(Editor’s note: This article was submitted by Michael Walsh [Miek])
Welcome to the 4th edition/episode/article of Mull or Keep.
Quorum is just released, and is appropriately shaking up the meta. Şifr is kinda a big deal, but an even bigger deal is Aaron Marrón. Criminal is firmly Tier 1 again, and this week we’re going to look at what I think are two of the best decks right now.
For the Runner, we will be Andromeda. Good Stuff Andy has been reasonable for a while now, but had a tough time vs CtM because of Breaking News into Closed Accounts. Power Tap Andy significantly helps with the CtM matchup in general but not that specific play. Aaron Marrón completely dismantles that play, and is helpful for the rest of the CtM matchup too. With the focus on Aaron over Power Tap, you’re able to include more generically useful cards to improve your non-CtM matchup. Aaron Marrón also explodes the potency of your Account Siphons, making it a single click 15 credit swing instead of a 3 click 11 credit swing. For this to be good, really any type of Good Stuff Andromeda deck that includes Aaron Marrón would do. At the time of writing the article, the best published version of this deck is Rojazu’s Andromeda: Andy Strikes Back 2.0
On the corp side, Cerebral Imaging is the deck we are playing against. CI has gained a real bonus from Quorum too, for several different reasons. One reason is Violet Level Clearance (VLC). This card is amazing for any variant of CI, giving draw(which is always important in some form of combo deck) and a decent influx of credits too. Cerebral Imaging (particularly the Power Shutdown 7-point combo variants, aka CI7) is also quite strong right now, because it is resilient to new and oppressive Runner cards. Aaron Marrón gets half the number of counters, only when they steal agendas from you. Şifr is less useful as well, as you are incredibly low on ICE, your only ICE are low strength gear checks, and they will often take longer to draw their pieces than you will.
So if all we know is that it is a CI deck, what are the kinds of decks it could be?
Based on my own reading of the meta, I think it is:
- CI7 – 85% : An example of a CI7 is provided as part of the CI7 cookbook
- Hasty CI – 13% : Using Hasty relocation to setup Accelerated Diagnostics combos
- Lakshmi CI – 1% : Spamming assets to use Lakshmi and prevent the Runner from accessing agendas
- Kill CI – 1% : Accelerated Diagnostics into Kill conditions (Sea Source Scorch Scorch for example)
The Andromeda vs CI7 matchup is extremely interesting in my opinion, and relevant as it is quite likely to occur. Both are fast and aggressive decks. With VLC, CI7 can draw ridiculously quickly, so much so that it can theoretically win without using a Power Shutdown by turn eight or nine. Andromeda on the other hand has a lot of tools for moving fast, such as Medium, Temüjin Contract, and also has Siphon to slow CI down. She has Employee Strike which has potential to do a lot of damage if CI is unlucky in finding its own counter-currents. This version of Andromeda also includes Vamadeva, which is very important as the Mother Goddess ICE suite is otherwise unbreakable. Some versions of CI7 are including a 1x Ichi 1.0 as an answer to this, and the Runner should consider this when running. That said, the ICE suite is incredibly vulnerable in the fact that it can’t easily protect 2 servers at once. Excalibur is the only ICE in the deck that allows Mother Goddess to remain a threat while still protecting R&D, and even that does not End the Run. CI7 does have some temporary backup provided by Paper Walls and the Quandary, but unless they suspect an AI breaker they should overwrite these as soon as the runner can break them, as they reduce the efficiency of their Mother Goddess.
We want to build up a small amount of economy and then access as many cards as possible. Most of the ICE is typically not punishing to facecheck, especially first click and especially if you have no programs installed. It is likely that R&D is left undefended, so early accesses ensure several things: a) Steal early agendas to help us win the game, b) See which cards are in the deck, to give us an idea which version of CI we are up against, c) Trash any must-trash assets, allowing us to prevent or delay the combo.
If the Corp is CI7, which it most likely is, then the early game is our most important time to access. If they draw too many cards, we will have to pull back from running as otherwise it may give them the win via Power Shutdown.
Outside of early accesses, it is important to disrupt the Corp’s hand size. This is done via several ways: Firstly, Account Siphon. This is most important early when they have only a few credits and lowers their ability to bounce back. Going tag-me against CI7 is pretty safe. Even if you have strong resources down, CI7 can’t afford the time to trash them, especially after having suffered a Siphon. Secondly, Employee Strike. Again, this is best played early as it increases the chance that they don’t have their own counter-current in hand. This means they either have to discard a large chunk of their hand or sacrifice tempo to Biotic Labor out an agenda.
Against non-CI7, most of these principles still apply. Hasty CI is vulnerable to Employee Strike and Account Siphon just like CI7, however it typically runs more meaty ICE to compensate. This means you may get slowed down on accesses, however it will be similarly bankrupting itself to get this ICE down.
