Written by Andrew Grandstaff
Keyforge has been out for eight months and Chain Bound events have been active for the last six months. There have been eight Vault Tours in the last four months and the first Store Championships, and Grand Championships will be starting soon. The Organized Play Pyramid is starting to be filled out, but support for Organized Play feels empty. Prize support is lacking, there is almost no promotion of large events, there is little to no official coverage of organized play, and information from FFG is limited and sometimes incorrect.
I have a lot of fun playing in my local Chain Bound tournaments, but that’s about all I get out of them. I have so many chain trackers and tokens from playing in these events I give them away any chance I get. Unfortunately my LGS can’t even give all of their’s away. At the end of every event when prizes are handed out most players opt out of the prizes that they earned. They either already have all of the tokens and chain trackers they want or just don’t find value in these prizes. On top of that, FFG clearly doesn’t value the aember shards they give out at chain bound events. Coming in first in a 4 round event gets you enough aember shards to get a chain tracker. The chain trackers that they already encourage stores to give away as participation prizes. In addition to this these aember shards are also worthless to most players regardless of how many the earn. Currently, the only way to get value from these aember shards is to attend a Vault Tour. FFG has told us that players can redeem prizes for their aember shards at any event that has a prize wall, but they have yet to tell us where any of these prize walls will show up except for Vault Tours. Currently, the aember shards for players in Australia, South America, and Asia are worth nothing unless they are willing to leave their continent. It has been over six months for these players with absolutely no hope of cashing in and no word from FFG if they ever will be able to. FFG should have thought of a solution for these players by now. They knew they were going to reward players with these aember shards but probably have no real plan. It feels like they don’t care. It feels like they thought digital currency would be a great addition to their game but didn’t think about what it would actually translate to. The real-life physical prizes are and should be the special and unique prizes for die-hard fans of the game. At the same time there needs to be prize support for their target audience, casual fans, who don’t want to spend time and effort to go to the larger events. If they had thought of this then regardless of how competitive a player is then they would at least be able to do something with their aember shards.
Things don’t get much better at the top of the Organized Play pyramid. Vault Tours don’t even reward the winner with an invite to worlds. You have to go down one step to Grand Championships where the top 4 get invites. The winner of a Vault Tour gets flight and accommodation to another Vault Tour which is great, and then the next best prize for the top 4 is entry into another Vault Tour(source). We are told this is because they want to encourage the best players in the game to come back. These players are spending hundreds of dollars and FFG is offsetting probably the least expensive part of going to a Vault Tour the $20-$40 it takes to enter. They should be offering these players a round one bye at the next vault tour they enter at the very least. It’s cheaper for FFG and actually increases the chances of their top-performing players to continue to perform well. Also “top-performing” vault tour players will earn entry into worlds 2020, but we still have no idea what qualifies a player as top-performing. There are several winners that have to decide between risking hundreds of dollars to enter another vault tour or losing their top 10 spot and potentially their invite to worlds. All of these prizes seem to exist because FFG thinks they should. It sounds great to reward their top performs in their biggest series, but they still don’t even know what that means. We as players are just lacking a lot of the information that we need to make informed decisions.
The Crucible Casts have been a great way for FFG to pass important information to the players. Unfortunately in Crucible Cast 8 Josh Massey, Organized Play Program Manager, Jim Cartwright, Card Game Department Manager, Brad Andres, Lead Developer of KeyForge, and Matt Holland, Organized Play Community Manager spread misinformation about the three Age of Ascension Vault Tours. They make a critical mistake in their analysis of Vault Tour Origins. At 3:30 Matt Holland starts to talk about the popularity of Untamed at the Origins Vault Tour. He says “…Knoxx was the most common card in Untamed which was saying to me, this was an Archon event so people “brought their own decks,” at which point Josh agrees while the other two nod along. “That indicates to me there was a lot of Age of Ascension being played there. Even with people you know being very used to their powerful Call of the Archon decks.” Later when talking about day 2 Josh chimes in with “Dusk Chronicles was still the most common card, which is another Age of Ascension card.” Brad jumps on the AoA hype train adding “We can see a lot of powerful Age of Ascension decks popping up in Ohio and making themselves known.” He later remarks how cool it is that the meta in Italy was so totally different from the meta at Origins, as if he is unaware that they were two different formats.
