Netrunner is a spectacular game. The asymmetry, the steady influx of new cards, the wide open decision space, the push-and-pull of applying and receiving pressure in a game with so many hidden elements is remarkable. On many an occasion, my enjoyment of the experience has been so extreme that I just blurt out something along the lines of, “Dammit, I love this game! How does any game have any right being this good?” Every time I play, I’m truly baffled that it’s not more popular than it is. And by LCG standards, it’s pretty popular.
But, I digress. I’m not here to tell you about my undying obsession with Netrunner, as that wouldn’t be so much a blog post, as it would be a book of sonnets and other florid prose. This is an article about the Team Tournament hosted by Face to Face Games on May 3, 2015.
Back in March 2014, a deck archetype known as Astrobiotics creeped onto the scene. It leveraged the raw power of NBN’s agenda Astroscript Pilot Program (easily one of the best, if not THE best agenda in the game), SanSan City Grid, and HB’s Biotic Labor to score the 7 agenda points necessary to win without ever having to protect them in a remote server (AKA fast advance). Once the corporation had succeeded in scoring one Astroscript, the dreaded “Astrotrain” left the station, and there was little the average runner could do to stop its payload.
Fast advance itself was nothing new, but it was expensive to operate. The three above mentioned cards were all printed in the core set, so the pieces had always been there. But, only Hass-Bioroid could afford to use them properly and still provide ample defense for their central servers earlier on in the game’s life. But, a select few cards printed in the Spin Cycle changed that. Wraparound fortified NBN’s defense, Sweeps Week padded out their economy. These two cards alone would be the steam that the Astrotrain needed to get rolling. But, Fantasy Flight Games didn’t stop there. The Spin and Lunar cycles were in many ways a love letter to what would become an oppressively strong deck archetype. NAPD Contract, Fast Track, Near-Earth Hub, Architect, and Daily Business Show all served to strengthen Astrobiotics. The release of Grail and Cosmic ICE also supplied the archetype some diversity, despite NBN’s otherwise shallow card pool.
The Greater Toronto Area (known by the Netrunner community as the Torsaug City Grid) had had quite enough of these shenanigans. Sure, many of us continued to bring versions of the deck to tournaments (it won games, plain and simple), but it seems that few felt satisfied in doing so, mostly because we knew how frustrating it was to play against. But, the Torsaug City Grid turned that frustration into inspiration and invented our very own team format. A big thanks to Victor Naqvi for taking everyone’s comments and suggestions and putting it all together.
The rules of the team format indicate that players pair up into teams of two, choosing one runner faction and one corp faction. These two players would share a standard cardpool, thereby imposing limits on deck building. Normally, each Netrunner deck could contain up to 3 of each card (exceptions: IDs, 1-ofs like Philotic Entanglement, Utopia Shard, etc.). In the team format, the team would be forced to share in this limitation, so that no more than 3 of each card (or 1, as the case may be) could be present in the two combined decks. This simple restriction obliged players to build more creatively, as it effectively disallowed either player from building a dominant ‘tier one’ deck without causing his or her teammate to suffer. It also had the desired effect of making NBN decks that much more difficult to craft, as the entertainment-focused megacorp’s card pool is as shallow as it is powerful.
Lo and behold, not a single team brought NBN as their corp faction to the tourney. There wasn’t any Weyland either (sad face). The skies had opened and a beautiful reprieve from the tyranny of Near Earth Hub shone upon us from the the heavens above. Also worth mentioning: only one team brought Criminal. There was, however, a whole lot of Jinteki and Anarch. Speaking of which…
I paired up with Scott Rostrup, a strong player and all-around great guy. We met up roughly a week before the event to build our four decks. We decided that of the corps, that Jinteki’s possible builds were more diverse, though HB was strongly considered. As for our runner faction, it was no question that Anarchs would best be able to leverage the decreased power and consistency (read: less Jacksons) in the corp decks we would face.
We ended up with a Noise Cacheshop mill deck with Gravediggers and a decent breaker suite, and a Keyhole Eater MaxX with plenty of disruption that synergized well with Eater (Account Siphon, Wanton Destruction) and Kati Jones for long term economy. Although I know that Scott would have liked 3 I’ve Had Worse in his deck, too, he felt he could do without them and opted for the explosive draw power of Inject instead. In the end, the number of concessions we had to make were few, as Anarchs now have draw power and economy to spare.
