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Cooperative Hunting #6: On how Worlds Collide may impact the KeyForge metagame

Greetings, Archons! Cooperative Hunting is back. With Worlds Collide releasing this week, I am pretty sure it will be metagame-shaking in some way, and I would like to try and figure out how.

Introduction: what we have before Worlds Collide’s release

Before Worlds Collide, we have Call of the Archons and Age of Ascension, two sets which have been confronted way more theoretically than practically, specially considering that the amount of Age of Ascension decks registered is roughly 1/3 of the amount of Call of the Archons decks (350k out of 1,363k on November 5th). We are not going back to the set quality debate, but instead let’s see what each set is like.

Call of the Archons features the following:

  • More Action-based, and therefore, if the deck had any Aember rush potential, faster on average. Additionally, decks tend to have less creatures than the average Age of Ascension, which highlights the previous trend.
  • Less combo-based. It had LANS and LART until the errata, as well as Battle Fleet + Key Abduction, but not much else. Notice that I am not including interactions that are not new to Age of Ascension, such as Total Recall + Key Abduction or Too Much to Protect + any steal card.
  • More Aember-control heavy: it has a significantly higher number of Aember control cards which do not require any condition to be met. This made Shadows (+ Dis) decks strictly better in most scenarios

As opposed to that, Age of Ascension can be defined as follows:

  • More board-based: the creature count is significantly higher on average plus there are some pieces that can do a good work, e. g. Grump Buggy or Might Makes Right. Additionally, a good portion of the most relevant actions of this set are actually Call of the Archons reprints which, again, emphasizes this trend.
  • A lot more combo-based: GenKA and DrummerGanger are great examples of “degenerate” combos that can potentially win the game out of nowhere. Add the right decklists and the list increases: Heart of the Forest, [REDACTED] and Duskwitch can find themselves in a great spot on the right decks. While this is a good symptom of set quality, the odds of getting an actually insane GenKA deck are so slim, and although the same is not necessarily true for DrummerGanger, it is not a game-winning combo at every point into the game nor against every deck.
  • Way less Aember control-based: cards that provide it are circumstantial or have restrictions for the most part and just simply have a lower count.

According to the previous considerations, a concise description of a winning deck in the current KeyForge metagame is quite simple: gain a ton of Aember while preventing your opponent from doing so – i. e., basically steal your opponent’s Aember -, forge out of step and win. Although at this point only Dis does not have a released forge-out-of-step card, the importance of gaining Aember faster than your opponent takes care of it makes us think of 2 houses to fulfill those requirements, and what is more concerning, both from a specific set: Shadows and Untamed from Call of the Archons. Add the overwhelming disruptive potential of Dis from Call of the Archons and you will find a quite likely glance at the top 8 decks of Archon format competitive events so far.

Even though not every tournament is the same, this article does not mean to be any sort of statistical analysis but an attempt to identify general trends in the current metagame and try to talk early about how it will evolve, so I think that does it for Call of the Archons and Age of Ascension.

What will Worlds Collide bring and how is it going to affect the current state of the game?

This is the key question, and in order to answer this one we have the most valuable stuff of this section: our fellow archons’ contributions. Big thanks to all of you for letting me know your thoughts on this, making a new Cooperative Hunting article possible.

Arranging their opinions is never easy, since they all give valuable information from a KeyForge enthusiast’s perspective, but let’s go from the general to the more specific aspects.

Our fellow archons @KeyForgeLeeds and Liam Hall (@MunkeyKungFu) from Twitter share the hope to get local scenes revitalised. KeyForge Leeds compares Worlds Collide being launched to Age of Ascension, which doubled the assistance to their local tournaments. However, in the long term, the deck diversity ended up being reduced due to the quality difference between the average Age of Ascension deck and Archon-good Call of the Archons decks.

Will deck diversity still be an issue, then? Much like our fellow archon and content creator Kurt (@Unzinc on Twitter), I think it will not. I will gladly join his prediction of Ward being Too Much to Deal With (Hey, FFG, new card! 😉 ) for traditional Untamed and Shadows lists. Check out Kurt’s article here and you will find more interesting opinions, including the risks of exalting, Brobnar raising in quality and a lot more!

Our fellow archon Shea Ashbee (@SheaAshbee on Twitter) adds an interesting component: the right set up can be devastating, giving us the example of Nepenthe Seed into Cooperative Hunting to clear Ward on exalted Dinos, then Nature’s Call for value. I will call it a learnt lesson by concluding that since every deck is unique, you want to look at your opponents decklist before exalting for a significant amount of Aember for which you do not have an answer later on. I do not think that changes the fact that in general, Call of the Archons Untamed and Shadows will have a hard time dealing with Ward!

I particularly like the thoughts from Helagus (@Helagus1 on Twitter) and Archonvict (@Archonvict), who share the belief that the metagame will go through serious changes. Which is fine! Were you a casual archon who was fed up with getting 6 feet under by the strongest Call of the Archons decks? Well, now is your time to shine! Get into your LGS, grab a couple (or as many as you want) Worlds Collide decks and start testing them. You definitely will not see Call of the Archons players as comfortable when something prevents them from stealing your Aember or wiping your board.

Archonvict sees Worlds Collide as a very versatile set which can get in the way of most things: from rush to stealing, not to mention unfair combos – The Purge commencement is imminent! – and big tempo plays such as Nature’s Call or Lost in the Woods, or board wipes. Fighting warded creatures will also be a problem in case you do not have direct damage to go with it.

