In my previous article, I talked about the concept of tempo and how important it is to Arkham Horror. That article was very well received, so I would like to explain a second important concept. This time, we’re talking about consistency. (If you haven’t read the article on tempo, stop and read that one first, as you need to understand tempo to understand this discussion on consistency. The article “Understanding Tempo” can be found here.)
I’ll start with my own definition of consistency. Consistency is “how reliably your deck can achieve what you wanted it to do.” Now, this may seem very similar to tempo, and it is. Obviously, you wanted your deck to win the scenario. You use tempo to do that and so consistency and tempo sound very similar so far. However, they are not really the same. Let’s break consistency down further.
Imagine our friend Tiffany is building a deck for Daisy. She is really interested in the card Dr. Milan Christopher, and frankly, who could blame her? (For all you grizzled veterans, Tiffany doesn’t play with Taboo rules. Tiffany is a newer player!) As we know, Dr. Milan gives amazing tempo by helping you pass tests and by letting you gain resources! Tiffany expects that with Dr. Milan in play, Daisy will surely rack up resources quickly. She decides that she will include really expensive assets and events as a result: Fingerprint Kit, Connect the Dots, St. Hubert’s Key, for example. After all, Dr. Milan will help her pay for these things! And of course, Tiffany thinks, Daisy only has the one ally slot, so of course, we’ll only need 1 copy of Dr. Milan Christopher to make this all happen. Amazing!
Tiffany takes her deck to two hypothetical scenarios. In Scenario A, Tiffany gets Dr. Milan in her starting hand and wouldn’t you know it, Tiffany’s plan works perfectly! She swims in clues and resources all game along because of Dr. Milan. Her friends say, “Wow, Tiffany, what an incredible deck you have. Your tempo has been off the charts!” (Her friends read Rite of Seeking by the way, and that’s why they make very realistic comments like, “Your tempo has been off the charts!”) Tiffany is thrilled and is so pleased with her deckbuilding.
Next, Tiffany goes to Scenario B. In this scenario, Tiffany draws her expensive cards first. She thinks, “Once I get Dr. Milan, everything will be great and my resource generation will let me pay for all of these effects!” However, due to some unfortunate shuffling, Dr. Milan Christopher is literally the very last card in her deck! Now, Tiffany has a very limited capacity to make her plan work, because she neglected to include other sources of resource generation. She finds her deck struggling to accomplish anything. Her friends say, “Tiffany, what happened to your deck? You haven’t been able to get it going like the last time.” Tiffany doesn’t understand what went wrong this time. After all, last time she did amazing. She’s even get a few XP cards now, so her deck should be even more solid. Right?
What Tiffany needs to learn is that her deck is lacking in consistency. Tiffany’s deck design could be summarized as follows:
“I will use Dr. Milan Christopher to gain lots of resources, which I will use to pay for powerful effects.”
Here’s the problem: Tiffany only included 1 copy of Dr. Milan Christopher. In Scenario A, she managed to get lucky and had this card from the beginning. However, luck won’t be on your side forever. In Scenario B, she was unlucky and never got the card. As a result, her deck design did not work.
How could she have improved her consistency? The most obvious answer is to include a second copy of Dr. Milan. This would immediately double her chances of drawing it. To be more straightforward about it, since two copies is the most you can have a copy of most cards, putting in two copies maximizes her odds of drawing Dr. Milan. I’m not going to go super deep into the mathematics and the probabilities involved here (I might in a different article!), but generally, it’s easily understood that two copies is double the odds of getting the card you need versus one copy.
What else could have improved her consistency? Since Tiffany’s deck intended to use resources to pay for powerful effects, she could have opted to include alternatives that would push her plan along. Crack the Case, for example, could potentially net her 4 resources on a 4 shroud location, which would be enough resources to then pay for Connect the Dots. Tiffany’s consistency will improve somewhat now because she has more than one avenue to do what she wants her deck to do.
