Last weekend, Uncle’s Games in Bellevue, Washington hosted a Store Championship tournament (on 3.15.2014). About a week before the event, the organizers posted on the local Facebook group asking if the community would like the event to be a draft instead of a regular constructed tournament. Through some debate and distributor finagling, they decided to go through with it.
Without a car to get there, I had been hesitating to make the trip to the East Side for yet another Store Championship. When they finally pulled the trigger, I was ecstatic. I’ve done a couple drafts with friends with a cube, and they were always amazingly fun. The decisions you have to make for which cards to use are so much heavier than in constructed both because you are making those decisions on the fly and because the card pool is hand picked rather than the being the full game. Then trying to build a deck with the cards you’ve picked out feels like a grand puzzle and just opens up the game to so many more archetypes that have chances to be successful.
So first of all, many thanks to the Uncle’s staff and players who made this possible, particularly Patrick Day, Kody Christoffer, and Neil Schmidt. And many thanks to the Seattle Netrunner community as a whole for debating and eventually supporting this event enough that the decision could be made. Without all of you who I have and have not met, this event would have just been another constructed tournament and we wouldn’t have had so much fun.
And without further ado, onto the happenings! I apologize in advance for any holes and slight mistakes; I brought pencil and paper to take notes but was too busy to actually do so. I’m writing this all from memory, but I’ll try not to make any incorrect claims.
The tournament format was as follows: a round of drafting (corp then runner), three rounds of swiss within pods, then a second round of drafting for the top eight players from the first draft, followed by a seeded single elimination bracket.
The first round of drafting was heavily directed. I’m used to drafting casually without time limits where the person waiting for you to pass him/her cards glares at you until you make a pick, which is usually enough pressure to make timely decisions. At first I was nervous about having to choose quickly, but a minute and a half ended up being more than enough time for me, and the organizers would start the next pick early if everybody at the pod finished picking early. Overall it went very smoothly until we noticed that some of the card packs had the wrong number of packs. Andrew Veen was quick to get people with bigger-than-normal packs to give excess cards to people with smaller-than-normal packs, so the issue was no big deal. The organizers then took it upon themselves to count all future packs ahead of time, which was awesome. From what I understand, only one box of corp packs was messed up.
First up was the corp draft. You get a starter pack with five Priority Requisitions and two PAD Campaigns, so right off the bat I knew I needed to fairly aggressively pick agendas and economy or else get stuck having to 5-advance two three-pointers and risk the runner winning off two agendas, all the while clicking for creds like some kind of barbarian. As such, my first pack was lucky enough to contain a Melange, so I first-picked that baby. The rest of the first pack, I grabbed the only 4-2 agenda I saw (a Private Security Force) and ETR ice.
About halfway through the second pack, I was astonished to get passed a Scorched Earth. I have no idea what the other three or four people saw in that pack that they chose over Scorch, but I can guess that Noah must have grabbed his single Scorch from that pack as well. I had seen a ton of Data Ravens and Archived Memories in both packs, so I snatched the Scorch and figured I could pull together a good tag-n-bag deck.
The last two packs I aggressively started drafting tag opportunities and money, taking every clutch card I saw: Snare, Bernice Mai, SEA Source, and PSF. I wanted more tag punishment, but every time I saw a Closed Accounts or Dedicated Response Team there was something else next to it that I needed more like a Hunter or Data Raven. Late into the fourth pack I was able to also grab a Posted Bounty, but I didn’t get enough 2-pointers to fit it in my deck.
By the end of the draft, I had some other great cards as well like Caduceus, Enigma, Shadow, and Eve. Shadow put in a lot more work than I expected. I don’t usually care for it in constructed, but I made a lot of money by slapping those on centrals and forced runner taxes on avoiding those tag traces. I grabbed Biotics in the hopes of seeing 3/2 agendas or pumping out the PSFs, but I think I only used them once, so it wasn’t as useful as I had expected.
Some bad picks I would definitely warn about. I took Sherlock 1.0 (I know, I know) in the hopes of returning Crypsis and Femme, which are powerful in this format. I installed it in all three games but never rezzed it because 6 credits is just too high, especially when the subroutines could be clicked through and were just traces anyway. I also grabbed some Shipments from Mirrormorph and an Anonymous Tip thinking click and deck compression would be useful, but neither of them made the cut. I was afraid of getting decked, and I’m glad I was because I saw lots of corps come really close.