Helagus adds that Worlds Collide takes board presence to a whole new level: not only there are relevant creatures, but also powerful artifacts, as well as great Upgrades. And you know what? That is absolutely right: Worlds Collide brings a handful of awesome Upgrades that will finally make the card type relevant in the game, particularly in the case of Star Alliance.

Nathan, the Vault Tour Richmond champion (@nathanstarwalt1), mentions the oppressive potential of Quixxle Stone, specially along with Heart of the Forest, that is an anti-fun combination indeed, no wonder Alex, runner up at Richmond (@Lord0fWinter1), wants to burn them all, lol.

And to conclude, we have Raúl (@rauluar on Twitter), who also hopes that Worlds Collide ends the Call of the Archons reign. However, as he points out, we do not want a new king but a more balanced metagame between sets!

Wrap-up:

Less than 2 days before Worlds Collide officially releases, we have reasons to think that it is going to change the KeyForge metagame for good, giving us the first fully satisfying new set experience for KeyForge. I did have a great time with Age of Ascension, but I know some people did not, and I understand why: if your local scene is full of Call of the Archons oppressive decks and you can barely win a single game, then you will not feel good, that is obvious. However, we all feel like this time it is going to be different: people is going to trust in Worlds Collide card quality, cracking those decks open and, what is more important, playing them in their local scenes to prove that KeyForge now has more than one consistently good set.

If you ask me, I think that is going to lead to a chance to reevaluating all the decks people have. Decks that basically only controlled Aember used to be great. Justice “Relámpago”, Lord del Cenagal, which got me to a 2nd place in my local Store Championship, is a good example. However, both in terms of gameplay (only controlling Aember can mean exhaustingly grindy games) and in terms of general deck quality (I do not want to find that 50% of my deck is literally useless thanks to cards like Odoac the Patrician or Discombobulator), I will gladly reconsider my concept of best decks for the current and upcoming events.

So here is my piece of advice for you who are reading this: No matter to what extent you thought this, get your mind ready to change the sentence “Call of the Archons is the best KeyForge set” to the past tense. Get to your Local Game Store Worlds Collide release events, grab a deck, start playing and see how it feels. Then, keep testing it / them at your local scene with enough consistency to find its strengths and weaknesses: I feel like a whole new KeyForge era is about to start!

That is all for today’s article. First of all, thank you so much for reading. I hope you enjoyed the article like I did writing it, since my enjoyment and yours are the reasons that make me want to keep writing every article. If you liked it, and would like to stay tuned for more, make sure you follow me on Twitter: @blazing_archon. We also have a Facebook page that you can like / follow if you wish, that would be amazing of you!

Last but not least, you may want to stay tuned to what my KeyForge team does. If so, make sure to follow us on Instagram: @teamdtae. See you soon in the Cosmic Crucible for another article. I will soon start analyzing Worlds Collide decks, so feel free to hit me up with your lists! Until then, #StayForGin!

Interviewing the Richmond VT Champion: Nathan Starwalt

Greetings, Archons! So the sealed Richmond Vault Tour took place last weekend and as usual, only a single Archon could emerge victorious. He is Nathan Starwalt, who you may know from Twitter (@nathanstarwalt1). Today he has kindly accepted to enter the Cosmic Crucible and answer our questions.

First of all welcome to the Cosmic Crucible Nathan, thank you very much for joining us today, and most importantly, congratulations on such an amazing run at Vault Tour Richmond!

About yourself

1.-Please tell us about yourself: Who are you and what’s your link to the KeyForge community. How did you start getting involved with the game?

I stream KeyForge on Twitch with my friend, Justin. We are getting close to a year old, since we started streaming shortly after the game released. When the game was announced at GenCon 2018, I was immediately sold. Both Justin and I jumped into the game by buying several displays of decks, and we spent a week opening and playing decks.

We wanted to find out which deck of the ones we had opened was the best and it randomly happened that we had exactly 100 decks. We had come up with a scheme to play the decks against each other, and when we sat down to start playing, we realized that we should be recording the games. Justin suggested streaming it, and thus, the channel was born.

2.-Do you play any other board games?

Here are some of my recent favorites: Gloomhaven, Scythe, Terraforming Mars, Bargain Quest. I spent a lot of my adult years working for hobby stores, so I have played a lot of other types of games, like RPGs and miniature games.

3.-Besides CoDameron from Bouncing Deathquark winning the American Grand Championship, you are the very first Vault Tour winner to be as involved with the game by means of content creation. How does it feel compared to being “just” a skillful competitive player that just plays KeyForge on their own?

There is a lot of visibility that a lot of other skilled players would not get, so I feel like there is a degree of responsibility to the community. Justin and I try to make the channel as inviting as possible, and Twitch provides a unique way to talk to viewers while playing the game. There is a call and response that you wouldn’t necessarily get with YouTube or a podcast. I sincerely think the hours of discussing this game with other players on the internet has made me a better player, and I hope that viewers get as much from our experience as we do.

General KeyForge

4.-I think one’s community is really important for both enjoying the game and becoming a good player. Who do you play KeyForge with?

For obvious reasons, Justin is the person I have played the most KeyForge with. We have an anemic local scene, but a chainbound will come together every so often. I’m hoping the alternate-art decks will revitalize local play. I have converted a coworker to the game, and I’m working on a second coworker.

5.-How much time do you invest on testing per day or week?

