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C2K

The Metagame

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I was reading the "State of the LCG" today and upon the topic of Arkham Horror, one thing popped out at me:
 

Quote

Q: What are the biggest challenges the game is currently facing?

Matthew: There are currently a few cards that are dominating on the player side, things like Higher Education (Blood on the Altar, 187), Rex Murphy (The Dunwich Legacy, 2), and Key of Ys (Dim Carcosa, 315). Figuring out a means to manage the metagame is high on my list of priorities.

 

Now, I'm not sure what consists of "dominating" in the Arkham Horror environment.  Coming from a LotR background, sure there were poorly worded or defined abilities that opened up infinite combos that needed to be addressed for the health of the game. 

But what cards player-side do you really think need to be addressed?  

(The following opinions are based on playing the game on Hard, but taking solo and teamplay into account, and only including non-promo investigators)

Out of Matthews examples, I only think Key of Ys has the opportunity to be really OP, . 

Key of Ys a level 5 unique asset that lets you ramp as you take damage.  Its very strong in solo play and in team play, decks will fight over it.  I don't know where design would draw the line as to what is detrimental to the health of this game, such as what Boromir and Love of Tales did in LotR, but I could see this card being watched if such list existed.  

Rex Murphy is strong, but his real strength is with team play.  There are some scenarios he will never beat solo.  Daisy Walker is the go to Seeker for solo play, because the Level 1 Book of Shadows allows her to become more flexible with spells, and she is only slightly off the amount of Clue gain Rex can get.  In a team game, I would concede Rex is the better investigator for the job of clearing clues fast, because he won't have to worry about getting surprised by the Mythos deck as often.  I suppose you can compare Rex to Minh, but I think the reason why Rex would get play more than Minh is because she is a support character; not meant to be the clue gatherer Daisy and Rex can.  However, I think its possible that Ursula could challenge him in both areas, as I think there could be a way to solo with Ursula (I haven't played much of the forgotten Age investigators yet).

Higher Education doesn't seem overpowered to me, because of that 5 card restriction.  In Hard or above, its difficult to keep those cards in your hand and do well.  In solo play, its impossible.  But if this card is too powerful, what do we do about Streetwise, which is the strongest of the permanent boosters(though all but perhaps Blood Pact seem like a good buy)?  Streetwise is insane compared to Higher Education, because Rogues print resources.  In fact, I think Rogues have become the spicy faction over the last couple of releases to challenge the Survivor class as being the best all-around faction in the game. (opinions may vary)

Cards I would consider watching:

Quantum Flux-  This card shuts down one of Dunwich Legacy's themes. 

Mind Wipe- This only has 1 occurrence in the game where its overpowered, but the existence of this card needs to be taken into consideration when creating key enemies. 

Waylay-  Same reason as Mind Wipe. 

 

That's all I could think of at the moment, and mainly because they cheapen the challenges presented by the game. 

Interested in knowing what other people's opinions are regarding this. 

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I don't think the cards you mention are overpowered or out of line.  They're tech cards that counter a specific threat the scenario throws at you, and you can opt into or out of them as needed.  Whether they counter that threat "too hard" is irrelevant because they're only useful in one scenario of one campaign; their scope is extremely narrow.

On the other hand, the cards Matthew mentions can totally warp the experience of the game, not just in one scenario but across whole campaigns.  Key of Ys is pretty obvious in its power, but look at Rex, especially in conjunction with Higher Education.  With enough intellect, Rex is winning most scenarios in half the expected time; he can clear a location with six clues on it in a single turn. The only issue for him is hitting that int to do this regularly; enter Higher Ed.  As the drawing-est class in the game, with an elder sign ability and a signature card that also draw cards, Rex only needs the cash flow from Milan to completely ruin any scenario that has to do with clues.  The fact that not every scenario is exclusively clue based is minimal; there are no scenarios where you don't investigate, and investigating alone can win scenarios.  In solo play you can rig a deck to evade/fight what's absolutely necessary (especially since you'll be drawing your deck) and in multiplayer your teammates will mostly just run around after you, killing monsters and picking up scraps.

