Steppin' Razor Leela (Gang Sign//Stealth)

formerteen 1118

This is a deck I've been trying to perfect for several months now and I think I've found its optimal build. It attempts to shore up the weaknesses from which Criminals currently suffer and capitalise on the vicious snowball potential in Gang Sign Leela decks. In short, it can step to glacier decks with ease using a stealth rig but is also fast enough to stomp ye olde NEH. It's been performing very well in a highly competitive meta, going 4-0 in Swiss in 2 store champs and 3-1 in another (let's not talk about my corp performance).

Edit: Just took 3rd place in a new store champs with this and a Haarp kill deck. Leela went 3-1 in Swiss, losing to a very strong player piloting a vicious IG. After the cut, I won a corp game, then died to that same IG and a very strong PE player (who I had managed to beat in the Swiss). I really need to learn to play against those decks... Performed well against everything else though!

Edit 2: 2nd place in a different store champs. Leela went 4-0 in Swiss (Haarp kill was 3-1). Won my corp match after cut and then stole a timed victory off of a very intimidating Gagarin Mumbad Construction Co. deck. Proceeded to then lose a corp match and a Leela match against that player—first loss with Leela all day though! The problem in the Gagarin matchup was my piloting though, it doesn't seem like an unfavourable matchup.

I'll try to walk you through how I ended up with this build. Many of my decisions were based on what I once perceived to be inevitable loss matchups. So for example, when using a more traditional Criminal rig (e.g., Faeries, ZU.13 Key Master, Femme Fatale, etc.), I found that Foodcoats (or just plain ol' glacier) was an eventual inevitable loss unless I lucked into some early scores. This is partly because you can't make enough money to support such weak breakers often enough but it's also because relying on Faerie as your main sentry breaker can be utter folly. In order to use it effectively, you have to splash recursion (3 inf. for a Clone Chip? uh) and you have to see that recursion at the right time. Otherwise, Architect on HQ? You're getting in once until you see another Faerie or Clone Chip. Double-stacked Sentries? GG no re.* The stealth suite was a natural place to end up after so much frustration with the ephemerality of Faerie and the massive expense in breaking things with ZU.13 Key Master. Now once you install a breaker, it stays! Not only that, but most of your runs will be... free! This is probably what really makes this deck strong. All corps can do once your rig is up is struggle to tax you. Turns out though that you can't really tax someone using recurring credits to make free runs, especially when s/he's making real credits back each run! Free runs!!! The dream is real.

As for the Gang Sign/HQ Interface build in Leela, that pretty much speaks for itself. Corp scores a 3/2 on click 3? Great. I'll access 1-6 cards from HQ, bouncing either before or after access based on how that'll affect my time in HQ. Access an agenda in hand? More bounces, thanks. 5 minutes of accessing and bouncing passes. Okay, click 1, The Maker's Eye. It's a devastating build and corps who don't respect that will get steamrolled by it. Forcing corps to single-advance their 3/2s so that they can replace your bounce is one way to deal with it but it really just ends up helping you as they broadcast their scoring window to you openly. It's truly vicious and any Criminal player who hasn't tried out Gang Sign in Leela really should (even if you don't like my particular brew). I came to the Gang Sign build after difficulty with NEH and other fast-advance decks. Turns out bouncing the single pieces of ice in NEH is something they really don't like though. Know what they like even less? Gang Signing their Astros. :') My first store champs this season, I played 4 NEH (piloted by very strong players) in Swiss and went 4-0. It's a great matchup for this deck.

Some individual card commentary: Déjà Vu: There's no room for Clone Chip here post-MWL. It'd be better but at least you can also Déjà for Account Siphon or something. It's really here because you have 1x each breaker of course and occasionally you can't avoid it getting trashed or pinged out of hand (or Kala Ghoda Real TV'd off the top of your deck lol).

The Maker's Eye: Could be R&D Interface. I go back and forth on what I prefer. I normally stick with The Maker's Eye because it's more surprising. RDI can telegraph an intention to hit R&D which often leads to double-icing, thus ruining your click 1 after they score. Still, consistent multi-access off R&D is great in this deck if they leave it porous. Don't forget most of your runs are free using the stealth rig. :')

John Masanori: A divisive card for sure. Some would prefer Earthrise Hotel and that is their prerogative. In my experience, I seldom have 4 credits to drop on draw. When I do spend it, I end up overdrawing stuff I can't pay for and discarding stuff I actually wanted. Earthrise Hotel is great in some decks but this is not one of them. John, on the other hand, synergises with Desperado and Security Testing and, guess what—you almost never make unsuccessful runs with this rig! Hurray!

Fisk Investment Seminar: Use it when the corp seems uncomfortable! Use it when the corp is broke! Use it after you've bounced! Use it when you think you might hit a Junebug (but let's hope not)! This is a great card and, in my experience, is far less risky than popularly believed. You just have to be thoughtful when using it.

