Jim Culver - In Chaos Major (From Covenant Live, Carcosa)

Card draw simulator
Odds: 0% – 0% – 0% more
Derived from
None. Self-made deck here.
Inspiration for
None yet

botounami · 539

When we first built Jim Culver on stream - with the help of so many of you on chat - it came together as an outsourced deck usually does: generically good cards that are traditionally associated with a particular investigator. Such a deck looks like this.

With Jim, you immediately want to focus on drawing skulls; Jim's Trumpet triggers from the draw, and many Mystic cards reward you for hitting those symbols.

So, of course you start down the road of Dark Prophecy, Olive McBride, and The Chthonian Stone. Then we recognized that the Trumpet was a relic, and bringing in unique allies is generally the best way to utilize those 5 level 0 slots, so Dr. Elli Horowitz made an appearance. That further incentivized The Chthonian Stone and added a wildly thematic Hallowed Mirror for Soothing Melody.

The rest is standard Mystic, with Shrivelling as the attack spell and Sixth Sense as a secondary investigator option. And because I find it to be the best card in the game, two Lucky! was a given.

Now, though, I've been able to take all of these ideas and actually obsess over the build for more hours than I'd like to admit. I've found that the absolute best way to refine a level 0 build, and to optimize your leveling after each scenario, is to look at your final build at about 30XP. There's probably a known "average" across a cycle, but I've found that building to around 30XP has been about right to lock in something I can actually realize and to elucidate a deck concept I might have so I can build it properly from the ground up.

When I started looking at ways to level up Jim, I had to decide on a mechanical theme, and then, because I can't resist, make sure it coalesces around a story that makes sense for the character.

Here's what I realized pretty quickly about Jim. It's not at all about finding ways to draw skulls. It's about consistency and a much higher than average success rate on tests that matter. In Carcosa, with the starting bag, Jim effectively has 3 extra "0" tokens. This means I'm less affected by bad draws. Being less affected by bad draws means that my big spells and events are less susceptible to being "wasted". Which started me in the direction of - how heavily can I mitigate failure, and how can I take advantage of that mitigation? The latter is especially important. Building an engine that never fails, but does nothing, is a trap I've found myself in many times. (Luckily, Mystic spells pretty much take care of themselves on the "this is worth succeeding at" front.)

So I searched out any card that mitigated failure. Immediate off-class interests were the Survivor staples Live and Learn and Lucky!. If I included both, I'd really be pushing the "can't fail" idea.

Then, from Mystic, it started getting very exciting. First was Recall the Future, which can turn the -4 to a -2, and/or the -3 to a -1, or drastically help against bad symbols, or any variation thereof. Likewise, you could turn -2 into 0, leaving you with yet more 0 value to draw in the bag.

Next was the "included but then cut" Ritual Candles. I actually love this card on second look. As is the case with a lot of Mystic builds, I was struggling for money in my first go with the original deck, and dropping a Stone for 3, especially when it can get immediately bounced, never felt good. Grabbing it with Dr. Elli Horowitz feels good, but balancing relics with hand/neck slots and hoping it all gets drawn in the right order is a game I already played with Mandy Thompson in Forgotten Age - and she plays it better - so I was ready for a cleaner approach.

Ritual Candles turns a Skull draw into a +1. It also turns the other symbols, generally -2s or -3s, into much more reasonable outcomes. I can hold Candles and the Trumpet without worrying about a conflict in my hand slots, and ultimately that is a cool enough visual to include on its own. Best of all, Candles cost 1, helping to keep the curve lower so I can afford my bigger spells.

It all really came together with The Black Cat. Not only does this insulate me from those awful symbols, but Ritual Candles makes them zeroes as well. In addition, the generous 3-health and 3-sanity helps sponge an unlucky Final Rhapsody and opens up Jim's super star ability to do something quite meaningful - pass an impossible test and heal up The Black Cat - rather than the oft-unneeded "this is a skull now" ability.

In a dream scenario - 2x Recall the Future, 1x Black Cat, 1x Ritual Candles, you can have insane odds. This is our bag after the first scenario on Standard:

1x: +1 || 2x: 0 || 3x: –1 || 2x: –2 || 1x: –3 || 1x: –4 || 3x: Skull || 2x: Tablet || 1x Star || 1x Auto-Fail

Let's imagine I am testing my 4 Will against a test of (3). Here's what can happen to the bag with the above cards out.

