Today’s post is another post from the well known tournament player Orange Devil, continuing with the second game of the Nordic Championship Finals.
This is the second part of my analysis of the Nordic Championship finals. The first part can be found here: Game 1. I recommend you watch along while reading this article. You can find the video of the game starting at 02:59:30 here:
This game features Kit running on HB Engineering the Future with Kit needing only 4 points to win.
Kit decks can go in multiple different directions, but what is clear is that the major strengths of her faction are R&D pressure and/or lock as well as a very strong lategame allowing the locking down of remotes through superior economy. Lastly program recursion and tutoring and the relative safety from program destruction this brings is one of Shaper’s main assets Kit’s ability is generally used in one of 3 ways: we can see Yog plus Datasuckers to sustain cheap early aggression, ideally transitioning into a relatively early R&D lock. Alternatively we could see Gordian Blade to save MU and influence and make the most out of the synergy between Kit’s ability and Gordian’s retained strength while being unrestrained by the influence and MU costs of Yog and Datasuckers, as well as the necessity to get suckertokens. Lastly we could see Cyber-Cypher to cheaply put extreme pressure on target servers.
We can expect Kit to be running R&D Interface and/or Maker’s Eye, with Indexing much less likely due to the anti-synergy with her ability. Out of these options RDI is most likely due to the ability to gain R&D lock. Seeing Corroder should also not be surprising, although Kit may save her limited influence and go for Snowball or Battering Ram instead. Femme is near guaranteed however, as making even more ice near useless is great for Kit. We may also see a single copy of Faerie making an appearance, as Shapers can get a lot of use out of it with their tutoring and recursion suite. A single Deus X is likely to feature for similar reasons, and could be a real problem if HB relies on Heimdall 1.0 or 2.0. The choice of either Magnum Opus or Professional Contacts (likely with Aesops) economy will be an important one as it heavily influences the capabilities of the deck and tips its hand as to what suite it is running due to the MU investment or lack thereof. Given the strength of Kit’s ability in the early game, Personal Workshop is less likely, and thus Modded more. Other threat cards to look out for include Escher and Tinkering. Depending on the decktype we may see Salvage doing work as well. Lastly, though less likely out of Kit the corp should always be aware of Atman versus Shapers, and thus avoid same strength ice on servers where possible.
Haas Bioroid: Engineering the Future is an extremely solid ID in a solid faction with many capabilities. Its economic ability can be leveraged to run a rush archetype, featuring a variety of cheap non-bioroid end the run ice of all 3 types and potentially Chimera as well. This may be combined with Grim, Ichi 1.0 or Aggressive Secretary for a reset of the gear check. These decks are likely to feature some fast advance capability as a backup and a way to close out the game. We may see one big remote, with varying amounts of fast advance (the big question being, Sansan, yes or no?). This decktype is more likely to run big ice, bioroids and asset economy. Splashes may well include Tollbooth and Archer. Lastly and least likely we may see a vertical HB using a great number of assets and potentially even Encryption Protocol to gain a massive economic advantage and then using that advantage through massive ice, Sansan, Biotic Labour and Ash to push 3-pointers through.
Threats we are in general most likely to see regardless of decktype include Ash, Rototurret, Biotic Labour, at least a single Grim and Sansan. Likely other splashes include Jackson Howard and Ice Wall with Neural Katana always deserving a mention in HB. This is because the native possibility of Rototurret encourages runners to run as long as possible without installing programs, which Neural Katana can punish brutally. Kit’s ability can insulate the runner from this, however. Agenda composition is almost guaranteed to feature 3x Accelerated Beta Test and 2x Gila Hands Arcology. 3x Project Vitruvius is similarly expected, although there has been an increasing tendency to go to Efficiency Committee instead. A rush deck can make good use out of Executive Retreat for its 3-pointer, while Priority Requisition works with big ice. We may also simply not see 3 pointers, and Director Haas may feature in a fast advance deck.
Both players keep their first hand, which indicates at least decent to great hands for both players.
