Arkham Horror: The Card Game – Deckbuilding for Beginners

At the start of last year I put together a beginner’s guide for the Arkham Horror: The Card Game (AH:TCG). It has helped loads of people understand the format of the game and I’ve been delighted with the response to it. As the card pool grows and the number of expansions bulges, the game can seem overwhelming, the need to build decks daunting. For those coming to it from a background where they are not used to putting their own decks together, the route to doing so can seem confusing and arcane. Part of this is an art, and is hard to teach. The other part, the technical side, I think I can help with.

To this end I thought I would shine a light into the dark corners of card combinations, investigator choices, player number, and the myriad of decisions that can assault you when it comes to wanting to build your own deck. This article will assume that you understand how the game works but not that you have any experience with building decks for a game like this. Where I can I have made the examples in this piece use cards from the core set

Where do I even begin?

You don’t have to build decks

First off, and I realise that this might make the rest of this article completely moot for you, you don’t have to build decks at all. Check out the excellent ArkhamDB and you will find endless decks for you to try. I especially recommend checking out the decks from my friend Andy Stoddart who goes by StartWithTheName who creates all sorts of weird and wonderful decks, with full upgrade paths and play advice.

On top of that you can also find introduction decks straight from Fantasy Flight Games which can be constructed from one core and the deluxe for whatever campaign you are playing. This is a great way to get started and although those decks may not be the best, they will get you going with a minimum of effort.

The Fundamentals

Before we get specifically into the different classes and different approaches to deck building, I think it is worth looking at some fundamentals of a card game of this type that might not be immediately obvious.

Consistency and clog

When you build a deck towards a particular aim you want it to do that thing in a consistent manner. The most basic way to get consistency is to repeat the type of card you want. So let’s say I am building a Roland Banks deck and concentrating on fighting monsters. If I only put one weapon card in my deck at the max number of copies, 2, it makes it very unlikely that I will see a weapon early on. If I put another weapon, or even 2, in then my likelihood of drawing one rockets.

Roland Banks' Investigator Card
With his high combat, Roland loves him some weapons

On the flip side of that coin too many weapons will clog up my deck, leaving me without room to put in cards that might help me with healing, moving and getting clues, some of which I will want to do. Getting a balance between consistency and clogging is a real trick in good deck building.

Card Advantage

This is fundamental in a lot of card games so it is worth taking a look at here. If I have more cards I have more options, more possibilities for actions and in the case of Arkham, more icons to commit to tests. Cards that get me cards more efficiently than the basic Action: draw a card, can be great. This means the skill cards that come in the core are good as they not only boost an action they give me a card to replace the one I just played without having to take an action to do so.

Tempo and board state

Imagine a tug of war competition. On one end are the mechanics of the scenario, pulling and tugging you towards failure. At the other end are the players and their decks trying to win. Tempo is how much you are winning the tug of war.

Tempo is created in Arkham by another concept, Board State. This will be different for each investigator and scenario but is basically what it says on the tin: how much of your investigators tools do you have in play to allow them to do what they are good at. For the scenario it is how many monsters, treacheries, and the stage the agenda and act are at.

As the investigators build their board state and can handle more of what the scenario throws at them, they gain tempo. As the scenario advances and things spiral out of control it gains tempo. Handling changes in tempo is key to becoming a good Arkham player.

Action Economy, Efficiency, and Compression

A card game like Arkham presents us with myriad ways to approach a problem and an action economy to deal with those problems. We get just 3 actions per investigator per turn and we can use those to do the basic actions of movement, investigate, fight, draw cards, and gain resources. The cards in our decks often allow us to change the number of effects we receive from a given action. For instance I could take 1 action to get 1 resource, or I could play the card Emergency Cache to get 3 resources for 1 action. The latter is more efficient and is an example of action compression, giving us the benefit of 3 ‘get resource’ actions in one. Doing more with each of your actions, and knowing when to not get caught up in being as efficient as possible, is another aspect of good play in all card games of this nature.

Money makes the world go round

What cards can I use?

Almost at the good stuff, but I wanted to handle this first. The question of what cards you can use comes up a lot, usually in relation to using cards from later campaigns in earlier ones. The short answer is, use what you want. There is absolutely nothing stopping you using Investigator cards from The Dream Eaters in the Dunwich Legacy campaign.

