Keyforge: A Pre-release Tournament

KeyForge - Pre-Release Tournament

I used to play a lot of Hearthstone, I quit when the prices of the packs went up and at some point it became less fun. I moved onto Star Realms, it seemed perfect. No boosters and no deck building. I didn’t need to worry about the meta or buying new packs (expansion exist but are cheap). I’ve racked up over 2600 plays on the app and played in many fan-run tournaments. The decisions aren’t as deep as a game like Hearthstone, a lot of the time it’s tactics instead of strategy. So, while I’ve never been tempted to return to Hearthstone I have always missed that part of the experience. I learnt Netrunner but never made the jump to playing it properly.

When I heard about Keyforge it felt like someone had peered into my brain and created a game I hadn’t realised I wanted. I signed up to the pre-release tournament event at my Friendly Local Game Store and convinced some friends to join me.

Keyforge is a Unique Deck Game and is being released alongside Discover Lands Unknown, another game where the contents of every box is unique. Every Keyforge deck will have its own name, card back and deck list. You can never add or remove cards, it remains as it was when you ‘discovered’ it. The aim of the game is to be the first to forge three keys. Playing, creatures, artifacts, action cards and upgrades will help you gain. The best part is that a deck costs around £8 and the rules sheet is not excessive.

KeyForge - My Deck

Keyforge consists of Seven Houses, each House has 36 cards in total. A deck is always made up of three houses with 12 cards in the deck from each house. This method allows up to 104 quadrillion combinations of deck, far far more than they will ever need. Each deck has a unique Archon name and image.

My Archon is DeMarco of Linealab Tower and their houses are;

  • Dis – Demons with punishing effects.
  • Shadows – Rogues, a lot of stealing and small damage dealers.
  • Logos – Scholars, draw a lot of cards and can archive cards.

My first impressions of the deck was that it was quite unusual. Four copies of Dominator bauble? I’ve seen a lot of deck lists online and still haven’t seen anyone else with four copes of one card. When I play the DC Deck Building Game with friends I’m known for creating decks that rely on shenanigans. Any player who takes a long complicated go is ‘having a Joe go’. In this game I’d say there were three houses that lend themselves to that playstyle, Dis, Logos and Shadows. So, while I didn't know what to make of the cards I was very happy with the house combination I’d opened.

The Tournament

Before I’d had any real time to study the possible combos in my deck it was time to start the 30-player tournament. My first opponent was Willow, a player I knew had been to an earlier pre-release event in London. So I knew she had more experience than me. You don’t get sight each other’s deck lists so have no idea what cards you should be playing around.

Willow stuck a few cards in her archive, presumably stashing good cards away for a later turn. I played a card that discarded the archived cards and swung the game in my favour. It was a pattern that repeated itself in the second game, giving me a slightly underserved 2-0 win.

Game Two

Next was another player who’d been to the London event, Dan. He was also the person who’d taught me how to play a few days earlier. Keyforge allows the first player to draw seven cards but they can only play one on their first turn. The second player draws six cards, which is the standard hand size, and plays their turn normally. You are able to Mulligan (shuffle your hand back into your deck and redraw one less card) if you’re not happy with your initial hand.

I was not yet familiar enough with my deck to mulligan well but keeping my sub-par hand was a fatal error. Dan’s first card was a two health Martian with a devastating ability, removing one of my creatures from the board every turn. Two health made them simple enough to remove but I knew that nothing in my hand would do it. I never recovered and lost, badly.

The second game against Dan allowed me to see the potential in my deck. Keyforge has a ‘rule of six’ to give players who discover infinite combos a hard stop. Instead, you can only play or use a card six times in one turn. I managed to discover such a combo, at the point where I was drawing three cards for every card I played..... Dan conceded.

I was so happy that my deck turned out to be capable of something I wasn’t expecting that I can’t remember anything about the third game. Except that I lost.

Game Three

My last match was against one of the friends I’d persuaded to attend, Tim. I have nine artifacts in my deck, and my victory very much depends on getting them into play. Tim has a card that steals artifacts. My deck did not like Tim’s deck.

Compounded by the fact that he’s a more experienced and better card game player than me. I limped home with a 2-0 loss and ended up below mid table in the final standings.

KeyForge - Post Tournament

I had a miserable time playing Tim. That’s because I was trying to play against Dan’s deck, or against Willow’s deck, instead of actually working out strategies against Tim’s deck. Were this Hearthstone I would look online for cards to change to combat Tim’s Martian army. Instead I had to think about the mistakes I had made and what I could do about them. I should want to avoid playing Tim again, it was not enjoyable. Instead I'm itching to solve the puzzle of how my deck can beat his.

It’s not a surprise I like Keyforge as much as I do. It’s all my favourite bits of big ambitious card games with none of the things I don’t like. I do have some minor criticisms that I’d love to expand on. I’d need to play with more decks against more decks before being willing to put them on permanent record. So, on release day I’m buying three more decks and clearing my immediate diary. Dis the season.