Shard of the Week: Early Plays for Success

Shard of the Week: Early Plays for Success

Shard of the Week: Early Plays for Success

The first few turns of any collectible card game are some of the most critical. Although I have delved into some strategies in the past for early game plays, today I put some extra effort towards identifying some strategies when you have access to your opponent’s Archon decklist. These two minutes of analysis can shift the entire game by molding your early plays into a long term advantage.

Most of what we need to know from Archon analysis can be provided by just asking the right questions. What types of Aember Control or Production? Is it a fast Aember deck? Is it a combo deck? But the biggest question to tackle today is…

What will my opponent play on their first turn?

Turn one plays depend heavily on which player is going first. A few choice examples from a first turn player would be Bulleteye, Lord Golgotha, Uxlyx the Zookeeper, Hunting Witch, Professor Sutterkin, Duskwitch… this list could keep going. Fortunately for us, we can typically summarize it as cards that gain advantage from being in play before a combat-based board has been developed.

If the opponent is going first…

When you see a list that has multiple low power creatures with high-impact abilities, it might be worth a mulligan to try and get a Poison Wave. Similarly, if they have a lot of impressive creatures with higher power such as Mother or Lord Golgotha, you can take advantage from an opening hand with a high number of big creatures to switch the game to a combat based state.

Because most opening plays involve high-impact turn one creatures, I value cards like Lights Out, Bouncing Deathquark, or Fear in an opener. It feels good when you can “switcheroo” that opening turn and end up making it look like you went first. Alternatively, keeping a hand with multiple oppressive threats can turn those tables too… but you can’t always count on one type of opener over the other. You just need to research their list beforehand, and mulligan for the right tools for the job. Information is power.

Let’s look at how we might play when we take the first turn. Now our desireable opening hand takes a dramatic change as you will be focused on gaining that early incremental advantage.

Choosing which early play will now heavily depend upon your opponent’s forms of removal. It can be devastating to play a single card that the opponent will have very few answers to. There is, however, a misplay that can easily occur here. You might believe that the correct opening play would be one of these high impact creatures even when you have no plans of using it on your second turn. Certainly it can impact the opponent’s house selection as they attempt to remove it- a strategy I often attempted to employ early in my development with no success. But here’s why it doesn’t work:

Assuming your opening play is a Witch of the Eye (the only Untamed card in your hand). The opponent responds in one of two ways:

A) The removal of your Witch and subsequent play of another card or two.

B) No removal of the Witch, but a big boost to their own board state instead.

Now you are in a scenario where you’re already playing at a disadvantage from your very first turn. Sure you might have the Witch, but it will likely die to the opponent’s board state anyway.

Keyforge is a racing game at it’s heart. Perhaps it would have been better to just play out something simple like a Valdr that can actually do something beneficial on your next turn. Even if that benefit is just to reap.


Okay, you’ve been a patient reader to put up with me so far. I have just one last tidbit today that I’ve been excited to share, and is hopefully new to you…

It is sometimes possible to determine how your opponent will play their list based on playmat, tokens, storage options, ect. I learned this years ago with my experience in Magic the Gathering. Players who have all the good looking Vault Tour gear, custom acrylic tokens, or a long tube of decks are obviously giving a little bit of information away. They are experienced players who aren’t afraid to let you know it. But occasionally you will encounter a player who unrolls a mat from another card game, uses tokens from a board game, or begins the game with TMI about plays in the previous round. These tells can also help you determine what strategies you can expect to see. Newer players will often choose to play cards they should discard under select circumstances. Examples of this are cards like Bad Penny or Soul Snatcher. The inclination that they might decide to play a Soul Snatcher to your advantage can guide your plays to use Coward’s End or Tendrils of Pain in a different way. Or maybe they chain themselves with a bouncin’ Bad Penny turn after turn. Yes, these are very specific examples, but you will be surprised at how your own plays improve when you start asking yourself the skill level of your opponent. This type of judgement might sound a little underhanded or harsh, but it’s the same thing poker players do. Because it works. All knowledge is fair.

So in conclusion, I leave you with the words of a wiser man than myself…

So until next time, keep forging ahead and glory be to Mars!

— Jason

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