Over the last couple of months, I’ve pretty much jumped into the deep end of learning and playing Android: Netrunner. And at least part of the urgency that I felt in getting up to speed with the game is that, very early on, I discovered that one of the Regional tournament events was going to be held pretty nearby (at Atomic Empire in Durham). So especially over the 2-3 weeks leading up to the event, I worked hard to develop a couple of decks that I was relatively comfortable with and that I thought might at least make a respectable showing in the tournament.
For my corporation deck, I decided to use Haas Bioroid: Engineering the Future as my identity. The deck was mostly designed to get lots of money and play big ICE, but also had a hefty element of brain damage thrown in, and I included three Punitive Counterstrikes as a surprise source of meat damage that I didn’t think people would be expecting. My runner deck used Rielle “Kit” Peddler in a pretty well-balanced utility deck that was built around Kit’s ability and the Yog-o-Saurus engine (where you install Yog.0 onto Dinosaurus to be able to break almost any Code Gate for free).
But anyway, before the event, I talked with a few other players here and there, and then spent the rest of the time filling out my decklist and trying to keep my palms dry. There was a brief little player meeting before the first round where they asked for super-byes and verified which preregistrants didn’t actually attend. But then, up went the lists of our 1st round matchings…
Chris D. (from the Durham/RTP area)
Game 1: vs. Ken “Express” Tenma (Criminal)
Chris is a Netrunner veteran who eventually made the top 16, so I was pretty nervous as I took my first few turns against him with my HB deck. But pretty soon, I drew into a hand that contained both 2 copies of Punitive Counterstrike and my only 3-point agenda, Priority Requisition. It was really hard to keep my hands from shaking at this point (both from being nervous about starting the tournament and because I had a real chance to win with these cards), so I attempted to be all nonchalant when I installed the agenda, ICEd it up, and advanced it once.
Chris took the bait and ran on the server (I think he even used Inside Job to avoid my ICE), stealing the juicy agenda and taking the lead in the game. Of course, he was also sealing his own doom, so I was going crazy inside watching him take his last few clicks. After that run, he then took a credit, drew a card, and paused… Just before I was about to celebrate my win, however, he used his last click to play a freaking Plascrete Carapace to ruin my day (since it would prevent enough of the meat damage to keep me from killing him).
I can’t remember now if I went ahead and played out the Counterstrikes on him anyway at this point (pretty sure I did), but it was practically over at that point anyway. I had handed a really good player 3 points and failed to close the deal, so he eventually ended up winning the game 7-2. After our match, we talked a little, and he said that he could sort of tell that I was feeding him the agenda (possibly because I had played it when I would not have been able to score it on the next turn anyway), and that even though HB isn’t known for packing too much meat damage, he had just been discussing with a friend how it would be a good thing to prepare for. And of course, in addition to his great instincts, he still had to get pretty lucky to actually have the Carapace in hand at that moment, so either way, I had come really close to winning my first game.
Game 2: vs. NBN The World is Yours
We then got started with our second game, and from what I can remember, my Kit deck started out pretty well. But while I was still trying to draw into and build up my rig, he installed two cards into separate, unprotected servers. I didn’t run on either one that turn (because I don’t think I had any/much money), and that turned out really badly when he rezzed the SanSan City Grid the next turn and scored an AstroScript Pilot Program from his hand. It didn’t quite turn into the full “Astro Train” (where a player uses the token from one AstroScript to play another and then another), but with the SanSan on the board (and soon ICEd up pretty well), he managed to score two more times from hand pretty quickly. At some point, I was able to grab a couple of agendas from R&D (I believe), but it was then all over when he drew into a Breaking News to win the game.
As it turned out, the other unprotected card that wasn’t rezzed all game long was also a SanSan City Grid, so it really didn’t matter that I didn’t run on and trash the one he used. Overall, Chris said that I had played well, and that my decks had definitely applied some pressure to him, so while I walked away with 2 losses in the first round, I was still relatively happy with my performance.
Shad (also from the Durham/RTP area)
Game 1: vs. Chaos Theory (Shaper)
I don’t actually remember very much about this game, but I’m pretty sure that I was rather firmly in control of it all game long. I got lots of money, kept him out of everywhere important, and ended up winning 7-4.
