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Decklist of the week

The Solution (Worlds 3rd place runner deck)

Description by the author: tmoiynmwg 685

Performance

  • Went 2-2 at a 10-person GNK tournament in Fullerton. Wins against The Foundry and Replicating Perfection; losses to Making News and Building a Better World.
  • Undefeated at a 9-person GNK tournament in Montclair. I faced Near-Earth Hub, Blue Sun, and RP.
  • Went 3-1 at the FFG winter tournament. Won against NEH twice and Engineering the Future once; lost to NEH once.
  • Went 4-3 during Swiss rounds. Won against 4 NEH decks; lost to NEH, RP, and Personal Evolution.
  • Went 3-0 during double elimination. I faced PE once and the same NEH deck twice.

(I ended up 8-2 against NEH over the World Championship weekend. If you really hate NEH Astrobiotics, give this deck a shot!)

Background

It was only early this year when I started to really get serious about Netrunner. A couple friends and I had decided to carpool around the Store Championship circuit in LA, pulled in by the allure of promo Kati Jones and Wotan playmats. I believe we ended up hitting up five tournaments: Hypno Comics in Ventura, Gameology in Montclair, Majestix CCG in Costa Mesa, Aero Hobbies in Santa Monica, and Brookhurst Hobbies in Garden Grove. It was a really fun experience that led to a lot of growth for me as a Netrunner player.

Up to this point, I had heavily favored Anarchs and Shapers on the runner side. I had dismissed Criminals as boring - their style of "win fast" has always been very powerful, but it tends to lead to the same cookie-cutter decks. To make things worse, the Criminal cardpool probably has the highest power disparity of any faction. It's hard to make a creative yet competitive Criminal deck when a few elite, game-defining cards (Desperado, Account Siphon, etc.) are surrounded by an ocean of mediocrity. For these reasons, I think that Criminal decks never quite caught on in LA as much as elsewhere; many of our competitive players also value originality very highly. But Honor & Profit really broadened the cardpool and helped alleviate these issues. I think each of the H&P runners has a sizable following here.

I no longer remember the corp deck I played at the first store championship, but as my runner I used a Whizzard Vamp-Medium deck that I have been messing around with for a long time. It was a lot of fun, but unfortunately the deck was slow enough that my matches would frequently go to time. Even worse, the NBN fast advance decks that were rising to prominence were a pretty awful matchup. (Wraparound was a huge hassle for all of my numerous AI-based decks to deal with.) After a lackluster finish at Ventura, I finally decided that I was tired of handicapping my runner game. The World Is Yours* was both fast and consistent, and to beat it I had to match both. It was time to build my own Typical Solid Criminal Deck.

The Criminal deck I ended up with could probably be described as a Gabe control deck; instead of throwing all of its eggs into the SIphon basket like most contemporary Criminal builds, it could hold its own in a long game thanks to the duo of Kati and Mr. Li. That deck helped me win me the next Store Championship. One of my opponents told me that it was the best runner economic engine he had ever faced. My Criminal-innocence-bubble had been popped once and for all.

(I have since learned to enjoy the Criminal playstyle. That's especially true now that corp decks are a real challenge to defeat; the constant danger of falling behind added much-needed zest to the Criminal game. The current competitive Shaper decks feel boring to me in comparison.)

Flash forward half a year to October. The release of NAPD Contract, Fast Track, and Near-Earth Hub, along with the widespread adoption of Biotic Labor, have turned NBN into a monster. I am struggling to find a runner deck that even can come close to competing with all of the top corp decks. I had tried the Supplier version of Nordrunner's President/CEO and a personal version of PPVP Kate, but disliked both. I had a Ken blitz deck with an excellent NEH matchup, but it usually ran out of steam against slower decks. I had an "Anatomy of Anarchy" Quetzal build that was pretty good but probably could never beat Blue Sun, and a Retrieval Run Quetzal build that wasn't fast enough for NEH while also probably never beating Blue Sun.

At last, it was time to revisit good old Gabe.

My old controllish deck was no longer well-positioned in the new meta - NEH Astrobiotics is way too fast for you to fool around with shady guys like Mr. Li. Instead, I synthesized the deck with some new ideas. From the Ken deck I adopted Security Testing for economy, Passport to get through Lotus Field, and some impactful singletons that I had liked. From AoA I borrowed the idea of using Overmind to ensure access for Siphon. After all that, I even had space for a few more meta choices!

The result, I feel, was a fairly balanced deck that manages to have an excellent matchup against Near-Earth Hub.

Strategy

The most common question about any serious Gabe deck will probably be, "Why not Andy?" Honestly, the choice of identity largely comes down to personal preference. It's clearly possible to make an excellent and very similar Andy build with these cards. But I still think there are some strategic considerations that would lead me to pick Gabe over Andy. If I had to name a Netrunner strategy that will never be bad, I would say having lots of credits. A rich runner can steal NAPDs, trash assets, and generally get into servers when they need to get in. And as it turns out, Gabe is really great at getting rich.

Gabe's identity power also puts immense pressure on HQ from turn 1. The corp has to protect HQ ASAP, and then Archives, and then continue to guard HQ with unrezzed ice to play around Account Siphon. That amount of ice costs lots of time and money to set up, which often leads to some number of easy R&D accesses in the early game. That's a big advantage against NEH, where the game generally comes down to how many efficient accesses the runner can snatch from the centrals. If you draw it, an early Indexing can decide the entire game.

