Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Raging Bull - The Weyland "Supermodernism" deck

The first Store Championship in my area came around this past weekend and saw myself and three of the local players that I have dragged into a team for the Champs make the 40 minute train journey down to Stoke-on-Trent and the Guys That Game store.  I managed to finish in second place, posting a 13-1 winning record in games but missing out on the Regionals bye and a shiny placque despite only losing a single game all day - my 1-7 defeat as a Corp in the Final much worse than my 7-6 victory as a runner.



Since I put out the rallying call for Manchester Netrunner players to band together we've done a good job of getting increasingly serious and I think everyone involved has raised their game.  Working together means you make better deckbuilding and selection decisions, and you've also got extra pairs of eyes watching you play and suggesting how to do things differently.  Somehow the four of us all found ourselves backing the same Corp deck - the "Supermodernism" brand of Weyland - while on the Runner side we more divided, taking an Andromeda, a Gabe deck, and two Reina Roja's. 

I want to share with you the the Corp deck that we all played because we had a couple of different views on it...

Weyland: Building A Better World


Agendas (12)

3 Hostile Takeover
2 False Lead
3 Project Atlas
3 Geothermal Fracking
1 Government Contracts


Operations (16)
2 Anonymous Tip **
3 Beanstalk Royalties
3 Green Level Clearance ***
2 Power Shutdown
2 SEA Source ****

3 Scorched Earth
3 Hedge Fund

Assets (3)
3 Snare! ******


Ice (16)
2 Chimera
3 Ice Wall
3 Wall of Static
3 Enigma
3 Archer
2 Grim

View the deck on NetrunnerDB


This is the "Supermodernism" style of Weyland which has long been championed by the US player Martin Presley ("Hoobajoo" on the Boardgamegeek forums).  He used it to win a Plugged In Tour last year and then the revised versions of the deck have been picked up by several players since then and it's already won some Store Championships in the last couple of weeks.  100% of the credit for this decklist goes to Martin as I played the exact 49 cards that he used to win his Store Championship in Berkeley.
 

Supermodernism has some tremendous strengths - it's quick and powerful, bringing to bear some of the best early End The Run ice (Ice Wall, Chimera, Enigma, Wall of Static) and then pushing Agenda quickly to get to 7 Agenda Points, using cards like Green Level Clearance and Anonymous Tip to keep up the pace and ensure it's never short of Agendas to score.  The hard ETR ice is supported by the threat of program destruction from Archer and Grim, bullying the runner into being cautious about running at unrezzed Ice unless they're really ready to tangle with a big Destroyer.  



As well as being quick and powerful the deck is also dangerous, with 10 cards dedicated to putting an unwary runner into the ground (Snare, SEA Source, False Lead, Scorched Earth).  The final kicker is that all the Agendas in this deck are EXCELLENT once scored, and feed back into the deck's momentum towards a win - Hostile Takeover is money and fodder for Archer, False Lead can prevent the runner drawing cards and clearing tags after hitting Snare!, Geothermal Fracking is two huge pay days and Project Atlas is, well... perhaps the best card in the deck as if you can force it through overadvanced (which you always try to do) it's either SEA Source + Scorched Earth, or Hostile Takeover x2, or Power Shutdown, or money... whatever you need.


This all puts the runner into a terrible position: they have to move fast because Supermodernism is scoring Agendas and isn't about to stop, but if they aren't careful they'll faceplant into an Archer or Snare! or leave themselves with too few cards in hand and get nailed by Scorched Earth.  Run too slowly and the Corp scores out, run quickly and you die. 

Those are all the strengths of the deck but it also has a couple of key weaknesses.  Firstly, if I had to describe this deck as an animal I think it's probably a Bull - quick, powerful, and dangerous describes an angry Bull very well.  But like a Bull it often lacks stamina and if it fails to get out to 7 Agenda Points, or fails to gore the runner with Scorched Earth, then it can become helpless.  Once the runner is equipped with a full rig - once they can break your Ice and aren't scared of Archer - there's precious few tricks that can surprise the runner and turn things around.  With your Bull reduced to a breathless standstill the runner can close in pick you off at will.  



The second weakness of this deck is Variance - in the pursuit of speed and power the deck takes a calculated risk and plays Anonymous Tip instead of Jackson Howard.  The advantages are all about speed - in one click you see 2 extra cards, which with Jackson would take several clicks and a remote server.  Those clicks can be the difference between drawing then Install-Advancing an Agenda, or having it sat in hand and doing everything a turn more slowly.  It sounds good, but in going for speed the deck lives without the release valve of Jackson Howard for those occasions where it finds itself flooded with Agendas and unable to get them scored.  When your hand is good Anonymous Tip is great, but in those games where your opening hand was 3 Agendas and no Ice you really want Jackson Howard like no other card in the game. 



I had personal experience of this in the Final of the Store Championships, where Anonymous Tip cost me the title.  I mulliganed my initial hand, receiving a hand of Enigma, Hedge Fund, Hostile Takeover, Geothermal Fracking and Anonymous Tip.  That wasn't too bad - two agendas but economy and a playable Ice.  My first draw, however, was Government Contracts.  I drew a card to look for more Ice, drawing False Beanstalk Royalties, then played Hedge Fund and protected HQ with Enigma.  On my second turn I pumped Anonymous Tip and drew two more Agendas and an Ice Wall.  That gave me Ice for a remote but I was now flooded with 5 of my 12 Agendas.  Instead of helping me escape my problems the Anonymous Tip made things worse - replace it with Jackson Howard in that scenario and I've got a release valve that shuffles 4 of those Agendas back into HQ and we have a game on our hands.  


