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Fourteen Decks in Fourteen Weeks, Pt4

Perhaps I should re-title this article Thirteen Decks, because this time around I played a variation on the Corp deck from the last fortnight. The reason being that by this stage of the league, I was out in front and matched against a player whom I knew to be using a net deck or two previously: Weyland Scorch (probably Glacier) and Shaper Katman. As Swordsman entered the environment I banked on a change from the Katman deck to him running Andromeda Static Breakers, given that deck had been tearing up the recent Plugged-in Tour and taking fourteen or fifteen of the top sixteen spots at the World Championship (my reports vary). I also expected that the Weyland deck would remain unchanged, given the strong performance of the archetype in both events. As such I did a little metagaming with my Brain Trust, and decided that Jinteki Personal Evolution had a strong game against Andromeda and that Gabriel Santiago with masses of credits (the “Vegas” archetype that Emma had played in Round 1 of the League) tweaked with Scorch defence was the best option against Weyland. Would I be successful? Read on…

Round 4 (Sunday November 17 – Saturday November 30)

Corporation: Hyperzontal v1.1

While the deck is much the same conceptually as “Hyperzontal” v0.2 that I ran in Round 3 there were a number of iterations, and in the hope that this might be interesting to some, I can present at least the variations between versions as I led into the League match. The wildest permutation was probably from v0.2 to v0.3 but it was so detrimental to the performance that I sort of took a backward step to v1.0 with the intent of re-focussing on the core combination and trying to get the deck to do what it was intended to do. I’ll present the changes as deltas from the previous revision, so working from v0.2, you’d need to apply each evolution to get to the final variant.

Evolution from v0.2 to 1.1:

v0.3 (49 cards)

-1 Braintrust
+1 Clone Retirement
-1 Enigma
-1 Gila Hands Arcology
-1 PAD Campaign
+1 Private Contract
-1 Project Junebug
-1 Server Diagnostics
-1 Shipment from Kaguya
-1 Shipment from Mirrormorph
+1 Swordsman

Of note, Hyperzontal v0.2 was 54 cards with the intent of tuning it down to 49 after playtesting. v0.3 did that, but proved too costly in the loss of the core combination cards and so I shifted the deck back to 54.

v1.0 (54 cards)

+1 Braintrust
-1 Neural Katana
+1 Project Junebug
+2 Shipment from Kaguya
+2 Shipment from Mirrormorph

v0.3 dropped to 49 cards, w 1ea. of the Shipments, kept the Ice consistent, and introduced Clone Retirement, mainly for the quick score over GHA, not for the anti-BP effect. v1.0 went back to 54 cards, but with a reconsideration of the Influence I could admit three of each Shipment.

NB: here’s the v0.2 to v1.0 delta, for interest’s sake:

+1 Clone Retirement
-1 Enigma
-1 Gila Hands Arcology
-2 PAD Campaign
+1 Private Contracts
-1 Server Diagnostics
+1 Shipment from Kaguya
+1 Shipment from Mirrormorph
+1 Swordsman

v1.1 (54 cards)

+2 Jackson Howard
-1 Shipment from Kaguya
-1 Shipment from Mirrormorph

v1.1 went further to drop back to two Shipments from Mirrormorph, and using the spare Influence there to pull in two Jackson Howards to try and recurse the Snare! and other trashed ambushes in looking for more kill options. The deck became credit poor and behaved badly throughout the match. A better design may be to drop back from the Alix-based combo again, regaining critical burst economy, while keeping the JH recursion.

What worked: Much the same as the previous deck iteration’s discussion, v1.0 performed well in test, and only in switching to v1.1 did things seem to go unstable. That may have been a factor of the opponent and the opposing deck. Reports I’ve seen suggest that Jinteki PE has a good game against Andromeda, trashing critical components of the Rig through all the Net damage. That may be so, and with weak recursion in the deck, I could see where this would bear out. If you don’t hit those, but the redundant elements, though, then the otherwise dead draws play a valuable role in sopping up damage.

What didn’t: The light Ice rarely presented a detriment, except in the one game where it counted (i.e. the League match) where HQ became the target of repeated Account Siphon runs, draining me of valuable credits while I struggled to keep the remote servers as being a threat. A Chum/Datamine/Hokusai server that may have been the kill never got touched.

Professional Contacts is very likely the bane of PE in the current environment. With a constant source of draw and credits being used to recover from the piecemeal damage that Snare!, Fetal AI, and Hokusai can levy, it is very hard to get the hand compression that is needed. Some mechanism of Resource trashing is required to eliminate this, but getting the tag from Snare! to stick is awkward, and importing SEA Source or some other operation-based tagging can be an expensive proposition, especially in a traditionally credit weak Corp faction. The influence expenditure into the Hyperzontal combo which makes up for some of that economic lack also means there’s no room for such a defence against countermeasures to the deck’s primary win condition.

