Essay:How Fighting, Damage, and Destruction work in KeyForge

From Archon Arcana - The KeyForge Wiki

My essay on How Timing Works in KeyForge covered a lot of ground about timing in general. That said, even after pointing players to that essay, there still seem to be a lot of questions about how Fighting works, especially in regards to the timing of different abilities, Damage, and Destruction. First, this essay will cover Damage timing, then move on to Destroyed timing, and finally we'll cover Fight timing, and how Fight timing interacts with Damage and Destroyed timing.

Damage

Each time damage is dealt, the steps of the damage timing chart are followed. Further clarifications on cards like Shadow Self have revealed that all damage is dealt simultaneously, which means that damage iterates through the damage timing chart simultaneously as it is being resolved. Since sometimes these steps can be a little bit tricky, it might be worth following this slightly expanded version of the damage timing chart instead.

  1. Put tokens representing the amount of damage that is attempting to be dealt above the creature(s) being dealt damage in the battle line. These tokens are referred to “pending damage” later in this chart.
  2. For each creature, apply effects that prevent damage (e.g. "This creature cannot be dealt damage..." effects, Elusive, Invulnerable), removing pending damage tokens as needed.
  3. For each creature that is warded, remove all pending damage tokens from above the creature and discard the ward token.
  4. For each creature, reduce the number of pending damage tokens above the creature for each armor the creature has. (This also reduces the creature’s armor for the remainder of the turn.)
  5. Move the tokens from above the creature, and place them on the creature that receives the damage, applying any "damage dealt" modifications (Undagnathus (Evil Twin)'s damage doubling happens here for example as does Shadow Self's replacement effect.) If a creature has damage on it equal to or greater than its power, that card is tagged for destruction and you begin to resolve the destruction. Once the destruction resolution completes, move on to step 6 of this chart.
  6. "After a creature is dealt damage" effects (e.g. Hard Simpson) resolve.

Destroyed

Destruction in KeyForge can happen either as the direct effect of resolving a card ability (Gateway to Dis) or as a result of the damage on a creature being equal to or exceeding a creature's power. Regardless of what causes the destruction, the process is the same:

  1. Cards are tagged for destruction. (If a card is warded, the card is not tagged for destruction, but instead has its ward token discarded.
  2. Destroyed: abilities on creatures that are tagged for destruction resolve in the order of the active player's choosing. This may result in more creatures being tagged for destruction, in which case Destroyed: abilities on those cards are also available to be resolved. Once all Destroyed: abilities are resolved, proceed to step 3.
  3. Each card that is tagged for destruction is put into its owner's Discard Pile. All of the cards are considered to Leave Play simultaneously, but the active player can choose the order of how the cards get placed in the discard pile. Tokens on a card are removed as they are placed into the Discard Pile.
  4. "After a creature is destroyed" abilities resolve.

It's important to remember a few things about cards that have been tagged for destruction:

  • If a card gains a Destroyed: ability after it is already tagged, that ability does not resolve.
  • A card that is tagged for destruction cannot be chosen to be tagged for destruction again.
  • Once a card has been tagged for destruction, the only thing that can remove the tag is a replacement effect. (Armageddon Cloak)

Tokens on Destroyed Creatures

Many Destroyed: abilities allow for Æmber to be captured or stolen. If a card that has Æmber on it is destroyed, the Æmber remains on the card until the card leaves play. Destroyed: abilities are not able to steal or capture that Æmber, because the abilities resolve before the tagged card with Æmber on it leaves play.

Example: Your opponent has zero Æmber in their pool. In your battleline, you have Dino-Fiend that has an Æmber token on it. Dino-Fiend fights into Faust the Great, dealing four damage to Faust the Great and 4 damage to Dino-Fiend, tagging both creatures for Destruction. Dino-Fiend's Destroyed: ability resolves, and tries to steal 1 Æmber, but your opponent's pool is empty. With no other Destroyed: abilities is play, the tagged creatures are moved to their respective discard piles, and the Æmber on Dino-Fiend goes to your opponent's pool.

Fighting

Using a creature to Fight in KeyForge sounds pretty simple; Exhaust a ready creature, choose a creature to attack, and exchange damage between the two creatures based on their power. Where things get complicated is applying Keywords like Assault and Hazardous and where they fit in to the "Use a creature to Fight" section of the Timing Chart.

