Episode #3 – An Archon’s Ability to Accessorize

It’s a dreary autumn afternoon as you saunter through the door of your favorite local game shop.  Any other day and the weather would have you in a funk of sorts, but not today. Today is tournament day.  You’ve spent the past few weeks painstakingly testing out your arsenal of decks and feel confident in your chosen Archon for today’s battles.  Your knowledge of the current meta and the newest card additions from the latest expansion have you personally poised for victory. The field seems like it might be pretty strong today, but even if you are relatively fresh on the tournament scene, you feel the odds may just be in your favor on this day.  You sit down at your respective first-round table to make your final preparations before the melee commences, and then…your first-round opponent enters.

They casually stroll over to the table you just so happen to be sitting at.  As they sit across from you, offering the obligatory head nod of a future adversary, your self-assurance is still fairly high.  Your opponent may have the look of a champion and may indeed possess the skills to truly compete, but you’ve still got this under control.  That is until your challenger begins to take out their acquired KeyForge weapons, and all of that self-appointed confidence begins to waver.

As if you are transported into the shoes of Fred Savage as he looked on in awe at the Power-Glove wielding Lucas from the underrated film, The Wizard, you are immediately lost in the glory of your opponent’s golden pile of aember and glistening damage and power tokens.  The massive metal keys from a recent Vault Tour spill out onto the tabletop as your rival unfurls an ultra-rare playmat made available only after winning a prestigious event. All of this transpires before the decks even make their way onto the battlefield, which you assume are double-sleeved in some type of translucent holograph design with flecks of 24k gold mixed into the matte-finished backs.  And as much as you hate to admit it to yourself, your sureness in victory has taken a slight hit.

You know that this outward display of accessorizing is nothing more than a psychological ploy, or it may even be that your opponent really just likes the unique options available for customization in this unique card game.  But, even with that awareness, you instantly feel greater respect for your current foe and are ready to take this first match-up to an entirely new level of competition. It’s tough to tell if this outright display of accessorization will offer any type of advantage, but the judge calls for the first-round to commence and the timer begins its slow descent into nothingness as the clash begins!

Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of The Random Ramblings of Raspberry Eyes!  I’m your host, the increasingly egotistical Raspberry Eyes, and in this week’s episode, we are going to delve into a topic that is very near and dear to my little heart, with that being the world of Archon accessories!  Now, being a player who likes to spend a little bit of money on this aspect of the game, I felt that it would be appropriate for me to divulge a little information about myself when it comes to adorning my very own Archons.

To start with, I’ll be completely honest and come right out and say that I would be the aforementioned “Lucas” type of character that walks into a tournament ready to strike fear in the hearts of my opponents.  If someone were to make a futuristic “Power-Glove” equivalent that was KeyForge tournament legal, I’d be sporting it immediately. While I don’t have nearly the tournament experience that I would like to have at this point in my KeyForge career, mainly due to a non-existent local scene and needing to travel to play competitively at all, but when I do get out and play I come well-prepared in the psychological warfare department.

My current setup consists of a military-style tactical bag that perfectly fits my deck arsenal, which is housed in an Ultimate Guard Superhive.  Inside you will find my favorite ten decks, safely kept inside Ultimate Guard Sidewinders and Dragon Shields for additional protection, along with my collection of Aurbits tokens and aember, along with an assortment of metal keys and chain trackers.  To top it off, I keep one or two playmats conveniently located in the Superhive itself along with a handful of my favorite Q Workshop metal dice, just in case someone might need a mat or my opponent and I decide to roll to see who is up first. I keep my own personal playmats that I consistently use inside Ultimate Guard Matpods, which also fit perfectly inside my tactical bag, and the rest of the compartments in my satchel are used to house an entire tackle-style box of extra tokens along with some other deck boxes full of starter decks and promo cards.  So to put it bluntly, I come prepared for any situation that may present itself!

Now, while I may personally have my favorite brands that I tend to consistently utilize and purchase as my KeyForge needs exponentially increase, I want to clarify that in no way am I advocating for any particular accessory or style, I just know what I like and what works for me.  This column is going to lay out some options without a lot of specifics, mainly because the accessory options available for KeyForge are quite numerous and so many of them are awesome in both functionality and aesthetics, but we are going to take some time to discuss a few of those options and what advantages, if any, they may bring to your tournament experiences.

I feel like building this column up from the tabletop, so before you even bring out your most vaunted deck, you need to bust out those playmats!  Now, the options for playmats are absolutely endless, ranging from FFG officially licensed KeyForge mats featuring some of the best artwork in the game all the way to custom-created play areas containing celebrities such as Jeff Probst, the host of the hit TV show Survivor.  A friend of mine is incredibly proud of his Probst-mat, and while it may not directly strike fear into the hearts of his opponents, it definitely does unnerve them slightly!  Playmats definitely offer some added flair to your gaming experience, both for you and your opponent, and most of us tend to stick with either a “lucky” mat or possibly a rare tournament prize that is fairly unique, especially in this particular game.  

