2007 Lang Codex Archive

11/28/2007Dunwich Preview Part 2by Chris Long

This week in our continuation of Dunwich Denizens previews, I'll be expanding on some of the strategies which were showcased last week, and delve back into the new card type introduced in Conspiracies of Chaos.

Negotium Perabulans in Tenebris is definitely not the type of Conspiracy card you are used to seeing. A huge ability, and a tough restriction which means this card will be sticking around for a while. If you thought the previous Conspiracies weren't powerful enough, then this card should be right up your alley.

This card by itself can significantly slow down a rush deck, and I would expect to see people experiment with this card quite a bit in control decks. And in fact, some rush decks may want to play this card themselves. The Ghoul Khanum could get rid of a lot of blockers with this wonderful little Conspiracy.

MU has been experimenting with a "skill matters" strategy for the last few Asylum packs, and I think players will be interested to see where it goes in the future. Although it isn't quite the same, this card works perfectly within that strategy.

To close out this article, I'll expand a little on my stats from last week:

  • There are 6 unique characters, concentrated in 3 factions
  • There are 4 unique locations, one in each of 4 factions
  • There is 1 unique, Neutral support card

I hope you've enjoyed this preview, and I hope its illustrated how much design space is yet to be explored with this new Conspiracy card type. The possibilities really are wide open.

Discuss this Codex on the boards here.

11/19/2007Dunwich Preview Part 1by Chris Long

"Bigger'n a barn... all made o' squirmin' ropes... nothin' solid abaout it - all like jelly, an' made o' sep'rit wrigglin' ropes pushed clost together... great bulgin' eyes all over it... ten or twenty maouths or trunks a-stickin' aout all along the sides, big as stove-pipes an all a-tossin' an openin' an' shuttin'..."

The Dunwich Horror. One of the most classic and well known of Lovecraft's stories. An evocative tale of a strange and decayed family who called forth an unimaginable creature from the outer bounds of time and space. And it just happens to be my favorite of Lovecraft's tales of horror.

For today's article we will not be spoiling the Horror itself. That card is just too much fun to give away in this article. Instead, let's take a look at his brother, Wilbur, that shooting star of a son who grew up too quick.

Wilbur is an excellent example of how this pack stretched the bounds of game design. There are a lot of flavorful cards in this set, but there are also a lot of new designs here as well. This was Nate's first time in the design chair, and I think he did an excellent job.

The first thing you probably noticed was his crazy collection of icons. For only 3-cost that's pretty awesome. Add the 3 skill on to that and he's well above the average character in terms of stats.

But the really cool part about Wilbur is his ability, which brings us into brand new areas of game design. The last Asylum pack stretched the bounds of what story cards could be, and now Wilbur plays with the concept of winning stories themselves.

The thing I enjoy the most about Wilbur is that he forces your opponent to block him more often than he might otherwise want to. You can't let him continually win skill because all too quickly he'll become a won story himself. It's hard not to notice the giant bulls-eye on this guy, and he'll force your opponent into using up more resources fighting him while leaving your other characters alone.

That's all for this week, but expect another article in the near future. This set is just so much fun, I can't wait until you see all the cards. Okay, now a couple statistics...

  • There are 9 characters, but not one for each faction
  • There are 8 support cards, but not one for each faction
  • There are 11 unique cards

That's all for this codex. Personally, I can't wait for this set, it's so much fun.

Discuss this Codex on the boards here.

8/30/2008The Black Codex: Inside the Mind of the World Championby Jim Black

Hello all! As the new world champion, I was asked to write a Codex, detailing my GenCon Worlds experience. I have decided to make this a tournament report with a more in-depth look at my decisions and thought processes as I played some of the matches. Here is my deck:

My decklist (53 cards):


(2) Cthulhu, High Priest of R'lyeh
(2) Bestial Shoggoth
(3) Assistant to Dr. West
(2) Mentor to Vaughn
(3) Yig, Father of Snakes
(3) Ravager from the Deep
(3) Dagon, Father of the Deep
(2) The Beast, Model for the Sphinx
(2) Carl Stanford, Deathless Fanatic
(2) Keeper of the Golden Path
(3) Deep One Rising
(3) Guardian Shoggoth

EVENTS (18):

(4) Deep One Assault
(2) The Stars are Right
(4) Sacrificial Offerings
(3) Aquatic Ambush
(3) The Great Old One Rises!
(2) Dream Summoning


(3) Forgotten Isle
(2) Revealed of Ra

Your Deck Is...Interesting
At first glance, it probably raises some eyebrows. There are a lot of cards that veteran deckbuilders would look at as questionable choices: Aquatic Ambush, The Beast, Revealed of Ra...Revealed of Ra? I don't even remember what that card does! There doesn't seem to be a theme to the deck either. Is it a combo deck? Not exactly, but combinations that can win the game are built into it. Does it have speed? It won't outrun Syndicate Rush, but it is surprisingly fast for a Cthulhu deck. What about control? You need only look at the events to know that it is big on control, particularly in regards to characters. This deck is something of a hybrid deck. I call it a toolbox deck, because it has a tool, or an answer, to any kind of deck that an opponent would happen to play. It does not excel at any one thing, but has a good variety of cards against almost any problem. Playing a toolbox deck is not always easy: you have to identify the deck that your opponent is playing as soon as possible, so you can begin planning against it. If you can't tell what your opponent is playing, you may end up resourcing the very card you needed.

