The steal mechanic in KeyForge has been the cornerstone of many a deck since the dawn of Call of the Archons (CotA). If you look at the percentage of high power-level decks, Shadows is at the top within the first two sets, especially in CotA decks with a high power level. As a result, this question has been posed numerous times: is the steal mechanic too powerful?
Now, with the introduction of Worlds Collide (WC), some steal-hate cards have been introduced.The other week, I decided to revisit a beloved steal-heavy Age of Ascension (AoA) deck and ended up going against a deck that had the Discombobulator upgrade as well as an Odoac. Both of these cards prevent stealing by utilizing the keyword “cannot”. My AoA deck happened to be a x3 Routine Job deck with a total of seven steal cards in Shadows and has other ways for æmber control other than stealing through Dis, via key cost increase and capture. The æmber control isn’t the main issue, but rather that stealing is a way that a majority of the æmber is being generated while, at the same time, keeping my opponent’s æmber down. So, when you can’t steal, having to pitch all of your steal cards until you deal with these anti-steal effects or even chaining yourself until after you’ve dealt with those anti-steal cards hurts. As a result, I’ve noticed my deck can seem nullified in certain match-ups and I’m looking forward to discovering new ways to pilot this deck in the face of steal-hate adversity. This experience has led me to reconsider whether stealing is the best form of æmber control in the game and that is what has led me to write this article and pose this discussion.
Stealing has been addressed in full thus far, so let’s look into the other æmber control options available. A classic form of æmber control is to capture, which places X æmber from your opponent’s pool onto one of your creatures, or one of theirs, depending on the card text. With WC, this form of æmber control can be used to many great effects as Dinos have creatures that may utilize æmber on them as power boosts or may function as being a part of your own æmber pool that can be spent on keys. The other utility of capturing æmber on your creatures is that it will help protect you against an Axiom of Grisk, which destroys only creatures who don’t have æmber on them. Now, there are even more ways to remove æmber off of a creature and back into the common supply or your own pool than we have seen in the past. Capturing has truly evolved since CotA and the utility of captured æmber is far greater than it was, which is fantastic to see as the game progresses.
Next up is the loss of æmber. This is more straightforward than the other forms of æmber control, but worth mentioning as an option to get around steal-hate. Classic instances of this card are Burn the Stockpile and Doorstep to Heaven. Again, very straightforward as æmber is lost based on the number indicated by the card text.
Lastly, the most important form of æmber control, in my opinion, is key cost increases. This has been around since the start, but has become much more significant within WC as there are numerous creatures that hit the board, cause a key cost increase, and then be used to repeat this effect (with reap, fight/reap, or just a static effect, as in the case with EDAI “Edie” 4×4). The reason I feel this form of æmber control is the most important is the ripple effect it causes. Suddenly, rush decks who are trying to get to three keys super fast are being slowed down due to inefficient æmber costs. If the increase is significant enough, it can cause them to pause their game plan and deal with the creature that is making their keys cost more, thereby costing your opponent an additional turn when they are trying to reach their end game and buying you more time to execute what your deck does best. Moving forward, controlling æmber efficiency will continue to be an essential part of the game and I look forward to further interacting with this aspect.
Just so people aren’t wondering, I have intentionally chosen not to talk about the conditional forge cards, or“cannot forge” cards, as they show up less often — although Heart of the Forest decks are a force to be reckoned with and, obviously, Miasma is a classic.
It is my belief that a deck must contain the full range of æmber control to be truly versatile within the KeyForge world that we now live in. This will allow you to deal with any scenario that may come your way so you aren’t caught with your pants down not being able to steal on the last key, which may end up costing you the game (I’ve been there in a Prime Top 8 match). I hope this article has given you something to think about and consider even if this information was already on your radar. Feel free to reach out to me on Instagram and Twitter: @blvdPAPERFIGHT if you wish to discuss this idea further. As always, may your æmber never be stolen, and your keys forged promptly. Have a good one!