Deck building options part 6: Special options

Hello and welcome to the final1 article in the series on deck building options in Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Today, I’ll be covering all of the investigators that haven’t fallen into any previous category. To clarify, this is just the final article in the overview. I will be revisiting this topic in future posts and diving deeper into certain aspects as well as analyzing any new investigators that are released. If you’ve got something in particular you’d like to read about, please let me know!

So far, we’ve taken a look at every group of similar deck building options except one. Let’s dive into that last remaining group and then look at investigators that don’t fit anywhere else.

The purists

The group we haven’t covered is the somewhat newly released set of investigator starter deck characters. This set of options is simple, it’s level 0 to 5 cards of the main class and level 0 to 5 neutral cards. Thematically, each character in this group fundamentally embodies one aspect of their class identity. Nathaniel is good at dealing damage, more specifically through events, Harvey is good at drawing cards, Winifred is good at going big on skill tests, Jacqueline manipulates tokens and Stella can handle failure better than anyone in the game. It’s important to note that each of these aspects is only one thing each class can do. After all, Guardians are the main healing class and mystics also have great encounter deck protection. Given that, the starter deck investigators are defined both by their limitations as well as their abilities. This has lead to some of the most fun and powerful new mechanics we’ve seen.

From a design perspective, the investigators here have fewer options than almost all the ones we’ve previously covered. because of that, all of them have at least one additional point of health/sanity with Stella getting two extra points. Their stat-lines are also optimized towards their focus with most of them having 5 points in their most important skill. In addition to this, they have some subtle jumps in power level compared to most other investigators. The most obvious of these is that their signature cards have their class traits. This might have been in part, to avoid confusion with new players opening the packs as all cards in it would either be their investigator’s color or a weakness. Despite this, making each signature a class card adds some potential shenanigans. Stella can recur her signatures with Resourceful, Wini can find her signature with Daredevil and even Harvey can try to get his asset out using Unearth the Ancients. In addition to these more objective advantages, I believe the starter deck investigators have some of the better abilities in the game. Nathaniel has a built-in Vicious Blow once per round, Jackie has a built-in Grotesque Statue, Wini and Harvey have some of the best draw engines in the game and Stella is usually taking 4 actions per turn which is very powerful. Overall, these characters are have simple but elegant and powerful designs.

As a cycle, we probably won’t see another group of investigators like this in the near future, especially since each class is already present. Still, I don’t think it’s impossible to see another group that brings out another aspect of each class. A healing-focused Guardian or potentially a secret-based Seeker, for example. Despite not having much to talk about in terms of deck building, I think the starter deck investigators are amazing both mechanically and thematically.

The misfits

Now that we have officially covered every cycle of deck building options, we can move on to the investigators that don’t fit in to any of the existing groups. Let’s dive right in with someone we already talked about, but that I chose to exclude from the trait-based investigators.

I mentioned Akachi Onyele in my first post on trait-based deck building since she can take occult cards level 0. In my eyes, this isn’t her main addition and in fact, the access to this trait might be mostly a concession to Archaic Glyphs, a card which starts off as a level 0 occult tome and upgrades into a spell with charges. We saw a similar pattern with Marie Lambeau. Thematically, this tie-in is also associated with the Mystic inclination to investigate and possess occult items. As for Akachi’s main off-class access, there’s an obvious association with her signature ability, assets and even weakness. She is the de facto “charges” investigator making her the main home for cards like Torrent of Power. From a flavor standpoint, charges represent some sort of power that is channeled through assets and Ms. Onyele has attained the arcane knowledge to empower those assets even further. Be careful though, because this power comes at the cost of angering the spirits she channels. Overall, I think Akachi is flavorful and fun to build and it’s great to have an investigator focused on a specific mechanic.

