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Hand Crafting in KeyForge

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Hand crafting (aka carving) is a term that gets thrown around fairly often in KeyForge. I have been asked to write an article on the subject. I initially didn’t have enough meat for the article, so I asked the good people in the Sanctumonius-Timeshapers discord to chime in. We go some pretty good ideas to share, so let’s get to it.

Hand crafting

The basic heuristic

Bouncing Deathquark gave us the core heuristics for KeyForge, one of which is to play hand + board. It’s a simple matter of counting up the number of cards from each house on your board and adding the number of cards in your hand. I did a count in a few of my games and I follow this heuristic about 80% of my turns. You’ll probably do well in KeyForge if you follow this heuristic 100% of the time, but the best plays in KeyForge come when you break heuristics, and learning when to do so is key to winning.

Hand crafting is one of the reasons you may break this heuristic. In fact, breaking this heuristic almost always results in hand crafting even if it wasn’t the purpose of the deviation.

6 Reasons to hand craft

There are many reasons why you might want to hand craft, but here are some common ones to get you started.

Set up a combo

I am a combo player, and one of my favorite things to do in KeyForge is go on a long Library Access to that balloons my hand size up, and plays way more cards than I should be allowed. This combo is most easily achieved when combining with Timetraveller, Wild Wormholes, and Phase Shifts. To pull the combo off you must prune your deck from non-Logos cards as much as you can, and have several of the combo pieces in hand or archived. While archiving options are deck dependent, hand crafting a big Logos hand is something most decks can do. Simply play your other two houses repeatedly until your hand is full of Logos cards and go to town.

Library Access

Set up a burst house

Similar to setting up a combo, you can set up a burst. Sometimes this is about combining a number of creatures with Chelonia, Beach Day, and maybe a Witch of the Dawn. But other times it can be about bursting at the right time. If you’re facing scaling Æmber control, you may want to wait until you’ve just forged a key to burst back up to six, and avoid that TMTP.

Utilize your board

Imagine you have 2 Sanctum creatures on the board, 1 Sanctum creature card and 4 Untamed cards in hand. The hand+board heuristic dictates you play your Untamed, and sometimes that may be the right choice. However, if you choose to use your 2 Sanctum creatures and play the third, you’re growing your board for next turn and hand crafting. You may draw another Untamed card, or you may draw another Sanctum card that will let you use that board for a third turn. Sometimes you can repeat this process for several turns, getting the most out of the board and crafting a beautiful hand. Then when your opponent finally plays a board clear, you fill it back up with Untamed creatures and maybe a nice burst.

Gateway to Dis

Getting out of 2/2/2 hands

I have written a whole article on getting out of 2/2/2 hands, and I do recommend you read it. The premise is simple, to get out of a 2/2/2 hand you need to play the same house multiple times. You need to pick the 2 cards that you may be able to utilize the following turn if you draw back into 2/2/2 hands. And if you get into a 2/2/2 hand mid-game, you should review your discard pile to know which house you’re least likely to draw back into.


I spoke above about some tempo considerations such as utilizing your board while your opponent is looking for answers, or bursting at the right time, but there are many opportunities to take advantage of tempo to craft your hand. Maybe you take a suboptimal turn to weaken your opponent’s position rather than strengthen your own while building up a house in your hand. Maybe you see an opportunity where your opponent is unlikely to threaten a key the following turn, so you take a turn to set yourself up for a better later turn.

Tempo is tough to master. Some people intuitively understand the back and forth of the game, the rhythm of turns, the threats and responses. I hope some day I feel feel confident enough in the subject to write a more meaningful article on the subject.

Hold answers

Effervescent Principle

While I am a strong believer that holding cards is completely fine, if the card is powerful and not situational, it still feels better to cycle an entire house from your hand if possible. Especially if those cards don’t build up a board you could utilize along with your answer. If you have an answer to a threat your opponent is bound to play, you may wish to hold the entire house a little longer until your can use your answer. For example, you may want to hold an Effervescent Principle until after your opponent bursts, so play your other houses until they do, then answer the burst and maybe push some of your own.

Break it till you make it

If you’re used to always follow hand+board heuristic, try breaking it more often and see what happens. It’ll help you understand the flow of the game, and when you should break those heuristic.


Aurore is a competitive KeyForge player and the founder of Timeshapers. She's a content writer by trade and aspiring game designer. Follow @Timeshapers1