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!

Deep Probe #1 Mars

Greetings, Archons! Today Cosmic Crucible goes a step forward. As I annouced on Twitter, my mate Radiant Archon has joined the crew, and you are about to read his first contribution, which is a joint article between both of us.

Hey guys, Radiant Archon here. I am glad to be here writing for Cosmic Crucible. The reason why I decided to propose this series is that I have seen set reviews work very well for already existing card games as Magic The Gathering, and I think it would be good for KeyForge too. This series is going to last until the houses run out. Blazing Archon (BA) and I (RA) will both be giving each card a grade from 1-5 down below, with around a 3 being a middle of the pack card. The purpose of this series is to try to help you all evaluate your decks a bit easier.

If like they say, Martians Make Bad Allies, they would probably be even worse enemies, so let’s start this series with Mars. Cards are going to be sort by number and type, which is their default order.

Ammonia Clouds

(RA): Ammonia Clouds is a decent board wipe that deals 3 to everything. Unfortunately Mars has some fairly small creatures that die to it and it does not do a whole lot against Brobnar or Sanctum either. 3.5 / 5

(BA): A way to wipe the board regardless of how many Mars creatures you control is always appreciated, specially considering the bittersweet synergies that make Mars really fun to play but often makes it feel like a bunch of win-more cards. Since only 7 out of 18 Mars creatures can survive this, let’s say it is just decent unless you get a bunch of big Sanctum / Brobnar creatures along with it. 3/5

Battle Fleet

(RA): This grade is a little tricky because Battle Fleet is not always that good. In a deck where you can archive some Mars cards and pick them all up to go off this card is insane, but basically any turn you can draw 3 or 4 cards with this it is going to be a good turn. 4/5

(BA): Overall, Battle Fleet seems like it can go from decent to insane. It seems a card that may be worth archiving when possible or even delaying the Mars turn. As long as you get to draw 2 and hit 1 Mars card, then you get to play 3 cards, which is good. Any more than that can be explosive. 4/5

Deep Probe

(RA): Deep Probe can be good if you know the deck you are playing against well and can really get them, but too many times I have seen it wiff. It does at least come with an Aember though. 2/5

(BA): Considering that in regular Archon format tournaments you get to see your opponent’s list before the game starts, this card’s power level is potentially high. That being said, I have seen good decks that don’t have that many creatures, but still getting to see your opponent’s hand has some strategical value. 3/5

EMP Blast

(RA): This card can be good if you are playing against a Mars Logos deck but it is so situational that it will very often be bad. You can not even always just play it for the Aember because you are likely stunning your own board and not theirs. 1.5/5

(BA): A good amount of the decks I have seen don’t run enough artifacts to make this card great. Sometimes you get to do cool things with cards like this one, but for the most part it is not going to be great. However, it does gain you an Aember and takes care of everyone’s favorites Bear Flute, The Sting, Safe Place, Lash of Broken Dreams… something that not many cards can do so far. 3.5/5

Hypnotic Command

(RA): Hypnotic Command has an insane block of text. Say you only have 3 Mars creatures which capture 3 from their own side. When you kill the creatures you get the Aember making it a steal 3 in that situation. It is just so good and it can totally break a game wide open. 4.5/5

(BA): This card expresses pretty well what Mars can do if you let them do their things. Although it relies on your board, it does not matter whether those creatures are ready or not. If only Mars creatures were a bit stronger on average – so you could normally gain that aember right away-, this would be an absolute bomb. 4/5

Irradiated Aember

(RA): I am giving this the same grade as Amonnia Clouds because it does a very similar thing. This card only hits their guys and gives an Aember, but it has requirements to use it which I think balance out to the same grade. 3.5/5

(BA): I like the idea of responding to a massive reaping turn from your opponent by dealing 3 to their entire board. Getting to 6+ Aember should not be a problem for good players, so get ready to irradiate Aember! 3.5/5

Key Abduction

(RA): Although I might get some kickback on this one, I really do not like Key Abduction that much. If you get an action heavy Mars or they are keeping your board clear you are not going to be picking up a lot of guys so you wont be able to forge. However, if you have the ability to archive a lot or ways to draw a lot of cards it gets insane so it gets a middle of the pack grade. 3/5