So yeah, I agree with Matt's assessment of the top three offenders.  Honestly I'm just glad that he's aware of them and maybe even has plans to fix them.  On the other hand, since the game isn't competitive there's no real pressure to do what's strongest, so I'm not sure what the impact on game health really is; people who feel cards are busted simply won't play with them.  Although, that being said, I don't feel that's the kind of philosophy the devs should have.

At any rate, I think Cover Up is way too punishing for Roland, and should be scaled back somewhat (like if it had 2 clues).  As it is, I pretty much always run his replacements.

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One thing about the meta is it can change depending on Difficulty setting and also depending on player count.  For example, Rex isn't nearly so good on Hard mode as he is on Normal mode.  And an investigator like Jim is going to be much more helpful in a 4 player game than he is in lower player counts.  To make matters worse, higher XP cards are supposed to be stronger than lower ones, so we have to constantly re-evaluate every card based on XP cost as well as resource cost.    With that in mind,  when I think of the best cards in the game, they usually very versatile cards that will perform well regardless of player count or difficulty setting, ideally with low resource/XP costs.

Higher Education is probably top of the list on that criteria.   Let me put it this way,  I can't think of a situation where I would ever not spend the first 3 XP I get as a Seeker on Higher Education.   0 resource cost, permanent, fantastic bonuses, and all I have to do is keep 5 cards in hand.  This would be cheap at 4 xp, and very reasonable at 5.   Higher Ed. is also vastly more powerful than the other permanent talents.   Streetwise is definitely not better than Higher Education, and neither is Blood Pact.    

Other offending cards IMO...  

Pathfinder:  3 resource cost is reasonable, but the XP cost is very cheap, and this provides a ton of value for Seekers, or anyone else than can take it.  This shows up in pretty much every deck that can take it by the end of the 1st or 2nd scenario.

Liquid Courage:  Very possibly the best sanity healing in the game, so very cheap for what it does.   The effect isn't OP,  it's just undercosted.

Milan Christopher:  are there any arguments against this one?   His value is incredible, 0 xp cost, resource generation, and boosts INT.   He's so good, he single-handedly crowds out all the other seeker allies.   If you're a seeker and you don't have Charisma, chances are that you are using Milan Cristopher as your ally slot.   The only real exception is Ursula, and that's only because of Jake.

Holy Rosary:  This dominates the accessory slot on all mystics.   Hilariously enough, even a Relic Hunter mystic is hard pressed to include more diverse relics in their deck, because of the possibility of having a second Holy Rosary.  

Beat Cop:   Like the two on the list before it, he is so good that he is almost certainly the Guardian's ally slot unless the Guardian also has charisma.    



To be honest, none of the cards C2K mentioned are on my watch list.  I don't even consider any of them to be top tier, let alone overpowered, or dominating the meta.   They don't show up in every deck... I'd say they hardly show up in any decks. 

anyway, that's my 0.02$.

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While the cards you mention are certainly strong awp, I am not sure they cross any lines. It'd be nice to see them have some healthy competition though, especially the ones that take slots. Investigators definitely swing based  on the difficulty, so I'm less concerned about them. Rex is pretty much the go-to seeker though if you want to stomp anything on easy or even normal usually. Still, you are not forced to use him. I avoid initiating new players to the game with a Rex in the group simply because he wrecks the standard tempo, and I want them to understand what the game is capable of doing in terms of threat and suspense.

Liquid courage feels roughly where healing SHOULD be in my opinion. The other heals other than logical reasoning almost never get added to any of my decks because they just seem so action inefficient. I'd much rather toss in another ally or take True Grit on someone than add first aid. Healing 1 of anything is almost like spending an action so that you can take an action later that would otherwise damage you, in my mind, so it's not particularly efficient if you are able to manage your risk well. Healing 2, however, for an action is useful. I'd take healing that heals 1 even if they had supplies and were free-triggered. I just don't want to use that action for a simple removal of a single damage/horror.

It's pretty hard to beat anything that gives you willpower in a mystic deck. I don't see Rosary going anywhere anytime soon. I can't imagine what is better. Maybe something that gave you a resource every time you cast a spell or something that permitted tokens pulled to be treated as any of the specialty tokens? I dunno. Mystic COULD do with a few cheaper allies though. Arcane initiate is almost a requirement for most mystics, but other than that, their options are pretty pricey for what they do.

