(Editor’s note: This article was submitted by SimonMoon)
Hello again! SimonMoon here with another situation I’d like to break down. It comes from the middle of a game between Miek and I involving one of my favorite decks to play with or against: DLR MaxX. DLR MaxX tends to have multiple viable lines of attack against it, as well as requiring careful consideration of what your opponent is trying to do on both sides. It requires long-term planning and carefully weighing your options, and one small misstep on either side can punish you badly (as happened to me in Gencon finals vs. Dan D’Argenio). Hopefully this breakdown is interesting and helpful to anyone interested in thinking about competitive Netrunner!
The Last Few Turns
1. Blue Sun: Triple Advance and Score Project Atlas with a Counter
- Use DDoS
- Retrieval Run to get Femme Fatale (Femme’ing the unrezzed Spiderweb on HQ)
- Siphon: Corp Rezzes Spiderweb, Rezzes Cyberdex, (accessing Project Atlas instead of Siphoning, Trash Cyberdex)
- Play Fall Guy
- Take Joshua B tag at end of turn
3. Blue Sun: Bounce Spider Web, ???
HQ Ice: DNA Tracker
Remote Ice: Hive
Archives: Cyberdex Virus Suite, Scarcity of Resources
Decklist: Boom Sun Kill
Blue Sun’s early game goal against DLR MaxX is to prevent or avoid Account Siphon while putting pressure on them in some way. Blue Sun must be proactive, force them to do more than just build into their (largely) undefeatable lategame boardstate. This typically means either collecting a large pool of money (so as soon as tags are taken, we can trash everything), or scoring agendas to threaten an early score out. In this game, I didn’t draw a ton of money so the plan to money up forever wasn’t online. Instead I aggressively pushed out a couple of agendas, forcing the Runner to start taking tags before being fully set up. Now that the Runner has taken a Joshua B tag, the nature of the game has changed from preparing for MaxX’s attack to responding to it.
Before we start looking at the various plans the first order of business is to examine the Runner’s heap, as well as think about how they’ve played, to figure out what is likely in their hand and what remains in their deck. Generally, I don’t try to compare every card to an exact list but try to look for a couple of priorities to simplify the problem:
- Is Siphon available?
- Do they have Levy?
- How many pieces of recursion (Deja Vu / Same Old Thing) remain?
- What breakers (Eater, Paperclip, or Retrieval Run) do they have left?
- Is DDoS available?
- How many Fall Guys are left?
- How many Wireless Net Pavilions (WNP) are left?
- If I’m a kill deck, how many Paparazzi’s are left?
How I think about this (though your technique may differ) is Recursion Bundle (Siphon / Levy / Recursion), Entry Tools (DDOS, Breakers), and Anti-Trashing Stuff (Fall Guy, WNP). In most games you’ll have the time to go through MaxX’s Heap once or twice to figure out these things during key planning turns, and with a little practice at it and it becomes second nature.
Levy is left in their remaining cards, as is one Siphon, but they are out of recursion. Potentially they could have either of these left in their deck, but they notably discarded several Deja Vu’s earlier (I apologize for not laying out the turns far enough in advance to include this info). This means it’s extremely likely they wouldn’t have done so without either access to Levy or other pieces of recursion. If we had Scorch in our list, this would actually be a great time to value Scorch as it would likely leave them unable to Levy and with a board state that will have great difficulty beating ours. They have a Siphon left, which is important as it means we need to play around it.
The Eaters (although they could play a third, but most lists play just two) are accounted for, as well as the Retrieval Run. They do have a Paperclip left, and likely would have overdrawn in order to discard it if it were in hand (playing around Ark Lockdown here would be unnecessary as Paperclip is the 7th or so thing that we’d want to target). This means it’s extremely likely Paperclip is in their last 4 cards. There is still DDOS left, which means we need to be prepared for that in any scoring play or when we plan to stop any Siphon.
Finally, they have no Fall Guys left but likely have two WNP (some lists bizarrely only play two). A key aspect of this is that we can assume they have no WNP in hand, as if they did they certainly would have played it since they are now tag me. However, with four cards left the only configuration that will result in them unable to find one of the two WNP is for them to be the top two cards on the heap [insert odds here]. This is unlikely so we should plan on them drawing WNP into hand. There is one Paparazzi left in the deck, and we can assume if they had drawn one they would have (assuming kill on our end) not installed it seeing as that would have enabled us to start trashing their cards.
In summary: we think they have a Levy and Paparazzi in hand, a DDOS remains, and three of their last four cards are 2x WNP and one Paperclip. Additionally, they have one Siphon left though we don’t have great clues on where it is. It is likely their turn will involve either installing a WNP or Siphon’ing, and some amount of milling. Now, onto our various strategic options.
