This report is a guest post brought to us from John Thornby.
Netrunner Regional Report: Stoke, June 2013
So I’ve just got back from another fantastic LCG tournament at the excellent GTG store in Stoke on Trent. This time it was a UK regional for Android: Netrunner and four of us made the journey from Warwick University: regulars Sam Burdock, Michael Clarke and I were joined by a friend of mine from out of town, Caz Morris – playing in his first ever competitive event.
I’ve been going to GTG for about 18 months now and I have to say the hosts, Eddie and Steve, are great guys and always put on an excellent event. Eddie usually kicks off with some banter to get the crowd warmed up while his long-suffering assistant (sidekick) Steve makes the first round pairings. Today was no exception and it wasn’t long before the insults were flying (from Eddie to Steve mostly) and we were underway – after a little confusion over which “Gary” was playing whom.
My decks were slight variations on the ones I had played the previous week at the Nationals in Birmingham. I had enjoyed decent success with them there but I was slightly inexperienced with their nuances and more than a little rusty at the game overall after a bit of a hiatus. I had learnt some important lessons though, which, coupled with the fact that Humanity’s Shadow was not legal for this event, prompted a few changes to the decks.
I won’t give the full decklists (I’d imagine they’ll appear online before long anyway), but I’ll discuss some of the finer points of my deckbuilding rationale and justify some of my card selections. For this event I was playing HB – Engineering The Future (core identity) for my corporation. It was a fairly classic “fast advance” build, using only cheap ICE that ends the run. My main strategy was to score 3/2 agendas out of hand using SanSan City Grid and Biotic Labor. I prefer SanSan to the Trick of Light builds, although it was a really tough call and at one point I had both in the deck. Primarily though Trick of Light is a combo which a) significantly dictates your choice of ICE and b) needs you to draw that ICE and advance it before you’re good to go. I was expecting to meet a fair amount of Noise virus decks and I didn’t want to see my advancement tokens eaten by Parasites, plus I quite like the extra bluff potential a facedown card in a remote server gives you so I opted for the NBN upgrade instead.
I was running slightly less ICE than my previous build in order to accommodate Ash 2X3ZB9CY and Red Herrings. The theory behind their inclusion is that they give me a few options to restrict access to the runner’s favoured central server, as well as bluff options in the late game. I often find the end game can become a bit number-crunchy; the runner is able to exactly calculate how much he needs in order to make a successful run, so cards that will foil those calculations at the last second or can function as blank decoys serve as a nice economy drain.
The most unusual choice for my deck was two copies of Executive Retreat – a 5/3 agenda that seems to be strongly disfavoured at the moment. In order to meet the agenda point requirement I either had to include something that wouldn’t score directly from hand, or a bunch of small 3/1 agendas. Last week I was running Mandatory Upgrades but I found them to be too slow; they became locked in play while the runner drained my economy and I don’t think I scored one all day. I opted for 5/3 agendas in order to save deck space (i.e. I can run more non-agenda cards) – this also meant that I could potentially win by scoring only three agendas, as opposed to builds using False Leads which might have to see five to win. Of course this strategy is a double-edged sword as the runner might only need three lucky hits to win too, so a good opening hand of ICE is required to keep the runner in check. My choice of Executive Retreat over Priority Requisition was based on my own play style and experience of how the deck handles. With strong economy and cheap ICE I don’t find that rezzing one for free is particularly beneficial. However, the option to hide a potentially vulnerable hand back in R&D is decent in the right situation and I quite like the option to draw five in the late game when I’m hunting for the winning agenda.
My runner deck was an anarch Noise virus-mill, using Personal Workshop. There’s not a lot to say about it as it’s quite a well-known deck archetype, although obviously I have my own take on it. The thing I like best about it is that you never really make a wrong guess with it – you only play stuff off the workshop when you need it (often mid-run) so you never commit resources into things you don’t immediately need. The workshop also allows you to assassinate ICE as it’s rezzed, using Parasite in conjunction with Datasucker, so the corp doesn’t often get a chance to react. I was playing with some aggressive draw (2x Wyldside, 2 x Diesel); a pair of Crypsis were my only breakers apart from 1x Deus X which was there mostly to deal with Snare during a deep R&D dig with Medium(s). I was packing 2x Plascrete Carapace as well, for the inevitable Scorched Earth combo, and another one of the nice tricks with the deck is that you don’t need to play them until you’re tagged – provided you have money you can unload the whole workshop in your opponent’s turn after they tag you with SEA Source, Posted Bounty or the like.
