Intro and Summary
This is a deck that goes back to the core meaning of the word “Guardian”. This Zoey is not just a fighter, her job is shielding any other playes in her team from the encounter deck by putting herself in front of it.
To that end, she packs encounter deck manipulation, cards that help with braving those encounter cards and payoffs for doing so (beyond the knowledge that your fragile nerd friends can do their nerd things without being disturbed).
This deck is of course meant to be played in a group, but can do its thing in groups as small as just two players. Sorry, solo players, you gotta sit this one out.
Here’s the list. This is very barebones with just 19XP in it and we will go over several attractive ways to spruce it up with more and more XP as the campaign continues.
Deck on ArkhamDB: https://arkhamdb.com/decklist/view/44951/counter-encounter-zoey-19xp-1.0
The deck can work as a standalone deck at this level. I would look into the option of making it a 29XP version instead, but it’s certainly already viable at this point.
Jumping straight into the card choices, let’s start with the heart of the deck, the accessories that reward us for taking on the encounter deck. We are running the full 3 accessory slots through double Relic Hunter and will be glad to throw any combination of three of the four accessories in the deck on the table. Holy Rosary and Tooth of Eztli both help and reward us for passing tests on treacheries. Zoey’s Cross rewards us for engaging enemies. The Vambrace allows us to pull treacheries (and enemies!) from investigators at our location to us, to get more out of the other things. And of course Zoey herself gets rewarded for each enemy she engages as well.
Her high base willpower plus the help of three of the accessories will give her great chances at making any willpower treacheries bounce off of her. This woman is not afraid of any Rotting Remains. Between Rosary and Vambrace, she even has some room to tank some more horror than usual.
Tooth draws a few extra cards, Rosary dumps some blesses into the bag. While that doesn’t seem super impressive at first glance, don’t underestimate the consistency of these effects happening. Once you do have those accessories on the table, these stacking rewards really pay off.
Vambraces are pretty great, but you can’t just depend on one card to make sure that you get to handle other people’s treacheries as well. So there’s some heavy event support to give you more opportunities to do so. Let Me Handle This! is of course the most obvious one and the +2 skill value that it gives will stack with whatever your accessories give you. On the Hunt and First Watch further help you fish in the encounter deck for what you want.
Of course there are always going to be some annoying cards that yuck your yum, for which we do have a single copy of Fool Me Once to take something out of the rotation or cancel a repeat offender.
Now, taking on all the dangers is all well and good, but without a good chance at crushing those challenges it would just be suicidal. Zoey might be a fanatic, but she’s no fool! So there’s a skill suite that helps a lot, especially when it comes to treacheries that test something else than willpower. Her agility is rather low, but with Promise of Power and Defensive Stance she can use two skills that both give her a sweet +4 bonus for an agility test. And Take the Initiative clocks in with +3 during Mythos. Add to that another 1 or 2 skill value from accessories and just like that we don’t need to fear no foot icons anymore.
The other two skills are just to help with fighting, your usual Overpower and Vicious Blow to make sure the enemy side is handled as well as the treachery side.
On the topic of enemies, we do need to care about those. Small fry can just be pinged with the cross or punched with a Vicious Blow, but some sort of weapon does need to be in the deck. Since there wasn’t a whole lot of room in the deck and since I wasn’t doing anything else with my hand slots, I went with the Runic Axe here. For the 19XP version i allotted 4XP to the axe, enough to get Saga and an extra Inscription. Two Prepared for the Worst can find the axes in your deck. Hopefully that is enough, but it is admittedly tempting fate a bit.
Rest of the decklist
Since the deck is using In The Thick Of It so we can start with a Relic Hunter from day one, i put a Medical Student in there that can just cancel out the trauma from it. Not a super important inclusion in the list by any means, but i find that the Med Stud is hard to beat in pure efficiency in a level 0 list.
Stand Together is the only piece of economy in the deck. The deck runs only very few assets and its event are all quite cheap. Zoey also has her investigator ability that gives her more money. So just running those Stand Togethers should be fine.
