I stood in a store I had never been too, in a part of the city I’d never seen. In my palm rested two lighter than expected boxes of cards. On my way to the store, I had visualized opening the boxes slowly and carefully to build anticipation, like Charlie opening a Wonka bar hoping for a golden ticket. In actuality, I quickly and crudely tore open the boxes. I yanked each deck out of the box, the sweet smell of new cards barely noticed as it wafted past my face. This is Keyforge.
Keyforge is a game about quests. The gameplay is all about a quest for æmber and to ultimately forge three keys. But, before we even start playing, we get to embark on a quest to find our own version of the perfect deck. This is a real strength of the game. There is mystery, wonder, and anticipation swirling around each unopened deck of Keyforge. There is something supremely satisfying about pulling a fresh deck from a box and pumping your fist as you read your favorite cards on the deck list.
I have been specifically looking for a deck with the houses Dis, Mars, and Shadows. Each of those houses have a really interesting play style and I think it would be fun to combine them. Ten decks and four trips to stores outside of my neighborhood later (none of my local stores are carrying the game yet) and I still haven’t found the deck that fits this criteria. All of my decks have either Brobnar, Untamed, or both.
One of the criticisms I’ve heard about the game is that the unique deck aspect is a cash grab as they will keep you buying decks until you find what you want. Even though I have yet to come close to the house combination I want in a deck, I am in no way frustrated or disappointed. The reason for this is because every deck feels and plays different, and learning how to use each individual deck is part of the fun. So as I said before, you may have favorite cards but they could easily play differently within the context of a different deck. For instance I have many decks with the card Loot the Bodies which gives you an æmber for each enemy creature destroyed that turn. It’s an ok card. But when Loot the Bodies is in a deck with let’s say Champion’s Challenge or Coward’s End, which both let you wipe out a large number of your opponent’s creatures, it becomes a powerful card that can help you amass a ton of æmber. I realized this with a deck I was using for the first time named Slugcheek, the Gauntlet of Stones, I could almost hear the metaphorical light bulb sizzling above my head when I saw Loot the Bodies and Coward’s End in my hand and realized what they could do together. This is the kind of exploration this game demands. When you first open a deck you can read the list, and sigh at your sixth Brobnar deck. But once you play with it a few times you will most likely realize that it is much different from your other decks.
The other aspect of the quest for the perfect deck that I’ve yet to mention is the unique deck name. This part of the game is no gimmick, it is really the element that makes the deck feel special. The name on top of the house and card combinations allow you to have a personal relationship to the decks because they are exclusively yours. The first deck I ever opened was named The Guildmaster that Slaps Tornados. I spent about five minutes with a dumb smirk on my face as I stared at the silly, yet badass name. That deck went on to be the topic of conversation on the podcast The Wild Wormhole and I was filled with pride as I told my friends that the podcast mentioned my deck. The title of the episode even referenced it. It was called “Please Don’t Slap the Tornados”. So the unique deck names help you create a bond with your deck, and can be a source of entertainment in themselves.
Ten decks in I will happily continue my quest for the perfect deck. I just know that one day, standing in a store I’ve never been too in a part of the city I’ve never seen, I will tear open a new box of Keyforge and it will have my perfect deck. A Dis, Mars, Shadows deck with some of my favorite cards and a really awesome name. Until that day I will enjoy getting to know the other decks I aquire along the way.