Essay:Clean Play Guidelines

From Archon Arcana - The KeyForge Wiki


This guide outlines best practices for participating in Premier KeyForge events. It is written to be as comprehensive as possible to prevent misinterpretation and minimize player error. Rules sourced from the KeyForge Tournament Regulations Floor Rules are marked in red, and are included to ensure they are remembered, followed and easy to find. The rest of the guidelines are etiquette, best practices, and social contracts that promote a clean and fair play environment.

Event Preparation


Decks used in competitive play must be complete with 36 cards that match the Archon identity card. Decks from Dark Tidings and onward must also have a Tide/Token/Reference card.


For Premium events, a deck must be sleeved in opaque sleeves.

Sleeve your decks in a fresh set of opaque sleeves or verify that your sleeves do not possess any potentially disqualifying marks. Bent corners, dirt smudges, and creases are the most common signs of wear and tear that can be interpreted as a ‘mark’.

Bring enough identical sleeves to replace any sleeves damaged during the event or be prepared to buy fresh sleeves at the venue.

For alliance the sleeves need to be completely opaque, not just hiding marks on the cards. Some high quality opaque sleeves are see through in the right light, which may allow you to discern which pod they are from. Pick a dark color if possible.


Bring enough keys and counters for two players. This ensures you will not run out, and if your opponent has confusing counters you may offer they use yours. The recommended minimum is:

3 Double-sided keys – that have a clear forged and unforged side – colored Red, Blue, and Yellow Chain Tracker Card & Counter / Chain Dial / Counters to be placed on top of your draw pile. 10 One Damage Counters, 4 Three Damage Counters, 2 Five Damage Counters

20 Æmber Counters

12 Stun Counters

12 Power Counters

9 Ward Counters

9 Enrage Counters


  • Unique Counters for special counters such as Doom and Glory
  • Armor Counters
  • Card Effect Reminder Cards/Counters for effects like Stealth Mode, Foggify, etc.
  • Counting Aids for Rule of 6 during a turn.
  • Dice to count rule of six.
  • A die to determine first player.


Arriving at the Play Area

Be at your seat on time. Being 5 minutes late will potentially result in a game loss.

Greet your opponent, and introduce yourself if you’re comfortable doing so.

Place your counters in a spot removed from the play area, so they will not accidentally be introduced into play.

If you are not using official counters, tell your opponent what each counter signifies, even if the design is clear to you.


Count your deck making sure no cards are missing.

Fully randomize your deck with a mash shuffle. Make sure the bottom card of your deck is facing the game area and cannot be seen by either you or your opponent.

Place your randomized deck at your opponent’s side of the table, offering them the opportunity to cut or randomize your deck.

If your opponent begins drawing their hand before offering you an opportunity to cut or randomize their deck, kindly remind them to do so.

When offered to cut or randomize a deck, first count their deck and then always shuffle their deck using a mash shuffle.

This is not about trust. They may have forgotten to shuffle, didn’t do so adequately, or used bad technique.

Having your deck shuffled by your opponent also ensures that if a particularly good draw happens, both players feel it was adequately randomized.

Counting the cards in the deck also helps your opponent avoid a game or match loss, or worse if they accidentally have presented an incomplete deck.

Before passing the deck back to your opponent, place it on the table, and cut it by placing a random portion of the deck to the side, and then placing the bottom portion on top of it.

Before the Clock Starts

Randomize the starting player. Whichever method of randomization you choose, clearly state what the result will mean. Wait for your opponent to acknowledge or offer an alternate method of randomizing the first player. If you cannot agree on a method, call a judge. I personally recommend asking your opponent to pick odd or even and rolling a die.

Deal out your hand onto the table, showing and verbally stating your starting hand size, so your opponent may correct it if there was confusion regarding the starting player.

Wish your opponent good luck, and you may offer to shake their hand.

Since it is considered good sportsmanship to shake hands before and after a game, if you are not comfortable doing so, explain so now, to prevent an uncomfortable situation at the end of the game. You do not need to explain why you prefer not to shake hands, and in a post-Covid-19 world, this should pose no friction.


Start of Turn

Execute any start of turn effects such as Gambler’s Den or Director of Z. Y. X.

Step 1: Forge a key

Keep your hand face down on the table.

If you have sufficient Æmber to forge a key, take the necessary amount of Æmber from your archon card into your hand. Announce out loud the amount of Æmber at the beginning of your turn, the current key cost, and your remaining Æmber.

Flip your key and announce which color key it is and the amount of keys you have forged.

Move the paid Æmber back to the common supply.

If you do not have sufficient Æmber to forge, announce how much Æmber you have and the current key cost if it is not 6, and that you’re not forging. Doing so every turn will ensure you do not forget to forge.

After the forge a key step is complete, pick up your hand of cards.

Step 2: Choose a House

If you have an archive, look at it now. Get in the habit of doing this every turn so you won’t forget it.