That said, most card games that fall under the model of release that AH:TCG does are subject to power creep. This is when cards that are released later in the games life are a bit more powerful than those released earlier. Arkham is no stranger to this phenomenon so you might find that if you use cards from later expansions in earlier campaigns that the scenarios in that campaign are a little easier than originally intended.

If you really want the campaign experience as it was originally intended, as the expansions came out, you can just play with the card pool up to the point you are playing. It is also worth noting that the campaigns are intended so that they can be played with just the core set and that campaign, though some of the investigators will definitely suffer from a restricted card pool.

Roles

Even before we get to your choice of class we should consider what role you are going to play in your party. There are 3 main roles in the AH:LCG and each investigator will occupy one or more of them depending on their abilities and the deck you build for them.

Fighter

These investigators are going to take the fight to the enemy, doling out damage and taking hits whilst the rest of the group gets on with solving the case. As they level up they can put out tremendous amounts of damage, even getting to the point where they can take on an Ancient One. Most Guardian investigators have Combat as a focus, but you can find this role across all the classes where there is a high Combat stat.

Clue Gatherer

The majority of scenarios revolve around clue gathering, so someone in the party needs to take this role on. The really powerful clue gatherers tend to be a bit weak when it comes to taking on monsters, so they often need protection from the enemies the encounter deck is going to throw at you. This role needs a good Intellect, or a high Willpower to dabble in the Mystic arts of clue seeking. All the Seeker investigators excel at clue gathering, but you also see this role in the Mystic class.

Support

The support role tends to be a secondary one for most characters, allowing the investigator to heal mental and physical damage. The support class can also be one that allows other investigators to do their jobs easier, either by setting up hits, making clue finding easier or lending help in tests.

Classes

Now we have some fundamentals under our belts let’s look at the different classes. We have 5 classes in Arkham: Guardian, Survivor, Seeker, Mystic and Rogue each with their own specialities and appeals.

Guardian

The main fighters of Arkham, Guardians tend to have high Combat and access to lots of weapons and gear that helps them survive fights. They are not without access to investigative cards and can be an excellent backup clue gatherer. As the Guardian class has evolved over the campaigns we have seen the introduction of more cards that allow them to act as tanks, taking hits for other people. This is a subset of the fighter class we looked at above and can be a very useful role to fill in the right party. Their cards tend to be a bit on the expensive side so resources are a concern for them.

Survivor

If you want to do crazy card combos, fly by the seat of your pants, and make things up as you go along then Survivor is probably the class for you. They are a very diverse class and can really fill the fighter and clue gatherer roles pretty well depending on who you plump for. They are less good as a support class. Their strengths really rely on card manipulation and sometimes complicated timing, so maybe not one to try out straight away if you are a new player. Survivor cards tend to be very cheap, with their true potential brought out by combining them with other cards.

Seeker

THE clue gathering class, Seekers tend to have high lore, decent will and are fairly weak when it comes to fighting. For reasons best known to FFG pretty much every card the community considers overpowered ends up in seeker (yellow cards were also powerful in Netrunner, so maybe someone just likes the colour). Their cards are extremely efficient at sucking up clues in a variety of ways, and they frequently dive into the occasional spellbook with their cross class choices.

Mystic

If Guardians are the physical brute force of the classes, then Mystics are the arcane wielding, forbidden knowledge seeking equivalents. Capable of all sorts of spells from clue gathering to monster blasting, they can be a very diverse class capable of filling in the gaps much like Survivors. Their cards tend to be a little dangerous, with negative effects if any of the symbol tokens are pulled from the chaos bag, and fairly expensive.

Rogue

The thieves, backstabbers, and con people of the game, Rogues are a fairly diverse class like Survivor. They tend towards physical combat and are the only class that really focuses on evasion, though that only really came into its own after Finn Edwards was introduced. This is another way to handle monsters and engage, boom tish, with the combat side of the game. They are usually a very rich class with lots of cards that can get them extra resources that they then utilise for the tools they need for the job.

