Cooperative Hunting #7: How good is Worlds Collide Shadows?

Greetings, Archons! Long time no Cooperative Hunting, right? I absolutely agree, so I am here again with more content that, I think, both you and I like. This time we we have a look at an interesting question: How has the appearance of Worlds Collide changed the previous situation regarding the power level of Shadows house? As you know, since KeyForge appeared Shadows has always been, by far, the most powerful house. Yes, certain setups of different houses could very well either defeat Shadows decks or make their pilots have a very hard time; however, as far as standard (i. e. non-brutal) deck houses, Shadows was the best indeed. Among the causes of that we could always highlight the impact of the Steal mechanic, which was covered in a previous Cooperative Hunting article.

That, along with the relatively abundant Æmber pips, made Shadows very widely considered the foe to beat by the time Call of the Archons came out. And we couldn’t really say things changed much for Age of Ascension: as a result of timing-modifying mechanics (Alpha, Omega) being the only innovative ones, there was no room for a change in the situation described above: all 7 houses were different, but Shadows was still more powerful. As Worlds Collide entered the Crucible, including 2 new houses, we obviously expected Shadows reign to be over. However, it could have left the throne empty in a silent way, and in my opinion it has not; leaving the Brobnar design flaw aside, which has made it basically a slower Call of the Archons Brobnar with some spicy additions, Shadows is arguably the least favored Worlds Collide house. Let’s find out why.

Probably the most important reason is the relative slightly lower amount of Æmber pips and less efficient Æmber gain: 19 Worlds Collide cards between Artifacts, Actions and Upgrades have printed Aember on them. There are some cards that could be awesome if they had an Aember printed on them, but are actually mediocre due to the frequency in which they are played for no value. That is the case for cards like Inky Gloom, Hit and Run or Into the Night, the first two of which are common. In my opinion the fact that classic cards like Miasma or Scrambler Storm are such solid cards has a lot to do with them having Æmber printed on them, which makes them work well even in the worst case scenarios.

Notice that Age of Ascension count is slightly better: 21 cards. As far as Call of the Archons is concerned, we face 22 cards. Let’s see it the opposite way: How likely is it for us to find a pip-less Action card in Worlds Collide Shadows decks? Graph 1 below shows that it is actually significantly more likely for us to bump into a pipless Shadows Action in Worlds Collide than it used to be in Call of the Archons or Age of Ascension, which clearly impacts on our Æmber gain over the course of the game. For Call of the Archons the number is so low, and the common card is Bait and Switch, which will often steal one at least, while 2 of Age of Ascension cards considered are rare and will not appear that often, while Worlds Collide has the biggest amount of these pip-less cards, only one of them being rare.

Graph 1: number and rarity of Action cards without Æmber pips per set. Data source: Archon Arcana Card Gallery
*Bear in mind that it excludes cards that appear in Table 1 (see below).

Another factor to consider is that Worlds Collide creatures are generally slow. There are only 3 creatures with relevant “Play” abilities, 2 of which appeared in previous sets: Hugger Mugger, Ronnie Wristclocks, Sneklifter. This means that the other 24 creatures need to survive in order to really be able to impact the game. Which takes us to the next reason why Worlds Collide Shadows is worse than the previous sets ones. Furthermore, creatures are also much less powerful: with 2,18 average power. Out of those, 14 creatures have Elusive, 6 of which are Plants (belonging to all of the Worlds Collide Houses except for Shadows itself), which means they have only power 1. Breaker Hill and Weasand also have power 1. It is also worth noticing that Mack the Knife was first released in Call of the Archons. This decreases dramatically their ability to stick in play, hurting the deck’s fighting-based board control.

After summarizing what I think are three basic concepts to understand what the evolution of Shadows house for Worlds Collide is like, let’s find out what our fellow archons from Twitter think about this topic.

Big thanks to Vaultboy for his support ant contribution!

My friend @vaultboy81, who has been following the Cosmic Crucible for a long time, groups the cards that he likes as follows: A. and J. Vinda with a Bad Penny, Chain Gang + Subtle Chain and finally Trust no One and Keyforgery as individual cards. Other than that, they tell us that the steal is much weaker and they feel like the house has lost its identity.

Vindas with Penny are a very easy way to get relevant effects going in a profitable way. Being able to Reap a Vinda on Bad Penny makes it so trigger the effect of Trust No One plus a pip, or that of Subtle Chain, both of which represent stack up very quickly to a considerable swing if unresponded. The same is true for Chain Gang + Subtle Chain, which have the advantage that coinciding in our hand lets us activate Chain Gang’s action as if had entered play ready, which makes it extra powerful. The problem with both is how weak they are. Three sets have amplified considerably the card pool which deals 2+ damage, not only in the form of actions, but also in the form of creatures, which makes Elusive just not quite enough to effectively protect small creatures.

In order to understand that, we jut need to have a look at the other houses card pools: Star Alliance has Zap and the Blasters; Saurian has Stomp, Phalanx Strike, Untamed has Unsuspecting Prey, Musthic Murmook; Shadows itself counts on Mug and Sack of Coins; Sanctum counts on Mighty Lance, Smite; Mars has Tyxl Beambuckler and Orbital Bombardment; Logos has Twin Bolt Emission, Entropic Swirl; Dis has Gongoozle, Pain Reaction, and Brobnar has Pound, First Blood.

And those are not the only ones, which means that it is quite easy for any house to deal with our Elusive 2 or less power creatures on the spot via damage, leaving spot removals (i. e. Hand of Dis) or board wipes aside, as well as excluding cards with target restrictions. And you know what? The situation is only getting worse for those little creatures! Chain Gang has power 3 and not even Elusive, which makes very rewarding keeping it safe until you get to draw Subtle Chain. But that is not possible for every deck, since for those which are not fast enough it will just not be worth.

