You are currently viewing Northern Exposure: My Experience in NKFL Season 17

Northern Exposure: My Experience in NKFL Season 17

For a long time, I held off playing in the Nordic Keyforge League because I didn’t want to overextend myself. I was happy playing ABR and KFPL, and didn’t want to take on too much and burn myself out on Keyforge. However, some of my friends like jtrussell told me that playing NKFL’s Nordic Hexad format was a lot of fun, and longtime NKFL player WHZ12 allayed some of my concerns about the league. The biggest reason I decided to join is because it is one of the only leagues left that allows you to play unrestricted archon as opposed to SAS cap or variants designed to benefit middling decks, and that’s my favorite way to play Keyforge.

Nordic Hexad

The Nordic Hexad format is a great format. It’s like a better version of triad. You bring six decks, which must remain the same for the entire season. At the beginning of each match, you go through a triad-style banning phase. This uses a sophisticated piece of software that works remarkably well.

Much like triad, you start out by banning one deck on the opposing side. Once both players have done that, each player gets to protect one deck that can no longer be banned. After that, you get to ban one more deck from the opponent. At this point, you have four decks left from your original six. You play three archon games, using a different deck for each. The winner of the match is the player who wins more games, but it’s not best of three. The third game matters even if the first two games go to the same player, because things like overall number of wins and key count matter more than matches won.

Deck Selection

Once I had decided that I was going to play, I needed to find six decks that I could rely on. I knew that Mira, my 97 SAS AOA monster, was an automatic inclusion. I figured it would get banned in most games, but in doing so it would at least protect my other decks. I must have a thing for AOA (I blame Dr. Sheep), because I also brought another AOA deck: F. L. Pan, a 93 SAS AOA deck. I have been having pretty good success with it, so I felt good about having it in my lineup.

My next selection was easy, as Winter the Absurdly Wistful has been a staple of my competitive lineup for longer than any other deck at this point. It has a lot of doubles. The highlights are the double Ultra Gravitrons, but double Mark of Dis, double Subject Kirby, and double Discombobulator can do major work at times, too. While I was bringing double gigantic decks, I also brought Strenge, my deck that did major work in the last KFPL. It has a lot of answers, and the ability to throw down threats faster than the opponent can answer them.

A new entrant to my lineup was Q. Brannan, Openfield’s Unruly Mayor. This was a deck I opened in the Asmodee firesale (well, technically my friend kiddynamite opened it for me, but same idea). I like it because it has the ability to key cheat quite a bit with Keyfrog and Obsidian Forge. Once, it even managed to forge two keys simultaneously by killing Keyfrog as part of a bigger Obsidian Forge turn.

For my final deck, I was split on what to bring. I had some newer decks that I thought had promise, but I also had The Nebulous Operator. Operator had done well for me in the KFPL, and it was the type of tech deck that I thought slotted in well in Nordic Hexad. I could leave it on the bench if I didn’t need it, or bring it in if I could get it a favorable matchup. Besides, it was likely to draw bans due to its triple Fangtooth, Etan’s Jar, and Infurnace.

Devising Divisions

With my lineup selected, it was time to be assigned to a division. The league had nine divisions. Two Gold were the top divisions, followed by three Silver divisions, and then four Bronze divisions. As a new player, I slotted into Bronze.

Specifically, I was assigned to Bronze Beta along with five other players. There was Cocathey, an American player who seemed like a really nice guy, but didn’t look to me like he had the decks to go very far. There was Flox, the only French player in our division. He was another player who was a really nice guy, but didn’t look to me like he had the decks.

The next two players worried me a bit. There was DHaus, a well-known American player who is one of the hosts of the Wild Wormhole podcast. I played him back in Joelker’s last Vault Keepers event. I beat him there, but I figured he would give me a good challenge here in a non-sealed environment. There was also Spymaster, a Dutch player who looked to have a very strong collection. I figured that the banning process would let me whittle down his strongest decks a bit, but I knew he would be a challenge.

Finally, there was the greatest challenge of all, siaka. The well-known ABR player had a lineup with the highest average SAS of any player in the entire league. He had a former Vault Tour winning deck in his lineup, and that wasn’t even close to being his scariest deck. I had a feeling that I would be playing for second place.

Speaking of placement, before the season the NKFL hosts a poll to see who everyone expects to win each division. In Bronze Beta, I was surprised to find that I ended up leading the poll over siaka despite the fact that I voted for siaka. I want to thank the Russell brothers, Emperor Riku, sdsantos, AlgernonR, and everyone else that had more faith in me than I had in myself. Of course, it was yet to be seen whether I could make that faith pay off.

