Deck building options part 4: Traits continued

Hi again and welcome to part 4 of the series on deck building options in Arkham Horror: The Card Game. In this post, I’ll be continuing to look at trait based deck building, going into the more out-of-the-box options.

Last time, we went in depth on the classic trait-based template and saw a couple of variations on that. In this article, we’ll finish out the group with the investigators that vary from the traditional template. We’ll start off with class of trait-based options that differs from the rest in a very interesting way. I call this type the super trait deck building.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane!

I promise I didn’t pick this name because of the silly Superman joke. Instead, I picked it because this set of options feature the unique aspect of giving its investigator full access to an entire suite of cards. It’s rare to give full access to potentially multiple classes and the drawback here is that there is limited access to the main class cards, as well as some even more limited options in other classes. Generally, this playing a deck with limited amount of options in its main class and potential silver bullets of that specific trait. This issue is made even worse by the fact that for the currently released investigators, most of their super trait’s cards are in their native class. If anything, this set of options is a flavor-focused design more so than a mechanically strong design. It shows off some characters with strong mastery of one field and can occasionally give access to some very powerful cards their class otherwise wouldn’t be able to take.

The first investigator we’ll take a look at was presented pretty early in the game with an exclusive book promo, it’s Marie Lambeau who can access all spell cards in the game. Out of the three super traits, I consider Marie’s to be the best by giving her the most access to cards outside of her class which is supplemented by the additional level 0 occult access. Notably, there are 69 Mystic spell cards that she would otherwise have access to if she were any other mystic, but there’s also 20 other cards spread across the remaining classes including high XP options in The Eye of Truth, Suggestion and Arcane Insight. Of those, Suggestion fits well with Marie’s main mechanic of extra actions while the others don’t, but they can be powerful in their own right. The trait access also restores her access to high level mystic spells which are very strong with Marie’s ability, but other than that there isn’t much here. Alter Fate, for example, is great in both its iterations but it doesn’t add much to the entertainer’s strategy and it would also be present if she could take spell cards level 0 to 3.

Her additional trait access to occult cards level 0 is also definitely worth looking at. To me this is not only a flavorful addition for the spell-caster, but it also gives her access to a few more powerful options. The most obvious one is Hallowed Mirror, a great card in its own right. Marie can also take Occult Lexicon for flexibility, but the biggest mechanical reason for adding this might be in Archaic Glyphs. Since she can take the occult level 0 version as well as the spell upgrades, this is a seeker quest that can be completed by this Mystic, something that is somewhat unique to her deck building options. With 4 intellect and some additional seeker access, this is a real option for Marie decks.

Given what she gains, let’s can talk about what she misses from losing Mystic 4-5 access. Turns out, there aren’t a lot. Of those three cards, I think only two really see play in Grotesque Statue and Arcane Studies, and even then, it’s mostly the former. A lot of non-asset cards in mystic are also spells such as Seal of the Elder Sign or Recharge. I think the real weakness here is that, compared to a 5-2 split Mystic like Luke Robinson or Agnes Baker, Marie certainly misses on the higher level off-class cards. Luke certainly loves his Pathfinder and similarly, the waitress rarely is seen without Peter Sylvestre (2). That being said, the spell trait is wide open and we’ll be seeing plenty of these cards every cycle, which excites me for the future of Marie Lambeau.

Next, we’ll take a look at the first main-line released investigator with a super trait, Finn Edwards. Appropriately, the bootlegger can take illicit cards of any level. Unfortunately for him, there are really only 3 options at the moment. The majority of cards of the illicit trait are already in rogue and unlike spells in Mystic, there are a lot of rogue cards that don’t sport that trait. This makes the lack of green cards level 4 and 5 a big hit for Mr. Edwards especially since those level feature huge powerhouses, usually enabled by cards like Charon’s Obol. Missing out on cards like Chuck Fergus and All In definitely hamper some strong end-of-campaign strategies and none of the illicit cards really make up for that in a meaningful way.

Since I started off with the negatives, I do want to highlight that Finn’s deck building can do some pretty strong things, as well as being immensely flavorful. In addition to that, his signature event Smuggled Goods plays really well with this, especially with strong cards such as Sawed-Off Shotgun or Contraband (2). Additionally, the seeker/survivor access is great with Finn, even in small quantities. Just being able to take cards like Deduction, Logical Reasoning or Peter Sylvestre help him out tremendously. In addition, Finn’s stat-line and synergy with illegal guns makes him able to deal with enemies by actually defeating them instead of just evading. Because of the setting of Arkham Horror, we’re sure to see some more guns and alcohol join our bootlegger’s stock, so I’m also excited to see how this super trait evolves.

