A few years back, I made a custom Mystic investigator with 5 Willpower and 4 Intellect and the community feedback was that this custom character was simply too strong to be allowed to exist with those two stats specifically and I needed to pare back some power from those stats in order for her to not be busted.
With that out of the way, let’s look at Gloria Goldberg, our newest Mystic investigator from FFG with 5 Willpower and 4 Intellect!
Say hello to Gloria Goldberg! From the very first time it was revealed that investigators could be debut through novellas, I have been predicting – nay, begging – that Gloria Goldberg be released this way. Thematically, it only ever made sense. Gloria is “the writer”, after all. In fact, I was so convinced that Gloria had to be released through a novella, that when the first set of novellas wrapped up and Gloria was not in it, I began to suspect there must be a second set of novellas simply so that Gloria could be part of it. So I have been completed thrilled to see Gloria did in fact get the novella treatment!
Now, what FFG revealed to us is the front of her card, her replacement signature asset, and her replacement signature weakness. What we do not have are her deckbuilding rules. I’m not going to go too deep into this conversation of what her deckbuilding could be, because frankly it’s all speculation at this point with not lots to go off of. At least with Dexter we knew he appeared on Haste to support him having Rogue 0-2! Gloria has hardly anything to help us come up with possible deckbuilding rules other than her backstory. My personal theory is that she is reverse Norman, meaning she starts Mystic and upgrades into Seeker, just like Norman does. This just makes sense to me, as her stats are neatly flipped from Norman’s Will/Int and Combat/Agi scores, and Seeker 1-5 access lets her take so many Tomes and cards that mess around with the encounter deck. That being said, it’s just a prediction and there are many predictions right now that are also great. The main reason I bring up my theory at all is to emphasize that we do not really know for certain if she has Mystic 0-5 deckbuilding, so please keep that in mind as we begin this early analysis. For now, I am treating her as though she has Mystic 0 and Neutral 0-5, and won’t be delving too deep (see what I did there?) into potential off-Mystic splash cards or upgrade paths.
Strengths and Weaknesses
There’s a lot to unpack when looking at a new investigator for the first time, so let’s begin by analyzing her strengths and then moving on to the weaknesses.
- Five willpower Mystic alone is already really good. As someone who plays a lot of Mystic, I feel like I can’t highlight this enough. The difference between a 4 Willpower Mystic and a 5 Willpower Mystic is significant. Over the course of an entire scenario, it just takes so much less overall commitment from your cards and resources to pass consistently when you have that one extra point. Think about a Shrivelling test against an enemy with a Fight of 4. That one extra point of Will, creating a test of 5v4 versus 4v4, can make the difference between passing or failing on over half of the token draws on Standard difficulty in something like Extracurricular Activity, as -1, Skulls (-1), and the Cultist (-1) draws are now passes. This swing is so valuable, and since you test Willpower as much as possible, the value only grows as you test more and more. And, furthermore, outside of the Mystic card pool, you become so much more resilient against encounter cards with 5 Will (which in Gloria’s case is doubly important as we will get to later on).
- Four intellect on a 5 Will Mystic is ridiculous. Usually Mystics have to be very choosy about what goes in their arcane slots, and then cry in the corner about whatever important task it is they ran out of slots for. However, four intellect is Seeker level of Intellect, so Gloria can hold her own on clues without having to be completely dependent on Willpower tricks. The big benefit to this is that you can completely opt out of investigating arcane slot spells, and then save those slots for combat, evasion or support. No crying in the corner for Gloria!
- Sword Cane exists. Sword Cane is a card that was previewed for The Innsmouth Conspiracy by the wonderful Frank and Peter at Drawn to the Flame that lets you use a hand slot item to evade or fight with your Willpower. Once Gloria has Sword Cane in play she can be thought of as being 5/4/5/5 while Sword Cane is ready. This is with just 1 item that costs 2 resources to play, and you still have both Arcane slots available to do whatever with. Just crazy.
- Gloria has the best encounter deck control in the entire game. I’m going to get further into this later on, but yes, this is true and it’s not even really a contest. Diana may be the queen of canceling encounter cards, sure, but Gloria can completely remove encounter cards out of the deck in their entirety. Comparing the impact between Diana and Gloria on the encounter deck is like comparing an airplane to a spaceship
- Nine sanity. Nine sanity is fantastic. This is especially good because St. Hubert’s Key (a card Gloria loves if she wants to become a hulking ball of stats) will drop you to seven sanity, which is still a heaping helping of sanity. Assuming she can in fact make use of Arcane Research, this will be even more of a strength for her.
And now, the weaknesses.
