Early Mid and Late game

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A long time ago, someone (I believe it was Nathan Starwalt of Tabeltop Royale) suggested a topic for an article. I remember having some interesting idea and wanted to ask Grant Titus (Crucible Tracker) for data. Alas, that idea was lost as I didn’t write it down.

But when I wrote the article on APT (Æmber per Turn), I realized that APT is something that changes throughout the game.

Keys are not it

An oversimplified look at the three stages of the game is which key are we looking to forge. First key? Early game. Second key? Mid Game. Third key? Late game. While the stages of the game might align this way, it definitely isn’t always the case.

It is also important to note the distinction between each player’s stage of the game, and the overall stage of the game. A player may be looking to forge their first key while their opponent is looking to forge the third. Is that game in the early stages or late stages? We’ll explore that question later.

For now though, we need to remember that some decks don’t really follow a clear path along the stages, and might play exactly the same in all three stages.

Early Game

In the early game there is no board established. There isn’t going to be much reaping since players need to develop a board first. That means that APT is comprised mostly from actions, and is going to be lower.

During board development, players play some creatures and their opponents take them out. Boards are kept largely in check, and fighting might occur more, as reducing a players delta from 2 to 0 is a lot more effective than reducing it from 5 to 3**.

If you opponent has a good draw, plays three Brobnar creatures which you don’t answer, followed by two more, you’re no longer in the early game. They have pushed to mid game on turn two.

It can be said that in the early games the focus is more on establishing a board than generating Æmber. Though there are of course decks, CotA rush comes to mind, that go straight to generating Æmber and don’t care about the board. There are also combo decks that spend the early game crafting a good hand to pull off the combo, or finding the combo pieces.

Realizing you’re in the early game can allow you to play a little different than in later stages of the game. You can take your time as long as your opponent has not established a board. Need a couple more cards to pull off a good Library Access turn? The early game is a safe time to craft your hand. Your deck likes having a bunch of artifacts out? This is when you can choose to play them over generating Æmber.

Some decks will shine in the early game. A CotA rush deck loves being in the early game as they don’t need to establish a board in order to win, so if they can keep their opponent from reaching their mid game, they will likely win.

Mid Game

During the mid game boards have been established. When fighting you’re not trying to remove their board entirely, but rather pick off key pieces. Maybe you can reduce their board from 4/2/2 into 2/2/2 to reduce their delta, and therefore their APT.

A board clear can often reset the game, but it doesn’t always revert it to early game. If players have already forged 1-2 keys, you might already be in late game. But if the board clear comes in early enough, players might need to rebuild their board in order to generate the bulk of their Æmber.

Even CotA rush decks might adjust their playstyle once their opponent have reached mid game, as they could put a priority on taking out those key creatures in order to reduce the effectiveness of their opponent’s board.

Combo decks will likely spend the mid game crafting their hand, and when they do this, the clock is ticking. Once a combo deck has crafted a good hand, the late game can be extremely short. If you’re facing a combo deck, make the push for late as soon as possible.

Lastly board focused decks, the likes of which are abundant in Worlds Collide, will use this opportunity to generate the bulk of their Æmber and push for keys.

In the finals of the Belgium Grand championship, I establish a five sanctum creature board. I use it to reap twice, pushing my first key and then switching to another house. The reason I did this is because my opponent just went off a Martian Generosity, that means that my board is not going to last as my opponent has overwhelmingly more resources than I do. If I were to reap another time, I would be staying in the mid game, with no ability to push into late, and I would lose due to lack of resources. My Logos hand was mediocre and I needed to get it out of my hand in order to find better plays.

Late Game

Once a player threatens to win the game, it is the late game. If a combo deck has a well crafted hand with all the combo pieces, they are about to win. If a rush deck has enough Æmber in order to push for the third key, they’re about to win. If a board based deck can reap a bunch and disrupt their opponent’s end game while doing so, they are about to win.

In the late game you can no longer afford to concede resources. Every play you make must take into account the game might end before your next turn. I don’t mean just a key cheat, although that is something relevant too, but even if you can only steal 2 Æmber, you need to make sure they can’t go to 8.

Key Cheats like Key Charge are hard to play around, and sometimes no matter what you do, they’re going to hit you. Your opponent might just go double dust pixie nature’s call into key charge and that would be it. But sometimes reducing their APT in untamed by one or two can stop it from happening. If you know or suspect they have a key cheat, reduce it’s effectiveness in the late game.

If your opponent could pull off some combo, that isn’t OTK (one turn kill) then you need to force them to respond to you, go to check for the last key and they might not be able to pull off their combo as you force them to stop you in a different house.

And even against a non-combo deck, going to check for third key can severely limit their options. In the mid and early stages of the game, they have the option of conceding the key in order to make a better play, on the third key they obviously do not.

Player stages and game stages

I think that roughly speaking the player further along their game plan is setting the game state. If a player is in the early game, and their opponent is in their mid game, they need to play as if it is the mid game. They will need to control their opponent’s board to prevent them from running away with the game.

Likewise if your opponent is in the late stages, you can no longer play as if it is the early game, even if you are in that game stage.

In contrast, if you’re in the mid game, and your opponent is in the early game, you have more flexibility. You can try stopping them from reaching their mid game, or you can push for your own late game.

This is to say, your opponent’s stage of the game restricts your choices only if they are in a later stage than you are.

Contact and afterward

I hope this will help you pay more attention to the state of the game, so you can make better decisions.

** I wrote this down, and then was unsure about it. I asked around, and people seemed to agree with me. A teammate said that dropping someone to zero completely halts their progress, while dropping someone to 3 only delays them.

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.

I also started streaming on twitch. I am still learning the ropes and I have a lot of dead air time. But I think I provide some useful commentary on the game and my decision making.


Aurore is a competitive KeyForge player and the founder of Timeshapers. She's a content writer by trade and aspiring game designer. Follow @Timeshapers1