Episode #2 – The Increasingly Complex World of a Seemingly Simple Card Game

A ragtag army of knights, scientists, demons, and imps moves swiftly across an endless desert, strewn with the remnants of past battles waged across the mighty Crucible.  A lowly Charette, with a handful of aember in one hand and an odd-looking robotic owl on its shoulder, leads the way, while the spirit knight Aubade the Grim follows closely behind, along with a pile of aember of his own.  The remaining creatures making up this motley militia have recently experienced a skirmish unlike any other, and while they may have decimated the opposition, leaving nothing left alive, they are definitely feeling the effects of combat.  As they saunter across the sand-covered plain, the Charette finds itself experiencing a feeling of eerie discomfort…

Before a word can be uttered, the blinding sun is blotted out of the sky by a menacing black presence, a presence that the demons and imps know all too well.  Rumblings of an unlocked gateway quickly spread amongst the ranks, but creatures from all of the great houses know that escaping a cataclysmic event such as this is nearly impossible.  Everything on the battlefield will perish as this particular gateway is unavoidable, yet just when all appears to be lost, Archimedes, the cyborg owl perched on Charette’s shoulder begins to emit a strange energy field, enveloping both Charette and Aubade the Grim.  The owl knows that it will ultimately succumb to the force of destruction rushing towards them, but it can at least transport these two vital creatures away from the darkness so that they may live to fight another day. Charette and Aubade vanish as the impending doom crashes down upon the remaining members of the battleline…

“Pause!!!” screams out Professor Sutterkin, a brilliant scientist who finds himself on the farthest of flanks and furthest from Archimedes’s reach.  Oddly enough, the spreading calamity of the gateway halts in its tracks, mere inches from the creatures it was hoping to devour. All of the creatures, many of which can’t believe what is transpiring in front of them, slowly turn towards the professor to hear what other magical words he has to say.  “Now, I know that technically we are all marked for destruction at this point, as the rules of battle clearly state, but I believe I may have found a loophole,” Professor Sutterkin emphatically states. “You see, now that there is space next to our good friend Archimedes, two more creatures can slide up next to him and be transported to safety just as Charette and Aubade were moments ago.”

With imminent death awaiting the remaining beings, one terrified little imp speaks up.  “So you’re saying that the aforementioned gateway looming over our heads is just going to hang out while the rest of us take turns being whisked away by Robo-Owl over there, and we all get to live?”  “Precisely,” the professor remarks. “I’m not quite sure how or why it works yet, but the Archons themselves claim it to be a product of time manipulation, and you know how we have to implicitly follow the rules of The Crucible, even if they don’t fully make sense.”  The remaining creatures nod in agreement as they all slowly meander closer to Archimedes who is delivering two creatures at a time to safety.  

“Now, I did hear that very soon there will be a timing chart to explain this type of scenario, and the current rulings of battle do make sense…I think.  But all we can do as lowly creatures of The Crucible is to obey the rules of combat and learn to accept them for what they are. I remember when I was just a young lad working on obtaining my PhD…,” the professor trails off as he realizes that only Archimedes and himself remain on the field.  He gives a solemn nod of thanks to this robotic creation of salvation and is transported away from the blackness that surrounds. And just as Professor Sutterkin disappears, the gateway re-engages and swallows up one lonely creature, thus effectively ending the current turn.

Hello and welcome once again to the strange world we refer to as The Random Ramblings of Raspberry Eyes!  I’m your host, the oddly charismatic Raspberry Eyes, and once again I will be bringing you coverage on another element of the world’s favorite new card game, KeyForge.  In today’s episode, we are going to take a look at the current ruling conundrums that many KeyForge enthusiasts have been debating over the summer months and what type of impact those rulings have had on the current organized play scene.  Now, before I get going any further, I do want to clarify that I adore this game and all of those who put in the time to make it run as smoothly as it does. From the creators to the judges and everyone in between, the community and I applaud your efforts, and considering this game is still a few months away from being a year old, what they have done is nothing short of awe-inspiring.  But while I do fully understand the rulings that have been made and why they ruled them as they did, I thought it would be fun to play a little bit of a Devil’s Advocate as we patiently await the fabled release of the almighty “timing chart of destruction”, so that is what I will be doing this week. So, before anyone becomes emotionally compromised while reading this column written by some guy who doesn’t understand the rules, I apologize on your behalf for not fully understanding satirical comments, so I think we maybe even already!

