This is an overview of the player cards in the Investigator Starter Decks. I will be looking at each deck by itself, starting with the investigator, then the rest of the cards. For most cards I will try to keep it short and to the point to not stretch this article more than necessary.
For every group of cards I will nominate the three most useful and the three least useful cards. This isn’t necessarily about raw power, but more about how good they are at fueling a lot of your decks.
I will give my opinion on how well each selection of player cards stands on its own, answering if it’s worthwhile to get as a first buy after the core set and how well the investigator deck + Core is capable of supporting the investigator contained for that deck.
These articles do ignore the optional list of taboos. This is because they are mostly aimed at new players trying to figure out which investigator expansion to get next and taboo isn’t a thing that I want to weigh them down with. It’d also make things unnecessary complicated.
The ranking I use for cards is Bad < Okay < Good < Excellent < Staple with each of those spanning quite a range. I use something like “Okay to Good” or “Good to Okay” when I want to specify whether it’s on the upper or lower range of that rank. Please don’t take these rankings too seriously and more as a guideline, cards need to be evaluated in context and compressing these contexts down into just one word is really unprecise. I still find it useful for this overview as a shortcut to put the cards into relation quickly.
Guardian: Nathaniel Cho
Nate does one thing and he does it to perfection. He’s a singleminded fighter. He’s got only little capabilities to go and find clues or evade things, but that’s perfectly fine because being a fighter is a role that pretty much every group of investigators has to fill. It makes him notoriously difficult to build and pilot as a solo investigator, though.
Like all investigators from the Starter packs, his deck building is limited to neutral cards and those of his class only.
His unique shtick is using events to fight instead of playing weapon assets that give him better fight actions. He enhances one event per phase with an extra damage, which allows him to knock most non-Elite enemies out with one card. This playstyle means that he needs a constant stream of new cards and his card pool enables this well.
His biggest strike against him is really how one-dimensional he is. Lacking the flexibility and wider card access that other investigators have, there’s only so many different directions to take his deck even with a full card pool.
Boxing Gloves(0): Good. Basically Nathaniels second signature, they are a key part of keeping the train of fight events going. Spirit is a very common trait among events, giving this asset some niche use out of Nate as well.
Boxing Gloves(3): Excellent. A very significant upgrade and an early priority for Nathaniel. These keep his deck together and his actual signature, Randall Cho, basically exists to fetch these for Nate.
Flesh Ward: Okay to Good. Surprisingly potent if you can swing the resource cost. Getting a total of 5 flexible soak in just one asset is pretty good despite the limitation of one per exhaust.
Grete Wagner(0): Good. Quite expensive, but a solid alternative to Beat Cop for guardians that want the fight boost but also want to help with clues.
Grete Wagner(3): Good. Double stat boost, an extra stamina and the ability to reach into connecting locations with her ability are great. You get a lot of value here for 3XP.
Relentless: Bad. Dealing excess damage is something to avoid in general and a few resources don’t make it more attractive at all. Having to spend an action and a card on this is just not worth it.
Physical Training(0): Core Set reprint. Okay card, but not really something you need additional copies of.
Physical Training(4): Good. This gives statboosts without taking up equipment slots and due to its replenishing resources you can run it without having to feed it your own constantly. Expensive in terms of XP, but since it boosts the exact two stats that most guardians are looking for, this has a place.
Safeguard: Good. Allows your guardian to piggyback on another investigator’s move actions, following as a bodyguard or just saving up their own actions.
Get Over Here(0): Okay. Can pull an enemy off another investigator and immediately attack. That’s efficient but outside of Nathaniel the attack will only do one damage.
Get Over Here(2): Good. Another significant upgrade. Not only do you get to reach up to locations away which can save a lot of actions, but also playing the card itself is Fast now. That makes it very playable outside of Nate’s deck, too.
Clean Them Out: Okay. If you foresee being able to kill something with it, this becomes solid as you will just get 2 resources for your card on top. For Nate, this is usually not a problem, but if you can just deal 1 point of damage with it, it falls off rapidly.
Counterpunch(0): Okay. A fast attack is fine, but outside of Nate you only deal a damage, which isn’t worth the card.
Counterpunch(2): Good to Excellent. Yet another great upgrade, this adds a damage and some fight value. Most crucially, it deals its damage before the attacker and can thus cancel the enemies attack by killing it first. This is a fantastic tool to handle small Hunter enemies, for Nathaniel it even handles enemies with 3 stamina. All without spending an action as well.
