, but otherwise doesn’t have much of a thematic reason to be a secondary Mystic. Most of the important cards for Daisy are in Seeker and while Mystic offers many powerful options, it doesn’t do much to support her ability outside of a handful of cards. The second investigator, as you may have guessed, is “Skids” O’Toole. While it can be considered flavorful that the ex-con is making use of the Guardian class as a rebellion against the law enforcement system that so many Guardians encompass, I don’t see much of that class in Mr. O’Toole. Mechanically, the combination just allows him to become more of a primary fighter, which doesn’t exactly relate to his main ability. Like I said previously, these investigators have been re-imagined in terms of both ability and deck building which, power level concerns aside, provide at least some more flavorful abilities. We’ll take a look at those new options in a future article.
There are only two other investigators that I feel fit into this category. The first is Leo Anderson, the secondary Rogue with a whopping 1 agility. Jokes aside, there is not much, if any thematic reason for the charismatic, hardened expedition leader to embody the selfish, reckless Rogue class. Mechanically, it’s great to accumulate resources, while paying for and stocking up large weapons with Leo. The Rogue suite of allies is also not bad, but overall, it’s just a generically good swath of cards to choose from. The last character in this category is Minh Thi Phan, whose access to Survivor gives her amazing combos with Scavenging, but usually those don’t play at all into her skill icon doubling. The fact that the Seeker/Survivor card is Grisly Totem may indicate the those are the classes that care about skill icons and committing, but we’ve seen that strategy in Rogue as well, especially with the overachiever archetype (succeeding by 2 or more). Thematically, I think the Survivor class can apply to basically any investigator, so Mihn does fit into that category, but I don’t think she leans into the gritty, skin-of-your teeth style that the class embodies.
Picking up steam
The second category I’ve created is a sort of middle ground between a tightly coupled pairing and a loosely coupled one. Investigators here might have a thematic reason for their off-class access or a decent synergy with it. What differentiates this from the next tier up is that they will mostly still rely on their main class and if tweaked a little, could be separated from their secondary class.
As you may have noticed, there is one investigator from the core set I’ve yet to mention and that is Roland Banks. I feel like you could make the argument (and maybe some of you will) that he fits into the last category. After all, the Core Set played it safe with deck building since it initially only included one copy of each card. I think that Roland does lean into and embody the Seeker class. He is a federal agent, a detective of sorts, after all. The main reason I’ve added him here is that he is one of the few Guardians that actually care about getting and having clues, which the Seeker class synergizes with.
Moving on, I have two more investigators that almost didn’t make it into here. The first might seem like a shoo-in but looking at some external factors, I can say it’s Sister Mary. The reason the nun is here, other than her stat-line, is that some of the Mystic cards embody protection against the horrors of the mythos. Ward of Radiance, for example, is a direct parallel with Ward of Protection, but tailor made for Sister Mary. A few reasons I struggled with placing her here is because how well I feel like she identifies with the Survivor class, not only because of bless generation cards, including one with Mary herself on it, but also because of the idea of dumb luck and barely surviving that the class holds, which in Mary’s case might be interpreted as divine intervention. The second one that barely made it through is Dexter Drake. First, the reason he is here, is because his ability is very reminiscent of Rogue cards such as Joey “The Rat” and Sleight of Hand, the latter which resembles a magician’s trick. The magician also embodies the showmanship of Rogue very well, but ultimately, the class is there mostly to fund his Mystic spells, which can go away after being used up. His stats don’t lend themselves very well to popping out Rogue’s guns or anything of the sort, but that doesn’t mean gun-slinging Dex can’t be a thing!
Next up, I want to talk about two very strong investigators that are perfect fits for this category. The first is Diana Stanley, the redeemed cultist who guards others from the dangers of evil, which she knows all too well. Aside from a solid lore connection, Diana’s cancelling focus also works well with the damage cancelling aspect of Guardian. If you’re really feeling it, Diana can even wield some guns to good effects and hilarious deck ideas. Next up, we have Luke Robinson, the expert dreamer, well-versed on all things sleep related. Just like Diana, the thematic connection is there, he has extensively studied the mythos, just not through books. Similarly to the redeemed cultist, his ability to teleport around using his Gate Box calls back to his secondary class’ ability to teleport around. It also plays well with many Seeker events, allowing him to discover clues without actually entering locations.
To close this part, I have two investigators that almost made it through to the next category. First up is the walking Shakespeare reference, William Yorick. As a graveyard keeper and as the flavor text on his card says, he embodies Guardian by keeping the monsters at bay, protecting the rest of those in their graves. His ability is also tied to slaying enemies, something that guardians excel at. Ultimately he just didn’t make it to the next category because Survivor is probably enough for him to do what he does best and I could even see a Rogue Yorick, rich enough to pay for anything coming out of the discard. Last, but certainly not least is Sefina Rousseau, such a talented painter, she can alter reality with her brush. Hopefully the flavor of a painter casting spells with her brush is evident, but the main reason Sefina didn’t make it into the next section is that her backstory doesn’t play into that as much, she’s basically just very good at forging. Sefina plays very well with the suite of Mystic spell events, but mechanically, this could have happened in any other class with impactful events, a good example of which is Seeker. Seeker Sef could have just been forging evidence all along or painting the world and uncovering its secrets int he meantime.
The special ones
A small set of investigators combine their card pool with their ability to an extent that you can’t really separate them from the card pool. That’s not to say you couldn’t have different characters with the same card pool, but this group really needs their specific options to thrive. Let’s dive right in!