By the way, I found it amusing that in a Swedish league, my division consisted of four Americans with one Dutch player and one player from France. I think it shows that in the online Keyforge world, there really aren’t any regional tournaments anymore. The same basic group of people play pretty much everywhere.

Before the season began, I ran test games against jtrussell and Beyjin to make sure that I understood how to use the software. If you decide to play in the NKFL in the future, I recommend doing a similar test, as the software is really effective, but not necessarily intuitive at first glance.

Week One: Cocathey

My week one opponent was to be Cocathey. I think this was both of our first official game in the NKFL, so I was happy that we would both be able to learn against another rookie as opposed to a savvy veteran. He predictably started off banning Mira, while I banned Vitix, the Queen Dreamchaser. Vitix was his highest SAS deck at 86, and it had some annoying cards that I didn’t want to deal with, primarily Harvest Time. I protected Pan, and he protected Porshotese, Pit Æmber-holder. He came back with a ban on Q. Brannan, which was unfortunate because I wanted to give it its first NKFL game here. No matter; it would get more chances. I banned Fadil “Immortal True Blood” Mooney, mostly because of Dysania and Sneklifter.

In game one, I brought Operator against Damiano, Union Inquisitor. This was the closest game of the three, and he came very close to winning. At the end, I decided to burst to check. I thought I had Infurnaced almost all of his aember control so it would be safe, and I was right. I just snuck over the finish line to secure the first win.

Game two featured Strenge against the aforementioned Porshotese. This was the most lopsided game, as Strenge got out its gigantics and went to town. Game three was Pan against Beckre, the Redeemer of Darkforest. It was a pretty lopsided matchup, but I definitely made a mistake. I had a chance to hold Cocathey to one key instead of two, and instead I decided to put on the gas and push for the win. I forgot that keys were a tiebreaker in the league. I hoped that the extra key allowed wouldn’t come back to bite me down the line against siaka.

In the end, I won week one 3-0. Cocathey was a really nice guy, and I wish him the best of luck in future competitions, whether in the NKFL or elsewhere.

Week Two: Spymaster

I felt bad for Spymaster with the opening draw he got handed. He had to face the highest SAS lineup in our division, siaka, in week one, and then follow that up against the second highest, me, in week two. Still, I was not going to sell him short at all. I knew by reputation that he was a good player, and there were some very good decks in his lineup.

For the banning phase, he took the unusual tactic of letting Mira slip through. He banned Pan first, allowing me to protect Mira. Meanwhile, I banned his 90 SAS Infurnace/Reclaimed by Nature deck, Mentor “Temper” Barth, and he protected Zanicull of the Butcher’s Aqueduct, a double TMTP/Ronnie deck with Saurian backup. He followed up by banning Strenge, making this one of the oddest rounds for me. I think this was the only time that either Pan or Strenge got banned in the entire league. I banned D. Z. Linford, Chierico dello Scatto, a Quixxle Stone deck, with my second ban.

Game one was a hard fought battle, but I made a huge mistake that cost me the game. I was using Q. Brannan in its first official competitive match, and he was using Andretti, the Cultist of Aspirations. He had just Exiled a creature to my side, and I had Lost in the Woods and Savage Clash in hand. He also had Curia Saurus in play. I could have used Lost in the Woods to clear my side of the board before I Savage Clashed, but I forgot that Curia was in play. Maybe I should send that play into Archon’s Corner’s “Why I Suck at Keyforge” segment.

In game two, I had Winter against Zanicull, his safe deck. I noticed in this league that people almost always play their safe deck in slot two. I am not sure if that’s a wise strategy or not, because it makes it fairly predictable as to when it’s coming. I tended to play my safe deck in slot three this season, but now that I have a better understanding of the format, I will probably move it around next season. At any rate, Winter was the perfect deck for this matchup, as it’s hard to use your Ronnies and TMTPs when there’s an Ultra Gravitron with a Discombobulator on the board. I won three keys to one.

With a win now in hand, I felt very good about my third game matchup. He obviously knew that Mira was coming, and he brought X. Karpov, capitaine de Crucistreet. I was utterly shocked when he played Soul Snatcher early in the game. Mira is full of little creatures that die easily and then come right back, so it loves to see a Soul Snatcher in play. I won the game three keys to one.

Spymaster was an excellent opponent, but I was still kicking myself over that game one mistake and loss. I knew that I was going to need every bit of breathing room to hold off siaka, and my unforced error was going to make it more difficult. I did win the week 2-1.

