I am honored to host our first guest author on Timeshapers.com. I did some editing, but the writing is his. I’ll let him introduce himself!
Hi! To those who don’t know me, I’m CoDameron, co-host of the Bouncing Deathquark podcast and the guy who brings you streams and commentary for the US Vault Tours. I’ve recruited Aurore here to help me get the word out on a project I’ve been working on that I call the BDQube.
Since I’ve started playing Keyforge, I have amassed quite a collection of decks. Most of these decks end up being no more than a deck analysis experiment and a bonus ambershard before spending their life in a drawer. From what I’ve heard, this is not a unique problem.
Many players have come up with ways to use these decks in casual formats. Some formats split decks by house to Frankenstein together a new deck, others group decks by playstyle or rating and create new player-friendly sets to get people interested in the game. Among the more ambitious ideas for these old decks is to construct a cube.
What is a Cube?
The concept of a cube of cards comes from Magic: the Gathering. The idea is to gather your favorite pile of cards (typically between 360 and 500 cards), and deal them out as packs of ~15 cards to be drafted. In this way, a player’s collection becomes a reusable resource for draft play without spending $5 per player per pack. You can construct a thematic cube, a cube from your most powerful cards, or even a cube with custom cards thrown in. But the takeaway here is sustainability and creating a use for extra cards.
I have seen several KeyForge cube variants out there. From collection of decks to be used for auction, through a collection of houses to be drafted and assembled together, maintaining the original composition within a house. My choice was harvest individual cards from dozens of decks to create a more traditional drafting experience. I took around 40 or so decks that I don’t use and cannibalized them for my favorite cards. Let me walk you through the logistics.
Anatomy of a Keyforge Cube
Here is my recipe for a KeyForge cube, with an emphasis on balance. I’ve tested and worked out these procedures and card counts to suit my liking, but I’m sure there is room for flexibility. What I can promise is that if you follow these steps, your cube will run smoothly and you’ll have a good time.
The BDQube has 9 houses, each with 50 cards for a total of 450 cards, which supports an 8 person draft. Each house is composed of 2 copies of 15 of the best commons for that house, and 20 more uncommons and rares from that house. In some cases (such as Bait and Switch, Gateway to Dis, Wardrummer, and Duskwitch), I elected to include only a single copy of powerful commons (thus filling a rare’s slot). When I did this, I marked the front of the sleeve with a sharpie so drafters would know that another one wouldn’t be coming around.
Constructing a Keyforge Cube
Constructing this cube should take between 25 to 50 decks, depending on how many specific cards you want in the cube (mine took around 40). It can be daunting to deconstruct your Keyforge decks for the first time, but by following these instructions, taking apart and later rebuilding these decks shouldn’t cause you much trouble
Before you begin taking apart decks, you’ll need 2 boxes, one where you store all your decks, and a second one called the quarantine box. Any deck from which we take even a single card will be quarantined and live in that box until fully restored. Also, having your decks stored in transparent boxes (such as from Burger Tokens) is highly recommended. You will want to be able to see the fronts and backs of your decks throughout this process while keeping each deck together as a unit. If you do not have boxes like this, then rubber bands (that are not too tight) will make a fine substitution.
You will also need to have purchased 2 of the Keyforge deluxe boxes in your travels for your cube to really feel like something unique to Keyforge. What you need from this box are two unused house sticker sheets. I will expand on these later. Finally, make sure you have 500+ opaque sleeves of the same color and an 800 to 1000 card box to store the cube when you are done.
Now that we are set up, select your decks that are up for grabs. In my case, I had around 80 spares that I knew I might use. These decks start off in the storage box. Go over your decks and find the least represented house, start with that one. For many of us, this will be Saurian or Star Alliance, as they are new and are unlikely to have as many WC decks as CotA and AoA combined.
Now, one at a time, go through each of these decks with your target house and take out the cards you want in the cube. Stack the uncommons and rares together in a pile, and spread commons out such that you know when you’ve found two of each. At this point, don’t worry about the final count of (15×2 + 20), just grab what you like. After you finish with a deck, if you’ve taken even a single card out of it, put that deck in the quarantine box; otherwise, it can go back into the storage box.