Regarding the discussion about Worlds Collide steal engine, which is also related to Shadows’ house identity, it is worth noting that the latter is quite focused on stealing Æmber. As we have seen in a previous article regarding the impact of the Steal Mechanic before Worlds Collide, there were 34 cards (CotA + AoA) that stole Æmber, out of which 24 were Shadows cards, and 10 of them were conditional. Furthermore, there were 8 non-Shadows cards among the latter, meaning that, at that point into the game, FFG agreed on Steal being a huge part of the house identity. The fact that a house gist mechanic so to speak was so impactful from the beginning may have added a general feeling of weakness to the aforementioned factors.

Table 1 shows that the previous sets have available twice as many cards that can steal Æmber for sure, only one of them being rare: Routine Job, which also gets stronger the more copies the deck has, with a minimum of 2.

Table 1: Cards with non-conditional “Play” abilities that steal Æmber / set. Data source: Archon Arcana Card Gallery.

Trust No One is interesting. At first glance it is just a 1 off Routine Job – a decent card – but looking at it more carefully, on an empty allied board it is as rewarding as your opponent’s board is developed. However, even that will not do great unless it comes with Longfused Mines / Spike Trap / Sack of Coins or something along those lines to try and decimate the opposing board, or otherwise you will have just taken a turn to steal 2-3 Æmber. In so doing you will suffer though because Shadows house has never had any board wipes other than Longfused Mines. Trust No One feels like it could be strong, but in the specific Shadows context will often not do enough.

Wrap-up

All in all, after this short analysis I think we can at least state as a hypothesis that both Worlds Collide Æmber gain and steal engines available for Shadows are slow and weak respectively, and the game development has proved that it was far from the case for Call of the Archons and Age of Ascension. We have gone through the basic – and unfortunately combined – reasons that explain it. Now, let me clarify something: I think Worlds Collide Shadows contains a handful of awesome card designs which are powerful and pretty balanced on their own. However, many of the latter lack a detail, such as +1 power, Elusive or something that increases their survive ability (for creatures), or else an Æmber pip that guarantees that at least the card can do something slightly relevant instead of being either a good swing or a straight discard. And that, along with natural card quality differences makes Worlds Collide Shadows feel, overall, pretty mediocre. That being said I have not been able to play as much KeyForge as I would like since Worlds Collide came out so what you have just read are my general feelings supported by some data, and most likely insufficient testing.

This, however, does not mean that it is not a funny set; in fact, it is so much fun, and is proving very powerful although, like in previous cases and for any upcoming sets, it is still in disadvantage due to the amount of time the previous sets have been around. So I definitely encourage you to try it if you have not already, and you will be able to play cards like Gambling Den, Hunter or Hunted?, Fidgit and The Quiet Anvil, which can be game changing without even containing the word “steal”!

After-posting contributions:

Gladly, after this article was published, more fellow archons joined the discussion. Big thanks to Hopus le Gnome, an archon who responded this on Facebook:

“I cannot argue with the statistics you brought about the average creature Power or the Æmber Pip but there are stuff that were forgotten in the vision of the globality of WC: Æmber Pips became dangerous due to Infurnace and the Artifact Control that Shadows brings. They are different than in other sets (and maybe weaker) but calling it the “weakest house” is false imo. You wrote about Trust No One and it’s the only good card by itself using the “no allies” condition correctly in a Sealed event, I am afraid to destroy the board of my opponent only because of this card that could do a full Swindle without Alpha and Omega. They also have the funny use of flanks with Kymoor Eclipse (which is basically a weaker Lost in the Woods, I agree) and they make Play effects very strong in a better way than Hysteria or Nature’s Call (even more with Dis in the deck) because before you just basically don’t kill a Play effect creature so your opponent cannot use Exhume on it or whatever.

Thanks for the good work, I am always glad to argue on KeyForge House identity. I personnaly love the more roguish style that WC brought them (than just “stealing stealers”)”

Editor: You are so right, Hopus. As for myself, I did not mean to call Trust No One bad, but just like you say it is the only good card by itself, which is probably not enough to make the house great. However, I agree that “the worst” may not be the correct term to define it, so I hereby take that back. Infurnace was definitely a reason to reduce Æmber pips, but I guess we can safely assume that it makes Worlds Collide Shadows inherently weaker than the same house with more steal. Like you, however, I love innovative card designs such as Fidgit, The Quiet Anvil or Hunter or Hunted?, which not containing the word steal can be so strong (the latter two even have pips!) and are indeed funny. Thanks for your contribution!

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This time we did not get as many opinions to enrich the Cooperative Hunting content, but next time it will surely get better! Meanwhile I am gladly going to try and keep the articles going during the quarantine, so stay tuned. Until then, take care and stay home Forging!

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!

Cooperative Hunting #5: Help from Future Dinos

Greetings, Archons! It is Blazing Archon here bringing you some more KeyForge content. Worlds Collide is coming in less than 3 months, which in my opinion is a more than fair reason to start writing about it. Unlike some people who do not really like Age of Ascension that much, I strongly support our second set, but regardless of the reasons (which I have talked about in previous articles), it is true that so far it has not been game-changing by any means. That also implies that the upcoming balance state of KeyForge as a whole is going to rely on the impact of the new set, so we are going to go through that in the next articles.

Worlds Collide should mean a lot for KeyForge players, since it is the set in which FFG decided to give us our first 2 new houses. And I strongly believe that it will be the needed dose of balance that our favorite game currently needs. Anyway, let’s talk about the core of this article: the Saurian Republic house.

A house made out of intelligent, speaking dinosaurs is a very original idea by itself, but I like even more that they made them intelligent enough to adopt a government system inspired in the Ancient Rome. I am an archaeologist so, although I do not study dinosaurs, I still have a lot of reasons to find this house captivating. Houses lore is generally not my cup of tea. It is indeed part of my interest as a general theme feature, but normally I do not give it much further importance, so when I call it captivating I really mean exactly that.

Without further do, let’s talk about some of the cards that have been revealed so far. In particular, I will go through a selection of 12 cards that in my opinion sum up pretty well the new gameplay features that Saurian Republic focuses on.

