- When you use the ability to search the top 3 cards, if there is a Spell among them, you must draw it, even if it is Dark Memory. You cannot choose to fail to find what you're searching for if it's there.
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Incredible value here.
1 resource for a 1/2 ally in play seems great already. A note on resources, they are not so easy to come by and decks loaded with assets and events are going to find it hard to play all those juicy cards. It's necessary therefore to pay attention to resource curve. Arcane initiate fits the resource curve requirement.
This enables card draw. In it's best scenario you've added a card to your hand and thinned the deck so you can draw more skills or assets. To maximize this effect you may wish to include 1/3 of your deck of spells (10 total spells). However, I don't think that's necessary. If you miss, no big deal as you can simply repeat it again next round. Spells will help 's through combat.
Finally we'll need to evaluate a doom token. I suspect that doom will be a big deal. So it will be necessary to investigate faster. I firmly believe Arcane Initiate provides self protection against additional doom.
... time will tell.
"When resolving a search effect, a player is obligated to find the object of the search should one or more eligible options be found within the searched area." Rules Reference Guide - Search
I was a little down on this card after Peter Sylvester came out because I think he is a far better ally for Agnes (or Jim for that matter!) than Arcane Initiate and I wouldn't want them to compete for the same ally slot. But then I considered the following- Would I play a 1-resource event that allowed me to search the top three cards of my deck for a spell and prevent the next damage or two horror? Yes. Yes I would, that is an insane amount of value for an action card. I no longer think about Arcane Initiate as competing for an ally slot. She gets one or two activations and then protects me from an attack or something. As long as you're planning on killing her off, the doom counter is manageable and free spell draws is (almost) always good.
Obviously, the above evaluation is a little short sighted. There will be times where playing her is restrictive due to doom or when you already have Peter Sylvester and can't afford to throw him away for one or two activations of Arcane Initiate. But I still think she is worth including in any spell deck. Hitting on it once pays for itself. I recommend you mulligan for her over your "better" ally in your opening hand, getting the value out of her and dumping her at your earliest convenience when you can than play out your Peter or what have you.
I was just building a deck for Dexter and realized this card is PERFECT for him. Firstly, Dexter blows through his assets very quickly and is constantly looking for his "next trick" to pop into play. The Arcane Initiate is the perfect assistant to ready the next spell in your never-ending magic show. And when the agenda is about to flip and the initiate's time is up, Dexter can instantly discard her as a free action in order to put yet another asset in play. This way, you don't have to frantically find a way to murder your initiate in fear of the doom counter; when the time has come, you have a surefire ability to discard her on the investigator card itself.
I haven't extensively looked through the Mystic allies before posting this, but as of right now, I would instapick this card for Dexter.