Greetings initiates, and welcome to this arcane philosophy lecture series at the Lodge. First, let me address some disquieting rumours about last year’s lectures on Medieval Metaphysics by saying that a thorough investigation found nothing untoward, and that the Eastern Wing of the lodge library is cordoned off for entirely unrelated renovation work. Now, onto our topic. Every so often, a card comes out that is…inspiring. Not necessarily particularly powerful, but one with lots of potential for interesting decks and builds. The Eldritch Sophist is one such card for me, and so I have decided to share my take on the card as well as a few decks designed around it to showcase its potential.
Lecture 1: Introduction to Sophistry
Eldritch Sophist, level 0 Seeker asset. 4 cost, 1 willpower icon.
Uses (3 secrets).
Exhaust Eldritch Sophist: Move 1 secret or charge from an asset you control to another asset controlled by an investigator at your location.
Once you let go of your assumptions, anything is possible.
And the art depicts a very dapper gentleman playing chess with rather unusual pieces in a library. Does my interest in this card have anything to do with how handsome he looks? No comment.
So right off the bat, the card has Uses (3 secrets) but no way to actually spend them. They are instead there to use his ability to move them onto other assets. In this way, he’s a little bit like the Venturer – a card whose role is to refill other limited-use assets. However, the Sophist’s ability is substantially more flexible – it can move both secrets and charges, from any card that has them, to any card that can use them.
It also offers quite a lot of Horror soak. In general, Seekers tend to have large pools of sanity and lots of means of soaking or healing horror, so this may be less useful than having lots of Damage soak, but it’s still a nice benefit, particularly for builds that use Shrivelling – and is very useful for some of the less obvious builds that can use the Sophist.
The Miskatonic trait doesn’t have much in the way of support, but it does work with Miskatonic Archaeology Funding. The test icon is pretty underwhelming, but at least Willpower is likely to come up for basically anyone and there will be times when you’ll take any Willpower icon you can get.
The cost is quite high – Seekers have a number of expensive but powerful allies (e.g. Dr Milan Christopher, Whitton Greene) and a number of cheap and disposable allies (e.g. Dr William T. Maleson, Laboratory Assistant) – so if you’re just using the Sophist for its inherent utility of refilling another asset, you might be underwhelmed by its benefits relative to its cost.
Lecture 2: Definition of Terms
I use the following terms as shorthand to broadly define the role of various cards in interacting with the Eldritch Sophist:
Source: A card with Uses (secrets) or Uses (charges) whose main role in the build is to have those Uses transferred onto a different card. Typically a card that does not provide much benefit from those Uses, and/or a card that can provide a lot of Uses, repeatedly provide Uses, or provide Uses cheaply.
Target: A card with Uses (secrets) or Uses (charges) whose main role in the build is to receive Uses from other cards. Typically a card that provides a substantial benefit from its limited uses, such as a powerful enemy management or clue-gathering card.
Fixing: Moving Uses between cards as needed, where neither card is strictly a Source or a Target. Typically where both assets perform an important but distinct role in the build, and it may be advantageous to siphon charges from one to the other depending on the circumstances.
Replenishing: Increasing the number of Uses on an asset without moving them from another asset – essentially as a way to make it clear that the total number of Uses in play has increased. Conversely, I use Siphoning as a term for moving Uses via the Eldritch Sophist, where the total number of Uses in play does not change. For example, using Recharge or Truth From Fiction is Replenishing, whereas moving a secret from the Eldritch Sophist to another card is Siphoning.
These aren’t terms I think need to be adopted by the community at large or anything, merely ways to simplify further discussion in this post – though I also think they help illustrate how I look at the Eldritch Sophist. That said, if you find them useful, please do use them yourself!
Lecture 3: A minimalist approach
I feel that simply using the Sophist for the function it offers by itself – to add more secrets to a secret-using asset – is perfectly valid by itself. This is definitely the most straightforward approach to the card. If your build has one or more cards that have Uses (secrets), the Eldritch Sophist can let you get the most out of them. In such a deck, if you can spare the slot for the card and you want more secrets, it’s a useful option just like taking Venturer with a build that uses Ammunition or Supplies. And just like the Venturer, once it has run out of charges, you can throw it under the bus to soak up incoming damage/horror.