Dodge: Core Set reprint. Fine card that combines well with the aforementioned Counterpunch.
Dynamite Blast(3): Good to Excellent. Very nice upgrade to the level zero Core Set card. Shaves of a resource cost and makes it fast. Not only that, it can be played in any player action window, including during another player’s turn or during the enemy phase. It also gets a host of icons for when you don’t need to blow stuff up.
Evidence(1): Okay. Another upgrade to a Core card, this gets the potential to pick up two clues. If you foresee yourself defeating a lot of big baddies, this isn’t too bad.
Galvanize(1): Okay. 2 resources is about the standard price for an extra action, this is limited to fight actions though. So you’d only really consider this if you get good value out of readying an asset. For this deck, that mostly means Boxing Gloves or Grete Wagner.
Glory: Staple. Card draw is rare in Guardian and this is a little efficient card that doesn’t cost an action and just rewards you for what you were going to do anyways. Easy to underestimate, but this really ties a deck together.
Lesson Learned: Okay to Good. Getting two testless clues without an action is really nice, but this does require some setup.
Mano a Mano(2): Okay to Good. Fantastic for Nate as he can just use this to throw 3 damage at whatever had the audacity of engaging him during Mythos. But even at 2 damage, this has some niche applications for guardians that don’t fight very well and get value out of this being testless.
Monster Slayer: Okay. Fine as filler in Nathaniel’s level zero deck, but pretty rough otherwise.
One-Two Punch(0): Okay to Good. It does require two tests, but this is an event that can deal 3 damage in one action (4 damage for Nate). That’s an important threshold to cross.
One-Two Punch(5): Excellent. Deals at least 2 damage and promises 5 in total (6 with Nate). That’s outstanding. Check out those icons as well, although you probably don’t want to pitch this card but play it.
Stand Together: Staple. If you play multiplayer, you probably want to run this instead of Emergency Cache. Or in addition to EC, if you are hungry for resources.
Taunt(3): Okay. You can potentially get a lot of value out of this one, but 3XP is a lot to ask for this card. Only really worth it in 3-4 players as you otherwise usually won’t have too many enemies on your board at the same time.
Overpower(2): Staple. Between Glory and Overpower(2), the Nathaniel deck solves Guardian’s problem with card draw in a very non-intrusive manner. Like Glory, this hands you cards just for doing your thing.
Vicious Blow: Core Set reprint. But it’s actually one you won’t mind having a couple extras of.
Most useful cards from this deck: Glory, Overpower(2), Stand Together
Least useful cards from this deck: Monster Slayer, Relentless, Taunt(3)
Verdict: This is a very good pack that rounds out several rough edges in the Guardian card pool while giving you a preconstructed deck that is actually competently built and a good introduction to this character. I find that the three staples from this deck are absolutely essential to decks that I am building even with a full set of cards and many of the events are playable in other contexts than Nate as well.
Fighting with events as an archetype is very different from what Roland has to offer in the Core, too. So this opens up a new aspect of Guardian.
There are also very few stinkers in this deck. Of the three cards I singled out above, even Monster Slayer and Taunt(3) do have some uses.
All of this makes the Nathaniel Cho deck a great deck to buy. Recommended 100%.
Seeker: Harvey Walters
Harvey Walters is a fairly stereotypical seeker, with his stats slanted massively towards the mental skills. He is surprisingly tough for a seeker at 7 stamina, though.
His specialty is drawing cards, with his investigator ability just straight up rewarding card draw with more card draw. Fittingly then, the Harvey deck focuses on the “Big Hand” archetype, which asks you to keep your hand full with cards and rewards you for doing so. There are even several cards that can increase your hand limit until you can hold half your deck in your hands.
He is a bit notorious for having a rather brutal personal weakness that deals damage scaling with the cards in his hand. And if you keep most of your deck in your hand and also draw a lot, you are going to see this weakness a couple times per game. So this warrants consideration by either carefully playing around it or including some cards that can soak the damage for you.
Harvey is of course not the only one who can do such a Big Hand deck and as a result, most of his card pool is interesting for other seekers as well. The reverse is also true: Just because Harvey draws extra cards doesn’t mean he has to hoard them. So he can be played with cards from the wider Seeker pool, too.
