Roland Banks, Sophistic Swordmaster

Card draw simulator

Odds: 0% – 0% – 0% more
Derived from
None. Self-made deck here.
Inspiration for
Roland Basic 0 0 0 1.0

Dai · 822

Hello friends! Whether you're here from my Eldritch Sophist Primer or just browsing ArkhamDB, I hope you find this rather unconventional take on everyone's favourite G-Man enjoyable to read.

Deck concept

This deck is designed to enable Roland Banks to concentrate entirely on using the Enchanted Blade as his only weapon, giving him a flexible and accurate combat solution while including enough clue-gathering cards to enable him to easily pull his weight in progressing through a scenario. It does so using several newer cards and leaning heavily into Roland's ability and deckbuilding options.

The deck shown here is an upgraded version after a modest amount of experience; this should be an achieveable amount of experience for early in a campaign and a good breakpoint for standalone. A full breakdown of upgrade priority and further upgrades can be found below; the starting 0 exp cards replaced during upgrading can be found in the Side Deck.

Roland's fragile sanity and mediocre willpower have been problems right from the days of the core set, and this deck addresses those weaknesses directly. Between Enchanted Blade, Eldritch Sophist, Flesh Ward, Second Wind, and Hallowed Mirror (starting)/Empty Vessel (upgraded), this deck can handle a huge amount of punishment. Much of its survivability is providing using efficient healing cards rather than soak, meaning that it can bounce back from trauma (such as that caused by Cover Up) and direct damage and horror and isn't very reliant on getting set up before it is ready to face the scenario. This deck has survived the rigours of Innsmouth on Hard difficulty, which pummels your Health and Sanity, so I'm pretty confident in its ability to stay standing.

Since this build runs pretty light on assets and doesn't feature particularly high costs, it has space to really emphasise a solid card economy - multiple cantrip skills, several draw effects and plenty of Fast events – meaning that it can draw through its deck rapidly and deploy its effects with minimal action expenditure, leaving it free to deal with enemies and gather clues uninterrupted.

Typically, Roland Banks decks prefer to use his Replacement signature cards - The Dirge of Reason and Mysteries Remain - on the basis that The Dirge of Reason is less punishing and Mysteries Remain is more flexible. This deck instead uses his basic signature cards, not only to make it more accessible to players who may not have the novellas, but also because The Dirge of Reason is brutal for this deck. Since this deck has a massive amount of draw power (expect to cycle through his entire deck at least once per scenario), the Dirge of Reason will really bite into Roland's sanity if it has to be shuffled back into his deck and be drawn again (and again). Conversely, Cover Up is a pain but once it enters play, it stays in play even after it has been solved, so it will never bother you more than once per scenario; this deck is pretty good at grabbing clues so it's usually possible if a little cumbersome to clear, and if you happen to be unable to at some point and Roland suffers a Mental Trauma, it's not the end of the world since the deck has so much horror healing.

Core combo

The core of this deck is the interaction between Enchanted Blade and Eldritch Sophist. All the assets in the deck are built around these two cards - Enchanted Blade as a weapon, draw engine and healing card and Eldritch Sophist to siphon off charges from Flesh Ward and Empty Vessel to keep the Enchanted Blade topped up. Generally, Flesh Ward is a card that seems too expensive for what it offers, and often in play it seems rare to spend all four of hits charges - plus there's the temptation to use it to soak damage/horror from sources other than attacks and lose the remaining charges. Here, it instead acts as a source of charges for the Enchanted Blade while also being usable for its primary effect in the meantime - and since its charges are quickly depleted, it can more quickly be used to soak up a hit. Empty Vessel is used as much for its charge generation as for its ability to transform into the Wish Eater - kill an enemy, gain a charge, transfer that charge onto the Enchanted Blade in order to kill more enemies, repeat. That said, the Wish Eater is still a really awesome card for Roland Banks to use, helping him pass tests (important since this build goes for flexibility rather than focusing on a single stat) and keeping him alive - and its charges can still be siphoned off to turn it back into the Empty Vessel to gain more charges and keep the engine running - or, if Roland is in a situation where he has loads of charges spare, he can instead transfer charges onto the Wish Eater and keep its potent ability online for longer.

The Cryptographic Cipher is mostly used for its second ability (Investigate. Your location gets -2 shroud for this investigation.), since Roland doesn't have enough intellect to reliably succeed on the free triggered investigation with +1 shroud unless he invests heavily in the test. Typically, this would make it a worse option than the Flashlight, which is cheaper and doesn't exhaust, but since the Cryptographic Cipher uses Secrets, the Eldritch Sophist can refuel it and give it much more longevity. The fact that it can only be used once per round isn't that big a downside for this deck - Roland will be fighting a lot and getting quite a few clues with Roland's ability and Evidence!, so will often only need to pick up an occasional extra clue once per round.

Mulligan priority

This is pretty simple: Enchanted Blade is most important, though I wouldn't mulligan Cryptographic Cipher or Eldritch Sophist away in order to get it. Roland's .38 Special is purely a backup weapon either if he doesn't have the Enchanted Blade in hand yet or runs out of charges; once the deck is up and running, it is most likely to be committed to a skill test. That said, since it is a backup weapon, I wouldn't mulligan it away unless I also had an Enchanted Blade in my opening hand.