Pre-Fight

Before a fight happens, the active player exhausts the creature they want to use to fight and chooses the creature they want to fight.

For the purposes of this essay, the creature being used to fight will be referred to as the "attacking" creature, while the creature that is the target of the fight will be referred to as the "attacked" creature.

Once that happens, the active player has to resolve any "pre-fight" abilities and Keywords, in the order of their choosing:

  • Assault: The attacking creature deals damage equal to the Assault value to the attacked creature.
  • Before Fight: abilities can do various things like deal damage to creatures (Bingle Bangbang), cause a creature to capture Æmber (Gas-Pipes Malone), or look for cards and retrieve cards in your Discard Pile (Angry Mob).
  • Hazardous: The attacked creature deals damage equal to the Hazardous value to the attacking creature.

As the active player is resolving these abilities, if either the creature is Destroyed, the main part of the fight (the damage exchange via creature power) does not happen, which means that any Fight: abilities will not resolve. (More on that later.)

Damage Exchange Based on Creature Power

Once the "pre-fight" effects have finished resolving, the next part of the fight sees the creature's exchange damage with one another based on their power. There are three important Keywords that come into play here:

  • Elusive: If this fight is the first time the attacked creature has been fought this turn, then the creatures exchange no damage with one another.
  • Poison: Any damage successfully applied via the power of a creature with the Poison keyword during the damage exchange destroys the creature to which the damage tokens were applied. If all of the damage from the creature with the Poison keyword is mitigated by prevention, wards, or armor; the Poison keyword has no effect.
  • Skirmish: If the attacking creature has Skirmish, then that creature does not receive any damage from the attacked creature during the damage exchange.

As with any other instance of Damage, the damage applied during fights follows the same steps that were outlined above.

Post-Fight

Once the damage exchange has completed and any effects from the resulting damage and destruction has been resolved, Fight: abilities, "After a creature fights" abilities, and "After a creature is used to fight" abilities are available to resolve, in the order of the active player's choosing. If the damage exchange via creature power doesn't happen (due to either the attacking or attacked creature being destroyed in the Pre-Fight stages), Fight: abilities do not resolve.

Putting It Together

One of the things that gets confusing for players is seeing how the timing chart interacts between fighting, damage, and destruction. In the modified version of the timing chart below, the Fighting timing chart has been combined with the damage and destruction timing charts in an effort to show how everything fits together.

  1. Exhaust the attacking creature and choose the creature they are fighting (the attacked creature).
  2. Before Fight: abilities, and the Assault and Hazardous keywords resolve in the order of the active player's choosing.
    1. Place pending damage above affected creatures.
    2. Resolve abilities the prevent damage and remove pending damage tokens.
    3. For warded creatures, remove all pending damage tokens and discard the Ward token.
    4. Reduce the pending damage by the creature's armor.
    5. Place pending damage onto the creatures, applying any modification effects. If a creature has damage equal to or greater than its power, that creature is tagged for destruction.
      1. Destroyed: abilities on creatures that are tagged for destruction resolve in the order of the active player's choice.
      2. Cards that are tagged for destruction are put into their owner's discard pile.
      3. "After a creature is destroyed" abilities resolve. If the attacked creature is destroyed, skip to step 4.
    6. "After a creature is dealt damage" effects resolve.
  3. Creatures deal their damage to each other simultaneously.
    1. Place pending damage above affected creatures.
    2. Resolve abilities the prevent damage and remove pending damage tokens.
    3. For warded creatures, remove all pending damage tokens and discard the Ward token.
    4. Reduce the pending damage by the creature's armor.
    5. Place pending damage onto the creatures, applying any modification effects. If a creature has damage equal to or greater than its power, that creature is tagged for destruction.
      1. Destroyed: abilities on creatures that are tagged for destruction resolve in the order of the active player's choice.
      2. Cards that are tagged for destruction are put into their owner's discard pile.
      3. "After a creature is destroyed" abilities resolve.
    6. "After a creature is dealt damage" effects resolve.
  4. "After a creature fights" abilities, and "After a creature is used to fight" abilities resolve in the order of the active player's choosing. If there was damage exchanged due to creature power, Fight: abilities will also resolve here.



About

Blinkingline is a contributor to Archon Arcana and can often be found answering rules questions, judging tournaments, or drinking whiskey. Feel free to reach out to him on the Archon Arcana Discord.