Zach’s Top Moments: TCO July Tournament

The TCO tournament on July 25 was well-attended and was exciting enough to qualify as a spectator sport. Mass Mutation decks were legal to bring thanks to the team at working hard to make it so, which made the format (Best of One Adaptive, or Adaptive Short) particularly challenging and a lot of fun. The current format for these casual tournaments is to play until there is only one X-0 player, who is crowned the winner. I had the pleasure of commentating alongside Cryogen again as we watched the virtual event on his twitch channel, and wanted to share the moments and trends that stood out to me in this competition. All the matches can be seen on the Call of Discovery YouTube channel. If you are interested in helping out TCO in thanks for keeping our game alive during a pandemic, check out their patreon.

1. Keyforge is world-wide and doing just fine

With 56 players representing at least 8 countries, this tournament renewed my certainty that KeyForge will survive the pandemic at least as well as other card games, and there’s a joy in interacting with people in so many different places who love this game. I saw names I recognize from all across the Americas and Europe.

2. Age of Ascension is competitive

Whether a player brought an Age of Ascension deck or found their opponent bringing it, I saw multiple instances of people steering an Age of Ascension deck to victory, especially with a large Mars board. This set is oft-maligned by people who (1) only think in terms of Archon Solo and (2) have never played against Khantphage, Lady General of the Keep, but those who knew just how many chains to bid and how to work these decks took several Ws.

3. KMarch vs lotsa_Muffins

Here’s a gif to summarize my feelings during this match:

KMarch of the Athens Forgemasters and lotsa_muffins of Team Archimedes faced off in a knock-down, drag-out match when they met at the top table, both 2-0. Muffins began the game with 13 chains, taking her own Gabnose, the Chancellor Predator (Mass Mutation) against KMarch’s W.H. Veloslap of the Slimy Academy (Call of the Archons). This match nearly went to time and both players played masterfully, with lots of strong plays on both sides; KMarch took an early and commanding lead, but the game was far from over even once he forged two keys to Muffins’s zero. But don’t take my word for it – check the match out on YouTube!

4. Stormstrong’s mastery of a unique combo

With the introduction of enhancements in Mass Mutation, the “unique deck game” concept has been taken even further with particular cards being unique – or at least ridiculously rare. Stormstrong’s deck The Corpulent Denizen boasts an Effervescent Principle with three draw icons (and a capture icon, funnily enough), a Reverse Time, and a Chronus. When a friend pointed out a particular way that Stormstrong could take advantage of the triple-draw, triple-archive combined with Reverse Time, he quickly learned how to use the combo to archive and draw most of his deck in a few turns with just the right setup. Make sure to watch the match in full to see this show-stopping KeyForge move that Stormstrong developed and then dominated with!

KeyForge is already a special game for the uniqueness of the decks; players are associated with particular decks in the competitive scene, like George Keagle and “Gasoline” Maximiliano or Dunkoro and the Pink Fraud. The enhancements in Mass Mutation have taken this element of excitement to the next level: Stormstrong found a unique card, developed a secret technique around it, then won a 56-person tournament by going 6-0.

What other game currently allows these kinds of stories to happen? The best part is that this is only the beginning for KeyForge.

Zach is a co-host on the KeyForge podcast Call of Discovery, a weekly or fortnightly celebration of all things KeyForge, its community, and the excitement of discovery. Find him on twitter as @zach_legweak.

KeyForge in Quarantine: Confined or Unleashed?

Greetings, Archons! This is Blazing Archon again bringing some more content to you on Cosmic Crucible. Despite my relative lack of time to play KeyForge and create content, I am pretty proud of the content stream gradually increasing so I would like to keep it going.

After The Glorious Few by Sanctumonius it was proved that the KeyForge community had the potential to organize a world class tournament, including most of the best KeyForge players in the world. You may want to have more information on this epic event, which you can do here in Zach’s article. That was a clear symptom that our favorite card game was in great shape, which inspired me to describe the way in which this is shown So, the goal of this article is to go through the different aspects that reflect how KeyForge is evolving along the social distancing period.

From the developer’s point of view: Mass Mutation

At the beginning of April, Mass Mutation release date for US was modified showing a delay until July. This could have been expected to kind of cause a general disappointment between the community, but, spoiler: it did not. As far as KeyForge players are concerned, it has done nothing but to increase the eagerness to have it released. On April 16th antasy Flight Games made a very interesting move: they provided us with 4 different Mass Mutation decks to print and play with during the social isolation. If you missed it, you can find them here. This made it feel like the time remaining for the release was not that long while also showing more new cards in the unique way of featuring its gameplay. It is definitely an awesome way to tackle the current situation!

Content creation during social distancing

Content creators – specially those who do it on a regular basis – are in charge of a very big responsibility regarding the maintenance and development of the KeyForge community. They generate discussion, show decks in action and create micro-communities as well as playgroups. What is more, they prove KeyForge’s vigor day by day, and there are several proofs for that:

Written content, i. e. articles from people like Aurore, George Keagle on Team Reapout site, Blake from HFFS podcast on Archon’s Corner, Kurt’s Forging Keys and The Epic Quest add up to a great list which is also increased by sites such as this one if you like less strictly competitive content. These articles cover a wide variety of points of view related to the game: from competitive concepts (Aurore’s Timeshapers and Team Reapout are great competitive references) to deck analysis and tournament reports, as well as diverse personal experiences, some of them from the very beginning of KeyForge. More recently, FFG has also been giving content creators the chance to express themselves in their own site. That, if you ask me, is a master move in order to keep KeyForge fresh during the quarantine. In case you would like to read one of those, Blake’s one on the FFG site is a great option.

As far as podcasts are concerned, there are many English-speaking options: Sanctumonius, Help From Future Self, Call of Discovery, The Wild Wormhole, etc. They cover many different aspects, from the game evolution and hot news to competitive discussions and deck analysis, all of that with the lively touch of conversation, which makes it way more dynamic for those who, like I do, enjoy a good KeyForge conversation.

