Written by Andrew Grandstaff
There was a big rules update and I’m sorry I was slow to get something out about it. If you follow me on twitter you will already know the basic idea of what I think of the major changes made in version 1.2 but twitter is no place for an in-depth discussion. My opinion on the two big changes are contrary to the popular opinion and some time away from the announcement has made me realize I might just be reacting to the fact that there was any change and not necessarily that these changes were bad. That said I still think that the changes to Biomatrix Backup was the wrong choice. On the other hand, the changes that affected Restringuntus and Control the Weak were probably the right choice for the general health of the game but I am concerned this might be a slippery slope to removing all combos and especially lockout combos from the game. Rules version 1.2
Rules update 1.2
Can’t vs Must Change
CANNOT VS MUST/MAY, CANNOT VS PERMISSIVE If two card effects are simultaneously instructing a player that they “cannot” do something and that they “must” or “may” do the same thing, the “cannot” effect takes precedence. If two card effects are simultaneously instructing a player that they cannot do something and that they may do something, the “cannot” effect takes precedence.
This is significant because it effectively removes a deck from the meta before it even had a chance. Prior to this rule if you had Restringuntus out and played Control the Weak selecting the same house your opponent would lose their next turn. This offered some decks amazing control and others had a full lockout combo with Dominator Bobble, Witch of the Eye, Control the Weak and Restringuntus. This also means that it is now safe to play your Pit Lords in sealed against other Dis decks, but it didn’t make it safe to play your Maverick Pit Lords in decks without Dis.
Biomatrix Backup Errata
“This creature gains,”Destroyed: Put this creature into its owner’s archives.””
“This creature gains,”Destroyed: You may put this creature into its owner’s archives.””
This is the first instance of card errata and most importantly functional/power level errata.
Prior to this change, Biomatrix Backup made it so the active player got to choose if the upgraded creature went into its owner’s archive. In practice, this meant that your opponent generally got the first opportunity to choose if your creature was archived or not. Unless you played it on a ready Mars creature and killed it the same turn, then on your opponent’s next turn they become the active player and could kill the creature and then get the choice to archive the creature. Once this was clarified in RRG 1.1 there was a lot of uproar in the community that this card didn’t play the way you would expect, the owner of Biomatrix Backup always making the choice. Unfortunately, this direct conflict with the goal of having the active player makes all the choices for a turn, so a compromise was reached.
Opinions and Speculations
I think both of these were poor decisions. The Biomatrix Backup more so than the can’t vs must ruling. I think the major issue with Biomatrix Backup is that it doesn’t function the way players expect it to. I believe that if it was brought up in the right context then players would be ok with the original ruling, but most players when teaching this game bring their bias against this card with them. Instead of pointing out how disappointed they were with how this card works they could have instead challenged the new player to find a situation where they could make the most of the card. The 1.1 ruling of Biomatrix Backup allowed for more interesting gameplay and this could have been a moment to let Keyforge shine with its limitation of only the active player making decisions. Now in 1.2 we have a Biomatrix Backup that probably weakens the better performing Mars decks that have this card in it. It is now even more anti-synergistic with the best removal mars has. Decks with Sample Collection or Mass Abduction just have to accept they will never see their creature again. The final reason why I’m against this change is that functional errata is a slippery slope. The worst case scenario would be making balance changes to cards though errata and being forced to look up errata for every card your opponent plays. We also know nothing how card errata is going to effect chains and power levels of decks. If a card like Library Access is errata in such a way that it can no longer combo off will decks that contain it have its chains and power level rest? What about decks with only Library Access and no way to combo? I don’t think all of these downsides outweigh the positive of not having to explain exactly how bad a bad card is.
The can’t vs must ruling is a little more understandable. I really like combo decks and lockout decks. The fact they can exist in this game is also a huge plus. These kinds of decks create interesting win conditions and can push the meta to include more diverse decks. The Restringuntus, Control the Weak, Dominator Bobble, and Witch of the Eye combo is difficult to set up and easily disrupted. My guess is this wasn’t the main thing they were trying to stop but decks that had Restringuntus with +3 Control the Weak and the auto loss of Pit Lord into Restringuntus. These are pretty feel bad situations and while the Pit Lord is a lesson you only need to learn once the Control the Weak experience has so little interaction that it almost deserves this. I wish they had come up with a solution that also addressed the Maverick Pit Lord problem. Currently, there are decks with a Maverick Pit Lord with no Dis in their deck causing them to auto-lose if they play their Pit Lord. I think this close enough to the can’t vs must rule change that a solution to all 3 scenarios should have been addressed.
