Disclaimer: I tend to have a problem with brevity in my creative writing, so this might be a tad long. Consider yourselves forewarned.
Having sorta messed up at our local Store Championship in Bratislava (came in third mostly because I killed myself on a Viktor 1.0, of all things ), I wanted to try for a shiny plaque again. Almost a month passed since the previous tournament (and Fear and Loathing hit the shores), so it was time to re-evaluate decks.
For Runner, I knew one thing: whatever else happens, I don't want to lose to Astro Trains and TWIY rushes. Sure, those NBN decks are hard to stop, but it can be done if handled correctly. That means messing with draw order (Indexing), getting into servers (SMC, Tinkering), applying relevant pressure on HQ (Siphon). Speed is key, and more MU means more speed for Shaper, so I went with Chaos Theory. Most of my testing was done on OCTGN, because my usual testing partner was busy that week (you can even see one and a half of those games on Sly's stream - him and Asroybal were playing CI that evening). It was a bit of a shame, because he's the perfect acid test for decks (he's a very solid Criminal, Weyland and NBN player), so I just hoped for the best.
The runner list (along with a detailed rationale of the building process) can be found here:
For Corp, I originally wanted to play a Personal Evolution build with Data Ravens and Closed Accounts - it started as a wonky thing, but it actually works surprisingly well. It's got a low enough agenda density that running RnD is usually more deadly than fruitful, packs the Scorch threat to force a Carapace install, and the Closed Accounts work very well in combination with the taxing nature of Yagura and Tsurugi. But, while testing in the weeks leading up to the event, I encountered a problem: if I didn't draw a Priority Requisiton fast enough, I'd invariably end up stalling at 6 agenda points and then losing. This seemed like too big a liability, so I took a look at Fear and Loathing to think about which of my decks just got more viable... and saw Blue-level Clearance. That card is pretty much custom-made for Cerebral Imaging. Having a super-fast runner (in testing, that little girl often closed games inside of 10-15 minutes), I decided that I do have the luxury of playing something as slow as CI... and it's a deck that's very hard to play against if you're not built to handle it. I sort of bet on the popularity of NBN in that regard, expecting most people to be ready for a fast and furious game, not a slow tax-fest.
The corp list can be found here:
So, one short train ride later our 3-man task force gets to Vienna. There's 14 people attending and we're told the tournament will be 4 rounds with no cut to top 4, with a round length of 65 minutes. My previous experience playing in Vienna left me a bit wary of this - last time, a lot of matches ended up going to time. In Bratislava we tend to play quite a bit faster than the Vienna crowd does, and I usually go with 75 minute rounds (so that the newer people don't feel like they have to rush)... so I decided to play as fast as humanly possible, in order to avoid going to time and being left with some odd sort of score for tie-breakers.
The pairings are announced, and the first round starts.
Round 1: Chris (Jinteki: PE, Whizzard)
We flip the coin, he corps first. My opening hand is decent, with both an Indexing and a Siphon. He ices up RnD, makes a new remote and takes a credit, leaving HQ open. Wasting no time, I promptly siphon him, then hit with the Indexing (no agendas to be had), and check the remote (netting a Profiteering). Things never really pick up for Chris after that - my Indexing moved all the ICE to the bottom of those 5 cards, so I'm able to repeatedly Siphon and Index him without much resistance. His deck is mostly a 1000 needles kind of thing, which doesn't work so well when the Snares are taken out of the picture. Eventually he does get some money together (my SoT recursion is focused more towards Indexing, since I already have all the stuff I need out) and starts doing the install-advance-advance routine, but at this point I've deduced that his agenda composition doesn't include 3-pointers, and an earlier Celebrity Gift has shown me an AggSec, so I'm not really in a rush to check those remotes. Presumably some are agendas, but I'm not that agenda-starved, so I end up grabbing some more 1-pointers and finish up with a Fetal before he can really do anything with those servers.