The permanents are obviously going to be where the most grievous offenders are simply because they are always in play and bend the rules a bit. You could even argue that Charisma is a bit overly powerful. With an ally heavy deck, you really stand very little chance of dying in most scenarios if you have charisma unless there are direct damage and horror coming at you.

Edited by Soakman

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2 hours ago, awp832 said:

Holy Rosary:  This dominates the accessory slot on all mystics.   Hilariously enough, even a Relic Hunter mystic is hard pressed to include more diverse relics in their deck, because of the possibility of having a second Holy Rosary.  

Beat Cop:   Like the two on the list before it, he is so good that he is almost certainly the Guardian's ally slot unless the Guardian also has charisma.

My last 2 Mystic decks - Jim and Mateo - didn't use the Rosary. With less reliance on Spells from having such a strong, balanced, stat line, there's not a huge need to boost Willpower. And often, this is outclassed by St Hubert's Key in all except cost, which for Mystics, isn't a huge drawback.

And most of my level 0 Guardian decks rather run the Guard Dog than the Beat Cop. He can cause more damage, and is cheaper - which is not insignificant to Guardians who run rigs heavy on expensive assets. The +1 Combat is super nice, but most Guardians can get that from their Weapon choice instead and 4/5 Fight is usually strong enough.

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Regarding the cards I mentioned, They break scenarios just for existing.  I don't think they are in no way overpowered , its just they cheapen the experience of the scenarios they affect. 

In high difficulty, the only card that jumps out at me as overpowered is Key of Ys (It really is good in all situations).

Seekers are good at getting clues at all levels, but you will be tossing more cards in the discard in order to not die from scenario.  Even then, Higher Education helps Daisy the most in high difficulty, because she can utilize the Will for spells.  Seekers are glass cannons in the high difficulties where most tokens you pull are negative to the check, but I can see the argument of them, especially Rex, ruining a low difficulty game.  I mean, in the higher difficulties drawing Rex's weakness can really turn the game on its head.  You can argue "You will pull the Elder sign", but you also have the same chance to draw the Failure token. 

I suppose it really depends on which difficulty Matt wants to balance the game around.  Personally, I think Standard is just too easy and the real challenge starts when you flip that scenario card to the harder side. 

I suppose you can make the argument that Key of Ys, Rex, and Higher Education combined is too strong, but then again, I would just say Key of Ys is really what is tipping the scales. 

 

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@awp832 I disagree with Holy Rosary and Beat Cop.  Especially with Holy Rosary, St. Hubert's key is objectively better for some Mystics who already have decent Int and can use that boost to investigate reliably, even though it costs twice as much.  Likewise the Beat Cop does have a pretty competitive ally in Guard Dog, and Brother Xavier is also incredible with some xp.  I do think the Beat Cop is the best Guardian ally, but his self-damaging ability and use as a sanity soak mean that he will die at some point, creating room for other allies.

Unlike Milan, who soaks 1 horror then stays around for the rest of the game.  I agree with the general assessment that Milan crowds out other allies, but I wonder if it's just because we're so used to having his extra Int and income, or if his extra income is so vital to us because Higher Education exists.  I think very competitive decks can be made without Milan though; Daisy can use Renfield or Alyssa, Rex can use Leo, Ursula has Jake, and Minh can use Peter or Aquinnah or Yaotl.  Of the cards you mention though, I think he's the closest to being too strong.

It's interesting you mention Pathfinder; I think it's right where a card should be in terms of strength.  It feels appropriately costed, it feels great to use, and has reasonable restrictions on its power.  I mean, I would still buy it if it cost 2xp, so maybe it is a little too cheap, xp-wise?

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I suppose there is a place in many decks for St. Hubert's Key, but that's essentially because it is an improved version of the Holy Rosary.   They do basically the same thing, and therefore are in the same category.  

I see many decks running Beat Cop with no guard dog, but hardly any decks running Guard dog with no beat cop.  Scroll through deck lists on Arkham DB and you'll see what I'm talking about.   Practically every guardian deck includes Beat Cop.   Only about a third of them include Guard dog (itself a very good card).    Most of the guard dog decks are Leo Anderson decks, which are also including Beat Cop.    Beat Cop is as common for Guardians as Milan Christopher is for Seekers (edit:  actually, probably Beat Cop is more common for Guardians than Milan is for seekers).  

