Deep Probe #2: Age of Ascension Untamed

Greetings, Archons! Today we are back with a section that made me very excited from the beginning: Deep Probe, that is, card analysis. At first I meant this section to go through all houses for each set, but currently I am the only writer for Cosmic Crucible, so that is too hard and time consuming for me to do on a regular basis. So I have come up with the idea of reworking the section, making it a one house per set section. For the most part, you will be the ones to choose the most interesting house to go through as long as you can give me a good reason to talk about it. This time, Nathan Starwalt from Tabletoproyale (@nathanstarwalt1 on Twitter) suggested me to go through Age of Ascension Untamed, and that is what we are here for.

Before we breakdown this house, let’s clarify the evaluation system. Cards, sorted by number, will be rated from 0 to 5, where:

3: Card that is rather unlikely to consistently give us a minimum benefit. Anything below 3 is straight up bad, and 3.5 is the line which indicates fine cards.

4: Card that can potentially grant a consistent advantage in most scenarios.

4.5 – 5: Card that needs to be dealt with right away (creature, artifact) or grants a somewhat decisive advantage on the spot (action). They often require a moderate investment to play around or get rid of them. The difference is mostly a matter of preference.

Cards will be sorted by number, and since rarity determines how often a card appears in a deck normally, it will be considered as an evaluation factor. Without further do, let’s talk Age of Ascension Untamed!

Dharna: KeyForge means witches all around, but this one is not quite as deadly. I think she is good, but certainly situational. If you manage to play her while having 2 or more damaged creatures in play, she would become a strictly better Dust Pixie. Otherwise she relies on too many “ifs”. 3/5

Duskwitch: One more witch, this one being way better. This card’s balance is fragile, but FFG has done a good job making it a Elusive 1 power creature with Omega. No Omega or more power would have made a straight broken card. However, more than 25 cards in Age of Ascension can straight up kill it with a minimum to no requirement at all (notice that this only counts creatures with “Play” abilities and actions). I do not think 2 power would have been that bad, but I still love this card and the fact that it has common rarity. 4.5/5

Fanghouse: As you could expect from Untamed, Beasts also make their appearance here. Fanghouse could very well be one of the deadliest: Hazardous makes it so only 3+ power creatures can fight it and live long enough to deal damage, plus it gets around Elusive thanks to Assault. I do miss some kind of utility to reward its controller on each turn it remains alive. Therefore, it relies on fighting redundancy to really shine, which makes this card nothing exceptional in many scenarios. 3.5/5

Full Moon [CotA]: An old friend from Call of the Archons, Full Moon tends to make Untamed lineups better, and Age of Ascension ones are no exception. However, sequence-matter cards can potentially make it harder, even for this one to shine. And guess what: all 2 Untamed cards with Alpha are creatures, Glimmer being common and Bumblebird uncommon. Unless you can play it off house (via Helper Bot), which constraints one of the other 2 houses, this card’s quality has decreased slightly.

Let me explain myself. In Age of Ascension we have a 13/52 chance to hit a non-Alpha Untamed creature on a non-rare slot, one of which neutralizes the effect of Full Moon (Chota Hazri) and another one ends your turn (Duskwitch), which leaves us with 12/52* (23%) odds of hitting a card that works well with Full Moon and allows you to keep playing cards (including Nature’s Call)

*12 equals 9 (common Untamed creatures) + 6 (uncommon Untamed creatures) + Nature’s Call – Bumblebird, Glimmer, Chota Hazri and Duskwitch.

That is slightly lower than Call of the Archons’ case: 8 common + 6 uncommon, all of which are fuctional since Alpha and Omega do not exist yet, + 2 cards that allow you to replay them: Nature’s Call and Troop Call, both uncommon. However, this does leave us with a significantly higher percentage: 15/52 (29%), which equals 8 commons + 6 uncommons + 2 – Chota Hazri. So all in all, Full Moon is not quite as good in Age of Ascension, relying heavily on the rest of the lineup and more often than not being just a decent card. 3.5/5

Glimmer: Alpha cards need to be worth playing because they are either part of a restricted sequence, a discard, or a chain if you decide to hold them, which is hardly ever worth it. Glimmer is a good example of a well-designed Alpha card. It needs the timing restriction because returning any card from the discard pile to your hand can easily be overpowered, particularly in a common slot. It definitely enables quite good plays. 4/5

Grovekeeper: The witches keep coming, but unlike the ones from Call of the Archons, this is neither focused on Aember rush or particular utility. It is, however, a flexible card. The fact that its neighbors get pumped every turn makes this a must-kill target, but increases survivability without making it compulsory to fight. Although I like this card, but once again, there are only 2 non-rare Untamed creatures that are critically relevant if they do not get dealt with: Duskwitch and Æmberspine Mongrel, which, again, highlights lineup reliance. 3.5/5

