[Startup] Coding The Chameleon (with full guide)

cadence 456

The Chameleon deck of my dreams.


So what's so good about this deck?

How would you feel if there was an icebreaker that said,

1: This card has 5 strength for the rest of the turn.
1: Break ice subroutine.

That's Chameleon in this deck.

Is it too good to be true? Well, let's talk about the design. Or you can just skip ahead to the "how to play" section.

Everything wrong with Chameleon

  • Chameleon cannot increase its strength.
  • Each Chameleon has one type, so you need multiple Chameleons if a server has 2 or 3 ice types.
  • You must pay credits to install Chameleon on every turn where you want to run.
  • During a run, the corp can rez ice of a type that Chameleon isn't. Chameleon chooses its type when installed, installing takes a click, and you only have clicks before the run, not during it. Faceplant central.

How to make Chameleon good

  • DZMZ Optimizer makes it cheaper to install Chameleon. If you can get 2 of them installed, which you should really do every game, then it's free.
  • Cybertrooper Talut gives Chameleon +2 strength on the turn that it is installed, which is every turn. Chameleon is now 5 strength always.
  • Ice Carver reduces the strength of all ice by 1, so Chameleon basically has 6 strength now.
  • Paule's Café is the card that you've probably never seen before. Basically, spent clicks to put stuff on it, then spend credits to get it off. This has two advantages.
    • Credits can be spent mid-run. Host Chameleon, go run, the corp rezzes ice, you can install Chameleon at instant speed and choose the correct type. No more faceplants.
    • When the corp is stalling, spend your clicks to charge up Paule, then when it's time to make a critical run, you can get them off at instant speed.
    • Also, Cybertrooper Talut is a unique connection, so it's now net neutral to use Paule.
  • Rielle "Kit" Peddler: Transhuman transforms the first piece of ice to code gate, so you can set your chameleon to code gate and not care. (Except we actually have Gordian Blade - more on that later.)

How to play!

Getting the bits

You'll want to install the following cards (in order of how critical they are, most critical first)

To help you get stuff out faster, there's our lord and saviour Professional Contacts which I usually click multiple times on every turn after I get it out. Is that a good thing? I don't know. But it makes me feel good.

Shaping the ice

Install Egret on things to line up their types so you can get through with a single Chameleon. Or make everything code gate so you can get through with just Gordian Blade. But I recommend the former, since, well, this is supposed to be the Chameleon deck...

Egret can only be installed on rezzed ice, which is why you should host it on Paule first, then plop it out mid-run.

If something has too high strength, then yeah, that's a problem. Either don't run that server again, or Boomerang it, or if you have enough money you can resort to Gordian Blade but that's not very sustainable.

Making runs

Making cheap runs is the entire point of the deck. Once you're set up, just declare a run, they rez ice, you install Chameleon for 1 credit, it instantly gets 5 strength, and you pay 1 credit to break each subroutine.


Do you wish Boomerang was somehow even better? You can host it on Paule, install it mid-run on the ice you're encountering, and break 2 subroutines on that ice.

Do you wish Boomerang was somehow even better than that? You can, in fact, host several Boomerangs on Paule. At the same time. Even though they're unique.

You can also use Paule to install stuff on the corp's turn. You don't get the unique connection discount since it isn't your turn, but if you have 2 or more DZMZ Optimizer installed, it doesn't matter at all. Did the corp just install-advance-advance, and you want to get an Egret and a Chameleon off Paule on your next run? Install one on the corp's turn, get your dizzy dizcount, install the other one on your turn, and get your dizzy discount again.

Chameleon comes back after your discard phase. Fearing the double Punitive Counterstrike after you stole Weyland's 3 point agenda? Draw up to 5 while you have Chameleon installed. With little damage prevention in Startup, this might be one of the funniest ways to survive Punitive.

How to have a bad time

You can have a bad time by playing against asset spam decks. Paricia helps, but it's really not enough when you need to make money and install 4/5/6 cards before you can even slightly function.

Developing the deck further

I like this deck a lot, though I still think it has room for improvement. Here's what I want to do in the future, and you could also explore these for yourself if you want to.

