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Pacta Arcana

Call of Cthulhu Pacta Arcana Danigral

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Pacta Arcana, in which we will explore the depths of deckbuilding with multiple factions in Fantasy Flight's Call of Cthulhu LCG. In each article of this series we will be looking at combining two factions (sometimes more) together to form a cohesive deck around a particular theme, combo, or strategy.

Call of Cthulhu is the oldest and most overlooked LCG (much to the loss of those who dismiss it), however I have long felt that it is the richest backdrop in terms of deckbuilding among all the LCGs. There are so many possibilities of combinations and permutations that continue to expand with every release, but due to the fact that there are no faction restrictions other than those on the cards themselves (i.e. steadfast icons and loyal keyword), there is much more room to explore the full cardpool. Simply using two factions gives you 28 different combinations; 36 if you include mono-faction builds as well. Trying to combine three factions gives you another 56 possibilities.

Cthulhu Posted Imageand Shub-Niggurath Posted Image

For the first foray in Pacta Arcana, I’ve chosen the game’s namesake faction, Cthulhu, and another mythos faction, Shub-Niggurath. Combining these two will allow me to do a few things: 1) Shub provides the best resource acceleration and “tutor” effects in the game, 2) Cthulhu has some of the best sacrifice effects and abilities to put. By expanding those concepts to a dual-faction deck, we can get some dynamic results.

What do I get out of this deal?

Something you might notice is that both of these strategies are available in cards of both Cthulhu and Shub factions, so what is the benefit of combining them? Other than the obvious answer of getting to play all of both faction’s best cards, synergies open up through cross-pollination of the ‘sacrifice’ and ‘resurrection’ themes.

For example, a common strategy for mono-Cthulhu is using cards like Hydra (SoA), along with a slough of Deep Ones, in order to maintain superior board advantage throughout the game by continuously recurring lost characters. As long as I have open domains and Hydra is in play, I can gain characters almost as fast as I lose them. By adding in Temple of R'lyeh (NN) I can force my opponent to lose characters, and put my own right back out with Hydra. By continuously sacrificing and returning to play, you leave your opponent in an untenable board position at best, which can be easily overrun by your big characters. Now, we’re not going to be using Deep Ones in this deck, but Shub has it’s own version of Hydra, but for Dark Young characters, and it’s even more efficient. I’m talking about Shub-Niggurath (TC), the big one herself.

On the other hand, Shub has some versions of sacrifice effects, most notably The Three Bells (TUP), but it’s only a once per turn effect. It’s cheap so it helps out early game, but there are more efficient options in Cthulhu. One of those is Temple of R’lyeh. Unfortunately, if we want to use Temple of R’lyeh, we would need to sacrifice Cthulhu characters, and we’re using Dark Young, so that won’t work. However, there’s another option in Cthylla (SoK), which can be used up to five times a turn - much more efficient!

Key Cards:
Cthylla (SoK) and
Shub-Niggurath (TC) - This is the core of the combo. By using Cthylla once each phase, you can sacrifice up to 5 characters per turn. If those characters are Dark Young, for only 1 2-cost domain you can bring them all back, leaving your opponent with up to 5 less characters, and your board unchanged. However, no matter how great their abilities are, both of these cards are expensive! Cthylla is 5 cost and Shub-Niggurath is 6. So we’ll need another engine to ramp our resources very quickly in order to get them into play.

Nug (SoK) - Many have quickly discovered this card’s amazing ability to give you 3 turns of resourcing in one go. If you have a way to get him out in turn 2 or 3 (or both!) you will be light-years ahead of your opponent in terms of resources.

Aziz Chatuluka (TSS) - Fortunately the Cthulhu faction provides this very easy way to get Nug into play on turn 1, and returns Nug to the top of the deck to play in a subsequent turn. This puts you a little behind in board advantage, but way ahead in resources.

Under the Porch (THBtS) - This is another easy way to get Nug into play quickly to ramp your resources. It can also pull out any of your other Shub cards in order to toolbox, such as support destruction with Grasping Chthonian (IotF), or getting Aziz back with Hungry Dark Young (Core), or pulling out Shub herself if you’re ready for her.

