Arkham Horror LCG Investigator Files, Issue #4 – Jacqueline Fine Starter Deck Tech

Written by Dalia

Following up one of the flashiest characters the game has ever seen, we turn to our starter Mystic, who may not flash as dramatically, but certainly shines in her own right: Jacqueline Fine, the psychic.

With 6 health, 9 sanity, 5 willpower, 3 intellect, 2 combat, and 2 agility, Jacqueline looks like your run-of-the-mill Mystic. One more sanity than Agnes Baker (the core set Mystic), one more intellect, and one less agility, without access to Survivor cards. This is really no surprise, as particularly among the Mystic class, we see very similar stat lines. This is for a good reason: most of their mechanics are built around substituting willpower for other stats. The spell-slinging class is extremely flexible, but also extremely reliant on having the right cards at the right time. This makes them particularly susceptible to the whims of the card design cycles, as with only a partial collection, one could very easily miss out on staple Mystic spells.

Jacqueline’s ability to reveal 3 tokens and cancel 2 non-autofails, or outright cancel the autofail, is extremely powerful, but you have to declare its use before you start drawing tokens, which leaves you susceptible to pulling all the worst tokens in the bag. One thing this does is make unlikely tests more likely to succeed—especially if you’re fishing for the +1 or elder sign, but also if you need a -1 or a 0. This means that she can more reliably succeed at investigating low shroud locations, despite only having 3 intellect. I will get into the more nuanced applications of her ability later, but for now, it makes her more able to succeed where others might fail, even without her willpower substitution.

Jacqueline’s deck list feels fairly predictable for a Mystic—a fighting spell (Azure Flame), a clue spell (Clairvoyance), and an evasion spell (Ineffable Truth). These spells all have powerful effects while having drawbacks upon drawing a 0, +1, or elder sign. Jacqueline players are encouraged to use her ability to fish for tokens that are passing, but not too good. While many veteran players bemoaned the fact that these spells were virtually reskins of Shrivelling, Rite of Seeking, and Mists of R’lyeh respectively, in order to have all three of those spells and their respective upgrades, a player would need to own the Dunwich cycle and The Forgotten Age cycle, plus their Return To boxes, in addition to the core set. This means that picking up Jacqueline’s pack can get a Mystic player started as a flex character way faster than just the core set. Additionally, the original cards have penalties for drawing bad symbols, doubling down on failure, whereas with Jacqueline’s spells, you at least do what you intended if the spell backfires. However, it is worth noting that Jacqueline’s spells get weaker in easier modes, because the chaos bag has more non-negative tokens, thereby increasing the chances of backfiring. Considering many players (beginner or not) play on easy, these spells and their upgrades seem intended for hard and expert players, or just to have options to choose from when deckbuilding different investigators, rather than as a true entry-level spell set. That said, for a beginner, having the consistency of multiple combat spells can really help ensure you can both find the right spell and that you don’t run out of charges. The game of Mystics is a game of charge management, after all.

Heavy on assets, light on skills, Jacqueline’s cost curve is pretty high, favoring cards that cost 3 resources. Having no Emergency Cache means she is extremely dependent on hitting Voice of Ra for at least 5 resources. You do have to note which token is being replaced if you use Jacqueline’s ability with Voice of Ra, because it’s not “draw five, cancel 2,” but rather “draw 1, then 3, then 1, cancel 2 of the 3” (if you replace the second token), which means if you draw 3 symbols during your replaced token, you’ll have to cancel two of them and miss out on 4 potential resources. It’s a pain, but it’s technically correct. Throwing in an Emergency Cache in addition to Voice of Ra would definitely help her deck smooth itself out, though.