The format for the Origin’s Vault Tour was Age of Ascension(AoA) Sealed. All the participants had no choice but to use Age of Ascension decks. The kindest reading I can come up with for that segment is that they believe that AoA cards being more frequent than Call of the Archon(CotA) cards that were reprinted in AoA is a sign of the strength of AoA. The problem with this is that there were only four commons in Shadows and Untamed that got reprinted in AoA. Dusk Chronicles appearing more often. Nerve Blast is actually fairly significant, but unfortunately I only have top 16 data to go by where Dust Chronicles drops to 1 copy at Origins and 4 at the UK Games Expo out of 11 decks in each event. The most common Shadows card in those events were Ronnie Wristclocks at 14 copies and Sucker Punch at 12 respectively. These are strong cards and are clearly doing good work in the new meta. On the other side Knoxx beating out Full Moon, Key Charge, Regrowth, and Save the Pack doesn’t say much as these cards in the past Sealed Vault Tours appeared at about the same rate as they do in the wild. It doesn’t feel significant to say that a random common is more popular than some average cards from the last set. Also, in this case, FFG could have reshot that segment, cut the whole part talking about the Vault Tours, or at the very least add an annotation to the YouTube video with a correction to Matt’s statement of Origins being an archon event. There have been no steps taken by FFG to prevent the spread of this misinformation. All we got was this reply on one of the Facebook posts of this video.
I think this error was caused by a lack of care and some amount of bias or desire to promote the value of Age of Ascension. I think they wanted to emphasize the value of Age of Ascension in the archon meta and the notes they had in front of them said Origins was Archon instead of Sealed and none of them cared enough about helping the competitive community to question it. They seem to just be going through the motions of supporting Organized Play. They want people to play different formats like Sealed, Survival and Triad, but they don’t support them evenly. Triad didn’t even happen because they failed to get the software done in time for the Denver Vault Tour, and as far as we know it still isn’t ready. Sealed and Archon are significantly more difficult to make day 2 than Survival. On top of that they punish larger tournaments by making it even harder to make day 2. Cocofoshosho of Team Reapout wrote this great article going into more detail about the issues with the way different Vault Tours are structured. FFG does a good job at saying the right things to get people excited like “We’ll be providing coverage of each Vault Tour stop—including live streams, info-graphics, and recap articles (with even some custom, celebratory KeyForge Quizzes)—and we’ll follow the progress of the game’s top players and decks as they travel from event to event”(source), but there has only been official FFG coverage of Vault Tours that lined up with the release of a new set. It has been third party organizations like Cascade Games or fans that provided coverage for five of the eight Vault Tours. FFG has improved a little bit since my last article on Organized Play. They did manage to upload their UKGE stream to YouTube. I still wish they graphs and charts they created to show differences in day 1 to day 2 of the event were on a static web page instead of just in Facebook post. They are also not archiving the live streams created by third parties that are covering the other Vault Tours. If it wasn’t for other content creators posting their own commentary of these events these videos all of this information would be lost.
FFG doesn’t seem to see the value in this information and the rest of the information they gather from these events. The GEM software that powers all Organized Play from Chain Bound to Vault Tours could be reporting to FFG huge amounts of information. The output I’ve seen includes which decks/players won each round and who they played against. This would be incredibly helpful in analyzing the meta of Keyforge if it was part of the master vault. This also means that they have the ability to tell which decks were in a Vault Tour, and even better the entire Organized Play history of each deck. Imagine each deck having the history of every game it has played below its decklist on the Master Vault. Imagine being able to see a decks history from being opened in a Sealed Chain Bound event and it one day winning a Vault Tour. Everyone in the world could see this amazing story but its locked way in FFG’s database. Imagine being able to show off all the struggles you went through getting your deck to power level 3 through only through Chain Bound events. On the more practical side, they could be releasing which decks were top 8 of Vault Tours and not just the top 16. They could even label all the decks that participated and all decks that made day 2, but they don’t. They have all this data and they are making it difficult for the community to follow along and hoping FFG releases any extra information.
At the end of the day FFG is sitting on a wealth of information and resources and chooses not to use them to better the competitive community. All the pieces are there for a great Organized Play experience, but the lack of forethought and execution is holding it back. I hope in the coming months and before the first worlds in over a year they will get more of this figured out. Even if worlds is still over a year away it’s hard to stay motivated to approach this game competitively when FFG continues to stand in the way or are at least passively ignore the community.