(BA): Most likely we just open a random Mars deck with no combo kills on it. In that case, Key Abduction is “just” a way to forge a key outside the forge step, which is good. Bear in mind that with 2 creatures on the board and no chains shed the previous turn, that key only costs +1 Aember. 3 creatures make it cost 6 as usual, which is insane. And yes, we all know what happens if you open a Nepenthe Seed + Library Access combo deck with Phase Shift and this in it. 4/5

Martian Hounds

(RA): I have not actually played with or against this card yet but it seems kind of dependent on what you put the counters on. If you have a small creature with a good ability on it to protect with the power boost it seems better. 3/5

(BA): One thing I dislike about this card is that it counts damaged creatures from all houses, as most Mars damaged creatures are probably dead. Also this seems to work well with Mars creatures, most of which have Elusive along with cool abilities. The rest are big and can grow without any inconvenience, and that’s also true for the other 6 houses. 3.5/5

Martians Make Bad Allies

(RA): This card is great when you have great Mars cards. It gets the other – maybe – weaker houses out of your deck and gains you some Aember along the way. That being said it is not something that some decks want to do. 3.5/5

(BA): Nope. This just does not do enough. Assuming everything goes well, it is nothing but a – rarely big enough – Aember burst at the cost of that many non-Mars creatures. Martians Make Bad Allies does the opposite to One Last Job, which is potentially game winning, unlike this one. If only you got to steal that Aember, it would be risky but decent. 2/5

Mass Abduction

(RA): Although this card looks great at getting your opponent’s large beaters out of your way it comes with a drawback. Mars likes using its Archive and this card makes it so that you are helping your opponent if you choose to do so after playing it. 4/5

(BA): Mass Abduction’s quality relies on whether your deck is Archive-intensive or not. In an Archive-oriented deck, giving up cards to play this does not seem great. However, I have not seen many decks with more than 3-4 Archive card effects overall, and this card does not only take care of large beaters but it may just take a big damaged Ether Spider, Mandria or something along those lines. Most of the times it is going to be good enough. 4/5

Mating Season

(RA): This card has a small amount of utility if you just need one big burst of Aember for the last key. That is the only time I see it being good because even if you wipe all Mars creatures off your opponents board, you have to clear out your own Mars creatures giving them Aember in the process. 1.5 /5

(BA): If Mating Season affected only opposing Mars creatures and still gave you the Aember, it would be a good, narrow card. But since it makes you give up a big Mars board in order to get good or else gives your opponent a good Aember burst, it just does not seem good to me. 2/5

Mothership Support

(RA): This card is fairly mediocre. It really does not do much unless you have Mars creatures sticking around and if you are doing that you are most likely already winning. 2/5

(BA): If Mothership Support was meant to qualify for an insane card, I would say that instead it would go to the win-more package. But having at least 2 Mars creatures ready and play this for an Aember + 4 damage makes it a straight Mighty Javelin, and it is more versatile as you can change targets, which makes it decent. 3.5/5

Orbital Bombardment

(RA): This is basically the same card as the last one but it benefits from non creature Mars cards. that being said, dealing damage based on the number of Mars cards you have in hand is much better than the number of ready Mars creatures you have on board. 4/5

(BA): You are much more likely to draw Mars cards than to start a turn with them ready, and also you’re way more likely to draw a Mars card than specifically a Mars creature card. It is a very good way to start a Mars turn and try to snowball. 4/5

Phosphorous Stars

(RA): It is a powerful effect but it affects you and your opponent equally. Other than the fact that it gives you chains, making it ok but mediocre in my eyes. 2.5 / 5

(BA): Most of the times, Phosphorous Stars just hits the discard pile. The fact that its symmetry is broken by you getting to chains often makes me take the risk to think of Mars decks as good or not based on them not having more than 1 copy of this. 2/5

Psychic Network

(RA): This is a card that looks very strong, but most Mars creatures are small with good abilities which means they may get killed by your opponent quickly. I have seen this card played for 0 more times than any other number. 2/5

