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Fifteen Decks in Fifteen Weeks, Pt 6

I have two more concept decks to present to you this time around, one of which has been refined throughout Spin and even late Genesis in prior versions. The Runner deck, Exile Parasucker, was something that I have been kicking around mentally for a little while and decided to try and bring to execution.

Round 6, Sunday 15 December – Saturday 4 January, 2014

As an aside, this round the pressure was on; a number of us were tied for the lead, and there were several fast moving contenders in the mid-pack threatening to catch the leaders. I was paired up against my main testing partner, Emma, who is also my wonderful wife, a dangerous Netrunner player to face off against at any time and particularly when she knows what tricks you have. So the desire to test the decks and improve them was offset by the desire to have at least some surprises available to me in the actual match. I think this really hampered the development of the new deck so it isn't as well refined as it might otherwise be. Anyway, back to the decks at hand, and stay tuned for a bonus one at the end.

Runner: Exile “Parasucker” v1.0

The Runner deck was predicated on the notion that Exile's ability works best on programs that trash themselves when doing their business, and that there is nothing that the Corporation hates more than ice destruction leaving it vulnerable. Outside of the Criminal events, one of the more successful anti-Ice mechanisms is the Anarch Parasite virus supported by Datasucker. Exile's ability, coupled with Parasite's self-trashing when it destroys its host, should be a very discouraging opposition, when the Corp sees a Parasite that just trashed its precious Ice come right back out of the heap for another go, netting me a card in the bargain.

If you've been following this series of articles, you'll know by now that I am a massive fan of Exile, and the draw power of his ability. I've been playing around with various designs for this Identity, striving to get just the right mechanism to best exploit that. Parasucker is the latest iteration, intent on repeatedly recurring Parasite, coupled with building Datasuckers by hammering the one central server under target, to try and turn that ability into constant wins.

Parasucker, in my design at least, is heavily dependent upon a number of components from the Anarch card pool, namely Parasite (••), Datasucker (•!), Grimoire (••) and Djinn (••). Thus, running two copies of each of these (and a third Datasucker) fully consumes the total Influence available to the Exile Identity, leaving no space for Easy Mark (but there's Dirty Laundry, right?), Special Order (but Test Run, auto include in Exile anyway), Medium (presuming an R&D attack focus, but there's R&D Interface, right?). Money was a sticking point, but with a build that includes 3× Dirty Laundry, 3× Freelance Coding Contract (and 17 Programs), 3× Sure Gamble, 3× Personal Workshop (economy and paid ability deployment of Parasite mid-run), 2× Magnum Opus, 2× Armitage Codebusting and 2× Kati Jones, you'd think that would not be such an issue... right?

The breaker suite is perhaps odd; Killers, sans spare influence ended up having to be Creeper and Pipeline (possibly the two worst in the game?), Fracters are Inti (great vs. Ice Wall or now Paper Wall early turns) and Snowball (MU being an issue that counted against Battering Ram) and for Decoders I ran ZU.13 Keymaster and Gordian Blade. Perhaps as far as the Killers are concerned there's room for something like Mimic backed up by Deus X and Sharpshooter now, but in the Mala Tempora environment of this deck's time span it wasn't an option. With Datasucker support for Mimic built in, this might be decent. Losing Magnum Opus from the Program array might also make space for the Battering Ram, but that needs testing, as well.

As mentioned the Personal Workshop was intended to host the Parasites for mid-run deployment, allowing me to Test Run them without requiring the host Ice to be rezzed. This would work well if the Ice were rezzed and Datasuckers could then result in the host being trashed without a worry of the Test Run Parasite returning to the top of my stack. Dropping the PW in favour of other options (Aesop’s Pawnshop?) might also improve performance, and rely upon Clone Chip or Self-modifying Code for mid-run deployments; Test Run and Scavenged Parasites could then target rezzed Ice instead.
All of this led to (in theory) a victory condition of deep digging into R&D using R&D Interface and The Maker's Eye, for addition access.

What worked: truthfully, in my League match against kage I got so severely trounced that it is hard to recall what might have gone right! In testing the early/late game breaker suite switch seemed to be proving a workable idea, and Parasite/Datasucker is a proven combination when it comes together.

What didn't: The lack of an economically efficient means to combat fast advance schemes, particularly SanSan City Grid, proved to be telling, I think. Also, the R&D focus of the deck was so tight that digging elsewhere seemed to be infeasible, which is a detriment if your opponent is able to draw into all the Agenda that they need. The all in-faction Killers are also a real weak point, being horrendous against early game Sentry Ice, e.g. Shadow or Caduceus, and especially Grim or worse, Snoop. Shadow, for example, while not too painful, would cost 2credit-icon for Self-modifying Code, +3credit-icon to install a Pipeline, +2credit-icon to break, which will put a serious dent into any economy for attempting to put early economic pressure on the Corp. Caduceus is worse, and you're better off trying to beat the traces. Snoop is a potential first turn rez, and just enables combo-destruction, even if Exile does like to see Programs in the trash, chances are the Corp will leave those for something more problematic.