1.-Creatures

First of all we have Legatus Raptor, which shows us the first new mechanic: Exalt. Exalting a creature means to take the risk of imbuing it with the power of Aember in order to make something powerful happen, placing 1 Aember from the common supply on it. Obviously, as soon as the creature dies, the Aember on it will go to the opponent, but it is not that easy when the creature needs to be dealt 4 damage total and blocks one a turn. Additionally, there are ways to get around that too. In fact, many dinos have exalt abilities and even some actions do.

Now, a risky mechanic must have access to big rewards, right? Indeed, and this one is no exception.

Senator Shrix is one of those payoffs. It is a 4 power 1 armor creature that is going to be a pretty big target. Its reap ability essentially gives you an extra Aember if the dino sticks around, since it works like a Pocket Universe: Aember on it does not count as yours – therefore cannot be stolen – but can be used to forge keys. Good start, right?

Tribune Pompitus is the embodiment of the Saurian military forces. It is basically a “Lion” Bautrem (with +1 armor) which replaces its core battleline-matters ability by a Aember-on-it-matters ability that, again, rewards risky plays. It does not have deploy but in exchange of that, it In this case, luckily, Tribune Pompitus is also affected by its own ability, so if you decide to exalt it Before Fight, it will count on +2 power, making it safer to play with.

Questor Jarta has the ability to reap for 2 Aember as long as you are willing to risk one in the process. Despite its 3 power, Elusive will make it easier for this one to survive, and unlike Xanthyx Harvester it has no use restrictions.

Draco Praeco comes with another new mechanic: Enrage. This keyword refers to a status (marked with its own status counter too) in which the affected creature can only fight, if able. When it does, all Enrage counters will be removed from it. This one is very interesting to prevent powerful creatures to use their abilities, as well as to make creatures with Aember on them recklessly fight, making it easier to set up their kill on your turn. For certain utility creature-based boards it can be a house control card: you don’t want to fight with your Noddy the Thief, do you?

Gargantodon is officially the biggest creature by itself in KeyForge now. Unlike the other ones so far, which are heavily fighting-focused, this one represents passive steal hate, which is great, giving up damage in exchange. With Gargantodon out, any stolen Aember is captured by the active player, the stealer, that is. That means that stealing equals capturing, therefore not granting any unfair advantage. I feel great about this card, because it is a sample of what is eventually going to discourage archons from playing that much Shadows.

2.-Actions

Axiom of Grisk works well towards an evaluation of the potential of the cards above. If you decide show up at an Archon tournament on a deck with a exalt theme, you need to be able to do two things: keep your creatures safe for as long as possible and still be able to deal with opposing creatures, which can make it a lot harder. The fact that this card can do both things at once says quite a lot about its power, and so do the 2 chains. If the opponent’s deck cannot keep up with the amount of creatures with Aember on it, this card can potentially decimate their board a lot.

Let’s talk about the “ward” part. Ward is a new mechanic that requires the use of its own status counter. The next time a warded creature would be dealt damage or leave play, instead all ward counters are removed from it. A creature cannot have more than 1 ward counter on it. The interesting part of this one is the ability to prevent your creatures from getting returned to hand, archived, or shuffled into your deck, which is often a very useful way to remove beefy, Taunty or just must-remove creatures in general.

Chant of Hubris is a very nice sample of what this set can do. Starting from the fact that it has a printed Aember on it, this action can give us one more Aember by placing it on an enemy creature. But wait, the Aember could have been on a friendly creature, in which case this denies the opponent from getting it. To sum up, with a little bit of work and the obvious downside to need more cards to use, this become some sort of Virtuous Works, creating an Aember difference of +3 in our favor.

City-State Interest adds some versatility to what we have already seen. It can turn a check from our opponent into a harder key – assuming they end up forging it -, steal part of that captured Aember if they don’t kill your Senator Shrix, make your board bigger with Tribune Pompitus, and even wrath the opponent’s board with no deaths on your side if combined with Axiom of Grisk. This card will definitely enable some big plays in the Dino house.

3.-Artifacts:

Imperial Road allows us to play an off-house Dino a turn, which is great. The only downside is that they enter play stunned, but that seems nothing but a needed downside. Yes, it will take a Saurian turn to unstun before we can use those creatures for value, but we do have some relevant passive abilities here and there, such as Senator Shrix’s and Tribune Pompitus’ ones, and you will definitely be able to set up a big board for future turns. Dinos are big, so the fact that you need to unstun them before using them does not seem a concern.

The Colosseum seems like a very well-designed card. Revealing a key cheating card is definitely something to keep an eye on, and both new houses have one currently. In this case, we have some things to consider. The Colosseum needs to charge, which is not great because it warns our opponents and encourages them to respond to it before you get to forge the key. However, it charges passively on any enemy creature being destroyed fighting, which enables off-house charging. Finally, its forge ability is Omni and does not require The Colosseum to be sacrificed and forging with it adds no Aember to the current cost. All in all, this seems a fair card that can be dealt with, but that needs to be done soon and by means artifact hate, which is now more frequent but is not going to be present in all decks. I am excited to see how this one does!

4.-Upgrades

Imperial Scutum represents another big Aember swing. An Aember and +2 armor is not bad, but heavy exalt / capture synergy is what needs to be looked at. If we take an exalt creature and remove its risk or downside, what do we get? Exactly, a great creature. I am really looking forward to see great exalt shenanigans in action!

Wrap-up: How will Saurian Republic impact KeyForge?

Now that we have gone through that card selection, let’s talk about the impact of the Saurian Republic on the new KeyForge meta. In general, Dinos will tend to be board focused, as they are hard to kill and do not have that many play abilities. All that, along with the capture potential and the exalt shenanigans make this house a serious contender to match up against the good old Shadows.

Big Dinos are not easy last hit with Relentless Whispers, as well as extra hard to remove thanks to the Ward mechanic. On the other hand, they can disrupt relevant abilities (e.g. Noddy‘s) by enraging the creature, plus there is protection from steal on Senator Shrix as long as it can remain alive. Last but not least, Gargantodon represents straight disruption to the steal mechanic. Ward it from those Lights Outs and see what happens!