Key Charge [CotA]: Forging out of step in exchange of just an Aember? Yes please! Even when discarded, it can be recovered through Glimmer, Gravid Cycle or Nepenthe Seed. 4.5/5

Knoxx: 9 power hippos can be hard to deal with, but again I see no upside to keeping it alive nor Untamed fighting redundancy. 2.5/5

Marmo Swarm: As a matter of fact, I love squirrel-ish creatures. But this is just a worse Knoxx. 2 damage sends it to the discard pile once you somehow lose your Aember, and it lacks any interesting ability. 1.5/5

Persistence Hunting: Aember pips are always good unless the card can only be played at a certain point (e.g. Key Hammer). I think tempo plays are great, and as an upgraded Nocturnal Maneuver, this can be a very relevant one. 4/5

Regrowth [CotA]: Good old Call of the Archons gave us this beauty first, and its quality only grows as the game progresses, no matter which set we talk about. 4/5

Rustgnawer: Artifact hate needed an increase in order to match the increasingly relevant artifacts, and this is one of the chosen cards. Overall it is not bad, although it gives the opponent the chance to prevent the artifact destruction, and be sure they will if it is relevant. Its ability being “Play/Fight” would have come in handy and would not have broken the card. 3.5/5

Save the Pack [CotA]: Board wipes are needed, and damage-based ones definitely allow some big plays. However, in some situations they are straight discards. Notice that they can sometimes be crucial to the game and played up to nearly a 5/5 level, but that is not going to happen in the average game and deck. 3/5

Song of Spring: This is the kind of action that you want to see in an Aember rush deck combined with Full Moon-type effects (preferably Hunting Witch). Unfortunately that is not going to happen unless you get a Legacy Hunting Witch in your deck. There are some relevant “Play” effects among Age of Ascension creatures, but only Glimmer being the only common makes this card just good due to the Aember and its recursion, although pretty much never insane. 3.5/5

Tantadlin: Big trees are cool, but random archive hate is not enough for a creature to make the cut. I wonder what would have happened if it was a “Reap” ability as well. 3/5

They are Everywhere!: Actions like this are what the set needs. Aember bonus, no situationality and a solid, potentially relevant effect that gets even better if you happen to have Save the Pack and draw it. 4/5

Æmberspine Mongrel: Imagine if you had a must-kill target on your side of the board. Now add it Hazardous 3 and you’ll get this monster. Now thanks to cards like Sir Marrows and Barrister Joya I am pretty sure that by now everyone knows that games can be won with little to no reaping. However, you want to do it when possible and I do not see a more painful punishment than your reap giving an Aember to your opponent too. 4/5

Bumblebird: I honestly find this card counterintuitive. It can only be played before doing anything else, but has a “Play” ability to boost every other Untamed creature. Therefore, you may need to hold it for a turn and get those creatures down before, which effectively means a chain. At this point I wonder if Alpha should have been an optional empowered “Play” ability that only triggers when you play the card at the Alpha timing. That way you could play the card for less value (bonus Aember, board presence…) with no need to either hold it or discard it, which makes multiple copies of an Alpha card pretty bad in general. But the thing is it does not work like that. 3/5

Camouflage: Cool card, not to mention there is a Gruen on it. There are not great Untamed target in this set for the most part, but making it hard for a friendly creature to be attacked is nice. It has a bonus Aember and might make your opponent use flank creatures sub-optimally, which is good, as much as the creature it can protect. 3.5/5

Chota Hazri [CotA]: Imagine if you could get back Key Charge with Regrowth or World Tree? Well, you can. You could actually by the time Call of the Archons was released! 5/5

Flaxia [CotA]: Getting two Aember for free is great, which makes Flaxia a big turn 1 play (the same is true for Call of the Archons), but I think the extent to which Flaxia can do this consistently is variable, which means it will range from 3 to 4.5 depending on the rest of the deck. Average creature count did go up in Age of Ascension. 3.5/5

Fogbank [CotA]: Preventing fights can be great in the ideal setup here (i.e. Duskwitch). It will not shine much otherwise, since Age of Ascension Untamed is power boost-oriented. But I will definitely take the Aember bonus. 3.5/5

Grasping Vines [CotA]: Age of Ascension brought several relevant artifacts that need to be dealt with, such as Grump Buggy, Proclamation 346E, Heart of the Forest or [REDACTED], so you want to be able to bounce those in a crucial turn, specially if you have Key Charge in your deck. Classic pieces of artifact hate like this come in handy. Vines also allow flexible plays regarding bouncing your own symmetrical artifacts, specially if they have bonus Aember on them (Hey there, Speed Sigil!). 3.5/5