Speaking of not so stellar follow-ups, the third and (as of the writing of this article) final investigator to feature this style of options is Parallel Daisy Walker who unsurprisingly, has access to all tome cards. To me, Daisy says two things about the design of the super trait. The first is that there’s some sort of symmetry to be had with the tertiary access, as Daisy gets Guardian and Mystic cards, which differs from Finn and Marie’s Seeker/Survivor access. Secondly, it hints at super traits being tied to that class’s most prominent trait. As we’ve seen with spells in Mystic and illicit in Rogue, tomes are by far the most prominent in the Seeker class, with 22 cards while the other classes share 8 cards between them. Of course, in addition to being an iconic Seeker trait, it’s also very closely tied to Daisy, the librarian who is entirely focused on tomes. All of this makes the theme here on point and I couldn’t think of any other character who could have taken this. This flavorful re-imagining of an existing character is a really most wonderful part of the parallel investigators.

Besides all the design discussion of super traits in general, what do the new options give Daisy? Unfortunately, not much at all, especially compared to her original Seeker 5 – Mystic 2 split. Of the existing tomes, there are only 4 that aren’t accessible to the original version of Ms. Walker, including the mystic Scroll of Secrets, which has a seeker version already. That is the true fault of the librarian from another dimension, being compared to her core set version, which is one of the strongest investigators in the game. This is doubly perilous because with parallel investigators, you can mix and match front and back, meaning the designers had to be quite careful of powerful combinations. The guardian access, which is the other new addition, also doesn’t do much outside of the classic guardian splash cards.  Tetsuo Mori might be the best addition here, digging for more tomes while soaking up some damage. Besides the comparisons, the tome super trait is not bad at all given the prevalence of tomes in two strong classes. Paired with the recent expansion into both guardian and survivor, I’m definitely excited to see some more off-class tomes and what they could possibly do.

In a parallel world

Daisy was the first of the parallel investigators, bringing us a different variant of an existing trait, but not taking it too far our of what we’ve already known. Since her release, we’ve seen two more alternate universe characters and both have brought a new twist to trait-based options. They’ve both combined two somewhat minor traits into one set of options while also incorporating that into a very unique deck altering mechanic. We’re due for more investigator and I’m not sure whether they’ll follow this new patter, but let’s take a look at the two that currently do.

The investigator who first featured this style was Parallel “Skids” O’Toole who can take fortune and gambit cards level 0 to 3. In addition to this access, the ex-con can fill his deck with cards of those traits by keeping lower level versions as he upgrades them. Thematically, this represents Skids’ inclination for gambling, pairing well with the ability on the parallel front. This adds a lot to his personality which up until now has been little more than a former criminal who doesn’t like jail. Combining two traits related to the risk of gambling does a great job here, showing the luck aspect as well as the risk-taking. Mechanically, this combines two traits that don’t have much of a presence (especially outside of rogue) into one set of options. This is especially true for gambit, a rare trait that doesn’t lend itself well to a big influx of cards, which totals only 11 cards, 7 of them being in green.

So what does this new access give Skids? Like I said, a lot of redundant rogue cards, but also some very strong survivor cards. Lucky! is already a good card on its own, but because of his additional options, Skids can double up or even triple up with the higher level cards. In addition there’s also a lot of failure mitigation which is a very strong combination with many Rogue cards. Eucatastrophe is amazing as always and probably prompted the level limitation on Mr. O’Toole’s parallel elder sign. Fortune or Fate, Stroke of Luck and “Look what I found!” also deserve a shout-out and are great in their own right. As for gambits, there’s a handful of cards, the best of which is actually a seeker card in Practice Makes Perfect. Overall, these traits add a sort of mini survivor splash to Skids, mostly giving him more consistency but not leading to any crazy new synergies or strategies. I can’t underestimate how good that added consistency is though, so definitely give the gambler a try (especially if you’ve been down on his original version)!

For the last investigator currently released with trait-based deck building, we’ve come to Parallel Agnes Baker who can take spell and occult cards level 0 to 3. Similarly to her counterpart Skids, she can keep lower level cards in her deck when upgrading and she start off with only 25 cards in her deck. Unlike the ex-con, the waitress can only do this with spell cards, which is fitting of her theme. I have to admit I love parallel Agnes because she finally calls back to the ability she’s had for most previous Arkham game, blood magic. The deck building requirements are just another aspect of her witch’s blood showing how powerful of a sorcerer she already is. Thematically, this is a home run but mechanically, it’s also very powerful. Like I said for Marie, the spell trait is pretty much evergreen in this game and being able to double down on strong spells is pretty good. The occult cards are a decent add-on and much like gambit in Skids, would not have been enough for its own set of deckbuilding. Hopefully we’ll see some more spell upgrades, especially for event, but for now, I can safely say that this witch from another dimension is the queen of cancelling treacheries (sorry Diana).

