What the Dreamers Have Divined
Preview Three Champion Cards from The Mark of Madness
"There are twists of time and space, of vision and reality, which only a dreamer can divine."
–H.P. Lovecraft, The Silver Key
Coming soon, The Mark of Madness expansion for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game is going to drown Marseille in madness, and then that madness will spread like fire through all of France and then the world. At least, those are the designs of Hastur's disciples, the Artists, Cultists, Lunatics, and Servitors who gain more from the box than any of the game's other expansions.
Still, we have seen that there are also those characters whose brushes with madness have given them powerful insights they can use to their advantage, and there are yet other forces that operate in their own spheres. Even though nearly two-thirds of the expansion's cards bear Hastur's Yellow Sign and fuel the Terror struggle with new purpose, there are still sixty cards in The Mark of Madness for the game's other factions (three copies each of twenty different cards). These offer players some powerful, heroic, and insidious responses to Hastur's designs, and three of these cards call upon the realm of dreams, offering twists of time and space and of vision and reality that only those who play the game at the very highest levels can divine.
The Archmage, Arcanis and Thaumaturgical Insight
Four-time World Champion Tom Capor adds to his legacy in The Mark of Madness with two Champion Cards, the final two designs he earned between the years 2009 and 2012, a period of time during which he was undoubtedly the game's most visionary dreamer.
Welcome one and all. It is my distinct honor to show you not one, but two cards designed by yours truly – Thaumaturgical Insight and The Archmage, Arcanis!
Of course, thanks go out to FFG for this amazing opportunity and to Damon Stone who has patiently worked with me since the design for the Hall of Champions (Written and Bound, 20).
Filling the Gaps
Mechanically, these neutral cards were designed with an intent similar to that behind The Mage's Machinations (Terror in Venice, 30). I wanted them to introduce abilities that could serve as "gap fillers" and supplement decks that didn't really have any better options, or that could use some additional options.
Thaumaturgical Inisght’s job is to find that all-important card. Granted, at its high cost of three resources and with its “hard to justify” trigger, it won’t be appropriate for many of the most popular decks out there. After all, universal search effects are hard to balance. My hope, though, is that it will serve the unique, visionary, and "weird" decks out there by allowing them to more consistently find the critical card that allows you to tip the scales back in your favor. While Thaumaturgical Insight isn’t exactly a cost-efficient means of gaining consistency, players will at least now be able to aim for that consistency if they truly desire it.
The Archmage, Arcanis plays a different role. Instead of allowing you to find your tools, he becomes one. When you begin to explore the furthest reaches of the card pool, you'll find that many potentially interesting strategies are sidelined by troublesome support cards. Thus, players are often forced to splash otherwise undesired factions into their decks to destroy these support cards, find other ways to avoid the impact those support cards would have, or turn to fall-back cards like Political Demonstration (Core Set, 144) to deal with them. I wanted to encourage a greater exploration of the full card pool and empower the crazier ideas that players can develop by introducing a tool that all players can use to turn their array of support cards into arcane missiles that can dispatch whatever support cards are getting in their way.
Of course, neither of these cards has only a single purpose. Thaumaturgical Insight has both the Research and Spell subtypes, meaning it can combo with cards like Overworked Graduate Student (Seekers of Knowledge, 17) and Wilbur Whateley (The Key and the Gate, 5). Meanwhile, The Archmage, Arcanis supports heavy or mono-Neutral archetypes and can form some interesting combos with cards like Artifact of the Lost Cities (Spawn of Madness, 18).
Now, while there's no "official" story behind the connections between the six cards I’ve had the opportunity to create, there are certainly a number of clues:
In beginning, The Mage Known as Magnus (That Which Consumes, 111), was merely a humble Sorcerer who dabbled in some of the darker and more destructive of the world's forces in order to combat the ghoulish horrors it. His adventures even earned him a place in the Hall of Champions. However, he believed greater threats still loomed. As he planned and prepared to face these threats, The Mage’s Machinations began to unfold. By collecting and studying the forbidden tomes that he kept locked within The Archmage's Attaché (The Thousand Young, 37), he was able to gain enough Thaumaturgical Insight to transform himself and stand against these larger threats as The Archmage, Arcanis.
