Blue Sun Grail Ice - The Winning Agenda Episode 9

DonutTaganes 2540

Hey guys! Jesse from The Winning Agenda here.

You might have heard us discussing a Grail ICE Blue Sun deck a couple of episodes ago. We've done a bit more testing and refined the list, and this is the current place we've arrived at. Give it a go and let us know what you think!

This is a Blue Sun build which aims to build up taxing, multiple-subroutine ICE early in the game to create scoring servers and demand a full breaker suite from the runner.

The Grail ICE are efficient and dangerous, presenting the runner with threats to their programs and their hand, as well as ending the run, all with reasonably efficient stats. because each of these threats can come from each ICE type, the runner has to have a full rig to be able to avoid these effects.

The demand that this places on the runner in terms of access to cards in their deck and economy means that you can create scoring windows early.

Individual Card Selections:

Executive Boot Camp

This card provides flexibility on a number of levels. It allows you to Power Shutdown on your first click with impunity, knowing that you can fetch and install Jackson if you need to. It allows you to fetch your Adonis Campaign to use as a Beanstalk Royalties every turn. It also allows you to reposition ICE as you need to by rezzing them at the start of your turn and bouncing them using Blue Sun's ability, allowing you to be more reactive to the runner's rig as it develops. This means you can adapt and reposition your ICE much more easily, as you do not require the runner to run to allow you to rez and bounce your ICE. You can also fetch Elizabeth Mills to remove BP more reliably.

Power Shutdown

This card is so powerful, and forgoing the Scorched Earth package allows you to play the full three copies. Power Shutdown directly contributes to the strategy of the deck, and you can often resolve it for large amounts if you need to because of the consistency with which you can fetch Jackson Howard. in most games, it snipes Faerie, Datasucker or SMC, which is incredibly valuable for keeping the runner in the early game phase as long as possible.

Elizabeth Mills

Many have noted the synergy between Elizabeth Mills and Blue Sun, but with Executive Boot Camp as a tutor, this combo becomes more reliable and consistent for removing Bad Publicity. The fact that you have to reveal Mills when you tutor for her can be used to your advantage, as you can bluff an install in your remote server to try and score out a naked Atlas. Even the threat of this bluff can force the runner to run your scoring server, and when they do, you can get the benefit from Mills at instant speed upon rez, so you haven't lost out but have forced them to run through your taxing ICE on the remote.

Adonis Campaign

Adonis Campaign can be installed in a remote, rezzed at the end of the runner's turn and returned to your hand for a net benefit of 3 credits for the click you used to install the Adonis. This is as efficient as a Beanstalk Royalties, without the drawback of only being able to use it once. Having the ability to consistently net three credits for a click is excellent for any corp.

Corporate Troubleshooter

Troubleshooter has long been a friend of Archer and Weyland builds in general, as it allows you to progress to the lategame and continue to score agendas from your scoring remote even once the runner is fully set up, as long as you can maintain a strong economy.

15 Dec 2014 paddosan

Just a quick idea, but since it includes cards up to The Source, why not go for IT Department instead of Corporate Troubleshooter?

15 Dec 2014 Four_Leaf

IT dept. costs 2 to rez. CT is 0. One is an asset ,the other is an upgrade. This is important for servers with ash / caprice. One is click dense and takes time to build up, the other is just "how much more economy do I have over the runner" and is an instant trash. Plus it guarantees you can score an agenda on the fly late game by keeping them out until the end of turn. It's pretty powerful and blue sun can afford the economy war easy.

15 Dec 2014 slevin38

Perhaps you could use Amazon Industrial Zone over Adonis and free up 2 influence? The main disadvantage is you cannot tutor it.

15 Dec 2014 Bananifier

Nice deck!

I have a few questions:

  • Do you think that only 3 code gates are enough?

  • I always felt that Curtain Wall + Oversight AI was pretty janky in practise. do you feel that it is necessary to your economy or could you live without it?

  • Have you considered a singleton Daily Business Show? I love this card and find it very strong, and you can even tutor it with Executive Boot Camp

  • Your deck is pure vegan! On a scale of 1 to 10, how ashamed do you feel? (10 being strongly ashamed)

15 Dec 2014 DonutTaganes

Hey guys, thanks for the feedback and questions!

@Four_Leaf pretty much summed up the difference between IT Department and Corporate Troubleshooter. The former requires a dedicated remote server of its own, and takes time to build up to maximum potency, whereas this deck wants to exploit and prolong the early game while the runner is poor to score agendas. Troubleshooter helps in the late game without requiring any click investment of its own, so is very versatile. Lastly, Troubleshooter can be used on centrals in a pinch!