Without serious draw power backing up Exile's ability to establish the set up early, FCC simply wastes your hand and puts more pressure on the retrieval cards, many of which may not be available to deploy. One consideration might be trying to tweak the Influence enough to import Wyldside early on, helping to assemble the Rig, before cutting it off to Aesop's Pawnshop to enable serious φ3 running.

The concept of the deck remains appealing to me - enough so that I have revisited the deck list with another version, so do follow the “Inspiration for…”  link off the deck listing at alsciende's netrunnerdb.com site to see where I'm contemplating taking this new build.

Corporation: The Jinteki Replicating Perfection Project v2.1

This deck has been an ongoing project for me since late in Genesis, spawned funnily enough by Geoff Hollis’ (infamous?) strategy article “My Secret Love Affair with Jinteki Personal Evolution”. If you’ve not read the article, you’re not serious about playing Jinteki. It’s here, go on, I’ll wait…

Since I read that article, the JRPP has been evolving, devolving and morphing since then. The ultimate goal of the deck is to be able to create a board state that ‘locks’ the Runner out of a key remote server, at least long enough to complete the win. Instead of Hollis’ concept of work compression being applied to the Runner’s card resources, JRPP seeks to apply it to click resources. This is done by either making the Runner so busy spending clicks that they cannot attack, or by denying them clicks at a crucial juncture such that they’re unable to initiate a run on that server.

Core to the deck’s function is the Ruhr Valley region, an expensive 3 Influence inclusion that means there’s only room for two in the deck (in my design). In truth, the deck can win without every needing to rez the Ruhr Valley, but the elegance of the lock really doesn’t get seen until its in play. The RP Identity forces the Runner to spend a click running a central, to turn off the denial of the Runner being able to run at any remote. Ruhr Valley demands that they spend an additional click-icon to initiate a run on the RV server, thus requiring two more clicks. If they do not see the RV coming and waste clicks at the beginning of their turn (I love seeing Wyldside down against this deck, BTW) then a mid-turn rez of the Ruhr Valley can lock them out of the server totally.

Even if the Runner is able to initiate the run, a previously scored Nisei Mk II1 can ensure a waste of potentially a large number of credits and two clicks for no gain. Without the Nisei, False Lead can also deny your opponent access to the agenda server, and timing the scoring of an Unorthodox Predictions can also deny the Runner access to multiple critical servers at times. Potentially, if all the stars align this can escalate to match point, chaining an Unorthodox Predictions into scoring a Nisei, which can then protect a Priority Requisition, leaving you on match point all without resorting to the Ruhr Valley. Priority Requisition rolled in in favour of “the betrayer”, Executive Retreat, which does seem to prefer the Runner’s score pile than my own, for some odd reason. PR is a tad more prone to staying hidden for me… weird.

The Agenda scheme was originally designed to fit into 10 slots, and was worked to be the optimal array for a minimal action investment to win by scoring Agenda (if you’re interested, see my blog post on that consideration). As more time has passed I have switched up and down on this, and moved away from the optimal scheme, as some of the Agenda remain so useful in the deck that I would rather have eleven Agenda, with 5× 2pts and 4× 1pts in than only ten Agenda cards. The Agenda scheme is not designed for minimising the number of Agenda in the deck (cf. my Jackson’s Magnificent Engine, or the mooted All-3s designs for the forthcoming Harmony Medtech Jinteki Identity in Honor and Profit), or even the action investment any more. Both Unorthodox Predictions and False Lead play into the deck’s victory condition so a non-optimal scheme is preferred.

Mala Tempora brought Sundew to Jinteki’s economy and coupled with Celebrity Gift is able to generate a frightening number of credits for those used to Jinteki being a “poor Corp”. It still needs defending against an aggressive Runner intent upon undoing your precious economy, but with 20 Ice in the deck there should be sufficient deterrent to allow for a tidy profit before they do get to trash it. Celebrity Gift rolled in in favour of Successful Demonstration, which worked moderately well, but could at times be dependent upon triggering a Nisei Mk II, which in turn required the cash SD would have given me to score safely. With CG, I find that I’m moderately happy to reveal all five cards in general.

With the Ice, Operations, lock components and Agenda, there’s little room for ‘certain cards’. Jackson Howard is, for one, a notable omission and the deck does have some vulnerability for that. The other, namely Ambush Assets, is perhaps even more remarkable. Whether Snare!, Shock! Project Junebug or Cerebral Overwriter would fit best in here to shore up the lack depends on play style and what painful cuts to thhe influence cards you have to make to put in the Overwriter. Focussing on “one big server” (no matter how deep it actually gets) means Ronin is likely a pooor choice, though.

This iteration of the deck replaced two Snare! with the two Sundew, and one Junebug with an Archer. On reflection, at least one Snare! should have remained, so as to at least inspire more cautious running for fear of hitting a second unprepared. Trading on the double bluff by excluding them can work, depending on your opponent though. Remember that the goal here is not to  kill your opponent, but lock them out of your Agenda server as best you can. This does mean that you may find yourself having to shore up centrals more than you would normally expect from Jinteki, though.

