How to Optimize your Sealed Evaluation and Play
Written By Finn Cornish
Member of the London Urchins
Original Post used with Permission
Sealed is one of the main formats in competitive KeyForge. Through my experience I have been able to attain some key skills in learning how to better evaluate my sealed decks and tweak my play over the first few games, which have been highly beneficial to my success in those competitive level tournaments.
Step 1: Counting is fun! Printed Aember, Creatures and Artifacts The first thing I do when opening a sealed deck is to count the number of printed Aember in the deck, which is a great indicator how many keys you can potentially forge just from playing through your deck. However if the answer is not very much, then you need to be able to identify which cards and strategies will help deal with that flaw. For example, a deck that has 18 printed Aember means that technically you never have to reap or gain additional Aember through other means. However due to there being a high chance that your Aember pool will be affected by your opponent, this is unlikely, but it’s a good indication of how far you can go without needing a board to reap with or any consistent card combos to rely on. On the other hand you may only have 3 or 4 printed Aember which normally indicates that the deck in question has more than average creatures, most likely in the low 20’s. This is a really key part of the deck analysis and gives you so much information before you even know a single card in your deck. Afterwards I like to count the number of artifacts and creatures in total, keeping track of the number in each house too. This will round out your knowledge of the deck and if you're looking to fully understand its strengths and weaknesses this can go a long way to help. These three components of the deck will give you a pretty clear indication of how your deck is going to play out and function once you’re deep into your games, and being able to recall this information will give you an upper hand in avoiding any close calls. Houses and sets are also a big factor towards step 1 as all three sets have fundamentally different constructions but we will be getting into more of that in the next step…
Step 2: Identifying Core Cards and Combos Now for the fun bit, identifying the core cards and strategies of the deck! One of the most interesting parts of sealed KeyForge is that you can’t choose cards that have synergy or efficiency with one another and because of that you need to be able to find those aspects of the deck yourself. This is also where your set, house and card knowledge will be tested fully, and is something that takes time and practice. For example card combos such as ‘Gangarnaut’ (Drummernaut + Gengar Chieftain), ‘GENKA’ (Martian Generosity + Key Abduction) and ‘BRIG’ (Binate Rupture + Interdimensional Graft.) are just a few of the ‘need to know’ card combinations in the second set, Age of Ascension. Obviously if you get some of these cards in your deck, that's great, however you need to be able to effectively use them and if you aren’t lucky enough then you will have to have the knowledge to beat them. For a more in depth look into the ‘Gangarnaut’ combo (plus some other great card combinations) please have a read of my Gaming Vs Cancer Prime Championship Win article. I am not going to go into each and every card synergy in the game, especially as we are soon about to receive set four, but I wanted to highlight the impact on what knowing this information can have on your ability to get to know your deck in the short amount of time you have in any sealed event. The Decks of KeyForge site is a great resource to help better your knowledge of the cards in each set and find decks that showcase some of these synergies to their best abilities.
Step 3: What kind of KeyForge player are you? This for me is the most crucial aspect of playing a sealed deck, or if you have a choice, choosing one. Knowing the type of player you are and what archetype of deck fits your playstyle best is extremely important to take into consideration when you are playing a sealed deck and even more so when you're choosing which sealed deck to play. I know for me it helped immensely in enabling me to win my first Prime Championship; I play fast which means that sometimes I will play out cards even if I am not able to get the full value out of that card. During the Prime I was playing a deck that had so many cards that have an additional benefit such as ‘Brend the Fanatic’ or ‘Ronnie Wristlocks’ which can easily fool you into thinking you need to hold onto them to get that extra value. However due to my playstyle and my knowledge of the deck I often chose to play them out at a potentially less advantageous time to simply draw through my deck and get something else can help me more in my current situation . So If you are a player that loves to control through having a big Brobnar/Sanctum board then playing the Untamed/Shadows Aember rush deck might not actually be the best choice for you. On the contrary if you like to hold onto those extra juicy cards so you can play them at just the right time, maybe you need to consider that you could to harm yourself by holding them in hand and slowing down your card draw. Something else to consider is that there is no point in playing a ‘good’ deck that you’re not comfortable playing with when you can play another deck you feel like you know better. Which brings us back to your card knowledge. A fantastic example is one of favorite Quixxle Stone decks called “Tap-dance” Clennta, Park Physicist which, if you don’t know how and when to play this artifact can make or break your game.
Step 4: Logos really is the best house isn’t it... Now that you know how to play your shiny new deck, you need to know how your deck ‘gets there’ and what I mean by that is can you draw into or archive your big creatures, that game changing artifact or that pesky key cheat that your win condition relies on. You are probably aware that drawing and archiving are predominantly Logos abilities so the answer might be simple if you have this house in your deck. However if you are not blessed by the presence of Logos then you need to figure out how fast your deck plays, meaning how many cards you play a turn (as previously mentioned in step 3) and therefore how many you draw a turn. And this part is really where my ability to help falls a little short. It's really hard to determine these factors without playing the deck and is why learning as much as possible and your willingness to adapt during your first game or two can really set you apart from your competition, which brings me to my final point.
Step 5: Mulligans and adaptability during games This is the hardest part of sealed play; Mulligans and how to adapt to the variety of match ups you may come to face over the next six to nine games. It can be hard to know how to mulligan in any deck, especially one you've just seen for the first time. One easy strategy regularly employed by card gamers is to test your draws and mulligans, try and evaluate each hand before and after mulligans, for first player and second player hands. I personally don’t do this too often but I can appreciate the benefits of it can often give players a clearer picture of how they will want to start each match. My advice for mulligans is to pick a set of creatures or artifacts that will give you long term benefits and mulligan for them. This gives you a clear goal and makes you feel less uneasy about going with a ‘risky’ keep, and every time you don’t get that ideal hand you were looking for is an opportunity to learn how to use some of the other cards in your deck in the early game. Whether that's to play them out and lose the value of those cards to redraw better cards or to try and slow the game down and keep those cards in hand to be more reactive. A lot of what I'm talking about it this last step is less about analysis and actually more about playing sealed matches, which I feel are much more complex and demanding than an Archon game. This comes down to the fact you’re playing a new deck, maybe even a new set, and you don’t even know the cards in your opponents deck. This requires you to have a really interesting set of skills to analyze your own deck and your opponents deck on the fly so you can switch up your tactics, your mulligans and win conditions. I hope this short blog has helped point you in the right direction of where to start or given you some insight into what you were missing to become an excellent KeyForge sealed player.