Top Ten Cards in Keyforge: One Person’s Opinion
I thought it would be fun to put together a list of the top ten cards in Keyforge. It should be noted that these are only my opinions. As such, all statements below should be regarded as just that – opinions. Many people will disagree with my choices here, and that’s fine. I intend for this article to be less of a definitive list, and more of a conversation starter. Feel free to comment on the Keyforge Discords about your thoughts. With all that said, let’s get on to the list.
#1: Lateral Shift
I don’t think this pick will be controversial. Lateral Shift simply gives more value than any other card in Keyforge. It’s not only the best anomaly, but the best Keyforge card. It gives you three benefits. First, it allows you to see your opponent’s hand. Some cards, like Imperial Traitor, essentially give you that as their only benefit. The ability to know what your opponent is holding and what they might be thinking of doing for their next few turns shouldn’t be underestimated. Second, LS allows you to remove your opponent’s best card from their hand. This makes it kind of like a targeted Mind Barb. The only other card that I can think of in the game that does this is Brain Drain, and in that case they get the card right back. With LS, it’s not coming back. Third, you get the removed card. This takes your opponent’s best card in hand, and puts it into play for you. This can allow you to use your opponent’s hand as a toolbox for what you need. Is your opponent running away with the board? Play their board wipe. Do they have a problematic artifact in play? Play their hard R. Or just turn their best card against them. Force them into a house with their Control the Weak, or put their Etan’s Jar into play for you. The possibilities are limited only by your opponent’s hand.
#2: Martian Generosity
This card was only printed once, in a fairly crappy house (Mars) in a fairly crappy set (AOA). And yet, it remains a backbone of the competitive play scene. It’s mostly associated with the Genka combo, and yet it can be just as dangerous without it. One of the most chained decks in Keyforge, Elder “Hedge Bet” Haas, has double Martian Generosity and a Key Abduction to boot, allowing for one-turn kills (OTK). The reason why Martian Generosity is so dangerous is that it allows for card advantage that is unmatched by any other card. Library Access pre-errata was close, but even that required playing it twice or more to take full advantage. Generosity’s ability to quickly draw you ten or more cards is devastating. Your next few turns will likely be five or six card turns, and your opponent is going to have a hard time keeping up with that kind of value. Add in Key Abduction for free keys, and it’s easy to see why Martian Generosity is the second best card in Keyforge.
As an aside, if anyone is curious, here’s how the OTK in Elder Haas works. Play a big Martian Generosity and draw most of your deck, hopefully including Key Abduction and the other Martian Generosity. Play Key Abduction for a free key and an Æmber. Play Mars First to reap a Mars creature, hopefully Xanthyx Harvester. This gives you four Æmber, enough to draw another eight cards, which should allow you to re-draw Mars First, Martian Generosity, and Key Abduction out of your discard pile. Play Key Abduction again for your second key. Use Mars First on Xanthyx Harvester again. Play Generosity to re-draw Key Abduction, and use Key Abduction to forge your third key, winning the game.
#3: Etan’s Jar
In Keyforge, there is only one reliable way to stop Martian Generosity. In fact, it will also stop Lateral Shift. It will stop quad Routine Job decks. It will stop BRIG. It will stop the Dr. Verokter combo. It will stop any problematic card. It is Etan’s Jar, the third best card in Keyforge.
Etan’s Jar has three major uses. First, it neutralizes problematic opposing cards, such as all the aforementioned ones. It hard shuts down combos. This is its primary use, and its best use, but it has other things it can do as well. For one, it can protect your artifacts. Let’s say your deck has a Dark Æmber Vault or an Auto-Encoder that it depends on. Well, if your opponent brought Poltergeist or Reclaimed by Nature, you can lay down the Jar on that card, and shut down their hard R. Third, Etan’s Jar can sometimes serve as hard R in its own right. If your opponent brought a DAV, you probably don’t want to deal with that. If you get your Jar down before they get their DAV down, you can name the Dark Æmber Vault, and they won’t be able to play it. In high level Keyforge, there is almost always a threat that needs addressing, and Jar addresses threats better than any other card. That’s why it is so high on this list.
#4: Control the Weak
It was a tough choice to put this card so low, as many would claim that this card should be number one. It’s worth noting that this is the first COTA card to appear on the list, and it deserves that honor. After the errata to Library Access and Bait and Switch, there was no COTA card that was as feared as Control the Weak.
