Getting the Most Out of Your Artifacts: The Sting
This is the fourth in a series of articles looking at some of the hard to play artifacts of Keyforge. The series has previous covered Auto-Encoder here, Amphora Captura here, and Fangtooth Cavern here. This article is the first to feature an artifact that first debuted back in COTA, as we will be talking about The Sting.
When I first saw The Sting, I thought it was a good way to burst six Æmber, and therefore likely a key, by calling Shadows twice in a row, but I didn’t think much more of it. After all, it was the COTA era, and other than a couple big combos like LANS, most decks were pretty straightforward. It wasn’t until Vault Tour Albany, when an AOA deck featuring The Sting made top four, that I started to realize that The Sting might be better than I gave it credit for. Today, I divide The Sting decks into three major archetypes.
Archetype #1: The Straightforward Sting
These decks play The Sting the way the card is written. They wait until the opponent is about to forge a key, and then they drop The Sting. The opponent forges a key, they get six Æmber, and then they call Shadows the next turn so that they can break The Sting and start to take advantage of the six Æmber. At that point, the game basically becomes a race. The opponent has been spotted a key, but the Sting player should have a significant Æmber advantage. The question then becomes whether the Sting player can turn that Æmber advantage into three keys before the opponent can forge their other two keys. Playing The Sting in this archetype can give you an advantage, but usually not a huge one. It sets you back in tempo because you’re typically calling Shadows two turns in a row, but at the same time the Æmber burst is quite large. It is true that some players will wait to go back into Shadows later to get rid of The Sting, but that sets tempo back even further. To me, the other two archetypes seem like better uses of The Sting.
Aurore’s note: Playing The Sting from behind in this archetype is very often a death sentence. If your opponent is up one key and you play The Sting, at best you equalize your footing, but calling Shadows twice in and of itself can be bad. Shadows is hardly ever a main house, so you’re not likely to be able to utilize a board on the Shadows turn. The ideal is to play The Sting when you’re ahead. This puts significant pressure on your opponent, especially if sacrificing The Sting puts you on check for your third key.
Archetype #2: The Off-House Sting
As mentioned above, one of the major problems with getting rid of The Sting by calling Shadows is the tempo loss. However, what if you could get rid of The Sting without the tempo loss? In other words, what if you could destroy The Sting in another house? One way to do this, obviously, is to use artifact removal. Cards like Poltergeist, Reclaimed by Nature, Harvest Time, and others can allow you to destroy The Sting off-house, and the latter two will even give you Æmber for it.
There’s another card that can be even better. If you can find The Sting in a deck with Oath of Poverty, it can be a huge Æmber burst. Not only do you get rid of The Sting, but you get two Æmber for doing it, plus one Æmber for playing Oath of Poverty. You also generate two more Æmber for each additional artifact you destroy. As long as your opponent doesn’t have Too Much to Protect or Interdimensional Graft (or any other major scaling Æmber control), that type of Æmber burst has a high probability of winning you the game.
Here’s another fun trick. If you have The Sting in a deck with Anahita the Trader, you can send The Sting over to your opponent and take two Æmber for it. Even better, if your opponent doesn’t have Shadows in their deck, then they need to call a dead Shadows turn just to destroy The Sting and get their forge a key step back.
Another good way to destroy The Sting without calling Shadows is Scientifical Hack. With Scientifical Hack in play, you can destroy The Sting no matter which house you call on the next turn, giving you free rein to call whichever house you feel works to your best advantage.
While this archetype is certainly better than The Straightforward Sting, I still think it pales in comparison to the best archetype, which we will talk about next.
Archetype #3: The Key Cheat Sting
As I mentioned before, the Albany Vault Tour totally changed my thinking about The Sting. The deck that did this was I. Volteius, the Dale Bishop. Volteius takes advantage of a key aspect of The Sting. Unlike Heart of the Forest, The Sting doesn’t prevent keys from being forged. It merely makes you skip the forge a key step. That means that key cheats still work. Volteius has one of the best key cheats in Keyforge, Chota Hazri, and it can re-use it with Nature’s Call, Regrowth, World Tree, or Song of Spring. Therefore, Volteius’s basic strategy is to generate a bunch of Æmber with The Sting and its other Æmber generating cards, and then use the Chota three times to forge its three keys.
One of the beautiful things about this strategy is that it gets around the problem that the other two archetypes have; it doesn’t need to get rid of The Sting at all. In fact, it really doesn’t even want to get rid of The Sting. Instead, it wants to keep The Sting in play and preferably use it twice in order to generate twelve Æmber. Put that twelve Æmber together with the Æmber that Volteius naturally generates, and it should be easy to get to the twenty-one Æmber that would typically be required to Chota three times.
Of course, Volteius is not the only deck that can take advantage of The Sting in this way. There are a lot of decks that have The Sting along with key cheats. Volteius uses Chota and recursion, but other decks might use something like Key Charge with Glimmer or Nepenthe Seed to achieve a similar effect. These are not hard decks to acquire, either. A quick Decks of Keyforge search I just did turned up four decks currently for sale that have The Sting, Chota, and Nature’s Call. When I acquired Thwartive “Nana” Delphinus, my Key Cheat Sting deck, I think it only cost me $20 or so.
Now, it’s worth noting that the meta has shifted since Albany, and certain cards that are running around can be pretty harmful to a Key Cheat Sting deck. Infurnace is everywhere, and if Chota or Key Charge gets purged, that’s bad for one of these decks. Etan’s Jar can obviously be very harmful to any combo deck, and these decks are no exception. Brain Drain could also disrupt a player’s ability to play The Sting on the turn that they want to play it.
How To Play Against The Sting
The Sting is one of the hardest Keyforge cards to counter. Because it can be played down right before a key is forged, it is very difficult to stop it from going off unless you have a hand attack card like Brain Drain. Playing against The Sting tends to be much more about how you react to it rather than trying to prevent it.
After someone plays The Sting, they are likely to be sitting on a boatload of Æmber. This means that scaling Æmber control is really good against The Sting. Too Much to Protect, Doorstep to Heaven, or Effervescent Principle can be really good to negate most of the Æmber gained from The Sting. However, be careful with Interdimensional Graft. Remember that your opponent won’t be forging during their forge a key step, so Graft won’t automatically trigger. In fact, a player using a Key Cheat Sting deck can probably dodge the Graft entirely.
It may seem like using artifact control against The Sting is a bad idea, and it usually is. Destroying The Sting allows the Sting player to forge a key during their normal forge a key step. That said, there are times when a Sting player wants to keep The Sting in play; usually, if they are playing a Key Cheat Sting deck. In these cases, it might make sense to destroy The Sting to prevent it from generating more Æmber.
If you don’t want to destroy The Sting, be careful about playing cards like Remote Access or reaping with Nexus. In either case, if The Sting is the only artifact your opponent controls, you will be forced to destroy it.
There are also some more cheeky ways to play against a Key Cheat Sting deck. For instance, you can use a card like We Can All Win or Titan Mechanic to forge for less, netting the opponent less Æmber. One thing is for sure, make sure that you never forge for more than six Æmber against a Sting deck, or you will net your opponent even more than six Æmber (unless you have TMTP, and then feel free to do so).
The Sting is a fantastic card that can have a dramatic impact on a game. However, it does have limitations, and as with most cards, knowledge is the key to playing well with or against it. I hope you have enjoyed another artifact strategy article, and please let me know if you have any comments or questions. I can be reached as jfkziegler on most Keyforge Discords or as SecondAct on TCO.