And at last we come to our final stop. This last House is arguably one of the greatest, and is without a doubt my favourite. Behold, the mighty empire of Mars!
Keyforge: Overview of House Mars
Embodying every aspect from every B sci-fi movie depicting Martians, Mars is a technological juggernaut of an empire that has found its way to the Crucible. Or rather, they were found and plucked up by the Architects and dropped off to the Crucible. Yes, two centuries ago during the final days of the Fall of Mars, where the planet we know and love had become irrevocably polluted by the Martian’s use of the toxic mineral cavorite, the Architects swung in to save the day and translocated many of the Martians onto the Crucible. Since then, the Martians have done everything to pursue a xenophobic crusade to control as much of the Crucible as possible, to make sure that Mars Lives On.
Where the Martians had built a sprawling technological empire on Mars, they sought to do the very same on the Crucible, and wasted little time establishing themselves. Through their use of genetic engineering, cloning and air superiority, the Martian war machine has been able to control the region known as Novas Hellas and dominate three entire cities.
Though much of their empire had been left behind on Mars, the Martians have been able to quickly repurpose their technology to harness the power of æmber. In many ways, this has led to the Martians growing and adapting to become ever more dangerous. The psycho-reactive properties of æmber have unlocked the latent psionic abilities of the Martians, urging them to develop experiments relating to mind control, telepathy and other sinister uses for their psionic powers.
Likewise, the Martian war machine compromising of flying saucers, mechanical walkers, and atomic blasters that go “Zorch!” (apparently) have benefitted from being retrofitted with æmber. Though powerful, they are not completely indomitable. Fortunately for the other Houses, the Martians have had limited success in rebuilding their fleet of flying saucers. And for some reason, a mysterious force prevents the ships from leaving the atmosphere. That being said, the other Houses should be wary, as there is very little else that is able to stop the march of the Martians.
As you might’ve noticed, Mars is not a particularly friendly empire. Contrary to many of the other factions (such as Shadows, Brobnar, or Logos) Mars does not adopt a “hail fellow well met” immigration policy. House Mars is for the Martians, and the Martians only! In an effort to maintain their cultural purity, the House has become aggressively xenophobic. This according to the will of the Martian Elders, the leaders of House Mars, and a bioengineered caste developed specifically to rule the House.
The other caste, the Martian Soldiers, are bred to have unquestioning loyalty to Mars and the Elders and are discouraged (sometimes forcefully) from developing thier own ideas and personalities, lest they run contrary to the state-dogma. The Elders, on the other hand, enjoy more intellectual liberties and are free to pursue their desires and interests. Beware, as the Elders have a penchant of scooping out the brains of others, in order to retrieve pertinent information to their designs. Some Elders focus their efforts on developing new bio weapons (be they new mutated beasts or life-draining viruses); while others take time observing the other creatures of the Crucible, gathering invaluable insight to those they seek to conquer; and others still, who focus on archiving the grandiose history of Mars.
The Elders of Mars view the archons as one of the few threats equal to their perceived power, but also as a potential ally. Wary of having their culture being tainted by the influence of the archons, the Elders consider the benefits of having the utterly powerful archons. Clearly, the benefits very much outweigh their concerns and so many elements of Martian society take up arms along side the archons. The archons, for their part, find the resolute (if not genocidal) cultural identity of the Martians to be intriguing, and of course value the effectiveness of the Martian war machine.
Keyforge: Using Mars in Your Deck
UFittingly for a xenophobic empire, Mars is the faction that does not play well with others. Borrowing a term from the Magic lexicon, Mars focuses on tribal effects. That is to say, effects that target a specific group of cards or creatures. In this case, Mars does this two-fold, firstly in uniting and buffing itself with pro-Martian effects, while rooting out impurity and targeting non-Martians with decidedly unfriendly effects. Finally, as befitting of the Martians, they love to abduct creatures by aggressively archiving them. This is faction that makes or breaks a deck by being united.
Martians certainly are proud to be Martian. That is an understatement. This faction is single-handedly the one that is most obsessed with itself, and you can see why when you look at how many of their cards have pro-Martian effects. To explain, these cards get better the more cards or creatures you have of House Mars. Cards such as: Battle Fleet, Hyponotic Command, Key Abduction, Mating Season, Commpod, Mothership Support, and Mothergun. Impressively, I could’ve kept that list going; that is how much Mars focuses on rallying together. When Mars rallies together, they can generate a wealth of æmber, devastate the enemy, and draw on so many other resources by readying creatures or drawing cards. The flipside is, a lot of value of these cards get lost if you don’t have a hand or battleline filled with Mars cards.