Dinos can not only capture Aember, slowing down Aember rush strategies, but they can also manipulate captured Aember to the extent of turning it into stolen one. So, if you ask me, I would not really fear traditional steal that much on a Saurian Republic deck. For me it would be a test of endurance to those CotA Shadows decks. I do think it is going to be harder to face the old Dis with its random discard and house control, but at first glance nothing seems impossible to beat on this versatile house of which we have not even seen the full spoiler. I am really excited to see how it works together with Grand Star Alliance and something like Logos to improve the card flow and make us cycle faster through the deck.

So that is all for today’s article, archons. I hope you enjoyed my point of view about the new cards that we will be able to play soon. More importantly, this is a Cooperative Hunting article, which means that I would love to hear your thoughts on these new cards: your favorite ones, the way you think they will impact the game, and so on. New interesting cards must have been revealed by the time you read this, so those are also welcome! Anything you want to add to this article will be edited into it.

If you like this content, make sure to follow Cosmic Crucible on Twitter and the new Facebook page for future articles. See you at Cosmic Crucible for the next article. Until then, keep forging!

Cooperative Hunting #4: Current impact of the Steal mechanic

Greetings, Archons! After the last changes KeyForge has undergone, which we have been discussing during the last 2 articles, the competitive scene of the game should be expected to work pretty differently. However, there is a situation that has only been partially tackled by FFG, which is the main topic for today’s article.

How strong is the Steal mechanic?

For those of you who have been following me for a while now, something like this may sound familiar, as I have always thought of the Steal mechanic as a 2 x 1, since it gets us closer to forging twice as much. That is probably the reason why Shadows decks have always been over-represented in the competitive scene.

“Has that changed, BA?” Well, in all honesty I do not think I am the one you should be asking this question to. And if you ask our fellow archon @1starpeeps instead, the answer will be “no”. The recent Age of Ascension Vault Tours have been dominated by Shadows:

Out of 24 decks – top 16 from UKGE and top 8 at Origins, a total of 17 decks contained Shadows house: 11/16 from UKGE and 6/8 from Origins (research by @1starpeeps)

The clear conclusion to all this is, of course, Bait and Switch is definitely not the only problem, maybe not even the biggest one. This does, however, imply that its errata was needed, although it seems to be insuficient.

@romoish shares with us that his 4 best decks have Shadows, and their last performance in Chainbound events is just overwhelming: 7/1, 3/1, 3/0, 3/1. It is not surprising that he concludes “The steal is real”.

Why is stealing so good?

There is obviously a clear difference power level-wise, and for me that is the real problem. Since stealing is so efficient that it provides virtual card advantage, as it does in 1 card what you would not mind doing with two: making an opponent lose 1 Aember, and gaining 1 Aember. This makes it so, comparatively, stealing is – probably objectively – better than doing anything else, reducing the power of cards that do less than that.

Let’s have a look at these 3 classic cards from Call of the Archons:

Bumpsy has a 5 power body, and a Play ability that makes your opponent lose 1 Aember. Shooler, with the exact same power, comes with the ability to steal 1 if your opponent has 4 Aember or more, which is an easy requirement to meet. Urchin, on the other hand, is just a 1 power body, but it guarantees a 1 Aember swing in your favor. It has Elusive too, making it so that killing him by fighting implies 2 fights, denying another 1 Aember to your opponent. While none of these 3 are unbalanced cards, Urchin is clearly the strongest one.

Let’s see another example. Virtuous Works has been fairly considered to be one, if not the best Sanctum card of Call of the Archons. It represents a relatively balanced way to gain 3 Aember, which is a lot. Ghostly Hand makes you gain 2 Aember, and can potentially gain you 3 if your opponent has 1 Aember. Now, the requirement is particularly easy to meet at certain points into the game (i. e. turn 2 or right after your opponent forges a key) but when that happens you are virtually getting 4 Aember, as the opponent is left with 0.

Although the examples above are based on the minimum advantages possible, they still make the difference at a competitive level, and can be somewhat frustrating for a casual player that dives into the game for the first time ever.

Based on my personal experience, I find exciting to face potentially unfair strategies and try to beat them, but I do not think the same is true for most casual players. Age of Ascension has brought strategies that are gradually taking down Call of the Archons decks that had been proven solid, which is a good symptom.

Can a bunch of non-deterministic cards unbalance the game?

After a deterministic combo has just been wiped out, it is perfectly logical to wonder to what extent can a single mechanic unbalance the game. It is fair to say that Aember burst strategies have been strongly encouraged after Bait and Switch‘s errata and therefore have a pretty good chance at the moment, if played properly and/or unresponded. The issue comes with Shadows house being the most solid addition to most strategies, in the sense that it helps them do their thing way more consistently.

Currently in KeyForge there are a total of 34 cards that steal Aember, out of which 24 are from Shadows house. Only 5 of those cards have to meet a condition in order to steal a minimum of 1 Aember, which is a key aspect. 8 of the remaining 10 (non-Shadows) are completely conditional. Although stealing is probably the gist of Shadows’ house identity, there is a clearly unbalanced situation: Not only does Shadow have access to more steal cards than all the other 6 houses total (almost 2.5 times as many), but the odds of a non-Shadows deck to get a steal card which is relevant in every situation is really low. The described situation, along with the fact that 9 different cards from 4 different houses raise the cost of keys creates an advantageous position for Shadows decks: if decks that have a consistent stealing output perform better than the others, then Aember burst is hardly ever going to fight the almighty Shadows. Instead, Aember burst / rush decks are going to have Shadows in them when possible.

But there is another issue here: certain Shadows decks do not even need an Aember burst subtheme if they have a consistent Shadows list. This is the case of the winner of Vault Tour Italy. Compare Alesto84’s deck with a deck of mine, also from Call of the Archons. Note the 9 Shadows cards that steal, in Honk’s case, vs only 2 in Z. Gould’s case, which is in my opinion self-explanatory.

What can be done to avoid that Steal impacts the game so hard?

