Friday, 17 July 2015

The Short Goodbye

It has been a long time since my last blog, in which time I've had a good half dozen half-written blogs that never made it to full fruition.

I've been struggling increasingly with the fact that I don't enjoy playing Netrunner.  The initial excitement of rediscovering the game and the new cards quite quickly gave way to the feelings of frustration that led me to quit the game last year.  I cycled through a dozen different deck archetypes, both on Runner and Corp side, hoping that something would stick that I found interesting but it hasn't happened.  From Industrial Genomics and Cybernetics Division to Near-Earth Hub and Replicating Perfection I've tried my hand at a wide range of Corporation decks and found them all stifled by the restrictions placed on Corp deckbuilding by the mechanics of the game (including Agendas, the need to defend critical weaknesses on HQ and R&D).  On the runner side there was definitely more freedom to make varied decks that worked, which I think we've seen in the Regionals results, but I still felt ultimately that they were quite similar and led to repetitive games.

I'm going to close down the Satellite Uplink, and I'm afraid it will be for good this time as I'm selling my cards on tomorrow in order to ensure I don't suffer another relapse further down the line.

While that's sad news I'd rather leave Netrunner before I start to really dislike it, and all I'm really doing is transferring my time and energy into the relaunched 2nd Edition of the A Game of Thrones LCG, which hopefully hits shops next month.  I've already set up the skeleton of my new blog about that game: The Old Gods and the New and look forward to exploring that game as it's released.

Those also interested in the new A Game of Thrones LCG are more than welcome to join me in Westeros.

For those who I am leaving in the Android universe then thank you for your time, thank you for reading my blog, and may the Psi be ever in your favour!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Keeping up with Current events

I was just leaving Netrunner for my sabbatical as Lunar Cycle loomed but I have strong memory of reading an article, as I left, that introduced the forthcoming Current keyword and thinking: "hmm, that sounds like it could be interesting".  One of my frustrations with the structure of Netrunner is how much almost every interaction is forced through the medium of runs, meaning that at heart the game is quite non-interactive - you can never choose to interact with your opponent's strategy directly, you have to use a run.  What I liked about Currents, and the way they cancelled each other out, was that here was another angle of attack and counterattack that didn't require runs.

And then I went away, and it seems like for most of that time I've been away Current have, by and large, sucked.  They simply weren't good enough to justify playing, and if your opponent wasn't playing Currents then you sure as hell weren't going to play your crappy Currents just to counter his crappy Currents that he wasn't even bothering to play!

Well, it's been a long time coming for those who stuck with the game but I think Currents are finally starting to come of age and it's virtually entirely down to one card: Hacktivist Meeting.  This Anarch Current arrived in Breaker Bay and pretty much immediately found a home in a metagame dominated by two Corp IDs thriving on remote Assets: Near-Earth Hub and Replicating Perfection.  

I mentioned this when I discussed the changes I'd made for my Maxx deck, but to repeat myself the Hacktivist Meeting hurts so many of the common cards in this metagame, including Jackson Howard, Daily Business Show, Marked Accounts, PAD Campaign, Eve Campaign, Adonis Campaign, Sundew, Mental Health Clinic, Crysium Grid, Ash, Caprice, Red Herrings... the list is huge.

That was the first blow struck for real competitive currents.  Prior to Hacktivist Meeting the only Current you were likely to see were Enhanced Login Protocols, but although annoying the impact of Enhanced Login Protocol wasn't strong enough to force Runners into playing their own bad Currents to fight it.   It took Hacktivist Meetings to really flip things up a gear and make Currents really matter, and now we've had Surveillance Sweep spoiled from Data & Destiny, potentially delivering a Corp Current that Runner's also can't ignore.

Every good Current that gets printed makes every other Current better, as having a counter to Currents becomes more and more important.  I think we're starting to see a cascade effect bringing more  and more Currents into decks, so it's worth revisiting  what the Currents are to see what you should be re-evaluating.

Runner Currents

Currently there are only six Runner Currents available, and realistically there are only two and a half you'd consider playing outside of very niche decks.  We've already discussed Hacktivist Meeting but I'm also a big fan of Net Celebrity, which is ongoing efficiency economy in the vain of Lockpick/Silencer/Cloak but which you can also use to trash assets or resolve effects like Self-Modifying Code - Net Celebrity is almost like a mini Bad Publicity counter, which is no bad thing.

The half card I mentioned is Traffic Jam, which is a card that fits the old Current template perfectly - it does something good but not good enough to really justify a card slot on its own.  However as Corp Currents become more prevalent I think Traffic Jam might just creep into use here and there among Criminals who want to counter annoying Currents but can't spare Influence for Net Celebrity.

