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Welcome to the first edition of Mobius Scroll, a series that takes a deeper look into the cards causing the most buzz in the world of Keyforge. Today will be somewhat of a quadruple bill as we take a look at the cards that caused the loudest initial stir in the community: The Four Horsemen.
When Keyforge was first released, Horsemen were the talk of the town. Decks containing the quartet were selling for extortionate prices and some players/collectors were buying decks in bulk in hopes of unveiling the seemingly perfect play. As time passed the famed Horseman became less sought after and the initial hype surrounding them had passed. What was it about them that caused all of this attention? How should we evaluate the Horsemen now? Let’s take a look.
At first glance it’s easy to see how and why Horsemen were hyped; War allows you to play outside of house – albeit only to fight, Famine gives you direct creature removal able to take out those annoying elusive creatures in mars and shadows, Pestilence gives a repeatable way to deal damage to your opponent’s creatures while leaving his brothers free of harm and Death pulls them all back from the grave so you can do it all over again.
One of the main issues that plagues the Horsemen is that they attempt board control in a game where the board isn’t a guaranteed route to victory. None of the Horsemen offer any aember generation or control outside of being able to reap (which is obviously not unique to the Horseman themselves). Sure, if a player managed to stick them all to the board they could probably stop an opponent from keeping important creatures like Hunting Witch or Shaffles alive – but by the time you’ve taken them out they will already have impacted the game in a significant way. Additionally, there can be times where committing the Horsemen to the board can have negative effects. The play abilities of Pestilence and Famine are somewhat “symmetrical” [read our article on Symmetrical effects here!] and even though you are favored to come out on top; playing Famine into an empty board will do nothing but send him to an empty grave. The alternative? Keeping him in your hand and drawing one less “fresh” card at the end of your turn – or discarding him. Death seems like it has little-to-no downside, right? But if it’s the first Horsemen you draw in a game it is nothing more than a 5 powered body or a slot in your hand that you’d probably rather have filled by a card that got you closer to a key.
At the time of writing 9,472 out of 423,930 decks contain this eerie entourage which is approximately 2.23% of decks or 5.19% of Sanctum decks. This makes them the 8 through 11th rarest cards in the game following oddities such as Faygin and the Masters. In comparison, the most popular card in the game, Niffle Ape, appears in 24.12% of decks or 57.46% of Untamed decks. Statistics alone, it is clear to see why Horsemen decks are still sought after (even today), but it has a lot more to do with scarcity than it does gameplay power.
Synergy is a word that goes hand-in-hand with our troupe. The four clearly work well together with two of them even directly referencing the Horsemen trait they all share. However, there are a few less obvious synergies I would suggest looking for in order to determine if a Horsemen deck is worth investing in/seeking out. Within their house, Sanctum, exists Cleansing Wave. Its ability grants the player an aember for every damaged creature, both yours and your opponent’s, combos perfectly with Pestilences tendency to leave the board state littered with wounded creatures. Another is the three powered creature Grey Monk, which provides all of a player’s creatures with one point of armor (protecting them from the infected ones embrace). Additionally, Horsemen decks featuring Brobnar as one of their two other houses benefit from the average high power of almost every creature in the clan, leaving them safe from Famine and also means Pestilence will almost never deal lethal damage to one’s own creatures. Brobnar also contains cards such as Anger and Relentless Assault which allows a player to trigger the Horsemen’s “Fight” abilities on non-Sanctum turns.
The Horsemen have been a topic ripe with controversy whether it be about their monetary value or gameplay quality – and it’s unlikely that will be changing. Like many things in this game, your mileage may vary. What works for you may not work for others. Our answer to “are Horseman decks worth it?” has become simple:
A Horseman deck is only as powerful as the cards surrounding it.