Arcane Enlightenment: Okay to Good. Shifting around equipment slots is a powerful tool, especially when you only have to sacrifice one of the (outside of Mystic) often unused arcane slots. Also notable for having double will icons on a level zero card. That’s valuable.
Celaeno Fragments: Okay to Bad. Even Big Hand decks will not have 10 cards in hand at all times, meaning that this card never leaves the shadow of the Core Set staple Magnifying Glass.
Disc of Itzamna: Good. As long as you are willing to give up your accessory slot for this, you gain some protection from enemies. This is okay here, but becomes a lot better in a wider card pool thanks to Relic synergies and recursion options.
Encyclopedia(0): Okay. A level zero version of what was in the Core as level 2. Limiting it by uses isn’t a big deal and this is just straight up better than Encyclopedia(2). That being said, it’s still not a great card, you generally don’t want to spend actions this way. Mostly a Daisy card for that reason.
Esoteric Atlas(2): Okay. This is a card that you only include for specific purposes because it has some neat campaign specific uses. As a general card, this doesn’t impress too much.
Farsight(4): Good. Can be a cornerstone for a deck. Obviously not good outside of that deck because you need to devote most of your deck to it, but the payoff is decent.
Feed the Mind: Okay. Failing the test feels super bad because you only have 3 charges. Succeeding by only 1 doesn’t earn you anything over just regular draw actions. Succeeding by 2 barely makes up for the cost of the card. This is only okay if you can near-guarantee that you ace all three tests.
Higher Education: Excellent. Compared to other talents, this doesn’t cost anything, but has a condition to be used. That is not a terribly hard condition (especially for Harvey) and the two stats that are being boosted here are exactly what you are looking for.
Laboratory Assistant: Dunwich reprint. Excellent card with lots of staying power. Not sure you need extra copies, though.
Library Docent(1): Good to Excellent. Playing around with tomes is one of Seeker’s first archetypes (just look at Daisy). And this innocent looking card is a great tool for that deck. Not particularly important in the context of Harvey’s deck, though.
Miskatonic Archaeology Funding(4): Excellent, almost a Staple. Speaking of enablers for Seeker archetypes, this is one of the foundations for the Miskatonic allies deck which uses cheap allies with comes-into-play effects and chains through them. Great card even outside of that decktype, since most Seeker allies are Miskatonic traited.
The Necronomicon(5): Excellent. At it’s most basic, it’s a Draw 6 for 3 resources. That’s already insane, but there is plenty more flexibility to it than that. Gets absurd once you start recurring it. Even Library Docent is enough to take this to the next level but you can get really stupid with the wider card pool.
Whitton Greene(0): Good. Competition for Milan Christopher if you are doing a Tome or Relic thing with your deck. Actually a lot more interesting for Daisy than for Harvey.
Whitton Green(2): Excellent. Great upgrade for Whitton which adds another stat boost and lets her dig deeper for your assets.
I’ve got a Plan(2): Excellent. Deals up to 4 damage in one swoop for only two resources. It’s conditional on having clues, which can be an issue right after advancing the act but this is still a powerhouse.
Burning the Midnight Oil: Good to Excellent. A lot better than Nathaniel’s Clean Them Out because using a basic investigate action is actually something that seekers will have to do anyways. So this is just some extra money that doesn’t cost an extra action.
Cryptic Writings(0): Okay. This is saved from being unplayable by its icons which still give it a good use when you didn’t draw it on your turn (Remember that upkeep is not on your turn). Good when it works, but Burning the Midnight Oil is the same payoff but more reliable.
Cryptic Writings(2): Good. Worst case, it’s an Emergency Cache with good icons. That’s a perfectly fine card to fall back on.
Extensive Research: Bad. The price i’d want to pay for 2 testless clues is 3-4 resources to feel comfortable with it. So that’d require a full hand of 8 cards, not including Research itself. Pretty big ask.
Glimpse the Unthinkable(1): Good. Digs deep into your deck and gives you a good chance to find what you are looking for… but also a good chance at finding your weaknesses. Still, for a 1XP card that costs 0 resources this lets you look at a lot of cards when you need it.
Mind over Matter(2): Good. Upgrades the Core Set card to add your intellect instead of replacing the original stat and also draws a card to replace itself. The level zero is sometimes a necessary evil, especially in someone like Harvey. The upgrade is actually a decent card.