Anonymous Tip is in the deck for a reason, but not playing Jackson Howard WILL cost you games at some point, it's just a matter of when. 


VARIANTS

All four of my team played Supermodernism at the Store Championships, with two clear variants appearing among us.  Two of us (myself included) opted for the card draw of Green Level Clearance and Anonymous Tip, while the other two players took a more measured approach and spent their influence on Aggressive Secretary, with Restructure for the economy.  This is a really interesting shift between the two versions that takes us back to the Three Phases of Netrunner I talked about a while back.  Supermodernism is a deck that lives entirely within that Second Phase, closing the door on Phase One with cheap Ice then hoping Archer and Grim can keep Phase Three at bay long enough to win the game.


With Green Level Clearance and Anonymous Tip the deck weights towards that early rush - it's do or die, just be too quick and too strong.  When you take that card draw out for Aggressive Secretary you lose that momentum in the early stage and are more likely to find yourself playing in Phase Three, but what you gain is a couple of 'reset switches' that can kick the runner back out into Phase Two.  Is one version stronger than the other?  Well I played the card draw and did well with it, which is the choice of the deck's designer, but they're both tempting options and if I had the space and influence I would probably play both.


Aside from the main variant we came up with that used Aggressive Secretary there are a few card choices to talk through:

Corporate Troubleshooter


This card game from a version played by Kiv6 from the BGG forums, which is also where we first saw the Aggressive Secretary.  The idea of Corporate Troubleshooter is that it means you can guarantee hitting with Archer if you're prepared to stick enough credits into the Troubleshooter and raise Archer's strength.  Of all the cards though, we felt this was most situational - it's only good when you've got an Archer unrezzed over a server the runner wants to get into, and lots of credits.  Worse, because it's the only Upgrade in the deck a Runner who knows you might play it can predict with great accuracy that your Agenda/Upgrade server is featuring a Troubleshooter, so there's little surprise value.



The Cleaners


An option to Government Contracts, The Cleaners helps your Scorched Earths to pound through Plascrete Carapace.  Suddenly SEA/Scorch/Scorch does 10 damage, which is more than a Runner with Plascrete Carapace and 5 cards in hand can survive.  Sounds great, so why didn't I play it?  Well, half the team did take The Cleaners to Stoke, just on the off chance it made a difference.  I switched to Government Contracts on the day of the tournament after 30 or 40 games of playing The Cleaners and it only making a difference once.  The problem with The Cleaners is that when you score your 5/3 you're usually quite close to winning on Agenda Points anyway, especially if you then score a Project Atlas with two counters so you can go and find your lethal double-Scorch combo.  The difference between the two cards is  personal taste, I think, but in my experience the Government Contracts helped more in one day than The Cleaners have helped in a month of testing.


Caduceus


Caduceus is an amazing piece of Weyland Ice and it's great early game ETR so why isn't it in the deck?  There's a couple of reasons why it doesn't quite fit; firstly you use a lot of Bad Publicity and that quickly wipes out the Trace value of Caduceus, and secondly with a bank of five Destroyer sentries you don't want to force the Runner to install a Sentry breaker before you spring your surprise destroyer.  The card in Caduceus' slot is probably Chimera, which is an excellent choice for temporarily holding the Runner away from a remote server long enough to score a big Agenda.


Jackson Howard


I've already touched on this above.  If you are running with Anonymous Tip instead of Jackson Howard then you are playing Hardcore mode.  Understand and accept the risk.  If you're not comfortable with it then play Jackson Howard.  Jackson is a great card that shores up a key weakness in the deck.  If you are running without Jackson Howard make sure you are doing so in full knowledge of the possible consequences - the Tip will help you to win games but the absense of Jackson Howard WILL mean you lose a game at some point.


Punitive Counterstrike


Why are you not playing more Meat damage to support Scorched Earth?  Well, because Punitive Counterstrike rarely actually helps you to kill the opponent, assuming they've got a Plascrete Carapace - you don't have the four clicks to play SEA-Scorch-Scorch-Counterstrike so you can still not do more than 8 Meat damage in a turn.  If you Counterstrike ahead of the killing turn you MAY remove two counters from Plascrete but a good runner will simply take the damage and leave his Carapace intact.


FINAL WORD 


My experience is that this deck is very strong and very competitive but if anything it has become a victim of its own success.  The more it wins the more publicity it gets and the more Runners learn about it and how to beat it.  In my 7 games in the Store Championships I only flatlined one opponent because everyone else knew exactly how to avoid getting killed.  I still won, which is a testament to how good the deck is at bullying its way to 7 Agenda Points, but I had to work really hard for every single one of my wins and my teammates were not so lucky, struggling to put much of a winning run together with the deck. 

Supermodernism is very good against weak players who simply cannot cope with the speed of the rush and will make mistakes allowing you to flatline them.  Against the best players you have to pretty much forget the flatline kill and play for 7AP right from the start.  The deck definitely has the chops to win games against strong players who know it well because it can be too strong and too quick, but those wins are hard to come by.  As we go through the Store Championships season I expect to see most experienced Runners get to grips with how to balance the required pressure and restraint needed to tire this Bull out, but if you know your local Store Championship crowd will fall for the flatline then I can heartily recommend Supermodernism as an excellent deck.