Keyforge Formats: Survival

I have participated in store level 2 deck true survival, and I have participated in 6 round 3 deck survival into top cut. This article is me sharing my thought processes with you, in an effort to give you another perspective so you may find your own.

Top Cut vs True Survival

Since I have only played true survival at the store level, I don’t have as much to say about it besides the fact it’s a fun change of pace, but it is not casual friendly. Casual players might not have two strong decks, and will get knocked out and just play less. Casual players often come to play more rather than win more. True survival means some people must be knocked out along the way, and can’t keep playing at the event.

I do have a 2 deck true survival coming up in the Belgium Grand championship, and so I have put a lot of thought on what to bring and how to order my decks. You ideally want all your decks to be robust enough to make it to the top.

Top Cut is an odd beast, it makes day 1 a triple elimination bracket, but then doesn’t adequately reward players going 6-0. In my case it did reward me for going 5-1 by giving me a round 1 bye.

I don’t quite understand why they don’t simply continue day 2 as True Survival, rewarding the players that went 6-0 and 5-1.

Deck Selection

The only real question I needed ask myself, is which deck I want to play in the top cut. In my case, the choice was Flare the Conspicuously Philanthropic, mostly because I knew it could stand up against Adm. Inslang, the Pink Fraud. But more generally speaking, a top cut deck should have answers to what you expect the top cut meta to be. Evaluating the meta though, is a topic for another article, and not specific to survival.

The choices for the rest of the decks are the same as an archon format, you pick what you believe is strong and what you are comfortable playing. The exception is if you’re playing 1 day true survival, you want your other decks to be quick, so you won’t get fatigued on the way to the top.

Deck Order

When I talked to people about deck order, specifically in top cut format, the consensus seemed to be to put your top cut deck last. You do this in order to protect it as best as possible, and you concede later rounds if necessary to get to it.

While trying to figure out my deck order, I took into account it is fairly likely that 5-1 will get a round 1 bye. By placing my top cut deck second, it meant that if I’m 4-1 then my last round game is to allow me to play the deck I want to play.

Even disregarding the fact that the consensus is to concede into your third deck, which would mean that my opponent is likely to concede if they want their third deck, I still prefer to play round 6. The reason is that if I don’t play round 6 and concede to my third deck, then I am quite likely to have to play that additional round on day 2. So it essentially means the same amount of games, only I add another game to day 2, which may cause fatigue.

Not only that, if I play that crucial game on day 1, I get to fall back on deck three and not get knocked out. While if I do the same game on day 2 and lose, I’m done.

There is of course the scenario in which you lose 2 games early, and then you have to play your third deck all the way to the top. It is why I recommended my SO play her best deck third. Her decks were not on par, so there is a bit of a gap between the deck strength, and that if you’re X-2 you’re generally playing weaker opponents. So putting your top cut deck last is definitely a valid strategy, it is just not the only one.

Top Cut

I still lament the fact top cuts don’t have a best of 3 all the way, or at the very least a double elimination bracket. Getting knocked out of a top 32 because of a bad draw or even a bad matchup just doesn’t feel great. People come to big events from all over the world, and having it all end in one game is anti-climatic.

Double elimination brackets only take 1 round more than single elimination brackets to declare a winner. It really should not be an issue to run events with double elimination top cuts.

Survival Vault Tours

After posting this article it sprouted a discussion about how bad it can feel to participate in a survival event. You could be traveling quite far to participate in a vault tour, and being kicked out of the main event after half the rounds is disappointing. Not only do you not get to play, you also lose the chance at 15 shards per win.

And there are several events now that have been cut down to two deck survival, which means a full quarter of the players will be knocked out after two rounds. Survival is not a welcoming format, and as such is not a good format for big events that have players traveling to from all over.

Contact and afterward

I’m curious if anyone would put their top cut deck first, planning on going 6-0. There seems to be less advantage doing so as I don’t think you can get 2 byes on day 2.

Hope this was helpful!

As always, you can follow me on twitter for updates. And join us at the Sanctumonious discord server if you’d like to chat with me, or join an awesome community of keyforge players.


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4 Responses

  1. Ira says:

    Good article! Can you clarify the rules of the survival format in more detail? I infer that you bring 3 decks, and are out once you lose 3 times. But how does top cut work currently? For example, here is a survival event I’m thinking about attending:

    According to that, you get to pick the deck you use in top cut, so there’s no incentive to concede. Maybe the rules are changing?

    Also, while I’d rather regular Swiss over Survival, they are offering 2 entries into side events as well, so maybe it’s ok? Do you find that survival is more intense/dramatic, because you know you could be eliminated so easily? It definitely seems like a much more cutthroat event and could lead to bad feelings if you get eliminated quickly. If I traveled a long distance and go 0-2 in a 6 round event, I’d rather have the option of playing 4 more games or dropping to play in a side event, instead of being forced to drop and play in a side event. That said, I can see the benefit of simplicity by forcing people to drop. It’s basically saying: all we care about is top cut, and if you can’t make top cut, then just stop playing in this tournament.

    Finally, regarding double elimination in the top cut, I disagree with you. Double elimination adds 2 rounds, and it makes the final match way less climatic. I also don’t mind playing top cut as best of 1 initially. There is randomness in KeyForge! I accept that, and I’m happy to have a more random tournament outcome, giving weaker players a slightly better chance to succeed in a tournament environment – that also means if there’s a particularly strong deck (*cough*echogamer*cough*) it can still lose.

    I think my favorite variant for top matches are best of 3 with adaptive, since that tests many more skills – playing with a new deck, assessing deck strength and matchups properly, etc. So if we want to make top cut more skill intensive, I vote for adaptive best of 3…

  2. timeshapers says:

    Yeti gaming have been allowing to choose any of the surviving decks. This has not been the case in europe, I am not sure why.

    I don’t feel survival is more dramatic, just potentially more disappointing.

    2 rounds then, still less time than doing best of 3 for top 16 or even top 8.

    I do mind playing single elimination in the top cut. I have no problem playing against Echogamer.

    I don’t like adaptive, at all, and FFG seems to be moving to a single format throughout an event, so no format changes for top cut. I also do not wish to make it “more skill intensive” and even if I were, I don’t believe Adaptive does that. It mitigates some of the power disparity between decks, but it does it in a very, very poor way.

    I want to reduce 1 bad draw killing a run, which double elimination accomplishes. Yes, I would prefer best of 3 top cut, but organizers shy away from it due to time constraints.

  3. Ira says:

    Interesting. Why don’t you like adaptive? It seems fun to me to get to play with someone else’s deck, and to be able to balance the power level disparity via chains.

  4. timeshapers says:

    Because chains does not balance power disparity, it makes the chained deck more random to play, as you see less cards and the chance for a bad draw increases. It is not a good balancing method.

    You spend 1 game teaching your opponent your deck, which is meh. And if there is a high power disparity between the decks you spend 2/3 of the games going through the motions.

    There are more reasons, like it completely invalidates the concept of playing the meta, and it feels much worse to get a bad draw with your opponent’s deck than your own.

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