Do you like:
- Passive stat boosts?
- Playing assets?
- Having obnoxiously high skill values for tests?
- Not having to commit cards to tests?
If so, you may be a fan of the Statball style of deck! The name Statball basically means that your investigator has turned into a walking ball of stats that just steamrolls tests by virtue of their stats being so damn high. It is defined as follows:
“A Statball deck is designed to raise at least two of an investigator’s stats to be able to reliably pass skill tests of difficulty 3 with no commits, primarily by playing assets that passively raise skill values.” (Note: For the purposes of Statball, we are considering assets with bonuses that trigger only on certain actions as contributing to the Statball, e.g. Machete counts as giving you +1 Combat.)
This means you need to be able to raise at least two skill values to at least 5 to qualify, but a true Statball deck wants these stats to be 6 or 7 so that they are at least 3 over the difficulty of an average test. An average test is usually a difficulty of 3, but sometimes it’s a 4 – hence, 6 or 7 being the target amount. Statball decks excel at passing these average tests with little effort.
For example, at Standard, being 3 over passes 13 out of 15 token draws on Extracurricular Activity in Dunwich (assuming no Elder Thing token). That’s an 86.6% chance of success with no skill cards committed. (If you play on Easy, it’s every token but autofail, so you can get away with Statballing to 5 instead of 6, which is significantly easier. For this article, we are assuming you are playing Standard.) The percentages start to drop when you get to Hard or Expert, but the chances are still decent, being over 50% in each case. So let’s make clear what we are talking about here – a 6+ Statball deck is a powerful build in Easy/Standard and is significantly weaker in Hard/Expert.
Now, why does a Statball deck require at least 2 stats be raised? Because for your own safety, you have to be able to pass a diversity of tests. Even in the case of a Mystic, who might be raising her Will to 7 and using it to perform lots of spells, you may still run into a situation where you can’t test your Will anymore. Maybe you are out of spell charges and events, and you just really need to be able to evade an enemy like a normal person. What now? Statball Agnes can handle such a situation as she raises her Will AND her Agility! Being able to perform at least two types of tests will just open up your options so, so much more. And if you are lucky enough to be pass 3 or 4 types of tests, then victory is all but assured (maybe)!
Now, if Statballing is good at passing tests, why doesn’t every do it? Here are some of the downsides of this build:
- Huge reliance on assets. Assets cost resources, slots, and actions. You also have to draw very specific cards and be able to put them into play within a certain window of time for many Statball builds to work.
- Increased vulnerability to discard treacheries. Crypt Chill is a prime example of a card that can wreck your whole day if you are trying to Statball. However, cards that discard assets from play are not your only fear. Discarding off your deck is also dangerous. Your precious assets could be in there! You’re going to really want to be safe against these in particular.
- Large resource requirement. If you are going to be a successful Statballer, you need some kind of resource tool in your deck. This is because a lot of these cards that increase stats are expensive. If you want to get your set up done in time, you need to have the resources and cards in play fast. Otherwise, you get less return on your investment as you approach the end of the scenario. If you’re only going to have Track Shoes in play for one test, you may as well just commit for the icon instead!
- Demands you mostly abandon the stats you aren’t focusing on. If you happen to need to pass a test for a stat you haven’t done anything for, you are very likely plain out of luck and doomed to fail! Sorry, but you’re going to be a bit of a two-trick pony in most cases.
- Can weaken as the campaign goes on and extra negative tokens get added to the bag. A Statball deck is only as strong as the chaos bag allows it to be! If a -5 is in the bag, it’s time to be a little more cautious. But, you can also respond by buying stronger XP cards to keep the Statball rolling!
But let’s also be reminded of the many positives!
- Significant return on your investment when set up quickly. This is the biggest reason to do a Statball build. Let’s say as a Seeker, you get your Intellect when investigating to a 7 on turn 1 (very easy to do if you are Daisy or Norman). You are now going to be passing with an amazing chance of success all game long on your investigate tests. Plus, you will be able to enjoy this chance of success without having to commit additional resources or cards, meaning you can now use those tools to help you out further later on.
- Safety against treacheries if you prioritize Will (and to a lesser degree, Agility). Will and Agility tests are common among treachery cards. By having strong stats in these tests (which you likely do, as most Statball investigators choose Will or Agility as one of their focuses), you minimize the risk of treacheries messing with your investigator.
- Success often enables more success. Let’s say you were able to get a lot of clues early on because of how frequently you could pass Intellect tests. Now, you get to advance the act a little earlier than normal. You have more time to get the next thing done, allowing your team to put out more assets, deal more damage, or discover even more clues before the agenda advances. By minimizing failed actions, you allow space for more good things to happen!