Playstyle

We are almost ready to start selecting cards but let’s have a little look at playstyle. Having a think about how you want to play and the number of players will help guide you when it comes to building your deck.

How many players?

The number of people you are playing with will guide your character selection and deck design.

Solo

I can’t really provide much guidance here as I do not play the game solo. All I would say is that some characters can handle the solo mode much better than others and those that can will be able to gather clues and take on monsters, either by engaging or evading. This is a very difficult version of the game and I think a lot of solo players play two investigators, often called two handed, rather than diving in ‘true solo’

Joe is arguably the best solo investigator in the game.

2 player

I really think of AH:TCG as a two player game. In this mode one person will generally take on the fighting with some clue/support backup and the other will be the main clue gatherer, with some support/ fighter backup. Coordinate who you are playing with so you can cover the two main bases, fighting and cluing, then you can start being smart about the secondary things your character can get up to.

3-4 player

At this player count you can really start to double up on roles and you might even have someone in a pure support role. Of course the game responds to the higher player count by giving you higher Agenda requirements and tougher monsters, so don’t lose sight of the fundamentals.

Let’s move away from player count to look at the two types of play mode, Narrative/Blind playthroughs, Mechanical and Nonsense. It is really important that everyone is on the same page with the sort of campaign you will be playing to make sure every player has the experience they want.

Narrative/Blind playthroughs

When you first started out playing AH:LCG you probably played it narratively. Reading out all the text from the scenario sheets, maybe the flavour text on the cards, reacting to each twist and turn with horror and awe. That first time you play through a scenario is often referred to as a blind playthrough meaning you don’t know what is coming and your deck is not really optimised for the campaign. I love these first playthroughs as they throw up excellent moments of drama, comedy, and tight plays leading to defeat and victory in equal measure.

It is hard, I’d say impossible, to replicate that feeling again after the first time but that doesn’t mean you have to play optimally the next time through. You can still choose to build a narrative deck that tells a story of a character that you want to tell. That is one of the joys of the game.

Mechanical/Optimal

The other type of playthrough comes from wanting to really optimise your deck, maybe take a particular path through one of the branching narratives, and eventually get to your desired ending. This is a different type of play, but nonetheless an enjoyable one where you can really strategise against a scenario when you know what is coming. When you get onto tackling higher difficulty levels, this is pretty much the required mode.

Nonsense

The final way to play is where you take the reigns off and go hog wild with stupid combos, ridiculous decks, and crazy ideas. This is a totally legit way to play and I’ve seen groups have loads of fun with this kind of idea.

Deck building basics

With a firm grounding in the fundamentals we are ready to dive into some deck building. You’ve chosen an investigator, you know your role, the campaign you are playing in, how many players, and the type of play you can expect. Let’s dive in to choosing cards.

Requirements

Every investigator has their own deck building requirements. This includes the total number of cards your deck can be made from not including the investigators signature cards, and the random basic weakness that each deck gets. On top of that it will tell you what level of cards you can include in your deck, generally allowing you to take cards from a class other than that of your investigator when making your deck for the first scenario of a campaign.

As the game expands the requirements for investigators can get a bit weird as the design team explore new ideas. If you are playing with investigators from later campaigns, just be sure to check all their requirements thoroughly. ArkhamDB will take care of these requirements for you and this is where I do most of my deckbuilding and saving of decks between games. I thoroughly recommend it.

Example: Let’s build a deck as we go through this advice that will hopefully let you see the sort of considerations we might take into account. I’m going to build a deck for the Dunwich Campaign, assuming I only have 2 cores and the Dunwich Deluxe. This gives us a small card pool, but still some choices to make. Let’s look at Zoey Samaras from Dunwich.

Zoey Samaras Investigator Card
Just a simple chef

Zoey is a pretty typical Guardian in that she has a high Combat stat. She also has high Willpower which is good for dealing with treachery cards. She isn’t going to be doing much in the way of cluing or evading with only a 2 in Intellect and Agility. Her ability enables her to gain resources when she engages an enemy and she can do it every time that happens. Great for getting us some money.