Occult Invocation: Okay. Another Seeker damage spell. This is fine, but outclassed by I’ve Got A Plan.
Preposterous Sketches: Dunwich reprint. 2 resources is just too much most of the time. Has it’s uses, but it’s not a card one needs extra copies of.
Seeking Answers(2): Core Set reprint. Occasionally useful, but again not something you need extras of.
Deduction: Core Set reprint. One of the pillars the whole class is resting on. Extra copies are welcome.
Perception(2): Staple. Drawing cards for doing what you are doing anyways is great. Three icons are great. Everything about this card is great.
Forbidden Tome: Bad to Okay. Not all that difficult to translate if you are in the market for this type of card. The payoff is questionable, though. To be worth their abilities, 12 cards in hand are practically required because spending 2 actions on these is mediocre at best. Their saving grace is that they don’t use charges at all, so unlike many other tomes and researchable assets they can be used every turn.
Most useful cards from this deck: Miskatonic Archeology Funding, Whitton Green, Perception(2)
Least useful cards from this deck: Extensive Research, Feed the Mind, Forbidden Tome.
Verdict: There’s some great stuff here, but it’s less coherent than the deck from Nathaniel. The big hand archetype has some payoff cards included, but mostly it works off the back of Harvey’s own powerful innate card draw. His preconstructed deck is certainly playable enough. I do however question some of the upgrades that are clearly more suitable for seekers that go into different archetypes.
This sort of thing isn’t necessarily a disadvantage for when we buy the deck to enhance your card pool, though. Some cards like Whitton and the Library Docent can go straight into Daisy’s toolbox (together with the tomes, of course). We get a small glimpse at the Miskatonic allies deck which needs only Dunwich in addition to take off. There’s only one card here that i’d classify as a staple card, but on the other hand there’s also no real coaster here either.
My one issue with this pack is that Harvey sort of overlaps with Daisy a lot, at least with a shallow card pool. So while I think that Harvey is certainly a suitable buy to get your first taste at Seeker power, I would argue that the Dunwich Investigator box might be better for that. It has also (very!) powerful Seeker enablers, but Rex is quite a bit more interesting to build decks for than Harvey.
Rogue: Winifred Habbamock
Winifred embodies the high risk -> high reward playstyle like no other rogue. Her whole deal is taking lots of tests and crushing them. This makes her excellent at using anything in the Rogue card pool that gets bonuses for oversucceeding, something that is seeded in the Core already (Switchblade, .41 Derringer, etc). Following the main releases it would take quite a while until a rogue comes along that can actually properly use them. So the Winifred deck allows taking a shortcut there and unlocks a lot of potential in the existing card pool right away.
Her ability makes the player care about skill icons on their cards, as you will want to be able to have two cards to pitch for most things you do. As a result, she draws lots of cards and flies through her deck.
While Nathaniel and Harvey are easy to grasp (they just take the core tenant of their class and hyperfocus on it), Winifred plays significantly different from what came before her. She can fill a flexible role that can both fight and seek, offering a lot of freedom when building her deck.
Beretta M1918(4): Good to Excellent. A very nice weapon that has enough of a fight bonus that even low fight investigators can use it in a competent way.
Chuck Fergus(5): Excellent. One of the most important cards from this pack aside from Wini herself, he’s the cornerstone of his own Trick/Tactic archetype.
Leather Jacket: Okay. Does a job, but it’s not too great.
Liquid Courage(1): Excellent. A typical thing that rogues have to deal with is low sanity coupled with low willpower. Liquid Courage(1) solves the sanity issue. Expecting to fail the willpower test, you get up to 8 horror heal out of this card.
Lockpicks: Okay to Good. A level zero version of what’s in the Core set at level 1. Basically a placeholder for the level zero deck, you should probably spend the 2XP to upgrade both rather soon.
Lonnie Ritter: Good. Good soak coupled with a static fight boost is valuable. Her ability only has very few targets in Rogue (only Leather Jacket in this deck), but it’s a useful one for sure.
Lucky Cigarette Case(0): Forgotten Age reprint. One of the best card draw engines in the game, this accessory is one of the cornerstones of the Rogue class.
Lucky Cigarette Case(3): Staple. An amazing upgrade to a card that is already fantastic at level zero.