Here’s the deck I ended up with:
1x TMI •
1x Posted Bounty
1x Aggressive Secretary ••
1x Security Subcontract •
1x Amazon Industrial Zone •
1x Experiential Data •
1x Midori •••
1x Anonymous Tip •
1x Power Grid Overload •
2x Shipment from Mirrormorph •• ••
Coming out of the corp draft, I knew I pretty much already had the deck built. It felt like a lot of the decisions were pretty much already made considering the extra deck building constraints of including agendas and that I got a Scorched Earth. The runner draft, in comparison, felt much more chaotic. The variety of cards in the packs was a little overwhelming, and there were a lot of runner cards that I just wouldn’t play in constructed, so it felt like cobbling together a ship out of flotsam, even though you get two Crypsis and two Armitage Codebusting in the starter pack. I’m a corp player at heart, so this delighted me both mechanically and thematically because runners really had to work to hack those servers.
Opening my first pack I took Medium as my first pick knowing that multi-access would be even more powerful in limited because you only need six points to win instead of seven and corps only get those pesky 3-pointers to fall back on if they don’t draft agendas. Then I was handed a Nerve Agent, which I also took. Then I was handed a Grimoire. When the fourth hand came around, I saw a Surge and thought, fuck it, guess I’m drafting virus.
Getting a goal by the fourth pick in the draft was incredibly lucky. After that I basically focused on picking viruses, which no one else seemed to be actively drafting, so I pretty much had free reign of the synergy cards picking up handfuls of Cyberfeeder, Grimoire, and Surge. I was even able to get a Demolition Run. When I wasn’t picking virus related cards, I focused mostly on economy and hate drafting tag avoid and meat damage protection. This ended up being a Really Good Idea. I picked up a Plascrete Carapace, and I only know of one other that was in our pod, but I never saw it in play. I also grabbed every Crash Space I saw, several Public Sympathies, and a New Angeles City Hall. I had no intention of using any of these cards, but I knew that if I had them then other runners would be less likely to counter my Scorch corp deck.
The third pack was largely the same, but I did 2nd pick an Inside Job, which is just insane in limited. I was also able to get an Aesop’s late in the third pack, which was really useful with the two Armitage Codebustings that come in the starter pack. The fourth pack is what really turned on my deck, getting me a Darwin and a Wyldside. Darwin meant I could run three virus icebreakers instead of just Crypsis and some back up non-AI breakers. Aesops let me run Wyldside without fear. Aesops also meant that any cheap card in a pack of garbage that I didn’t need could become extra Easy Marks, so I never picked a card I wouldn’t consider using.
Even though I did get the Darwin, I unfortunately didn’t get it until way too late. There are a lot of Underworld Contacts in this format, but I was only able to get one. Thankfully I had the Cyberfeeders. If I had gotten Darwin sooner, I think there’s a strong possibility of a powerful Darwin deck in limited. All the tools are there and it looks like FFG just wants that deck to happen in this format. I don’t even remember how many Personal Touches, Replicators, Surges, and Helpful AIs I saw throughout the event.
One weird pick that ended up being much better than expected was Deep Thought. I grabbed it because it was a virus that also only costs 1 credit, but it put in some work, which you’ll see shortly. I also grabbed a couple Pheromones, which I would normally consider a terrible card, but I was hoping to see at least one Vamp. Oh well.
Here’s the final product:
1x Akamatsu Mem Chip •
1x Plascrete Carapce
1x Replicator ••
3x Crash Space •• •• ••
1x Joshua B. •••
1x New Angeles City Hall
2x Public Sympathy
1x Creeper •
1x Force of Nature •
2x Pheromones •• ••
Overall, I felt really good about the draft. I was a little concerned about having almost no ETR ice but was otherwise very confident about my corp deck. I wasn’t sure that my runner deck would be very competitive, but it looked pretty much like a weird deck I would normally build in constructed, so I felt good just getting to make something weird.
ROUND 1 — Anthony Giovanetti
Runner Win, Corp Win
I’ve played Anthony before, even drafted with him once, and I went in knowing that he was a really strong opponent. But I put on my pokerface and got down to business. First up, runner. I never saw my Inside Job this game, but I was able to keep Anthony on his toes with early Deep Though, Medium, and Darwin. Turn one netted me Cyberfeeder and Darwin, turn two got me deep though, an R&D access, and a surge so next turn I would see the top card of R&D. This forced the virus purge, which was awesome. A few turns later I found my Aesops and turned Deep Thought into Medium, which continued the pressure. In the meantime he had scored two Hostile Takeovers, so the bad pub helped a lot. I had a Nerve Agent in my starting hand, but I held onto it in the hopes of getting better accesses as he burned through R&D. Waiting paid off as I was eventually able to get Grimoire and Demo Run. Anthony was caught totally off guard by the last turn Aesop’s Medium>Install Nerve>Surge>Demo Run. I had completely ignored HQ the entire game, so it wasn’t iced up heavily. I was hoping to just toss most of his hand, but ended up scoring a a boat load of points instead. Turned out he had been agenda flooded fairly early on but just couldn’t get a remote going with Darwin rolling.
