Masking up for Hemlock Vale

Intro

We have now seen all five Mask player assets from the upcoming player card expansion and while there is an outside chance of a sixth neutral mask (or upgraded ones Oo) this is good enough to start talking about them. All five of them are very important cards that are going to be showing up in most decks from now on with at least a copy. Since they are dirt cheap and don’t take up a slot, the opportunity cost to run them is extremely low, basically just the deck slot. Can you fill your deck with 30 cards that are all better than a 1 cost slotless asset that is getting you continuous +2 bonuses to your skill values? If so, feel free to skip the mask. But i would wager that most decks will not be able to outvalue these things on all 30 card slots. That being said, the whole “slotless” argument stops working once you start including a second mask. There will be times when putting in the second one is right, but that’s not quite as universal as the first one. So today i will only be looking at the first copy in a deck.
So, with these new assets being such a presence, I figured I’d just run over all the investigators (well, i’ll leave out the parallels and the weird ones this time) real quick and check out which mask or masks they are interested in. See which mask is going to be used the most. If there are investigators that aren’t interested in any of them. That sort of thing. Let’s get right into it.

The Masks

Just in case you haven’t seen them, here they are again.

Guardian

Roland: Can run Wolf and Mouse. I see Roland primarily as a fighter which makes me want to go Wolf straight away. But i can definitely see an argument for Mouse as well. The boosted stats are both relevant for him to take an okay skill value to a usable level. Of course, replenishing the Mouse is more difficult than it is for Wolf, so i am still leaning Wolf here. Point: Wolf

Zoey: Can run all of them! Wolf Mask shares a trigger with her investigator ability which is neat (but doesn’t actually make the mask better for her than for others) and as a primary fighter she would certainly gravitate towards that. I can definitely see an argument for Cat Mask as well, but probably not to a degree that i want to spend one of her five splash cards on it. Point: Wolf

Mark: Can only run Wolf, loves Wolf. Plays Wolf. Point: Wolf

Leo: Can run Wolf and Fox. Seems pretty clear cut, while he could appreciate an intellect boost, i don’t see him recharging that Fox mask at any point. Point: Wolf

Carolyn: Can run Wolf, Mouse and Cat. Mouse seems the way to go here as it raises her two most relevant stats. That being said, depending on how confident you are in your ability to replenish it, she might even skip masks completely. Still, i am going to give this point to Mouse.

Tommy: Can run Wolf and Sparrow. As much as Tommy likes the trigger condition on Sparrow, he can’t really use the boosted stats here much. Would be decent encounter protection, but Tommy doesn’t care about that much either. Point: Wolf

Mary: Wolf and Cat are available. This is a pretty even split between the two, i think. Depending on whether you take more of a support role or more of an active combat role, you are going to lean one way or the other. I am going to give this point to Cat, because its bonuses do serve both roles.

Lily: Can run Wolf and Cat. She really wants Wolf, but that will eat one of her 5 level zero Guardian cards. Is it worth it? That’s a definitive “Maybe” from me. I am going to give this point to Cat because it’s lower opportunity cost and we can get our fight bonus there as well, just not quite as consistently.

Carson: Can only run Wolf. Are you one of those people that actually use his statline through whatever means? Then maybe you care about Wolf because it saves you a charge here and there on the Runic Axe. Otherwise, he can pretty much skip masks. I am going to give this point to No Mask.

Nate: Wolf. Duh.

Wilson: Can only run Wolf. Good step towards making his statline more usable. Pretty sure i’d run two Wolf Masks, actually.

The Wolf Mask sticks out to me as the one that is easiest to recharge, giving you a new offering exactly when you need it. That makes it a fantastic allrounder card for any fighters (and evaders too, if they have access) that also provides some encounter protection towards agility treacheries.

