Submarine: verb. In a tournament using Swiss pairings, to sink to near the bottom of the standings in order to draw favourable matchups and / or avoid the best players for the rest of the tournament, then climb back to the upper echelon.
You can read Part 1 of my report here.
Worlds 2017: Day 2
My 8-4 Day 1 result was already my best Worlds performance to date, even with an asterisk, so I felt like I was playing with house money… until I saw my Day 2 Round 1 pairing. I was facing ff0x, fellow ONR player and longtime Worlds friend — four years, I think — for the first time in an ANR event. Worse, we agreed to be on CodeMarvelous’ stream! No pressure, right? None at all, that’s why you can see my hands shaking at the start of the video. I won’t recap the games since you can watch them here, but I have to mention that playmat. We rolled and I got to Corp first, which was huge for calming my nerves, since I could just play my game. But ff0x’s sleeves were blue, his cards were blue, and the playmat was a very busy mix of blue and blue. He was visibly on edge and off his game, which you can see on the stream when he trashes my Bankers despite a scored AR. I won, but I didn’t feel great about it. CodeMarvelous, you’ve got to get a calmer mat! The soothing, gentle gradients of the FFG mat make a good template for something like this, I think. ff0x was very encouraging, though, and was one of my biggest cheerleaders for the rest of the day.
In between the rounds, I had a brief chat with josh01, who convinced me that if I could sweep my final round, I’d be close to a lock to make the cut. I thought there would be a smaller chance I’d make it, since my strength of schedule was abysmal as a result of the inadvertent submarine ride I was on. But he told me about past large tournaments where every x-4 and the top x-5 made the cut, so I went into the next round well aware that a sweep would almost certainly put me in the Top 16.
In Round 2, I played against el-zilcho. I was somewhat relieved when we randomized sides and I saw I’d be running first, particularly against NEH. I was on Val, so the matchup seemed good, but additionally I knew that if I won game 1, I’d be able to play my more comfortable deck for the second game, which would hopefully help with the pressure. I suspected that el-zilcho’s Corp would be mordequai’s NEH LockShop build, but it turned out to be a pretty sweet custom brew. He almost immediately dunked my bad publicity with Elizabeth Mills, leaving me scrambling to make enough money to keep the Bankers, DBS, and Whampoa installs under control… but two well-timed Mining Accidents and a noticeable lack of Hard-Hitting News went a long way. I got a GFI from a double Raven remote, and got three points from somewhere else… either HQ or naked installs that I checked, I don’t remember. Maybe both. What I do remember is seeing an Executive Bootcamp with an Indexing in my hand, and deciding to leave it there to deal with later. He started putting bait behind the Ravens, but I’d played enough yellow to know there was no reason for me to check it until he was actually threatening to score out.
A few turns later, I Indexed and saw 5 points — great, I already had 5 points, game over! Oh, wait, I forgot about the Bootcamp. He cracked the Bootcamp for a Shannon Claire — sweet trick to keep a second shuffle effect on the board in case of another Indexing — but the top card was a Beale, so I won anyway. I was in a good position, being able to check R&D for one real credit, and I knew that R&D was very dense since I had control of HQ and most of the board… but the Bootcamp thing was still a huge blunder that would usually cost me a lot more than it did.
On to game two. This game was for all of the marbles, so I was very happy to be playing CtM. And surprise surprise, it was against another Misdirection Hayley. el-zilcho did get to 5 points, but tags are just unavoidable versus CtM. I Exchanged him a 15 Minutes for a GFI and then shuffled the 15 Minutes back into R&D, taking him from 5 points to 3 and taking a lot of the pressure off me. Tutor for Judge, install and rez Judge behind Tollbooth + Data Raven made him go tag-me, and a couple of turns after the tutor shuffle, he Indexed. I’d bottomed at least one agenda (a GFI) during that time with DBS, and at least two QPMs were still in the deck as well, so the live agendas were 15 Minutes, one GFI, and one Beale. Only one combination of steals would win the game from 3 points, but I was sweating bullets all the same — sometimes the low probability outcome is the one that happens! As it turned out, he whiffed, and I slow rolled from there, clearing out his Sacrificial Constructs and then letting double DBS draw me into the PsychoBeale closeout when he ended his turn on nine tags.
I made the Top 16 cut as the 14th seed, having gone 12-0 (with an asterisk) after my 0-4 start. The roving submarine was real!
Worlds 2017: Top 16
I was euphoric about making the cut, especially with my tournament life being on the line in every single round from 0-4 onward. So many people gave me fist bumps and congratulations, I think it’s impossible for me to remember everyone, but I’ll do my best in a big shout-out at the end of this report. I have to mention one thing, though. I think many of you know that mediohxcore almost couldn’t make it to Worlds due to a personal emergency, but at the last minute he was able to get a 4 AM flight on Day 1 and then play in the tournament. He was under incredible pressure, and even though we’d been talking near-monthly for over a year, I’d been giving him space at the tournament rather than pestering him for advice.