The vast majority of the games I play are recorded, which is roughly 20 games or about 6 to 8 hours a week. I spend several hours a week on Twitter discussing the game, and I try to check out the other content creators’ work when I can.

6.-What’s your favorite KeyForge format and why?

Is it a cop-out answer if I say that each format has a place and I’ve enjoyed all of them one way or another? I enjoy Adaptive, but I never get to play it. I think Triad is also extremely skill testing, but best of 3 rounds of Keyforge take a really long time.

Richmond VT

7.-What was your previous Vault Tour experience before Vault Tour Richmond?

I went to VT Atlanta, both the sealed and archon Gencon Vault Tours. I also attended the American Grand Championships. I did not do great in Atlanta, or at the GC, but I made day 2 of the Gencon Sealed.

8.-How did your expectations about your result change through the whole tournament?

The deck I opened was crazy, so I was trying to keep my expectations low to avoid disappointing myself. I almost lost round 3, so I knew the deck wasn’t invincible. Justin beat me in round 5, so I was pretty worried that I might not make day 2. I liked my deck’s chances in a best of three round, which I knew the top 4 and finals matches were. I lost game 1 in both the top 4 match and the finals, so I’m really glad that I had the other chances.

9.-To what extent do you think KeyForge competitive tournaments are about the player or the deck? How does it change between formats?

There are four parts to a player’s success in tournaments: deck, skill, luck and matchups. These are about equal, because some combination of three of the factors can offset the fourth.

10.-How do you pick your deck in a sealed Vault Tour?

I would change my strategy depending on the set, but I prioritize Aember Control in AoA. There are some degenerate combos (*cough* Drummernaut/Ganger Chieftain) in AoA that I would also prioritize if they are present in the pool. Board state is really important, so decks that can go head-to-head with a Grump Buggy deck need to be considered.

11.-What other tips for competitive KeyForge sealed can you give the Archons?

Play with as many different decks in a set that you can. Playing a deck that matches your playstyle is better than playing a deck that looks better numerically. Worlds Collide sealed promises to be a completely different experience than the last two sets, so much of my advice for AoA is not going to apply to WC.

Recent KeyForge

12.-Did you open your best decks yourself or got them through the secondary market?

I have not purchased anything through the secondary market, but the collector in me has so far resisted the urge to go out and buy a vanity deck with my name.

13.-What are your thoughts on the KeyForge secondary market?

Secondary markets are important, since people like owning things they know are valuable. The secondary market needs to be healthy, otherwise it will collapse in on itself. I don’t participate in the secondary market enough to know if it is healthy.

14.-Deck evaluation systems (SAS/AERC) have been discussed a lot recently. What’s your opinion about them and the way they impact the Archons’ perception of decks?

The scores are a decent comparative tool, but players probably focus on the final score a bit too much. How decks matchup up is more important, in my estimation.

15.-What is your own way to decide how good a deck is?

Play it and play against it. Learn how the deck wins and what it loses to. No deck is invincible.

16.-Organized Play is also about to change with the inclusion of Vault Warriors. How do you think these tournaments will affect the game as we currently know it?

Hopefully, Vault Warriors will bring in an influx of new players or players who have been away for a while. I know people are concerned that it will bring a certain type of competitive player into the scene, but I think it is important as a community to set the standard we expect from players. I have full confidence in Yeti’s ability to run clean tournaments, after how they ran VT Richmond.

17.-After the first chances to test it, what do you think about Worlds Collide as a set?

This set is going to dramatically alter the face of the game. There is a lot of crazy stuff going on, and I don’t have enough data yet to fully understand the implications. Untamed looks like it improved from AoA, and Brobnar looks a lot worse. Saurians and Star Alliance seem crazy on paper, but does that translate to in game success?

18.-Would you like to give any advice to newer and current Archons on  how to improve as players or how to maximize the enjoyment of playing KeyForge?

Go to organized play events and meet the great people playing this game. This is one of the best card game communities that I have ever been a part of and I feel like I learn something from every game I play. Several people who made the day 2 cut at Richmond were playing in their first Vault Tour, so never think that you can’t be competitive. Due to the nature of this game, everyone has something unique they can bring to the table.

Wrap-up:

Well thank you so much Nathan. We really appreciate that you shared your experience and time with us. You are also officially the first Vault Tour Champion to know about Cosmic Crucible on their own!

If you want more KeyForge quality content, make sure to follow TableTopRoyale on Twitter to stay tuned to what they do. Also, do not forget to check out TableTopRoyale’s website: https://tabletoproyale.com and particularly their stream: https://www.twitch.tv/tabletoproyale/, where you will get access to an absurd amount of awesome KeyForge gameplays.

Thanks a lot for reading. If you like this content, it would be amazing of you to follow us on Twitter: @blazing_archon or Facebook: Cosmic Crucible: Home to KeyForge Players. Additionally, if you want to get updates of what my KeyForge team (Team DTAE) does, follow us on Instagram: @teamdtae. See you in the Cosmic Crucible for the next articles. Until then, Keep Forging or like my friends from Twitter say, #StayForGin!

Vault Tour Madrid 2019: A competitive recap by DTÆ Martins

Greetings, Archons! Long time no write, I know, and I am sorry for that. However, good things need to be waited for, and that is entirely the case for today’s article! Prior to day 2 of Vault Tour Madrid I asked my friend and team mate Martín Lorenzo (@MartinNamaste on Twitter) to contribute to the blog with a write-up of the whole tournament, which he kindly accepted. By then I was pretty sure he would do well at the Vault Tour, because I knew he is a great player. And the passing of time did nothing except to confirm my thoughts.

