A love letter to the best card in the game

The Edge of the Earth investigator box is the second time that one cycle’s worth of player cards got dumped on us in one swoop. Considering the amount of cards and the average attention span of the average card game enjoyer, it is no surprise then that certain cards can go by underappreciated or get buried under flawed first impressions. This article is going to rectify this issue for the best card in the Edge of the Earth box, maybe even in the entire game: Cyclopean Hammer.

Ha ha, just kidding. Who cares about some oversized squeaky mallet when there’s these good girls to talk about instead. Sled Dogs. What an amazing card. Or “cards” actually, as you won’t be playing just one of these.

Now, it’s fair to say that Sled Dogs actually did make an impression. They are just special enough that people look at it and form an opinion. It’s not a card that just exists on the fringes like let’s say Nkosi Mbati with an obvious usecase but narrow application that you forget about while you don’t play that one niche. However, many of those opinions are … let’s call them “flawed”. In the first part of this article i will adress common criticisms of Sled Dog that lead to those bad first impressions before moving on to getting into what makes them as strong as they are, then describing which decks and investigators want the dogs.

Common complaints

Complaint #1: Sled Dogs are just a bad Pathfinder!

Complaint #2: Sled Dogs are just a bad Mauser!

Both of these complaints ignore that Sled Dogs are actually both a “bad Pathfinder” (no such thing, btw) and a “bad Mauser”. And a bad Bulletproof Vest. And a bad Elder Sign Amulet. The main strength of the Sled Dogs is providing a bunch of versatility and serving several roles all at once without taking up a bunch of slots or being limited to certain card pools like Pathfinder and Mauser are. Comparing them to cards that only have a single purpose is flawed reasoning from the beginning. And so is comparing them to specialized cards from certain classes. Complaint #1 and #2 are therefore just invalid.

Complaint #3: They are a four card combo!

Now this is an important one. It’s easy to look at Sled Dogs and only think about the case where you have all four out and things are awesome, then come to the conclusion that it’s too difficult to set up. The truth is however that you really only need two dogs to get good value. When you have two dogs, you have 2/2 soak available (without losing a dog) and the choice of either a bonus move or a 2 damage attack with +2 fight. For reference, this is already similar value to Pathfinder (restrictions apply) and better than a shot from a .45 Auto. Getting two dogs out is near trivial and can be done within the first two or three turns nearly without fail. Once you get your third and fourth dog, things go ridiculous soon, but those are absolutely not required for Sled Dogs to be worth it. The option to go big with a third and fourth dog merely turns a good card into an excellent one.

Complaint #4: They cost 12 resources!

This complaint can really be defused the same way as the previous one because it also assumes you have to get out all four. Playing two dogs in the early turns requires 6 resources. While certainly not cheap, that’s not a huge deal either. People have been playing Leo de Luca and other pricy assets since the Core set days. It’s something to consider when deckbuilding, but nothing that inherently disqualifies the card. Of course it’s true that the dogs aren’t cheap and the resource factor is certainly really a limiting factor for the dogs playability. This will come in later when i talk about which investigators are well suited to run these.

Complaint #5: You need Charisma to play these!

This is true. Rod of Animalism is awful in this context and you absolutely want a copy of Charisma. Possibly two, so you can run other allies and Calling in Favor shenanigans. You can use In the Thick of It to gain the three XP at deck creation to start out with an extra ally slot. This will cost you two trauma, but the dogs soak will offset this rather easily.

Complaint #5a: Rod of Animalism is awful!

True, but that has nothing to do with Sled Dogs. You shouldn’t run Rod with the dogs, because that’s a card too many that you have to draw before getting your dogs truly going. Embrace Charisma, Permanent is one hell of a powerful keyword. Forget the Rod.

Complaint #6: They exhaust!

Again, true. However this only means that they can not be run to replace your main weapon on a fighter. They are excellent as a “sidearm” alongside a two-handed weapon or for investigators that only occasionally fight (like a Seeker that happens to draw a Brood of Yig or something like that). Their exhaustion is a limitation, but not a particularly bad one. It just counterbalances not needing any sort of ammo, charges, etc. Note that this complaint also only really impacts the use of Sled Dogs as a weapon, for all other use cases it doesn’t matter much.