Flex: There are lots of blue and neutral cards that could be swapped around according to personal preference. Namely, Legwork, Same Old Thing, Emergency Shutdown, Muertos Gang Member, Dirty Laundry, Drive By, maybe even High-Stakes Job. Some of these are meta calls and others are just my gut feeling. For example, High-Stakes Job is almost a surefire way to gain 6c (+1 Desperado, +2 Security Testing, + John draw) once your rig is set up. However, you won't need that money when your rig is set up! Remember, free runs? Free runs! This deck gets rich as hell by the time that card is relevant. Replacing one Same Old Thing with one Emergency Shutdown has been something I've done. Shutting down something that actually manages to tax you (namely, Heimdall 1.0 and 2.0) can be extremely beneficial. However, so is the Maker's Eye or Siphon you pull off Same Old Thing so y'know. Trust yer gut.

If you have any questions about play style or deck choices, let me know. I'm going to take a break from using this bad boy for a while as, like I've said, this is probably the optimal build for me now. I've polished it enough... that is, until Rebirth comes out and it becomes an Andy/Leela deck.

*Mongoose was not out when I was first having these troubles so it didn't come into consideration. It's improved things for Criminals but frankly it's also brutally expensive and easily countered. I guess that's killers fer ya.

9 Mar 2016 Jcree8


9 Mar 2016 CarrotHandsome

I haven't found the motivation to play in a while, but a Post-MWL Stealth Leela Revival is something I've been tickling my chin over. This is just the deck I'd want to dive in with again. Thank you and excellent notes!

9 Mar 2016 formerteen

@CarrotHandsome let me know your experiences if you do try it out!

9 Mar 2016 hi_impact

Have you ever tried GS Sherman M3 over Corroder?

Maybe I've just been burned by Hive and NEXT Silver too much as Criminal. Seems like every time I sleeve up a stealth deck I go up against NEXT glacier or Batty Bombs casually or competitively.

9 Mar 2016 StarryVeck

Is that an Underworld reference in the deck name?

9 Mar 2016 iceqs

John Mass is such a hit or miss. If the matchup is against asset-based econ or asset-spam deck, it's god-sent. But if you are dealing with a heavy central protection with a single remote play, it's a dead card. The worst part is you can't uninstalled it so prepare for troubles if you are careless. Baby is such a better option for all situations. The SecTes and Despi combination is enough for you to make a run. You are going to draw anyway, so why not take that 1 credit from Baby instead of risking getting shutdown in certain matchups? Remember, it might sound very situational but John Mass is actually your only drawing engine (I don't count the Fisk since you never count Diesel/IHW as a drawing engine on its own because they are all events).

Another thing, John is better with Stealth rigs since you are never going to fail your run. This is untrue. First, you need John early to get the draws so you can find the Rigs. Stealth rigs are so clunky and they have so many small pieces especially Switchblade in order to function properly. Secondly, Stealth rigs are not invincible. You faced 4 NEH in your metagame, of course the rigs would be invincible. Also, stealth rigs are the worst at dealing with Ash and Caprice since they can't get anywhere twice.

This is why Criminal is still at the bottom of the metagame because they don't have reliable options against all these Corp's deck. However, I do like Leela's Gang Sign and I think it is one of the best punishment against inexperienced players and it can mess up FA deck a lot. The only thing that I am not happy with in this write-up is the above because there's a reason why people stay away from Stealth for such a long time.

9 Mar 2016 formerteen

@hi_impact I had not considered trying it to, to tell you the truth! It'd be just a meta call, really. I mostly see Wall of Static, Eli, and Wraparound, so Corroder is usually preferable but I can definitely see an argument for GS Sherman M3.

@StarryVeck It's a neuromancer reference.

@iceqs I understand what you're saying but I think you're thinking a little too categorically or rigidly. I've had FA decks ice all their centrals to attempt to shut down my run economy (2/4 of them at that first store champs, notably) and I've had glacier decks give up on trying to keep me out of archives. Corp plays differ from game to game and don't correlate 100% with archetype. Obviously I wouldn't install John if the corp has triple-iced centrals and is only ever using one remote but that is a very, very rare circumstance and what's more likely to be the case is that they've put something very porous on archives and are still letting me in (either clicking through or using whatever breaker I special ordered) or they've got an Eve server or a naked Team Sponsorship, etc. The cases where John gets turned off altogether are very rare and naturally if you did suspect he was dicey, you don't have to play him. I will say that in the ~7 months of playing him in Leela, I installed him in probably 95%+ of games and almost never took a tag. Much like many cards, it just requires some thoughtful playing (anticipate ice correctly, install at the right moment, etc.). Symmetrical Visage is, however, anti-synergistic and click-intensive in this build. I am already devoting 1 click to Kati and 1 click to my Security Testing run per turn (even without John—there really isn't any room left to click the baby. You also don't need the extra credit—as mentioned in my writeup, this deck gets rich as hell because the runs are mostly free. In any case, I would say that I have not found a corp deck that is reliably strong against this deck. Certainly I lose some of the time (sometimes my fault, sometimes the deck's) but this deck was designed specifically to answer the strong archetypes and I have found it to perform more than adequately against those (again, in a very strong and competitive meta). If anything, its weakest matchup is PE!