The reason Criminals would use Traffic Jam is because their own Current, Unscheduled Maintenance, largely sucks balls - restricting Corps to only installing Ice about as often as they probably wanted to in the first place!  It's got some added value in Leela decks, maybe tutored up with Logos in a particular situation of extreme value.  That's about it.

The remaining Runner Currents are both Anarch backup to Hacktivist Meeting, and they both suffer from being nowhere near as good as their big brother.  Itinerant Protesters is kind of the kill card in a particularly self-contained Bad Publicity-obsessed Valencia deck, and Scrubbed is simply not very good.

You Are Using: Hacktivist Meeting

You Should Start Using: Net Celebrity, IMHO sometimes even in Criminal

Corp Currents

Where the Runner only has six Currents available the Corporation has ten, and more of them are playable.  It's Hacktivist Meeting that has triggered the Current arms race, but it's the Corps who are best prepared for it.

Starting with one you're most familiar with, Enhanced Login Protocol is a solid taxation card for the Runner that particularly punishes those who run frequently, and as such it's a good support card for a horizontal Corp strategy where you can tax the Runner additional clicks for coming to investigate your remote servers. You see it played for this element in Replicating Perfection, where it fits very well, but it would suit any similar horizontal deck such as Gagarin in Weyland, or Industrial Genomics in Jinteki.  You'll also see it support the Bioroids and asset economy in a lot of the slower glacier-style Haas Bioroid decks.

Fulfilling a slightly similar role is Paywall Implementation, but instead of taxing the runner a click for running like Enhanced Login Protocol does, Paywall Implementation sees the Corp get paid for each successful run.  I've seen Paywall used in a lot of the same type of decks as Enhanced Login Protocol and one clear advantage is the way that it counters the Lamprey in Reina Roja's deadly 'Headlock' style of deck.

Those are probably the Currents that have seen most use on the Corp side until now but there's one clear contender that I think is about to become a big deal, and that is Cerebral Static.  The dominant Replicating Perfection archetype is facing a triple threat in the shape of the rise of new Whizzard decks that use the Yog.0/Net-Ready Eyes combination, and Hacktivist Meeting.  This is a trifecta of bad times for Replicating Perfection, with Yog.0/Net-Ready Eyes shutting down some of their strongest Ice in Lotus Field, and both Whizzard and Hacktivist Meeting targetting all of their precious asset economy pieces.  The answer to two of those problems is in one card: Cerebral Static, which shuts of Whizzard's ability and trashes Hacktivist Meeting!  As well as countering Whizzard, the Cerebral Static is crippling in Noise, Kit and Maxx matchups and still valuable in matchups against Leela, Quetzal, Kate, and Chaos Theory.  It's a card that is about to have its moment as the best way for the dominant Corporation deck to answer a huge new threat.

A Current that I probably like a little bit more than I really should is Lag Time, which I consider a genuine alternative to Enhanced Login Protocol in my Haas-Bioroid decks.  They do similar but slightly different things: where ELP taxes clicks from the runner for checking out unprotected servers Lag Time taxes credits for ploughing through my protected servers.  When I've got cards like Ash, Caprice or Red Herrings sat at the base of those servers any extra costs to penetrate the Ice is welcome, and Lag Time shines here.  An added bonus for Lag Time, to my mind, is that against the fixed strength Anarch breakers it crucially makes Architect tough for Mimic to deal with, and also makes my Vipers tough for Yog.0, even with Net-Ready Eyes.  Lag Time is, to my mind, the perfect example of a Current that didn't do quite enough to justify a deck slot until there were Runner currents that I had to kill, and right now I think it's just about knocking on the door of being ready for serious play.  Caveat: I did say at the top of this paragraph that I might like this card more than I really should, so if you play it and it turns out be rubbish then don't blame me!

There's a couple of really powerful Corp currents that, for whatever reason, haven't really found a home yet: Manhunt and Housekeeping.  I think the biggest problem for Manhunt is that Near-Earth Hub is so good nobody is using Making News anymore as their NBN identity, and the second biggest problem for Manhunt is that Kate McCaffrey is so ubiquitous and comes with a base link of 1, halving the tax of Manhunt outside of Making News decks.  At some point this card is going to be huge, though, take my word for it.  It's a real sleeping powerhouse just waiting for the right deck to unlock it - taxing the runner 2 credits or a tag for every run is nuts.  