What is to be done?
Long Term Winning Plan
While there may be an obvious move in this situation (Oversight AI on the Curtain Wall somewhere), is this our best play? Given the shift in the board state it’s important to take this turn to assess possible lines of play and determine what our plan is going to be to win. Our long term strategy will dictate where we put the Curtain Wall, what do with our last click, as well as what our probably target is for our Atlas token. If you don’t form a long-term plan for how you are going to win against DLR, it will be very challenging to win, as DLR can take a moment of weakness and turn it into an impossible Corp board state. There are three broad strategies to take from here:
- Kill the Runner
- Trash everything
- Score out
1. Kill the Runner
As the Runner is taking tags, the obvious plan is to kill them with Boom. However, there are a couple of flaws in this plan. The first is that currently the Runner only has one tag, and Boom needs two tags to use. Even though Joshua B is installed, the Runner is not required to use him and they are also not required to Siphon us to gain more tags (or float the tags after a Siphon). We have the Midseason in our hand, but this requires them to steal an Agenda and they can simply mill us and stick back. We could conceivably use all of our money to Midseason them this turn, but that leads us into the second problem with this plan: they can install Paparazzi. As discussed in “MaxX’s Hand”, it is extremely likely they have Paparazzi in hand, and if they don’t it’s a 50/50 if they will draw into it next turn. Any killing plan will therefore likely to have two prerequisites Firstly, enough money to trash through their Fall Guys into Paparazzi, and secondly the ability to force them to take additional tags. Since no matter what this plan will likely involving trashing things, we should move on to discussing the next plan of attack.
2. Trash Everything
One of the strategies available to any deck for punishing MaxX’s tags is to get enough money to trash their entire board, making DLR only able to get a few turns of milling before they are destroyed. In some ways, we’re in a decent position to trash things as they have no WNP on board, only one DLR, and one Fall Guy missing. However, we are also extremely poor and decently vulnerable to getting Siphoned as they likely have both a Siphon and DDOS before they need to Levy.
A key idea to understand is one of the typical MaxX strategies in a position like this is to sit on one tag and mill a bunch. hen once the rig is trashed, clear the tag, Levy, and build up a second board with all the Fall Guys and DLRs back in the deck. The best way to counter this plan is to either get them to take additional tags, either through Midseasons or getting them to install Paparazzi to prevent a Midseasons kill. If they steal an Agenda on their turn, they would be forced to install Paparazzi or we could Midseasons and tutor up Boom, killing them immediately. In a sense, while actually killing them will be difficult as it will likely require them Siphoning us (and we do not have enough money to trash through that), we can leverage the kill threat to help our trashing plan. While this Boom kill threat is nice, I think the most likely Atlas target in this plan will be to get another OAI to help us get the money to trash all their stuff.
3. Score Out
We’ve put ourselves in a position where we are only one agenda away from winning, but it could be only the GFI which we currently do not have. From our breakdown earlier, they have a fair amount of tools before they Levy to contest any scoring attempt. They can DDOS a single ice remote, or Siphon us if we leave HQ unprotected, thereby preventing a remote rez. They also have access to both Femme and Paperclip, allowing them to break our Sentries and Barriers (albeit expensively). Until they Levy, the only Ice we can safely score a GFI behind is Datapike which itself must be protected from DDoS by any other Ice. Any of our Barriers would work reasonably after the Levy as there is a strong chance Paperclip would be buried, as well as the five for Levy making the runner broke, which often opens up a new window, but it depends on exactly how things play out.
If we can draw a GFI or a Datapike after we OAI, then we’ll be well setup to attempt the scoring plan by Atlas’ing for the other piece as we’ll have enough money to tank a Siphon and then still rez the Datapike on the remote. This would likely involve giving up two or so turns of milling (without Joshua B, as they need to stay below 2 tags) and would mean only giving up eight or so accesses from milling, which would make us a heavy favorite. However, this relies on drawing one of these cards in the next turn or two, as every additional turn we take means four more cards milled. The other possible scoring plan is to Atlas for GFI on our next turn and attempt to aggressively score behind an OAI Curtain Wall that we do not bounce. Whether this plan makes sense depends on how soon we think they can contest the Curtain Wall, which is the next point of focus.
One of our immediate questions: is it possible for them to contest our Curtain Wall? Wherever we do it we’re unlikely to be able to protect it, and they can likely get a Paperclip out to try and break it. This would cost 13 total (Nine to break and four to install) and potentially does not need a click to install. They will start their turn at four (two Credits + two from Daily Cast) and can potentially pop both their Fall Guys to hit 8. That leaves them five credits shy of their goal, with a maximum of five clicks (Joshua B is fine to use here if it lets them kill the Curtain Wall) on their turn. We should check Archives and see they have no Sure Gambles left, which leaves us relieved. They can credit four times and then run if Paperclip is milled, but this still leaves them one Credit short.
