The tl;dr is that I won with a combination of anticipating the metagame perfectly, playing rock-solid strategy and tactics all day long, and getting very lucky a large handful of times.
I played such unoriginal spike decks that NRDB wouldn’t even let me publish one of them, as it’s card-for-card identical to @Calimsha‘s Hasselt list.
After taking 9th in cambridge, where there were more whizzards than criminals, I figured the meta would look pretty similar, only a little more stabilized. I expected some butchershop but not as much as before, a lot more astrobiotics, a lot of RP; a good handful of shapers, most of whom didn’t have a lot of practice playing clot correctly, no criminals whatsoever, and tons and tons of anarchs. So, I chose not to play bootcamp blue sun (its crim matchups being the most compelling reason to play the deck anymore), and slotted my Plascrete Carapace and Clot. For NEH, I played 2 Shipment from SanSan and 1 Cyberdex Virus Suite as anti-clot tech; Ichi 1.0 instead of 3rd Architect as a different type of sentry gear-check; and went up to 2x Tollbooth because I expected to have to play never-advance in a taxing remote to beat Kate.
I don’t really enjoy reading tournament reports that are just summaries of each game, but honestly, what I did to prepare was even less interesting, just jamming lots of games to practice my clot matchup as corp and my butchershop and RP matchups as runner, so this is what I got to offer.
Round 1: Foundry grail/twins and Valencia incubator combo
First game of the day puts me on a high note, as it’s the sort of game where the astro-train just gets a free win. I learn from an early Progenitor that he’s playing a Incubator/Medium mega-dig combo instead of the better (IMO) Desperado/reg-ass version, so I use jackson trying to either rush as fast as possible or find my CVS. It doesn’t really matter, as he takes forever to find his first incubator, and I win on a uncontested sansan. 1-0 as corp.
I have a pretty rough start with econ against his foundry. He Tech Startups for melange behind a Merlin, and I try to dirty laundry it with Cyber-Cypher, but forget that The Twins is a card. Suddenly faced with a lot more subroutines than expected, I have to go broke and lose my dirty laundry money to avoid flatlining. Fortunately, he’s only able to click melange every other turn, foundry is a lot poorer than ETF, parasite is good against grails, and voicepad makes kate good at bouncing back quickly and disrupting combo decks. 1-0 as runner.
Round 2: HB fa/glacier hybrid and Kate (with clot)
His kate has a really rough econ start, and the SMC for clot threat loses a lot of potency when you’ve only got 3 credits and no breaker to follow up with. I go for astro on sansan, having the option to protect with architect+jackson if he clots, but the clot is in his hand and I simply score. He goes broke to trash my sansan, and later loses his lady to ichi on a 3rd click makers eye. After that, the tempo loss to purge clot a few times is no big deal. 2-0 as corp.
I don’t remember much about this corp game, except that he was playing both a couple 5/3 fragments and at least one Director Haas. After getting an early fragment and 2-pointer, I saw the director on an indexing, and put her in the 5th position to come and get later. I somehow miscounted the cards and didn’t see her again with a makers eye, but got a beta test instead. 2-0 as runner.
Round 3: RP and Kate (with clot)
This kate player is a little better with his clot decisions, and manages to stay on top of the tempo game. After snagging 2 points out of HQ and 4 more with an RDI run, the game was next to impossible. Sometimes you can run kate out of clone chips by doing a play like install on sansan (forcing clot), biotic, purge clot, and next turn score, but this usually involves trading away an agenda in the remote, which doesn’t work on game point. 2-1 as corp.
This RP game I get a great start, managing to trash sundew/MHC/DBS, make money, and keep datasucker loaded with HQ runs at the same time. Games like this typically last a long time, where kate can burn down any remote ice and make RP jackson away their agendas, but kate can’t afford to pressure R&D or check archives at the same time. Midgame, he decides to put his 2nd tollbooth on HQ (the first one was on R&D), which slows down my sucker plan but breaks his econ. I slow-parasite the R&D booth (finishing it off by paying $8 through the HQ booth just to get a sucker token) and eventually win with a 4-point makers eye on a 5-card R&D. 3-0 as runner.