Seer of the Gate
The third Champion Card in The Mark of Madness was designed by two-time World Champion Jeremy Zwirn, whose two World Championship winning decks both partnered the rush potential of Miskatonic University with the fantastic and controlling array of tricks belonging to the Yog-Sothoth faction.
When I won the chance to design a second Champion Card, the first thing I thought about was how, if at all, it should relate to my previous Champion Card, Jeremiah Kirby (For the Greater Good, 43). I considered making a card based on a different version of the same character, or based on the green-glowing artifact held in his hand, or even based on one of the Huskies in the background. Should the card play well with Jeremiah Kirby, or should it be a "counter" card that plays better against it? After sending in some ideas and getting feedback from the developers, I decided to pursue this last option and create a new character that can provide an answer to my previous card.
Mechanically, my goal was to create a skill-intensive card with high replayability. When I play Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, I'm constantly thinking about what cards my opponent could have in hand and how to adapt my play accordingly. I wanted to create a card that pushes other players toward that mindset and rewards you for correctly predicting what your opponent has in hand. When I use the Seer's ability, I'm often reminded of the classic board game Battleship; sometimes you take a shot in the dark, and you're surprised when it's a direct hit. Even better, you might torpedo two or three cards out of your opponent's hand, effectively sinking his battleship.
Thematically, it felt right to introduce the Seer as a Sorcerer who could serve as a disciple of Nephren-Ka (The Sleeper Below, 54), aligned to the mind-bending insights of Yog-Sothoth.
Shots in the Dark
Blindly naming a card to with the Seer's discard ability can be quite challenging: do you name the card that you think is most likely to be in your opponent's hand or a card that's less likely to be there but would cause you more trouble if it were? Do you name something that you're certain your opponent plays or risk aiming for a game-changing card that might not even be in his deck? Looking at your opponent's resources and discard pile helps. It also depends on your opponent; he might play or resource likely targets early to make it more difficult for you to hit with your Seers.
In order to get the most from your Seer of the Gate, you'll want to know exactly what your opponent is holding. One of the cards that best synergizes with a Seer is another copy of it, but you can get good use from any card that lets you take a peek at your opponent's hand, such as Jeff Harson (Denizens of the Underworld, 46). If you have a good memory, cards like Vortex of Time (The Key and the Gate, 34) and Prism of Many Views (The Twilight Beckons, 20) provide information on what cards your opponent may later have in hand.
You can also guarantee a direct hit by returning cards to your opponent's hand with cards like Lord Jeffrey Farrington (The Order of the Silver Twilight, 3) and Constricting Elder Thing (Initiations of the Favored, 59). Similarly, the Faceless Abductor (The Order of the Silver Twilight, 7) synergizes with Seer of the Gate in multiple ways. You can bounce a non-Ancient One character with skill three or less into your opponent's hand right before you pluck it out with a Seer, or you can abduct your own Seer back into your hand, then play it and trigger its discard ability again. The Initiate of Huang Hun (Curse of the Jade Emperor, 40) can both return your Seer to your hand and force your opponent to return a character, allowing you to play your Seer and promptly discard all copies of the character your opponent returned to hand.
Sometimes you won't have to use your cards to gain information about your opponent's hand; your opponent will give it to you! Descendant of Eibon (The Terror of the Tides, 75), Master of the Myths (Into Tartarus, 101), and Black Dog (Words of Power, 29) all return to their owner's hands after their abilities trigger, making them all perfect targets to name with Seer of the Gate. Meanwhile, opponents who reveal and add cards to their hands with the Book of Iod (Ebla Restored, 52) or the previously mentioned Jeremiah Kirby also give you ample information to name your targets. Even story cards, such as the all-powerful Chaos Unleashed (The Shifting Sands, 3), can put known cards into your opponent's hand ripe for your picking.
Finally, I want to thank FFG and the developers for this amazing opportunity, as well as all Cthulhu players for being a part of this fantastic game. I hope you enjoy playing Seer of the Gate. May your shot in the dark sink a battleship!
Marvels Beyond Expectation
Whether you build your decks around these new Champion Cards or spread madness with Hastur and his followers, The Mark of Madness pushes Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game well beyond the ordinary. What marvels will you dream up with its cards? The time for ordinary thinking is over; The Mark of Madness is nearly upon us!