However, cost is a very real issue in such decks (again, just like the Venturer). The Sophist is quite expensive at 4 resources, and the ally slot is very competitive for Seekers (though that isn’t necessarily a big problem between Charisma and Miskatonic Archaeology Funding). If doing so, you’d want to keep in mind that you need to pay for both the Sophist and the asset(s) its secrets will be siphoned onto. Since the Sophist is a level 0 card, and you generally want to avoid having to spend exp on level 0 cards later on in a campaign (unless you have access to Adaptable or you want to take Versatile), this typically means that you want to have an asset that can make use of the extra secrets from the very beginning, even if your eventual plan is to use it in conjunction with a different, more powerful high-level card. In this way, the utility of the Sophist grows with the power of your deck, as the value of its secrets increases with the power of the abilities they fuel.
There is a big sticking point for such a deck, which is Truth From Fiction. This event is substantially cheaper, doesn’t take up the Ally slot and has substantially better skill icons. It’s not the case that Truth From Fiction is strictly better than the Sophist for this purpose – the Sophist provides as many secrets as Truth From Fiction (2) without the requirement for a clue at your location, and works particularly well if you have multiple other assets that use secrets – but it does mean there’s substantial competition for that role in a deck.
A few examples of decks that could use the Eldritch Sophist purely for the secrets it provides are Carolyn Fern starting with with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and upgrading into Ancient Stone (Minds in Harmony); Daisy Walker starting out with the Scroll of Prophecies and upgrading into a more powerful secrets-using tome like Pnakotic Manuscripts or Old Book of Lore (3); or (with taboo) Mandy Thompson starting out with Cryptographic Cipher or Scroll of Secrets then upgrading into Charisma and Mr “Rook”.
Lecture 4: Getting the most out of the Eldritch Sophist
This section is the major focus of this post. As we covered in the previous lecture, it’s perfectly valid to use the Eldritch Sophist just for its own secrets. However, to get full use of the Eldritch Sophist’s potential, we need to use all aspects of its ability – moving secrets and moving charges. This requires at least 4 different cards – the Sophist as the enabler and Source for secrets, some kind of Target for secrets, and either a Source and a Target for charges or two charge-using assets for charge fixing.
All four of these are necessarily assets, meaning that fully exploiting the potential of the Eldritch Sophist probably involves the majority of assets in your deck (8 cards total) – this in turn means that you want to build around the Eldritch Sophist as a cornerstone of your deck. Luckily, Seekers have access to plenty of draw and search abilities to let you set up a board state with several moving parts. Many assets that use charges and secrets are combat and investigation cards, so it’s also pretty viable to have them be the centrepieces of a deck.
Since the Eldritch Sophist is its own Source for secrets, this often means that the more complex interactions in your deck are based around charges, and you can simply take a generally useful asset that uses secrets in order to get value out of the Sophist itself. Luckily, there are several very solid options for this – cards that are useful for basically anyone that are limited by Uses (secrets). The taboo Scroll of Secrets (0), used together with the Eldritch Sophist, essentially draws you 6 cards over 6 rounds thanks to its free triggered ability even without doing something more complicated with its ability to target the Encounter deck or discard/relocate the drawn card, and is available to anyone who can take Eldritch Sophist. Scroll of Prophecies and Mr “Rook” are also cards that most decks can get a lot of value from. Of course, it’s also possible to have another, more specific use for the Sophist’s secrets – the point here is that if you’re including the Sophist to move charges around, you should at least add a simple economy card that benefits from its secrets in order to get more value out of it.
Sources of charges can be quite diverse. The obvious and classic option is Decorated Skull, a cheap Rogue asset that gains charges whenever enemies or allies are defeated at your location and can use those charges for slightly more efficient economy actions (substantially more efficient at level 3). Much like the old Decorated Skull/Torrent of Power decks that made use of its potential for charges, the idea is to take Decorated Skull and use the Eldritch Sophist to siphon off the charges it generates onto another card – most likely an attack card to create a self-sustaining loop of killing enemies to generate charges and then using those charges to kill enemies. Empty Vessel works in much the same way. Another straightforward option is the Chthonian Stone, which loses charges when you draw the auto-fail and returns to hand when empty. If you siphon off its charges, it returns to hand and can be replayed again, more or less being a repeatable source of three charges for 2 resources that also seals up a token until you’ve finished siphoning.
Some assets come into play with lots of charges and/or secrets for a low price, so the Sophist is a good way to put their inexpensive Uses to a better use on a more expensive card – it can be difficult to get good value out of Alchemical Transmutation, for example, partly because you need to successfully use all its charges before it provides a better profit than other more straightforward options, but if you have the Sophist in play, you can use its Charges to top up Shrivelling while also having the option to use them for the ability on Alchemical Transmutation itself. The same is true of Scrying to an extent. Similarly, Forbidden Knowledge and Forbidden Tome (Untranslated) provide plenty of Secrets at a very low price, which can be used to instead refuel a Pnakotic Manuscripts or even a Necronomicon – and siphoning charges from the Forbidden Tome even speeds up the translation process at the same time.
