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Fourteen Decks in Fourteen Weeks, Pt5

Christmas holidays and Summer break have gotten the better of me and this series, it seems, but here we are in February 2014 and there’s three rounds of the Spin League #1 decks to catch up on. Allon-sy!

Round 5 (Sunday December 1 – Saturday December 14)

This round’s decks are really two concept decks that began life as beautiful hypotheses that failed to survive contact with the enemy that is reality. Both of them were overly complex and required serious paring down for efficiency’s sake, one to the point of losing the notion behind it entirely, making even its name something of a misnomer. That said, the invaluable assistance of my test team (i.e. Emma, my wonderful wife and a far cleaner deck designer than I) managed to massage them into something almost workable. We ended up feeling that the Runner deck was the stronger of the two, although this wasn’t borne out in the weekly tournament ahead of the League match, where the Corp deck performed better than its counterpart.

Corp: Write to the Brain v2.0.1

The Corp deck was based on the concept of trying to flatline the Runner out of the game using Ambush assets and HB Ice, most especially Viktor 2.0. Viktor is a neat little Mk II Bioroid, sadly weakened by the lack of a third subroutine, and his nature as a code gate in the face of Yogosaurus. Still, requiring 10 credits worth of set-up to break a 5 Rez/5 Strength piece of Ice for free isn’t a complete loss. If, barring Yogosaurus, there were a way to add an additional subroutine to Viktor 2.0, then potentially the Runner would leave the trace subroutine unbroken by clicks, allowing me to accumulate power counters.

There are, of course, ways to do this. In faction, Project Wotan is an excellent Agenda that progresses you quickly towards match point (accelerating the pace of the game that the Runner needs to play to beat you) as well as heightening the stopping power of any Bioroid if the Runner is clicking to break them. Out of faction, if the Runner hasn’t the capability to break Viktor’s subroutines with Icebreakers, then theoretically they also cannot break Sensei, thus Sensei into Viktor would also add the desired third subroutine.

To enhance the killing potential of the deck, I also decided to go with Sentinel Defense Program as another Agenda. Unfortunately I couldn’t work out what to cull from the design enough to drop the Agenda requirement down from 22-23, so I ended up running a 4×3-pt, 5×2-pts scheme which is hardly ideal. A better structure would obviously be either upping the Priority Requisition and Project Wotan count to three each and then running one two-point or two one-point Agendas, but losing the SDP was unattractive.

The deck was also (warning bells here: more than one concept vying for deck space?!) initially intended to be a NEXT Design heavy Ice deck that would run Zed 1.0 and as many of the Brain damage delivering Ice as I could sensibly squeeze in, keeping the Bioroid count high while having enough non-porous Ice to be able to mount an early defence. Theoretically, Zed in the pre-opening hand is awesome if you can on turn 1 lay out an Eli or other cheap clickable Bioroid in front of it. Theory, meet practice in a dark alley after midnight… NEXT Design stayed, Zed did not.

What worked: The element of danger inherent in the Ice made for an excellent threat array that could slow the Runner down quite well.

The credit structure, when I removed the hyperzontal combo (see the previous two articles in this series for an explanation) from an early design, worked fairly well. Eve, and even Adonis, are surprisingly resilient, but the former is far too slow for my liking. I think I should have replaced Eve Campaign with Private Contracts, perhaps, which has an equivalent return, though more click intensive, but the higher tempo of the Asset means that I can clear it from a server faster if need be. Successful Demonstration, when it goes off, is awesome, but Bioroid Ice makes it a tad weaker, and room should definitely have been made (card slot wise) for Beanstalk Royalties.

What didn’t: Overall I think that the Agenda structure needed some refinement. Too much in the way of porous Bioroid Ice made the deck’s early game highly vulnerable to Event-heavy Criminal decks that would Siphon credits or Shutdown key Ice to be able to penetrate otherwise secured servers. Would more tricks (Bioroid Efficiency Review?) and less Ice have been better, or a shift away from the Bioroid-heavy array.

Specifically pertaining to Viktor, while I was often able to get him rezzed at the time when Runners might have been most vulnerable to having to click-break him, and also forced the extra subroutine at times, the credits available to non-Engineering the Future HB decks seem to be weak enough to make the trace harder to effect than it should have been; especially if the Runner isn’t spending credits to break, they have them spare to beat the trace and prevent the accumulation of power counters. This is a concern for me in contemplating future deck designs such as including Snoop into Jinteki decks.