A Glimpse of the Void
Let's take a look at some matches against various decks.

MATCH 1: Eric Hylin (Syndicate Rush/ Rip-Off)

My initial thoughts: As soon as I saw Syndicate cards being resourced, I knew what I was looking at. Luckily, I was going first. Ideally, I want a good first-turn drop. Yig is the gold standard. A first-turn Yig is a death knell to many Syndicate decks. With 4 skill and Ancient One status, Syndicate doesn't have many answers to the Snake Lord. Barring that fortunate draw, I want to keep a lot of 1 and 2-cost cards, particularly events. If I get Ripped-Off, I'll need events like Sacrificial Offerings, Deep One Assault, and Aquatic Ambush to fend off his characters. The good thing about the Rip-Off is that it will require all of his resources for the turn to pull it off, buying me another turn to stop the rush. If I can survive the first couple of turns, most Syndicate decks will run out of steam and I'll be able to seize control.

How it played out: I managed to have a Sacrificial Offerings in my initial draw, as well as a Deep One Assault. His character rush got off to a slow start, as he only dropped two characters in the first 2 turns. On my second turn, I dropped a Guardian Shoggoth and Carl Stanford thanks to a Dream Summoning. He didn't find a Rip-Off until turn 4, which was too late. A Revealed of Ra finished things off quickly.

Match 3: Scott Ferguson (Yog/Shub Infinite Discard)

My initial thoughts: His reputation preceded him, and I was fairly certain I'd face at least one Inifinite Discard deck at Worlds. When faced with a deck like this, I need Deep One Assaults and lots of them. A Sacrificial Offerings is nice, but many discard decks no longer rely on Ancient Guardians for the combo, due to their lack of toughness. My goal is to use Deep One Assaults to destroy a piece of the combo and make sure it stays destroyed long enough for me to win some stories and hopefully, the match. For this reason, I usually avoid targeting the Shining Trapezohedron- this is the linchpin of the deck and every player will have multiple safeguards to prevent the item's destruction, or ways to retrieve it from their discard pile. I only have 4 Deep One Assaults, ideally, so I need to be selective in my targeting. One of my primary targets is Decrepit Mausoleum. The cost lowering helps my opponent far more than it helps me. Also, any artifact other than Shining Trap (whether an artifact naturally, or by the attachment Artifact of the Lost Cities) is a good target, as I don't want my opponent to get a second artifact and stall with the infinite Glimpse of the Void. These secondary artifacts are usually not as well safeguarded. Also, the Beast is a nice card against the Artifact of the Lost Cities, as it allows me to destroy an Attachment just by playing a Ritual. Lastly, when faced with a deck that can win in 2 turns, a little luck doesn't hurt either!

How it played out: The stories looked encouraging: the story that destroys resources (Abysses of Night) and the one that forces you to discard your hand (Shadows of Nephren-Ka) were in play.

My opening hand was also good: 2 Deep One Assault and 1 Sacrificial Offerings. I ended up resourcing 4 straight characters to open the game. Breaking the combo is the primary goal: playing characters can come later if I survive. The first turn was quiet. On his second turn, he played a Decrepit Mausoleum. I DOA'd it, fearing he would play a Shining Trapezohedron and trigger his win condition. I played Sacrificial Offerings on the only two characters he played, but couldn't make any headway at stories thanks to Glimpse of the Void. I finally used my second DOA on an artifact attachment, breaking the Glimpse of the Void cycle. I won two stories, and discarded our hands and knocked our resources back to one on each domain. He didn't draw anything to save himself and I took down a third story as fast as I could.

MATCH 4: John Hartigan (Yog, Shub, Nodens, Wounding deck)

My initial thoughts: I immediately saw that he wasn't playing Science of Destruction. Based on his resources, I wasn't sure what he was playing. When I'm not sure what I'm looking at, I proceed with caution. I don't keep multiple copies of cards, even good ones (I had two Sacrificial Offerings in my initial draw, but resourced one of them) because I want to keep my options as open as possible. As I figure out what my opponent is playing, I can begin planning a proper strategy to attack the deck. The deck ended up focusing on wounding. My best defense against that is Greg (the Assistant to Dr. West), but I also have Carl Stanford, Cthulhu, and Dagon with Invulnerability. I have Ravager from the Deep and Guardian Shoggoth with Toughness 1 and 2, respectively. Wounding decks don't worry me generally. I also have Forgotten Isle, which works particularly well against Nodens (who wounds himself when he enters play).

How it played out: John's deck was tough: He used Living Mummy and Nodens to wound characters, Thing in the Cave to destroy support, and Ithaqua to bring back the choice characters. I believe he destroyed all three of my Forgotten Isles during the match. However, I usually used them to blank Nodens and kill him before John could remove the Isles. Yig was a staunch supporter who avoided Noden's strikes and kept most of John's other characters down. I also had the Assistant and the Mentor out and an open domain at all times. Every time Nodens hit, I disrupted and sent the Assistant back to hand and the Mentor to the discard pile. Then, I played the Assistant out next turn and brought back the Mentor. In this way, I always managed to stay one step ahead of his wounding tactics.

The Finals: John Sweigart (Shub Ghoul/Nodens)

My initial thoughts: I had seen the deck in action twice prior to this match, so I had a pretty good idea of its capabilities. The deck wanted to use Nodens for wounding and get as many Ghoul Khanums out as fast as possible. Failing that, it wanted to use Chris (Mentor to Vaughn) to exhaust and rush stories with characters. The best answer for this that I had available was Yig and Greg in tandem. Yig destroys the Ghouls and Greg manages to put them together again and recruit them to fight on my side. I also wanted Chris out to exhaust any characters that I couldn't destroy or kill right away.