(BA): As I said above, getting to have 2 ready Mars creatures does not seem unrealistic to me even though they’re small for the most part. Some of them are big and could even protect them. Just like Mothership Support, it’s hardly ever going to be insane or else it will become a win more card, but it is not that bad. 3.5/5

Sample Collection

(RA): The card seems good but I am a player that loves using his Archive and this card is useless if you do so. I also find myself wanting to use this card early and in the beginning of the game this card does nothing. 1.5/5

(BA): This seems like a downgraded Mass Abduction, as its maximum is 3 and the more cards you get to archive the more in danger you are. I think that, late in the game, archiving wouldn’t do enough if you’re behind. But if you manage to keep up Aember-wise, any further Aember burst in your favor can make this worth. 3/5

Shatter Storm

(RA): This card can be great when you really need it. In some situations it is the one card you need to draw to have a chance at winning. Most of the time it is a card you don’t want to play though. 2/5

(BA): I’ve seen Shatter Storm work well in early stages of the game when the opponent has a pretty big Aember burst and declares check when you are just on 2 Aember. In the best cases you are not going to need it, but it is pretty much the only real piece of hard Aember control in Mars, so I see it as a decent card. 3.5/5

Soft Landing

(RA): Soft Landing is a fine card. It represents an Aember at minimum off of the creature you play next reaping and sometimes it just allows busted chains of abilities. 3/5

(BA): Look at Soft Landing. It is just an OK card, right? Well, it enables some Mars shenanigans while also working on artifacts. If only it gave you an Aember… 4/5

Squawker

(RA): This is just a better version of Soft Landing. It gives you an Aember when you play it, readies a Mars creature, and sometimes stuns that one creature you cant deal with. 3.5/5

(BA): The downside of Soft Landing is its unability to affect the current board-state. Squawker solves that and gives you an Aember, in exchange of not working with artifacts. But then the versatility of hitting enemy creatures makes it great. 4.5/ 5

Total Recall

(RA): Total Recall can snap win you the game on the right board. There are other boards, however, that you will gain a bit of Aember and bounce creatures of different houses into your hand and strand them there. 3.5/5

(BA): To me, Total Recall seems like that late game silver bullet that you may need to end the game. If played in the right situation, aka: with your opponent being unable to steal or capture the Aember you just gained, it will probably be game. Otherwise you will hardly ever recover from that massive bounce. Anyway it is not a bad card. 3/5

Combat Pheromones

(RA): A lot of times Combat Pheromones represents 3 Aember. Sometimes it represents more if you have good abilities on your Mars creatures in play, but sometimes it gains an Aember then does nothing. 3.5/5

(BA): Having Mars in your deck, in my opinion, implies some sort of oportunity cost. Yes, Mars house is so cool and its turns can be very explosive, but I often feel like I miss something (at least playing the average Mars deck), and this might be that something: the ability to use 2 Mars cards when Mars is not even active (and an Aember, which is always good!). I like this card quite a lot. 4/5

Commpod

(RA): Commpod is a great card, it can offer you a ton of amber production. As long as you can keep some Mars creatures around you can get a lot of extra amber. You can even play creatures from your hand and immediately ready them, but then the more creatures you play, the fewer Mars cards you can reveal. 4/5

(BA): This artifact is powerful and it is particularly good that you don’t have to reveal creatures to it, but since you are probably not holding those cards, in the long game it seems way worse until the discard pile resets. 3/5

Crystal Hive

(RA): It is good when you can get a Mars creature to stick around, and it is even better if you can use a card like Combat Pheromones to use it with a different house. 3/5

(BA): Despite being so powerful, Crystal Hive looks like a perfect win-more card. From my experience, effects that allow you to reap twice (say Rocket Boots, which only works with 1 creature) generally have an excessively short life. If you can reap a huge amount with this you probably would have won anyway. 3/5

Custom Virus

(RA): Custom Virus can be the best card in your deck in some situations, but other times it literally does not do anything. It comes with an amber so it is not awful but I am not a fan of these all in cards that either do nothing or everything. 2.5/5

