Recklessly Aggressive Silhouette (20.06)

callforjudgement 165

The early days of the 20.06 metagame have seen a variety of Corp decks tested, but some are more popular than others. The removal of a restricted list has made asset spam decks much better; in particular, Jinteki: Replicating Perfection is now a very widely played Corp ID, usually in some sort of shell-game or asset spam kind of style. After building my own Replicating Perfection deck, and discovering to my horror that it was so oppressive to play against that I couldn't bear to inflict it on any more opponents, I gave myself a new task: find something that could beat it, and the other Replicating Perfection decks plaguing the metagame.

This deck is an early stage of that project, initially starting with a deck that went all-in on countering Replicating Perfection, and then tweaking it to try to make it viable against other decks as well. My current win rate with the deck on jinteki.net is almost exactly 2 in 3 over 29 games, which is the best sustained performance I've ever had for a Runner deck (I'm normally better at playing Corp).

The deck contains no previously banned or restricted cards – it would have been legal in old Standard too, without even using the unicorn slot! – but I think of it as a 20.06 deck because the new metagame is much more favourable to it than the old one.

Matchup analysis

One important note of caution about this deck is that it is very, very matchup-dependent; you'll beat some types of opposing Corp decks almost every time, but in some matchups you'll be very unlikely to win, or even less likely than that. So this deck is necessarily going to be a metagame call; play it, or play something else, depending on the sort of opposition you expect.

First, the good matchups. Even though this deck was originally designed as a Replicating Perfection counter, its best matchup is actually against a common (probably the most common) type of Haas-Bioroid deck, one which plays out a lot of assets and upgrades and lightly ices them using cards like Drafter, drawing and installing a lot of cards quickly. (This is commonly played out of either Sportsmetal or Asa Group.) It's almost trivially easy to land an Apocalypse against that deck when using this one, and the deck is very vulnerable to Apocalypse's effect, so you are unlikely to lose unless you fail to draw your Apocalypse, and their deck is sufficiently slow that you'll have time to dig for it.

The origins of this deck were to create a counter to a specific Jinteki deck, and Jinteki in general is normally a fairly good matchup for it. Shell-game is a core part of the Jinteki strategy (if only as a fallback), and Silhouette's ID ability is one of the most effective counters to it; throughout most of the game you will know the identity of every unrezzed card on the board. Jinteki's ice is typically either porous or low-power, so these decks have great trouble keeping you out of where you want to be. Apocalypse seems like it would be a good card in this matchup (to trash all the ambushes and agendas alike into Archives, where most ambushes won't fire), but so far, my wins have generally sniped 7 agenda points without having to use it. The Jinteki matchup is, however, not an assured win; it possibly would be for a perfect player, but it is easy to fail to spot or think of a line for the Corp that will flatline you. It is also frustratingly common for key cards to fall to net damage (perhaps from Psychic Field, which you will trigger with annoying regularity), although this is less of a blow to this deck than you might imagine; it can often cobble together a win out of the remaining pieces.

Typical Weyland decks, and Haas-Bioroid decks played as glacier, are a bit of a mixed bag. You have the momentum early, and may be able to leverage it into a win, but it's also quite possible that you'll run out of steam and the Corp will lock you out; it's a much more even matchup than when playing against other decks. If a Weyland deck is designed to rush out agendas behind ICE, you won't have much trouble countering that; but those decks can often convert to glacier as a backup plan, or can fast advance, and that's rather harder to deal with.

Tagging decks, and other decks that use the typical NBN theme of "credit count matters", are an uphill struggle (assuming that they have effective tag punishment; they usually do, but this deck is immune to The All-Seeing I). It isn't impossible to beat them, but it will probably require them to have a bad draw and you to have a good one; you won't beat them without getting lucky. (The basic problem is that your economy is worse than theirs, and this deck cannot play around Hard-Hitting News by delaying runs because then the economy won't function at all, so you have to find an opening hand that's good enough that you can get up to an HHN-safe credit total before the corp lands it.) NBN decks also often play ICE with on-encounter effects, which can be a problem for this deck.

