A Preview of The Key and the Gate by Guest Writer Graham Hill
|Call of Cthulhu LCG | Published 06 February 2013|
“I had come at last to the ancient sea town where my people had dwelt and kept festival in the elder time when festival was forbidden; where also they had commanded their sons to keep festival once every century, that the memory of primal secrets might not be forgotten.”
–H.P. Lovecraft, The Festival
Last December, we announced the upcoming release of The Key and the Gate for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game. Now, the expansion’s release date draws nearer, portals flicker open, and the boundaries between our world and the realms beyond begin to weaken. What does The Key and the Gate hold in store for us? Yog-Sothoth knows all, but such knowledge is madness for us mere mortals. We can glimpse but part of the picture without having our minds shattered.
Today, however, three-time European Champion Graham Hill sheds light upon some of what The Key and the Gate will bring to the game, offering a preview of his Champion Card, The Festival (The Key and the Gate, 51).
Graham Hill on Keeping Deck Builders Up at Night
When I was asked what I wanted my Champion Card to do, my initial response was “keep deck builders up at night.” The Festival accomplishes this goal nicely, offering the worshippers of Shub-Niggurath unparalleled versatility in deck-building with an interesting combination of two primary effects. While the card’s actual abilities are quite simple, their interaction with other cards is very complex.
If we look closely at the card’s first ability, even though it’s a simple action, we’ll find it compresses four very distinct abilities.
1) Deck Searching
To date, decks that require a specific card or combination of cards to function have rarely been consistent. Statistically speaking, in a significant number of games, the required card or cards simply won’t show up. Until now, such decks have usually required zealous use of the Mulligan rule, followed by an always suboptimal “Plan B.” This is the primary reason for the card’s existence. The Festival permits you open access to your deck, allowing you to conduct cheap, effective, unrestricted searches for specific cards.
At first, I wanted the card to be a simple “tutor,” but The Festival went through several iterations as the Call of Cthulhu design team and I worked to determine an adequate delivery mechanism. Most search cards in the game allow only restricted searches – for example, allowing you to look only for a specific type of card in a specific faction or perhaps restricting the search to the top X cards of your deck. Unlike those, The Festival is virtually an unlimited search, but with the limitation that it can only deliver cards to the discard pile, not to your hand. You will need some form of recursion to get to them, and you will likely lose a beat of tempo in process. Still, for those adept in the dark arts of deck-building, this type of problem is something that can be mitigated and may bring to the fore many new strategies that were previously stymied by the laws of statistical distribution.
2) Probability Manipulation
The Festival also has some very hidden “probability” functions that aren’t obvious at first glance. Consider it in combination with Journey To The Other Side (Core Set, 115). Journey is usually put in a deck to search for a specific card, but if that card is not in the top five cards of your deck, you have both lost the use of a domain and confirmed that you won’t be able to draw the card for at least two turns. However, if you have The Festival, you can look at the top five cards of your deck with Journey, and if the card you want isn’t there, you can then use Journey to grab a different card and reshuffle your deck. Statistically, the odds the card will be in the new top five is pretty good, certainly a marked improvement over a probability of zero.
Another example is the use of Surprising Find (Touched by the Abyss, 109). Usually cards like Surprising Find are of a somewhat marginal quality. They allow you to draw, then dump your unwanted cards on top of the deck, but then you have to waste your next draw clearing those cards off your deck. The Festival allows you to reshuffle after filtering your unwanted cards with Surprising Find, resetting the top of your deck to new cards…and an infinitely better state than it was pre-shuffle!
3) Resource Manipulation
While cards that cost three or more can be very hard to play in competitive games, Shub-Niggurath now has enough cards to “ramp” (or accelerate) its resources to the extent that it can bank on the ability to deploy from a more expensive card pool. Though Shub has always had its resource ramp abilities, like Feed Her Young (Written and Bound, 11) and Harvesting Mi-Go (The Twilight Beckons, 11), it now contains a critical mass of such cards – so that players can incorporate it in a concrete way. In addition to the raw ramping of resources, there is a small but growing number of cards that work off the structure of your domains. The Zoogs and Twilight Gate (Twilight Horror, 12) are good examples here. By stacking your domains with Zoogs, you can cause a Zoog chain reaction… but don’t try this at home!
Because The Festival can swap one resource for another, all of these types of cards interact with it, creating a multitude of new puzzles that deck-builders can attempt to solve. Domains are now more than objects that are just used to pay costs!
4) Resource Matching
The ability to search your deck for resources also means that you can easily run out-of-faction cards. Accordingly, The Festival permits a tradeoff of balancing versus hard-matched resources that should open more options for deck-building. The math here can get quite complex, but it is now very possible to add a small handful of cards from a third or fourth faction and be able to play them with a minimal reduction in the flow of your deck. Hopefully, this will give deck-builders with a knack for numbers a whole plethora of new opportunities.
As a side effect, the card’s primary ability also opens up the discard pile. This “Search to discard” routine will certainly play nicely with the new Claude Owen (The Key and the Gate, 2), plus old favorites like the Hungry Dark Young (Core Set, 131) and Shub-Niggurath (The Cacophony, 114)! These types of cards have always been somewhat reactive or situational; they had to wait until an appropriate target presented itself. Now they become much more aggressive as you gain some control over which targets will be available, and those targets may appear quite quickly.
The Festival’s second ability of this card has two primary interactions.
Does an opponent really want to destroy your copy of The Festival?
Destroying it will increase your resources. In most cases, it’s one of the few cards that he’ll likely prefer to see on the table than traded in for the use of a larger domain.
Discard Pile Trigger
Finally, the second ability of The Festival is part of a new exploration of Actions that can be triggered from the discard pile. Of course, the fact that Yog-Sothoth resides simultaneously alongside all space and time, makes The Key and the Gate the perfect expansion to introduce a whole series of cards that expand on this new twist. Some of these effects work well together, so The Festival may still pose a silent threat from the discard pile.
The Festival and the New Metagame
Even though the search The Festival provides is somewhat inefficient, its weaker effect is offset by the fact that it offers both resource ramping and matching. Shub has received quite a bit of ramp recently, so it will be interesting to see how the card fits into the developing metagame. Will its effects concatenate with those of other Shub ramp cards, or will they suffer from diminishing returns?
With the upcoming release of The Key and the Gate, I hope you dig deep into the charnel clays, and join me in my Festival!
Pre-Order Your Copy of The Key and the Gate
Graham’s look at The Festival is full of quality insights, but it only begins to hint at the madness and power coming with The Key and the Gate. This fourth deluxe expansion for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game is coming soon, so head to your local retailer and pre-order your copy today!
Based on the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and his literary circle, Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game takes two players deep into the Cthulhu Mythos where investigators clash with the Ancient Ones and Elder Gods for the fate of the world. The Living Card Game format allows players to customize their gaming experience with monthly Asylum Pack expansions to the core game.