Sharpshooter(3): Okay to Good. It’s difficult to get enough out of this asset to be worth the effort, but as a slotless card that helps with fighting it does have its merits.
Mauser C96(0): Good. A solid handgun that compares favorably to Guardian’s .45 Auto.
Mauser C96(2): Good. Unlike the .45, the Mauser gets some real nice value out of its upgrade.
Streetwise: Good to Excellent. Channeling money into stats is especially interesting for rogues, so having this available in addition to Hard Knocks from the Core is welcome.
Switchblade: Core Set reprint. Tolerable in Wini’s deck, but not something you need extra copies of.
Backstab(3): Okay. The upgrade adds a recursion clause that can allow investigators to reliably fight with their agility as long as they can consistently oversucceed their tests.
Sneak By: Good. As long as you expect to take evasion actions, you can count on this being a smooth 2 resources without needing to spend an action on it. Good icons, too.
Cheap Shot(0): Carcosa reprint. A solid card, but again something you don’t need extras of because you’ll be unlikely to play it in multiple decks at the same time.
Cheap Shot(2): Okay to Good. A solid card for the Chuck Fergus deck that recurs Trick events.
Copy Cat(3): Okay. A cool and unique card that is of course dependent on what’s in other players decks. 3XP is often hard to justify, though. For Wini this is extra interesting because it automatically triggers her investigator ability for committing two cards.
Daring Maneuver(0): Carcosa reprint. A narrow card with only niche uses.
Daring Maneuver(2): Okay. The card draw makes this card a lot more bearable, but it’s still very niche and often hard to justify.
Daredevil: Okay to Good. Particularly great for Wini because it immediately satisfies her investigator ability.
Pilfer(0): Excellent. Picking up three clues in one go is powerful and doing it with your agility instead of intellect is just what rogues want.
Pilfer(3): Excellent. Gains the same recursion clause as some others in this deck, allowing a rogue to do more than just dabble in clue seeking.
Manual Dexterity(2): Staple. With Wini’s deck, the agility focus of Rogue becomes even more prominent than before. Manual Dexterity allows leaning into it while replenishing your hand.
Slip Away(0): Forgotten Age reprint. Fine card, nothing special.
Slip Away(2): Excellent. Adding the recursion clause on oversuccess turns this Trick into something special. This can be used to seriously lock down enemies.
Nimble: Good to Excellent. Getting up to three free moves from a skill is rather powerful.
Opportunist: Core reprint. A bad card that becomes actually tolerable in a Winifred context. Still could’ve done without extra copies.
Most useful cards from this deck: Lucky Cigarette Case(all), Pilfer(all), Chuck Fergus(5)
Least useful cards from this deck: Switchblade, Opportunist, Daring Maneuver(all)
Verdict: So let me preface this with the disclaimer that Winifred is one of my favorite investigators in all of the game. I just enjoy the highly dynamic playstyle.
That being said, Wini is indeed an important investigator for the Rogue class. If you follow the regular release order, it takes a while until you get to someone who can actually properly use a bunch of the Rogue cards. Until Finn in Forgotten Age, Rogue was basically notable for being moneybags and their high-impact Exceptional cards. Only after that, the “oversuccess” really takes off, fully blooming with Tony in Dream-Eaters. The Winifred deck allows new players to sidestep all that historic baggage and unlock the potential of their cards right away.
This deck hands players all the tools they need for the Trick recursion archetype, with several events that get this treatment and Chuck Fergus as a capstone. This is a good archetype that gets supplemented by plenty of other cards in the wider card pool as both Trick and Tactic are rather common traits. It also contains weaponry to turn rogues into proper fighters, with the Mauser and Beretta being competitive with Guardian options.
Manual Dexterity and LCC(3) are brilliant staple cards that see lots of play. There is little chaff in this deck, what is there is basically all reprints.
While the cards themselves are rather good in this set, the preconstructed deck is the weakest of the five. It just doesn’t have enough skill cards. While her ability works with any card, this still means that she is very short of her actual potential.
But yeah… fantastic investigator, powerful cards, great enablers. Full recommendation.
Mystic: Jacqueline Fine
Jacqueline Fine is a card-carrying member of the circle of mystics that use their willpower to do whatever they need through specialized spell assets. Her special shtick is chaos token manipulation, an archetype that is also represented in a couple of cards here that are of interest for other mystics as well.