If we assume the Can’t vs Must rule change was to stop the lockout combo then it is strange FFG both didn’t touch the Library Access combo and provided some clarity around rules people were pointing to as ways to stop the combo from working. The I’ve seen people say Phase Shift doesn’t let you play three Key Charges in the same turn because it says “Play: You may play one non-Logos card this turn.” They are interpreting this to mean you can only play one non-Logos card a turn regardless of how many times you play Phase Shift. FFG provided the following clarification.
I have chosen house Logos to be my active house this turn and play a Phase Shift (COTA 117) then play another copy of Phase Shift. How many non-Logos cards can I play this turn? You can play two non-Logos cards this turn. Each copy of Phase Shift that you play allows you to play an additional non-Logos card.
The second rule people would argue prevented the combo from working is actions do not enter the discard pile until the effect is completely resolved. They argued Library Access would not enter the discard pile until the end of the turn, therefore, making it inaccessible to cards like Nepenthe Seed and Reverse Time. FFG provided the following clarification
I play the card Library Access (CoTA 115). Is the card immediately put in the discard pile? Or does it remain in play as long as the effect is active. Action cards are immediately put into the discard pile after their effects resolve. In the case of an Action card that has a lasting effect like Library Access, once the effect is established by resolving the card, the card is immediately put into the discard pile and does not remain in play.
I might be reading too deeply into this, but to me, I see that the Library Access combos are here to stay and the Restringuntus combos may have been allowed to stay if the incomplete versions didn’t abuse the rules as much. Both combos are weak the artifact removal, require a good amount of setup, and are generally hard to find. Library Access might even be worse in that the incomplete or non-OTK versions almost require their opponent to play it out. The Restringuntus combo decks either have it or don’t. Sure they will cause their opponent to lose a turn or two but there is no way that is as painful as sitting through your opponent taking 5 minutes drawing all their cards and carefully selecting which cards to phase shift in to give them the best win percentage. There is also all the bookkeeping required to not break the rule of 6 with Library Access.
That’s it for the major changes now onto the minor changes and clarifications. I am mostly reading from this great Reddit thread to remind me of what happened you should check it out as well.
I’m just going to talk about actual rules changes mentioned in the thread. While that thread list many things I think most of them are just clarifications that don’t have much significance beyond providing clarity. The least significant of the bunch is that card can now modify the first turn rule. Basically, you can now use Phase Shift to play 2 cards on the first turn(Phase shift and a non-logos card) and you can play Sloppy Labwork to archive a card and discard a card. Previously you could only play or discard 1 card from hand regardless of ehat the card said. This makes Sloppy Labwork a good turn one play and Phase Shift a slightly better but still terrible turn one play. Another rule change is you can now stun an already stunned creature. Previously a stunned creature was not a valid target and if you played a card like Smaaash you would have to stun Smaaash if every other creature was already stunned. It also helps cards like Tremor be more versatile. The final rules change I wanted to talk about might be more of a clarification but it is still significant is about Safe Place and Pocket Universe. These cards now must be used to forge a key if their owner’s pool does not have enough to forge a key by itself. For example, if you have 5 aember and 1 on Safe Place you must spend the 1 on Safe Place, but if you have 6 in your pool and 1 on Safe place you can choose to spend your 1 on Safe Place. To me, this is a reduction in choice and a nerf to these already risky cards. A lot of the strength of these cards was their ability to let you sit at +6 combined aember but not be worried about big aember control effects like Doorstep to Heaven or Burn the Stockpile. Now you don’t get a choice with your safety net.
I may have been harsh with a lot of these rules changes and like I said at the beginning I might just be against these because I don’t like change. For the most part, I like a lot of what was written in the 1.2 update. It’s great a lot of corner cases and tricky interactions were clarified. Biomatrix Backup is a better card and more in line with what people expect from it, and Restringuntus is no longer terrorizing people with its hidden negative player experience skill. These changes were not for me, but in the end I can see how they improve the game for most people. I still love Keyforge and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.