Potential Aember and Exalting: Or why I don’t like Saurians

I finally figured out why I dislike Saurians, and it has to do with a broader topic. I have listened to Brad Andres talk on several podcasts about the design philosophy behind Saurians. Paraphrasing, the idea behind Exalting is Hubris, and they didn’t want Exalting to be a trap, so they made all common cards with Exalt almost always worth Exalting.

To which I say, if it’s almost always the right choice, how is it Hubris?

Potential Æmber

When you pass the turn to your opponent, you have a rough idea of how much Æmber they are likely to generate. For example, they could reap with each creature from a house, and get 1-3 Æmber pips out of hand (depending on the type of deck they’re running). Even if you don’t do any counting, you have a rough idea of how much Æmber your opponent could gain at any given turn.

As a prelude to this article, I wrote about Æmber Per Turn which is the average Æmber a deck might generate every turn. While Potential Aember is a similar concept, it is more grounded when actually playing a game. If your opponent has 4 creatures on the board from a single house, you know their potential Æmber is at least 4. Depending on when the last time they called that house, you can estimate how much more Æmber they might generate from hand.

Aember on Creatures

Whether you Captured the Æmber, Exalted, or it got there by some other means, Æmber on your creatures increases your opponent’s potential Æmber. If you have 3 Æmber on one creature, and they have a bunch of single target removal in their deck, you can consider their potential Æmber +3 from whatever it would normally be.

If that Æmber is spread among 3 creatures and they don’t have any board clears, then their potential Æmber doesn’t grow as much, since they aren’t likely to use one card to kill all three. If they do have board clears, their potential Æmber is again +3.


Since creatures can reap, a creature with a single Æmber on it doesn’t always increase their potential Æmber. They could use a creature to fight and kill yours to get the Æmber back, but they could just as well reap. Sometimes killing the creature is still correct, especially if it is a repeatable steal like Sequis, but their potential Æmber still didn’t grow.


In theory, Exalting should increase your opponent’s potential Æmber. You should be making some kind of calculation regarding whether that increase in potential Æmber is worth the benefit you’re getting.


In the case of Questor Jarta, is giving them +1 potential Æmber worth an Æmber in your pool? If you’re ahead that is almost always a yes, while if they are ahead it might be a more nuanced proposition. It is also worth thinking about how Jarta might be removed; If it is by fighting, then you haven’t really increased their potential Æmber, especially since it has Elusive and might require two fights. You could Exalt Jarta twice and if they fight into it to kill it, you haven’t actually increased their potential Æmber at all as they foregone two reaps.


Phalanx Strike has similar math, as killing an opponent’s creature reduces their potential Æmber, so it keeps it in balance. If their creature is threatening enough, it’s definitely the right call.


Rhetor Gallim is quite tricky. If you can get them to pay +3 for their key it’s very likely worth it, but if you’re stopping their forge, that is an entirely different situation. How much is stopping a key worth? Well if it’s the third key, it’s worth everything, while if it’s the first key it probably isn’t.

I could go on and analyze each and every exalt ability, but I think I gave a good basis for you to think about it and analyze it yourself. If you’re unsure about a card, feel free to drop me a message and I’ll give you my thoughts.


exaggerated pride or self-confidence

Senator Shrix

To me it would seem that for Exalt to represent Hubris the Exalting should be risky. A choice that isn’t always useful and if you just do it left and right all day long, you’ll get punished. How often have you played against Saurians (Specifically in Archon) and they chose not to Exalt Senator Shrix? I mean, it happens for sure, but usually it will be Exalted and you’ll have to spend considerable resources to mitigate the advantage it gave them.

With warding and cards like Scutum and Ludo, the risk in any competitive Saurian deck is reduced to nothing. More often than not, having Æmber on your own Saurians is actually an advantage. Not the ability you gained from Exalting, but the actual Æmber itself.

A while back, Scuzzy Gruen of HFFS Podcast asked which Saurian card most needs a nerf? Giving Axiom of Grist, Tribute and The Golden Spiral as options. I responded with “none”, and we had a very civil debate on the subject. I still think none of those need a nerf for being too powerful, and I don’t think Saurians are an issue in competitive play.

