Deck building options part 2: The Dunwich splash

Hi and welcome to part 2 of my 5 part series on deck building options for Arkham Horror: The Living Card Game. Today we’re going to talk about the second set of options that were introduced to the game, the Dunwich Splash. For anyone unfamiliar with the terminology, in card games, the word splash usually means a small number of cards from a secondary color/faction/class. For example, here’s a few words on it in the context of Magic: The Gathering. The deck building option we’re taking a look at today is, generically, level 0-5 cards of the investigator’s main class and up to five level 0 cards from any other class (or combination of classes). Here, me and a lot of others in the AH community refer to this option as a splash because five is a pretty small amount for a secondary option. Compared to others who posses limits on certain cards, like Carolyn Fern or Tony Morgan, five seems like a very small quantity. All that combined with only being able to take level 0 cards seems very restrictive at first, but giving access to all other classes is very strong. In this article, we’ll evaluate the pros and cons as well as other factors that contribute to this deck building option.

Let’s start off with a small overview on this type of deckbuilding. First off, it’s only present in the Dunwich expansion investigators and as a cycle, it’s already complete. The reason for that is, there’s no permutations of this option, each class only appears once. Comparing this to the 5-2 split, covered in my last post, we see less variations and also because of this, it can’t appear in another cycle without repetition. Also, you can’t really build a deck around the five cards you get from other classes. Most evidently, because of the small number but also because in Arkham, most decks are built around higher XP cards. Other investigators, such as Patrice or Trish can really build their deck around their secondary class, but that’s usually not the case with the Dunwich investigators. On the other hand, having access to all level 0 cards gives this deck building the most potential options of almost all other existing restrictions. For a lot of investigators, this type of power actually comes at a price, through a card released relatively late into the game’s current life span.

Implied Versatility

One day, I might write an article about Versatile, but for now I’ll sum up my views on it by stating that the reward for taking this card is getting access to any level 0 card in the game and the cost, besides the 2 experience, is adding another 4 cards to your deck, diluting the chance you’ll actually draw your one chosen card. Here, we see that the Dunwich investigators get 5 of those for free! Does that mean they’re overpowered? Certainly not, in my opinion, but only due to conscious design decisions. Power level discussions aside, the abilities presented in this set of investigators are pretty straight forward and their signature cards are in the same vein. While we see other investigators purchase Versatile to enable sometimes game breaking combos, that won’t happen with this set, with one exception. In that case, the off-class cards weren’t really the problem, but that’s a discussion for another article.

An interesting trait of the investigators with this deck building option is that, with the exception of “Ashcan” Pete, they have an extra health/sanity point when compared to most other investigators. This design decision points to the idea that these characters might be weaker than average. In fact, while their broad access is very strong, especially in an early campaign, as experience is gained, their access to more powerful cards is limited when compared to other classes. We’ll see this and one more similar tweak as a recurring theme for some investigators. Here, we’re just seeing it as compensation for a lack of late game out of faction cards, a restriction that isn’t that common for most other investigators.

Given all that, it’s very hard to analyze this deck building option on its own, outside of making a top 5 list of level 0 cards in each class. Each investigator makes different use of their five cards and some card choices are more impactful than others. Generally, there’s two class of cards that each investigator will take; cards that shape their strategy or cards that are just plain good. I’ll try to highlight some more esoteric decks when it comes to cards that fit into the first category. Coming up we’ll take a look at how each character utilizes the Dunwich deck building and I’ll try to focus on the five splash cards rather than writing up a mini investigator review.

The Dunwich five

We’re going in set number order, so we’re starting off with the righteous chef, Zoey Samaras. As her stats and abilities show, Zoey is generally played as a fighter or tank and the Guardian card pool plays heavily into that. With that in mind, we know that Ms. Samaras probably has access to all the weapons and healing she might need, so what does she take? Well, the first option that comes to my mind is a way to shore up her weaknesses in lower player counts. Her 4 willpower definitely helps with encounter deck protection, but you can also make use of it with Mystic spells, mostly ones that help her find clues such as Clairvoyance or Rite of Seeking. With her resource generation, these cards can be easily paid for and supplement Guardian’s one-off clue finding such as Evidence or Scene of the Crime. She can also lean into survivor for some clue finding in the form of Look What I found or Gravedigger’s Shovel as well as a very strong weapon, Meat Cleaver. Another interesting strategy I found on ArkhamDB (credit to chirubime for the deck) is taking Dr. Elli Horowitz to focus on finding impactful relics such as Empty Vessel, Timeworn Brand and Zoey’s Cross itself. Mix in Astounding Revelation and its very interesting interaction with Stick to the Plan, and we have a very fun deck!

