Keyforge, the newest Richard Garfield game has 100% Unique Decks

The Blind Eternities forum

Posted on Sept. 27, 2018, 3:18 a.m. by Boza

Keyforge is a new card game, coming out later this month in select preview events, which is the latest creation of MTG Creator Richard Garfield. Debuted at GenCon 2018, will soon be available to all.

The USP or unique selling point of Keyforge is a UDS or Unique Deck System. There is no deckbuilding in the game at all - you open a deck play it right out of the box versus other players who did the same. The kicker is that there are no two Keyforge decks alike in existence.

The publisher FFG has developed an algorithm, that ensures that decks are unique - not only are commons, uncommons and rares are uniquely distributed - so you may get 8 copies of certain rare, or 1 copy of certain common - but also the factions you get (usually 3 out of 7) and the cards you get are all in a unique combination that has never existed before. Prior to printing a deck, it is randomly generated and compared versus all other decks in existence to ensure uniqueness is maintained.

Richard Garfield interview, giving an overview of the game

Delving more into the world and setup of the game:

Keyforge is played on a world where mysterious Architects have gathered species from all over the universe on one planet with no way for them to leave. Few beings known as Archons are able to communicate easily with all. You play as an Archon, aiming to collect enough of the only game resource - AEmber. Aember is the only way to forge keys to open a mysterious megalithic tower in the center of world, said to hold anything you desire. The archon assembles a rag team of creatures, artifacts and spells to achieve that goal.

This aember is used to forge keys to the megalithic tower in the center of the planet with no way to enter besides some weird keys - a player who gathers 6 amber pieces forges a key at the beginning of his or her turn, a player who forges 3 keys opens the vault and gets access to riches of the tower and, more importantly, immediately becomes the winner.

In the first season of the game, there are 7 houses you can play as - large congregations of creatures with similar philosophies.

  • House Brobnar - Viking-based barbarians for whom might is right.
  • House Dis - technologically and aember enhanced demons of the underworld who torture the living for fun and profit.
  • House Shadow - a general collection of rogues and thiefs and other skulking creatures.
  • House Archon - a society that lives in protected sanctuaries and guided by angels.
  • House Logos - the mad scientiests house inspired by Rick and Morty.
  • The untamed - a collection of beasts and large things that go bump in the night.
  • House Mars - the puritans of the planet, who hate diluting their race with unclean non-martians. 60s scifi aliens with small green bodies and large heads.

Any deck has exactly 3 houses from it. Cards have rarities - common, uncommon, rare and maverick. The first three dictate how often a card appears based on a algorithm. An average deck has 3 rares, but can have more or less or none at all. Rarity is not indicative to powerlevel. The equivalent to Wrath of God in KeyForge is actually a common card.

While aember is the resource of the game, cards do not aember to play. In fact, it costs no resources to play cards or activate them! On your turn, you choose one of your three houses to activate and for the rest of the turn, you may play cards from hand or activate creatures to fight from that faction only. At the end of turn, you refill your hand back to starting size and pass the turn.

With 370 cards in the first season of the game, there are 107 quadrillion decks possible. If FFG printed 1 deck every second with just the cards in the first non-unique deck will appear after 3.4 million years.

How does that sound to Magic players? Is this something you would play?

Rabid_Wombat says... #2

It is something that I would play however the pre-orders at my LGS have been crazy expensive - like $60 per deck.

September 27, 2018 3:30 a.m.

Boza says... #3

MSRP is 9.95 for a single deck or 39.95 for a set. The set has 2 premade starter decks (which, if you have glanced at a card game in your life are not needed to learn how to play) and 2 unique decks, plus a set of tokens and other paraphanelia.

I honestly do not know how it could preorder for 6 times more when cards/decks have no resale value. How are they justifying that price?

September 27, 2018 3:54 a.m.

Demarge says... #4

so the selling point of the game is that it's cards are supposed to be bought and never reorganized to build stronger decks with? this honestly just sounds like asking world of warcraft players if they'd want to trade in their effort put into wow for a slightly different version of wow.

September 27, 2018 4:25 a.m.

