The Great Bait and Switch Debate of 2019: Is Bait and Switch Overpowered?
I am lucky and fortunate enough to have a pretty awesome gaming group. We’ve been a group now for around 4 years, meeting about 20x a year to play board game or watch movies. We have laughed and cried together over the years, often crying laughing, and spend time analysing games for fun as we play them. There have been a lot of articles that I have written on this blog inspired by debates we have had as a group – from the best time to discard cards in Gloomhaven to precisely how to win Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space. Today also comes from one of those debates; however, this time it is more philosophical in nature – is the Keyforge Shadows card, Bait and Switch, overpowered?
Is Bait and Switch Overpowered
I have spent literally around three hours with one of my gaming group debating this exact fact over the course of a few days. Is Bait and Switch overpowered? Well, there are actually a few arguments for and against that I want to run through with you today.
For this I am going to run through the concepts of our arguments, in order of when we had them, and at the end I will leave you with a few final thoughts and you can make up your own mind.
Before we begin however, let’s state what Bait and Switch does:
Play: If your opponent has more Aember than you, steal one Aember. Repeat this card’s effect if your opponent still has more Aember than you.
It is a nasty effect, and a great equaliser in the game. The effect keeps going until it has been satisfied and either the Shadows player has equal Aember to their opponent or one more.
Argument One: Bait and Switch is NOT overpowered
This was my initial argument and one I think surprised us all as I really don’t like the Shadows house in Keyforge. My argument was that Bait and Switch, although still very powerful, was not overpowered based on two concepts. The first is that Bait and Switch removes Aember from your opponent. The second is it gains you Aember in return.
Let’s break those down into two actions, taking the fact that Aember is stolen as our first.
So, what this means is that Bait and Switch has an Aember abduction chart like the below based on the Aember your opponent has –
The steal action, from the opponent’s perspective, first takes their Aember out of action, before it becomes yours – making their Aember inaccessible to them. So far as cards go, Bait and Switch is good at this kind of Aember paralysis, but it isn’t actually great. The rate of Aember paralysis (ie. making it blumming difficult for your opponent by making their Aember inaccessible) is not actually as good as a card like Pandemonium (a Dis card) which captures an Aember for every creature in play. Pandemonium results in an Aember paralysis graph like the below –
Okay, so there are a few nuances here. We need to assume that, like we assume Bait and Switch will be played at the right time, so will Pandemonium. Namely, all creatures capture Aember so you wouldn’t play it whilst your opponent has a lot of creatures in play.
Also, Pandemonium captures Aember – it doesn’t steal it. Stealing is infinitely better than just making Aember difficult to get back (since it benefits you). Capture still has its up side though, since your opponent will need to destroy all your creatures to get their Aember back. Unless they have a board wipe they may as well just aim to create new Aember rather than get it back off you.
In regards to gaining Aember, there are cards that can gain Aember faster. Hunting Witch, for example, can facilitate a lot of Aember in a turn with the help of a few Untamed creatures. It is possible to gain over five Aember in a turn with Hunting Witch, a feat that will be rare with Bait and Switch, since Bait and Switch will often be played as an opponent has “checked” (ie. will forge a Key on their next turn). This results in three Aember gained on average with Bait and Switch which, comparatively, isn’t that much compared to some other cards.
Argument Two: Bait and Switch IS overpowered
There is a direct response to the above debate. Bait and Switch does two things and both are good. It reduces Aember at the same time as gaining it, and stealing on this level is unheard of with any other single card in the game. Most cards only allow stealing one, whereas Bait and Switch offers a theoretical infinite amount of stealing. This is almost always better.
Take the above comparison as an example. Pandemonium has the ability, if played anything but optimally, to remove Aember from your stockpile as well. There are combos around this, but essentially there is a very specific time where you can play Pandemonium and not have it hurt you in return.
There is another comparison with Bait and Switch which is that of Effervescent Principle, a Logos card that does a similar removal effect. With Effervescent Principle it has a similar removal chart –
However, it also has the following text:
Play: Each player loses half their Aember (rounding down the loss). Gain 1 chain.
Now that has a couple of negative effects, such as you both lose Aember and you also gain one chain. Neither of those is ideal. Bait and Switch, on the other hand, only has positive effects. You take half of your opponent’s Aember. The effect is the same for them, but by gaining a load of Aember is much much better for you. It certainly beats a loss and a penalty.
Argument Three: Bait and Switch IS powerful…but it is not overpowered
At this point, I had to admit that I was fighting a losing battle. Those were some really great points, and I needed to come back with a rebuttal. Comparing Effervescent Principle and Bait and Switch is a painful thing to do. It does one of two things – either shows how harmful Effervescent Principle is, or shows how great Bait and Switch is. Neither helps the “it’s not overpowered” debate.
The returning argument was this –
Bait and Switch is a powerful card; however, each house has powerful cards. Look at Chota Hazri in Untamed, who allows you to forge a Key out of sequence (and Key Charge – the action equivalent). Library Access, Nepenthe Seed, and Phase Shift can be devastating when played together (with a few other cards). Epic Quest is powerful, allowing the same effect as Chota Hazri or Key Charged for free. Shadow Self and Mushroom Man can create a nearly indestructible creature. Arise lets you pull every Dis creature from your discard pile to your hand. These can all be incredibly harsh cards to play against when they are optimised.
Okay, so I admit. This isn’t the best argument, and the examples may be flawed; however, the point is there are a whole series of incredibly powerful cards in every deck that can flip the course of the game. Thus Bait and Switch is not unique and thus it is one of many powerful cards, making it one of a powerful collective and thus not overpowered in comparison.
Argument Four: Bait and Switch IS overpowered in comparison to even those
The final argument, and I believe this clinched it for me, is very simple and requires no graphs.
All of those other examples, every other supremely powerful card in the game – Chota Hazri, Epic Quest, Arise, and any combo – requires set up or specific conditions to play. Chota Hazri or Key Forged require 7+ Aember (under normal conditions). Epic Quest is epic, but it requires 7 Sanctum cards. Arise can be played at any time, but to get the full effect you need to play Dis when you have loads of creatures in your discard pile – play them (get the juicy play effects) but then wait until the next turn to reap. Any combo obviously requires the cards in that combo at the right time.
Bait and Switch alas requires absolutely nothing. You just need to wait for your opponent to have enough Aember. One popular play is to forge a Key yourself, and play Bait and Switch when you have no Aember but your opponent is just about to forge. That puts you halfway towards a goal and moves them away from theirs.
It is a card that can just be played and be devastating.
This final point is actually a really good one, and actually constitutes an addition to this argument. Chota Hazri lets you create a key difference in the game. As does Epic Quest, and Key Forged, allowing you to forge out of turn. These cards close or forge the gap of a Key in the space of a turn.
Bait and Switch does something similar when played as the above. It can remove half a Key from your opponent whilst giving you half a Key in Aember in return. That is horrible, and creates a similar Key gap, just in a different way.
Conclusion: Is Bait and Switch Overpowered?
As much as I want to say no, I have to admit that I think Bait and Switch is overpowered. If there was a negative to the card or a chain or a play condition then maybe it wouldn’t be, but as Keyforge currently stands, I believe it is.
That is just my opinion though, and I wanted to present our whole debate (or the notes of, since it lasted four days) so you can decide for yourselves. What do you think? Is it overpowered or did we miss something?
Please feel free to post your own thoughts below. Do you agree or is it just a normal card like anything else? Let me know in the comments.