How to Win With Innsmouth
One of the great things about Smash Up is how rarely the word “never” applies in terms of utility; while it is easy to think that certain cards are “never” useful, there is usually a practical (albeit unlikely) scenario where said cards would be quite effective. This is certainly true of the Innsmouth from the Obligatory Cthulhu expansion, which is generally considered to be the weakest faction in the game, one that can never win. I like the idea of the Innsmouth because of how they, like Ghosts, force you to play the game entirely differently; they also have a very interesting base to utilize. The Innsmouth have ten of only one type of minion, The Locals, which reveal the top three cards of your deck, placing revealed The Locals into your hand and putting the rest on the bottom of the deck. Many interpret this as burying your other faction; in addition, the total base power of 20 leaves a lot to be desired. However, there are a few interesting faction combinations for the Innsmouth underdog and with each new expansion will increase the opportunity for more. In general, the supporting faction needs to provide ways to insulate against burying the opponent faction (either through drawing or fetching) as well as power boosts and stall tactics.
Here are five factions to consider using with the Innsmouth:
Note – one of the Innsmouth’s key actions is the Deep Ones, which states “Each of your minions of power 2 or less get +1 power until the end of the turn.” This card is worded oddly as it implies that once The Locals get the power boost, they would lose it for no longer qualifying, only to gain it again, resulting in an infinite loop and rendering the card useless. I am operating on the assumption that it is “starting power” of 2 or less because that is the only way this card makes sense.
#5 – Grannies (What Were We Thinking expansion)
If The Locals are undesirable because they put cards on the bottom of the deck, why not utilize the faction that can draw from the bottom? The Locals also benefit from knowing what is on top of the deck, which syngergizes with the Grannies. The Matriarch can draw the bottom two cards of the deck, and by using The Locals, you should know what you are drawing; Family Reunion and Hush, My Stories Are On can also draw from the bottom of the deck for similar effects. The Grannies also have actions which can recycle the powerful Innsmouth actions, as well as some card draw to cycle through the deck faster. Unfortunately, the Grannies will not supply extra power, but they will provide deck control.
#4 - Orcs (Munchkin expansion)
While I am not a fan of the Munchkin expansion because of Monsters and Treasures, I do play with the Elves, Halflings, Clerics and Orcs because they are mostly insulated from that mechanic (the same is true of Innsmouth and Madness). The Orcs have some intriguing synergies with the Innsmouth. They have slightly above average power, but many factions do as well. However, many of their actions support the swarm strategy that Innsmouth provides. Crush and Dogpile both require high minion counts on a base, which the Innsmouth will provide. Additionally, the Sword Lord provides a power boost to all other minions, including those not on the current base, so The Locals have the easy ability to go from two to four power quickly, further benefitting the swarm and allowing the Sword Lord to remain in play for long durations. Finally, the Orcs have decent destruction which allows them to stall the game until the Innsmouth engine is working efficiently; the fact that Orcs can prevent the Innsmouth from losing bases with their Specials blocking will only help them more.
#3 – Killer Plants (Awesome 9000 Expansion)
The Killer Plants are a very strong faction, but they have one clear weakness – they run out of minions quickly. The Sprouts will be destroyed at the start of your next turn, leaving you effectively with six minions and a total of 24 power. The Innsmouth, however, are rarely minion starved, and the two complement each other nicely. Additionally, The Locals pull more The Locals into you hand, which works well with Insta-Grow and Blossom. Blossom is a difficult card to use at peak efficiency, but The Locals are perhaps the best way to maximize that value. The Sprouts could be used to fetch The Locals, but instead they are better served getting a Water Lily to increase your card draw. Additionally, each Sprout, as well as fetching The Locals from the Venus Man Trap, has the benefit of shuffling your deck and undoing the burying of non-The Locals. Finally, Overgrowth is exactly the type of card that can allow The Locals to win a base easily, which will be necessary since the Killer Plants do not supply any power boosts.
#2 – Halflings Orcs (Munchkin expansion)
Using the Innsmouth will likely force you to be playing from behind; the Halflings specialize in recovering from power deficits, making this a natural pairing. The Locals provide minion plays (as do the Halflings) and the Halflings have card draw based on minion plays. Out of Nowhere will prevent you from being minion starved and should reveal Halflings if The Locals have removed most of their own from your deck. If multiple The Locals are in your hand, Rude Awakening can provide a great power boost while canceling the undesirable The Locals ability, while Return to the Sea can immediately put them all back into your hand. The Halflings will not provide a power boost but let you dispatch The Locals quickly and ruthlessly.
#1 – Rock Stars (What Were We Thinking Expansion)
The Rock Stars have everything that the Innsmouth could want in a partner faction. The Rock Stars have great card draw (whenever I use them, I am constantly discarding cards at the end of my turn). The Innsmouth cards benefit cards with the same name, which is perfect for Groupies, since they can all be played in a single turn for ten power. The Monarch, Guest Star and Rock of Luv also have fetch abilities and the ability to shuffle your deck. The Rock Stars also have great movement with Rick Roll and Tour Bus allowing The Locals to converge on a single base. There are two actions that provide power boosts to each minion on a base, including a Before the Base Scores Special (Power Ballad); since Hot Venue persists from turn to turn, each Innsmouth can receive up to three power when combined with The Deep Ones and Power Ballad as the base is scoring. The Rock Stars can even slow down a base by increasing its breakpoint to 21. Finally, the Rock Star bases, for first place, are worth six and five VPs. This makes it efficient for the Innsmouth to concentrate on the biggest base and use their bursts to score at least one third of the requisite VPs to win the game. This combination was so good that I cannot wait to use them again, assuming my friends will let me.
While it is tempting to always take the strongest factions that can win with any partner, there is great enjoyment in utilizing unlikely partners. In a draft of all factions, many would pick the Innsmouth last or close to last, but with the right partner, you can create a deck where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.