From 2016 to 2018, I wrote a series of articles about the strategy of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game—strategies that remain largely viable with the release of the updated game system in Core Set and Curse of the Crimson Throne. I always wanted to write some class strategy guides to go with those general strategy articles, but I couldn’t figure out who to write about. The Rise of the Runelords characters? The Class Deck characters? Every variant of each character?
Fortunately, the Core Set gives everyone the opportunity to get in from the ground floor again—including me, because I can now write class strategy guides from the beginning. This article, on the strategy of playing the monk Sajan, is the first of four covering the characters used in Core’s Quick-Start scenario.
For more on Sajan, you may wish to read Keith Richmond’s article detailing how Sajan was revised and updated for the new Core Set.
Core Set Sajan
Best Skill: Strength, Dexterity, or Wisdom (d8)
Character Type: Warrior, Melee, possibly Ranged
Skills. Sajan has the smallest skill range of any Core Set character. He has no d4s, no d10s, and no d12s: half of his skills are d6s and half are d8s. That small range isn’t even made up for by his subskills: though he has four of them (Acrobatics, Fortitude, Melee, and Perception), he’s only +1 or +2 in each. In the end, his only real standout skill is Acrobatics, his highest at 1d8+2, and which one of his powers allows him to easily buff with blessings. Despite the lack of high skills, Sajan’s lack of low skills means that he can be your go-to guy for any task that your party is relatively unskilled at: though a d6 isn’t great, it’s better than a d4! Sajan overlaps two skills with Harsk (Fortitude and Perception), so they may not be the best choice to combine in a party.
Weaknesses. Sajan’s weakness is writ large in this description: he’s great at nothing. His best skill, Acrobatics, has a range of 3–10 (averaging 6.5). Compare that to a less combat-focused d12 character like Seoni, who has a range of 3–14 (averaging 8.5) in both Arcane and Diplomacy.
So how does Sajan overcome this deficit? By blessing everything.
Cards. Sajan’s best card type is unsurprisingly blessings (7, which he can and should quickly pump up to 8, 9, and 10). This unfortunately means that he doesn’t get fun and evocative allies or spells, but it plays to Sajan’s greatest advantage: the power of blessings. Because Sajan won’t usually be using blessings for exploration, he’ll need to depend on his allies (3) for that and may alternatively decide to increase the count of that card type. Sajan’s biggest card weakness is probably his lack of armors (0), a problem that can be resolved some by his damage-reduction power feat (and even more by his Exiled Padaprajna role).
Allies. Sajan’s allies must allow him to explore! Secondarily, they should be rechargeable to improve his best skills. As an example: the Archer, Mouse, and Raccoon are good choices because they allow exploration and can be recharged to improve Dexterity.
Blessings. Sajan should be very picky about which blessings he takes. Cards that allow him to freely bless his own skills don’t do much for him, given his innate ability to freely bless his combat or Acrobatics. Thus, he needs to look more carefully for blessings that will benefit his best skills in other ways, such as Erastil’s “Old Deadeye”, which allows him to bless his Dexterity twice. Alternatively, Sajan can try and use his blessings to become less selfish, a problem created by his second power. In particularly, he might look for blessings that can be recharged when played on other members of the party: the humble Orison is thus a pretty good blessing for Sajan, as are the Asmodeus blessings and some level 3 blessings.
Weapons. Sajan’s weapon skills will likely fall behind his unarmed combat (his first power) over time. That means that his weapons should be fallbacks that he uses if he can’t afford to recharge a card for his first power. That means that he needs weapons that are pretty good without having to discard them: swords (which reload) are a good Core Set choice. Of course, if Sajan can get higher-level weapons that use Acrobatics as their skill, that’s the best. The Quarterstaff of Vaulting and the Lucky Starknife and probably Sajan’s favored options in the Core Set.
The Power of Blessings
Sajan’s biggest advantage is certainly his paired powers that allow him to recharge his own blessings and to freely use some blessings on combat or Acrobatics checks.
Bless Extensively. Because Sajan recharges all blessings that he uses on his own checks, he should use them quite freely. Most characters will save their blessings for the most important rolls against banes, but Sajan can (and should) expend them for things like attempting difficult acquisitions. In fact, he should empty his hand of blessings just about every turn: they’ll come back.
Beware of Blessing Explores. Sajan’s blessings recharge power only works when he plays them on his checks, not when he uses them to explore. Thus, he should be very wary of using blessings in that way: it takes blessings out of his deck, ultimately making Sajan less powerful. Instead, depend on allies for extra explores.
Be Selfish. Similarly, Sajan should be pretty reluctant to use his blessings on other players, because those also don’t return to his deck. Of course, PACG is a cooperative game, so he might occasionally have to help his fellows anyway—which is why he should look for blessings that can recharge in that circumstance. The other option for offsetting Sajan’s selfishness is using his blessings on himself… to get cool stuff for his friends.