This is our tally so far:
Wolf: 7 votes
Mouse: 1 vote
Fox: 0 votes
Cat: 2 votes
Sparrow: 0 votes
No Mask: 1 vote

Unsurprisingly, after only covering the Guardian section, the Guardian mask is in the lead. Going into Seeker, will the Mouse Mask catch up? Exciting stuff, just the sort of insightful analysis you can expect on this site.

Seeker

Daisy: She can also run Cat, but Mouse is perfect for her. It has the perfect pair of skills for her.

Rex: Can use any of them, but just like with Zoey i can see arguments for an off-class mask (Fox specifically), but not to a point where i am spending one of the 5 splash cards for it. Mouse it is.

Minh: Can do either Mouse or Sparrow. I am sure there are going to be Minh decks that are interested enough in the more consistent willpower boost from Sparrow, but for general use the one that has a book icon on it wins out. Mouse.

Ursula: Sorry hun, these aren’t relics. You are going to take your Mouse and be happy with it. Luckily you are, you were pretty much born to fulfill the replenish condition on it.

Joe: Wolf or Mouse. I see Joe in a similar boat as Roland, being mostly a fighter that also picks up a clue or five on the side. Mouse wouldn’t be bad on him, but Wolf is going to help him at his primary job and more consistently as well.

Mandy: Can only run Mouse and is perfectly happy with that.

Amanda: Mouse.

Monty: Fox is great for him. Mouse would also work, but not at the cost of a splash slot.

Vincent: Can run Mouse, Wolf and Sparrow. While he does appreciate the intellect boost from Mouse, does he care enough about it to play in a way that keeps the thing recharged? Or does he want to build into his fighting with Wolf? His self-harm tendencies even make Sparrow look interesting. I am giving this one to Wolf due to personal preference towards fighting Vincent, but he is a flexible character and i could see arguments for any of these.

Harvey: Mouse.

Kate: Mouse.

The Mouse mask has arguably the best pair of boosted stats, but it pairs it with the most awkward way of refilling that is not only difficult to do consistently (unless you are playing solo) but also has some scenario-based variance on it. That being said, it is one of two masks that increase intellect and the other one has its own difficult recharge trigger on it. So it still ends up being the best option for most clue getters.

Updated tally:
Wolf: 9 votes
Mouse: 9 votes
Fox: 1 votes
Cat: 2 votes
Sparrow: 0 votes
No Mask: 1 vote

Let’s hope we see some Fox love when moving into the green cards!

Rogue

Skids: No Fox vote here yet, the Wolf is just too good for Skids. Shoring up his weak fight value, this could be the piece that lets Skids make better use of his Guardian access? That is not to say that Fox would be bad for him either, he can certainly play a seek and evade game as well, but since that is better left to more specialized investigators, this one goes to Wolf.

Jenny: Can use any Mask, but any other than Fox would cost a splash slot. I am not particularly excited about Fox in Jenny, sounds to me like recharging it would be a pain. Since i see her mostly in a fighter role, i am heavily leaning Wolf here, even through the added cost of having to use one of her off-class slots for it. It’s an uneven amount of slots anyways, right? She is flexible enough that i can see uses for the other three masks as well, but i am going to give this one to Wolf.

Sefina: Uses Fox and Cat. You know what, these are both not great. A heavily mystic Sefina can of course use Cat to get better use out of her level 0 Shrivellings and the like. But i am not super impressed here. Is Fox giving you better Pilfers and Backstabs better? Probably. But how often is Sefina leaving locations with enemies in them? I suppose it could work out in multiplayer, but that seems hard to do otherwise. After much deliberation between the two options i have settled on No Mask. At least not as a generally accepted default.

Finn: Can run Fox or spend one of his 5 splash cards on Sparrow or Mouse. Fox seems perfectly fine here. Great, even!

Preston: Can run Sparrow and Fox. That being said, making tests is for plebs that can’t afford to just pick up clues from the board. Sparrow could be a solid way for him to protect himself a bit from the encounter deck. Testing at 3 is still not great, but it can save a point here and there against stray Remains or Grasps… but i don’t think he needs it. No Mask for this gentleman.