Lifeweb [CotA]: Another card that has got better with Age of Ascension average creature count. Opponents will keep playing around it when they can, so I think it is not going to be insane anyway. 3.5/5

Mimicry [CotA]: This Call of the Archons card makes decks way better, essentially reading “Play: copy your opponent’s best action in the discard pile”, which means it is only getting better as the game develops. It has also been discussed in another article, just in case you want to check it out. 5/5

Nature’s Call [CotA]: Although this set has made Full Moon worse in general, this nice little combo-y, tempo-y, flexible card with a bonus Aember is still pretty good, not only to replay relevant cards, but to fight through constant capture abilities, like Sir Marrows‘. We miss you, Dust Pixie. 4/5

Nepenthe Seed [CotA]: No matter if you see an Omni combo enabler or an Omni way to recur an answer, Seed keeps fresh. 5/5

Niffle Grounds: Considering the amount of Beasts on this set, Niffle Queen and Niffle Ape would have been great additions. However, we do need to be okay with this reminder of the Niffle presence. Situational, not great, not bad. 3.5/5

Panpaca, Anga: The Panpacas give a global, battleline-matters boost that can be used proactively and takes effect instantly. Anga is harder to kill and increases other creatures’ survivability, which is fine. 4.5/5

Panpaca, Jaga: Skirmish is a great ability to add to every single friendly creature’s text box. 3 power makes the trade excessively easy for it to be an issue, except if you got to get down a nice Untamed board previously. Still a pretty good card. 4/5

Soldiers to Flowers: The issue with this card is its symmetry, which you might be able to break, along with its downside of having to say goodbye to creatures for the entire game in a recursive shell. Of course that is part of the symmetry, but if somehow the opponent gets a big chunk of Aember, you might be giving them a free forge step. Besides there is nothing optional here, so it is either a lategame card or a discard. 3/5

Way of the Porcupine: If I like Hazardous 3 on Æmberspine Mongrel, I obviously prefer being able to choose which of my creatures gets Hazardous 3, specially if it comes with an Aember. 4/5

Curiosity [CotA]: At least it has an Aember. And that is as good as it gets normally. This extremely narrow piece of cardboard was bad in Call of the Archons and it may be even worse in Age of Ascension. 1.5/5

Earthbind: An Earth-bound creature grants its controller card disadvantage if they want to use it. However, the ability to choose when and what to discard, along with enemy discards also disabling the upgrade, make it just fine. 3.5/5

Fuzzy Gruen [CotA]: Arguably the cutest creature in the entire set, it is also the only remaining non-Legacy vestige of Dust Pixie in this set. 4/5

Gravid Cycle: Upgrading Regrowth at the cost of ending your turn is fair, yet quite good. Only timing restrictions plus information given to your opponent keep it from being awesome. 4/5

Heart of the Forest: This time symmetry is powerful enough to be worth discussing. By itself, this card buys a ton of time unless it gets dealt with soon, which is possible in the current artifact hate scenario. Furthermore, it needs to be in the right deck, which is one that has either ways to punish huge Aember pools, to forge out of step, or both. If your opponent has them but you do not, then you should not play this out, which makes it too narrow to qualify for 4+. 3.5/5

Inka the Spider [CotA]: Classic threat: not only does it trade for any armor-less creature in combat, but it has play/reap utility. 4/5

Kindrith Longshot [CotA]: Elusive and Skirmish do not make a creature good enough by themselves in my opinion. A useful reap along with them does. 3.5/5

Lupo the Scarred [CotA]: 6 power creatures are big enough for Skirmish to make them decent by itself. The ability to kill a 2 power creature on the spot definitely helps. 4/5

Mighty Tiger [CotA]: The cat lacks significant utility or fight-focused abilities, but I guess it has the potential to single-handedly destroy a creature which I guess makes it decent. 3.5/5

Perilous Wild: Hitting 35 non-Untamed creatures in this set makes this card certainly useful, but I would not be surprised to see it discarded to avoid destroying your own stuff, or just turn into an Aember more often than not. 3.5/5

Piranha Monkeys [CotA]: Situational cards keep coming. Damaging your own board is hardly ever a good option, except if your creatures are big compared to the opponent’s or have armor. 2.5/5

Po’s Pixies: Like witches, faeries rock. This one must die on the spot because from your opponent’s perspective, suddenly stealing becomes gaining Aember and capturing becomes gaining you Aember long-term, leaving your Aember untouched in both cases. If it was harder to kill, this card would be even closer to 5. 4/5

Punctuated Equilibrium: Definitely a fun card (first wheel effect ever released in KeyForge). It normally allows to go 6 cards deeper in a given turn with no downside or Omega, pretty solid. Playing this in a Logos shell out of Helper Bot would definitely be spicy. 4/5