1x: +1 || 2x: 0 || 3x: –1 || 2x: –2 [0] || 1x: –3 [-1] || 1x: –4 || 3x: Skull [+1] || 2x: Tablet [0] || 1x Star || 1x Auto-Fail

Two tokens fail that test for me. If I have a margin of 2, only one token fails - the tentacle. If I bring in Olive, I can have a fantastic shot at triggering any "on symbol" effects and still have incredibly high odds at success. Now that's the Jim I want to play. Stay in tune with the bag, and keep those trumpet solos humming.

So, returning to the Level 0 build of the deck, we had to change some things. I'm now all-in on Ritual Candles and Holy Rosary. I've actually doubled up on Delve Too Deep since it wrecked us and I need to use it a few more times to make up the XP we lost from that play (what a trap!). Additionally, this deck really clicks once it has its big XP pieces working together (Black Cat + Recall the Future) so I want to get there quickly.

The splashes definitely changed. After a number of test draws and playing with the curve of the deck, I settled on a heavy skew toward 2-cost cards. That means Lone Wolf opens up almost every card in my deck being playable at the start of my turn, even if I ended last turn on 0 resources. This will allow me to keep pace with the scenario while also adding key pieces of the build during one of my actions each turn; it also means Wither, Spectral Razor, Read the Signs, and Ethereal Form are always playable right after they're drawn, important for reactionary cards that are best played after an enemy is drawn in Mythos.

Also, it has a piano player on it. That'll be important for a thematic appreciation of my setup.

While I'm headed toward Word of Command, Mystics live and die by their spells being in play. Spending half the game trying to draw into Shrivelling is a reality most of us have witnessed, so I needed a way to filter through the deck without sacrificing tempo. Reasonable choices on this front are Preposterous Sketches and No Stone Unturned, but Zach is running Joe Diamond and they'll be all over his Insight deck already, so I started looking elsewhere and stumbled upon one of my favorites - Eureka!. It keeps tempo nicely since it doesn't take an action or any cash, and it can be played on any of my common tests. It's especially nice on an early Read the Signs, which nabs two clues and is almost guaranteed success with an out-of-the-gate test of 8. Because of Jim's token consistency, getting it to fire successfully throughout the game shouldn't be an issue.

Finally, as an homage to the original splash, I left in one Live and Learn. I actually like this card better than Lucky! in this deck even though I don't want to. First, it's free. Second, it's a wild icon to use on a critical test made by another investigator. Third, it allows me to play my odds in a much more clever way; take an iffy test without using Olive McBride - maybe you get the token you need and you can now use her during a different action. If you fail, play Live and Learn, trigger Olive, and take the big test at +2 with Olive's ability. You can risk drawing the symbol you need if you don't hit a Skull, and have a buffer for its inherent negative. There's also a world where you fight with Wither, hit a symbol, fail the test, give the enemy -1 across the board, and then use Live and Learn to have a much better chance at success and potentially proc the -1 on the second test, too. I think that works, at least.

I did have 2x Live and Learn because it seems to synergize with "when you draw" effects so well, but the consistency across resources and cards with Lone Wolf and Eureka! was too good to pass up.

With two Arcane Research, my plan is to start with upgrading a spell every scenario, and then grab Recall the Future and Fearless to increase success odds and prevent losing scenarios to the early horror loss. It starts with Wither, as I'm supposed to do mainly combat, then next scenario it's Sixth Sense, and finally Shrivelling; going from 0 to 3, and then 3 to 5 if I have the time. Ward of Protection is also a solid option.

After upgrading a spell, the rest of the XP goes into The Black Cat, then Charisma, and finally the last copy of The Black Cat.

I'll be putting more thematic notes on the Final Build decklist once I publish it, but meantime this is how I'm planning to move Jim through Carcosa! In the grand scheme of things, my plan is to enhance the already impressive consistency of Jim's draws with Recall the Future, The Black Cat, Ritual Candles, Olive, and Fearless, then have a toolbox of powerful spells with Word of Command. To keep the tempo strong, I'll be importing Lone Wolf and Eureka, while packing the already impressive Uncage the Soul. All that's left to do after that is...play the right notes.

Follow along with us every Friday live on YouTube, Twitch, or Facebook from 1PM to 5PM CT (and usually later), and you can always learn more and/or subscribe to Arkham products on our website.

Cannot wait to get a few scenarios in with Jim!

11 comments

May 11, 2020 edrekishi · 1

Great writeup! Really enjoyed the stream on Friday (Saturday for me in Australia), can't wait to see more Jim in Carcosa!

May 11, 2020 RebelSpy · 1

This is super well thought out and I really enjoyed the write-up! I think this deck is much more exciting than the original take. I'm excited to see you guys back in Arkham on Friday!