Brain damage decks, despite typically being not very good, are surprisingly good against this deck; it cares a lot about hand size and it dislikes being unable to reset the Corp's entire strategy with Apocalypse. You're unlikely to face one, though.

The worst matchup I'm aware of is against Blue Sun. If they're on their usual core strategy of using Building Blocks and Oversight AI to power out giant ICE early, you might as well concede turn 1; it will save time.

Strategy

I'm somewhat known for making slow, grindy, inevitable decks both as Runner and as Corp. This deck is a huge change of pace for me, being extremely aggressive by Netrunner standards; whereas most runners will spend several turns setting up their rig, this deck effectively has no rig and is "ready to run" right from the start. Unusually for a Runner, you'll therefore spend most of your clicks on basic actions; running, drawing cards, even clicking for credits when you have nothing immediately better to do.

It's important to note that unlike most decks, clicking for cards won't give you more of your rig, so it isn't something to do thoughtlessly; it'll mostly just give you more events which are roughly interchangeable in nature with the events you already have. As such, clicking for cards is normally only done to refill your hand after playing cards, or to search for one card in particular (planning to discard any that you don't need). The "default" action is therefore to run, or if that's too risky or you know it won't accomplish anything, to click for a credit.

The basic idea of the deck is to deny the Corp scoring windows, whilst also running centrals a lot to catch agendas that get stuck there because the Corp doesn't have scoring windows. Even without the help of icebreakers, 1-deep servers are normally going to be easy to get into (a limited number of times), whether by using bypass effects, using non-icebreaker subroutine breaks like Grappling Hook or Boomerang, or just face-tanking the ICE. 2-deep servers are more interesting, and eventually end up leading to a whole logic puzzle that makes this deck a lot of fun to play, but there will normally be some way to get in, perhaps involving multiple clicks. However, the Corp will take a long time to set up 2-deep servers everywhere; they have three centrals and probably a scoring remote. Your aim is therefore to either win, or Apocalypse, before that happens; Apocalypse will wipe all the Corp's ICE (together with any horrific Rube Goldberg machine of assets and upgrades that they may or may not be building, and anything including agendas in their scoring server), thus completely resetting the game to something close to its starting state and giving you another chance to be hyper-aggressive for the win.

You don't even necessarily have to win by stealing agendas; if you feel like showing off, and are playing against a spammy Haas-Bioroid deck, you can deny the corp a scoring window for so long that if they're unwilling to just give up their agendas without a fight, they will end up overdrawn. Bizarre as it may seem, the overdraw win comes surprisingly close to happening in many games despite the game ending quickly, and this deck containing no milling cards; the Corp's desperate scramble to repair their servers will cause them to mill themself.

Your rig

This deck does not have a rig in the traditional sense. Instead, it consists of two main components. One is Aumakua. The other is your grip, which acts as an extension of your rig; plus a few single-use programs/hardware like Faerie and Boomerang, which are effectively part of your grip but may occasionally need to be installed a turn early so that you have enough clicks for an Apocalypse turn.

Aumakua has an unusual play pattern as icebreakers go, but its use in this deck is unusual even as Aumakuas go. Its basic purpose is to act as a way into servers without spending cards, instead by making use of your previous runs to power up the current run. Your rig doesn't have a permanent icebreaker suite (unless the opponent is running nothing but code gates for some reason, in which case you can make use of Abagnale's alternative break cost in which you pay credits), and the virus counters on Aumakua are not permanent either. Instead, what you need to think about is what you will do after a purge; if you can simply charge back up by running Archives four times then the Corp probably won't purge (and will end up regretting it if they try), but if you can't, then you will be in danger of being locked out next turn when a sensible Corp does the purge. As such, as soon as you see that a purge would be fatal, you need to Apocalypse immediately (unless unable to for some reason, e.g. you haven't drawn it yet or you can't get into one of the centrals).

