The time, the most wonderful time in the Netrunner (ANR) world, is almost upon us. Worlds 2015 arrives next week, and a large amount of ANR players will descend on Roseville, MN. I’m picturing the Wildings approaching the Wall, except that… actually, it will be pretty similar.
This will be the third consecutive Worlds appearance for me, and combined with my experience (playing the game from the get; plus, I’m old), skill level (top 16’d last two Worlds), and expert observations (I visit Stimhack every day), I have decided to put forth some predictions for Worlds. Some of these will be quite accurate, while most are just jokes or dead wrong. Let’s dive in, shall we?
KATE WILL WIN WORLDS 2015
“Wow, quite a bold one to start with, spags.” Yes, I really stretched on this one. Personally, I’ve played Kate the past two Worlds, and don’t see that changing this year. In a field as large and wild as Worlds can be, having the versatility and security blanket that is Shaper is comforting. Kate is the most comforting of the bunch, having the Runner equivalency of Engineering the Future’s (ETF) ability, she’s a Core ID that continues to shine. Lukas, for better/worse, made the cores for this game quite strong. 3 of the 7 should be pretty decently represented at Worlds this year, and a 4th finished 2nd last year, and is always a dark horse to do well.
The primary build we’ll see out of Kate will be the PPVP build I helped to architect. Others, including Daine’s Congress or bahram’s Chameleon deck, are decent, but may be a bit slow in the current rush/FA environ. The beauty of Kate is that she can do well with a variety of builds, and even within those, there spots that can flex for silver bullets. Some foolhardy kids even go to 46, because they just cannot control themselves. Light a candle for them.
NBN WILL NOT WIN WORLDS 2015
This is a bit bolder, and probably dumb. Near-Earth Hub (NEH) was the most played ID last year at Worlds, yet did not win, despite the absence of a card like Clot. Granted, Corps did not have access to the Cyberdex Virus Suite (CVS), perhaps an even more important card that was released in the past year. Plus, kill decks out of NBN have only gotten deadlier. Finally, Dan D’Argenio is probably going to play NBN, which puts one of the favorites in the field, and the returning champ, on Yellow.
Why would I make this prediction, then? NBN gets more of a boost with Data & Destiny’s release and legality, NEH is still the cream (even more boosted by Team Sponsorship), 24/7 News Cycle bolsters quick kills, a large number of good players are playing NBN… seems that a win for the King in Yellow is inevitable. However, people assumed the same last year. NBN did well, but didn’t make the finals. Playing quick decks like NBN offers does make life easier, which helps in an 8 round tournament. In double elim, one may not even see their Corp side as much.
Two other IDs, in Replicating Perfection (RP) and ETF, are both still top tier, especially in the hands of a seasoned pilot. Global Food Initiative (GFI) helps both decks out more than it does NBN, and Film Critic, a supposed bane of these decks, is not seeing the play people thought it would, as it is one of those borderline cards I noted earlier that can be easily flexed out of Kate decks. I would not be shocked at all if we saw RP, ETF, or even Personal Evolution (PE) again in the Finals.
WEYLAND WILL NOT MAKE THE TOP 16 CUT
Another ‘bold’ one, I know. Weyland has been on a steady decline since Plascrete Carapace was released. People love to back a winner, and if people aren’t playing an ID, or in this case, an entire faction, it leads to a myriad of problems. Design would say those problems are ours, and that we, the players, aren’t playing Weyland enough, nor delving into their strategies due to hivemind consensus that Weyland is a steaming cesspool. The players would note that, while not being a complete black hole of a faction, design has not helped enough. Order and Chaos (O&C) was pretty abysmal in regards to bolstering the faction. Trying to amend an old ability, in this case advancing ICE, instead of giving people something new and powerful like the Public Agendas, or cool assets like Public Support, was the wrong tact. It’s been shown that throwing good money after bad is never a sound strategy in any aspect of life, and advanceable ICE were a sunk cost that should have remained submerged. The attempt to give them new life would be akin to release Caissa support cards.
The IDs from O&C, while seeming pretty milquetoast on first blush, are turning out to be interesting, yet somewhat similar. Perhaps it’s just the current rush era we are in, but, I see all three doing their best when rushing out, forcing bad decisions, and perhaps killing their opponent. While that is a sound strategy, I do not see them being consistent enough to get someone to the Top 16, even if their Runner is undefeated. Blue Sun, while not seen as much lately, still has some viability, and is probably the strongest overall Weyland ID. The main problem I have with Weyland is that having a kill backup is their best bet, yet everyone is going to tech harder against meat damage thanks to the arrival of 24/7. Surprise or timely kills will be mitigated by extra Plascretes, Crash Spaces, Paparazzis, I’ve Had Worse, or New Angeles City Halls that players are more willing to sleeve up now.