Boza says... #5

Yes, it is at the very least an interesting idea. I read in the interview that rarity is not indicative of power level - Wrath of God is a common in this game. Given that cards also have a different back, it will not be possible to mix'n'match at all. It allows you to make intro decks as powerful as tier 1 constructed monsters in theory.

I would say the selling point is great - it levels the playing field and makes it possible to play on budget by getting a random deck.

There are a few tidbits at how organized play will work - stronger decks will be handicapped. So, imagine you are running the hundred meter dash versus Usain Bolt, obviously you will lose.

However, if Bolt was not wearing a track suit but a trenchcoat with a parachute tied to his back, you will have a chance.

If that is not enough, you get the opportunity to put lead pants on Bolt instead of his usual attire. However, the pants are flimsy and will shatter halfway through the dash, so better be ready for him to speed up.

September 27, 2018 4:51 a.m.

Boza says... #6

I have added some additional info on the flavor and mechanics of the game:

Keyforge is played on a world where mysterious Architects have gathered species from all over the universe on one planet with no way for them to leave. Few beings known as Archons are able to communicate easily with all. You play as an Archon, aiming to collect enough of the only game resource - AEmber. Aember is the only way to forge keys to open a mysterious megalithic tower in the center of world, said to hold anything you desire. The archon assembles a rag team of creatures, artifacts and spells to achieve that goal.

This aember is used to forge keys to the megalithic tower in the center of the planet with no way to enter besides some weird keys - a player who gathers 6 amber pieces forges a key, a player who forges 3 keys is the winner and gets access to riches of the tower.

In the first season of the game, there are 7 houses you can play as - large congregations of creatures with similar philosophies. Any deck has exactly 3 houses from it. Cards have rarities - common, uncommon, rare and maverick. The first three dictate how often a card appears based on a algorithm. An average deck has 3 rares, but can have more or less or none at all. Rarity is not indicative to powerlevel. The equivalent to Wrath of God in KeyForge is actually a common card.

While aember is the resource of the game, cards do not aember to play, in fact, there is no cost to playing those cards. In fact, it costs no resources to play cards or activate them! On your turn, you choose one of your three houses to activate and for the rest of the turn, you may play cards from hand or activate creatures to fight from that faction only. At the end of turn, you refill your hand to starting size and pass the turn.

With 370 cards in the first season of the game, there are 107 quadrillion decks possible. If FFG printed 1 deck every second with just the cards in the first non-unique deck will appear after 3.4 million years.

September 27, 2018 7:36 a.m.

loricatuslupus says... #7

I've been keeping an eye on this since I found out about it, and I like the premise as well as the background. The battleline is a cool idea and being able to play whatever you want but only from one house a turn should make for some interesting plays. Looks great for tournaments where everyone gets a random deck and has to play with it - no netdecking! However, I worry that it will remain partially pay to win as people with more money can just buy multiple decks. In addition, I'd like to be certain of at least one of the factions within a deck that I was buying. Three of them really look like what I'd want to play and it would suck to buy a whole deck, only to find out upon opening it that none of them were in it. Obviously they want to keep it reasonably secretive but even just knowing the Archon's house would make me more likely to buy more so that I could see how they differ.

September 27, 2018 8:30 a.m.

cdkime says... #8

This game holds no appeal for me. While I love playing Magic, my favourite part of the game is the artesty, the skill required to build an interesting deck.

Without deckbuilding, it just does not seem interesting. Further, this means you’re entirely reliant on luck - if you got a get a bad deck, your remedy is only buying a new one, not developing your skill at construction.

It doesn’t help that, a little over a month ago, I saw an interview with Garfield discussing this game. When asked why he designed the game so one couldn’t deckbuild, he gave a response that seemed somewhat ungrateful for everything Magic did for him. While he did not name any games in particular, he railed against other card games’ promotion of optimisation, and how entire communities had developed to discuss deck construction. As a Johnny with some Spike tendencies, and a fairly active member of one such community, it was pretty clear my playstyle was offensive to the game’s creator.

Frankly, I’m more excited about his other game that is coming out - Valve’s Artifact. Not because I’m interested in the game - it seems yet another computer game vying for Hearthstone’s market - but because Valve is finally making games again. Here’s hoping there’s more Portal on the horizon.