Charge Fixing is a very different approach to using the Sophist. Instead of taking charges from one asset and moving them to another asset where they will be substantially more valuable, this is instead about shifting charges around as the situation demands. A simple example would be a straightforward Mystic deck with an investigation spell and an attack spell – say, Jim Culver with Shrivelling and Rite of Seeking – that might not need all the Shrivelling charges it has if there aren’t many enemies around and so can put them onto Rite of Seeking to use them to attack the scenario in a different way, or conversely get extra Shrivelling charges to deal with a sudden swarm of enemies. This also means that once you have one copy of each in play, getting a second copy of either card, or playing Recharge on either copy, can effectively provide more uses for both cards, which in turn provides you with more consistency.
For charge/secret fixing, you can also use one card as a temporary repository for charges or secrets from the other. A simple example of how this might work is a situation where you have Shrivelling in play with 1 charge remaining, Rite of Seeking in play with 3 charges remaining, and a second copy of Shrivelling in hand. This round, you have an action going spare, and there are enemies lurking in the encounter deck with 4 health – this would be the ideal time to play that second copy of Shrivelling, but in doing so, you will effectively waste the charge on your current copy. On the other hand, if you were to wait until you have used that last charge, you might need to take an attack of opportunity – or use up an action you cannot spare at that time – in order to play the fresh copy. With the Eldritch Sophist, you can transfer the spare Shrivelling charge over to Rite of Seeking, then play your fresh Shrivelling, and then transfer the charge back if need be on a subsequent round. Similarly, you might want to siphon your last Secret from your Scroll of Secrets onto the Eldritch Sophist himself so that you can play a replacement Scroll of Secrets this round.
There are some more complex uses for charge/secret Fixing. Mind’s Eye is a good example – it might be the case that you need more uses of Mind’s Eye and so siphon them off a Scroll of Secrets, but you might also end up drawing your second and third copies of Mind’s Eye early and want to move them onto the Scroll of Secrets. Suggestion (4) is unusual in that you can use the Evade ability on it even when it has no charges – the charges are only lost if you don’t succeed by 2 and can also be used to dodge attacks – so you could siphon off all the charges onto your Shrivelling or Rite of Seeking, etc., and still be able to use that Evade ability – and if you ever do need to cancel an attack, you can siphon a charge back over. Similarly, you can push your luck with Seal of the Seventh Sign by siphoning off its charges if not many symbol tokens have been drawn, or siphon charges onto it if you need it to stay around longer.
In summary, there are a lot of more complex ways to use the Eldritch Sophist. The next lectures will introduce some deckbuilds using the Sophist to showcase various examples of the card in use.
Lecture 5: Roland Banks, Sophistic Swordmaster
The first deckbuild lecture uses the Eldritch Sophist to enable Roland Banks to use the Enchanted Blade as his main and only weapon, while also providing plenty of horror soak and healing to counteract his vulnerable sanity and the possible effects of his signature weaknesses. It is primarily a fighter, but also has enough investigation power to hold its own as a clue-gatherer.
The core of the deck is built around the Eldritch Sophist to siphon charges from Flesh Ward to the Enchanted Blade, and to move its own secrets onto the Cryptographic Cipher. This means that you can investigate at -2 shroud once per round with plenty of secrets, and make accurate 2-damage attacks with plenty of charges. Being able to rely solely on the Enchanted Blade means plenty of horror healing and card draw, together with plenty of other card draw and a heavy skill focus to absolutely tear through the deck. Empty Vessel can be used either to provide more Enchanted Blade charges or to form the Wish-Eater for extra healing and token cancellation – and if you want the Empty Vessel back to keep charging it up, you can siphon off the Wish-Eater charges to speed the process up.
Lecture 6: Jim Culver’s Callous Casuistry
This lecture showcases the Decorated Skull as part of a spellcasting deck, designed to kill enemies, gain charges and siphon off those charges back onto its spells. Jim Culver is ideal for this since his deckbuilding allows him to take both Decorated Skull and Eldritch Sophist. As with most Mystic builds, it fills a flex role with both investigation and combat solutions, but it does want to be in the thick of the fight to get those Decorated Skull charges.