How it played out: The game started quickly for me. I played Yig first or second turn (thanks to The Stars Are Right) and John was reluctant to drop Ghouls down, knowing I could Yig them and set them up for a date with the Assistant to Dr. West. We sparred back and forth with Mentors and some other characters. I managed to get the upper hand and win Parable of the Faceless One. Then I destroyed most of his characters (including a Ghoul Khanum) with Deep One Assault, Yig and Sacrificial Offerings. I ran at two stories and had three tokens on each. I felt good. Then, John produced dueling Mentors and knelt my defender. I regretted my overcommitment to offense, as John mustered up enough tokens to win one of the stories I had 3 tokens on. I knew I could win a second story, but things became tense again as he had closed the gap. I had the Chris and Greg show once again, but John had some defense now. Going into my next turn, I knew I could put three tokens on one story and win the other, but to do so would leave John open to win his second story. I was very worried...until I drew another Assistant to Dr. West and used it to take the Ghoul Khanum from John's graveyard. I put two tokens on the first story via Assistant and teamed up the Ghoul Khanum and Mentor to generate the five tokens I needed on the other story.

The Greg and Chris Show: A Ratings Bonanza!

I just wanted to add here that facing Nodens wounding decks (which I did four times- John Hartigan and John Sweigart twice each), the Chris and Greg show came to the forefront and stole the show. Channeling the spirits of the previous World champions, I was always able to stay ahead of the wounding curve. They often brought me victory all by themselves. Greg would disrupt and go back to my hand, while Chris went to the discard pile. But then, next turn, Greg reappeared and he brought Chris along with him, good as new! Then, Chris would kneel an opponent's character and it was story time. It was like they undid everything that Nodens had strived to achieve. Now that's teamwork! I can only hope my card works as well as the previous two.

8/14/2007A Conspiracy for All Seasonsby Chris Long

The Call of Cthulhu collectible card game rises from the ashes with an evil new construct that was planted by the Ancient Ones in the crazed minds of the R&D team. "Story cards" that you play from your hand? Chaos! To sort through the implications, we present current Call of Cthulhu World Champion Chris Long, who will be defending his title against all comers later this week at GenCon Indianapolis. The Conspiracies of Chaos Asylum Pack will also make its debut at GenCon. We all hope to see you there! And now, here's Chris'

The third Asylum pack for the Call of Cthulhu Collectible Card Game takes the game into new design area, so far unexplored, and gives us some hints into the mind of our designers. My favorite part about this set though, is its implied message: despite the change of formats, we will continue to see fun and interesting new twists to what we thought we knew about our game.

Of course what I'm talking about is the new card type coming out in this set: the Conspiracy. So without further ado...

A "Conspiracy" is a new type of card that is played during the operations phase, and it comes into play functioning as a new story card, in addition to the 3 in play.

You've only got time for one conspiracy at a time, so you can only have one in play at a time, but both players could be working at different conspiracies, so there's the possibility of having up to 5 stories which players (and their characters) must struggle over. (In a multiplayer game, this number can get even higher.)

Speaking of struggles, this was by far the most difficult play-testing we've had to do for these Asylum packs. There were a lot of factors we had to consider and try to keep in check when figuring out how this new card type was going to work. We went through a couple different ideas, first considering how they worked in general and then considering what kind of powers they would have. However, each different variation either introduced new problems or seemed too reminiscent of existing design space, such as for example story attachments. Eventually, the problems we presented to the design team were ironed out, and you can see the fruit of our combined labors to the left of this article.

As you may notice from the spoiler, only the owner of the Conspiracy card may trigger its ability. If your opponent discovers that you've been conspiring and spoils all your hard work (by winning the conspiracy instead of letting you win it), it doesn't mean they put the same effort into it! You still "created" the conspiracy, your opponent has merely foiled that conspiracy's plan. And sometimes it's better to foil your opponent's plans than it is to advance your own.

However, these conspiracy abilities can be quite powerful, so you can't just ignore them and let the owner go to town. There's one Conspiracy for each faction and, as you might expect, they are all geared toward that particular faction's strengths and strategies. There's also a number of cards that trigger off you (or any player) having a Conspiracy card in play, or that help you advance your Conspiracy in some way.

Conspiracies are cool, but they're not all you're going to find in this Asylum pack. So if Conspiracies don't interest you, fear not! There's more to life than just hidden plots and scheming fiends. Did I hear an unearthly howl?

The Shrieking Byakhee reintroduces a theme to the Hastur faction that hasn't really been missing, but hasn't quite been picked up yet. This card alone makes me want to make a Byakhee deck, and I'm sure I'm not alone. They're generally some of the better creatures in the faction, but always cost at least 3. Who doesn't like 2 characters for 1, and getting them at a premium? It takes a little bit of domain building to work out, but the investment could be worth it.

In the end, I think this pack, and the Conspiracies in particular, came out great, and I'm excited to see how they'll be used. Some factions certainly benefit more from additional story cards, so we'll have to see how it shakes up the meta. And the mythos.

