The A to Z of Call of the Archons

The A to Z of Call of the Archons

Call of the Archons was the first set of Keyforge. Known as COTA, it introduced seven different houses and 370 different cards to the game.

Join me as I take a look back at 26 powerful, interesting, infamous or just fun cards from COTA.

A is for Anger

Brobnar love fighting. They have fun cards like loot the bodies that reward you for fighting, but this strategy can be difficult to maximise. You need to draw lots of Brobnar creatures, play them and hope they survive until your next turn and then you can fight.

A simple card like anger helps in multiple ways. You can let creatures from other houses fight, reuse a Brobnar creature of perhaps most powerfully of all, fight with a creature you played on the same turn. This removes the possibility of your opponent using a well timed kill spell to ruin the strategy. Cards that can be used in many different ways like this are the heart of Keyforge.

B is for Bait and Switch

The second card in my review is probably the most controversial card in COTA. Capable of stealing huge amounts of amber, this can swing an entire game in your favour. There are a few ways to play around it by timing when you generate large amounts of amber, but this isn’t a fun way to play the game.

For this reason, I’m not surprised Bait and Switch got an errata. It can now only steal a maximum of two amber. This is still very powerful, but it isn’t as miserable as losing three or four amber to one card.

C is for Control the Weak

One of the most important decisions you can make during your turn is choosing your house. Imagine having a board full of creatures from one house, a hand full of cards from a second house and being unable to use or play any of them. In the worst case scenario Control the Weak effectively skips your turn and in an average scenario you have an underwhelming turn. This card can be cruel and oppressive which is perfect for the flavour of House Dis.

D is for Dust Pixie

The COTA era is synonymous with rush decks that specialise in generating huge amounts of amber quickly. These fast decks are capable of winning before the opponent has a chance to set up their own gameplan. Dust Pixie is a lesson in keyforge. The tiny one power body with no abilities is terrible in combat but this isn’t a fighting game. Keyforge is a race, and this little faerie gives you two amber immediately, turbocharging your efforts to forge three keys the fastest.

Virtuous Works also makes my list, but I prefer Dust Pixie because it’s a creature that can continue reaping and support all the other cards in Untamed that care about playing creatures. Hunting Witch for example means the pixie generates even more amber. I also just love the art and flavour text on this one. I want to know more about the faeries and their quirky behaviour.

E is for Epic Quest

Epic Quest is a unique card. It’s the only card in COTA that can give you a key for free! I’ve no idea how easy it is to do this, getting seven Sanctum cards in your hand at once will be very difficult. Archiving a bunch of Sanctum knights is obviously going to help. I would really want Logos in a Epic Quest deck as they have a lot of cards that help you archive cards and sculpt the perfect hand. I don’t know if this card is competitively viable, but chasing the dream of a free key is going to be a lot of fun for casual players.

F is for Faygin

Faygin is the first card on this list that doesn’t come alone in a deck. Faygin is always accompanied by Urchins. This merry band of thieves are very powerful, and Faygin decks can get expensive. I like that Faygin will work with urchins in your graveyard or in play so that you use the ability more reliably than if it only worked for one situation.

I like the way that exciting cards define a deck. Like headliners at a festival, Faygin is something that gets you excited about the deck. The number of urchins also matter. The more urchins in the deck, the more powerful the synergies become. Faygin decks always come with at least two urchins and some decks even have six urchins! Keyforge could just give you nothing but completely random cards in a deck, but themes like this give a deck an identity.

G is for Gateway to Dis

If you have played other trading card games, you may believe that commons are weak and worthless. Even if this is true in other games, Keyforge is completely different. Some of the most powerful cards are infact commons. Gateway to Dis is a perfect example of this. Destroying all creatures can reset a game you are losing miserably. Having a safety valve like this in your deck can rescue games you had no hope of winning. Boardwipes like this appear in the majority of Magic sets, but have never and will never appear at common. Here it is in Keyforge at common.

Chains are a fascinating way to balance cards. In other games it takes time to play powerful cards because you need time to assemble the resources required to cast them. There are no such requirements here, only a drawback afterwards. Three chains means you miss out on three cards, but it’s easy to get a big advantage from Gateway to Dis. Because you can play creatures immediately after wiping the board, you are the first to rebuild and can take control of the game.

H is for Horsemen

When the game first launched the most desirable cards were the horsemen. When you open a horseman, you always get the other three horsemen as well. They are all powerful creatures but not as powerful or unbeatable as initially feared. Decks with eight horsemen are in fact possible, and get very expensive.