In order to help mitigate the impact of the Steal mechanic several different things could be done:

  • The amount of steal cards by house could be increased to equalize it, but let’s be realistic, stealing does not make the exact same sense in every house: it is no surprise to anyone that it makes way more sense to Shadows and Dis than to the rest of houses.
  • More hate / protection cards could be designed, which is a good option as long as they fit the different house themes. That is not always easy, though.
  • Cards with Steal could be worded or designed in a more conditional way. For many of us, including myself that is the way to go. As @1starpeeps points out, cards like Gamgee, Relentless Whispers or Shooler are way more balanced than others like Urchin, Ronnie Wristclocks, or Nerve Blast.

Among the options above, only the second and the third seem to be realistic, since adding more Steal cards to a house can go against its identity. For example, it does not make sense to see Steal cards in the almighty Sanctum. I mean they are morally superior, they do not even need to do that to succeed. Aubade the Grim is a very good example of an alternate design probably meant to fulfill a similar role, but without breaking the background of Sanctum house. More cards like that should probably be made, adapted to other houses’ identities.

The problem here is that, although Aubade‘s design is cool and the creature is pretty good, he, as well as every other newly designed card, has to face the unbalance caused by already existing unconditional Steal. Therefore, all new steal designs should include – as they have started doing in Age of Ascension- some kind of condition. Not only would that contribute to balancing the game and the power level between houses, but, like @KeyChainsPod says, the chance to counterplay or get counterplayed, and getting rewards for pulling off a certain condition makes these cards much more interesting.

On Shadows’ power level decrease with Age of Ascension

At this point, I think the fact that Shadows cards from Age of Ascension are less powerful is not something new to anyone. But let’s try to figure out how it really affects the game. Probably, Age of Ascension changes to Shadows house are not enough. As foresaid, only 5 cards total from both sets have a requirement to meet in order to steal, and only 2 of them are from Age of Ascension. The total number of Shadows cards that Steal has been reduced by 3, so all in all it does not look like FFG were aware of the problem by the time they designed Age of Ascension.

Most of our fellow archons from Twitter have noticed this, including @spacejamed_ and @jakefryd, both of which agree on the fact that stealing is the best thing to do in an average game of KeyForge. Indeed it is! Shadows’ decrease power level-wise seems to point at the beginning of a good development path to follow: reduce the presence of the Steal mechanic in the different sets, as well as create conditions that make it harder to actually steal.

Wrap-up

Currently, the competitive scene of the game seems somewhat unbalanced in favor of Shadows house from Call of the Archons. However, things are starting to change. People are realizing that testing new synergies is a key aspect to discover Age of Ascension’s power, but there seems to be a lot of work to do.

My daily experience has let me see some heroes out there who have decided to play a non-Shadows deck and have been able to take down a tournament’s 1st or 2nd seed, like my friend @TheLogotarian recently did. While this highlights that Shadows’ reign is going to be over soon, Vault Tour Finals of Italy were taken down by the Shadows’ player with relative ease. @SerHG says that he run into many players who were not familiar at all with many Age of Ascension cards, which seems to suggest that we are just in an early stage of the process of adaptation to Age of Ascension that KeyForge players are going through. Probably Italian players got there with what they knew, as suggested by our fellow archon.

Anyway, I want to end this article with a light of hope, so here is what happened at a Gamergy Chainbound KeyForge event in Madrid, Spain, which took place on Sunday June 23rd. According to my friend @MartinNamaste , the vast majority of its 52 players played Call of the Archons decks – I have no numbers because I was not there – but the winner was an Age of Ascension deck. I hope this one to be just part of the few first Age of Ascension power demonstrations, which will indeed help balance the game. However, that is only the beginning, since this matter should also be tackled by FFG in the future.

That was all for this week’s Cooperative Hunting. I really hope it has been an interesting read to all of you. As a quick reminder, you guys can help make Cooperative Hunting articles better by commenting down below or responding to this article when you see it announced on Twitter. Thank you so much for reading, and big thanks to every archon that made this Cooperative Hunting article possible. If I were you, I would definitely follow them, as they are always there to talk about the game.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter: @blazing_archon if you like this content, and see you in Cosmic Crucible for the next article. Until then, Keep Forging!

Cooperative Hunting #3: Potential strategy trends with Age of Ascension

Greetings, Archons! June is about to end, and as promised, your friend Blazing Archon is back with – yet another – KeyForge article. Last article’s aim was to point out the big changes that were taking place in our favorite card game, but since it was the introduction we basically had to tackle it from a general point of view. Now it has been a while and people are way more worried about what we have got now, rather than what we have “lost”. So we are going to go through which, in my opinion, are the most likely potential competitive – and not that competitive- trends in future Vault Tours and other tournaments.

Competitive strategies

BRIG: Binate Rupture + Interdimensional Graft has been recently one of the most discussed combos, the main reason being that Bait and Switch‘s errata has made it way less likely for people to get punished for getting a ton of Aember.

Binate Rupture makes both you and your opponent double your Aember, and Interdimensional Graft makes it so that all the excess Aember after your opponent forges is given to you, meaning that if unresponded this should get you 2 keys. One of the reasons why I like this combo is because it does not really need to get an errata right away yet, since:

1.-It is a 2 card combo that does not involve going through your entire deck, what means that you are not going to deterministically draw it every single game. Sometimes you will draw it earlier, sometimes later, and it may be too late unless you managed to prevent your opponent from going too far. If your opponent has 2 keys, then you cannot really use it, because it will not prevent them from forging the third one.

2.-There are already good answers to it that will make the BRIG player play around their own combo. One of them is Mimicry, which can reverse the effect of Interdimensional Graft by copying it once the opponent has got their insane amount of Aember. Same applies to Too Much to Protect, a sort of counter-BRIG that takes effect instantly. Watch them get their free key, go Shadows and play Too Much to Protect + something to get your Aember below 6.

