I’ve been meaning to write on this topic for a while now, but only today did I feel like something formed into a cohesive article.
Before I begin, I want to mention hard locks. Hard locks are situations you simply can’t get out of. Sometimes they require setup and sometimes they happen immediately. You can’t get out of a hard lock, but you can often prevent it.
The two most common hard locks are:
Double Tezmal or a single Tezmal with Rocket Boots is often enough for a hard lock, if you are forced into a single house that can’t remove them, or if you don’t have any cards in play or hand at all from that house. You’re locked out of the game. This lockout requires at least a turn to set up, and when you see those double Tezmal hit the board, you better do your best to clear them. A step further of course, is double Tezmal with Rocket boots, meaning you can’t pick any house.
The next one is Control the Weak and some kind of setup that allows to play it every turn, like Witch of the Eye and Dominator Bauble. This is similar to the double Tezmal, as it forces you into a single house. Witches must die anyway, so just kill the witch before it happens like you usually do and you should be fine.
Soft locks differ from hard locks in that they still allow you to play, but they often make a certain line of play very disadvantageous. In a way, a soft lock is harder to play against. A hard lock offers one opportunity to get out of it, before it is set up. If you don’t, you’re out, and there is nothing more you can do. A soft lock on the other hand challenges you repeatedly to find a way out before you lose the game.
One of the most common soft locks is Nature’s Call and Witch of the Eye. This allows your opponent to return up to 3 of your creatures back to your hand every turn. After the first time you do this, you will not be drawing any more cards, meaning that if you just repeat the process, you are stuck and they win. Thus making playing creatures a disadvantage.
This soft lock also works with Glimmer. It is slightly harder to get rid of, since the Glimmer is going to be in their hand rather than in play for you to kill. The upside is they can only return 2 of your creatures.
Recognizing the Soft Lock Early
One of the key things to getting out of soft locks is to recognize you’re in one as early as possible. In the aforementioned Witch of the Eye and Nature’s Call, if you played 3 creatures when they have a Witch of the Eye in play and a Nature’s Call in their discard pile, you’re a turn too late.
Ideally, you’ve recognized the potential for a soft lock while reviewing your opponent’s Archon card. Since Witch of the Eye is a key component in many soft locks and hard locks, looking for them when you see one should not be too hard.
Getting out of Soft Locks
As mentioned, a soft lock often makes a certain play a disadvantage, and currently most soft locks involve creatures in some way. The best way for getting out of a creature based soft lock is to simply not play any. However it’s not the only one. If you’re under a Nature’s Call soft lock, if you manage to craft a hand with enough creatures, you can possibly overwhelm the soft lock and get out of it. Another option is creatures with strong play abilities. If you have a couple of Urchins in play, I don’t think your opponent is going to return them to your hand every turn.
Think about your deck. Even look at your Archon card if you need to, and figure a way out. Do this as soon as you realize you’re in a soft lock.
Obscure soft locks
Some soft locks are obscure, and therefore harder to recognize, especially before the first repeat. It is still important to assess whether a play is a disadvantage.
I had the pleasure of setting up this soft lock. A Gauntlet of Command, a Warchest, a Fooze and double Groke. It doesn’t look like much at first glance, until you realize that by playing a creature you’re losing an Æmber, and gaining me 2 additional Æmber.
If you don’t play creatures, I reap for 4. 3 creatures, then ready and reap with one using Gauntlet of Command.
If you do play a creature, I kill it with Groke and you lose an Æmber. Then I reap for 2 with Foozle, 1 with the other Groke, 1 from chest, then ready and reap with my Foozle for another 2. Netting me 6 Æmber and a lose 1 for you.
Now, it may still be a good idea to play some creatures in order to whittle down the Grokes, but you have to make sure it is worth it. If you play a Dust Pixie you’re gaining 1, dealing 1 damage to a Groke and gaining me 2 more. Not worth it. Play a 4 power or higher creature and it’s a different matter of course.
Contact and afterward
I hope you find this article useful. I have another post brewing, about my thoughts on the different formats available in keyforge, so stay tuned.