The Horseman of Pestilence is my favourite. His ability slowly kills everything else on the board, leaving only the four horsemen behind. He also has the best mount. Each of the horsemen rides a different creature or vehicle, and the huge toxic toad is just my favourite.

I is for Incubation Chamber

Playing with a new deck is one of the best experiences in Keyforge. It’s so much fun solving the puzzle of how to get the most out of your cards. For example Incubation Chamber can be used to put good martian cards in your archive for a epic turn later in the game. Many Mars creatures get bonuses when used with lots of other Mars cards so this can be very powerful.

An alternative is to put all your bad Martian creatures in your archives and leave them there. If half your Mars cards are trapped in your archives, you’ll be able to play the game with just two houses letting you use more cards per turn. Coming up with creative uses for cards you haven’t seen before is so much fun.

J is for John Smyth

Starting with J, Q or X is the best way to make this list, and John Smyth shows why. It’s not a bad card, in fact it’s super useful, using creatures multiple times. It can also help with big creatures like Zorg that come into play stunned. It doesn’t excite me in the same way as other cards on this list, but it’s still a handy creature to have in a Mars deck.

K is for Kelifi Dragon

Brobnar are one of my favourite houses thematically and I love all their cards and strategies that revolve around fighting. Unfortunately generating amber is more important than fighting in keyforge, so my most of my Brobnar favourites got overshadowed by other cards on this list. But nothing in COTA can overshadow Kelifi dragon as the biggest creature in the original set.

Huge Saurian dinosaurs have since eclipsed this dragon, but Kelifi dragon is the original gigantic monster. What more could you want in life than a rocket powered dragon? Unlike other large creatures, this doesn’t have any drawbacks once you play it, so it doesn’t feel weak or disappointing. Instead it challenges you and demands you earn the right to play the dragon. Cards like Zorg or Chuff Ape which enter play stunned will never feel as exciting as this.

L is for Library Access

One of my favourite elements of Keyforge is re-evaluating all the core mechanics of card games. Card draw is a classic example. When you refill your hand at the end of every turn, you don’t run out of resources the way you can in most card games.

Like Bait and Switch above, Library Access was errata’ed to weaken it. Casting Library Access once is powerful, but when played multiple times in a game, it becomes feasible to draw all the cards in your deck which should win you the game on the spot. As originally written, you could use Nepenthe Seed or Reverse Time to cast Library Access multiple times a turn, or by simply cycling through your deck. It has since been errata’ed to purge itself afterwards. Notably you can only open one copy of Library Access in a deck, so the explosive hyper-turns of the original card are no longer possible.

M is for the Masters

Variants are some of the hardest cards in Keyforge to get hold of. If you open a master, there are three different versions you can get, one each for the numbers one, two and three. This makes each one three times rarer than an average rare. This is a simple change that adds even more uniqueness to decks. I do wish that they had more varied arts though. This would make them all more interesting to collect.

N is for Nepenthe Seed

Library Access made the list, and so does its partner in crime Nepenthe Seed. Artifacts with omni abilities are fantastic. You can use this on any turn and only a limited number of cards in your opponent’s deck can affect artifacts. Sometimes Nepenthe Seed becomes a second copy of the best card in your deck, and other times you can select the perfect situational card you need in the moment.

Untamed aren’t the only house that can have fun with the discard pile. Another great card is Arise in house Dis. When your discard pile is filling up this becomes explosive. You can even play it after your own boardwipe like Gateway to Dis to ensure that only your opponent is set back. One chain is such a small price to pay for the potential to draw so many cards.

O is for One Stood Against Many

I’ve yet to open this card, but I can’t wait to play with it. There aren’t many creatures that can survive a potential four fights in one turn so Potion of Invulnerability is clearly a fantastic partner for this card. Even if your creature dies, it will die in a heroic blaze of glory taking down multiple opponents with it.

Interestingly this card feels really epic, but at heart it’s a removal spell, and a conditional one at that because you need to have a creature and it must be able to deal with your opponent’s creature. Every deck wants removal spells, so it’s great that such a staple effect can be done in such a fun way.

P is for Phase Shift

The game of Keyforge doesn’t have mana or energy like other TCGs. The house system balances the game by stopping you from playing all your cards every turn. Phase Shift is fantastic because it lets you ignore this fundamental limit. It can also let you combine effects in a way that you wouldn’t normally be able to do in the same turn.

