“Why did we make this again?”
Welcome to part one of a two-part series on symmetrical effects and maximizing them to the best of their abilities. Not all symmetrical effects are equal – and often the difference between winning and losing a game comes down to how you can leverage an effect that could either be neutral or a potential advantage your opponent. Before we begin, let’s explore the terminology and general game strategy behind symmetrical effects.
A symmetrical effect is something that affects both you and your opponent equally. One example is Howling Pit. At the end of your turn, you get to draw an additional card – but so does your opponent. In general, purely symmetrical effects like Howling Pit are bad for the player who must spend resources to play it, though KeyForge mitigates this with its no-cost-to-play system. Of course, there are other factors to consider – so today we’re going to look at a few general principles governing the usage of symmetrical cards.
Breaking the symmetry
Ultimately, the goal is to break the symmetry. This is because no matter how perfectly symmetrical the wording on a card is, you may be able to influence some aspect of the game in such a way that the effect is no longer symmetrical. Recognizing the cards with symmetrical effects as well as ways you can avoid helping your opponent when sleeving up a brand new deck can drastically improve your chances at winning your games. Don’t forget: you do have the ability to discard any house card during your turn that you determine might be too beneficial to your opponent.
The first thing to do before deciding whether to play or discard a symmetrical effect is to determine which player will benefit the most from the effect in the short-term. For example, if you are ahead on keys 2- 0, you may benefit enough from the extra draw power provided by Howling Pit that any long-term symmetry is broken since you just need an extra resource to close out the game.
Perhaps an even better example of this is Speed Sigil. If played early, over the course of the game, both players stand to benefit a decent amount from this effect. However, if you have a 2-1 key lead and need an immediate impact on the board, sending in a ready Nexus to use an opponent’s Omni artifact may just break their back before they can send in a ready creature to counter yours. Always consider the length of time you expect an effect to persist.
Consider Doorstep to Heaven. This card can be quite powerful – and despite the card text referencing both player’s aember, it can end up being one-sided. If you’re behind in aember, at worst this effect is symmetrical, causing both you and your opponent to end at 5 aember. This guarantees that they cannot forge a key on their next turn – this alone is not truly symmetrical – both if you can find a way to generate even an aember to bring you back to 6, or play any additional cards to bring your opponent down further. If you have 4 or fewer aember in your pool you experience no downside.
One way to heavily leverage what would typically be a symmetrical effect with Doorstep to Heaven – by sending in your creatures currently capturing aember to trade with opposing creatures you can balance the the board while flooding your opponent’s aember pool. Then, once your opponent has double-digit aember, Doorstep to Heaven can reset it to 5, permanently burning up the aember you previously captured.
Sometimes when a player cracks open a new deck, the synergy is obvious. Let’s take a look at the deck “Warthog” Dhoni, Burrow Cheat. By now, most everyone is aware of the Library Access + Nepenthe Seed synergy. However, you may at first glance overlook the synergy between the five elusive creatures and Evasion Sigil. Elusive on its own makes a creature difficult to deal with – but tacking on an additional chance to make fights fail makes getting that 3 aember captured by Old Bruno that much more difficult. With only two creatures that gain any bonus from fighting, a player can reap or use actions without having to worry about the downsides of a failed/lost attack.
Similarly, another hidden synergy exists between Strange Gizmo and Scramble Storm. While there are many ways non-action cards can alter the aember pool, playing a Strange Gizmo and a Scramble Storm into a safe board and a “check” is often a guarantee that it will detonate on the next turn (as most of the more devastating aember reduction cards are actions).
Look out for my second installment which will look at specific cards that can be classified as symmetrical effects and how to break them!