Audio-visual content completes this situation: streams, gameplays and commentaries are vital for people who just do not have enough free time to play as much KeyForge as they wish. Sadly, that is currently my case more often than not, and I am pretty sure it is a frequent situation. TableTopRoyale, 1StarPeeps5stargames Mortivas and Wharerata are just examples of English-speaking streamers that have their own Twitch channel in which they play KeyForge. Checking the KeyForge category on Twitch is always a good idea, because there you will find not only English streams, but also French streams such as AssoAFK or KeyForgeur, Italian like Afankulto, or even Polish like Koslaz. Regular KeyForge content in Youtube includes Wossy Plays and Jean Claude Van KeyForge, as well as TTR, The Wild Wormhole and others we have mentioned as streamers.

In my opinion, audiovisual content is very important because it allows that those who cannot keep up with the game from the player’s point of view (isolation prevents can still enjoy it, so thanks to these people the bond between occasional Archons and KeyForge is stronger, something that can be considered as a pretty good strength indicator in the long-term, specially taking into account the gradually increasing solid side of players and content creators that are thirsty to get back to physical KeyForge when possible.

The well-known UK-based content creators Crazy Killing Machine have formed an interesting content creation network that includes content creators from Italy, Poland and Germany, an awesome strategy towards KeyForge community reinforcement and creation. Apart from having their own site, they are on Facebook, YouTube and Twitch. Spain is also part of it, not as an affiliated content creation channel but as Crazy Killing Machine Spain, a passionate project that intends to create KeyForge content on a regular basis in Spanish, currently involving the effort of a decent amount of Spanish Archons, including myself!

Last, but not least, dear Archons, I would like to highlight Tournaments and leagues. Yes, not only KeyForge is being discussed during the social isolation, it is also being played very often. What is more and way better, since social isolation prevents all kinds of physical gameplay outside home, in so doing it actually removes every boundary, multiplying our ability to register in high-level tournaments and / or leagues. The most outstanding examples of this are KOTE 4, Quarantine Daily tournaments and The Glorious Few.

KOTE is an Online Team Event managed from Facebook (and currently part of CKM Network that creates leagues of different formats with 3 people teams labeled as Captain, Blue and Red players. Each Round is played within a week, and then the next round pairings are announced in their Facebook page. They work with a very useful Google forms-based system to submit everything needed to participate: team info, decks and game results. Quarantine Daily tournaments are organized by The Wookie from Archon’s Corner, featuring the use of Challonge and the introduction of different stipulations that grant the tournament a theme while also limiting the decks that can participate. Organized by Sanctumonius, The Glorious Few is the most exciting KeyForge invitational tournament I have had the chance to see so far, with the top KeyForge players in the world proving their skills. You can watch the awesome games in different Youtube channels such as TableTopRoyale, The Wild Wormhole and Call of Discovery.

KeyForge and social isolation: the case of Local Game Stores

Local Game Stores are also making their moves. Mine, Empire Games Sevilla, has been running weekly events with usual entry fees using Discord and Challonge. Additionally, it has hold a 16 players online event with a 65 SAS limit which was so fun. At a local level, there are many factors to consider towards the maintenance and development of a KeyForge community. Those include available time to play KeyForge, dedication to other games, whether or not you have the ability to get to the Store, and of course, promotion of events by the store itself. Although there are good exceptions to this, I think we can safely assume most Local Game Stores are not doing that much to collaborate with KeyForge players to organize tournaments, which is why active Local Game Stores should probably see their activity rewarded after the pandemic with an increased participation in KeyForge tournaments of all kinds!

Shadow Worlds

With over 64 teams and 200 players and organized by Team Knowledge is Power, Shadow Worlds is the perfect follow-up for an online-intensive KeyForge season. It consists of a 2-days international event – fairly called unofficial Worlds- with 3 players squads, each playing a different format: Archon solo Bo3, Triad, and Adaptive. Day 1 happened last Saturday and Day 2 is happening next Saturday. Awesome KeyForge streamers will surely be covering games, and many of them will be on KiP Gaming’s YouTube channel. As I see it, despite the official Worlds being cancelled due to the pandemic, Shadow Worlds represent the will of the vast majority of the KeyForge community refusing to miss the chance to play an international event. Make sure to watch those top 16 world-class teams fight for the glory!


As you could see, considering the lack of physical play (that can potentially harm a game seriously) in general KeyForge is almost as healthy as always. We, as a community that I am proud to be part of, have wisely taken advantage of the good part of us staying at home in order to keep a great stream of content and online play game. I am really glad that the pandemic is far from stopping us, and on behalf of Cosmic Crucible encourage every person reading this to have a look at these amazing content creation channels and, if you have time, take part in epic events like these. I would like to thank so much the people who make all this online KeyForge possible, including all the content creators – mentioned here or not. Special thanks to those who, in the absence of an officially endorsed App for online gaming, make these events possible; in particular Grant Titus and JusticeBlinded from Knowledge is Power, responsible for creating the awesome KiP Tournaments, as well as The Crucible Online development team. You guys all rock!

That was all for today’s article. Thank you so much for getting this far, I hope you have enjoyed the read and I am so glad to share with you my eagerness to keep bringing you content from time to time as much as I can. If you like this content, it would be amazing of you to follow me on Twitter: @blazing_archon , and like Cosmic Crucible’s Facebook page. Hitting the blog’s follow button in WordPress will also keep you informed whenever an article goes live. See you in the Cosmic Crucible for the next article, and until then, Keep Forging and take care!

Interviewing the Richmond VT Champion: Nathan Starwalt

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

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

About yourself

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

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

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

2.-Do you play any other board games?

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

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

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

General KeyForge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richmond VT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent KeyForge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Vault Tour Richmond: Tournament Report by Zach Armstrong

Going back to my home state of Virginia to attend a Vault Tour with my teammate Asher Knopp was more fun than hitting a Martian Generosity with a Murkens. Asher made Top 8 at the US Grand Championships in Arlington, and we were rooting for our various friends across KeyForge too.

The format for the main event was sealed, best-of-one matches, get three decks pick one. We’ll look at the side events after the main event report.