Complaint #7: Deck space

This one is also true. Running the dogs and maybe a pair of enablers like Calling in Favors will be 6 cards out of your 30. That’s a significant chunk, but is partially offset by the number of roles they play. But sure, if your deck is already cramped and hurting for deck space, you will not find the room to put the dogs in there. Again, that doesn’t make the card play worse, it only limits who gets to play with them.

Reasons to play Sled Dogs

All i’ve done so far is put dampeners on the complaints about the card, i will now make some arguments as for why the Dogs are actually worth running.

Strength #1: They are multi purpose

As mentioned before, the Sled Dogs are not just soak or a weapon or a movement tool. They are all of these, whatever you need most at the time. This does help to adress the issue of them being spread across multiple cards (or even multiple ally slots) in parts, as it seems fair that you have to play two cards to get something that has three roles.

Strength #2: They are neutral

Now, this is less of an ingame strength (mostly the class of an asset doesn’t matter during gameplay) but it is something to consider when we talk about which investigators can play it and when we evaluate the card. It’s common sense that a neutral card should be weaker than a comparable one in a class. After all, limiting the amount of decks that can run the card should come with an increase of power. The thing to take away here is that their status as a neutral card allows us to consider Sled Dogs for all investigators in the game. And for Lola Hayes in particular being neutral is actually an ingame strength, as it allows them to dodge her weakness.

Strength #3: They are level 0

Similar to the previous point, this means you can throw them into every deck right away. This is relevant because you likely want to run the dogs alongside some other cards and being level 0 means you don’t get into awkward situations about which cards to buy first. As luck would have it, one of the best enablers for Sled Dogs is also neutral and level 0, so you can chuck those in at deck creation as well.

Strength #4: They don’t use charges

There’s a bunch of other assets around that offer powerful abilities for actions. Usually, those are restricted by charges or ammo, like for example Eon Chart, Shrivelling or Lightning Gun. The Sled Dogs don’t have this restriction, instead they have an implied once-per-turn clause through their exhaustion on use. While this does limit their use as a “main weapon”, it’s almost meaningless for the movement part. It also makes sure that those resources you invest into them stay relevant for the rest of the game. They don’t get used up the way a .45 Auto or a Mauser do.

Strength #5: They use the ally slot

Yes, this is actually a strength. Two dogs occupy an ally slot and offer the same amount of soak as a 3/3 ally (without having to discard anything). That is actually already a reasonable use of the ally slot, but there’s the abilities of the dogs to consider as well. Most importantly, these offer a fight ability without costing a hand slot. And extra hand slots are hard to come by. Guardian has Bandolier, but that’s largely it. Quickdraw Holster is a card that exists, i guess. So while ally slots are generally more valuable than hand slots, one has to consider that the number of hand slots is largely static while you can buy more ally slots for XP fairly easily.
This actually affords a decent amount of flexibility while deckbuilding as it takes pressure off of the limited hand slots and makes using two-handed weapons (or a pair of non-combat tools) much more reasonable.

Cards to play with Sled Dogs

Looking at certain cards and evaluating them on their own is all well and good, but usually you want your cards to work with each other. After all, that’s what differentiates a deck from just a random pile of cards. Aside from investigators, there’s a couple of cards you may want to also consider when checking if Sled Dogs are an option for you.

Calling in Favors

Calling in Favors

Favors does a lot of neat things for you. It can heal one of your dogs, but most importantly it’s a tutor that goes on to find more of them. Seekers can gain a lot of value of of this card by coupling it with Miskatonic allies, reusing their enters play effects while tutoring up dogs, for example with…

Jeremiah Kirby

Jeremiah Kirby

You think it’s coincidence there’s a pack of sled dogs in his art? Think again. Play Jeremiah for “uneven” and collect all the Dogs and Calling in Favors from the top of your deck. Play Favors on Jeremiah for yet another dog and do it again!

A Chance Encounter(2)

Sure, you could just use this card to revive a fallen dog, but the real strength of this card comes from combining it with Short Supply, effectively turning these into extra copies of Sled Dog for consistency.

Scrounge for Supplies

Scrounge for Supply

Talking about Short Supply putting dogs in your discard, Scrounge is happy to pick up those for you. It’s a bit slow and might need to leave the deck later, but early on they are perfectly fine stand-ins for Chance Encounter(2).