Besides the cards that compliment her strengths or make up for her shortcomings, what are some generically good cards Zoey can take? One special characteristic of The Chef is that she is richer than most guardians and she can take advantage of higher cost cards such as Leo de Luca or even something like Fire Axe. Another class of cards that work well for her are the talent assets, such as Arcane Studies or Hyperawareness to shore up her weaker stats. Automatic clue finding is another path, such as Art Student, Intel Report or even Drawn to the Flame. Since Zoey’s ability is very dependent on enemies, I haven’t really seen any really out of the box strategies that take advantage of her off-class access. If you have an interesting deck list for her, send me the link in the comments!

Next up is the only investigator to be featured on the taboo list (as of this article’s publishing), Rex Murphy. The Reporter is somewhat similar to Zoey as his role is cemented by his abilities, but on the opposite side, clue finding Differently than the chef though, there are a handful of cards that interact very well with Rex’s ability. The first is a combo that was present since his release with the Rogue card Burglary. If you’re not familiar, if you utilize the ability on burglary and succeed by 2 or more, you still activate Rex’s reaction ability to discover a clue, getting yourself the resources (to pay for your Higher Education) and a clue at the same time. Another card that fit well into this strategy was Lucky Cigarette Case, since it has the same condition as Mr. Murphy’s signature ability and card draw, beside just useful, made sure Higher Education stayed active. These two cards, usually combined with a Fire Axe or a Scavenging made for the basis of Rex decks back when The Dunwich Legacy was released. Nowadays and especially after Rex’s taboo, strategies for utilizing his ability have evolved and with the printing of powerful Seeker assets such as Pendant of the Queen and Ancient Stone have made the Scavenging plan even more appealing mimicking very powerful strategies found in Minh Thi Phan.

With Rex, the synergies are there, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other powerful cards he can take. St. Hubert’s Key is a good choice for encounter protection and intellect boost and Rex can handle the temporary hit to his 9 sanity. Many Rogue cards are shoo-ins for Rex, given his penchant for over-succeeding as well as his 3 agility. Quick Thinking, “Watch this!” and Breaking and Entering are solid choices. Alternatively you can lean further into survivor for more clue finding potential with cards like Newspaper, Fortuitous Discovery and Winging it. Lastly, if you are playing solo or just want to handle enemies better, Guardian holds some options to supplement the Fire Axe, such as Dynamite Blast or Alice Luxley.

We’ve reached the Rogue of the group and I have to admit my own biases might come into play here as Jenny Barnes was my first real love in this game. Given that, I think the Dilettante has one huge advantage over the other investigators in this list in the form of Adaptable. In addition to her generalist stats, the Dunwich splash gives Jenny a lot of flexibility. She can take both Hard Knocks and Arcane Studies to pump her many resources into all types of tests. Much like Zoey, Jenny can play what would normally be very expensive cards. Since she already has access to some of the expensive Rogue cards, we’re looking at others like Dynamite Blast or Cunning Distraction. Another strategy Jenny can make use of is combining her green testless cards such as Intel Report with off-class options like Drawn to the Flame, altogether avoiding testing her median stats. She can also call in some favors to gain more value from Seeker allies such as Art Student and potentially turn them into Leo De Luca or Lola Santiago.

I’ve mentioned a lot of generally strong cards, but what I really love about Jenny is her ability to play so many different styles. Her signature guns work well with her resource generation to make a decent fighter taking guardian guns and support like Vicious Blow and Prepared for the Worst. You can pivot to a more investigation focused build, taking the testless cards mentioned above or boosting your intellect with Magnifying Glasses and Dr. Milan Christopher. If evading is your style, Rogue does that very well, but you can take advantage of cards like Scene of the Crime to grab some clues on your way out, maybe taking a Shortcut. You can even play Dark Horse, comboing it with cards like “Watch this!” and High Roller in this super interesting deck from Croaker13. Some of the most fun I’ve had with Jenny is leaning into her replacement signatures and a huge item suite with Charles Ross, Esq. and Joey “The Rat” Vigil in this amazing deck, courtesy of Lucaxiom.

