New Player Guide

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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 Deck game designed by Richard Garfield 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 deck-building in KeyForge.

KeyForge decks are made up of 36 cards, 12 cards from each of three Houses. 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.

The most recent set for KeyForge is Dark Tidings, but KeyForge is considered to be an "evergreen" game meaning that in most Organized Play, any set is allowed to enter. 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. Those are all listed on the Sets page. If you're just getting started, getting the most recently released Starter Set (Dark Tidings as of May 2021) is probably the easiest point of entry both in terms of completeness and price.

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 do I need to get started?

To get started playing KeyForge you'll need two things, a deck and a set of tokens. The decks can be found at most game shops as well as online. When starting out, use whatever you have around for tokens. Coins, buttons, crystals, whatever. Official tournament rules disallow dice but if you're just learning the game, dice are fine. Another good way to get started is to buy a starter set, as it will include two decks and all the tokens you will need for two players.

In standard official formats, all decks are playable against each other, and no set is going to be made ineligible. To keep organized play interesting, sometimes limits are put on what types of decks are allowed - but decks from all sets can still see consistent play. 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.

More information about Official and Unofficial KeyForge products can be found in the KeyForge Accessories article.

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.

There are some well done how to play videos available from TableTop Royale, Geek & Sundry, and Watch It Played.

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?

Lots of places! While KeyForge doesn't currently have an official online client, you can use The Crucible Online or TableTop Simulator to play KeyForge online.

If you're looking for local stores that support KeyForge you can check the Official Store Locator or 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.

What is the Master Vault? Do I have to register my decks? Can other people register my decks?

The Master Vault is a companion app (available on iOS and Android) and website that allows players to register their decks, gain Æmbershards and track wins, losses, chains and power levels 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. Vault Tour and Store leaderboards, as well as an Event Locator are also available in the Master Vault.

Players can register any deck in the Master Vault, but only the first person to register ("discover") it will gain an Æmbershard for registering it.

Do I need to sleeve my decks?

Official tournament rules require 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. There's also a line of sleeves made by Gamegenic specifically for KeyForge.

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). FFG 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?

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.

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.

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