Housekeeping is like the Corp's version of Hacktivist Meeting and it's a powerful effect, though perhaps one that is easy to overrate - Housekeeping will rarely help you to flatline the Runner as they can choose when to take damage and can ensure they recover, instead Housekeeping is more like the disruptive drip of damage runner previously had to take from Personal Evolution decks.  It's actually better support for a deck intent on trashing the runner's rig with Power Shutdown and Taurus than it for a deck trying to blow the Runner to kingdom come with Scorched Earth.  Beware when that deck appears though, for Housekeeping is a painful card to play against.

I don't have much time for Predictive Algorithm or Targeted Marketing.  Compared to the other taxation Currents like Enhanced Login Protocol the 2 credits for an Agenda tax of Predictive Algorithm is almost nothing, and Targeted Marketing frequently misses the Runner's deck completely if you misread their intentions, or they simply wait until they clear the Current and then play their big card if you called it right.  I do like Surveillance Sweep, though, and I think it will join the ranks of the strongest Currents when Data & Destiny is printed.  At the moment trace effects are a bit of a gamble on the Corp's part - pay too much and the Runner will shrug and be happy at how much you spent, pay too little and the Runner will decide to match it.  Surveillance Sweep switches that relationship onto its head and will have a big impact on the strength of a TON of tracing cards, making good cards better (Ash, Caduceus, Viper) and bad cards good (Searchlight, TMI, Shinobi).

That leaves Defective Brainchips as the only card I haven't talked about.  I don't see Brain damage as a viable strategy yet so this sits as casual-only for now.  It's the Corp's version of Itinerant Protesters, probably.

You Are Using: Enhanced Login Protocol, maybe Paywall Implementation

You Should Start Using: Cerebral Static, Lag Time (maybe?)

And Watch Out For: Manhunt, Surveillance Sweep, Housekeeping.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Cyber Threat: Prepaid Kate

After the dominance of Kate McCaffrey at the UK National Championships the next stop in my Cyber Threat series was pretty obvious.  Cyber Threat is a series analysing the top decks in the metagame and learning precisely what makes them tick, the first deck I looked at was the Jinteki threat of Replicating Perfection and now it's time for my first runner.

I've picked six Prepaid VoicePAD decks recently posted onto NetrunnerDB and Acoo, all of them proven success stories from recent Regional or National Championships.  I don't mind spoiling the punchline a little by saying that we're going to look at six decklists that are HUGELY similar.  Prepaid VoicePAD is a deck where the players have all settled on a list that's pretty close to what they believe is optimal, and any changes are largely minor or around the fringes.  We can still look at what those differences are, and it's also extremely interesting to see just how much consensus there is on the deck.

The Master Plan

In case you've been living under a rock recently you probably know how a Prepaid Kate deck works but I'll give you a summary anyway.

Prepaid refers to Prepaid VoicePAD, and the recurring credits to play Events lies at the heart of a deck that is all about snowballing an economic advantage as it powers through the Stack, before using Levy AR Lab Access to reshuffle everything back in for a second run through.  The deck is hugely consistent with a lot of card drawing and program-searching effects, and also benefits from the ability to maximise the impact of 1-of splash cards like Clot or Parasite using Clone Chip.  Kate's ability to reduce the cost of Programs and Hardware isn't essential to the playstyle but it's better than any other Shaper identity and ever credit helps.

The success and popularity of Prepaid Kate, therefore, shouldn't be much of a surprise.  It's powerful, it's consistent, and just as importantly the all-star Self-Modifying Code makes the deck both quick to threaten servers and flexible against a range of Corp strategies.


If you're building a Prepaid Kate deck then here are 8 cards you can sort out straight away - you'll want full sets of Clone Chip and the signature Prepaid VoicePAD, and a pair of Astrolabe.  Most of the decks then went on to round out their hardware with the old stalwarts of Plascrete Carapace and R&D Interface

The three Hardware listed here really lie at the heart of what Prepaid Kate is trying to do, and almost encapsulate the deck's concept in microcosm.  

  • Prepaid VoicePAD is your incremental economic advantage - as the game goes on your deck gets stronger and more efficient as your rig builds up, giving Kate a huge amount of mid-late game power.  

  • Clone Chip is a key to how flexible and responsive the deck can be, allowing it to reuse Self-Modifying Code, block fast advancing Corps with Clot, destroy Ice with Parasite, or pull back lost Icebreakers as the situation demands.  

  • Finally Astrolabe is a deliciously cheap Console for the +1MU and also comes with free draw effects attached.  As we'll see Prepaid Kate LOVES to draw cards - it's precisely those cards that feed into the snowballing economic buildup and provide a steady flow of Events to play with your Prepaid VoicePAD credits.


Prepaid Kate doesn't like Resources much as they're basically the only card type that they don't get a discount for.  The Resources are dedicated to more of Kate's core strengths, card drawing and economy from Symmetrical Visage or Professional Contacts, and replaying key cards with Same Old Thing (which also doubles as essential backup protection for Levy AR Lab Access in case you take damage).

