I Have to Play with This? My Experience in the Vault Keepers 3 Qualifiers
In recent months, Joelker41 has been generously supporting the Keyforge community by putting his own money into prize pools for events that he calls Vault Keepers. This has been an essential lifeline during the time when official Organized Play hasn’t been running and it has helped generate some excitement around the game of Keyforge. I did not play in either of the first two Vault Keepers events, as they both featured Dark Tidings, and I don’t own any good Dark Tidings decks. However, the third event was Mass Mutation and Worlds Collide sealed survival. I have played a lot of MM sealed thanks to the Archon’s Corner events, so this was a format I felt a lot more comfortable with so I signed up.
Joelker41 did the deck openings live on camera, and a few people showed up to watch. He encouraged us to chat, but no one else seemed to be talking, so I tried to hold up a conversation. I would have felt bad if Joelker was just talking to himself. However, at one point I had to run to go get dinner. When I got back, it was almost time for my decks to be opened.
Now, Joelker had allowed players to pick a mulligan for Worlds Collide Brobnar during their deck pulls. This was very generous, because it sucks to pull WC Brobnar. Remember, Joelker was providing all these decks for free, so every mulligan was costing him money in extra decks. However, a strange thing happened. People who didn’t choose to take the Brobnar mulligan generally didn’t open Brobnar. When people did choose the mulligan, they usually got Brobnar, then mulliganed into more Brobnar. I was no exception to this rule.
Joelker sent out decks a few days later, and I was not excited with my choices. The WC Brobnar deck also had Untamed, and that was probably the best of the three decks! My reaction was, “I have to play with this? I’m going to go 0-3.” The WC deck (Agile “Lever” Unter) was probably the best of the three, and it wasn’t good, coming in at a SAS rating of 64. The two MM decks were Maximilliano, Depot Khagan (I loved how close the name was to “Gasoline” Maximiliano, Dungeon Keeper, but that’s about all the decks had in common) and Undinqui Tang-Helm, Philosopher. The first was a 64 SAS, and the second one a 59 SAS.
While everyone else seemed to be celebrating their 70-something SAS decks, I felt pretty crappy with my decks maxing out at 64. I didn’t see any way that I could possibly qualify with that pool. My friend and teammate yrstruly made fun of me because of how much I was whining about the deck pool, but my prospects looked pretty bleak. I did have one advantage, though. Thanks to playing in the AC events, there are few players in the world who have more experience playing crappy MM decks in sealed than I do.
As the event got started, everyone was in the chat room at the Vault Keepers Discord channel. I was chatting with my friend ReddTrain and a few other players. However, once the event got started, the place became quiet as a library, and I noticed that ReddTrain and xraycreator had moved down to the Archon’s Corner chat room, so I went to join them there. It was the best decision I made all day. We were eventually joined by EwokJr, drazkor, yrstruly, GManic, Vendetta, Lokekar, and even Big Z himself, and we had a lively discussion going the whole time. It made me feel a lot better about the event. Even if I got knocked out, at least I was going to enjoy hanging out with all those cool people. Besides, it was a beautiful day outside, so if I got knocked out, I would be able to go enjoy it.
Round 1 – DanaCaraJB
In the first round I was matched up against a player I was unfamiliar with, DanaCaraJB. I was playing Maximilliano, and they were playing Heartgang, Spawn of Discobalt, a 69 SAS WC deck. My deck did not have a board sweep, so I was afraid of going against a big board. However, they were only playing a couple cards a turn all game, so they never really got anything going. I don’t know if they were stuck in 2-2-2s or what. At any rate, I cruised to a pretty easy victory, and at least I knew I wasn’t going winless. I didn’t see DanaCaraJB for the rest of the tournament, so I think they may have dropped after round one. They did tell me that they were a last-minute sign-up anyhow. 1-0.
Round 2 – Josemmb97
I was lucky enough to survive round one, but I knew I wasn’t going to survive round two. My opponent this round was a player that I knew to be excellent, Josemmb97. He had already beaten Big Z in the first round. Jose was playing Dean “Shrimp” Meredith, a 63 SAS MM deck. His deck contained a Howling Pit, and that helped my deck out quite a bit. All my little ping damage and my Access Denieds kept his board under control, and I was able to achieve a surprising second victory. 2-0.
Round 3 – yrstruly
My reward for being 2-0 was a matchup with my friend yrstruly. He was also undefeated, and he was on Ferrari, the Witch of Hope, a 62 SAS MM deck. He went first and led off with Transporter Platform. I knew I had to get it off the board, so I played Gorm of Omm as part of my leadoff turn. On his second turn, he played “Borrow” to take the Gorm of Omm, which was my only R, and that was pretty much the harbinger of things to come. My deck was a mess all game, his deck drew out smoothly, and he cruised to an easy win. I fought just to get myself to one key in case I needed it later for tiebreakers. 2-1.