Corp Turn 1
The corp begins with an unusual first turn, icing HQ and double icing R&D, leaving him with 5 credits. This may simply be due to the corp being nervous about losing if he loses 4 points, but it may also indicate that the corp had a hand filled with very cheap ice and no agendas or money cards. It is important to note that you do want to put your Code Gates on the outside of servers against Kit to protect your other ice from her ability, so that may be what is going on here. Alternatively, the corp has installed a big ice on the inside of R&D with a small end the run outside of it to protect it during the early game. Then later on the big ice can be sprung to maximum effect, as having unrezzed big ice on the inside of developed server is infinitely preferable to putting it on the outside. The inside ice may similarly also be a Rototurret. A last option is that one or both of these ice are Popup Windows.
Runner Turn 1
The runner chooses to play Professional Contacts and use it first, perhaps fearing Neural Katana if he runs first, or possibly simply having decided he wants to draw and thus getting maximum benefits. The trade-off here is that the runner is now in a much worse position if he follows up by running into a bioroid, tracing ice or Popup Window, although especially tracing ice is rare out of HB. He should probably not run this turn, and ideally had a plan what to do with the next 2 clicks before he even played the Contacts. He chooses to draw using Contacts (henceforth: draw) again and Mods out an RDI, leaving him on 1 credit and 4 cards. No big surprises here, although the opening is really passive and does not leave him in the position to start seriously pressuring for a couple of turns. On the other hand a very early R&D lock has become a possibility.
Corp Turn 2
The corp takes 3 credits, affirming that he has no money cards in hand but otherwise entirely predictable given his rather aggressive opening. Given ETF’s ability and that it is extremely unlikely that Kit would run Bank Job, he could have started building a remote if he had the cards for it this turn, especially due to Kit’s temporarily anemic economy, thus implying that he did not have the cards for it or preferred to keep them in hand to dilute an agenda.
Runner Turn 2
Four straight draws followed by three discards. This may suggest the runner is looking for something, with economy or breakers being the leading options, but may also simply be a way for the runner to get to 5 credits to enable him to play Sure Gamble next turn while further strengthening his hand. He may just have gotten some duplicate breakers, Plascrete’s or another RDI which he doesn’t need right now. His opening is passive in terms of pressure on the corp, and given the limitations on Kit’s ability this can come back to bite him if the corp makes an agenda play next turn, as Kit cannot run R&D first to force the corp to spend money and then still have her ability to actually break into the remote. Instead, such economic pressure needs to be applied before the corp makes an agenda play. Conversely, Kit is very aggressively building up her economy and hand, and thus her range of potential board position and potential threats to the corp. This non-commital to actual threats can be very tough for the corp to play against.
I am unfortunately not able to quite make out the discards, but they appear to include and RDI and at least 1 Atman, which is surprising coming out of Kit. In Kit, Atman is likely to be a support breaker rather than the main focus, and clearly the runner has decided he does not need them, at least right now, retaining the ability to Clone Chip it back for support later. This may imply Yog plus Datasuckers, although given the MU requirements of Atman and Yog and suckers it is by no means guaranteed. At any rate, the corp would be wise to take a moment and consider the information the runner has just given him in the form of these three discards.
Corp Turn 3
The corp Biotic Labours through a Project Vitruvius. Unless the corp is dedicating himself to playing without remotes and all-in on fast advance, this is a little questionable. This move has left him with only 2 credits. Unless there are Ice Walls or Popups out, he is unlikely to be able to rez much and defend his centrals. This means he is either taking a big risk or there are no other agendas in HQ. He basically has to have either a Popup or Ice Wall on R&D or else he just gave Kit at least 2 card accesses for free. It may have been a panic move due to being under a lot of pressure playing corp from behind in the finals, in which case it was unfortunate that he did not at least get an Accelerated Beta Test or Gila Hands instead. It is important to note for the runner that once the Corp reaches 4 credits Archer becomes a possibility.
Runner Turn 3
The runner plays a Datasucker. This heavily suggests his rig is composed primarily of Yog, Datasuckers and Atman. There might be a Femme, but Faerie, other Sentry breakers and Fracters in general have become less likely. Icing archives should now be a clear priority for the corp, as should building up varied ice strength on centrals and wiping viruses.
The runner runs HQ and grabs a Gila Hands Arcology. This suggests the corp was feeling clogged on agendas and low on ice and wanted to just get rid of as many AP as possible. However, scoring the Gila Hands instead likely would have given him a better chance at winning the game due to its ability. On the other hand, in that case the runner would likely be at 2 AP right now, rather than 1.
