What Is Keyforge?
Made by the creator of Magic: The Gathering (Richard Garfield), Keyforge: Call of the Archons provides a vaguely similar card-based duel—except every player's deck is uniquely filled with semi-random cards. Theoretically, no two players will ever have the same deck, and cards can't be switched out, so you're not building a theme so much as playing what you have to the best of your ability.
A variety of balancing tools help keep matches even, and each deck incorporates three of seven "Houses." Still, some factions tend to win out over others.
Ranked by the official win percentages (as of this writing), here are the 10 best Keyforge cards!
10. Help From Future Self
Win Percentage: 56.8%
Help isn't a permanent card like creatures or artifacts, but its single-use effect helps build Æmber (which you use to forge keys and win) plus card advantage. You search your deck or discard pile for the card "Timetraveler," add it to your hand, then shuffle your discard pile into your deck. As noted by the orange symbol in Help's upper-right corner, you also gain one Æmber (six can build a key, and three keys win the game).
And because Timetraveller also belongs to Logos, you can play him the same turn. Is he any good? Well...
Win Percentage: 56.8%
Like other creatures, Timetraveller enters tapped, but you can quickly search him using Help From Future Self. His power is only two, and he has no armor, but he automatically draws two cards upon arrival. After untapping, he can also exhaust for his action effect, which simply shuffles him into your deck (allowing future usage of his entrance-gaining Æmber and draws).
Card advantage isn't as important in Keyforge since players draw to their max hand size at the end of each turn anyway, but you can still score extra plays during the round plus that ever-useful Æmber.
8. Nerve Blast
Win Percentage: 56.9%
As we'll see throughout the rest of this list, House Shadows is currently dominating the meta with its resource-stealing prowess. Case in point: Nerve Blast pilfers one Æmber from your foe, increasing your own supply while decreasing theirs. And if the effect successfully resolves, you deal two damage to a creature.
Unlike MTG, damage remains between turns in Keyforge, so even if you can't outright kill an enemy with Blast, you'll make them easier to defeat on future rounds.
Win Percentage: 57.0%
Urchin is particularly weak for a creature, only bearing one power and zero armor. However, his elusive trait lets him dodge the first attack made against him each turn, helping fortify his endurance. Additionally, when played, he steals an Æmber from your adversary.
Remember, this not only adds to your own supply but depletes your opponent's, accelerating your key-forging while regressing theirs.
6. Lights Out
Win Percentage: 57.3%
This action card simply returns two opposing creatures to their owner's hand. Be careful with timing, as you may not want to bounce creatures already weakened (they'll arrive with full health) or ones with entrance effects. Still, you can drastically stall opposing strategies with this double removal, especially when used on foes of different factions (since your opponent won't be able to recast both in the same turn).
And since creatures enter exhausted, you're safe from their combat prowess even on your rival's next turn.
Win Percentage: 57.5%
Like Urchin, Faygin has no armor but wields elusive, letting him dodge the first attack against him each turn. His power is also an impressive three, and since power also equates to health in Keyforge, Faygin can take hits as well as he dishes them out.
Remember, all creatures can exhaust to "reap" and obtain an Æmber, but Faygin has a bonus effect when reaping: you get to return an Urchin from your field or discard pile to your hand. This lets you reuse Urchin's Æmber-stealing entrance effect, and since he shares Faygin's House, you can harness the ability immediately.
4. Bait and Switch
Win Percentage: 57.9%
An excellent equalizer when your opponent seizes a lead, Bait and Switch pilfers one of Æmber if they have more than you. Then, if they still have more, you repeat the effect.
Whether this can repeat more than once has stirred up controversy, but my understanding is the effect triggers continuously until your Æmber amounts are balanced. So, if you just built a key and are at zero Æmber, and your foe is nearing their next at five, you can severely tip the scales in your favor—be sure to Bait and Switch before using your turn's other Æmber-gaining effects for maximum benefit.
3. Relentless Whispers
Win Percentage: 58.2%
Once again, the Shadows prove how competent they are at thieving resources. This action card first deals a creature two damage, and if that destroys the target, you steal an Æmber from your opponent.
Ideally, you'll want to kill your victim to harness the Æmber steal, but remember that if they have armor, they'll reduce the first damage suffered each turn, so you might need to soften up foes with other abilities.
2. Finishing Blow
Win Percentage: 58.8%
Finishing Blow works great against your opponent's aces. The downside is your victim has to already be damaged to utilize the effect, but once they are, Blow automatically kills them regardless of their remaining health and armor.
If your dastardly move successfully resolves, you yet again steal an opponent's Æmber, depriving them of their key-forging capabilities while advancing your own.
1. Routine Job
Win Percentage: 59%
Ironically, Routine Job is anything but, currently enjoying the highest win percentage of any card. When played, this single-use effect steals an Æmber from an opponent, then steals another for each card named Routine Job in your discard pile.
The more copies you've played, the more you'll power up the heist—just keep in mind you'll reset your value if you shuffle your graveyard into your deck with cards like Help From Future Self.
Advantages of Keyforge's Unique Decks
While some players may hesitate to invest in a deck they can't alter, Keyforge's unique format offers several advantages. Casual and veteran players alike can jump right into the action, decks are fairly balanced (even top cards don't exceed 60% win ratios), and you won't have to spend more money hunting down extra cards (at least until you want an entirely new deck).
While I don't expect the style to replace traditional deck builders, it's a welcome change of pace with a less-intimidating entrance barrier. But for now, as we await Keyforge's next set of top-tier cards, vote for your favorite, and I'll see you at our next gaming countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill