Road to the Top by George Keagle

Greetings, Archons! It is Blazing Archon here, but not for so long. Yes, the title of this article is absolutely genuine: our first KeyForge two-time Archon Vault Tour Champion George Keagle has visited the Cosmic Crucible and brought to you all an article. Amazing, right? To me it definitely is! and I am bringing it to you exactly the week before Vault Tour Madrid. Now, I am sure you all know about his tournament report written for the Team Reapout site, which you can find here if you have not read it yet. Well this is a Vault Keepers article, and if you have read the previous ones, you probably know that it is a very experience-focused section, which is what makes it great (in my opinion). So George decided to talk more about his KeyForge experience instead of going through some sort of report, and I have to say I love the result. How did he get to the top? You are about to find out! Without further do, I leave you with the Champion!

So, it all started last year. KeyForge had finally been officially released. I went to my first official release event at my local game store, owned by some very good friends, Gaming Goat in Oak Park, IL. Open my deck and play some games! This is my second deck, with the first having been from the prerelease. I hadn’t gotten to play much since then. As the weeks go on, the same store does Archon events, but if you buy a deck your entry is $10. I tend to buy decks rather than pay the $5 entry with the same deck, because that is a good deal. At this time, I still only have a few decks and try to play them casually whenever I can. It didn’t take too long before I did my first LANS combo, coincidentally seeing it during the game. People didn’t know much about it then.

In the next few months, I would use “Gasoline” Maximiliano, Dungeon Keeper at local events to win tournaments, get playmats and metal keys, promos and even more decks. I would still play other decks as well, but it was easy to tell that something was especially strong about this deck. People get frustrated when I play them with it. I think I may have even chased away some new players, which I DO NOT want to do, so I put the deck away for a while and play others. I love KeyForge and try to hype it up around Chicago as much as possible. At some point they clarify Must vs Cannot effects so that Restringuntus doesn’t combo-lock with Control the Weak. They use Pitlord as their example though.

The Chainbound tournaments are announced! I do what I can to help stores get online with GEM, without actually having ever used it myself. Chainbounds start firing all around the city and suburbs. Time to put some chains on my favorite deck! I actually find that chains make a big difference, especially with combos. I start to get some losses with Gas around power level 2. I feel very comfortable with that, and move on to play my other decks. I try to play every deck I own, so none go to waste. Sealed is my favorite way to do this.

Vault Tours are announced! And one is coming close to home in Schaumburg. I am definitely going. As the date drew nearer, some friends were going down to St. Louis to do a Magic tournament. I very narrowly decide to stay home, I did already pay for Adepticon afterall. As I see them off, I tell them I have a strong feeling about this deck, and this particular event. And boy, was I right!

I won Vault Tour Adepticon! It’s a big deal for me. It’s my biggest accomplishment in the gaming world. I’ve played other card games my whole life, but only gotten competitive in the past 5 years or so. Even though I am very excited, it’s a little bitter sweet due to people reacting negatively to the combo, as well as a missed key flip in the finals. Overall, it’s still a very positive experience though. I get invited to a podcast guest spot and have good time with that. I even met some new friends through Adepticon. It was a great time. Soon after though, FFG announced that Library Access would be errata’d to purge itself when played.

Fast forward a bit. I use my win travel credit to go to Birmingham. I have a great time in England. It’s my first time ever leaving America. The first Sealed Vault Tour with AoA as well. I make day 2 but lose in the first round of day 2. I get back and there’s barely time to unpack before Origins. I make Top 8 of Origins with Mastanail, the First First.

I actually like this deck a lot and would love to play in locals, but Top 8 means it is power leveled out. I still have a few decks above it I’d like to play, so it isn’t the First First in line. After that also shortly, is GenCon. GenCon is my favorite thing to do in general. It’s a 2 Vault Tour event, but I am unable to make it due a friend’s wedding. I still get to go to the Saturday Event, and have to buy a ticket for Sunday as well. I go 3-2, and drop. Under any other circumstances my advice is always to play it out, but GenCon is GenCon, and I took time out of my GenCon for KeyForge, not the other way around. During this time, I’ve been vying for first place on the Vault Tour Leaderboard versus Coraythan. The rest of the Team SAS guys are all in the top, as well as some of the top European players that I had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with as well during my trip to Birmingham. Not playing that final round cost me from “being number 2” to “being tied for 2”.

