Let’s talk about one of the most important mechanics in the game: the ability to draw your cards. You may not ever think too much about it. You start the game with 5 cards in hand (in the case of Sefina, 8 cards in your hand). You can draw one card as an action, and you get to draw a card at the end of the upkeep phase. “Why do I need to draw more cards?” you may be asking. Well, let me put some of it into perspective for you.
The basic rule within Arkham is that you can only play cards in your hand. In fact, when an investigator is able to play cards somewhere other than their hand, it’s typically a signature quality of that investigator. This is because having access to more cards than what is in your hand is a game-bending ability, enough so that almost every time it shows up, it’s a signature of the investigator who can do it. So, we have our general rule: it can only be played if it’s in your hand.
Obviously, when we put together our typical deck of 30 cards, plus signature asset, signature weakness, and random basic weakness, we did so intending to be able to play the cards we put in our deck. There is a catch though: you will only be able to play cards if they end up in your hand. At the beginning of the game, you get to draw 5 cards. Out of 33 cards, that represents only about 15% of your deck. That means on the outset, you are locked out of 85% of your deck. That is its own problem.
Dividing one card by the total number of cards in the deck reveals that one card is approximately 3% of your entire deck. While that may still sound small, that’s still 3% extra access to what you had in your deck, and that little bit of card draw could lead you to that one powerful card you need to solve the problem you’re currently facing.
In short, while you are putting your deck together, don’t just think of what cards you want to be playing. Ask yourself, how are these cards going to end up in my hand?
Building Card Draw
There are a handful of tools for card draw available at Level 0. We’ll look at a small number of examples here to get your gears turning on why these cards could be valuable.
Guardian – Prepared for the Worst
Guardians typically invest in big weapon cards, but what happens when you don’t have your weapons in your starting hand or your mulligan? What happens when you invested in a Shotgun or Lightning Gun but now cannot find it? Prepared for the Worst will help you search for that weapon.
How good is it to search you through the top 9 cards? Let’s pretend you play this card action 1, turn 1 to find your 1 copy of Lightning Gun. You already have 5 cards in your hand, one of which was this, so as we mentioned earlier that is 15% of the deck we have looked at and confirmed Lightning Gun is not in. That leaves 28 cards to go through, of which we will search through 9. On the first action, Prepared for the Worst searches through 32% of the remaining deck pile to find your weapon, and 42% of your whole deck searched total – on Action 1, Turn 1 alone.
Let’s say you instead decided to wait a little bit. You have gone through 5 full turns, but now that you are sensing a big boss fight coming, you need that Lightning Gun! Assuming you’ve only drawn cards by way of upkeep, you’ve now passed through 10 cards. That’s 30% of the deck you know does not have Lightning Gun. That leaves 23 cards to go through, of which we again will search through 9. That’s 39% of the remaining deck pile to find your weapon and a whopping 57% of your whole deck searched.
By the time you’ve searched over half of your deck, if you can’t find the Lightning Gun at this point, it is in the back half of your deck and you would likely not have drawn it naturally anyway (which is just the worst, hence you prepared for it by taking this card). Thankfully, Prepared for the Worst lets you grab any weapon, not just a Weapon you had in mind to search for. Even if you can’t find the Lightning Gun, you can still get your .45 Automatic or Machete, if you don’t have those already.
Here’s another fun part of Prepared for the Worst – it forces you to shuffle your deck as well. So if it was in the back, because you couldn’t find it, it could now have been shuffled up to the front, giving you a fighting chance of getting that weapon! A small perk, but still something that could make the difference.
Seeker – Preposterous Sketches
Seekers have insane card draw cards, so there’s a lot of things we could talk about here. One of them is the fantastic No Stone Unturned, but since No Stone Unturned functions very similarly to the just-discussed Prepared for the Worst, I’m going to focus on a different card instead. That card is Preposterous Sketches.
Preposterous Sketches is one of the weirdest card drawing cards in the game. First of all, it requires you to be on a location with a clue, which means there are certain windows of the game where this card simply can’t be played at all. Secondly, it takes an action to play this to draw the cards. You can normally draw a card with an action anyway, so you only really got a net gain of 2 cards off of playing this card instead of just drawing normally. And we won’t even touch the resource cost of this.
Still, this card has some great things going for it. It lets you draw 9% of your deck, which is a LOT for one action. This card, along with the Level 4 Cryptic Research card, is currently the greatest amount of card draw at once off of a player card in the game. And this card does that at Level 0.
When should you be using this card then? This card is designed to catapult a ton of cards into your hand at one time in the least graceful way imaginable. It’s not the most efficient or the cheapest card out there, nor is it the easiest card to play. But if you need cards, Preposterous Sketches will chuck cards at you like nothing else can. You can use these to reload your hand for Higher Education, or if you are Minh and have your signature weakness in play, this can stock up your hand with cards that could have the icons you need. Those are just a few ideas – just remember that Preposterous Sketches is about quantity not quality when it comes to card draw.
