KeyForge’s acquisition by ghost galaxy and re-release has been a bumpy ride. Several weeks ago I decided to abandon my grumpiness as KeyForge has become a drain rather than a source of enjoyment. The current state of the game is far from perfect, but rather than focus on the negative I’m trying to focus on the positive.
I’m writing this on a flight from Copenhagen to London, after having participated in my first official KeyForge OP since winning the Belgium Grand Championship in 2019. How did it go? How did I do? What did I like? And yes, what do I think could improve?
Buckle up, it’s a long one!
Once I booked my flights and registered for the events I knew I needed to get back into shape. I realized that as the hiatus progressed my play has become sloppy, lazy even. I would take a quick look at an archon card and play tactically, occasionally looking again if I have a specific question like “do they have artifact control?”.
Understanding the matchup and coming up with a strategy is key to winning keyforge tournaments. Well, key for me. I know some players play intuitively to great success. So I set out to get back my strategic play.
I started this blog under similar circumstances back in 2019 when I booked my tickets to play in UKGE. This time I had much shorter notice but I was determined to get on top of my game. I changed my play to consider strategy, and practiced maintaining the matchup in my head.
The other thing I did was to try alliance. Like, really try. I decided I’m not buying pods, after all, the promise was that we’ll get to use out unused pods, right?
For three weeks I made numerous alliances and I could not come up with something good enough. I kept finding two great pods and missing the third to complement them. And honestly, none of them seemed better than Bazi. I decided multiple times to stop building alliances and just play Bazi, only to get pulled back in by the call of theorycrafting and try new things. I hated it. The theorycrafting is fun, but fine tuning decks is exceedingly frustrating. I rather look for decks with combos I like than build them.
But I still kinda need to play in alliance tournaments, otherwise I’m traveling to Europe for a single event when I can play two. And the nationals could really use another player to get to 16 players since it’s not nearly as popular as archon. Many players begrudgingly joined alliance to fill up to 16 players, myself included. I wish the other main event was sealed.
We had a small sealed tournament on Friday night, and Friday night magic completely overcrowded us. We huddled in the corner of the store and eventually had to move to a different location. Friday night magic seemed to have more participants than some KeyForge vault tours, which definitely stings.
I enjoyed the small event without prize support, even though I’m not a fan of Winds of Exchange sealed. I think so far it’s the worse set for sealed. The tokens take away a crucial part of sealed: finding your footing with some creatures and reaping. While in the past a 8/4/5 creature split was desirable, now you have decks that are effectively 20/4/5. Too easy to find a chance to reap out.
In one of my games I had 2 beefy sanctum creatures plus 4 defenders. I didn’t have any more sanctum cards in hand, so I simply left my hand face down on the table, fought into anything that might cause trouble, and reaped to victory over three turns.
The round I lost I had to face a Bryozoarch Hallafest deck. Not something a sealed deck is likely to be able to counter. Hallafest provides too much tempo for a single card. I don’t have a problem with it in archon, but it makes for a horribly lopsided sealed experience. Hallafest is better than the ganger–naut combo, and it’s a single card combo.
Thinking on this, I guess with the existence of Hallafest, allowing players to make sealed alliances might be the only way to have a balanced game experience. Though I am not convinced making an alliance with two other decks would have enabled me to win that game.
As the event neared I was worried I had made a mistake choosing to travel to participate in a national championship. It wasn’t clear we could get 16 players for travel expenses to participate in the world championship. It’s not that I needed that prize to justify the trip, but it seemed like the minimum requirement for it to feel like a premiere event.
Walking into the venue on Saturday morning the thing that made me excited was the presence of a streaming setup. I do love playing on stream, especially with Techslut not being able to join me, so she could cheer from afar.
We managed to get 19 players for archon, and the tournament went underway. After winning the Belgium Grand Championship and playing on many online events with Bazi I often felt I didn’t have much to prove by playing it again. However three sets have been released since I last had a chance to play it in official OP and I felt like there would be a new and interesting challenges.
With respect to my opponents and their excellent play, I was not at the top of my game this weekend. I made many play mistakes throughout the tournament and even forgot to use two titan mechanics on stream. I asked my opponent to do so after my turn ended and simply reaping, they allowed it, but I was annoyed with myself so I put the Æmber back. If I had used them, I would have fought with them, not reaped.
In the game I lost to the eventual champion I held a cleansing wave twice and ended up not using it; A critical game error. There were many more mistakes that I don’t remember.
I won the first two games and lost the third, which oddly enough seemed like it did not matter at all. The winners and losers of all the undefeated players’ matches made top 8, regardless of the result. This is a very odd result of the 2LO system, and I intend to investigate.
My round 2 opponent played Abbas Voaaple from the Corporal’s Beach. This match was on stream so you can go watch it, but the key point of the game was a Bryozoarch hiding behind a tainted Warrior, and me fighting through to kill it. If I wasn’t able to do so, I am not sure Bazi can do much.
My round 3 opponent played O. Ames, the Cliff Zealot. I feel like this game was my worst play all weekend. I made many mistakes, the key one being holding a cleansing wave because I was afraid of steal and then doing it again, and then discarding it a turn later when the board cleared. My opponent was the eventual winner of the event, which does make me feel better about the loss. Luckily, the loss didn’t stop me from making top 8.