September 27, 2018 8:46 a.m.

Boza says... #9

loricatuslupus, all decks have a randomly generated name - from Miss Onyx Pompodous through Vega No Thumbs and Triumvirate the Fabulous, culminating with King Potato.

That name is based on three houses, prominently displayed on the face of the deck in the form of a signature card that serves as a representation of your Archon. AFAIK, the houses present in the deck and deck name are the only information you will have prior to buying the deck to discern what the deck will contain.

Although, that is not entirely true - the game has a fourth rarity - maverick - which represents cards from other houses different from the ones printed on the Archon card. For example, a monster normally present in House Dis, may loan itself out to the House Logos even if the deck is a Logos, Untamed, Mars deck.

At this point, we do not have the full card list, but the first season is 370 cards or 53 per house and they are now starting to provide details for each of the houses. Additionally, we have a PDF of the full rules that have details for the 7 houses and their respective gameplay.

September 27, 2018 8:46 a.m.

Boza says... #10

cdkime, I think I read the same interview and came away with the conclusion that Garfield did not enjoy how optimization and the meta and endless online discussions on both of those take away from the game, rather than add to it. Additionally, he mentions that those aspects have taken over MTG and formats he enjoys like league or sealed are left to the wayside, because they lack that factor.

I personally agree - with the digital age, most of deckbuilding in magic has been optimized, with little wiggleroom. want to build a new EDH deck? head to edh.rec and view what cards 30000 other players have included or go to T/O and get the most popular decks for that commander.

I agree that KF sounds a lot like playing sealed - you open a deck, get whatever cards and play with them and lose to vastly superior deck. That sounds like a real party pooper. However, what keyforge has is a certain portability - you can take the same pile that just lost to another card shop or play versus another player and win easily, because you matched up better. You cannot do that with MTG Sealed decks. Plus there is skill in piloting the deck (I assume) and luck of the draw to account for.

My favorite aspect of MTG is deckbuilding, more than actually playing (that would explain why I am on T/O too much), however, I am super excited to give KeyForge a try. The buy-in is insanely low - 1 pack of a Masters set or 1 account on MTGO is the cost of whole deck and you do not need to purchase anything ever again, if you do not want to. The opportunity costs to trying KF is practically zero.

September 27, 2018 9:08 a.m.

shadow63 says... #11

Seems like an interesting concept. But I worry that with the decks being random and not being able to be changed two things will happen 1. People will get 1 deck and just play with it and not spend any more money on the game 2. There will be that one deck in your playgroup that is just radically stronger then everyone else's. Just my thoughts.

September 27, 2018 11:03 a.m.

Boza says... #12

There are balancing systems in place for that. At the end step, you refill your hand to 6 cards and remove 1 chains from yourself. What are Chains? The game has a Chains system in place to monitor strong decks. Chains is a scale with levels:

1-5 draw 1 cards less at the end of turn
6-10 draw 2 cards less at the end of turn
11-15 draw 3 cards less at the end of turn
16-20 draw 4 cards less at the end of turn

Each turn you will draw less as long as you are somewhere on the scale, but with each passing turn you go down the scale. If on your turn you have three cards in hand and are on the 6th spot of the chain scale, you will draw 1 card instead of the normal 3 and reduce the Chains to 5. Next turn, you will draw just 1 card less at the end of turn.

FFG have detailed it can be used in three main ways - bidding for a stronger deck, additional cost using certain powerful effects or simply to reduce the power of a strong deck.

Bidding is the most interesting application - if there are several decks to choose from, players can bid on the Chain scale in order to select a deck to play with.

Additionally, there are certain powerful cards that bump you up on the chain scale by activating them.

Finally, in a tournament setting or at the store, you can simply say "If you want to play with this deck, you have to start from chains level 10, because it is very strong".

It is a cluncky and unintuitive system, but it does work to hamper powerful decks. I did not detail it previously because it takes a lot of space to write it out.

September 27, 2018 11:33 a.m.

legendofa says... #13

Is a decklist included with the deck? I didn't see that anywhere, and if it's not, it would be easy to carefully modify a deck so that it seems like you got an unusually lucky pull, stronger than average but not obviously ridiculous. Not that I would suggest anyone here cheats, of course...

