Deck of the Week Episode 6 – Vault Tour Indy

November 16, 2019

Hello and welcome back for episode 6 of the deck of the week. I’m actually on the road in Vegas as I write this, so this is going to be a little bit different. This week, I’ll be giving my recap of Vault Tour Indianapolis (AKA VT Worlds Collide).

Arrival & Preparation

My buddy Jon and I made the two-ish hour trek from our hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. The timing couldn’t be better – my girlfriend and I had just split up and I really needed something to focus on; being out of town to get away from it all for a weekend was probably a great thing, too. Anyways, we arrived at around 5 or 6pm and got settled into our hotel, which was about 3 blocks away from the convention center.

Lovely hotel room view.

Although we had both opened a few Target boxes, we knew we desperately needed to methodically prepare for Saturday’s main event. Bundled in my maybe-a-little-too-warm peacoat, I made the walk with Jon over to the convention center, where other early arrivals were getting in some side events. Major kudos to Yeti for giving out two free side event tickets with VT admission, that was a nice touch (although I ended up giving mine away to a lucky Discordian).

Jon and I both agreed that deck selection would be the single most important decision of the day – any misstep could doom our chances of competing. To make sure that we felt prepared for this, we each bought a display case (I mean hey, finding an archon deck wouldn’t be the worst thing either). Each of us cracked three decks and took fifteen minutes deciding which would be our choice in a hypothetical Vault Tour. Once we’d decided, we switched. I’d look at Jon’s options and figure out what I would choose. Finally, we compared our choices. If we agreed, we would quickly run through what about each deck either made it stand out or eliminated it from contention. With a full display each, we were able to repeat this process four times.

Once we’d gone through our final analysis, we took all the decks back to the hotel and jammed games with the decks we had picked. (This part of the story I’m going to brush over quickly because Jon pummeled me in every game we played). Seeing the cards in action actually did help me understand how I would need to change the way I thought about the game to adapt to the new set.

The Main Event – Deck Selection

Here were my options for the Main Event (for easier reading, I put links to each decklist below the picture):

My options were:

Extravagant Frazier of the Hideaway (link)

Readifast Jensen-Breaker, Medic (link)

First Bowis Ziegler (link)

Extravagant Frazier was extremely tempting. It was my only Saurian deck, which Jon and I (and many other Keyforge players by this point)  had identified as a top-tier house. The triple Axiom of Grisk made me nervous, however. That’s a lot of chains and a lot of situational removal in a format where there’s going to be a lot of aember on creatures on both sides. I also was very worried by the lack of aember generation and key control – Shadows provides a few creatures that can steal aember if they live long enough, but there’s also steal-punishing themes to this set that need to be considered. I think maybe this deck could have run really hot and made Day 2, but if it ever fell behind, I would be in a ton of trouble. Too risky for me.

How many is too many?

Readifast Jensen-Breaker would likely have been my second choice. Double Code Monkey and double Stealth Mode was tasty, and Unnatural Selection seemed to have the makings of a sealed all-star. I think there’s a really strong case that this would have actually been the better deck, but ultimately the lack of aember control again was a big concern.

First Bowis Ziegler leaped off the list to me as a deck with a LOT of key control – key control in all 3 houses, actually. Double “Edie”, double Trust No One, double Skeleton Key, double First Officer Frane, and a Ronnie. This deck wanted to grind it out. I also was really intrigued by Quixxle Stone, a card that would eventually make its way into the Finals (sadly, in another deck). The Grand Star Alliance set looked potentially dominant if it could stick, but the Shadows did seem pretty dreadful to me. The lack of any board clear also certainly not ideal, but you can only play what you open. The aember control gave me peace of mind that I could fall behind and still grind out a victory.

Jon and I regrouped – I was pretty unhappy with my choices and didn’t feel like I had a great deck. But I was hopeful I could grind my way into contention.

How Things Played Out

I don’t remember the details of each match, but I’ll try to give some narrative here of how the day played out.

Jon and I were both 3-0 after the first three rounds. Jon was absolutely dominating his matches – he played on stream during round 2 and was running insanely hot. The fact that he crushed me in all of our matches the night before should have probably also been a strong indication that he was going to thrive in this format. I, on the other hand, was grinding out games by controlling the board with Quixxle Stone and denying my opponents keys. So the deck was doing what it was supposed to do, but it felt far from dominant.

Round 4 I’m paired up with a member of the Key Chargers, who have their own team and podcast. I’m god-awful at names so I’m not going to pretend to remember here. But a super nice guy (and excellent player) who I had played at GenCon in the undefeated bracket to a very close victory. We immediately recognized each other and he hoped to get revenge while I hoped for history to repeat itself. It did not. I was shown firsthand the power of Ronnie Wristclocks + Kymoor Eclipse, as this combo was used to play Ronnie a total of I believe 5 times, stealing 7 aember.  Despite this, I hung in there and the game remained incredibly close, thanks in large part again to Quixxle Stone. Ultimately we went to time, then tie breakers. We had the same number of keys, but my opponent had a single additional aember. Ronnie had clocked me out of the undefeated bracket. My opponent would eventually go on to the Top 16.

