I get so excited for competitive play. High level tournaments where everyone is bringing their best deck and playing tight. Keyforge becomes super interesting and very intriguing when the outcome of each game relies on every gameplay decision players make. When the decks are so good that each turn has multiple lines of play and it's up to the player to solve the puzzle on which line is going to put you farthest ahead of your opponent at the end of your turn. The Keyforge Prime Championship at Metal Galaxy in Calgary, AB on November 23 was no different. 16 players with a variety of premier decks from all sets. 5 rounds of engaging Keyforge play with a cut to top 8. And I won it!
It wasn't easy though. There were many turns I was sitting there mid-game, staring at my opponent's board state and looking at my hand and thinking it's all over. I had practiced many dozens of games with my deck, and several other possible decks, in the weeks leading up to the tournament. I was very familiar with how the deck I chose wanted to play and what possible lines remained in the deck. I was confident that I made the right deck selection in the early World's Collide meta. All I had to do was play tight.
My first deck of choice was the one that I won store championships with recently. Phisk “Windchill” Zouchyy is an AoA deck that plays a midrange/control style of game. If you ever played Jund in Modern format in Magic the Gathering I would most compare it to that. It has answers to everything and each house can control all aspects of the game. I was undefeated with it at the Store Championships and running at about a 95% win rate up until Worlds Collide release. Enter Worlds Collide and my first encounter with the Dinosaurs gave it a loss. Game two vs WC I barely snuck out a win with a timely Miasma. I was beginning to think Phisk was feeling its “Windchill” and gone cold in the new meta.
I had opened a pretty solid Worlds Collide deck which features Saurians: Cragjilli Kim-Dolan, Conductor. I went 3-0 on release weekend chainbound with it and was having some success in Competitive play on The Crucible. It has some neat Dino combos in it, including the overly-powered feels-disgusting-to-pull-off Tribute into Sic Semper Tyrannosaur combo. It also has decent board control with Harbinger of Doom and Hysteria, key control with two The Evil Eye, two Hock to control artifacts, and some alright Aember control. The deck looks great and feels great but I was rusty with it and the new cards. I think I beat myself more than a few times playing with it. I would play cards in the wrong sequence, or miss card text, or misplay in general. I didn't have the experience with this deck as I had with Phisk. I couldn't risk losing to myself through inexperience.
If you've read my previous article you know that big tempo plays are the goal of the Worlds Collide set, so I explored a few decks that play the tempo game. Alexan the Crassly Super features multiple bounce spells and tempo plays with decent Aember control. It has good disruption and hand control. However, I found that bounce plays can be weak to the Grand Star Alliance and sometimes Saurians, as many of their cards have PLAY: triggers that can ruin your day. A player ideally needs to have the opposing board go into the opposing discard pile.
I tried tax style decks, rush decks, combo decks while still playing some games with Phisk “Windchill” Zouchyy. I was finding that Phisk just kept winning and no other decks were coming close to its power level. As I became more familiar with the WC meta it soon became apparent that Phisk was the deck I needed to play. The morning of the Prime, with all my practice, I had a 27-3 record with Phisk since Store Champs. I was super confident and all I had to do was shake off the nerves and excitement that might interfere with my gameplay.
I arrived at the store early to get some practice games
in. I ended up talking to all the players there which I found calmed my nerves somewhat. We ended up with 16 players for the tournament which meant 5 rounds and a cut to top 8. I ended up playing half a practice round with a fun deck before the player meeting started and the pairings sheet went up.
Not so subtle when there's three
Game 1 - vs Keiran
The week before the primes I played in a sealed and knew that Kieran had opened a triple Chain Gang, triple Subtle Chain deck with good control throughout. I figured he might be playing the deck on Primes and I was most worried about having to play against it if I faced him. The Chain Gang combos can get out of hand essentially locking your opponent out of any Aember as the player nears the end of their deck and can reliably shuffle and draw the subtle chains. I knew I had to wipe out the Chain Gangs any way possible on first sight of them!