So, now you have an idea what I’m playing let’s discuss the games…
Match 1 vs. Mike Clarke (Gabe / Weyland)
It was a bit disappointing to be paired with one of my own crew for the first round, but it was probably going to happen eventually. I was playing corp first and got a pretty decent start. A nice mix of ICE and some strong passive economy kept his criminal out of my HQ while I drew into my agendas. He made an early steal from R&D but I was able to advance agendas quickly and cheaply with SanSan to close out the win for only one agenda against. There was nothing particularly remarkable from either side.
I was running against Mike’s Weyland deck and didn’t really know what to expect. He got off to a flying start, making a lot of money with some big transaction operations and guarding R&D with ICE. I got a reasonable opening hand: I dropped a workshop and loaded it up, then ran his open HQ but only found his SEA Source. He then scored a Hostile Takeover from hand. I ran HQ again but no one was home, so I abandoned that strategy and set about loading up the workshop with viruses. A few turns later there was a smattering of ICE on the table and Mike had already scored a few 2/1s from hand. I made a few runs to see what was about and hit a Hadrian’s wall on R&D. I made a play at a remote to try and intercept what looked to be an agenda, but walked into an Archer for my troubles – losing a few programs in the process. Mike scored another cheap agenda and when I ran his archives he sacrificed it to rez a second Archer, but this opened the door for me to put a Parasite on it and it was dead a few turns later. I made a stimhack run on archives (it was the only way to afford to pay for and break his Tollbooth with Crypsis) and the agenda points I picked up were enough to guarantee me the match win even if I lost the game.
In the mid-game I made probably my most creative play of the day. Mike had racked up three bad publicity and had an Ice Wall on the outside of one of his servers. So for one turn I ran that server repeatedly to exploit the free money which I could use to buy cards off my workshop.
We were deadlocked for a little while and approaching time, but Mike had won the economy battle and still had some big ICE in play that were too fierce for my Parasites. In this situation I’m not a fan of the current tournament scoring system. Having won the first game it’s now in my interests to stall for time if I can’t pull off a win, however I don’t believe in such tactics and instead made a risky play to try and close out a legitimate victory. I Stimhacked R&D – using the credits (and bad publicity) to install Crypsis and break the Hadrian’s Wall, hoping my Mediums would save the day. They did not. I then did it again for good measure, but came up dry and on his turn Mike played his SEA Source to tag me and burnt my house to the ground, resulting in a game loss (5 agenda points), but a match win 4-2.
Match 2 vs. Pete Sowerbutts (Chaos Theory / Weyland)
Pete ran first and was playing Chaos Theory. I’ve not got much experience playing against this ID so I had no idea what to expect. I think I got a decent start and sprinkled some nice cheap ICE. He installed a Doppelganger, so it looked like he wanted to run aggressively and often (I later learned that it was for a combo to try and score 3x Notoriety in one turn). However his economy totally deserted him and he barely got his rig going. Eventually he got setup with a Magnum Opus and a full breaker suite, but I baited him into running on my aggressive secretary which smashed his rig and bought me enough time to slow advance my agendas behind some ICE he couldn’t penetrate. I believe he did sneak into R&D to get some points on the board, but it was a comfortable win.
The return matchup was really weird. His Weyland deck seemed to be scoring agendas left, right and centre; but unfortunately he was forfeiting them just as quickly in order to keep up with me. He forfeited at least one Hostile Takeover to rez an Archer; False Leads slowed me down for a turn and a Posted Bounty landed a tag on me, however I was able to buy everything off my workshop before he trashed it. I stole an early agenda from HQ and I’d been quite lucky with my virus mill so Pete was actually unable to win by this point as he had no agendas left. I smelt blood and my descent onto his archives was swift and final. I closed out the game which won me the match 6-0.
