Call of the Archons House Review: Shadows

Written by Andrew Grandstaff

Shadows is the current top dog.  It has a lot of steal, elusive, removal, and a good amount of raw aember generation.  What it is lacking in card draw and combat oriented creatures can be made up with some key cards like Shadow self and Hidden Agenda.  There are also plenty of opportunities to make card advantage through some of the great reap abilities some of its creatures have. They also have a lot of control over when their opponent can forge keys with cards like Miasma or more indirectly with big steal cards like Bait and Switch or Too Much to Protect.

Top 5 commons Top 5 Rares
Pawn Sacrifice: B-/B Deipno Spymaster: B
Bait and Switch: B-/B Longfused Mines: B
Dodger: B The Sting: B/B+
Ghostly Hand: B Sneklifter: B/B+
Shadow Self: B/B+ Bulleteye: B/B+

Grading Rubric
All of these cards are graded in a vacuum. I firmly believe every card can be good in the right situation, but the goal here is to try and figure out how good the card is on average.  Without knowing anything about the rest of my deck and my opponent’s deck what is the expected value of this card.

A: Almost always provides an overwhelming amount of some resource and is generally difficult to remove or counter.

B: Almost always generates 2 aember or 2 cards or some combination of the two.  Creatures and artifacts get a bonus based on how immediate of a threat they are.

C: Almost always generates 1 aember or 1 card.  Creatures and artifacts get a bonus based on how immediate of a threat they are.

D: Cards that you are more likely to discard than play and gain you no aember.

F: Cards that are a trap and if you play are more likely to hurt you than help you.

Pluses and minuses are generally awarded for consistency or to acknowledge a powerful effect that will be relevant about half the time the card is played.

X//Y Grades: X is the grade of the card in a random deck Y is the grade in a deck it heavily synergizes with.

Bait and Switch: B-/B
Bait and Switch

  • On average it steals 1.3 aember. It only has a 58% chance of stealing 1 or more.  Here is a link to all the data I’ve been collecting to come up with this. Over 400 turns of data. Bait and Switch Data also includes data on aember gained per turn.  

Booby Trap: B
Booby Trap

  • This is a powerful effect, unfortunately, it is dependent on your opponent having 3 or more creatures.

Finishing Blow: B
Finishing Blow

  • At worst you can trade a creature and this card for one creature 1 aember and 1 steal.

Ghostly Hand: B
Ghostly Hand

  • Gain 2 is all you could ask for out of a card. The steal is just gravy

Hidden Stash: B
Hidden Stash

  • Archive is +1 card and the aember attached bring this a classic B. House shifted Labwork.

Imperial Traitor: C-
Imperial Traitor

  • Only useful against Sanctum but at least you get an aember.

Key of Darkness: D
Key of Darkness

  • Does nothing except in very rare circumstances.

Lights Out: B-
Lights Out

  • Bounce is fairly strong in KeyForge. If you bounce creatures of two different houses then it should take two turns for them to get them both back.

Miasma: C-

  • This is only good if it’s setting up for a big Bait and Switch, Too Much to Protect, or you’re in a full-on race.

Nerve Blast: B-/B
Nerve Blast

  • You should often be able to pick off something small with this or at least enable a trade. The hoop to jump through of stealing 1 is so easy it almost shouldn’t be considered.

One Last Job C//B
One Last Job

  • Not the biggest fan of cards that ask me to give up my creatures for one aember each.  This could be good as a finisher in an aggressive creature heavy deck.

Oubliette: C+

  • This answers most problematic creatures. I’ll take 3.

Pawn Sacrifice: B-/B
Pawn Sacrifice

  • There is some extra value to be had if your sacrificing something like Bad Penny or Research Smoko, but for most creatures you’re probably trading something insignificant for an elusive creature or finishing off something big and doing some damage to something else.

Poison Wave: C+
Poison Wave

  • Most of Shadows creatures are small so this is likely to take out some of your creatures, but I’m optimistic that you can find value in this card fairly often.  Good while behind and good in a 2/2/2, but weak while ahead and tied.