What does this weird card access allow Akachi? Notably, she has access to up to level 4 cards with “uses (charges)” which is relevant even in the current card pool. First off, most spell assets have charges, but unlike Marie, The Shaman already has full Mystic access. Outside of that, there’s the Glyphs I mentioned earlier, but that seems hard to take advantage of with Akachi’s low intellect. The only other option in Seeker is Arcane Insight, which has its uses but there are still better options. In fact, Empty Vessel/Wish Eater is a great addition to her combat arsenal, especially since it will come into play with 1 out of 3 necessary charges. Cancelling the symbol tokens is also great for avoiding the negative side of the Mystic spell assets. While there are no options for The Shaman in Survivor, Rogue does offer a few interesting cards. Suggestion and Obfuscation are great for avoiding enemies and avoid taking attacks when playing other assets. Decorated Skull is a great option for firing off Torrent of Power or gaining the resources off of Spirit-Speaker and the upgraded version gives you plenty of action compression. Overall, Akachi has a strong, aggressive spell-focused strategy that is well complemented by her off-class cards.

Next up is Norman Withers, the transforming Seeker. I think Norman has the most out of the box set of options due to the fact that he can only take level 0 cards of his main class. Thematically, this is a home run for me since in his backstory, Norman is an astronomer who discovers six stars go missing. In trying to investigate these stars, Norman stumbles upon old tomes and arcane powers, symbolized by his transition to higher level Mystic cards. The concept is great and it provides an interesting thought experiment in deck building. You have to plan for higher XP version of the deck given that you only get five level 0 Mystic cards, so upgrading those to the unlimited higher level slots almost feels like a waste. Unfortunately, this makes Norman’s options feel more like a restriction than a boon. It’s important to note that this doesn’t make Norman suboptimal or weak. Just like we saw with the starter deck characters, limited deck building can still lead to fun decks especially when paired with a fun and strong ability, which I think Norman has.

In terms of options, there’s not much to say about Norman that doesn’t also apply to a lower-level Daisy Walker or generally, Luke Robinson. Like I mentioned before, the five level 0 slots are interesting because Norman can take upgraded versions of cards, so is it even worth adding something like Shrivelling if you can just buy the higher level versions later? I think something strong at level 0 like St. Hubert’s Key is a great option. Of course, the level 0 Seeker cards give you plenty of options that can compliment a Mystic deck later on like Hawk-Eye Folding Camera. The real question is what Seeker cards can transform into Mystic cards? Fingerprint Kit can free up a hand slot, turning into another clue-finding spell or even a combat spell if you need it. Scroll of Secrets is also a good Norman card and even the upgraded Mystic version can be great, but remember it does eat up one of his level 0 Mystic slots. Overall, Norman seems fun and I’m curious to see in which cycle he’ll be officially released and if any interesting cards or mechanics come up to compliment him.

The next up is Carolyn Fern, one of my personal favorite investigators. The Psychologist has one of the most interesting lines of text of any investigator card back, cards that “heal horror” level 0 to 5. This widely-encompassing options includes cards from all five classes and paired up with her Guardian, Seeker and Mystic access, she has one of the biggest card pools in the game (311 cards according to ArkhamDB). Another interesting point about Carolyn is that she features both a buff to her health and sanity with an additional point and a slight nerf to her stats, which total up to 11, one fewer than most other investigators. She also cannot take upgraded weapon cards, presumably because as a therapist she has little desire and experience to wield them. I absolutely love everything about her options, from the wild range of cards that heal horror, under the guise of therapy, to her secondary class access that rounds out any deck very nicely. Carolyn is one of the few true support investigators, doling out resources and sanity to others, but she can also hold her own finding clues and handling treacheries. Building a deck for her is a nice challenge and great fun in discovering new cards that you couldn’t even imagine her being able to take. Ms. Fern is a deck building hit that only comes by once in a blue moon.