Tony Morgan: Can only run Fox. And let me tell you, Tony Morgan does NOT leave a location while there’s still an enemy on it. Hard pass. No Mask.

Trish: Now Trish, on the other hand… she’s been known to dance around enemies without killing them. With access to both intellect masks, Mouse and Fox, she has a nice little selection at hand there. Fox wins this one easily as the condition is easy for her to trigger and the combination with agility is exactly what she wants.

Bob: I like the Fox mask a lot here. Again, it boosts both of his important stats and evading enemies with Bob is definitely something you can do. You won’t be recharging the Fox as often here as Trish does, but it’s certainly rock solid. Since they are Item assets, he might even run the Sparrow in addition, to give it to someone else. Since its the defensive mask, there’s really nobody that would mind getting a Sparrow mask… unless they already have their own out of course. Point to Fox.

Kymani: Fox. Perfect.

Winifred: Fox. Perfect.

Alessandra: Fox. Perfect. That trigger on the Fox is worded so weirdly because it was meant to play nice with Parley, not Evade! I can’t believe i have not picked up on that before. Literally having a Eureka moment while writing this 😀 Well then, Alessandra, have your custom tailored Fox mask.

Like the Mouse Mask, the Fox suffers a bit from its rather awkward trigger to recharge. More than the location thing on Mouse, it pigeonholes it with regards to who can take it. The result is a whopping 3 investigators that would rather wear no mask than Fox. Weirdly, it does also scale with player count in a way. Mouse gets easier to trigger solo, meanwhile Fox gets easier to trigger the more players are in the group. Not sure how relevant that is in practice, but it’s kinda funky.

Wolf: 11 votes
Mouse: 9 votes
Fox: 7 votes
Cat: 2 votes
Sparrow: 0 votes
No Mask: 4 vote

Wolf and Mouse are head to head for now. But here’s Mystic, so that will put Cat into the race. And fun fact: There are more Mystics than other investigators which clearly means this whole poll is rigged!

Mystic

Agnes: Cat vs Sparrow. They both raise willpower. Sparrow fits in neatly with her investigator ability, giving her even more payoff for getting horror. It also has a better secondary attribute on it, as Agnes gets a lot more out of agility than out of fight. Looks like a clear Sparrow win to me.

Jim: Can run any. I do like Cat here. Both willpower and fight are relevant to him, so he gets a lot out of it. The potential upsides in consistency from another mask don’t seem worth the splash slot. Winner: Cat.

Akachi: Can only run Cat and is perfectly fine with it. Especially if she wants to do Enchanted Blade.

Mateo: Cat is all he gets and he can use it to shore up his willpower some more. Sure. Nothing too exciting, but good enough to include it. Cat.

Diana: Can run Cat and Wolf, and i am genuinely excited for Wolf in her. She has the statline to not play the willpower game and between Wolf Mask, Living Ink, Well Prepared, Bestow Resolve and Empower Self i think we are finally there to make Statball Diana a thing. If you are boring, just assume a Cat vote here, but it’s my list and i make Diana vote for Wolf 😀

Marie: Cat, Mouse or Sparrow. Mouse or Sparrow would take up one of the very limited splash slots, so despite Mouse having exactly the stats Marie wants to see, i am voting Cat here. Mostly on the back of Marie having an easier time to trigger recharges on Cat because she puts doom into play more often than others.

Luke: Cat and Mouse. And just as cartoons have taught us, Mouse wins its eternal battle against Cat. Mouse Mask is just perfect for Luke. It has both of the relevant stats for him and what’s better is that Luke gets to recharge the Mouse whenever he uses the Gatebox. That’s incredible.

Dexter: Cat and Fox. Foxes stats are his two weakest. Cats stats are his two important ones. Seems pretty obvious. Cat.