- 1 Combat and 2 Agility. Now, this is not that big of a deal, because well, it is standard practice for Mystics to have “dump stats” like this somewhere on their line. However, the danger is if you don’t get your Sword Cane, or your Shrivelling, or your Ineffable Truth, or whatever it is you brought with you, you can pretty much blow up to enemies, especially because you only have…
- 5 Health. Five health is always a little bit dicey. You just have to plan around it. I would recommend Painkillers and Robes of Endless Night to start off playing around your 5 Health. However, as I was saying in the point above, Gloria can absolutely be blown up by damage if you just don’t get the cards you need. So because of these two points, you’re going to want to set up fast.
- Her ability triggers on a specific keyword that is underrepresented in the cardpool. Gloria’s ability only triggers on cards that use the word “look” specifically in reference to the encounter deck. Ignoring the very, very few non-Mystic cards that do this for a moment, at level 0, this is 4 Mystic cards (Scroll of Secrets, Alyssa Graham, Scrying, Parallel Fates). Four. Cards. Only. It almost feels like a lot of her cardpool is missing, and it might be reserved for her actual release in a future deluxe. As a result, you may feel yourself forced into taking these 4 cards, which then has the ripple effect of having to cut other generically strong Mystic cards that others would take under normal circumstances.
- Her replacement signature asset competes for a slot with one of the only cards that triggers her ability. This is kind of a yikes for me. I think Gloria – novella Gloria, at least – is going to want to buy Charisma as her first XP purchase almost always. This is just so that you can have Ruth and Alyssa out at the same time. Alyssa is so important to you as it is the main way you will activate your ability (due to it being a free trigger to do so) and because she raises you to an erudite 5 Intellect. Ruth is also important to you, so having to choose between one or the other for slots is problematic to say the least. I’ll take more about Ruth later, but yes, putting out Charisma is the easiest way around this problem and then it’s just done with.
- Her weakness is swingy but at its worst, it is very bad. Liber Omnium Finium is weird. I’ll talk more about its weirdness later, but for the purpose of this list, just know that you really want to play around knowing it exists in your deck and if the game decides to hate you, you can get absolutely rocked by Liber Omnium Finium in a few different ways.
- The first line of your investigator ability does nothing whatsoever in solo. I’m not trying to say never play solo Gloria, but she’s definitely a little bit knocked down in power when one of her most game-changing abilities doesn’t do anything in solo.
So that’s my initial, surface level Gloria Goldberg overview. Basically, Gloria has the capacity to statball really easily as a Mystic. With Sword Cane, Alyssa, and St. Hubert’s Key, she can be loosely thought of as having a 6 in every stat and that’s with no Arcane slot assets in play. However, her low health and enemy management stats and health means she is dependent on getting her core assets into play, or else she can just die. Furthermore, if you don’t get your look cards in hand or in play, then you almost don’t even have an ability. However, if you can get your assets into play and your cards all sorted out to the point that your encounter deck control comes online, then you can be very, very powerful.
Now that we have a basic overview of Gloria, let’s dive more into what really sets her apart as an investigator – her encounter deck control.
Remember when I said if Diana is an airplane, then Gloria is a spaceship? We are going to dive into the astronomical amount of control Gloria has over the encounter deck. Naturally, her weakness targets this power specifically, so I will also talk about how Liber Omnimum Finium forces you to slow down your spaceship a little bit towards the end.
Gloria’s ability consists of two parts. We’ll look at the parts one at a time. First, you choose the order players draw from the encounter deck during the mythos phase. I think my jaw dropped in real life when I read this on the reveal, because this is…. ridiculously good.
Boiling it down, the encounter deck slows down teams by presenting the players some kind of problem to be solved. Encounter draws are most painful when they present a problem the investigator can’t really handle. Think Frozen in Fear stuck to a Preston with 1 Will, a Chilling Cold threatening to discard your 2 Will Silas’ main weapon, or even simply the agenda advancing by anyone drawing an Ancient Evils. And yes, cancels are wonderful, but they have costs associated with playing them. You have to have the cancel in your hand. You have to pay any resource cost associated with them. And, what’s more, sometimes you pay a cost in some other way, such as taking a horror from Ward of Protection or an Exile on Test of Will level 1. Furthermore, not all cancels solve all problems – Deny Existence, for example, will not save you from Frozen in Fear. So not even cancels are perfect solutions. So one of the best ways to handle this would simply be to let everyone get the encounter they are most prepared for. That way the team loses less time solving all the encounter problems, giving them more time to advance the scenario forward.
The issue with that approach is very few things actually enable you to do that. Scrying has never been super popular, because of how slow it is to play and then you have to use an action to use it one time – with that level of investment, you probably slowed down so much you might have been better off just taking the cards as they came anyway. So, when First Watch came out for Guardian, the idea of being able to assign all the cards at fast speed sounded incredible. Hell, I love First Watch so much, I have First Watch in my Rex deck.
Gloria can basically do something similar to this at all times without having to use anything to turn this power on. She just can do this. Her whole thing as an investigator is being able to solve this important, specific problem that no one could really do before.
