I'd like to throw up a review of my favorite investigator once again, as my previous one was lost when his non-Promo version came out.
Despite the color of his card, don't be fooled, Norman is a Mystic Investigator who plays differently at 0 XP. If you are choosing an investigator for Deduction (2), Higher Education, and Segment of Onyx, Norman certainly isn't it. Instead choose him for your Shriveling (5), Armageddon (4), Grotesque Statue (4) strategies. Mystic/Seeker (as opposed to Daisy's Seeker/Mystic) access was somewhat novel when he originally debuted, but it's a bit more common now (as of this writing, Gloria Goldberg: The Writer and Luke Robinson: The Dreamer have similar access).
So let's go through Norman:
- Stats - The first thing to notice about Norman is that he is a true min/maxer. 5 Intellect and 4 Willpower are both very strong, and he's given up his other stats to do it. 2 Fight is almost completely irrelevant. The 1 Agility is sometimes relevant (e.g. Grasping Hands), but for the most part is fine. In exchange, Norman has what I would call "high accuracy". Norman is very likely to succeed at his usual actions, even on harder difficulties because of his high base stats. On easier difficulties, Norman can sometimes investigate with a decent chance of success holding nothing.
- Elder Sign - Norman's Elder Sign is honestly not very good. It gives a small bonus and then you can manipulate the top card of your deck for your static ability. This is close to nothing, and I usually don't bother with cards to try to improve my chance of getting an Elder Sign.
- Static Text - Norman's static text that allows him to play the top card of his deck at -1 resource cost once per turn is quite strong. Each time you use it you have effectively gained 2 actions (1 for "drawing" a new card, and 1 for the resource you didn't have to generate). Norman's deckbuilding should, in my opinion, take heavy consideration toward maximizing this benefit. Since your goal is to use it nearly every turn, consider building it the same way Joe DIamond builds his hunch deck. Maximize cards that can be used at nearly any time, and cards with fast to make the most of it. Skills are quite bad because you can't play them (I often play only Deduction for example). Using this text often is a big part of Norman's power AND fun.
- Forced - This reads like a downside, but it's actually sort of upside. You'll never have a dead draw of a weakness.
- Livre d'Eibon/The Harbinger - I admit being surprised how high the review is on Livre d'Eibon. The first fast ability on it is borderline flavor text. The second ability is okay (committing a card from the top of your deck is worse than drawing it), but I don't think it's great, and I think including cards that are great to commit fights against your best text. Livre d'Eibon can be searched for as it is a tome. The Harbinger is extremely mild, but always takes two actions to resolve, and probably needs to be resolved BY YOU each time it's revealed unless it's very late. The Harbinger rarely "pins" you, which is an advantage over Vengeful Hound which rarely does but can.
- Split the Angle/Vengeful Hound - The slow action on Split the Angle is absolutely nothing. The fast action just changes the top card of your deck, don't worry about what it does to the encounter deck. The actions I think are meant to be used together, but they're just too slow. I commit Split the Angle a lot, unless I draw it early. Vengeful Hound is hard to solve if you have nothing in play (you need 0s to punch it, and +2s to evade it), but if you have absolutely anything in play it can be solved easily, often in one action (Shriveling) or no actions (e.g. Shriveling + Knowledge is Power). In addition, unlike the Harbinger your allies can help you with Vengeful Hound. The fighter may have nothing to kill anyway.
- Final Result - I don't think you're playing Norman for either one of these Signatures, as I think they're both low impact. I understand the appeal of The Harbinger, as you can resolve it without a test, but the Hound requires so little of you, and can be solved by your allies (Edit: In the comments someone said that the text does allow Allies to help you with Harbinger. We didn't read it that way originally, and played it as yourself only because it wasn't on top of "their" deck. I still think Livre isn't worth the hype). Overall, unless I'm specifically building around Livre d'Eibon, I prefer to play Split the Angle and Vengeful Hound.
Choices For 5 Mystic Level 0 Cards:
- Read the Signs - You combine for 9, ignore a ton of bad stuff, plays off the top of your deck for 1 resource, and gives you action compression. An easy include.
- Spectral Razor - Sometimes the three damage is relevant, and gives you a few outs to combat.
- Delve Too Deep - XP is very good, and Norman uses XP well.
- St. Hubert's Key - Synergy with Read the Signs, and a boost to your best skills. KO protection. Sometimes I throw it out when I pull my Delves.
- Open Gate - Worth mentioning as if you pivot off of several level 0s it restocks for only 1 XP. It's Fast, and on some scenarios it's quite good.
- Arcane Research - I'm not sure how popular it is now, but it used to see some play for Norman. I personally am not a fan. It takes a slot forever, and because of your limited access to level 0 spells you might later upgrade, it's pretty clunky. I would skip it.
- Scrying/Protective Incantation/Support Builds - Seeing Norman builds that use these cards drive me crazy. In my opinion, these sorts of cards are best used by characters who are bad at tests either because of stats, or because of card access. That's not Norman. An ideal Norman turn maximizes his strength at taking tests, and utilizes his static text; play the top card of your deck, and take two or three tests with Intellect or Willpower is perfect. Stay away from these support type builds, or use a different investigator.
- Norman is both very fun, and very powerful. He might look like another Gloria nerd, but he solves problems very differently. Norman is at his best brute forcing problems, and I love playing him.
- Try Norman today!