Therefore, there is a good chance that this combo turns against you if you do not time it properly, making it in my opinion way more skill-intensive than a deterministic one (i. e., LANS). Having ways to forge out of step the exact same turn you play the combo will probably help by mitigating the effect of those counter cards. But getting all that in the same deck is not going to be that likely, as it implies having cards from other houses as well as a Helper Bot effect to play them. According to Keyforge Compendium website (thanks to @1starpeeps for the advice to use it instead of less precise websites), there are currently (June 20th) more than 3k decks with the combo out there, so I do not think it is believed to be a real concern yet.

I am not going to lie, I love combos, but my approach to KeyForge implies that inevitable combos should be out of the table. Yes, I would have loved to be able to play a good LANS deck, but I just do not think it was good to the game at all.

MGKA: Martian Generosity + Key Abduction probably qualifies as one of those inevitable combos that should be off the table. The fact that Martian Generosity turns your Aember into 2x cards in hand – with a minimum of two cards, making it already a good card – means a free key for each copy of Key Abduction you are able to draw as long as you have 14 or more cards, since Key Abduction nets you the 15th one.

Even though it looks so unfair, its likelihood to appear in a deck seems to prevent it from being a major concern, at least for the time being. Currently, according to Decks of Keyforge website, only 472 decks have the combination, which represents less than 0.05% of the current total amount of registered decks, and 0,4% of the decks from Age of Ascension. Additionally, only 40 decks have more than 1 copy of Key Abduction, and 9 decks total have 2 or more copies of Martian Generosity, with no decks having 2 or more of both.

The ratios are pretty low considering that more than 8k decks have Library Access + Nepenthe Seed, what means that it took almost 20 times that amount to make the archetype overwhelmingly powerful. However, needless to say probability will not prevent it from being oppressive if it turns out to be excessively good, so we will see.

MMR + BBD (Big Brobnar Dudes): This is probably the combo I am more excited about. Age of Ascension has brought several creatures that make it quite easy for a player to assemble 25 power on board, therefore making it realistic to forge a key out of nowhere at no cost whatsoever with Might Makes Right.

Those creatures are not exclusively from Brobnar, as creatures like “Lion” Bautrem or Gub also help this count pretty easily. On the other hand, the fact that it does not have Alpha allows us to reap / fight before sacrificing the creatures, and it can become so relevant, since it maintains our current Aember pool intact, making us potentially able to forge a key and check for another one in the same turn. Devastating! Indeed, there are also ways to slow down this strategy, such as Heart of the Forest, but since it is an out-of-step forge effect and it has no cost, I feel like it could be quite powerful. If you are lucky enough to even pull The Flex, then let the party begin.

Semi-competitive strategies:

This is probably going to be the most enriching part out of the entire article, since my knowledge on Age of Ascension’s strategies is biased both by the fact that it has not been implemented in The Crucible Online yet and the fact that I have not been able to play so much lately. Therefore, your contributions will indeed be welcome and very valuable, so feel free to let me know if you have seen any other deck-defining strategy that you think is worth considering!

Drummernaut + Ganger Chieftain: This Brobnar combo could very well qualify among the competitive strategies if it was inside the right list, the reason being that it requires an empty board to do anything besides a regular Ganger Chieftain fight.

Therefore, it requires the right mixture between board wipes like Coward’s End, big creatures and extra fighting ways to try and keep the opposing board empty, which is almost never guaranteed, and once you manage to pull the combo off, it is going to be limited by the Rule of Six. Those are the reasons why I think of it as just a fancy shenanigan, although I am perfectly aware that I may get proven wrong pretty soon.

Archimedes Control: I have not seen a deck like this in action yet, but I am really looking forward to it. Due to the way Archimedes‘ ruling works, recently clarified, any board wipe effect causes all the other creatures in its battleline to get archived, granting its controller a massive amount of card advantage, as well as resilience.

Although the ruling itself is not really intuitive, it is more like an advantage than a problem to me. No, I do not own any particularly good Archimedes deck, I just like it because it increases diversity, which is the way to go in order to keep creating a community around a relatively new game like KeyForge. Additionally, does not make Archimedes decks oppressive, it just makes the creature good enough to define a strategy.

Key Charge Control: Heart of the Forest is unique in a way that allows some sort of new strategy around it: what I would call key stalling. Indeed, it is going to work better if it is combined with Aember control, since at the end of the day, Heart of the Forest only prevents players from forging until both players are tied on keys. Forging the second key unlocks defeat for either player, and we want to be able to forge the third key first, be it through slowing the opponent down or by forging it out of nowhere with Key Charge or Chota Hazri. The problem with this strategy is its vulnerability to artifact hate, increased in Age of Ascension to a minimum of 2 cards per house, except for Brobnar (just Barehanded). Also, the fact that by itself Heart of the Forest gains nothing but time makes it weak to disruption, as time advantage is only game winning when we are ahead in resources.

Turbo reanimator: Age of Ascension has brought to us Exhume along with some creatures that make us discard when played (Yurk family). The fact that it has no house restrictions and belongs to Dis house allows a variety of possible strategies that share the presence of Dis pressumably playing the major control role. While Shadows can go with it to make it even more Aember-control intensive, my favorite setup would include Untamed, with some more annoying ways to get creatures back (Regrowth, Glimmer) and Chota Hazri to be able to forge out of absolutely nowhere. This strategy is really fun to play, but requires to think of many different possibilities as well as to keep track of the cards you have left in your deck, since discard pile being reset makes it way worse. Not to mention that our stuff getting purged messes it up. So, all in all, as cool as this playstyle is, it needs to be in a specific strong setup in order to succeed competitively.

Wrap-up

As you can see, Age of Ascension features a great amount of good strategies which are variable in power level but share the trait of being fun enablers for every KeyForge enthusiast like you and me. Hopefully, this article helps you take a partial picture of – the bright side, I would say – what the game looks like right now. Some strategies have left, some other have appeared, but there is an issue that survives all these changes, and we will go through it in the next article.