His recap of the whole tournament was originally written in Spanish, so I have translated it to you. I really hope you enjoy the read of the first tournament report, as well as the first Team DTÆ-related article published in the Cosmic Crucible.

Vault Tour preparation:

Nerves were on the edge towards the Vault Tour, considering that I live in a small city in which people do not play much KeyForge: traveling to Madrid to attend a big event like this with about 180 people and competing at a high level made me have a knot in my stomach.

Format-wise, being an Archon Survival event determined that a big strategy planning process was required to try and get to Day two. My favorite deck was already locked: Wilhelmina “Tex”, la Piadosa, so two more decks to go. After a lot of testing on The Crucible Online which highlighted the mechanics present in a deck that had not called my attention much at first, I decided to go with Virreina “Gula” Song, a Heart of the Forest deck well equipped with 2 Full Moon along with a Key Charge to allow me to forge out of step my third key, plus a very archive-intensive Logos that was able to cycle through the deck so fast to get to HotF as soon as possible. The backup plan was a controlling Shadows for those games in which HotF would not show up fast, and the potential to recur the artifact thanks to Glimmer and Nepenthe Seed.

With two decks chosen and one more deck to go, there were several options: “Búsqueda”, Escolta de Tillihome, a deck that relied in its good Æmber control, but with not much board presence nor board control; L. Bishop, Timadora de Virlportal, a very funny deck with a quite nice Æmber generation output plus nice artifact control, definitely something to consider against certain decks; Martín the Snakey, which I got from a trade looking to have my namesake deck. Testing proved it to be so strong because if its great Æmber control plus a Dis with insane combos; and finally Force, the Vizier of Hippoway, a secondary market deck with a house combo that I had always been looking for, with the ability to both control Æmber and rush it. The latter was my clearest option. The night before the event I had not decided the deck order nor my third one so I chose it based on feelings and fun, and I went with Martín the Snakey. Besides its good results, I thought it would be fun for both me and my opponents to see that my Archon and I actually shared our name.

Order-wise I had to think it through very carefully, and because of the majority of the players putting their “worst” deck in the first place, I went with Virreina “Gula” Song, since I did not expect those decks to have a ton of artifact control nor a particular counter to my combo, such as Control the Weak or Scrambler Storm. I placed second Wilhelmina “Tex”, la Piadosa, and last Martín the Snakey, the one I chose the previous night.

Day One

Just like during the preparation time, nerves were on the edge (Editor: I guess he had a Nerve Blast, lol). I was hoping people to not have so much artifact control on their first decks, so that I could win some rounds on Virreina “Gula” Song. The first three rounds everything went smoothly: with HotF out, I only had to hold my second key unforged while archiving the Untamed combo in order to play it last turn and win the game. Things were as good as they could until I had to face Rene Farwer, a great player with quite a lot of Vault Tour experience. The game got to time with me forging the second key and being able to combo off for the win, undoubtedly one of my best games ever.

With my record being 4-0 I knew winning everything would not last for so long, especially facing in Round 5 Andreas Herzer, both great as a player and as a person, who had taken Day One undefeated. As soon as I saw his decklist (Dolores die Wortkarge) I knew it was going to be a very hard game, with a ton of board presence, 2 Ember Imp putting me down to 2 cards a turn and then a combo that made me lose the game: we were 1-2 keys-wise and I was rushing to archive the combo and forge the second key, but then the following turn he played Key Hammer to give me 6 Æmber in order to make me forge the second key before having the full combo archived. Control the Weak sealed the game making sure I could not forge the third key.

That game put me down to 4-1 right before the lunch break. Day Two could still be a thing, as it was time to play Wilhelmina “Tex”, la Piadosa, which had always performed well in Chainbound events. By Round 6 fatigue started to show up, and during that game everything went wrong. Timetraveller and Help from Future Self were on the bottom of my deck, along with Bait and Switch and Miasma, so both the deck’s speed and its ability to survive went down by a lot, making me lose the game and turning Round 7 into all or nothing, since going 5-2 or better was required in order to advance to Day Two.

So Round 7 was about betting it all on Martín the Snakey, a powerful and fun deck but which I was way less experienced with. It was an intense game against Marco, a skillful Italian player (Editor: Hello from Spain, my friend!). However, I managed to control the game by preventing him from forging more than one key and taking down the game. With that, I got to Day Two without the need to play the top 32 cut round, since 37 players had a record of 5-2 or better, and I ended up 14th.

Day Two

Once Day Two was a fulfilled mission, it was time to enjoy very intense games and try to get as far as possible into the final bracket, so new target: to make it to Top 16. After the top 32 cut, I was up against Susanne, Andreas’ wife, who got the 19th seed. Her deck, Baron „Pirat“ Andarion, was similar to mine Æmber control-wise, except hers had a bigger board presence. It was a tight game, getting to the late game 2-2 on keys, and with her in check for the third one. I was lucky to have a Shooler in hand preventing her from winning, as well as a crucial Control the Weak, making her choose Brobnar with all her Brobnar Æmber control in the discard pile, winning the game and advancing to Top 16.