On the Ice front, there is no Chum in the deck: it can be weak in RP because often the Runner is only attacking a central server as a precursor to running remotes, and Chum is an easy face-check from which to jack out before scooting off to wreck some economy or steal Agenda. Hourglass is intended to sit over HQ or the Archives, because it can then suck away a whole turn’s worth of clicks on what should have been a milk run if the Runner is not prepared for it. This can mean the ability to score an Agenda (especially a Nisei) if you can pull it off. Equally Viper can cost the Runner a valuable click if you can get its trace to stick, and an early Enigma can do likewise. The barrier heavy suite may deserve a rethink, especially now that some room might need to be made for Tsurugi (which I note is four credits to bypass with Femme Fatale, regardless of whether you would have paid 1 for the first subroutine or not; and four to break with the same, as with Mimic, and seven with Ninja!) As noted above, switching to four 3/1 Agenda also allowed me to splash in one Archer in this version, which has won games by decimating the Runner’s Rig at the right time.

What worked: while I lost the League game that this deck was dragged out to try and win, I don’t feel like it was completely beyond reach. Much of this deck is a mental game, though; it is a complex machine to play, timing is critical. It does miss some of the classic Jinteki deception and forcing into difficult decision points which PE can manage, in favour of working to deny the Runner options to attack.

Economically I think it should be fine. I struggled at key junctures to deal with Tinkering and a Yogosaurus Rig. Against other decks, the win rate is quite good, well over 50% all through its history of versions, refinements and evolutions.

What didn’t: removing all the Ambushes is a mistake. The Ice potentially needs a revisit, as one Corroder can deal with a broad tranche of the ETR defence, which is painful. More stopping power needs to come from elsewhere, so perhaps the number and variety of Sentries should be looked at as well, possibly including a Swordsman for troublesome Atman/Darwin decks as well.

Private Contracts was chosen over PAD Campaign because unrezzed it could serve as a Siphon sink; in practice PC doesn’t go unrezzed for long, so that plan to sink money to prevent the credit differential arising has to be backed up with Ruhr Valley, or dumping credits into a Viper trace. The deck doesn’t have Beanstalk or Green Level to recover from going totally broke, though, so it is better to maintain a healthy credit pool and try to catch the Siphon run with an Hourglass, following up with whatever tag punishment you can mete out.

Against an R&D lock, without Jackson Howard, it can be hard to get the final Agenda into hand. Finding space amidst the lock-devoted components could be tricky, but it is probably worth doing, as well, especially with Keyhole coming into the environment with the release of True Colors.

But wait… Fifteen decks?

While I was struggling to get the above decks working I managed to distract myself with another design as well: “All the Bad Cards”. This one was inspired, in part, by a mad defiance of the common wisdom of certain cards being “bad”, especially of note, Hard at Work. The thinking was that a trickle feed economy, backed by Aesop’s Pawnshop, would perform very well once the Rig was set up, to the point of only needing three actions a turn to sustain a decent R&D lock long enough to get a win. Hard at Work, coupled with Underworld Contacts and Daily Casts, might amass enough credits that running would be enough, and time spent clicking for credits would be eliminated.

The other element of the deck that was attempting to proof “bad” cards was Motivation and Eureka combined to get out a Monolith and insta-Rig to start pressuring the minute it all came down. The idea behind the Breaker suite was then to maximise the cost-break of the free installations, without imposing any further burden on a credit pool that needed eight (seven with Kate’s ability) credits with which to drop the Slab. This dictated the Killer (Ninja), Fracter (Snowball) and Decoder (Gordian Blade), all four to install, thus an optimal Eureka installation of the Monolith would save me twelve credits, three additional clicks (so costing effectively three credits if you value a click at only one credit), while discounting the console by ten credits!

Originally thinking Kate for the additional link, I shifted to Chaos Theory in an attempt to increase efficiency by dropping the number of cards. Three Monoliths meant that I was seeing the card come into hand too often, and then have to dig to get to the next one, often to the point of drawing it inadvertently. Ultimately I found that swapping for two copies of The Toolbox was a better option.

Hard at Work becomes an interesting card to use in this deck; you can play it early for an economic boost (alongside Daily Casts and hopefully at least one working Underworld Contacts) with the plan to sell it off to Aesop’s when install clicks become more important than the income. Late game, with recurring credits from The Toolbox, and bleed feed economy from the Contacts, Hard at Work can come into play again, as a boost to your credits for running, when clicks for installation or run prep are less important.

One Inti is a bad inclusion when there’s so little program search; I like it early on against Corp players who try to defend cheaply with Ice Wall, or rush Agenda behind a Paper Wall. Ideally, three copies of SMC can give you a decent chance to pull it into play in the first turn, and in my Exile decks (which this is not), it becomes Scavenge-bait in subsequent turns, maybe getting back even the SMC that searched it out.

The deck wasn’t up to snuff, lacked from weak testing and revising the concept mid-test, and probably serves best as a jump-off point for better builds…

[1] or “The Most Powerful Agenda in the Game”, as I sometimes like to think of it.