Then came the corp game. I was able to get Eli on R&D really early, which very effectively kept him out. Most of my turns were install ice, money, money until I drew my Bernices, which let me score a PSF behind a Draven. That pretty much gave me the upper hand the rest of the game as he couldn’t run anywhere without running into some kind of tag ice or the Bernice on R&D. I only drew three agendas that game, thankfully. Eventually I got to a position where I had every combo piece in hand – SEA Source, Scorch, and Archived Memories, so all I had to do was wait until he made a run. My ice was set up quite nicely such that he couldn’t run anywhere without risking floating a tag into my turn or spending too much money and risking the SEA. Feeling comfortable with my board, I started on a Prireq, goading Anthony into making several runs that cost him his credits and his life. SEA, PSF, Scorch for the win.
ROUND 2 — Zac Bauermeister
Runner Loss, Corp Win
Zac and I are good friends and play Netrunner against each other quite frequently. We both prefer corp side, and I knew I had my work cut out for me as we always have good battles. I played runner first again. I got another early Deep Thought, which let me put pressure on R&D and viruses very early. For a good portion of the game R&D only had a Victor 1.0 rezzed on it, so I spent a bunch of my time there clicking through. I knew I was pretty safe keeping this expensive R&D lock because I had an inside job in hand and no breakers on the table, which meant icing remotes wasn’t a huge concern for Zac. That let me nab his first agenda on the table behind only one ice, an Accelerated Beta Test. After that, the rest of the game is kind of a blur. At one point he installed and advanced something twice. I had a fairly good board position, but the remote was protected enough that I knew I would have to make sacrifices to get in, so I let it go assuming it couldn’t be anything worse than a Prireq. I had seen a Mandatory Upgrades in the draft, but I passed it along assuming no one would want it and whoever ended up with it wouldn’t feel confident in scoring it. Big mistake. Next turn he advanced it some more but didn’t score it, which tipped me off, but I had already spent my resources going after centrals. Zac Manned Up, and that cost me the game as he was able to pump Agendas pretty much at will afterward.
The corp game was less exciting. It went very similarly to the game I had just finished with Anthony. I iced up centrals with tag ice, a remote with ETR and Bernice, and scored a PSF early in the game. Eventually, I had all the pieces in place and just needed to wait for my moment to strike. Zac dug desperately for the single copy of Decoy he had, but he never got it and I eventually had my moment after a run on a central. Another SEA, PSF, Scorch for the win.
ROUND 3 — Mike Cooper
Runner Win, Corp Loss
I’d never met Mike Cooper before, but considering he had the same record as me I knew he had to be good. I went in confidently, but turns out he was quite formidable after all. I played runner first yet again and was able to get Darwin and Nerve Agent up and running quick. He was able to ice everything up pretty well, but most everything he rezzed was low strength, so Darwin stomped all over it. Mike was the only corp in my pod who seemed to know to keep the whale down, purging much more often than any of my other opponents. This was the only game that I had to get Wyldside going and invest heavily in economy. I don’t remember exactly how the game played out, but eventually I was able to steal enough agendas off the table with Surge and Helpful AI tricks that let my whale break down servers unexpectedly.
The corp game was even tougher. I got greedy and kept a hand that I shouldn’t have. It had all the combo pieces to start but no ice in it, and I got cocky. Mike had drafted the only Magnum Opus I saw in our pod, so his economy was pretty much on lock-down. He also had a Scrubber and an Imp. I couldn’t keep a Melange or a Pad on the table or the Scorch in my hand. I struggled to find any ice that could get me off my heels and make enough money to threaten the kill, but Mike’s relentless economy and strong running pressure crumpled my deck. He took the game, splitting the match.
Ending the swiss rounds with a 4-2 record, I felt pretty confident that I would at least be close to the top 8, especially considering there were a bunch of other people in my pod with the same record. I was also standing on the best tie-breaker record of any of the 4-2s at my pod as I had a runner split and a corp split, so my weakest side win was 2. It all paid off as apparently one of the other two pods had a lot of matches sweeping while the other pod had a lot of splits, so I made into the top eight seeded at fourth! Happy dance! This was the fourth store championship I had attended, so I was really excited to finally have a chance at some of the sweet, sweet swag.
