This is the second in a series of articles looking at some of the major artifacts in the game of Keyforge. These articles will highlight why the artifact is important, how to play with the artifact, and how to play against the artifact. In our first article, we looked at Auto-Encoder. Today, we are going to look at Amphora Captura.
Based on results, one could make the argument that the Amphora has been the single most impactful artifact so far in the Mass Mutation meta. It was an Amphora deck, Prastary Juliusz „Błyskawica”, that took down the online Glorious You tournament at Sanctumonius. Another Amphora deck, Tetratar of the Chieftain’s Crystal Cave, won the Survival event at Keyforge Live. This shows how important Amphora Captura has been to the meta. Let’s find out why.
Why is Amphora Captura impactful?
Imagine that they printed a Keyforge card that did absolutely nothing except have six bonus icons: two aember pips, two draw pips, and two damage pips. That would be a fantastic card! It would have the Æmber of Dust Pixie, the draw of Timetraveller, and the damage of Sucker Punch all rolled into one card. That’s effectively what Amphora Captura is. Yes, the pips get spread throughout the deck, and that does make the draw less effective, and the damage a little less effective. It’s still some of the best value that you can get off of one card.
Oh, and that’s not all the Amphora does. It also allows you to convert those pips into capture pips. This can be valuable for a variety of reasons, depending upon what cards are in your deck for it to combo with. Even without combos, it gives you a ready source of Æmber control that you can use in any house, assuming that you have the pips to do so. One of the best pieces of advice that was given to new players back in the COTA era, and still rings true today, is to make sure that you have Æmber control in all three houses in your deck. Amphora gives you that by default, meaning that an opponent can’t Control the Weak you away from your Æmber control to safeguard a key.
How do decks use Amphora Captura?
The primary way that Amphora is used is as a form of Æmber control, like I mentioned above. However, there are a number of cards that combo well with the Amphora Captura. To illustrate these, I am going to use a deck that I purchased recently, Шаман Фокс Быстрый Хряк.
The first and most obvious combination with the Amphora is Curia Saurus. Curia protects your captured Æmber, making it hard for your opponent to get it back. They can’t risk playing a board sweep, or most of that captured Æmber will bounce onto their biggest creature, and then into your pool. You do want to be careful not to give the opponent an empty board, or they will be able to board sweep without the Curia effect triggering.
Another combination with Amphora Captura is Scrivener Favian. If you ever see your opponent land Favian when they have an Amphora in play, you must kill Favian as soon as possible, even if it wastes a turn doing so. This is because Favian allows a player to take all of those damage pips or draw pips, or even Æmber pips, turn them into capture, and then turn them into steal. That’s right, with Favian in play, every single pip that an Amphora player uses will become a steal pip. That can swing a game very quickly.
The third combination with Amphora is Axiom of Grisk. Amphora allows you to capture Æmber onto your creatures before playing the Axiom so that your creatures will survive the Axiom (and one will even acquire a ward), while your opponent’s creatures will die unless they happen to have Æmber on them from a previous capture or exalt.
There is a fourth card that combines very well with the Amphora, though this deck, unfortunately, doesn’t have it. Amphora Captura makes a fantastic combination with Imperial Forge. Since the Amphora makes it easy to put Æmber onto your creatures, it makes it fairly easy to get the Imperial Forge to go off and cheat out a key, maybe even for free.
There is one weakness to the deck shown above that you might have noticed. In an Amphora deck, you want as many pips as possible, and so having only nine bonus pips is not ideal. Cards like Splinter, which are normally not great, are amazing in an Amphora deck, as they offer you boatloads of pips.
Of course, discussing pips leads to an interesting question. When should you convert your pips into capture with Amphora, and which pips should you convert? That brings up our next section, which discusses making hard choices with Amphora Captura.
What are the hard decisions about Amphora Captura?
Primarily, the hard decisions regarding the Amphora revolve around when to convert pips into capture and when not to. Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. If you have a Favian in play and your opponent has Æmber, then every pip should be converted into a steal.
Also, if your opponent is about to forge their third key, then you have to use as many pips as is necessary to stop them. If they are forging their first or second key, it is often worthwhile to stop them, but that depends on how many resources it will take to do it. With that out of the way, let’s look at more nuanced situations with the three non-capture pip types.
In general, damage pips are the least valuable type of pip, and so the most likely to be used as Amphora captures. Unless there is an obvious target that needs to be killed, such as a Duskwitch or a Babbling Bibliophile, I find that it is almost always better to use your damage pips as capture to slow your opponent down and force them to take the Æmber back. This is even more true if they are playing Sanctum and might have Cleansing Wave in the deck, as that makes damage pips counter-productive.