The only real debate here was the clear decision to be made between Professional Contacts and its low fat alternative, Symmetrical Visage.  The players in the UK Nationals all placed their faith in Professional Contacts while the others played a little more fast and loose with Symmetrical Visage.  The key thing to note here, I think, is that nobody was actually using Symmetrical Visage to directly replace Professional Contacts alone, because they also chose to play Quality Time as well.

It's a close decision to make between the two options.  Professional Contacts alone certainly outclasses the Visage, but with Prepaid VoicePAD cutting the cost of Quality Time there's a real power rush there.  My instincts as a neutral observer is that I'd probably prefer the steadier benefit of ProCon over the burst drawing of Quality Time, but there's no getting away from the tempo hit you get when you first put Professional Contacts down.


Well, almost half the entire deck is Events!  That fits with the theme of using Prepaid VoicePAD and you can also see just how must consistency there is here, first and foremost with a trio of burst economy cards - Dirty Laundry, Sure Gamble and even the influence-hungry Lucky Find.

When you base your deck around burst economy cards it's essential to ensure a steady supply of cards so you keep seeing more of them.  We've already found plenty of draw effects in the Hardware and Resources but we also find it here in Diesel and Quality Time.

There's then also a selection of general utility Events like Scavenge (for resetting Atman), Stimhack (for running those servers that other runs just can't breach), and the multi-access threats of Legwork, Makers Eye and Indexing.

One of the weaknesses of writing these pieces from the perspective of the returning player who is still learning the metagame is that I can miss subtleties about why cards are chosen.  I deliberately didn't write about the Vamp in Alex White's UK Nats winning deck because I wasn't sure why he had broken from protocol to play it over Parasite.  I've since been told that Vamp was included largely as anti-Psi tech, allowing him to bankrupt the Corp and be 100% certain of winning a Psi game when it really mattered.


You might have thought that so far the decks have been almost identical so we're due some differences in the Icebreaker suites...

You'd be wrong.

Basically the ONLY decision to be made is whether you want to take two Codebreakers into the shower (Zu.13 and Cyber Cypher), or just one (Gordian Blade).  Although "Lady" is only a short-termed Barrier breaker it gains more longevity in Kate thanks to the Clone Chips and Levy AR Lab Access to replay everything a second time, meaning that Kate can benefit from the huge efficiency that "Lady" brings against the big barriers without worrying too much about her loyal puppy lying down to die at the wrong time.

I was originally a little surprised to see that they had opted for Mimic as their only core Killer, but then I quickly searched for frequently-played Sentries that are Strength 5 or above (so would need more than a single Datasucker counter to break, or an Atman more than 4) and there are very few.  VERY few.  More than that, of the Sentries that are that big, such as Archer or Ichi 2.0, the Sharpshooter will deal with most of them.  Further supporting the Mimic in matchups where big Sentries are a problem is the old friend of Kate's: Atman, who brings the efficient AI solution that can make every the most ornery of Ice a relatively easy obstacle to bypass.

The relative weakness of Kate against big Sentries is one of the reasons why Susanoo-No-Mikoto has become a strong option in many of the RP decks.


At last, some real differences between these decks.... oh.

The biggest shock here is that two of the top UK players felt like that could afford to run only two copies of Self-Modifying Code.  Otherwise the rest of the deck is pretty much prescribed, with the only difference among these six decks being the two influence that Alex White transferred into Vamp from Parasite.

Card Types

One of my favourite tools when comparing decks is to break down the cards into what they're trying to do, which can often help you to find similarities between decks that otherwise seem very different.

You don't really need to do that with these decks because of how obvious the similarities are but I do think this summary really tells you a huge amount about what this deck's strengths really are: Economy and Card Draw.  Fully 2/3rds of the deck are either Economy or Card Draw with actual Icebreakers or offensive rig pieces actually treated as an afterthought: what's the bare minimum of Icebreakers I can run?  What's the bare minimum of offensive cards?

It's a very different approach to how many Runner decks are made, which often put the offensive rig in first and then worry about how to make it work.  That's backwards in Kate, and really presses home just how much the deck's greatest weapons are the brute force of having all the cards and credits you need.

Fighting Back

So, that's Prepaid Kate.  It's consistent at seeing the cards it needs, flexible in responding to threats, and a long term economic powerhouse fuelled by Lucky Finds and Sure Gambles all day long.  It's clear from these decks that the formula for Kate success is well worn by now, and well proven as well.  These players were able to pick up a deck that pretty much everyone knew and prepared for, and still found great success with it.