On the Milan front, of course you can make a strong deck without Milan,  but that's not the point.   The point is that he is by far the strongest, most popular choice, often to the exclusion of other allies.   Again, on the first several pages of Arkham DB, I can only find a handful of seeker decks that don't include him.   

Pathfinder I would still buy at 2 xp and consider it a bargain.   I would still buy it even at 3 xp.   In games like this, it's not only about the effect, its about the effect relative to the cost.   And the effect of Pathfinder relative to its cost is very, very good.  Pathfinder is also a slotless card, which on one hand... is absolutely incredible.   On the other hand, it means it doesn't compete directly against other cards that require slots, so it doesn't lead to deck homogeny  quite as much as some of the others.  

Getting back to card cost.... perhaps this is why I have less of a problem with the Key of Ys.   The effect is very, very powerful.... however the cost is high.  This is a 5xp card, and it is unique.  Getting this card out is somewhat unreliable for most characters, who will hesitate to include a second copy of the card because of its high XP cost and unique status.  It's a good card.   I've seen it used to great effect...  but it's costly.   

Edited by awp832

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1 hour ago, awp832 said:

I suppose there is a place in many decks for St. Hubert's Key, but that's essentially because it is an improved version of the Holy Rosary.   They do basically the same thing, and therefore are in the same category.  

But that's precisely my point. The effect itself is good - static +1 WP - for Mystics, but that doesn't mean any card with it is overpowered. The very fact that there are 2 cards fulfilling that same function but are competitive in that slot means the cards aren't OP, because you could easily make a case for either in your deck. A card becomes OP when it's almost always strictly better than other cards in the same role. Dr Milan is a better example than the Rosary.

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I've never been concerned about the Key of Ys, personally.  Sure, it's great, but it takes a lot more work to set up than I think most people give it credit for.  Still, it wouldn't hurt my feelings if they errata'ed it to simply require dealt horror to be placed on it first - that would make it far more temporary.

I feel like Rex's dominance has eased off a lot as the card pool has expanded.  Archaic Glyphs especially really evens up the other Seekers in terms of clue gathering while letting them bring their own support capabilities as well.

Higher Education is good, but I think it's not any better than the other two good booster permanents.  Keen Eye can be weird, but mostly because the Guardian money issues keep it from being really great.  Blood Magic I'm actually coming around on.  There are plenty of turns where you'll be able to use it on every test, and having just played Black Stars Rise there are scenarios that it can break.  Sure, they could have made these five different versions of Scrapper, but then people would just be complaining about how boring it was.

For some of the other things commented here, like Holy Rosary...  I can see the argument that it's auto-include, but I don't necessarily think that makes it a problem card unless you happen to think the idea of permanent stat boosters are inherently problematic.  No matter what slot it took, a +1 WP for Mystics was going to be a very valuable card.  Same thing goes for Beat Cop, and Milan.  Any asset that boosts an investigator's primary stat is going to be valuable.

Personally I don't tend to think "It gets used a lot" makes a card a problem.  Especially with the relatively small card pool we have at the moment, it's rather inevitable that core good cards will make a lot of appearances - not only because they're good, but because the limited card pool means there aren't many creative combos that might work really well, so you're better off sticking to simple boosts.  That will change as the card pool grows - Mystic Doom builds should be a thing, and Guardian direct damage builds have proven surprisingly effective for me.  There's lots of potential moving forward.

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I really enjoyed the discussion in this thread, mainly because it felt like what it illustrated most of all (to me at least) was how one person's 'problem card' is another's 'well balanced' or 'fine' card - and how so much of the judgements we make on cards are based as much on our own play experiences as on an 'objective' (if there can be such a thing) assessment of cards. Those play experiences can vary based on player count, deckbuilding experience and preference, difficulty, familiarity with scenarios and the list goes on: it makes for a really vibrant framework within which to judge cards, and leads to some people disliking cards that others rate! I even think arkhamdb skews things here too: I build a lot of decks, but I publish on there rarely. There are a lot of published decks that probably don't offer much to the discussion of deck archetypes, placeholder decks that could've been kept private but haven't been. So even that has its own impact on how we perceive decks are being built and adjusted, and what cards are in vogue.