My top 8 opponent played Erabelle, Pirate of the Durable Bar. This match was also on steam. I did not make as many play mistakes in this game, but I also went into the game a little deflated from my mistakes in the previous game, which resulted in less strategic play. This deck, by virtue of its pilot, does some very interesting things with the 4 Titan Guardians being a little suicidal and producing some explosive lines for my opponent.
My Archon day ended with top 8, and while I think I wasn’t supposed to be able to play in second Æmber, I was allowed to do so, which let me have a taste of how it works. I really enjoyed the more casual laid back format that allowed me to relax after a loss and still play some KeyForge. The prize drawing was done before the finals and was exciting and fun. Second Æmber gives players that lose earlier a bigger opportunity to play games and win raffle tickets and therefore win more side prizes. I do love the prize wall of FFG’s days, but this works quite well too. If you’re unsure about going to a premiere event and what you’ll do if you go 0-2, I think second Æmber is worth your time!
My only feedback about second Æmber is that I feel like there shouldn’t be a requirement to play the same deck from the main event. I think players should be allowed to play a casual deck or even pop a freshie and play some blind sealed and still get a chance at prize support.
Participating in alliance with an Archon deck I was mostly expecting to get some good practice in for UK nationals next weekend. Most of the 16 players brought alliance decks, but I know some went with some fun constructions rather than something as competitive as seen in US tournaments. I think at least some of my opponents would have done better if they, like me, would have played an unmodified deck.
I didn’t record the decks I played against because taking pictures of alliance decks is much more of a hassle than taking a picture of the front of an archon deck after the match. Plus I was expecting to go 0-2 and not having much to report.
Round 1 was on stream. I felt Bazi completely outclassed my opponent’s deck. It was over very quickly and I was off to a strong start.
Round 2 I faced a self-proclaimed meme deck. It had 2 Annihilation Rituals, Screaming Cave, Control the Weak, Double Miasma, and a double Mimicry. I was particularly worried about the Mimicries copying my Miasmas letting my opponent stall 4 turns while I could only stall 2. But after a strong LA+TT turn I simply held my Miasmas to prevent my opponent from copying them. The game ended with my favorite moment from the weekend, they only out being to Mimicry my Wild Wormhole and hitting Miasma, but instead they revealed a second Mimicry copying Wild Wormhole again! Unfortunately for them, they didn’t hit Miasma after that and the game was over.
Round 3 I faced Petitbot on a monstrous deck. With his lash out I used my Sanctum board to get to 9 Æmber to force out the Too Much to Protect. I then went on one of the best LA+TT turns I’ve had all weekend and the game promptly ended. Being undefeated after 3 rounds meant I made top 4.
An oddity with the 2LO system made it so 3-0 players qualified for top 4, then another round was played to cut down to 3 remaining players, and then another round was played to determine which of the bottom two ranked 2-1 players would make top 4 because they had identical SoS. I personally think this is the correct resolution and a play-in round should always be played and not only when you have identical SoS. But playing 5 rounds before top 4 with 16 players vs only playing 3 for top 8 the previous day with 19 players felt weird.
My semifinals match I played against a double Tribute Sic Semper deck. I don’t remember much from the match other than the ending where I cleared my opponent’s board, and due to their relatively low creature count they had no creature to Tribute onto.
Making finals I was faced with a challenging decision. Winning meant I would get travel expenses to participate in worlds, but in the wrong format. Plus, I was unsure if I could even go. I didn’t expect this to happen so I didn’t discuss it with my family prior. I went into the game with the intention of conceding if I won and letting Petitbot go to worlds. I specifically didn’t tell him that prior to the game to avoid any problems with collusion. It is possible that if I came with a winning intent I would have done better, but as it stood I was obliterated on stream, so it saved me from having to concede, something I don’t love doing. I now know that I could work out a way to get to worlds, so if I get to this situation in UK nationals I intend to put everything into winning.
I’m still competitive
There was a long time during the Hiatus that I felt like winning Belgium GC would be the height of my KeyForge competition. I don’t play quite as well online as I do live. I feed on the energy of an event, the live stream, spectators, etc. Online I have a bad tendency of being lazy and alt-tabbing during games. Having to watch what my opponent is doing to ensure everything is resolved correctly and not to miss anything keeps me focused.
Getting second place in a 16 player event is nothing like getting first in a 76 player event, but I can see that the gap in the quality of play can be closed. At Belgium GC I made 0 play mistakes over 9 rounds, as in no tactical mistakes, no plays that became obviously wrong the moment I did them or even the following turn. This weekend I made plenty of mistakes, but I feel like with some more live play I can get back to that same place. This no play mistakes advantage I had was particularly useful during sealed tournaments, so I really hope premiere sealed will be back one day.
I want to give special thanks to Faraos Cigarer for hosting the event and putting down the money to get the kit and to the Judge and Organizer who ran the event, and of course to the players that participated and made this an excellent weekend of competition. I also had a great time with matze56 and petitbot outside of the event at lunch and at a nearby board game cafe playing Hansa Teutonica.