What the Hell is a “Farmer of Racism”?

Thoughts on KeyForge

“Archon names in KeyForge are procedurally generated by an algorithm that pulls from a list that includes tens of thousands of words. The result is that every Archon name (i.e. every deck name) generated by the algorithm is unique. Regrettably, some of the words that were included in the pool created the potential for defective Archon Decks with an unfortunate pairing of words.” — Fantasy Flight

KeyForge: Call of the Archons is having a bit of a moment before the official launch. KeyForge is a sci-fi/fantasy card game, like Magic: The Gathering. Each unique deck features a central character called an “Archon”. Each card in a deck has the Archon’s procedurally generated symbol and name printed on the back. No two decks are the same. This produces some gonzo combinations, like Radiant Argus the Supreme and Miss “Onxy” Censorius.

Drama ensued with the discovery of Titanflayer, the Farmer of Racism. As word of KeyForge’s potential issues spread, other eyebrow-raising names popped up. General Bonerider Colt. She who Punches Sympathy. Wang, the Suddenly Bruised. The publisher quickly posted details on how to exchange “defective” decks. They also explained that such decks would be banned from tournament play.


KeyForge is very different from comparable card games. Magic: The Gathering and Android: Netrunner are centered around deck customization. Players construct their decks from their personal card collections. They can also trade (or buy) individual cards to round out their collections.

KeyForge does away with that. KeyForge decks are built from the same pool of cards, but the combination is both one-of-a-kind and set in stone. You can’t customize the decks because each deck has a unique back. If you tried to insert new cards, the backs wouldn’t match. Players could ignore that rule, but that goes against the spirit of the game.

Hard-working and/or stubborn boys for Empticate to antagonize.

Because KeyForge doesn’t officially launch until tomorrow, there’s been little strategic analysis. That said, I imagine that game balance is questionable. With so many card combinations possible, effectiveness will vary wildly. According to Richard Garfield, the designer, that’s kind of the point. Players have to learn to drive their decks as best they can. Customization isn’t an option.

Another difference is the secondary market. Without customization, KeyForge’s secondary market will be very different from Magic’s, if it even exists. The decks are what they are, so buying singles isn’t a thing. Then again, decks with more outlandish names may become collector’s items. I can imagine someone buying hundreds of decks and selling problematic Archons on eBay.

This “Farmer of Racism” is obviously a Bad Guy in the KeyForge universe. A villainous Alt-Righter that sows the seeds of misplaced resentment and harvests spiteful nationalism. Because Titanflayer is the ur-example of “unfortunate” names, it’s definitely going to be banned from tournament play. That doesn’t mean the owner will actually exchange the deck. Nor should they. Other KeyForge players should have to opportunity to fight and beat the Farmer of Racism. Right in the head and ass. Besides, I can’t imagine anyone letting go of this godlike cluster-fuck.

I hope Fantasy Flight doesn’t over-correct and ban any Archon that seems even a little edgy. I can imagine conservatives having a shit-fit over Tombdirk, the Teacher of Socialism.