Unlike Olive McBride (Heart of the Elders, The Forgotten Age), Jacqueline’s ability lets you choose the best of three most of the time, instead of having to resolve two of three tokens. Where Olive is a gamble, Jacqueline’s ability will almost always net you a good token pull. However, you can use Olive with Jacqueline’s ability in a somewhat confusing way. This is where it becomes important to note order of operations and which token is being replaced. In the FAQ, there is an example with Olive and Grotesque Statue (4), which lets you reveal 2 and choose 1 token. You have to declare whether you are using Olive or the Grotesque Statue first, then declare which token is being replaced with the second ability. If you use the Statue first, and you replace the second token draw with Olive’s three, you draw 4 and can either pick the first one, or two of the latter three. If you use Olive first, and replace the second token pull with the Statue, you draw 4, ignoring one of the middle two, and then choose 2 of the remaining 3. Jacqueline’s ability is similar. Keeping track of which tokens got cancelled, and which tokens are grouped together gets very confusing, so I don’t recommend using this combination at all for a newer player, but since Grotesque Statue (2) is one of Jacqueline’s upgrades, it is worth having the FAQ on hand if you intend to go this route. Alternatively, you can treat Grotesque Statue as another, weaker trigger of Jacqueline’s ability.

Jacqueline’s signature asset, Arbiter of Fates, allows her to use her ability twice per round. It’s a solid asset, but at 3 cost, you might not have the resources on hand to play both it, and all the other set up she has. There is a bit of trickiness, in that if you play Arbiter of Fates after already using her ability for the round, you cannot trigger Arbiter of Fates that round, because it is a reaction to using Jacqueline’s ability, which has already happened. A minor issue, and it’s still a solid card, effectively doubling her ability, but only as good as her ability is.

Jacqueline’s signature weakness, Dark Future, on the other hand, effectively means Jacqueline cannot use her ability. If she reveals multiple symbols, she cannot cancel them, and so must resolve them both. Not wanting to take that risk is reasonable, and she has to wait for an elder sign at the end of the round to get rid of it. Jacqueline can, however, use her ability to effectively bump up the 5 revealed tokens to 7 at the end of the round, and increase the chances of getting rid of Dark Future. An interesting point is that there is positive synergy between this weakness and Voice of Ra, as Jacqueline cannot cancel symbols, so if she reveals multiple symbols during her 3-draw, she benefits from both or all of them.

Jacqueline also has a bunch of cool pieces, like Scrying Mirror and Crystal Pendulum, to encourage using her ability and finding exactly the right token at the right moment. However, getting them all out at the same time takes a lot of actions and a lot of card draw, in addition to the resource cost. The pendulum can help with that, but only if you draw it early. And, while almost all Mystics struggle with card draw, Jacqueline’s starter deck in particular is built to be a little too flexible and ability-oriented. There is very little aggressive clue tech in her deck, and the enemy management depends on getting the right assets out first.

Jacqueline is undoubtedly a strong investigator, but her deck doesn’t have a clear path to victory, unlike Harvey Walters, who can hoover up clues, and unlike Nathaniel Cho, who is clearly meant for multiplayer. Jacqueline is totally viable in solo if you can get some card draw into her deck, in order to find the right pieces at the right time. But, like most mystics, she struggles a lot if she doesn’t have the right cards. She also definitely gets stronger with a wider card pool, as access to some of the Circle Undone spells and cheaper assets can definitely help smooth out her play.

But where Jacqueline really shines is, in supporting other Mystics, such as Agnes, to get the correct token at the correct time and have massive effects. Agnes can turn bad symbol tokens on Shrivelling into 3-damage hits (2 from Shrivelling, 1 from her ability after taking the horror from Shrivelling). Jim Culver (The Dunwich Legacy) is constantly fishing for skulls. Anyone who runs Sixth Sense or Wither (The Wages of Sin, The Circle Undone), especially their upgrades, tends to want to draw symbols as well. And while Jacqueline can use her ability on herself, her own elder sign effect doesn’t do much except when cancelled. Fishing for an elder sign on Akachi Onyele’s (The Path to Carcosa) turn means putting down an extra charge on something; for Father Mateo (The Forgotten Age) it means gaining an extra action or a card and a resource.

Jacqueline is interesting because she is a true flex character: able to hold her own both in solo and in multiplayer, able to support other people, and bringing with her a plethora of new cards that shore up other mystic decks. Even if you don’t play Jacqueline, if you have any interest in playing a Mystic, I’d highly recommend picking up her starter deck.

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