"He bent low over it, looking like a greedy child stooping over a bowl of food, in a corner away from others." - The Two Towers, J. R. R. Tolkien
I've always been a huge fan of the Armand "Geist" Walker: Tech Lord decks of yore - the Shaper-esque multi-faceted breaker suite, the imposing late-game economy engine, while having access to a toolbox of instant-speed tricks. With Geist having left the Standard card-pool some years ago, the McCaffrey kin was left with a quite a large mantle to take on.
This is the deck I've been testing and tuning for the last couple weeks in preparation for Montreal's 2022 Store Championship at the Silver Goblin. This was the first in-person competitive event my local meta has had in years, and I was determined to show up with something interesting and home-brewed.
It started with my admiration for a very greedy Az list @sebastiank piloted at Worlds last year. It definitely nailed the late-game feel of imposing Geist lists, but struggled to keep up to a greatly accelerating meta. I wanted to take that basic shell, and replace a fair bit of the 'greed' with better on tempo plays and more pressure. Looking at older Geist World's lists gives a lot of inspiration - at the time, the inclusion of Event staples like Sure Gamble and Bravado were refreshing updates to the archetype, serving to 'smooth out' Geist's early game.
So with some tinkering and testing, I attempted to merge the two ideas. And this is what I got:
Constantly looking into the future - seeing the top two cards of your deck - is intoxicating. It allows you to plan out your current turn, and a fair bit of your next. Whether it be when and how to draw with Masterwork, allowing aggressive plays off the top of the stack, or making it clear when you should peel out or shuffle up to pursue a new future, the portentous power of Prognostic Q-Loop is like nothing else.
Masterwork does two things - it gives us a card-draw engine, and it gives us immense click-compression.
Card Draw - This deck does not struggle to install a single piece of hardware each turn (and Az's ability helps keep those install costs down), so we're drawing a free card every turn. Remember, 'the first time each turn' includes the Corporation's turn - you will want to try to install Hardware off the top of your stack on the Corp's turn, firing both Az's ability as well as getting a free card draw.
Clickless Installs - Whenever you run, you can pay an extra credit to install a piece of Hardware from your Grip (perfect synergy with Az's cost reduction). This means that you never have to spend a click to install a Boomerang - just slap it down when the run begins. Want to check R&D? Why not install a Sports Hopper at the same time? This click compression allows Az to be aggressive while also building up his board state.
In summation, the first time a turn that you run and install a piece of Hardware with Masterwork, you are 'gaining' an extra click , and drawing a card. That's immense.
(If the Corporation takes on any bad publicity, we're really flying now.)
Our Seeing Stone. Similarly to our robotic hand, the Q-Loop gives two gifts:
Seeing the Future - As mentioned above, seeing the future is incredibly powerful. The Q-Loop allows you to fully plan your current and future turns, and allows you to confidentally use the Loop's paid ability to install cards on both your own turn and the Corporation's. Do be mindful of the order in which you trigger Masterwork and Q-Loop during a run - if you install a Hardware with Masterwork, you often want to do that before you peer into your future, as the Masterwork will trigger a card draw.
More Clickless Installs - With more than half the deck comprising Programs and Hardware, it's easy to accrue immense amounts of value. By paying 1 and revealing an appropriate card, you not only get a clickless install, but a clickless card draw. As long as you're running at least once a turn, you should be able to use your future-sight to great effect. This also allows you to install card on the Corporation's turn, allowing you to dip into the 'first time each turn' value of both Az and Masterwork. If you are comfortable on credits, it's often worth firing this ability even blindly on the Corp's turn.
Unfortunately, with the inclusion of additional Events and Resources, throughout testing I determined that cutting the 3rd Q-Loop was correct. I'd be happy to be wrong about this.
The core econ engine of old Geist lists. While overall we have less raw symbols than Geist, these Connections come down for 0 with Az's ability, and then continue to pay dividends throughout the whole game. Boomerang is the biggest contributor, as the same pieces of Hardware are played over and over again throughout the mid to late game. With the inclusion of Sure Gamble and other Event econ, they are not as mandatory in any opening hand, compared to some older Geist lists.
Blueberry!™ Diesel - While this flavour of Diesel is not one I'm particularly excited about, I found myself in the early game consistently hunting for one or two specific cards to get the Az engine running. In testing, an early Blueberry!™ was doing exactly what I hoped. In the mid-game, they often get used to dig through two awkward events jamming up the Prognostic pipeline. Don't feel bad about bottoming crucial later-game pieces - the Boomerangs shuffle the deck up a fair bit. (The third Blueberry!™ was eventually cut for a Deuces Wild)
Diversion of Funds - This deck does take a bit of time to spin-up, so having a way to slow the game down is quite valuable. An early Boomerang into a doof is a great play to keep a rushing corp in check.
The Back - While not always necessary in the fastest of matchups, try and find a minute to get this Connection down. Crack The Back to replenish your stock of Revolvers, Fermenters, and hardware. Once your deck is shuffled up, Prognostic Q-Loop becomes incredibly consitent.
Revolver - The new Weapon from the Midnight Sun Booster Pack is a perfect fit into this sort of list. Six bullets goes quite far, before you Hotline Miami the Archer to the adoring cheers from your Tech Traders. Simulchip and The Back to keep yourself frosty. Breaking an Ansel 1.0 for 2 is wild.
I really struggled to lock down my final influence spend before the event. Through my testing, 10 influence remained consistently spent across various versions of this deck, but the last 5 were much harder to nail down.
Let's start with the 'core' 10:
The 'flex' 5 influence:
Other influence options that are worth considering:
While I'm quite happy with how this deck is playing now, I know there's still a lot more testing to do. There are quite a few Az staples that I haven't been able to get working properly yet, like Bankroll or The Class Act. Futhermore, I believe that this deck can be tuned pretty aggressively towards any individual meta, with influence being used mostly for tech cards.
I want to give a huge shoutout to Jon, Pat, and the Silver Goblin for organizing and hosting such a wonderful event. After many years, finally playing an in-person event - both with new players and the friends we've been jamming nets with for nearly a decade now - was absolutely fantastic. A huge shoutout as well to my lovely partner Mattie, who ground games with me these last couple weeks.
Thanks so much for giving this a read! May you peer into the future, and may that future be kind!
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