Main Event – Day 1

Deck images courtesy of SkyJedi
twitter: @skyjedi / discord: @skyjedi#4741

Opening the decks, I noticed quickly I didn’t have anything with impressive board control through actions or creatures, nor the more famous combo-enablers from this set like Martian Generosity or Heart of the Forest. Counting the basic stats myself came to the following:

Toxia Octidean

  • Aember Pips: 14
  • Creatures: 16
  • Actions: 15
  • Artifacts: 5
  • Upgrades: 0
  • Aember Control:
    • Cutthroat Research

Pencil Pusher Ishikawa

Frau “Oleo” Styqh

In looking for consistency, Oleo presented the best board presence (for reaping) and the best aember control options in addition to Longfused Mines for assisting with smaller-than-average bodies. As far as power moves / combos go, Oleo was also the best-equipped with Nepenthe Seed, Glimmer, Dharna, Key Charge, Proliferator, Hypnobeam, and Hypnotic Command. The other two decks didn’t have powerful ingredients to counter their lower aember control and smaller boards, though Toxia Octidean’s 2x Helper Bot, Glimmer, 2x Nature’s Call, and great Dis lineup was tempting. I select Oleo with confidence, and we were ready to begin.

Round 1 vs. Sean – W (1-0)

Sean had a bevy of creature destruction actions which he used effectively while I tried to establish a board. We kept each other off of any powerful combos, but I managed to do so with more aember gain and took the win, without a lot of extra room.

Round 2 vs. Tate – L (1-1)

Tate managed to both deploy his board and answer each of my threats effectively. I was crawling back and threatening some combos, but after he locked in his second with me at one key six aember, he reaped up to 2 aember and used Shatter Storm to set me far behind. We discussed afterwards and agreed that it was roughly neck-and-neck until the Shatter Storm, where he sealed the victory. If I wanted to make day 2, I would need to win everything going forward and hope that I didn’t get matched up with a Vault Tour winner with lots of KeyForge name recognition.

Round 3 vs. Rachael Trimble – L (1-2)

Someone who wasn’t considering my need for easy opponents knocked Rachael Trimble to 1-1 and she and I faced off, with the loser of the match being knocked out day 2. When she dropped a Grump Buggy and a crowd of Brobnar and Untamed with Panpaca, Anga, I knew this would be tough with my small creatures and my big steal/burst plays dependent upon my board. My 3x Rustgnawers were hungry for the Buggy, and though I recurred them they were answered by her every time I got them back out. With the help of Hypnobeam and Longfused Mines I managed to clear a board of creatures much larger than mine, but wasn’t able to get my break.

While being knocked out of of the top cut was sad, my personal goal of 3-3 was still in sight, and the generous aembershard rewards for Vault Tour games made it worth fighting on – not to mention my want to finish out the day and enjoy my games, no matter my W/L.

Round 4 vs. Daniel – W (2-2)

Daniel’s creatures were smaller than mine and I was able to control the board and use my reap-hate creatures to good effect, while benefiting from Hypnotic Command multiple times. Hypnobeam let me borrow his Stimrager for most of the match, which was a huge help. A solid win.

Round 5 vs. Paul – L (2-3)

This game was neck-and-neck until a point. He threatened his first key at 7 aember, I played Ronnie and held Miasma until the next turn, in an attempt to find my second Ronnie. However, he found his Binate Rupture after I forged and gained a net 6 aember off the the rupture and rode that to victory, as my 2nd Ronnie and Hypnotic Command were unable to pull him down from that lead.

Round 6 vs. Clint – W (3-3)

Clint was a lovely and talkative opponent, though he came into this match feeling pretty down about his deck. His Brobnar line would have been very effective keeping my board down, but I pushed through, pulled off my few tricks, and took the win to reach my goal of 3-3.

Main Event Thoughts

I was happy to make 3-3 for the third time in a high-tier KeyForge event, receiving the nickname “Mr. Consistency” from friends at the tournament. There was a short dubbing ceremony where a water bottle was used to bestow upon me my new title.

Looking back on my performance to gleam what I can learn from it, I wonder if I didn’t set up for big Dharna turns as much as I should have. Between Throwing Darts and Mothergun, I had options to set up for the 2x Dharnas but the downside was that my only large bodies were Zorgs, and maybe the Rustgnawers; damaging the other creatures threatened to have them removed more easily by my opponent. However, I think I may have needed to risk it to threaten a big aember play besides Hypnotic Command. Most of Oleo stops boards reaping and slows down the opponent’s board, but I needed to lean harder into my own aember-gaining options. I feel good about my uses of Hypnotic Command, and had a lot of options to recur it which I took advantage of. Blowing up the aember-laden creature was difficult, with only ping damage available to me – no direct destruction cards (with a Mothergun > many Mars cards).

With a goal of having fun and improving at the game, I would call the day a total success. I certainly have dreams of making a top cut some day (perhaps in Archon, all my top-level play has been Sealed), but I’ll only get there building on each lesson I learn before then.

Side Events

I played Archon Survival Duo on Friday night, and Team Archon on Saturday night. Both events were fun, and my only loss came to the deck that is literally the winningest deck on The Crucible Online – Olivier, Imalocastle’s Commando.

During Archon Duo I played my control deck The Ranee of Bombagom to success, giving my opponents bad matchups against protect Ember Imps and Control the Weak. I went 3-1 with a loss to the aforementioned Olivier, against whom I made a questionable Control the Weak call that played into the deck’s threat.

I intended to play Ranee during Team Archon, but I didn’t have her with me on Saturday so my friend Jason allowed me to borrow The Thespian that Repairs Transportation and gave me a one-minute tutorial on how to play the deck. I managed to go 4-0 myself, with our team going 3-1, and was very thankful for Jason’s lesson on how to play 2x Brain Stem Antennae with Witch of the Eye and Battle Fleet / Key Abduction.

Shout-Outs & Outro

  • Shout out to Yeti Gaming, who have been running Vault Tours for a few months now. They run top-tier events, have wonderful staff, and overall created an easy, enjoyable, efficient, and professional atmosphere at the event. I will be writing a strongly-worded email to FFG about how great Yeti is.
  • Shout out to my practice partner, Asher Knopp, making his second Top 8 appearance here at Vault Tour Richmond. Thanks for the hours of practice on TCO, in person, and Keyforge discussion over the phone.
  • Shout out to the team Archons of Atlanta, whom I carpooled with to and from the event. Attendees included Alex Carroll (runner-up at this VT), Logan Garies (Top 8 at this VT), and Trevor May (GenCon VT winner), all of whom are skilled KeyForge players who care about building a good community.
  • Shout out to Tabletop Royale for streaming the games, and for both members Justin and Nathan making top cut. Nathan went on to win the event – major congrats to him!
  • Shout-out to Jason, Jared, and George from Pennsylvania whom Asher and I spent much of our extra time at the event with. KeyForge is made great by it’s people and it’s exciting to find friends in the hobby.