Draw pips seem to be a controversial area. Some people really like them; others find them to be not helpful. The major issue with a draw pip is that you should generally have about a one-third chance of hitting an on-house target with a draw pip, meaning that you will miss two-thirds of the time. Of course, knowing what you have left in your deck can impact these odds. If you are playing Logos and you know that six out of seven of the cards left in your deck are Logos, then playing draw pips is probably a good idea. If you are playing Dis and you know that six out of the seven cards left in your deck are Logos, then it’s probably not as good an idea to use draw pips.
In general, I support using draw pips as capture. I feel like getting a benefit that you are 100% certain to get, that of capturing an Æmber, is superior to a 33% chance that you will draw a useful on-house card. This, of course, also depends on the game state. Using two draw pips to pull your opponent off check is usually a fantastic use of resources. This is especially true if you can put those pips somewhere that they will have a hard time getting them back, such as on a Galeatops or on an elusive creature hidden behind a taunter.
The third pip type, Æmber pips, I am loathe to turn into capture unless I absolutely have to. I will turn them into capture pips if I desperately need to keep my opponent off a key, but again it depends on which key it is and how many I have to convert. If I need to convert four Æmber pips into capture to keep my opponent off of their first key, then chances are I am letting them forge. However, if I have to convert one Æmber pip into capture to keep my opponent off their second key, then I probably do that. As stated above, I will convert any amount of any pips to keep my opponent from forging their third key.
The other interesting strategic question regarding Amphora is whether you play it against artifact control. You clearly play it against soft artifact control like Remote Access, because soft artifact control doesn’t affect it. I also support playing it against hard artifact control like Poltergeist or Reclaimed by Nature, because you might as well get whatever use out of it you can before it gets destroyed. That said, if you can bait out the hard R with another artifact to protect the Amphora, or protect the Amphora with an Etan’s Jar, you might want to hold the Saurian artifact back until you can accomplish that other task.
Against Sneklifter or Borrow, I would be hesitant to play the Amphora Captura. It’s true that if your opponent steals it, they don’t steal the pips that the Amphora already provided to other cards. That said, the Amphora still has a powerful effect, and it can come back to bite you. This is doubly true if your Amphora is paired with something like Curia Saurus because then your opponent can turn your entire strategy against you, especially if they are playing an MM deck.
How do you play against Amphora Captura?
Obviously, the biggest answer to the question of how to play against an Amphora is to use your hard R to neutralize it or your Sneklifter/Borrow to take it. However, assuming that you don’t have relevant artifact control, what should you do then?
Well, the first answer is to try to keep your opponent’s board under control. Priority number one is to kill Scrivener Favian if one comes out. Beyond that, the Amphora can only capture Æmber, so the best way to neutralize captured Æmber is to leave your opponent without creatures to capture onto. Thus, constantly fighting or using targeted removal or board wipes to keep your opponent from building a board is a good way to keep the Amphora from doing too much damage.
However, this advice becomes reversed if there is a Curia Saurus in play. Whatever you do, do not play a board wipe against a Curia Saurus when your opponent has their Æmber spread out effectively among their creatures. All the Æmber will bounce to your biggest creature, and then into your opponent’s pool. In that case, your best option is actually to keep your board empty. If your board is empty, your opponent’s captured Æmber won’t have your creature to bounce to, so instead it will go directly to your pool when you board wipe, which is where you want it. I suppose some decks might be able to pull shenanigans with Exile or Scowly Caper to give you a creature, but that’s pretty rare.
One card that is extremely effective against Amphora Captura is Master of the Grey. If your opponent cannot use pips at all, then they cannot turn them into capture pips. A well-protected Master of the Grey can do serious harm to an Amphora deck.
Reading your opponent’s list is important to playing against the Amphora Captura. Once you see the Saurian artifact, see if they have the other key combo cards to go with it. Is there a Favian? Is there an Imperial Forge? This will let you know how aggressive you need to be in keeping their board under control. You also want to look at how many pips they have. If you see multiple Mutant Cutpurses or a Splinter or something like that, you know that the Amphora is going to have a lot of juice. However, if the only six bonus pips in the deck are the six from the Amphora, that means it will have a bit less gas to run on.
Amphora Captura has established itself as maybe the pre-eminent card in the current meta. Copycat decks are a real thing (even in Keyforge), and you have to be prepared to face powerful decks using the Amphora as a key piece of Æmber control. Know the combos, read your opponent’s list, and try to bring hard R if you can. Or better yet, find yourself an even better Amphora deck. If you agree with me about Amphora Captura, or if you disagree or think I missed something, feel free to let me know. I can be reached on most Keyforge Discords as jfkziegler or on TCO as SecondAct.