Match 3 vs. Sam Burdock (Whizzard / Haas-Bioroid)
This was the match-up I really didn’t want. Sam and I know each other’s decks quite well, we discuss a lot of strategy together and we were sharing a car home so there were a lot of bragging rights at stake. Most importantly though Sam was running Whizzard as his runner ID – which is pretty bad for my corp deck. I have a lot of passive income generation from PAD/Adonis Campaigns as well as some significant upgrades which a lot of runners won’t (or can’t afford to) pay to trash. But Whizzard gets to smash them for next to nothing. Therefore I was expecting to struggle economically and might have to over-commit my ICE to protect income, which could leave my centrals under-defended. I got a starting hand I was happy with but drew into a second agenda and Green Level Clearance loaded a third into my HQ. I ICEd up and pretended everything was fine. Luckily I did have two ICE so I was able to protect both of the main centrals. If I’d only ICEd HQ it probably hints to the runner a strong agenda holding because I’m pretty sure the standard opening vs. anarchs would be to protect R&D (especially if I know they are going digging later). So the second ICE, in a way, disguised my poor hand.
At this stage I didn’t really have a plan, my hand was mostly agendas and I had 8 credits. He ran R&D and I decided to let it slide. If I had rezzed my ICE and he had chosen to run on HQ I would have to rez that as well, and then I’d have no economy which makes it harder to get things going later on. I also figured that I had an above average agenda holding already, so the chance of him top-decking one was slim. My calculation paid off and he used Whizzard’s credits to trash an Adonis Campaign.
My draw brightened up a little and I had some more protection, but I was still vulnerable in HQ – although I thought this would be low priority for Sam as he wouldn’t be expecting me to stockpile agendas in hand. I was wrong and he ran HQ, forcing his way through my paltry defences. I got lucky and he missed the target and only accessed an operation of some kind. On my next turn I made what probably appeared to be a bonehead play of installing two unprotected facedown cards in a server (Ash and an agenda). I figured if he didn’t run it I would at least get a score on the board; if he did run it he would need to invest money to beat the trace which would slow him down and hopefully divert his attention from my weak HQ where there were greater spoils. Turns out this was a bit of a cock-up on my part as I’d completely forgotten the reusable credits on Whizzard – so instead of sinking his money into a trace, he just trashed Ash for free and ran it again. This was, without question, my worst play of the day.
It did buy me the time I needed though. I was able to drop some more ICE and made a well-defended remote I was confident he couldn’t get into. Luckily I drew into all my instant burst economy (Hedge Funds) and even more agendas and was able to score one every other turn with no reply. I think Sam was a little unlucky here; this is a really tricky match-up for my deck, but I was very fortunate that I saw my ops rather than my asset economy and he couldn’t get through my ICE quickly enough.
In the return match I started badly – walking into a turn one Snare. It stung us both economically and I recovered quicker than he did. I blew a hole in his HQ with Parasites and smashed his hand with Imps fairly early on. He had to draw aggressively just to rebuild his ICE field. He over-committed to HQ because I had two well developed Nerve Agents in play, so I switched to R&D, slowly over-writing my programs with Mediums. Sam did actually score seven agenda points in this game, but he forfeited a False Leads at one point to stop me running at a crucial time.
I attacked R&D aggressively and then switched to archives to see if the virus mill had done its job. I forced my way in with my dynamic Parasite ICE-kill trick but came up just short and we were either tied at 6-6 or I was just behind at 6-5, so I knew the match was safe but I was looking for the full win. He then installed a card in a remote, behind three unrezzed ICE. I suspected it was the winning agenda (for one of us) and I counted not many other agendas left unaccounted for. Were they in his hand or his deck? Or was one in archives after I’d played another virus? I had a Stimhack in hand and some tools on the workshop, but I honestly didn’t know where to run at – and I probably only had one chance. I looked at his deck and thought it looked pretty small by now. I reasoned the R&D run was the best chance – it was weakly guarded after my earlier efforts and I could possibly afford to get in twice if the ICE was weak enough for me to afford to use Crypsis again. It also gave me two winning conditions – I might hit the agenda, but if not I could mill a couple of cards with viruses and use Imp to trash one card. If the brain damage from the Stimhack didn’t hit my Demolition Run then there was an outside chance I could clear his deck with that.