May 12, 2020 SGPrometheus · 207

I've always been interested in Jim, but never interested enough to sit down with a deck. It'll be neat to see him in what is arguably his best campaign.

I am curious though: no mention of song of the dead? Not that it's good, but Jim is the only deck where it could be good, so I'd be tempted to see if I could make it work. Also, it seems like you took dark prophecy out; did the deck just not have the room?

May 13, 2020 unitled · 1780

When the starter decks come, you're going to be slapping Crystal Pendulum right in this deck instead of Holy Rosary!

You'll find the engine of 2x Candles, Recall and Olive means you're pulling down positive modifiers even when summing two tokens, it's absolutely bonkers. I'm not sure you even need the tarot to be brutally honest, 5 wp with all that bag mitigation should see you through the vast majority of tests, especially when you have the upgraded arcane slot spells (and it's so painful to draw during the game rather than at the beginning).

May 14, 2020 botounami · 539

@SGPrometheus It's definitely worth mentioning - there'll be a bit of discussion about it on stream. Basically, I'm taking Jim in the opposite direction. There's definitely a Jim build with Dark Prophecy/Premonition/Grotesque Statue that seeks out the skulls needed for that spell to fire.

This build is shooting for consistently high odds tests that power high return spells, so Shriveling is a better fit!

I was super tempted too. The deck started in that direction, but deviated once Recall the Future + Black Cat came into view.

May 14, 2020 botounami · 539

@unitled That does look like a great card! Card draw is certainly welcome in Mystic, and this is a deck that can play those odds well. It really is going to depend on how well I can deal with horror. Starting with 2 horror from Arcane Research x2 means that without finding sanity soak early, you could just punt a scenario from a really unlucky encounter deck.

It's a really nice balance between those two accessory slots. Well-designed.

May 14, 2020 botounami · 539

@unitled Also, my plan with Four of Cups is to allow Recall to choose better targets. If we assume the general "hard" test of 4, a Will of 6 means you can call -3 and -4 to end up with "only tentacle fails" moments as long as Black Cat is out. I like how consistent that is against the encounter deck, where the asset boosts won't matter.

Then again, I could pivot that slot into Bulletproof Vest - which I actually like a lot better given the weak Agility stat. I'm in! Thanks for the recommendation.

May 14, 2020 HarrisonF · 7

Upgraded Sixth Sense is absolutely insane with Olive McBride. You get to gain two clues (one from your location and one from two away) -- which is absolutely amazing.

I am surprised that you are doing the upgraded Fearless so early. Typically that is a later scenario luxury upgrade. I would prefer something like Recall the Future earlier since it really changes the game vs. healing for just 1 more Sanity.

Arcane Initiate is another card to consider since you are running 13 spells. It can help you find the key spells early that you need and then you swap out to Olive McBride after a bit. It can be tricky to play well since you want to be careful around Ancient Evils and such.

May 14, 2020 Fjohnsen · 1

Hi, thank you for the great build and all the informations :) I am still new to this game. So my question is: You get 5xp from scenario 1, and you have 2x Arcane Research, so the upgraded "Wither" only cost 2xp instead of 4xp I get that. Then you use 2xp on "Fearless" and 1xp for "Four of Cups" that in total is 5xp, but then I have to wait until scenario 2 is done to swap the cards with "Drawn ot the Flame", "Premonition" do to lack of xp. Why no buy "Four of Cups" and upgrade "Wither" then you can have both cards in scenario 2, or have I misunderstod something? What I understand is that: If you swap a card from one to another in your deck it cost 1xp, unless it is an upgrade of the same card (Like "Wither" to upgrade "Wither" cost 0xp, but "Premonition" to "Four of Cups" cost 1xp). Thanks in advance.

May 21, 2020 Faranim · 237

I think Jim is actually the WORST possible Mystic to take Ritual Candles. Jim already should expect to pass on which means the candles only helps him on .

Keep track of how many times the Candles actually helped you pass a test you would otherwise fail. Over the course of the whole campaign, I would be surprised if the number is greater than 0.

May 21, 2020 botounami · 539

@Faranim Don’t forget that you get +1 when it’s revealed, which means Skulls are +1 instead of 0. With Black Cat, symbols are 0 instead of -1.

With Olive, Skulls are now +1, which can easily make up for the second token resolved. With Recall the Future, you have serious protection against symbols that have horrible downsides upon failure.

I’ll definitely take your challenge! Will be good to track starting tomorrow on stream.