The Cult of Apex: Decision 2016

umbralAeronaut 774

We're going to build a portal to R'lyeh, and we're going to make the Deep Ones pay for it!

It's Time To Get Out The Vote.

The Corporations are killing us. All those other runners have in-faction icebreakers, they have money, they have card draw. They take our Apocalypses from us.

I've Created Tens of Thousands of Jobs. I'll Make Jobs For Everyone.

We'll build a deck. Believe me, I build the best decks. Our face-checking is going to be Huge. We'll do things bigger and better than anyone.

My Debate Techniques Are The Best, They All Know It.

We need strong leadership. We need unity. We need Apex.

I'm Going To Make This Country Great Again.

The Legacy

The Cult of Apex was a deck designed to repeatedly, inexorably, play the best Runner card in the game against all opposition (No, not that best card. The other one). Well, the opposition is getting a lot scarier. We are seeing a rise of powerful high-range taxing ICE like 3.0, DNA Tracker, Data Ward, and Bulwark. Future card spoilers indicate this is not a passing trend. It will no longer be enough to merely break some " End the Run" subs, soak up some damage and the odd click-loss with Heartbeat/OotA, and expect to still explode the world.

e3 Feedback Implants is gone. In it's place is a flexible high-influence imported AI breaker, something this deck shied away from in it's first version. Even the Cultists are gone, shoved out the back door hastily by the new PR people cleaning up our image. It's time for big sponsor money and breaking subroutines the hard way. Our new running mate isn't the revelation we had hoped for, but he does give us in-faction clickless card draw in tandem with our old friend CB3k. This extra bit of speed is crucial in a meta that is trying it's hardest to slow us down with taxing ICE and aggressive must-trash assets.

All the old rules discussed in the first version of this deck mostly still apply, but naked face-checking is rapidly becoming less and less safe. Watch the corporate credit pool, know their ice, sniff out the dangers with Deuces Wild expose. Blow up the world. Then do it again, bigger and better than anyone else.

Key Cards

Eater: A base strength 2, Pump for 1, Break for 1 AI Breaker solves a lot of the unanswered questions this deck previously had and lets us free ourselves from reliance on e3 Feedback Implants. However installing an AI breaker sight-unseen against the corporate board state isn't a total slam dunk given the existence of AI punishment effects, so my advice would be to look for situations where you can safely poke at the corp with an empty program suite (as the earlier iteration of this deck often would also do).

Overmind: Icebreaker density in aggressive mini-faction decks which lack tutoring is important, just ask Adam. This is secretly Apex's primary in-faction icebreaker, don't be fooled by the border coloration on EH (which is really more like a specialist power tool given the abundance of non-basic ETR subs proliferating on Barriers these days). 3 or 4 counters is rarely less than you need to land the big explosion, and a freshly-spent Overmind also doubles as a free card to help you power Prey if you just need to quickly munch on a problematic tax ICE on a central. This card is better than Crypsis for the slot given the disposable nature of our board state and it's comparative efficiency (cheaper to break subroutines with and to install, especially if you factor in the clicks wasted pumping up Crypsis virus counters).

Rigged Results: This card makes Apocalypse happen. Show those elitist beltway phonies what your legions of disenfranchised working-class Dunwichians think of their big ICE. Infinite thanks are owed to tendermovement for originally suggesting this card.

Top Hat: This slot was once a Turning Wheel, but this card is an excellent replacement for us. Firstly, it costs nothing to install. Second and most importantly, it doesn't take any time to 'build charge' before it lets you crush dreams. A very common situation with this deck is that the turn after you Apocalypse, the corp is going to install ice on HQ and be forced to leave RnD open. Install Top Hat and just dig. The truth about 'expensive' multi-access options like The Turning Wheel is that they're not cards you can afford to install a lot of the time because you're too busy burning down the corporation's house and accidentally snagging Agendas from naked central servers. If you could snip some influence elsewhere, a multiaccess Run event would of course be a stronger option for a more traditional deck. But we are Apex and have a reset button that gets us back to a naked RnD where this card shines the brightest.

Hunting Grounds: Data Raven and Data Ward are here to stay, and NBN now also has IP Block which can give Eater heartaches without support. If NBN decks at large embrace that trio of cards (perhaps turning towards a more taxing gameplan as a response to the new tag avoidance and removal tools in Martial Law) we're going to want our 3rd Hunting Grounds, so be ready to flex a slot for that dependent on your meta expectations. Try to only hit the trash ability button here when you need to do so to survive, because you're going to lose cards you regret nearly every time.

Reaver has strong potential for racing your set-up to Apocalypse before the corporation can reach their own board end-state. It's best to think of it as something akin to an optional nitrous boost to Chop Bot, turning what's already a pretty good cycling mechanism into a Wyldcakes-esque clickless draw engine. If you have an Eater or an Overmind but the time isn't right yet to drop the Apocalypse due to credits, corporate board state, or some other specific desired piece like OotA or RR, feel free to install it to accelerate. Otherwise look to hang onto it to speed up post-Apocalypse reconstruction, or just place it facedown if you have everything you need and want to focus on utilizing your in-hand tools.

Reaver/Chop Bot/Hunting Grounds Burst Draw Wombo Combo

In a match-up where you are pressed for time to throw down cards and eat through your deck to match the corporation's development, consider installing Hunting Grounds so that you can fire the trash ability at the end of the corporation's turn. This lets you draw a card with Reaver and also gives you three facedown cards, one of which you can then immediately buzzsaw with Chop Bot 3k to draw 2 more cards as your turn begins. Be wary of using this dangerous forbidden technique when you absolutely require drawing a specific card, as usually what happens is the exact card you were looking for is now facedown on the table. It is certainly one way to jump-start a lethargic hand however.

