Phantaskippy's guide to Phantasms, part 9: Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds.

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phantaskippy
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Phantaskippy's guide to Phantasms, part 9: Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds.

Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds.

Theme.

Keeper is the cranky old spirit of the Island, inviting Dahan and invaders to remove themselves from his lawn.  Keeper excells at holding territory, through its innates and the damage in its initial cards.  Keeper stakes out its territory, and pushes everything else out.

Unique Mechanics.

Keeper places and uses Wilds tokens, but the more important unique mechanic I find to be the restrictions on placing your presence, your two options both have great range, but they require either wilds tokens or your presence for one option, or a land free of Blight for the other.  Games that get blight heavy can make it really hard for Keeper to expand.  Fortunately you can place wilds tokens and clear Blight, so you should never get shut out of lands to grow into.

Role.

Keeper is valuable because it rarely needs help dealing with invaders.  Its high damage is also rather versatile and in amounts that let you deal with any combination of invader pieces rather well.  It can support allies with its Boon of Growing Power, and later on Spreading Wilds gets good enough reach to help allies that struggle to deal with exploration, but mostly Keeper is going to stake out a region, clear it of invaders, and keep it clear.

Adversary Notes.

Keeper is incredibly powerful against the basic invaders.  Able to clear and hold land, shutting down exploration and winning pretty handily.  In my experience, Keeper struggles a good bit more against Brandenburg-Prussia, as the accelerated invader deck give you less time to clear your land, and at tier 3, exploration will threaten to overrun your wilds quickly.  Keeper also finds England's Indentured Servants and High Immigration annoying, but Keeper is well equipped to deal with a random town popping up on already cleared land, so it isn't as tough as Tier 3 Exploration coming early.  Sweden causes Keeper less trouble at lower levels, but the higher levels make Keeper's traditional willingness to let a overrun land sit be much more costly.  France doesn't cause Keeper much trouble until level 5 and 6.

THE Starting Strategy for Keeper.

I intended all of these guides to stay away from promoting a "right" way to play a spirit, and I tried to continue that with Keeper.  But I can't.  Every game I played with Keeper at all different levels of difficulty all point to a simple strategy as the key to playing this spirit, so my main advice for playing Keeper is to remember one simple thing:
Growth option 4 rules.
Keeper has the best presence tracks of any spirit, near the best in both card play and energy gain, and the key is to use that early energy gain to pay for additional presence placement, quickly accelerating your spirit to incredible power.  Quick, how many spirits can place 2 presence and gain a power card during their growth phase?  Only Keeper.
But with the cost, how do I pull this off?
Easy.  First turn use your 2nd and 3rd growth options, taking presence from your Energy track.  Play Boon of Growing Power (on you or someone else, it isn't the important part).  This lets you push an explorer and place a wild token, but most importantly, end your turn with 2 energy.  That's the only key, end every single turn with at least 2 energy.  "Sorry Allies, I'll discard cards or forget a power, but I won't use my last 2 energy for this event." is something you should prepare to say.  Because nothing matters more to Keeper's success than having 2+ energy at the end of your turn.
That 2 energy becomes 3 when you use your 3rd growth option, allowing you to turn that energy into a second placed presence while still gaining a power card.  Every single turn should end with Keeper having 2+ energy.  When you need to reclaim, try reclaim and use your 4th growth option, cards are important too after all.

How I like to start.

Turn 1 I unlock the sun icon on the energy track, then turn two I go for 4 energy and 2 plays.  This is the hard turn, if you didn't get a lucky 0 energy power with favorable elements turn 1 (I only target another with turn 1 Boon if I get a good card with my growth) you will need to play 2 1 energy cost powers.  Don't worry it gets better very soon.  Turn 3 go power track to unlock 5 energy and the plant Icon, because 1 from each gets you less this turn, and 3 card plays turn 4 anyway.  Turn 4 get your 3rd card play, you may have to reclaim here if your card luck stunk, if so get the 7 power instead, because then you are set forever.  Turn 5 either reclaim and get 7 energy or get your 3rd card play, depending on last turn, and then go straight to 5 plays and reclaim 1.

Elements.

Don't let the numbers fool you, here is your priority track for elements:
1.  Fire.
2.  Sun.
3.  Plant.
4.  Major power thresholds.
5.  Air.

You start with 1 fire element and you want 2 per turn.  You start with 3 sun and you want sun to match plant elements for Punish's damage boost.  You start with 4 plant and you want 3+ each turn.  Both sun and plant get an icon on the energy track you will unlock early.

The great news is 76.7% of the time when you draw minor powers you will have a power with 2 of those elements.  Shouldn't be hard to build a base from which to activate your innates every turn.

Advice and thoughts:

1.  Take major powers when you end turns with 5 or more energy, but don't forget your key elemental cards.
2.  Minor power effects are not nearly as important as Punish those who Trespass.  Get your elements.
3.  Towering Wrath is amazing, and is easy to fuel when you are able to take growth option 4 before option 3, letting you create a sacred site on any unblighted land in range 3.
4.  Because of Towering Wrath and The sacred site building style mentioned in #3, it can be very effective for Keper to build a network of non-adjacent sacred sites, relying on Punish those who Tresspass to clear the lands with sacred sites, and setting up for massive Towering Wrath hits inbetween them (getting to 6 or 8 damage by throwing down a sacred site the turn you use Wrath).
5.  Your first and second turn power card gains it may be beneficial to grab a 0 cost without helpful elements, as towering Wrath and Sacrosanct Wilderness can make up for their elements, and 0 cost lets you use them and still grow properly.  Just forget it later when you grab a major power, you probably won't play it twice.
6.  Your special rule and Sacrosanct Wilderness make you a pretty dang good Dahan pusher, esp. if you are forming a sacred site most turns.
7.  Keeper often is perfectly fine placing presence in an invader infested land.  I love dropping a sacred site right on them, losing one to blight but following that up by droppinga 6+ damage Punish and removing the blight with a slow power.

TakeWalker
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I'll definitely have to keep this "2 energy at the end of your turn" strategy in mind in the future. Been having a hard time playing this guy, but constantly adding presence turns him into a juggernaught right quick, even if I often felt like I was way out of reach of lands that needed attention. Looking forward to your next guide!