Why Zoom When You Can Doom?
When it comes down to it, there are two main ways to win a game of KeyForge: play more cards, or play more powerful cards. The hottest archetype in KeyForge right now is called “Zoomies” by many players. Zoomies decks aim to overwhelm their opponents through sheer card advantage, while also benefiting from the fact that extreme draw speed serves as a force multiplier for impactful cards that might otherwise stay buried in the deck.
What are Doomies?
Going fast isn’t the only way to play the most cards. I have been working with quickdraw3457 from the Sanctumonius-Timeshapers Discord on a new strategy that we are calling “Doomies.” Doomies are like Zoomies, but in reverse. Rather than generate advantage by snowballing into increasingly efficient turns, Doomies generate advantage by pushing opponents into the mud and preventing them from gaining traction themselves. Reducing the number of cards your opponent can play each turn ends up having more or less the same in-game effect as increasing your own speed.
Doomies theory starts with a few baseline assumptions about what a typical game of KeyForge looks like:
- Typical games last 10 turns. Most of the decks I have played a good number of games with on the TCO tracker average around 9-10 turns per game. A random sampling of data from others who play a lot of tracked games confirms that a 10-turn game is a reasonable baseline in the current meta.
- Strong decks play over 3.5 cards per turn. I have powerful decks that average fewer than 35 cards in a 10-turn game, and weaker decks that play many more than that. But a large sample of good decks seem to average between 3.5 and 4 cards played per turn.
- Weak decks play around or under 3 cards per turn. Most of my mediocre decks are able to play far fewer cards per turn than my good decks, to the tune of more than 5 fewer cards in a 10-turn game. Of course, some decks can land a board and stop playing cards. But most decks struggle when they can’t average better than three cards played per turn.
- 1 chain causes you to play .5 fewer cards over the course of 10 turns. I stole this number from a simulation run by ashepelev in the KeyForge Sims channel on the Decks of Keyforge Discord. Due to the fact that the 7th chain decreases your hand size by two cards instead of one, chains 7-12 cause you to play .67 fewer cards per turn. I have yet to find a Doomie that can inflict a 13th chain of damage, but Dark Tidings is on its way!
Putting it all together yields the central insight of Doomies theory. If you can reduce your opponents average cards played per turn by more than .5 cards, you can turn their strong deck into a weak deck. In order to reduce an opponent’s play speed to that degree, you need to saddle them with an average of 1 chain per turn (or 1 chain worth of some other kind of hand disruption) over the course of a 10-turn game—10 chains total.
Based on this theory, quickdraw3457 and I rated all the cards that disrupt an opponent’s hand size or composition and ran a search using thecrucibletracker.com’s ratings tool. We rated Binding Irons at 3 points (for three chains), discard effects at 1 point (for one Subtle Chain), and bounce effects at a half point per card bounced (under the assumption that bouncing a creature with no play effect of a house your opponent won’t be calling soon is almost a chain worth of disruption). We identified a lot of interesting decks with Doomie scores of 10 or more for sale, and we tested and purchased a few (but don’t worry—we left plenty for your, dear reader).
These are a few of the decks we’ve enjoyed as a result of this project. I don’t think we’ve found a Vault-Tour winning Doomie yet. But these three decks highlight a few lessons we’ve learned that are worth sharing.
Disruption is amber control. Aurore has previously written that speed can replace amber control. Other skilled players have noted that disruption can replace amber control as well (though I don’t know if any of them has written an article on that yet). The fact that this is true is one reason Doomies work; Doomies make their opponents so slow that they can function on less amber control than most decks.
Aegea l’Agile, Piromane del Camino is a great example of this principle in action. The only amber control cards in the deck are Charette, Shooler, Silver Key Imp, and Lifeweb. But the deck is still able to survive until turn 10 and threaten a win because it makes its opponents unable to take meaningful game actions and progress through their deck. I don’t think I’ve ever had an opponent shuffle their deck against Aegea. And I feel favored against COTA rush even with 3.6 A.
Doomie effects are self-synergistic. A single Binding Irons does not feel that impactful in most games. Two of them start to add up. And playing the card a third time to push an opponent above six chains is very difficult to come back from—the difference between a four-card hand and a five-card hand is so much bigger than the difference between five and six.
Stitch of Ziosker relies on the fact that the power of discard effects increases in a nonlinear fashion to make opponents’ lives miserable. One Tocsin is a minor annoyance. More than one Tocsin, or one Tocsin activating more than once in a turn, can destroy your hand and leave you struggling for a number of turns.
Doomie effects make your Witches more powerful. Everyone has a list of “Witches”—fragile creatures with powerful on-board effects like Witch of the Eye—that they kill on sight. It is usually worth it to take a slightly less efficient turn to clear an opponent’s Witch. But when you are already Doomed, that additional dip in efficiency feels even worse. And that’s when your choked and cluttered hand can deal with the Witch at all!
Anixotail, The Crook Recluse has Witches in every house: Tezmal, Professor Sutterkin, and Duskwitch. And it has ways to recur them, all while attacking its opponent’s hand with Binding Irons, Gongoozle, and the Glimmer + Nature’s Call soft lock. That combination gives it serious play.
Going all-in on Doomies isn’t likely to be as mainstream a strategy as Zoomies is—there just aren’t enough cards that enable it in any set (yet). But learning this playstyle is worth your time as we look forward to Dark Tidings and an increase in the frequency of players working with chains in Archon Solo events. And I think there is a chance that Unfathomable could give us a high enough density of disruptive effects to take things to a new level.