The Top 16 game I had to face an Æmber rush deck able to forge all 3 keys out of step. I did not seem to be lucky on this game, as I mulliganed a Too Much to Protect + Doorstep to Heaven hand but drew them both again in the new hand. This made me succumb to the temptation of holding them to prevent my opponent from forging, but after he got to forge two keys out of step I decided to play them. We got to a 1-2 keys situation and I was in check with 12 Æmber for the second key, which would have put me in a good spot for the third. A timely Burn the Stockpile put me to 8 Æmber and making me unable to get to check the next turn. I could only get to 5 Æmber, while he played an Untamed turn up to 10, which I could not deal with, thus ending the Main Event for me.

Goal achieved by far, Top 16 in my first Vault Tour, getting to meet a lot of people in the process.

DTÆ Blazing Archon and DTÆ Martins celebrating Martín’s Top 16!

Editor wrap-up

Martín’s tournament was definitely an example of how to enjoy and, at the same time, do well in a big KeyForge tournament. It goes without saying that I and the whole Team DTÆ are proud of his performance, and hope to be able to make it to more tournaments like the awesome first Vault Tour in Spain, trying to get as far as possible, and enjoy the game like we always do! Vault Tour Madrid would have not been as awesome without the judges that made it possible, in particular Fernando and Willy on the Spanish side, and the Crazy Killing Machine staff. Big thanks to all of them for making this great event happen!

Thank you very much for reading, and big thanks to my friend Martín for writing the tournament report. If you enjoyed the article and wish to stay tuned for more KeyForge content on the Cosmic Crucible, make sure to follow us on Twitter: @blazing_archon, or Facebook: Cosmic Crucible: Home to KeyForge players. You can also follow Martín (@MartinNamaste) to not miss any further article he might write for the Cosmic Crucible!

Last but not least, do not forget to follow Team DTÆ on Instagram: @teamdtae to keep an eye on our KeyForge activity. We will be in the Spanish Grand Championships (Madrid, November 16th and 17th), so root for us!

Vault Tour Madrid 2019: A community-based approach (Day 0 + Day 1)

Greetings, Archons! Home, sweet home, not only because I am back in Seville, but also because I am back in Cosmic Crucible, creating more written stuff for you. Vault Tour Madrid was an absolute blast for me and my brother, and you are about to see why.

First of all, the CrazyKillingMachine staff (Carl, Steve and Oli) was there as judges as well as to make sure everything went smoothly, which was the case the whole time. Check out their linked Facebook page for an overview of the event. Since it is my first Vault Tour, this time I am going to write up my own experience hoping that you find it interesting.

Vault Tour Madrid took place from September 27th to September 29th, counting on a 3 days schedule that looks like this: A full day of side events (Friday), and the main event (3 decks Archon Survival) with Day 1 on Saturday and Day 2 on Sunday. Of course I had to be there for the side events day as a chance to see what everything looks like without the pressure of the main event. As an KeyForge lover to the bone as well as a content creator, I just could not miss it.

Day 0: Friday

When we arrived, everything looked great. Many players were not there yet, planning on showing up on Saturday. The first thing we did was to registrate into an Archon Triad pod best of 1. In that pod I got to meet two really interesting people: Marc, a 12 years old archon who happened to play KeyForge quite well, and Carlo, coming from Italy along with his team. During the pod I went to the Prize Wall and traded 70 of my Æmbershards for a set of awesome Vault Tour metal keys. For lunchtime we joined our new Italian friend and had the chance to meet the rest of them: Ivan, Marco and Nunzio.

From left to right: Carlo, Ivan, JR, Marco, Nunzio and Alex

After lunch there was an Archon solo Age of Ascension event, in which I borrowed a deck from my friend Pablo, which I also met at the pod mentioned above, because we only had an Age of Ascension deck with us, and my brother wanted to play it. The deck Pablo lent me was a Timetraveller deck with Grump Buggy in Brobnar and good stuff in Sanctum which was really fun to play. My brother’s deck was the first Age of Ascension deck I won a sealed tournament with. But two unfortunate things happened. One of them was we did not register to that tournament before lunch (my bad), so we had to do it after round 1 pairings were up and join in Round 2. And if things could not get worse, we got paired up in Round 2! I came back from a 0-2 keys situation and won, proving I was playing a faster deck. Anyway, both Alex and I realized we needed to play a lot better if we wanted to make it to Day 2.

Battle of brothers about to begin! Photo by Fantasy Flight Games Spain

That was pretty much the end of the day for us, because my brother and I were staying at a friend’s and wanted to be able to do something in Madrid. Wrap-up for the first day pre-main event was quite good, except for I had somehow lost my metal keys, and left without having even realized. You can probably imagine how frustrating that feeling was, specially considering that I had 86 Æmbershards before spending those 70 so I could not afford to get another key set on the spot.

Day 1: Saturday

Day 1 started, and in all honesty due to frustration I was kind of doubtful I would be able to have as much fun as I expected. But then something happened: whoever found my keys took them to the organizers, so my friend Pablo asked if anyone had found them and I actually got them back. This might seem like it is not relevant but it really made my day and strengthened how awesome I already thought the community is.

I am not going through the tournament exhaustively because overall my performance does not justify it. Round 1, however, made the entire tournament worth preemptively: I bumped into my friend Quyznaro who I unwittingly knew from my LGS in Seville. I lost the game without much to do, on one of my best decks: Justice “Relámpago”, Lord del Cenagal, and by then I saw I had messed up regarding my deck order. Anyway, the important thing here is we had a great time playing vs each other. He gave me a custom chain tracker of his team: DTÆ, and then I knew I wanted to be part of it too.

Two friends bump into each other in Round 1. Quyznaro wins!