If you have made it this far and would like to subject yourself to additional KeyForge thoughts and content from me, follow me on Twitter at @zacharmstrong88. I also have a number of decks for sale on Decks of Keyforge; thanks to Nathan (CorayThan) for putting that amazing site together.

Vault Tour Madrid 2019: A competitive recap by DTÆ Martins

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

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

Vault Tour preparation:

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

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

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

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

Day One

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

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

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

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

Day Two

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

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

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

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

Editor wrap-up

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

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

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

Road to the Top by George Keagle

Greetings, Archons! It is Blazing Archon here, but not for so long. Yes, the title of this article is absolutely genuine: our first KeyForge two-time Archon Vault Tour Champion George Keagle has visited the Cosmic Crucible and brought to you all an article. Amazing, right? To me it definitely is! and I am bringing it to you exactly the week before Vault Tour Madrid. Now, I am sure you all know about his tournament report written for the Team Reapout site, which you can find here if you have not read it yet. Well this is a Vault Keepers article, and if you have read the previous ones, you probably know that it is a very experience-focused section, which is what makes it great (in my opinion). So George decided to talk more about his KeyForge experience instead of going through some sort of report, and I have to say I love the result. How did he get to the top? You are about to find out! Without further do, I leave you with the Champion!

So, it all started last year. KeyForge had finally been officially released. I went to my first official release event at my local game store, owned by some very good friends, Gaming Goat in Oak Park, IL. Open my deck and play some games! This is my second deck, with the first having been from the prerelease. I hadn’t gotten to play much since then. As the weeks go on, the same store does Archon events, but if you buy a deck your entry is $10. I tend to buy decks rather than pay the $5 entry with the same deck, because that is a good deal. At this time, I still only have a few decks and try to play them casually whenever I can. It didn’t take too long before I did my first LANS combo, coincidentally seeing it during the game. People didn’t know much about it then.

In the next few months, I would use “Gasoline” Maximiliano, Dungeon Keeper at local events to win tournaments, get playmats and metal keys, promos and even more decks. I would still play other decks as well, but it was easy to tell that something was especially strong about this deck. People get frustrated when I play them with it. I think I may have even chased away some new players, which I DO NOT want to do, so I put the deck away for a while and play others. I love KeyForge and try to hype it up around Chicago as much as possible. At some point they clarify Must vs Cannot effects so that Restringuntus doesn’t combo-lock with Control the Weak. They use Pitlord as their example though.

The Chainbound tournaments are announced! I do what I can to help stores get online with GEM, without actually having ever used it myself. Chainbounds start firing all around the city and suburbs. Time to put some chains on my favorite deck! I actually find that chains make a big difference, especially with combos. I start to get some losses with Gas around power level 2. I feel very comfortable with that, and move on to play my other decks. I try to play every deck I own, so none go to waste. Sealed is my favorite way to do this.

Vault Tours are announced! And one is coming close to home in Schaumburg. I am definitely going. As the date drew nearer, some friends were going down to St. Louis to do a Magic tournament. I very narrowly decide to stay home, I did already pay for Adepticon afterall. As I see them off, I tell them I have a strong feeling about this deck, and this particular event. And boy, was I right!

I won Vault Tour Adepticon! It’s a big deal for me. It’s my biggest accomplishment in the gaming world. I’ve played other card games my whole life, but only gotten competitive in the past 5 years or so. Even though I am very excited, it’s a little bitter sweet due to people reacting negatively to the combo, as well as a missed key flip in the finals. Overall, it’s still a very positive experience though. I get invited to a podcast guest spot and have good time with that. I even met some new friends through Adepticon. It was a great time. Soon after though, FFG announced that Library Access would be errata’d to purge itself when played.

Fast forward a bit. I use my win travel credit to go to Birmingham. I have a great time in England. It’s my first time ever leaving America. The first Sealed Vault Tour with AoA as well. I make day 2 but lose in the first round of day 2. I get back and there’s barely time to unpack before Origins. I make Top 8 of Origins with Mastanail, the First First.

I actually like this deck a lot and would love to play in locals, but Top 8 means it is power leveled out. I still have a few decks above it I’d like to play, so it isn’t the First First in line. After that also shortly, is GenCon. GenCon is my favorite thing to do in general. It’s a 2 Vault Tour event, but I am unable to make it due a friend’s wedding. I still get to go to the Saturday Event, and have to buy a ticket for Sunday as well. I go 3-2, and drop. Under any other circumstances my advice is always to play it out, but GenCon is GenCon, and I took time out of my GenCon for KeyForge, not the other way around. During this time, I’ve been vying for first place on the Vault Tour Leaderboard versus Coraythan. The rest of the Team SAS guys are all in the top, as well as some of the top European players that I had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with as well during my trip to Birmingham. Not playing that final round cost me from “being number 2” to “being tied for 2”.

I got to play on stream quite a bit and get used to it. During this time people would often ask me if I think the deck is still good, to which I always say yes. At Adepticon the combo only actually happened during the finals. I had to go 4 rounds without it, and I had to fight AGAINST it multiple rounds, without any artifact removal in my deck. I fully believe in “Gasoline” Maximilano. The only reason I haven’t played it is because Power Level 8 keeps you out of locals. When I did testing with friends for GenCon, we discovered a deck that beat the pants of Gas Max. When I borrowed their deck and tested against others, I faired extremely well. But that wasn’t enough testing to find the weaknesses of the deck, and I found them out at GenCon, which is the worst time to find out your deck’s weak spots. After the deck I borrowed put up a mediocre result at GenCon, I knew the next opportunity I got, Gas Max was coming back full force. It wasn’t long before that opportunity presented itself.

With very short notice, Vault Tour Collinsville was announced! Collinsville is near St. Louis, where my fiancée has family. It’s very easy to travel there for us, and it’s great for tournaments as well. It means I get the best of Chicago and St. Louis. It turns out to be Archon as well. My mind was already made up if a tournament became available, so I followed through.