While I own nearly all of the readily-available options that KeyForge currently offers in the way of playmats, all contained neatly in Ultra Pro tubes in a massive tote, I tend to play most of my games on a “Nerve Blast” mat that I acquired when the game was relatively new and is supposed to be one of just twenty in existence.  It looks good, the quality is fantastic, and you don’t see many of them floating around, so it combines many of the elements needed in a solid playmat. While some of the other accessories that will be mentioned throughout this article may offer more of an “edge”, most tournament level players have picked up a playmat that they personally enjoy playing with and while some of them may have gone down a strange path (I’m looking at you, Probst mat guy!), this accessory is fairly commonplace and is more of a conversation-starter as opposed to a victory-determiner.

Once that playmat of choice is firmly set in place, it’s time to bring out the decks!  While KeyForge is a game that relies heavily upon the sealed format and therefore coming into contact with many an unsleeved deck is definitely a possibility, I am a player who prefers to sleeve up my decks no matter which format or game variation I happen to be partaking in.  There is just something about having that added protection on your cards as they are handled by yourself and others in a tournament setting, and especially since there is currently no process in place from FFG to replace damaged or missing cards from a specific deck, all the more reason to take some extra precautions in card security.  There are definitely various options to take when sleeving your KeyForge decks, and FFG is even beginning to release their own officially licensed sleeves in the form of prize support, but deck sleeves are definitely another accessory that many casual and serious players alike tend to use. Now, if a player with some serious KeyForge acumen starts to take down the local scene with an unsleeved deck, that would have me a bit more worried!

Deck boxes, on the other hand, are a bit more of a status symbol in most collectible card games, and KeyForge is no exception.  I have already regaled you with my affinity for Ultimate Guard deck protection, but I am also very eager to finally get my hands on some of the GameGenic creations that should be arriving in stores very shortly.  While it is of the utmost importance to keep those one-of-a-kind decks protected from the elements, some of the nicer deck boxes out there create a one-stop-shop experience that can not only house your tokens, keys, chain trackers, and probably a few other items I haven’t even considered, all in one convenient package.  When you can sit down across from your opponent, unroll your playmat, and then produce one sleek-looking box containing everything you may need to do battle, it definitely represents a slightly more serious approach than someone with a tacklebox full of tokens and counters. Both styles of presentation will ultimately get the job done, but here is a situation where I feel that smaller is better and I’m hoping that GameGenic has created a product that accomplishes this feat for my own gaming needs.

And now we begin to delve into the areas of accessorizing that truly separate the children from the adults, and that is the realm of the all-powerful token!  With the advances in 3D printing technology and the entrepreneurial spirits enveloping the world of Etsy, customized token sets are definitely something a serious player needs to consider.  Granted, if the person seated across from me pulls out some obviously handmade monstrosities that they proudly bring forth to represent various game states, I’m probably going to be a little afraid of that opponent, but by and large a custom token set just feels a little better than the FFG cardboard pieces that are provided in the starter kits.

This is the first and pretty much the only area of accessorizing that has a vast price differential.  Aside from the cardboard offerings found in the starter kit, which honestly do a fairly solid job and will be the first place to look when new tokens and game states are introduced, you can obtain anything from a low-end acrylic set from Etsy all the way to some insanely elegant high-end offerings from Luxury Playstyle.  I personally am a huge fan of the Aurbits product and have received many a compliment on my token set when playing in tournaments, but durability is definitely something that you will pay a little bit more for and it is usually worth it. Many of the higher-end options tend to keep up with the needs of the game as well, so while you may have to wait a little while after a set releases to obtain some of the new tokens, those companies usually have their finger on the pulse of the game scene and are developing something worth the wait.  And it is pretty tough to deny the fact that if the player across from you whips out a pile of Luxury Playstyle tokens and aember, you know they are going to take this matchup seriously and you need to be at the top of your game!

Your key set is another integral part of any token collection, and from what I have started noticing from both live streams of Vault Tours or even at local tournaments is that the oversized metal keys that were obtained as prize support are becoming the standard.  They have such a good weight and feel to them that they are just hard to pass up. Aurbits does a great job with their keys as well, and you can obtain them as a part of their one or two player token sets, and I usually prefer those myself since they have a bit of weight to them but are closer in size to the standard cardboard FFG keys.  I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to get my hands on a set of the championship metal keys, which are also basic key size and fit conveniently in the GameGenic deck boxes, but having something that you are proud to flip over when it is your forge step is pretty important. Now, I have definitely seen some unique ways to account for forged keys, including one player who had three concealed Pokemon cards and refused to tell their opponent which Pokemon they were until those subsequent keys were forged, but the essence of the game is to forge keys, therefore you should have some sweet looking keys to forge!