Corp side, I really wanted to take Industrial Genomics, but my builds tended to want the cards that make Replicating Perfection the powerhouse we all know today (Sundew, Caprice Nisei, Future Perfect). In the end, Scott took a fairly standard RP build, and I made a Personal Evolution Thousand Cuts style deck with what was left over. Scott was kind enough to donate a Future Perfect to lower my agenda density. He ended up putting a Braintrust in its place, an addition that closed out two of his games. His opponents figured that the unadvanced Braintrust was simply part of setting up a scoring remote (either an Ash or a Caprice) and left it alone, allowing him to win the game on the following turn.
Our decklists can be found at the end of the article.
To support the team dynamic, we were given 75 minute rounds. Ideally, players would use those extra 10 minutes to converse about opening hands, difficult game states, offer coaching, etc., but as it turned out, the format encouraged, if not outright forced, more players to adopt glacier corp builds, which served to fill those 75 minutes with ease. As I recall, there were even two rounds that went to time.
Scott and I, also known that day as Team Jackdeck were first paired up against Team PB & D², Dirty Dan and a friend of his.
My Noise vs Dan’s Harmony Medtech
I suspected that I would have my work cut out for me, as my Noise takes a few turns to set up, and Medtech is often uses a rush strategy. Fortunately, Dan was running a trappier version and I ignored his baits in favour of getting the engine rolling on milling out Medtech’s smaller deck size. Hoping to shore up his economy, he rezzed and used a Shell Corporation that he placed on a double advanced card; a failed trap. With two Gravediggers in play and the mill well under way, I couldn’t let that happen. I used Queen’s Gambit on the double advanced trap, which let me run and trash the Shell Corp without accessing the trap, which placed a virus counter on each of my Gravediggers. I finished the turn off with a Gravedigger mill, and quietly celebrated what would be one of my favourite plays of the day. In the end, I aggressively milled him to 0 cards, then ran the Archives on my last click to grab the agenda win. Why not?
Dan’s Valencia vs My Personal Evolution
I wasn’t thrilled about the larger deck size, as it meant I would have to work that much harder to reach inevitability, but them’s the breaks. I scored an early Gila Hands Arcology and House of Knives, and felt confident. Dan installed an Incubator, and various cards that would add to his hand size. I saw a few Ekominds hit his heap, and he later told me that the deck could boast a maximum hand size of 29. 29! I had him near the end of his deck, but he had a Levy AR Lab Access in the heap and two Same Old Things on the table. I installed Chronos Project with a Snare and a Psychic Field in hopes of locking down the game. And then, as if he could read my mind, he used a Same Old Thing to regenerate his deck with Levy, and to add insult to injury, he ran and stole my Chronos Project. He had now scored 5 agendas and I had a Philotic Entanglement sitting in a naked server just waiting for the right moment. But, Public Sympathy and Origami kept him at a healthy hand size of 8, and the moment never came. Finally, he installed a Medium, emptied 16 counters from Incubator onto it and saw the rest of my deck. Good game, sir.
End of round 1. Adam: 1 win – 1 loss. Scott: 2 wins – 0 losses. 6 Prestige.
Next, we sat down at the recorded feature match table with Team Breaker Bay Sharks. Representing the Sharks were Mark, Torsaug master of jank, and Aaron, who is as sweet as he is handsome.
Aaron’s Professor vs My Personal Evolution
I could just write the words “Deus Ex recursion” here and move on, but I’ll humour you. Aaron was fairly lucky early game, choosing only to run on agendas, evading the traps I put so much time and effort into preparing for him (the height of rudeness). Even when he did end up hitting a trap, Deus Ex was there to save the day. Again, I had a Philotic in play that would’ve won me the game. But this time, there was always a Deus Ex in play. I tried my best to wear out his clone chips, but he seemed to know every time the card being advanced was a Ronin. He won handily.
My Noise vs Aaron’s Personal Evolution
Payback was sweet. I had the very same luck in my early runs, disabling Ronins and grabbing agendas, including the coveted Philotic Entanglement. After hitting 4 points, I concentrated on the mill, and ran Archives for the agenda victory. Short and sweet.
The only part of the game on Scott and Mark’s side of the table that I recall is that Mark (playing Replicating Perfection) was desperately struggling with Scott’s Hacktivist Meeting. He couldn’t score his agendas without his economy up and running, and he couldn’t rez his economy without being forced to trash agendas. He lost that one.
End of round 2. Adam: 2 wins – 2 losses. Scott: 4 wins – 0 losses. 12 Prestige.
Round 3 matched us up with the fine gentlemen of Team Lo Rez, Daniel Joseph and Luke Simcoe.
