9 July 2019 | KeyForge

The Key to the Crucible

Learn About Chains, Power Levels, Variants, and More


“I said, ‘take me to your leader’ and got a fist to the face.”
   –Captain Val Jericho

Whether you’re a new player diving into the world of KeyForge for the first time with the new set, Age of Ascension, or a seasoned Archon who has unlocked countless Vaults, it’s a good idea to understand how all of the pieces of KeyForge fit together. The world of the Crucible is vast and brimming with potential rewards, but it's also home to powerful Archons, dangerous technology, and menacing creatures. 

As you plunge into the depths of the Crucible in search of Æmber and adventure, you'll want to go in equipped with an understanding of how the universe of KeyForge works—and you will be handsomely rewarded for doing so! In this article, we’ll go over some of the finer points of the game (like how Chains and Power Levels function) to help ease you into this wild and chaotic place known as the Crucible.


Let's start with the one thing every Archon is after: Æmbershards! Æmbershards are a digital reward in KeyForge, tracked and associated with your account in the Master Vault. You earn these glimmering gems by simply purchasing and registering decks in the Master Vault or by participating in designated Organized Play events. Generally speaking, the better you do at events, the more Æmbershards you earn. At any time, your stock of Æmbershards may be redeemed for prizes at a KeyForge event featuring a Prize Wall, such as a Vault Tour.

KeyForge Master Vault

The KeyForge Master Vault is the ultimate resource—a place where you can register and track the performance of your Archon decks online at KeyForgeGame.com or on our iOS KeyForge companion app. You may also search for other decks here, including the latest Age of Ascension decks that your friends and rivals have discovered. In addition, the Master Vault is where you will load your account with Æmbershards, to be safely stowed away until you’re ready to redeem them for prizes at an event with a Prize Wall.

The Master Vault also contains information on Organized Play, including where you can find a store to participate in upcoming KeyForge events. You can also preview what your Æmbershards can get you in the prize gallery. Lastly, the Master Vault highlights the various Formats and Variants that you can expect to encounter at different KeyForge events!

Formats and Variants

In KeyForge, there are two formats used in the game: Archon and Sealed. In the Archon format, you get to choose from your full collection which deck or decks you want to bring to an event. In the Sealed format, on the other hand, you open one or more brand-new decks to use at the event. 

Alongside the formats, variants are optional ways to play KeyForge, which can be used to put a fun spin on the game and ensure that your gaming experience feels unique. Both Archon and Sealed formats can use most of these variants, but there are a couple exceptions.

Reversal (Format: Archon)

In the Reversal variant, each player brings a deck that they believe is difficult to win with consistently. At the beginning of every round, you and your opponent swap decks, playing with these challenging decks as you otherwise normally would. The great aspect of this variant is that not only will you play with decks that normally might not see much action, but you could also find untapped synergies that you’ve never discovered before.

Survival (Formats: Archon, Sealed)

In the Survival variant, players begin the tournament with two or three decks, which is determined by the event organizer. The decks are ranked in an order of the player’s choosing before the first round. Each time you lose a game with a deck, that deck is considered “out” and cannot be used for the rest of the tournament. When a player no longer has any decks to use, that player is eliminated from the tournament.

Auction (Format: Sealed)

In the Auction variant, players have more control than a normal Sealed match, but at a cost. After purchasing, opening, and registering their decks, players will place their decks into a common pool before the event begins and then bid Chains for the decks that they desire. During the event, players will start each round with a number of Chains equal to their highest bid for the deck they're using. After the event, all decks return to their original owners.

Adaptive (Formats: Archon, Sealed)

In the Adaptive variant, you and your opponent play best-of-three. For the first match, you play your own deck, but for the second match you and your opponent swap decks. If a third match occurs, you and your opponent take turns bidding on the deck that won both games. The player who outbids the other uses the deck for the third game, starting that game with the Chains that were bid for that deck.

Triad (Formats: Archon, Sealed)

In the Triad variant, each player has three decks that they can use for the duration of the tournament. At the start of each round, each player chooses one of their opponent’s decks to “bench,” making that deck unusable for that match. Each round consists of a best-of-three match. When a player wins a game, they must switch to their other deck for the rest of the match. This means that a player must win a game with each of their non-benched decks to win the match.