Relentless Whispers: B-/B
Relentless Whispers

  • I think you should be able to find something it can remove to score the extra steal.

Routine Job: B-
Routine Job

  • (This is because I read that if you get one you’re going to get a second in the deck.) I think steal 1 is probably a C average, two is probably closer to B- than C+

Too Much to Protect: C-
Too Much to Protect

  • You will have to be lucky to ever get more than the 1 this comes with.

Treasure Map: B
Treasure Map

  • 4 aember is about 2 turns worth. Oddly one of the few cards that gets worse with more cards of the same house in hand. Good in a 2/2/2 hand, ahead, tied, but situational while behind.

Customs Office: C+
Customs Office

  • This will be good against some decks and do nothing against others, but most have a couple that they will want to play so if this comes out anytime in the first half of the game you’re bound to get some good value out of it.

Evasion Sigil: B
Evasion Sigil

  • This mixed with the elusive that most of shadows creatures have means this will have 2+ chances to prevent damage. Although the more creatures of a house on the board the lower odds they have of flipping the right house to save your creature.

Longfused Mines: B
Longfused Mines

  • Very likely to eventually take out 1 creature.

Masterplan: B

  • 1 aember and you get to play the face-down card regardless of house. It’s a better version of Phase Shift and comes with 1 aember.

Safe Place: B-
Safe Place

  • A strictly better Pocket Universe. Why does Shadows have an answer card to steal?  This is the second house shifted card from Logos to Shadows.

Seeker Needle: B-
Seeker Needle

  • If this lets you trade one creature for one aember, you should probably take it.  You will be trading 1 for 1 without essentially missing the reap.  If your deck has 2 or more of these then they will be a real threat the whole game.  While not high impact if this comes down early enough you should be able to generate some real value from it.

Skeleton Key: D+
Skeleton Key

  • At least it gets out of your hand for no cost.  

Special Delivery: B
Special Delivery

  • It might be a little slower than something like Punch to pick off the creature but you do get it out of your hand right away so you can save it for something later. The 1 aember is a nice bonus.

Speed Sigil: B
Speed Sigil

  • Definitely earning 2 aember off this the turn you play it but your opponent will also get 1 aember from this as well. Due to you getting it first I’m keeping this card in the B range.

Subtle Maul: B/B+
Subtle Maul

  • It’s basically a Tocsin but better.

The Sting: B/B+
The Sting

  • Seems good except if your opponent is already working on their last key or they have Shadows .  If either of those is the case then this drops hard to a C-/C. Against Shadows you can not leave this out for too long or else expect a big Bait and Switch or Too Much to Protect. If you have a solid plan to call back to back Shadows then maybe you can get your 1 aember and get out but that a big cost for 1 aember.

Bad Penny: D//B
Bad Penny

  • If your deck has good synergies with things dying like Seeker Needle or Pawn Sacrifice then this card goes up in value, but without that, you may just want to discard this card so it doesn’t cost you later on your non-Shadows turns.

Bulleteye: B/B+

  • If you ever get to reap with this it’s going to make it more likely that you will be able to again.

Carlo Phantom: C//B
Carlo Phantom

  • This will be a solid card in a deck with a lot of artifacts, but its low power means it’s not long for this world even with elusive.  Also, I’m not sure what skirmish is doing on this, there are so few circumstances where dealing 1 damage is better than gaining aember, I can’t imagine it will come into play often.

Deipno Spymaster: B
Deipno Spymaster

  • This is a must kill creature.  The elusive is a nice bit a defense to help keep it alive, but basically having an omni: copy and use the best out of house creature you control is super strong.  Definitely try to find a way to put this guy behind something taunt or Shadow Self

Faygin: C+/B-//A-

  • I’m assuming this card will always come with at least one Urchin, but that isn’t enough consistency for me to consider it reliable. There will be too many games where you draw this card 3+ turns before your first Urchin (assuming you only have 1) that this card should have been removed by then.  You should consider this a reasonable threat because if they have an Urchin it reads reap: steal 1 in its worst case.  At 2 Urchins it’s better but at 3 by the time you draw this card, you should have a good chance of having an Urchin ready to take full advantage of this card.

