The Magnificent 7: 7 Ways to Evaluate a Deck Effectively

Finding the deck that can fight like 700 can be harder than you first think...

Written by Carl Woodwiss

Images used from Decks of Keyforge


I'm almost sure that if you are reading this, you'll be aware of Decks of Keyforge. However if you are not, DoK is a spectacular resource for all things Keyforge. At its very core, DoK has a complex and sophisticated algorithm for ranking deck effectiveness. This, alongside intuitive deck breakdowns, trading and selling of decks and a strong deck search function makes DoK an incredible piece of kit! If you haven't already, I would strongly recommend exploring Decks of Keyforge.

Let's get into it, and let's be frank from the beginning... there is no perfect way to rate a deck. If that upsets you and you were looking for a magic wand, I'm sorry. Don't waste your time reading this any further!

However... if you are interested in some of the factors I take into account when evaluating the effectiveness of a deck for a tournament, or just in casual play... strap yourself in, clear your schedule and let's get into the agonising pain of 'this deck has a high SAS score, why can't I win with it?!'.

I have 7 things I tend to do when looking at a deck. Even though your deck probably won't score highly on all of the below... they should all probably be considered:

SAS Score

I always start with the SAS score. I hear it all the time. 'I don't trust SAS scores'. Hipsters!

With the amount of time, effort and consideration which goes into SAS scores by the SAS Council, they cannot be ignored. They give a very clear indication in a 'black and white' view of the effectiveness of the deck.


Do I think every high SAS deck is good? Of course not. Are there some world beaters in the mid 70s? Of course there are, but you have to start somewhere. SAS is probably the best place in my opinion to start as it gives a rounded, pragmatic and informed view of your Keyforge deck world.

AERC/Synergy Score

So we've looked at the number at the top of the pyramid, but what does that actually mean? On a scale of true science to the science behind my percentage score evaluations, where does that SAS evaluation sit? I am going to say... 84%.

SAS is good, but unfortunately I'm going to probably say my first negative thing about current SAS scores. I preferred the old way of valuing card strength and taking little account into synergies. It made good players work harder on working out if a deck was actually viable.

Now we have a combination of AERC and Synergy.

AERC is actually AERCFDP but that is more of a mouthful than certain Logos Leaders! It is a very functional view of the deck on how it works operationally. AERC looks at Aember Control, Expected Aember, Artifact Control, Creature Control, Efficiency, Disruption and Effective Power. I am not going to detail here in what each does, but if you would like to read more there is a link to the DoK page here.

Synergy, as I am sure you can guess, is a more theoretical view of how the deck should interact with itself. For example, having a Senator Shrix with high capture cards would be quite synergistic. However herein lies my problem with synergy.

My personal view is the higher the AERC, the more consistent the deck and less likely to suffer to 'bad draw syndrome'. If a deck has a lower AERC but has a bumped up SAS because of the synergy rating then yes, the deck would be excellent if drawn correctly, but may suffer from being stuck waiting for the perfect hand.

I tend to stay away from high synergy decks and would take a higher AERC deck every day of the week. Especially in a tournament environment. Unless I can get a high AERC and high Synergy deck... the dream.

I could write an essay on this point, but I think that is summary enough.

Aember Count

Less of an essay. How many keys can I get to with just the raw aember in my deck? You have a deck with 18 aember, there are your three keys to begin with. Now you just need a solid enough deck to play effectively enough with. You have a deck with 9 aember, you are going to have work much harder with a much more reap efficiency. Hopefully this point is pretty straight forward, but no less important!

Key Function Cards

Does this deck do a bit of everything? Back in early CotA it seemed impossible to remove artifacts effectively, so big artifact play was certainly something to be wary of. Luckily, things have evened out somewhat now... ish.

Most decks will have a weakness, but if you have too many weaknesses it can mean you get backed into a corner which you cannot get out of quickly against the wrong deck type.

Things to look out for for definite inclusion in a good deck:

  • Artifact Control

  • Steal

  • Board Wipe/Protection

  • Archive Efficiency

  • Capture

  • Play Control/Discard

  • Key Cheat


So I have a good SAS score, the AERC is sick, the synergy isn't misleading and I have an understanding of how I need to make my deck work regarding aember generation... what next? Does the deck do anything special which may be tough for my opponent to deal with? Lovingly referred to as 'shenanigans'.

This could be a huge amount of rushed aember generation (Virtuous Works or Dust Pixies). It could be a infuriating amount of control over your opponent's aember (Drumble or Shatter Storm) or creatures (Red Alert or Axiom of Grisk). It could be stuff that effects your opponents ability to play the game (Control the Weak or Quixxle Stone).

Whatever the trick, know what it is! A good player will certainly know what it is and try to play around it.

Type of Deck

Can it rush? Then use it to rush.

Can it control? Then use it to control.

Does it cycle quickly? Then use it to cycle.

Does it do nothing of what we have already discussed? Then use it for Reversal.

Does it look scary but not actually do much? Then use it for Triad.

Does it only do a few things of the above or include Brobnar? Burn it!

These are things that a SAS score will not tell you. This is all about knowing how you should play the deck.

Tournament Meta

Now I know that a deck SHOULD be pretty good and I have an idea of how the decks works, it is time for 2 more steps before taking it to a tournament:

1. Think about what you are expecting to see at the tournament.

Are you expecting to see a lot of Dinosaurs? You definitely should be at the minute! Do you have a way to remove creatures because the game has definitely taken a swing in that direction? Is it at a local store and you know someone has a 'big boy' deck which you might come up against (sneaky I know, but still.) Make the best judgement you can on what deck to play given the environment. But most importantly...


Nobody played for their country without kicking a ball (or, for our colonial friends...throwing a ball/catching a ball/hitting a ball/dribbling a ball/slapping a puck).

In summary:

I feel like I have described a marathon at the speed of a sprint (which for me, I probably sprint at the same speed people run marathons) and I have tried to toe the line between explaining the process I go through and giving too much detail!

What steps have I missed? Do you agree/disagree?

Let me know! Be good to each other.


Crazy Killing Machine

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