There are multiple reasons I wanted to run “Gasoline” Maximiliano at another Vault Tour. The main one is the LANS combo. It got a lot of hype when it happened, as well as when Library Access got the errata. As I said, people often asked about it. This ties into the second reason, I think. People sincerely feel that you can’t be competitive in KeyForge without a good Shadows house, or a significant number of cards that steal aember. Despite my arguing against that, I feel I couldn’t convince anyone. When LANS was at its height, you were operating on a different axis than aember, and it was a great counter to heavy steal Shadows decks. Even though people didn’t like the combo, it was a non-Shadows way to compete. I wanted to show people that it could be done with non-Shadows. In fact, in regards to stealing, Gas Max has 3: Schooler, which is good, Ritual of Balance, which is okay, and Dimension Door, which is actively bad with only 3 Logos creatures, exacerbated by the specific weak power creatures I have. The other aember control is a pair of Shaffles, which are great, and Dextre, which might get my vote for one of the worst Logos creatures. He does his job in this deck though. Lastly, I wanted to become the first ever 2-time Vault Tour winner. Even though I was in the top 5 on the leaderboard, I felt my last win was slightly tainted. I wanted another big win without that. Partly to prove it to myself as well as a player.

I did it! I won my second Vault Tour! This was much cleaner. The overall atmosphere was better as well. The accomplishment of winning a second was definitely much bigger than the first.

Without the combo. Without Shadows. Same deck. Same player.

I set out to say a lot with that tournament and I think I did. It was difficult. Took a lot of practice and general playing KeyForge. The meta at Collinsville was stacked. Not only was Team Sas, Reapout, Sanctumonious, and even BDQ represented, but many local Chicago Players came down to the event as well. If you want to know how I got to be a strong player, having a strong meta like the Chicago one is a good indicator. I may be at the top of the leaderboard, but I often lose at my local events. This comes with a great community. You need to challenge yourself with those around you to become stronger. The games at this event were some of my most intense. I had long term lock outs, wild Library Access turns, some top deck luck, and some risky moves that paid off big.

I love this game. I’m hoping that my story can get people out in the community playing at their local game stores. Grow the community. Hit up Vault Tours! Play the same deck repeatedly to get practice with it. It takes a lot of games to really LEARN the neat little secrets each deck has. It is easy in KeyForge to get caught up in trying 100 different decks, but playing the same deck 100 times has merits. Enjoy the different formats the game has to offer as well. I’ve focused on Archon and Sealed for so long and need to try Reversal and Adaptive. I hope they announce even more ways to play this game and grow. Thank you so much for reading, and I hope to see you in the wild to jam some games!

Editor Wrap-up and acknowledgements

So, I would say George’s story strongly proves a very important, yet obvious fact: champions not only win, they play a lot. And they do so because they love KeyForge. Test your decks as much as possible and get a “quality picture” of what they can do, and believe it regardless of what others might say. Know your decks better than anyone else, and last but not least, enjoy the game at every possible level. Only in so doing you will be able to keep up the good archon work!

Finally, I would like to thank George so much for making this contribution. The Cosmic Crucible is not a big site, it is more like a warm place where every Archon, regardless of their competitive or casual view of KeyForge, is welcome. Therefore, to be honest at first I did not expect George, who had not heard about me or Cosmic Crucible at all, to kindly accept doing this. But he did, I am glad, and I really hope you have enjoyed the read. If you like the Cosmic Crucible content or want to reach out, make sure to follow us on Facebook: Cosmic Crucible: Home to KeyForge players, and Twitter: @blazing_archon to stay tuned about future articles. See you next time in the Cosmic Crucible. Until then, keep forging!

U.S. Grand Champs 2019: Tournament Report by Zach Armstrong

Attending the first U.S. Grand Championships for KeyForge was a great experience, and I’m happy to have been a part of it. Our format was Sealed Triad, with Swiss rounds and a cut to top 16. My personal goal was 3-3, and I attended with my friend Asher, who is (spoiler alert) now ranked much higher than I am.

Teammate excitement before round 1. The author is on the left.

Before the Rounds – Deck Selection and GEM Troubles

As is standard and well-noted with large KeyForge tournaments, the GEM software was giving our tournament staff trouble and deck registration was a slow process. Reportedly, the convention hosting the tournament required use of their own volunteer judges instead of anyone associated with FFG; regardless, the staff did very well for being glaringly under-supported and under-prepped. Erich of Team SAS tactfully gave the staff pointers on a way to trick the system into scanning decks faster, improving the process for everyone. I was able to arrive early and receive my decks to start analyzing them. We would be banning one of our opponent’s three decks based on houses alone. The decks were as follows:

  • Walker, Dewwold’s Sorcerer | Logos, Sanctum, Untamed
    • Seeing Aemberpsine Mongrel, Duskwitch, triple Sutterkin and triple Challe was exctiting. However, the only aember control was Aubade, Maruck, and Thinkdrones, the last being dramatically unreliable.
  • The Ens. of Northbury | Sanctum, Shadows, Untamed
    • With two Untamed decks, I expected to play both of them most of the day, and that turned out to be true and to my advantage. With Proclamation 346E, the Sting, double Ronnie Wristclocks, and happily strong Untamed list, the Ensign performed well all day.
  • Helix of Thoholar | Brobnar, Sanctum, Shadows
    • Double Drummernaut and Ganger Chieftan, double Hadreoth’s Wall and Grump Buggy? Yes please. Due to the house combination, this deck was banned every round except for round 6.

Round 1 vs. Matt from CT

With Helix banned, I opened with Walker’s high roll: a Duskwitch that my opponent was unable to answer, followed by two Professor Sutterkins. That sealed game 1.