Jinteki PE versus a careful Runner play is just… hard right now. If you’re in an environment where Jinteki is rarely seen, then it has a shot. Against the Adelaide City Grid crowd, with experienced Runners, it seems to be becoming increasingly unviable to be able to play this Identity. When you opponents know the tricks and they work around them too well, getting either the flatline or the Agenda victory seems very problematic. Perhaps it is a question of play style and possibly switching it up more would bring me more success but in general I find that the first 2-3 games of a Jinteki build will get a flatline or Agenda victory and then the stronger players, with or without repeat experience, will beat it, and you seem to find yourself always a few credits or one card or a click out of range of the flatline.

Runner: Gabriel Santiago “Area51”

Area51”, as mentioned, took inspiration from a deck design that my wife came up with, and playing against that I once likened to being beaten with a sledgehammer. The deck had so much money that there was little in the way that the Corp could do to keep it out. Rather than employing many of the excellent Event cards that Criminal has access to the deck simply focussed on generating a metric shedload of credits and powering o through servers, using efficient breakers like Faerie, Gordian Blade and Corroder.

I took that as a base, removing Bank Job (which with Dirty Laundry and Desperado can make for a massive amount of credits in the one run) because Weyland doesn’t often give you a remote server that is economic to attack this way. That made room for two Plascrete Carapaces. Some further tweaking allowed me to include 2× Hostage, 2× John Masanori, and 2× Decoy. I wanted Decoy in the build to counter a possible Posted Bounty scored on action 1 as a setup to a double Scorched Earth. Hostage was a golden card, able tutor for an install any of missing Compromised Employee, Decoy, Kati Jones, John Masanori or Mr Li. Li I tend not to like much (I keep comparing him to Crash Everett) but here he can be a powerhouse in digging for the cards you need right now.

What worked: The anti-Scorch cards were excellent in doing what they needed to; I was able to drop a Decoy in time to make Posted Bounty a mere 1 a.p. instead of a double Scorch win in one game. Installing it as part of the Hostage is a cheap option, one I am happier doing than simply dropping the credit for the normal install.

Two Clone Chips and two Sacrificial Construct in addition to the 3× Faerie supported by the lone Femme Fatale is more than enough Sentry breaking capability. The deck is about timely, controlled running, rather than smashing through at every opportunity. As a once off, breaking a Shadow, Caduceus or Neural Katana with the first Faerie is fine, but you really want to dig out the Femme Fatale to deal with these on an ongoing basis. Compromised Employee is an additional safeguard for face-checking Ice with just the Faerie as your Killer; with one CE in play, only three credits in your pool is enough to deal with a surprise Archer that could otherwise wreck your day.

The Economy is just damned strong. It may be slightly slower than the original Vegas version, but it trades that off against being more robust in the face of urban renewal  efforts on your crash pad. Two R&D Interface makes for the main win option to dig deep into their forthcoming Agenda, but a single HQ Interface can net you one or two if the pressure you exert causes the Corp to bottle up. The one Siphon is about timed disruption of the Corp’s plans rather than repeated crippling.

Desperado, John Masanori and Compromised Employee all look to make running as profitable as possible without going down the Datasucker route.

What didn’t: As a primarily Shaper player it sometimes feels  a bit weird not having all that draw/search at your fingertips. The money’s nice, but without the requisite Icebreaker it only means you’re going nowhere rich. Not blowing Influence to have the 3× Easy Mark in the deck is also kind of refreshing.

…Oh, yeah, this is the what didn’t work bit. A previous variation on the final published deck lacked the ability to dig deep and some influence re-jigging was required to fit the 2× R&D Interface. This cost some redundancy of the breakers, which hurt but you’re running Special Order, Sacrificial Construct and Clone Chip for the Faeries, and the latter two make sense to save your one Fracter or Decoder in a tight spot. The inclusion of R&D Interface served to dilute the central HQ focus of Gabe, which is perhaps no bad thing in the end. Only one HQ Interface meant that at times I was fishing (what I thought was) the one Scorched Earth out of a five-card hand over and over, missing possible Agenda.

If you’ve burned a Hostage to get either Kati Jones or John Masanori (Mr Li is an option for second Connection to fetch if you feel the need to selectively draw rather than arbitrarily suck up cards) and your economy gets trashed then digging for the backup can be painful. This can lead to some pressure to not let up on the Corp vs. trying to recover your primary credit engine. Unless you smell a Scorch, burn a Decoy if you can to stop that. Sacrificial Construct is no help here, sadly, especially against Character Assassination.

John Masanori is a hugely potent card if you have a full rig, but be cautious about installing him too early, as striking a Barrier you can’t get through is problematic when it wastes not only the run but the next action and 2credit-icon clearing the tag from Masanori. That said, installing Masanori ahead of a cheap Laundry run into Archives with the Desperado down can be a decent move early game, if you’re in need of a credit boost.

Always try and get a Faerie down before face-checking Ice. I’m not a huge fan of any of the exposure effects, and Faerie is just damned cheap, far better than, say, Recon and Snitch is just unmentionable. Smile

That’s caught me up on the season of this League thus far. I’ll try and keep the deck listings coming more in line with the rest of Spin as it progresses. Stay tuned, & keep on Running!

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