(BA): Keep watching Custom Virus as new sets keep coming, because the more relevant traits become the more powerful this card will get. But meanwhile, it is probably not going to be anything but a headache for your opponent’s Horsemen deck. 2.5/5

Feeding Pit

(RA): I am a big fan of this card but I can’t give it a higher grade because it really does not do all that much. Discarding a card is a cost but at the same time it is getting you back an Aember and letting you dig through your deck quickly. 3.5/5

(BA): The requirement of the card being a creature makes not like it. Imagine that you could turn creatures into action cards that you play for a single Aember. You’re potentially giving up any Aember that you could potentially have got out of that creature. And like every other action this can normally only be done once a turn. 1.5/5

Invasion Portal

(RA): This card basically does nothing. It draws you into a Mars creature, but you do not choose which one and it does not do anything else along with it. It can fill your graveyard up for something like Arise!, but at the same time there are times when the card misses and does not even draw a card. 2/5

(BA): The creatures you have access to have to be overpowered to make this worth even activating. Otherwise all you can do is try to reset your discard faster when you need it,, and even that is going to be a matter of luck. It is a pity that it does not have a significant upside that makes it better, because it represents an A+ flavor-wise. 2/5

Incubation Chamber

(RA): Incubation Chamber really does not do a ton, it only archives Mars creatures. On the other hand though I love archiving cards and Mars loves having a lot of itself on one turn to combo off. So overall I think that it is a good card. 3.5/5

(BA): Incubation Chamber is kind of narrow in the sense that it only works with Mars creatures, but the fact that it has an Omni ability restores the balance it should keep. It helps Martians play together, which so far seems their design purpose. Pretty good if it comes along with a good Mars build to do its thing, which it may not. 3/5

Mothergun

(RA): The card can put in work against decks with small creatures, but really how many times over the course of the game do you think you will be able to activate it? Even when you activate it the odds are you will only be dealing 2-3 damage so it is just an ok card. 3/5

(BA): Just like Commpod, Mothergun will often get worse as the game goes longer. It can be functional as a spot damage card, but it will take quite a bit for it to do a significant work. Really cool art though. 3.5/5

Sniffer

(RA): This action hoses a few cards but a lot of the time it is not going to do much. That being said, it gives you an amber so it is OK. 2.5/5

(BA): This card can be described as Narrow and anti-synergistic in my opinion, since not all houses have a good amount of Elusive creatures, and neither the vast majority of Mars creatures are meant to fight. 2/5

Swap Widget

(RA): This card is a little strange. It lets you put a creature from your hand into play ready, but it is at the cost of returning a READY creature to your hand. It looks like it will get you ahead, but really you are not falling ahead or behind unless the ability on the creature you put in has a relevant ability. To me that means it just does not do enough. 1.5/5

(BA): While this cards action has a somewhat restrictive cost, getting a creature ready before the end of turn with Mars is not that hard. If you get to do that, then you get to swap it with a bigger or more useful creature at that point, for instance Tunk / Mindwarper / Phylyx the Disintegrator, which is a decent deal. 3/5

Blypyp

(RA): The card I affectionately call BURP is actually pretty good. It is small and does not have Elusive, but if you survive to use it at the very least it is most likely going to make 2 Aember when it reaps by readying the next creature you play and you can pull off some nice chain reaps with Mars if done correctly. 3.5/5

(BA): I like Soft Landing and this card makes Martians land in a soft way. I doubt it will survive for so long, but if it does it is going to be great. 3.5/5

Chuff Ape

(RA): This thing is huge and has Taunt, that is all it needs to get a high grade from me. Sure it has a drawback of entering stunned, but it also has the bonus of being able to feed it expendable creatures to heal it. 4.5/5

(BA): Big Taunty creature that heals out of little Martians? Can I have 2 on my deck, please? 4/5

Ether Spider

(RA): I am not a very big fan of the creatures that don’t deal damage when they fight. You see a 7 drop that captures your opponent’s Aember and it looks good, but it does not kill the creatures that attack it so it really just becomes a speedbump. 2/5

(BA): From the very first time I saw this creature, I loved its design, but the fact it can be attacked or bounced very easily made me doubt. In the end, I think that it actually prevents you from stealing your opponent’s Aember, so it buys time but it is not great. 2.5/5