A U.K. KID WILL WIN WORLDS 2015
I’ve always been somewhat of an Anglophile, and I married a fairly extreme one (well, at least based on the amount of tea she drinks, and British murder mysteries programs she consumes). Perhaps that paints my bias. However, the Brits sent one cat (Cerberus; David Hoyland) to Worlds last year, and, despite him having a horrid draw against me the first game of the Top 16, he went on to finish in the Top 8. This year, the British truly are coming, in force, with some of the strongest players in the game. Vinegarymink, U.K. Champ and PSI Games 2015 champ, is the forerunner of some formidable foes. Deciding that although the British Empire, dying since the start of the 20th century, is truly gone IRL, that there is space in another realm to dominate continental Europe. Multiple U.K.ers have now won National Championships this year outside of their own isles, and I see them bringing that hunger, and those byes, to Worlds. Apex may have Endless Hunger, but these kids have Endless Thirst for beer and mousepads.
DIVERSITY WILL BE DISAPPOINTING
On the biggest stage, with people spending lots of good money to travel, the want to win will be high. Hence, people (outside of Sirris; you never know what that kid is going to drop) will bring their most reliable builds. This will lead to a glut of the most reliable, proven winners of decks. Expect the field to be primarily Anarchs on the Runner side, with NBN making up most of the Corps. This isn’t hard to predict: the Yellow team brings multiple paths to victory with some ease, and the Red squad has tons of tools, with multiple IDs that are quite potent now. NEH and Noise will dominate those sides, but expect some Haarpsichord, Valencia, and maybe even some Whizzard or SYNC to make waves. Kate should be the most played Runner, and I also plan on seeing a fair amount of Andromeda. ETF and RP round out the field, with single digits of players representing any ID not previously listed. Sad, but, that’s just how the world works. I expect some surprises, even at these large tournaments. Last year, we had PE with Sweeps Weeks, Blue Sun with Mushin no Shin/Off the Grid, and whatever Anarch Wooley is currently cooking up all finishing well.
Not to push other formats, or the ANRPC, but there will be much more diversity in the King of Servers team tournament I am running. People will be more relaxed, and the format enforces diversity, while making it fun. I think it will be quite intriguing to see what high level players bring to a tournament where there is a fair amount at stake, yet, having fun with strange decks is more of the theme of the day. I expect a lot of damage decks in that environment, and would be planning accordingly.
COOL STUFF WILL BE ON SALE
Fantasy Flight, for all of their quirks and flaws, puts out some great products, and usually has something ahead of time at Worlds. I expect they’ll have a new draft set, and maybe even the Worlds of Android book, or perhaps the first data pack in the Mumbad Cycle there. I am really drooling over that book, but, in regards to the latter products noted, I expect that if they do get any, they will have super-small quantities, and will sell out quicker than Black Friday deals, with just as much fervor and violence. That is my past experience at Worlds, and I expect to be disappointed when I arrive, to only find tons of the new draft packs left.
GAMEPLAY WILL NOT BE FUN
Until I got to the top tables last year, after round 3, the play experience was rough. Playmats had to overlap other people’s, and since I usually was one of the last people to sit down, squatter’s rights allowed those already seated to ‘stake their claim’. Hence, I was holding my tokens in my lap the first three rounds. Through pure luck, the ‘elites’ were allowed to breathe some clean air at the top two rows of tables, only because they were set up for the cut of another LCG, and hence were more reasonably spaced. I truly applaud FFG for opening up as much space as they could to maximize attendance for their most popular LCG, but I really am not looking forward to the assholes/elbows quantity that will be experienced in the tight spaces come Championship Saturday.
FUN WILL BE HAD BY MOST
This is pretty much a slam dunk. I have more planned to do outside of the FFG events than any previous Worlds, and personally plan on having a blast. When noting how similar it will be to the Wildlings assault on the Wall, I was not kidding. The Radisson hottub will be a nightly recreation of Jon Snow and Ygritte’s cave experience, without the sex part, of course. I just worry that it will no longer have the intimacy of the past, and some will be forced into the kid’s ‘pool’. There will be various levels of cleanliness, like the Wildlings. There will be imbibing of much alcohol, like th… well, wait. Did they actually have anything to drink? Would explain their anger, and desire to get into the Seven Kingdoms so badly.
Worlds not only is a great showcase for top talent, and a strong barometer for the current meta, but it is also a blast. I highly recommend it to any one to attend. The weather is usually shite, and the area is sub par. However, FFG seems to realize their space issues, and I believe an announcement will come out next week about a splintering of the various games into their own Championship Weekends, thus lifting the cap on attendance
If you see me at Worlds, please feel free to dap me up, or give me a gut-punch. I am down for either.