I had a really fantastic time at the Philadelphia Regional hosted by Redcaps Corner on June 20, 2015. So much so that I felt like drafting a report of my experience there. Apologies in advance for any errors that ensue as all of it is taken from memory.
In preparation for the tournament I decided to break from tradition and play a few games with my friend Allen a week before the tournament. I tried out the NEH Scorch variant which proved to be very fun to play. However, I felt that it did not provide as much room for maneuvering that NEH FA afforded me. So for this tournament I made the unorthodox choice of NEH FA paired with Andromeda, the 2014 memorial decks. I will abstain from including the lists as there was nothing remarkable to see in the NEH FA and the Andy list was actively bad.
I was uncertain of what to expect from Philadelphia’s meta. I did not think that it mattered too much given my deck choices other than a couple of cards, such as a Wall of Static in place of a third Wraparound, but my decks would remain largely divorced from meta considerations. I thought it best to simply trust to my own familiarity with the decks and respond to various board states accordingly as opposed to missing on an erroneous prediction of the tournament meta.
While driving to Philadelphia on Friday, Dan D'Argenio affirmed that he’d secured for me a slot in the Regional – clutch. We arrive around 10:30 PM and just hang out between the hotel and Denny’s awaiting the arrival of @hasuprotoss at the airport around 12:15 AM. Ross alerts me that he’ll arrive at approximately 12:45. He actually arrives at 1:30 AM. Sleep is for the weak.
While I don’t think match summaries are often practical given the contingent nature of our game, I’ll try to touch on the more critical junctures in each match. 94 entrants came to battle in one of the densest concentrations of talent I've seen for a regional.
Round 1: Anthony Gatta (Reina/CI Glacier)
Anthony is a cheerful fellow and brightened the start of my tournament. It’s always fortunate to begin a tournament against an opponent like Anthony. Unfortunately for him, I had the better end of the draws afforded by our decks.
An early access of R&D led to his liberation of an NAPD Contract that crippled his economy. Subsequent Pop-up Windows harried his development while I was permitted a rezzed SanSan for nearly the entirety of the game. The region swiftly eased my flood in the face of his anemic funds with the scoring of 7 points.
Once flipped, his economy once again struggled to manifest in the face of criminal pressure. His end game appeared to become a bit desperate as Reuse provided an influx of cash but at the expense of valuable clicks. In the end, the game was decided by the dichotomy of his repeated two-click turns to my four-click turns.
Round 2: El-Ad Amir (ETF Glacier/Whizzard)
And suddenly I find myself in the inferno. @IirionClaus is an incredibly strong player, as evidenced by his win at the Canadian National Championship and a subsequent World Championship Top 8 finish last year.
The initial game pairs his ETF against my Andy in one of her poorer matchups. As expected, El-Ad neutralized my Security Testing as we moved into the mid-game. Halting the immediacy of funds permitted the expansion of his economy. My game plan came to focus on the only server that provided any kind of economic parity: R&D. Upon this server I was able to build Medium through the efficiency of Switchblade. The game was won on a 3-deep Medium wherein I scored a Chronos Project as the final card. I would have lost should the run have failed to yield an agenda.
The next game engages NEH with Whizzard in one of the more dynamic pairings of the format. The match becomes a battle between Eater/Crescentus/Medium and Architect on R&D. I attempt to check Medium accesses by balancing purges and Architect rezzes against Eater/Crescentus. In the end I fade a 3-deep Medium access in order to Astro-SanSan an NAPD for the win on the following turn.
Round 3: Niles Stanley (Valencia/NEH FA)
The rivalry renewed. Prior to this tournament, @hhooo and I have played 8 games in the three tournaments of the World Championships and two store championships. We’ve so far been unable to avoid each other in tournaments that we’ve both attended. But I’m thankful for that as he’s my favorite opponent. Not only does he require some great play and even more luck to defeat, he’s the best and most dynamic deck builder I know and a man of great insight into the game. I cannot heap enough praise upon him.
Our first game is very tight and is decided on a Legwork. My hand is Eli, Enigma, PAD, Breaking News, and NAPD. He has 9 credits upon accessing, 5 points stolen. I have 6 points scored and sufficient credits to score the Breaking News on the following turn. As I said, it takes a fair amount of luck for me to defeat Niles. He sees only the Breaking News. I was fortunate at the start of the game to not have lost immediately as my opening hand contained three agendas and lacked any ICE. I discarded a Beale on turn one after a turn of install SanSan (draw another agenda), draw second click, install the drawn Enigma over HQ.
In the next game I am again fortunate to survive. He installs all three SanSans and recurs one that I trashed with an Architect. Furthermore his hand contains Shipment, Biotic, and Fast Track. His deck fails to cooperate though, as the agendas remain elusive throughout the game. In the end, Niles’s patience goes unrewarded as NEH mistook my accesses for his draw steps and provided me the seven points.