However, the card I would like to see nerfed is Senator Shrix. Not because it is too powerful, but because it goes against what I think the design should have been. The idea that a common card can allow you to benefit from having Æmber goes against the philosophy of Hubris. There is no Hubris in putting Æmber on a Senator Shrix with a Scutum on it. Sure, some effects in the game can still get the Æmber back, but they are too few to be reliable.

Senator Bracchus and Imperial Forge are of course in a similar space, but at least they’re rares.

Contact and afterward

I don’t feel very strongly about a supposed nerf to Saurians. I have no problem playing in a meta where Saurians exist. My main dislike will be sealed, but since I don’t intend to go to any events before worlds, I’m not likely to be playing WC sealed.

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.



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7 Responses

  1. Ira says:

    I think exalting senator Shrix is definitely a real risk – there are lots of cards that return creatures to hand or shuffle them into the deck. Your opponent may be planning to play Hysteria anyway, so exalting just gives them bonus Amber for doing it. I certainly don’t think it’s always best to Exalt Shrix, and with no elusive and 4 power, 1 armor, he’s often relatively easy to kill in a single fight. If I make him a target with the exalt, my opponent can fight next turn and get the amber. True, if I didn’t exalt they could have gotten the amber from reaping, but if they had reaped, I’d still have my creature.
    Of course, there are tools Saurians have to protect captured/exalted amber, notably Ludo, wards, and Scutum, but I definitely don’t think exalting is as clear-cut as you make it seem.
    As always, thanks for the article!

  2. Odin Sonnah says:

    My own personal experience in a local meta with a heavy emphasis on board control has lead me to have the exact opposite opinion on exalting. It’s almost never worth it. In fact I have a deck with an above average SAS rating which I use for reversal, because it’s just too good at exalting, and ends up giving away piles of free aember as a result. I’m not saying you should never exalt, sometimes it is worthwhile, but every exalt aember you put on one of your creatures is only a board wipe away from being a free aember that their deck didn’t have to earn. Also, the cost of fighting to kill one of your creatures with only a single aember on it isn’t just breaking even, because they could have reaped and gained the same benefit. Because if they had, you would also have one more creature left to reap with on your own turn, so they also took that aember away from you. You gave them the option of removing your creature without losing any progress towards their next key. While there is no simple one-step solution which will give you the right line of play everytime, your exalt abilities are only truly free if you can guarantee the aember will never reach your opponent’s pool, and that is far easier said than done.

  3. Steve Kingswell says:

    Very interesting topic, but Aurore are you really saying that you don’t like Saurians because Brad likened their design around Hubris? Overall there is a decent set of occasions where many players will say ‘oh go on then, I’ll add another aember’ while pumping their chest out. I think Brad got it about right.

    Is there a gaming reason you prefer not to play Saurians? They do pretty well in tournament play.

    • timeshapers says:

      They do not provide interesting decisions. Pile up more aember is not an interesting choice when it is almost always correct. There is no risk, there is just more aember.

      • Ira says:

        Let’s get more specific. You’re saying “almost always correct to exalt.” What do you really mean?

        Of all the times you have the opportunity to exalt during the game, what percent of the time do you think it’s correct? And, perhaps also count the times that you don’t even call saurian because you wouldn’t exalt in that moment, even though you could.

        Personally, I’d say I exalt maybe 70% of the opportunities. That’s definitely not “automatic,” for me, and it’s an interesting choice.

        As a comparison, I play or discard all the cards of the current house way more often – like 80-90% of the time. But that rare situation when I choose to hold a card still makes it an interesting choice. It’s the same with saurian. I might exalt most of the time, but each time it’s a choice, and the consequences of that choice are real.

        • timeshapers says:

          It’s not a choice that comes from risk assessment. It’s a Do I have scotum/ludo/ward/taunt? exalt. Don’t have it? don’t exalt. In some creatures, you just always exalt because the ability is too powerful.

          It’s not an *interesting* decision. It’s a super easy and simple one.

  1. July 4, 2020

    […] Aurore (who’s no stranger to my tournament recaps) has been tactfully vocal about her dislike of the Saurian Republic, one of the new houses introduced in Worlds Collide. When she signed up for this tournament that […]

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