That's a hallmark of a really powerful deck.  There's a lot of value in doing something unexpected, and especially so in Netrunner where hidden strategies can reap huge rewards, but this deck doesn't need that.  Kate doesn't sneak around, she doesn't try to dodge defences with trickery or blackmail, she doesn't rely on Siphoning the Corp into the ground.  Kate starts the game in the three-point stance and takes the Corp down head-on.  

Kate is a fighter.  A smart fighter, for sure, and certainly a technical and flexible fighter, but at heart she's about simply muscling through defences and stealing Agendas with brute force multi-access attacks.  And right now she's the #1 threat that Corps need to be prepared for.

Good luck!  I think you might need it...

Apologies for the relative lightness of the 'how to beat Kate' section.  I've deliberately skirted around this because I feel that at the moment my inexperience in the metagame makes me a pretty poor choice to write that sort of detailed strategy piece.  There are dozens of people who know much more about how to edge Kate out than I do. 

If I had to pick some targets I think that it's going to be difficult to fight the core economy, that's way too strong.  The weak points are where the deck got stretched thin to fit all the economy in.  The icebreaker suite is bare minimum so you can attack the weakness vs big Sentries, and you might even be able to attack "Lady" if you play A LOT of barriers and drain those power counters quickly enough.  I also think that while Kate is flexible with SMC to find Clot/Parasite/Atman etc when she needs it, and can then replay them with Clone Chips, she might struggle to flex in multiple directions at once - if you can overload her search/recursion engine with the need to do two things at once she might not cope.

Monday, 1 June 2015

UK Nationals 2015 - Results Summary

The UK National Championships were this weekend (I think the first Nationals of 2015?) and the results are in - congratulations to Alex White who will be flying the UK flag at Worlds!
As a 150+ player tournament the Nationals are a big tournament to evaluate the meta at the moment.  I'm going to throw some tables on here right now and then come back and add in some notes and observerations later.
Corporation Identities
Overperformance of Blue Sun (highest % of players in Top 16)
Blue Sun was only 10% of Corp decks but made up 25% of the decks in the Top 16.  It's also unique in that it has a top-heavy distribution of performance (more people did well with the deck than did badly).  Although Replicating Perfection took up more slots in the Top 16, and ultimately Alex White's winning deck was Replicating Perfection, the strongest performance appears to have come from Weyland.
Some example Blue Sun decks from UK Nationals...
And the Sunday of UK Nationals also saw another big tournament (70+ players), which was won by Blue Sun...
Weakness of Haas-Bioroid (lowest % of players in Top 6 despite good representation)
Although none of the big four identities did badly Engineering The Future was clearly the worst of the bunch, collecting players in the 33-64 bracket more often than its peers.  That's only a win or two away from the top of the tournament and I suspect that many of the elite players had avoided Engineering The Future so there may be some selection bias creeping into this evaluation.  Nevertheless, right now HB is clearly the runt of the Corporation litter as the other HB identities also performed (marginally) the worst outside the big four.

The Desert of Alternatives

If you're not playing the big four identities (and arguably even if you're playing Engineering The Future) then you're doing it wrong.  80% of all players who played any other identity finishing outside the Top 64, and only two players made it within the Top 32!
The strong Corp decks are the strong Corp decks.

The New Face of Supermodernism

The one Identity that really bucked the trend was Gagarin Deep Space, which was played by one player and was strong enough to take 100% of that one player into the Top 8!  That player was the well known Quintin Smith, who has managed to get Netrunner into actual real print in a real newspaper recently.

I know a lot of people have been trying to get a Gagarin deck to work but it was Quintin who had the courage enough in his convictions to actually take the deck to Nationals and go on to great things with it.

I won't do a full breakdown of his Gagarin deck but I can summarise by saying that I think it's actually an elegant evolution of the Supermodernism deck style.  Gagarin decks have tended to go really heavy on Asset economy to tax that 1 credit for accessing cards but there's only a few Assets in Quintin's deck, instead he's playing a more subtle blend of Asset and Operation economy cards to support an Ice mix that's actually quite aggressive at throwing ETR routines at the runner.  Ice Wall, Enigma and Caduceus are the hallmarks of a deck trying to rush Agenda scores in the early game, and it still packs the SEA Source/Scorched Earth threat from Supermodernism to trip the unwary runner.  What's absent from Supermodernism is the Archers and the Hostile Takeovers that powered him, but there's still threatening Ice here and the Gagarin's ability stretches the runner's early economy just enough to force Agendas through.

In short I like the deck a lot, and I think it could provide an alternative Weyland route to Blue Sun.  A lot of players have suggested that Weyland is on the wane, but Blue Sun and this deck suggest we shouldn't be waving goodbye to the bad guys just yet.