When you finish with your first house, make the hard cuts from your selected cards to get down to the final 50 cards. Remember to try to maintain the balance between your creatures / actions / artifacts, and possibly consider how many amber pips you want in total on cards. Try to include slightly more creatures than actions in the common slots (especially in creature-heavy houses like Brobnar and Mars), and try to keep the strength of each house consistent. In my current iteration, I included the strongest cards from each house, but I can see an equally valid cube with nothing but duds or sticking to a theme like “no amber control.”
For the removed cards that did not make the cut, use the colors on the backs of the decks to easily sort them back to the quarantined decks where they belong. (Even if you re-complete a deck in this step, that deck stays in the quarantine box – it might get harvested from later).
Repeat the process for the next, least represented house. As you progress through the houses in the cube, start by searching quarantined decks for the current house first, and only delve into the storage pile if you feel you don’t have enough to work with. This is done to keep the number of used decks as low as possible. Remember, you can always come back to storage later, but once a deck is quarantined, we want to keep it that way. As you work through your collection, your quarantine stockpile should stop growing and you won’t need additional decks.
After you have chosen 50 cards from each of the 9 houses, take stock of what is in your cube. Count how many decks you harvested from and consider if there are any cards that did not show up in your search. For me, when I had finished, I realized that I had not found any Shadow Selves, a Grump Buggy, or a Library Access, and desperately wanted those cards in the cube. So I went back into my storage one final time with specific cards in mind. I found them, added them to the cube (and the decks into quarantine), and sorted the cards I took out of my cube back to their original decks. And in doing this, I saw a few more cards from the newly quarantined decks, and gave a little boost to my Sanctum and Mars houses. In this way, each deck you add to the quarantine can boost your cube in any of its 3 houses. Keep pulling decks and fine-tuning your houses until you get a balance you like. When you’re all done, get those cards sleeved, and into your card box. We have one more step before the cube is finished.
The Legacy Mavericks
The thing that makes this Keyforge cube special is that with one small addition, your cube will grow and develop as time goes on. Go find those sticker sheets from the deluxe boxes and cut them into vertical strips so that each strip has a sticker from each house on it (each deluxe box will provide 5 sticker strips). Take each of your 10 sticker strips and insert them into the sleeves of 10 random cards in the cube. If you haven’t guessed already, these stickers will let drafters create mavericks in deck construction and change the dynamics of how decks play out now, and how the cube will function in future drafts. These stickers could go on the sleeves or on the cards themselves, depending on if you plan to use the quarantined decks again.
Note: Legacy in this case refers to a genre of board games where the game adapts and changes after playing it, and not a card from a previous set.
Time to play!
Any game of KeyForge is best enjoyed in an even number of players, and drafting is no exception. Ideally you’ll have 8 players for a booster draft “pod”, which will allow you to play 3 swiss rounds, but it can be played with any number of player with some slight adjustments.
There are many ways in which you can draft. This cube was designed to imitate a Magic: the Gathering booster draft. Shuffle the entire BDQube (with the help of your friends) and then dealout 5 “packs” of 10 cards to each player. Players may not look at the packs at this point, and they should be kept face down.
Each player, simultaneously, takes one pack of 10 cards, picks a card and then passes the rest to the left. Then each player picks up the packs of 9 cards handed to them, picks another card, etc. This proceeds until all cards have been picked, at which point another pack is taken, and the aforementioned process renews, but this time packs are passed to the right. Keep doing so, alternating pass direction between packs until everyone has drafted 50 cards.
If you can’t fill the 8-person draft, the cube can work with as few as 4 players, but some balance changes need to be made. A smaller pool of drafted cards makes it possible that more players overlap on houses resulting in a shortage of those cards (which would not be very fun). I think the easiest way to fix this is to have a 6/7 player group draft 6 packs of 10, and 4/5 players would draft 7 packs of 10. This should give some flexibility such that even if one house is being overdrafted, players will be able to shift to another strategy and end up with an interesting deck. Conversely, if you find yourself in a group of 10 players, I bet it would be reasonable to draft 5 packs of 9, but reduce the number of cards required in a house when deckbuilding. Remember, this is a house-rules format, so play however it sounds best to you.
