Shard of the Week: Helpful Tips for New Players
So you’ve had an introduction to Keyforge. Played a game or two.
Today I decided to put forward a brief beginner’s guide to cover some of the aspects worth considering to point you in the right direction.
Keyforge is actually a racing game. The first to 6 æmber gets a key, the first to 3 keys wins. One of the early misconceptions I had faced was how highly I valued fighting. In other games, having creatures do battle will be very important. In Keyforge, not so much. Try setting a different goal for yourself by playing as many cards as you can each turn. Just let the reaping come naturally when it can and see what happens from that. You may be surprised to find your deck is among the vast multitude that don’t worry about winning at the “creature game”. Creatures will definitely help you towards your goal, but try playing some games where the focus isn’t fighting. One added benefit of this play style is the advantage of just seeing more cards during a game. You may just find yourself getting into fewer ‘sticky situations’ when you are drawing more solutions to the rapidly changing playing field.
While On The Topic Of Creatures…
Those high power creatures might look menacing, but it’s typically the smaller ones who have the most impact on the game. An ability like “steal 1 æmber” might not look like much, but it’s actually a difference of 2 points; one æmber removed and 1 æmber gained. Having an ability like that on a creature is even more punishing as it can be repeated turn after turn. Lasting impacts like this can be devastating for the opposition.
Ember Imp limits the number of cards a player can play each turn, and Duskwitch allows friendly creatures to enter play ready. Mother and Succubus affect the number of cards drawn each turn.
These are the types of creatures you should try and fight off the board when you do fight.
But something like Tunk isn’t nearly as pesky. As we can see, Tunk is a creature who likes to fight, and fighting is one of the less important functions of a creature.
“when in doubt, Reapout“
Crunch the Numbers…
After you’ve tried some games just playing all the cards you can, start considering how to shift your plays by getting to ‘check’ for your next key. Count how much æmber the cards in your hand can produce. Look over how much you can reap for. Try playing the “math game” of Keyforge. Unlike typical card games, there will be many turns where just playing cards for the æmber bonus will be good enough. It’s generally better to threaten forging a key when you can. Much like in chess, playing the aggressor will often be the correct approach. In this case, constantly getting to ‘check’ at six æmber is the aggressive role since that is ultimately how you will win.
This can lead to a lot of mistakes from newer players. Until you know the game really well (and I do mean really well), don’t save cards in your hand unless they are ones to disrupt the opponent’s keys being forged. Even then, it’s not a bad thing to “waste” a card for it’s æmber bonus. If you are questioning whether to save a card in your hand for later, you should probably just discard or play it for whatever bonus you can immediately get. One prime example is Treasure Map, a rare action card. You can play Treasure Map to gain one æmber, but you also gain bonus æmber if it’s the only card you play during your turn. While it’s tempting to wait for that perfect turn, playing it just means having one less card clogging up your hand. Alternatively, you might hold that card for two, three, four turns… which causes you to miss out on that many other cards you could have drawn and subsequently played. That’s not to say that Treasure Map should always be played this way, but cards that have benefits based on the circumstances of the playing field can easily clog up the draws of less experienced players.
The Next Step in Strategy…
Once you’ve tried these approaches and gotten a better feel for the game, we start to see a wider range of choices becoming more apparent. Of course, it’s not all about the keys we forge… we also need to worry about the opponent’s goal. Decks have varying amounts of ways to stop an opponent’s key. If you find your deck lacking in key control, you might want to hold a card once in a while in anticipation of stopping a key. The beauty of Keyforge is the variety of ways that our play choices can affect the outcome of the game. Learning your own decks is the most important part of this. While no-one can tell you the definite way you should play your unique deck, we can still look at good options to consider on a turn by turn basis. I’ve split this into three primary focal points to always keep in mind:
1) Can I stop my opponent this turn?
2) What house gives me the most æmber?
3) What house lets me cycle through the most cards?
Once you learn how to balance these three aspects, you should be ready to try your hand at some local shop events. It will take time and patience to learn all your decks, but the real fun is in the experience. Losses will be learning experiences that victories can’t provide. Even if you goof up once in a while you are still the best player in the world with your deck. Just keep that in mind.
Getting a Competitive Deck
Here’s a tough one. Highly competitive decks aren’t easy to come by, or cheap. I have seen a lot of newer players spend up into the hundreds for a deck, only to realize that it doesn’t play like they wanted it to. Likewise, I have seen players with a keen eye buy amazing decks for bulk prices far below retail cost. There will always be diamonds in the rough, but it takes a deep knowledge of the game to spot them.
But here’s the good news… you don’t need to spend much. Keyforge can be a very affordable game, and sealed format is the ultimate way to play when you are still getting your feet wet. Buying a deck or two a week during your local store’s sealed event doesn’t break the bank, and occasionally you will find a deck that you’ll lose your mind over!
If your local scene is interested in playing sealed (which they almost always will be) then take advantage of it. It’s the best way to learn all the new cards and practice a variety of strategies. Typically, this is a better approach than buying a whole bunch of decks that look great and play terrible. It’s happened to me more than a dozen times.
Keyforge is a very different game, and having an average to slightly above average deck is often the only thing you will need to play well at your local game store. Until you are ready for your first Vault Tour Event, just have fun with it! No need to exhaust your wallet when you might just open your favorite deck while playing sealed anyway.
More of a kitchen table player? Nothing wrong with that either. You can always find affordable boxes online and split them up with friends.
What I’m saying is this: Keyforge is not designed to destroy you financially. It’s a game for everyone, casual and competitive alike. Patience and enjoyment will lead you where you want to be.
Cards To Know…
Some of the best cards in the game are commons and uncommons, so you will find these in a lot of decks. It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with a few, and consider how you would interact with them. Ask about your friend’s favorite decks. Ask about card combos. Ask about anything you can. But in the meantime, I’ve assembled a small portfolio below of the easier to find cards with big impacts to the game. If this is your first time seeing a lot of these, you’re in for a real treat!
I’ve encountered casual players who have never even looked at the Master Vault App… but it’s a really helpful tool! Besides being necessary for playing certain store events, you can scan your decks’ QR codes into a virtual collection, track casual play wins and losses, and even take notes about each deck. It’s free to download and sign up! Just search for it in your phone’s app store and give it a look!
You will eventually run into rules questions. It’s innevitable. Fortunately, you can download the complete rules from the official Keyforge website.
Here’s the address to take you right to the rules quick and easy:
Special thanks to my good friend, Kyle, who inspired me to write this as I finally had the chance to teach him how to play. I hope that Kyle and many others have gained some insight from my words.
If you know someone who is just getting started with this incredible game, send this article along with all my best wishes!
As always, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time, Glory Be To Mars!