Moving on, what off-class access does this give Ms. Baker? We’ve already taken a look with Marie, but the parallel Mystic has a penchant for event spells. Both versions of Alter Fate work well here, unlike in Marie. Blood Eclipse (3) interacts very well with Agnes’ new ability, allowing her to deal 5 damage in one swoop. While Mystic access also enables this, having the option to add up to 6 copies of Ward of Protection is at the very least, an intriguing avenue. In addition to all that awesome magic, she also gets the same occult cards like Marie, but up to level 3. This includes the ability to translate Archaic Glyphs but with a key addition in Segment of Onyx, a card that seems pretty strong in a 25 card deck. In addition to that, Hallowed Mirror is even stronger here than usual due to being able to heal damage and the fact that Soothing Melody is also a spell which is also true of Blood-Rite, coming from Occult Lexicon.

What’s left?

We’ve now gone over every trait-based deck building option in the game1, but we haven’t even come close to exploring all the existing traits in the game. Even considering traits present on just player cards, we have a lot we could explore, but most have very few options. To wrap up this article, let’s take a look at some of the unexplored traits with the most potential to be featured on an investigator card back.

To start off, I’ll talk about three traits that have a lot of options but are maybe too extensive and flexible to be featured without a significant tie-in to the rest of their abilities. The first is the most highly-populated one in the game, the item trait. There are over 160 non-neutral cards with that trait and while there are a few cards that play off it in different classes (most notably,  Joey “The Rat” Vigil and Charles Ross, Esq.), an investigator with widespread access to these cards would certainly be very strong. I’d guess that if there were to be one with access to this, they would need to have subpar stats, a la Preston Fairmont with an ability that allows them to make up for that using their vast array of items. Similarly, the ally trait contains very powerful cards, despite having a much lower number overall at just over 60 non-neutral cards. Having access to multiple allies that boost more than 1 stat paired with Charisma would be very good for sure. That being said, I think the very character pictured in Charisma, Charlie Kane would make a great fit for this trait. Lastly, the talent trait contains some of the most powerful cards from multiple classes such as Safeguard, Studious and Adaptable. It’s a very generic trait, which would give some strong effects, especially with the “pay-to-win” suite of assets. I’d be curious to see this on an investigator, but it would certainly need to be a special one.

Now, I’ll move on to traits that I’d love to see in upcoming investigators that wouldn’t require anything too special to show up. The first is the counterpart to Father Mateo’s signature card type, the cursed trait. My biggest hope for this has already been released in Rex Murphy as well as my second pick, Calvin Wright. With the release of parallel investigators, maybe we’ll see them again, but I’m definitely excited since the curse suite features some very strong cards with a big influx from The Innsmouth Conspiracy. The charm trait has a decent presence over four classes, totaling 20 cards. This could lead to some decent options, despite them crowding the accessory slots. Another unused trait I’m curious about is the melee trait, encompassing all the weapons of this category. It could be a great candidate for a sword wielding crusader of sorts. Other traits with decent groups of cards include tool, insight and ritual, all of which would be intriguing to see featured as deck building options.

Something else I want to consider given what we’ve seen of super traits, is what other ones could complete the cycle. My first guess would be either the firearm or weapon trait for guardian. They are both iconic traits of the fighting-focused class but would allow the investigator with that deck building to branch our into other classes, mostly Rogue and Survivor. An alternate version of Mark Harrigan would be a great candidate and is even hinted at with his Barkham persona. There might be some design issues with a parallel Mark, but I’m still hopeful. As for the Survivor option, the best guess I can muster is the fortune trait. With overwhelming presence in Survivor and embodying the luck aspect of the class, it fits pretty well into my criteria. Unfortunately, the red class doesn’t work very well with super traits given the lack of 4+ XP cards. With the fortune trait, we open up some very strong options in Rogue such as All In and Hot Streak. I’d be very interested in seeing this super trait in the future, but I’m also open to other iconic Survivor traits, so let me know if you had any ideas!

Lastly, I just want to give a shout out to some traits that I think could be revisited, especially after we saw both Marie and Agnes share the spell trait while using them in very different ways. We’ve covered relics with Ursula, but the explorer doesn’t really take advantage of them with any of her abilities. We know that Monterey Jack is a relic focused investigator and I’d love to see him come back and explore that space a little more. I’d also love to see what character is able to take tactic cards of higher levels. In fact, this trait is so populated with 56 cards in total and 30 being in Guardian, that I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a super traited tactic Guardian. In any case, there are strong cards like Flare, Swift Reload and “I’ve got a plan!” (2) that I’d like to see explored more.

That’s it for this article and for trait-based deck building. There’s a lot to explore here and I’m excited for more of this style to come in future expansions. 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!

1 – In this article I neglect the investigators with trait-based exclusion from their decks as, usually, they’re more of a flavor add-on than any mechanical balance. This includes Rex Murphy and Preston Fairmont who we’ve already covered as well as Carolyn Fern who we’ll look at closer in an upcoming article

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