In game 2, both of us struggled to get to the first key, as he had a Nyzyk Resonator out and I pulled Proclamation 346E early. The break point came when my 12 power Marmo Swarm (thanks to the Resonator keeping me from forging below 10 aember) swung into a Dominator after being given skirmish by Panpaca, Anga. I took the match 2-0 and Matt was a good opponent. Record: 1-0

Round 2 vs. Justin of Tabletop Royale

Justin and I traded strong wins in the first two games of the match. The real story is in the final moments of game 3, when I learned a very big lesson in competitive KeyForge: discard piles are open information, so always ask your opponent to see their discard pile to review all of their aember control cards as they get to the end of their deck. I was one turn ahead on aember and forging, with Justin right behind. I reaped up to 7 aember, and then was hit with Justin’s Burn the Stockpile – which I had the chance to know about earlier, and Justin was able to forge, taking the match. He was a great opponent who played really well and went to the Top 8 the next day – and be sure to check out the KeyForge stream he co-hosts with Nathan, TableTop Royale! Record: 1-1

Round 3 vs. Justin from ME

In game 1, I had my proudest plays of the game. While I had 8 aember and he 0, he played Binate Rupture and then Interdimensional Graft and I was almost sure there was no coming back from it. But I kept and then increased my board control, and managed to keep him from the last few aember for his third key until I was able to win.

In game 2, Walker performed perfectly. Turn 1 Duskwitch, unanswered, into three Professor Sutterkins, and soon literally my whole deck was in my hand. GG. Record: 2-1

Round 4 vs. Andy

Another opponent who went to the Top 16, Andy beat me 2-0 in this match piloting his Brobnar board control in both decks expertly. Record: 2-2

Round 5 vs. James from VA

James was hands down my most entertaining opponent – I wish I could have recorded the banter for posterity. We went to three nail-biting games, with a few mistakes from exhaustion.

In game three, he had trouble finding efficient answers for my threat cards like Duskwitch and Sutterkin, and may have prioritized the Sutterkins too highly after a point (but, who could blame him?). Record: 3-2

Round 6 vs. Kyle from The Land of Fairy Tales

Kyle was a great opponent, positive and friendly with great communication, and very forgiving when a certain exhausted opponent forgot to apply his chains to his end-of-turn card draw.

He was the only opponent to ban Northbury, and I have no doubt he benefited from that choice; not only did he not face Northbury, I had to beat him with a deck I hadn’t yet played.

We went to three games, and in the third, it was clear Kyle both possessed all the right answers for my tiny powerful creatures in Walker and held on to them for the right moments, taking the match 2-1. Record: 3-3

After the Swiss Rounds

My teammate Asher came in at 15, making the cut! We were both ecstatic and cheered upon viewing the standings. I came in at 28, solidifying a respectable Top 32 finish and receiving Bumblebird card sleeves. The next day, I had some time before watching Asher in the Top 16, so I cut together a video of us in the park as a hype video for my teammate.

My round 6 opponent, Kyle, had started the day 1-2, and ended 4-2, at position 16 – making the cut! We couldn’t let the moment pass without hearing the story from Kyle himself, so I conducted a short interview with him on the floor. We’ve included it here for you to enjoy below. The hairstyle I’m sporting in this video is called “14 hours of KeyForge and Sweat.”

Overall, the event was a blast. Meeting and learning from members of the community, either through listening to them or losing to them, was well worth the trip. I look forward to seeing everyone again at future events!

Follow me on Twitter, @zacharmstrong88, for tweets about KeyForge and other nerdery.

A Few Lessons from Vault Tour Atlanta – Ryan (KeyChains)

Greetings, Archons! It’s Blazing Archon bringing you another contribution to Cosmic Crucible regarding Vault Tour Atlanta. This time, our Vault Keeper is our fellow archon Ryan, who may be known to you for being one of the KeyChains podcast hosts. In my opinion his approach is so valuable, as from day 2 his experience has a perspective change from player to organization collaborator and highlights the social side of things out there. Enjoy!

It was tough to get to sleep on Friday. Images of aember pips and house symbols flitted around thoughts about houses and cards I wanted to look for in my sealed pool. I was excited and nervous, but lucky for me even the mighty Brobnar are no match for an 8 hour workday and a 2.5 hour flight.

I woke up Saturday morning, last among my cohost Steve and friend of the podcast Brian, but pleased that I’d managed to get a solid 8 hours. We got ready to leave, and since our AirB&B was about 7/10ths of a mile from the Omni, we decided to walk. We had plenty of time and it wasn’t too far, so we’d have a chance to stop for breakfast.

Atlanta is hot. I immediately regretted wearing jeans instead of shorts, and just hoped that the Omni had some semblance of air conditioning. The iced coffee helped, and I remembered to grab a couple granola bars and a bottle of water while I was there, alongside with a light breakfast.
I know that at this point you’re probably wondering why you’re reading an autobiography of my morning; who cares what I had for breakfast, what did I open for my sealed pool?!

But this stuff is Lesson 1: your tournament starts the night before.

  • Get a good night’s sleep, wake up early, get coffee and don’t over-eat at breakfast. You may not be running a marathon, but your brain will be. Waking up and leaving for the venue early are immensely helpful. Even if you’re from the area there’s always the chance of an accident that can lead to traffic or a detour, and if you’re not from the area there’s always the chance of getting a little lost and losing time to backtracking.
  • Most CCG events don’t break for lunch, so you’ll have limited time to grab something to eat during the day. Stuff like granola bars, trail mix, and dried fruit help keep your energy up without giving you a sugar high and its resultant crash later on. Water is even more important. It’s a lot easier to become dehydrated than people think, and that drags down your ability to think.
  • Lastly, dress for the occasion. There were several times during the day where discomfort from not being in shorts distracted me.

We arrived at the Omni and eventually figured out where we needed to go , and once there we checked in with Cascade Games. We got seated and the judges came around to hand out our decks. One of the decks seemed like a pretty easy cut, so I focused on the other two. I wrote down the count of creatures, aember generation, aember control, and creature removal. The decks were pretty close:

I was leaning toward Thirsty Cadaksi because it seemed like a fun deck that was in my wheelhouse, but I ended up going for The Landing Strip Hunter because the number and quality of creatures seemed like a better choice.

This brings us to Lesson 2: Play what you know.

I don’t tend to play decks that have a lot of creatures, and I also end up favoring decks that have a good amount of ways to react to my opponent. The Landing Strip Hunter was the exact opposite of both, which started me at a disadvantage. If I’d instead gone with Thirsty Cadaksi then I probably would have had some closer games. If nothing else, my confidence in deck choice would have been better. At the end of Day 1 we stuck around to play some games with the decks we didn’t use in the Vault Tour, and sure enough Thirsty Cadaksi was not only more fun for me to pilot, it performed better than Hunter.

