One of my most memorable experiences playing Zoey in any Arkham Files game comes from Eldritch Horror. In that game, Zoey can start with a random task, which is like a mini-quest. Some of these are fairly benign, but sometimes they can be outright game-breaking. In this particular round, after working hard at completing Zoey’s task, I discovered that the reward was that Zoey more or less exploded as a human sacrifice. The rest of the squad then won the game on the spot. It was so randomly powerful that I couldn’t help but laugh. However, it also seemed like exactly the kind of thing that Zoey would do. Zoey as a character has always had some strange connection to the religious world, which may or may not be originating from arcane forces. So, I firmly believe that if Zoey discovered she could save the entire world by sacrificing herself, she would do so without question. Not surprising, considering that Zoey is always on the edge of being influenced by the arcane but perhaps is too wrapped up in her own zealotry to notice.
While Zoey Samaras can’t blow herself up to the win the game in Arkham Horror: The Card Game, her Dunwich splash allows her to take on a different task. What if she still was motivated by her desire to protect others but went about it in a different way? What if Zoey abandoned her religious zealotry and instead fully embraced the pull of the arcane? What if we played Zoey like she was purple instead of blue?
“What if Zoey was a wizard?” I asked calmly.
First of all, I want to establish that Wizard Zoey is a very, very good archetype for Zoey. Sometimes I propose weird ideas that are kind of janky or stupid or silly. This is not one of them. I promise you that Wizard Zoey is legitimately very good. Here’s why.
Zoey has 4 Will. That gives her the same Willpower as many other Mystics. As anyone who has played Diana, Mary, or Lily can tell you, the Guardian card pool is in fact very good at both increasing your Will and rewarding you for using it. Guardian & Mystic cards often have natural synergy with one another for this reason, so it’s already a good direction to explore for a Zoey archetype.
Beyond the 4 Will, she also has 4 Combat. What this means is that she doesn’t need her Arcane slots to fight, freeing those slots up for investigation or evasion. If she does this, she can easily overcome her 2’s in Intellect and Agility. By minimizing some of her most obvious weaknesses, Wizard Zoey can be a more well-rounded investigator. (This is especially relevant if you are playing her solo.)
Zoey’s investigator ability is also very important. One of the biggest problems with playing big Mystic cards is that they often feel expensive. However, with the bonus resources Zoey gets from engaging things, she can pay for some of these assets more easily.
Finally, the Wizard fantasy can have some very important gameplay implications depending on the scenario. Without spoiling too much, certain enemies are tougher to kill unless you are using Spells or Relics. Wizard Zoey is generally always using Spells or Relics, making her a super powerful Guardian to take into these particular campaigns.
Core Wizard Zoey cards
There are many Mystic cards you can take at level 0 that work well. In my opinion, the absolute best card to take is Spectral Razor.
Now, as I alluded to earlier, you don’t have to take Spectral Razor if you feel the rest of your deck is already supplying enough damage. However, this card is so strong in Zoey, you need a very good argument not to take it. Not only does this make you Fight at an 8, before counting any other bonuses… not only does it deal 3 damage to non-Elite enemies… it also can make you engage the enemy, which gives Zoey a resource! That means this card will often effectively cost Zoey only 1 resource, which is a pittance for how big a swing you are getting out of it. And if you don’t end up playing it? It has a Will icon and a Combat icon, which incidentally are Zoey’s top two stats anyway. Therefore, it’s easy enough to commit this card even if it’s not getting played.
Now I’m going to skip ahead a bit and tell you that once you start getting XP, you can toss in Spectral Razor’s big hulking brother – the Cyclopean Hammer.
This is your main goal weapon for Wizard Zoey. Again, this makes you test for 8 for potentially 3 damage. If the enemy doesn’t get defeated outright, you can push it away 1 space. That may seem to have limited application, until we remember that we are Zoey and that re-engaging that enemy we pushed away nets us 1 resource. Overall, you can expect huge smackaronis out of Zoey once you start getting this on the table, and you might even get paid for some of those smacks as well.
Now the biggest downside to Cyclopean Hammer is that it takes 2 hand slots, and you may find that unpleasant to deal with. In that case, you have two options:
- Bandolier, especially Bandolier2. Bandolier2 gives you +2 hand slots and +1 Will, which both holds the entire Hammer and makes your Hammer even stronger.
- Use a different weapon altogether, and then stick Enchant Weapon on it. This both makes it a magical Relic and allows you to add your big Will stat to the fight.
Whether you use Enchant Weapon or not, my recommendation is Timeworn Brand if you really want a 1 handed beat stick with XP. Don’t be dissuaded by the Neutral background; Zoey uses Timeworn Brand very well.
So, we have established combat seems easy enough. You have the whole Guardian pool to play with to find more ways to deal damage, so let’s look at investigation and evasion.