I hope that I can attend Durham in order to compete once more against my better.
Round 4: Alexander Smith (Whizzard/NEH Scorch)
**This match was streamed.
Alexander was an extremely nice fellow, and I’m glad to have had the chance to play against him. Congratulations to him as he was the top seed at the conclusion of the Swiss. I hope to run into him in future tournaments.
The first game was ultimately decided by Whizzard inability to stabilize economically. The inefficiency in his turns between his attempts to secure funds while pressuring servers became untenable in the face of the fast advance presented by my NEH. I was fortunate to have the cards come together in an otherwise difficult matchup.
Our second game was inversely lopsided. I kept a sketchy hand without Desperado but with double Security Testing. Against NEH FA you can usually negotiate the game without an early Desperado because the credit difference is both less pronounced and less important. However, against the Scorch variants it is more difficult due to the inability to steal early agendas without risk of death. The game was essentially lost when I decided not to Special Order for Yogo to combat Alex’s Pop-up Windows. The game was actually lost when I became impatient and misplayed into a position where I mistakenly believed I was able to take agendas. It was well done on his part to establish the position that allowed him to capitalize on my poor play.
Round 5: Tom ??? (Kate/RP)
Tom, I’m so sorry to have forgotten your surname. Tom was very courteous and gracious player. I only wish we’d had additional time for our games.
My NEH victory against Tom mostly resulted from buried agendas preventing any advantage being gained from his accesses. He did not have Clot in his deck, but I continued to play around its threat. Unfortunately, this decision extended the game.
As such, his RP secured a timed win of 2-0. I had a somewhat difficult mulligan wherein I allowed him to establish early economic advantage. However, this advantage had largely collapsed as we moved into a midgame when time was called. It’s always difficult to evaluate these types of games, though. We both played in ways unbecoming of players with sufficient time. As such, though his economic advantage evaporated, this was as much the result of my own efforts to curtail it as his own plays in attempting to win more quickly.
Round 6: Ran Cao (MaxX/Blue Sun)
**This match was streamed.
Ran @crfluency was really nice to play against. I recalled seeing her at the Glen Burnie Store Championship, but I did not have the pleasure of having her as an opponent. I hope that we can play again in a future tournament. But ugh – is there a significantly worse pairing for my decks? MaxX’s capability in producing a Medium threat is one of the worst things for NEH. And Blue Sun is the absolute worst matchup for Andy. I definitely expected to be swept this round.
My win as NEH was largely due to luck. I was on the more fortunate side of accesses and MaxX trashes. She missed on a 3- or 4-deep Medium on the penultimate turn of the game which led to my victory.
And then there was Blue Sun. Though my mulligan did not help, the matchup really is about as bad as you can draw one up for Andy. Security Testing is dead, Kati Jones could be at risk of Snatch and Grab, barriers are everywhere (and they are exceptionally taxing), and Crisium Grid is always on HQ. And I’m without any copies of Inside Job and Emergency Shutdown. This matchup is fairly uninteresting unless you enjoy seeing criminal suffer. Additionally, I embarrassingly locked myself out of Ran’s central servers at the end of the game through a miscalculation of credits. Time was called, and I lost 5-0.
Regrettably, in hindsight I may have played too slowly this game. This may have led to Ran proving unable to score her last two points for the victory. I haven’t watched the coverage, but if this is the case then I am truly sorry, as she was paired against D’Argenio in the following round.
Round 7: Pat Eshghy (Kate/NEH Scorch)
It is unfortunate business to become paired against a friend in order to make Top 8. It is more unfortunate when your fear is confirmed that he is running Clot.
The first game is very interesting. By approximately turn 6 my hand has become Shipment from SanSan, Beale x2, Astro x2. His board contains SMC, Clone Chip x2, and his credits exceed twenty. It doesn’t look promising. But Jackson Howard is an exceptionally strong card for the corp. And this game was decided by one mistake. Jackson permitted the discard of both Beales from hand. Pat followed Jackson’s timely arrival by faceplanting a remote Architect over SanSan on his last click which led to an installation of an Astro from HQ. The SanSan survived, and Astro was scored. The following turn, SFSS permitted another Astro score. Then a Beale was scored through some Biotic/Cyberdex/SanSan action. Finally, Astro permitted a SanSan/Breaking News score.
The second game was decided by Pat becoming obscenely flooded. He may have drawn as much as thirty points worth of agendas as Jackson Howard forgot he didn’t work for me anymore.
Pat was a good sport, certainly better than I would have been under reversed circumstances. Thanks for the games, Pat.
Elimination Quarterfinals: Dan D’Argenio (MaxX)
**This match was streamed.
I am the higher seed and choose to corp. While I would usually prefer to pit my Andy against RP than to play NEH against MaxX, I am running a worse version of Andy than I usually run and feel more confident in my NEH play on the day.