The runner next runs R&D into an unsurprising Popup Window followed by no rez into double accesses resulting in no score. Fast advancing that Vitruvius and losing the ability to rez ice has moved from a questionable decision to a clear mistake.
For his last click the runner runs HQ again seeing an Ichi 1.0. The runner now knows 2 of the 3 cards that will be in the corp’s HQ, as well as the card on top of R&D. This information advantage is hard to express in terms of clicks or credits, but still quite valuable. The runner is left with 3 credits, 4 cards and 3 tokens on Datasucker.
Corp Turn 4
The corp doesn’t have a lot of options here on account of being poor and thus gains 3 credits.
Runner Turn 4
The runner begins by drawing thrice and making a Dirty Laundry run into archives. He discards another Atman, leaving him at 5 cards, 9 credits and 4 Datasucker tokens. His aggressive drawing combined with Professional Contacts is successfully powering his deck against the economically weakened corporation and given cards like Clone Chip he has hardly lost any options. It is hard to imagine his hand isn’t full of threats and answers at this point.
Corp Turn 5
The corp is virtually forced to play the slow and steady building up of centrals game we often see against early aggression runners. It is important to note that prior to the Biotic Laboured Vitruvius the corp was in a strong position to give the runner a hard time with his centrals, provided his face down ice is actually small to mid cost end the run ice, and not big and/or program destroying ice that hasn’t really turned on yet. The corp ices archives and takes 2 credits, going up to 9.
Runner Turn 5
The runner draws another card and then plays a Diesel. This can imply that he is still searching for something or that he simply doesn’t mind a flood of cards as he has duplicates or other cards he’d like to dump like Plascrete. Alternatively he has a Modded and is looking for the best possible target for it. He then installs his last RDI with Modded and draws 1 more card. A small mistake, as there is no reason not to draw first and given that drawing first is always better. The runner is left with 5 cards, 10 credits and 4 tokens.
He then discards a Dirty Laundry, suggesting he either has more economy in hand, is comfortable with his current bank or doesn’t have the capability to land it yet. He also discards an Infiltration, which strongly suggests he has another one in hand. Alternatively, he doesn’t believe he’s going to need it anytime soon and will draw another before he does. Discarding Infiltration is interesting economically though, as it heavily implies there is more economy in hand or he expects to draw it soon with Contacts and thus he doesn’t need the 2 credits for a click from Infiltration. However, he might also be foregoing those credits because drawing is that much more important to him right now, suggesting that he’s been frantically searching for a non-Atman breaker or a Clone Chip these last turns. Given that Kit’s ability hasn’t come into play yet and the usage of 2 Modded to get RDIs into play that didn’t really have much expected value for quite a number of turns to come at the time they were played further supports this. All in all, had the corp maintained a decent bank and attempted to score his agendas without fast advancing, this could well have been a very poor start for the runner.
Corp Turn 6
If there was indeed a window where the runner just didn’t have the breakers he wanted or needed, it may still be open, although it is very unlikely to be so for more than another turn at most. That said, forcing out a breaker to turn on the Ichi’s and Rototurret is a good idea in general, and being too passive here is inviting defeat by R&D lock at this point.
The corp ices R&D and take 2 credits for a net gain of 1, leaving him with 10.
Runner Turn 6
At this point the corp kinda has to hope the runner has his sights set on R&D and not just finds a way in, but spends too many resources getting that entry, then gets unlucky and doesn’t score at all off of the accesses, leaving himself broke and unable to respond to a remote play. Ideally this can then be followed up by a fast advanced 2-pointer to close out the game. It’s a long-shot, but probably the corp’s best option, and thus the runner should take care to maintain a good bank at all times, even if it means foregoing R&D lock for another turn or 2. It goes without saying that the runner should gain the capability to get into servers as soon as possible.
The runner draws twice, then plays Dinosaurus followed by Yog. The runner may have thus had Yog in hand already for a while, but instead of putting pressure with it right away went with the somewhat greedier but stronger long term play of getting Dinosaurus first. The corp’s passivity allowed him to easily get away with this, and the ability of the corp to gain an economic advantage at any point in this game is now greatly diminished. The runner is left with 5 cards, 4 tokens and 2 credits. Not having seen any Sure Gambles yet by this point is rather unfortunate, although the only other money cards we’ve seen have been Professional Contacts and Infiltration. If this deck is really running that low on economy a start without Contacts may well turn into a disaster, even with how cheap runs get for this deck.