Runner Identities
Kate McCaffrey was utterly dominant
The most popular runner by far, Kate McCaffrey also outperformed the rest of the pack comfortably - 33% of players used her and she was 56% of the Top 16 and another 42% of the decks that finished 17-64th.
There's a discussion to be had about whether it's Kate winning games or just Shaper cards, and Kate is just that much better than any of the specialist Shaper IDs and so takes all the glory.  I would lean towards Kate's ability actually being a key part of her success as on top of the near-guaranteed 1c discount per turn I think she combos through quite well with the key cards Clone Chip and Self-Modifying Code to generate even more value.  The economic power of Prepaid Voice Pad is also much greater in Kate as she buys her Pads at a 50% discount.
In the end more players chose Kate than any other runner, and they were right to do so.  Among those players were the eventual winner, Alex White...
And, because I didn't list it above, his Replicating Perfection deck that was paired with Kate.
Are Anarch's hard to play or just inconsistent?
The big problem that Anarchs always faced is that they wind up clicking to draw cards while Shapers and Criminals enjoy searching through their decks for the cards they want with Special Order, Hostage, Test Run, Diesel, Self-Modifying Code etc.  They've been given a helping hand in that respect with Inject and I've Had Worse but perhaps it's not been enough.
What we see in these results is a really clear break in the results of both Reina and Noise - a few players did very well but the majority did very badly, with Anarch's having the highest likelihood of finishing outside the Top 64 of any of the main IDs.

Were just a few players doing it right and everyone else playing Anarch was making mistakes?  Well my personal anecdotal experience with MaxX is that I think she is quite unforgiving to mistakes, but underlying all that I think one of the main reasons that's the case is because even MaxX, with her free drawing ability, is only on the borderline of being good enough to win the tough games.  I fear Anarchs still need some love.

Andromeda is still (just) the Queen of Crime 
There was close competition from Leela but Andromeda did just enough to edge the young pretender into second place.  Although they were both played the same number of people, and both took the same number of Top 16 slots, Andromeda's consistency saw very few Andromeda players fall outside the Top 64.  The pattern of Andromeda players ranking's was actually quite strong (only 36% outside Top 64) and although many fell just outside the Top 16 it could be that the 'Stealth Andy' deck remains the best Criminal structure.
Izzy Whizzy, let's get busy?
Much like Gagarin for the Corp there was a runner anomaly, with two Whizzard decks placing strongly - Marc Valles taking it to the Top 16 while Joey McMillan was only one win away from joining him.
I haven't seen decklists for either of the Whizzard decks yet but it's easy to see how his Asset-trashing ability is well-positioned against the metagame.  I'll look out for those decks and add them here once they crop up.
Chaos Disproves The Theory?
If I argued that Kate is good because she's Kate not just because she's a Shaper (as I did above) then Chaos Theory is doing her best to disprove that hypothesis.  She was only played by 9 players but her distribution through the field is quite similar to Kate's.  This has often been the play-off between Kate and Chaos Theory - is it better to have Kate's money or Chaos' consistency?

It appears as though simply playing Shaper cards is a good start, and the argument pro-con Kate McCaffrey being a key part of Shaper success will continue, I feel.
In Summary: Play Green Cards.

Play Green cards.  Less than 50% OF ALL PLAYERS TO PLAY ANY SHAPER ID finished outside the Top 64.  70% of Anarch did, and 62% of Criminals.

Play Green cards.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

In At The Deep End - Sheffield Regionals Report

This past weekend offered an excellent opportunity to accelerate my Netrunner rehabilitation by hurling myself in at the deep end with a Regionals tournament in Sheffield, UK.  I made a conscious decision not to worry too much about the decks I was playing and simply take what I had been dabbling with over the last couple of weeks, namely a Maxx deck that I was pretty sure was good, and the 'Waldemar' Haas-Bioroid deck that I was pretty sure wasn't good.

The Regionals was 58 players and had attracted many of the best players in England so the field was ripe with talent including the 2014 National Champion, Dave 'Cerberus' Hoyland.  Normally I would enter something like this expecting to have a good shot at Top 8 but plunging myself deep into such a competitive environment when I literally had no idea what most of the recent cards did meant that I tempered my expectations.  I believed in the Maxx deck and thought I could go 4-2 with it over the six rounds of Swiss, and while the Waldemar HB deck had done well in my practice games with it I thought it would be badly exposed in top competition and would likely go 2-4, leaving me with a total target of 12pts from the Swiss.