We switch, he's Whiz. Right after we start, there's a funny moment - his phone rings, he takes it and starts discussing armored vehicles and tanks with someone on the other end. At first I suspect he might be just talking about Warhammer 40k minis or something, but then the sentence "No, we've got enough tanks already, but make sure to get hold of more armored vehicles" is uttered and I'm left wondering whether he's an arms dealer or something Turns out he works for the UN, I breathe a sigh of relief, and we keep playing. The first game was quick, so we're not really pressed for time.
The game as such really showcases how much Anarchs need a decent draw effect that isn't Wyldside - Eli and Ichi make runs expensive for him, the four or so accesses don't net any points, and before he can find his Corroder, I've got all my combo pieces together and cruise through the three scoring turns.
Round 2: Thomas (NBN:TWIY, Reina Roja)
So, the rushy kind of NBN... time to put my Theory (see what I did there?) to the test.
Thanks to Tinkering I manage to connect an early Siphon, leading to being able to push through an Indexing which nets me an Astro and a Beale. He installs and feeds two Marked Accounts, to get the drip econ rolling. With 4 cards in his hand, I check HQ three times... which leads to me seeing the third Marked Accounts every single time. We both build up a little, and in order to get my Interface online, I sort of have to let him draw 3 cards I can't check. Turns out 2 of those cards were Astro and Beale, so we're quickly sitting at 6 points (him) to 4 points (me). I manage to draw to more Indexings and check, but only see some Biotics and other assorted chaff. Jackson is involved in some form of clearing the Indexing's effects (either he drew a lot, or he reshuffled some econ - not really sure), and from the way Thomas is playing I get the feeling that he might be running 3-pointers - if he weren't, he wouldn't be that nervous about a 2-card RnD access, when I need 3 more points to win. Next turn he gets a decent amount of money together, and all of his RnD cards are unknown to me. I decided to check there before trying to draw for some more Indexing, Same old Thing or Siphons. I announce the run, approaching what I assumed to be a Tollbooth... and he rezzes a Flare. "Well, crap" I think... and then I notice that Flare is actually AP, despite only doing the damage on a successful trace. Out comes the Deus X and I break into RnD, finding an Executive Retreat for the win.
We switch and he pulls out Reina. My opening hand is pretty ridiculous - I get 2 PriReqs, Rototurret, Viktor 2.0 and a Blue-level. My mandatory draw is an Ichi, and playing the Blue Level draws me a Hedge Fund and a second Ichi. I Roto the HQ and finish my turn. He checks RnD, but doesn't find anything, then prepares to get his econ rolling. My mandatory draw is another Eli, which is pretty fortunate - it's the start of my second turn and I already have most of the ICE I'm going to need for this game. Double-Icing both RnD and HQ, I fall into my usual pattern of making money and drawing cards, and Thomas is never really able to catch up due to how expensive all his accesses become (he's running Caissas, so Knight is not really a happy camper when he has to break 2-sub ICE everywhere). My draws are on the agenda-heavy side, so after about 6 turns, there's literally not enough agendas left in RnD for him to win from there. Getting into my hand is super-expensive at this point, and so we both do some more credit farming and then I do my usual three-turn scoring thing for the win.
Round 3: Franz (NBN:MN, Andromeda)
Franz is the tournament organizer, and he himself is amazed at how well he's doing today - in his own words, his primary game is Star Wars and he doesn't play a lot of Netrunner at all. He starts with a pretty standard opening, getting money and icing both RnD and HQ. His HQ ICE turns out to be something pretty weak (Enigma, maybe?) so there's a little Siphon-fest going on after a while. Chained Indexing detect a Closed Accounts and keep moving it further down into RnD, to get me enough time to setup Magnum Opus and a reasonable suite. He plays a card behind two ICE, I go to check it, they both turn out to be popups. The card is a Breaking News, which I steal. After that he manages to get some money together and scores an Astro off a SanSan behind those two Popups, with Beale following shortly thereafter. I go for some more Indexing action which nets me the final points I need.