I’ll start this part off with two investigators that barely made it here for me. The first is Tommy Muldoon, whose 5-2 counterpart, Yorick, just barely didn’t make it here. Firs off, I think Tommy embodies the Survivor ideal very well. He’s a rookie cop after all, and unlike hardened Guardians, he probably needed a good degree of luck to have made it thus far. Mechanically, Tommy plays similarly to Yorick, making use of cheap soak, but unlike the gravekeeper, Tommy makes great use of his two classes combined to become a human meat shield. Similarly to Tommy, we have another investigator that embodies their secondary class very well and that is Trish Scarborough. What’s more emblematic of a Rogue Seeker than a spy? Hopefully, the thematic connection is clear and I the mechanical connection of finding clues to trigger her ability is should be as well. Miss Scarborough’s ability is also wonderfully flavorful, using information gathered to outwit and escape her foes. To me, despite Trish seeming like a generically good clue gather at first glance, she is a flavor win.
Now we get into the set of investigators that really need their secondary class to function and we’ll start with a personal favorite of mine, Patrice Hathaway. I think it’s pretty clear why Patrice needs Survivor, it’s the class that plays with their discard the most and it reflects Patrice’s need to outrun her curse. That being said, her thematic connection to Mystic is tied closely to her backstory, a voice that whispers to her and ties her to the arcane world. Mechanically, I think the musician’s stats and deck building actually act as a damper on the raw power level of drawing five cards every turn as well as allowing her to perform most functions in a game of AH:LCG. You could probably imagine different versions of Patrice that rely on different stats and their corresponding classes. Those would probably range from very poor to completely broken. A great example of this is the recently released Amanda Sharpe who has less natural card draw than Patrice, but a similar stat line and can do very broken things. We’ll cover Amanda in the future, but suffice to say, Patrice as-is is very fun and strong, making use of both Mystic events and recycling charged spells during the course of one game.
Next up is another very mechanically unique investigator, Joe Diamond. Much like Roland or Trish, his job ties very neatly into his class combinations, maybe even more than the first two. As a detective, he’s very focused on unraveling mysteries and investigating the world, but he’s also not opposed to shooting his way out if needed. Mechanically, Joe requires Insight events to function and there have been a total of 59 printed to date, 8 Guardian, 42 Seeker and 6 Mystic. It’s clear why the private eye is primarily a Seeker, but when you consider that the 6 Mystic events are mostly related to spells, Guardian seems like an obvious choice for his off-class. His ability and additional deck building restrictions tie together to make a very flavorful and strong character across all player counts.
Last up on this category and certainly not least is one of the most unique characters of this bunch, Preston Fairmont. He’s a millionaire, which ties into his green class (and color) nicely, but you’ll probably notice he’s not very good at the overachiever archetype which is classically Rogue. Instead, Preston’s all 1 stat line lends itself very well to the exact opposite of that strategy, what my play group affectionately calls face-planting tests. As we know, the class that best recovers from failed tests and mitigates subpar stat lines is Survivor, exactly Preston’s off-class. From Drawing Thin to the interesting synergy between Family Inheritance and Fire Axe, there’s plenty to love for Preston. I think the only class Preston could have gotten to make him at all playable (outside just buying clues), is the red class itself despite our favorite rich boy not needing it much before the monsters came along.
Who we’re missing
To close out our talk on this category of deck building restrictions, I’ll call back to my first article where I talked about symmetry in the deck building groups. There’s only two combinations from the 5-2 split that haven’t been released yet. Seeker 5/Rogue 2 and Survivor 5/Seeker 2. First off, it’s not surprising that Seeker has been left for last, since there’s a general consensus it’s the class with the most “good stuff” cards, as shown by recent Taboo1 lists. Let’s take a look at what each of these combinations mean for the potential investigators that can take them.
Rogue and Seeker are the two classes with the most taboo’d cards so far. This does restrict possible options for the abilities of the investigators that carry this deck option. Combining the overachiever archetype of Rogue with Seeker clue finding led us to the notoriously overpowered Rex Murphy. We’ve also seen another Rogue archetype, evasion, explored in Trish who can take Seeker cards as well as Finn Edwards, so I doubt it’ll be related to that. The best I can do is take a look at existing Arkham Files investigators for ideas. Monterey Jack (named in The Forgotten Age rulebook) could build further on the relic theme or maybe Charlie Kane can make use of all the allies in both factions. If you can think of a good option or have any links to custom investigators using this deck building option, comment down below!
The unique issue with the Survivor 5, Seeker 2 combiniation is that Suvivors have notoriously low intellect. Of those currently released, Wendy is the only one with more than 2, but even then hers is just one point higher. The counterpart to this is Mihn, who doesn’t make much use of existing Survivor archetypes. Given all that, I think the investigator that takes on this card pool will need to be very unique to actually make use of the Seeker cards. One character that I think would fit perfectly with this card pool is Darrell Simmons. Besides the tie in with cameras and newspapers, I think the photographer at the wrong place, wrong time fits very well into the theme of Survivors.
That is all for our first article, we definitely covered a lot of investigators already. Thanks for sticking with me and if you have any questions, comments or angry yelling to direct at me, leave a comment below or find me on Facebook, Discord or Nightgaunt Mail. See you next time!
1 – Whether or not you’re a defender or user of the Taboo list, it does give us insight into what the developers see as over-tuned cards and certainly affect decisions for future cards. If you’d like me to talk more about the taboo list, let me know as well, it’s a topic that interests me despite very dissenting opinions from the community.