Week Three: siaka

I was really hoping to play siaka in week five with everything on the line, as I think that would have made for a more dramatic storyline, but it didn’t randomize that way. Instead, we ended up matched up in week three. I honestly didn’t even know how to approach this matchup. The two decks that scared me the most were his two highest SAS decks, Guru F. Tsarwhili and Odin E. l’Aggressivo, but I knew that I could only ban one. Of course, the other decks were no walk in the park, either.

I started out by banning Guru F. Tsarwhili, as it’s one of the scariest decks I have ever seen. Triple Exhume with double Infurnace and double Edie, triple TMTP, Shark/Automaton; it was stacked. There were some weaknesses in the rest of the Shadows, but I still didn’t want to deal with it. He, predictably, banned Mira. As usual, I used my safe on Pan, while he surprised me by using his safe on H. I. Michel, chancelier de la discorde, a deck with 23 Æmber pips and 31 expected Æmber. That gave me the chance to ban Odin, which I did, while he banned Winter. That caught me a little off guard, as nobody had ever banned Winter before. It was my only KFPL deck that made it through while never being banned. It simply doesn’t look that scary. However, siaka knows my decks better than most, and I think he knew how dangerous Winter actually is, so he wasn’t going to let me have it.

With Winter missing, I led off with Q. Brannan, while he came at me with former Vault Tour winning deck Ricardo “Inferno” il Subdolo. Late in the game, I was maneuvering myself to be able to lock him into Dis with a Mark of Dis. In the middle of doing this, I suddenly realized that I had enough Æmber and creatures to Obsidian Forge the final key. I took the opportunity, and was surprised to steal a game from siaka three keys to two.

I knew that siaka was going to come at me with his safe deck, Michel, in game two. I thought that Pan might be able to handle it, but I was confident that it was an auto-loss for Strenge or Operator. I decided to eat the auto-loss and throw Strenge to the wolves. The results were predictable, and I was just happy to get two keys in the matchup.

The match, and most likely the Bronze Beta division, all came down to game three. I brought Pan, and he countered with Bertrand, inventeur de la jungle ardente, a deck with four Ronnies, even more than Pan’s three. The deck also had a very clear strategy to use a Soldiers to Flowers followed by a Chota to forge a key, so I knew that if I let him go to two keys, I had probably lost. I was locked in for this game, playing some of the best Keyforge I have played in a while. I was keeping careful track of where his Ronnies were, all the while maneuvering to prevent him getting to two keys. It helped that I got one of the Ronnies with Special Delivery early in the game. He was forced to use his Chota trick to forge his second key, and that allowed me to burst high enough that he couldn’t stop my third key. I was shocked to have survived siaka’s killer lineup and walked away with the 2-1 win.

Where have all the flowers gone?

Week Four: DHaus

After last week’s epic match against siaka, this week was a little anticlimactic. DHaus couldn’t make his schedule work, so he graciously conceded, handing me a 3-0 win.

Week Five: Flox

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I lined up against Flox. His decks weren’t super high SAS, but he had pulled out some good wins so far in the tournament, and of course it’s my policy to never take any opponent lightly.

Flox caught me by surprise by banning Operator first. I get why, though. Operator had a really good matchup against several of his decks. I responded by banning Rook, the Scribe of Tentacles, meaning that we both lost a Jar deck right away. Forced with the interesting choice between protecting Mira or protecting Pan, I chose to protect Pan because I wanted its hard R. He used his safe on Quan, Direglade’s Serpent-stopper, an 83 SAS Lateral Shift deck with some strong Shadows steal. He finished up by banning Mira, while I banned Consul Hyddarin Leal. It was another instance of me banning a deck for no other reason than because of a Quixxle Stone.

As I had taken to doing, I led off with Brannan. Flox surprised me by going right to his safe deck, Quan. It was a battle, but Brannan’s key cheats were money again, and I was able to win the game three keys to two. In game two, I slid over to Winter, while Flox went with Persalem, District Envoy. I loved Flox’s enthusiasm, as he seemed to be enjoying the fact that I had two gigantics down more than I was. I appreciate Keyforge players that can enjoy themselves even if they aren’t winning the match. I have a hard time with that myself. At any rate, Winter rolled and I won three keys to one. Game three was Pan against Awndeer, the River Warden of Carvingjoin. Awndeer had some scary cards, but my Sharkimedes combo wiped his board a couple times before he finally got down a Collar on Archimedes. The damage was done, though, and I won three keys to one, taking the match 3-0.

Flox was one of my favorite opponents of the NKFL. He was extremely gracious and always seemed to be having fun. I wish him better luck in the next NKFL season.


