Essay:Putting Upgrades on Enemy Creatures (Tactics Series 1)

From Archon Arcana - The KeyForge Wiki
A danger for you is a danger for them. Original photo by Sasha Tudvaseva, Fantasy Flight Games.

Originally published on 5/28/2020

Written by BlackBean

“Hence in the wise leader's plans, considerations of advantage and of disadvantage will be blended together.”

- Sun Tzu, The Art of War (Pinyin translation)

Upgrades can be our saving grace in a tight game of Keyforge. From giving extra durability or that last aember pip, the possibilities are endless. But have you thought about giving upgrades to enemy creatures? This lesson will teach the hidden and unique uses of upgrades to spice up your game.

Manipulating Upgrades

The Keyforge rules allow us to place our own upgrades on enemies, helpful or not. Although most upgrades only assist, we can manipulate their effects to hinder our enemy.

Gaining Aember Pips or Enhance Icons

If you have no creatures on the board or in hand, you can place upgrades on enemies only for the bonus icons. Now if you already have a creature out, then by all means give it the upgrade. But occasionally our board will be empty due to a bad hand or recent board wipe. In that case saving the bonus icon for yourself beats discarding it.

Disrupting Your Opponent’s Battle Line

Now in hindsight a buffing upgrade like may not seem hurtful. But several upgrades that add statuses can be turned against your opponent. Let’s see a few examples:

  • Taunt upgrades like Protect the Weak and Yo Mama Mastery can remove enemy taunts. Since two adjacent taunt creatures both have targeting priority, the original cancels out. This isolates pests like Shaffles or Hunting Witch who may be guarded by a neighbor.
  • If there are no enemies to target, holders of Silent Dagger must damage a friendly creature. In this situation, placing Silent Dagger on a weak flank creature like Witch of the Eye creates a fork. Either they choose not to reap with their creature or hurt one of their flanks.
  • Because Experimental Therapy stuns and exhausts, it can lock down a threat for two turns. You can even target a creature with house based effects, like Blinding Light. Just don’t forget about the upgraded enemy, because the creature now belongs to all houses.
  • Backup Copy can recycle a weak enemy creature to slow an opponent's card draw. Creatures can effectively turn into a “chain”, as they force your opponent to draw into it (i.e. like Dextre). Bonus points for resetting a stunned creature like Yxilx Dominator.
  • If you want an edgy way to kill your opponent, follow up an armor upgrade with Red Hot Armor next turn!

Preventing Enemy Creatures from Dying

Sometimes you don’t want an enemy creature to die. Maybe you benefit more from a symmetrical effect, like the aember gain of Tolas or Neffru.Or you could have the chance to lock down your opponent by keeping a Pitlord or Grommid alive. In these cases, placing endurance upgrades on enemy creatures will push your lead.

  • Sanctum and Star Alliance have the best upgrades for durability. Consider placing armor inducers like Seraphic Armor, or warding effects like Encounter Suit. But if you're lucky, an anomaly Ghostform could work too!
  • Don’t forget: during a board wipe, warding allows static effects like Neffru to activate.

Killing Your Own Creatures

Finally, what about using upgrades to kill our own battle line? There are several reasons to kill your own creatures:

Destroying our battle line can be difficult when facing an elusive or weak board. But using damage boost upgrades can help alleviate these issues:

  • Placing a hazardous effect like Armageddon Cloak, Way of the Porcupine, or Flame-Wreathed bypasses elusive. This way you can kill a low powered ally without missing an attack.
  • A power buff from Blood of Titans or Shoulder Armor helps killing high power creatures. Or, you can use Soulkeeper to target only your strongest one.
  • Lastly, placing an assault or splash effect upgrade could cause more destruction. This works best if the enemy creature has a good fight effect.


And that’s it for this week's lesson! Most of the time upgrades will best placed on your own creatures. But by using upgrades creatively, we can create opportunities in our favor. 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

  • mlvanbie#4342: You can ignore an Enrage status by using Detention Coil. Since Detention Coil prevents a creature from fighting, the Enrage token is negated, allowing a creature to reap.
  • mlvanbie#4342/Ira#3138/skrellnik: Putting Quadracorder on an enemy creature. Upgrades retain ownership to the person who played them.This will force your opponent to kill their own creature to stop the increased key cost. Works best against a rejuvenation creature like Self-Bolstering Automata.
  • Ira#3183: Phoenix Heart counters enemy Saurian creatures, like Praefectus Ludo and Imperial Scutum. Because Phoenix Heart returns the enemy creature to their hand, this guarantees your aember will return back to you.
  • FantasyGM2019: Using Tachyon Pulse to exhaust enemy creatures. Pairs well with Quadracorder.
  • mlvanbie#4342: Placing a Mole or The Callipygian Ideal can force your enemy to forge a key, in case you want them to (i.e. if you increased their key cost or Heart of the Forest game).
  • Erich Taylor: Corrected a rules mistake I made in the original post surrounding this tip:A niche Mars combo you can do involves usingBrain Stem Antennato turn an enemy creature into a Mars one. This makes it vulnerable to anEMP Blaststun andRed Planet Ray Gun.Mating SeasonandKey Abductioncould also work as removal. The tip is invalid, but you can still use your Mars effect cards on your friendly BSA creatures, since they would belong to house Mars.
  • jfilipeg#3172: Using Flame-Wreathed or other power inducing effects to proc Three Fates. This not only kill enemy creatures but protects your own!
  • isakhito: Giving an enemy creature elusive to proc fight effects or prevent damage. This way a weak powered creature like Restringuntus will stay alive from an attack like Collector Worm.
  • arcv2: Put an upgrade on an enemy creature before killing it. Then bounce the upgrade back with Chief Engineer Walls to obtain the bonus icons.
  • not2night#5068: Giving an opponent a Cloaking Dongle before playing Perilous Wild. This will kill an enemy creature!
  • hydrophillic attack#2887: Giving an enemy creature elusive AND skirmish (i.e. via Song of the Wild or Cloaking Dongle. This can prevent an enemy creature from killing themselves, which may be useful (i.e. a house lock with Snag).
  • mlvanbie#4342: Putting Phoenix Heart on an enemy creature to capture a ton of aember via Pile of Skulls. This works best when you have a strong Brobnar board and want to kill many smaller creatures.
  • Russel_Ruffino/Aurore#3266: Preventing a destroyed trigger with leaving play effect. For example, Dust Imp and Biomatrix Backup. Because the active player decides the order of destroyed effects, archiving Dust Imp will prevent the aember gain from it (since destroyed effects only occur when a creature is in play).