  • Use Pelangi instead of Egret to change ice subtypes. Advantage: a lot more flexible! Disadvantage: literally every corp is packing virus counterplay due to Anarch, uh, existing. I think Egret is good enough anyway. You'll probably want to break into a server several times, and the ice subtypes aren't going to change in between runs, so it's not like you need to be particularly flexible.
  • Replace Test Run with some other way of getting cards back from the heap. I added Test Run on instinct after a bad Punitive trashed all 3 of my Chameleons. Might be better to replace it with Harmony AR Therapy, which would also help you survive longer against Jinteki: Personal Evolution.
  • Make 3x everything a 2x everything and add draw. You could get make Diesel a 3x, or add Verbal Plasticity, or VRcation, or DreamNet...
  • Make Ice Carver a 1x or 0x. It makes some cards possible for Chameleon, but really, are they that helpful?
  • Add Leech for strength reduction since that's a big Chameleon weakness and unlike Ice Carver you can use it multiple times. It's 1 influence. Hell yeah.
  • Add Scrubber to deal with upgrade spam, since Paricia is assets only. It depends on who you're playing against.
  • Use that newfound influence for another copy of Boomerang.
  • Conduit. When playing this deck, you instill fear in the corp in 3 stages. The first stage is when they see Kit. The second stage is when they see what a Chameleon run looks like. The third stage is when you install Conduit. You don't even have to USE it if you don't want to, the psychological factor is enough.
  • Overclock if 1 credit per subroutine without paying for strength doesn't seem good enough to you.

Here's what I don't suggest:

  • Self-modifying Code. Don't even THINK about it. You know what SMC is good for? It's good for tutoring the program you need, and it's good for installing mid-run, at a premium of 2 credits for the install. Well, the only programs here are Chameleon, and you can already install those mid-run with Paule's Cafe, which works better here because you can do it multiple times, because Chameleon comes back into your hand every turn, and SMC only pulls from stack. It's literally not good in this deck. Everyone tries to tell me to use SMC. It's not helpful. Stop. Resist the urge to put SMC in a deck because you're playing Shaper.
  • I can't think of a good use for Simulchip here either, except maybe for changing the type of a single Chameleon mid-run, but like, just use Egret.


That's all you need to know. Go forth into the world, and enjoy the look on people's faces when you put out Paule's Cafe and they say "can I have a look at that card, what the hell is this, I've never seen this before" and then you put out Chameleon and run a server with 3x fully advanced Akhet for like 4 credits.

3 Jul 2021 Kanlihn

Excellent write-up and perfect timing! I've been working on something similar out of Lat the last couple of days. This has been very educational. Thanks!

3 Jul 2021 SirLoathing

Nice write up

4 Jul 2021 Eolirin

Simulchip is useful for moving the Egrets around, or recurring them if the corp overwrites their ice.

5 Jul 2021 SneakdoorMelb

Now this is some A+ Shaper bullshit. Great writeup!

5 Jul 2021 cadence

@Kanlihn, thanks for the praise, and I'm definitely interested to see what you come up with! Could you link me to it in the future when you're done?

@Eolirin, for recurring trashed Egrets, I recommend something like Test Run since it doesn't require an additional program trash to use. I have also never needed to move an Egret during a game, they generally keep being useful in the place I originally put them, unless they get hit by Magnet. If Magnets become a serious issue then I would consider Simulchip.

Loathing, Melb, thanks for the praise!

5 Jul 2021 Brogue Leader

@cadence you don't need an additional program trash to move an Egret with a Simulchip, you just need any program in the bin so Simulchip can be activated. You can then pay the additional cost by trashing the Egret you intend to move, and reinstall that just-trashed Egret. Test Run is considerably more expensive.

5 Jul 2021 Brogue Leader

As for recursion, if you have a Simulchip installed you can recur an overwritten Egret for free at the end of the corp the turn they overwrote it.

5 Jul 2021 cadence

Ah right, I blanked and thought that Simulchip couldn't be used on the corp's turn. That's fair then, but I've still never wanted to recur an Egret in an actual game. I suggest trying to play without Simulchip unless you find from experience that you need it.

24 Dec 2021 pxlcrow

Fascinating and very clever deck; thanks for sharing Cadence <3

21 Jan 2022 Blackwing

Really cool deck! I look forward to an update when you try out the experiments you sugguested!

24 May 2022 Shivorath

Modified the deck slightly to add in Corroder and placed 1st in an 8 person local tournament! Lots of fun to play.