Now, being a mediocre-to-poor CCG player who built his first deck way back in the mid-’90s, I have seen how a game can change and evolve depending on the rulings that have been made.  I remember playing a somewhat still popular card game that I shall not mention here prior to “The Stack” being created, and while it might have been a bit more of a wild west situation when it came to card interpretations, I personally feel it was a simpler and easier-to-navigate experience to partake in as a young nerd such as myself.  In no way do I see KeyForge following this path of insanely convoluted and arbitrary rulings, but what I first picked up as a seemingly simple game has become a bit more complex since the release of the game’s second set, and one can only assume that as the game evolves and new card abilities are introduced, those complexities are sure to increase with the card base.  But I suppose my random thoughts for this particular tangent would best be used to force the discussion of if some of these complexities are even necessary for the game to function properly, or if the game itself is possibly making itself complex for the sake of complexity itself! See what I did there? Putting all of that madness into an attempt at an overly complex sentence?  Yeah, completely intentional…but where was I? Ah yes, a discussion on KeyForge’s implied simplicity as a major selling point for card players such as myself.

So, let’s take a look back at the elaborately beautiful picture I painted to open this article up in my Archimedes example.  I completely understand how this rule came to be, I have accepted it since understanding it, and I have played it in a few decks completely to my advantage.  I mean, Archimedes and Neutron Shark was already the robotic animal pairing of the century, but now I was being told that I could drop a board wipe and everything BUT my Robo-owl was archived?!?  Completely bonkers and awesome all at once! But here is my quandary and the reason for this whole piece: was the card truly intended to work that way? Up to that point in time, if something with a destroyed effect was destroyed, it would trigger on it’s way to the discard pile, which is the way many of us interpreted the concept of “being destroyed”.  But with Archimedes, a whole new can of worms was unleashed as now we had a new term being thrown around that didn’t officially exist, but it definitely did, and that was the now-infamous “marked to be destroyed” distinction.

This idea that now there was a state of existence that happened both after death and prior to it was a bit baffling to comprehend at first, and seeing as how the time manipulation experts of Logos were responsible for this discovery was quite fitting, but my question still remains: did the creators truly want this form of being to be introduced to The Crucible?  While many other Archon-wielding players such as myself assumed that the simplest answer was the best, in that if a board-wiping effect transpired, the immediate neighbors of Archimedes would be saved, and everything else would perish. Yet, here we are, and that to me was a seemingly simple card interpretation being overly complexified. And yes, I’m counting that as a legitimate word.  So while I’m on this playing Devil’s Advocate binge, I pose another pondering: did that ruling make the game simpler as a whole by clearing up what Archimedes was capable of…or did it instead completely taint both previous and future rulings that seemed to be pretty cut-and-dry? From the things I have since discussed and seen being strewn about on various social media platforms, I have to say things have been getting Murkens…er, murkier rather than clearer as of late.

I do know that the almighty beings who beamed us this amazing game from the heavens are working hard on clearing up any confusion by creating some type of timing chart so that there is no longer such a confusing conundrum associated with destruction effects, but this is kind of where my lamest of conspiracy theories currently rests.  If the card was supposed to be played as it has been ruled, and there was a certain timing associated with cards being destroyed and discarded, then why are we still waiting on the timing chart to materialize? If our neighborhood friendly owl had been playtested and has been functioning as intended since that ruling was revealed, it would only make sense that the creators had been aware of a potential timing dilemma, yet here we wait.  I’m really assuming at this point that I’m going to write all of this up and as it waits to publish the powers that be will release the timing chart and clear up all of the confusion that has been created, thus nullifying all of my poetically elegant prose, but fingers crossed they hold true to their early September release of that all-powerful document and this episode doesn’t become lost in the annals of time.