I ran, he rezzed a Rototurret (I think) which I was able to negotiate and I unloaded the workshop with the Stimhack credits. I didn’t score an agenda but I was able to Imp his deck down to 2 cards. At this point Sam conceded as his agenda was a 5/3 so he couldn’t score it in one turn and couldn’t prevent me destroying his R&D next turn. This was a pretty unusual win and my first by decking out the corp. Another 6-0 win for me.
Match 4 vs. Caz Morris (Gabe / Haas-Bioroid)
For the third time today I was once again paired with one of my travelling companions, I already had the psychological edge over Caz as I’d beaten him in a practice game the previous night. Caz won the toss and chose to run and I drew a great hand with Enigma and a Chimera. This is a really nice early game ICE as it keeps the runner out unless he has a full rig or an AI breaker. He ran HQ immediately so I rezzed the Chimera – making it a sentry. He then Special Ordered a sentry breaker (Ninja) and installed it… uh oh! Unfortunately though he had forgotten about the cost of Special Order and didn’t have enough money to use it. This meant he lost a good opportunity to gain early economy and I did have agendas in hand he could have stolen.
Incidentally, someone did the same play against me last week at the Nationals and this is exactly why I chose sentry for the Chimera. Most criminal decks are running Corroder as their wall breaker, which is cheaper than the sentry and code gate breakers of choice (Ninja and Gordian Blade/Yog.0) so I didn’t want to leave the door open for him to order that. There’s also an outside chance that his only sentry breaker is Femme Fatale, in which case he definitely can’t afford it. As a side note, choosing code gate here is bad as that breaker matches the only other ICE I currently have in play.
My economy progressed nicely while Caz’s deserted him. I managed to get ICE of each flavour on HQ, and a bit of protection for my SanSan City Grid which was helping me to smash through the agendas at a cost of only one credit per turn. He dropped a Sneakdoor Beta which prompted me to ICE up the archives which I had somewhat neglected, but I had nothing in hand to steal. At one point he had me in a position where I could either rez some ICE on HQ, giving him two credits from Compromised Employees, or let him in to gain two credits from Gabe’s text. I decided the possibility of an Emergency Shutdown was a bit too annoying and let him deal with a Wall of Static.
He wasn’t really able to get in anywhere at a time when it counted and I closed the game out 7-0.
For the return match I was running against his HB deck. I didn’t see my workshops all game, so I had to run conservatively (pretty much naked) to make him rez things and kill them with Parasites the slow way. I kept him poor by attacking different servers. Eventually my deck picked up a bit of pace and I was able to steal from one of the centrals. My virus mill worked a little better this game and my hit on archives won me the game, 7-2, for a 6-0 match win.
Match 5 vs. James Boosey (Noise / Weyland)
This was by far my hardest match of the day, and the most rewarding. James and I both came into the final game on 22 match points, so this was winner takes all.
I didn’t know much about my opponent as he’s not from my local group, but I recognised his name from the Facebook group and his face from the Nationals last week in Birmingham. He was undefeated too so he clearly wasn’t a casual player and I knew I was in for a tough game.
James won the toss and chose to run his Noise deck first. The first few turns played out pretty slowly as we both assessed each other. James ran aggressively with nothing in play, causing me to spend a lot of money keeping him out of places, but he slowed himself down by trashing my economy assets. I think this is the right play though and I did struggle to get started somewhat.
I seemed to get a lot of ICE into play and we traded the first few agendas. James used an Inside Job to get into HQ early and I scored an Accelerated Beta Test which misfired and binned an agenda, but luckily my archives were already protected in anticipation of Noise and his virus shenanigans. I used Archived Memories to retrieve my agenda and scored it the following turn. James made a big play to steal one of my 5/3 agendas from my remote which put him 5-4 ahead. I had calculated that he could get in to steal it if he wanted to, but it would cost him all of his money and Crypsis as he would not have enough clicks to load up three virus counters and take cash, so the final ICE would kill the program. However he played another Inside Job which bypassed my Enigma, saving him four credits and only costing two virus counters.
