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Fourteen Decks in Fourteen Weeks, Pt3

Round three of the Spin League 1 saw one new Corp deck and one revision of a tried and true Runner deck.

Round 3 (Sunday November 3 – Saturday November 16)

Runner: Whizzard, Master Gamer “Dumpster Diving" (v1.3)

With the impending release of Second Thoughts into the environment (we only got the cards a couple of days before the League match was scheduled, and so both I and my opponent chose not to play with them for this round), I thought that I would break out a favourite of mine for one last fling before Swordsman required a re-jig. Before Atman was “A Thing™” Whizzard Darwin decks were — I feel — the most successful AI breaker-only designs out there that I had found. “Dumpster Diving” has gone through a couple of minor iterations since I discussed it in a prior article in the context of some deck design desiderata.

The two splash cards (Surge) had remained and various permutations of two other cards had cycled through the versions. I had tried out Mr Li (somewhat unsatisfyingly) and then moved on to experimenting with The Source as a counter card to Biotic Labor and San San City Grid builds, with only moderate success. The theory was that The Source might serve as a different type of “expose” effect – against slow advancing decks you lay it down to try and watch the Corp to see if you’ve bought an extra turn in which to steal the Agenda that they can’t clear next turn, and if they don’t care then it would likely instead be an Ambush that you didn’t want to touch anyway (Aggressive Secretary being the worst thing to hit running a powered up Darwin, I think). Against the two classic styles of Fast Advance decks aforementioned, though, you need to play The Source proactively to try and force them to leave an Agenda out in the open and then hope to hell you have the requisite credits to steal the thing.

What worked: I’ve already written at some length about the deck design and how it comes together, so I won’t reiterate much. The synergies of Cyberfeeder, Darwin, Datasucker, Parasite and Surge are one of the more elegant pieces of kit that I feel I’ve ever assembled into a deck. The sudden switch to tag-floating with Vamp, Joshua B., and Data Leak Reversal  also makes for exhilarating play when pushing into the end game as well. Notably, the one Account Siphon in the deck is worth holding back to be able to play it in the same turn as a following Vamp; when this came off I was able to attack a completely unrezzed remote in which the final Agenda was lurking and the Corp on 0credit-icon could do nothing to stop me. The ‘rest’ of the economy seems quite robust as well, but can be vulnerable to NBN tag/Character Assassination style disruption. The lack of Easy Mark didn’t seem to hamper the deck in any way, and it may be interesting in a revised version to try running Dirty Laundry instead of, or as well as EM. That said, Darwin runs can be costly, so the up-front payment of 2credit-icon might be the difference between success and failure on the run; perhaps it’s best used on runs when Parasucker is going to clear a lot of the intervening Ice.

What didn’t: The Source isn’t as effective as I might have hoped at stopping Fast Advance. It tends to make slow decks slower, which is great for DD, but against SSCG it may just force out a Breaking News early to break The Source by its own text instead of relying on a tag and 2credit-icon to trash a Resource.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that after Second Thoughts comes out, Swordsman requires a revisit to the build to accommodate for the fact that every breaker in the deck is an AI-Virus. Interestingly, the presence of the card in the environment alone – without even being in any deck that DD might face – is enough to threaten to completely shut down the more popular non-Criminal decks. It may have to be the “Card of the Expansion” for the Spin Cycle purely on the merit of its impact on the meta alone. That said, I don’t think that DD is beyond ‘redemption’ as yet, but that may be a matter of time and more testing ahead of the 2014 Store Championship series next year.

Corporation: Jinteki Personal Evolution “Hyperzontal” (v0.2)

Hyperzontal” comes from the unification of several ideas:

  1. Alix T4LBO7 is great for making money if he lasts long enough. Four power counters make him a bit of a priority target unless well defended. Alix worked well in my HB NKVD 3.0 deck (see Pt1 of this series here) so I wanted to try him in a Jinteki horizontal deck, too.
  2. Shipment from Kaguya in Jinteki PE helps to get the compression up by being able to advance multiple potential Agenda/Ambushes at once, raising the stakes for the Runner. Where in other decks that are trying to Fast Advance, the distribution of advancement tokens is a detriment, for Personal Evolution it is an advantage. Also, in combination with Trick of Light and a single advancement token (somewhere) it is possible to install a 3/2 or 3/1 Agenda, advance it with Kaguya and then trick over two counters from the other Kaguya target for a quick score.
  3. Jinteki Personal Evolution is trying to assemble a shell game of too many options for the Runner to safely pick off in one turn, but this has a problem. You’re trying to do this with only three clicks per turn, while the Runner has four clicks per turn. Shipment from Mirrormorph, however, brings three installs (not install actions, note!) to bear very cheaply. With sufficient cards in hand, there is a potential to install up to five cards in a single turn, e.g. three new remotes, plus Ice in one and Hokuusai Grid in another.
    Coupled with Alix, it is possible to install & rez Alix Shipment out three cards for three counters on Alix, and still trash him for a tidy profit. For the bold Corp playing Alix out a turn earlier and “going hyperzontal” in the next turn for four counters into eight credits is also an option.