The advantage of Aumakua is that you can use it for spamming central runs, as long as it isn't too expensive (or is being offset by Bankroll); in particular, spamming HQ serves the double role of a chance to randomly snipe an agenda (the opponent's agendas will normally pool up in HQ against this deck), and a Silhouette: Stealth Operative trigger that tells you more about what the opponent is doing and charges Aumakua up faster at the same time. If the opponent has a porous R&D, then spamming it to find an agenda can be helpful too, as long as you're rich enough.

Meanwhile, the rest of your rig is made out of one-shot effects (mostly bypass effects and expose effects; the expose effects indirectly act as icebreakers by charging up your Aumakua, if you have one). If your opponent dares to set up a scoring server and then attempt to use it, these will probably get you into it (after first verifying, normally via an expose effect, that the server does indeed contain either an agenda or something that you vitally need to trash); there's a mix of bypass and one-shot-break effects in the deck so that they can all be combined into the same run if need be, and clicks are usually not a problem on an agenda-sniping turn (thus in this situation you can install cards like Boomerang from hand just before you need them).

The one-shot effects are also used in three other circumstances. One is for the critical first run that lets you know what freshly installed ice on HQ is; it's sometimes possible to get in with an Aumakua using reasoning about what ice could be a) in the opponent's deck and b) rezzable, or via using knowledge gained from R&D runs to work out what card could have been installed, but in practice a bypass or expose effect is normally the easiest way to get at this information. A second situation is for your economy; it's quite reasonable to use Boomerang to pull off a High-Stakes Job run, especially if you gain some other value out of it at the same time (e.g. forcing the Corp to rez lest Boomerang stay there ready to break the ice in the future, or performing a run you wanted to make anyway). The third is for your Apocalypse turn; although you can sometimes pull off your tri-run by using Aumakua and/or face-tanking ICE, it's quite common to need to use two bypass effects to handle two of the servers (and if there's unrezzed ICE that you haven't exposed, it's prudent to have a backup bypass/break ready to handle it, even if you typically won't end up needing it).

Occasionally, if flooded with bypass effects, you will use one just to get it out of your hand; especially if you do this first click, it allows for a sort of Runner-side shell game where the Corp has to work out whether you're trying to Apocalypse or whether you're simply flooded and/or looking for an Aumakua counter or two. This is the most common way to prevent a Border Control from stopping your Apocalypse turns: making the Corp unsure as to whether they should fire the ability or not, and thus accidentally wasting their Border Control early or failing to use it at all.

It is worth mentioning that you have a third way to get past ICE: simply running into it and letting the subroutines fire. Quite a lot of ICE is porous in the sense that it doesn't actually end the run, just has a penalty for triggering it; something like Trebuchet is typically considered a must-break by runners because the subroutines are so nasty, but it doesn't technically prevent you from continuing. However, given your more or less complete absence of a traditional rig, you can often intentionally let subroutines like " Trash 1 program." fire without any major loss to your strategy. This is particularly worth considering on an Apocalypse turn; you're about to trash your entire rig anyway, so anything that you have installed at that point is sacrificial. I often feel a moment of triumph if, when playing this deck, I manage to use all my installed cards on the tri-run and then Apocalypse with an empty board. (As a side note, virus counter punishment is much more common in 20.06 than it was in the previous Standard, so it's mildly helpful to intentionally trash your own Aumakua to subroutines on an Apocalypse turn in case the opponent is running Reverse Infection; the face-down virus counters still count.)

Economy

Just as this deck doesn't have a traditional rig, it doesn't have a traditional economy either. There is not a single resource in the deck; this is partly so that you can safely float tags against Jinteki and Haas-Bioroid decks (neither of which is likely to run tag punishment beyond the basic "trash a resource" action), and partly due to the likelihood that you will need to trash your resources to an Apocalypse before getting full value from them. As an example, Daily Casts, a staple economy resource, needs to survive for four turns to get full value and three turns to be even marginally worth playing; but this deck is often unexpectedly forced into having to Apocalypse and this may well happen after, say, only two turns of casting, in which case you just wasted your clicks and credits and deck slots.