This deck uses the Eldritch Sophist to siphon off the charges generated by the Decorated Skull (replenishing) and also move charges between spell assets as the situation demands (fixing). It also uses the Sophist to keep the Scroll of Prophecies stocked with secrets for maximum card draw. Having a consistent source of charges right from the beginning means that it’s a more consistent deck than many Mystics, at least once it is set up, and the deck can be used as a framework for lots of variant builds as discussed in the ArkhamDB writeup. A similar idea (Decorated Skull for charges, Eldritch Sophist to transfer them) can be used for Zoey Samaras using the Enchanted Blade, but that is not too dissimilar to the Roland Banks deck discussed in the previous lecture with its use of Empty Vessel.
Lecture 7: Norman Withers, the Stargazing Sophist
This lecture concerns the Astronomer himself, designed around using The Chthonian Stone (3) as a repeatable Source for charges to top up spells, while also controlling the chaos bag and using plenty of card draw. As with many Norman Withers decks, it starts off without much arcane power but grows into the potential of the Eldritch Sophist as it gets upgrades.
This deck uses Eldritch Sophist to siphon off charges from The Chthonian Stone (3) to keep its attack spell online, as well as charge fixing between Shrivelling, The Chthonian Stone and Seal of the Seventh Sign to switch between combat and bag control as the situation demands. The Sophist’s secrets are used to keep Scroll of Secrets working, which provides additional card draw and can be used to make optimal use of Norman’s ability. The flavour of the deck is awesome, as the Eldritch Sophist becomes more and more integral to how the deck works as the investigator abandons his scholastic origins and embraces the supernatural – perhaps Norman’s sophistic colleague has been showing him how to rewrite the stars as he sees fit…
Lecture 8: Marie Lambeau – Song of Sophistry
This lecture introduces a Marie deck designed to gather as many clues as possible while staying alive. It has minimal combat ability and plays more like a seeker than a typical mystic, and showcases the charge fixing concept introduced above.
This deck uses Eldritch Sophist to siphon off all the charges from Suggestion to Rite of Seeking, meaning that Suggestion can be used to evade with no risk of losing charges. The basic playstyle is to evade enemies and investigate using intellect, then using her final action in a round (preferably her extra action for having Doom in play, if it hasn’t already been used) to use Rite of Seeking, enabling her to get a huge number of clues at once. Eldritch Sophist also refills Dayana Esperence, allowing you to play around with doom on Blood Pact as much as you like using Moonlight Ritual, have a huge number of uses of Spectral Razor if you need more fighting power, or exercise immense control over the scenario with Alter Fate. Between Dayana Esperence and Eldritch Sophist, the deck has a substantial amount of soak available. The deck is designed to race through scenarios as quickly as possible, and the Eldritch Sophist keeps its motor running.
Lecture 9: Daisy Walker and Luke Robinson – getting experimental
This lecture presents two less conventional decks, a Daisy deck designed to largely neutralise the encounter deck at its roots, designed around using Cryptic Grimoire (Text of the Elder Guardian) as frequently as possible, and a Luke deck designed around Whitton Greene (2) to search the deck over and over again to trigger Revelation effects by entering Luke’s Dream-Gate every round, and investigating with intellect. These decks have not been properly tested and are designed less as concrete decklists and more as ways to showcase the more unconventional potential of the Eldritch Sophist.
This deck uses Cryptic Grimoires to bypass drawing cards from the encounter deck during the Mythos phase, and uses the Eldritch Sophist to transfer as many Secrets as possible onto the Cryptic Grimoires in order to enable this to be performed as often as possible, using Forbidden Knowledge as a source. Once the deck is running at full steam, it should be able to avoid drawing an encounter card at least once every other round. The rest of the deck is built around minimising the impact of any encounter cards that make it through the Grimoires, with cancellation and enemy management effects, as well as a basic level of investigation ability in order to attack the scenario itself.
This deck is designed to allow Luke to spend all his time in his Dream-Gate, neutralising most enemies and a number of encounter cards. The role of the Eldritch Sophist in this deck is primarily to siphon charges from Alchemical Transmutation in order to keep the Gate Box charged up throughout the scenario in order to trigger Whitton Greene and be safe from enemies every round; it also transfers secrets to the Scroll of Secrets to properly draw through the deck. One option with this deck (shown in the side deck) is to use Versatile to take “Let Me Handle This!” in order to take spawning enemies from other players while in the Dream-Gate so that they are discarded, which results in a lack of consistency but offers unconventional means of enemy management.
Lecture 10: Closing thoughts
Thank you for taking part in this lecture series hosted by the Silver Twilight Lodge! If you happen to come up with other interesting uses or interactions for the Eldritch Sophist, I would love to hear them. Join us soon for a repeat of the History of the Silver Twilight Lodge, and in the meantime…
Stay safe out there in Arkham. The nights are dark indeed.