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Narrowing down the final deck choice

Thundrofect asked me “If you have two really good decks how do you personally figure out which one is better?” and all I had as a response was “Interesting question.” I am sure they are thrilled with my response, having gotten affirmation, but maybe I can do better.

In any case, I’m going to assume that by “better” they meant “has a higher chance of winning a tournament where they both qualify to participate”. Naturally, when looking at triads it gets more complex than Archon Solo, so I’m not looking at that here.

Acquire Data

Having played a select few decks to 100+ reps you know them in and out, but do you know their data? There are many data points one can acquire for a deck. You don’t really need all of them, and some be more time-consuming to gather than others. Here are a few I can think of, I am sure there are more.

Win percentage

The most obvious data point is win percentage. If you play online on TCO, then you can look up the deck’s win percentage in the deck import tab. This might not paint an accurate picture. I don’t know about you, but I don’t play at 100% of my ability all the time and I am sure I lose a bunch of games in random TCO games that I wouldn’t lose in a tournament. What I recommend is that you play about 20 games with high focus, record those, and then check the win rate in those 20 games. This is also useful if one of the decks was really hard to master and in the first 50 games you had a low win rate and only later climbed higher. Also of note is that focused games require a warmup, so it’s ok to sit down to play with a few games with a deck and decide (preferably ahead of time) that the first game or two are only warmup games and not record them.

Win and Loss reason

Another data point you can record while doing the final testing is the reason, to your knowledge, of the result. you may have won a game because you had good luck or your opponent had bad luck. That may still happen in a tournament, but it is best to ignore those games when assessing a deck. If you opened a game with 6 cards of the same house going second and won, that’s not a very good indicator of the overall performance of the deck.

The same goes for an opponent that played poorly. If you recognize a big misplay on your opponent’s part consider striking the game from the record. They may have not warmed up prior to the game, or are playing a deck that is new to them. Maybe you played poorly and feel you wouldn’t do so in a tournament. It’s fine to give yourself some slack. Having compassion towards one’s own play mistakes is vital to enjoying the game. This is also true for tournament play.

Key Cards

If your deck relies on a combo, powerful artifact, or any key card like Martian Generosity, you should investigate the impact of the card coming late in your game. A card has a 1/6 chance of being in the bottom 6 cards of your deck. If it is, do you always lose? Do you win some of the time? When recording games record when the card showed up and adjust your findings.

Martian Generosity

If during your testing your special card was hiding, maybe you can strike those losses. The chance of the card being in the bottom of your deck in 2 games during 6 round tournament is… I’m not sure, but the internet says it might be 26%. Which is acceptable in a tournament. Regardless, it is useful information to have. Maybe one deck has a key card and you lose without it, while the other does not.

The Gauntlet

Every team in KeyForge has a set of decks they test against. Not necessarily decks they own, but proven decks from past tournaments. If you run your deck against one such gauntlet you’ll have a good idea whether or not the deck can perform. Keep in mind though that getting even a few wins against such decks might be a good indicator that your deck can perform. Those top decks are brutal.

If you don’t have a specific testing partner that is willing to run those gauntlet decks against you, there are other ways to get a gauntlet for your deck. One such way is to hop over to the Sanctumonius-Timeshapers discord and post in the #cruicible-rumble-coordinator channel that you’re looking to get the snot beaten out of you. Make sure to tag the @Archon Solo discord role to get the right people’s attention.

Another option is to contact specific people to play against, tell them you’re looking to test a deck for a tournament. If you know they own a particular deck you’d like to test against be sure to mention it. Lots of people stop playing their signature decks against random people because it results in a one-sided demolition, they’ll likely be happy to oblige.

Just don’t get discouraged by low win rates when running the gauntlet. Remember, the purpose here is to choose the best deck from a few options, so what is important is comparing how well each deck does against the gauntlet.

The Meta

Ah yes, the all-elusive meta. Episode 2 of the Timeshapers podcast talks about what a metagame is. To summarize, it is what you expect to see in a tournament. For example, the most popular card in recent tournaments, by far, has been Infurnace. This means that your deck should be able to handle your opponent playing 2-3 Infurnaces in a game. That is a very simple part of the meta and information relatively easy to find. You could just hop over to Sanctumonius-Timeshapers discord and ask, and will likely get it. The more difficult part is trying to assess the style of decks you’re likely to see. I’m not going to explain how to predict the meta, as it’s a whole mess of a topic, but if you think you can make an educated guess about the meta, then definitely consider picking a deck that thrives in the meta you predict.


Have Fun

I know, I know, you asked which deck is better. But you know what makes you play better? Having fun. If all else is equal, definitely pick the deck you enjoy playing more. But even if not everything else is equal, playing a deck you really enjoy can be a significant boost in a long day. It definitely matters how long the tournament is. A deck you enjoy playing can carry you through a longer day while playing something a little funkier might be fine for a shorter day. But, you know, just have fun.

So to answer the question regarding which deck is better among a select few you must test them. You must test them with some extra care and more scrutiny. You should record as much information as you can to help you make a choice. Think about what the deck can beat and what it can’t and how likely you are to face those things. Or, you know, just ignore all that and play the deck you like better.


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