Essay:Set Primer - AoA
As the game grows, new players are going to join the game after sets have already released. While the best way to get familiar with a set is to play it, not everyone is going to have that luxury. The more sets have been released, the harder it is going to get.
So here is the second essay on Age of Ascension (AoA for short), the second KeyForge set. I’ll be looking to familiarize you with the key cards, combos and deck archetypes in the set, so if you face those you will have some idea what to look out for.
This Essay is written at the beginning of Mass Mutation, there isn't really a metagame at the moment due to the lack of organized play in the wake of Covid-19, and the exploration of a new set. My views will likely reflect a metagame of the Worlds Collide era.
AoA is a bit of an odd beast, as the average deck is well below the power level of CotA, but it can also produce some truly powerful beasts at the top end of the spectrum. Still, as of the time of writing, no AoA deck has won an Archon vault tour yet, and the closest it has gotten is second place.
Due to the odd nature of the power distribution of the set, it is hard to say which houses are powerful and which are weaker. Mars brings the infamous Martian Generosity + Key Abduction combo (often abbreviated Genka) while logos brings truly outrageous cycling ability. Sanctum is probably the house with the lowest power level, while Brobnar can be overpowering with the right cards it is otherwise very weak.
Shadows - The two standout cards introduced in this set are Ronnie Wristclocks and Brend the Fanatic, both of which can be expected to be seen in competitive decks. Perplexing Sophistry Introduces some hand disruption into the house, and Murkens is a card very important to be aware of, as it might mess with your deck.
Dis- One of the most powerful cards in the set is Exhume, providing great utility along with an Æmber pip. Banish Was not very good when the set was released, but with Exalt and Upgrades running rampant in both WC and MM, it can be quite powerful. Lastly, while mostly a gimmick, Tezmal can produce a full lockout if two of them are joined by Rocket Boots. It is also worth mentioning Gold Key Imp can produce game states where niether player can win before time runs out, if both players have an abundance of Æmber, niether can afford to kill it if they don't have a key cheat.
Logos - In this set Logos takes deck cycling and archiving to new levels with Eyegor, Archimedes, Eureka!, Titan Librarian, Z.Y.X. Researcher, Director of Z.Y.X. and some others, but more importantly to take heed is the Binate Rupture + Interdimensional Graft combo, (abbreviated BRIG). Never let a Professor Sutterkin live. Cutthroat Research and Interdimensional Graft are the only Æmber control in Logos and cannot take an opponent off check.
Untamed - In this set Untamed struggles to find it's identity with Æmber burst being hard to come by and large creatures with +1 power counters don't provide sufficient utility. The three cards introduced in this set to be aware of is Duskwitch, Soldiers to Flowers and Dharna. Though Glimmer can produce a soft lock that is quite hard to disrupt if paired with Nature’s Call. Possibly the most egregious card in keyforge is Heart of the Forest a basis of a deck archetype that attempts to spend a lot of time setting up two key forges in one turn.
Sanctum - One of the two key cost increase artifacts in the set, albeit a rare, is Proclamation 346E, which can be very powerful. Sanctum also has one of the two combos that can rule of 6 on reaps against an empty enemy battleline The Grey Rider.
Mars - As mentioned, Martian Generosity + Key Abduction combo (often abbreviated Genka) is still one of the most sought after two card combos. Outside of that, Mars is not terribly powerful, but you should still be aware of Mars Needs Æmber
Brobnar - Like Sanctum, Brobnar also boasts a rare key cost increase artifact Grump Buggy and a two cards rule of 6 reaps against an empty board with Drummernaut + Ganger Chieftain combo that nobody can agree on how to abbreviate.
When reading an archon card it is best if you’re familiar with the entire card pool, or at least all the commons and uncommons, but that may not be feasible for people joining the game at a later date. I compiled a list of cards the categories that you are most likely to need play around. Sorted by Rarity and then potency. I did not include cards reprinted from CotA.
These don’t fall in the other categories, but you really need to know about before going into the game.
The Flex, Grump Buggy, Might Makes Right, Punctuated Equilibrium, Binate Rupture + Interdimensional Graft, Drummernaut + Ganger Chieftain, Martian Generosity (even without Key Abduction), Proclamation 346E, Heart of the Forest
Since no AoA deck has won an Archon Vault Tour, here are some decks that have gotten close.
Second place in Archon Solo Vault Tour Krakow 2019, this deck was piloted by Konstantinos Retalis to second place, beating Adm. Inslang, the Pink Fraud on the way, no small feat. The deck boasts the full arsenal of powerful Brobnar Æmber control artifacts in Grump Buggy, Iron Obelisk and Pile of Skulls along with Drummernaut + Ganger Chieftain combo. The rest of the deck is quite potent too.
Piloted by Julien Al-Rubei to second place in Archon Survival Vault Tour in Madrid, losing to Adm. Inslang, the Pink Fraud in the finals. This deck uses the two Eureka! and Memory Chip to build up a big archive and pull it when both Key Abduction have been found to forge two keys for free.
Piloted by Christophe Quirion to top 16 in Krakow Archon Solo Vault Tour. A magnificently unique deck that must be observed in action to truly be appreciated. Neutron Shark and Archimedes are used in unison to repeatedly control the opposing board, while allowing to replace the same creature over and over. A sight to behold.