Corp Turn 7
Unless the runner is happy to wear himself out on R&D and does not get any agenda hits there, this will likely be the last opportunity for the corp to leverage his economy into a solid remote play.
Instead the corp plays another ice on R&D and takes 2 credits, to be left with 10 again. The corp appears primarily focused on not losing through R&D lock, rather than winning the game. Nonetheless, as this game goes longer, R&D lock becomes an inevitability and its all about what the corp does with the time he has until then.
Note that if the corp had scored Gila over Vitruvius and done everything else identically, he’d be on 14 credits at this point. Lastly, it is possible that the corp simply hasn’t drawn any further agendas and does not make a remote play for that reason. However, note that if he had not used Biotic Labour when he did, he’d be much less likely to have lost an agenda from HQ, provided the ice on HQ is not a pure bluff, and thus would have had the opportunity to make remote plays somewhere in the last 3 to 4 turns.
Runner Turn 7
The runner once again begins by drawing twice, followed by playing his last Atman at strength 0, likely to protect from Rototurret while working very well with the 4 tokens he has on his Datasucker and which his Yog is unlikely to need. Note that he is still vulnerable to a Grim or Archer, so long as it isn’t the first ice he encounters in a turn. He runs HQ to see a Sansan and then discards Diesel, leaving him with 5 tokens, 5 cards and a single credit.
Speaking of that Sansan, it really should have been played already. Given that the runner prior to this turn simply wasn’t safe to either Roto, Archer or Grim, and still isn’t safe to the latter two so long as they aren’t the first ice encountered and given that there is an ice on the inside of R&D which the runner knows is very unlikely to cost 3 credits or less, R&D was relatively safe even before these 2 new ice went down on it. Especially given the runners relatively dominant board state and need for only 4 points, it is unlikely he would have risked an Archer or Grim ruining his rig at this point. Thus, instead of icing R&D more, playing the Sansan, even or especially with no ice in front of it would have put a threat on the board that the runner likely would be eager to answer, slowing down his game.
Especially if the corp did not have agendas in hand, or at least agendas he could fast advance off of just a Sansan, playing it naked would invite a run, as the runner cannot afford you sneaking a naked Beta Test by and Testing into the nuts. Back when the runner had a bunch of money, he likely would have straight trashed it, delaying the Dinosaurus plus Yog play greatly and giving the corp more time before the R&D lock goes into effect to make plays. Especially with cards like Archived Memories or simply drawing into another Sansan or even an Ash, the corp could have occupied the runners clicks and traded upgrades for runner economy while using his own ability to not slow down his own economy at all. Jackson Howard and Archived Memories could then later be used to recur those upgrades and thus minimizing the corp’s loss in this exchange. Conversely, had the runner not trashed Sansan it could then either be used to score another agenda and at that point pretty much forcing him to run it again and trash it, or if the corp did not have the right agenda ready, iced up and basically also demanded a reaction by the runner, with the bonus that this would have finally forced the runner to commit to playing a breaker, thus turning on a significant chunk of the corp’s ice, or at least potential ice. All in all, given what we now know about the corp’s deck and draws, he could have easily played a much stronger and threatening opening had he not kneecapped himself economically with the Biotic Labour on turn 3.
Corp Turn 8.
Given that the runner saw the Sansan anyway and likely will want to remove such a threat from the board as soon as possible, and that R&D is still mostly safe given that the runner has only 5 tokens and 1 credit, playing the Sansan, even naked, right now is not a bad idea and, if the right agenda is in hand, will virtually guarantee a score. A naked Sansan further wastes a runner click as he really should go and check it just in case you got cute and are trying to sneak an agenda through.
The corp decides to wipe viruses. While it makes his ice much better and thus R&D safer and the Sansan easier to protect, it also gives the runner the time he needs to get the funds together to actually trash the Sansan. That said, a strong corp play next turn focused on that Sansan may well give the corp the momentum he needs to score 3 points, at which point he is 6 credits and a Biotic Labour plus 2-pointer in hand away from winning.