Round 4 vs Allen Wontroba: Butchershop and Reg-ass Maxx
I keep a hand of beale, pad, hedge, sweeps, one ice, planning to install-draw the pad, sweep, and ice R&D, but draw a NAPD and decide to put the beale naked instead so I don’t leave a 50% agenda HQ unprotected. He queens gambits the beale, I score it for 3 points, then later make a sansan protected with enigma and architect and score twice on it. Putting ice on sansan goes a long way. 3-1 as corp.
I don’t know which NEH he’s playing so I make some early HQ single-access runs, seeing a traffic accident, so I immediately move into butchershop mode: draw as much as possible for money, discard breakers instead of wasting clicks to install them, keep sucker full enough to insta-parasite data raven, check every remote, and try to set up a 4 point indexing->makers before the game becomes a race to 10 meat damage. However, SMC doesn’t show up until after he scores 2 astros; my indexing whiffs; and despite noticing from his discards (2 scorch 2 midseasons) that he abandoned the kill plan I fail to start playing more conservatively. Still afraid of BN->scorch->traffic, I overextend into a snare and lose my SOT that I should have just installed first. With levy already discarded I run out of multiaccess and clot recursion, and he slowly scores out. Major misplay counter: 1. 3-1 as runner.
Round 5 vs Rob Demeri (@robotussin): Turtlebacks astrobiotics and Scheherazade Hayley (with clot)
Turn 1 I go for the usual install-draw, sweeps, ice R&D, letting chance protect my astro in HQ, but apparently I hesitated for a fraction of a second with my ice placement, tipping him off to play his legwork immediately. My 25% dream of keeping my astro comes true. Better-lucky-than-good counter: 1.
I saw this Hayley deck in an earlier round making absurd amounts of money with the scheherazade/cache/pawnshop engine, but this game he doesn’t find scheherazade early enough, letting me use wraparound to force his SMC to check my remote. He’s too poor for lady, gets inti instead, pays to look at my sansan, and then I exploit that tempo to keep him out of R&D with eli. Gear checking is strong. I think clot shaper decks should prefer to smoothly set up as fast as possible even if it means not checking some remotes early on, waiting until the 3rd agenda to start clotting aggressively. 4-1 as corp.
I don’t remember much about this runner game except that using turtlebacks on turn 2 let me know for free that he wasn’t on butchershop. Careful play with #slottheclot wins. 4-1 as runner.
Round 6 vs Rob Brown (@Sheshonk): HB caprice glacier and Reg-ass Maxx
Rob is my main testing partner from Pittsburgh, and probably the second best regmax player I know next to Dan himself. He says since we can both take 1 more loss and make top 8 with X-3 records, it would be nice if we split. I say I’m not gonna lie, I’m hoping to sweep you, since next round will also be tough.
I start my NEH game with my 1-of ichi, knowing that even though he knows I’m playing it, it’s still a double gear check (or triple click) for regmax to get through. I put it on my remote and start with DBS behind it, which he trashes; then never-advance a beale behind it, which he lets me have; then put a mystery card there which stays for a while. Later on he parasites my ichi, collects some sucker tokens on archives, and runs it last click to kill it and hopefully imp what he thinks is sansan. Instead, it’s cyberdex suite. All 3 subroutines land, including the trace, which takes out his 9 credit kati jones. After that, pretty much any line of play wins. Better lucky than good counter: 2. 5-1 as corp.
Having played against his HB a lot, I know it’s more important to pressure his centrals than try to play the remote game, since even with cy-cy, paying 5 to pass tollbooth just to play psi is pretty unappealing. I let him keep his first adonis, instead SMCing for sucker and attacking HQ, planning to insta-parasite his remote tollbooth. This basically lets the game hinge on whether or not he can score a 5/3 before I can burn down his remote. Luckily, I find my legwork early and snag his pri-req the turn before he would have IAAed it. Closing out the game from there is much easier. 5-1 as runner.
Round 7 vs Alexander Smith: Butchershop and Whizzard
This round was streamed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3abO-cowVM#t=28184
He opens with the unconventional remote, ice remote, hedge play, leaving centrals open to rush astro. Without knowing whether it’s butchershop or astrobiotics, I can’t submit to the gear check on the remote without risking midseasons. Instead I use double dirty laundry to try to scope out his deck while keeping up on money at the same time, but instead of figuring out what deck he’s playing I simply score 4 points. Butchershop or not, NEH can’t come back from that when clot is involved. Better-lucky-than-good counter: 3. 6-1 as runner.