Flare

Flare

The final card that makes sure that Survivors are the best at picking up dogs. Once you got your dogs online, drawing one of these means you have a disgusting amount of damage at your fingertips. Before you do, it just makes sure you get your dogs.

Lucid Dreaming

Lucid Dreaming

A straight up tutor. I am not a huge fan of this card because it is so slow, but you could use this to increase the consistency of the “combo”. This can act as a slightly better Scrounge for non-Survivors if you are willing to pay 2XP per. Personally i am usually not willing to do that, as being light on XP requirements is one of the things i like about the Sled Dogs.

The Star • XVII

The Star – XVII

If you want to become immortal, try hiding behind an army of dogs, enhanced by The Star. This is a combo that few investigators can/want to use, but damn is it impressive when it works.

In addition to these examples, anything that draws more cards or gives more resources is of course very helpful in an obvious way.

The Top Dogs

Let’s talk about which investigators are best suited to use this phenomenal tool in their decks. To summarize, the first thing that we care about is having the card draw/selection to find our Sled Dogs. Then, we need to pay for them. Finally, to take full advantage of their attack ability, we want a reasonable base fight value. What’s a “reasonable fight value”? Well, some quick napkin math: The average enemy has 3 combat. We want to attack with 2 over, so with 5 combat. A key argument of mine is that having two dogs out is good enough to get value out of the combat, so we land on 3 base strength skill for the investigator. Here’s my Top 5 of Sled Dog users:

Leo Anderson

One of the first investigators everyone thought about immediately when Sled Dogs were first spoiled. He’s got the combat value, he’s got an ability that searches up allies and makes them cheaper. He’s got rogue access for even more econ. He even has a signature that can hold all of the dogs for him. As a Guardian, he can make use of The Star and get good value out of a variety of two-handed guns. Pretty great, but you might want to go double Charisma so you can play some of the other ally shenanigans he’s usually up to as well.

Amanda Sharpe

Amanda is a very flexible investigator and her access to Vicious Blow and Overpower(2) makes her great at actually being a fighting seeker. However, the number of actual weapons available to her is limited and people have been been scraping the barrel so hard they started playing Knife again as if this was 2016. Well, do i have a great alternative for you. With her innate card draw, she tears through her deck so finding the dogs is no issue at all for her. And as a skill based investigator, she doesn’t need to spend a lot on assets either. A Mag Glass and a Lexicon and she is golden. The rest of her resources can go towards Sled Dogs which will give her resilience, movement and a rather fierce weapon to put her skills towards. Sled Dog Amanda plays great and you should play a campaign with her RIGHT NOW.

Winifred Habbamock

Alright, now that you all returned from your Sledding Amanda campaign, let me tell you about Winifred because she’s the same deal as Amanda, but probably even better. She blitzes through her deck and she barely has to spend any money because she just commits skills all day. So she can use the sled dogs to go fast on the board as well and to kill road blocks. Like Amanda, she can fight and clue at the same time and Sled Dogs super charge her in many many ways. Once you have a Lucky Cigarette Case(3) on the board, you basically get to pick up a dog per turn, if you want to. Absolutely delightful to play.

William Yorrick

An excellent fighter that can make good use out of everything on offer here. He doesn’t even need to wait until he gets Chance Encounters to pick dogs out of his discard, so he doesn’t need to run Scrounge as a placeholder until then. This means that he doesn’t have as much deck space pressure, he can realistically get by with just the dogs and Short Supply. It also means he can use the full soak of the dogs, because he can just recur them… as long as he has the resources. Getting those resources is a deck building challenge, but the payoff is worth it.

Lola Hayes

Hey, Lola made a Top 5 list. Woooo. Now, i don’t think that Lola is necessarily one of the best investigators for Sled Dogs… but i do think that Sled Dogs is one of the best ways to play Lola. Makes sense, i hope? Anyways, Sled Dogs give Lola something quite amazing: A set of assets that can soak, fight and move that doesn’t get flushed away by her weakness. This is the one instance where being Neutral is a huge boon for the dogs and allows them to fill a very specific purpose for Lola as a reliable fallback that is safe to invest into. It’s also one of the few cases where Lola can actually make good use of her broad class access, using everything from Short Supply to The Star to make this happen. I genuinely believe that Sled Dogs are the best way to play Lola right now.