Runner Turn 8
It’s all about economy now, and unless he managed to fit an Imp in that deck somehow he needs to get as big a bank as fast as possible, while also rebuilding his Datasucker tokens. He can only gain 1 token safely per turn as this stand however, and HQ is by far the best place to do this. However, running into some annoying ice right now could slow him down too much.
He runs HQ and sees Sansan. Unless the ice on HQ is a Code Gate, not rezzing it is becoming more than a little questionable at this point. The next click shows why, as the runner runs HQ again and gets to see another card he otherwise likely could not have. This time we see Trick of Light. This gives us a firm read on the corp archetype. This is a hardcore fast advance deck which does not want to build a remote at all. The turn 3 play did point in that direction, but was so costly that it also could have simply been a mistake. Knowing what we know now, I still think the turn 3 Biotic Labour was a mistake that could have better waited a while, and given how credit hungry fast advance is, Gila Hands could have really done some serious work. It is also important to note that no ice has yet been advanced, and thus Trick of Light is not turned on. This may have been a deliberate choice, as advancing ice out of HB is a clear indication of Trick of Light, which given the rest of his play would have been a big tipoff towards pure fast advance. If there are no advancable cards on the table yet, however, this is a big problem for the corp.
The next 2 clicks the runner runs HQ twice more, seeing Sansan and Trick of Light. This creates a very interesting situation because the runner can only be sure he knows 2 of the corp’s cards. Due to him still having only 1 credit and 4 datasucker tokens he’s not in a position to either contest a Sansan going down or pressuring R&D. This means that if the Sansan does go down, he should check it (to make sure it’s not a sneaky agenda) and then run hand 3 more times to attempt to snipe the likely agenda hiding in there. For the corp this means that if there is not, in fact, an agenda in hand, the current situation he is in is amazing, as he is wasting a ton of runner clicks at no risk. If there is an agenda however, he is unlikely to be able to get rid of it and quite likely to have it sniped. Icing HQ would likely protect the agenda, but also be a big giveaway, slow down the corp and not really bringing him closer to scoring, thus giving the runner the time he needs to recover his economy. It seems the runner over committed with the Dinosaurus plus Yog when he did, and dug himself an economic hole with that play he is now stuck in.
Corp Turn 9
The corp dumps the HQ ice and replaces it with 2 new ones and takes a credit. This implies heavily that the original ice was a now useless Code Gate. The corp also keeps the Sansan in hand rather than playing it out when it is pretty safe and would almost guarantee waste a runner click, which further hints that there is an agenda in hand and potentially even that the ice on HQ might not keep the runner out completely. Playing the Sansan in that case would have given the runner a rather good chance to grab the agenda. The corp is left with 11 credits.
Runner Turn 9
Given that the Sansan is not down yet, there really isn’t any need to keep up the aggression, and switching gears into getting our economy back on track seems preferable. Running HQ is also risky due to Grim. We can discount Archer due to knowing that the corp spend influence on Sansan, Trick of Light, Popup Window and very likely Ice Wall. In fact, given those cards we would expect 2x Sansan, 2x Trick of Light, 3x Popup and 3x Ice wall, which would put the corp at 18 influence. Options to explain this include the corp only having a single Sansan, due to Trick of Light and Ice Wall going together, or only 1 Popup and 2 Ice Wall, which would be rather odd, or no Ice Walls at all and instead using Aggressive Secretary to store advancement tokens on. This would be a little questionable given that there’d be no ice to protect it and Shapers program recursion is a big thing. Plus you’d have to advance the Secretary more than 2 if you wanted it to keep protecting itself after using a Trick of Light on it. Either way, Archer, or any other out of faction shenanigans, seems right out at this point.
The runner runs HQ first click, which seems to be a massive unnecessary risk, and his Popup first, followed by jacking out. It appears the runner attempted to make the corp spend some money on a rez but was aware that the 2nd ice could be really dangerous. At least we gained some info on influence expenditure, and 1 Sansan, 3 Popup, 2 Trick of Light and 3 Ice Wall now seems most likely, likely with Archived Memories for recursion of fast advance capability and if there are 3-pointers in the deck they are likely not intended to be scored.