We switch sides, and it's one of those crazy high-variance three turn affairs. I draw 4 agendas in 9 cards, which leaves me in a decent place - HQ is ICEd up hard, I'll just let him have some accesses and it'll be fine, right? Turns out...not so much. Having 5 agendas in 40 cards apparently means three of them will be in the top 4 cards, so he drops an RnD interface, runs twice and we're done.
Since quite a few matches ended up going to time, I'm the only one packing 10 prestige at this point, with one of our guys being second with 8. The only other person with 8 prestige is Franz, whom I just played, so the pairings are clear. We sit down to play with the knowledge that this will be the final round of the tournament.
Round 4: Ľubo (Chaos Theory, GRNDL)
Ľubo is one of the newest members of the Bratislava playgroups, but is already pretty strong, with the potential to be truly scary in 6 months or so. If I win both games now I'm finishing clearly first, if he wins both games he's quite probably first as well. I play corp first.
Turns out he's playing a somewhat similar runner deck to what I'm running, only with Garrote instead of Femme (and the Stimhacks to cheat it into play via SMC). The game as such is a pretty passive affair, with him nabbing a two-pointer while I set up, then siphoning me twice for a hefty cash infusion. I don't particularly mind, as it doesn't make me ditch cards or anything. He gets out a Chakana (a cold chill runs down my spine) and runs RnD once, but doesn't run another two times, so I quickly score my Efficiency Committee, followed up by a PriReq. He has one last turn in which to do something, as I already have both a Biotic and a Vitruvius. If he arms the Chakana, I need to dig for a Jacksoned Biotic or Archived Memories, but it should still be doable. As it turns out however, he has an Indexing and I have 5 points in the top 5 cards.
We switch, and the final game begins. My first hand is horrible, so I mulligan... and get a hand with Siphon, but no Indexing and no Carapace. I draw pretty hard for either of those, but all copies elude me somehow, so I'm forced to play very cautiously. We do a bit of cat-and-mouse, with a card installed and advanced into a server that I can get into. I check it, and it's a refinery. Both RnD and HQ are protected by a Chimera and one other piece of ICE, so I run them frequently to be annoying and cost him some money. Once I finally draw my first Carapace (something like 25 cards in), I switch to the multi-siphon plan, using a 0-strength Atman to great effect (HQ had Chimera and Rototurret as defenses). He scores a Hostile, then scores a Posted Bounty out of the remote server which he follows up with an Aggressive Negotiation. He pulls a card, and as we discussed later discussion he made a bad call there (pulled something else, rather than the Closed Accounts he should have). Indexing finally shows up and I get to see another Scorched coming up, but at this point I finally have a second Carapace, so SE stops being a concern. He tries to force an agenda behind an Archer, but Sharpshooter has me covered, so I steal it. Shortly thereafter another indexing shows up, revealing a Cleaners and a second Posted Bounty, which I steal for the win.
This last game leaves me as the sole person with 12 prestige, so I'm declared winner. It's a bit of a shame we didn't play either a fifth round or a cut to top 4, because there were 4 people with 10 prestige, so the second place got decided by tie-breaker. Ľubo is one of the 10-prestige people but ends up third based on prestige count, if I recall correctly. I get everyone to sign the plaque (because otherwise those things tend to miss some sort of identity, really) and we go home, promising to show up again for Chronos Protocol
- The gentlemen (and lady) at the event - great bunch of guys, always a pleasure to come play with you all!
- SneakySly and Asroybal, for that game we played on OCTGN - your stacked Victors and Elis made me fit in that Atman, and boy was it ever a super-solid include!
- also, you two may or may not have had a hand in me picking CI for the tournament... but we will never know
- all the fine gentlemen participating in the TWIY discussion on these forums, for making me think super-hard about how to beat decks like that