3/21/2007Tough Choices and Crucial Decisionsby Chris Long (aka cannon), 2006 World Champion

For this week, I'd thought that I would talk a little about an often over-looked strategy within Call of Cthulhu. It's over-looked partly because it simply does not have a large range of cards devoted to it, but it has been getting a little bit of recognition on the boards lately. Since its one of my favorite strategies in card games, it sounded perfect as the topic of the next Codex.

The strategy? Hand Disruption.

For those of you that know, I'm a big fan of cards which give you a cool ability but at the expense of resources you would have liked to keep. My favorite though is when those resources are the cards in your hand. Temple of Nephren-Ka is a great example of this, reducing the cost of any card, but requiring you to discard at the same time.

Another great example of this is my card, the Mentor to Vaughn. He's a nasty card to see hit the table, made all the worse by the fact that you can save him from almost certain death, if you are willing to discard a card from hand. Some might suggest that this is too good, since most experienced players will always have a card or two in their hand, however, what I love about it is the tough choices it forces you to make. Most players will hold cards in hand that they want to use, instead of junk for potential use by the Mentor, so each time they save the Mentor may be a crucial decision.

Looking back to the strategy of hand disruption, it certainly hasn't seen a lot of play. I think the largest obstacle to this tactic is that most of the best effects all require them to be played during the operations phase. This means that ultimately, your opponent will still be able to play cards on their turn. That's probably for the best, in terms of game balance, but it certainly doesn't help the strategy.

There's more to say, but first I'd like to get to the deck. For this one I decided to pair my hand disruption with Yog's Omar/Cultist-wounding strategy, because you still need to be able to take care of the stuff they manage to get into play. So without further ado...

2x UT R73 •Hastur, The Unspeakable
4x FR R93 Master of the Key
4x EE R151 •Omar Shakti, Ageless Wizard
3x EE C157 Daughter of Nug
4x EE C161 Son of Yeb
4x MN U78 Demon Lover
4x FC C78 Pulp Writer
4x FC R91 •Ithaqua, The Killing Cold
4x SM F9 Obscene Byakhee

4x AE U136 Byakhee Attack
4x EE C135 Amnesia
4x EE C165 A Single Glimpse

3x AE R143 •Carcosa, Palace of the Tattered King
4x AE U224 Forgotten Temple

Total 52

Much like Transformers, there's more than meets the eye with this theme. It is true that your opponent will still be able to play cards, but they will also never be able to hold onto cards, which can be quite powerful.

There's also a level of bluffing involved where the opponent must make difficult choices between using the cards in hand, or trying to hold onto them and build up a hand to thwart your strategy. With Carcosa always threatening to begin discarding their deck, not having a hand could be a very dangerous prospect for your opponent.

The characters have been picked largely for their synergy with the Omar wounding theme. Daughter of Nug gives some additional acceleration, while Son of Yeb is just an all around good fighter. The Pulp Writer rounds out our Cultists with some really high skill, but also a nice backup character control for those times when wounding just doesn't work.

Master of the Key is there largely for some tempo control, and the ability to slow down the rush decks. Since this isn't a buddy-faction pairing, this deck takes a little bit longer to set up, and he helps tremendously toward that. Plus, with Ithaqua in play, your opponent will be pulling out their hair trying to get ready characters.

On the non-cultist side we have Demon Lover, for her skill reduction which pairs very well with the Omar strategy, as well as Ithaqua for the obvious character recursion. Ithaqua goes so well with multiple strategies in this deck, I don't think it would function half as well without him. Then there's the Byakhee for some more hand disruption, which is random as a nice bonus. When those characters come together, its even better. Ithaqua bringing back the Byakhee after your opponent draws cards is really evil.

Lastly, I'm sure you noticed I threw in a couple of copies of UT Hastur, partly because he's fun, and partly because he has one of the few hand discarding abilities which works outside of the Operations phase. I will often hold open my two smaller domains and then use Hastur's ability, followed by Carcosa, leaving my opponent with nothing to play. On top of that, with Toughness +4, he's a great chump blocker.

For a little acceleration of your own, I added Forgotten Temple. This card has gotten little love since Eldritch came out, but during the early days it was the bread and butter of a good cultist deck. And it allows you to play all of your non-Cultists characters for less.

Just remember that if you don't have the rares to put this deck together, you can accomplish the strategy very similarly with Agency wounding instead of Omar. In fact, my first version of this deck during Arkham block was exactly those factions. The cheap Agency commons work almost as well and still provide a nice balance to the hand disruption.

Hoped you enjoyed this look into an often neglected area of the game. Join us next time when someone else will write about something different.

Discuss this Codex on the boards here.

2/28/2007Zen and the Art of a Competitive Deckby Greg Gan (aka Dr. H West), 2005 World Champion

Welcome to a new edition of the Lang Codex. With nationals and world's looming in the not-so distant future, I wanted to introduce this next set of codices which should help newly minted cultists and spur discussion among alpha acolytes. This codex is one of many that will address a group of topics that in some cases will provide insight into cards that have already gotten some hype, and in others to dissect some cards that do not see as much use, thereby providing a forum for their understanding and a context for their use. With each codex, we'll discuss our philosophy competitive decks in general and then take a look at the deck in question and how it functions. So, without further ado, let's begin!


My philosophy on competitive decks has more often than not steered me towards control decks. I hate having my opponent tell me what they're doing - I prefer telling them what they can and can not do (I must sound like a Cthulhu devotee. Ha!). Cthulhu CCG is officially my second serious CCG I've invested in and therefore veteran players with savvier card gaming backgrounds may see these comments as obvious, but this codex is part philosophy, part instructional, and part deck builder's diary (so bear with me). For me, a Cthulhu deck must do two things: 1) it has to be card efficient and 2) it has to be versatile enough to overcome the various decks on the field.