I got to play on stream quite a bit and get used to it. During this time people would often ask me if I think the deck is still good, to which I always say yes. At Adepticon the combo only actually happened during the finals. I had to go 4 rounds without it, and I had to fight AGAINST it multiple rounds, without any artifact removal in my deck. I fully believe in “Gasoline” Maximilano. The only reason I haven’t played it is because Power Level 8 keeps you out of locals. When I did testing with friends for GenCon, we discovered a deck that beat the pants of Gas Max. When I borrowed their deck and tested against others, I faired extremely well. But that wasn’t enough testing to find the weaknesses of the deck, and I found them out at GenCon, which is the worst time to find out your deck’s weak spots. After the deck I borrowed put up a mediocre result at GenCon, I knew the next opportunity I got, Gas Max was coming back full force. It wasn’t long before that opportunity presented itself.

With very short notice, Vault Tour Collinsville was announced! Collinsville is near St. Louis, where my fiancée has family. It’s very easy to travel there for us, and it’s great for tournaments as well. It means I get the best of Chicago and St. Louis. It turns out to be Archon as well. My mind was already made up if a tournament became available, so I followed through.

There are multiple reasons I wanted to run “Gasoline” Maximiliano at another Vault Tour. The main one is the LANS combo. It got a lot of hype when it happened, as well as when Library Access got the errata. As I said, people often asked about it. This ties into the second reason, I think. People sincerely feel that you can’t be competitive in KeyForge without a good Shadows house, or a significant number of cards that steal aember. Despite my arguing against that, I feel I couldn’t convince anyone. When LANS was at its height, you were operating on a different axis than aember, and it was a great counter to heavy steal Shadows decks. Even though people didn’t like the combo, it was a non-Shadows way to compete. I wanted to show people that it could be done with non-Shadows. In fact, in regards to stealing, Gas Max has 3: Schooler, which is good, Ritual of Balance, which is okay, and Dimension Door, which is actively bad with only 3 Logos creatures, exacerbated by the specific weak power creatures I have. The other aember control is a pair of Shaffles, which are great, and Dextre, which might get my vote for one of the worst Logos creatures. He does his job in this deck though. Lastly, I wanted to become the first ever 2-time Vault Tour winner. Even though I was in the top 5 on the leaderboard, I felt my last win was slightly tainted. I wanted another big win without that. Partly to prove it to myself as well as a player.

I did it! I won my second Vault Tour! This was much cleaner. The overall atmosphere was better as well. The accomplishment of winning a second was definitely much bigger than the first.

Without the combo. Without Shadows. Same deck. Same player.

I set out to say a lot with that tournament and I think I did. It was difficult. Took a lot of practice and general playing KeyForge. The meta at Collinsville was stacked. Not only was Team Sas, Reapout, Sanctumonious, and even BDQ represented, but many local Chicago Players came down to the event as well. If you want to know how I got to be a strong player, having a strong meta like the Chicago one is a good indicator. I may be at the top of the leaderboard, but I often lose at my local events. This comes with a great community. You need to challenge yourself with those around you to become stronger. The games at this event were some of my most intense. I had long term lock outs, wild Library Access turns, some top deck luck, and some risky moves that paid off big.

I love this game. I’m hoping that my story can get people out in the community playing at their local game stores. Grow the community. Hit up Vault Tours! Play the same deck repeatedly to get practice with it. It takes a lot of games to really LEARN the neat little secrets each deck has. It is easy in KeyForge to get caught up in trying 100 different decks, but playing the same deck 100 times has merits. Enjoy the different formats the game has to offer as well. I’ve focused on Archon and Sealed for so long and need to try Reversal and Adaptive. I hope they announce even more ways to play this game and grow. Thank you so much for reading, and I hope to see you in the wild to jam some games!

Editor Wrap-up and acknowledgements

So, I would say George’s story strongly proves a very important, yet obvious fact: champions not only win, they play a lot. And they do so because they love KeyForge. Test your decks as much as possible and get a “quality picture” of what they can do, and believe it regardless of what others might say. Know your decks better than anyone else, and last but not least, enjoy the game at every possible level. Only in so doing you will be able to keep up the good archon work!

Finally, I would like to thank George so much for making this contribution. The Cosmic Crucible is not a big site, it is more like a warm place where every Archon, regardless of their competitive or casual view of KeyForge, is welcome. Therefore, to be honest at first I did not expect George, who had not heard about me or Cosmic Crucible at all, to kindly accept doing this. But he did, I am glad, and I really hope you have enjoyed the read. If you like the Cosmic Crucible content or want to reach out, make sure to follow us on Facebook: Cosmic Crucible: Home to KeyForge players, and Twitter: @blazing_archon to stay tuned about future articles. See you next time in the Cosmic Crucible. Until then, keep forging!

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