There’s some back-and-forth this game, making me need enough money to juggle scoring and defending from his medium threat at the same time. Midgame I have trouble finding a 2nd astro, flooding out a bit with NAPD+NAPD+beale. Based on his running patterns, I know I can keep a NAPD unadvanced in a remote with ice in front, but I can’t advance it at all without him coming to get it. So I plan to sansan my beale and then later use my astro token to never-advance the NAPD for the last 2 points. Alex tunnel-visions on R&D a bit, giving me a chance to get away with my never-advance NAPD plan, but medium is a good card and he wins on the last possible access. 5-2 as corp.
Elim round 1 vs Kenny (@SimonMoon): HB FA/rush
Kenny chooses to play corp against my kate, which seemed wrong to me, since he’s playing the FA/rush hybrid deck that Calimsha and I designed a while back, and I know its weaknesses. He goes for a 3-ice remote early, which makes me panic a bit, but instead of building tempo with an adonis, he starts by going to sansan a vitruvius. I definitely don’t clot it, since I want him to spend 6 on his sansan, in turn making him too broke to rez all 3 ice, making it way easier to get into the remote. Whoever makes the first move in this situation loses a LOT of tempo, way more than it’s worth to get 2 agenda points (when astroscript isn’t involved). I eventually win with makers eyes. 7-1 as runner.
Elim round 2 vs Niles Stanley (@hhooo): Astrobiotics
I win the flip for choice, which isn’t clear since I think I’m weakly favored against both his decks (not knowing if he’s butchershop or not). I ask the other winner’s bracket table if I get to know what they’re playing, and Dan says they’re both Maxx/RP. I’d much rather play NEH vs Maxx next round than Kate vs RP, so I choose Kate vs Niles’s NEH.
I get a pretty rough start without astrolabe, so I can’t afford the clicks to check HQ to scope out his deck. He confuses me at first by discarding both a fast track and a gutenberg, and making upwards of $20 off pad campaigns that I can’t afford to trash, and really start to worry when I see a data raven in R&D. Fortunately he eventually tips his hand with an architect (which I let fire, the mimic being in my hand, which you should never install against butchershop). I get into a weird situation where I can’t actually play my lucky finds, instead needing to spend at least 2 clicks each turn digging for clone chips and 1 to check remotes. Eventually it’s 5-4, and I accidentally let a SFSS’ed beale get through, which makes SFSS+breaking news a pretty big threat for running me out of clots, but I luckily win on my next maker’s eye. 8-1 as runner.
Winners finals vs Jonas (@thebigunit3000): Eater Maxx
This game was streamed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3abO-cowVM#t=38312
I didn’t know if this was reg-ass or eater-siphon, and took a pretty big gamble by not icing HQ turn 1. My opening ice was eli and tollbooth, and I wanted to get eli on R&D, and I knew if it was reg-maxx and I put my tollbooth on HQ I’d probably lose. Turn 1 he mills 2 liberateds and spends his turn playing a 3rd one, and for some reason I think that means it’s reg-ass and still leave HQ open. Finally he mills a Keyhole, tipping his hand, but can’t find a siphon until turn 5 or so, by which time I find eli+architect for my HQ to duck down to $0. If I got siphoned any earlier I probably lose. Better-lucky-than-good counter: 4.
The rest of the game is a long slog. I Fast Track for astro, with sansan on the board. The threat makes him spend a lot of time and clicks making really inefficient siphon plays to keep me below $8. I get really flooded during this time, but it doesn’t matter, since I have an iced jackson to make Wanton Destruction worthless. I have a beale+enigma play I want to make, but respect Retrieval Run + Femme Fatale enough to not go for it until he plays his levy. Eli, pop-up window, and all 3 jacksons available make the late-game keyhole threat way too slow, and I eventually win with the astro+sansan I’d been waiting a million turns to use. 6-2 as corp.
Finals 1 vs Dan (@mediohxcore): Reg-ass Maxx
These games were also streamed but the vids aren’t on youtube yet. I’ll post a link here when it shows up.
Another game where I underestimated the threat of medium. I made DBS behind architect on turn 2, and Dan thought he was clever by playing corroder and running last click to play around enigma. Unfortunately the best I could find was a beale, which I went for, mistakenly going too broke to rez my R&D eli. I also made the mistake here of architecting ichi onto my remote, instead of onto R&D, forgetting that he was an anarch who didn’t need to play into my remote game. Major misplay counter: 2.