For starting collections, this pack is most notable for having complete sets of basic spell assets for fighting, seeking and evading. The Core only has a level zero fight spell and even adding Dunwich will leave you without a set of evasion spells. So getting everything in one swoop here is super convenient and allows flexibility in deck building right away.
Jacqueline’s meddling with the chaos tokens through her investigator ability is very potent and can give new players a safety net for dealing with the swingy nature of the token pulls.
Arcane Studies(4): Good. Statboosts without taking up equipment slots are good and the replenishing resources make it very appealing for chronically broke mystics.
Crystal Pendulum: Good. Holy Rosary is a Core Set staple that provides mystics with important willpower for their spells and this is a good alternative. It’s sort of annoying to resolve the ability though and Rosary’s extra sanity soak is more generally useful.
Familiar Spirit: Okay. Moving equipment slots around is useful, but the ally slot is generally a lot more valuable than an arcane slot.
Azure Flame(0): Staple. Mirrors Shrivelling from the Core Set in many ways and is an equivalent alternative.
Azure Flame(3): Staple. A very necessary upgrade to stay competitive with the Mythos for the long run.
Azure Flame(5): Good. Not as essential as the level 0 and 3, but does offer considerable power. The increased drawback and the high XP cost mean that his an upgrade that is often skipped.
Clairvoyance(0): Staple. While Azure Flame and Shrivelling are on the same level, this compares favoribly to its counterpart, Rite of Seeking from Dunwich, due to the much milder drawback.
Clairvoyance(3): Staple. An important upgrade to an important card.
Clairvoyance(5): Excellent. Picking up 3 clues is amazing, but might not be always applicable in low player counts. That drawback can also be a pain.
Ineffable Truth(0): Okay to Good. Fighting and seeking are core competencies you need to have in this game. Evasion is more optional, therfore the dedicated evasion spell is as well. The wider card pool also has some better options if you do want to evade with spells. That being said, this does the job just fine.
Ineffable Truth(3): Good. Getting that skill bonus is great.
Ineffable Truth(5): Good. Turns this card into both an evasion spell and a proper damage spell at the same time. That is sort of good in some situations involving high health enemies that need multiple turns to be defeated.
Grotesque Statue(2): Good. A nice general purpose token manipulation card that, among other things, gives you immunity from the tentacle token for three tests. Works great with item recursion in the wider card pool.
Ritual Candles: Dunwich reprint. A neat card that helps making tests more predictable by dialing down the impact of the bad tokens.
Scrying Mirror: Okay. A bit expensive for what it does, but can be worth it if it ends up saving you a committed card or two. Plays well with a couple cards from Jacqueline’s deck in particular, like Crystal Pendulum and Prescient.
Robes of Endless Night(0): Okay. Tolerable if you need more damage soak for a fragile investigator, but the resource cost is pretty hefty despite making up for it over time.
Robes of Endless Night(2): Good to Excellent. This is much better, crucially reducing the cost by 1 and also giving an extra ability that comes in handy.
Astral Travel: Carcosa reprint. Not a terribly great card. Expensive and clunky.
Dark Prophecy: Forgotten Age reprint. Has it’s uses if you want to fish for specific tokens, but that’s more of a niche thing.
Eldritch Inspiration(1): Okay to Bad. This effect is rarely worth the card.
Parallel Fates: Bad. Even if you are a token manipulator, this is way too unreliable to do what you want.
Hypnotic Gaze(0): Dunwich reprint. Overcosted for what it does.
Hypnotic Gaze(2): Okay. Like with the robes, going from 3 cost down to 2 makes all the difference here. This is solid, but often not what you are looking for.
Recharge(4): Good to Excellent. This is a potent way to get more mileage out of your expensive spells. Runs the risk of only adding a single charge, but that can be mitigated with token manipulation or by filling the bag with bless and curse tokens from the Innsmouth expansion.
Voice of Ra: Good. Great piece of economy, better than Emergency Cache in the majority of cases, but with the inherent risk of whiffing. Combines well with a bunch of cards.
Defiance: Dunwich reprint. Unless you happen to have a Scrying Mirror in play, this is a rather awful card.
Guts(2): Staple. You do everything with your willpower. This gives you +3 to most of your tests and draws you up to two cards without any costs. Windmill slam this into your deck.
