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Theorizing about Adaptive decks

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It is known that I’m not a huge fan of Archon Adaptive, but the format is going to be a huge part of the Vault Warrior series and maybe even world championship. In other words, it’s here to stay and I want to understand it better.

Deck aspects

I’m not experienced enough at Adaptive to say what kind of deck I want to bring, and definitely not good enough to tell you what to bring. What I’m going to do is look at different deck aspects and muse about what they would mean in an Adaptive match.

A difficult deck to master

The first thing that comes to mind when discussing Adaptive decks is the idea that if a deck is difficult to play, the owner of the deck will have an advantage over the other player in game 2. However, since you basically spend game 1 teaching your opponent how to play your deck, and your opponent in a high level competitive event like Vault Warrior is probably no dummy, I don’t know how valid this is as a strategy.

For the deck to truly burden your opponent it would need to be so quirky and weird that playing it in game 1 of every match might be quite taxing. That is not to say that some quirkiness isn’t desirable, especially if you have an affinity for that quirkiness. It is definitely something worth considering, but possibly not the ultimate strategy.

A weakness to exploit

If a deck has a weakness you’re well aware of, you may be able to exploit it during your games against it. For example, I have a deck in which all the √¶mber control comes from fighting. Knowing this, I can choose to discard creatures when I make a push for the last key, leaving my opponent playing my deck facing an empty board and no way to stop me.

Other weaknesses may be lack of removal, or very specific types of removal. When looking over a list in two minutes, or even while playing against it, it might be hard to notice that all the spot removal is Hand of Dis, so placing important creatures on a flank is advisable. Every deck has some kind of weakness, and knowing what it is will come from playing it a lot. Choosing a deck with for it’s weakness should probably mean a subtle weakness, not an immediately obvious one.

High rolls

Some decks can high roll and end a game quickly with a good draw. The very best of those decks don’t have really bad draws, just regular ones and high roll ones. Imagine a deck with triple hunting witch, recursion and dust pixies. If you get them all together, not many things can stop you, and since you don’t choose the other deck in the match-up, you can’t know if the deck will go off the charts against you.

By bringing a high roll deck to an Adaptive match, you’re putting more eggs in the luck basket than I’d be comfortable with. Sure, it may high roll for you, but it also high roll against you. I’m actually not sure how this compares to a high roll deck in a straight up bo3, but I feel it is similar to bringing a deck that can low roll to an Archon Solo match.

Low roll

If the deck usually does ok or better, but sometimes has completely dead draws (not talking about 2/2/2 hands here), then it can be similar to a high roll. It might happen to you, and it might happen to your opponent. Furthermore, bidding chains on a low roll deck can be dangerous. Chains don’t just restrict power, they also increase variance because the chance of bad draws increases.

However, if you’re absolutely determined never to play it in game three, maybe that can work in your favor.

Vulnerability to specific cards

Suppose you have a nice EDAI, Tautau deck that archives a bunch, that deck does not want to see a Dysania. Now if you’re matched up with one, some very weird things can happen. If Dysania doesn’t show up in the right time in either game 1 or 2 (too early or too late) and your deck wins both games, how do you bid on the deck? Do you bid high and hope Dysania doesn’t show? Worse, if Dysania did show up in both games and wrecked your deck, now you’re bidding on the Dysania deck, and every chain reduces the chance of it showing up, a very tough bidding game, though one that if mastered, could potentially yield good results.

Again, I am not sure how this compares to a straight up bo3. It is said that a deck that has a favourable matchup against 80% of the field and a bad matchup against 20% of the field is a good deck, but how does that work in Adaptive, if the deck matchup doesn’t necessarily matter as much? A bad matchup means you’re likely not going to be bidding on your own deck, and you’ll need to evaluate how bad that matchup is for the chain bidding.

Consistency under chains

A deck can be consistent under chains or inconsistent. Some decks, usually ones with lots of house cheating and card draw, can easily withstand significant amount of chains. While decks that rely on combos or tempo might suffer greatly under even a few chains. I have no idea what is preferable, but I’d feel better bringing either extreme than bringing a deck that responds inconsistently to chains.

Combo decks that rely on specific cards turn into high/low roll decks under chains. If you see the cards you need you win, and if you don’t, you lose.

Slow decks

There is a big risk in going to time and any decks that prolong the game run the risk of going to time. It is important to note though that a deck that will win game 1 and go to time is better than one that will lose game 1 and go to time. That is because if time is called in game 2 then the winner of game 1 wins the match.

It was pointed out to me that bringing a deck that might make your opponent play more slowly when they play it is also possibly ill advised. Imagine bringing a deck in Chinese, and your opponent struggling with the cards. Games will take longer, and even if you don’t go to time, your endurance will suffer.

Weak decks

If you bring a reversal quality deck to a match, you’re likely not going to win game 1 outside of some really good luck, or your opponent brought a similarly weak deck. However, this provides an interesting strategy whereby the player bringing the weak deck simply concedes game 1 immediately. You play out game 2 never showing your opponent what said weak deck is capable of, and then move on to bid on their deck. It’s a risky gambit, but it might pay off, especially if you manage to keep your rounds shorter this way.

I do however have some issues with bringing very weak decks to an Archon Adaptive tournament, and that is what happens when you face an extremely strong deck you have never played. Are you really able to know if the deck could win with 20+ chains after playing it just once?

Strong decks

Similar to very weak decks, strong decks might generate a huge disparity in power. Contrary to weak decks, you’re going to be bidding on a deck you know very well and presumably tested with any number of chains. If you do face a very weak deck, you might choose to concede game 2 right at the start and move on to the bidding, not letting your opponent get the feel for how the deck might perform under chains. Funnily, if both players decide to go for the concession tactic, you could end up just playing Adaptive Short.


Contact and afterward

Hope this gave you some food for thought. It has for me. I’m planning to explore my collection for some Adaptive decks, and I’m hoping to share that process with you.

As always, you can follow me on twitter for updates. And join us at the Sanctumonius 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