Thoughts on Gameplay:
It’s essential that you have a couple of your combo pieces either in your starting hand, or on turn 1. The goal is to have Aziz and Nug in your hand as soon as possible so that you can sac Aziz to get Nug’s resource ramping ability on turn 1, or turn 2 at the latest. You want to keep an eye on the board because you don’t want your opponent to rush to a win before you can start filling the board with your own characters.

A few sample turns might look like this:
  • Turn 1: resource for 2-1-1; play Aziz 2-1-1; sac in story phase to put Nug into play for 3-2-2
  • Turn 2: resource for 4-2-2; play characters, hopefully at least one with a Shocking Transformation to get Hungry Dark Young and put Aziz into play again; sac Aziz for Nug again for 5-3-3.
  • Turn 3: resource Nug (he’s done his business) to play Shub 6-3-3, or play Under the Porch to get Shub into play, trigger his ability, and then into your hand.
  • Turn 4: you’re ready to play your Cthylla/Shub combo.
An alternative plan is to use Under the Porch to search out Nug, then use Aziz once he’s in your hand.
  • Turn 1: resource for 2-1-1; play Aziz and bide your time.
  • Turn 2: resource for 3-1-1; play Under the Porch and sac immediately during operations to get Nug for 4-2-2; sac Aziz to put Nug into play during story phase for 5-3-3.
  • Turn 3: resource for 6-3-3; play Cthylla or Shub.
  • Turn 4: you’re ready.
Once you are done resourcing, all cards drawn from that point are absolute card advantage, and you can now focus on just swarming the board as quickly as possible. If your opponent commits characters, force him to sacrifice to create holes in his story positions. Use your sacrifice effects sparingly until you can get the full Cthylla/Shub/Hungry Dark Young combo going at which point you can probably sacrifice your opponent’s entire board using Muddy Waters as a supplement, so that you win your stories unopposed and dispose of all their threats.

With at least a couple Ancient Ones on the board, it should be very difficult for a weakened opponent to make any meaningful progress on stories. However, if you don’t get enough characters out early, you have to be aware that too much sacrificing can leave you just as vulnerable, particularly if your opponent is packing sacrifice or wounding effects of his own.

The Deck:

Characters (33)
Aziz Chatuluka (TSS) x3
Nug (SoK) x3
Shub-Niggurath (TC) x2
Cthylla (SoK) x3
Hungry Dark Young (Core) x3
The Mother's Hand (SoA) x3
Ya-te-veo (TUP) x3
Marcus Jamburg (WoP) x2
Lavinia Whateley (DD) x1
Grasping Chthonian (IotF) x2
Dreamlands Fanatic (ItDoN) x3
Naaginn (TbtA) x2
Beings of Ib (TH) x3

Supports (8)
Muddy Waters (TAD) x3
Under the Porch (THBtS) x3
Snow Graves (AtMoM) x2

Events (9)
Forms of the Ether (CotJE) x2
Shocking Transformation (Core) x3
Burrowing Beneath (Core) x2
Thunder in the East (KD) x2

A few notes on the deck:
  • Ya-te-veo can help you slow your opponent down if you don't get lucky in your draws in the first few turns.
  • Naaginn is mainly for sacrificing to Cthylla. He may seem like an odd choice since he's so inefficient, but he has two ways to get returned to play: by Hungry Dark Young, or by support destruction via his ability.
  • Beings of Ib also do double duty as a cheap sarificable character, and sometimes you can use it for its ability when you happen to only have one Ancient One out.
  • Forms of Ether may also seem like an odd choice, but if you get really unlucky with your resourcing from Nug, then this is a backup to get a card you want later if necessary.
  • There is no restricted card, but if I had to put one in, it would probably be Diseased Sewer Rats (SoA) for more tempo control early game, or Negotium Perambulans in Tenebris (DD) to slow down those pesky rush decks.
  • Marcus Jamburg is just stellar. He can get back Under the Porch to search out Hungry Dark Young, or a Grasping Chthonian if you need out-of-turn support destruction, or Lavinia Whateley to sac for Cthylla if you didn't draw her yet.
Building on a Budget:
Obviously the deck above includes cards from the full card pool, including 3 cores, 1-1/2 Secrets of Arkham, Seekers of Mystery, and the following packs: The Shifting Sands, The Cacophony, The Unspeakable Pages, Words of Power, Twilight Horror, Touched by the Abyss, In the Dread of Night, Initiations of the Favored, The Antediluvian Dreams, The Horror Beneath the Surface, At the Mountains of Madness, Curse of the Jade Emperor, Dunwich Denizens, and Kingsport Dreams. Quite a list, I admit, and some of those packs may be impossible to get until they are reprinted (*as of publishing this April 2013).