Prescient: Okay to Good. Has usually decent odds even without token manipulation. That’s not quite enough to include it into most Mystic decks, but just a bit of manipulation tilts the odds drastically in your favor and can make this worth it.
Most useful cards from this deck: Azure Flame(all), Clairvoyance(all), Guts(2)
Least useful cards from this deck: Parallel Fates, Defiance, Astral Travel
Verdict: Jacqueline is very powerful and playing her can feel like cheating at times. She takes a lot of the unpredictability out of the chaos bag and lets you pass tests that you usually would have no business passing. She’s a perfect introduction to the “Willpower matters” archetype that is rooted deep in the Mystic card pool. Her token manipulation feels clever and satisfying to execute.
Her preconstructed deck is well done, but a bit light on economy considering the high cost of many of her assets. Getting some Emergency Caches in there should be the first thing you do, but otherwise this is a suitable deck that covers both of Jacqueline’s main themes.
For a new player, getting a full suite of spell assets including all of the upgrades in one go is a huge boon. Following the release order, this only gets pieced together bit by bit over the course of Core, Dunwich, Carcosa and Forgotten Age… with one piece even hiding in a Return To product.
The Jacqueline deck is further rounded out with some cards like Guts, Robes and Recharge that are valuable to have even for bigger collections.
The one criticism I have is that “Willpower matters” is vastly overrepresented in the bigger Mystic card pool, with most of the mystics being tilted heavily towards it. That’s not really a fault of Jacqueline, but of the larger card pool. Still, it can feel like retreading known ground with her for an experienced player that has seen what later expansions have in store. For newer players this is of course no concern at all.
This is another good deck, recommended especially for new players for the shortcut to the spell suite.
Survivor: Stella Clark
Stella embodies the Survivor concept of “Failing Forward”, where you make the best out of any test result, no matter if it failed or passed. Stella takes this a step further to where she actively wants to fail at least one test per turn to fuel her investigator ability and to get value out of that fail.
Like Jacqueline, her playstyle gives a safety net against the frickle nature of the chaos bag. She doesn’t look the part at first glance, but Stella is actually one of the (if not THE) best generalists in the game. She can excel at anything if she puts her mind to it and this deck reflects this to some degree. With an 8 in both her stamina and her sanity she is also incredibly resilient to damage and horror.
Her deck is notable for giving survivors some actual good weapons to fight with instead of having to cower behind a baseball bat.
.18 Derringer(0): Good. A little bit expensive for just having 2 ammo, but this does a good job of making your survivor able to defend themselves from level zero on.
.18 Derringer(2): Excellent. An extra ammo, one less resource, a neat little ability. This weapon is fantastic and arguably better than what Guardian and Rogue get as level 2 handguns.
Chainsaw(4): Good to Excellent. If you want to go all in on fighting as a survivor, accept no substitutes. It takes both hands and is expensive to buy and play, but it hits for 3 in one attack which is super valuable.
Cherished Keepsake(1): Excellent. 4 soak is A LOT on a zero cost asset. As long as you don’t put the final point on it, you also never have to exile it, if that bothers you.
Deja Vu(5): Okay. An enabler for the Exile mechanic which has some token representation in this deck, but is mostly a thing in wider collections only. Is rarely considered to be worth building around.
Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Okay to Bad. Not really what you want to spend your hand slots on. Stella in particular doesn’t need this thanks to her beefy 8 sanity (and a pair of teddy bears available if she needs them).
Granny Orne(0): Okay. As an ally with a static skill boost she has her uses, but that ability is a bit too tricksy for its own good. It does enable some cards like Look What I Found, but isn’t useful enough in a consistent manner.
Granny Orne(3): Good to Excellent. A significant upgrade that not only adds another relevant skill but also allows her ability to turn close fails into close passes. That’s almost equivalent to another +1 skill by itself but of course limited to once per exhaust.
Leather Coat(1): Excellent. Anything said about the Cherished Keepsake also applies to the coat.
Mysterious Raven: Okay to Good. Not much of a Stella card, but the Raven gets quite good if you are able to recur it and gather testless clues that way.
Old Keyring: Staple. Beats the Core Set staple Flashlight for many survivors. Reducing a shroud value to where you can guarantee to either pass or get in Look What I Found range is one of the basic tricks of the Survivor clue hound.
Quick Learner(4): Excellent. A ridiculously good card for Stella who wants to fail her first action anyways. Powerful enough to be a consideration for some other survivors as well, but not very commonly played there.