Losing a big agenda was a blow, but it did buy me time to score another 3/2 as he couldn’t recover money and Crypsis counters quickly enough to break in. I was 6-5 up now, but painfully aware that James had milled the winning agenda into my archives. He had spent his turn recovering his board position after his epic steal, which gave me enough time to play another Archived Memories – bringing the agenda into my hand. I played Green Level Clearance to gain some money and then played a card facedown in my well-defended remote. James probably knew that I had recovered an agenda, but had I played it into the remote server or left it in HQ and baited him?
From my perspective, I knew he could get into that server if he wanted to, but he could also get into HQ for approximately the same cost so I had to put him to a guess. If he guesses the correct server he has 100% chance to win if it’s in the remote, or a 20% chance to win if it’s in HQ. If he doesn’t win this turn he almost certainly gives me enough tempo to score the agenda myself, over two turns if necessary. Logic dictates, therefore, that my best chance is to leave it hidden in HQ – but if he knows that too then maybe I should switch and play it into the remote…
You could chase your tail for hours thinking about it. James tooled up – cash from Magnum Opus and virus counters on Crypsis. “Run the remote”.
He went through my Enigma and two Rototurrets and was rewarded with an Aggressive Secretary – HB’s only in-faction ambush. There were no advancement counters, so I didn’t spring its card effect but the damage was done: he now didn’t have enough resources to run again and I could freely score the agenda for a 7-5 win. It was a really close game and honestly could have gone either way. James was a bit unlucky that I had Archived Memories at exactly the right time to rescue two agendas.
But the work was not done. James’ solid agenda total in the first game meant that I would have to score at least 6 in the final game to win the event. 5 might be good enough, it would leave the match and tournament standings tied and I had no idea what our respective strength of schedules were like.
James was playing Weyland and ICEd up R&D and archives on turn one. I had picked up an opening hand consisting of Wyldside and some good economy so I led out with that and a run on his undefended HQ. I picked out a Scorched Earth so right from the off I knew what I was dealing with. I couldn’t afford to run on my last click in case I picked up a tag. I would need to draw aggressively to get to my Plascrete Carapace(s) as soon as possible and couldn’t run quite as casually as I’d like in case I got SEA Sourced the following turn.
As such I basically decided to play my own game for quite a few turns – not really interacting with my opponent at all until I needed to make a break for it. James fired up his bank accounts and scored an early Priority Requisition. This allowed him to rez a Shadow as the second ICE on his R&D. I took quite a few inferences from this for the rest of the game. I reasoned that most players will rez the most expensive ICE they can if it’s free, so I thought it was quite likely that his ICE on archives, HQ and his main remote were weenies – this is good for me (and my Parasites).
I drew into my Personal Workshop and Grimoire pretty swiftly, and before long I had a stack of gear two tables wide piled up on it, slowly ticking over until I was ready to make my big play. I got two Plascrete Carapaces onto the workshop, which set my mind at ease because (provided I kept some income back to install them) they made me immune to Scorched Earth death. I was thinking about making a move at this point because the tag threat was significantly reduced now, but James made a play against me that forced my hand.
Last turn he had installed a card in a remote, this turn he advanced it three times and passed control over to me. I’m pretty suspicious of three advancement tokens. Two tokens can easily be a 5/3 agenda waiting to score next turn but not over-committing; three doesn’t make sense so it looks a lot more like a trap or, worse still, a Posted Bounty ready to score next turn with enough clicks left over to cause some pain. I figured that it was unlikely to be an ambush asset – I couldn’t see that his deck would have enough influence left over for Project Junebug or Ghost Branch if he was running NBN tag tech, out of faction ICE and the HB transaction ops. It might have been an Aggressive Secretary perhaps, but I had committed barely any of my rig into play yet, so even if I run into one of those it can only kill a Datasucker. Everything pointed to this being a Posted Bounty, trying to trash my workshop and play two Scorched Earths.
I took 4 credits from a Liberated Account (in case I needed money to buy off my rig either during the run or next turn if I failed to get in) and ran the remote. He chose not to rez the outer ICE, but rezzed an Enigma which died instantly to a Parasite / Ice Carver combo. I accessed the server and was rewarded with the Posted Bounty – panic over!