The runner then draws twice and plays an Infiltration for money, which is alright given that they are of much more limited value against this type of deck anyway. He’d have to use them against ice, which can be useful if you are scared of a particular ice but can get big gains if it is not actually there, but given that if he managed to just get his economy in order he can take any ice this is fine. That said, his apparent lack of economy, either in the deck or due to a poor economy draw, is really hurting him right now. He discards his last Modded, which seems fine given that the only cards he likely still wants to play that would significantly benefit from Modded, his Atmans, are in his heap and will thus be Clone Chipped.
Corp Turn 10
The corp wipes viruses once again. He appears to feel good about his ability to keep the sucker tokens off the board right now and reckons correctly that the tempo hit would really hurt the runner. He really needs to start developing his own board towards being able to use that Sansan and Trick of Light these next turns, however.
Runner Turn 10
Thee draws into a 4th click archives run, which is ok given Kit’s ability and the Yogosaurus. That said, doing it on click 1 would put pressure on the corp to rez that ice and prevent repeat runs over the course of the turn, which might be preferable. We see that the ice on HQ was an Engima, unsurprisingly. The runner is left with 8 credits, 2 tokens and 5 cards after discarding Plascrete, Escher and Inside Job.
Plascrete is an expected discard, Escher could have really helped wreck the corp and set up an R&D lock, especially if a couple more rezzes could be forced, and Inside Job really would not have been a bad card to help put pressure on R&D, given the triple RDI, and force a lot of rezzes there. That said, Inside Job is curious in Kit, as it anti-combos with her ability and is very influence expensive in an ID tight on influence. Tinkering, which we haven’t seen yet, generally works much better for Kit, although it does nothing for Atman. Possibly this Kit deck uses Atman and Inside Job to put early pressure, and only uses Yog plus Dinosaurus plus Kit’s ability in the lategame to primarily economic effect. I am not convinced that this is the best use of Kit’s ability and can’t help but wonder if a similar deck out of Kate would not be better.
Corp Turn 11
The corp Biotic Labours an Accelerated Beta Test, choosing not to use it, unsurprising given the board state. The corp is left with 5 credits. This move was again a little questionable, as playing the Sansan first would have forced a runner response and likely would have set the runner economy back significantly while allowing us to build up an even bigger bank. Furthermore, given this hit to the runner economy it is unlikely he would have been able to do anything elsewhere, leaving us free to make this Biotic Labour play next turn and be left with 8 credits and a poorer runner afterwards, which is much more threatening to the runner.
Runner Turn 11
We really need to establish R&D lock and should be very much regretting that tossed Inside Job and Escher by now.
The runner runs R&D, leading to no rezzes before the Popup and revealing an Ichi 1.0 behind it. The runner should be more than happy to break this with clicks and does so, leaving the trace 1 subroutine up for the now nearly broke corp. The trace stays at 1 and is easily matched, leading to the accessing of 3 cards from R&D and the scoring of a Director Haas’ Pet Project and a Project Vitruvius for the win going to Kit.
Given that dedicated no-server fast advance is likely to give up some points, especially to multiple R&D accesses even when it wins, and given that Kit only needed 4 points, and given that big R&D attack is the primary weakness of this type of corp deck in any case, the corp never stood much of a chance of winning this game. That said, the decision to Biotic on turn 3 was really cavalier, and allowed the runner to score a point, gain control of the game and set up without any chance for the corp to pressure. Similarly, continuously not putting the Sansan out to at least pressure the runner economically gave the runner all the room he needed.
The main lesson from this game ought to be that you should always consider where your bank will be after your big play, and if it is not in a good place, whether you can afford to postpone the big play to gain some more money first instead. Hand in hand with that goes putting economic pressure on the opposing player, through forcing them to waste clicks making runs to keep you honest or credits to trash threatening assets or upgrades or rez ice. Lastly and most elementary, make sure your deck is packing enough money generating cards. Kit may have just gotten really unlucky this game, but imagine her playing this same game minus the 1 copy of Professional Contacts she drew. Or perhaps an NBN which could use a Breaking News to trash it early on. It would have been very, very painful.
In conclusion, I feel that we have seen some interesting decks and play out of both players this finals and that the player that played best won. I wish him good luck at Worlds, and who knows, maybe I’ll analyze his play at the final table there, too.