Rabbit’s Foot: Core Set reprint. Not as much of a staple as Lucky Cigarette Case, but certainly a staple for Stella.
Look What I Found(0): Core Set reprint. This however is an actual staple for the whole class.
Look What I Found(2): Excellent. More of a luxury upgrade, but widening the range where you can guarantee to be able to play it is worthwhile and so is the ability to reach into connected locations.
Scrapper: Good. Functionally identical to the Rogue card Hard Knocks, this is another talent for the pile. They all have their place as slotless stat boosts as long as you care about both stats and have the money to spare.
A Test Of Will(0): Okay. I don’t like this much for Stella, but canceling encounter cards is powerful and a good effect to have available in your card pool even when it comes with a literal test of will(power).
A Test Of Will(2): Okay to Good. With the upgrade, the cancel is guaranteed. But being set back 2XP for failing that test is a major downer.
Grit Your Teeth: Bad to Okay. Tolerable in Stella, but the +1 bonus for a turn is not a great payoff here.
Dumb Luck: Forgotten Age reprint. This is fine, but 2 resources is a hard sell. Note that putting a card on top of the encounter deck means that the lead investigator is the one who is going to redraw it next Mythos.
Dumb Luck(2): Good. The ability to put something under the deck turns this into actually solid removal.
Live and Learn: Forgotten Age reprint. Good card, but note that this won’t help you when you fail something like a Rotten Remains because the consequences of the fail are resolved in full before repeating the test. If you profit from failing, this can be used in clever ways, though.
Lucky(3): Excellent. This turbocharges the Survivor staple from the Core Set in several ways, reducing the cost to zero, widening the range, adding card draw and making it usable on other investigators. Great value upgrade.
Oops: Forgotten Age reprint. This is just a deeply flawed card and no amount of fail synergy is going to save it.
Will to Survive: Okay. The level 3 version from the Core Set is a powerful card that sets up a whole turn. This is both more expensive and only applies to a single test, limiting to the point where it’s really not great outside of recursion combos.
Take Heart: Forgotten Age reprint. An incredibly powerful skill card that is easily triggered and is one of the signatures of the Survivor class.
Unexpected Courage(2): Okay. It’s still Unexpected Courage, so it can’t be awful. But that upgrade adds very little to this card because just randomly throwing it into tests to see what happens isn’t really how you use UC. A bit of a disappointment to be honest, especially considering how amazing the upgrades for the other Core skills (Guts, Overpower, etc) are.
Most useful cards from this deck: .18 Derringer, Old Keyring, Take Heart (Chainsaw if you don’t accept a reprint here)
Least useful cards from this deck: Oops, Grit Your Teeth, Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Verdict: Many new players struggle the most with the Survivor class, as their identity and purpose doesn’t really shine through very well in the Core Set. Wendy herself is great, but the red cards from the Core are a very mixed bag and not tailored towards Wendy at all.
Stella then offers a coherent vision for the class and packages it in a very efficient way that showcases what the class is capable of. Similar to Jacqueline, this deck takes the sting out of the randomness of the chaos bag, but in a very different way. Jacqueline makes sure that the things that happen favor her. Stella simply doesn’t care too much, she even gains momentum from failing.
Her preconstructed deck is solid and dips its toes into a lot of different things. This does have the side effect of muddling the waters a bit, her deck appears to be a bit over the place and just persists on sheer strength of the individual cards (and Stella herself) instead of consistent deck building. It’s playable out of the box but specializing it a bit would make a world of difference, even if it’s just cutting some of the chaff and putting in some extra skills and a set of level zero Lucky which for some reason have been omitted here.
Unlike with the other four decks, this one doesn’t really offer a huge deal of super important cards to a collection and is more carried by the stellar(sorry) investigator. The exile cards in particular feel tacked on as a way to shoehorn Deja Vu into this product. The weapons are great, though.
This is still a pack worth getting, but as far as early collection expansion goes, Dunwich Legacy does offer very similar value to Survivor with Ashcan Pete as a great investigator and the Dark Horse decktype plus several strong staples (Peter Sylvestre, Fire Axe) in addition. So if you currently got Dunwich+Core, then a different investigator pack might offer more to your fledgling collection than this does.
That’s it for the Investigator Starter Deck Overview.
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