While I feel I have exhausted the Archimedes argument enough for the current millennium, that isn’t to say that our beloved KeyForge hasn’t had its share of other odd ruling situations, which is precisely where I want to end this piece.  Being a player who keeps up with the game and plays extensively, I just wanted to share some of my favorite ruling discussions from the past few months, beginning with one that proved to be fairly costly (and I mean that in the most literal of senses), in what I would like to refer to as the Library Access adventure!

This would not quite fall into the category of something being made overly complex and more of a situation in which players found a way to abuse a card so efficiently that it needed to be stopped, and we all know the history on this particular card, but I have been wondering lately if similar cards from Age of Ascension that has proven to be capable of doing very similar things may face the same purging errata wrath that befell Library Access.  Yes, I’m looking at you Martian Generosity! That card doubled with Key Abduction in the right hands can make for a similar ultra-fast key generation situation, and while it is not a for sure win, neither was many of the OTK Library Access decks, yet it was powerful enough to need an errata.  And like I said earlier, I’m really just trying to throw out some outlandish ideas to let meander around in all of you Archons Corner perusers’ minds for a while, so don’t really take all of this as truth or even half-truth. Or do, I can’t control who reads this nonsense!

Another fun ruling situation I have followed that seems to present itself periodically is that of cards being sacrificed.  The main problem that arises when discussing sacrificial terms has centered around ownership, with the consensus of players claiming that you need to control a creature in order to sacrifice it, which makes total sense.  You are offering something to your Archon overlord in exchange for some momentous benefit, so you need to suffer slightly in order to do so. The question has arisen of being able to sacrifice a creature that you gained control of through some other means or ability, and the undoubtedly simple response would be yes.  But the counter-argument from some players has been centered around the sacrificial properties of an artifact when it is controlled by another Archon. This is a little less clear, but if you are allowed to use an artifact, you could definitely destroy it while in your possession, so while this whole ruling discussion may have some merit, this is a prime example of players attempting to make the game more complex than was intended, so not all of the blame can fall on the creator’s shoulders!  And I’m not even going to mention some of the card arguments I have encountered presented around the slightly different pronunciations of one single word within a card’s text that completely change the interpretation of what that card states.

To wrap up this episode and since my train of thought is growing closer and closer to a full-blown train wreck, I want to bring it back to a delusion that was born out of the Archimedes verdict, and this one is entirely because of a portion of the player base attempting to completely dismantle the KeyForge universe with complexities.  Yes, I am referring to the idea that not only can a creature be marked for destruction, but since there is a timing situation now involved prior to a creature reaching the discard pile, then, in theory, that creature can be destroyed…twice!!! For any novice player or even casual gaming fan, even a basic understanding of the rules of this game would completely dismantle that theory, yet it had been widely debated, so much so that just recently it was stated through top-level sources that in no way was a creature going to be destroyed multiple times in order to activate multiple destroyed or leaves play effects.

So, I guess the long and overly drawn out (dare I say…complex?) purpose of this week’s ramblings would be this: don’t ruin the greatest card game ever to exist by taking something simple and forcing it to be convoluted.  With the few examples I gave, it is fairly obvious that everyone involved has been guilty of it, from the game creators to the judges to the players themselves, so let’s just not go there and keep this game unpretentious for the sake of my personal sanity!  Thanks for sticking it out this far, I hope you found something in here to enjoy or utterly despise, and if you did, well, I did my job…that I don’t get paid for, ha! And with that, I’m Raspberry Eyes, signing off and reminding you all to ramble on!

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