Q is for Quixo

OK, there wasn’t much competition for the Q slot on my list, but this is a mildly interesting card. Together with Batdrone, this shows an alternative side to Logos. These two cards love to fight. Brobnar may be the house that loves fighting the most, but even Logos have a few cards that incentivise getting aggressive.

R is for Reverse Time

I love the elegance of this design. It completely captures the idea of going backwards in time. I don’t know how powerful this is, but any card with amber pips on it can’t be truly bad. If you have really powerful cards in a small discard pile though, this is great. Otherwise, it’s just a fun and flavourful card. The great thing about keyforge is that being unable to build your deck forces you to use weird and wacky cards you wouldn’t otherwise use.

S is for Sloppy Labwork

Sloppy Labwork doesn’t do very much. Including itself, it removes three cards from your hand and gives you an amber. But it’s one of my favourite cards in the game. Many of the powerful things you can do in keyforge rely on drawing the right combination of cards at the right time. What ever gameplan the other houses in your deck have, Sloppy Labwork will ensure it works. It might archive a key card, keeping it safe for the perfect moment. Or it removes unwanted cards from your hand, replacing them at the end of your turn. Or it digs you through your deck towards your most powerful cards. Sloppy Labwork is anything but sloppy.

T is for Timetraveller

Timetraveller is a fairly straight-forward card, but its partnership with Help from Future Self is magical. Like Faygin and the Horsemen, this pair of cards is a fixed pair of cards that always come in a deck together. Sometimes a card has great art that doesn’t really match the feel of the card during gameplay. Help From Future Self however captures this feeling masterfully. Just as the timetraveller reaches through time to his former self, you are searching through your deck for the timetraveller.

My favourite thing about this combination is that it tells a story with the two pictures. COTA has a lot of cool art showing interesting characters, but I wish it had more linked pieces of art like this. With two pictures you can really see how things have changed or, as in this case, two sides of the same event. I hope ideas like this are continued in future sets.

U is for Umbra

Shadows in COTA loves to steal. There are sixteen cards in COTA that can steal your opponent’s amber which is six more than all the other houses combined. I’m not sure I like such a powerful core mechanic being monopolised by one faction, but it really helps build an identity for house Shadows.

Umbra is one of a number of thieves in the house. I like Umbra the most for its clean design and simplicity. It sneakily attacks its opponent and steals amber. With only two power it isn’t too difficult to kill, but your opponent will probably have to kill it. Not bad for a common.

V is for Virtuous Works

Virtuous works is perhaps the simplest card in the game. It does nothing but give you three amber. This represents half a key! One of the exciting things about COTA is that as the first set, it creates benchmarks that all subsequent cards will be measured against. I’m sure any card that can produce large amounts of amber will get compared to Virtuous Works.

W is for Wild Wormhole

Wild Wormhole is probably my favourite card in the game. I love the combination of art and gameplay. The art is perfect for such a powerful but chaotic effect. The alien’s face is so expressive, you can really see the terror as he holds on for dear life.

Casual players like myself will love the excitement of flipping the top card of the deck but it’s also a fascinating card for competitive play too. Some cards will have a negative effect on you if played at the wrong time. Do you risk playing Wild Wormhole if you have a board wipe in your deck that you don’t want to play? If you are losing do you choose Logos just for the chance at finding your best card? I’m sure this card is much more challenging to play than it looks.

X is for Yxilx Dominator

It doesn’t technically begin with an X but there two X’s in Yxilx, so that’s more than good enough for me. The name and the art are awesome but entering play stunned is painful. Keyforge is a race, and the dominator is so slow, being unable to do anything until it’s third turn in play. This also gives your opponent time to find an answer. At least taunt is a great ability for such a durable body. It will do a good job protecting more fragile and more valuable creatures from fights.

Y is for Yxili Marauder

Every deck needs a way to stop their opponent forging a key when they hit six amber. Because you can normally only forge a key at the beginning of a turn, to forge a key you have create enough amber, and then sit through your opponent’s turn hoping they can’t stop you. Even capturing one amber can delay them by a whole turn, but being able to capture or steal more is special. Not only can the Marauder do this, it even becomes harder to kill the more amber it steals.

Z is for Zyzzix the Many

Last but not list is Zyzzix, a flexible card that helps sculpt your hand with archiving and can grow into a huge creature. I like that it starts small, so you will probably reap with Zyzzix, but as it grows you can start using it to fight instead while keeping the ability to archive cards.

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