Red Key First

It’s important to try something new. As someone who has played Magic: the Gathering for a long time (seven years) I admit I was skeptical about KeyForge. It seemed too simple. However, I wanted to reconnect with some buddies who recently switched over to KeyForge. As a card game where you cannot build your deck, where the cards are always the same, and where there is no real collecting to speak of, KeyForge did not match my typical hobby appeal (tcg’s, table top miniatures, and LEGO).

But KeyForge is a great game for a lot of reasons. The cost of entry is low and the impact of a single purchase is really high. The min-maxer in me still does not want to like KeyForge (a bit, if I’m being honest), however, after playing with this unique-deck card game I’ve come to understand why this is a great game.

What is KeyForge not?

Deck builders, brewers, and control freaks beware; KeyForge is not about purchasing the perfect combination of cards (though a secondary market for “chase decks” is emerging) since your deck is not to be altered and cannot be modified in anyway for tournament play. You can’t just pack your deck with the best cards in the format and steamroll your way to victory. But competitive decision are still present. I have seen some bad beats and some quick losses because of powerful cards and game play mistakes (burn the witch). Limited play, similar to drafting, is also lacking in KeyForge, however sealed events are popular as a way to discover new decks and card combinations.

What is KeyForge?

You and your opponent are Archons: beings that command creatures, artifacts, and powerful actions that all help you amass aember. Aember is the material that allows you to forge three keys, ultimately opening a vault and achieving victory. KeyForge is all about gameplay and maximizing your moments in-game. KeyForge is filled with discovery as you realize a new interaction in the combination of 36 cards you hadn’t considered before.

Your deck of cards is one-of-a-kind in both the combination of cards and name it holds. There are nine different houses, though each set only presents you with seven (the newest set, Worlds Collide, brought two new houses) and your deck will always be made of an equal balance of 12 cards from three different houses. KeyForge demands that you accept these facts. The strategy and intricacies are found by learning to maximize gameplay decisions as you pursue victory.

There are many introductions you could read about how KeyForge works, just know if you’ve played any card games, such as Magic: the Gathering, Netrunner, or Pokémon in the past you’ll find a familiar home in KeyForge gameplay.

The most important thing in KeyForge is to remember: KeyForge is a “sprint” towards forging three keys - one at a time over three turns, normally for the cost of six aember each.

In my first casual event I forgot the most important thing about KeyForge. I spent my time focusing on creature control, try to wipe the board, and optimizing my decisions for things other than aember generation. There are some decks that aim for a kind of control strategy, but looking at “archetypes” in KeyForge is another topic all in itself. Take a look at this list I discovered right before my first event and you’ll see what I’m talking about:

The rare cards in this deck allow for some swanky plays, and this also showcase the presences of some special cards. The Dis Plants, The Quiet Anvil

, and Spartasaur give this deck it’s most unique attributes. This deck wants to select Dis regularly for value and disruption, fight, and keep the board clear of opposing creatures while forcing discard. There’s some effective aember control too. My success with this deck has centered around a smart use of The Quiet Anvil (this can benefit your opponent too, and I’ve learned this the hard way) and Spartasaur to fight for profit. Exile is a tricky card to play, and I admit has lingered in too many games.

How would you play this deck? What would you look for in an opening hand? As I learn more about Lucius “Lilith” Brassten I’ll continue to provide updates (good or bad).