Put 'em in the dirt!
Those who follow me on Twitter will know how much I've been raving about Collector Worm over the last few weeks. It completely removes many of the new powerful creatures and it is difficult for the opponent to remove. Early in the game Kieran played out a copy of Chain Gang. Lucky for my I had Collector Worm and Mars First in hand alongside a couple more Mars creatures. I dropped my Mars hand and good ol' wormy boy ate his Chain Gang sending put it into the dirt. I drew into more Mars, including my second copy of Collector Worm, and continued to eat up his battle line with my wormy boys all while stealing Aember with Mindwarper and reaping with my other Mars battleline. I was in good control and remained that way for the rest of the game. Near the end, Kieran played out a turn of 4 or 5 Brobnar creatures. I had restringuntus in hand to keep him off Brobnar and an Exhume to recur it from the graveyard to get win number one!
[W1 - L0]
Game 2 - vs Shea
Shea and I chat a bunch about Keyforge and sometimes practice together. He is quite familiar with Phisk and knew its strengths and weaknesses. Early on he knew that my Collector Worms must go, which he made quick effort to Oubliette the first one and Collar of Subordination my second. I ended up drawing some of my less flashy cards at the correct times in this match. I played a Pandemonium after forging a key to have my battleline capture four or five AEmber and keep Shea off check. I used Collar of Subordination (I had to refrain from Collaring my already Collared wormy boy for the lol play)
on his Tocsin which stayed on board the entirety of the game, and got about 5 cards of value out of it. The big armoured Mars battleline successfully raced and brought me enough Aember to win.
[W2 - L0]
Game 3 - vs Lance
I play Lance at least half a dozen times a week casual and while practicing. Just the night before he was practicing some of his decks vs Phisk so we were familiar with the match. We also both knew that Phisk had the upper hand. His deck has some good tax effects and big dino butts which can cause a problem, and did at one point when he had two edai out on board with a few cards in archive. It's tough deciding whether to destroy those and forge a key or use the creature removal on something with a more game changing text box, like Questor Jarta or Primus Unguis. Luckily I didn't have to make that choice and cast Unlocked Gateway instead followed up next turn by a Mars battleline invasion and the quick win.
[W3 - L0]
Game 4 - vs Lane
I looked at Lane's decklist and knew I might have a problem, but, mathematically, I had made top 8 so my nerves eased up a bit. On the flip side, so had Lane, so I used this game as a learning experience in case we faced one another in the Top 8. I started out the first few turns playing my Mars board. I had four Mars creatures out when Lane played his Key Abduction for an Aember pip. But wait.... Yes, that's all Mars creatures that are returned to owner's hand... I beamed up my nice board state back to my hand (tear in eye). Lane finishes his turn playing soft landing John Smyth into Grabber Jammer and capturing one. Next play, back on the Mars plan, play them out followed, next turn, by another house I think, building a good board and bam, Hysteria. Good news is I get my Aember back off his Grabber Jammers. Bad news is he just activated Lash of Broken Dreams so I can't forge and I once again don't have any board and can't draw any cards for a few turns. He hit the gas pedal on his mars, capturing more of my Aember with - now - two Grabber Jammers and a John “Smyth”. Meanwhile I'm still trying to dig for answers which never came. Phisk gets a loss.
[W3 - L1]
As featured in ESPN's tempo top plays of the day
Game 5 - vs Matt
I played against this deck a week earlier at a chainbound so knew it was powerful. It also has a really awesome name! This was a challenging match as his Dis package has good removal and some Aember control, his dino package is full of good stuff, and Logos had multiple Key Tax effects in edai, card draw engines, and a Discombobulator which blanks a lot of my cards that want to steal. Midrange vs Midrange is always a tough puzzle and this game went on for a while. Both decks have many threats and answers but I unfortunately can't recall much of this game (Midrange vs Midrange also tends to be an unexciting grind of value plays until someone finally runs out of answers to the other players threats and Aember supply and loses). It was close and I managed to squeak out win 4.
