Are you just about ready to embark on your journey around the world with the Scarlet Keys? If you are a seasoned Arkham player, you are probably aware that investigator decks tend to do better when they are tailored to meet the unique demands of each campaign. Without spoiling the storyline, here are some helpful suggestions that can make your deck a bit more Scarlet-ready. Note that while story spoilers are avoided, mechanics will be discussed in-depth, so if you want to be fully surprised, close this article right now! With all that out of the way, let’s get started.
Tip 1: Prepare to see a lot of Core encounter sets again.
Scarlet Keys sees a whopping 8 Core encounter sets return to the game. This is in contrast to the previous campaign, Edge of the Earth, which only had 4 returning sets. What this means is that generally speaking, if you are experienced at handling the Core encounter sets, especially the treacheries, you are on the right track to handling the encounter decks in Scarlet Keys. Things like Willpower and Agility as defensive stats, ample damage/horror soak, and cancels such as Ward of Protection are going to be as good here as they are in Core days. Obviously, the Scarlet encounter sets bring their own unique challenges, but knowing that such a large number of Core cards are coming back gives you a great starting point to build up your resistances.
Tip 2: Enemies often don’t spawn on your location.
The biggest new mechanic in Scarlet Keys (other than the Keys themselves, which you can build around if you have in-depth knowledge of the campaign) is the Concealed mechanic. Concealed enemies spawn in their own special zone, referred to as “in the shadows”. This zone is not a location at all, and once they are exposed, they engage you from out of the shadows (as opposed to spawning where you revealed them). This means that cards like Disc of Itzamna, Ambush, and Fend Off don’t really work on a lot of enemies here. Not to say they will never work, but you won’t get as much mileage out of them. On the other hand, something like On The Hunt or Kicking the Hornet’s Nest will be very good because it will override the regular spawn into the shadows and make them directly engaged with you. This will eliminate the need to search for them amongst a pile of decoys – and having to do this as little as possible is a big time-saver for the team.
Tip 3: Being able to reliably expose concealed cards is critical.
This is a big one. Once enemies spawn hidden in the shadows, you often can’t afford to just leave them alone. You will be required to hunt for them so you can remove them from play. To do this, you need to be able to pass an investigate, fight, or evade test against the shroud value of your location. Given how many concealed cards can pop up during a scenario, this means a significant increase in the number of these tests you’ll have to take, especially if you get unlucky and hit a lot of decoys before finding the real enemies. And, since you have to do tests more frequently, you want to be able to take them in a way that doesn’t deplete all your resources or expend precious charges or ammo.
Therefore, an example of something that will work very well in Scarlet Keys is Magnifying Glass for Harvey Walters or Track Shoes for Rita Young. A passive skill boost from 1 card to enhance an already high stat means you can have many powerful expose attempts without too much trouble. Another example of something that can be good is Agnes’s investigator ability, provided that she has horror healing available. When she deals 1 damage at free trigger speed, she can cash in that effect to expose one of the concealed cards at her location. If she can do this over and over again without jeapordizing her sanity, she will be able to expose many cards quickly.
On the other hand, examples of things that won’t be as good is something like Intel Report with Preston or Dynamite Blast with Leo Anderson. These cards will be as good as usual if you are using them to pick up clues or deal damage. However, using them to expose mini-cards is underwhelming, as you substitute the big effect for a single mini-card flip. If you are deteremind to expose cards with these investigators, consider instead using Fire Axe on Preston or level 2 Beat Cop on Leo. Fire Axe allows you to pump a high test value when damage output doesn’t matter, and Beat Cop allows you to deal a damage at free trigger speed while also improving your fight tests – both things that improve your ability to expose concealed cards. Since you will have to expose mini cards a lot during the campaign, you might want to prioritize options that work well with that in your deck.
Tip 4: Prepare to be action-taxed in a swingy way.
Exposing concealed cards can be like playing the lottery. Let’s say there are 3 mini cards spread out among locations, including our current location, and our method of exposing them is to investigate. We could be lucky and find the right card in 1 action when we investigate our own location. Otherwise, we may have a situation like this:
Action 1: Investigate – decoy
Action 2: Move.
Action 3: Investigate – decoy.
Action 1: Move
Action 2: Investigate – The actual enemy!
Do you see how many more actions we were taxed because we hit the decoys? And this assumed that we passed all three of these tests, too! We need to keep the possibility of being action-taxed by decoys in mind when designing our deck. Some good solutions to this are movement tech or additional actions for investigation, fighting, or evading. Leo De Luca, Shortcut, Safeguard, Eon Chart, Galvanize – these could all be winners. Just remember that to reliably expose enemies, you need to be able to traverse the map in order to reach all the mini cards.
Tip 5: Shroud reduction is very strong in The Scarlet Keys.
The difficulty value for exposure attempts is the shroud value. Therefore, being able to reduce the shroud value makes all of these tests easier. This is where cards like Arcane Insight, Breach the Door or The Skeleton Key can shoot up in value. Level 3 Flashlight can also be good, as it makes it easier to expose cards with an evade.
All of that said, here are five early recommendations for investigators to try Scarlet Keys with for each class. By no means is this intended to be exhaustive or to suggest that anyone not listed here is bad. These are just some ideas to get you started.
Guardian: Nathaniel Cho
Yes, I realize I am recommending this as the biggest Nathaniel fan in the community. However, Nathaniel with level 3 Boxing Gloves will be exposing cards with 7 skill value after putting just 1 card into play. That’s very good! With a level 2 Beat Cop ally, you can flip over cards even more reliably and quickly. Once you find the enemies, you can dispatch them easily with your events. Avoid using your damage events on exposing, and I would also recommend a Stick to the Plan build so that you can have On The Hunt and Breach the Door available (and to dilute the deck to make your Boxing Gloves easier to pull.)
Seeker: Ursula Downs
Ursula is going to be an absolute beast in Scarlet Keys. Since she can investigate right after moving, she’s spectacular at trying to track down enemies in the shadows. Her high agility also gives her an alternative option to expose enemies or a way to deal with enemies that engage her after being revealed. She also can take Skeleton Key with her Relic access. I would strongly recommend Ursula if you are trying to do a first time Scarlet Keys game.
Mystic: Agnes Baker
Not only is Agnes already resilient to most Core set cards, if you can manage your investigator ability, Agnes can easily be one of the fastest concealed mini card exposers in the game. Once you get Sixth Sense out, you’ll also be able to pick up clues or expose cards with investigate tests. Ward of Protection can set up some stellar Agnes plays as you both block a treachery and flip over a mini card in the Mythos phase.
Rogue: Finn Edwards
Finn’s bonus action to evade can be much stronger in Scarlet Keys, as you can use it to expose mini-cards. In addition, he’s more than capable of dealing with the enemy once it lands on him. Finn’s resistance to treacheries will continue to be a problem; however, you can still always “You handle this one!” the worst treacheries away.
Survivor: “Ashcan” Pete
Just like Ursula, Duke can be very good at hunting down concealed enemies as he moves before investigating like the good boy that he is. A deck that runs a lot of Survivor discard fodder can keep Duke ready to travel the map to sniff out trouble. Make sure to keep yourself and your companion protected, as you will need to be able to manage the enemy that spawns on you once Duke finds it, which will often mean Duke is exhausted at the time of enemy engagement.
That brings us to the end of the article! Hopefully, this has been enlightening and you will feel a little more prepared to face the Scarlet Keys. Until next time, happy investigating.