However, if they are able to Siphon for even a single credit, they will then be able to break the Curtain Wall! For every credit beyond the first they can Siphon from us they will be able to save Fall Guys, leaving us in an even worse position (though any situation where they kill this Curtain Wall is likely game over). They can then install a WNP and Paparazzi, click up to Levy and draw into more money and Fall Guys and mill us out at a rapid pace, and even if we drew OAI and a fresh Curtain Wall we would be unable to recover. Because Blue Sun typically has a rather expensive Ice spread, our opponent knows they can likely blind Siphon through our DNA Tracker. This means we need to either protect HQ with the Curtain Wall or end our turn on zero credits.
As we’ve gone over our plans, getting the kill is not plausible without trashing things, and scoring out is going to require drawing into specific cards in the near future, or at least trashing enough cards to force them to Levy. So the obvious play from here is to OAI onto HQ to protect against Siphon, and then take a credit. If we trash the DNA Tracker we would start our next turn with 17, and if we kept it we would start with 16. Since we need an Ice we can afford to rez as well as a DDOS protection Ice on HQ, we probably want to pay the credit to keep the DNA Tracker around. On their next turn they will likely install WNP, and take a few credits to prevent a second Atlas for Curtain Wall. This will leave them with two Fall Guys, a WNP, and a DLR, which would take 12 Credits to trash the DLR in the ideal case over two turns.
Our next turn would likely be install Ice in front of DNA Tracker and trash a Fall Guy and take a credit, leaving us with 12 (allowing a DNA tracker rez that has a high chance of being a Levy killing blowout). An important note here is you should always Trash Fall Guy first, because the Runner has more information about their plan than you do and can make a better informed decision than you if what you are trashing is correct. MaxX would then mill four times to take advantage of their DLR before it gets trashed, or they could try and Siphon and get blown out, but we should assume they take the better play. We can then rash Fall Guy, trash WNP, trash DLR bringing us to two credits and forcing the Levy as well as keeping Siphon low value. After the Levy we will probably be able to safely OAI our Curtain Wall to get back up on money, and that might be what we Atlas for. Though we can also Atlas for Restructure and just trash Fall Guy and DLR, or if we draw a Hedge / Restructure we’d be able to do the same thing as either one would let use trash two things for eight credits and still keep DNA Tracker money. It is hard to plan for after the Levy, but depending on what we draw we can also try to score now that Paperclip is potentially buried in their deck. However, up until the Levy is about as far as I think you can plan from this turn, as after that a lot of information gets scrambled and we won’t be able to predict what MaxX can do (as well as our plan being variable on what we draw).
This is the basic line of play that I think should be followed in the near future, and is a fairly good one. However, there is a slight improvement in this line that is worth talking about. Instead of OAI + Curtain Wall on HQ, you can OAI + Curtain Wall on R&D or Archives and trash a Fall Guy. Since the WNP is not yet down this saves you two Credits for the trash as well as one credit for the install cost of the Curtain Wall on HQ. They also can’t pop the Fall Guy you trash for money, immune from tricky Siphon into Paperclip plays. You would still follow the same basic plan of trashing things while avoiding the Siphon (and avoiding the trap of trashing WNP without trashing DLR on the same turn if they draw both the two remaining WNP). This gets you to the Levy with slightly more money which puts you in a better position, but does not fundamentally change your pre-Levy into post-Levy plan. Once MaxX Levy’s, while our initial plan is to go for trashing, you need to be open to different lines depending on what the Runner does and what you draw.
Whew! That analysis took a while! While it’s hard to do this detailed of analysis midgame, I did tank for several minutes on this turn to plan things out before playing fairly quickly the rest of the game. I know DLR decks are often disliked by the community, but hopefully walking through this board state has helped people see DLR as an interesting deck the same way I do. There are a lot of broader lessons to be taken here about how to analyze the Runner’s board state to figure out what they can do and how you can respond to it. Additionally, the importance of understanding how you can win in a game and analyzing the various options to figure out which options are open is fundamental to playing Netrunner well at a high level.
Once you figure out your underlying strategy in a turn where you think and analyze options for a while, you are often able to then plan several turns in advance and play them fairly rapidly. However, it is important to remain flexible and be willing to change your strategy depending on what you draw and what your opponent does. Understanding how to recognize when you need you analyze and change your overarching plan is a key part of Netrunner. I enjoyed writing this up, and while I wasn’t able to stay to stick to my bi-weekly plan I think I can probably do this monthly, so if you have any interesting scenarios feel free to send them to me on the Stimhack forums!