New Player Guide
Welcome to the world of KeyForge! Here's a list of common questions that come up often for new players. If you have something to add, send us a request.
What is KeyForge?
KeyForge is a Unique Card game designed by Richard Garfield and published by Ghost Galaxy that represents the two Archons vying for control of a Vault. Vaults contain information about The Crucible, a massive planet constructed by The Architects out of various cultures and communities from across the universe (and possibly beyond). When a Vault appears on the Crucible, Archons race against one another to open the Vault by forging 3 keys out of the mysterious substance known as Æmber. The first Archon (and their assembled team of creatures and equipment) to forge 3 keys opens the Vault and gains everything contained inside.
What makes KeyForge different from other card games?
KeyForge is unique in that each KeyForge Archon Deck is unlike any other. Each deck list is procedurally generated by an algorithm and printed a single time. There is no single card deck-building in KeyForge.
KeyForge decks are made up of 36 cards, consisting of 3 House pods with 12 cards each. On a turn, a player chooses one of their houses as their active house. The player pays no costs to play, use, or discard cards of the active house.
By combining the uniqueness of decks, no deck-building, and no costs to play or use cards, KeyForge creates a focus on playing decks rather than constant tweaking of decks while at the same time eliminating the possibility of "netdecking".
What play formats does KeyForge have?
There are three official play formats:
- Archon: Players bring their own unmodified Archon Deck and play with it as-is.
- Alliance: Players bring their own "Alliance Deck", which can be constructed to a limited degree by combining three house pods from different decks within the same set.
- Sealed: Players bring 1–3 sealed Archon Decks from the same set. After opening, they either select one to play with (unmodified), or construct an Alliance Deck from them.
In addition to those official formats, there are several other community-made variants and modes that exist.
What do I need to get started?
To get started playing KeyForge you'll need two things: a deck and a set of counters. The decks can be found at game shops as well as online. When starting out, you can use whatever you have around for counters: coins, buttons, crystals, whatever. Another good way to get started is to buy a starter set, as it will include two decks and all the counters you need for two players.
More information about Official and Unofficial KeyForge products can be found in the KeyForge Accessories article.
What set should I start with?
Sets in KeyForge define a specified pool of cards, and often times deal with specific themes and mechanics within each set.
KeyForge is considered to be an "evergreen" game meaning that decks from any set are compatible with and can be played against one another. You don't need the first or a "base" set prior to purchasing newer sets. You can start with any set you like. Even in organized play, most sets are considered eligible, with the exception of a few special sets that are not tournament legal (ex. Unchained, Menagerie)
So if you see a good deal on an older set and are trying to save some money getting started, that could be a good way to go. There are a few different products for each set available. If you're just getting started, getting the most recently released 2 Player Starter Set is probably the easiest point of entry as it includes the latest set of tokens, a rulebook, and two Archon decks from a recent set.
Power level between sets can vary but it is possible for fun matchups to exist between them. General consensus on which set is best varies. You can learn more about each set on the Sets page.
How do you play KeyForge?
This walkthrough covers most of the important topics in learning the game of KeyForge. The rules outline is a wiki-fied version of the rulebook. The Timing Chart provides a more detailed look at when certain card interactions happen.
Is there a list of all the cards in KeyForge?
You can use the Card Gallery to look at all the cards currently in KeyForge and refine your search there to look at cards from specific sets or houses.
What are these symbols on my deck list?
On your deck list to the left of the card name you'll have a symbol denoting the card's rarity, as well as (starting in Dark Tidings) a symbol denoting the card type. To the right will be a symbol denoting if a card is a Maverick (Triangle), Legacy (Diamond), or Anomaly (Lightning Bolt). If the card name appears in blue, it means that is has been enhanced by another card in your deck.
Where can I play KeyForge?
If you're looking for local stores that support KeyForge you can check the Local Groups and Shops article. In the KeyForge Facebook Group there's a thread where you should be able to find a local group that will help you find games. You may also want to look at the #find-local-groups channel in the Keyforge Lounge Discord server.
Ghost Galaxy is expected to release an official Store and Event Locator on their Playstile platform, expected in early 2024.
What is the Master Vault? Do I have to register my decks? Can other people register my decks?
The Master Vault is a companion website that allows players to scan and register new decks, transfer deck ownership rights to other players, track wins and losses for their decks, as well as search and explore all other registered decks. A player is required to have a Master Vault profile for attending any KeyForge Organized Play events.
The first player to scan and register a deck has "discovered" that deck. They receive +1 digital Æmber on their account, and they becomes that decks owner. Deck ownership can be transferred to other players, or if someone attempts to scan a deck that somebody else owns, there are a few processes in place to resolve and declare ownership.
Do I need to sleeve my decks?
Official tournaments and events require the use of opaque sleeves. KeyForge cards tend to be just a little taller than most TCG cards, but commonly used sleeves are Dragon Shields or Ultimate Guard Katanas.
Sleeves are not required for casual play, although will be necessary when playing with an Alliance deck due to cards from different Archon Decks having different cardbacks.
How do I know if my deck is any good? My deck has 0 rares in it, is that bad? My deck has 8 rare cards, does that mean it's good? How much can I sell this deck for?
Each deck in KeyForge is unique, and has been procedurally generated to be a playable deck. This doesn't mean that the deck will be great or terrible, it simply means that the deck won't be completely broken (There are currently no all creature decks, for example). Ghost Galaxy closely guards the details of how the algorithm builds decks.
In KeyForge, rarity does not necessarily mean that the card is good, but rather the card has an effect that the design team has chosen to balance with population rather than by tweaking the card itself. Some of the most powerful cards in KeyForge are the common ones.
The best way to determine if your deck is good is to play it! There are a few online rating systems (such as SAS and AERC from Decks of Keyforge) that will give you some ideas of the quality of the cards in the deck, but no rating system is perfect. (If it were, KeyForge would become a very boring game, very quickly.) Playing through the deck and learning what is good at (and not so good at) is always helpful.
What does TCO, DoK, VT, or this other abbreviation mean?
Any time you get a community that is constantly referring to the same thing, you will start to see abbreviations start to show up. Here's a list of the most common abbreviations in KeyForge.
What are some websites where I can learn more about KeyForge?
What are the most common mistakes new players make when playing KeyForge?
In no real order:
- Forgetting to forge a key after paying the Æmber.
- Forgetting that all creatures can reap, not just those with Reap: abilities.
- Trying to play an Artifact as an Action, or vice-versa.
- Forgetting your opponent took control of one of your cards and having to track them down later to get your card back.
- Forgetting about Chains, either drawing too many cards or forgetting to shed, especially after the initial draw.
- Missing that a creature has Elusive.
- Targeting a creature that is protected by Taunt.
- Forgetting the point of the game isn't the board, it's Æmber generation.
- Shuffling your identity card into your deck.
- Holding onto a card for one turn too long thinking "The next turn will be the PERFECT time for this."
One of the best ways to mitigate common mistakes is by playing deliberately and cleanly. Aurore Inara, winner of the Belgian Grand Championship has an article with an excellent set of Clean Play Guidelines.
What if I have a question that isn't answered here?
In addition to the Links and Resources article here on Archon Arcana, there's a great Geek List on BGG of other resources that you may find helpful. You can also feel free to contact the Arcanists here at Archon Arcana by joining our Discord or sending us an email.