@slevin38 - Adonis Campaign is able to be used to provide the three credit without leaving it in play rezzed. Thus, you are at no risk of losing anything more than the click you spent to install it until you recoup the payout. Amazon Industrial Zone has to stay in play rezzed past the beginning of your turn to deliver benefit, and then has to survive to your next turn before you can bounce it. Additionally, you only get to use the discount if you have ICE to install in the server, which is pretty narrow.

@Bananifier - I was running 8 code gates in the previous iteration, but found that I was incentivising people to get out their Code Gate breaker early which neutered the power of Merlin. Merlin is the most annoying Grail to break, and prolonging the duration of the game during which the runner doesn't have a code gate breaker means that your Grails are live for longer.

I agree with you about Curtain Wall/Oversight. I have resisted including it for as long as possible because I have always hated Oversight AI as a card. However, I was finding that the economy solutions I had tried before either weren't available consistently enough without slowing down board development (Restructure) or not impactful enough (Beanstalk). Because the deck wants to rush agendas out, trying a higher variance economy option with a much higher upside is appealing! I've found it to add some dynamism to the deck that it really needed, so I think it might be a necessary evil.

In terms of Daily Business Shown, influence is very tight. I know that is a truism, but there is nothing that I feel is superfluous or a luxury in the influence slots. I have steadily increased from 2 of each Grail ICE to the full suite, because I was finding that it was too difficult to have multiple in play (which you need to do to tax on centrals and the remote) and hold two in hand. I certainly like the card, I'm just not sure if we can fit it in!

15 Dec 2014 Dydra

I ROFL so hard at the Addonis :D You forget that you "net" 3 credits for a click AND your ID's ability, which is considerably powerful :D

15 Dec 2014 Lord_Reynardine

Regarding Adonis Campaign, do you ever leave it on the table, or religiously return it to your hand?

P.S. You got Dydra'd!

15 Dec 2014 DonutTaganes

@Lord_Reynardine - Thanks for the question :) I often return it to my hand, but there is also something to be said for leaving it on the table if it's in a reasonable scoring server (2-3 Ice). It all depends on the context of the game!

16 Dec 2014 philoktitis

I really enjoyed playing your deck; thanks for posting! One thing I have had issues with is that my hand will occasionally get swamped, with me holding on to the kill combo ( SEA Source, 2x Scorched Earth) and a couple of Grail ICE. How do you handle these situations? Do you drop the combo or the ICE?

16 Dec 2014 DonutTaganes

@philoktitis Thanks for the feedback! In the latest iteration here (see above), I've dropped the SEA/Scorched package and upped to 3 Power Shutdowns :)

16 Dec 2014 philoktitis

Awesome! Sorry I missed it, I have been playing the deck since you talked about it at your podcast, so I foolishly assumed that the one posted here was the same one I saw at your show notes.

Btw, your podcast is awesome; the most content dense anr cast out there right now. I always look forward to hearing what you guys have to say. Keep it up!

16 Dec 2014 DonutTaganes

@philoktitis Thanks for the props :) Positive feedback definitely keeps us going, and I'm glad you're enjoying it!

17 Dec 2014 ItJustGotRielle

@Lord_Reynardine LOL! I received the most delightful "criticism" from him on each 'successful' deck I publish, it's cute that he's still doing his thing. Every game has to have it's 1% baddie population!

17 Dec 2014 philoktitis

@ItJustGotRielle Considering that in the case of ANR it probably is 0.1%, we can't complain. And you do need the occasional jerk to fully appreciate all the rest!

17 Dec 2014 Lord_Reynardine

@ItJustGotRielle @philoktitis Yeah, it's noticable because of its rarity; we're spoiled really. Best just to laugh I find.

I second the props, still loving the podcast. I'll definitely give this deck a go.

22 Dec 2014 chrispedersen

Looking forward, Orion is going to be a great insertion for this deck.

11 Jan 2015 travisrchance

Hi. Thanks for posting. I am certainly a huge fan of edge strategies and appreciate much about this build. I do think there are some issues, in my testing at least. In short, I feel the deck is trying to accomplish a few to many things, some of which are bordering on pipe dreams. It certainly has decent odds of mismatched draws due to this. (I still like it in theory though).

The issues I have encountered are as follows:

1.) ICE: Since you are encouraged to horde Grail ICE, this means that, ideally, you always keep two in hand. This makes the early game somewhat awkward, especially when you are drawing Archers and Curtain Walls with no Oversight. Ostensibly, this means that 12 of your ICE are rather conditional/uber-porous: (Merlin, Lancelot, Curtain Wall, and Archer. Caduceus, while best in the early game, and $ synergistic, feels somewhat off to me in this build given this. Hive is obv awesome early, but having to hard rez a 5 cost, which you will more than likely have to keep so you don't get mowed down, means you prob won't be using Blue Sun's ability here in the early game. This really stifles your early econ against aggressive decks when you are on a meh draw.