The match was fought on two fronts: Dan’s economy was inconsistent, but he managed to apply pressure with Medium. I don’t have too much to say about this match. It progressed as NEH typically does when not facing significant pressure. I went up 5-3 with an Astro token then lost to a 2-deep Medium that yielded two Beales to Dan. Such is the way of things at times. It’s easy to reflect on how I could have shuffled with the rezzed Jackson as I had an unrezzed Jackson in a remote as well, but I do not believe this would have been correct given the expected landscape of the following turns.
Losers’ Round 1: Alexander Smith (NEH Scorch)
Sadly, it is not much of one as he is unable to locate ICE and Medium rose to 7 counters. The economy war was lost to Desperado and Security Testing that one-shot Melanges were unable to match.
Losers’ Round 2: Niles Stanley (NEH FA)
Once more through the breach.
This match was really fun as I swiftly fell behind. I faceplanted Architect twice and went down 5-2 as I fought to contain his remote play. Redirecting pressure from remote control to central accesses, I proved successful in locating a Beale in HQ and an NAPD in R&D in order to prevent Niles from ending the game. Jackson’s draws threatened to end the game – and Niles had in fact drawn the winning Beale – but Medium yielded the winning agenda for me prior to the passing of the turn. Luck once more favors me in our pairing.
Thanks for the games, Niles. It’s always a pleasure to play against you.
Losers’ Round 3: Dan D’Argenio (MaxX)
**This match was streamed.
Forced onto our sides in this encounter, I found this match to be less interesting though still a fun match. I struggled on all fronts for most of the game and decided to break myself to score an Astro despite recognizing the threat of Medium I knew to be in Dan’s heap. This is clearly a mistake and I’m uncertain what compelled me to make the play as it almost always is a mistake to go broke. Dan is not one to allow mistakes to go unpunished, and I faced the music as Medium once again revealed itself to be a monster.
Final tallies: NEH finished 7-0 in the Swiss while Andy completed a dismal 4-3 run. Then NEH went 0-2 in elimination as Andy countered to 2-0.
It turns out that there was a prize of $100 in store credit for the fourth place finish. I don’t need anything so I figure whosever ticket I used for the event may be able to spend it better. Should he have an extra ticket next year, I hope he may consider giving it to me should I mess up on registration again.
Following the tournament, Ross and I returned to the hotel following a brief stop at Denny’s. It had been a long day. Ross successfully made it home following my delivery of him to the airport, and Allen and I successfully returned to West Virginia without incident – mission accomplished (this year Netrunner has proven to be a very dangerous hobby as I was in a car wreck en route to the Atlanta Store Championship, and my car was destroyed en route home from the Harrisburg Store Championship).
In so far as my impressions from the tournament I only had one big takeaway: I don’t recall seeing any other criminal players at the event. I know that some were present, but I did not see any doing very well. I did not expect to see very many criminals but not to see any was surprising. While I’m happy to see Anarch finally rising to the top, it’s always a bit sad to see your favorite faction perform poorly. Andy has a lot of medium matchups and a few fairly poor ones. She remains tier 1 as there is still a lot of play to her, but you’re giving up quite a bit to become proficient with her. It could also be that I have been playing a suboptimal build for her - I'm fairly certain that was the case for this tournament at least.
Criminal in general is in a rough place presently. I would not recommend that anyone play the faction for the near future, as you can achieve better results more easily from the other factions. Perhaps once Fisk Investment Seminar becomes released it will deserve a reevaluation. Play MaxX; don’t be swayed from choosing her by Dan telling you she’s really hard because she isn’t as hard as it sounds when the World Champion says that she’s really hard. But she is really good.
Allen Wontroba – thanks for joining me on the trip. Your company was invaluable.
Ross, @AceJack, @pacer – the best of Atlanta, and the ones I can most directly contribute any success I have at this game due to their enthusiasm for the game and willingness to talk with me about it.
@bblum – the best player in the room that day. I cannot praise you enough. I’m really glad that you won and can attend Worlds.
Dan – thanks for getting me into the tournament. I’m glad you’re the World Champion, for your strength of play, your strength of character, and your contributions to the game beyond the spectacular play you demonstrate in most every match.
@kiv – as always, where would I be without your YouTube channel? (Answer: 94th place probably)
The Bal-Wash crew – you guys are the reason I travel east. It’s always a pleasure to see you, play against you, and just hang out during the tournaments. Thanks for being the best part of the tournaments by the sea, Niles, @basoon, and @dashakan.
All of my opponents – there was tremendous talent at this tournament, and I am truly fortunate to have been lucky enough to secure a berth to the elimination rounds.
Redcaps Corner – thanks for running a fantastic event and accommodating an excess of players in an excess of time after closing hours.
FFG – I love playing Netrunner.
FFG – Sort yourselves out for Worlds next year.