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Subject: Call of Cthulhu Deckbuilding Example #1 (Hastur/Yog) rss

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David Boeren
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Marietta
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Time for another beginner's Call of Cthulhu article. Last time I was talking about the very basics of deckbuilding, and now we're going to go through an entire example where I'm going to go through the steps and build a deck from scratch using a fairly modest card pool to reflect what you can get on a reasonable budget.

My target is to use cards from the following:
1. One copy of the Core set
2. One copy of the Secrets of Arkham expansion
3. Some packs from the Yuggoth Contract cycle

What do I mean by "some packs"? I'm going to be figuring that out as I go. You see, a common question asked by starting players is "Where do I go next after I have the Core set?" Well, my first suggestion is always to get Secrets of Arkham but after that (and at some point a second Core set) the Yuggoth Contract is probably the most-recommended starting point. Why is that? Well, it's just a pretty solid cycle of cards. It's after the switch from the ancient 40-card format to the modern 60-card format so there is zero chance you could accidentally get hosed by buying an old pack that's been sitting on the shelf for years, but it's BEFORE the introduction of the Silver Twilight faction so you're not getting any cards you can't really use yet because you don't have enough of that faction. However, I understand that even this much may be considered an expensive start by some people and that's fair enough. So, I'm going to try to keep it limited to the point where we're not using ALL the Yuggoth packs, only some of them. Let's set a target of no more than four and see how we do. The thing I want you to keep in mind as I do a couple more future examples is, each sample deck might use a DIFFERENT few packs depending on what sort of cards are in them. Fair enough I hope? If this doesn't seem like a reasonable starting point just let me know and I can try to meet you guy's need, but you do need at least something beyond the Core set to be able to do meaningful deck design because there's just not enough choices without a few more cards.

OK, let's make a deck! I'm going to pick two factions (omitting Silver Twilight) at random by picking one card from each faction, shuffling them, and then drawing two of them. Looks like we've got ... Hastur and Yog. Hot dog, that's a combination I've actually used in the recent past too. However, since I build that deck (based mainly on lots of Cultists and cards that can do things with Cultists BTW) from a different and larger pool of cards the decks probably won't end up looking much alike.

First, let me introduce you to a very useful tool, the online Call of Cthluhu deck builder located at http://www.cardgamedb.com/index.php/CoC/cocdeckbuilder.html

It's pretty easy to use and I find it to be a great asset. You can tell it which packs of cards you have, and then filter those cards by type, cost, faction, what icons they have, keywords, etc, etc... Super-handy. Don't miss the "Graphs" button at the bottom either.

I've also published the final version of the deck on cardgamedb so you can view it and if you wish follow along with the article and see the cards I'm talking about.
The link is here:
http://www.cardgamedb.com/index.php/CoC/cocdecks.html/_/coc-...

So let's start by checking out what we have. I've set the "Set" filter to include the cards mentioned at the top of this article, and unchecked all the factions except for Yog and Hastur. I can put Neutrals in there too, but you don't want too many. I'll be checking those a bit later - first I want the 50,000 foot view. Finally, I'm going to use the "Type" filter to look at Character, Event, and Support cards separately. Let's see what we've got...

OK, not counting Neutrals we've got 48 Characters, 25 Events, and just 7 Supports. Let's start with the characters. I feel they tend to help set the theme for the deck and they're the most fun because the "story" of the game kind of centers around them. I'm going to take a spin through the characters and pick out some that look cool to me to start with. I like to break them down by cost, and we may end up trimming the list a bit later.

Cost 0-2
Arcane Initiate - cheap and thematic
Dangerous Inmate - he can fight a bit and I can use him to take out enemy characters by driving them insane (at the cost of him going insane too)
Demon Lover - cool artwork, and has a useful toolbox ability
Disciple of the Gate - a good fighter, going to want some of those
Messenger From Beyond - I know Hastur likes making guys go crazy, and he can remove one of the obstacles that might prevent this
Ghost - he's Invulnerable which makes him a good defender
Servant of Nodens - useful since he's got both Terror AND Combat
Victoria Glasser - Instantly drives someone insane when played

Cost 3-4:
Bird Demon - Lots of icons for his cost
Byakhee Servant - Looks like a good combat/terror character again, plus Fast is nice as it's a tie-breaker
...