The most common mistake Andromeda players make against CI7 is to spend too much time on Economy. Typically, Desperado + Temüjin (+ Earthrise/John Masanori/Aaron) are the only non-programs you should be installing. Accessing cards and playing fast is paramount. By the time you feel the Corp has its combo assembled, you should hopefully have at least 4 pts in agendas (preferably 6), so you can stop running and build up for a final power turn. If CI7 has 20 credits or more, spamming Siphon to prevent the combo is unlikely to work, unless you can pull it off 3 times in a row. If you can pull off 3 siphons in a row, then you need CI7 to be at less than 25 credits. The more cards they have the more likely they can bounce back from any number of siphons, so these are not hard rules.
CI7’s goals are to gain money, draw cards, prevent accesses, and avoid having to discard cards. It prevents accesses via ICE and via the threat of Power Shutdown. It avoids having to discard cards by blocking Siphon (with ICE) and by playing their own current to counter Employee Strike. It gains money and cards the usual way, by clicking for them or playing operations. Typically after half its deck is drawn it has a combo assembled that can immediately win it the game, and after 30 or so cards are drawn it can win without the Runner having made a run.
CI7 has a few cards it does not want in hand, as they need to be in Archives to shuffle back in with Jackson Howard. Being rich is a huge bonus as you can let these “bad” cards stock up in hand and use Biotic Labor to play them the hard way instead. In this matchup it is unlikely that Andromeda has any specific combo-hate, so the only tricky part of the combo is dealing with having too many cards in hand or a few of the the essential cards missing with some substitute like Archived Memories and Biotic Labor.
Hasty CI has the exact same goals as CI7, however it prevents accesses entirely on the strength of its ICE. It is also a fast deck, but without the threat of an immediate win, has no way to discourage running. It is slightly more resilient to Employee Strike by use of its Hasty Relocation combo to score out an agenda. One downside of using expensive taxing ICE is that Hasty CI can suffer similar effects to Siphon just by rezzing ICE, forcing itself to discard cards at the end of the turn if it can’t bounce back from the credit plunge.
Based on these analyses of the decks, there are three main goals Andromeda has to start their game against CI. Because CI7 is both the more powerful deck, and because the initial strategy is pretty flexible once a different deck is discovered, the majority of the hands are going to be evaluated purely on their ability to handle CI7.
The goals are (in order of importance):
- Get rich quickly while maintaining accesses. For this your best cards are: Temüjin Contract, Career Fair, Desperado and Dirty Laundry.
- Apply pressure to the corp. For this your best cards are: Account Siphon, Employee Strike and Medium. To a mild degree Special Order and Vamadeva are good here.
- Set yourself up for the mid to late game. This mostly means drawing new cards. For this your best cards are: Earthrise Hotel, John Masanori and Aaron Marrón. To a lesser degree Special Order is also good here.
Worth noting that a typical CI7 start is ICE HQ and play some operations/gain some money. If HQ is open and you have Siphon in hand, use it. If R&D is also ICEd, then don’t use Dirty Laundry/Temüjin there.
Rankings are: Great > Good > Okay > Mediocre > Poor
Hand 1 – Vamadeva, Aaron Marrón, Kati Jones, Earthrise Hotel, Dirty Laundry, Career Fair, Daily Casts, Account Siphon, Datasucker.
This hand is a bit weak on burst economy, but has enough to set up a second turn Account Siphon via Vamadeva, allowing for a huge burst. With Aaron down and maybe accessing an agenda first turn, that can keep you going long enough to install Earthrise and set yourself up for a better game.
Ideal Turn 1 Play: Install Aaron Marrón, Dirty Laundry R&D, Run HQ/R&D, Career Fair into Daily Casts.
Hand 2 – Employee Strike, Aaron Marrón, Dirty Laundry, Dirty Laundry, Special Order, Sure Gamble, Account Siphon, Femme Fatale, Medium.
Again the burst econ here isn’t great, however an early Medium is super important at applying pressure vs CI7, and you have a Special Order to ensure they can’t lock you out. Employee strike gives you some pressure to help give you time to set up the Siphon, or start digging with Medium.
Ideal Turn 1 Play: Sure Gamble, Install Aaron Marrón, Dirty Laundry R&D, Dirty Laundry R&D.
Hand 3 – Mongoose, Dirty Laundry, Temüjin Contract, Career Fair, Passport, Dirty Laundry, Daily Casts, Special Order, Temüjin Contract
The economic pressure against CI7 isn’t great here, but you have enough economy to last you most of the game, and a Special Order to stop their ICE keeping you out. However, it is worth noting that money doesn’t win you games here. You need accesses and pressure, and with this hand you’ll be wasting turns drawing pressure cards.
