Beating a Better Winner (20th at Euros)

swabl 244

Behold! What you are looking at is the greatest Building a Better World deck at Euros, rising above so many others to reach a lofty 20th place!

The fact that it was the only BABW deck at Euros is a trifling detail.

This list is an evolution on my BABW list published 2 weeks ago which in turn was a lightly modified version of @BlueHG's list. There's a fair bit to discuss here, especially with respect to the original list, but also more broadly.

So first, this deck feels really nice to play. It's smooth, it's efficient, it never gives anything too freely, it's just solid. You have 2.5 wincons: scoring behind Surveyors and Border Controls on a Jinja City Grid remote is generally plan A, but you back this up by threatening a Punitive Counterstrike kill that sometimes becomes your main course of action. I've got wins in roughly equal proportions between these two. Your .5 of a wincon is lockout with SDS Drone Deployment. This is actually quite rare, even rarer now that criminals are getting smart to it and packing backups, but if you can hit Leela's Engolo off the score you are singing. But hey, even only getting the tempo can be huge.

You have a truly ludicrous amount of money (Beanstalk Royalties for 4 will never not feel great) and amazing click efficiency between Jinja and Red Level Clearance which is what really contributes to the smoothness of the deck. In fact, I would go so far as to say that RLC enables BABW as a competitive ID entirely; it was already good, but now that it's functionally free it makes the deck deceptively fast and fluid. Clicklessly stacking Jinja, or (hypothetically) using it to chain Beanstalk-Hedge Fund-IPO, or locking down all three centrals turn 1 while still making money is just fantastic.

Now let's talk about some other card choices. Hostile Takeover was chosen to round out our agenda suite for straightforward reasons: it's more money and it gives you a way to close out the scoring game. Generally speaking you should avoid scoring it before you have to, because this deck runs slower than The Outfit and doesn't discourage running like Argus so the bad publicity is much worse for you, but don't feel bad if you have to. And hey, it's something cheap to sac for the surprise Tithonium. Other options were Project Atlas, as per my previously published deck, but it's a bit awkward to score to close out the game and the tutoring isn't that necessary, or Divested Trust, which is cute with Punitive Counterstrike but isn't quite good enough. Closing out the game is too important.

Rashida Jaheem was excluded by name in @BlueHG's original list, and I think that's a mistake. The tempo gain is just so great in a deck that's already doing some pretty good tempo gaining, but it's not so vital that we necessarily need 3 of her. And as we're speeding the deck up with her, NGO Front can get stuck in the hand, so we can reduce that to 2 as well. To be honest, I just wanted the space for...

Beanstalk Royalties! Or more accurately, Beanstalk and Death and Taxes. The latter is an incredibly strong current at effectively 1 credit, especially if you're predicting heavy Wu Revoir presence, and the former is just a better Hedge Fund in BABW. I tried a couple of games without Beanstalk and missed it too much; aside from just being a great burst of credits, its ability to bounce you back from 0 is too huge to ignore. Which is also why I favored 3 Beanstalks and 2 IPOs instead of the other way around. Had to cut 1 for space in the end.

That cut could be Consulting Visit. This very rarely gets used. Between the lowish agenda density and surprisingly fast draw, I usually have 2 Punitives in hand when it comes time to play them. That said, I wouldn't feel comfortable not having (effectively) 4 Punitives in the deck when it's such an important part of our wincon.

As for ICE, @BlueHG didn't include Border Control, which I feel is incorrect. If you've got a Surveyor on the remote and you stick a Border Control on it, that daunting remote will now effectively be ignored - windmill agendas in there like there's no tomorrow! It also helps in a lot of other ways - like all Jinja decks, its vulnerable to Apocalypse, so it gives you an out there, and it can stop stuff like an untimely Diversion of Funds or whatnot. It's good ICE, and I will likely replace Ice Wall with a third copy because Ice Wall has consistently been A Bit Crap.

@BlueHG also had three Tithoniums which I definitely think is excessive. I get the rationale behind it, but it felt too much like a specific meta call to use so many slots on something so expensive, especially when Apoc Val is becoming quite popular and you're trying to maintain a credit differential for Punitive. But 1 is Pretty Good.

