Welcome to Deck Fragments! Are you someone who enjoys building decks, but maybe wants a little bit of an extra push to get the wheels turning? In this series, I’m going to be offering up a cool combo or core concept to potentially build a deck around. A fragment of a deck, if you will. If you like what I talk about, then take it as an invitation to try to fill in the rest of the deck!
In the interest of full disclosure, the vast majority of my personal Arkham experience is playing two-player multiplayer on Standard in campaign play. As such, my evaluation of certain cards or effects will be coloured by that lens. I will try to speak to other types of play as I can, but if you are someone who regularly plays, say, solo or standalone, keep that in the back of your mind as you read whatever I’m offering up.
Now that that intro is out of the way, let’s get to my first deck fragment idea: the Ark Deck.
Edge of the Earth brought some exciting cards that fill out a Trait that was always intriguing but had very little reason to build around it – the Creature trait. For the most part, Creature-traited cards tend to be cheap Ally assets that offer you either quick, testless effects or testable actions with improved stats and a bonus effect attached. In either case, the Ark deck is all about filling your deck with as many Creature allies as you can and then them getting them to do as much work for you as possible while you sit back and reap the rewards. Any Arkham player can tell you that if you can find a way to avoid testing for an effect, you probably want to go for it. With Creatures giving you effects like testless clues, testless evades, and additional movement, an army of Creatures can help you bypass the chaos bag quite well.
The cards I would consider the most crucial to this set up are as follows:
-2x Stray Cat
-2x Mysterious Raven
-4x Sled Dog
-2x Rod of Animalism
-1x Miss Doyle
Total: 11 cards
Now, of course, there are other Creatures than just the four that I listed here, particularly Guard Dog and Familiar Spirit. You can toy around with those in this build if you want, but I’m focusing on keeping the central components to level 0-1 Neutral and Survivor cards in order to make it easier to attach different investigators to this build. (Also, the benefit of Familiar Spirit in particular doesn’t really synergize with anything we’re trying to do here.)
Let’s look at what these cards offer us. Mysterious Raven gets us testless clues and Stray Cat gives us testless evades. These effects are so valuable in Arkham. In fact, that gives us a bit of a generalist bent by having a way to push Acts forward while also managing enemies. Sled Dog also gives us many benefits: bonus movement, a way to damage enemies, and ample damage and horror soak. As you can see, this collection of cards gives us a full toolkit of effects!
Now, the obvious downside – especially in Campaign Play – is that you have 8 Ally slot cards competing for 1 Ally slot. That can become super clunky, for sure. However, not to worry, as I have a bit of a high-stakes solution for you. Adding In The Thick of It to your deck gives you 3 XP, which is the exact amount you need to add 2x Rod of Animalism and 1x Miss Doyle to your deck out the gate. In The Thick of It will give you additional trauma, but the rest of your deck can help you heal and your Sled Dogs especially are offering good amounts of soak. Remember, we are in the Survivor card pool already, which means we definitely have access to healing effects. I highly recommend taking this from the beginning of the campaign and just choosing to manage the damage or horror, because these additional cards are so critical to your deck working properly. I would also add that since Mysterious Raven is going to be pinging you for horror hits, you really want to have horror healing in your deck anyway.
Rod of Animalism gives us 2 additional Ally slots for creatures. Since literally every Ally we have in our deck is a Creature, this just outright gives us an additional 2 Ally slots, period. It also reduces the cost of Creatures we play during our turn by 1. This effect doesn’t even exhaust! Your Stray Cats? Free. Your Mysterious Ravens? Free. Augur, Hope, and Zeal from Miss Doyle? Free. Sled Dogs? Okay, these are not free, but putting out all four for a potential 8 resource cost instead of 12 is a great deal and I’d say sign me right up for that. With this kind of discount, you can save up your resources for other effects.
There are many cards that can support this archetype, but here is what I think you should most be looking for as you build out your Creature deck.
–Healing especially horror healing. Mysterious Raven will be dealing you horror, and you can potentially start with 2 horror trauma in certain builds. Some healing will be very helpful. If you don’t want to go for healing, soak or cancels can also work. Thermos can work well, as could Bandages for damage or Grimm’s Fairy Tales for horror.
–Card draw. You have a lot of cards that you want to see hit the table, and none of those cards give you additional card draw. If you want to cycle your deck fast enough to actually see your Rod of Animalism and Creature friends, you will want other cards that let you do that.
–Discard pile interaction. Your Ravens and Cats go into the discard pile on use and being able to retrieve them from discard can allow you to get extra uses out of them. A Chance Encounter, Resourceful, and Scrounge for Supplies are all options you could look at here.
–Ally interaction. Anything that does stuff with your Allies can be fantastic, especially considering your deck has 9 Ally traited cards and even more if Miss Doyle cats are tossed in. Calling In Favors or Flare can help you fish for the specific Ally you want the most. Also, Protecting the Anirniq might not be playable by you as the Ark deck owner, but if you are in multiplayer, your constant discarding of your tiny animals gives many opportunities for a fellow investigator to set off this card!
Here are a few investigators that I think make good homes for this build. Of course, this is a non-exhaustive list, but you may some very interesting ideas here to get started making your deck of this type.
Nobody loves testless effects more than our favourite millionaire. Who needs Intellect when you can find clues with birds or Agility when you can evade monsters with cats? Meanwhile, the low cost curve of your Allies (again, a lot of these cards are free with Rod of Animalism in play) will surely ensure your pile of money only grows and grows, so you can easily shell out for big effects when needed. Consider matching this alongside Big Money cards or Pay-to-Win favours and just dance circles around the chaos bag with your animals and money.
Similar to Preston, who needs stats when you have animals? Meanwhile, In The Thick of It being a recommended card works great at starting Calvin off with stats. Raven dealing horror to him could potentially help his gameplan rather than hurting it.
Yorick has the special advantage of being able to recur cards from his discard pile fairly easily, netting you extra uses of your small animals. Meanwhile, the Sled Dogs naturally give him a powerful fighting option. Three Sled Dogs, for example, gives you a way to kill your Graveyard Ghouls in 1 hit via a 7v3 test, which passes on everything but autofail in many chaos bags. The Ravens could also be cut if you are concerned about your sanity. Another benefit to Yorick? You can add Guard Dog into the mix if you want to try that!
Duke is a Creature! Unfortunately, that’s probably more thematically fun that it is actually helpful to the cause. However, there is an interesting consideration here. If you use Calling In Favors on Duke, likely after he has taken some damage or horror, you can then replay him for only 1 resource once Rod of Animalism is out. This certainly makes the CiF on Duke combo much more attractive and can pseudo-heal you as Duke will come in with a fresh body of stats. However, it’s worth noting that your weakness can potentially shut down a Sled Dog-centric strategy, as they will not be able to ready once Wracked by Nightmares is in your threat area. Also worth noting, your Dunwich splash means you also can consider cards like Guard Dog or Inspiring Presence.
The Ark deck is both mechanically diverse and thematically hilarious, costs very little XP to get off the ground, and can start running as soon as the first scenario. If you’ve ever wanted to take down the servants of Yog-Sothoth or Hastur by tossing birds, dogs, and cats at the problem, look no further than this wonderful gem of a deck concept right here. If you’re interested in this deck fragment and end up filling it out further, please feel free to share how you did so. Until next time, happy investigating. (And also, Happy New Year!)