Zoey can take 5 cards from any other class at level 0, she also gets her cross, a basic weakness and her signature weakness. Remember those last 3 cards do not count against her deck size of 30 cards which means at the end we will have a deck of 33 cards in total and be legal. I am going to assume I am playing a 2 player, narrative run through of the game so we will build Zoey to take the Fighting Role primarily.

Accentuate your strengths

The first thing to do when building a deck is to double down on your class and role. If you are going to be a guardian with the fighter role then crack out the weapons and get some in your deck. If you are a mystic clue gatherer then you are going to lean more towards cards like Rite of Seeking over Shrivelling.

Let’s look at your stats as well and consider the ever present Chaos Bag. Even in easy mode the Chaos Bag is at minimum going to pull out -2 tokens from time to time. That means that even with a high stat of 5, the highest starting stat for any investigator at this time, you could fail the odd test. As the campaigns get harder, and you decide to play on harder difficulties, this is more likely. This means that we want to look for what are called passive boosts for our characters key stat: cards that will give us extra points to a stat without us having to do anything like pay resources. Examples of this kind of card would be Magnifying Glass for Lore, Holy Rosary for Will, Beat Cop for Fighting, and Cat Burglar for Rogue (we will cover experience cards later, but I wanted to use cards from the core as examples where I could).

The other type of card we can look at are active boosts. There are 5 of these in the core, one for each class that require resources to be spent to boost a particular stat. You’ll find many others of this type, where the ability to activate them will need consideration when you build.

The other thing to think about is cards that support your character abilities. For instance Zoey gets resources when she engages enemies, so packing a Taunt or two can be a great idea as it allows her to get a lot of enemies engaged with her at once. Daisy Walker can use a Tome once a turn for free, so we should ensure she has a good book or two in her deck.

Example

Yep we are definitely going to put two Taunt in this deck, as it not only allows us to get monsters off people but it gives us money when doing so! Now Zoey needs a weapon or two so let’s look at what we could get. Now Machete is a great weapon, but it doesn’t work great with Taunt if we are planning to use that a lot, as we don’t get the damage bonus if engaged with multiple enemies. We are probably going to want something to back that up. Now we can look at other classes of course but I think if we chuck in the .45 Automatic that will be good. We could have gone for Fireaxe, but the 0 resources requirement is really something we would need to build around and is especially hard in Guardian where there are a lot of 0 cost resources.

Fire Axe is a great card, but does need to be built around. You don’t want to simultaneously need and not need resources.

What next. Doing extra damage makes Zoey’s attacks more efficient so let’s put in 2 Vicious Blow. We might want to boost our fight on top of the weapons we have so that means we should chuck in 2 Overpower to make sure we can land those blows when we need it the most. This leaves us with 10 cards purely focused on doing damage, a good third of the deck so far. Don’t forget that Zoey’s Cross, and her two Treacheries do not count towards deck size.

Assets
2x .45 Automatic (Core Set)
2x Machete (Core Set)
1x Zoey’s Cross:Symbol of Righteousness (The Dunwich Legacy)

Event
2x Taunt (The Dunwich Legacy)

Skills
2x Vicious Blow (Core Set)
2x Overpower (Core Set)

Treacheries
1x Random Basic Weakness (Core Set)
1x Smite the Wicked (The Dunwich Legacy)

Smooth your weaknesses

Most characters will have 1 or 2 stats where they are weak. Does that mean you should throw in a bunch of cards to help them pass tests in those stats? Maybe, is the rather unhelpful answer. It will depend a lot on which stat is your weakest and what you might do with it. If your low stat is fighting or agility then you aren’t going to be punching monsters in the face or running circles around them, and should probably just accept that. Low Lore will mean you can’t help out with clue gathering, and you might get hit by the occasional treachery card, but that can be smoothed out by cards like Evidence, allowing you to grab the occasional clue. The real killer for a lot of investigators can be Will. If you have low Will the encounter deck can really start to mess with you, and you’ll need a way to handle the hits, or pass the tests from time to time.

Example

As we’ve already discussed Zoey’s weak stats are Intellect and Evade. We have no intention of evading anything, much easier to shoot or stab anything we come across, but getting the occasional clue might be useful to the party. To this end we will add Evidence to the deck, allowing us to pick up a clue when we kill an enemy, something we will be doing a lot. We could put in Look What I Found from Survivor but it is likely that without further Intellect boosts, Zoey would fail Investigate checks by more than 2. In Mystic we have Drawn to the Flame, another clue gathering card and Zoey can probably handle what the encounter deck will throw at her. Let’s slip a couple of those in as a neat way to get some testless clues.