Now, there is a caveat to this! Including too many alternatives can clog up your deck. Imagine Tiffany was so interested in including alternatives that she has two each of Emergency Cache, Crack the Case, Alchemical Transmutation, David Renfield, and Dr. Milan Christopher all in her deck. Yes, she will have lots of money, but she also dedicated 1/3 of her deck to doing nothing but generating money. It is highly unlikely that she can even make use of this much resource generation with the remaining cards in her deck! Some of the deck space could have been allocated to cards that will help her handle enemies or discover clues instead, versus just doing exclusively one thing that doesn’t even directly advance the act. So, when you include alternatives, the deckbuilding challenge is figuring the perfect number of alternatives to bring, so you aren’t completely filling up your deck with redundant card effects.
A final thing that can help you with your consistency is drawing more cards. The reason why is that each time you draw a card, there’s a small chance that card you drew is the exact card you need to get your deck rolling. The more times you draw, these chances will compound. Over time, the odds you have drawn what you were looking for go up and up and up. This effect can be sped up with something called “filtered draw”. Filtered draw is being able to manipulate what card you draw, which skews consistency in your favour. Examples of filtered draw are Mr. “Rook”, Old Book of Lore, and Eureka! In the case of the Old Book of Lore, you look at 3 cards and draw 1 of them. As a result, with Old Book of Lore, the odds that the card you drew is a specific card you were looking for, such as Tiffany’s Dr. Milan, are 3 times higher versus the regular draw, as you filtered through 3 cards instead of just taking 1. (Be advised, filtered draw is mostly a Seeker mechanic. Other factions do have it, but not to the same degree that Seekers have it.)
Now the obvious follow up question is, if drawing more cards gives you consistency, why doesn’t everyone just draw cards as an action as much as possible and roll around in consistency? Two reasons:
- Your tempo is slowed down while you are taking normal draw actions.
- You can hit your weakness by drawing aggressively, which can nuke your tempo as well.
Time for a side note: what is the number 1 thing that ruins consistency? Increased deck sizes. Let’s say that instead of looking for a specific card for Daisy, Tiffany was looking for a specific card for Lola. Lola actually has 45 cards total in her deck, versus Daisy’s 33. Each card in Lola’s deck is 2.2% of the deck, versus Daisy’s 3.0%. That might seem like a small difference, but after drawing 10 cards, consider that Daisy has seen 30.3% of her deck versus Lola seeing 22.2% of hers. The likelihood of getting any particular card you want then is much lower as your deck size goes up. The end result is your consistency will be hampered with more cards in the deck. When each round can be so critical in Arkham, you want every card draw to be as meaningful as possible. If you care about finding those really important cards that make your deck run, you need to maximize your consistency as much as possible. (Side note: This isn’t to say Lola is garbage and don’t play her. However, it is to say that one of the biggest challenges Lola faces is that her consistency is inherently so much worse than your standard investigator and you have to keep that in mind when opting to play Lola.)
So, by now, we’ve learned what consistency is, understood why it is important, and learned 3 ways that we can improve our own consistency. Let’s go back to looking at how consistency relates to tempo. Our friend Tiffany has given up on her Daisy deck (her whole team got wiped on Scenario F and lost the campaign, how brutal!) Now, Tiffany is going to play a Tommy Muldoon deck because she has excellent taste in investigators and wants a consistency challenge.
Tommy is a unique case for consistency, because he relies on his signature card much, much more than most investigators. Tiffany’s leaning in to this aspect of Tommy by designing her deck around Becky being in play. Of course, there is only 1 copy of Becky, so the odds of Tiffany finding it can’t be helped by including a second copy. However, Tiffany has learned some things now and she will improve Tommy’s consistency in other ways!
First, Tiffany will include filtered draw via Prepared for the Worst. This will help Tiffany find the weapon she needs much more reliably.
Second, Tiffany will include alternative firearms. Tiffany’s cards that are synergizing with Becky could also be used to synergize with the other firearms in her deck. This means these cards will not be going to waste if her plan A to use Becky fails!
Third, Tiffany will include extra card draw. She decides to include Perceptions and Overpowers. This way, she’ll get a bit of bonus card draw without having to slow down on her tempo to do it. These few extra cards drawn will certainly help speed up how fast she finds Becky: four additional cards drawn is another 12% of her deck seen!
Even with all this, it’s possible the whole scenario goes by and Tiffany never gets Becky at all. However, because Tiffany has a back up plan, her deck will still achieve its major goal of efficiently fighting enemies even if one specific card doesn’t get drawn. A great improvement for our new player Tiffany!