Going into Round 2 with only 2 decks remaining was kind of hard. Abigail, Bibliotecaria del Alminar Acelerado was next. And once again, I seemed to be playing against the most difficult matchup for my deck: another racing deck (Dis / Untamed / Shadows). My opponent, Dawid, who was also part of Team DTÆ the team I wanted to join, happened to be both a great player (he made it to top 16) and a great opponent. He even taught me a patience lesson, since I was down a key and I knew what it means for a racing deck, but the game continued and it all came down to a 2-2 keys situation in which the game would have been even more interesting had my opponent not cracked his Lifeward just on time, preventing me from playing a ready Nexus with Speed Sigil out to use his Lash of the Broken Dreams, plus Magda the Rat, ensuring his 3rd key this way.

Dawid takes a really close game as well as one more step towards the top!

By Round 3 and my record being 0-2, I was relieved of any kind of pressure, which is great, and was also playing one of my favorite decks ever: Morgan el Chispeante, Bandolero de Hierro, a Timetraveller + Library Access deck on which I had a considerable experience on. This led me to winning all 3 remaining rounds before lunch, turning my record into 3-2, and giving me options to continue the tournament, which I found pretty impressive! I took a picture with my opponents in 2 of the 3 rounds.

Going into Round 6, I faced our German fellow archon Vincent Martin, who may be known to you for being the Vault Tour Germany runner-up. He was on a great deck: Flagsec, the Number Cruncher Adept, with 4 Routine Job as well as impressive Sanctum and Dis lineups. I pulled off a 3 creatures Loot the Bodies + Coward’s End early, but it did not take too much before he got the advantage and capitalized on it as I could not forge a single key. We then had a chat in which he confirmed my suspicions on a poor deck order from me. Only Justice would have stood a chance against his deck, and it would have been so hard. Anyway I cannot imagine a better way to say goodbye to the tournament than getting defeated a proven great player on his best deck.

Vault Tour Germany runner-up takes me down nice and easy!

Team DTÆ

Team DTÆ in Madrid prior to me joining

Definitely one of the greatest things from this whole experience is meeting Quyznaro along with the whole Team DTÆ. I had heard about the team (my friend Martín was already part of it), but it was only when I met him that I knew I wanted to join them. It is linked to KeyForgemania, the Spanish podcast that has supported the Cosmic Crucible from the very beginning, and since friends of mine were part of it, no wonder I wanted to join. And you know what? I was given a playmat and a chain tracker, thus being welcomed to the group. We now have an Instagram account (@teamdtae) , so follow us if you are there!

Martín and I celebrating another top 16 for the team!

End of Day and Archon Team tournament

So I got ready for the next exciting challenge: an Archon Team tournament. I teamed up with my friends Marc and Nunzio. We determined that I would be the captain, since Marc understands English but cannot speak it so much, and Nunzio cannot speak Spanish. House choice was a challenge, as no house could appear more than 2 times in all 3 decks overall. So we decided that I would play Justice and Nunzio would play a Shadowless Call of the Archons deck, giving Marc the ability to play Shadows. Due to house restrictions he ended up playing a tough Age of Ascension deck in the sense that it was much closer to fair than the average.

We won the first two rounds but lost the other two. Round 3 was key, since I misplayed due to being nervous but could have won us the game, and Round 4 we were up against 3 of my team mates, which I enjoyed a lot despite the result (lost 2-1)!

About to clash with my team mates. Notice my Team DTÆ playmat, lol

I won in our 2 victories and lost in our 2 defeats. Overall, I find Archon Teams a very interesting format. The captain sits in between the other 2 players and no information can be exchanged between the players on the flanks, but they can give or receive advice from the captain. If a flank player has already finished their game then they can even give advice to the other flank player. It was a very interesting tournament, and Nunzio had the greatest win-rate among us, with 3 out of 4 games!

Meanwhile, my brother survived the entire Day 1 on a deck which had <80 SAS: Megatón el Perspicaz, getting the 5-2 and making it to the top 32 cut on Day 2. Not bad, huh?

Alex proudly holding the match slip with his fifth victory

At the end of Day 1 I used my Æmbershards once again: my friend Marc was relying on our performance in the Team event to get enough Æmber for a Vault Tour chain tracker, which he did not get at the end of the day, so I decided to get one for him with my own Æmbershards. After all, it is a matter of time before I can get those back playing more KeyForge!

Marc shows his new Vault Tour Chain Tracker!

Wrap-up

So Day 1 at Vault Tour Madrid gave me way more than I expected at first. I learnt from several punts, as well as from a somewhat negative attitude when ordering the decks (letting it be influenced by expectations) and when I got behind in a game (not believing in the comeback). Additionally, I joined a team of players with whom I can share my KeyForge experience from now on!

That is all for today’s article. I really hope you enjoyed the first part of the articles about Vault Tour Madrid. If that was the case, you can follow me on Twitter: @blazing_archon, or Facebook: Cosmic Crucible: Home to KeyForge players. Second part will be coming soon, but until then, Keep forging!

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!

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!

Prof. Sutterkin Lab #1: How to evaluate KeyForge cards?

Greetings, Archons! As usual, our helpful community present in Twitter always makes it easy to find good topics to talk about. This has made it so today I am inspired enough to create a new section for the blog: Prof. Sutterkin Lab. This section aims to address different topics related to specific KeyForge cards / houses from my very own point of view. This means that any card(s) or houses analysis, except for decks analysis will be part of this section from now on. Your opinions will be as appreciated as in Cooperative Hunting, since when I tell you about something I do so expecting to get some kind of feedback from you.