Ideal Turn 1 Play: Career Fair:Temüjin on to R&D, Dirty Laundry R&D, Run R&D, Run R&D. Discard Daily Casts.
Hand 4 – Temüjin Contract, Gordian Blade, Account Siphon, Legwork, Dirty Laundry, Sure Gamble, Special Order, Passport, Vamadeva
Temüjin Contract + Dirty Laundry gives you perfect burst econ to next turn Vamadeva + Account Siphon. Legwork is nice to save for a power turn or use early if you suspect agendas have been drawn.
Ideal Turn 1 Play: Temüjin Contract R&D, Run R&D, Dirty Laundry R&D, Play Sure Gamble. Discard Passport.
Hand 5 – Mongoose, Temüjin Contract, Career Fair, Paperclip, Aaron Marrón, Kati Jones, Dirty Laundry, Datasucker, Daily Casts
This hand looks pretty good with some strong early economy, but it is missing any cards that actively pressure the corp. Seeing Account Siphon, Employee Strike or a Medium would be ideal, and it also has no Special Order nor any draw cards. With this hand the Runner is going to be wasting a lot of their early game drawing cards instead of getting accesses.
Ideal Turn 1 Play: Career Fair Temüjin on R&D, Install Aaron Marrón, run R&D, Dirty Laundry R&D. Discard Kati Jones and Paperclip.
Hand 6 – Desperado, Security Testing, Daily Casts, Daily Casts, Gordian Blade, Paperclip, Temüjin Contract, John Masanori, Passport
The economy here is okay but not great, but the real problem is the lack of pressure cards. John Masanori is a weak saviour to draw but otherwise this hand has similar problems to Hand 5.
Ideal Turn 1 Play: Temüjin Contract R&D, run R&D, install John Masanori, run R&D. Discard Daily Casts, Discard Paperclip, Discard Passport.
Hand 7 – Employee Strike, Kati Jones, Temüjin Contract, Earthrise Hotel, Account Siphon, Special Order, Daily Casts, Gordian Blade, Mongoose
This hand has starting money, although not great, but also has a lot of different ways to apply pressure to the corp, and clicklessly setup in subsequent turns.
Ideal Turn 1 Play: Temüjin Contract R&D, run R&D, run R&D, Employee Strike. Discard Kati Jones, Discard Daily Casts.
Hand 8 – Special Order, Aaron Marrón, Desperado, Temüjin Contract, Dirty Laundry, Desperado, Temüjin Contract, Dirty Laundry, Employee Strike
This hand is close to being a mull because despite its huge money boost it is vulnerable to losing out on having to draw cards to apply pressure. Luckily it has one Employee Strike, giving it the option to apply some pressure while it digs for cards the hard way. Without Aaron Marrón also providing free draw this would definitely be a mull.
Ideal Turn 1 Play: Temüjin R&D, run R&D, Dirty Laundry R&D, Dirty Laundry R&D. Discard spare Desperado.
Hand 9 – Dirty Laundry, Security Testing, Mongoose, Sure Gamble, Daily Casts, Femme Fatale, Employee Strike, Career Fair, Temüjin Contract
Eerily similar to Hand 8, containing strong econ but only one Employee Strike. Unlike Hand 8 we don’t even have the Aaron for free draw.
Ideal Turn 1 Play: Career Fair: Temüjin Contract, Dirty Laundry R&D, run R&D, Employee Strike. Discard Security Testing.
Hand 10 – Datasucker, Special Order, Earthrise Hotel, Sure Gamble, Daily Casts, Legwork, Sure Gamble, Earthrise Hotel, Kati Jones
This hand has no pressure and no run based economy. You will spend your entire first turn making money just so you can set up some draw in the future.
Ideal Turn 1 Play: Sure Gamble, Sure Gamble, Earthrise Hotel, Daily Casts.
Andromeda’s quick setup is what makes her so powerful, and is why I think she has a good CI7 match-up despite not packing a lot of hate for dealing with it. Anyone who has experience with Andromeda knows that looking at these 10 hands that they are all above average for what you expect from her. Unfortunately due to CI7 based considerations we chose to Mull 50% of them. That said, nearly every mull in this article is playable and has a potential to win. A less aggressive player might choose to keep many of these hands. This is the downside of the 10 random hand format, which was also shown last article when HB had a set of 10 below average hands. I still think these analyses have value. Both sides of this match-up are extremely fast decks that want a lucky start to accelerate them into a strong position, and while most of the “Mull” hands here are above average for Andromeda it is worth noting exactly what is ideal for making this match-up heavily swing in the runner’s favour.
Thanks for reading guys.
Thanks to @clercqie, @thebigunit3000 and @karmaportrait for editing help, and of course to @hermit for putting in the hard work of turning my text ramblings into a beautiful looking article.