Chains are a game mechanic that are used to mitigate some of the most powerful effects in KeyForge. When a player gains chains during a game, that player increases their chain tracker by the number of chains gained. Then, during the draw cards step, a player with chains will draw less cards (based on their current chain level) and shed one chain, reducing their chain tracker by one. Once all chains are shed, the player returns to drawing normally. 

Outside of their use during the game itself, chains may also be separately used during special tournaments like ChainBound events as a balancing mechanic for more powerful decks in the meta. Decks that gain chains by participating in these events (which are also tracked in the Master Vault) will impact a player’s hand size on the opening turn and potentially for several turns afterward, depending on the number of chains on the deck. Chains are only applied based on performance after a ChainBound event concludes, not between rounds. 

Players that perform exceedingly well at these events will likely gain multiple chains on the deck they used. Conversely, players who underperform will likely gain no chains or even shed one chain in the process. For ChainBound events, top-notch decks piloted by skilled players are likely to be on the path to gaining numerous chains, and subsequently numerous Power Levels. But ChainBound events aren’t the only way of gaining Power Levels. 

Power Levels

Power Levels are used to denote the accomplishments of a KeyForge deck and reflect the natural growth of a promising deck. Power Levels also speak to the unique identity of each Archon deck and are a great way to show off what your deck is capable of. Like Chains gained through ChainBound events, Power Levels are applied to decks after the conclusion of an event and each deck’s Power Level can be tracked via the Master Vault. But unlike Chains, Power Levels are permanent on decks, so once you gain one or more you cannot lose them!

A deck that earns enough Power Levels may reach the point where it can no longer participate in lower tier events. But gaining more Power Levels also qualifies your deck for higher tier events, or special events where a higher Power Level is a requirement for entry. At the moment, the only type of event you can level out of completely is ChainBound events—decks that are above Power Level 4 can longer participate in these events. Otherwise, there are no current Power Level restrictions. But in the world of KeyForge, change is inevitable and in the future, Power Levels will play a more significant role in what decks are or aren’t able to do. 

How well you perform at a specific event will dictate the Power Level your deck gains afterwards. To give you an idea of what’s attainable for Power Levels, here is a list of the maximum Power Levels you can gain at different Organized Play event tiers:

It’s important to note that Power Levels are not additive. If you win a Store Championship and advance to Power Level 3 for doing so, your deck will not further increase in Power Level unless it achieves a higher Power Level at a higher tier event. Power Levels are more like achievements, not cumulative experience that’s gained. For that reason, any decks that are already Power Level 3 or higher will have no more room for growth on the Store Championship level.

In KeyForge, it's possible that some decks may reach a high enough level to ascend. Though what does ascension exactly entail? That's a secret locked away in a vault... for now.

The Vault Tour

In addition to the standard Organized Play events like Store Championships, Prime Championships, Grand Championships, and the prestigious World Championship, KeyForge has a unique series of ongoing events called the KeyForge Vault Tour. Vault Tour events are massive, global, weekend-long tournaments that are open to players of all experience levels. You may even discover a Vault Tour event that uses the Sealed format, which places newer players and veterans on equal footing.

Running alongside the main event over the course of a Vault Tour weekend will be a number of side events, where you can experience different variants of KeyForge and meet fantastic people from all over the world. Best of all, amidst all the fun and games, you’ll be adding loads of Æmbershards to your Master Vault account, which can then be turned into KeyForge-themed prizes! The Vault Tour is the primary venue to redeem your Æmbershards, as each event will have a Prize Wall full of unique prizes that any Archon would fight for.

What’s more, the winner of each Vault Tour tournament will receive free travel and lodging accommodations to a later Vault Tour event! Every year, the Vault Tour will also qualify a number of the year's top points earners for participation in the invite-only KeyForge World Championship.

Forge Your Path

Now that you've been further accustomed with some of the more abstract aspects of KeyForge, you're more prepared than ever to tackle the challenges of the Crucible. Venture forth, Archon! Seek your fortune and prevail over those who would stand in your path!

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