Chain trackers, the final necessity of KeyForge accessories, is one that I was not a fan of using…at least until recently.  The traditional chain tracker cards, which I will admit I have collected and own at least one of each that has been released, were a bit cumbersome to say the least.  I used a fancy colored washer to keep track of chains on whichever chain tracker card happened to be readily available, just so that there was a bit more weight involved should the table get bumped and the card was moved, but chains are an easily forgettable part of the game that can change so much about the current game state.  You could sense this was an issue with many KeyForge players, because dial-style chain trackers and other options were quickly being developed.

I strongly feel that KeyForge finally figured it out with the recent release of the GameGenic dial tracker for keeping track of chains, and I immediately felt okay with shelling out a decent amount of money to grab the Onyx Knight vs. Opal Knight version from the Vault Tour as it is far and away the coolest tracker in existence!  The dial itself is great and I found that forgetting your chains is much more difficult to do, as once you acquire them you can just drop the dial on top of your draw deck as a reminder to how many cards you will draw during that phase of the game. This was possible with the promo card style trackers, but with multiple moving pieces in play and felt very awkward, which shouldn’t be the case for a part of the game that is becoming more and more prevalent.  So, while I’m not advocating for any particular brands or accessories, on the issue of chain trackers, do yourself a service and pick up a GameGenic dial once they hit stores in September!

I feel that I’ve covered the major components necessary in playing the great game of KeyForge, but I refuse to end this episode without having some type of psychotic episode myself!  I want to take a look at just a few things I haven’t mentioned yet, with the first being the “unnecessary” tokens that currently exist, with the main culprit here being armor (or shield) tokens.  Now, I completely understand why they exist, especially when trying to keep track of intense turns of play involving the wearing down of armor over the course of a long turn, but in all honesty, who out there is truly going to keep track of armor status using tokens outside of those rare occurrences?  I have played with individuals who add tokens to their creatures when cards are in play that grant additional armor protection, and they tend to do the same with temporary power increases as well, but with new tokens being used for the upcoming “enrage” and “ward” abilities, those are a completely redundant addition to the state of play.

The list of tokens that I find slightly unnecessary ends there, but I have been contemplating what additional tokens may improve the flow of the game overall.  The first of these hypothetical accessories would be something that a player can use to keep track of the key costs of both themselves and their opponents. I could potentially see something being offered that could be similar to the GameGenic chain trackers, but maybe shying away from another circular dial and going with something that closest resembles a card-sized acrylic rectangle may be the route to go.  Many cards have been introduced that vastly affect key cost, and when those elements are stacked or duplicated, determining your current key cost can be a drawn out part of the game when it doesn’t need to be. This goes without mentioning the disappointment one feels when you think you put yourself in check, only to realize during your forge step that your key costs more than your current aember supply. This idea has been toyed around with on the Grabber Jammer promo card from earlier this year, but I would find a use for a two-player key cost tracker and I don’t feel that I would be alone in that venture.

The final item relating to accessories that I want to discuss is a fairly controversial one, as the use of this particular item is banned if one follows the rules concisely.  Yeah, that’s right…dice. I understand FFG’s disdain for the use of dice and all of their reasoning is sound, except until you realize that a 6-sided die could really help in some instances of play, mainly when you have stumbled across a combo that is nearing the “Rule of Six”.  Six-sides…rule of 6, do you see the simple correlation here? I’ve heard this is a touchy topic depending on the level of play you are currently engaging in, but my opinion is that if the game is going to lend itself towards keeping track of how many times you have played or used a certain card, then a player needs a surefire way of keeping track of that, and for me a handful of 6-sided dice would accomplish that task, which is why I carry a few with me in my deck box.

So, did we learn anything of value after this week’s ramblings?  Probably not. But upon reviewing my semi-coherence on the topic of Archon accessorizing, I do feel that I can come to a final conclusion.  While there may not be any distinct advantages to outfitting oneself with the latest and greatest in tokens, deck boxes and sleeves, playmats, keys, and chain trackers, it is tough to argue against the fact that a player investing their hard-earned money into those novelties takes the game at least semi-seriously, and with that also comes an increased sense of confidence in your abilities.  Does an increase in confidence lend itself to being a better player and acquiring a higher win percentage in organized play? No, but it usually helps a little bit. And that is why I will continue to accessorize my Archons!

Well, that about wraps it up for another episode of The Random Ramblings of Raspberry Eyes!  I hope a few of you made it this far, as while I thoroughly enjoy writing these KeyForge-related ideas down, it is even a grander privilege to be able to share them with the Archons Corner and its growing fanbase.  As always, it would be my honor to hear any of your thoughts on my ramblings this week, both good and bad, as I want to rant and rave about things that the KeyForge community finds relevant, which can only be done if I get a little bit of audience participation, so please keep that in mind.  And with that, I’m Raspberry Eyes, signing off and reminding you all to ramble on!

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