I do worry that she might get hit by the occasional bad Will check on Treachery cards, and with a low Sanity she is vulnerable to being eliminated that way. To help out I am going to add 2 Guts skill cards and I am also going to add Fearless from Mystic to help heal horror, and for an extra Will boost.

We are now at 18 out of 30 cards and the deck looks like this:

Assets
2x .45 Automatic (Core Set)
2x Machete (Core Set)
1x Zoey’s Cross:Symbol of Righteousness (The Dunwich Legacy)

Events
2x Evidence! (Core Set)
2x Drawn to the Flame (Core Set)
2x Taunt (The Dunwich Legacy)

Skills
2x Vicious Blow (Core Set)
2x Fearless (Core Set)
2x Guts (Core Set)
2x Overpower (Core Set)

Treacheries
1x Random Basic Weakness (Core Set)
1x Smite the Wicked (The Dunwich Legacy)

Slot machine

When you are building a deck you need to think about the slots your investigator has. As it stands at the moment for a level 0 deck you have two hand slots, one accessory slot, two arcane slots, one ally slot, one body slot, and one tarot slot (a mechanic introduced during the Circle Undone campaign).

If you are running a deck that has a lot of weapons in it for instance, you better make sure you can hold the weapons you want to have out in an ideal situation. Sure there are cards you can put in to give you more slots and the permanents like Charisma and Relic Hunter, giving you an excellent way to mess around with having multiple slots where you would normally only have one. With these types of enhancements being permanent, you can easily build around having multiple Allies out, or indulge in some excellent artifacts.

Example

We haven’t filled our Ally slot yet and Guardian has two great choices in Guard Dog and Beat Cop. I am going to go for Beat Cop as it gives us a passive boost to Combat on top of the ability, which is just going to get the job done more often without the need to commit cards. We can’t have more than one Ally at a time, but as the Guardian allies are meant to take damage to activate their ability we might consider putting both in. For now I am going to include both, upping the chance of having more damage dealing out quickly. We could have also looked at Peter Sylvestre from Survivor to help Zoey out with absorbing horror damage, but his passive boost is not really useful to us.

Sorry big man, not this time.

Our Accessory slot is filled up with Zoey’s signature card and she can only have one so there is no point in putting other cards in that slot, at least until we can afford a Relic Hunter. She has two Mystic slots and could take some spells with her high Will, but I think I am going to come back to that a little later. Rite of Seeking would be a potentially good choice to boost her investigating potential, but Shrivelling doesn’t really help us too much as her fight is so strong.

Let’s put these on the back burner for now and move on with 22 cards out of our 30 chosen.

Assets
2x .45 Automatic (Core Set)
2x Beat Cop (Core Set)
2x Machete (Core Set)
2x Guard Dog (Core Set)
1x Zoey’s Cross:Symbol of Righteousness (The Dunwich Legacy)

Events
2x Evidence! (Core Set)
2x Drawn to the Flame (Core Set)
2x Taunt (The Dunwich Legacy)

Skills
2x Vicious Blow (Core Set)
2x Fearless (Core Set)
2x Guts (Core Set)
2x Overpower (Core Set)

Treacheries
1x Random Basic Weakness (Core Set)
1x Smite the Wicked (The Dunwich Legacy)

Board State, Combos and Situational Cards

Earlier in this piece we talked about board state and tempo. One of the things to consider when building a deck is what does your ideal board state look like, what cards do you want in play in order to be at maximum efficiency? For some characters this will be very little, instead relying on events to get the job done, for others they will have every slot filled. You should also distinguish between what is essential and what is nice to have.

If I am running a Zoey fighting deck then having a weapon out is essential and I should keep that in mind when considering a mulligan at the start of a game. Beat Cop is also great, but essential? Probably not. The lower you can keep your essentials the sooner you will be ready to get going and do the role you chose. Keep an eye out for the nice to haves and get them in play when you can.