[W4 - L1]
Two houses a turn, no problem
Top 8 - vs Justin
Leading up to the tournament, I was most shakey against Star Alliance. The GSA plays can be unpredictable and wild and contain a lot of value. I knew that any Star Alliance creature must immediately be wiped out to protect from a most imminent loss. This was my most stressful match all day, and maybe because I got a little too confident early on. My early plays once again were setting up a strong Mars battleline. Justin's deck had a lot of upgrades and the potential to draw into many unusable cards in the moment. I think this was happening early as I was building a big board and he seemed stalled. I was controlling anything he put down and generating a lot of Aember fast. I remember seeing the Book of LeQ on his decklist card and knowing I should save my Destroy them All for when that appeared. I ended up casting it on a turn where I put myself up to 7 Aember (to check for second key) to destroy his one non-threatening artifact and a GSA creature with 3 upgrades on it. I thought I was so smart with the hefty five for one play and about to forge my second key.
Check to Justin... Saurian, he plays Senator Shrix followed by Tribute to do what Tribute does best, capture a ton of my Aember, keep me off check, and put it on some dinosaur which can utilize that Aember. Third card he plays Brutodon Auxiliary and I can no longer get my Aember back by fighting anything with my Collector Worm. While this is going on he also fills his Aember pool to 6 while having 6 Aember on Senator Shrix. This is the unbelievable power of Saurian ladies and gentlemen... I went from having a big board state and about to forge my second key to having only 3 Aember in pool, board state looking weak, and opponent going from no keys to all of a sudden having 2 keys worth of Aember and looking like he will win the game in the next few turns. I felt completely deflated. I was feeling so confident a moment ago and now staring at a hand with no answers to the current 12 Aember threat. Why did I play that Destroy the All!? I had a few options here, one was to race with my current Mars board but I knew the value-town engines in both Saurian and Star Alliance would thwart that plan. I had to dig deeper into my deck to find answers.
I played shadows the next few turns and kept him off the second key, after he forged his first with my Aember! A combination of both my Miasma and Ronnie Wristclocks bought me more turns while keeping us on parity at one key each. He plays the Book of LeQ combined with Navigator Ali next to his Brutodon Auxiliary. great.... I play my next turn going up to 7 Aember. He play GSA, Navigator Ali, Book of LeQ revealing The Evil Eye and stating that my keys now cost +3. Excuse me? What? That's not how that works. You just reveal the card on top of your library, not cast or add to hand. We sort out that confusion and he finished his turn in Dis, playing out some creatures, and I forge my second key.
I started picking up steam again but I knew I had another Tribute to deal with to forge my second key PLUS the Evil Eye that was now in his hand. I think I ended up drawing into Tyxl Beambuckler to finally move the Brutodon Auxiliary and wipe out his Senator Shrix (now with complimentary 2 Aember for me). The next few turns I focused on a line that would keep Justin in off his second key while putting me closer to Aember bursting up past 9 Aember so that I could forge even with an Evil Eye play. I had to ignore his Navigator Ali, Book of LeQ combo for a few turns even, which gave him a lot of value, but Phisk had the answers, I knew what remained in my deck. I managed to get up to 11 Aember but at the cost of Justin forging his second key with 8 Aember. That turn Justin also dropped two Evil Eyes and got back up to 6 Aember to put him in check for key #3. I still had 11 Aember, and he still had a Tribute. Mindwarper took him off check and my Mars board got me to a safe 15 Aember and the win! Phew!
