In Keyforge the discard pile is open information and you can get a lot out of it. There are obviously cards that directly invite you to look at a discard pile such as Nepenthe Seed and Mimicry. But you can use the discard pile for a lot more than that, and I don’t see enough players look at discard piles.
Information lets you Control the Weak
There are several cards that make you call a house when you play or use them, and they all work better if you’re aware of the house distribution left in the draw pile. A very strong card in this category is Control the Weak.
There are three main ways to play Control the Weak, and while this card is not in Age of Ascension, I’d still like to talk about it.
The first way is to look at how many cards your opponent played from a certain house on the previous turn. If your opponent just played 3 shadow cards the chances of them having 3 more shadows cards in hand are slim, so provided they don’t have a massive board, calling shadows is smart.
The second way is to call a house that is less likely to be able to deal with the current board situation. If you’re up to 7 aember, calling Untamed may stop your opponent from getting you off check, as Untamed lacks aember control.
Lastly, and to the topic of this article, you can count how many cards they have of each house in their discard pile and in play, and glean from that what the likely hand distribution is. Taking into account the first way as well f course play a role. But let’s say you’ve seen (play plus discard) 8 Logos cards, 7 Brobnar cards and 3 Shadows cards. Suddenly the fact they played 3 Shadows cards the previous turn doesn’t mean they have 0-1 Shadows cards in their hand, they could very easily have 2-3, or maybe even 4 if they held a card back.
The good people of the Bouncing Deathquark podcast have argued that playing hand plus board is most likely the correct play on most days. You often find yourself in situations where you must deal with a threat, and therefore have to pick a lower hand plus board.
Sometimes, however, it is better to play a lower hand plus board just because of the house distribution in your draw pile. For example, you may have 3 Shadows cards in hand, and 3 Brobnar cards. Plus you have 1 shadow creatures on the board, and it’s value is just reaping. If you’ve already seen 10 Brobnar cards, but only the 5 Sahdows cards and maybe 5 Logos cards then the chances of you drawing more Brobnar cards are slim. If you choose to play your Shadows hand, you’re most likely going to draw some mix of Logos/Shadows, making your next turn either another Shadows turn, or a mediocre Brobnar turn. However, if you play your Brobnar this turn, then the following turn you’re likely going to be able to play 4-5 Shadows cards, which is going to be significantly more efficient.
This choice can also come up with even hand splits like 3/3 or 2/2/2 with no board, making the right choice based on which house you’re most likely to draw may win you games.
Predicting the future
Most players know that if their opponent just played 3-4 cards from a house they are not likely to play that house again very soon, unless they have a strong board in that house. But sometimes you can also tell which house they are going to play. This is particularly true later in the game, as the more cards there are in the discard pile, the more information you have.
If you count cards you’ve seen in each house, it is completely possible to be able to discern which house they have the most of in hand, and then based on the house, predict what kind of play they are likely to make.
The discard pile is a treasure trove of information, use it. Worse case, your opponent may think you have graveyard recursion in your hand when you don’t, and it may make them make a bad choice as they play around a card you don’t have.