Sounds a little contradictory? Well, yes and no. Everyone's heard the standard banter: speed beats control, control eats combo and combo kills speed. Simply put, if control decks can't stabilize early on (by turn 3 ' 5), speed decks run them over. If a Speed deck can't win by turn 3 - 5, it rarely lasts into the mid to late game. If a combo deck never pulls its pieces together, it just loses. Therefore, extremely tight builds and efficient card draw is so critical to getting the cards you need to win. Yes, I mostly agree with that thought, however, excessively focusing a deck for a single purpose leaves you vulnerable against the "nemesis" deck, because let's face it, every deck has its foil! Unlike that other card game that gives you two other chances and a sideboard to sub-in a fix, you only get one shot in Cthulhu. So ideally, you need to get it right the first time by having the ability to deal with unknown 'threats'.

Never being completely happy with sticking to a standard deck archetype, I've found that in Cthulhu, not always building the absolute tightest decks and instead blending a primary and secondary theme often created the most versatile, winning decks. For example, one of my favorite Cthulhu (primary) deck types was adding a discard engine from Yog (secondary). I found the addition to the control deck useful for the extra destruction, the recursion was a boon while providing a secondary, often surprising win condition - discard. The control aspect of the deck gave me the versatility to dictate my opponent's actions, but if I encountered another strong control deck, the discard engine quickly gave me the edge in destabilizing the opposing control deck. Now, what I've suggested sounds easy to do, although, I suspect blending a primary and secondary theme is more art than science. However, in art, you tend to go through many iterations of the same piece until you get what you want. Not being an artist however, I see deck-testing as a science and one must constantly test and experiment against many other decks in order to find the best blend when preparing for any serious competition.

Tossing Down the Gauntlet

I remember one of the 2005 Regional Cthulhu champions from Pittsburgh making the statement that, 'tournaments could not be won unless Cthulhu was the primary faction.' Personally, I felt it was an arrogant statement. Realistically though, he had a point. (Obviously, this statement did not take into account Rainbow decks, but Rainbow decks were broken, and are now neutered out of the competitive metagame.) As many of us have seen from various tournaments, Regionals and 2006 World's, mono-Cthulhu or Cthulhu mixed with other factions have been the tier one decks to beat. Particularly in the Pittsburgh meta, Cthulhu aberration decks (I use aberration loosely here) remain as one of the dominant deck archetypes simply because it destroys threats and fields big monsters that are hard to remove. So, can a non-Cthulhu based deck win consistently in the early and late game? I believe it can.

In my opinion, Yog-Sothoth over the past couple of sets has truly emerged as one of the stronger factions with excellent graveyard recursion capabilities as well as a solid discard mechanic. Forgotten Cities only added to this, making Yog the faction of possibilities. I've taken this deck to Regionals and Worlds and beaten many of the game's top players in the process. Personally, it's one of the most fun, complicated and versatile decks I've had the pleasure of playing. Though it never made it to the final four, it did place respectably. So, without further ado'

I call this deck, 'a Recurring Discovery.' It is really a Yog deck with a limited tool box consisting of 50 cards.

4x Starry Wisdom Deacon
4x Hermetic Scholar
4x Elder Thing Scientist
3x Servants Out of Time
3x Assistants to Dr. West
2x Ithaqua
2x Omar Shakti
2x Thing in the Cave

4x Historic Discovery
4x Born in the Spheres
4x February's March
4x Calling Down the Ancients
3x Unspeakable Resurrection
3x Gathering at the Stones
3x Strange Aeons
1x Tapping the Shadow Fund

The basic idea of this combo/control deck revolves around these four cards:

Starry Wisdom Deacon (SWD)
Historic Discovery (HD)
February's March (FM)
Assistant to Dr. West (Assistant)

I'm not a great fan of combo decks simply because they are fragile and often collapse when one piece of the puzzle is missing or removed. So the deck had to be tight and redundant and have multiple ways to recycle destroyed or used pieces of the combo. So, the principle card that SWD powered was HD for the rapid token generation. The second corner stone of this deck required a way to further utilize the discarded HD; thus FM became an excellent solution. The important 4th piece of the combo is there primarily for its versatility. The Assistant had the ability to resurrect SWD to repeat its cost reduction of HD or FM if drawn, but it could also pull my opponent's creatures out to supplement my own ranks. Similarly, the Servant Out of Time also plays an important role by allowing me to add HD to a resource and later discard it in order to be played using FM if a SWD was unavailable. This was the primary strategy behind this deck. Interestingly, the deck evolved two other secondary engines which were also powered by the above cards.

Two major problems faced 'Recurring Discovery'. The first problem was rush decks, the second, control decks. In order to deal with the first problem, I needed a mechanism for global character control. After sifting through the various character destruction cards, Strange Aeons was chosen. Its requirements were the least prohibitive and allowed me to play it either during my turn or my opponent's. Strange Aeons fortunately, could also be powered by SWD, FM, and it combo'd with the Servant Out of Time in a manner similar to HD. To supplement the character destruction, Calling Down the Ancients and Elder Thing Scientists were added to round out some offensive punch against rush decks. Add in Omar Shakti in combination with the Hermetic Scholar and SWD and you now have bullets at your disposal. Combine this with the Assistant and now you have a recurring number of bullets at your disposal. In order to deal with the second problem, I had to find a way to apply pressure and change the tempo of a control deck.