I think I'm not the target audience for this game. I'd be willing to try it with friends, but I don't think I would enter a tournament or anything. I personally don't like netdecking, but I enjoy the freedom to improve one of my brews if it's not working right or I'm not having fun with it.

September 27, 2018 11:36 a.m.

Boza says... #14

I think all cards in the deck have different backs depending on the deck, but details on this are few. If true, it will be very hard to miss a card not part of the deck. I am also unsure if there are decklists.

September 27, 2018 11:47 a.m.

ork_mcgork says... #15

This was brought up in my DnD group a few weeks ago by a player in said group who doesn't play MTG (he used to back when the rocks were soft).

I'm... torn. I think the novelty is great, but will wear off fast. I like that I don't have to agonize over options to build my deck, but I like having some control over what cards I play. I think the game sounds fun and different enough to be engaging, but at the same time I've seen enough games without resource cards that end up running out of ideas fast. I could go on, but that should present the dichotomy.

One thing I wonder about is the whole 'algorithm generated deck' thing - how long are they gonna do that before the go "Oh no, we need money!" and just start selling booster packs to "supplement your pregen deck! cards anyone can use!"

September 27, 2018 11:49 a.m.

Boza says... #16

Well, this is Fantasy Flight after all. Their LCGs do not have a good reputation. Netrunner was a success, designed by Garfield too, until it was not; Legend of the five rings is so dense that most players do not get it (I tried).

Honestly, the worst thing about this game is that FFG will try to muck it up somehow in the future and ruin the original vision. It happened to Magic and WOTC, so no card game is immune to it. The good thing is that your investment in the game is not large and a deck or two are not super expensive.

September 27, 2018 12:09 p.m.

Boza have you tried all their stuff? Conquest was epic - my friends and I still play it - while their LotR and Arkham Horror LCGs are incredible, I really love the mix of flavour and cooperation coupled with quests that are challenging as well as innovative. Not played the latest edition of LotFR so can't comment. However all of them have a strong deckbuilding element and, like yourself, that's an aspect that I really enjoy in my games. If my LGS has a release day for it I'd definitely try it out (as you say, super low investment) but can't see myself buying the box set: the rules seem intuitive for anyone who's played enough similar games and you don't NEED the tokens.

September 27, 2018 6:43 p.m.

Rabid_Wombat says... #18

Boza I presume my LGS was price-gouging due to the misguided notion that Keyforge would sell out on release like MTG Alpha did.

If you think that FFG's Legend of the Five Rings LCG is "dense" you should check out the original...Old5R rocked!

I must agree with loricatuslupus that the LotR LCG is incredible. The fixed rarity model actually put me off ever buying MTG boosters for life...great seeing non-MTG playing friends embrace deckbuilding because of having every card you need on hand.

We recently scored the Call of Cthulhu LCG second-hand with eight deluxe expansions for $60. Absolutely phenomenal gameplay all for what half a box of GRN will cost at retail.

Back to Keyforge...would FFG have picked it up if someone other than Richard Garfield had created it? I strongly doubt it because at the end of the day the mechanics come across as weak and the whole "uniqueness" of the decks sounds gimmicky at best. And unless it gets really, really popular no way are you going to be able to rock up to an LGS and play it with other peeps.

September 27, 2018 7:04 p.m.

Boza says... #19

And unless it gets really, really popular no way are you going to be able to rock up to an LGS and play it with other peeps.

Truer words have never been spoken. Probably why I have not played the Arkham Horror LCG or LOTR LCG, or old 5 rings or call of chtulu LCG... because nobody I knew was playing it. I played some Netrunner, and I enjoyed the gameplay and flavor a lot, still probably one of my favorite card games ever. But that was because someone besides me was playing it.

I think the low entry point is something that KF gets right - I plan to buy 2 "advanced" packs and carry them with me, to try to hook people into it. It costs 20 bucks to do so. And while mechanics look unassuming, how interact with each other is much more important.

September 28, 2018 2:31 a.m.