Quicksand: Sort of spot removal if your opponent does not happen to have Untamed in their deck. Otherwise symmetrical at the very best (Untamed enemy creatures will get readied before you get to play this). 3/5

Roxador: This creature is good at disrupting beefy enemy creatures, but at the cost of halving its Skirmish power, which makes it particularly bad at dealing with medium or big creatures with relevant constant abilities. It cannot oneshot Teliga, Panpaca, Jaga, Neffru, Zysysyx Shockworm, and the like, with a mediocre result for a potentially good card, if you ask me. 3/5

Shard of Life: Shards make a cool card cycle with a limited impact on the game. The fact that the Shard count per deck cannot get over 3 makes it so they are just fine cards that do not get much better with increased artifact hate, and this one is no exception. 3.5/5

Teliga [CotA]: Just another awesome witch with a constant ability that can make the opponents think twice before playing out some creatures. The fact that altering the sequence of house choices impacts the card advantage makes me love her even more. 4.5/5

The Common Cold [CotA]: Pretty fine random Mars hate. Not great otherwise, but definitely a playable Aember pip that takes down annoying 1 power creatures on the spot. 3.5/5

Witch of the Wilds [CotA]: And another one! I will definitely take playing an off-house card a turn. 4.5/5

World Tree [CotA]: Who does not like a recursion engine? In Call of the Archons this would have been almost 5 due to the impact of Untamed creatures in general and their ability to generate advantage on the spot (best example of the latter is Dust Pixie). 4/5

On Age of Ascension Untamed quality:

So we have gone through all Untamed cards from Age of Ascension, 23 of which were already present in Call of the Archons, and we already have some interesting aspects to look at. On average, I have rated Untamed cards that were previously in Call of the Archons 4.17, while the new ones got an average rating of 3.52. Considering that I have tried to evaluate the context everytime, I think that reflects an accurate difference, and it is 0.66. In a 0 – 5 scale this means in my opinion Call of the Archons’ Untamed is significantly better than Age of Ascension’s. But why?

Thorough card analysis reveals that a good amount of new cards from Age of Ascension are either slow, situational or a straight discard in some situations. Quick impact and must-kill targets often come from the Call of the Archons side, plus when they are new, they come with timing restrictions more often than not.

Another interesting factor to consider is how diluted as opposed to versatile the new Untamed play style is compared to the previous one. Back in our first set, Untamed had potential to be deadly, either establishing an early lead by gaining a lot of Aember and forging a key right away or establishing a threatening board that could very well do its thing by means of fighting. This versatility is, in my opinion, the key to success for Call of the Archons Untamed, which makes it pretty deadly in a hard Aember control shell, and competitive enough if combined with card advantage instead. But again, let’s focus on Age of Ascension.

So, to sum up, the main issues with the wildest KeyForge house in Age of Ascension are:

-Low versatility: This is the most important one in my opinion. Many slow cards are not relevant enough here to justify killing them, and that does not punish the opponent significantly. Additionally, many of the mentioned situational cards end up discarded, and the most evident strategy subtheme present in the new part of the house (Power counters, fight) adds up to the slowness and does not count on enough redundancy and payoffs to really be worth it.

-Diluted playstyle: Board presence-focused stuff gets mixed up with interesting utility that again, does not usually have enough payoffs, making both of those branches weaker, and Untamed one of the worst houses to open unless your lineup is just insane.

-Card pool selection / card design: Both of these have been developed pretty well during both of the first two sets. The real problem here is mistakes add up pretty quickly, and even though I did not want to discuss this excessively during the analysis, many cards would have been way better, although not game-breaking by a long shot, with just minor changes. For example, Rustgnawer could be a very decent card if its ability was “Play/Fight”, but instead it is basically a 4 power creature with an effectively empty text box that will do nothing unless the opponent wants to let it happen. Same thing with Tantadlin, which unfortunately has to fight for almost no damage and 0 extra utility unless the opposing deck is so archive-intensive, in which case discarding a random card from it will not hurt that much. If only it could do the same by reaping…

Wrap-up

We have just examined the Age of Ascension Untamed card pool in order to evaluate cards separately but within their context, as well as given reasons to explain why card quality for this house has decreased from the first set. As a longer article, I want to thank you a lot for getting to this point, as well as to invite you to take part in the discussion by letting me know what you think about the article, the cards, and the ideas expressed on it. In this case it is specially important because I have changed this section a lot and I would be glad to know your thoughts.

Big thanks to Nathan for suggesting me to start with this interesting house, I enjoyed writing about it. If you like the Cosmic Crucible content or just 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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