My 13-2 overall record was the second best in the league, behind only JDG’s amazing 15-0. JDG’s 15-0 was made even more amazing by the fact that he beat Dave C 3-0 despite the fact that Dave C received 21 votes to win the division to JDG’s 5. Thus, I was eligible to compete against JDG for a spot in the next KFPL. Unfortunately (or I guess fortunately), I already had a spot in the next KFPL, so I was ineligible. The next eligible competitor was Lorenzo99, but given that we played each other in last KFPL’s top four, he already had a KFPL spot as well. Thus the next spot dropped down to dick_roland, who defeated JDG in the playoff to secure a KFPL spot. Congratulations dick_roland!

For my part, I had an opportunity to compete for a spot in Gold next season. Jumping straight from Bronze to Gold would be a major accomplishment, so I was excited for the chance. Also, it would give me a chance to earn KOR points, and I have had a dry spell of those recently, especially after I fell just short in the Firesale Frenzy.

My playoff opponent was to be Tv-Shop. I forgot to ask him why he chose his Discord name. Maybe he owns a television shop? His lineup was very interesting. His decks were all around SAS 80, but it was also very clear that they were way better than their SAS. Banning went pretty typically in this round. Mira was banned first. At least I got to play it once. I responded by banning The Sultan of Vacihold. It had an Infurnace, triple Rad Penny with Johnny Longfingers, and double Essence Scale. That was enough for me to ban it. As usual, I used my safe on Pan, while Dr. “Spike” Sama was Tv-Shop’s safe. It was a quad Routine Job deck, which is why most people banned it. I wasn’t super worried about it, though. I figured that Winter and Q. Brannan had Discombobulators, and Pan could probably out-steal it with Ronnie recursion. Even Operator could handle it with Jar, so my only real risk was Strenge winding up against it. His second ban was Operator, while I banned Minstrel Clarke. It had double Infurnace with plenty of recursion, as well as Harvest Time and double Amphora, so plenty of reasons for me to not want to deal with it.

Tv-Shop led off with Howlpod, the Stone Keeper Mutant, while I led off with Q. Brannan. He had a ton of Æmber control, but that didn’t worry me thanks to Brannan’s key cheats. It was close, but he had an important mistake. He played a bunch of steal on a turn when I had a Discombobulator out on a Chonkers. That was enough to make the difference, and I pulled out the win three keys to two.

Game two was one of the most frustrating games I have played in a long time. I maneuvered the matchup perfectly, getting Winter matched up against Spike. I was confident that I would win this matchup at least 90% of the time, maybe more. Once I had a Discombobulator on a Gravitron, he had very little way to deal with that. Unfortunately, RNG intervened. My draws were awful, just terrible hand after terrible hand. I couldn’t find anything. Finally, when he was already up two keys, my deck started to come alive. I finally found a Gravitron, and that was able to set up some big Dis turns where I could use Mark of Dis to shut TV-Shop down. Additionally, Pandemonium kept him from forging his third key. Despite the terrible start, it looked like I was going to win the game. However, I knew he was sitting on a bunch of steal. All I had to do was find a Discombobulator, and the game and the match were mine. I had six cards left in deck, two of which were Discombobulators, and I had a Q-Mechs with a draw pip to draw two cards. My knowledge of probability isn’t perfect, but I am pretty sure that gave me a 60% chance of drawing a Discombobulator. However, RNG had its final laugh at me of the game, as the two bottom cards were the two Discombobulators.

That brought us to game three, Pan against Dhammacaw Maes, the Vain and Ugly. I was surprised he picked this deck, as I thought his other remaining deck was scarier. He did set me back with an early Punctuated Equilibrium, but after that Pan did its thing, recurring cards over and over to cruise to a pretty easy win. With that three keys to one win, I was able to take the match 2-1. Tv-Shop was not only a skilled player with good decks, but also a nice guy to play against, and I am sorry that I prevented him from making it to gold.

I also want to add a quick note of congratulations here, as Algernon_R was able to defeat WHZ12 in the gold finals to win the entire league. Well done Algernon_R, and well fought WHZ12!


I enjoyed my first season in the NKFL. The Nordic Hexad format is just as good as everyone says that it is. The strategy that goes into banning decks and choosing which decks to play is really fascinating. They are currently taking registrations for Season 18, so I encourage you to give it a try if you haven’t played before.

I am excited to play in gold next season, and test myself against some of the NKFL legends that I have only heard about on the podcast, such as hydrophilic_attack and Zaramis. I am a bit apprehensive after the Russells, who are excellent players, both got bounced out of gold this season, but we’ll see what happens.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions about the NKFL or the article, or just want to talk about Keyforge, I can be found on most Keyforge Discords and on TCO as SecondAct.