Macis Asp: B/B+
Macis Asp

  • 3 power and skirmish is already good but then adding Poison it’s amazing.  This creature needs to be removed ASAP or else you won’t have any valuable creatures with more than 2 power.  You might want to consider holding this creature back until you know it will live long enough to use it.

Mack the Knife: B
Mack the Knife

  • I think this card is better than Seeker Needle the elusive, and 3 power should give it some staying power.  Also if there are no good targets then it can always reap.

Magda the Rat: B-
Magda the Rat

  • Oddly elusive doesn’t really scale with the power of a creature like skirmish or taunt does. Each of the best and worst cases of this card feels just as unlikely to happen that you should just consider it a wash.  

Mooncurser: C+

  • This is such a huge threat that it needs to be removed right away.  Unfortunately, it dies to just about everything.

Nexus: B-/B

  • I think some of the strongest cards in the game are artifacts and anything that could slow down your opponents game plan with them should get a bonus. Unfortunately, this doesn’t actually remove them, but some of the Key artifacts are sacrificed so there is some extra value there.

Noddy the Thief: C+
Noddy the Thief

  • Steal one is pretty good, and the elusive will make it more likely you get to active it.

Old Bruno: B
Old Bruno

  • 3 aember is over a turn’s worth of aember so this is a significant setback, and elusive and 3 power will do a good job of protecting it for a turn or two.  Unfortunately, capture is a bit of no go with steal. Something to think about when playing this card, but shouldn’t be too significant.

Dodger: B

  • If your opponent doesn’t commit some damage to this card before you get to activate it then you should be able to successfully fight with it.  Lots of value if you even get one successful fight with this card.

Selwyn the Fence: C//B-
Selwyn the Fence

  • This feels like a card that the algorithm will pair with the right stuff like giving you Sanctum as another house or at least Skeleton Key.  If that is the case then this can do some good work but is so fragile that your opponent should be able to remove it before you can cash in on it.

Shadow Self: B/B+
Shadow Self

  • The second half of this is a better version of taunt.  It will protect your fragile creatures from attacks and actions that are damaged based.  If is protecting something like a Mooncurser, it’s lack of damage wouldn’t be an issue.  

Silvertooth: C

  • Always worth at least 1 aember and sometimes you can use it to pick of something your opponent thought was safe like a turn 1 Ember Imp.

Smiling Ruth: C
Smiling Ruth

  • The reap effect is huge, but there are only two opportunities in most games to take full advantage of it so you will be pretty much forced the call Shadows on those turns.  Also, its low power means that it can be easily removed by your opponent and they can leave it alone until they are ready for forge a key.  

Sneklifter: B/B+

  • Artifacts are some of the most impactful cards in the game, so artifact removal should be prized highly.  This not only does that but it lets you use it as if it were a Shadows card so you do not have to waste your whole turn on it, that is great.  And I guess the creature part is nice so you might be able to reap with it, but at least you don’t lose control over the artifact after it dies, unlike Harland Mindlock.

Umbra: C+

  • This is a strictly better Batdrone only because it’s not a robot that can not be hit by EMP Blast.  That is not a good enough reason though to give it a better grade.

Urchin: C/C+

  • I might be high on this card but maybe the elusive will help it do extra work

Duskrunner: C-/C

  • Steal 1 isn’t strong enough to really offset the risk of an upgrade while you can stick it on a ready Shadows creature there still isn’t much gain from it.  It’s basically a harder to play easier to remove Urchin

Ring of Invisibility: B-
Ring of Invisibility

  • This turns almost any creature into a hard to kill must kill threat.  I’m not sure if elusive is enough of a defensive ability to make up for this being an upgrade but it’s close and the aember helps.  

Silent Dagger: B-
Silent Dagger

  • The best defense is a good offense.  If you have a ready Shadows creature this is great, if not it turns your creature into a must kill.  This card is far from a stinker despite being silent, but deadly.


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