My Noise vs Daniel’s Stronger Together
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this match, as I honestly haven’t played against many Stronger Together decks. You hear that they exist, but you rarely see one in the wild. Brain Taping Warehouse had just hit the shelves, so I shied away from running too early in my turns. I concentrated on setting up and finding the breakers necessary to properly challenge his remotes. I figured the agendas would be few and far between and that a mill victory would be more difficult. I was going to have to grab the goods on his terms. Unfortunately, he pushed out a very early Hades Fragment behind an IQ. Not at all what Noise likes to see. But fortune fell on my side of the table as well. All of the pieces I wanted to see came out very quickly and my economy was strong and stable; just what you need when Crypsis is doing the heavy lifting. His deck was relying heavily on asset economy, which was truly perfect. With Gravediggers on board and Imps in hand, my ability to pressure Archives grew stronger each turn. Although Hades Fragment made a mill victory impossible, I was able to close out the game by keeping a tight rein on his economy and eventually putting the winning agendas into the dumpster.
Daniel’s Valencia vs My Personal Evolution
This was a blowout. Daniel was playing the Paige Me Red Valencia deck that made a recent splash on netrunnerdb. Opus hit the table on the first or second turn, and repeated vamps disarmed every last one of my traps.
End of round 3. Adam: 3 wins – 3 losses. Scott: 5 wins – 1 losses. 16 Prestige.
Scott and I headed into our final round paired up against Team Loose Cannons: Mathew Kumar and Victor Naqvi, the tourney’s TO.
Mathew’s Noise vs My Personal Evolution
After 3 straight losses with my corp deck that day, I did not have high hopes going into the final round. Certainly not against Noise. But, Mathew got greedy and accessed R&D with only 2 cards in hand (having just lost one to a Swordsman on the way). The top card was a Snare and that was game.
My Noise vs Mathew’s Next Design
Not another rush deck. Again I knew I was going to have to pressure him early or be left in the dust. His opening hand clearly had at least 3 ICE, because he laid 3 of them down before drawing back up before his first turn. Rough. I ran R&D, he rezzed an Eli, and I bounced off. I ran HQ, no rez, and stole an ABT. Spent clicks 3 and 4 setting up. I thought about checking the naked remote, but nah… he’s not that brazen. He was. Mathew scored and fired an ABT, adding two rezzed ICE to his servers. Ultimately, I kept the pressure up to keep his economy at bay. I managed to narrowly snag (1 credit left) another agenda out of a scoring remote (thank you Crypsis) before finishing the game with a dive into the Archives.
Then, I finally had the time and clarity of mind to check in on Scott’s game. The game between his MaxX and Victor’s Engineering the Future went down to the wire. They were both at match point. Scott didn’t have the credits necessary to challenge the scoring remote housing a double advanced agenda and an Ash (not to mention the scored Utopia Fragment). Scott and I knew this would be his last turn. We talked it out. Click1: he emptied Kati. Click 2: Keyholed R&D (losing click 3 to a bioroid) and saw nothing. Click 4: ran Archives, trashing his Utopia Shard before access, and scored a Project Wotan. Jackpot!
End of round 4. Adam: 5 wins – 3 losses. Scott: 7 wins – 1 losses. 24 Prestige.
And we won, just barely squeaking ahead of Lo Rez’s 23 Prestige. Scott and I were, of course, thrilled to each snag an alt art Gordian Blade.
Scott was a beast, carrying our team to victory with only 1 loss. Although my Noise went undefeated, I was disappointed with my corp performance. It seems that runners have grown smarter to PE’s shenanigans. Or perhaps I’m just not conniving enough… yet.
All in all, I’m happy to report that Torsaug’s first team tournament went off without a hitch. There were rules in place to handle illegal decks (more than 3 copies, etc), but they were never needed. The only thing I could possibly suggest changing would be to ask players to pair themselves into junior-senior teams, where each team has an experience player paired up with a newer player. Netrunner can be a hard game to wrap your head around and having an experienced player teach you the ropes as you build decks and prepare for the tournament would be a great way to delve deeper into the game. At the tournament itself, experienced players would face other experienced players, and novice players would face off against other novices. This, in turn, would give greater meaning to those extra ten minutes per round, as the novice players would be able to consult their partner for advice on approaching challenging game states.
Torsaug hasn’t set a date for the next team tournament yet, but the community has made it clear that they’re interested in doing it again. Personally, I can’t wait until the pool is big enough to support three decks per team.
Scott’s MaxX: http://netrunnerdb.com/en/decklist/21000/half-a-mind