PACG Core Set Class Strategy #1: Sajan the Monk

Friday, October 11, 2019

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.

Shannon Appelcline
Game Historian

Sajan, Character 0, Human Monk. Sajan, Character 0: A member of a disciplined caste of warriors in the service of the knowledge god Irori, Sajan scours the world for his kindnapped sister Sajni, whose martial arts porwess matches his own. He is as comfortable with a tatani mat as a temple sword, or his fists that move with lightning speed. Favored Card: Blessing.

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).

Archer, Ally 0. Human, Ranger. Old Deadeye, Blessing 3. Deity: Erastil, Divine. Quarterstaff of Vaulting, Weapon 1. Staff, Melee, Bludgeoning, 2-Handed, Magic.

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.

Sajan, Role 0, Exiled Padaprajna: The goddess Suyuddha teaches anyone who will listen, whether by word or fist. Sajan, Role 0, Iroran Dedicant: Knowing yourself means first knowing everything else.

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.

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This is very cool! Can you do this for Lini next? I wanted to play her with my party soon, but when I tested her in a solo play I wasn't so sure what she's actually good at and how I should use her mechanics. It also seems there aren't enough animal allies in core (except low level ones) and especially curse (which has almost only human allies) to make her a great choice. Please prove me wrong.

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burgus wrote:
This is very cool! Can you do this for Lini next? I wanted to play her with my party soon, but when I tested her in a solo play I wasn't so sure what she's actually good at and how I should use her mechanics. It also seems there aren't enough animal allies in core (except low level ones) and especially curse (which has almost only human allies) to make her a great choice. Please prove me wrong.

I've played Lini through the first 3 scenarios of the Core Set and she seems solid so far. I can't speak to further scenarios or Curse just yet, though I will say that the Riding Allosaurus loot ally is a guaranteed reasonable animal ally soon into Core.

As general strategies go, for most combat checks I end up recharging two animals: One for her power of Survival + 1d4, and another animal that adds a d4 to a combat or Survival check (Droogami, Bat, and Snake can all do this). Recharging the second animal for it's power also lets me shuffle them into my deck so I get them back sooner. A skill feat into Wisdom and a Power feat into +1d4 when a local check invokes the Animal trait are priority pickups, since Lini's combat power does invoke the Animal trait. A couple of attack spells are good to have for enemies weak to the Attack trait (such as swarms).
Lini's starting deck is fairly reasonable: the Hide Armor can help significantly with a Con or Fort check you need to make, the dagger is primarily there to help your Survival combat checks, and the Balmberry is a fine choice until you find something better, like the Gem of Mental Acuity.

Lone Shark Games

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burgus wrote:
This is very cool! Can you do this for Lini next?

Shannon has already written Lini, actually! It'll go up in a few weeks, shortly before I do my next character blog, so that we can stay in lock-step with a Shannon strategy following each of my design blogs for the characters.

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Looking forward to the rest of this blog series. Nice work Shannon!

Paizo Employee Designer

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I usually fully agree with Shannon's strategy articles, and I mainly agree here too, but I'm playing Sajan through Curse as my first character in the revision (Runelords Sajan was also my very first PACG character, not counting Seoni in a Paizocon Swallowtail playtest with little white notecards), and I really can't recommend the play two blessings freely power feat as a first choice over hand size or even the increased versatility of damage resist (but especially hand size, since it's hard to even have 2 of 3 blessings available to use on the same fight in a hand of 5). Acrobatics weapons instead of unarmed can also get you pretty far unless you have very high density of boons from later parts (the shock kukri's reveal is nearly the equivalent of a part 4 unarmed recharge, or part 2 if you take the d10 power feat, but if you have a lot of strong part 1 harrow blessings, it might be hard to consistently draw boons of higher parts to recharge and it's much harder to do a series of combats or two combat enemy if you have to recharge each time).

Sajan is clearly a very versatile character that allows for an incredible variety of different strategies. Shannon's tips from the article can build a Sajan who has to keep blessings for himself and might only be able to fight once per turn but is definitely going to win that fight (and would definitely be better able to gain Respect in Curse Part 4 than I can with my Sajan). I prefer to have a variety of blessings that can also help allies in a pinch and explore as much as possible; our Paizo group always seems to be closer to running out of turns than previous sets, and I've not yet come across something that would have required three blessings to fight it. Admittedly, I'm late in Part 4 right now; I may find out in Part 5 or 6 that I fall behind in combat without the d10 unarmed or the second free blessing. If people are interested I can update you guys later if anything changes!

The article didn't go into this because it's Curse specific, but taking Blackjack and then just not taking all Blackjack's weapons in order to have a place to shunt away extra weapons but still have one ready if you lose your main weapon for some reason is a great way to make your deck cycle better with blessings even if you are healed, but just like Shannon mentioned for discarding your weapons in the article, that strategy puts you closer to death.

I'll certainly admit to not having played Curse yet. We're hoping to finish Core Set on Monday, then start up with Curse in November.

I will note one other reason that the extra-blessing Power Feat is good: not all three blessings have to come from Sajan. He gets to play one (or two) freely, but the other one can come from another party member. So he doesn't need three blessings in his own hand.

Anywho, it's nice to be back, and thanks for the kind words and disagreements over strategy alike. There are certainly other ways to go with any of the characters!

Paizo Employee Designer

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I guess I just have never needed three blessings to succeed so far (my only failed combat checks so far have been ones on which I had fewer than two blessings available due to not having enough available in hand and among my allies, or just terrible luck on an almost-sure thing that I chose not to bless to avoid a very low chance of failing). One thing that might help me not need the third blessing in Curse but that wouldn't help in Core is the Harrow blessings; some of them are wildly more powerful than others and if you have the right ones, it can easily be worth more than two generic blessings (for instance, the Carnival blesses you and has a powerful dice flip power that guarantees that you can't get a roll result worse than rolling average on your best two dice and 1 on the rest of your dice, at worst, the Cyclone blesses you and gives +2 for every 1 or 2 you roll which is great with all Sajan's numerous small dice especially if you don't go Iroran Dedicant to reroll 1s and 2s, etc). Many of the best can be better than blessing twice (and Old Deadeye can just bless twice). Without Harrows, Sajan might wind up playing very differently. Before the Core set when you generally always were granted 3 of your 4 starting card powers before moving on to the role, it was usually easy to find one of the four to not take, but in Core, it's tricky because if you do take the extra blessing and the unarmed buff, as the article suggests, you're either stuck at hand size 5 or have to take one hand size increase over a role card feat. A bigger hand has been pretty pivotal for me, and if you go unarmed and dump the weapon to free up hand space, you don't need to hold a weapon like I do, but you need a card to recharge for each combat check, on top of any blessings.

Incidentally, if you're playing in Curse with Sajan, starting in Part 3, you want to look out for either of the two Rovagug blessings on the hour; they both let you banish random blessings from your discard pile to do something. If these come up and assuming you're confident of a win without dying, try to get as many of your worst blessings as possible in your discard pile and then banish them with Rovagug (even if you don't really need the effect from Rovagug to succeed) while acquiring as few new blessings that game as possible. This allows you to take your pick of Harrow blessings, which are all Part 1, and the best of which are still going to be your best blessings at least through Part 4. It also helps you avoid carrying over Part 0 blessings to the vault in Part 4 if you can get rid of as many of those as possible from your deck.

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