My personal picks here are Sixth Sense and Mists of R’lyeh. Now, I have tried other Mystic cards in these slots, but I find that these two are great because the lower cost does make a difference. Usually, Zoey doesn’t need to investigate so much that she needs the double clues from Rite of Seeking or Clairvoyance. Also, Zoey should be able to kill enemies well enough that she will rarely opt to evade. Therefore, the cheapest possible versions of these asset slots spells should be good enough. However, feel free to toy around with some other options. I would say if you go for something more expensive here, you should look to discount other parts of your deck.
If you are very keen on investigating, Read the Signs and Drawn to the Flame are also neat options. Drawn to the Flame in particular is pretty good for Zoey, because she can often pass a Will test or kill an enemy.
Finally, it’s worth pointing that Mystic cancels are always good options no matter what. It’s very hard to go wrong with a Ward of Protection or Deny Existence.
Personally, when I play Wizard Zoey, my level 0 choices are something like this:
2x Spectral Razor
2x Sixth Sense
1x Ward of Protection
However, your mileage may vary depending on any number of factors. For example, you might want to take a Storm of Spirits in Dream Eaters or a high Multiplayer game. Essentially, consider what you most want to be able to do, and dip into the Mystic pool to find a way to do it. You will almost certainly find something Zoey can use very well in there. After that, filling the remaining slots with with generically strong Guardian and Neutral cards for Zoey will get you well on your way.
Do I care about Zoey’s Cross?
How you are going to prioritize your Cross is an important question because it determines how competitive your Accessory slot is. Wizard Zoey definitely has options for Accessories – there are plenty of good ones out there that work well with the Wizard playstyle. Here is my take on this. The main benefit of the Cross is that it kills off odd health enemies. However, Spectral Razor & Cyclopean Hammer can already potentially hit for 3 damage anyway, meaning the Cross may not be as useful. It’s really up to you, but I would say if there is another Accessory you rate highly don’t feel bad about using it over the Cross in this build. You will generally find Zoey’s Cross will be less valuable (but still a fine card) once you have more XP in play. Of course, if you really like Accessories (and again, there are good ones), Relic Hunter is not a bad choice down the line.
Other Guardian upgrades
Wizard Zoey can make good use of the boss-killing Bloodier Xavier combo, which is Brother Xavier + Blood Eclipse.
The way this combo works is you use Blood Eclipse 3 to kill off (an ideally full health and 1 sanity) Brother Xavier on demand, which deals 2 damage to an enemy. You then do the actual Blood Eclipse fight at 7 Will, taking no damage on your actual investigator, and dealing 4 damage if the blow lands. This is potentially 6 damage in 1 action, which is a lot. Notably, you can even spread out the damage to deal 4 damage to 1 enemy and 2 damage to a different enemy, which is an incredibly strong outcome for 1 action.
While that is the most magical synergy, other options are possible, making this a more reliable combo. Zoey can use either of these cards very well independently of each other, so don’t feel like these cards are dead draws if you don’t get them both out.
Another great pick up is Well Prepared, particularly because Well Prepared synergizes so well with Cyclopean Hammer. Cyclopean Hammer has fantastic icons on it that often sit there doing nothing. With Well Prepared, you can actually get mileage from those icons! The best use of this particular interaction is generally to use the Willpower bonus to pass on some difficult treachery tests or to buff up a test on an Arcane slot card like Sixth Sense or Mists of R’yleh.
This may be a bit of a surprise pick, but the final card I want to highlight is Gang Up (which I rate way higher than Call for Backup in this build, in case you were wondering). With just the Mystic and Guardian cards in play, this card gives you a Fight action at 6 Combat and 3 damage. You can think of it as Spectral Razor #3 and #4, as it fulfills a similar role. If you can get extra colours in there (which is not too much effort to do — Bruiser and Prophetic are decent pick ups if you went to mess around with Synergy) then this can go even higher. The main reason that I like this card is because Wizard Zoey plays with multiple classes anyway, so you will always get some value out of Gang Up.
Wizard Zoey is a super fun playstyle that has many possible directions to go, depending on what you need Zoey to be doing. Perhaps the best part is that once you get your XP cards online, you can reliably smack enemies around like a damage printing machine with a huge magical hammer. Your weak points can be mitigated by using your high Willpower as a stat replacement, and you ought to be resilient to most treacheries between your Willpower and access to cancels. Truly, the most important part of this build is that you get to play Zoey like she is a frickin’ wizard, which should not be underestimated in the hilarity department. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve camped out in a location picking up clues with Sixth Sense on Zoey of all people with a stupid smile on my face. Anyway, it’s a solid archetype both thematically and mechanically, so give it a try and have fun!