Why was it so terrifying? Mostly because it removed player choice. If you want a measure of just how strong this card was, note the fact that they have been trying to fix it ever since COTA. Cards like Snag, Snaglet, Mark of Dis, and Allusions of Grandeur have all been attempts to fix this clearly OP card. CtW is usually applied in one of two ways. The first way is to try to force your opponent into a dead turn. Maybe your opponent just played down a bunch of Sanctum creatures that they were hoping to reap with the next turn. You play Gateway to Dis, destroy all their Sanctum creatures, and then play CtW to force them into Sanctum again, likely causing them to have to simply pass, or maybe play only one card. This could especially be abused by players like George Keagle, who are skilled at reading what their opponent likely has in hand and forcing them into sup-optimal turns. The other primary use of Control the Weak was getting to check, preferably for your third key, and then forcing your opponent into a house with no Æmber control so that they couldn’t stop you. The fact that this card was a common and often showed up in multiples could make for some brutal games. This card is also the subject of one of the oldest questions in Keyforge – why did they think this card needed a pip of Æmber to make it even better?
#5: Nature’s Call
I feel pretty confident about my ordering of the top four cards. Slot five is where I think the list gets a little more interesting. At first glance, Nature’s Call looks pretty harmless. A new player might think, “So, my creatures go back to my hand. I’ll just play them again next turn. No big deal.” Experienced players, though, know that this is one of the top cards to look for in Untamed. I once bought a deck, The Sir of Chesterrealm, almost entirely because it had three of this card.
So why is Nature’s Call so good? Versatility. It can function to drive your Æmber engine, or to disrupt your opponent’s game plan. The best Æmber burst decks remain COTA Untamed decks, and they tend to be built around three key cards: Hunting Witch (or Full Moon), Dust Pixie, and Nature’s Call. A top-tier COTA rush deck like “Galaxy” Tycho, Manor Arrowsmith can play down Hunting Witch, drop two Dust Pixies and another Untamed creature, play Nature’s Call, and then drop them again. That’s fifteen Æmber right there, in a game that theoretically takes eighteen Æmber to win. The rush strategy is very effective against MM and DT, as those two sets don’t have punishing scaling Æmber control like Too Much to Protect or Interdimensional Graft.
However, Nature’s Call can also disrupt your opponent in two ways. First of all, it can simply send three creatures back to your opponent’s hand. Your opponent then has to replay those creatures, and so it wastes time. They can’t cycle and move through your deck because they’re stuck replaying creatures they already played. Obviously it’s bad to send back creatures with play effects, but there are generally lots of targets available that don’t have play effects. Cards with Alpha or Omega tend to be particularly good targets. Also, it’s best if you can send back creatures of three different houses, as that will slow your opponent down more than sending back three creatures from the same house. Decks like Eventually Obtuse Inka thrive on this kind of disruption.
The other way that Nature’s Call can disrupt your opponent is that it ruins Saurian game plans, and many Star Alliance game plans as well. Your opponent has a Ludo out, or a creature protected with Imperial Scutum? No problem. All you have to do is bounce the creature with the Æmber back to their hand, and you get it all. It even works when Æmber has been hoarded onto something like a Reassembling Automaton. Many Star Alliance decks have upgrade based strategies. Unless one of those upgrades is Encounter Suit, Nature’s Call will send the creature back to hand and dump all the upgrades in the discard pile. This is an effective way of dealing with a Voltron creature like a Z-Force Agent 14, or stopping an Away Team from triggering.
Oh, and the best part of Nature’s Call? It’s so versatile that it lets you combine the above options. Abandon Ship deserves an honorable mention here as well. It has a similar effect, and even seems better with four targets, but it is actually worse for three reasons. First, with Abandon Ship you must choose four targets, while Nature’s Call lets you choose up to three targets. Second, you need to have the tide high to get the full effect, whereas Nature’s Call just gives you the full effect automatically. Third, Unfathomable just doesn’t have the quality targets that Untamed does. The Play effects aren’t as good.
#6: Too Much to Protect
As previously alluded to, before the errata there were two clear best cards in Keyforge: Library Access and Bait and Switch. In fact, The Wossy on YouTube even did a mostly fan selected list of the best cards in Keyforge, and those two cards came out on top. However, after the errata, Bait and Switch fell off in power dramatically, as it simply didn’t have the scaling Æmber control power anymore to deal with COTA rush decks. In stepped Too Much to Protect, affectionately known as TMTP.
This card warps games. Just the threat of it keeps rush decks under control. If there is a possibility that the opponent has it, you can’t do a crazy burst turn, or risk getting hit with the TMTP. It’s scarier than cards like Doorstep to Heaven or Effervescent Principle because it doesn’t just make you lose Æmber; it punished you for having had that Æmber by giving it to your opponent.
This spot on the list could just as easily have gone to Interdimensional Graft, but I prefer TMTP for two reasons. First, when your opponent already has two keys, Graft becomes useless, whereas TMTP still works. Second, TMTP can actually work to pull an opponent off check, assuming that key cost is above six or you have an additional piece of Æmber control to pair it with, maybe a Skeleton Key. Now, some might argue that Graft is better because it gets around steal protection like Discombobulator or Odoac the Patrician. This is certainly true, but I still think TMTP is stronger.