Because Tiffany has made a plan for consistency, she will also be much better off at securing her own tempo. Why? Because Tiffany isn’t relying on one specific outcome to get that tempo happening. Her deck has more flexibility to it now. She has a plan that will help her play her big tempo machine Becky out as quickly as possible, but if Becky isn’t found, she can still use .45 Automatic to ensure tempo is being built up regardless. Basically, because Tiffany’s deck has consistency, Tiffany can be confident her deck will also have tempo.
That’s about it for consistency! Before I close though, I would like to add a word about Mystics. If you hate Mystics and never want to see or hear about them ever again, feel free to leave the article now. The lesson for everyone else is complete. Otherwise, continue reading for how this applies in the case of Mystics.
A WORD ABOUT MYSTICS AND CONSISTENCY
So, if you’re still here, I assume you must have experienced at some point the sheer joy of playing a Mystic and then realizing midway through the scenario that, wow, Mystics can’t do anything whatsoever. This is because consistency works differently for Mystics than everyone else. Basically, if Daisy doesn’t have consistency, oh well, she’ll still investigate at 5 and pick up clues and be helpful to some extent. If Akachi doesn’t have consistency, she will generate no tempo at all for a lot of the scenario. The reason being Mystics have low or mediocre base stats outside of their Will. This means Mystics get punished HARD for inconsistency. So, you really, really, really, really want to be conscious of this and mitigate inconsistency in Mystics as much as possible.
The big purple problem is that it’s really difficult to do that, because the Mystic card pool does you no real favours. When it comes to fighting, Shrivelling has 4 charges and then it’s over. Wither does 1 damage the majority of the time; that’s not great for tempo. And the Enchanted Blade uses your Combat stat, which at most among current Mystics is a 3, a.k.a., not super great. What’s worse is that Wither and the Enchanted Blade didn’t even exist until The Circle Undone cycle. Thinking about all this in this fashion could make you very, very sad. However, take heart, because all is not lost! As a diehard Mystic fan, let me assure you, you do have some tools you can make use of.
The first one is Arcane Initiate. Arcane Initiate nets you some filtered draw. A big help!
And….. that’s about it!
Okay, so I’m being a little facetious. But the fact of the matter is, you can’t really maximize consistency very well with the Mystic card pool. So playing Mystic usually means a change of tactic. Think the following:
“Because my deck can’t guarantee consistency, I will aim to consistently contribute something that generates tempo at any given time versus consistently aiming for one specific thing.”
See, Mystics usually succeed best as generalists. If you get Rite of Seeking, use Rite of Seeking. Now you’re a clue hunter. If you get Shrivelling, use Shrivelling. Now you’re a fighter. It’s a different approach to investigators, but for us Mystic fans, this wild, unpredictable ride is what makes them so, so fun!
Now, you can try to focus in on doing one thing, but be advised:
- It usually demands using cards outside the Mystic card pool to optimize this, which most Mystics inherently can’t do.
- You need to own a lot of content to even begin to do this, because you’ll be relying on very specific cards to pull off a focused Mystic deck.
- Your deck probably will not be very consistent even then. Unlike Guardians and their 10 different weapons, Mystics have very few options for fighting in a comparable way. The upside is when they do get those options, a Mystic may find herself exceeding the Guardian at fighting (at least, for a time).
Basically, by all means, go for it! But be advised, your mileage may vary even at the best of times.
One thing that helps Mystics shine in the face of their inconsistency problems is that Mystics are the best faction in the game for avoiding tempo loss. This is what helps balance their inconsistency problem. Yes, inconsistency hurts them; it hurts everybody. But when a Mystic is in their window of power, say with a full Shrivelling and a full Rite of Seeking out, no one else compares. And when the encounter deck tries to stop the Mystic by making her take horror, discard assets, or lose resources, the Mystic has plenty of tools to ensure those things don’t happen and she continues steamrolling along instead. Basically, a good Mystic is like Miley Cyrus in 2010: she can’t be tamed.
Anddddd, now I’m done! As always, thank you for reading this article and I hope you learned something helpful!