And while I did win the game, I also learned an important lesson about setting traps. At one point, I had a remote server with an unrezzed ICE covering it. I drew a Cerebral Overwriter and decided to try and set it as a trap into that server, so I installed it and advanced it twice. I was elated when Shad than announced on his turn that he was going to run on it, but I got all overeager in saying that I wasn’t going to rez the ICE and started to reach for the Overwriter. But the thing is, the runner has the ability to “jack out” after either encountering each piece of ICE or if the Corp chooses not to rez it. And my eager schoolgirl attitude towards revealing the card obviously gave it all away, so he decided not to access the Overwriter and totally missed out on all the sweet brain damage. Clearly, I should have thoughtfully decided to rez the ICE (probably costing him more resources/clicks to break through it) and then smacked him in the cerebrum.
Game 2: vs. Jinteki: Replicating Perfection
Replicating Perfection is a total booger to play against, mostly because you really have to change the way you think about the game. As those decks tend to do, Shad got out a lot of “drip” economy early on (using Sundews and Mental Health Clinics), and I tried my best to keep trashing the Sundews whenever I had the chance.
I don’t remember a lot of detail about this game (or most of the others, for that matter, especially after playing 12 games of Netrunner back-to-back all day long), but I do know that Public Sympathy is a total champ when facing any Jinteki deck that relies on Net Damage. Whether it was this game or the next time that I faced Jinteki, I pulled 2 Snares from HQ on consecutive turns, but since I was holding 8+ cards in hand most of the time, I barely noticed. This game actually went to time, though, and it ended in a draw since we were all locked up at 6 points each by that point.
It was already after 1pm at the end of round 2, and the tournament organizers had built us in a 30 minute meal break to keep us all alive. Atomic Empire had brought in (really good) pizza from a local pizzeria, so I had a couple of slices and took a little time to gather myself. During lunch, I also met Zach A., who had come down from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He was doing much better than I was in the tournament (probably due to his much greater experience with the game), but most of our discussion actually centered more on the churches we attend and other non-Netrunner things. And just to generalize this a little more, I’d say that in pretty much all of my interactions throughout the whole day, the community of gamers at this tournament were really fantastic people. Everyone was friendly (even if some were certainly a little more intense than others), games went smoothly, and especially as a new player to Netrunner, people were very open and forgiving when I had a question or made a little mistake here and there.
Frank M. (from somewhere, I’m sure, but I didn’t ask where that would be)
Game 1: vs. Gabriel Santiago (Criminal)
Frank was another player who obviously had a lot of experience, and our games seemed to be (to me, anyway) played very quickly and efficiently. He was running Criminal, so I figured that there would be a number of Account Siphons in my future, therefore I made sure to ICE up HQ as much as I could. When the first one came, he managed to get by my ICE with Faerie and something else, but I was able to rez an Eve Campaign to minimize the loss. He plucked a few agendas from my hand or elsewhere early on, going up 4-0, but then I managed to stabilize some and stop the bleeding.
A real turn seemed to come when I scored an Accelerated Beta Test and hit two ICE that I used to shore up HQ even more, and I started acculumating massive amounts of money (upwards of 30 or 40 credits at one point). I managed to get another 2-point agenda scored a little later to tie up the score, and felt really good about the game as things began to wind down. Feeling good about being able to win the game, I dropped the game-winning agenda (my 3-point Priority Requisition) into a server with 3 unrezzed ICE and advanced it twice.
Now, that server was really scarry. In the lowest level, I had a Janus 1.0 that had been sitting there pretty much all game long, waiting for the runner to stumble into it and walk away severely messed up in the head. And above it, just to make sure it hit, I had not one, but two Inazumas, just in case he attempted to use an Inside Job to get through easier. And from my side of the table, I had felt like it was a pretty secure server for most of the game.
Unfortunately, just about the time that Frank ran on the server and he was discarding the 4 cards he had in his hand to all the brain damage he had just taken, I realized that Janus doesn’t actually end the run. So yeah, I blew his brain to bits, but he still managed to limp his way into my server and steal the last agenda he needed to win. So, as big and bad as Janus is, the server would have actually been a lot more secure with just a Paper Wall behind those two Inazumas.
Game 2: vs. Haas-Bioroid: Engineering the Future
I was feeling really bad after basically giving away a game I was totally in control of. But thankfully, Kit was there for me and helped me get control of this game as well. It was all over when I managed to drain his resources from attacking elsewhere and then he couldn’t rez the ICE over R&D, giving me a number of uncontested accesses that proved really fruitful (pulling 3 agendas from 4 runs) to win the game 7-2.