This leads us neatly onto card combinations or combos as they are more usually referred to. Some cards work off each other, or your investigator card, that is undeniable and you can do some neat things especially in classes like Survivor and Rogue. Let’s take a side glance at probabilities for a moment. If I am looking for one card in my opening hand that I consider essential then I could potentially draw 10 cards, my initial 5 then a mulligan, to try and get that card in my starting hand. Good chance I’ll see it, especially if I have 2 copies.

If I need 2 cards in my starting hand I consider essential, that probability drops way off and as the needs go up, the probability drops. So it is with card combos. Relying on them too much can be a frustrating way to play, as you dig through and wait for the correct cards to come up to be able to act. Make sure your deck can handle some basic actions of your role, without relying heavily on card combinations. When they do come up you can explode into action, but make sure you have a solid core that doesn’t rely on too much showboating, especially when you are just starting out and getting used to how the game works.

The other aspect of card play is considering the situation that some cards need to be in to work effectively. Evidence for instance needs me to be in a room with a monster and a clue, pretty likely as Zoey will be sticking close to the Clue Gatherer for most of the game. As the card pool grows the design team start to produce cards that are more and more situational, not necessarily bad, just specific. Consider carefully how many of these cards you put in your deck, as you don’t want to find yourself clogged up with cards in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Example

We already have Vicious Blow in our deck, a great card that combos with our weapons to give us more damage. I am going to add Dodge in at this stage, as I still need 10 more cards and it seems like a good idea to be able to avoid the occasional hit, or let another investigator get out of danger. Dynamite Blast is an interesting situational card that is very expensive to use, but could get us out of a tight spot in the right moment. Let’s chuck 1 in for now and consider a second later.

We are now at 25 cards out of our 30.

Assets
2x .45 Automatic (Core Set)
2x Beat Cop (Core Set)
2x Machete (Core Set)
2x Guard Dog (Core Set)
1x Zoey’s Cross:Symbol of Righteousness (The Dunwich Legacy)

Events
2x Evidence! (Core Set)
2x Dodge (Core Set)
1x Dynamite Blast (Core Set)
2x Drawn to the Flame (Core Set)
2x Taunt (The Dunwich Legacy)

Skills
2x Vicious Blow (Core Set)
2x Fearless (Core Set)
2x Guts (Core Set)
2x Overpower (Core Set)

Treacheries
1x Random Basic Weakness (Core Set)
1x Smite the Wicked (The Dunwich Legacy)

Resource Curve

Another aspect to consider during deck building is how you are going to pay for things. Most investigators start with 5 resources and will generate 1 a turn during the Upkeep phase of their turn. For classes with low cost cards like Survivor, that might be enough and I have certainly played decks that revel in cheap cards. However, most decks will need to find ways to pay for more expensive cards especially when it comes to the bigger weapons and spells. Keep in mind the essential and nice to have cards we talked about above, how much do you need in the way of resources to make that happen? Better make sure you put cards in to have that many and cards like Emergency Cache can really be a boon to the right decks. If you have a load of cheap cards, these can just become clog.

Example

The best way I have found to look at resource curve is to use the charts part of your deck on ArkhamDB. Let’s look at the state of our Zoey deck.

Cropped from Arkham DB

The most numerous cards in our deck are 1 cost but we have 9 cards with cost 3 or more. We are probably going to need a little help from time to time to get those resources, so for this starting deck I am going to throw in Emergency Cache. Keep in mind that Zoey will generate extra resources from engaging enemies, effectively making Taunt another resource card. It’s arguable that Zoey doesn’t need Emergency Cache and we could use this space in our deck for others cards, but I am going to throw them in just in case.