Take these two if your want to play mono-Dis
Top 4 - Lane
Secretly, I was hoping Lane would be defeated in the quarter finals as he was the only player to beat me during the swiss, not nice I know. I did have the benefit of experience against his deck however, which had to count for something. Unfortunately his deck played a completely different game plan. He was off the Mars plan and completely onto Dis for most of this game. Early on he played a Lash of Broken dreams followed soon after by a screaming cave. Two copies of Shooler and two copies of Charette with the Lash of Broken Dreams made it exceptionally difficult to forge a key for any cost. Any time I picked off one of his Dis threats he was able to recycle his discard pile into his deck and out another would come keeping me off a key. If I left them on the board he had a reap engine. It took some maneuvering but I was able to forge my first two keys for 9 Aember. Mars was keeping him off a key, and I was keeping him off his Dis creatures which meant he wasn't making too much Aember. Pandemonium, Charette, and Mind Warper kept him off check a few times. Phisk was making it difficult for him to forge as well. Finally I found my Destroy them All! (as well as my Collector Worms) to pick off his Lash of Broken Dreams and start archiving his Shooler and Charrette plan. A few Exhumes of Ronnie Wristclocks and I had my third key!
Finals - Shea
Repeat of Round 2 today and Shea mentions to me that he supposes I probably won before the match even started. I've made the mistake many times of going into a match thinking I've won it, over confident, only to get completely blown out because I've let my guard down; I'm treating this match like any other and staying focused.
Turn 1, I've won the dice roll and going first, I play a Collector Worm
. On Shea's first turn he plays Overlord Greking
and plays a Collar of Subordination
on my Collector Worm. On my turn two I play Collar of Subordination of my own on his Overlord Greking, steal it, and attack it into my Collector Worm and bringing it back to Phisk's battleline. I continue on Phisk's Mars plan and Shea is playing out his Dis and Shadows cards. Each time he hit check I had a Ronnie Wristclocks
in hand to take him off. And he was usually at 7 or more which gave me more value out of my Ronnie Wristclocks. I start pulling ahead in the race and am on two keys and 5 Aember and Shea puts down three Batdrone
after calling Logos.
I hadn't gone Dis for a while and played out my Restringuntus
naming Logos. His board only consisted of the three Batdrone and a Dominator Bauble
so my thought was that He would want to call Dis in order to take out my Restringuntus. I had counted the cards in his discard pile and it was unlikely that he had any number of Dis cards in hand, so putting him on Dis would be a wise decision. I also had a Tentacus
on board so a Dominator Bauble play to fight with a Batdrone would be a wash, leaving me at five Aember. He thought for a while choosing what to do, Dis or Shadows. I knew he had another Too Much to Protect
left in his deck (or hand) and a Bait and Switch
. At five Aember I don't think the B&S was a valuable play, he'd rather keep me off a key with it on the next turn. Dis was the house called and Dominator Bauble - Batdrone fight restringuntus was the play. My next turn I call Dis again and fire off the Exume
I had been holding to bring back restringuntus naming Shadows this time. I kill off one of his Batdrone and reap for two up to 8. Pass turn. I look up to see his hand stretched across the table in concession of the match! I've won the primes and would be going to Worlds!
The whole time the finals were happening there was a crowd of players watching and supporting us finalists (even golf clapping at times for good plays haha). The local Keyforge community is so great here, everyone supports everyone else and is genuinely happy to see anyone succeed. I've not experienced this level of support before nor this level of comradery. All day each of the players were always checking with one another to see how each were doing and to ensure everyone was having fun. I never felt like it was a cut throat serious tournament like I have with other games, even though the prizes for this were quite significant. It was great to see this high level of sportsmanship and class from all participants. There was even a new player who made the Top 8 which was awesome to see!
Over the next few weeks I have one more Store Championship which is sealed Worlds Collide which I may go in casually to play. I haven't yet warmed up to Worlds Collide and especially the single deck sealed environment. After that, there's two weekly chainbounds in town through December (gotta get on those leaderboards!). I'd like to delve into Worlds Collide more on The Crucible and try out all the decks I've opened at least a few times each. If you're into playing a friendly match on the Crucy, hit me up on Discord - @kurt#6117 .
I have a few blog drafts that need to be completed on some competitive play topics and others, look for those soon! The best place to get in touch with me is on Twitter @unzinc.