Written by Carl Woodwiss
Crazy Killing Machine
'It is here! It is finally here! Don't get too excited Carl! Don't get 2 boxes and stay up all night playing Keyforge with Steve! You have children who will be up at 6! You have work tomorrow! Don't then buy more a couple of days later and clear out your local board game store!
Well...you did it! Don't say I didn't warn you!' - Carl's common sense.
Well, it is finally upon us. Mass Mutation, the fourth installment of Keyforge, is upon us.
3 nights ago, Steve and I managed to get in 24 games in, last night we got 8 more in and with some games we have managed to play pre-release, we are 45 games in. After 45 games and 70 decks, we are starting to get a real feel for how Mass Mutation plays, how it feels as a set and how it interacts within itself. Below are some of the things we have started to notice to hopefully help you on your merry Keyforge way.
A couple of things to point out:
- We have only played Mass Mutation against Mass Mutation. We can't really speak to the effectiveness against the other sets yet but we can certainly make some educated assumptions.
- We have played all (ish) 45 games in our favourite, self titled variant for new deck purchase; Ironman Keyforge. The best/worst/most frustrating/most rewarding way to play Keyforge all rolled into 1. It requires no skill and no strategy! Basically:
- Open a deck blind and put it face down.
- Don't look at the Archon Card.
- Shuffle and draw - NO MULLIGANS!
- No playing cards that search through the deck for their effect.
- Just play and reveal the deck.
With this all in mind, what have we learnt and what are our first impressions?
1. Enhancements are REAL
I know this seems like a silly thing to say. But as with everything, we have to address if a new mechanic is a viable strategy and game changer (the introduction of Saurians into Worlds Collide) or a wet novelty which people got excited about then quickly realize were a damp squib (shards).
I can say with all confidence that enhancements change the game and a mediocre card with good enhancements can become a very effective card, very quickly. I am ashamed to say it, but I originally thought that the single damage enhancement was going to be the lesser of the 4 (damage, capture, aember and card draw) but I was pleasantly surprised. That single little lonesome damage put in some work! All 4 are equally welcome and viable, however 1 may be more effective in a meta...more on that later.
2. It feels very balanced.
If we have to compare this to one of the other sets, I would say it is most like Age of Ascension (don't close the article just yet).
It categorically isn't as 'swingy' as Call of the Archons and it doesn't have the power disparity like that between Brobnar and Saurians in Worlds Collide. Now that doesn't mean that one house doesn't feel stronger than another (more on that later too), but they all feel like they can compete.
Swingy - adjective:
Meaning: Thinking you are in the lead and then your opponent drops one card which puts you a mile behind.
Example: 'I hate this swingy bullsh*t nonsense"'
3, Lack of Key Cheats but plenty of Removal.
Now this could be the first point where we need to explore more decks and games, but I think 70 decks is a relatively decent sample. The only Key Cheat we saw multiple times was Keyfrog. We saw an Obsidian Forge too...but other than that, not much else. It doesn't feel like Keyforge of old where Key Charge was in every other deck, so the focused may have shifted away from 'urgh, do they have that
Key Charge' to 'urgh, they generate so much aember because of their enhancements, how do I take them off of check on turn 1'.
On the other hand, there definitely seems to be more available removal/board wiping. I am swimming in Gateway to Dis' and Quintrino Fluxs...and a well time Mind over Matter can be a monster and we definitely saw a few of those too.
4. Sanctum, and Capture, are very much back in the game.
It didn't take long for me to utter the damned phrase 'I choose Sanctum, I reap 5 times, your turn'. Sanctum still does very Sanctum-y things. We were hoping that New Sanctum would come back and do some different things and although they have a few new tricks up their sleeves with Gizelhart and his cronies, Sanctum is still Sanctum. If you love them you will be happy, if you are me you will still hate them.
A staple of Sanctums game, 'Capture' is back with a vengeance. It has certainly made the game feel more tactical, keeping your opponent just off check each turn. It has a very different feel to WC and CoTA - it certainly feels more like AoA.
5. Some of the common cards feel very common.
Now I don't mean common as in 'below average strength'. I mean common as in 'Ok, I have dis...an of course I have Mindfire!'. They seems to be in every deck! I am not sure if FFG have change the algorithm on common counts but man, I can't move for the amount of Mindfires, Resurgences and Titan Engineers I have.
6. The houses still do what the houses do, nothing has changed.
This is an easy one, and some what disappointing. I know a lot of us were hoping for houses to show their other sides with the introduction of 'Dark Aember' but it would seem that they all do the same thing again;
Shadows - Steals...A LOT!
Saurian - Exalts...A LOT!
Mars - Still don't exist...sorry everyone.
Brobnar - Don't exist anymore...you are welcome everyone!
Logos - Still draws cards and acts as a support house, although more on this to come.
Star Alliance - Still works on chaining combos.
Sanctum - Captures...A LOT!
Dis - Controls...A LOT!
Untamed - Still focus on aember generation...ish, although more on this to come.
Now I know that some people don't care about the theme and only care about the mechanics. I care about the theme very much. I really don't want to write this but the game is now starting to feel less like thematic houses and more like...dare I say it...colours.
7. Untamed feels like the biggest loser and 8. Logos feels like the biggest winner.
4 sets in, there was always going to be some houses which got stronger and some which had a power decrease. If we look at the previous sets:
Call of the Archons: Shadows, Untamed and Dis were crazy good. Everything else was really on par, maybe with Logos slightly stronger and Brobnar slightly weaker.
Age of Ascension: Everything leveled out. Good set design.
Worlds Collide: Saurians came in and obliterated the power level. Brobnar shit it's pants and fell off a cliff.
And Mass Mutation? My personal view is that Logos has gone wild! They no longer feel like a support house, but a stronger house in their own right. They support with card draws, but with the amount of good creatures they have in the house now such as Bot Bookton and Infomorph, as well as some old classics in Quixo the Adventurer and Titan Engineer, they hold up.
And on the other side, although it kills me to say it...Untamed feel wet and mediocre. Yes, put away your ridiculous Untamed deck you have pulled. But in general, they just seem a nonsense. They have some spectacular cards like Dark Faerie and Reclaimed by Nature, but I just feel they have been nerfed to a point of feeling lackluster. Prove me wrong.
9. Saurians risk/reward now actually feels like there is a risk.
but Saurians still feel strong. They are tough to remove, but when you can remove them, you are taking their aember as the likelihood of it being taken of the creature has dropped dramatically. Ludo and Bracchus still exist which I think is a mistake, but other than that, with the increased board wipe count and the limitation on Saurians being able to interact with the aember on their creatures, the risk/reward element of exalting is now more even.
10. Is it competitive against the other sets?
I would love to see what people think who are more in the competitive play than I am (those who can't...judge) but here are my initial thoughts (competitive deck vs competitive deck)
Call of the Archons: Mass Mutation feels much slower than CoTA so I would still give the edge to the OG set here.
Age of Ascension: Do I need to spell this one out? Mass Mutation by a landslide.
Worlds Collide: Now this might be a closer call. The strength of Worlds Collide lay with Saurians, and I think Mass Mutation has enough to deal with these punks so I am going to say with the right deck, Mass Mutation would take Worlds Collide down.
As always, these are initial thoughts on the games we have played and my opinion on the set as a whole. It is super subjective and I am always open to a constructive discussion.
Let me know what you think. Be good to each other.
Crazy Killing Machine