Adaptive Strategy 101

By Peter "SadCryBear", Towering Strategist

(5/15/2020) Adaptive Strategy 101 - Deck Selection

By Peter "SadCryBear", Towering Strategist

Adaptive remains a variant truly unique to Keyforge. Love it or hate it, it appears Adaptive will be a part of the Keyforge environment for the foreseeable future. In this series, I’ll explore some of the components of playing Adaptive, from deck selection to chain bidding.

Adaptive as listed in the Official "Keyforge Formats and Variants" document you can find here.

Deck selection plays a significant and interesting role in Archon Adaptive. In Archon Adaptive, you can presumably select any deck you would like, with a number of different strategies informing deck selection.

Advantage in Adaptive comes from being able to play a deck comparatively better than your opponent can and, further, to be better positioned to identify how to optimize chain bidding in case of a Game Three.

Four distinct strategies define deck selection for Archon Adaptive:

Bring Your Best

One strategy is simply to bring your best deck. With this strategy, you maximize your chance of winning Game One, and put yourself in a position to start with a lead. You are also likely playing a deck you have a lot of experience with, as people tend to play with their best decks. The downside of this strategy is that most players have experience with the standard highly competitive deck types. It doesn’t take much experience to play Hunting Witch, Dust Pixie, Key Charge correctly. This means your opponent may not have any difficulty piloting your deck to a Game Two win. As this strategy does little to maximize your ability to play a deck comparative to your opponent, I don’t recommend it as a competitive Adaptive strategy.

Quality Decks With Complex Lines

Select a high quality deck, providing a reasonable chance of winning Game One, but which leverages complex or non-obvious lines of play. This strategy sacrifices some deck quality and chance at winning Game One for an advantage in Game Two or Three. The goal is to be positioned to win Game One some of the time, then hand a deck to your opponent that they may struggle to play effectively.

Decklist images courtesy of SkyJedi's Archon Matrix

I selected and piloted Mittens at a local Adaptive Prime Championship with this strategy in mind. I’d played this deck enough to know it was capable of winning against very good decks, and it would allow me to win Game One a reasonable amount of time. I also knew that it was highly unlikely my opponent would have ever played a deck with 2x Spartasaur, a card which creates highly complex ordering issues. Further, the various lines of play in Mittens aren’t obvious. I expected my experience with the deck would give me a distinct advantage and saw this come to life during the tournament.

Playing a quality deck with complex strategies creates advantage in Adaptive, so long as you can pilot the deck effectively. Sure, you might give away some tricks to your opponent in the first game, but with a complex deck with multiple lines, many situations will not come up in a single game and your opponent will be left to find the right plays themselves. As a strategy which creates clear advantage, this has been the most common strategy I have seen in Adaptive events, and also the most successful.

Decklist images courtesy of SkyJedi's Archon Matrix

Crazy Decks– "What Am I Supposed to do With This?"

Select a deck where the path to winning is so obscure your opponent is unlikely to find it without a road-map. This strategy plans to lose Game One, win Game Two, and leverage the chain bidding process to create advantage. Either you play your opponent's chained deck and plan to beat your own deck or you push the chain bidding high enough that you buy the time for your deck’s obscure strategy to come to life. This strategy can gain additional advantage when it pulls off surprise victories in Game One.

A local player brought Achilles to an Adaptive Prime Championship to utilize this strategy. The deck was slow, had almost no Aember control, and was fully expected to lose most games. However, against a deck with no artifact control, it could play out Quixxle Stone, never play creatures, then slowly Library of the Damned away almost the entire deck to create a Stealth Mode lock and unbeatable Aember advantage. Loading your opponent with chains in Game Three ensured you had the time you needed to find your lock and play it out.

This strategy certainly requires guts, and the right kind of deck, but it has the possibility of not only creating competitive advantage but being really fun while doing so.

Play Whatever You Want

One of the great things about Archon Adaptive is you really can bring just about any deck you want. Unlike other formats, bringing the deck you think is the most fun to play doesn’t come with significant competitive disadvantage. Further, practicing and gaining experience with a deck you really enjoy is usually much easier than with a super competitive deck you don’t love. If all else fails, select the deck you love playing with and love playing against. You usually play better when you are really enjoying yourself, and you set yourself up for a good experience regardless of outcome with this strategy.

Oath of Poverty with 9 artifacts?
Plague Rats? Why not?

I have a box of decks set aside that aren’t good enough for even local Archon competition, but which I really enjoy playing. I play them happily in casual matches and on The Crucible Online. Having fun is the primary reason I play Keyforge, and having a competitive format where these decks can come out and play without losing most games is great.

Select the strategy that works for you. Maximize your advantage playing your deck with careful selection and practice but most importantly, play something fun.

Coming Next…

Playing Adaptive effectively, including understanding hidden information, chain bidding, and deck speed in Game Three!

About the Author

When I was 12 my brother and I pooled our money and bought a $7.95 starter deck of the Decipher Star Trek CCG. We split it in half and I made him play with me over and over. From that moment I was hooked. I spent my early teen years playing Star Trek, Star Wars, and Pokemon. I eventually turned to the more competitive environment of Magic, playing in the Junior Super Series and other events. I spent my late teen years working in a card shop and playing anything I could get my hands on. Gaming has been a significant part of my life since then. I moved from competitive CCGs to board games and have enjoyed regular board game nights for many years. With the release of Keyforge, I returned to the arena of competitive cards games. Keyforge is a brilliant game with a fantastic community and has been feeding the competitive itch I’ve missed. I’m excited to share my thoughts on Keyforge, grounded in playing competitively while having fun, formed by more than 20 years in the hobby. -Peter "SadCryBear", Towering Strategist