Playing to your outs

I’m going to put my preparation for UKGE Vault tour on hold to discuss what I feel is an important topic. I’m writing this, inspired by this post on reddit:
They were far behind on Æmber , two keys to two, and realized their only way to win is if they used Chaos Portal and their top card is Miasma. They got the Miasma, but they lost the game anyway as their opponent managed to get them off the key. Nonetheless, I would call this a victory.

Recognizing an out

When you’re in a tough spot, faced with losing the game, an out is the only conceivable path to victory or postponing defeat. In the above story their only path to victory was Miasma into their opponent not being able to stop them. Since this was their only out, it meant there was no other reasonable play.

Sometimes outs are very obvious. They are at 6 Æmber and two keys, you have a steal in Shadows and no Æmber control in your other houses. You must pick shadows. Sometimes outs are less obvious, like the above example. And sometimes they are even less obvious. For example:

I am at 3 Æmber and 2 keys. I have 2 Untamed creatures on the board, my opponent could easily use their creatures to generate enough Æmber for their last key on their next turn, while also killing off 2-3 of my creatures. I have a bunch of threatening Shadows creatures in my hand: Umbra, Dodger, Noddy. And a Ghostly hand. I also have Cooperative Hunting and a Labwork. I also know I have Key Charge in my deck.

What is my out here? My only chance to win is going up to 5 Æmber this turn, drawing into Key Charge the next turn, picking Untamed, reaping with my two Untamed creatures and playing Key Charge for the win. This is the only scenario that wins me the game. It will take me two turns to get there, but I can see it.

Playing to your outs

I could play Untamed right now, Cooperative hunting to disrupt their Æmber generation and maybe buy myself a turn. This tactic has two issues: First, I only draw 1 card, so my chance of getting that Key Charge is greatly reduced. Second, they might decide to kill my Untamed Creatures, which would put me in a worse position even if I do get the Key Charge.

So my play here is to play my Shadows hand. It will generate a much more threatening board, possibly distracting them from taking out my Untamed Creatures. I get the 2 Æmber I need to win next turn if I get Key Charge, and I also get to draw 4 cards, greatly increasing my chance to draw into it.

It’s a mindset

This is the same mindset that promotes thinking about winning, rather than about the current board state. If you only think about the board state, you may find yourself fighting when you could check and potentially win. Finding a win in Keyforge is often harder than other card games, because unless you have a key cheat, your opponent always has a chance to respond. So there is a lot less “spot the lethal”. Still, ask yourself every turn, which play brings you closer to winning the game. Does fighting bring you closer to winning? Sometimes. Getting rid of a Succubus can bring you closer to the cards you need to win.

It’s the same mindset with outs. You look at the board and ask yourself, if your opponent just reaps, are you in danger of losing? If you are, what can you do about it? Find your outs and play to them.

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