As it turns out both my decks exceeded those expectations with Maxx going 6-0 in the Swiss portion and the experimental Waldemar deck holding its own at 3-3.  That record was enough to earn 18pts and seed me 4th in the Top 8, where I was lucky enough with coin flips to wind up running three times.  Maxx won the first Top 8 game comfortably, lost the second very narrowly, and then I made a chump play and lost spectacularly in the third game (more on this later).

I'm not a big fan of tournament reports so I won't bore you with the full details but I would like to share the decks that I played, and a few key moments from my day...

The Good

Playing in the Swiss against Laurie Poulter, a tough competitor who wound up losing the final, I managed to rip two Agendas with blind Spooned runs against an unrezzed piece of Ice.  

Laurie was playing Haas-Bioroid and we were midway through the game - he'd set up on his central servers and I'd seen a few pieces of Ice, and now Laurie pushed to score an Agenda through an apparent scoring window where I only had an Eater and Femme installed.  He installed an Ice, then installed and advanced a card behind it.  I looked at the board and weighed my options... 

I'd seen an Eli which told me a little about his Ice strategy as it was taxing rather than hard ETR, so maybe there was Heimdal's to support it and probably not much else in Barriers.. I could probably click past most of his Barriers if need be.  Any Sentries he was playing were likely Architects (I'd seen one already), maybe an Ichi or something, and with Femme installed I could break them and get through to the Agenda.  What I couldn't deal with was an ETR Code Gate like Quandary, Viper, IQ or Enigma - I could Eater through them but wouldn't steal the Agenda.

But I did have Spooned.  So if I Spooned the server I thought I had a pretty good chance of getting in - I could probably click most of his Barriers, I could break Sentries, and now I could trash Code Gates with Eater/Spooned and come back for more.  Laurie didn't like the unexpected Spooned and thought long and hard before he decided not to rez his Ice, handing me an advanced Vitruvius.  I felt pretty clever, I can tell you.

Laurie followed up by installing a second Agenda into the server on his next turn.  This actually made perfect sense from his point of view - a turn ago he believed the server was secure from looking at the board state, and although he'd been sniped by a surprise Event the server still looked just as secure this turn.  Unfortunately for Laurie a second copy of Spooned was in my hand and I repeated the play to steal another Agenda!

It was a bad break for Laurie, with 4 Agenda points lost to Spooned.  For those interested I'd called the Ice over that server pretty well - I'd expected Viper but in fact it was a Tollbooth, and understandably he hadn't wanted to sacrifice that to a Spooned.

The Bad

Architect is a very good card.  A very attractively costed Sentry, it lets you play cards out of R&D, and also out of HQ or Archives.  As a sweet added bonus it also doesn't get trashed once it's been installed.

Which is why it was a pretty stupid of me to put a Parasite on it, really.

The Ugly

I'd gone into Regionals with very low expectations of success but somewhere long the way to a 7-1 record with my Runner the ego monster had run out of control and I thought it was easy.

After losing (very) narrowly in my second game of the Top 8 I was drawn into the losers bracket against Near Earth Hub.  I'd played against Near Earth Hub three times in the Swiss I'd beaten them all pretty comfortably.  My opening hand was strong with a couple of breakers, an Account Siphon and a Same Old Thing while my opponent was clearly struggling to find Ice or economy.  I smelled blood in the water and went in for the kill, hitting him with a Siphon on my second turn and floating the tags.

Traffic Accident, Scorched Earth, thanks for playing.

A very useful lesson in humility.  I'd become so sure of my runner's success that I genuinely thought I had the game in the bag on turn two and then completely switched off to how I could lose.  Respect your opponents, folks!

At first I was like...                    but then I was like....

Maxx Hacktivism
(6-0 Swiss UK Regionals Sheffield)

MaxX: Maximum Punk Rock

Event (25)

2x Account Siphon   ••••• •••
3x Day Job
3x Déjà Vu
1x Forked
2x Hacktivist Meeting
3x I've Had Worse
1x Knifed
1x Levy AR Lab Access   •••
2x Retrieval Run
2x Spooned
3x Sure Gamble
2x Wanton Destruction

Resource (10)
1x Hades Shard   •
3x Joshua B.
3x Liberated Account
3x Same Old Thing

Icebreaker (8)
3x Eater
2x Femme Fatale   ••
3x Knight

Program (4)
2x Keyhole
2x Parasite

14 influence spent (max 15) 

47 cards (min 45)

This is the Maxx deck I played to 6-0 as the Runner, which is based on a direct copy of Slysquid's Maxx deck.  In playing this deck a lot over the last couple of weeks I'd grown comfortable enough to be able to make some changes and I added Parasite and Hacktivist Meeting, dropping Amped Up from the deck.

