- Q: If I use Grisly Totem after committing the card beneath Amanda Sharpe, how long does its bonus icon stay for? A: The bonus icon granted by Grisly Totem does not specify a duration, so this effect should remain until the committed card leaves play. The real question is: when does the committed card enter or leave play? Generally speaking, cards placed beneath other cards (such as the card beneath Amanda Sharpe) are out of play. Cards committed to tests never really "enter play," but while they are committed to a test, their icons are added to the investigator’s relevant skill and their text is active. So, while the card beneath Amanda is committed to a test, its icons and text should be alterable by game effects (as if you had committed it from your hand), just like any other in-play card. But as soon as that test ends, it returns to its out-of-play state, and any lasting effects would drop. TL;DR: The bonus icon granted by Grisly Totem would only apply for the test during which Grisly Totem is used, after which the card returns to its out-of-play state, and the bonus icon would drop. - FAQ, v.1.8, October 2020
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The totem gets better with any upgrade of Dream Diary, as it gives the equivalent of Unexpected Courage or better for free each turn. This fixes seekers (who are not minh) problem that they don't have cards to commit for the totem every turn.
Combining that with Dream-Enhancing Serum means you can hold on the first copy of other cards for longer, having a bigger chance of triggering the serums reaction. The totems draw effect also makes it more likely to trigger the serums draw.
I think a lot of people were overly negative on the level 0 version of this card, which I felt was fairly powerful if not game changing. I think, on the contrary, most people are in agreement that both upgrades to it are strong additions to their respective factions.
In the best case scenario this card draws you an extra card each turn, while giving you +1 to one skill test. This is a reasonably powerful effect, though it comes at the cost of 3xp, 3 resources and an accessory slot. If Grisly Totem always maanaged to deliver on this potential it would be a reasonable if somewhat unexciting spend of 3xp. However, in order to get this effect you have to be comitting a card to a skill test every turn and on top of that you have to pass that skill test. Now, the Totem does help you to pass the skill test so its not overly likely you'll fail and miss out on the card draw, but there's always the . Needing to commit a card every turn however is a little more of a restriction, though the card draw Grisly Totem provides can help to fuel itself in this regard.
Now that is the best case scenario. If you dont draw this in your opening hand then suddenly its looking a lot worse. The big question really is, how many cards do you need to draw for 3 resources and 3xp for it to be worth it? And then, how early does this need to be in play for that to regularly happen. To compare, for 2xp you could include Preposterous Sketches which will draw you a guaranteed 3 cards for 0 resources, no matter when in the game you draw it. So how many cards does the Grisly Totem need to draw on average to be worth an extra 3 resources and an xp? To simplify, lets say that the extra experience and the plus one to a skill test cancel out. So the question is how many cards is 3 resources worth? I feel like a reasonable heuristic would be 2, in line with Emergency Cache. So to recap, we have to regularly be drawing 5 cards per game with the Grisly Totem before its beating Preposterous Sketches for efficiency. If we figure that we're likely to pass 75% of the tests we use this on, that means we have to have this in play for about 7 turns for it to be the better option. Which doesnt seem too tall an ask, though the later you play it the more you are likely risking by doing so.
For a brief aside, I do think this card bears comparison to the fairly medium Tooth of Eztli. Both provide you with bonuses to skill tests, and both reward you with a card draw once per turn for passing them. They both costs 3 and they both take an accessory slot. Now, you have more control over when Grisly Totem triggers, as you can use it on any skill test and not just encounter cards. However, you do need to commit a card to the test so you may not even be netting a card necessarily, whereas Tooth of Eztli only asks you to pass tests you would have to take anyway. I'm not saying that I think Tooth of Eztli is better, but it is 3 fewer xp and fills a similar role, so it bears considering.
All of this adds up to a card that sounds pretty okay, if not hugely exciting. But that's in a vacuum. What are the situations where this card over-performs? Well I think a big thing to consider with Grisly Totem is that since you are adding both a skill icon and a card draw to a test, its going to stack up well with other cards that are relying on you passing big tests. For example, applying this to Deduction isn't just giving you a card draw, its also improving your chances of getting the succeed by two effect on Deduction. In a similar vein, I think if you have a teammate who is using Double or Nothing then you can really help them out with Grisly Totem.
Another case where this card might shine is in a more support focused build. While has a lot of card draw options, the class is definitely a lot lighter on ways to help out other investigators with drawing cards. I think trying to leverage the ability to add card draws to other people's tests could be a fun way to build with this card, particularly if you are co-ordinating with your team on deckbuilding and you know one of your allies is going to be struggling for card draw.
All that said, this does all come with the caveat that you are able to keep committing cards to skill tests. This somewhat limits the usefulness of this card to investigators who already want to be proactively committing cards to their tests. This makes the most obvious use case, by far, Minh Thi Phan. Minh meets the criteria of wanting to proactively commit cards to skill tests, it also stacks with her Analytical Mind to allow her to draw multiple cards per test. Minh is also already incentivized to stack up test rewards in order to best take advantage of her ability, which is a playstyle thats get stronger the more ways you have to stack those benefits up. Outside of Minh, I'm not convinced this is a high priority upgrade. Its biggest advantage is not having much competition for the accessory slot, but even then I feel that for 3xp you can be finding more reliable sources of card draw.
The card is amazing for Minh Thi Phan. For a skill-heavy Minh deck, the difference between having Analytical Mind in the opening hand or not is huge. The card basically acts as a 2nd/3rd copy of Analytical Mind, drastically increases the opening hand consistency. Not only is that the case, it can also be played alongside Analytical Mind, and potentially another copy of itself with Relic Hunter (and trust me, it's worth it). With that setup, Minh can draw 4 cards a round extremely consistently. It also means she can commit 4 cards each round consistently, each with 2-3 icons. It's enough to cover every other test the party makes, if not more.
Not only is the card strong, it is also very flexible. Often when I play as Minh, conversations like this come out:
Me: I can give you 2 icons.
Me: ...Or 3. Or 4. Or 5.
Me: ...And with a draw or two. Or none. Which one do you want?
For other , the card is decent. decks naturally include skill cards like Deduction, Eureka!, Inquiring Mind and Perception, so the card will always have some use. However, the upfront cost of 3 resources is steep. It usually is not as critical as -buffing assets like Fingerprint Kit or Dr. Milan Christopher, so you may find yourself delay playing it often enough, making it a low priority upgrade.
Take any card and chuck it at an apropriately icon'ed test, give it +1 icon and dþcard draw.
Downright amazing card, ALL characters should take a close look at their deckslots and cost curve and try to squeeze this thing in at some point.
That point about cost is it's only detractor, at 3 resources playing this may break your bank if you're in the business of playing weapons, spell assets, Pathfinder and/or some big allies.