Totally agree. Convincing someone else to play a game that needs them to buy a single pack - which will be unique to them - seems easy enough compared to attempting to justify breaking into Modern. Rabid_Wombat it's interesting that you say that, I've found the same thing in that people who hated MTG will spend hours fine-tuning a Ranger Trap to capture Gollum! Then again, another couple of things about the LotR is that a: it's cooperative and b: you can play on your own. This is incredibly important if you work long hours or live away from your play group, while Keyforge is just another duelling card game that is wasted if you can't find an opponent. See Force of Will...

September 28, 2018 5:22 a.m.

Boza says... #21

While there no news on that specifically, Garfield has said that digital implementation has been a very important point with him and the game is designed with it in mind. There is an official app to manage deck collections in the works. Additionally, not confirmed, but you will be able to scan your deck code and import it in an app (same one? a different one?) to allow you to use the physical deck in an online enviroment.

loricatuslupus, If/once that is available, finding opponents should be a bit easier.

I have been enamored Warhammer Age of Sigmar Champions card game, it is a nice a simple one. Additionally, you can scan your physical decks and import them in an app for online play. I imagine Keyforge will get similar treatment.

September 28, 2018 6:03 a.m.

Boza says... #22

For those who wanted it:

FFG have finally begun having a write up of all the Houses and what they do, philosphically and gameplay-wise. House Brobnar, Viking-inspired house of warriors, where might is right, cares about attacking:

House Brobnar

September 28, 2018 6:45 a.m.

Rabid_Wombat says... #23

Went to the Keyforge Launch at one of my hometown's LGS's...did not have the time to play but viewed a few matches. First impressions:

Cons -

  1. Imagine an MTG deck that you knew could be awesome if you made a change or two but couldn't because you were flat broke...welcome to Keyforge. Nightmarish.

  2. The rules for combat seem really out of place, as if they were from another game entirely.

  3. People were constantly confused about how certain cards interacted with one another as many of the rules are unclear. The rulebook included with the Starter set is incomplete with the only complete set of rules being available online which did not help the players IRL.

  4. Playing decks that are randomly generated can take forever - players complained about the time limit of each round being 45 minutes...some games took twice that long.

  5. The fact all of the decks are randomly generated by an algorithm and is unique is sadly just a blatant cash grab. Got a deck that doesn't work? Pull out that wallet and buy another. Gotta love being able to buy singles for MtG!

  6. One LGS in my hometown has refused to stock Keyforge because "the decks are more like lootboxes than decks". This is a shame as they have better staff and a huge area to play card games compared to the smaller rival LGS that held the Launch Party.

  7. The large starter packs contain two decks- two "pre-con" decks (that are totally useless), a lame, incomplete rulebook and a bunch of cheap, cardboard tokens. Compared to the starter box that FFG released for Star Wars this is just highway robbery at $70.00...Sadly now the Keyforge box sets are going online for $120+ since now they are Sold Out everywhere.

  8. The art is horrible and looks like something out of a kids mobile app game...this put me off playing Keyforge more than anything else.

  9. The starter decks can be easily tampered with...unscrupulous peeps can slide open the bottom of the packaging with a pen knife, check the decklist card (which faces outward...what the hell FFG) and if it is a crappy deck just re-glue it and resell it. Thanks to that decklist card there is no need to open the plastic sealed deck to check the contents. Some decks (the infamous 8 Horsemen for example) can go for well over a grand so this shady business is going on for sure.

  10. The randomly generated deck names are all stupid and nonsensical.

Pros:

  1. All starters and decks were sold out, there were about twenty people in attendence and it was great to see everyone so hyped about a new game...there is going to be a weekly tournament scene as well.

  2. Keyforge really does remind me of Kitchen Table Magic back in the day when Unlimited was sold out and we were struggling to find even land cards that we needed for decks. Don't know if that's a good thing but nostalgia tho' ;)

  3. This is easily Richard Garfield's best game since MtG - forget Netrunner, Robo Rally, Jyhad etc.. If you are a fan of the man you have an obligation to check out Keyforge!

  4. The ability to look up any deck on the Keyforge app by typing in the unique, silly name and instantly get a list up with pics of all the cards is pretty cool.