Round 1 had me paired up against CoDameron of Bouncing Deathquark fame, which would have been intimidating had I not had the opportunity to hang out with him previously. The game went fast, and when we looked back over the game there was nothing I could have done differently which would have prevented the loss.

Rounds 2 and 3 were similar; I did my best against great opponents with great decks and lost both.

Rounds 4, 5, and 6 were a different story; it was like my deck finally rolled out of bed and decided to attend the tournament! In reality, it probably just took me a few rounds to get used to the deck’s playstyle, plus the decks that go 0-3 are naturally going to be lower in power.

The thing that struck me most about the entire Vault Tour, was that whether I was on the losing or winning end of things, everyone was being positive and having a blast.

It’s really easy to get frustrated when things aren’t going your way, random luck is no small component of the game, after all. But even though people (myself included) got frustrated from time to time, everyone bounced back with a laugh and a smile. Sitting down for round 4 with an 0-3 record didn’t feel like an exercise in futility, it felt like I got to play another game of KeyForge with great people.

So Lesson 3 is to remember to have a good time. Bad luck happens; you can do everything right and still lose. It’s natural to get frustrated and disappointed, but don’t let it detract from the experience overall.

After round 6 was over, the Key Chains crew went with Zach (check out his article here) and Asher and grabbed some well-deserved food and beers. I don’t really have a lesson to go with this, except maybe a continuation of having a good time. Take the opportunity to meet new people, or say “Hi” in person to some online friends.

Day 2 ended and began much the same as Day 1; good night’s sleep, getting up with time to spare, coffee, breakfast, and arriving at the venue. I’ll spare you the details this time, except to say that when you’re in a new city, make sure you stop and take some of it in.

Once in the Venue, I approached Steve of Cascade Games to double-check about helping with commentary. The day before I’d approached him and introduced myself, and asked about helping with the commentary. He was still fine with it, so I went over to join Erich of Team SAS (@justiceblinded) at the commentary table.

Lesson 4: “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” -Wayne Gretzky, -Michael Scott -Ryan of Key Chains. Granted, having a podcast helps your bonafides, but it doesn’t help at all if you don’t put yourself out there.

I sat down next to Erich for the top 16, and immediately there was an issue with the stream; it wasn’t streaming. After some initial troubleshooting, we find out that the wifi we were trying to use isn’t reliable. Cascade tries to get on the phone with the hotel, but it turns out that he was given the wrong number. We recorded the second half of the first game locally with the intention of putting it up as a VOD.

Lesson 5: Prepare, and have a backup plan.

I mean absolutely no disrespect to Cascade, and I know that even as I write this there’s no way I could run a successful event myself and not forget at least half of the things necessary, but it’s a good reminder nonetheless. If something’s important, make sure you’ve confirmed you’ll have it before you need it. Whether it’s toothpaste, access to your player QR code in the KeyForge app, or adequate internet for an event, confirm it beforehand so that you have time to come up with a backup plan.

In-game, preparation comes down to setting your future turns up for success. Discard cards when it’s appropriate, eliminate threats before they become an issue, stop at 6 aember so they can’t Burn the Stockpiles, etc. Remember to think ahead, and use your current turns to prepare for the future.

Even with forethought,  have a backup plan. How will you shift gears when they wipe your board? How do you intend to recover if they Bait and Switch you for 4 for 2 and take you off a key? Preparing and contingency plans are crucial pieces to winning.

Once the round was over, I offered to go down to the front desk of the hotel and find out how to get internet. The concierge had to confer with colleagues, and eventually came back with a phone number on a sticky note. Turns out that the hotel doesn’t have any control over their internet, it’s controlled by a third-party IT company that’s hired by the building.

I take the number, call it really quick to make sure it works, then run back upstairs and pass it back to Cascade. They call, and are put on hold. Over the entirety of Round 2 Erich and I are both trying to get the internet issue resolved, resulting in 3 different phone numbers being called, and being transferred 8 different times. Two hotel staff eventually joined us after a call to the head of Momocon, and stuck around to make sure the issue got resolved. Finally, we got internet back, but in the process we weren’t able to record any of Round 2.

Lesson 6: Keep your eye on the ball.

In hindsight, all we had to do was hit “Start Recording” and even though there wouldn’t have been audio, there would have at least been video that could have been dubbed over later. Instead we got so wrapped up in trying to problem solve the internet that the idea didn’t occur to us until it was too late.

During a game, it’s important to remember that the ultimate goal is forging three keys. At times it can be tempting to clear out your opponent’s board, but sometimes the smart play is to let them keep their board while you just reap. Sometimes Nerve Blasting your own Silvertooth is the right play. Whenever you examine a line of play, evaluate how that line gets you closer to your third key.

We went into the Semifinals with the stream up and running, and Erich and I were joined by CoDameron (Bouncing Deathquark). Listening two knowledgeable players give live commentary from a foot away was a fantastic experience, and a definite highlight of my weekend.

Going into the Finals, the room was charged with excitement. Play went back and forth for a bit, until one player made a mistake, playing Library Access, getting it back with Nepenthe Seed, and then playing it again… only to realize that his opponent had an Ember Imp out.

(Editor: Sorry I had to do this. I don’t mean to disrespect absolutely anyone)

Though his turn had prematurely ended and a bit behind, he was still in the game. Sitting down for the finals of a Vault Tour is stressful enough, but add to that a crowd of onlookers and the knowledge that you’re being live-streamed, and then add a costly mistake on top of it, and he was understandably rattled. The repercussions of this un-enviable could very well have cost him the finals.

Lesson 7: Shake it off

It’s absolutely easier said than done, but nothing is more costly to a player than being tilted. If the game isn’t going your way, or you run into a bad beat, the most important line of play is to clear your head and get back in. Remember that even if you’re in the finals of a Vault Tour, it’s just a game.

And this brings us to Lesson 8; attend a Vault Tour!

If you have the means, I highly recommend it. Everyone I spoke with was having a great time, and even though it was just a tournament for a card game where I got knocked out of contention right off the bat, it was one of my favorite gaming experiences.

As I wrap this up, I want to take a minute to thank the folks at Cascade Games for running the event, and for dealing with the myriad of problems that plagued them throughout. I’d also like to thank everyone who attended; this was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to see everyone who can make it to GenCon!