A deck with Vambrace, On The Hunt and First Watch begs to include Scene of the Crime, just because it synergizes so well. An easy two clues that should be very easy to trigger. Another two clues come from Drawn To The Flame, making yet another clear statement that we do not fear the encounter deck. Between Scene and Flame, Zoey can pull a decent amount of clues, so in addition to her support role and the fighting she contributes to advancing the game as well!
Okay, so this deck is a bottomless pit when it comes to spending XP. While it does work surprisingly well at even just a low level of investment, it never really stops ramping even if you put it through a high-XP environment like Forgotten Age or include a couple sidescenarios in your other campaigns.
The first thing to point out is that this deck has as mentioned a bit of a weakness in that it doesn’t run much in terms of extra resources, instead relying on Zoey’s innate engagement trigger to pay for her assets. A good way to shore this up without having to push more useful cards out of the deck is On The Hunt(3). The upgrade is pricey, but getting a free 3 resources for killing your prey is pretty great.
Since the deck relies on finding a couple key assets, extra card draw is also welcome. Upgrading to Stand Together(3)is a good way to shore that up while also making your teammates love you even more than they already do.
The Ally slot is a bit bare with just the Medical Student, so throwing some XP at it can also be a good idea. Girish Kadakia is perfect for this deck in many ways. He can tank for you and the rest of the team and he can help you pass those treachery tests… while healing himself to tank more. Really, really powerful. Brother Xavier is a reasonable alternative if you don’t want to drop 4XP on an ally, but i do think Girish is easily worth it over Xavier. Note that either option is rather pricey in terms of resources, so i’d suggest getting the On the Hunt upgrades first.
On that note, two On the Hunt(3) plus Girish is a total of 10XP, so there’s your suggestion for a 29XP version of the decklist I posted above for standalone!
In terms of weapons, adding another one (maybe in place of the Scene of the Crime to streamline your role in the team) can help a lot as well. With just the Axe and two cards to find it, you can end up having to dig for it a bit more than is comfortable, even with two Overpower(2) and Stand Together(3) for card draw. Since you aren’t using your hands for anything else, a two-hander is the call here and any of the usual suspects from Flamethrower to Cyclopean Hammer can do their thing very well here.
Since we are already throwing XP at one Customizable, i omitted the Hunter’s Armor from the decklist, but truth be told that would be a rather powerful card here as well. The Hexdrinker upgrade in particular seems tailor made for this deck.
If you do want to go with the Hunter’s Armor, then it would probably make sense to use Lonnie Ritter instead of the Medical Student. Which in turn throws off our economy quite a bit because both of them cost another 4 resources in addition to what we already need for the accessories and the weapon. So i could see a variant that uses the Armor and it would likely be quite good, but you’d definitely need to run some extra resource cards in your deck, even if it’s just a pair of Emergency Caches and a pair of Ever Vigilants.
Speaking of Ever Vigilant, like pretty much all Guardian decks, we can make good use of Stick to the Plan. Again, i omitted the card because outside of TFA the XP is likely not going to work out in a way that allows dropping another 6XP early on. But if you can swing it, just putting Prepared for the Worst, E-Cache and Ever Vigilant on it already does a lot for your early setup.
I also tinkered around with a version of the deck that uses Practice Makes Perfect. Defensive Stance doesn’t work with it, but the other four skills in the list are all Practiced and do indeed work with PMP. There is also Leadership(2) as another Practiced skill that would fit very well into what the deck is doing (helping other players with their treacheries) while also creating some resources. Not bad at all! This version wouldn’t be playing the Drawn to the Flames to make room for PMP in the five off-class cards that Zoey can run.
Drawn to the Flame is a rather flexible slot in general. I do like it here a lot because between DttF and Scene of the Crime we are quite capable when it comes to collecting clues. But there are certainly other options for those off-class slots as well. Ward of Protection would be a straight-forward way to deal with some of the treacheries that you can’t disarm via testing. A pair of Deep Knowledges would do wonders for the consistency of the deck. For that matter, a pair of Faustian Bargains could solve the resource problem. Take Heart does a little bit of both, serving up both cards and money. So feel free to switch out those Drawn to the Flame for something you find a bit more comfortable. Or just go completely drunk with power and replace them with Delve Too Deep, i won’t judge. I’ll leave that to your teammates.