The Mystic of the group, Jim Culver, has the least intuitive ability of the group. While it may not seem impactful at first, it’s important to know that Skulls can often have escalating negative modifiers and having 2-3 extra zeroes in the bag can be good. So what cards can The Musician take to supplement his token fishing strategies? Live and Learn can act as a pseudo Time Warp and give Jim another look for the skull. Strategies that rely on Olive McBride can also take Inspiring Presence to get multiple spins. With 3 intellect, 3 combat and only 4 willpower, Jim can also do a great Jenny impression by avoiding spells and taking cards like Vicious Blow and Magnifying Glass.

Jim’s unique text box and balanced stats has lead to some interesting archetypes. Similar to Zoey’s Cross, Jim’s Trumpet is a relic and Mystic also has access to The Chthonian Stone, Crystalline Elder Sign, Enchanted Blade and others so Dr. Horowitz can also do some work here. With the recent taboo of .35 Winchester, Mr. Culver can spend his slots on the gun as well as additional bless generation in Keep Faith, guaranteeing the bonus damage on blesses as well as skulls. A pretty popular strategy is using Scavenging to recycle Grotesque Statue multiple times, maximizing Jim’s token shenanigans.

Last but certainly not least is perhaps the most mechanically unique investigator on this list, Duke! Er, I mean, “Ashcan” Pete, everyone’s favorite Friendly Human. What’s unique about Ashcan is that his stats are considerably lower with 11 total health/sanity and a stat sum of just 11. For reference, the median for existing investigators is 14 total health/sanity and 12 total stats. But as most in the Arkham community know, Pete has his good boy Duke by his side from the start of the game. All this is to say that Pete relies heavily on his Loyal Hound and even in the off-class cards you’re looking to find something that either helps out the doggo or makes up for Pete’s lack of stats. Inspiring Presence is a home run, allowing Duke to heal up and be ready for another use in a single turn. St. Hubert’s Key allows Pete to cash in on the desperate skill suite with no additional horror taken. In that vein, any passive boosts to Pete’s stats get used on Duke’s abilities, so Beat Cop, Magnifying Glass and others can help a lot. Pete is also a very strong solo investigator or just jack of all trades and Lone Wolf is a great payoff for that strategy.

Again, let’s look at some alternate strategies for The Drifter and his pup and it’s important to note here that some of these rely a lot on Pete being a very low setup investigator. An interesting strategy I’ve seen in a few decks is to stray from the Dark Horse style play of Survivor and run a rich Pete, taking either rogue cards such as Investments and Well Connected or comboing Forbidden Knowledge with the other Peter. You could even take a similar approach to Zoey and lean more into Mystic, taking the Key and other spells assets to test Ashcan’s 4 willpower. Lastly, Pete can make great advantage of Calling in Favors with Duke, who is an Ally but doesn’t take up any slots. Combine with assets that give you value on entering play, such as Laboratory Assistant or ones that you’d like to reset counters on, such as David Renfield and you get hilarious deck names like Hello? Yes, this is dog by AkaaQ.

That’s it for the Dunwich splash! Thanks for reading the second article in my series. Check out my other articles on the home page if you’re interested in more content like this. If you have any comments, questions or general thoughts, leave a comment below or find me on Facebook, Discord or Nightgaunt Mail. See you next time!

4 thoughts on “Deck building options part 2: The Dunwich splash

  1. I’ve been enjoying your blog 😀

    Was surprised to see you mention my jank Dr. Elli Horowitz Zoey deck! Hahaha that deck was made when I was still relatively new to the game. If I were to build that deck now, it would probably look much more different. However, with how expensive Relics are. It is nice to cheat their resource cost via Dr. Elli. Another of the Dunwich 5 who I think Elli has a place in is Jim. Crystalline Elder Sign, Jewel of Aureolus, Grotesque Statue, Enchanted Blade are all great things!

    That being said, I’m not sure how comfortable I would be taking Dr. Elli Zoey/Jim builds into The Forgotten Age with Arrows and Snake Bite and The Circle Undone with Centuries of Secrets. Granted both Zoey and Jim do have access to extremely popular Guardian upgrade Trusted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the kind words, I’m very glad you’re enjoying it! I really liked the idea of your Zoey deck and to me, it was a great example of using some of the 5 slots for some more out of the box synergy, which is what I really enjoy about deck building. Both Zoey and Jim seem like they have some awesome stuff to do with Dr. Elli Horowitz. I also agree with your assessment on the campaigns.

      Liked by 1 person

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