I've found that control decks work best sitting back and drawing cards and killing whatever you put out. Thus, I added a discard engine using the Hermetic Scholar. Interestingly, forcing a control deck to play offensively or risk being decked is usually enough to tip the scales: especially when you possess more ways to recycle your lost material (Gathering at the Stones, Ithaqua, FM, Unspeakable Resurrection and of course, the Assistant) as well as steal their characters! Now, to round off this deck, Thing in the Cave was added for spot support destruction as well as having another warm body for the field. The other card was Tapping the Shadow Fund ' a surprisingly useful card when either your hand is terrible or more often than not, you've depleted your hand by playing everything that turn and you just need a fresh 7 card hand.

One of the fundamental challenges with this deck is knowing which cards are in your discard pile and which cards will eventually be put into your discard at all times. Knowing this and how to establish the order in which you discard can mean the difference between dropping 12 tokens on a story in one round versus 4. The strategy of optimizing your discard pile becomes much more complex when you start adding in Strange Aeons, Calling Down the Ancients or the Hermetic Scholar. However, this is what made the deck so much fun to play. The new Asylum packs offer some useful recursion effects that should strengthen the deck. However, their actual functionality has yet to be tested. The obvious advantage with Elder Thing is the ability to stack a FM or SWD and a HD or other very crucial card (such as Strange Aeons) to secure the win or buy you some time. The other card would be Visitor from the Spheres, a potentially potent card that can replicate the effects of HD or FM to activate a FM on top of HD. Another inherent advantage is that the Assistant can resurrect them in order to key their special abilities when needed as well as have a warm body to go after a story. The cards I would probably consider exchanging might be Omar Shakti's and the Thing the Cave's. Other modifications and permutations surely exist and their exploration should lead to some fruitful discussion. Hope this helps your own deckbuilding adventures, and please return for the next codex featuring Chris Long.

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1/19/2007Slouching Toward Kingsportby Travis Hoffman (aka HiredMistake), Minor Servitor

Ahh, Kingsport Dreams: Asylum Pack II. Few things are as enjoyable to a CCG player as cracking open a new set and seeing what new cards have entered the environment. Like a new and imponderable tome being unearthed, its devotees will devote long hours of study to the text, subjecting it to numerous interpretations and working it into the existing body of knowledge. It's not only the revelation of something new - it's seeing how it interacts with what has come before.

And as anyone who has read Lovecraft's work can attest to, what comes before is always ready to impact what is revealed today. Kingsport Dreams will impact the current environment. Every faction gets some potent cards to draw upon, and many of them supplement existing strategies. However, some of the standouts are those that give each faction some additional avenues to explore. For example, the Agency gains a bit more story control. So does Yog-Sothoth. Cthulhu gets some potent skill reduction. And everyone gets a potent addition to a Brotherhood deck.

Gone are the days of each faction having one or two strengths. While those certainly remain, there has been a constant influx of new cards giving each faction new tools, directions, and weapons in their arsenals. The neutral cards as well have been providing a potent and effective set of side-strategies all their own. The Profane Messenger, the latest promo, promises to ramp up play as well.

Speaking of the Profane Messenger, one of the most anticipated characters in this game was Nyarlathotep himself, especially once his Avatars became known back in Eldritch Edition. Now, the Messenger promises to shake things up momentously. Giving each character you control an Arcane icon may look inconsequential at first, but all of a sudden the Story phase becomes more dangerous. With a host of Arcane icons at a player's disposal, all the "win a struggle by 2" cards become easier to trigger, but there is also the threat of having far more characters readied after Story challenges than before. All it takes is keeping an Avatar around, or giving the right Mask to one of your characters. In this manner the promo builds on the previous body of cards, much the same way as Kingsport promises to build on the previous sets. And, of course, if you control both the Profane Messenger and The Hall School, your opponent will really have to watch out for the Story phase.

Having seen the cards coming, I can say it will certainly make people reconsider the use of Support cards in their decks. Many of the new Support cards offer a great deal of flexibility and opportunity to the player looking to incorporate them. The previously-spoiled Rope and Anchor Tavern itself will give decks running certain types of characters a huge boost (think Cultists, or Criminals, or Investigators). Kingsport offers a lot of synergy to decks looking to focus and incorporate certain types of cards, which is rather fitting for the tight-knit town of Kingsport.

As I mentioned before, it's rather fitting that Kingsport is given the Asylum treatment. It's a small, somewhat reclusive town that tries to hide the multitude of eclectic characters and events that take place there. Every visitor to Kingsport leaves a little different than they entered, if indeed they leave at all. Regardless, once you've entered the realm of Kingsport, you'll find your dreams haunted by the new and exciting possibilities that now lay before you. It'll be interesting to see the impact Kingsport has made a few months hence. I expect that we'll see a wider variety of deck archetypes emerge, and old archetypes modified to incorporate and deal with the new possibilities contained in this small, strange town.

Experienced dreamers recognize and respect the power of Kingsport, and its residents. Once you've opened this Asylum pack, you will too. Especially once hoary Nodens displays his power. Just beware of the Strange High House, up on the cliff.