Finally (from me at least), I'm always intrigued by thoughts of auto-inclusion or a card crowding out others. After all, this isn't a competitive game; there aren't people sitting across from you ready to smash you if you don't play on meta. I often find myself leaning towards certain favoured cards and I have to stop myself and wonder 'why am I stuck on this card?' Sure, cards are strong, but there are many synergies and efficiencies we've probably still to discover in the game!

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5 hours ago, zooeyglass said:

I even think arkhamdb skews things here too: I build a lot of decks, but I publish on there rarely. There are a lot of published decks that probably don't offer much to the discussion of deck archetypes, placeholder decks that could've been kept private but haven't been.

ArkhamDB's system probably skews this a fair bit.  You can't share a deck at all, even with a specific person, without publishing it.  There are plenty of decks I build that I don't really feel the need to publish for the world (all of them, honestly) but I publish to share with people in my playgroups.

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20 minutes ago, Buhallin said:

ArkhamDB's system probably skews this a fair bit.  You can't share a deck at all, even with a specific person, without publishing it.  There are plenty of decks I build that I don't really feel the need to publish for the world (all of them, honestly) but I publish to share with people in my playgroups.

You can, in fact.  Go to "Edit profile" and check "Share your decks".

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4 minutes ago, CSerpent said:

You can, in fact.  Go to "Edit profile" and check "Share your decks".

That's good to know.

I hereby revise my comment to "Poor UX design makes it hard for people to know they can share their decks, so..." but believe the point still stands :D

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On the topic of Dr. Milan, i think he is popular because the Seeker class doesn't have many econ cards.  Archaic Glyphs (untranslated) is the only one i can think of off the top of my head and that card exists for its exp. cards.  

 

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18 hours ago, Buhallin said:

ArkhamDB's system probably skews this a fair bit.  You can't share a deck at all, even with a specific person, without publishing it.  There are plenty of decks I build that I don't really feel the need to publish for the world (all of them, honestly) but I publish to share with people in my playgroups.

hey thanks @CSerpent for letting people know. It's a funny one, isn't it, hiding that away - I'd love there to be more obvious details for people so they knew! 

@C2K that's very true - I suppose worth noting that seeker cards are (generally) lower on the cost curve though, too. A few 3 cost cards (OBoL, IGaP, Pathfinder, Horowitz) and lots of 2 or 1 costers. But it's hard to argue against an ally who boosts what you're meant to do (find clues) and rewards you for doing it! 

 

 

 

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Milan is definitely a weird duck.  He does generate resources like crazy, but Seeker cards are so cheap.  I mean they only have two cards that cost more than 3 and one of them is Milan.

I still agree its hard not to include him and Seekers have such a wide variety of L0 Allies to choose from, he started to bother me because he showed up often in my decks.  I did make a good Minh deck that doesn't use him and relies on Research Assistant (total cost of all cards in the deck is 12).  A buddy of mine made a good Roland deck that leveraged research assistant, art student and Maleson.

That being said, I think his real value is the +1 intellect.  Seekers other choice for that is Mag Glass and its better to have 4 cards that do that then 2.  Seekers really hit those investigate actions often.

BTW, how often do you make a Seeker deck without Mag Glass?  Isn't that just as common?  I know that leaves one hand free, but still.

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Speaking of things that let you do your job more effectively, what about machete?  There are some who would argue that it is the best all-around weapon in the game.  Personally I always include 2 in my Guardian decks and they're the last thing I cut when I'm putting in upgraded weapons.  Still, I think their targeting requirements keep them from being OP, but I'd like to hear why people think they crowd out all other level 0 weapons.

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21 minutes ago, SGPrometheus said:

Speaking of things that let you do your job more effectively, what about machete?  There are some who would argue that it is the best all-around weapon in the game.  Personally I always include 2 in my Guardian decks and they're the last thing I cut when I'm putting in upgraded weapons.  Still, I think their targeting requirements keep them from being OP, but I'd like to hear why people think they crowd out all other level 0 weapons. 

Yeah, I can't think of a Guardian deck that doesn't benefit from 2 Machetes. 