Without further do, let’s talk about today’s topic. Our fellow Archon @JakeFryd from Twitter, a top tier player from Sanctumonius team posted two days ago his own list of top 10 KeyForge cards. This article is obviously not meant to debate his list nor to discuss mine. I did notice his list had 8 cards that impact the game on the spot, 7 of which were actions, the other being Dust Pixie. While I am not here to deny that kind of cards might very well be the best, I do not think cards should be evaluated as if they were all expected to have a homogeneous impact on the game.

Different card types mean that the card in question impacts the game at a given point or from a given point on, not before, and only actions and creatures with “Play” abilities do that on the spot, so not taking card types into account may generate a highly-biased consideration on what the best cards are, and that is what I want to avoid. So now let’s talk about the different card types and what to expect from them, in order to figure out what the best 3 card for each type might be. They will sort alphabetically since I think only the context can define which of two good cards is better than the other at a given point.

1.-Creatures: Since like artifacts they enter play exhausted, they can only impact the game on the same turn they are played if they have a “Play” ability or a constant ability such as Mother‘s. In any other case, the creature could be dead even before having the chance to be used.

Therefore, in my opinion, we want a creature card to:

1.-Impact the game on the spot. That way, you do not even need to care about whether or not it gets destroyed because it will have done its thing by then.

2.-Be hard to kill, so it is likely to do something before being destroyed.

3.-Make it disadvantageous for the opponent to kill it. If they do not, we have the chance to use it. Otherwise, we can always try to kill it ourselves.

These are, in my opinion, the best 3 creatures from our first two sets:

Dust Pixie: Good old Pixie has always been one of the best cards out there, as well as the core card for Call of the Archons Aember rush decks. Two Aember printed on a creature, in a house with the ability to recur it with Regrowth / World Tree or to bounce and replay it, as well as to shuffle it back along with 2 troublesome opposing creatures does not need further explanation if you ask me.

Mother: In this case the constant ability replaces the “Play” ones. 5 Power makes it a significantly hard to kill creature, and due to its ability being constant she does not care about stuns. I am not going to say anything about the absurd card advantage she grants, except for reminding you that since its ability modifies your hand size, you still shed chains in spite of drawing one more card.

Ronnie Wristclocks: Its play ability makes up for all the reasons you need to (dis)like it. It is an empowered Urchin that steals 2 if the opponent goes above the 6 Aember range. A 4 Aember swing on a creature with no downsides? I’ll definitely take that. Bear in mind that the Steal mechanic will become less overpowered over time as Worlds Collide comes out with steal hate. That will probably cause it to become a more lategame-oriented mechanic, meaning that you will not be able to benefit from it until you find answers to that hate, thus increasing the odds of Ronnie doing more than an Urchin would.

Honorable mentions:

John Smyth: This creature basically makes any non-Agent Mars creature twice as good. Elusive makes it so the opponent has to make a little sacrifice (2 potential reaps) unless they have an answer to it. It also comes from a set and house that has the ability to protect it from fights, and use it the same turn thanks to Squawker or Soft Landing.

Sneklifter: More often than not, Sneklifter reads “Play: Make your opponent’s life miserable for the rest of the game”. Proclamation 346E and Lash of Broken Dreams are great, but stealing any of those is double great.

2.-Artifacts: Just like creatures, they normally cannot be used the same turn they are played. “Play” abilities are out of the table except for Masterplan, so you want an artifact to:

1.-Have a constant ability.

2.-Have an Omni ability.

3.- Have a relevant Action that justifies choosing its house during Step 1.

Nepenthe Seed: Seed has been proven strong from the very beginning of the game with a strong but concise ability that enables big plays such as doubling up lasting effects, which turned out to be excessively powerful in the case of Library Access. The fact that it is an Omni ability gives it a ton of flexibility, turning the artifact into a great threat.

Proclamation 346E: Arguably one of the best Age of Ascension-born artifacts, Proclamation 346E is the first artifact to increase the opponent’s key cost passively with no downside or requirement from you whatosever. As long as you can prevent them from having creatures from 3 houses in play, their keys will keep costing +2, esentially meaning that 3 keys will cost them a grand total of 24 Aember.

Subtle Maul: This is the only one of the three artifacts to have a regular Action, so it must be consistently worth to choose Shadows as the active house for this to deserve a place here. And in my opinion, it is. As you all know, drawing cards passively is great, but how good is proactively drawing one card compared to making your opponent discard? Considering it also limitates your house choice, I would say much worse. Drawing with Library of Babble implies 1/3 base odds to draw a card that you can play or discard on the same turn, which means that the odds of it not turning into real card advantage are normally higher. Making your opponent discard a random card, however, means that they get to play with one less card in hand, with no control on which card it will be, and that always counts as card advantage.

Honorable Mentions:

Lash of Broken Dreams: The fact that you can make your opponent’s keys cost +3 makes this card potentially backbreaking. However, talking about it being worth to choose the artifact’s house, eventually it will not, because you will have to choose between playing/using cards or going Dis to activate Lash and prevent you from losing for a turn. So I would say this card is great when you are ahead or when you have a good chance to catch up your opponent keys-wise. Otherwise it is just a fine card that deserves a honorable mention.