We are now at 27 cards out of the 30 we need:

Assets
2x .45 Automatic (Core Set)
2x Beat Cop (Core Set)
2x Machete (Core Set)
2x Guard Dog (Core Set)
1x Zoey’s Cross:Symbol of Righteousness (The Dunwich Legacy)

Events
2x Evidence! (Core Set)
2x Dodge (Core Set)
1x Dynamite Blast (Core Set)
2x Drawn to the Flame (Core Set)
2x Emergency Cache (Core Set)
2x Taunt (The Dunwich Legacy)

Skills
2x Vicious Blow (Core Set)
2x Fearless (Core Set)
2x Guts (Core Set)
2x Overpower (Core Set)

Treacheries
1x Random Basic Weakness (Core Set)
1x Smite the Wicked (The Dunwich Legacy)

Polishing Off

It might be the case, like in our example, that giving careful consideration to everything you are a few cards short by the end of your process. Now is the time to throw in a surprise or two, or maybe just bolster something a little more. It is important to keep our resource curve in mind as we do this, as we don’t want to throw that off too much by throwing in crazy cards will never get the chance to play.

Example

We currently have 4 cards from mystic and 1 more cross-class slot available. An easy choice here would be to throw in a copy of Lucky from survivor, just to give us that boost we might need at a crucial moment. Our last cross class taken up the remaining two cards must be neutral or Guardian. Casting my eye over the cards again, we can arrange the cards by cost in ArkhamDB, another easy choice would be Unexpected Courage. This just gives us some more icons to throw at tests, and an easy upgrade target when we come to buying experience cards. Adding those in takes us to 30 and our finished deck.

Assets
2x .45 Automatic (Core Set)
2x Beat Cop (Core Set)
2x Machete (Core Set)
2x Guard Dog (Core Set)
1x Zoey’s Cross:Symbol of Righteousness (The Dunwich Legacy)

Events
2x Evidence! (Core Set)
2x Dodge (Core Set)
1x Dynamite Blast (Core Set)
2x Drawn to the Flame (Core Set)
1x Lucky! (Core Set)
2x Emergency Cache (Core Set)
2x Taunt (The Dunwich Legacy)

Skills
2x Vicious Blow (Core Set)
2x Fearless (Core Set)
2x Guts (Core Set)
2x Overpower (Core Set)
2x Unexpected Courage (Core Set)

Treacheries
1x Random Basic Weakness (Core Set)
1x Smite the Wicked (The Dunwich Legacy)

Experience(XP)

You’ve gotten to the end of building your first deck, but because this is Arkham it isn’t going to remain that way. After each scenario you will accumulate experience, giving you access to better versions of cards, or completely new ones that you couldn’t put in your starter decks.

One of the ways to build decks is to think about what you want it to look like at the end and then work backwards, but I wouldn’t recommend this for your first forays into building your own decks. Often the first time through a campaign, especially if you are playing it as the packs come out, I like to just throw in some of the new cards to play with, just to try out the new toys.

Example

Our Zoey deck has some pretty easy early upgrade targets. Beat Cop and Taunt just get straight up better in their XP versions and we could get an Elder Sign Amulet to help with mental Trauma, though that would take up a slot we have reserved for her cross. As you buy more packs you will get more upgrade targets, and it is often the case that the cards across the cycle will be beneficial to the investigators that came in the deluxe for that cycle.

Taboos

One final thought before I leave you be. Taboos were introduced in one of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) updates and are basically the designers admitting that they costed some cards wrongly/ made some cards too powerful. The Taboos make some cards more expensive to put in your deck and changes the wording on others to make them less powerful.

You can ignore them, and absolutely should when building your first few decks. It doesn’t matter. That said, one of the things the taboos do is push some of the more frequently used cards into the realms of expensive to add into your deck, or less efficient to play, leading to more interesting deckbuidling decisions. I would recommend leaning into the taboos when you feel ready.

This is only the beginning

You’ll notice that I have not really made much in the way of card recommendations throughout this piece. If I did this article would stretch to novel length. On top of that I don’t want you to end up thinking ‘I am playing this investigator I must include these cards’. There is no right or wrong here, build what you want.

That said keep in mind who you are playing with, it can be frustrating to have a deck in the game that is just mucking around and not really engaging with the game. I just hope the advice here will help you build decks you find fun and allow you to enjoy this fantastic game as much as I do.

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2 comments

  1. Interesting article. I usually play two handed solo but I tend to deck build in a very loose ‘what feels right’ sort of way, that said my Seekers and Rogues always seem to crush it while my Guardians go down fast. That might be because I’ve never liked the whole idea of the Pulp Shotguns vs Cthulhu thing.

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