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.
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.
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.
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.
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”!
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!
Thanks a lot for getting this far, I hope you have enjoyed the read like I did writing it. If you like the Cosmic Crucible content, it would be amazing of you to follow us on WordPress to get notified when an article is published. You can also follow me on Twitter: @blazing_archon, or like our Facebook Page to show your support, which is of course very much appreciated! Check out my team’s instagram account if you want to know about what we do!
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!