However, if you wanted to build a similar concept, but on a budget, you could make a few adjustments. Here is a decklist using only 2 core sets, 1 Secrets of Arkham, Seekers of Knowledge, and half as many chapter packs, including The Cacophony, The Horror Beneath the Surface, Kingsport Dreams, The Shifting Sands, Written and Bound, and The Unspeakable Pages.

Characters (33)
Aziz Chatuluka (TSS) x3 (The Shifting Sands)
Nug (SoK) x3 (Seekers of Knowledge)
Shub-Niggurath (TC) x2 (The Cacophony)

Cthylla (SoK) x3 (Seekers of Knowledge)
Hungry Dark Young (Core) x2 (Core)
The Mother's Hand (SoA) x2 (Secrets of Arkham)
Ya-te-veo (TUP) x3 (The Unspeakable Pages)
Lucas Corn (WaB) x3 (Written and Bound)
Basil Elton (KD) x1 (Kingsport Dreams)
Servant from Out of Time (Core) x2 (Core)
Diseased Sewer Rats (SoA) x2 (Secrets of Arkham)
Rampaging Dark Young (SoA) x2 (Core)
Innsmouth Troublemaker (Core) x2 (Core)
Lord of the Silver Twilight (Core) x2 (Core)

Supports (8)
Under the Porch (THBtS) x3 (The Horror Beneath the Surface)
The Three Bells (TUP) x3 (The Unspeakable Pages)
Gentleman's Club (Core) x2 (Core)

Events (10)
Feed Her Young (WaB) x3 (Written and Bound)

Shocking Transformation (Core) x2 (Core)
Burrowing Beneath (Core) x2 (Core)
Thunder in the East (KD) x3 (Kingsport Dreams)

This deck loses some cheap sacrificial fodder in Beings of Ib, so we replace those with Lucas Corn and Servitor from Out of Time. The Servitor also does double duty by replacing Forms of Ether, which we were using in case of mis-resourced cards from Nug. We also lose a key tempo card in Muddy Waters, which is very big, but we can replace it with The Three Bells for early game control until the combo is in play. Feed Her Young helps with a little card draw while also accelerating your domains. We also lose some of the third copies of key Dark Young, so we fill it in with other Dark Young and cheap characters (making sure we still have a decent Cthulhu card count for resourcing). Lastly, with the loss of Grasping Chthonian, the deck lost a little bit of surprise support destruction, so I upped Thunder in the East to x3. Lastly, I’ve added in Gentleman’s Club in case the deck gets off to a slow start or gets hit with discard effects.

I actually like a few of these changes better, including maybe one copy of Rampaging Dark Young, and two copies of Servitor Out of Time instead of Forms of Ether, and I would consider those changes according to your personal preference in the first deck above. But let me know your thoughts!

Any feedback, suggestions, or comments are welcome.

Thanks for reading! Join me next time for a look at some investigator factions.

Danigral started hoarding Call of Cthulhu the same time as A Game of Thrones. While he’s played AGoT more competitively, he’s harbored a secret love for CoC and has played it casually and competitively for over 2 years. Initially drawn into the game through a fascination with Lovecraft’s mythos, he fell in love with the innovative mechanics and engaging gameplay CoC offers. And he wants to convert you. Cthulhu Fhtagn!