If you do manage to get the nut draw and flop down an Oversight on a Curtain Wall or Archer, that is still 2/3 of your opener, and more than likely devoted to HQ fortifying--obv this varies on the draw, but getting hit with a Siphon is never exactly ideal.

Against Criminal, you have a lot of adversity to combat: Inside Job paired with Emergency Shutdown can moot a strong board position by way of Oversight. Since assembling the synergy for Grail ICE takes time, you won't have deep servers. And, once more, most Criminals are playing Archer, which can moot an Oversighted Archer like nothing.

While the deck has a lot of ICE, I feel it isn't exactly ideal, esp. for layering. I feel the ICE needs some tweaking to help combat this. Even something as simple as ICE Wall, Quandary, or Enigma to help get you through that early game, would be nice. I also quite like the idea of Errand Boy, as it helps to speed up the Grail synergy and also serve as some credit boost, all the while discouraging the runner from wanting to let this fire--and like everything else, bounce to the hand once it becomes irrelevant. Galahad is def on point for this, but he dies to Parasites like most early ICE--with Sucker out against Blue Sun, obv.

To really make the Curtain Wall/Archer and Grail stick, you need more stable and cheap ICE to get through the rough. As is, with the Grail being mostly weak on their lonesome, I think you wanna up the ICE count--which I know sounds wonky. I would drop Caduceus, as econ-strong runners will just tear through this. And with Hive's diminishing returns, I think going to down to at least two (or perhaps outright swapping them, given their cost), may prove the right move.

2.) The Power Shutdown Concept: I find this to be entirely unnecessary and somewhat redundant. You have Lancelot and Archer for this, as well as your Elizabeth Mills (which I am currently not convinced is all the relevant with only Hostiles in the deck--this obv changes when Blackmail decks get a bump soon) which could support a Grim or 2, in place of the Shutdowns--bad pub with no breaker, shrug. Because of Power Shutdown you are slotting 3 influence and 6 total cards, which could be better utilized to push your ICE advantage and stabilize the early game instead. (It is worth mentioning, I am not a devout believer of Jackson Howard is an auto-include in all decks.)

While I def believe that Power Shutdown is a solid strategy it seems very wedged in here with the Grail ICE and the Blue Sun shenanigans. On the whole, this makes for those really off draws that can spread you too thin rather than reinforce the decks strengths. I think the deck needs another stable econ card here, or, as mentioned above, ICE than can help the early game/potentially provide some econ. Currently, I don't think the deck has that stopping power against fast decks, nor critical mass Shaper decks with the money to muscle scoring windows. Sure, Shutdown can hurt the latter, but that is assuming they don't play a breaker and get to work in the same turn.

3.) Asset Package: Part of me wants to say nix the Bootcamps, but I do see the potential in this--esp with the ability to reduce the rez cost and profit with Blue Sun. I don't necessarily think the Asset package here is so strong it warrants the inclusion, esp. without Jackson.

Adonis is neat, indeed. I wonder if playing an additional copy OVER the Jacksons (leaving 1 more influence), would be worth exploring. After all you don't NEED to get this going--and there is no guarantees it will stick if you do. I certainly think some econ would help. I certainly like the bluff factor on these for Atlas, but let's be honest, you really need to over-advance those to fetch up the Grails and cobble together an Oversight where needed anyway. As mentioned above, the ICE doesn't necessarily protect an Adonis as needed.

The last issue on this point is all of this, in tandem with setting up the ICE, is not exactly fast. We are talking actions upon action to set these things up. We also increase the trashables, which means a deck with money can bully through to agendas (not always the best when you have 3 pointers in the mix). Again, we have a sub-thread in the deck that reinforces a few strengths of Blue Sun, but is it enough and is it worth installing Bootcamps to search out 1 of three different targets, one of which you described as working against a milling agendas with Shutdown.

I am surprised you didn't try Levy University to set up the ICE faster. But even that is a bit janky and time consuming. I think I would rather just have an Errand Boy draw me cards where needs than install Jacksons and use actions to draw--even in my Noise-heavy meta.

Again, I admire the deck and think the Grail synergy is strong. Your use of Blue Sun is inspired and I think there is something to it. I do feel the Power Shutdown and Asset package are a bit of a rabbit hole. I don't have a hard list of revisions, just a few suggestions:

+1 Adonis (over 2 Jackson) +2 Errand Boy +1 Troubleshooter (over 1 Jackson) +1 Excalibur (great against things like Security testing servers and another Grail hit) +3 solid early game ICE to help stem the beats

I plan to work on this and try and revise it. It also occurred to me the beauty of Grail Ice with The Foundry!!! Thanks for opening my eyes to the notion!