Its the +1 damage compared to other melee weapons that don't do +1 damage.  Firearms are nice but take lots of resources and support cards to keep going.  In a one player, its hard to beat a Machete.   Even in a two you get half the enemies engaged with you from the get go.  I think its when you get to 3+ that you start to spend so many actions engaging enemies.

That being said I wonder if anyone has done any analysis on how many actions you spend engaging enemies away from other investigators to do that +1 damage.  Compare that to just attacking twice with a blackjack.  Sure that's two skill checks instead of one, but it seems like overall, it may be a wash 90% of the time and BJ is cheaper and you are less concerned about tossing it to get a 2 handed weapon out.  I will say high HP enemies really need the damage bonus to take on but 2 or 3 HP enemies it doesn't seem to matter much action wise.  Having Zoe as the 2nd guardian released didn't help much since she gets bonuses for engaging so you may as well.

Man I have been having a lot of weird takes on good v bad guardian weapons lately.  Maybe next I will start a thread explaining why L0 Switchblade is the most overpowered weapon in the game.

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 I realize that different people have different criteria for what makes a card too strong, and plenty of people will argue that there are no such cards,  that's fine.   I also don't like to use the word "overpowered", which makes it seem like a card is so strong it's having an extremely negative effect on the game.   So far, I don't think there are any Arkham cards that are overpowered in the same way as it has affected other games, like Biggs, JumpMaster3000, Desperado, Noise, or Steward of Gondor in their respective games.     But, if we define a perfect metagame as one in which the maximum amount of different cards and deck types are competitive, then cards that are so strong they continually crowd out other available options are unhealthy for that.  What we're trying to avoid is "all Seeker decks look pretty much the same"  or something like that.    That's how I see it, at least.  

Anyway, on the Machete...   This is going to be some very rough guesswork, and I realize there are lots of things that can throw off the calculation (shuffling the encounter deck, massive enemies, 1 hp enemies, aloof enemies...)  but I think we can get an idea at least.      In 2 player (which is all I'm talking about here, it's what I have the most experience with)  you assume that  roughly 50% of the time you spend an action engaging first.  I would say in most scenarios I usually get most, but not all, the way through the encounter deck.  Perhaps 75% of the deck.  Approximately 10 enemies in the deck per scenario sound reasonable?  So... you'll draw maybe 8 of them,  you'll spend (again, this is a very rough guess  here)   about 4 actions on engaging enemies over the course of the game.    

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48 minutes ago, awp832 said:

 I realize that different people have different criteria for what makes a card too strong, and plenty of people will argue that there are no such cards,  that's fine.   I also don't like to use the word "overpowered", which makes it seem like a card is so strong it's having an extremely negative effect on the game.   So far, I don't think there are any Arkham cards that are overpowered in the same way as it has affected other games, like Biggs, JumpMaster3000, Desperado, Noise, or Steward of Gondor in their respective games.     But, if we define a perfect metagame as one in which the maximum amount of different cards and deck types are competitive, then cards that are so strong they continually crowd out other available options are unhealthy for that.  What we're trying to avoid is "all Seeker decks look pretty much the same"  or something like that.    That's how I see it, at least.  

Anyway, on the Machete...   This is going to be some very rough guesswork, and I realize there are lots of things that can throw off the calculation (shuffling the encounter deck, massive enemies, 1 hp enemies, aloof enemies...)  but I think we can get an idea at least.      In 2 player (which is all I'm talking about here, it's what I have the most experience with)  you assume that  roughly 50% of the time you spend an action engaging first.  I would say in most scenarios I usually get most, but not all, the way through the encounter deck.  Perhaps 75% of the deck.  Approximately 10 enemies in the deck per scenario sound reasonable?  So... you'll draw maybe 8 of them,  you'll spend (again, this is a very rough guess  here)   about 4 actions on engaging enemies over the course of the game.     

I like your definition.

And yeah I don't think you will see the numbers supporting a move from Machete at 2 player count.

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I think the problem with Seeker is that they have been getting subpar cards for a while, and nothing really to open other avenues of deckbuilding. 

Seekers are the main class to find clues, and the other classes haven't completely caught up yet. So you need a seeker who can find clues, Milan fills this role perfectly in so many ways.

The relic theme is a nice build around but needs some more pieces for now to actually be viable.

I think the support build with stuff like Guidance could also use some more cards.

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