The Ice mix, typically light for a PE horizontal deck, isn’t for the faint hearted. It doesn’t have a lot of stoppers and so much influence is tied up in the deck’s combos that importing better/stronger options from out of faction isn’t an option. The mix has a good spread of strength to keep the Atman style decks off balance (hopefully) and daringly chooses to use a couple of Trap Ice in an age of AI-breakers. Grim makes for an interesting inclusion, I think; my initial impression of that Ice was negative – gaining a point of Bad Publicity for a piece of Ice that doesn’t end the run struck me as a poor option, but early- to mid-game, it can be a huge setback to the assembling Rig for an unprepared Runner, and actually letting the Runner in to the server is very much the Jinteki mode.

The “usual” array of Ambush cards is supplemented by a couple of Cerebral Overwriters. The effect that these seem to have on play is that one gets trashed off the top of R&D and my remote servers are safe from that point onwards. This may be a good thing in one sense, but negative if you’re actually trying to get the Runner to hit one of them and fire off a significant burst of damage. Setting up a similar array on the central of choice seems too hard due to the repeated runs that the Runner prefers to make (focussing on centrals), at least in this environment. Snare and Fetal AI do not deter a Runner with Diesel and/or Quality Time charging up their hand size for the run, and the non-permanent nature of Net damage soon wears off.

Three Priority Requisitions in the deck is not ideal as the chances of the Runner lifting one of them is too high. Jinteki PE might best be played with an All 2s Agenda scheme, but Nisei Mk II is no better in the deck than PR for the effect that it has on play. Executive Retreat serves only to disrupt the gradual accumulation of Neural EMPs in hand building towards a flatline potential. Possibly comparing the Agenda scheme options here:

Scheme 1

Scheme 2

Scheme 3

3 Priority Requisition 3 Fetal AI 3 Fetal AI
3 Fetal AI 3 Nisei Mk II 3 Nisei Mk II
3 Braintrust 3 Braintrust 3 Braintrust
1 Clone Retirement 2 Clone Retirement 2 Private Security Force
/ 2 Corporate War
  2 Gila Hands Arcology  
10 Agenda (21 a.p.) 13 Agenda (22 a.p.) 11 Agenda (22 a.p.)

Maybe scheme 3 is better in this deck, and worth investigating down the track. Of course with the addition of a number of new 3/1s into the environment there is a new consideration of some 16 Agenda cards in a PE deck that continuously delivers damage through Agenda being scored or stolen.

An in-faction 5/3 that actually did something for the deck’s victory condition could be invaluable. </wishlist>

What worked: Celebrity Gift is such a powerhouse economy card for Jinteki. Finding it in your opening hand, along with the mandatory draw, I’m often quite willing to flash the entire hand with a Fetal AI, Snare!, economy card like Alix or Private Contracts, and one Ice, one Op, and then open install something on the third click. This leaves the Runner pondering whether to attack the remote, HQ, or just play “safe” and run on the undefended R&D.

The “hyperzontal” combo with Alix down, assuming that he survives and patience is probably key here – but waiting on spare Ice for a single remote may be a long wait in this deck – also works well when it comes off. With only two Alix in a 54 card deck, it isn’t every game that it happens, though. Snowflake, surprisingly, works well as a constant drain on the Runner, especially when the Fracter  is down. It usually only takes one failed guess for the Runner to dig for the requisite breaker, rather than risk repeatedly wasting credits (and critically, runs) trying to draw credits from the Corp. Even when the Fracter is in place, Snowflake is a good ROI draining a few credits and/or Datasucker tokens per run. Simply put, rarely does the Runner seem to treat Snowflake like a credit-draining target the way Chimera sometimes is.

What didn’t: sometimes I would find myself accumulating a ton of Operations (esp. Neural EMP) and possibly a Snare! that I really want to keep there, as well as a Shipment from Mirrormorph with nothing to play it into. A larger hand size might have worked, so Research Station is a consideration, but that in itself is fragile, especially in the face of Runner decks prepared to attack HQ. If the deck weren’t so Jinteki-specific I’d consider trying to port it to Cerebral Imaging for the possible boost in hand size and generally better economy options; keeping Shipment from Mirrormorph and Alix in-faction saves on Influence. The character of the deck would probably be so different that it may not be worth the mental exercise to consider doing so.

Bullfrog never went off, really, so its effectiveness in the deck is hard to judge.I definitely had instances where I could have hopped the Runner from a central to a remote, with either the option for a death server, an advanced Ambush, or bluff onto the Agenda server but then they never ran the Bullfrog server! While the diversity of the Ice in general seemed to be useful, in that it proved difficult for the Runner to anticipate what they may face, the inconsistency meant that attempting to assemble a server that might prove deadly was equally hard, as you may not see the missing component (e.g. the one Chum to install over Datamine). Additionally when there is a time where you as Corp might like to actually stop the Runner getting in, this suite was not so effective as an array of simple Barriers (say 3× Ice Wall, 3× Snowflake, 3× Wall of Static and 2× Bastion) might.