The rest of the investigators

Yep, I’ll actually go over every single one of the other investigators now. There’s going to be a summary at the end for the impatient. I understand. If you read this far, you already went through a lot of sled dog related self-indulgence, more than is reasonable in any way.

Guardian

Sled Dogs are attractive for Guardian because they are most interested in getting a non-handslot sidearm. They are also able to play The Star, turning the Guardian into a tank that can engage enemies without fear. On the flip side, Guardian economy is notoriously shaky and paying for the dogs is an issue.

Carolyn: Has good econ and could pay for them. The dogs would also give her a way around the “no weapons” restriction of her deck building, but her low combat value limits the usefulness of the dogs before she gets a third. She would play these primarily as a movement tool. Probably not worth it.
Lily: Like Carolyn, Lily can use Sled Dogs to get around her deckbuilding restriction, as they most certainly do not count as Firearms. She can be built in a lot of ways, so it’s probably possible to do, but the Mystic access isn’t really too helpful with the Sled Dog plan. I think i’d rather not try this.
Mark: Sled Dogs + The Star in Mark is something else, allowing for lots of card draw while the dogs soak up the damage. Meanwhile, he can use his 5 strength with whatever two-handed gun he wants.
Nathaniel: Probably not. While he’d appreciate having a free attack each turn without having to spend an event, he kinda needs his resources for these events in the first place.
Roland: His seeker access could give him the tools to draw the cards needed, but that’s usually not really what Roland is going for with his seeker cards. He’s also fairly poor, so i am leaning towards no.
Mary: I don’t really see anything here that makes me want to put dogs into a Mary deck.
Tommy: On the one hand, he’s ally focused and he is a survivor. So he can run Short Supply and the rest of the enablers around it. On the other hand, we don’t really want to have our dogs actually die on us. There’s probably a deck here, but it’d be unlike how Tommy usually plays.
Zoey: Zoey usually is one of the richer Guardians, so she got that going for her. She could even go and use her Dunwich-Five access to grab Scrounge and Short Supply. If she wants to devote herself to it, she could even go and grab Jeremiah… I think there’s a deck here for sure.

Seeker

Seekers have no problem finding cards in their deck, as they do have the best card draw and card selection available. Resources used to be an issue, but they’ve consistently been getting better tools for that as well. They do however usually not lean much towards fighting, so they mostly have low combat, making it difficult for them to use the combat mode of the dogs, while Pathfinder and Shortcut give them alternatives in the movement department. All together, not a great class for sled dogs.

Daisy: She needs her resources for her tomes, i don’t see her playing dogs.
Harvey: He’s not fighting anyone.
Joe: The other fighty seeker. He could probably be built to use the dogs in a reasonable way, but i’m not sure how useful that really is. Handslots are rarely an issue for him (due to a lack of good two-handed options) and he tends to be somewhat poor as well.
Mandy: The queen of search would be great at finding the pack, but she’s really not set up well to make use of them. I suppose she’d be good at helping other investigators find their dogs, but i don’t see that happening in her own deck.
Monterey: I could see this happen, moving two+ locations in one action is valuable for him and his ability gives him both the draw and the cash to enable the sled dogs. His strength skill is kinda weak, so he’d definitely be more interested in the movement side.
Minh: Anyone with Survivor access can make Sled Dogs happen and as a skill based investigator she isn’t as hard pressed for cash. She’s not really known for fighting stuff though, so while she could make dogs work, i don’t think they are a very attractive option for her.
Rex: Like Zoey, the Dunwich-Five access lends itself to enabling Sled Dogs, but he’s got better things to do with his time.
Ursula: Nope, she needs her money and she’s more interested in movement options that are actual free actions.

