Tips and Tricks for Competitive Gameplay

The Vault Warrior series has been announced and with that brings greater prizing and competition than what we have seen so far in Keyforge. It is exciting that the game we love is growing and expanding and the announcement really shows that Fantasy Flight is confident in their game continuing for the long term. With greater prizing, however, comes the incentive for some less than honest people to try their best to circumvent the rules, or to be less friendly when playing, in order to gain an unfair advantage. With my Magic the Gathering experience I’ve had a lot of live, face-to-face, competitive play experiences with a card game and will outline some things that I do when playing to help protect myself from dishonest play and to avoid judge calls due to ambiguous play.


I was happy to hear on an episode of Archon’s Corner that the judge(s) at a recent top tier event encouraged clear and concise game play. This is the first, and likely easiest, step in keeping yourself out of trouble in competitive play. It’s simple because all you have to do is talk out what you’re doing on your turn so that your opponent is fully aware of each step. During your turn, state each of your actions so that your opponent fully understands what’s going on. This ensures that there’s no question about it on later turns. It also helps in case there’s any issue with the rules as you’re playing something. If you silently reap with your creatures when your opponent has a Zysysyx Shockworm

on the field you and your opponent may miss the stuns. Miss the stuns and your opponent realizes it on their next turn, or maybe on your next turn, now what? Call judge, warning, suspected cheating? Maybe that’s a little extreme, likely you’d just stun the creatures if you remember which ones reaped but it’s not the best. Being clear and concise helps avoid these undesirable conflicts.

Clean game play is just respectful and good gaming etiquette. When starting the game, lay out your opening hand face down and fanned out. Encourage your opponent to do so as well. This will show your opponent that you are taking the correct number of cards. Many folks pull the cards straight into their hand in one pile. Each game ensure that your opponent has the correct number of cards in hand. I’m sure it’s an honest mistake, but I’ve had to gently remind several opponents that they need to take one less card after their mulligan (they drew too many cards) or that they only take 6 cards when playing second. Another common thing I see people doing is not ‘tapping’ their creatures when they enter the battle line or tapping them when reaping to indicate that they are exhausted. This is ok when you have a single creature, reap pass, but I often see folks play 4 creatures in their turn (unexhausted) then reap a couple times, then wait… did I just play this or can I reap with it?? Remind your opponent that exhausted creatures must be clearly indicated for the benefit of both players.

No one has ever made a key with this

When forging a key resist the urge to simply mitt whatever amber is in your pool and move it to the common supply. Instead, take each piece out one or two at a time, move them to the centre of your playmat until you clearly show that you are removing the amount of amber that a key currently costs, then move that pile back to the common supply. This confirms for your opponent that you’re indeed taking the correct amount. Encourage your opponent to do the same. Many times in casual store play I’ve been unsure if my opponent forged a key at a slight-of-hand discount or not. When your opponent forges a key make sure they are doing so for the correct cost.

When playing, ensure each zone is clearly understood for each opponent. When I archive a card I like to ensure my opponent knows where it’s going so when I pull my archive they aren’t confused with another zone. Same with purged. Graveyard is a public zone and should be one pile. I played an opponent once who kept placing their graveyard in multiple piles, don’t ask why but it was weird. I kept having to get them to merge the piles and place them in the correct order they were discarded.

The best way to keep yourself safe is to be vigilant. When your opponent offers you to cut their deck do more than just separate the pile once. I always pick up their deck and give it a couple quick shuffles. This is important especially on the first cut of the game. You don’t know if your opponent stacked their deck in any way or is able to slight-of-hand (of-Dis) a card in a favourable position. Shuffle it up to make sure their deck is truly random.


Another important thing to do is to question plays that you aren’t happy with. Even if you’re wrong about something you’ll learn a play is correct by asking. It beats having the other way. I played in a Magic tournament once when I was a fairly new player. I was unsure about the ruling on a play that would have won me the game so instead of looking like a fool by asking I played differently. After the game I asked a judge about the play. Turns out it was allowed to do what I wanted to and I would have won. Ever since that moment I have never been shy to ask about a play. This goes for opponent’s plays as well. Did they make a play that you’re unsure about? Ask someone about it. Chances are it was a valid play, sometimes it turns out it was against the rules but neither player was sure. Get a third opinion from the judge! You have nothing to lose by doing so.

Take backs are a thing that happen a lot in casual play when a player has realized that they’ve made a mistake or less than optimal line of play after playing out some cards. A player essentially rewinds the game a little and plays differently. I like extending the courtesy to new players at my local LGS, or players that ask for them when we’re practicing. At a higher level of play I typically do not. It’s really a matter of personal preference if you want to give them or not but ideally, when there is big prizing on the line, a take back ultimately hurts the person giving handing it out. I would never expect a take back be granted to me at a tournament. I feel a higher level tournament demands higher level of skill so a player should know what line to take. Ensure you’ve practiced your deck enough to know the best lines of play so you don’t end up in an awkward situation.

You shall not pass!

Playing respectfully and protecting yourself from dishonest play go hand in hand. By playing in a manner that upholds positive game etiquette you encourage your opponent to do so as well. They will likely follow your lead and ensure each of their actions is clearly indicated. This will help you understand exactly what they’re doing and allow you to spot any misplays. With greater prizing comes increased incentive to be dishonest. The keyforge community is great and I haven’t had to encounter anyone playing in a deceitful way but it’s good game play to remain vigilant. Hopefully I will be able to make it to a Vault Warrior tournament in the future. Good luck in your future chainbound, store champs, or Vault Warrior tournament!

Finally won a mat!