Advanced Key Concepts #2: Card Advantage Part 1
Advanced Key Concepts is a series exploring deeper strategy in KeyForge to help players hopefully get better at the game, as well as achieve higher success in more competitive environments. I am assuming readers know the basics of the game, and have some working knowledge of Keyforge. So let’s skip past all the introductory basics and get to the good stuff!
Why is Card Advantage in KeyForge so weird? The short answer is that we draw to 6 every turn (most of the time). Typically, the control strategy to run the opponent out of cards isn’t possible outside of certain combos. We can draw extra cards from card effects. However, that still functions much differently in KeyForge than in other games.
Because we draw at the end of turn to our current maximum hand size, drawing cards during a turn isn’t actually all that useful. Due to the 3-house structure, any given draw is only going to be playable in the current house 1/3 of the time. This means that typically you just draw a card early that you would have drawn at the end of the turn anyway. Additionally, because you likely CAN’T play that card, that information may not actually be useful for the current turn. It has the POSSIBILITY to be useful though, so generally I think drawing cards earlier in the turn sequence rather than later is the correct play. More data is typically better to make the correct play sequences. But overall, this is why drawing extra cards in KeyForge is not the strength that it would be in other games. Trading a card or activation for a small amount of information doesn’t do much.
Of course, there’s exceptions, and it is important to recognize when you can achieve them, or stop the opponent from doing them as well. I think the biggest example currently is combo decks that seek to draw much more than the normal number of cards and pull off a win via a key cheat or lock out. The big combos right now are Martian Generosity, or Battle Fleet combined with Key Abduction. Library Access still offers quite a bit of card draw, despite receiving errata. The real power of these types of cards comes in the fact that they clear out an entire house worth of cards from the deck in addition to stacking your hand with a much larger number of cards of the other two houses. Even if you don’t actually forge enough keys to win right then and there, you have set up the next 2 turns to be very large plays, likely outclassing whatever your opponents can play in one turn. Even though these turns are extremely powerful, I still recommend drawing early in the turn to sequence properly, and get the most value from your turn. You will often see me Fighting with a Quixo or activating a Library of Babble before I play Library Access, and this is so I can better predict how the turn plays out.
Without combo it is possible to achieve this effect on a smaller level. Cards that give you extra cards at the end of the turn like Mother, Howling Mine, and the new Daughter from World’s Collide may only give you 1 or 2 extra cards, but that allows you to maximize the tempo of future turns to outclass your opponent. If you are playing 1 additional card more than your opponent every turn over the course of the game you will find that it snowballs into a large effect very quickly. The other side of this coin is cards that limit the opponent’s hand size such as Succubus, Streke, and Binding Irons. I find that having more cards for yourself is generally better than reducing the opponent’s cards unless you can stack multiples of the effect. While true that you stifle their options, they will likely still end up on 3 cards of a house, plus whatever is on the board which typically mainly serves to funnel them into the house that they have the most of. Having more options gives you more wiggle room to navigate the game. Drawing extra cards at the end of turn will likely prevent you from getting locked out by the likes of Control the Weak and Restringuntus.
The last example is perhaps the most difficult. You need to have a generally larger delta than your opponent’s, and have a main house that draws cards while holding this advantage. Choosing the house, activating cards in play while NOT playing ANY cards from hand will slowly stockpile a large hand while the opponent catches up to you. Then when they finally do, you can call a different house with a much larger hand than usual to press the advantage. Logos is the most likely house to do this, using the very same cards that were actually not that strong in the first example.
Overall, drawing cards in KeyForge mostly sets you up for future turns with a better hand different house. Outside of large combos, it is actually difficult to gain a large advantage this way. In Part 2 of this series I will write about the much better way to do this – Archiving!
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