How do you feel about the idea of willingly allowing your opponent to forge that first key ahead of you? Scary thought? Today I wanted to talk about the idea of giving your opponent the first key advantage, so you can further your own game plan. Doing so, you are essentially deciding to play the long game and craft/setup your plan down the road at that moment. This may seem like a strange concept in a game that races, but if we think about the classic comparison of Mario Kart and KeyForge, then you will know the prize boxes never give the good items when you are in the lead.
That analogy may seem a bit off, but it sounds good! So let’s just jump into some of the main points that led me to want to discuss this topic. Occasionally a key needs to be forgone for the greater good. Now obviously this is being spoken about in a hypothetical vacuum, your opponent’s decklist must be taken into consideration as pitfalls for any plan can exist. Now in early in the game, I don’t think it is always a good call to marginally put someone off a key, if it means playing only one card from your hand, just to delay the inevitable the following turn. This rings even truer if you have the cards in hand, or in hand and onboard that can set you up for the future, or kick-start creating your advantage that will lead you to control the game the way your deck wants to. In this scenario, it may be more beneficial to just allow your opponent to have that key one lead, knowing full well if you set up your desired game state, you will be able to control the game and gain back that lead in doing so. Let’s say you do choose to play the less efficient play one card, which puts your opponent off check, or maybe Lash them to make it cost more next turn- not playing any more than one card in doing so, you are essentially delaying your desired game state to be one turn further back from setting up, and if your opponent is able to further their game state and play cards, it could be that one turn that creates the difference from your desired game state to take hold over your opponent.
For me, lately, I’ve noticed a couple of decks that lead me to have a willingness to give up a key and play cards from a house that will not serve me as strongly as the game goes on. If I’m playing cards from a house that has fewer answers late game, it ensures that my chances of having those cards in-hand or drawing into them is reduced, meaning that I have a higher chance of drawing into the cards that will help me succeed in the later parts of the game, such as æmber control. Essentially, I will be setting myself up to have answers more consistently when they truly matter. Again, this is being spoken about in a vacuum, but my experience has led me to understand how this can be very valuable. One other aspect to consider is the mental game. When your opponent gets that first key lead, it has the potential to set up a false sense of security for them, potentially also giving you a mental edge.
If you know this is a game plan that you will be entertaining, one of the most important things you must learn to do, is NOT PANIC! Fear not, stay calm, stick to the plan. This may be the hardest part of this process, not letting the fear of going behind get in the way of the plan at large for the long play. One of the ways this concept may not come into play, is if you have not seen any cards that help you set up the long play, or you got a bad draw and have too many late-game cards early so you must try and cycle through them, and part of that could be delaying your opponent that first key, and trying to churn through your deck while doing so.
In Archon, the familiarity with your deck and being in a position where you willingly give up the first key will mitigate that fear of going behind, as you should have had lots of practice being in that position with your deck. Now in a sealed context, this may not be the case, and your instinct could take over causing that knee-jerk reaction of an inefficient play to take your opponent off for one turn, even though you know they will easily forge next turn. If you are playing a TMTP or Doorstep bluff (or you have it), that’s one idea, but more likely than not, burning a card that delays one turn will have more effect and potency during the second and third key stages of the game, rather than stalling your opponents inevitable first key.
At the end of the day, all of this revolves around your understanding of what your deck truly wants to do, and the best way to go about doing so. This concept of giving up the first key willingly so as not to play an inefficient turn only delaying the first key being forged until next turn, may not be for every deck. Heck, it might not be for every player! This is just an idea that has occurred to me through my experience, and I became aware of the power it holds. That being said, sometimes this point is moot, as you go ahead the first key, to begin with, which completely changes things. This is speaking purely from the standpoint of you would be going behind. I would love any feedback or thoughts on this idea, you can comment below, or reach out through Twitter @blvdPAPERFIGHT. Thanks for reading this article, and as always, may your æmber never be stolen, and you forge your keys promptly.