However, being able to decide player order during mythos has a very limited usefulness without detailed knowledge to make an intelligent choice on the order. That’s where the second part of her ability comes in. Gloria gets an amazing bonus when she uses a card that looks at the encounter deck. First, she can look at an additional card. Then, before she finishes resolving the ability that let her look at the cards originally, from all of those cards she is looking at (except for Elite enemies), she can choose one card. She can either discard that card, put it on top of the deck, or place it underneath her investigator card. Then, she continues to resolve the look ability normally. Notably, there is no turn, phase, or round limit on this ability at all. The only restriction is there can be a maximum of 3 cards underneath her.
This ability is where Gloria gets her insider knowledge to know what order everyone should draw in, thereby preserving the team’s resources by giving everyone the easiest encounters possible for them. Have the enemies spawn on your Mark, have the Grasping Hands go to your Rita, have the Ancient Evils go to a Daisy who has her Ward of Protection in hand. Working like this, you keep the team speeding along, because you are far less likely to get bogged down in mythos.
When do you use each of the three options available? Here are some example answers.
DISCARD – This card sucks badly enough that you don’t want anyone to be drawing this card in the upcoming mythos phase. You also don’t have Ruth in play or coming up soon, or you do have Ruth in play but the Trait synergy is missing on the card. Because of this, you aren’t interested enough in keeping it underneath you. (I’ll go into more detail about why Ruth matters in the “underneath you” section.) You also don’t want Liber Omnium Finium to possibly force you into drawing the card, because it might blow you up in some way if you did actually draw it (as an example, Arrows from the Trees in The Forgotten Age).
TOP OF THE DECK – You are okay with someone drawing this card and you know exactly who you will have draw it. Perhaps there is some synergy you have in mind, such as giving an enemy to a Guardian who can trigger combos off of defeating it or you have a Seeker who wants to commit True Understanding to a Treachery test they can easily pass to net a clue.
UNDERNEATH YOU – This is where your signatures really come up. I will begin by saying you really want something underneath you, not only because this ability is very powerful, but also because you can dead draw into Liber Omnium Finium multiple times since it shuffles back if there is nothing under you. Multiple rounds of dead drawing can also be very bad for you, particularly as your deck thins out. So, you really ought to put something underneath you at different points and not exclusively use the previous two options.
There are a few possible approaches to putting cards underneath you. The first approach is for when the card in question is the devil incarnate. You want there to be 0% chance of this card being drawn, not just in the next round, but throughout the course of the scenario. However, you also would be okay being randomly forced into drawing it yourself via Liber Omnium Finium.
An example of this is Mysterious Chanting. Mysterious Chanting can toss out doom like nothing else, potentially losing you the scenario if you have no response to it ready. (Essex County Express, anyone??) So, you put it underneath you, to avoid that fate entirely. If Liber Omnium Finium finds it, almost none of the effects become worse due to your weakness’ effects. It has no test so your skill reduction does not matter, and as far as peril goes, choosing the least harmful way to resolve this card is usually no choice at all or completely obvious. So then the only major difference is you can’t cancel it, but you likely were not canceling it anyway in this instance and were already playing around this particular possibility by managing the cultists on the board as needed.
The second approach is you are storing things under you to make things better for Ruth and your team’s tests through Ruth’s trait matching minigame. Let’s go back to the Preston on your team being Frozen in Fear. As Gloria, if I have Ruth out, I can use some look effect to attempt to look through the encounter deck for another Terror card, like Rotting Remains (probably using Parallel Fates for this as it lets you view the greatest number of encounter cards at once). I can then trigger Ruth to discard the Rotting Remains from underneath me, and then reduce the difficulty of Preston’s Frozen in Fear test by 2 when he initiates it, making it a 1. Preston is now even with this test, so he can likely pass it way more easily with just a few commits or stat pumps needed. That’s great! We eliminated the threat of one of the Rotting Remains from the deck and supported our Preston in removing a tricky Frozen in Fear!
Also, be on the look out for opportunities for Ruth to reduce skill tests to 0! I almost think of Ruth as a Pokémon trainer, except instead of capturing monsters to train and battle, you capture encounter cards and then Ruth can release those encounter cards to drop the difficulty of tests. You got to think carefully about what you are capturing to get the most out of your ability! Definitely a new way to think of encounter cards. Your metagame knowledge can be pushed to new heights when you work with Ruth and Gloria.
I hope that through this article you got a better overview on Gloria’s power! From what we have seen so far, she’s already a strong investigator and her encounter deck control is bar none. Once we learn Gloria’s deckbuilding, I’d like to come back to her and review upgrade paths as well. There’s still so much to talk about with Gloria, such as how she works on teams of all possible sizes, her power level when other investigators are also running cancels/encounter deck manipulators, who teams up best with her, and so on. So with that all being said, don’t think this is the end of Gloria! Expect more Gloria analysis in the future, especially in November following her full release. Until then, thank you for reading my article and feel free to leave a comment on your thoughts on Gloria.