Both Parasite and Hacktivist Meeting fit this deck perfectly, Parasite is a quick and easy way to remove cheap Ice that might otherwise force you into awkward Knight/Eater plays just to get by a Quandary or Pup. Parasite also matches the deck's objective of keeping the Corp poor by forcing them to reinstall replacement Ice.

Hacktivist Meeting is one of the best Anarch cards printed in a long time and is brutal in this current metagame.  It seems like all the key decks are big on Assets and Upgrades (Daily Business Show, Jackson Howard, Pad Campaign, Sundew, Mental Health Clinic, Adonis Campaign, Ash, Caprice Nisei, Crisium Grid... the list is a long one) and Hacktivist Meeting hits them all pretty hard.  Again, like Parasite, the Hacktivist Meeting suits my overall aims of restricting the Corp's money by deterring them from rezzing Asset economy cards.  A perfect fit for a great card.

One word on how Maxx is played, because I think most people are doing it wrong.  I constantly hear Maxx referred to as a Keyhole deck or a Recursion deck but she's neither of those things.  Maxx is a pressure deck - you aim to keep the Corp poor by constantly running and threatening servers, trashing economy and Ice, demanding they trash your Assets, demanding they rez Ice or get Keyholed.  To use my three Runner definitions she's a pure Harvester with Keyhole as the secondary objective.  Yes Maxx has recursion, and yes if I get to hit you with five Account Siphons I will, but stopping the recursion does not stop this deck.

Pretty much everyone I played against knew about the Maxx deck and was prepared for it, but pretty much everyone also misplayed badly because they misunderstood what I was trying to do, either protecting R&D as though I was a Keyhole deck or throwing down cards like Blacklist or Chronos Protocol as though they were silver bullets.  I've been told that Maxx has been given a bit of a bad name after her initial success, like she's a gimmick deck who had her time.  I think a lot of that opinion has come from people who've made the deck and put it into their testing gauntlet but then played it wrongly and thus come to a wrong conclusion about how easy she is to beat.

Waldemar HB - Caprice 1.0
(3-3 Swiss UK Regionals Sheffield)

Haas-Bioroid: Engineering the Future

Agenda (10)
2x Accelerated Beta Test
2x Mandatory Upgrades
3x NAPD Contract
3x Project Vitruvius

Asset (14)
3x Adonis Campaign
3x Encryption Protocol
2x Eve Campaign
2x Jackson Howard   ••
2x PAD Campaign
2x Rex Campaign

Upgrade (7)
2x Ash 2X3ZB9CY
1x Caprice Nisei   ••••
2x Crisium Grid   ••
2x Red Herrings   ••••

Operation (3)
3x Hedge Fund

Barrier (6)
2x Bastion
2x Heimdall 2.0
1x Wall of Static
1x Wraparound   •

Code Gate (6)
1x Datapike
2x IQ
1x Tollbooth   ••
2x Viper

Sentry (3)
3x Architect

15 influence spent (max 15) 
20 agenda points (between 20 and 21)

49 cards (min 45)

The version of the Waldemar HB deck that I took to Regionals had been tuned a little away from the original.  The main changes were scraping together the Influence for Caprice Nisei (mainly dropping a Tollbooth) and speeding the deck up slightly by dropping to two Mandatory Upgrades and faster economy in Rex Campaign.  Rex Campaign is a weak card generally but fits this deck very well and the added value of being able to remove Bad Publicity vs Valencia is very helpful.  I played Valencia once on the day and my opening turn was Hedge Fund, Rex Campaign, Datapike in front of Rex Campaign.  Two turns later, after Valencia had bounced off the Datapike, I cleared the Bad Publicity and walked to victory.

On Waldemar HB in general I think I make most of the valid comments on the NetrunnerDB list I posted, but I think it's worth repeating that I like this deck.  The Mandatory Upgrades are a little gimmicky but this deck is very good at scoring them, and importantly I think there's still room for improvement in this list.  The Encryption Protocols are very lightweight, only good in matches where the Runner is right in a sweet spot where they weren't so cash-strapped that they'd already decided to leave your economy alone but weren't so rich that they could afford to pay a few credits more and still get by.  I think they're rarely bad, but equally rarely do they make a critical impact on the game and are ripe for upgrade to another card (perhaps Enhanced Login Protocol to fight Hacktivist Meeting).

I went into Regional expecting to go 2-4 with this deck.  I managed to go 3-3 and I think that in the next tournament I'd be disappointed not to manage 4-2 with an improved list.  Waldemar is not Near Earth Hub or Replicating Perfection, but it might be one of the best decks that people aren't actively prioritising their chances to defeat.