The Also-Rans

Wasteland: Is bad, and slow. Let Geist have it. This deck's ideal is an Apocalypse on turn 3-4, then Apocalypse again turn 8-10, and again turn 12-15. We have bigger fish to fry then chasing a marginal credit gain which only comes after cooking our board state for five uninterrupted turns.

Exclusive Party: The Cultists were great. They gave us something we could feel good about installing facedown to power Chop Bot and Endless Hunger early in the game, and a steady flow of cash in the mid-to-late game. They also cost us 6 influence and 6 deck slots for a somewhat middling return on the investment. Bigger burst cash is required, and Day Job does that for cheaper deck construction buy-in. In exchange you will have to make harder calls regarding facedown installs, but on the bright side in any given matchup it should be easy to identify certain cards which are redundant or unnecessary (Reaver also assists here by doubling the value of a single facedown to Chop Bot). The cash side of this deck isn't the top of the game by any stretch, which Apex nominally compensates for with the raw power of his tools. This cash pinch is felt most in the NBN matchup. Which is the meta right now. So there's that!

Faust: The obvious alternative choice to Eater, this is the first place many people's minds turned towards when Reaver was spoiled. Why not then? The first problem with Faust is that corporations have evolved above it for the most part. All of the same big-tax ICE that are pushing us to include better icebreakers in this deck in the first place will cost 3-5 cards to break with Faust. Breaking ice the first time is pointless if you need to pitch all the power cards out of your hand to do it. Worse than that, Apex already has deck attrition built into his gameplan with face-down installs for Hunger, Prey, Heartbeat, and Chop Bot. If you have Faust, you're naturally going to want support for Faust like e3 Feedback or LARLA, both of which dramatically increase the influence commitment of your icebreaker slot. The 'Faust Package' has the ultimate result of devouring nearly all of our mini-faction influence in a small handful of high-impact cards which rely on each other to function... and this does nothing so much as compound the variance problems that we as a mini-faction suffer from. Eater on the other hand is a self-contained icebreaker that powers itself through nothing other than money, and because you are Apex you'll often enjoy the luxury of only paying money to break ice the first time.

Levy AR Lab Access: LARLA is a fine card but it's value is diminished greatly by Apex's inability to utilize Same Old Thing. Sure, you can try to babysit it in your hand all game until it's time to play it. However, I have always felt that a well-piloted Apex deck simply does not need Levy AR Lab. It requires a little practice and some match-up knowledge to know how to properly value your cards but it's worth it as a challenge that will improve your piloting skill in the end. Apocalypse dramatically distorts the clock of a match by sweeping away the landscape of the corporation's incremental 'advantages' that they have spent time and money accumulating. If you can land Apocalypse repeatedly (and you can) you will find that they almost always run out of options first.

Closing Thoughts

Consistency is our greatest weakness. On it's best draws, this deck can sweep CtM under the rug, chew apart the best Jinteki netgrinders, and dismantle the meanest HB glacier. On it's worst draws, it will struggle to see even pathetic single-card accesses. The timing of when you draw into your vital first Apocalypse is not something that you can control; sometimes the best you can do is simply to be as ready as possible when it gets dredged up by your steady card cycling engine. Right now runner cardpools and economies are defined by Temüjin Contract, a card which Apex is unable to install. Fighting tagstorm decks which pack Exchange of Information and Closed Accounts will be a perpetual problem moving forward, despite help from Deuces Wild and Chop Bot. In some ways this is a deck that is waiting for NBN to fall out of meta dominance to allow it to spread it's wings.

Apex is not a Tier 1 deck. Indeed, it might never be. However, I believe that it is a valuable deck to nurture in the meta of the game. Just like certain political movements have recently proven, there is a perverse value to be found in flipping the table, spitting in the face of conventional wisdom, and playing the game by your own rules. You put the empty suits on the spotlight, and reveal the weaknesses in their houses built of card and bluster. Strong corporation decks may well survive your onslaught, but don't be deterred. Prey on the weak. Force the big shots to worry about threats they would rather pretend don't exist. Your time is coming.

The Stars Will Soon Be Ready For Our Change.

10 Dec 2016 umbralAeronaut

Watch out for Peace In Our Time out of the final datapack in this cycle (a.k.a. The Cult of Apex: Decision 1938 - Neville Chamberlain edition). One or two might be right to edge out Day Job which is rather clunky for us. Giving the corporation some free money in exchange for a massive set-up turn is possibly a winning move for the Invasive Predator in certain (non-FA) matchups.

10 Dec 2016 dawspawn

I love the idea of Apex wearing a Top Hat. And this looks like a fun deck.

10 Dec 2016 umbralAeronaut

One variation that has been suggested to me which feels promising is to drop Employee Strike and add "Freedom Through Equality" in it's place. This would open up one more influence for the third Day Job. Freedom through Equality can be a pretty good play after an Apocalypse, but it relies on having spare money and clicks and the game sense to be utilized well.

13 Dec 2016 Sanjay

This deck looks really solid.

I love cutting Exclusive Party. That card is cute and good for Apex (a credit burst from zero credits is certainly welcome) but I think part of its appeal is that it makes facedown install decisions easy because the first ones you draw are bad. That's a lot of influence for a card that is only good when you draw the third or fourth one onward.

We will near the point soon, I'm sure, where MAGA-esque deck write-ups are played out, but this one is quite apt and appropriate. Kudos to you recognizing similarities between other rigged result chaos monsters and Apex.