Finally, Gabe's increased efficiency at attacking HQ means that the corp's hand stays vulnerable throughout the entire game. Hence, he doesn't need HQ multi-access to compete against NEH in the same way that practically every other runner does - although Legwork wouldn't be a terrible inclusion here either.

Card choices

  • Bank Job is making a huge comeback, because in the current meta it's a quick and enormously efficient economy card that will rarely backfire. Along with Security Testing, a Criminal player can turn any open remote server into their own economy engine.

  • Scrubber is another very solid card right now. It especially shines against RP, where pretty much every card the corp plays is something that you have to trash. It's not quite as good against NEH, so I ended up dropping down to one copy to fit in the third Bank Job.

  • No Plascrete Carapaces because I really dislike pure hate cards. When runners were dominant, it made much more sense to hedge one's bets by playing Plascrete. But in the current environment, any dead card against Astrobiotics is too much of a liability, especially in a deck with very few draw effects. Feel free to add Plascretes as your meta dictates, but I prefer to take some risks and play around Scorched Earth when necessary.

  • Three each of Inside Job and Emergency Shutdown. Here are the Blue Sun hate cards. A well-timed Shutdown can really set Blue Sun back, while Inside Job lets you jump over a Curtain Wall to land a Shutdown or steal an agenda. Conveniently, they both happen to be excellent cards in their own right and are far from useless in other matchups. But I happened to dodge all of the other Blue Sun players at Worlds, so I still don't understand this matchup very well. It's possible that these cards aren't impactful enough, and that the slots could be better spent on other cards.

  • Overmind is the component of the deck that I remain least certain about. It is annoying to play before Desperado or after other programs, and it becomes unplayable once most of your breaker suite is assembled. Still, a backup AI breaker has a ton of synergy with the Criminal playstyle, and Overmind seems like the best AI breaker available right now. (Sadly, I think Crypsis has become too slow for the current meta.)

  • Peacock is the decoder we need, not the decoder we deserve. I think every deck wants some way of getting past Lotus Field on a remote - a very common corp play after the runner has played or discarded a Passport - and Peacock is not much less efficient than Gordian Blade or ZU.13 Key Master for practically every code gate seeing play right now. As long as you have enough cash, Peacock lets you get in when you have to, and that meshes very well with Gabe's playstyle.

  • The deck is rounded out with some out-of-faction 1-ofs that aren't strictly necessary for the deck to function, but are still always nice to draw. Datasucker is an MVP at getting past Eli or high-strength sentries efficiently. Parasite destroys whatever the most troublesome ice is at the moment, and is especially handy against Replicating Perfection. Quality Time is a nice singleton because it is awkward to draw in multiples, whereas the first copy is pretty much always great to draw.

  • If I somehow managed to free up 2 influence, the first card I would look at adding is the 2nd R&D Interface. Having access to R&D multi-access is very important, and the deck is a little light on that front right now.

Playing tips

  • If you've never seen it before, check out my all-time favorite Netrunner strategy article. Although the individual card choices may be a little outdated now, jopejope still provided a timeless explanation of the nuances to playing any aggressive runner.

  • Against NEH, I tend to trash rezzed PADs but leave Marked Accounts around for Bank Jobs. Always trash SanSan if the corp will have enough money on their turn to threaten scoring with it. It's often possible to get an extra R&D access by threatening to trash Jackson. Try to play Mimic or Faerie before encountering unrezzed ice, and don't run on unrezzed ice on your last click if you don't have a killer (or Architect will absolutely ruin your day).

  • The RP matchup is a drawn-out attrition war, further complicated in a tournament environment by the fact that you'll have to play really quickly. Keep their economy down for as long as possible by trashing assets and using Emergency Shutdown. Hope for good early accesses. When the centrals become unprofitable, find Kati Jones and pile up credits. "Take 3, put 3 on Kati" is a turn that you might have to get used to. Dirty Laundry could be a good addition to help fight Enhanced Login Protocol.

  • Against Blue Sun, you'll have to acquire a good sense for when you can pressure safely and when running will likely get you killed. Hope to snag some agenda points while you can still run. Try to have Shutdown ready when they make an Oversight AI play. Kati Jones will once again be crucial for winning a credit war in the long game.

  • Unfortunately, the PE shell game matchup is something of a crapshoot. Luck and player skill are the most important factors here, so if you're facing a skilled PE player you're probably in a heap of trouble. Learn to play carefully while still taking calculated risks. Account Siphon is a key card because Jinteki lacks fangs while broke. Identify which other cards are important to play out and which cards should be held back as net damage fodder - remember that you don't need too many credits against this deck.

Summary

Perhaps more than most Netrunner decks, this deck is a product of its time. In a few months, I have serious doubts that this particular configuration would still be well-positioned. But, as I said above, being rich will never be a bad strategy, so I believe that the Consummate Professional will always be a reasonable choice. His unparalleled ability to punish bad draws is especially powerful right now while the corp is advantaged. That's because a well-constructed Gabe deck should always be able to get some number of wins by capitalizing on an early stumble from the corp. Andromeda, on the other hand, becomes comparatively better while the runner is favored, because her higher consistency reduces the number of losses from sheer bad luck.

That's why now is a great time for the non-Andy Criminals to shine. Make the NEH players realize that they are far from invincible. See to it that your name is written on the moon.

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