  5. I must admit that I never bought any starter decks...I sniped a Four Horsemen deck online for under fifty bucks last week before the hype pushed them above the $100 mark. I was laughing at the guys and gals lining up blowing their cash at random decks - some of which will turn out to be virtually unplayable because of that algorithm thang ;)

November 25, 2018 3:02 a.m.

Boza says... #24

So far, I bought the starter box (I advise you not to, it is not worth it) and 1 single deck outside of that for a total of 2 starter decks and 3 normal decks.

I would like to address some of the above cons:

  1. Yes, it sucks not to have deckbuilding. But for people who do nto like that part of Magic, or then again, are not into traditional card games, the lack of deckbuilding is a blessing.

  2. There are rules for combat? It is a comparison of 2 fairly small numbers.

  3. Yes, the rules are confusing and not clearly laid out, even online. There is room for interpretation and a Gatherer-style website with a FAQ on card interactions would a great addition to the game. That is something that took a decade to accomplish, keyforge has been out for a week.

  4. That is true, there are some matchup of amber-disrupting decks that need to be slower and/or people play slower with a new, unfamiliar game on launch.

  5. Wait, what? A deck that "does not work"? Not only is that extremely unlikely to happen, your deck and your opponent's decks are randomized every game. If you pit two decks one against the other in several matchups, the outcome is rarely one-sided. A "deck that does not work" and "a string of bad luck" may coincide here.

  6. This is the most stupid thing out of every single point. "Decks are like lootboxes"? As a MTG player, have you seen what a pack is - a effing lootbox! Why are OK with it in one game, but not the other?

  7. Yes, the starter packs suck, I would purchase only as a giftbox of sorts.

  8. That is entirely subjective, so I cannot comment on it, but make the distincton between art and art style. You dislike the art style, but the actual art is quite detailed.

  9. Wait, what? Decklist cards are with facing with the deckname only forward, there is no way to do that, unless I am misremembering.

  10. Holy shit, the deck names are my favorite part of the game:

best keyforge decknames

"The villain that digs up porridge"

Addtionally, they make a great conversation starter/icebreaker, which makes the game a lot more friendly. It is easy AF to walk up to someone and ask them what their deckname is and go from there.

November 26, 2018 3:22 a.m.

Rabid_Wombat says... #25

To clarify, when I said that a deck doesn't work I was referring to the fact that some decks can only win 5 percent of the time....

It was the store who said that "decks are like lootboxes" and you are exactly right to make the comparison to MtG, although at least with singles they can be improved upon.

Decklist names are 100 percent facing outwards - check ebay listings or the some of the thousands of reddit posts that start with; "Is my deck any good?"

November 26, 2018 3:56 a.m.

Boza says... #26

  • So far, my games of Keyforge have been close. Any deck that won, the opposing one was a turn or two away from victory.
  • Garfield included the chains system to boost weaker decks and take down a peg stronger ones. Have you tried it?
  • 25 years of Magic lootboxes and now, Keyforge is suddenly a problem? Keyforge, where literally nobody knows what is actually good and what is trash?Keyforge, where people are selling 8-horsemen deck for 2k bucks simply on their rarity? No, that is not what Keyforge is about. For example:
  • Wrath of God is a common in this game and creatures are the main part of any deck, so WOG is even more powerful here. Card power is not tied to rarity.
  • I have 1 deck that has 3 rares, 1 per House and another deck that has the 4 horsemen (4 mythics), 1 maverick card and 3 other rares from the other factions. Guess which deck wins more? The one with the fewer rare cards. It is more consistent and has decent power in its common slot.
  • Can you input just a deckname, without the QR code, and get the contents? If so, this should not be the case and decks without scanned QR codes, should not be searchable online.
  • However, this brings me back to the other point - can you really determine how a deck will play just based on the decklist alone? This is not magic, where Welkin Tern and Snapcaster Mage are clearly not in the same league. The power levels of individual cards cannot be gauged and in keyforge, more than any other game, the whole deck is a lot more important than the individual cards in it.
November 26, 2018 4:45 a.m.

Rabid_Wombat says... #27

To address your last point Boza - checkout this site for deck analysis:

https://keyforge-compendium.com

Have fun :D

November 26, 2018 8:23 p.m.

Please login to comment