  • Kennon, HappyDD, badash56 and 10 others like this


Wow, an excellent article to start what promises to become an excellent series of articles! :wub:

This must be one of the most comprehensive articles about building a deck I've seen for CoC. And although it's about a specific deck idea, it provides some valuable insight into the general principles behind building any deck. It's just what CoC needs, and I hope the articles help to bring the game some more well-deserved attention.

I also love the inclusion of the 'budget' version of the deck, although I fortunately have access to every card.
    • Danigral and bigfomlof like this
This article was amazing. I have been thinking of getting into CoC for several weeks now and this is definitely one of the things that has pushed me to go ahead and start it up! I greatly encourage you to continue to try and produce a budget deck list, which was surprising when I was reading the article. It was exactly what I needed for encouragement, as the original deck was great but of course a little daunting for a new player. Thanks again for the great article.
    • Danigral likes this
Really great article Dan, and I dig the deck!
Descendant of Eibon (TTotT) would fit right in also I think. His transient ability really doesn't hurt you if you use it often in a Nug deck, and it's another way to get him out and the resources pumping.
    • Danigral likes this
Apr 18 2013 12:42 PM
I don't play CoC, but I read/enjoyed this article and its matter of fact approach to decision making during deck building. Really interesting to watch someone's thought process so thoroughly documented.
    • Danigral likes this
Thanks for the positive feedback, guys!
@jhaelen - I hope to make this at least a regular article, maybe every two weeks.
@sanctimus - I'm glad this has already started working. }:-) One of the goals is to brings exposure so more players know about this great game.
@badash - Descendent might be a good option, too, but I thought with the whole goal of getting out Shub, for 2 cost I could get a bunch of characters without sacrificing success tokens, which are usually slowly won.
@darkblade - Thanks for reading. Now go get the game. ;)
I had myself convinced to get it after talking with you in forums Danigral, then talked myself out after some other people made some points, now you have me convinced again to get the game.

Great article, looking forward to more.
    • Danigral likes this
@badash - Re-reading your comment, I see now you're talking about using him to rush out Nug, or maybe better an Under the Porch. Sure, I can see that for additional redundancy. The problem then would be deciding between him and Negotium (since this deck is very weak to weenie rush decks.

@toqtamish - Go buy it before you change your mind again. lol. Seriously, you play everything else already. You might as well play this too! I don't think you'll be disappointed. I hope you can see that there is definitely faction flavor that isn't diminished by access to the entire cardpool.
@Danigral I had the same issue with my AO deck. The Miska/Hastur deck I made just rolled it constantly.
Negotium Perambulans in Tenebris (DD) is a good addition, but I have found to use it well you need something like
Ol' Lazy Eyes (CoC) to make sure you get it out fast enough.

I am still working on a way to block the rush decks with
Flux Stabilizer (PT). You can lose on turn 2-3 if you aren't careful!
    • Danigral likes this

@Danigral I had the same issue with my AO deck. The Miska/Hastur deck I made just rolled it constantly.
Negotium Perambulans in Tenebris (DD) is a good addition, but I have found to use it well you need something like
Ol' Lazy Eyes (CoC) to make sure you get it out fast enough.

I am still working on a way to block the rush decks with
Flux Stabilizer (PT). You can lose on turn 2-3 if you aren't careful!

Yeah, Flux Stabilizer is very annoying to this deck. Fortunately it has a lot of support destruction, so that you can get rid of it for the turn you need to do all your tutoring or recurring. Most MU decks don't have a lot of support recursion, unless they run Jamburg. It's definitely a weakness though!

I like that idea. You could swap out Diseased Sewer Rats or Naaginn for Ol' Lazy Eyes, and run Negotium as your restricted. That might make it a little more resilient early game.
Negotium would be my play for the restricted card, it's just so good at lengthening the game so that you can do your funky Nug trick, particularly if you are concerned with facing a lot of University decks.

One question: What is "tutoring"?
    • Danigral likes this
Tutoring is card gamer slang for a search effect based on Magic: The Gathering Demonic Tutor which was the first card that let you search your whole deck for a card of your choice and add it to your hand.

Good article Dan. Thanks for the heads up.
    • Danigral likes this

Negotium would be my play for the restricted card, it's just so good at lengthening the game so that you can do your funky Nug trick, particularly if you are concerned with facing a lot of University decks.

