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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable mentions:

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

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

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

1.-Have a constant ability.

2.-Have an Omni ability.

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

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


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

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

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