Spencer S. (from Atlanta, or there nearabouts)
Game 1: vs. Jinteki: Personal Evolution
I don’t know if my decks just came our well in my match with Spencer, or if I was getting in the groove more as a player, but this was my only sweep of the tournament. Again, getting down both of my Public Sympathys relatively early really frustrated his plan of killing me with net damage, and I consistently ran pretty much anywhere I wanted to win 7-3 against his Jinteki deck.
Game 2: vs. Reina Roja (Anarch)
And then, I faced the first of 3 Reina Roja decks that I would see to round out the tournament. Thankfully, even though he got Keyhole down and trashed a number of cards into my Archives, I was able to use Jackson Howard to good effect to prevent losing many points that way, and my deck performed well ehough to win 8-4.
Elliot H. (from the Durham/RTP area)
Game 1: vs. Jinteki: Replicating Perfection
Sometimes, winning isn’t all good. For instance, in this case, getting the sweep against Spencer must have bumped me up far enough in the standings that I had to face Elliot, who is a great player that just happened to lose to my new friend Zach in the previous round. But Elliot would eventually go on to finish 7th in the whole tournament, so you can imagine what that meant for me.
This whole match was a bit of a blur, other than remembering that his Replicating Perfection deck (my least favorite thing to play against) just blew me away 7-2
Game 2: vs. Reina Roja (Anarch)
And then totally turning the tables on my last encounter with a Reina Roja deck, he blew me away 7-0 to put me back in my place down in the middle of pack.
Alex C. (from Raleigh)
Game 1: vs. Reina Roja (Anarch)
So for the first game in this match, I sort of had my tiebreaker against Reina Roja and her datasucking, cost-increasing, Data-link-Reversing self. And really, it was one heck of a rematch. I was able to score an agenda here and there, but at the same time, Alex was able to get Data Link Reversal up and running, milling 8 or 12 cards from my deck before I could shut it down. Most of my big ICE was in my Archives, but I was still able to take care of agendas and score them when I needed to.
But then it all came down to the fact that my deck was running out (which is, theoretically, a way for the Runner to win). I scored an agenda and basically had just one turn before I ran out of cards, so I had to install it without all of the funds to adequately protect it. Alex ran on the server, had what he needed to break through the ICE, and stole the win with just one card left in my deck. It was pretty incredible, both that he almost won in two different ways, and that I actually had a shot at scoring the last agenda I needed to win as well.
Game 2: vs. Nisei Division (Jinteki)
While I had faced a number of other Jinteki decks earlier in the day, this was the first time that I saw anyone use the Nisei Division, which is all about benefitting from the “psi game” (which is when the runner and corp each secretly spend between 0 and 2 credits, and if thry don’t match, something happens).
On the very first turn, he played Mushin No Shin to throw out a card into a new server. Now, just a week or two ago, I used Mushin No Shin on a Project Junebug to win on the first turn, so I was acutely aware of the risk of running on that server. But thankfully, I had some tools at my disposal to make the run a little safer. For my 1st click, I played Sure Gamble for money, then I played out Self-Modifying Code and immediately used it to search my deck for Deus X, which I could then use to protect myself should a massive amount of net damage come my way. I ran on the server, finding an unprotected Fetal AI, and therefore started the game ahead 2-0.
After that early lead, however, Alex did a really good job with the shell game of playing Jinteki that kept me off balance, first catching up to me by scoring an agenda and then going ahead when he scored another. And on top of then being behind, time was rapidly running out on the round. Since he didn’t have anything suspicious installed into a server, I ran on HQ, got in, and managed to pull The Future Perfect from it. But since I then lost the ensuing psi game, it stayed in his hand.
On his next turn, he installed something into his best-protected remote server and advanced it twice. I ran on the server and he rezzed Caprice Nisei, which made us play another psi game again to end the run. And once again, I lost. But then, on my last click of the game (since time had just run out), I tried one more time to get through, losing my entire hand to damage from a Komainu in the process.