Given that there are many many options, what can Carolyn take that makes her special? I think the most popular choice in lists I’ve seen is her trusted intern, Peter Sylvestre, giving her incredible horror healing and resources to boot. Pair him up with Solemn Vow or Painkillers for even more shenanigans. Another great combo that Carolyn can take is with Ancient Stone level 1, which she can take due to Seeker access, but the only upgrade available to her is Ancient Stone: Minds in Harmony, making Shrewd Analysis a free Ancient Stone upgrade at the cost of 1 secondary faction slot. In addition to that there are some very strong higher level cards that she can take due to the vague definition of cards that “heal horror”. Deny Existence and Cheat Death are good examples as well as the Stones. Logical Reasoning is also a great choice. Carolyn is probably also one of the best choices for Ever Vigilant which can go neatly on Stick to the Plan with some Dynamite or “I’ve got a plan!”. There’s plenty of options here and there’s even some fighting to be done with something like Meat Cleaver if you’re up for it.

If you know me or have seen me around Discord, you can probably guess I’ve left the best for last in Lola Hayes. The actress is definitely one of my favorite investigators, alongside Carolyn and I think she’s criminally underrated. Don’t get me wrong, building a Lola deck can be a headache that’s only matched by actually playing her, but that’s part of what I love about her, she’s a puzzle waiting to be solved. I’ve heard a lot of misconceptions about Lola and I’ve had great success and fun with her. Watch for more on that in upcoming articles. For now, let’s focus on her one of a kind deck building options.

Lola is the only investigator in the game with unrestricted access to level 3 cards of multiple classes. She pays for this in many ways, but partly with the inability to take any non-neutral level 4 and 5 cards. In addition to that, Ms. Hayes must have at least 7 cards from each of three different classes. Once again going back to the thematic tie-in, the flexibility represents her ability to perform any role, which has been present in her previous board game iterations. Beyond, the restrictions are mostly there for power level concerns and most are precautionary measures. As the card pool grows, so does Lola’s power. This, unfortunately leads to her lack of signature abilities and her front half being only restrictions, which usually turns people off from playing her. Like I said previously, this makes Lola a very interesting but very challenging puzzle and I think that was the intention with her all along. After all as we’ve seen with items like the Taboo list, raw, unmeasured power usually just leads to unfun in-game experiences.

So what does Lola gain from all this class access? Well, everything! Her deck building is wide open and the fact that she can choose any 3 classes to satisfy her 7-card requirement leaves her with a huge array of options. You can focus on Seeker to pick up clues, rounding it out with cards like “Look what I found!”, Drawn to the Flame or Scene of the Crime. Or you can go for Guardian to kill some bad guys and pick up cards like Act of Desperation or Spectral Razor. Grab tons of XP with Charon’s Obol and Delve Too Deep and make sure the deck stays legal with Adaptable. We’ll cover deck building for Lola more in a future article, since it does require some strategy and lots of planning. For now, suffice to say Lola’s options make her close to a perfect flex investigator.

What’s next?

That’s it, we’ve covered all of the investigators released at this time! I’m definitely excited for future releases and especially to see where Gloria and Norman will fit in. I’m also very excited at the prospect of new deck building cycles. In fact, some of the investigators here could see the beginning of new cycles. I’d be very interested to see some mirrors to Norman or even a similar style to Carolyn that focuses on damage healing. In addition to that, we could see a completely new style of options come out. One that gets discussed a lot is a balanced investigator that can take cards level 0 to 3 of two different classes. I think there are some design issues with that set, but we could still see it. Another option is seeing someone that can take only level 0 to 4 cards of their main class and potentially multiple secondary classes. Overall, I’m definitely excited for the future of this game and where the design will lead us.

So that’s it for deck building options… for now! I’ll be sure to cover new investigators as they come up and maybe you’ll even see some deep dives into the more interesting options we’ve seen so far. If there’s anything you think I missed or if there’s something you want to read about, please let me know. Otherwise, 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 – If you’re reading this, then new articles in this series may have come out as new investigators have come out. Check out the link at the top bar to see them!

4 thoughts on “Deck building options part 6: Special options

  1. Just finished the 6-parter! fun read. I jotted down some Traits to keep in mind for all the Trait based investigators.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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