Well, I’m back from my first Vault Tour, and to say there was excitement at the Vegas VT would be an understatement! I’m not going to get into ShuffleGate at all but focus on the overall experience of this event from my own perspective. If you wish to hear about the match by match details of my Triad main event games you can listen to the Help From Future Self episode where I recount all of this, as well as the prep for Archon Triad, HERE. One thing I will say is that I met my goal for the tournament, which was to make Day 2, which I did, going 5-1 after Day 1 finishing 7th on the day overall. This was a huge accomplishment for me, and I was very happy meeting that goal. That being said, let’s get into my first VT experience and share some tips for anyone heading to one in the future.
First off, the venue was amazing! We were in a big room on the 12th floor of The D Las Vegas, which had its own outdoor patio, so very easy to get some fresh air at any time during the tournament. Yeti Gaming was very organized, the prize wall was stocked— although some items were sold out, as it’s nearing the end of the first year, and from what I understood, they are not reprinting prizes once sold out. So no Faygin or Regrowth mats. The whole shard redemption process was very streamlined and there was almost no wait the entire weekend; Yeti brought their A-game. There was also a ton of Game Genic boxes for sale, which I couldn’t pass up, so I stocked up on some Vaults and other supplies. During the event they had huge screens that showed various sporting events over the course of the weekend, as well as streams of games and KeyForge content along one entire wall, shoutout to Andrew aka 1StarPeeps, it was awesome!
One great thing about these KeyForge events is you get to have some IRL interactions with folks you regularly connect with online, and it’s always great to put a face to a screen name. It was amazing having people come up and say they are a fan of our HFFS podcast, very humbling and much appreciated. One thing I have learned having now been to two Competitive events is after you play a match against your opponent you instantly have a bond and continue to connect throughout the weekend. It’s a truly awesome part of the game and community, and I haven’t experienced this level of camaraderie from a game before. So even if you travel to an event solo, know that you will make friends just through jamming games during the tournament and side events.
If you are planning on attending a Vault Tour, you need to plan for a long day with minimal breaks in between games, other than a lunch break at some point for one hour. My recommendation is to bring lots of snacks to eat quickly when you can. Protein bars, energy bars, nuts, trail mix, whatever you use for quick snacks, will help fuel your mental success as the day goes on. Don’t let hunger impact your performance, and drink lots of water.
Now, I want to touch a little on gameplay decisions that were a first for me in tournament play. Yeti is doing a fantastic job of creating a consistent set of rules, and anything that is not clear one way or the other, they decide for them themselves, so as to have a level playing field that everyone is adhering to during the tournament. During this event, there were two instances that really stuck out for me. First was the overdraw ruling. If you overdrew your hand due to a board-state effect or chains, the penalty was your opponent looks at your entire hand, then chooses a card, or cards, depending on how much you overdrew, and you shuffle the chosen card(s) back into your deck. This is a huge penalty, not only do they get to get rid of the most powerful card you have, they know exactly what is in your hand. The suggested solution to this was during your draw step, place your hand face down, announce how many cards you were drawing, then draw the cards from your deck face down on top of your current hand. This way if you did overdraw, you don’t know what card was drawn, and you could easily just place the extra drawn card back on top of your deck. As a result of this method, it has also lead me to not touch my hand once it is face down until my turn begins. I found in doing this allowed me to completely focus on my opponent’s gameplay as well as use less mental power planning how I would play next turn, which most times gets thrown out the window as my opponents turn progresses and the board state changes. This period of just observing and not planning really allowed me to reduce mental fatigue throughout the long day, and I highly recommend you try it out. After your turn, just place the remaining cards in your hand face down, draw up to six face down on top of your remaining hand, and don’t touch your cards until your opponent’s turn is over. Try it out, you will be pleasantly surprised how liberating this process is. No overthinking and you play more relaxed.
The other ruling Yeti made was in regard to the Triad format. In the rules it does not specify whether you can or cannot switch decks between game one and two if you lose, so Duncan, the head Yeti judge, decided to make it consistent and said you could not change decks if you lost, you had to continue playing until you won. This really changed the strategy of the format for a lot of people, and it made it so you almost always had to lead with your best deck first since if you went to time and could not get to game three, winner of game one takes the match. This ruling was not popular with the players, but we all respected this decision for consistency, as that was something that was lacking before Yeti came along.
On to the side events! I only got to play in two side events, one on Friday and one on Sunday, and both were team events. This format is amazing! I played two different variants of it, both Sealed. The Friday event was Sealed Archon, and each team had six decks to choose three from to play for the whole tournament. Out of the three players on your team, two of the three games needed to be won in order to win the round. Players were able to converse with each other throughout the tournament and help each other with play decisions, hand mulligans, etc, totally open communication. It was truly a great experience. The Sunday tournament went slightly different. It was still Sealed, and you received six decks, but the game formats were different. One player played Sealed Adaptive, bidding chains only knowing the houses on the Archon card, the second player played regular Sealed Archon, and the third player played Sealed Reversal, which meant that you shuffled your deck, passed it to your opponent, they saw the houses your deck had, and that was it, they drew blind into the deck, and figured out what was in it as the game went on. The most fun format I have ever played! Again, the best two out of three wins with your team wins the match. In this tournament, I was paired up with two young KeyForge players, Jack and Charlie, who were brothers, and we took down the tournament 4-0 and had a blast helping each other along the way. If you have the opportunity to play this format, DO NOT pass it up! I’m so glad that the World Championship will be a team format, a great decision by FFG.
All in all, Vegas VT was a huge personal success for me. Forged new friendships, strengthened others, met my tournament goals, and most importantly had an outstanding time! If you haven’t been to a Vault Tour, I would highly recommend the experience, as it is tops! Thanks for taking the time to read this article, and as always, may your æmber never be stolen, and you forge your keys promptly. Have a good one!