The Strange High Competition in the Regionals:

In addition to Kingsport Dreams, it's important to keep in mind that Regionals season will soon be upon us. Which means that it's more important that ever to revisit old cards, old decks, and even old themes. While Kingsport Dreams is only 20 cards in total, each one offers a wealth of opportunities when considered and matched with cards from prior sets. Who knows? You may find that game-breaking combo lurking in the Arkham Block, or find yourself taking a second look at the Masks of Nyarlathotep Mask attachments. Tulzscha will certainly supplement Cultist decks, but could also make a decent splash in a Science of Destruction deck. Granny Orne gives insanity some extra bite. And the Visitor From the Spheres is ripe with potential (especially when coupled with some of the events found in the previous Asylum Pack).

The Call of Cthulhu CCG invites a diverse multitude of decks, strategies, and factions, and Regionals are a fantastic time to see what cards are shaping and dominating in the environment. Even better, it's a time to see which cards are being rediscovered and the revamping of previous strategies. Sometimes it only takes a card or 2 to make a deck concept rise or fall, and in the constantly-shifting metagame there's no better time to see and experience this flux. To paraphrase the oft-quoted line, "That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even a Brotherhood deck may be competitive".

It will be interesting and exciting to see the impact that the Asylum Packs will have on the new Regional environment. It will also be interesting and exciting to see the winning strategies that arise from this new competition. While the Cthulhu CCG may exist in a limited format right now, the Asylum Packs (supplemented with a promo or two) ensure that the play environment is limited only by our imagination and ingenuity. Cthulhu may lie dreaming, but his Call still rings loudly in our minds.

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1/10/2007Back to Basics: The Road to Masteryby Nate French

Keeping a handle on a CCG metagame is a difficult task. It's a slippery beast, that handle, and the competition is always trying to wrestle it away from you. Even with what you think is a stranglehold, you know that the game is constantly changing and evolving: what you can expect to see one week is going to be obsolete and not even worth a consideration the next. This evolution is the natural by-product of competition (you can watch for example the trends and counter-trends in the history of chess), and in CCGs like A Game of Thrones and Call of Cthulhu the 'evolution' gets an adrenaline shot every few months with the introduction of a new set of cards. There's always that nagging thought that you haven't quite mined the depths of the current game when 'OOOOHHHH! AHHHHHHH!' a new set explodes upon the scene and you once again feel your handle on the game slipping away. If only you had a little more time to play with the cards'

For every player who can more or less claim a rung at the 'top' of the metagame ladder, there are by definition many more players beneath, looking up the ladder at how that champion got there, and wondering what it takes to claim such a spot for themselves. Almost without fail, the player at the top of his game, looking down at the scores of challengers, is wondering what it takes to hold that slippery position, defend the crown, as it were, and stay at the top of his or her game. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly) enough, whether you're at the top or the bottom of the ladder (or anywhere in between), the route to mastery remains the same. Whether you're looking to climb the ranks or maintain your hold at the top, you can make the task considerably easier by following this path.

And just what might that path be? I'll answer that question in a second, but first we must make a quick digression. It's easy to get caught up, in any competitive endeavor, with a focus on the competition. In sport, you wonder how they're training and preparing, what kind of game plan they'll bring to the field or table, what plays or formations or techniques they'll use in an effort to defeat you. In business it's easy to get caught up in what your rivals are doing: what're they selling, how are they advertising it, how is it going over? In cards you can't help wonder what he's holding, and how he's going to be playing it. In each of these cases, information about the competition is useful, but only if you do not allow it to distract you from the path you are trying to follow. (That path being, surprisingly enough, 'the road to mastery.') In the final analysis, the real competition is with yourself. The opponent is merely an excuse or opportunity to confront and transcend the limitations of your own abilities. If you see your opponent(s) as anything else, they have become a distraction. The real game is not about out-preparing or out-guessing or out-thinking or out-playing an opponent (or all of your opponents), but rather it is about setting yourself off along the road to mastery and staying the course, regardless.

At Long Last, the Road Itself

After that longwinded and admittedly tedious introduction, you'll probably be surprised how straightforward (well, not literally straightforward, it's actually more like a circle) the road to mastery can be. It's easy to remember, too, because the steps all rhyme: Imitate, Emulate, Innovate. On the surface, it looks like an easy road to follow, but there are a number of pitfalls along the way. The real trick is to keep moving, around and around, to not get too bogged down in any one area, and to always know where you've been, where you're going, and where you're at.


Imitate ' 1) To follow or endeavor to follow as a model or example. 2) To mimic, impersonate. 3) To make a copy of; reproduce closely.

There are a number of different means to make use of the concept of imitation, but there are also a couple of dangerous pitfalls that plague players who find themselves stuck on this section of the road to mastery.

The worst of these pitfalls, that will defeat you before you've even begun your journey, is a refusal to embrace this concept in the first place. In any creative endeavor there is a premium placed on originality, and part of the seductive allure of a CCG is the idea that you are creating an original work as you put together your deck. The mistake, of course, is that while there is at times a creative element to CCG deck-building, it is not entirely (or even mostly) a creative pursuit and approaching it as such will inevitably lead you to error. Even pursuits that are generally considered 'creative,' such as painting or dancing or composing music or writing fiction, involve a tremendous amount of science (experimentation) and craft and technique before the truly 'creative' aspect emerges, and these aspects (science, experimentation, craft, and technique) are an even larger piece of the pie in the realm of CCG deckbuilding, where you are working within the limits of a finite set of building blocks instead of within the limits of your own unfettered (and, if you're lucky, infinite) imagination.