Norman: Cat and Mouse again. I am not consistently using willpower with Norman, so Cat’s use can even be rather limited depending on the build. I am giving this one to Mouse.

Jacqueline: Cat.

Amina: Can run all due to Charm access. So… this is difficult. Clearly Amina gets a lot out of the masks and depending on what you do with her you can go for different ones. The Cat with its doom interaction seems tailored towards her and the use with the doom charms… but since Cat pushes willpower and fight, the sickle is the only of the doom charms that directly works with Cat. And if you do sickle with your fight value, then Wolf might just work out better in the end. The doom charm angle actually has me lean towards Mouse because it would give Amina the necessary intellect (or willpower) to use Dowsing Rod properly (the only doom charm i consider to be good enough to consider over spell alternatives). Dowsing rods bonus move even helps with recharging Mouse. Without the doom charms, you can of course just run Cat and play a more generic willpower game with Amina. I will default to Cat for this one because it is never wrong, but chances are that something better can be brewed up with Wolf or Mouse. I am rather mild on the other two for Amina, though.

Gloria: Cat.

Kouhaku: Cat? Cat.

The Cat Mask is very interesting because for the most part, it doesn’t replenish from investigator actions, but from what happens in the scenario. Doom on the agenda and cultists give you more charges – and two at a time as well. Of course, if you do add your own doom to the game through Initiates, David and the like, you can keep this thing permanently full … as long as you can pay the price. That is raises fight is cute and gives it some neat use cases.

Wolf: 12 votes
Mouse: 11 votes
Fox: 7 votes
Cat: 11 votes
Sparrow: 1 votes
No Mask: 4 vote

With four classes down, only one vote went for Sparrow so far. This is sort of expected, considering the reactive, defensive nature of Sparrow. Actually, the one vote it got so far was Agnes who is interested in actually using it offensively. Let’s see what the actual Survivors think.

Survivor

Wendy: Fox or Sparrow. Wendy is a great Fox user, evasion + clues is her thing. Vote: Fox.

Pete: Uses any, but only Sparrow comes with no strings attached. Similar to Dowsing rod, Duke’s move to investigate plays nicely with Mouse’s replenish trigger. I think that is enough of a reason for me to put Pete’s vote towards Mouse here. I am definitely hearing arguments for Wolf as well and Sparrow as a fallback if I need the five slots for something else is certainly fine too. Oh, obviously these masks work with Duke. Presumably that means we put them on him. Awwwwwww.

William: Sparrow vs Wolf. Wolf. Not really close, Will doesn’t need the defense and anything that helps him fight better is welcome.

Calvin: Can only run Sparrow and he’s probably pretty happy about it! I hear he sometimes takes damage or horror for stat bonuses. That’s what Sparrow does as well!

Rita: Sparrow. Sparrow does increase agility and getting to test willpower at 5 isn’t bad either. Rita can really make great use out of Sparrow.

Patrice: Sparrow vs Cat. Both increase her willpower and a stat she doesn’t care about. The trigger condition is about evenly split in usefulness. I guess since agility does at least have some defensive value for her, she takes Sparrow over Cat.

Silas: Can only use Sparrow. Does he? Probably, yeah. I don’t think the mask is quite as valuable to him as it is to many other investigators, but getting those defensive stats can help him conserve his sanity and evade better.

Daniela: Wolf vs Sparrow. On the one hand, she is already good at fighting and taking Sparrow would bolster her already impressive willpower and make her agility at least usable. But opportunity cost makes this come out in favor of Wolf, and it’s not like we mind building on our fighting more.

Darrell: Sparrow vs Mouse. He’s a 5 intellect seeker that doesn’t even take tests to investigate. Well, technically he does, the skill value just doesn’t matter. So i would actually go with the defensive one here. Sparrow.

Stella: Sparrow. Sure.