So there we were, facing off for a third time in a psi game to see if I could steal the same freaking agenda. I used my noggin, tried to think about what he would think I would do, and decided to spend 0 credits. When we both opened our hands… his was empty as well, meaning that I had won the contest and scored an agenda to tie him in the game. It wasn’t officially a “win”, but it sure felt like one, and it was a great and exciting way to finish out the tournament.
Wrap-up and Final Thoughts
First of all, I can’t say enough about how amazing Atomic Empire and the tournament organizers were. The store is just so big, so clean, and so comfortable, and its selection of games and accessories is almost unrivaled (certainly in our area, anyway). And while this this was my first Netrunner tournament, I had participated in a number of Pro-Tour Qualifier and prerelease events for Magic through the years, as well as a handful of other tournaments for D&D Minis and other games. But hands down, this was the most efficiently-run tournament I’ve ever been a part of, especially considering that it was so big. I will definitely look for chances to get back over to Durham for future organized-play events in the future.
I learned some lessons (that I mentioned above) and also know what did and didn’t work so well in my decks. For my Corp deck, brain damage as a central idea never really worked out. I never got a Cerebral Overwriter to work, and the Sentinel Defense Programs were never relevant. Similarly, I thought that having the False Leads available (which I could use to make them lose 2 clicks) to use when people walked into the biroid ICE (which runners can use clicks to bypass) would be cool, but for careful runners, it never seemed to matter. And for my Runner deck, the only real change I’d make is to include another Professional Contacts, which I often found myself searching for early on in the game.
So, here are the original decklists, and the changes I’d make if I played them again:
Corporation Deck – Haas-Bioroid: Engineering the Future (Core Set)
3x Accelerated Beta Test (Core Set)
1x Priority Requisition (Core Set)
2x Project Vitruvius (Cyber Exodus)
3x False Lead (A Study in Static)
2x Sentinel Defense Program (Creation and Control)
2x Adonis Campaign (Core Set)
2x Eve Campaign (Humanity’s Shadow)
2x Cerebral Overwriter (Creation and Control)
3x Jackson Howard (Opening Moves) • • •
2x Ichi 1.0 (Core Set)
1x Tollbooth (Core Set) ••
2x Enigma (Core Set)
1x Janus 1.0 (What Lies Ahead)
2x Heimdall 2.0 (Creation and Control)
3x Eli 1.0 (Future Proof)
1x Ichi 2.0 (Creation and Control)
2x Viktor 2.0 (Creation and Control)
1x Fenris (True Colors)
3x Paper Wall (Mala Tempora)
2x Inazuma (Honor and Profit) •• ••
3x Hedge Fund (Core Set)
3x Punitive Counterstrike (True Colors) •• •• ••
3x Restructure (Second Thoughts)
Total Cards: 49
Total Influence: 15
I’d change the agendas to 3x ABT, 3x Priority Req, and 3x Project Vitrivus (mostly to use the more effective agendas, and to increase the chance of making Punitive Counterstrike more deadly). I’d drop the Cerebral Overwriters, and add in 2 Ash 2X3ZB9CY (to help secure servers I need to keep the runner out of) and 2 Reclamation Orders (to add in a little more targeted recursion).
Runner Deck – Rielle “Kit” Peddler: Transhuman (Creation and Control)
3x Diesel (Core Set)
3x Modded (Core Set)
3x Sure Gamble (Core Set)
3x Test Run (Cyber Exodus)
3x Indexing (Future Proof)
2x Lucky Find (Double Time) •• ••
2x The Personal Touch (Core Set)
3x Dinosaurus (Cyber Exodus)
3x Clone Chip (Creation and Control)
1x CyberSolutions Mem Chip (Fear and Loathing)
1x Corroder (Core Set) ••
1x Yog.0 (Core Set) •
1x Femme Fatale (Core Set) •
1x Deus X (A Study in Static)
1x Atman (Creation and Control)
2x Datasucker (Core Set) • •
3x Self-modifying Code (Creation and Control)
1x Paintbrush (Double Time)
2x Sacrificial Construct (Core Set)
2x Public Sympathy (Cyber Exodus)
2x Kati Jones (Humanity’s Shadow)
2x Professional Contacts (Creation and Control)
Total Cards: 45
Total Influence: 10
And again, probably the main change I’d make is to drop a Sacrificial Construct (which really didn’t do much for me all day) for a 3rd Professional Contacts. If you’re going to use something like that for your economy, you really need to have 3 in the deck just to find it as soon as possible.