#7: Punctuated Equilibrium
Etan’s Jar may be the only card that can disrupt your opponent’s plans more than Punctuated Equilibrium can. Unless they have significant archiving, most players tend to hoard their important cards in their hand until they can pull off their combo or make their big play. Cards like Impspector or Mind Barb might disrupt your opponent, or they might not. However, Punctuated Equilibrium is guaranteed to take out everything in their hand. By the way, this works especially well with Infurnace, as you can then remove their key pieces after dumping them into the discard. It’s an almost surefire way to break up a Verokter combo, and it tends to devastate Battle Fleet decks.
The other thing that Punc does for you is allow you to play a big Untamed turn. Typically you will play three or four Untamed cards, play Punc, and then play out a couple more Untamed cards. This is obviously even better if you have an Auto-Encoder, as you will also get to archive a bunch of cards. However, beware of opposing Auto-Encoders! If your opponent has Auto-Encoder, you should wait to play Punc until their deck is as close to empty as possible, as it will minimize the amount that they can archive with the Encoder.
#8: Amphora Captura
According to average AERC, this is tied with Lateral Shift, Martian Generosity, and Etan’s Jar as the best non-Gigantic card in the game. It’s easy to see why. I wrote an entire article about the Amphora Captura, so I won’t repeat everything here, but essentially it boils down to two things. First, the enhancements on the Amphora are amazing. If they were their own card, it would be one of the best cards in the game. Second, the Amphora’s other ability can be game-breaking, especially combined with Curia Saurus, Senator Bracchus, or some other way to use an opponent’s Æmber.
#9: Captain Val Jericho
I was originally going to list this as an honorable mention. However, it kicked my butt several times this week on TCO, and I revised my ranking. If Val comes out early and isn’t immediately dealt with, the opponent will almost certainly lose the game. The ability to play one off-house card every turn is incredible. It not only allows you to move through your deck faster, but also allows you to play key cards at key moments. The fact that it’s a static effect makes it even better, as you don’t have to call Star Alliance to make it work, as is the case with leaders such as Lord Indivius or Eldest Bear.
The only other leader that I think is at a similar power level is Zenzizenzizenzic. Zenzi’s ability to keep eight cards in your hand is also very powerful. Still, Zenzi doesn’t allow the kind of house cheating that Val does, and so I think Val is somewhat stronger. Invidius is also quite good, given its ability to completely disrupt your opponent’s game plan by stealing their creatures, but it pretty much locks you into Dis.
There were a lot of options for this last slot, and I debated heavily about it. I strongly considered several artifacts here, including Auto-Encoder and Proclamation 346E. However, Infurnace has shown over and over again that it is the meta. It is consistently the most brought card in high level tournaments (along with Thero Centurion, interestingly). It probably produces more feel bad moments than any other card in the game.
Infurnace serves two primary purposes. First, it’s Æmber control. It devastates cards like Virtuous Works, Strange Ordination, Dust Pixie, and so on. Of course, its worst fury is felt by Fertility Chant. Infurnace leaves the Chant player with an impossible choice. Play it and give your opponent two free Æmber, or discard it and simply lose four Æmber. A deck has to be really good in the current meta to be able to bring a Chant and get away with it.
Of course, while Infurnace does provide some Æmber control, its primary purpose is disruption. It can take out key combo pieces. If it purges a piece of the Verokter combo or a Martian Generosity, that can totally shut down the strategy of a deck. Just be careful playing it against Universal Recycle Bin, as that can actually set up combos.
Here are some cards that didn’t quite make the cut, but easily could have. Many people probably would put them on their lists, and I wouldn’t blame them. These are in no particular order.
One of the best efficiency cards in the game, it works with several combos and it turns junk cards into archives.
Amongst the game’s best Æmber control, its primary downside is that it only exists in AOA Sanctum.
Archiving five cards is incredible by itself, but its purge ability and the fact that it’s extremely difficult to get off the board make it high impact whenever it hits play.
Another tremendous feel bad card, as the Tribute/Sic Semper or Tribute/Exile combos felt quite broken and too easy to pull off.
The fact that it’s a big taunter is fine, but not super high impact. The fact that it purges junk out of your deck every turn is where this card really shines.
Especially following up a Gateway to Dis, this card could easily swing a game by bringing back half a dozen Dis creatures to control an empty board.
If all it did was archive a card when it came into play, it would be good, but the key cost increase is what makes this card great.
This card has the benefits of Exhume, but then it also allows you to use the card after it comes back into play.
As I said at the beginning, this list is by no means authoritative. I put it together with the intention of sparking discussion, so please feel free to discuss. I would love to hear your thoughts on Discord. What did I get right? What did I get wrong? I can be reached on most Keyforge Discord servers as jfkziegler and on TCO as SecondAct.