So that was all for today, my fellow Archons! Big thanks to Ryan and the Key Chains podcast crew for making this article possible. Through the last week I have tried to bring you as much content as possible, as I won’t be able to post anything during the next 17 days more or less (First things first, end of degree paper needs my attention!). I really hope you enjoyed this one too, you can always let me know in the comment section below or else simply reach out by Twitter: @blazing_archon. All kinds of support and interactions will always be appreciated. See you soon, Archons, remember to keep forging!

Vault Tour Atlanta: Tournament Report and Lessons

The KeyForge Vault Tour in Atlanta was a blast, and for many people including myself it was the first time we played a “take three pick one” sealed tournament. Deck selection was critical, the field of Archons was fantastically varied, and the community was a joy to be around. I attended with my friend and primary Keyforge training buddy Asher. Snacks and hydration were critical to staying sharp. Here is the play-by-play of my day, where I went 3-3:

  • Deck Selection. 15 minutes go by fast when you’re selecting your Vault Tour deck. My training buddy Asher and I were prepared with paper & pencil so we could tally creatures, aember pips, methods of aember control, and other stats to help guide our decision. My three choices were:
    • Satuhar Amber-Gruger, Convert. This deck, with everything counted, was left on the table. The only steal cards are Batdrone, Umbra, and Magda; two very removable, and one that steals back, and only Krump for loss and Skeleton Key for capture; low creature count in Brobnar locked in my decision.
    • Faithful “Griffin” Vitalis. Twenty creatures fits my usual playstyle, but only 6 aember pips and a just a little capture scared me off of this deck. It looked like it could be consistent and hold a board, but the third deck had some tricks I could not pass up.
    • Uninistive, Spawn of Hitoice – the deck I chose. Aside from a name unpronounceable in any earthly language, 12 aember pips, huge capture ability in Sanctum, and a few key combos made this deck very attractive. The creatures spread wasn’t ideal – 6, 5, and 4 – which would make it hard to hold a board. However, 2x Miasma, 1x Interdimensional Graft and 1x Doorstep to Heaven were too good to pass up. 2x Bouncing Deathquark and 2x Bad Penny also looked good.
  • Round 1 vs. Josh (The Sov of Pokerail): Loss. Josh was a really fun opponent. He opened with some Untamed aember burst, getting to one key quickly. I attempted to use my small board to fight back, and sacrificed cycling through my deck to do so. Josh was able to keep me down with steal-from-hand in Shadows through his third key, and I learned that I needed to prioritizing drawing cards above board presence more so that I could see my tricks – namely, Miasma into Graft or Doorstep.
  • Round 2 vs. Cassie (Cursor of Barrapath): Loss. Three Titan Mechanics came out on flanks by turn two, and game got interesting. I played my deck much better and made it to one key, but she came back with plenty of steal and removal from hand backed up with Dis tricks and took the game. She was a great opponent whom I enjoyed meeting and didn’t feel bad about losing to.
  • Round 3 vs. Casey: Win. Casey of Team Reapout was running Shadows/Brobnar/Mars. We hardly saw his Mars cards, and I pulled off a successful Miasma > Interdimensional Graft and pulled out a win.
  • Round 3 Interlude! My two losses were to Josh and Cassie, whom I spotted talking together off to the side of the event. Both had mentioned Keyforge-playing spouses; as it turns out, the two players who had beaten me so far were married to each other. It was a lovely surprise!

  • Round 4 vs. Adam of Cardboard Box Games: Win. Adam played Shadows/Brobnar/Logos, and messed with my head by playing three cards to his archives and not picking them up until I threatened my 3rd key. While he had no Bait & Switch, he did knock me down from my third key and got to 7 aember. I had no cards in my deck, so I called Sanctum and used Inspiration on a Doc Bookton to see if I drew something in a desperate Hail Mary – and got Terms of Redress, taking his aember below forging level and sealing the game. It was one of the most intense moments in Keyforge that I have ever had! Adam was a fantastic opponent and a loss to him would have been just as memorable.
  • Round 5 vs. Anonymous: Loss. My opponent was late, coming in 2 minutes before the cutoff for an automatic win, and played with his keys behind his token storage (not intentionally). I didn’t notice they weren’t in sight, and was unaware that he had gotten to two keys. I believe he played fairly, but with a lack of communication about how he played, a late start and hidden keys, this was the only negative experience of the day.
  • Round 6 vs. Marcus: Win. I had heard of Marcus’s Brobnar/Shadows/Mars deck already, as it runs 9+ artifacts. He was a really fun opponent, and kept hitting his Brobnar creatures with Cannon to increase key cost via Iron Obelisk; I responded by capture 12+ aember on my various Sanctum creatures. The match nearly went to time, but I was able to play two Cleansing Wave in a single turn and go to 19 aember, and as Marcus was without a way to stop me I took the victory after a long and hilarious game – a true Keyforge match.

My record of 3-3 placed me 60th out of 127. I had picked a complicated deck, and was quite honestly happy with how I had done with it. Asher and I processed the experience with Ryan, Steve, and Brian of the Key Chains Podcast, and I came away with a few lessons from our successes and failures at a Get-Three-Pick-One Sealed Vault Tour:

  • Lesson 1: Take Care of Yourself. Snacks, water, and time away from the tournament area when possible will all help your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, enabling you to both better enjoy your time at the event and perform at a higher level.
  • Lesson 2: Have a Deck Evaluation Plan. Know how you will evaluate the decks you are given. Types of cards, amount of aember pips, aember control, creatures-per-house, and many other metrics are all helpful to know when selecting a deck that will serve you well that day.
  • Lesson 3: Know Your Best Archetype. When picking a deck, it may be temping to take what has the most tricks; however, if you have a chance to pick a deck that’s familiar, I would recommend it. I picked a complicated deck that is much more suited to Archon Adaptive than sealed, as it takes practice to use well. The deck Faithful “Griffin” Vitalis, an option I passed on, was more my style. While it does not have much aember control, it had board control and burst built in. There is no guarantee I would have done better, but I believe my mistakes would have been less.

Thank you to Fantasy Flight Games and Cascade Games for an amazing Vault Tour experience. The event was run well and the staff was professional, and the community – as always – was a joy to be around. Keep forging, Archons!