A powerful combination.

A tough break. I had to be perfect now. And to my dismay, I somehow was the single 1-loss player to get paired up to the undefeated bracket. Just my luck. My opponent was Youtube streamer Jean Claude Van Keyforge – here’s a link to one of his recent box openings: link. Jean Claude was immediately likeable and we had a very enjoyable match that I was able to squeak out.  I was definitely hopeful that we would get a rematch in Day 2.

Alright, win and in. Just getting to this point was enough for me to say I had met my goal for the tournament. You can’t always make day 2, but if you can get into a win-and-in game, you’re basically already playing in the single-elimination part of the tournament. Jon, by the way, was also 4-1. I was playing against a member of the Sanctimonious community (again, terrible with names sorry). The game wasn’t super interesting – I was behind almost the entire time before my Quixxle Stone got Hocked, leading to a blowout.

It was disappointing to be sure, but in my mind I had basically come within 1 aember (from my tiebreaker loss) of Day 2. I feel like given the deck I played, that is a great result. Jon, meanwhile, had earned his way into his first Day 2.

Day 2 Preparation

I was totally Keyforged out, and a little bit drained by the disappointment of my near-miss. Still, I had to try to help Jon get ready for the following day. First, we grabbed some pizza to take back to the room before jamming a couple games. I played with my main event deck, which I told Jon may not be super value-added because of how game-changing Quixxle Stone is. This would turn out to be quite an ironic observation. Jon made quick work of my deck, which had no answers for the high synergy, high powered deck that Jon had clearly learned to play at a very high level. I really wanted to watch Notre Dame play, so we hit a bar for celebratory drinks – Jon watched some Keyforge content while I cheered on my Irish (to a victory, I should add).

Day 2

There’s not a whole lot I can say here about Day 2 because I was an in-and-out observer of the main event. From what I remember, Jon won his Top 16 match pretty handily before eeking out a very close Top 8 match.

For my part, I was the first competitor of the Jean Claude Van Keyforge sealed challenge. Yeti was willing to give out the blue acrylic aembershards as a reward for play against Jean Claude – 1 shard if you lose, 2 if you win. We each cracked a deck and basically played them blind against each other – the best way to play Keyforge, if you ask me. I had clearly opened a far-superior deck, and the game was one-sided. Apparently Jean Claude’s record during the challenge was like 7-1, so I am quite proud of my two blue aembershards.

After round 2 with Jean Claude, I checked in on Jon. His Top 4 match was about to start and it would be a best of 3.  My comment about the Quixxle Stone did indeed turn out to be ironic – Jon’s top 4 opponent was rocking a Quixxle Stone deck. At this point I was pretty hungry, so I left to go grab food. As a result, I missed most of games 1 & 2, arriving just in time to see Jon secure the Game 2 victory and force a rubber match.

Game 3 was an incredibly close, hard-fought game with huge swings on both sides. Ultimately, the end game found both players with two keys – Jon had fought back from an early deficit to join his opponent in pushing for the match-deciding third key. Jon was able to push his opponent off of check with an Evil Eye, but it would be for naught. Showing the full power of his Untamed suite, Jon’s opponent burst up with Ghosthawk and Flaxia before unleashing a game-ending Key Charge. It was the end of an incredible run for Jon.

Hindsight is 20/20

Looking back in hindsight, I think I picked a deck that played to my strengths. The SAS scores suggest I actually picked the worst of my deck options, so maybe prioritizing aember control was incorrect. If I could do it over, I think I would play Readifast Jensen-Breaker and see if I could just try to outpower my opponent rather than win close, grindy games. Still, taking my “worst” deck to 4-2 is an accomplishment in itself, I suppose. Here’s what SAS thinks about each deck:

Extravagant Frazier of the Hideaway: 72 SAS (10 aember control, 11 expected aember, 14 efficiency, 13 creature control, 90 effective power).

Readifast Jensen-Breaker, Medic: 71 SAS (5.6 aember control, 19 expected aember, 18 efficiency, 4.5 creature control, 91 effective power).

First Bowis Ziegler: 67 SAS (15 aember control, 15 expected aember, 10 efficiency, 3.2 creature control, 100 effective power).

Wrapping Up

Vault Tour Indy was a great experience – I got to meet Wookie and talk some more with fellow Archon Corner folks like JusticeBlinded and Z. Several people mentioned that they knew my work when I told them I was Key Cowboy, which was extremely validating given that I’m doing all of this for the love of the game and the community.  It was the perfect event, with the perfect people, at the perfect time for me in my life. I am truly grateful.

Best of all was watching Jon accomplish an incredible finish. Top 4 is something not many people have ever done – I know I certainly haven’t. I know Jon works incredibly hard, consumes a ton of Keyforge content, and is a very active member of several Keyforge communities. He earned every bit of it, and it wouldn’t shock me at all to see him do it again in the future.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back next week with another version of “Is this the Worst Deck in Keyforge?”  

Forge your weekend, forge your life!

Key Cowboy

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