Another question I have in my mind about the deck is whether it would have been any better running out of Stronger Together; the appeal of Viktor 2.0 as a 5/6 Ice (being thus out of range of unsupported Yogosaurus tricks) is high, as well. Given that my main testing opponent was running Kitman (here) my bias towards this counter strategy might be my own, rather than a properly objective consideration.

Perhaps it is me, perhaps it was the deck concept, but getting Runners to hit my Ambush assets was nigh impossible. Perhaps the presence of a lot of Jinteki in my meta means Runners are better able to sniff out Cerebral Overwriters, and so never touch them? What usually happened though was the Runner would spot a CO off the top of R&D, and steadfastly avoid remotes from that point on, and I never drew into the Agenda quickly enough to punish them for this oversight. Lack of Jackson Howard here is telling, but there’s only so much space in a concept deck to try and cover all of its weakesses. Maybe hoarding Green Level Clearances for this eventuality is better to try and increase the draw past R&D locks, which the possible Beanstalk inclusion would assist in doing.

Runner: Whizzard “Blue Pill sans Blue v0.5”

Blue Pill began as the concept of using the Criminal viruses (Gorman Drip v1 and Pheromones) for a dedicated HQ attack. The intent was to move towards a “power turn” win condition by switching to a sudden deep dig, preceded by building up the latter virus sufficiently, then Vamp running the Corp to no credits and repeatedly running into R&D. The piece de resistance would be a Demolition Run on the second last attack to clear away all the accessed cards and access seven fresh cards on the last run. Any trashed or stolen cards along the way would only add to the number of new cards accessed in the end.

The deck  design was too broadly focussed to begin with; the HQ attack proved too hard to sustain while attempting to establish the combination in hand/on board, while trying to build credit superiority as well. The first design ran Noise as the identity but that lacked trashing effectiveness, and adding Imp was an additional search / install to be able to try to deal with high cost cards like San San City Grid. Influence costs coupled with the desired spends on program search (e.g. Self-modifying Code) ended up being too high to establish the viruses effectively, and Rook was too slow in general to bring to bear on R&D for the rez lock.

A second iteration pared out some of the safety mechanisms (e.g. New Angeles City Hall) and additional EBA choices (e.g. Xanadu). I also switched to Whizzard (noting that at this stage of the League Reina Roja was not a legal option), looking to improve the ability to disrupt the Corporation game plan. The deck thus migrated uncomfortably back towards a previous Whizzard design (“Dumpster Diving”), although the build was more efficient, certainly, but resorted to dedicated R&D attack, losing the Criminal virus cards that were intended to be the point of the deck name. The final version feels tempo weak, needing to initiate the power turn one turn earlier than comfort would suggest for the fourth R&D run, or risk losing out to the Corporation scoring the final Agenda.

What worked: the deep dig concept certainly worked, even if the constant pressure on R&D ran counter to the initial concept of being unchallenged in the repeated runs. Under the assault of Medium, the Corp would naturally seek to defend R&D heavily, which in turn made Vamp less useful overall without diluting the deck again with derezz effects.

Rook is incredibly strong; in one game (which resulted sadly in a loss) the final Hail Mary run was stopped by the Corp paying 7credit-icon to rez an Ice Wall! The speed of deployment for Rook is a let down without Deep Red, requiring careful timing to set up the attack the turn before committing. The deck also made for some ballsy running at times, being uncertain of being able to repeatedly attack R&D enough to win. Some means of not telegraphing the set-up might make it more effective, perhaps, or at least harder to counter.

What didn’t: the set up was still too slow in general, or at least slower than it needed to be against most of the decks that I played against. Missing from the design is enough draw, and sustained credits to establish the attaclk. The original design, while appealing, seems weaker in actuality than on paper, especially versus Weyland where even Whizzard has trouble establishing credit superiority.

The focussed R&D attack meant that the deep dig turn proved too costly, in general, for sustained pressure and the Medium / Datasucker pairing pulled purges more often than desired, if that makes sense. A more efficiently established breaker rig, e.g. Darwin (fetchable, single install, synergy with Datasuckers) might have sped the deck up, but then becomes even more vulnerable to purges, and weak in the face of Swordsman, only recently into the environment and so likely to see play.

Identity crisis?! As might seem to be a trend in retrospect, this is one of the first decks I will build throughout the latter rounds of the League which are a data pack ahead of themselves. I think that with a re-jig (including Deep Red) and reassignment of the Identity to Reina Roja, the original concept would be sound enough to potentially be far more viable and dangerous than it proved to be under Whizzard. Perhaps it will be worthy of a reprise in the second half of the Spin Cycle.