Magic: The Gathering's creator has a new card game in which every deck is unique

Fantasy Flight Games has announced a new card game from Magic creator Richard Garfield. Called KeyForge: Call of the Archons, it's a 'Unique Deck Game,' in which each and every deck of cards is a unique set highly unlikely to ever be reprinted. There's no deck building or booster packs. Instead, entire decks are for sale—though those decks cannot be changed or customized—and Fantasy Flight claims that in the first set alone there are 32 billion unique combinations. 

The KeyForge name refers to an action taken with in the game world, a cross-genre singularity of a mashup with alien ray guns and magic angels, where players must gather a resource called Æmber and forge it into three keys to win. 

The rules are pretty straightforward, though there are a few modern touches. Players play cards, things like creatures and action effects, to advance their own causes and hinder their opponents'. Notably, though, it seems like attacking the enemy isn’t necessary to win—winning is all about gathering Æmber to forge those three keys. 

Each deck is also divided between three of seven houses such as Shadow, Logos, or Sanctum, each of which uses a different suite of effects, and you can only use cards from one house on each turn. KeyForge also follows other modern card game designs by having no resource system, so any given card in your hand can be legally played if you selected that card’s house this turn. Strategy seems to revolve around balancing your own Æmber gathering with attacking the enemy's creatures to hinder theirs. 

At release, KeyForge will have a starter set with a few decks and lots of game tokens, as well as its unique boxed decks. They're available for pre-order now.

KeyForge will also have an app and website dedicated to it. Though it’s not live yet, the app will track your decks, “watch the meta at large,” whatever that means, and organize tournaments with other players. The app will also be the official organized play hub, with Fantasy Flight Games pledging support for tournaments and events through its existing structure.

The game is a pretty strange idea in today’s card game landscape, which emphasizes customizability and collectibility, encouraging players to optimize from every card available rather than from unchangeable decks. In the KeyForge model, a rare card stays rare because you can’t just buy as many copies as you like. Simply copying the best deck off the internet and buying your way to the top doesn’t exist. There are other implications, of course:  Once-common card game formats like sealed deck have fallen out of favor, but this game is entirely sealed deck. 

Richard Garfield is well known as the creator of Magic: The Gathering, Android Netrunner, and several other famous designs, and recently assisted with Valve's upcoming Dota 2 card game Artifact. KeyForge: Call of the Archons will release by the end of 2018. You can read the full announcement on Fantasy Flight Games’ website. 

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.