My inclusion of Eli 1.0 arrived after some thinking. My barrier suite looked quite iffy, being either all strength 1 or heckin expensive. Eli 1.0 as a result really rounds it out, being a really efficient taxing barrier in an environment where Corroder is the fracter of choice. Cutting a Slot Machine for one didn't feel bad when we already have Mausolus as another taxing code gate. But why not Seidr Adaptive Barrier? It's only 1 inf too, and it synergises with Jinja! You're not wrong, and you won't be wrong to favour it, but I didn't particularly like it. It's only worth the rez cost on the remote, requiring too much investment if on centrals, and when we already have Surveyor and Border Control the remote doesn't need the extra support. It may have a higher ceiling than Eli 1.0, but Eli 1.0 requires less work and has a very high floor to boot.

But the biggest questionable card choice of all: why BABW? Aside from the raw economic efficiency with the basic transaction trifecta, BABW lets you play Death and Taxes and makes Red Level Clearance wildly good. But honestly? It's because there's no better alternative for this strategy. Argus demands a very different game plan, Blue Sun has a similar approach for the kill but requires a different play style and pace, and while there have certainly been similar Outfit decks that ID suits a more rushy approach that feels maybe less stable. But as I've said multiple times, BABW with RLC is very much worthy of consideration.

That's a lot of words, and I haven't even got to its tournament results! In the end it went 4-3 against what I feel is a really tough schedule, which included 3 of the top 8! Here are my games, in order:

  1. Win against Freedom. Killed with Punitive. Specifically, @Drago's Freedom. Y'know, the guy who won the whole thing? Hence this deck's name - I beat a better winner ;)
  2. Loss against Leela. An absolutely incredible game to be on the losing end of, he was genuinely one step ahead of me at every turn. Every time I thought I had a line next turn, he played precisely the right card to screw me over. Every. Time. Perhaps to be expected from @percomis, who finished 4th place.
  3. Won against Leela. I had really good draw and was able to score SSL into SDS into Hostile behind a Border Control before they could find a fracter.
  4. Won against Leela in much the same way as above - SSL into SDS into Hostile, albeit not quite as fast.
  5. Loss against Val. This is the game I feel worst about. I had to assume they were on Apoc so should have stuck to my pre-calculated plan for that eventuality (dump SSL into bin, Punitive after the Apoc), but got greedy and tried to jam agendas in a too-weak remote and squandered the line. Credit where it's due to my opponent, he played it fantastically and took exacting advantage of my mistakes - to be expected of the eventual 7th place finisher.
  6. Loss against MaxX. This was an incredibly good game that I lost due to a lapse in judgement - I decided to Jinja R&D to try and stop the eventual Turning Wheel dig, but in the process left an Ice Wall as the outermost ICE allowing him to farm counters, eventually digging for 9 accesses. Had I just left it as only the Slot Machine at the base, like it was for all game, he almost certainly wouldn't have been able to get enough accesses in time. Likewise, if he hadn't stolen the Hostile out of HQ earlier in the game, I would have had the path to close out. All the more heartbreaking as this was a 241. But a very good game nonetheless.
  7. And finally, won against Smoke. It was going pretty alright right up until he got setup, at which point I realised I wouldn't be able to stop him getting into my remote. So I switched to plan B, which was to bait the steal and kill with Punitive. He stole, but had burst into much more money than I anticipated, making it non-trivial to land the kill. Now I had 3 Punitives, so after some thinking I played one but only boosting by enough to leave him on 4 credits if he paid through it; a bluff to make him think I had some followup to force the kill if he didn't pay through, but also threatening a kill only if I had all 3 Punitives in hand. An awkward fork to say the least. He paid through (in part, I sensed, due to a certain amount of tiredness and desire to get some beer) and I landed the kill.

Four wins and three losses, and I imagine that with a better pilot this deck could have won another game, maybe two. I'm really pleased with the outcome regardless - in tandem with my runner also going 4-3, I finished in 20th place!

Big thanks to @mcg who, after independently creating an RLC/BABW list at the same time as @BlueHG and seeing my results at the London GNK, traded notes with me, gave me suggestions and let me bounce ideas off him. He played a big part in refining this list and forcing me (whether he knows it or not) to justify all my decisions.

And of course, so much love and appreciation for Austin, Akira, Michał and the rest of our NISEI overlord for putting on a wonderful event, especially considering the absurd amount of work and effort they put into it. Y'all are the best <3