Pocket Universe / Safe Place: The effect these artifacts grant is so unique so far into the game that it makes choosing their houses as active way more worth than one would think before playing it. Each Aember on one of these can be used to forge but is not considered to be in your pool, so it cannot be stolen or captured and it does not go to the opponent when the artifact is destroyed. However, the quality of these cards depends on the rest of the decklist, and that is why they remain as honorable mentions.

3.-Actions: As pointed out by our friend Jake, actions are often more powerful than any other card type. Decks light on action cards will take a while before they can do something with their cards. We could say actions are our “instant” cards. Yes, you can only play things during your turn, but you can hardly ever affect the game state right away except if you’re playing actions. So I would say we want an action to:

1.-Have a good chance of being useful in as many scenarios as possible, at least for a minimum value.

2.-Be flexible, that is, to have as many uses as possible to adapt to the variety of scenarios that we can find in a KeyForge game.

3.-Be highly rewarding just in case you take the risk to slow roll it.

The good thing of non-action cards is that they grant you benefit by surviving, and if they do not, at least they are not going to be in your hand waiting for their time to shine. Most actions will not either, but in some games we are tempted to save an action for a specific moment of the game. That is why 1 and 2 are oriented to make sure cards do not end up slowing your card flow down. Let’s go through the list.

Control the Weak: Denying your opponent the ability to choose a house next turn is arguably the most powerful form of disruption. It is hard to imagine a situation in which this card is not useful at all, and pretty easy to figure out that choosing the right house might effectively be an extra turn or guarantee the win right away. And it even has a printed Aember!

Mimicry: the absolute MVP so far. The ability to copy any action in our opponent’s discard pile makes it useful at any point into the game except for when your opponent has just reset the Discard Pile. Otherwise, a card that reads “Copy the best action from your opponent’s Discard Pile” is the one to meet all 3 requirements completely.

Virtuous Works: 3 Aember with no downside or timing restriction? Yes please. Glory to House Sanctum!

Honorable Mentions:

Doorstep to Heaven: Although it is technically symmetrical, this is by far my favorite Aember control card. Its unique text reads a loss of Aember, which therefore cannot be prevented by steal or capture hate and makes both players’ Aember 5 as long as they had more, regardless of how much they had. Not only does it punish Aember burst without a key cheating payoff, but it does so minimizing the risk to get got on the way back, which Too Much to Protect does not.

Routine Job: This card is pretty much self-explanatory. Under the best circumstances, it is potentially more backbreaking than any of the actions above except for Mimicry, which can also be a better Routine Job. However, being Discard Pile-reliant plus not having printed Aember on it makes it so there are points in which the other three are so likely to be better, and that is why I leave it here. It definitely qualifies for the top four in my opinion, though.

3.-Upgrades: They are the only KeyForge card type that has an inherent play restriction: they can only be attached to creatures. Therefore, the real utility of an upgrade normally depends on whether the upgraded creature can survive, which highly determines this list. Then, what makes an upgrade good?

1.-Being able to take advantage out of it as inmediately as possible, since a relevant creature is going to die and an upgrade is generally going to make it more relevant.

2.-Either threating to give you a big advantage or putting your opponent into real pressure.

Collar of Subordination: The collar definitely generates a big gap. It is pressumably one of the best possible follow ups for your opponents’ turn 1 plays (right, @vaultboy81?) and maintains its quality over the course of the game, allowing you to steal their best creature at any point, making it relatively similar to Mimicry flexibility-wise. How could I forget when I stole my friend @TheLogotarian‘s turn 1 Mother on turn 2? Below you can find the original clip from December 2018:

Mantle of the Zealot: Another greatly flexible card. It can grant an Inspiration effect on the spot, since it can be played on an off-house creature, but if somehow the creature survives, now you can use one more creature each turn. Simple and effective, I love it!

Rocket Boots: I am sure that not even an Untamed Bear would mind wearing a pair of boots like these if it doubles up their uses. Unfortunately, the creature living to tell the tale is as likely as a Witch of the Eye remaining in play for a turn, so do not play them on a Witch of the Eye unless you want to see her disappear in the blink of an eye!

Honorable Mentions:

Jammer Pack: Having this attached to a creature makes it very threatening. The only reason why this is just a honorable mention is because its effectiveness relies on the creature’s ability to survive, generally low on Call of the Archons Mars and not getting any better except if you have an Yxilx Dominator out, which is hard to guarantee. So I for the most part I do not expect this to be much more than one Aember.

Silent Dagger: This card is so cool, specially if you manage to attach it to a big creature, a Silvertooth, or one that you can somehow get to reap repeatedly. However, if your opponent does not rely enough on creatures, this upgrade will not do much, and sometimes it may even force you to damage a friendly creature, so I will just say it is good.

Wrap-up:

That was all for today’s article, in which we have gone through what I think are the best cards of each type two sets into the game. I expect this list to change a lot when Worlds Collide is finally here, but hopefully the reasoning behind these choices and what makes a certain card good will stand coherent and help you guys evaluate the potential of your decks without relying that much on stats.

I really hope you enjoyed the article like I did writing it. If you did, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@blazing_archon) for new articles on the Cosmic Crucible. It would be awesome of you if you could like Cosmic Crucible’s new Facebook page so you can also stay tuned there. I would like it to become another link between the Cosmic Crucible and the rest of the KeyForge Community, but there is still a long way to go.

Last but not least, I want you to know that something big is coming soon to the Cosmic Crucible… Stay tuned so you do not miss it. Until then, keep forging!