Stick to the Plan is used to find Ever Vigilant, Prepared for the Worst and Practice Makes Perfect, as well as triggering the Research effect on one copy of Surprising Find. The classic Stick to the Plan + Astounding Revelation combo has gotten a little stale for me, but Stick to the Plan + Surprising Find has turned out to be particularly fun as a way to jump-start the deck and its draw engine. The additional copies of Surprising Find can be found with Practice Makes Perfect and Prepared for the Worst. Prepared for the Worst does double duty as a way to find an Enchanted Blade if Roland doesn't have one yet and a way to find more copies of Surprising Find, so if he has a spare action, it can be worth using even if he already has one copy of Enchanted Blade - not only could he find a backup weapon, but he can also get a free cantrip skill.

Piloting

This deck is relatively straightforward to pilot once you get your head around the core combos - Roland is a monster-hunter first and foremost, so go deal with enemies for the team. It's preferable to slay them on locations with clues so he can trigger his investigator ability and Evidence! in addition to the effects of Glory and Enchanted Blade - don't be afraid to take a mild attack of opportunity to move to a better location to leverage the "After you defeat an enemy" triggers, since Roland has the soak and the healing to handle it.

If Roland isn't fighting anything, he'll be using Cryptographic Cipher to investigate for a clue and/or healing with Second Wind and keeping his board state ready to go by playing cards.

Practice Makes Perfect should be used to boost Fight tests pretty much exclusively, since the majority of valid targets are Combat icon skills (though using it in the hopes of finding Take the Initiative might be a worthwhile play in an emergency).

Make sure you're using Eldritch Sophist every round if possible - transferring Flesh Ward/Empty Vessel charges onto Enchanted Blade, transferring secrets onto Cryptographic Cipher, etc. - as long as you remember to use his ability whenever you have the opportunity, you aren't likely to end up running out of charges or secrets. There will be situations where you instead want to transfer in the other direction - if you have only one secret/charge left on your Cipher/Blade and you have a second copy in hand and a spare action to play it this round, you can use the Sophist to move that extra secret/charge onto another asset and play your replacement Cipher/Blade, ensuring that you won't ever need to waste a spare secret/charge.

Upgrade priority

The level 0 deck is effective by itself; upgrade priority depends on how much exp it earns, but typically the first priority should be Stick to the Plan followed by Ever Vigilant and Surprising Find to use with it. After that, the Empty Vessel and Enchanted Blade upgrade can come in any order, at which point the deck is firing on all cylinders.

From this point, there's a few directions to go - I would take Keen Eye next, and upgrading Evidence! is a simple, if small, boost. Once Keen Eye has been bought, Second Wind could be replaced with "I've had worse..." to handle damage while also gaining more resources (unless you've already taken some physical trauma).

If more movement ability is needed, Pathfinder or Shortcut (2) are obvious options, though I would probably take a single copy of Safeguard (2) instead, which will provide lots of mobility and keep you close to your team to kill monsters they draw with a low cost in terms of deck space and exp - taking only a single copy isn't a huge issue given how much draw power this deck boasts.

Upgraded Overpower and Vicious Blow are solid incremental upgrades, as is replacing Take the Initiative with Leadership (2). If you find yourself wanting even more clue gathering and don't mind slowing down a bit, taking Charisma and Grete Wagner (3) is an excellent choice once your resource economy is all in place - I would probably replace two copies of Surprising Find with her in that case (the first copy is by far the most impactful thanks to the interaction with Stick to the Plan). Two copies of Well Prepared would have potential but again comes with the downside of further slowing down the deck.

Variants

For variations on the build, a pure combat build replaces Cryptographic Cipher with Scroll of Secrets to have even more draw power. Conversely, if more clue-gathering ability is needed, adding in Perception and Deduction will enable Roland to boost intellect more and use Practice Makes Perfect for Investigation tests. "Let me handle this!", "Get over here!" and First Watch are possibilities as well, especially if you are part of a larger group and have a vulnerable team-mate (like a Seeker with minimal combat ability).

Alternatively, you can drop Practice Makes Perfect entirely - if you do so, I recommend only taking a single copy of Surprising Find (or the old standby of Astounding Revelation) - still definitely worth the 1 exp. This enables a broader selection of skills, such as Daring and Steadfast.

Conclusion

This Roland Banks is far from a typical Fed - carrying a magic sword in place of a gun and delving deep into the occult - and I like to think that it's all because he called upon the Eldritch Sophist as a consultant.

I hope you have enjoyed this write-up, and you enjoy playing this deck. I can honestly say it's one of the most fun decks I have played in Arkham Horror and it feels fresh and different. If you do end up giving it a go, I would love to hear how you fared.

1 comments

Apr 26, 2021 Scientiavore · 1

I feel like shortcut is still worth keeping around, the ability to reposition to a better location to trigger his ability and evidence without having to spend an action or take an AOO is pretty useful.