Essay:Advanced Discarding Conditions - Removing Useful Cards from Your Hand (Tactics Series)

From Archon Arcana - The KeyForge Wiki
Yerk: to attack or excite vigorously. Original photo by Michele Giorgi, Fantasy Flight Games

Originally published on 6/4/2020

Written by BlackBean

Edited by ryze, coffeesaga, and mlvanbie

First teach them the technique of alternating between unconventional and conventional warfare. Afterward one can explain to them the form of the empty and the substantial. Since so many of the generals do not know how to turn unconventionality into conventionality and vice versa, how are they to recognize when the empty is the substantial and the substantial is the empty?

- Questions and Replies Between Emperor Taizong of Tang and General Li Jing, Middle Scroll (Pinyin translation)

Discarding cards is one of the most unique and powerful mechanics in Keyforge. Unlike other card games, the draw-up-to-six system rewards players for scrapping cards. As Jake Frydman from the Sanctumonious podcast states, "Keyforge is as much about crafting the hands you are dealt as it is about playing those cards." Great players discard cards for optimal hands to set up future turns. But while simple to do, knowing what and when to discard is imperative.

Take the deck "Going-Silent" Snake, Caverns Distiller for example. The Brobnar house in this deck has three creature, a poor number for the faction. Playing Sound the Horns can ease the creature disparity. Yet, after dozens of games, I more often than not discard Sound the Horns. The reason lies in One Last Job. With a nine creature Shadows house, you can steal at least four aember in a game with One Last Job. But by using Sound the Horns to discard your deck, you could lose your primary win condition. I have found more success in discarding Sound the Horns to keep One Last Job, than gaining one more creature.

This article will dive into situations like the Sound the Horns and One Last Job conundrum. We will talk about general to rare circumstances to improve your discard play. I will not be issuing strict guidelines for you to follow. Instead, I want you to think about the impact a discard has in a game and in a deck. With the right play, removing a card can have almost the same value as playing a card.

A Review of Common Discards

This section will not be necessary for experienced players. However, I am adding it in this article for clarity’s sake and as a quick reference guide. Discarding eliminates cards that are worse to play than not. Sometimes a card will hinder your board or give your opponent a greater advantage. The following are common card examples you may discard:

If you would like more discarding strategy, I recommend reading Jake Frydman’s article on discarding. Frydman’s dispels common discarding myths and discusses when to hold cards.

A Disclaimer

In the scenarios above, discarding ineffective cards will make sense. The rest of this guide will check for advanced discarding conditions. While the tips I give here are useful when played, you should always use your own judgment. Every Keyforge game differs. While I mention discarding Eureka! below, you should not discard it if you need the aember burst. Many of the cards below are fine to play on their own, even for only the aember. One last thing: by no means are the following lists exhaustive. The point of this series is to inspire creativity, not give every possible ploy. With that said, let’s proceed.

Discard to Activate Tentative Effects

Several cards in Keyforge contain tentative effects to activate. In these cases, discarding may aid in triggering their abilities:

  • Carpet Phloxem and Phloxem Spike need an empty board to activate. Some decks like Tenebris the Carefully Fictitious rely on these cards for board wipes. If you need one of these wipes and do not have one in hand, try discarding your creatures. This way you can increase your odds of drawing the wipe while still being able to play it.
  • Master the Theory also requires an empty board. If you have no creatures, discarding Logos cards will prioritize off-house cards. This can set up a big non-Logos turn later. If you need to archive a large hand, like in a Martian Generosity deck, then discarding creatures may help.
  • Discarding Untamed creatures will provide greater aember burst after playing Soldiers to Flowers or Low Dawn. This can be useful when rushing for a key.
  • If you need to be haunted when using The Grim Reaper, discarding cards will also help here.

Discard to Prevent Card Disruption

As mentioned in the introduction, some effects may cut out an essential card. Combo decks rely on two or more cards to function, like Key Abduction with Martian Generosity. I use “card disruption” as slowing down your access to a specific card. As seen below, this does not only mean displacing cards. Consider discarding the following when necessary:

Discard for Pile Manipulation

Some cards enjoy others being in the discard pile. Discarding guarantees that a later effect can be played:

Discard to Prevent Enemy Takeovers

When reading an enemy deck list, you may find opposing cards that take over your own. The threat level increases the later the game, as your opponent may be holding the control card(s). In these cases, consider discarding:

Discard to Inhibit Enemy Destruction

There may be instances where you want to keep enemy creatures alive. But this can be impossible to do when you have a friendly board out. Discarding creatures with an empty board can help maintain foes:

  • When you have no aember control available, keeping key cost creatures alive can stall a game. Symmetrical cards like Musthic Murmook, Desire, and Titan Engineer can burden the opponent.
  • Discarding creatures may prevent cards like Keyfrog from fighting into you.

If you would like more pros about keeping an empty board, please read this article section.

Discard to Suppress Static or Play Effects

Instances occur when you want to avoid a static or play effect. Discarding cards can be a solution:

  • Teliga relieson played creatures to gain aember. Discarding creatures now to wait for removal later may be wise.
  • Mark of Dis depends on creatures present to activate. If you are suspecting a Mark of Dis play, clear your board and discard your creatures, if able to.
  • Key cost increases like The Evil Eye and Faust the Great could help an opponent if they are about to forge. If your enemy has Martian Generosity or Binate Rupture in their deck, a large aember pool may help them more. If you suspect one of these plays, consider discarding your aember control (unless it is the final key).
  • Hedonistic Intent benefits an opponent withstrong Saurian creatures or none at all. If you are afraid of a Hedonistic Intent play, consider discarding creatures.
  • Annihilation Ritual has anti-synergy with Arise!. If you are running one of these Dis decks, discarding the artifact may save lives.


And that’s it for this week's lesson! Discarding may be simple to do, but it's something that we can all become better at. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to add and message me at BlackBean#9388 via Discord. Until next time, and good luck forging!

Community Ideas

Below are tactics that the Keyforge community came up with!


  • Discarding creatures against a Quixxle Stone deck. It's easy to clog your hand with too many creatures versus this artifact.
  • Only playing creatures of one house against a Hysteria deck (so that way if creatures get returned to your hand, you don't lose too much momentum).
  • Discarding Mars creatures against a Key Abduction deck. Once your opponent plays Key Abduction, your hand may be full of your own creatures.
  • Discarding aember generating cards past a target aember point (maybe your goal is stay below 7-8 aember).
  • Discarding aember generating cards to stay at 0 aember (turning off your opponent's ability to steal if that's one of their primary win conditions).
  • Auto-Encoder greatly improves discarding. If you are running an Auto-Encoder deck, try to mulligan for it early game.
  • Discarding creatures to keep a leader's effect in your battle line, notably [[Zenzizenzizenzic]] and [[Captain Val Jericho]].


  • Consider discarding elusive creatures versus fight effect enemies, such as Snag.
  • Low Dawn addition to article.