You know what? I'm starting to get a theme vibe here. I'm picking out a lot of flappy things like Byakhees, Bird Demon, Servant of Nodens, etc... That's how it goes sometimes, you just get inspired by a theme you want to do and that can be a vital tool for narrowing down your choices. 48 is too many Characters to go through one at a time. Now, what might go with flappy monsters? Maybe other flying things like the Ghost. Maybe some guys who might be summoning them to do their bidding or riding on them? Let's focus on that and break it down by cost like this: I'm putting a * on the guys that definitely fit the theme.

Cost 1:
Arcane Initiate - cheap and thematic
Ghost - he's Invulnerable which makes him a good defender

Cost 2:
Dangerous Inmate - he can fight a bit and i can use him to take out enemy characters by driving them insane (at the cost of him going insane too)
Demon Lover - cool artwork, and has a useful toolbox ability
Disciple of the Gate - a good fighter, going to want some of those
* Fledgling Byakhee - Fits my flappy theme and has Fast, plus he's awesome at Night but I don't know if I can do that here yet...
Messenger From Beyond - i know Hastur likes making guys go crazy, and he can remove one of the obstacles that might prevent this
* Servant of Nodens - useful since he's got both Terror AND Combat
Victoria Glasser - Instantly drives someone insane when played

Cost 3:
* Bird Demon - Lots of icons for his cost
* Byakhee Servant - Looks like a good combat/terror character again, plus Fast is nice as it's a tie-breaker
* Hunting Nightgaunt - Another flappy thing, and anothing card that likes it to be Night...
* Swooping Byakhee - Gotta get all those Byakhees in there, and I like taking cards away from my opponent, he probably needed that

It's probably time to start counting how many cards we have so we know where we're at. We'll pretend for a moment that we're going to put in the max number we have of each card and get:

1xArcane Initiate
1xGhost
3xDangerous Inmate
1xDemon Lover
1xDisciple of the Gate
3xFledgeling Byakhee
1xMessenger from Beyond
1xServant of Nodens
1xVictoria Glasser
3xBird Demon
1xByakhee Servant
3xHunting Nightgaunt
3xSwooping Byakhee
23 cards

We're pretty close, just need about 7 more. At this point I'm going to start looking at some Neutrals, and going back through our list for anyone I missed who might fit in nicely.

I sort of like
1xBearer of the Yellow Sign - Some more potential insanity
1xCannibal Ghast - Solid defender for cheap
3xCrazed Shoggoth - A strong character for the price, but he's running amok? Gotta have some of those!
1xDabbler in the Unknown - Surprise success token is a fun threat to have on the table
3xFlying Polyps - Oops, missing a flying thing there and he's a real pain to get rid of too

We've actually got a few too many cards now, I want to trim back by 2. Let's drop one Dangerous Inmate (I expect I don't need to drive THAT many guys insane at once), and one Fledgeling Byakhee (if I find a good way to make it Night I may put him back later).

Characters are done for now! We've ended up with what looks like a relatively fast deck, almost everyone costs 3 or less, which means that we can stop resourcing earlier in the game and keep more cards to play. Sounds good to me.

Next, let's take a look at some events. We've got 25 types and we're looking to cut that way down so we can end up with about 12-13 cards. I mentioned in the last article that Yog often goes takes more Events than Supports so I won't feel bad if it ends up 14 but let's see.

1xA Single Glimpse - One enemy, straight down the drain.
3xAll Are One - Helps us filter for the cards we want right now
1xBlind Submission - taking control of an enemy character sounds fun
1xByakhee Attack - It's got Byakhees in it, how can I turn that down with our theme?
3xCasting off the Skin - One guy at a story suddenly turns into something MUCH nastier
1xJourney to the Other Side - helps us find the cards we want and plan ahead better
1xPower Drain - Spoiling the other guy's nasty trick could leave him in a BAD spot
1xScotaphobia - Very useful for those guys who just don't want to go crazy
1xUnspeakable Resurrection - You know my guy you finally killed? He's back.