Grabber Jammer

(RA): Jammer is pretty small but he comes with great abilities and a bit of armor. Just big enough to survive a lot of direct damage and just annoying enough to slow your opponent down a bit. 3.5/5

(BA): If protected properly on one of our big Taunt creature’s flank, Grabber Jammer can just buy us an insane amount of time by taxing our opponent or capturing their Aember. It is not really the biggest creature, but it is not easy to kill either. 4/5

Grommid

(RA): It is a real big version of Krump, which should make it pretty good. The issue of not being able to play creatures is big for me though. I do not like to play cards that restrict myself if I can avoid it (looking at you Pitlord). 3/5

(BA): In my opinion, Krumps ability does not fit very well a creature that prevents you from keep playing them. It is hard to imagine a situation in which this card is good. The fact that you can play it out the last one makes it just “playable”, but as soon as your opponent responds to your board you will probably regret and try to find a way to kill it yourself. 2/5.

(RA): Although the non-Agent part prevents infinite combos from happening, it is still a good card. It is small but has Elusive to keep it alive, which is a nice thing to have when going for a big combo reap turn. 3.5/5

(BA): “John Smyth” basically makes any Mars creature with an ability twice as dangerous / good for as long as it remains alive. For those still wondering, being able to ready himself would cause its controller to go infinite with Crystal Hive, that is why it is not possible. I wonder what is its name, as John seems to be only a nickname. 4/5

(RA): This is a good card that slows your opponent down while also getting you ahead. The fact that is an action not a reap is a downer but the card is not easy to kill and can be very annoying. 3.5/5

(BA): Considering how capturing works – captured Aember goes to the opponent’s pool after the capturing creature dies – Mindwarper virtually steals Aember, and the fact that you get to choose which creature captures it makes it great. Imagine what this can do with “John Smyth”. 4.5/5

Phylyx the Disintegrator

(RA): Another Mars creature with an annoying ability for your opponent to deal with, but unfortunately this ability comes on an action, not a reap, which means it slows them down but does not help you win. Also, it dies to a strong breeze even though the Elusive helps a bit. 3/5

(BA): Phylyx’s ability is so powerful if you get to activate it, but the fact that it is small does not help, even if he has Elusive, because there are plenty of ways to deal 1 damage to a creature. 2.5/5

Qyxxlyx Plague Master

(RA): It is a nice little hoser if you are playing against Sanctum, but it does not really do that much most of the time and I am not a fan of cards targeted at specific houses your opponents may or may not be playing. 2.5/5

(BA): At the current stage of KeyForge’s development I don’t like any spot trait hate, which includes this one. But in this case it is so strong (3 damage to everything, unpreventable) that I am sure it is going to get a lot better with upcoming sets. 3/5

Tunk

(RA): I like Tunk, he is a nice little beater. That being said, his ability does not always matter and he is not particularly large. 3.5/5

(BA): Tunk is the biggest Mars creature without a downside. The fact that it can eat 5 power or less creatures and get healed afterwards just by playing another creature seems great to me. It is just a fighter, yes, but Mars does not have many of these, specially without downsides. 4.5/5

Ulyq Megamouth

(RA): This is a nice little utility creature. He is not big and his ability is not insane, but if you manage to activate him once you are usually happy enough. 3/5

(BA): Ulyq is another one of those cards that try to dodge what is usually the problem of Mars house: the fact that cards rely on other Mars cards to be good enough. While it does not have Elusive or anything, it is more than good enough to me. 4/5

Uxlyx the Zookeeper

(RA): So this card is a monster. If you can keep it alive you can just pick apart their board with it and it comes with Elusive. That being said, I do like being able to use my Archive and this card makes that a bad idea. 4.5/5

(BA): Uxlyx is so powerful, as it provides unconditional creature control and only you can decide when the opponent can get things back. I would not spend a whole lot of time doing this if there is not a “John Smyth” around, but this is a great response to troublesome creatures. 4/5

Vezyma Thinkdrone

(RA): It is cute and it lets you archive some Mars cards for a future combo turn but it also takes them off the board not out of your graveyard or hand so I can not say I am a big fan of this little guy. 2.5/5