Round 4 – DHaus
I don’t know DHaus personally, but I know of him thanks to his Wild Wormhole podcast. It seems like players who have been gone from the game for a long time are coming back thanks to the announcement of the Ghost Galaxy purchase, and that’s great to see. DHaus was also 2-1, having won his first round, lost to my friend quickdraw in round two, and then beaten my friend GManic in round three. He was playing Charismatically Ambidextrous Sandor, a 65 SAS MM deck. I was now on my second deck, Undinqui Tang-Helm, Philosopher, which as you may recall was a 59 SAS MM deck.
The key to the game was Gamgee. DHaus had four of them. Thankfully, I had two Standardized Testing, which I figured could deal with the Gamgees if the Testings came up at the right time. It was a very tight battle at the end, with alternating checks. I didn’t have a ton of Æmber control, so I was hoping he couldn’t burst to where I couldn’t stop him. I was able to use one of my favorite combos, Animator with capture, to make several of his Æmber disappear. Most of his Æmber control was board based, so when I got rid of the Gamgees, that helped a lot. I was eventually able to squeak out the win three keys to two. I believe DHaus is making a video of the game, so I will add a link here when it posts. 3-1.
Round 5 – EwokJr
This is when the tournament started to get personal for me. In the first four rounds, I had only played against one player than I really knew, that being yrstruly. Now my last two rounds would be against players that I both knew and admired, starting with Ewok in round five. I was still on Undinqui, and Ewok was on Cenworth Ecimius-Statilius, Empress, a 76 SAS MM deck with Sins. I’m glad that I didn’t know at the time that he had me out-SASed by 17.
The key to the game was Gambling Den. I was very disciplined and didn’t gamble much, but Ewok was taking his shots. He missed on a few early on, but later on he started making them count. He definitely had a net gain on the Den over the course of the game. The one time I did gamble was when I had two cards left in deck, one key, and four Æmber. I knew a successful gamble would get me to two keys. The two cards left in the deck were an Untamed card and a Saurian card. I had just drawn a bunch of Untamed cards, so I reasoned that it was unlikely that all of the Untamed would be stuck together consecutively, and guessed the Saurian card. It paid off, and I got my second key.
Ewok also hit a big gamble, calling Dis and showing that he had Mark of Dis coming. The game was very tight, and I was pretty sure that I would be toast if I got hit with Mark of Dis. I decided to make a bold play. Ewok had a bunch of four power creatures, while mine were all three and five. I played Standardized Testing to wipe my entire board to avoid giving him a Mark of Dis target. There turned out to be an unexpected benefit as well. In order to fully utilize his Æmber control, Ewok needed to kill my creatures so he could use Font of the Eye. With my creatures gone, he was unable to pull me off of the winning check, and I was able to take the game three keys to two. 4-1.
Round 6 – drazkor
Round six was against the sealed master himself, who sat at 3-2. I was in to the finals already at this point, while drazkor needed to beat me to get in. The pairings were kind of wonky because yrstruly and I had already played each other and couldn’t be matched up again. I offered to just concede the game to drazkor, but he insisted that we play for it. I planned to concede anyway if I was about to win, but that didn’t turn out to be necessary. drazkor was playing a 59 SAS deck of his own, Count Newlore Parker.
drazkor’s strategy was Æmber manipulation with his big Saurian dudes (to use his term). He had double Ludo, and he tried to get Forum of Giants to trigger with his double Galeatops. My Standardized Testings and Lost in the Woods served me well in some cases, though they didn’t always come up when I needed them. Still, I think I would have had a pretty good shot in the game if I hadn’t mixed up Dexus and Dendrix. Only after I had played a few creatures did I realize that Dexus was destroying my Æmber. I don’t know who at FFG decided that it would be a good idea to put two five-power Dis creatures with very similar names in the same set, but it wasn’t a great idea. At any rate, drazkor played well and he earned his spot by beating me three keys to two. 4-2.
Considering how bad I thought that I was going to do, I was happy with finishing 4-2. quickdraw, Gmanic, and I had a good discussion at one point about what percentage of success in Keyforge is deck, what percentage is matchup, what percentage is game luck, and what percentage is skill. I still think decks are the most important part of that equation, but for this day at least, luck and skill were able to serve me well. If you haven’t participated in one of Joelker41’s Vault Keepers events, I encourage you to try it. I thank him for funding and running this event, as I had a good time. I also encourage you to come hang out with the Archon’s Corner crowd. It’s a fun group. If you have any questions or comments about the article, or if you just want to talk Keyforge, I can be found on most Keyforge Discords and on TCO as SecondAct.