But when he saw I made the cut, he immediately came over and gave me a giant hug. He was even a little misty-eyed. To be honest, he looked like a proud parent when their kid graduates. He was clearly incredibly happy for me, for himself, and for everyone in the cut, and it was very infectious.
mediohxcore: I could never have gone on this run without all your help, so thank you again. For my money, you’re still the GOAT. Two wins plus third place in four tries is incredible.
My first match in the cut was streamed. I was pretty excited when I realized I was facing TugtetguT, who I’d played many times on jinteki.net on both my main and my smurf (yes, I have a smurf; no, I won’t reveal it). He looked at the deck lists and immediately saw that his Corp was a significant favourite against my Runner. I didn’t play optimally, but even with perfect play I think he was still very favoured to win the game, and he played it almost flawlessly — I expected nothing less from him, of course. We shared a handshake, and I wished him good luck for the rest of the tournament. I was sad to lose, but happy to see TugtetguT doing well! He’s an absolute killer player, and always polite on jinteki.net.
I did appreciate the shout-outs from the FFG commentators, Luke and Alex, both of whom pointed out that while they’ve both definitely beaten me, it doesn’t happen too often. Heh heh. They also both know that I go way back — in fact, at my first ever ANR meetup at the old FFG Event Center, Alex flatlined me with Dedicated Response Team out of Replicating Perfection. (And then Lukas Litzsinger himself crushed me with Kate, without letting on that he was THAT Lukas.)
Down to the lower bracket, where I got to Corp versus sirris on Misdirection Hayley. He was very legitimately tilted due to some stuff that had happened to him the round before, so I tried to be as polite as possible while still playing my (admittedly extremely annoying) game. I mulliganed into Beale / Beale / Resistor / Tech Startup and some other useless card — maybe a PAD — so I guess now is a good time to describe my philosophy of playing CtM, and especially Judge CtM.
mediohxcore described the CtM gameplan to me as working to create lose/lose forks for the Runner. I took that, played a million games with a dozen permutations of the deck, and turned it into my CtM mantra:
Be as annoying as possible for as long as possible until you win.
I accomplish that entirely through in-game actions, of course. My deck is plenty annoying without me being a jerk on top of it.
So given that hand, what’s the play?
Install Beale, ice it with Resistor, take a credit, pass.
Why? Because I literally do not care if he runs it or not. If he runs with SMC and gets (probably) Inti, that’s some money spent and an Inti that will be mostly useless. If he runs without SMC, I can let him pay the trace, which is also money spent for only modest gain. If he leaves it, either to Index or set up, I can score the Beale and have 2 points and 3 credits to potentially score the next Beale — without going so broke that I can’t rez a Bankers or PAD.
Basically, from that position, any of those outcomes are fine with me. In this case, sirris ran, got Inti, broke Resistor, and stole the agenda. I installed the second Beale, installed a PAD, and did something else. He made money and installed things, and I scored the other Beale. Over the following couple of turns, I grabbed a DBS with Tech Startup (note: there is no paid ability window between start of turn and Corp draw — thanks to tmoiynmwg for the correction) and drew HHN, so his next run was punished. He shook the tags (I don’t remember if he had Misdirection yet at this point), but on his next R&D run he saw a second HHN on top, which was immediately obvious from the look on his face. That HHN was absolutely backbreaking, and by the time he rebuilt, I had 6 points scored and Judge up in a nasty remote. He managed to trash it, but was so broke that the QPM I dropped in there shortly afterward went uncontested for the win.
In Round 3, I faced the Australian National Champion, firesa. I had to run versus his CI fast advance — a bit challenging since the Valencia deck I was on wasn’t known for its alacrity. My spidey senses suspected a flooded HQ, though, and between early runs and a Rebirth into Omar, I was able to get 4 points (including a Vitruvius!). He’d scored a Vitruvius pretty early, then a bit later got an MCA into a remote and clicked it up. With it on 3, he was able to click it up, trash, Biotic, and score Elective Upgrades from hand. firesa was only on 4 credits after that, which told me that the win — the last Vitruvius — was most likely in hand. I had 3 clicks, 2 bad publicity, some credits, an installed Daily Casts (2 credits left after trigger) and Black Orchestra. The HQ ice was Fairchild 2.0. Archives was locked up by a rezzed Vanilla; I had neither Paperclip nor Aumakua.
What’s the line?
First, here’s what I did, which wasn’t quite right: make some credits (Gamble, I think?), run HQ (whiff), Mad Dash HQ (whiff).
The real line is: Mad Dash HQ first click, paying $2 (plus 2 bad pub) and eating a brain. If that whiffs, run again, trashing Casts, paying 2 bad pub, and eating another brain; then run again (trashing Orchestra if needed), regardless of whether the second click run whiffed or hit.