Rogue – Pickpocketing
Rogues have one card draw card right now. No, I am not kidding, they have only one – well two, if you include the upgraded version of the same card. And it’s not even that great on a bunch of them. Card draw is just a mechanic that is largely locked down with the Rogue class. That being said, let’s look at the tool they do have.
The card is Pickpocketing. Basically, you play this, and wait to evade enemies. After you successfully evade, you get to draw a card. This has the net effect of doing two general actions – Evade and Draw a card – as one action.
Is this good? It depends on if you’re going to actually be evading enemies. That’s an actual consideration to make. You have to trigger this card at least twice before it becomes efficient, and evade many more times if you want this card to be a superstar. Remember, you spent 1 action to play this card, and dropped 2 resources on it too, so if all you ever get for your efforts is 1 or 2 cards drawn, the action and resources would have been better used elsewhere. But if you are going for a hardline Evader strategy, which the current card pool has difficulty supporting right now, then by all means throw this in your deck.
Mystic – Arcane Initiate
If you thought card draw was hard in Rogue, card draw is even worse in Mystic. How bad are we talking here? Mystics are more likely to have cards that let them draw off the encounter deck than they are off their own player deck. And when they do have a card that enables them to draw from their own deck, they have to put a doom (or two horror) on it! It’s almost like the designers of this game realized card draw was a really important mechanic and decided it was too powerful to have free access to in certain classes! Well, anyway, let’s look at Arcane Initiate.
Arcane Initiate is a card with some obvious limitations. This card takes up your Ally slot, which is a little bit contested in Mystic, but not significantly so. The bigger issue is that it puts a doom into play. While that is bad, if you play Mystic often, you know how to manage this. You can easily minimize this effect by playing this card during the Witching Hour (which refers to the turn right before the agenda would advance naturally). However, by that time, quite a bit of game has already passed you by. Another option then is to play it, and then use your cards that put horror or damage on yourself to reliably kill it. Or just use Moonlight Ritual, but playing it on something as manageable as Arcane Initiate would be the worst use of that card.
With all those limitations is it still worth it to run this card. Yes. It is. Most of your cards in your deck are spells, so you will find a card to draw almost every time with this and the cards you can draw with this are very powerful. More importantly, Mystics are hugely reliant on having their arcane slot spells out. This is the closest thing Mystics have to a Prepared for the Worst for their arcane slot spells. Unlike Pickpocketing, Arcane Initiate draws cards off a free trigger, so it’s far more reliable to activate. All that to say, this is a good card, even at level 0. If you have neglected this card in the past, I would encourage you to revisit it.
Survivor – Rabbit’s Foot
Survivors tend to have an easier time accessing their discard than their draw pile with player card effects. But let’s look at a card that they do have to access their draw pile, that being Rabbit’s Foot.
This card is… questionable. It only activates if you fail a test. While it is inevitable you will be failing tests, you really don’t want to be performing tests you are likely to fail in the first place. It’s just bad risk management. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon to have full turns where you don’t test anything at all, meaning Rabbit’s Foot will just sit there doing nothing whatsoever. It also has to trigger more than once to be profitable for you, because you spent an action putting it into play, which could have been spent just drawing a card. That means, if you are drawing cards with Rabbit’s Foot, you are also failing tests across multiple turns, which means, how do I say this gently, you have bigger problems than card draw and are probably also losing the whole scenario.
Furthermore it takes up an accessory slot. That’s bad. Wendy’s signature asset is an accessory. Agnes’ signature asset is an accessory, and she is a Mystic which means she has access to powerful Mystic accessories that are actually good (sorry, Heirloom, but it’s true…). Pete frankly is in the same boat as Agnes. A lot of Pete builds are relying on the Mystic card St. Hubert’s Key, which Pete can run to great benefit. And then Yorick usually wants to be putting out the 0 resource Cherished Keepsake, tank 2 horror on it, and then recur it over and over again with his passive ability. Basically, this card is not great as is, and furthermore, the people who can run it don’t really want it.
If you are a Survivor and concerned about card draw, I recommend looking to recursion effects instead of standard card draw.
Neutral – Guts, Perception, Overpower, Manual Dexterity
These cards are very good, and a number of these cards should be in almost every deck. I will write a separate article focusing on just them in the future. But if you are lacking in card draw, these cards are the best way to add basic card draw to any deck.
Card draw is amazing, but only certain classes have easy access to it. Hopefully, as the card pool expands, we will be seeing new card draw tools for Rogue, Mystic, and Survivor. For now though, run your basic Neutral skill cards and in-class card draw tools as appropriate. Remember, it’s not enough to have the card in your deck! You have to actually draw it!* So don’t underestimate the importance of card draw, and try to get as much as you can going for you.
*Unless you are Sefina. Or Norman. Or Yorick. Or Wendy with Amulet in play. But anyway, you know what I mean!