This past weekend I brought my Horsey deck to a chainbound Archon tournament. I don’t think it’s my most powerful deck but it sure is fun to play with. There are many intricate combos in the deck and ways to control the game in my favour. But the deck has a high demand on sequencing and is quite unforgiving if I play cards out of order. I think the deck is also quite delicate in the way it can be easily beat if the opponent also takes due care to play their cards properly and analyze the entire board state a play in their favour. Such advantage over my deck takes place by analyzing the board state and playing slightly out of the normal.
In my opinion, naturally the best way to play a turn is to A) Maximize the number of cards you play, B) Maximize the amount of Aember you generate, and C) Don’t hold onto cards for too many turns (either play or discard). There are times to deviate from these key rules, however, and I will share my thoughts on them.
Original concept art from Terminator
Don’t Let Your Opponent’s Good Cards Be Good
In my first game at this past weekend’s chainbound event, I had assembled the entirety of the Four Horsemen on board with Pile of Skulls in my artifact line. It was late in the match with both of us at 2 Keys. My opponent was generating up to or above 6 total Aember each turn and playing a couple of creatures. With my horsemen on board I would simply Reap with Horseman of Famine and trigger Pile of Skulls to capture an Aember. Then destroy one of their other creatures with another one of my horsies to trigger Pile of Skulls again, etc. etc. My opponent couldn’t forge their last key because my Pile of Skulls kept capturing Aember due to their creatures’ demise (demises?). After the game we discussed the match a bit and my opponent figured that they should have stopped playing creatures. That way all the inherent value in my horsemen and Pile of Skulls would be void. I wouldn’t be able to effectively capture their Aember and they may have generated their last key (little did they know that I had a backup copy of Gatekeeper in hand to disrupt their Aember supply just in case).
This situation poses an interesting Keyforge lesson. Most turns ideally want us to play as many cards as we can to cycle through our deck quicker and/or generate the most Aember per turn. However, one must also take a step back from playing this way to analyze the board state and figure out if the next few turns would benefit you or put your win in a detrimental position. In this case, my opponent probably should have stopped playing their creatures and looked for other ways to generate up to 6 or more Aember. One may even pose a good argument to only produce up to 6 Aember in a turn (and not go to 7+) as my opponent may know my decklist and realize that A) I’m not in Shadows so spot Aember removal is less likely and B) there’s multiple copies of Gatekeeper in my deck so going above 7 isn’t optimal. The only arguments to go above 6 Aember were in my discard pile (Rogue Ogre and Grabber Jammer).
Waiting in my hand for you to try to win
When You’re Comfortably Ahead (Or Maintaining Parity), Hold Back
While I was effectively controlling my opponent’s Aember with my horsies I had a Gatekeeper in hand. I kept calling Sanctum but was refusing to play my Gatekeeper. My four horsemen allowed me to comfortably keep control of my opponent’s Aember supply while still generating my own. I could see the end game in sight as long as my creatures were staying alive (uh! Uh! Uh! Uh! Staying Alive!). The only way opponent was beating me was by playing too much Aember for my pile of skulls to capture or wiping my controlly creatures from the game. Playing my Gatekeeper here, for no value, would only be a win more play. However, by holding it, I was giving myself an additional out to victory if my opponent messed with my board state or produced a bunch of Aember all of a sudden. I could play my Gatekeeper and buy myself another turn by capturing all their Aember down to 5 if it came to it.
Your Mother is so…
If Your Opponent Plays A Value Engine, Attack!
This is especially true in the early game but pretty critical throughout. Value engines are mostly found giving your opponent extra cards (Mother), keeping you off of your own cards (Succubus, Tocsin), generating them abnormal amounts of Aember (Giant Sloth, Dew Faerie), and stealing Aember from you (Dodger, Noddy the Thief). You can probably prioritize the threats in that same order. Card advantage is always king so anything giving your opponent extra cards, or giving you less, should be dealt with as soon as possible unless you want the game to end much quicker, and less in your favour, than you’d like it to. I may have a mit full of 4 nice threatening Untamed cards that I’d ideally like to play out next turn but if my opponent plays a Mother you can almost certainly bet that I will be playing out my Troll and Ganger Chieftain to ready Troll and sent that Mother straight into the discard pile.
I once listening to a Magic podcast where the person would play casual games not with the intention of winning but with the intention of forcing themselves to play a certain way. Perhaps this can be applied here for practice. Go into some games and purposefully get behind on board then see what works best to dig yourself out of that rut. You may not win but you will definately get a better understanding of what works best when you’re behind.
By reading the board state and predicting your opponents’ next moves you will most certainly win more games. On each of your turns consider if the game is in your favour, at parity, or in your opponent’s favour. Each scenario demands a different play style to either maintain your lead or get into the lead.