On Saturday Ghost Galaxy announced the new organized play formats. I wrote my thoughts about those in anger and frustration. After 4 days of outrage, I can settle down and write about which formats I do want in organized play, rather than what I don’t. As it stands, I don’t want to play any of the formats, and since I need to travel to another continent to participate in any large events, it likely means the end of my career as a competitive KeyForge player. And yes, I do realize I am the only one that cares if I stay in the competitive scene, but this is my blog, so I write about what I care about. And no, online KeyForge is not a solution for me, I don’t play nearly as well online as I do in a live event.
3 formats to rule them all
Ghost Galaxy announced 3 formats as an attempt to streamline competitive play and reduce confusion and fragmentation in the player base. I don’t run large scale organized play so I can’t say if this is the right path or not. Assuming it is, here are my top three formats in order of how important I think they are for the game, and why.
I will avoid talking about the proposed formats and why I think they are bad and focus on the strengths of the formats I am proposing.
Sealed Solo is a staple of KeyForge and a manifestation of the core promise. Buy a deck, play. This is the go to format for many local stores. It keeps the store happy selling product, the player base engaged, and the collections growing. It’s the best way to enjoy a new set. At premier level events it allows players that aren’t hardcore to participate and have a good time.
FFG ran premier level events as pick one of three and I believe that works well. The best players consistently make top cut in pick one of three sealed events because it is quite hard to open all bad decks, and even with bad decks, they manage. Winning the event is another matter, and is usually won by the player with the best deck that is also competent, but the fix for that can be to reopen another pool of decks for top cut. You can auction them, draft them in a veto draft, or just do pick one of three again. A new pool of decks also solves most scouting issues.
It is important for premier level events that aren’t a path to world champion to be accessible and similar to what players play at their local store, and pick one of three does that.
And maybe most importantly, the lack of player agency is freeing, it means that if you lose you can blame your deck.
When two players meet up and want to play some KeyForge they are most likely going to play Archon Solo. When a store runs a tournament that isn’t sealed it’s going to be Archon Solo. New players or ones on a small budget are only going to have one strong deck, or one deck they feel most confident with. Let them bring the deck and play it. Measure it against the crowd.
Yes, Archon Solo has been extremely stagnant for the past two years in online competition, but we’ve been stuck with the same pool of players playing the same pool of decks from the same 5 sets. All you need to shake things up is release another set with a power level similar to Mass Mutation. New decks will flow in. Decks that do new things and pose new challenges will force players to bring decks that fit the new meta.
Sealed Triad best of one
You want player agency in Sealed? You want a more even playing field? How about Sealed Triad best of one with archon cards revealed. If your opponent opened a banger, ban it and play against their second best deck. They don’t have an obvious banger? ban a deck that is good against yours. And then you get even more agency when you pick which deck you want to play.
If you insist on having Sealed Alliance, it should fill this slot, not instead of Sealed Solo and Archon Solo, they are far too important.
Even more Formats
If we’re not limited to 3 formats, here are some additional ones to consider.
Archon Triad best of one
Triad best of one is a lot more relaxed than triad best of three. Players can bring decks that aren’t good enough for open Archon and still play them. I have a wonderful deck that I love playing that just shrivels up and dies against a big Saurian board. In Archon best of one it gets a chance to shine. If they have only one deck with a big board I can ban it and play my deck. If they have more than one I can play one of my other decks.
Archon triad best of one is an interesting format that lets me bring various decks and not just my most powerful one. There are interesting decisions throughout the event and before it.
Tired of Dis Shadows Logos decks? Try Oubliette. A format I came up with that has players bring two decks and a house ban. If your opponent banned a house in one of your decks, you can’t play it and have one less deck to pick from. You can create your own meta without Logos and play slower decks, or can Dis and have to face close to 0 Infurnace. Oubliette creates house Diversity and lets decks with unusual house combos shine.
Deck swapping formats
There has been talk about objection to playing your opponent’s decks because it can be unnerving having other people handle your cards. I can understand that. And yet, formats in which you play your opponents deck are the absolute best way to allow players to bring any deck in their collection.
Either best of one or best of three, Adaptive really lets you play any deck you want. I hate chain bidding and I still would prefer this over any of the formats proposed by Ghost Galaxy. There has been a recent proposal to bid dark aember instead of chains, where dark aember is aember that can’t be touched, but still counts as aember in your pool. Many players consider Adaptive the most skill testing format for KeyForge.
My favorite swap format for tournaments is Tesla. The first round is randomly determined to be Archon or Reversal and from there it alternates every round. Tesla is very skill testing and it feels extremely satisfying going 4-0 in a Tesla event.
If I got to pick just one format to add to the Ghost Galaxy lineup it would be Archon Solo. Just let me bring my deck and play it. Want to get fancy with the formats? Try one that has been thoroughly tested by the community. Please. Or at the very least introduce it as a side event and see what people think, like the Team events were introduced in 2019.