Once you have thrown out the notion that being 'original' and/or 'creative' is of primary importance, there are a number of approaches available for someone who is looking to improve through the concept of imitation. The most obvious approach is to imitate the people who are the best at whatever it is you're trying to do. In a CCG, this means that you should play the best deck you have seen. If something is tearing up your local game week in and week out, build that deck and turn it upon itself. If you're worried about a deck you read about on the message boards, don't fret over it: build the thing and make everyone else worry about it!

The concept of imitation, however, doesn't stop there. (This is another one of those pitfalls, as many players think it does stop with a deck.) Whenever you're around the best player in your area, watch that player play. Try to stand behind that player, and note the decisions being made. When you're playing, imagine that player standing behind you, critiquing your game: you'll be surprised at how quickly the quality of your decisions improves. Watch how things affect (or fail to affect) that player, watch how that player carries him or her self. You're not just imitating the best deck you can find, you're imitating the best player, and the best play patterns, and the best presence: any little thing that can give you an edge, you're there, imitating away until it becomes a natural part of your own game.

You can even go one step further, and look beyond your immediate pursuit. Maybe you were on top of your game two years, two months, or even two weeks ago but lately you've been in a slump: It is possible to imitate that former, stronger, more confident version of yourself. (This is an important concept for the 'top' player in our introduction who is trying to keep from slipping off the top.) Or maybe you're the best player in your area but across the border there's that guy who always has your number: imitate him. Or maybe there was one day where you were just in a zone, you built the perfect deck and made all the right decisions and hit all the right cards and did better than you ever dreamed possible: imitate the way you played that day. Or maybe you can go even farther, and you enjoy watching poker on TV and you're really impressed with the way Phil Hellmuth or Daniel Negreanu are playing: decide you want to play your game the way they're playing theirs. Read up on Fischer or Kasparov, watch a dominant sports team (or an underdog playing above themselves), listen to the music of your favorite band: the possibilities for imitation are everywhere.

As enjoyable as imitation can be (ironically, it frees you up to act in ways that may have originally seemed 'counter' to your style or personality), it is important to always be conscious of what you are doing and why you are doing it. Otherwise, you will become stuck at this stage, and in an evolving competitive field, being stuck means being left behind.


Emulate ' 1) To try to equal or excel; imitate with effort to surpass. 2) To rival with some degree of success.

Emulation is the natural sequel to imitation along the road to mastery. You can only enter this stage once you have complete familiarity with the object of your emulation, which is achieved by imitating that object (in the previous phase of imitation) and making it a part of yourself. Once this is done, you begin to look for ways to separate yourself from that object: you are now imitating with the effort to surpass. Naturally, the first few steps in this phase will be small ones: a card here, a move there, and some of them may be erroneous. The key is to remember that you have already assimilated your concept of 'the best' (be it someone else or an idealized version of yourself) in the imitation phase, and that this assimilation is merely the foundation from which you now seek to improve. What had formerly been your goal is now your ground floor, and it will be the bar from which you now measure all progress. Set backs are natural, and you will always be able to return (scamper back?) to that ground, but each time progress is made you know you have surpassed the level that you previously considered 'the best.' This, in and of itself, is a victory.

The pitfall here is moving too fast, or too quickly away, from the new base of operations you had previously discovered in the imitation phase. You've established a certain level of competence and acknowledged that you can grow even stronger, and you are looking for the opportunity for improvement as much as you are looking for the means to do so. You have made your strongest competition (or your highest aspiration) a part of yourself, and now you are looking for the chinks in your new armor with an eye toward eliminating them. (This is much more advantageous than merely looking for chinks in an opponent's armor: now you are exposing that opponent's chinks and simultaneously making yourself more powerful, while before you were merely tearing away at an opponent.)

As you spend more time in the emulation stage, you will find more and more ways in which you can improve. Eventually, as you follow these avenues and they pan out, you will find that you have left the original object of your imitation far behind. It is now time to enter the third phase on the road to mastery:


Innovate ' 1) To introduce something new; make changes in anything established. 2) To introduce something new for (or as if for) the first time.

In some ways this may seem like the 'peak' of the road to mastery: it is not. While you are in the innovation stage, you can do no wrong. You are at the top of your game, and people are imitating and responding to you. You are constantly surpassing yourself, reaching for more, and setting the bar higher and higher.

Eventually, one of two things will happen.

The first of these is complacence. You will simply stop trying to improve and better yourself. If this happens, you probably need a break: another pursuit, in which you can start again on the ground, imitating those that fly above you. As you imitate in that pursuit, you will naturally want to bring some of the lessons you are learning back into this one, and you will find yourself here once again, looping back into the first phase of the road to mastery.

The second eventuality is that you will continue trying to excel, to surpass and outdo yourself, and eventually you will'like Icarus'fly too high. When this happens, someone will be there to knock you down. At this time, you should allow yourself to fall freely: it is ill-becoming to grasp at past pedestals of glory (imagine the guys reliving the glories of high school football). Once you have fallen back to the imitation phase, try to conceptualize where and what you were before your fall, and what it was that caused the fall. These are the new objects of your imitation, only now instead of being where you were, you are merely trying to imitate it (and your newfound opposition) in an attempt to better understand it. You will pass through the cycle (imitation, emulation, innovation) once again (and this time it may take half as long or it may take twice as long), and when you find yourself back in the stage of innovation you will discover that you are even stronger than you were before, flying even higher, and eagerly searching for another way to fall, secure in the knowledge that the best opportunity for improvement exists as we are getting back up.

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