As a quick reminder, you guys can help make Cooperative Hunting articles better by commenting down below or responding to this article when you see it announced on Twitter. Thank you so much for reading. Be sure to follow me on Twitter: @blazing_archon for more content, and see you in Cosmic Crucible for the next article. Until then, Keep Forging!

Cooperative Hunting #2: An actual Ascension. How much are we ascending?

Greetings, Archons! So in between of all the stuff I have got to do, which is quite a lot, I have come up with an article idea I could not resist publishing. Last weekend, which we can call Weekend of Ascension, many changes to KeyForge as we used to know it happened. For me and for most of the people whose opinion I care about (basically those who really enjoy the game like I do), the result overall has been pretty good. Let’s have a look at it from different points of view.

On 29th May, Brand Andres published an article explaining two major changes:

Bait and Switch‘s errata: It can no longer steal more than 2, as the only effect to be repeated is the “steal 1 Aember” part. Since the clause that checks whether or not your opponent has more Aember than you do is not repeated, that is all. The reasoning behind this change is that both Shadows house and Bait and Switch were over-represented at the competitive scene.

Library Access‘ errata: it gets purged inmediately after resolving. This one was used to prevent the oppresive LANS combo from happening and needs no further explanation.

At a competitive level, these two changes addressed two specific problems related to diversity in KeyForge tournaments, whereas from the casual point of view, it did also affect. As you know, I am more like a casual player than anything else, but still I liked playing cards like Library Access and Bait and Switch if I got the chance. So while my definition of a good deck was not that reliant on any of those two cards, I did have to reformulate my concept of what a somewhat competitive deck would look like.

I enjoy playing KeyForge, not playing a certain KeyForge card or even getting a certain result, and that is the way I think a healthy mindset towards KeyForge should look like. So since we were winning way more than we were losing with AoA knocking on our doors, I wondered what we were getting, and that is the question we are going to try to answer, and we will do it in two different ways:

General: What are players getting?

  • Casual players: Let’s try to define being a casual player first. By definition, casual players are not those who do not care about winning or losing – indeed we care – but those who actually play the game just to enjoy and consider that enjoying relies on way more factors aside winning or losing. Now the key is that “just”, because competitive players should actually have a lot of fun playing the game. Otherwise, why on Earth (or Mars) would you ever invest so much time (and maybe money) on it? Sadly, your enjoyment can be wiped out if you do not have the right mindset, and the easiest way to do that is to get paired against decks that instantly defeat you. In order to have fun, you need to have a chance.
  • Competitive players, on the other hand, are getting the chance to test new decks in a healthier environment. Now there are not going to be decks that win right away in one turn, nor 1 card that is enough to punish a player for doing what you are supposed to do in KeyForge: gain Aember. So I would say that the competitive scene is going to become more coherent. Yes, Shadows will still be particularly powerful because of stealing, but all the different houses have got new additions that increase diversity on both their playstyle and lore. Which brings us the more specific answer to our question.

Both kinds of players will be able to reevaluate the decks they already had, and if they liked a deck but did not want to play it because of Bait and Switch and/or LANS combo being a(n over-represented) thing, that is not going to happen anymore, and a handful of good decks will spawn out of nowhere to put up a fight, both in the casual and the competitive scenarios. For instance, Mimicry used to be a versatile action. Now it is a versatile, very good action! You know what I mean, right? But hey, we will discuss about potential competitive trends in a future article, not now.

Personal statement on community reactions to the recent changes:

I have seen some people get mad about Bait and Switch and Library Access erratas, completely disregarding the whole new set we have just got. They are not that many, and for the most part they argue something like “They have just destroyed my only good deck” or something like that. Guess what, I have something to tell those people: If you suddenly dislike the game because of 2 unfair cards being nerfed – and still being pretty decent – you probably never even liked the game, so if you are considering not to play anymore, the KeyForge community will be perfectly fine with that.

That being said, I love that most people have been able to understand the gist of the changes and have focused on enjoying Age of Ascension so I am very hopeful that we are going to keep growing the game. Thank you so much for reading, feel free to comment down below or via Twitter (@blazing_archon) anything you like on the topics I have tried to go through – remember that is what this section is all about.

Make sure to drop a follow if you like the content. I will be back at the end of June, until then, keep forging!

Cooperative Hunting #1: Using the board or building it up?

Greetings, Archons, Blazing Archon is back with more KeyForge content. This time, I’d like you to give a warm welcome to Cosmic Crucible’s first Cooperative Hunting. With Age of Ascension inevitably approaching, we all have got a decent amount of experience, so I think we can get an insight about the basic thought process while playing KeyForge. Your help should be very useful, as I am just a casual player that likes this game a lot so please do not take this as a way to teach anyone more than I could learn by myself. If you are new to the game, however, you will probably find this one useful. Enjoy!

This topic was proposed by our fellow archon Zach Armstrong from Twitter. Zach’s suggestion on what to talk about is as follows: “choosing between using creatures from your board or playing cards from your hand. What are good guidelines for choosing between them?”

There two known facts that make this question very interesting:

1.-KeyForge’s win condition implies forging keys by getting Aember, most commonly through reaping with creatures.

2-On the other hand, KeyForge’s cards have no cost of any resource.

With this in mind, both things (using cards when you can do so and playing out your cards) seem really tempting. Then, how do we choose between them? Let’s talk about it.

First of all, from my experience the amount of creature cards in a deck is usually between 14 and 18. There are decks with 10 or less, and others with 20 or more, but that is what I have seen more consistently. If that was the case, then we would have an average probability of 16/36 to draw a creature. So I jumped into The Crucible Online with a 16 creatures deck to test the initial hands, and got the following results:

Out of 10 games, 5 of them going first (hand size 7) and 5 going second (hand size 6), I drew an average of 2.6 creatures.

This means that on average, we get to drop between 2 and 3 creatures on turn one. Our opponent is most likely respond by dropping about the same amount, or 1 / 2 creatures and an action deal with some of ours. We will normally get to reap with no more than 2 creatures the first time we have the chance to do it. Now, is it worth to go full on reaping that soon? In my opinion, normally it is not at such an early stage of the game. That is because your opponent is pretty likely to be able to deal with your board, and if they get to empty it, you are not going to be able to reap for a minimum of a turn. This makes it so that, generally, the earlier in the game we are, the more important developing the board becomes.

