Jan 01 Joshua Ely  

With KeyForge players encounter a number of interesting decisions during games that direct the course of the game. How should you be playing to ensure a win? So many things to be considered: we could cover the developing meta game, your opening hand, when to discard, play styles — and still we would be just scratching the surface. I have personally found it beneficial to have a sort of general foundation that aids in making these types of choices. Let’s paint with broad strokes for a moment and examine pressure in KeyForge.


Whenever we play a card or achieve a board state that causes our opponent to deviate (immediately or in subsequent turns) from their decks desired game plan, we are applying pressure. Some cards add small amounts of pressure and will build upon one another, while others demand immediate attention. On the opposite side of the coin there are times where we need to relieve the pressure that is put on us by an opponent. If we can break down the game into this give-and-take pressure match, hopefully it will help us in our decision-making process.


Since we are again trying to paint a broad picture here, I will break this down into three basic groups.

1.  Board
2.  Disruptive
3.  Æmber

Each one of these apply pressure to your opponent in different ways. Each will also be more or less effective depending on the type of deck you are facing – an important distinction to make when looking over your opponent’s deck-list and starting the game. For example, applying small amount of board pressure against an amber rush deck will not be nearly as impactful as it would against a deck that hopes to gain amber primarily through reaping (Brobnar decks are an early indication of this). Let’s take a look at each of these with a bit more detail.

1.  Board Pressure
Board Pressure is pretty straightforward to grasp and maybe not as complicated to handle as the other two types of pressure. Creatures creatures creatures! While having more creatures that can produce amber through reaping is one of the more common ways to apply this pressure, it is not the only option. Think of it as having something (usually a creature) on the board that the opponent feels they must deal with as soon as possible. Board pressure, as you will notice, overlaps with Disruption and amber pressure quite often. No matter what your deck’s strategy, applying Board Pressure helps you to disrupt your opponent’s potential plans and force them to deal with your additions to the board (as opposed to improving their own state). Mass destruction cards like Coward’s End are a great way to counteract Board Pressure when on the receiving end of it and opens the door for the pressure to switch sides. Board Pressure is most effective against creature-heavy decks that aim to reap in order to win — and not so much against an amber rush deck that often wants to ignore as much of the board state as possible in favor of actions.

2.  Disruptive Pressure
Disruptive Pressure comes from cards like Mind Barb or Sample Collection. Forcing discards, purging, archiving enemy creatures, adjusting hand size and forcing plays are all examples of this type of pressure. This is a great way to attack combos or big swing plays you might be concerned about. Few things are as satisfying as watching a Bait and Switch go to the discard pile right before it was going to be played.  

The complicated part of applying this pressure is timing. In many cases players must avoid blindly firing as soon as they are able. The goal is not to be a nuisance, but to disrupt a big play (one that may be visible just from looking at a deck list). Deciding when to play these cards can be tricky, and it’s up to the player to decide if it is a “want” or a “need”. For example: we can force an opponent to play a specific house with Control the Weak, but ask yourself “what will I avoid or accomplish?” Without good timing you will not be able to maximize the potential of Disruptive Pressure.

3.  Amber Pressure
Finally, amber Pressure. This is accomplished by producing, capturing and/or, stealing amber. I would even consider cards like Grabber Jammer, which change the cost of keys, falling in to the amber Pressure category.  The concept is basic at its core. amber Pressure should be steady until those moments you are ready to explode. Cards like Sting and Dew Faerie take finesse. Similar to Disruptive Pressure cards, if a player tries to play these cards without careful set-up and planning, the maximum potential outcome won’t be achieved. When you properly utilize Disruptive and Board Pressure it will open opportunities to apply a large amount of Amber Pressure.


While some of the previous points may sound repetitive, take some time to analyze your deck (or other cards) and try to categorize them in to the groups provided above (or some of your own). Small exercises like this will allow you to recognize card trends and combos that may have otherwise been missed. With a unique deck game like Keyforge and the inability to rely on a custom-built powerhouse deck it’s important to be able to pilot any deck as best as possible – and the key to doing so is understand the contents of a deck and how to best apply them in-game. Here are a few rapid-fire points and questions to consider that can help apply pressure with proper timing.

–  Be patient with your plays. Just because you choose Mars as your active house –  does not mean you must play every Mars card in your hand.
–  Applying gradual and constant pressure is often better than sporadic bursts.
–  What kind of deck am I facing and what kind of pressure are they most likely susceptible to? Consider both the 3 houses as well as the individual cards.
–  Am I able to force my opponent to make a play or deal with something immediately?
–  Am I able to shift power for/over multiple turns?
–  How easy would it be to counter each of my options?
–  Does my opponent seem to be setting up for something? If so, what?

These are ideas that help me – and hopefully can be valuable to you. “Different strokes for different folks”…just take what you can from this article that may be useful and discard all the rest.


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