Key Insights from 2023 Organized Play

Published On: January 3, 2024

Planning for the KeyForge 2024 Organized Play Season has been underway since we concluded KeyForge Celebration last November, and we are as excited as you to start new journeys in both casual and competitive forging. As we gather the last few pieces of Æmber to forge that key, let’s take a moment and reflect on the 2023 KeyForge OP season.

Organized Play in 2023 was a build-up year in many respects. We focused our efforts on reviving high-level competitive events for a game that had not had that type of publisher level support for almost three years. These were big, splashy, joyous events for those of you who have stuck with the game for so long. In that regard, we consider the season to be a success. Archons heard the call, and we were extremely pleased to see you!

Key Insights

Ancient Battlegrounds

Three major types of competitive events were held in 2023: Vault Tours, National Championships, and World Championships. This year also saw a second iteration of our flagship event, KeyForge Celebration.

There were seven Vault Tour events around the world, with five in the United States, one in Italy and one in China. These events welcomed a combined 792 players, each competing for prizes and invitations to the exclusive 2023 KeyForge World Championship.

Twelve different countries held National Championships, with approximately 500 participants. They crowned 23 National Champions. The window of opportunity to sign up for these and run them was smaller than we would have liked. Yet, we are extremely thankful for the international partners who rose to the occasion. We’re also pleased with the turnout for these events.

The World Championships comprised of two prestigious, invite-only events at KeyForge Celebration 2023 each featuring 32 players (64 total) from around the world. Many international players traveled to compete, which truly made the event a global competition. We thus crowned the first two World Champions of KeyForge ever: DonutsDad (US) with his powerful Key Abduction Alliance, and Dorian11 (Italy) with his Archon Geir Tsong, Soldato di Cubonitido.

Finally, we announced the plans for making the big KeyForge party, KeyForge Celebration, an annual event where you will be able to come and celebrate the game you love with the people you enjoy for as long as we make KeyForge. KeyForge Celebration will form the capstone for every season in the future, and will always host the KeyForge World Championships.


ALLIANCE FORMAT

The two primary competitive formats in 2023 were Alliance and Archon. There were side tournaments at many events that also featured Sealed Alliance as a more casual format. KeyForge Celebration 2023 saw the Sealed Alliance briefly rise to the level of a major competitive tournament by using the format for the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ).

Sealed Alliance received nearly universal praise, with many enjoying the way it mitigates some of the traditional variance of single-deck sealed events. This format saw quite a lot of attendance and success across the season wherever it was offered. We noted that the players who participated in the LCQ found it particularly enjoyable to have high-stakes Sealed.

As a new format targeted at new and returning players, we have been pleased with the performance of the Alliance format over the course of the season. While Archon began and ended as the preferred format of many, Alliance was present at every major tournament throughout the year. It was well attended at the Florence Vault Tour and KeyForge Celebration. Once the final keys at KeyForge Celebration were forged, many approached us to express their love and appreciation of the Alliance format.

We particularly enjoyed seeing the creativity of KeyForge players develop as they explored the format to produce their decks. The season saw several types of alliances emerge as archetypes such as Infurnace Control, Dark Æmber Value Tempo, (Mars) Key Cheats, and Legionary Trainer Tempo. The format saw some of these deck types win more than others (we’re looking at you, Key Abduction), but it was not one-note. Players were able to find the variety and creativity that we believe is the cornerstone of Alliance.

The sets that seemed to support the emerging core strategies of Alliance rose to be some of the most played sets all season. Winds of Exchange, Mass Mutation, and Age of Ascension all had equal top showings, despite Winds of Exchange very consistently showing up as a large portion of most fields. Call of the Archons saw the fewest Alliance top spots among sets represented. Set choices were a very interesting aspect for us to explore.

The unique way in which KeyForge handles a semi-constructed environment lead to very interesting choices, and an archetype metagame has developed that KeyForge hasn’t really had before. We think this format is a great blend of elements that pure constructed games have to offer with a heavy dose of KeyForge’s unique magic.

(Top Finishing Decks are defined as Top 4 for tournaments greater than 8, and Top 2 for tournaments less than 8.)


ARCHON FORMAT

Players showed their love for the Archon format this year, making up nearly two thirds of all attendance at nearly every event. This was to be expected as the preferred format of established players: a direct continuation of the format known previously as Archon Solo.

Like the Alliance format, Archon saw plenty of Winds of Exchange and Mass Mutation. Age of Ascension was present, but nowhere near as many were seen at top tables as in Alliance. Worlds Collide and Call of the Archons seemed to take half the top tables as the dominant sets.

Several decks ascended to greatness throughout the season. They took multiple wins for a single person, qualified multiple people to the World Championships, or came just shy of those by making multiple Top 4s or Top 8s. These decks and their accolades included:

  • Geir Tsong, Soldato di Cubonitido – 1st at Florence Vault Tour, and Archon World Champion (Qualified for 2024 World Championship)
  • The Ooze that Trains All Three Houses – 2nd at Roseville Vault Tour, 3rd at Seattle Vault Tour (Rolled Down 2023 Worlds Qualification), Top 8 at US Nationals, Top 8 at Dallas and Las Vegas Vault Tours, Archon Open Champion (Qualified for 2024 World Championship)
  • Jacques “Aombre”, lord de la station – Winner of the US Nationals, Seattle Vault Tour, and Las Vegas Vault Tour
  • Adm. Inslang, the Pink Fraud – Winner of Canadian Nationals, Top 8 at US Nationals, Top 8 at Philadelphia and Dallas Vault Tours, 3rd at Seattle Vault Tour in Alliance (Rolled Down 2023 Worlds Qualification)

(Top Finishing Decks are defined as Top 4 for tournaments greater than 8, and Top 2 for tournaments less than 8.)

Archon is a format which shows what classic KeyForge is all about: Unique decks doing unique things and showing up to earn a gaggle of accolades. The decks themselves were as characters in the story of the season, making their own narratives from one event to the next. We had a great time watching the continued success of players and decks.

One Stood Against Many

A special shout-out is deserved for one player who made the effort to attend all US Vault Tours and the US National Championship: Big Z. This prolific player, known well by the larger KeyForge community, was able to reach the Top 4 of all but one of these events (often using his signature deck “Pink Jacket” Tadeusz, City Dreamchaser). He was dedicated to Archon early in the season, but shifted to Alliance after Vault Tour Seattle. He won Vault Tour Las Vegas in the Alliance format, and then participated in the 2023 Alliance World Championship despite also qualifying for Archon! Congratulations on a great performance all season, Big Z!

Playing with Stile

Players also saw the introduction of Playstile (developed by Ghost Galaxy’s sister company) to the KeyForge competitive space during the 2023 season. It was used primarily by Ghost Galaxy, but several international partners were given access to run their own KeyForge events as part of the closed beta-testing of Playstile during the season.

Playstile went through many iterative changes throughout the season, including the introduction of the flagship tournament format Playstile 2LO. Ghost Galaxy is pleased to have helped improve this exciting software and new tournament format, and we believe that Playstile is well on its way to becoming a robust offering we’ll use extensively in the future.

Call of the Archons

Prepare your decks, box your tokens, and put on a new set of sleeves, because news on the 2024 Organized Play Season is coming soon. There was a lot to be happy about in 2023, but we’re committed to delivering an even greater number of experiences in 2024. More tournaments, more play kits, more support, and just plain more KeyForge. We hope you join us forging ahead in this world we all know and love.

Archons, as always: See you in the Crucible!

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