Whenever you are looking at your archive, make sure your hand is face down on the table.

Announce the house you’re going to play. If you tend to confuse house names, point at the house symbol on your Archon card while doing so. This will help prevent arguments in case you announced the wrong house. If you do make a mistake, try to correct yourself as quickly as possible.

If you wish to take your archive, announce it, and do so now.

Step 3: Play, Discard and Use Cards of the Chosen House

No Card Dumping. Do not play multiple creatures at the same time or discard multiple cards at the same time. Play one card at a time and clearly state you are playing those cards before going on to other cards.

Playing Actions

Announce their names and briefly state what they do. If the card has no effect, announce you’re playing it for the Æmber. Examples: “Scrambler Storm, you may not play actions.” or “I play Lifeweb for the Æmber”.

Put them into your play area facing your opponent.

Take any Æmber printed on the card and place them on your archon card.

Resolve the Play: effect completely.

Move the card into the discard pile.

Playing Artifacts, Creatures, and Upgrades

Put Artifacts and Creatures into play Exhausted, even if you’re not going to be using any cards this turn. This prevents confusion and is a good habit.

Take any Æmber printed on the cards.

Resolve any play effects on the cards.

Discarding Cards

Announce you are discarding the card by name and place it directly in the discard pile.

Resolve the Scrap: ability or any other ability that is available to resolve after discarding a card.

Using cards

Exhaust the card and announce what it is used for, and any targets.

Resolve the use fully before moving on to effects triggered by using the card.

If multiple effects trigger at the same time, announce which one you’re resolving first. Example: Exhaust a Spectral Tunneler and say “I use Spectral Tunneler on the Archivist to give it reap draw” Then Exhaust the Ganymede Archivist and say “I use my Archivist to reap” Take one Æmber and then say “I draw first from the Spectral Tunneler” Draw a card, then “I archive a card” And archive a card from your hand.

Step 4: Ready cards

Ready all your cards.

Step 5: Draw cards

Place your hand face down on the table.

Announce how many cards you’re drawing and up to how many.

Announce your chains if you have any and how many you’re going down to. Example: I draw three cards up to five and go down to two chains.

Card overdraw may be resolved in one of two ways:

  • If both players and any present judges agree on which card was overdrawn it will be shuffled back into the deck.
  • If no agreement can be reached, a judge will instruct the player to show their hand to their opponent, who will then choose a card to be shuffled back into the deck. Note: This is based on FFG floor rules, GG has yet to release a ruling on overdrawing.

End of Turn

Announce the end of your turn.

Resolve any end of turn abilities.

Remind your opponent of any persistent effects that would last throughout their turn such as Scrambler Storm, Lifeward, and Fog Effects.

Declare check if needed, and with how much Æmber.

During Play

Creatures with Taunt must be inched forward.

Maintain your battleline any time a creature dies, so it remains coherent.

If you wish to read an opponent’s card or see their discard pile, ask for permission before picking it up.

If any information is not clear to you, simply ask.

To call a judge raise your hand high in the air and loudly shout “judge” and wait patiently with your hand raised.

Whenever you move cards from your discard pile to any other location, offer to show them to your opponent. This includes when your discard is entirely shuffled into your deck.

When token creatures are destroyed, first flip them over before moving them to the discard pile.

Missed Opportunities

Players are expected to follow the game’s rules, remembering to perform actions and use card effects when indicated. It is all players’ responsibility to maintain a proper game state, and to ensure that all mandatory abilities and game steps are acknowledged.

A Gameplay Disruption occurs whenever a game step, sequence, or mandatory occurrence is overlooked or performed erroneously. Essentially, this type of disruption is associated with someone making a single, honest, unintentional mistake during gameplay.

The potential for one player or the other to gain advantage by overlooking a step or mandatory occurrence is very real, which is why these disruptions are taken seriously. Even if a player did not intend to overlook a rule, they could still benefit enough to turn the game in their favor. Thus, it is imperative that these disruptions be dealt with in order to restore the integrity of the game. To do this, Judges are encouraged to use one of three main resolutions: play on, resolve now, or rewind.

End of Game

If you wish to concede the game: You may say “Good game” and offer your opponent your hand. Or you may say “Good game” and “You win” or “I concede”.

Be aware losing players are often vulnerable. Let the losing player offer their hand if and when they are comfortable doing so.

When signing the match slip, double check you’re signing your initials on the correct side, and that the winner is correctly marked.

The winner places the match slip in the designated box.

Before commenting on your opponent’s play, ask for consent.

If you lost and wish for your opponent’s insights about your play, simply ask, most players will be happy to comment if they saw anything. This is a great way to improve your game.

Count your cards to make sure none ended up in your opponent’s deck, and none of their cards ended up in yours.


This guide is a product of several members of the KeyForge community. Special credit to Aurore, Big Z, Jupiter, and Mortivas.