On the other side of the coin, just as much as Mars loves Mars, Mars also hates everyone else. Targeting non-Martians is another way that the House tries to dominate the game. Phosphorus Stars hits all non-Mars creatures with stun, Qyxxlyx Plague Masters hits all Humans (a trait that no Mars creature currently has) for three damage, while you can use Custom Virus to wreak havoc on a wide variety of different kinds of creatures (preferably non-Martian). Squawker straddles both sides of Mars fence, either providing a benefit to your Mars creatures by readying one of them, or slowing a non-Martian down by stunning it. And alas, you can even convert your creatures into Mars with Brain Stem Antenna, and why wouldn’t you want to join the glorious empire of Mars? While purging non-Martians is all great and well, it does make the House go at odds with the rest of your deck, so it’s important to be careful on raining havoc. As we all know, Martians make bad allies.
When they’re not obsessing over their Martian-ness, Mars also likes to abduct creatures via some aggressive archiving. Where Logos (ever the king of archiving), likes to archive things in a passive “I want to save this card for later” approach, Mars likes to steal the opponent’s creatures and lock them into their own archives. Cards like Sample Collection, Uxlyx the Zookeeper, and Mass Abduction let you scoop up the enemies creatures and throw them into your archive. In a lot of ways, this is a great way of creature removal since the opponent has no way to bring them back (unlike retrieving creatures from the discard pile or cycling through it). The drawback is that you have to return the creatures to the opponent should you ever want to pick up the archive for yourself, so you’ll either leave your archive alone for the game or give the opponent some much needed back up.
Keyforge: Key Mars Cards
Now let’s take a gander at some specific players in the dauntless Martian war machine. First card I want to look at is the rather popular “John Smyth”.
That “y” is going to fool everyone, you better believe it. “John Smyth” the completely human-sounding Martian is a great addition to any Mars deck. The ability to ready basically any other Mars creature (“John Smyth” is currently the only agent Mars creature) whenever you reap or fight is a major asset, allowing you to eke out a little more value out of other Mars creatures. Pair this up with Ulyq Megamouth, and you can get a nice train of actions among your creatures. “John Smyth” more or less makes each and every one of your other Mars creatures all that more useful, all the while generating æmber when he reaps.
The mother of all æmber walls. I have never had the pleasure of playing with Ether Spider, but I certainly have had the misfortune of playing against it, and oh boy this guy is a doozy. He basically sucks up any æmber you’re able to acquire regardless of its source. On top of that he has a pretty tanky seven power, which means he can take a few hits going down. Which is good, because he’ll be target number one. Being able to protect it by granting it elusive with Ring of Invisibility or setting up either a creature with taunt or Shadow Self beside it and you’ll be sure to lock the opponent down for a damn good while.
This guy is interesting because it is one of the few cards who has been errata’d since release. Originally it read: This creature gains “Destroyed: You may put this creature into its owner’s archives.” But now it reads: This creatures gains “Destroyed: Put this creature into its owner’s archives.”
This is because of a ruling in Keyforge where any effects that have the word “may” in it get to be decided by the active player (ie: the player who is taking their turn). The original wording made it so that if a creature with Biomatrix Backup attached to it got killed on the opponent’s turn then the opponent got to decide whether it is archived or not, thereby making it near useless since anyone worth their salt would deny their opponent any and every advantage. Thankfully this has been changed so that it gets archived no matter what, letting this card become (more or less) the phoenix down that it was meant to be.
House Mars Final Thoughts
I love, love, love Mars. When I first discovered they were a faction in Keyforge, I instantly became all that more intrigued in the game. I always loved the idea of Martians ever since I knew of War of the Worlds, and crazed B-movie Martians have always been a favoured take on the Martian trope.
Game-wise, Mars play super strategically. They encourage a “wait-and-see” approach, waiting for you to have a solid hand of Mars before you bust out some super crazy plays. In an alternate universe where Keyforge ended up being a deck-building game, Mars would singlehandedly be the best faction given how their cards interact with one another. Sadly, their “we don’t play well with others” approach makes them a liability, at times. That being said, I feel like some of the best ideas in Keyforge are present in House Mars, and that you can tell the designers put their heart and soul in designing this faction. It definitely shows.
Alas, this is where we part my friends. It has been a journey going through all the Houses with you. I hope you have learned much, and have had the opportunity to see what makes each of these blessed Houses unique. Worry not, for I will return once more to recap all that we have explored together. Until then, may all of your archons find the best of allies in the seven Houses of the Crucible!