The card you choose to open the game with can set the tone for the rest of the game. It usually isn’t the most critical decision you’re going to make, but why not squeeze any advantage you can out of it? What should you play turn one in KeyForge?
What should you play turn one in KeyForge?
BDQ talked about first play as first player considerations on their podcast back in June 2019, and while I wrote some of their core concepts from their podcast, I believe I have not covered first plays. Furthermore, some fine folk over at the Sanctumonius-Timeshapers discord offered some fresh perspective on the subject. And, well, KeyForge has changed quite a bit since the days of BDQ and while their core concepts hold as a heuristic in most situations, there may be new ones to consider.
A turn one tier 1 play is usually obvious, a high impact creature that have left unanswered will generate value. A turn one Duskwitch can force your opponent to play a house they didn’t intend to deal with it, and if they can’t it can generate immense value. Other cards with immediate impact such as Zenzizenzizenzic, Lord Invidiuas, or Master of the Grey also come to mind. These are fairly obvious turn 1 plays, and anyone with some play experience can recognize their impact.
A tier two play would be anything that you can develop onto the board to give you an answer to a tier 1 play by your opponent. If you drop a big creature then you give yourself a tool to deal with your opponent’s turn 1 Succubus or Tomwa of the Glow. Naturally, bigger creature can provide better insurance. Some creature are even better answers than just a body to fight with, Jackie Tar can, if needed, kill up to a 6 power creature and can get past Elusive. Other enablers can be Artifacts that can kill creatures, or enable your creatures to be used immediately such as Gauntlet of Command, Special Delivery, or Essence Scale.
A tier three play would be any card that enables your deck, provides long term value and is likely to stick around. This is mostly reserved for artifacts. Artifacts you want to have in play next time you call the house like a Dominator Bauble or a Memory Chip are good examples. Strong general effects like Auto-Encoder are also strong options. And if you prefer not to call Untamed the following turn, playing a turn 1 Fangtooth Cavern is also a good option, as it will fire on the end of your next turn.
- Tier 1: Threats your opponent must answer.
- Tier 2: Answers to threats your opponent may play.
- Tier 3: Developing long term cards.
There are two ways to play out a 5/1/1 split on turn 1, and surely enough like everything else in KeyForge which you choose depends on a lot of factors. Your instinct may be that playing one of the singletons will give you the most advantage going forward, and sometimes that is true. But there are some situations where you should consider playing one of the five cards.
If one of the singletons is a tier 1 play then it is usually a no brainer. But what if you don’t have one? What if you play a tier 2 singleton card, an answer to your opponent’s threat and they do indeed play down a threat. Now you might be forced to go in a house with 0 cards in hand. That will never feel good even if you get to answer a threat.
A better option might be to play a tier 2 card from the house with five cards, that way if you need to answer a threat, you can do it and play four cards. You will draw one card less overall, but the risk is much lower. At worse, a creature on the board will allow you to reap.
Jake Frydman wrote an article on mulligans a long time ago and it holds true, but I want to lightly touch on the subject in relation to first turn plays. When you’re going first you’re only going to play one card and you want that one card to have an impact. If you’re going first the cost of a mulligan is lower as you’re not significantly reducing your options and the risk of a bad hand split is lesser than a second player mulligan. This lower risk means that you’re usually fine mulliganing for that tier 1 play.
There are more considerations to what to play on turn 1. You may choose to do things differently based on how your deck plays or what kind of cards your opponent has.
It was brought up by nowinstereo that it may not be ideal to play Daughter turn 1 when you have a 4/2/1 or better split, with the large hand being Logos. The only way Daughter will improve your hand is if you draw another Logos hand as you want to call Logos next turn. But Logos is the house you’re least likely to draw. If your Daughter had a 100% chance of surviving then it is still the best play, but Daughters tend to be bullet magnets. If your opponent has a lot of single target creature removal the benefit of playing the Daughter on the second turn is potentially much higher. You have a better chance of that extra card improving your turn 3 than your turn 2, due to drawing more cards. You may even draw sufficient Logos cards to call Logos again.
Combo decks are weird. When you’re playing a combo deck you care less about improving your current board and everything about digging through your deck as fast as possible to set up your combo. Combo decks might prefer playing a singleton turn 1 just so they can cycle faster. This does depend on what kind of threats your opponent is likely to drop. If your opponent has a Succubus in their deck an answer to it is more important because left unanswered it will cost you many more cards than drawing a single card less on turn 2.
Rush Decks, Æmber Control, and Steal Heavy decks
Rush decks want to generate Æmber as fast as possible, but they don’t want to generate it in small batches. Generating just 1 Æmber on turn 1 simply opens you up to a steal. Bringing Æmber into the pool can enable your opponent’s cards. Imagine if your opponent has 4 shadows cards in hand and 2 of them steal. If you don’t generate Æmber turn 1, those cards are dead weight. They’ll either have to hold them, or chuck them for no (or less) value. Being aware of what kind of Æmber control your opponent has, and if putting Æmber into the pool enables them is and important consideration for your first turn play.
Single Target Creature Control
These days a lot of top decks have single target creature control in every house. If your opponent has one of those decks it is very likely they are holding a card like Imp-losion in their opening hand. Playing a high threat creature into Imp-losion just creates more value for your opponent. In the current meta it can be beneficial to withhold a turn 1 creature play to reduce the value of your opponent’s turn 1 play. They may choose to hold their creature control or play it for no value, both benefit you.
I hope this gave you some food for thought on how to improve your turn 1 plays, and maybe to think a little deeper on the subject in regards to specific decks you play.
Do you have other considerations for your turn one plays? I’d love to hear them. Feel free to hop over to Sanctumonius-Timeshapers discord and share your perspective in the #Radiant Truth channel.