Create a Blessing Machine. Feel free to discard Sajan’s weapons, items, and allies for their special effects. If he ends up with a deck of all blessings, then he can play through them each and every turn. (This doesn’t necessarily result in “Maximum Game Fun,” but it does result in “Maximum Sajan Efficiency;” balance the two as appropriate for your own enjoyment and that of your group.) Do be aware, however, that Sajan will be riding a thin line when he does this. A starting Sajan with a hand size of five will have a draw deck of only two if he empties his deck to just his seven blessings, and that means that death might lie too near. Increasing the number of blessings in Sajan’s deck and/or choosing a few additional cards to cycle, to bring his minimum deck size up to 10, will make him less vulnerable and is suggested.
An old, degenerate strategy involved starting all the characters at the same place as Sajan, then having the other characters each give Sajan a blessing. This isn’t particularly recommended. It’s less effective than it was in the previous PACG releases because Sajan is limited to using a maximum of three blessings at a time, and it dramatically decreases the Maximum Game Fun not just for Sajan, but for everyone.
The Power of Kung Fu
Sajan can be a notable combatant even without using a weapon.
Fight Unarmed. With his unarmed combat power, Sajan can recharge any card to fight at Acrobatics + 1d6 + the card’s level, which has a starting value of 1d8+2+1d6 + card level (with a range of 4–16 + card level and an average of 10 + card level). That’s not bad for a cheap combat, and is entirely comparable with Sajan’s basic weapon combats: his Dogslicer does 1d8+2+1d6, but can be boosted to 1d8+2+2d6 with a discard, and his Starknife does 1d8+2+1d4 and can be boosted to 1d8+2+2d4 with a recharge. Of course, unarmed combat’s card level will improve with time, and as soon as Sajan takes a power feat to change his unarmed combat’s +1d6 to +1d10, he’s definitely notched unarmed combat above his weaponry.
Can Sajan Use His First Power When Fighting with Weapons? No. The power begins “For your combat check,” so it determines the skill you are using for that check, just as weapons do. You can only use one power that determines the skill you are using for a check, so it’s either Sajan’s first power or a weapon. (If you want to use Acrobatics with a weapon, use something like Dogslicer or Starknife, but you still won’t get that extra 1d6 (or 1d10) + card level.)
Bless Extensively in Combat Too. Whether he uses weapons or not, Sajan’s better than the numbers above suggest because he can play up to two blessings on his combat or Acrobatics checks, increasing either by 2–16 (average 9). Though an unarmed combat of 4–16 + card level (average 10 + card level) isn’t bad, a combat of 6–32 + card level (average 19 + card level) that doesn’t permanently use any resources, is spectacular.
Take the Extra Free Blessing Power Feat. Sajan can get even better at combat! The best way to do that is to check the power feat that allows him to use a second blessing freely. This increases his ability to pump his combat by another 1–8, turning his spectacular combat skill into one that’s largely unbounded. You’re now up to 7–40 + card level for a low-level character if you temporarily expend three blessings! (The other option is to change Sajan’s combat ability from +1d6 to +1d10; it’s nice to be able to do that without temporarily expending a card, but it’s only an average increase of +2 to the roll, as opposed to +4.5. Mind you, it’s still a good second choice, and maybe sooner if you’re having problems with monsters that require Magic skills to be killed.)
Become the Villain Killer. By now, you’re playing Sajan like a combat machine. That should make him a prime choice for taking out your villains, henchmen, or other difficult monsters. Send him over when a location deck is getting low, and make sure he has a handful of blessings.
The Sajan Roles
Though there are a variety of differences between Sajan’s two roles, the Exiled Padaprajna is generally better if you want to play Sajan as a weapons fighter and the Iroran Dedicant if you want to play him as an unarmed fighter. The latter plays more naturally to Sajan’s strengths.
Exiled Padaprajna. This is the “weapons master” role for Sajan. It gives him better Melee and/or Ranged skills along with proficiencies. It’s not strictly necessary, but you might choose it if there’s no melee or ranged weapon fighter in your party, and thus those cards would otherwise go to waste. This role also makes Sajan a bit more cooperative (since other players can bless him without cost and he can offer them damage reduction); and more protected (since he can avoid losing his cards to damage). Thus, you might also choose this role if complementary opportunities for cooperation are being wasted or if Sajan is getting hurt too much.
Iroran Dedicant. This is the “martial artist” role for Sajan. It can make him considerably better at unarmed combat by adding an extra +1d4, by allowing rerolls of 1s or even 2s, and by adding bonuses if multiple dice come up the same (something that becomes more likely as Sajan adds more blessing dice). If you improve Sajan’s combat with the four basic dice changes, he now rolls a base of 1d8+2+1d10 + card level + 1d4 and rerolls 1s and 2s. That alone makes his basic combat range 11–24 + card level (an average of 17.5 + card level), which is quite high, and doesn’t even count his ability to add 1–3 blessings. Mind you, this role doesn’t make Sajan any more cooperative and doesn’t make his gameplay any more varied.
PACG Core Set Class Strategy #1: Sajan the Monk
Friday, October 11, 2019