(BA): Besides adding up to the Archive theme in Mars, Thinkdrone seems very legit, as archiving creatures from play is useful to keep them in good shape, without no stun or damage. It is not great by itself though. 3.5/5

Yxili Marauder

(RA): The card looks good but it only counts ready creatures which makes it much worse. Most opponents are not going to let you keep a board of Mars dudes because they know if they do it turns multiple cards like this on. 2.5/5

(BA): This card’s quality is entirely reliant on your Mars side survivability, which is often going to be poor, but the fact that captured Aember counts towards its power makes it decent to me. 3.5/5

Yxilo Bolter

(RA): Bolter is great against Shadow and against Mars itself but a lot of the time the ability is not going to do enough and then it is just another small mars creature without Elusive. 3/5

(BA): Its Reap ability is good enough to take down many Shadows creatures, some from Mars and both Untamed Faeries, but overall it is not insane. Except for the fact that last hitting with this implies that the target gets purged, which makes it better. 3.5/5

Yxilx Dominator

(RA): I am a big fan of Dominator. He is just a big beefy taunter that you do not care much about the drawback on. 4/5

(BA): Dominator is huge. It does enter play stunned, but only because it has to. Imagine if it did not. 4.5/5

Zorg

(RA): Zorg is a very scary creature. A 7 drop is quite large and on top of that he stuns 3 creatures when he attacks. The only thing holding him back is that, just like Chuff, he enters stunned which knocks him down a peg. 4.5/5

(BA): To me, Zorg is the best creature from Mars. It enters stunned, but in exchange it stuns 3 as it swings. It is not the perfect card, but I love it. 5/5

Zyzzix the Many

(RA): He can be OK once you get him going and it is nice to be able to archive cards with him, but he starts small and the cards you archive have to be creatures making him just OK. 3/5

(BA): Zyzzix can definitely be a good beater once it has grown. Also archiving cards gives you card advantage which is nice. Opponent should take care of it quickly. 3.5/5

Biomatrix Backup

(RA): They gave the card the errata it needed so it finally plays the way it seemed to all along. The card is decent now and I like archiving cards but it’s still an upgrade and I don’t like those very much. 3/5

(BA): After Biomatrix Backup got its errata, it changed from a design flaw to a pretty decent card, as it now reads that the creature goes to its owner’s archive instead of the discard pile. 3.5/5

Brain Stem Antenna

(RA): This card is only as good as whatever you put it on. When you put it on something great though you get to use it every time you play a Mars creature and that makes this card powerful. 3.5/5

(BA): I like the way this card rewards playing Mars creatures by turning non-Mars into Mars for the turn. It must be put into a resilient creature to make the most out of it though. 4/5

Jammer Pack

(RA): Making it cost two more Aember for your opponent to forge a key is nice and can stall then quite a bit. My main problem with upgrades – and by extension this card – is that if it doesn’t gain you something immediately and then your opponent kills two of your cards with one of their own it feels like you are falling behind. 2.5/5

(BA): Jammer Pack is an upgrade strictly speaking. Adding to any text box “Your opponent’s keys cost +2 Aember” is sweet, as it gets better the bigger the upgraded creature is taxing your opponent’s keys so hard. If this also added some armor, it would be a bomb. 3.5/5

Red Planet Ray Gun

(RA): This is the upgrade version of Mothership Support and I really just don’t think it is a very strong card. It does not make the creature bigger and a lot of the time it will not deal very much damage. 2/5

(BA): Although artifacts are generally more solid than upgrades due to the fact that creatures are easier to kill, this gun gives you an Aember upon playing it and more importantly adds a Reap ability, not an Action ability, what means that it is kind of free, as you get the Aember and to trigger all the cool reap abilities the creature may have. 4/5

So that is all for the first article of our Deep Probe series. We really hope you enjoyed it. If that’s the case, feel free to let us know in the comments down below. Also, any suggestions regarding this new series are always welcome. Make sure to follow us on Twitter for more KeyForge action and stay tuned for future articles. Until then, keep forging!