In any other stage of the game, how good using our cards is compared to playing new ones depends on three main questions:

1-Do our creatures in hand have relevant abilities that trigger upon using them?

If the answer to 1 is “Yes”, then it would be useful to think of how relevant that ability is at this point of the game, to find out if it is worth using.

For example, although Witch of the Eye is one of the most powerful creatures in Call of the Archons. However, in a discard pile which is empty of relevant things, it is just gaining an Aember an getting in hand a card that prevents us from drawing another, making it more difficult for us to cycle through our deck. Of course, that one case is not going to happen very often, but I think it is still worth considering. Needless to say being able to reap with Witch of the Eye later in the game can basically mean winning right away.

If our creatures do not have relevant abilities to that point in the game, then we should have a look at the following questions:

-How many Aember do we have? Can we declare check on our turn?

-How many keys have we forged?

-How far are we from the current key cost?

After taking all those things into account reaping may still be more relevant than playing cards. If that’s the case, then it may be a good idea. In any other case, developing the board is correct, since it builds up towards a safe board state that lets us do things next turn in almost any scenario except for our board getting wiped, as noted above.

That is why what I generally do is to try to build up a 2 houses established board. Any 3+ creatures board may be worth using (as it grants half a key), but any one turn that you spend playing creatures potentially means one or more turns using them unless our opponent deals with it right away, which is not always going to happen.

Rule of Thumb: If you can declare check, it is generally correct to do so, unless your opponent is playing Shadows or can use anything already in play to steal or capture your Aember.

2-Can our opponent manage to keep up with us board-wise?

If the answer to this question is “Yes”, then we need to think of how our opponent can affect our board state and/or Aember pool, or may have a big next turn. If they can do so in a way that gets us further away from victory, it is generally correct to try and deal with their stuff if possible. However, if we could not deal with their threats, we would have to race, so our only hope would be to play more cards. That way we would also be able to dig through our deck for an answer to the current threats.

If the answer is “No” because our opponent has a significantly smaller board or their stuff is not threatening us, then we can choose freely. In that case, the most important question is:

3-What can we expect our opponent to do during his next turn?

For instance, fighting – focused houses (Brobnar, Sanctum) tend to have creatures with Play abilities (such as Lomir Flamefist or Hebe the Huge) which makes them be able to impact the game quite a lot if timed properly, whereas on the board they may not be able to do anything but reaping. If we are facing that sort of creatures we may want to play cards more than using our board. It all depends on the amount of information we have on our opponent’s deck: Do not play all your creatures into Numquid the Fair!

The previous one is a basic, kind of obvious example but it illustrates what kind of things we should be looking at while thinking of whether to develop our board or use our cards in play: What may happen to our board if we do one thing or the other? What would we do next turn in that case? Is there a better line of play that involves 2 houses instead of one? (i. e., using a certain card that allows to use a non-active house card)

Question 3 may overwrite the previous ones and is present at every single point during the game. As stated above, it relies on how much information we can get about our opponent’s deck, and how well we know ours. If we are playing an Archon tournament and we had access to the decklist, then we can play around real things. Otherwise, we have to figure out from out opponent’s gameplay and our knowledge on the cards in each house, what to play around.

Whenever you doubt of whether to play around a certain thing or not, consider the following:

-How many forged keys do you and your opponent have?

-What are the potential consequences of you playing around that card?

For instance, say that you are at 2 keys and playing against a Shadows deck. Your opponent is also at 2 keys, and you have the chance to gain a lot of Aember. But then you think of playing around Bait and Switch without having seen your opponent’s decklist. The safest thing to do depends on how many Shadows cards there are in their discard pile and how many Aember can they reap if they play Shadows next turn. If they’ve used a decent amount of Shadows cards and don’t have an established Shadows board, asuming I can not steal or capture their Aember on my next turn, I would reap up to 9 aember depending on their potential to steal Aember on board. Obviously, the closer they are to 0 Aember, the more dangerous Bait and Switch becomes. If you do not know their decklist, do not get obsessed with reaping so much either, as they might have Too Much to Protect. Normally there is basically no reason to reap up to more than 9 Aember unless you know you are safe.

[Edit: As pointed out by our fellow archon Dan Johnson (@danissome1 on Twitter), in this specific example, with both players on 2 keys, it would be great if we could go up to 12 or even 14 Aember, as the first makes us still be in check through Bait and Switch, making our opponent have to steal at least one more, two more Aember in the second case. Be careful with Miasma or potential out of step forging, though]

Anyway, Shadows cards are only there as an example. Many other cards may (or may not) be worth playing around. Also, if you are significantly ahead on board, you do not need to play out all your creatures either (unless you want them sent to Dis). The only useful tip here is to think of it taking into account as many things as possible, and to bear in mind that any choice can be either the right decision or a mistake.

My last piece of adive is: Do “try to fight ghosts”, but at the same time be disciplined: if you have reasons to think your opponent can disrupt you, try to play around it as much as you can without falling behind, and you will probably get rewarded!

Conclusions:

If you are new to the game, this article might have generated more questions than answers. If that is the case, I will be happy because that means your interest in the game should be about to raise. However, if you are not, this may have not helped you much. But this is, if anything, a sort of compilation of things people know but tend to forget about in game.

Remember that this is only based on my personal experience (I am a casual player after all) and it is meant to help all of us: I am always looking forward to learning from you as well.

So what about you? Are there any tips you want to share about how you decide whether to play more cards / develop your board or use your cards already in play? This kind of article is not complete without your feedback, so please let me know in the comments below or by Twitter. I will definitely edit this section and add your interesting contributions.

Let me know if you find this section useful and feel free to send me any suggestions for future opinion articles for this section. I really appreciate your support. Remember you can always reach me out on Twitter: @blazing_archon

I hope to see you all soon at Cosmic Crucible. Keep forging!