As you draft, keep in mind that you will be building a deck of 3 different houses, so try to draft only 3 or 4 houses. Once you finish drafting, you will have a total of 50 cards. And will be ready to start deckbuilding.
Winston Draft – Aurore’s Suggestion
A variant best suited for two players, a winston draft can use the same cube. I have tested this, and found I like it best with about 150 cards from only 5 houses. This creates some tension as there must be at least one house overlap.
A winston draft is done in a different way than a booster draft. Shuffle all the cards into a single common pool. Place two cards from the pool onto the table, call them pile A and pile B. In turn, each player will do the following:
Look at pile A. They may choose to take the entire pile or pass.
If they choose to take the pile, they pass the turn to the other player.
If the pass they do the same for pile B.
In either case, they add a card from the pool into pile A, even if it is empty.
After doing the same with pile B, if they have chosen to pass again, they must take the top card from the pool.
With your pool of 50 drafted cards, it is now time to build a Keyforge deck (I bet you’ve never said that before). The rules for building a deck are as follows: Each deck must contain 10 to 12 cards from 3 different houses (for a total of 30 to 36 cards). It is perfectly acceptable to have 10 cards of one house and 12 cards of another, as long as each house is in the acceptable range.
If a player did not draft enough of a house, they must add “Wounds” to their deck until each house has at least 10 cards. To make a wound, take any drafted card not already in the deck and turn it backward. This card has no associated house and is considered an action with the text: Omni: Discard this card. If you do, gain 1 chain. This card is intended to be a penalty for drafting insufficiently, but it still serves as a normal card that can be archived, purged, or reshuffled with the rest of the deck. This is a very important part of the BDQube, and the one I have the most faith in after testing.
Remember to return each player’s 14 to 20 unused cards to the cube box at the end of deckbuilding.
In addition to building a deck from the drafted cards, if a player has drafted any cards with a sticker set, now is the time to create some mavericks. The first and most important rule of making a maverick is that mavericks are always created in pairs by swapping the houses of 2 drafted cards. In this way, the total number of cards in each house in the cube does not change.
To make a maverick, take the card which has the sticker strip in the sleeve and any other card in your draft pool and use the stickers to swap their houses. Be sure to ask the owner of the cube if the stickers are to be placed on the sleeve or on the card face before you do this. (Also confirm if their cube allows a card to be re-mavericked – I think it is totally fine to do this). Finally, take the sticker sheet (which is now missing at least 2 house stickers) and slide it into a card that you drafted but that is not in your deck. The new card that received the used sticker sheet must belong to a house still represented on the sheet. Next time this card is drafted, it will be mavericked out, but with limited options. Note that a player may choose to not create a maverick with any drafted stickers, but the stickers must still be transferred to a new card before the next draft.
Playing your Creations
Once decks have been constructed, they are ready to play! It is typical to do a few rounds between players, but it is also reasonable to make a small tournament to be played. During gameplay, there are no significant changes to the rules except: since you do not have an archon card, you do not have to tell your opponent which 3 houses are in your deck. Playing blindly into what houses your opponent might have in their deck adds a unique tension and mystery to an already crazy game.
Also, something of note is that since every deck will have the same sleeves and no player has an archon card, it is important to keep track of who owns which cards in the event that cards be taken control of with a collar of subordination or abducted by a collector worm.
Once the rounds are finished, return the decks to the cube box and talk about the crazy plays that happened. A Brobnar deck with 12 creatures? Star Alliance fighting alongside Martians? A Maverick Library Access in Shadows? The cube format allows for a bunch of unique interactions that are hard to hunt for, given the pre-constructed nature of the game, while also providing just enough restriction for strategies to not become consistently overpowered.
As a final note on a cube session, I like to have players who participated sign the box itself, as they had some part in influencing the cube’s legacy. If you can, make a post about the crazy games you had on the Keyforge Facebook page or the BDQ Discord. If you do, give me a shout and let me know what you think of the BDQube.
That is Daisy, and I’m CoDameron, and thanks a bunch for reading.