That happens to make 13, so let's hold it there. For Supports there aren't as many choices, I'm going to go with:

2xCarcosa - We've got a couple things that make our opponent discard from his hand, how about some more?
3xCursed Skull - Another great way to remove characters
1xForbidden Shrine - More skill is handy, plus I can almost imagine things flapping around that pillar
1xSedated - Make sure those insane guys don't come back
2xTerrors in the Dark - Hey, a card that makes it Night! I was hoping to find one of those...

Let's drop one Cursed Skull to scale back a bit and I think we're good. Since I found a Night card I'm also going to drop one Crazed Shoggoth for the third Fledgling Byakhee. Here's the whole deck now:

Characters 15/14/1 Hastur/Yog/Neutral
1xArcane Initiate - cheap and thematic
1xCannibal Ghast - Solid defender for cheap
1xGhost - because he reminds me of A Christmas Carol w/ Ebenezer Scrooge and he's Invulnerable which makes him a good defender
1xDabbler in the Unknown - Surprise success token is a fun threat to have on the table
2xDangerous Inmate - he can fight a bit and i can use him to take out enemy characters by driving them insane (at the cost of him going insane too)
1xDemon Lover - cool artwork, and has a useful toolbox ability
1xDisciple of the Gate - a good fighter, going to want some of those
3xFledgling Byakhee - Fits my flappy theme and has Fast, plus he's awesome at Night but I don't know if I can do that here yet...
1xMessenger From Beyond - I know Hastur likes making guys go crazy, and he can remove one of the obstacles that might prevent this
1xServant of Nodens - useful since he's got both Terror and Combat for cheap
1xVictoria Glasser - Instantly drives someone insane when played
1xBearer of the Yellow Sign - Some more potential insanity
3xBird Demon - Lots of icons for his cost
1xByakhee Servant - Looks like a good combat/terror character again, plus Fast is nice as it's a tie-breaker
2xCrazed Shoggoth - A strong character for the price, but he's running amok? Gotta have some of those!
3xHunting Nightgaunt - Another flappy thing, and anothing card that likes it to be Night...
3xSwooping Byakhee - Gotta get all those Byakhees in there, and I like taking cards away from my opponent, he probably needed that
3xFlying Polyps - Oops, missing a flying thing there and he's a real pain to get rid of too

Events 4/9 Hastur/Yog
1xA Single Glimpse - One enemy, straight down the drain.
3xAll Are One - Helps us filter for the cards we want right now
1xBlind Submission - taking control of an enemy character sounds fun
1xByakhee Attack - It's got Byakhees in it, how can I turn that down with our theme?
3xCasting off the Skin - One guy at a story suddenly turns into something MUCH nastier
1xJourney to the Other Side - helps us find the cards we want and plan ahead better
1xPower Drain - Spoiling the other guy's nasty trick could leave him in a BAD spot
1xScotaphobia - Very useful for those guys who just don't want to go crazy
1xUnspeakable Resurrection - You know my guy you finally killed? He's back.

Support 3/3/2 Hastur/Yog/Neutral
2xCarcosa - We've got a couple things that make our opponent discard from his hand, how about some more?
2xCursed Skull - Another great way to remove characters
1xForbidden Shrine - More skill is handy, plus I can almost imagine things flapping around that pillar
1xSedated - Make sure those insane guys don't come back
2xTerrors in the Dark - Hey, a card that makes it Night! I was hoping to find one of those...

That's 51 cards, close enough. Now we're set to play our deck a few times and see what it does well against and what it seems to have trouble with. Now, how'd we do on asylum packs? We did not use any cards from The Wailer Below, so that's 5 Asylum Packs used. If we wanted to trim that down, what I'd suggest is that we count how many cards come from each pack we DID use, pick a pack with only one card, and see what we can replace it with that's similar.