Dan promptly activated his superpowers, milling his 1-of medium, deja vuing for it, and making 2 R&D runs to steal the astro that was sitting just too deep for architect to find. I clicked for 3 to rez my eli; he spent 3 clicks for another medium counter and 4 more points; and at that point a 2nd eli on R&D was only good enough to buy a slower death. 6-3 as corp.
Finals 2 vs Dan: RP
The position I was afraid of: a repeat of Rochester, where I made it to the top of the winner’s bracket only to get crushed twice in a row by an excellent anarch pilot who also knows how to beat Kate with RP. Before we started the game we were talking about how it all depends on how good Kate’s draw is. I’m dealt a hand of gamble, gamble, datasucker, SMC, clone chip, and could see the same slow, inevitable, no-astrolabe doom coming. Nevertheless, knowing psychological warfare combined with early datasucker was an important part of beating Dan, I confidently announced my keep, and grinned inside when he swore in response.
Dan opened with gift (showing chronos project), pup R&D, and I responded with install sucker, run HQ 3 times (missing the chronos). It’s a pretty unconventional start for Kate, who usually wants to draw madly out of the gates to find voicepad and/or astrolabe as soon as possible, but I figured a loaded sucker could keep him off balance and prevent him from rushing nisei behind tollbooth, whereas if I drew a bunch of cards, let him cover HQ, and didn’t find astrolabe, I would surely lose.
Midgame looked bad for me, involving 2 early sundews, me going nearly broke to make lady and trash the one in the smaller remote, him scoring nisei, me parasiting his remote tollbooth and again going nearly broke to trash ash+caprice, him jacksoning hard enough to find enough giraffes and hedges to stay afloat without sundew anymore, and me parasiting his R&D tollbooth. He soon finds his 2nd nisei, protecting his remote with Susanoo, which I can’t deal with at all, having discarded my atman and spent all my clone chips on parasite recursion. After he gets his 2nd nisei counter, I go for the indexing (through eli at this point), and my own Kate superpowers kick in here to make him think he doesn’t need to nisei token it.
The indexing is NAPD, TFP, crick, TFP, jackson, in that order. I run click 2 with my last lady counter, he nisei tokens, I install another lady click 3 and run again click 4, which he lets through, putting me to 4 points. He takes the TFP with DBS (leaving the other on top) jams it in his remote and puts ichi on R&D. Since I’m out of clone chips, the ichi means I only get 1 shot at the second TFP instead of 2 or 3. Again my Kate superpowers make him think he should save his last nisei token for next turn to protect his remote, and also to let me win the TFP psi game for the title.
Final count of various stuff:
9-1 as runner
6-3 as corp
5 games won with huge strokes of luck
2 games lost on misplays
3-2 on psi games as runner
2-1 against clot players with NEH
While clot takes way more skill to play with/against correctly than I originally thought, I still hate the card from a metagame balance perspective. Even though the corp meta is still pretty diverse, every corp deck now has some serious problems, and the runner meta is extremely skewed. Among the whole double elim bracket, there were 12 runner wins and 3 corp wins. That’s maybe partly a fluke, but I think it also speaks to major balance issues. Corp needs help, and they need a new non-glacier win condition that doesn’t have coin-toss matchups against hate cards.
As for astrobiotics, I still don’t actually know if CVS is a good way to combat clot. It’s certainly an option to biotic+agenda+CVS to make the final score against kate, but it’s an unlikely combo and also expensive. It was actually way more useful in my anarch matchups, and SFSS (or the mere threat of it) did most of the heavy lifting vs shaper. SFSS is also a really great card for being able to rez ice and score agendas on the same turn, providing huge tempo boosts that are worth more than raw credits, and next time I’d try to fit a 3rd copy.
Props: @Sheshonk for playtesting, and for driving and arranging the hotel; @Calimsha for playtesting and suggesting the Ichi secret tech; @jdeng for playtesting and for his Cambridge win; @Apreche for running a great stream; Redcap’s staff for great TOing; everyone who made top 8 for giving me an extremely hard run for my money; @crfluency for doing great with bootcamp glacier in a no-crim meta while I was too afraid to play it myself; Allen for being the only corp to beat my Kate superpowers all day; ANRPC for being awesome in general; and White Dog Cafe for a really great dinner the night before.