Rogue

Rogues of course have the money to do whatever they please. And if it pleases them to gather a herd of floofy followers, then so be it. Their good evade combos well with an attack ability that can be used only once per turn, in fact a couple of their weapons already work that way. That being said, their card draw is often lacking so something would have to be done about that. Personally, i am also a huge fan of Underworld Support and that one really doesn’t work with Sled Dogs…

Skids: Skids already has a way to funnel money into actions, so i don’t think that Sled Dogs are terribly useful here.
Finn: I actually could see this happen. The dogs allow him to make good use of his 3 combat and his limited Seeker access could go towards some card draw. Certainly not my first choice, but i wouldn’t immediately discard this option.
Jenny: Similar to Finn in that she’s happy to get an outlet for her otherwise mediocre combat skill. She’s rich enough to make Sled Dogs happen and as previously mentioned the Dunwich splash can enable them as well. Not bad at all!
Preston: Even with a couple of sled dogs out, Preston isn’t going to take down significant enemies anytime soon. So the only value the dogs would have for him would be in their soak and the movement. Is that enough? I am leaning towards “Probably not”, despite the deep pockets and the survivor access being excellent to make it happen if you wanted to.
Sefina: I mean, you are at least likely to start with two or more dogs right away in your opening hand. But aside from that, i can’t really see anything here that makes me want to run dogs in Sefina. And i say that as a card carrying member of the Sefina fanclub.
Tony: He’s got great econ, but he already isn’t lacking in options to spend it on. You could force this, but i don’t think Tony gains much from sled dogs.
Trish: I don’t see this either. She’s not great at fighting and the movement tools from her seeker access are enough to get her around.

Mystic

Mystic is the class that is the least suited to make use of Sled Dogs. They are poor due to a reliance on expensive spell assets and their fight value is generally deprecated because they just do everything with willpower. They also don’t fight with their hands, so that aspect of Sled Dogs is also kinda wasted on them.

Agnes: Aside from the survivor access, i do not see any synergy with Sled Dogs here.
Akachi: She has that awkward 3 combat that nobody uses, but that’s not enough to make me want to go sledding with her.
Dexter: Now this is more interesting. He’s rich. He has 3 combat. And his ability can give him a discount on the dogs and make them fast. There’s something here, but i don’t see an actual deck yet. Sledding Dexter is a concept that intrigues me, though.
Diana: She’s just so hard pressed for deck slots, otherwise i’d be all over trying to make this work. I’ve been tinkering with Fighting Diana in the past and it’s always been just quite not there.
Mateo: Nah, i don’t see anything here.
Gloria: Another generic willpower user. Next.
Jacqueline: And another one.
Jim: I’m no expert on Jim, his ability never appealed to me much. But between 3 combat and Dunwich deckbuilding, you could probably make Sledding Jim a thing.
Luke: Neither is he looking for fights, nor is he lacking for mobility. He can already move 4+ locations in one action by default.
Marie: As a willpower/intellect hybrid, she’s not interested in anything the dogs have to offer.
Norman: The same goes for Norman.

Survivor

Finally. Survivors are the best when it comes to make use of Sled Dogs. Most of the enabler cards are red, especially the Short Supply/Chance Encounter(2) interaction makes them very efficient at getting most out of them right away. Survivors are of course a diverse bunch, so you can’t really make any generic assumptions about money, fight value etc like i did for the other classes.

Pete: Thematic reasons aside, Pete’s not great for sled dogs. Only two fight and his ready ability doesn’t really do anything too useful for them either.
Bob: I don’t think so. Between his 3 combat and his money you could force it, but his deck space is better used for item assets to pass around the table.
Calvin: He’s certainly interested in having an army of dogs soak damage for him. Especially a fighting Calvin could make good use of the dogs, i think.
Daniela: If you want dogs in Daniela, use Guard Dogs.
Patrice: She finds those puppies like nobody else, but being locked into having to pay for them *right then* makes this too awkward. She’s better off leaning into her Mystic side.
Rita: I don’t like Rita much, but i do like what the dogs have to offer for her. She’s one of those investigators that have a combat 3 value that often gets unused, so the dogs are an outlet for that. They are a great solution for Hoods, for example. I think there’s something here with the dogs taking the role that usually is taken by the bow, thus freeing up her hands.
Silas: I like this as well. A flexible investigator like Silas can make great use out of all the things that Sled Dogs have to offer.
Stella: Stella can do everything well, so why not also this.
Wendy: Combat 1 is a downer here, so i’d pass on Sledding Wendy.