Turns out that the only card we used from the "Screams from Within" pack is 2xDangerous Inmate. I could probably replace him with 1xMad Artist and 1xSon of Yeb and be OK, although I'd miss his ability to drive people insane. Alternately, I could put that 3rd Crazed Shoggoth back in for one of them too. Any of these are reasonable modifications but I think I may prefer sticking with the 2-cost characters.

Things I'm pretty happy with:
1. I've got a coherent theme. It's not as pronounced as it would be with a bigger cardpool but it makes the deck more fun to play for me.
2. I've got a card that makes it Night and cards that benefit from it being Night. Most of the Day/Night cards are in the Dreamlands cycle, that one last cycle that hasn't been reprinted yet, so we're lucky to find one and our opponents are less likely to have cards to get rid of Night.
3. We ended up with a pretty good faction balance (21/27/3), it's tipped just a bit to the Yog side, you might try replacing some of the Yog Events with something like The Yellow Sign or another Hastur Event? Pretty optional though - this is very much a "season to taste" thing.
4. Our resource curve looks pretty good too, with mostly 2's and 3's, a reasonable number of 1's, and just a few 4's.
5. We can easily meet our target of no more than 4 asylum packs if we want to, or keep it at the current 5 packs.
6. Looking over the cards it seems like there's a nice mix of Terror, Combat, and Arcane icons - it's probably a fairly rounded deck. No Investigation, but that's common with the factions we're playing.

The next step would typically be testing & tuning the deck, where we learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of what we've made, and which cards aren't pulling their weight. Usually what I like to for that is to play some test games against a couple of fairly basic decks I've used in the past. I commonly use one Cthulhu deck representing something sort of slow and destruction driven and one Syndicate deck representing something fast and slippery. Then maybe pick one more sample opponent to round out the field, usually a dual-faction deck of some kind, typically whatever I have lying around that I may have made recently. We're not going to cover that right now, but you can easily put them up against the decks from the Core set or against the other decks we're going to make in the next couple of articles.

OK, that's it for now. It wasn't quite as structured of an article as I'd originally envisioned but for me at least deckbuilding is a fairly organic thing and casual decks don't need that much brow-furrowing anyway. You may notice several cards you like with a common theme (lots of flapping Byakhee and other flying creatures) or a couple of things that seem to fit together in an interesting way (Terror in the Dark + Fledgling Byakhee, multiple effects that discard from the hand, etc...) and you're off to the races. It doesn't have to be any harder than that unless you want it to - but you CAN take it to a higher level if that's your thing.

So what's the difference between this deck, and the sort of deck you could build if you bought a few more Asylum Packs? Well, largely you're going to have more chance of finding exactly what you want or being able to follow a theme or combo. More cards = more customization = more creativity. For instance, we're happy enough now with our two Night cards and a few Characters that gain power at Night. If we wanted to expand that, we could pick a couple of packs with additional Night themed Characters. We could potentially get more Byakhees, and weed out some of the less thematic (or less favored) Characters we have now. Some of the Core cards we might like to have two copies of if possible. Basically, pick any aspect of the current deck you like whether it be Terror, discarding from the hand, Night, taking control, sacrificing guys, Lunatics, or whatever, and you could add to it with more cards along that theme if you wanted to. More packs also opens up your options for single-faction decks quite a bit. At this point we can do it, but there's less customization than we'd prefer.
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Outstanding. Thank you for taking the time to write this up. It was quite enjoyable to read through your design process, and I think it will be helpful for beginning players who want to move beyond the basic decks provided in the Core set. Articles like this and the others you've posted are just what this unrecognized yet excellent LCG needs.

Again, thanks and keep up the great work!
 
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Mike Niederer
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subscribed and pimped as well!
 
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Mark Wignall
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Passing along a heart felt thank you as well for doing these write ups. I've bought two-core sets and the Silver Twighlight expansion, and there it sat. Not to popular here locally, so tend to just play slap 2 packs and go with my kids.

Your articles have inspired me to have another go at. Thanks!
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