9 Mar 2016 Swiftie

@formerteen I think that PE is most criminals bad match up! Really interesting deck. It testing its the code gates taht have been causing the most issue and playing refractor has really helped.

John Masanori has caused me multiple issues. I agree that its really good card but it does not fit my style of running and I often end up having to clear tags.

You have a bunch of draw so how about cutting the Legwork for the 3rd Silencer to make sure that you are hitting all the moving parts for the stealth rig quicker?

10 Mar 2016 formerteen

@Swiftie I always install the Gang Sign and HQ Interface even against PE. I LOVE THE THRILL. It's actually only won me games and has yet to kill me but I acknowledge it's risky as hell and probably dumb. yolo i guess

That's a solid idea! Hadn't even considered it really. I'll try it out next time I've got this deck in rotation and see how it feels.

10 Mar 2016 Alakallanar

So you switched to this breaker setup, among other reasons, because double sentries gave you trouble. But this setup needs the one-off Switchblade and 4 stealth credits to get through. While only playing 4 recurring stealth credits total and 3 non-recycleable Ghost Runners. Is that really so much better?

10 Mar 2016 formerteen

@Alakallanar Yep!

10 Mar 2016 Swiftie

@Alakallanar refractor does not need that many stealth credits to work well 1 maybe two to get through stacked codegates/little engine. The switch blade does most of the heavy lifting and you can make the ghost runner credits go along way.

@formerteen Seems your very keen on the gang sign combo. How much weight do the HQ Interface do with the signs? Like you said it really shows what your doing so would swapping the two HQ Interface for two Legwork still pull the same results and also give suprise power HQ runs?

10 Mar 2016 formerteen

@Swiftie In my opinion, the HQIs are integral to a Gang Sign deck. Being able to see 3 cards and then go back in 2 more times for 3 cards each is truly bananas. It essentially shows you their entire hand, which means scoring agendas, trashing key tools (Jackson, Ash, Caprice, whatever), and seeing what sorts of ice or combos to expect. In order to really threaten with Gang Sign, I think it does need to be juiced up with the HQI. Otherwise, you might just pull the same Ichi 1.0 3 times out of hand. The HQIs ensure you're getting unique accesses.

11 Mar 2016 bionicsheep

I published a similar decklist recently, but I've got 2-3 of each breaker to speed my setup. Tempted to try the risky one-of build for the extra inf/deckslots. Have you had much experience with Markus Batty / Keegan Lane programme trashing? They're my biggest fear right now.

11 Mar 2016 formerteen

@bionicsheep yeah, so that's what the Déjà Vu is for but certainly getting more than one thing trashed can be problematic (though you can also Same Old Thing a Déjà Vu in a pinch). the upside is that decks that make heavy use of keegan lane are often fairly porous so it's usually not a huge problem anyway. rigshooter decks can be very strong against criminal across the board due to lack of recursion but i haven't found it to be any more of a problem here than i have in other criminal decks.

14 Mar 2016 Tempus

Testing this bad boy up :) . How do you deal with stealth with Leela vs Andromeda? Do you take time to set up your rig first? Should you run aggressively or not to run at all? I think this may just be what I need as a player but would like some tips :p

14 Mar 2016 formerteen

@Tempus it's definitely a matter of 1) finding your own style and 2) reading the board accurately. although shapers and anarchs are often spoiled into running whenever it seems advantageous (due to things like Faust and Self-modifying Code), criminals often have to find a balance between aggression and setup, stealth or otherwise (due to their shitty breakers and their singular tutor (which is also slow)). if you think the corp is going to try to score or you really can't let them rez the adonis, you can be aggressive. usually this takes the form of using an Inside Job or special ordering the appropriate breaker. i will say though that allowing the corp to score 2 points early game is often not a big deal. you're going to get a bounce when they do and hopefully you get a Gang Sign access or two. aggression shouldn't be your number 1 priority because the late game is really going to be yours. feel free to take your time setting up unless you're very obviously playing against a breakneck speed NEH or something. naturally if you feel like you're too slow over the course of a few games, speed things up, but this deck really is meant to shine in the late game.

19 Mar 2016 Claytron

I've been looking for a deck to get me back into Crim for a while now. When I saw this I knew I had to sleeve it up and try it.

I did have to make some corrections for 1 core set (2x Desperado for 1x more Déjà Vu and dropped another siphon. Forgot what the other 2 replacements were.)

I have to say - it was a blast thanks!

19 Mar 2016 formerteen

@kevo glad you enjoyed! welcome back to the criminal fold. :)

29 Mar 2016 needlepony

Yes! It did well in Weyland vs. Crim tournament. I took out 2 siphons and added x1 drive by and x1 blackmail. Won 3 out of 4 games.