Neutral

Wait, didn’t i already cover Lola? Aha! But there’s another neutral investigator, who just has been spoiled by FFG a few days ago. And he’s ally focused! So let’s check him out: [1] [2] [3] [4]

Charlie: Wait what? 3 additional ally slots? So i can have four dogs and still 2 more allies before even buying Charisma. That’s hot. He’s only got skill 1 through the bank, but he can use the dogs in an interesting way, different from everyone else. Let’s say he’s got two dogs out. He can use them to attack the conventional way for 2 damage at skill 3. Or he can use his ability to exhaust them individually, attacking for 1 damage at skill 5. Or he can just exhaust two dogs to get +2 willpower or something. While the dogs don’t really have great icons and Charlie generally will want good icons in his slots, the fact that one slot can hold two dogs could be of great value to him. I don’t think it’s ultimately that great, but who knows. Another slight downer: Between his elder sign effect and his signature, he’s got some ally readying going on which isn’t going to be doing much for the dogs. He does have the ability to bend his deck building towards enabling doggy shenanigans, though. Time will tell, but i am leaning towards probably not worth trying to put the politician on a sled.

Investigator Summary

So here’s the investigator related wall of text, summarized. To add some value for those who read the previous paragraphs, i made this summary into a Top 10 list “Investigators most suited to play Sled Dogs”

  1. Winifred Habbamock
  2. Amanda Sharpe
  3. Leo Anderson
  4. William Yorrick
  5. Lola Hayes
  6. Silas
  7. Rita
  8. Monterey
  9. Jenny
  10. Dexter

Runner ups: Calvin, Mark, Jim, Stella, Tommy, Finn

That’s 10 solid choices out of 50 investigators, or 20%. The vast majority of cards wishes they were playable in 20% of investigators.

Decklists!

So you probably think that i’ve been talking completely out of my ass for the last 4500 words, but i do actually have some decklists for you. Decks that i actually played and that i went through campaigns with!

Lola’s sledding stack of synergy
Damn, it’s been half a year already? This was my first Lola deck and my first Sled Dog deck. I went with this through Carcosa. I actually have three deck lists for you here. One at 0XP. Another midway through. And one at the end of the campaign. This deck has quite a lot to unpack if you want to get into it, but the relevant take-away here is that i played Sled Dogs in a 50 card Lola deck and it still worked great! This deck was able to fish the dogs out of 50 cards in a few turns, so if you put them into a 30 card deck, this only becomes easier.

Flex Wini at the Edge of the Earth
I got two decklists for that, one at the start of the campaign and another after finishing it. Wini is one of my favorite investigators and this deck is probably the most fun i had with her. She was just blasting around the large maps thanks to the sled dogs and since enemies are few in that campaign, having an attack for 3+ damage on standby was absolutely great. This is the deck that really got me on the sled dog train, because it showed to me how good those really are when you put them into the right shell.

Amanda, 7 allies and a huge deck
I only have one decklist for this, the campaign is actually still ongoing on my table right now! The reason i posted it is because it managed (together with an Underworld Support Bob) to get all 6 paths in TFA’s Boundary Beyond, something that i consider to be quite an accomplishment even with today’s deep card pool. This is another huge chunky deck with Forced Learning, but between that and Amanda i get to see three cards per turn here so finding what i need is not a problem. The deck goes all in on allies, running both double Charisma and Archaeologic Funding, making Calling in Favors an insane card. Returning Miskatonic allies to put sled dogs into play never gets old. Pretty sweet deck. Not quite as good as the Wini one, but absolutely a blast to play.

I don’t have decklists for Leo or William, but they do play the whole Sled Dog thing pretty straight, so i am sure you can figure it out. Personally, i think i am most interested in Dexter next if i want to go for another Sled Dog deck in the future.

Closing thoughts

That’s it. That’s what i had to say. Sorry for wasting so much of your time.
If you take something away from this, let it be this: Cards don’t exist in a vacuum and it is wrong to evaluate them as such. Also, a card’s power isn’t necessarily immediately obvious. First looks can be deceiving. Sometimes you just have to go and actually play the damn thing before you discard something right away, especially if it’s not just your next version of Shrivelling or some other slightly modified staple.

Cheers o/

One Reply to “A love letter to the best card in the game”

  1. I should note that i don’t have an opinion on the Rod of Animalism outside of Sled Dog context.
    The thing that bothers me there is having to fish for the dogs already, i don’t also want to fish for the ally slots and deck space is already a concern.
    It might be perfectly okay in other contexts.

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