Hank: Only gets Sparrow and it works really well with his statline in any of his versions.

There are two things that work against Sparrow Mask. For one, it is almost purely defensive (unless used with spells which only a limited number of characters can do or a main evader). Also, it raises the two stats that appear the most often on the masks. Between the five of them, fight and investigate appear twice while willpower and agility appear three times each. That means that for investigators that can run multiple masks and want either agility or willpower, the chances are high that Sparrow has more competition than for example Mouse has for intellect because there is only fox competing with it there.
Sparrow does have a very easy trigger for recharging though and you can definitely keep the skill bonuses going with this one.

Let’s check out the final tally!

Wolf: 14 votes
Mouse: 12 votes
Fox: 8 votes
Cat: 11 votes
Sparrow: 10 votes
No Mask: 4 vote

Honestly surprised that so many of the survivors ended up going for the Sparrow, i expected it to go a lot more in favor of off-class masks here. But that’s why I did the whole thing, right? To actually put some numbers down and try to put the masks into perspective.
Oh right, i forgot to mention… The two neutrals don’t get a vote. Both of them can use all of them and have like a billion different builds so they would both just pick whatever fits their build.

Putting it together

Alright, so where does this leave us. So, first obvious thing out of the way, all five of these are indeed excellent. Even the Fox mask which got the fewest points ends up being a near-staple for 8 investigators. That’s a rate that most cards dream of! From there it goes up to 14 investigators each that would consider Mouse or Wolf a staple which is seriously impressive. Overall, the range is even enough that i wouldn’t call it out of whack. We can see the relative worth of some attributes over others here though. Our fighters and seekers are always looking to stack their fight and intellect values to the moon, leading to Wolf and Mouse being where they are. It was even enough to look past Mouse’s rather meh trigger for recharging. Fox however scores so low on the base of its trigger – having to dance around enemies is just not something that anyone can do. Unlike say, revealing a location. Or take damage. I feel like there was some playability sacrificed here just to tie Fox Mask in with Alessandra. Something more universal (like an oversuccess) would have made the numbers a bit more even i think.
We have four investigators out of 57 that wouldn’t want a mask. Two of them. Carson and Preston, simply don’t care much about their stats and are mostly better off avoiding testing all together. Tony can only access one mask and it does nothing for him. And Sefina is just barely missing the point where i want to call the Cat Mask a staple in her. You’ll probably run it, but it’s not as much of a given as with most others in this list.

And that’s it. Not sure how much we actually learned here, but I feel like I understand the masks a bit better now that I went through all of this. There is of course much more still left to talk about. I deliberately only talked about the first mask here. That’s the copy you add without any opportunity cost. If we were to look at the numbers for investigators where we want a second copy of the same mask (or even of another!) then the numbers for where it is a staple go way down. And are much more deck dependent, too. Because the decision on whether to run extra copies of things is going to depend on your available card draw, card selection and investigator abilities that might turn dead cards into value. So we aren’t going to get into all of that here. Let’s just say that the Masks are all really good. Most people want one. Some might even want it enough to get a backup.

4 Replies to “Masking up for Hemlock Vale”

    1. Thanks. I actually made the same mistake for three of the Edge investigators. Dunno why, somehow i got my wires crossed there and i mixed up what classes they actually are. It’s fixed now, hopefully i managed to adjust the numbers correctly as well.

  1. I think, Yorick has a tougher choice: either Wolf or Bauta. Also Minh, Darrell and Agnes might be interested in Pantalone or “Medico della Peste” respectively, if they go for a Scavenging build.

    In general, these souvenir masks are of course weaker, than what you get from Hemlock Vale, but with item recursion, they can get really strong. They also have better icons. Of course, you also have to take the trip to Venice, so they are not ready applicable in a level 0 deck.

    1. Just to clarify: by Scavenging, I mean Scavenging (2). They don’t really compete with the new masks, if you have to spend hundreds of play actions on them.

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