Instead, this deck's economy is based almost entirely around burst economy, and is "clickless" in the sense that it uses a click that you were going to spend anyway. For example, on an Apocalypse turn, you won't normally need to use a bypass event on every server; some of the runs will be made normally. Instead of running using a basic action, you can use, e.g., Bravado or High-Stakes Job in order to make a profit on the run. (Incidentally, both the aforementioned cards gain enough credits for it to be worth using them purely for economic purposes; this contrasts with Dirty Laundry, a card that is not present in this deck due to not being good enough; its 3 bonus is not worthwhile unless the run accomplishes something else.)

The only resource-like economic card is Bankroll, which acts as important glue to the deck. This has many fewer disadvantages in this deck than typical economic resources: it can't be tag-trashed due to not being a resource, and even two prior runs are enough to get reasonable value from it if you have to Apocalypse (the Apocalypse tri-run will place 3 on it, and with an extra 2 from prior runs and a 1 install cost, that's a 4 profit, the same as Sure Gamble). Bear in mind that you can clicklessly trash your Bankroll for the credits immediately before playing Apocalypse, so you aren't losing any present value as a consequence, only the future value that would have been generated on future runs (which likely wouldn't have been possible anyway if not for the Apocalypse). Meanwhile, Bankroll has the major advantage that in a deck like this one, it gains credits really, really fast; you'll often be running around 3 times per turn on average (4 some turns, 2 some turns), and 3 per turn for a 1 install cost is just ridiculous.

Card choices

Almost every card in this deck serves one of two purposes; either it breaks or bypasses ICE, or else it powers the deck's economy. There is only one exception, Apocalypse. This is the most powerful "reset button" in Netrunner, and is important in this deck because this deck would otherwise only be viable in the early game; the presence of Apocalypse means that you effectively get to play the early game over and over again, so the deck gets to be viable all game long.

Even better, you normally have an advantage after an Apocalypse, not simply a reset. At the start of the game the Corp gets a mulligan opportunity and thus their starting hand will typically be of above-average quality, but HQ generally gets gradually fuller and fuller of useless cards as the game goes on (because if a card were useful, the Corp would probably have played it). You often (not always) have more credits in your credit pool post-Apocalypse thanks to Bankroll, and there's always the chance that agendas will end up in Archives where they're easier to steal and almost impossible to score. This points to another important use of Apocalypse, besides merely resetting the game; you can use it to interrupt a scoring opportunity by trashing the card being scored, using it as a sort of makeshift Quest Completed.

Icebreaking and ICE bypass

Aumakua has been discussed at length above, so this section mostly focuses on the rest of the ICE-avoidance suite. (One thing to note is that you have spare Aumakuas, and probably won't need any after the second Apocalypse, so you can afford to be mildly reckless with respect to things that might trash them.)

One part of this is bypass events. You can play only one of these per run, so it's important not to have too many; although very powerful in this deck, they can't be stacked with each other. Feint is a double-bypass that normally lets you into HQ by itself; this is particularly convenient because against Silhouette, most Corps will choose HQ as the first central server to double-ICE. (Given Silhouette's ID ability, it can also be used as a somewhat expensive Infiltration in an emergency, e.g. to check a remote server for agendas before deciding whether to use one-shot cards to get in or to risk hitting an ambush.) Inside Job is a Criminal staple for a reason, being probably the best all-round ICE bypass effect; it lets you ignore the outermost ICE on the server (i.e. the one that you're less likely to know the identity of because it was installed more recently), and if the Corp fails to rez it, the inner ICE as well. Occasionally you will want to bypass the innermost piece of ICE instead, thus Spear Phishing is used as the fourth bypass event; it's generally a worse card, but having a diversity of bypass events is helpful because if you draw two different events, you can choose which to use based on the board state.