Now that we’ve looked at pros and cons, let’s look at who some examples of the best and worst candidates for a Statball deck are. Under each of the best candidates, I have listed some suggested cards for each slot and for the worst candidates, I provided a reason why I think they are in the worst category. (Remember, this is all just opinion and is not meant to be definitive by any means!)
- Norman – Will/Int. Norman is the king of Statball. In fact, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Statball is the ideal way to play him. Why is he so good? For one, his base stats include a 4 in Will and a 5 in Int. You can reach 6+ in both of those easily with the right combination of assets. For two, since one of the stats is Will and Norman can take Mystic cards this means that as he gains XP, he’ll increasingly be able to use Will as a replacement skill for other tests such as Fights or Evades. What’s more, he can also use Seeker cards to help shore up those weaker stats as well, as Mind Over Matter and Anatomical Diagrams give him some combat tricks. Finally, his -1 discount on cards from the top of his deck gives him the resource tool he needs to afford to play a lot of assets.
- Hand: Hawk-Eye Camera/Magnifying Glass
- Ally: Dr. Christopher Milan
- Accessory: St. Hubert’s Key
- Tarot: Four of Cups (optional, you don’t even need this to get to 6 Will)
- Diana – Will/Combat OR Will/Int. At the beginning of the game, Diana’s stats are poor. However, she can get to 6+ Will easily, without even having to have all her cancels used. Her cancels give her bonus resources as well, which will help you afford your assets a little bit better. Using your Guardian cards, you can get to 4 Combat with a Beat Cop and then get a +2 bonus with a wide range of XP Guardian weapons. You can also go Will/Int if you use St. Hubert’s Key and Alyssa Graham and/or Alice Luxley. Finally, Diana can make incredible use of Crystalline Elder Sign due to her very even stat line, making her potentially able to have very high stats across the board. Just be cautious about having your Will stat wiped by Terrible Secret!
- Hand: .45 Automatic(2)
- Ally: Beat Cop, Alyssa Graham, Alice Luxley as options
- Accessory: Crystalline Elder Sign or Holy Rosary, take St. Hubert’s Key ONLY if focusing on the Int
- Body: Bandolier(2) for bonus Will
- Tarot: Ace of Swords is more necessary than Four of Cups if you are Statballing, since your Will is probably fine from stacking cancels/other assets
- Jenny – Anything you want. Thanks to Jenny’s 5 out of class slots and her resource passive, Jenny can become whatever you want her to be. You’ll probably want to work with your Rogue card pool though, so if you are using Tarots, it’d be easiest to stack Agility. However, there is also a potential build where you could use Dario El-Amin with St. Hubert’s Key to get to 5/5/3/3 using just two cards. Combine with a Hawk-Eye Camera and now you could very well have 6/6/3/3. It’d be an investment to hit that point, but you could do it. Another option is to focus on Intellect and Agility as your two skills and focus on using Lockpicks to investigate. Keep in mind that since Jenny starts at all 3’s, you likely are not surpassing a 6 most of the time when you Statball. Also, you have to be careful because if your Statball never gets rolling, you are stuck with mediocre stats across the board.
- Hand: Depends on what skill you are focusing on. Many Rogue weapons give +2 Combat during fights, however keep in mind they usually have some other condition to temper that bonus.
- Ally: Any ally with a passive stat bonus, but Dario El-Amin or Lola Santiago(3) are great if you are trying for efficiency with your slots. Jenny has lots of options here though and you may want to take a Charisma as a result.
- Accessory: St. Hubert’s Key for Will/Int
- Body: Trench Coat if you are building Agility
- Tarot: The Moon XVIII for Agility
- Other: Track Shoes for Agility
- Daisy – Good luck getting Daisy to stack anything other than more Intellect. Daisy’s assets are usually bookmarked to play Tomes, none of which give her stats. You could use her Mystic assets to raise her Will to a 5, but doing this at level 0 will likely require David Renfield, who Daisy usually doesn’t want over Dr. Milan. She can be a titan of the Intellect stat, but you really won’t get much else out of her statline.
- Rita – Rita has the exact same problem as Daisy. She can stack up Agility like there is no tomorrow, but she will have very little hope of stacking anything else due to her limited card pool. The fact that the only non-Neutral Tarot available to her simply gives her health and sanity does her no favours in this department.
- Preston – Preston has lots of money, why not buy him lots of assets with stats? For one, you will never get to 6 across 2 stats in a real game with Preston. The card pool doesn’t support this happening. Now, you can certainly get to 4+ in one stat, which is Agility, if you stack things (ex. Lola Santiago, Peter Sylvestre, Track Shoes, Trench Coat, The Moon XVIII) which is respectable. But any passive stat bonuses on Preston are really just incidental bonuses and not your main battle plan. That’s not how Preston is played.
Do you think Statballing is an interesting strategy? Or is it too risky and reliant on certain cards? Let me know what you think in the comments!