For the top eight rounds, we were all put together into another drafting pod, with the intent of playing single elimination after building. It was a little weird that we weren’t seated based on seed; instead we were seated randomly and some people ended up near their first opponents. This time the organizers went with a 30 second time limit for card picks, but Andrew Veen again saved the day (and a lot of time) suggesting we just zone draft instead. I had never heard the term before, but it’s exactly how I’m used to drafting, so I was glad to see this draft go much more quickly. It was getting pretty late by this time, and all eight of us were starting to feel the drain. This time around I didn’t pull any shenanigans with my drafting. I just went for the best that I thought I could do with what I was passed, which was much slimmer pickings than the first draft, as expected from drafting with the top players.
Going into the second pack of the corp draft, I had a Nisei, Corporate War, Oversight AI, and a Hadrians. I opened up another OAI in my pack, so I decided to go for a big ice oversight deck and just started aggressively drafting economy, big ice, and every OAI I saw. I took another Nisei as well, expecting them to pay off once runners built up their rigs and punched through my big but fragile ice. I also saw an Archer, which is very handy with OAI, and an Agg Sec that I thought would help with the fragility of my ice as well by blowing up breakers afterward. No one was taking Edge of World, so I made the mistake of taking a bunch of them, not realizing until halfway through my first match that blowing up ice makes them quite useless. Oops.
My final deck ended up like so:
On the runner side I knew I had to just take power cards or they would get put to really good use against me by players I knew were strong. This time I focused a little more on economy over theme (although my runner deck performed well the previous draft, I was a little starved for cash), and took a traditional albeit expensive suite of breakers. I was able to draft two Aesop’s this time, which I learned from the previous round was really strong, so whenever I didn’t feel like I had time to really consider my choices, I just took cheap installable cards to sell away for money.
I wasn’t sure about the corp deck, but I thought I could make it work. I felt much more confident about my runner even though it was less fun/”creative” and only had Maker’s Eye and Sneakdoor as far as tricks go, but those are both pretty strong tricks. My confidence wavered a bit when I realized that in the first match I would be facing Veen, the winning-est Netrunner that I know.
QUARTER-FINALS — Andrew Veen
Runner Win, Corp Win by Forfeit
Once more, I got to play runner first. I had a ton of economy from the get go, as expected, and was able to establish money dominance pretty early. I don’t think I ever wasn’t able to install the icebreaker I needed to get into the server I wanted unless I had to dig for it. Eventually I got Sneakdoor installed, which helped me get to five points fairly quickly. Veen had drafted a tag-n-bag deck as well, which was evidenced in the SEA Sources and Data Ravens. Twice in the game he made excellent non-kill plays using SEA Source to Close my Accounts and trash my economy resources. I didn’t realize until near the end of the game when I was already at match point that his bagging was on the Dedicated Response Team side of the game rather than Scorched Earth. He install-advance-advanced something behind a two ice server with a bunch of other remotes that I had been assuming were expensive advertisements. I drew up in case of Junebug and made the run, only to run headfirst into a Data Raven. I had a click to spare in preparation for that, so I continued on. I don’t remember what the second ice was, but Crypsis saw me through. Then Veen made an interesting play, which was to rez three Dedicated Response Teams before I decided whether or not to access the card in the server. This is the first of two chances Veen had to outright kill me with six meat damage to the face, but instead he gave me the choice. I was at game point, but he had no agenda points, so I knew the only right decision was to jack out and live to steal another day. At this point, he was very close to decking and nearing the point in the game where he wouldn’t have enough time to install and advance enough points to win. I made another run on HQ trying to find a Fetal AI I had seen on R&D but hadn’t been able to pay for. Unfortunately again for Veen, we both missed the upgrade installed in the root of HQ, which turned out to be the Bernice that would have killed me (everybody was so tired at this point, and I know I’ve made the same mistake a bunch of times). A turn later when we realized it, I knew I had to take out the DRTs, so I started spending my turns taking three credits and trashing them, but by that time he didn’t have enough cards left in R&D to score agendas, so he decked. After the game he politely asked if we would stick with my win. He said it was fine either way, so I said yes, but I could tell it left him a little salty.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see much of each other’s other decks. He had drafted a Pheromones-Nerve Agent-Vamp deck, but an early Rototurret on HQ put a stop to Nerve Agent. That gave me time to quickly set up a three ice OAI server, which I scored a Nisei through and got 1 brain damage with before he could dismantle one of the ice using all of his available resources. At that point, he forfeited the match to me. Later on he told me that the OAI corp deck is what he drafted for the swiss rounds to get into top eight, so it sounds like this archetype is totally viable in limited.