After the whiffs, firesa showed me his hand: Reversed Accounts, two other non-agenda cards, four 4/2s, and Vitriuvius. The ideal line line was 75.9% to win outright and 79.7% to not lose that turn (either by winning, or by stealing the last Vit so the Corp couldn’t score out the following turn, giving me a few more accesses). Points to kevo for doing the math; I’d initially guessed the odds at around 80%, but my first pass on working it out had an extra term floating around in the calculations, and was too high.
I was out, but I felt fantastic. I figured that if a low probability outcome was what it took to eliminate me from the cut at the World Championship, I must be a pretty good player! Later, though, I found out that if I had won, I would have gotten to face off against my longtime Worlds friend and fellow tall human vinegarymink, on stream no less, which would have been absolutely fantastic — win or lose. Then I felt a tinge of sadness, but it couldn’t even begin to overshadow how happy I was with what I’d accomplished.
Time for a brief anecdote: The owner of the store where I won my first Store Championship runs the Minnesota Netrunners Facebook group. When he saw I’d made the cut, he posted the final Swiss standings and said that he’d be cheering for me in the cut, which I really appreciated! Later on, I posted my finish in that thread. That post received exactly one like: Lukas Litzsinger. Lukas has been supportive and encouraging to me ever since he crushed me the first time we met, after which he asked me what my favourite promo was and then gave me a playset (Scorched Earth, RIP). He was incredibly kind when I excitedly told him about the time I swept Lucas Li at King of Servers, and so many other times when I just wanted to talk about the game, play a little ONR, or shoot the breeze at FFG.
So when I say this community is incredible, that absolutely extends to the current and former FFG folks who are or have been involved with the game. Thank you, all.
To sum up for those keeping score, I started 0-4 and sunk as low as table 112 before going on a 12-0 run — yes, with a little help — to make it all the way to the 14th seed of Swiss at the World Championship. From there, I managed to win a game in the cut and climb higher than my Swiss seed:
I finished the 2017 Android: Netrunner World Championship in 11th place.
From Good to Great
Three years ago, I couldn’t make the cut to top 4 at my local Store Championships; now I’ve made the cut at the biggest event on the Netrunner calendar. Yes, it took a submarine ride to get me there; yes, I was the only player in the cut with strength of schedule below 3.0 (it was 2.91); yes, I dodged the strongest players at the event thanks to the submarine, at one point sitting next to cerberus and vinegarymink facing off, and being grateful I wasn’t playing either of them. More than once during my submarine climb, I looked around and saw amazing players nearby, and was glad I’d dodged them and was facing mostly people I didn’t know. But I made the cut at the World Championship. It takes skill, endurance, and luck to make it, and this past weekend, I had all three.
There’s also a chance that this was the deepest submarine dive in the history of the game. I know that d1en came back from an 0-2 start last year to take third, which was an incredible run that I joyfully spectated. I also know that at the 2015 MN Regional, I got paired with theBigBoy in Round 3 when we were both 1-3, and he swept me before going 9-1 the rest of the day and making it into the cut. Then there’s eric_c’s deep submarine dive at Origins 2016. I’m sure there have been other incredible stories as well. But I have to admit, I’m somewhat tickled by the possibility that my submarine has charted the furthest depths. Ha!
Any lingering doubts I had about my ability as a player are well and truly gone now. I may not be able to catch a 4 AM flight to a tournament after not playing for 2+ weeks, pick up a couple of decks, and finish third… but I’m not the GOAT. I do know that when I’ve gotten my reps in, have decks that work for me, have supportive friends, and have some good luck, I can compete at the very highest level in this game. I’m not really sure how that happened, but it did, and I’m incredibly happy about it.
Lastly, I have a lot more people to thank than I’ve mentioned so far. Everyone on this list, and many who aren’t on it, helped me with support, encouragement, or advice during the Worlds long weekend.
aandries, bblum, BizTheDad, cranked, crfluency, d1en, dashakan, divadus, dragoonkin, eric_c, evilgaz, ff0x, fictional, fiorillo.sj, gh0st_b1rd, guv_bubbs, highwire, inniscor, johnpav, josh01, kalennoreth, kevintame, kevo, kysra, leburgan, mediohxcore, miek, mikeJS, netjogging, orbital_tangent, paranoid, sirris, spags, stephene, theBigBoy, tmoiynmwg, TugtetguT, vinegarymink
And thanks to the many others who gave me nods or brief words of encouragement.
The great thing about this community is that all of these people — and more! — would happily have given me support and encouragement whether I was winning or losing. Many gave me both of those things in both situations, and have done so many times in the past as well. What makes this game incredible is the community it has attracted, and that’s why we all work so hard to try and foster some sense of community togetherness, inclusiveness, and encouragement. I’m very proud and privileged to be part of this group, and I know we have a lot of fun times ahead of us.
For my own part, I think my journey of self-doubt and self-discovery in this game is finally complete. Now, I can just play. And if you sit down across from me, well…