Whether you have a stack of KeyForge decks sitting in front of you or a display of decks coming to you automatically with a KeyForge Display Subscription when the next set releases, you will likely run into the same questions we did as we opened our first display of decks.
What decks will you have the most fun playing? What are the unique strengths of each deck? Unlike most card games, you don’t get to pick and choose the cards to put in your KeyForge deck. Instead, the game challenges you to choose a unique deck and discover how to excel with it!
In this chapter, we walk through our process for evaluating a KeyForge deck to discover its unique strengths and synergies. Knowing how to evaluate a KeyForge deck will help you quickly and easily find your favorites without having to play each of them first.
If you prefer watching to reading, we created the video below for you. In the video, we take three random decks from the second set of KeyForge, Age of Ascension, and evaluate them. We walk through our processes for exploring a deck before we even play it! Of course, if you prefer reading you can learn everything you need to know about this process in just a few minutes in this chapter.
After a few games of KeyForge, you will start to recognize the houses you have the most fun playing. Whether it is the art, theme, mechanics, or a combination of all three, there are plenty of reasons to love a house in KeyForge!
Before looking at the deck list, we recommend looking at the name, house combination, and Archon designs on the back of each deck to sort through your decks. As an example, we sorted twelve Age of Ascension decks below using just these factors.
Even though this is unlikely to perfectly reflect the decks that will end up being your favorite, it will give you a starting point for evaluating your decks. Next, we like to identify the cards that are going to make your deck truly unique!
Opening new decks and browsing through the cards is one of the most enjoyable elements of KeyForge, outside playing the game! If you arrange your decks as we did, we recommend starting with the deck on the top left.
As you open and look through the cards in the deck, note the rare cards in the deck. You can tell the rarity of a card by the icon next to the card name on the deck list. The same icon appears at the bottom of each corresponding card.
The rarest card types are Maverick, Legacy, Special, and Rare cards. Below is a deck that includes Legacy (Arise!), Special (Ortannu’s Binding), and Rare (Ortannu the Chained, Harland Mindlock, Transposition Sandals, and Invasion Portal) cards!
If you are unfamiliar with the rarity types, below is a break down of every type of rarity in the game from the rarest to the most common.
- Maverick – these are cards from other houses in the same set, appearing in houses that they don’t normally belong. For example, a Mars card will sometimes show up as an Untamed card!
- Legacy – these are cards from any previously set that is from the house listed. As more sets releases, the possible cards that can be in a deck will continue to grow!
- Special – these are cards that are both rare and require special conditions to even be in a deck. Often times this means certain house or card combinations. In the case of the deck above, two Ortannu’s Binding are included whenever the rare Ortannu the Chained is in a deck.
- Rare – indicated with a star, these show up much less often than the rest of the cards in the set.
- Uncommon – indicated with a diamond, the show up more frequently than rare cards but less often than common cards.
- Common – the most fundamental cards for a house that are most likely to show up in a deck.
We look for the less common cards not because they are inherently more powerful, but because they are the cards least likely to show up in other decks. In other words, these are the most unique cards in your deck!
A great example of this type of deck defining card is Epic Quest. While this card has a very powerful action (forging a key for free is a big deal!), the action requires an incredibly specific set of circumstances. It is such a powerful card that when it ends up being in one of your decks you are likely to end up referring to it as your ‘Epic Quest’ deck!
As you are looking through your deck, take note of any common or uncommon cards that you have at least two copies of in the deck. Most decks won’t have more than one copy of any given card, so even having two or three copies of a common can define your deck!
To win the game, you will (likely) have to generate at least eighteen Aember. To achieve this, you will do some combination of reaping with creatures and playing cards that generate Aember.
The first step to understanding how your deck approaches the fundamentals of the game is to simply count the number of creatures in your deck. If you have a lot of creatures, you can use them to reap for Aember and to fight your opponent’s characters to keep them from reaping. If you don’t have a lot of creatures, you will have to find other ways to create Aember in order to win.
From what we have seen, the average deck has about sixteen creatures. We’ve seen successful decks with creature counts ranging from six to the low thirties though, so don’t let the total number of creatures alone trick you into thinking a deck is good or bad!
As you are counting your creatures, take note of their average power and armor stats. If you have more powerful creatures, your deck will want to lean into fighting in order to keep your opponent’s creatures off the board. If you have less powerful creatures, you will have to be more selective about when to pick fights!
You will also want to note the abilities and card text on your creatures. Can they steal Aember? Are a lot of them Elusive? Look for themes among your creatures, as this will start to indicate the overall emphasis of your deck.
Once you have a rough idea of the number and types of creatures in your deck, count how many of your cards create Aember when they are played (see the golden nugget on the top left of the cards pictured above). While some cards might not create Aember when they are played, if their text creates Aember they should be counted. For example, cards like The Flex create Aember even though they don’t have the Aember icon on the top-left of the card.
The range of cards that create Aember varies, but it is common to see decks with eight to ten cards in this category. If your deck has more than this, it’s likely you’ll want to play as many cards as you can each turn. By playing more cards, you will move through your deck more quickly and will naturally generate enough Aember to win the game.
If your deck has less than this, you’ll need to examine your cards to figure out how you are going to generate enough Aember to win. Regardless of how much Aember your deck generates from just playing cards, the next step is identifying your big plays and in-house synergies.
Big Plays and In-House Synergy
Most cards in KeyForge have the ability to create or steal one Aember. When we refer to a ‘big play’, we are talking about combinations of cards that allow you to create or steal three or more Aember.
You can see an example of this kind of a combination of cards above. Lollop the Titanic is an eleven power creature. The Flex lets you exhaust a ready creature to gain Aember equal to half the strength of the creature. In the case of Lollop, this means you can create five Aember with a single card!
You may not be able to recognize these plays initially, but the more you play the easier they will be to spot. Some of these combinations of cards (like the one pictured above) are obvious, while others might take a few games to catch.
Evaluating Your KeyForge Decks
This process for evaluating your decks should help you identify the decks you will enjoy the most and form a strategic plan before you start a game. Of course, nothing beats actually getting a deck to the table though. We’ve had plenty of decks we thought were awful that turned out to be some of our favorites, so we recommend exploring as many of your decks as you can!
In summary, our process for evaluating decks is:
- Arrange the decks by the house combinations, names, and Archon designs you find most interesting.
- Starting by opening the deck you’re most interested in. As you look through the deck, really pay attention to the rare cards (Maverick, Legacy, Special, and Rare) in your deck. Also identify the cards you have at least two of, as most decks won’t have two or more of any given card. This will help you understand what makes your deck truly unique.
- Count the number of creatures and cards that generate Aember in your deck. This will give you an idea of how your deck wants to fundamentally approach the game.
- Look for the big plays (3+ Aember) and unique synergies of your deck.
If you watched the video at the first of this chapter and are curious if the decks played like we predicted, check out the live stream below! We play all three of the decks we evaluated in the video.