SEMI-FINALS — Mike Cooper
Corp Loss, Runner Win
Rematch! Mike and I had played each other in the last round of swiss, so this was another chance to play with someone I had just met, which is always fun. For the first time in the evening, I played corp first. I didn’t expect him to have the luck to get another Magnum Opus, but he did. This time I wasn’t trying to outpace him on money, but his crazy economy did allow him to install Morning Star almost immediately, which made butter out of my Eli on R&D, so I responded with a Chum, which shut him out pretty much for good. At that point I was able to focus on setting up the OAI server and pushing through two Niseis. I had a really strong position considering Mike didn’t have Datasuckers to support the Morning Star, but he did have Parasite, which got my Hadrian’s on HQ down to breakable and scored him one of my 3-pointers. Before I could recover HQ, he unexpectedly Vamped me down to zero and ran R&D with Maker’s Eye, clicking through my Chummed Eli for five points. I could have stopped him with one of my Nisei counters, but I made a fatigue mistake too and totally forgot. If I had remembered I might have won considering my strong board state, but I don’t know if it was strong enough to know for sure.
At this point I had a pretty intense headache, was quite hungry, and had been playing Netrunner for almost 12 hours. I don’t remember much of my runner game. I do remember getting Morning Star out the door really quick, only to lose it to a Rototurret or something immediately. I was applying enough pressure though to get to match point. The thing I do remember clearly is him installing and advancing twice something in his remote near the end of the game as his R&D started to look pretty low. Once again I drew up to protect for Junebug and ran the server. I had just enough money to get through the server except for taking a surprise Katana to the face. He asked if I wanted to access. I hemmed and hawed, worried about the Junebug, looked in his eyes, and decided to call the bluff. Two more points won me the game.
During that game Mike had only scored one Agenda for two points. In the game I lost as the corp, I had scored four points. So by the wonky-ass rules of match play, I advanced to the final match.
FINALS — Brendan Davis
Corp Loss, Runner Forfeit
After a quick bathroom break and a minute to rub my temples, the final match of the day began. I decided to play corp first again in an attempt at the possibility of making my runner game easier (even if I lost as corp, maybe I could run and steal the minimum number of points I needed to close out the match). Unfortunately for me, it worked that way in Brendan’s favor instead. I don’t remember really the composition of his deck, but it had enough money and Femmes to ensure I never really got my OAI servers running. Brendan always seemed to know exactly where to run to keep me on my toes, never letting me get enough hold on the net to advance a single agenda. He ended up shutting me out 6-0.
Before the second game he decided to take a break, so I used the pause to think about the situation. If he scores even a single point, he takes the match, which means that if he has any 2-1 agendas, he mulligans for them or just ices up R&D like crazy and draws until he gets one. In the off chance that I shut him out as well, we would have to play a third game to decide the match. My splitting head ache said “no way” to that, so when Brendan returned I forfeited the match to him.
Overall, I am very pleased with the draft format. The kinds of decisions you have to make when picking cards and then putting them into decks are just too intriguing to not be fun. The limited nature of the card pool — and the specific cards that the designers at FFG chose for said card pool — really bring some creativity, variety, and excitement to the competitive Netrunner scene that really feels like playing the core set but with all kinds of neat cards. It really is an exciting way to fall in love with Netrunner all over again, and I highly recommend that everybody try it if they can. My thought that drafting economy and agendas would be really important ended up being true, but I did learn through the experience that it’s not as big of a deal on the runner side as it is on the corp side. It was also very interesting to see which cards were more/less powerful in limited than in constructed. Some wonky combinations can be made that would normally be scoffed at, but if you draft the right cards you can make them work together to work for you, as evidenced by my silly Darwin deck from the first draft.
After so many tournaments, I am very happy and excited to have gotten so close to being a Store Championship and taking home a sweet Wotan playmat and Kate deck box, but I am humbled by the sheer amount of talent and the fun people who made me work so hard to get there. Considering how awesome and skilled the Netrunner community is here, I am not at all surprised that we got the chance to be on the frontier of Netrunner competitive play by hosting the first draft tournament in the world, much less for one of the store championships. Thanks so much again to Patrick Day, Kody Christoffer, and Neil Schmidt at Uncle’s Games in Bellevue for hosting and making this event happen. And many thanks to the awesome players I came up against, I hope we meet again to fight some more computers!