One question: What is "tutoring"?

As dormouse said, in general it is a search-the-deck effect for a specific card; in this case, it's limited to searching for a Shub character and putting it into play, but I always use it more broadly to mean any search effect, no matter the restriction or destination.

Tutoring is card gamer slang for a search effect based on Magic: The Gathering Demonic Tutor which was the first card that let you search your whole deck for a card of your choice and add it to your hand.

Good article Dan. Thanks for the heads up.

Thanks dormouse. I hope you keep reading! kamacausey will have some n00b-friendly articles up and running soon that you might enjoy. ;)
    • dormouse likes this
Call of Cthulhu remains to be my most favoured game of all time. From the theme, the game, the art. It just captures my attention. I'm happy to see a lot of attention for this very underrated and always overlooked game.

And with that...

Amazing article. I like all the points. Sadly, I play pure. Mono-Factions. From LOTR, STar Wars, Netrunner and even other games that support multi faction rules. I like working the strengths and weaknesses of each faction.

That being said, I currently have all the packs and boxes (3 cores, 2 Secrets of Arkham, Seekers of Knowledge, Order of Silver Twilight and all exisiting packs) for COC, so I provide all interested with decks (I have 17 decks, 2 for each faction and 1 neutral). I will be directing my gaming group to this article so they can start designing their own decks using my cards. ^_^
    • Danigral and HomerJ like this
Thanks, Lovecraft. Yes, mono-faction is a very different way to look at deck-building, and maybe one time I (or someone else) will look at building decks mono-faction decks. FFG is good about designing cards that work only in a mono-faction build, so those cards are kind of "unlocked" when you're a purist, whereas to most players who mix factions or play neutral cards won't ever really play them. You also don't have to worry about problems with resourcing, or with the annoying Nyarlathotep (JtUK).

You actually have more than a full playset since you have extra commons and x4 of SoA. An interesting point: In AGoT I feel that having more than a full playset is a waste - I would never, for example, buy another copy of Kings of the Storm just for Superior Claim. But in CoC, I have never considered having more than a full playset as "wasted" cards, for the simple reason that it's so easy to play mixed factions, and I can throw those copies into multiple existing decks. Dreamlands Fanatic (ItDoN) is a good example since it comes x3 in the old distribution model, so when you buy 3 packs you have 9 copies of them. (You, of course, would probably never dream of doing this, and I respect that...) ;)
Funny you mention that, I have 9x Dreamlands Fanatic (ItDoN) to get three copies of The Cavern of Flame (ItDoN) :lol:
    • Danigral likes this
Exactly, there are some good/fun cards in that pack, and the fanatics are such an easy card to throw into a deck since there are always characters leaving play all over the place.
Excellent article. I played this build four or five times last night against a shub deck and a syndicate deck. In only one of the games did I draw the combo early which resulted in an easy win. The other games it was a hard fought battle. Nug kept resourcing my shub and forms of the ether. Also I found that Cthylla was hiding in the bottom third of my deck most of the time. I may increase the number of Lavinia's to fetch her. I will make some changes and test some more. I really like this deck.
    • Danigral likes this
After playing it some more, I found that I like the Servitor from Out of Time more than Forms of Ether, as it gives you another character to sac. Lavinia is really only a toolbox character...in the off chance I didn't draw a Cthylla when I needed her, I usually had (or saved) a Shocking Transformation to tutor Lavinia, and then Cthylla. Usually the sacrificing also triggered a Muddy Waters. It's a combo-control deck, so you really just mitigate damage until you get the lock, then your 2-3 AOs can get unopposed challenges for the win.

Let me know what changes you make and how it worked!

After playing it some more, I found that I like the Servitor from Out of Time more than Forms of Ether.


I'd like to add that as a player who bought hundreds of CCG boosters and all of the TCG releases for this game, and has probably only actually played a couple dozen times, this is the article series I've prayed for. Thanks for taking the time to educate us beginners. I'm looking forward to shuffling this up.
    • Danigral likes this
@HomerJ - Thanks for your feedback, and glad you enjoy the article!