I’ve never bothered with long writeups before, but I massively outperformed my own expectations at my last ever nationals, so I’m going to indulge myself…
It’s late on Friday night, my Azmari deck has just gone 1-4 at KOS where I played it outside of Jnet for the first time. I’m exhausted and concerned that I’ve made a terrible decision to play the same Azmari in the main event on Saturday.
I have an Argus deck with me that’s similar to what I played throughout regionals season and was very comfortable with. Our group’s small amount of testing (and lots of talking) had led to the conclusion that it would be a terrible choice because of the resurgence of Shaper. Do I stick or twist?
After talking it through for half an hour, we concluded that I had both played the Azmari poorly and been unlucky in several games at KOS. I owe a lot of thanks to Yann and Daniel (Labbes) for convincing me that our reasoning was sound and to stick with it, which led to the deck going undefeated in a strong Swiss field.
TLDR: Trust. The. Process.
FYI - I don’t consider myself a top player, and certainly not a top deck builder. Everything that follows will not be news to anyone who has played as/against a lot of 6-agenda Azmari.
If you’re still interested, read on!
Short TLDR of our Azmari bootcamp for those who are new to the archetype:
Trust your R&D - there’s a reason you only run 6 agendas.
Don’t put more than 1 ice on R&D until you have a scoring server you are content to jam something in every turn (usually 3 ice deep with a surveyor, maybe 2 ice if one of them is a tollbooth or FC3).
Jam everything you get, don’t second guess what the runner will do - most of the time they will make one or two wasted runs, which should be enough to win you the game.
If you lose from a couple of single accesses don’t change your approach, this won’t happen often.
Don’t click to draw unless an echo chamber score wouldn’t be threatening. If you draw an agenda you’ll have to dump it in the remote unadvanced because HQ is almost always weakly defended, and you don’t want them running the remote thinking they have to trash an echo chamber only to have them score 3 points.
If you’re really broke and can’t defend the remote, install double advance SSL is fine - the money it gives you is so good, and if you go broke scoring it you may well get your Azmari trigger, followed by 3 from SSL and you can hedge the following turn.
Don’t worry too much about changing your general approach depending on what runner you’re facing – the gameplan is always the same, you mostly just place your ice differently.
On to the match reports (apologies for not remembering opponents’ names or much of what happened in the earlier rounds!):
R1 versus Maxx - sadly my opponent got a gameloss.
R2 versus Maxx - nothing much to report (or maybe I just can’t remember what happened).
R3 versus Sunny - an absurd game that was basically Archangel versus Maxwell and Nexus. I kept jamming stuff behind an Archangel, giving my opponent no time to set up, but they also didn’t want to lose the drip econ they had installed to Archangel. All 3 Maxwells appeared in Sunny’s first 10 cards. Eventually my opponent tired of this nonsense and DDM’d R&D once they had Nexus out. Found the second Archangel on top and had to choose between me beating the Nexus trace and them whiffing on the DDM and ending the turn tagged, or not using Nexus so the DDM would land, letting the Archangel fire to bounce the Nexus. They chose the latter, the DDM still whiffed and they were left with no Nexus on the board, which made it easy for me.
R4 versus Anton on Maxx - nothing much to report.
R5 versus Yannick on Aesop’s Hayley - I got totally flooded, seeing I think 4/6 agendas by turn 4. Luckily I also saw an NGO and I think a Bio Vault, so I just built a remote and jammed, hoping my opponent would do the shaper thing of taking time to set up so they could lock the remote, and hitting R&D with Indexing. Happily that’s what they did, and made one wrong call on the remote that gave me the window to score out, ending with a 4-iced remote and open centrals.
R6 versus Felix (Jackmade) on Paragon Smoke - I’m delighted at being able to safely ID into the cut, then I’m paired against Felix who has never taken or offerend an ID. He even gets my hopes up by telling me how tired he is and maybe now would actually be a good time for his first ID. Then he changes his mind and excitedly says, “Nope, let’s play!”. He crushes me with SportsMetal combo on stream, and then we play out the Azmari game which is tight, but I squeak out the win after he accesses the winning echo chamber on top of R&D with 0 credits.
R7 versus Asger - ID (finally!)
Cut game – The deck finally gives up on me for the first time. I see no agendas, Rashidas or NGOs in the first 5 or 6 turns. Just upgrades, echo chambers, expensive ice and a marilyn. My opponent takes his time to get set up and then crushes me while I’m still floundering.
And now the discussion of the flex slots:
Defensive upgrades – we expected a field full of shaper and Patchwork Maxx, which was a pretty accurate (if obvious) prediction. Given that both could Stimhack the remote with D4 on hand to break Surveyors and Tollbooths, we decided Ash wouldn’t do much and went for Bio Vaults. Even though they only fired maybe twice all day (once on the remote and once on an R&D dig), they baited a lot of runs on the remote which let me score over the following turns.
We were playing with old Maxwell, so Navi went in, also to mess with all kinds of things (D4, SMC, Datasucker). Playing only 1 was a mistake, it did nothing all day – once Shapers are set up it doesn’t hurt them, so you want it early to let you rush harder. I would say it should be 2x or 0.
Only 2 NGO? The deck is rich enough and with the Bio Vaults you already have enough stuff to install double advance. I’m also fairly sure I won a game or two because people assumed I had three and left the remote alone because they only saw two in archives. So, you know, mind games.dec.
News hounds + scarcities – news hounds were fine, scarcities were bad. I expected more resource-heavy shaper, but both Smoke and Aesop’s Hayley can ignore or deal with scarcity in one way or another. Maxx runs 3 hacktivist and there was still a lot of E-Strike around. In hindsight I fully agree with @grogboxer (https://netrunnerdb.com/en/decklist/50961/lol-currents-azmari-4th-us-nats-) – getting the slots back would have been better.
So, basically, most of the “tech” cards in the flex slots did nothing meaningful and the deck still went undefeated in Swiss, which just goes to show how strong it is at its core.
Changes I would make if I was going to Worlds:
-3 news hound
+1 targeted marketing (helps clear strike and recover from the econ loss of being under strike)
3 Sep 2018 Futzelgnom
4 Sep 2018 tzeentchling
4 Sep 2018 MrBuggles