The fifth bypass event, Compile, is much more unusual, and takes up the only "discretionary" influence expenditure for this deck (the other 12 influence spends are fairly obvious – Apocalypse helps too much, Deuces Wild is a good card that gains more value in this deck – but the last 3 points are more open). This can sometimes be used simply as a backup for your more regular bypass events; but it also allows you to a way to "bypass the unbypassable" and thus find your way out of otherwise unwinnable situations. The deck contains two silver bullets for Compile to fetch: Abagnale allows you to bypass code gates, Faerie to cheaply break sentries. (You don't need a separate bypass effect for barriers; Boomerang will let you past most of them, and there is normally some sequence of plays to allow you to break Spiderweb with your Aumakua because it only has 2 strength. The only really problematic barrier in this respect is Chiyashi, which fortunately is expensive and unlikely to be installed in the middle position of a 3-deep server, so you can normally bypass it with some other run event.)

The choice of Abagnale and Faerie in particular is that they both have secondary abilities in this deck which deal with otherwise problem cards. Faerie has three major targets: Anansi (which damages you if bypassed but which Faerie breaks for 3); Guard (outright immune to bypass); and Tour Guide (which can be bypassed just fine, but which is uneconomical to break with anything else and which Faerie breaks for 0). Meanwhile, Abagnale lets you bypass and/or regularly break code gates; all commonly played (all?) "unbreakable by AI" cards such as Turing and Hortum are code gates and can be broken cheaply (or bypassed, if you're about to trash your rig anyway) using Abagnale, and it also allows you past ICE like Fairchild 3.0 if you can't use a bypass event on it or don't have the clicks to install one-shot bypass programs/hardware. So the way to think about it is that Abagnale is played so that you can bypass code gates, and Faerie is played so that you don't have to bypass sentries (which might have anti-bypass considerations). Special Order allows you to find your speciality breakers if required; it also acts as the fourth and fifth copies of Aumakua, for handling those matchups in which you really need it early. The speciality breakers also serve as trashable programs for SDS Drone Deployment and MU consumption for Cortex Lock.

The remaining pseudo-bypass effects are one-shot icebreakers that can be installed in advance and then fired later. Boomerang is the better of these, being generally a very good card (and able to survive the Apocalypse by reshuffling itself!). It has a number of notable weaknesses (if you use it on unrezzed ICE the Corp can strand it by not rezzing, if you want it to help with an Apocalypse you'll have to install it the turn before and massively telegraph what you're up to), but despite this, it's still good enough when it works to make the deck. It's also very good for using on unknown unrezzed ICE in the early game when trying to make an early HQ run to expose it, or to fire Bravado or High-Stakes Job. Grappling Hook, meanwhile, is a little inconsistent but will get you past the majority of multiple-subroutine ICE (most, but not all, commonly used ICE has a subroutine that you can safely allow to fire, especially if you don't care about your rig, e.g. you can trash a face-down card to Fairchild 3.0's first subroutine). Its major benefit is that you can install it at the same time as Boomerang (whereas you can't install two Boomerangs at once), or as another Grappling Hook, allowing you to get into deeper servers via having additional bypass effects that are all usable at once. I have discovered that it's normally best to use this in preference to other one-shot bypass effects, in cases where you have a choice; good opportunities to use it are rarer than for your other cards, so using it in preference to something else helps to keep your options open.

Economy

The core of the economy is economic events. Sure Gamble probably needs no explanation; it's good enough to play even in decks where it doesn't fit at all well, and the fit with this deck is kind-of average and thus easily not bad enough to consider cutting it. Bravado, likewise, is powerful enough to play in decks where it doesn't fit at all, whereas it's a perfect fit with this deck; you will be making a lot of runs, often on ICEd servers, and as long as your credit pool isn't almost empty there is no downside to playing a Bravado as part of that (you make a profit even if the run fails, and even more of a profit it if succeeds).

High-Stakes Job is more interesting. The name is well-fitting; it is essentially a double Dirty Laundry, with a huge profit if the run succeeds and a painful (although usually not game-losing) loss if it fails. (It is, for example, normally safe to High-Stakes Job into a Nisei MK II token; the token is probably worth more than 12.) It works particularly well with Silhouette because you will often already know what all the ICE on the attacked server is, and thus know for certain that your run will succeed. Nonetheless, it often pays to use it even on servers with unknown ICE, as long as you feel confident that the run is likely to work; with knowledge of what ICE is likely to be in your opponents' deck, you can often just rely on a Boomerang (turn 1 Hedge Fund into Boomerang into High-Stakes Job is an entirely reasonable play).