James scored another agenda to put him on 5 points and I changed tack at this point and started running more aggressively. I ran R&D and killed his Shadow with a Parasite. He then rezzed a Neural Katana, which took me by surprise as I had assumed this ICE would be a weenie. I couldn’t beat it so I took the net damage, I had seven cards in hand anyway so no harm done. I unloaded a Medium to access two cards, both of which were trashed and I ran again. This time I was able to kill the Katana because I had a virus counter on Datasucker to combo with another Parasite. I believe I scored an agenda on this dig.
James rebuilt his R&D defences, meanwhile I switched to archives and forced my way in by Stimhacking with Crypsis. I’d milled a lot of cards by this point, but somehow only one of them was an agenda and it left me on 6 points. At this point I knew I had won the match, as even if I had lost from here I’d have the better agenda score, but James was playing to try and hold onto second place in the overall standings.
He installed a card in his remote, but I no longer had the resources to break in there. So instead I Stimhacked R&D as I still had a tonne of counters on Medium. He rezzed a Data Raven, but by this point I didn’t care about tags so I ploughed on. He didn’t rez the second ICE so I unloaded the rest of my workshop with Stimhack money. I trashed an ICE with Imp in case I needed to run again but the fourth card down was the winning agenda. 7-5 to me, resulting in a 6-0 match score and taking my total for the day to 28 out of a possible 30 prestige points – earning me the title of Regional Champion!
It was an excellent tournament – a fantastic atmosphere, great sportsmanship from everyone and a lot of fun to play in. I just want to congratulate James on a great final game, I think our decks were pretty evenly matched and on another day he would have been walking away with the trophy.
Overall the Warwick contingent performed very well, with every one of us placing in the top 16. Everyone at the event went home with a prize and a smile on their face, so all in all a great day! Thanks again to Eddie and Steve for running a cracking event and I’ll see everyone next year when I return to defend my title
Note: These lists are pre-Humanity’s Shadow
Haas-Bioroid: Engineering the Future (Core)
Total Cards: (49)
Accelerated Beta Test (Core #55) x3
Project Vitruvius (Cyber Exodus #51) x3
Private Security Force (Core #107) x1
Executive Retreat (Trace Amount #39) x2
Adonis Campaign (Core #56) x3
Aggressive Secretary (Core #57) x1
PAD Campaign (Core #109) x3
Ice Wall (Core #103) x3 ■
Wall of Static (Core #113) x2
Chimera (Cyber Exodus #60) x3
Viper (Cyber Exodus #52) x2
Rototurret (Core #64) x3
Enigma (Core #111) x3
Caduceus (What Lies Ahead #19) x2 ■■
Hedge Fund (Core #110) x3
Biotic Labor (Core #59) x3
Archived Memories (Core #58) x2
Green Level Clearance (A Study in Static #70) x3
SanSan City Grid (Core #92) x2 ■■■
Ash 2X3ZB9CY (What Lies Ahead #13) x1
Red Herrings (Core #91) x1 ■■
Total Agenda Points: 20
Noise: Hacker Extraordinaire (Core)
Total Cards: (45)
Deja Vu (Core #2) x3
Demolition Run (Core #3) x1
Stimhack (Core #4) x3
Sure Gamble (Core #50) x3
Diesel (Core #34) x2 ■■
Grimoire (Core #6) x2
Plascrete Carapace (What Lies Ahead #9) x2
Datasucker (Core #8) x3
Djinn (Core #9) x2
Imp (What Lies Ahead #3) x2
Medium (Core #10) x2
Parasite (Core #12) x3
Crypsis (Core #51) x2
Deus X (A Study in Static #66) x1 ■
Nerve Agent (Cyber Exodus #41) x2
Wyldside (Core #16) x2
Liberated Account (Trace Amount #22) x3
Armitage Codebusting (Core #53) x3
Aesop’s Pawnshop (Core #47) x1 ■■
Personal Workshop (Cyber Exodus #49) x2 ■■■■
Ice Carver (Core #15) x1