Falsified Credentials is an amazing card in this deck. If you use it on a card that you already know the identity of (due to previous expose abilities or due to having accessed it without trashing it), it's effectively a Sure Gamble that gives you an Aumakua counter and works with only 1 in the bank – and this is the weaker common mode for using it! More commonly, you'll use it on an unknown card in a remote server in order to work out whether to run the server or not, and with a smart choice of card type, still get the 4 profit almost all the time. (If you can get into the server, it's normally correct to choose Asset, unless you think the card is likely to be an Upgrade; if it turns out to be an agenda, stealing it will probably be reasonable compensation for your lost five credits.)

Bankroll was discussed earlier, but is pretty much a perfect fit for this deck; it's a powerful but temporary economic card for use as part of a powerful but temporary rig, and triggers on something you'll be doing a lot anyway (running). In addition to its economic applications, it's a program, and thus it can be used in the same way as your backup breakers in cases where you just need an arbitrary program for some purpose; it's particularly good for feeding to SDS Drone Deployment because you'll often have it installed at the time and an agenda steal is valuable enough that you normally won't mind losing the credits on it.

Deuces Wild, the remaining card, is the glue that holds the economy together; rather than being credit economy (it gains only a minimal 1), it serves as click economy by letting you perform a lot of basic actions at once. The weakest mode is the "draw two cards" effect (which replicates only two clicks of basic actions; the credit and tag effects replicate three), but you will still use this on occasion (e.g. on an Apocalypse turn against a Jinteki deck, when you need padding cards in your hand but don't have the clicks to draw them). The tag-removal mode is strong when you get the opportunity, such as immediately after getting hit by Hard-Hitting News, but against most decks you won't need to remove tags (either because you never get tagged or because you can afford to float them). Most commonly, therefore, this will be used to trade your card for 1, an expose and a run; this is the most click-efficient way to get your Aumakua up to strength for an Apocalypse turn.

Conclusions

This deck probably needs good matchups to win a tournament, but in the current metagame, might well get them. In any case, it's a lot more fun to play than the old Anarch Apocalypse decks used to be; instead of spending ten turns doing nothing but economy and then either getting into or failing to get into the centrals, this deck is continually interacting with the Corp and frequently throws up little logic puzzles at you when you have to work out what exact sequence of central runs will let you Apocalypse most cheaply. It's nothing like the decks I normally play, due to the absence of a rig-building phase; if many games are about being prepared, this deck is about being unprepared and somehow winning anyway. You can also get a lot of games in with the deck, because it wins fast or loses fast; a typical game only lasts about 10 minutes (although as usual, this will depend on the opponent's deck in addition to yours).

Can it beat the monster Jinteki: Replicating Perfection deck it was originally designed to beat? Well, perhaps. I haven't played that matchup yet, from either side (although I've beaten plenty of other Replicating Perfection decks; I've lost a few of those games but it was always due to me making a mistake rather than due to the deck); it's quite difficult to play against yourself in Netrunner because bluffing is such a major part of the game, and not the same when you know your opponent's deck because leaving them in the dark as to how your deck functions is also quite important.

2 comments
26 Jun 2020 Oponn

Awesome deck and super detailed write up! Even if it is somewhat situational as you say, it's very enjoyable to watch it succeed from the other side of the table. In a way it's incredibly thematic with the runner dodging and sneaking their way into just the critical runs to make an Apoc play or close the game. And it's got more legs than you give it credit for - I played a game versus RP where they hit me with a Viral Weaponization early and snagged 2 apocs and some bypass events. I was still able to land the apoc later with double and triple iced centrals, wiping out a massive board. Thanks for sharing the deck!

3 Jul 2020 tonybluehose

Great write up! Can't wait to try this one out.