A Campfire Story (23rd at Worlds 2022) 🏕️

ChiptheRipper 140

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Gather round, as I have a ghastly story to tell. A story of a corp only mentioned in hushed whispers across discord servers and slacks before Worlds 2022. Some may say 'tis better to live without knowing fear, but once you learn its secrets, you will be burdened with this accursed knowledge for the rest of your days. Ever considered if your shadows stare back at you?

This deck is the origin of those campfire stories and the story of the mad lads who introduced it to jnet casual.

Image It scary indeed.

The core of the deck revolves around Loki, which can copy the subroutines of any rezzed ice when the runner encounters it. Loki doesn't cost an arm and a leg to break: it has a lower strength than the ice it will likely copy. When protected by a Trieste Model Bioroids however, it is a whole different matter. The runner will actually have to pay with their arms and legs each time they encounter the Loki: it will be unbreakable, and with the subroutines of a scary ICE. If they shuffle their grip away to continue their run, Obokata Protocol becomes impossible to steal and a Snare! access or Anemone rez just kills them.

Just run a different a different server to find agendas, right?

Nope, we’ll tell you where to run.

If there is unrezzed ice on that server, now you are forced to encounter Loki once more. Now, how many arms and legs do you have?

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Now here you are, with an empty deck and too few cards, forced to watch agendas scored right before your eyes or run into certain death.

Don’t hug me, I’m scared.

With the main combo requiring a Loki rezzed, a Trieste Model Bioroids in a remote, and unrezzed ice, the bulk of the deck was designed to get the lock set up consistently. Once the tales began to spread, some of the following changes were made in the shadows.

  • Bacterial Programming: This would allow us to stack the deck in our favor to find the Trieste early and help with flood. This was considered over Send the Message as Trieste is not searchable, but Bacterial could help us dig for it.
  • Distract the Masses: With influence being tight, we used distract the masses to function as our recursion.
  • Wave: Having 3 copies gives us 4 effective copies of Loki whenever we see it or a search for another problem-solving ice. Most runners also allow the subroutine to fire, so it gains us money too.
  • Konjin: Usually in our Trieste server, this ice saves us an Aginfusion ability as long as we can win the psi game to send the runner into the Loki, which most of the time we install on R&D given Konjin is there to safely protect Trieste.
  • Divert Power: Usually the beginning of the end, this allows us to rez ICE like Loki or Mlinzi and derez all other ice to set up for the AgInfusion lock state.
  • Daruma: A defensive upgrade to protect Trieste or, optimally, an agenda. The thought was that we can only reliably punish one run each turn, so defensive upgrades like Anoetic Void are useless as the runner would just run our agenda servers again and again until we run out of cards in hand to cough up. With Daruma, we can at least put our agenda into HQ and replace it with one of our assets, and then rely on the randomness of HQ accesses to protect the agenda for the rest of the turn
  • Kakurenbo: This operation was used to allow us to run an effective 4th Trieste if it was trashed but ultimately was too slow, couldn't be used in the same turn as divert power or installing loki, and a dead draw. This was a last minute slot but would have been better as something else, maybe a Hokusai Grid to mop up after a Loki shuffle.

Many of the considerations were made knowing that the deck can leak agendas early while building up credits and that setting up the lock is the main way to catch up and score agendas.

During our testing we also considered some of the following cards:

  • Daily Business Show: Since our early game can be a bit slow, we thought that DBS would be good to draw our combo pieces and have a neat interaction with Miraju, but it requires us to protect it, which without our combo we can't reliably do. Wave turned out to be more consistent in searching for Loki. Doing things to force runs and subsequent rezzes is a better game plan against a passive runner than sitting back on a DBS, especially when considering timed games.
  • Send the Message: This agenda didn’t help us with setting up the combo as much as Bacterial Programming and did not help with early flood.
  • DNA Tracker: With Engolo and Boat, the credit cost did not feel justified even if the subroutine fired compared to our other ICE suite.
  • Sadaka: Would allow us for extra consistency and trash any would-be tech but usually can't fire anyway because the runner has Endurance.
  • Architects of Tomorrow: Early in testing, Loki and Trieste had a home here but the Aginfusion ability allowed all servers with unrezzed ice to be protected under the watchful eye of Loki.
  • Nerine 2.0: Used in the early days of this deck. Theoretically the two core damage subroutines put the runner on a definitive clock, but in practice it is too much influence, yet another 1-of that needs to get installed and rezzed, and isn't that much quicker of a clock than mlinzi milling the deck.

Now that the monster has seen the light of day, with Snare Bears taking their version of Trieste/Loki AgInfusion to strong top cut finishes, maybe it is not as terrorizing as it may seem. Cards like Inside Job, Hunting Grounds, and Security Nexus have counterplay against the lock. And even a certain Tao at worlds seemed to be playing well against it by rearranging servers. Early Stargate runs without adequate ICE can lead to early scores and runners can sit on credits to wait out an opportune run or win on time so the deck is not without its flaws.

Knowledge is a powerful thing, so perhaps it was more fun when the threat was unknown lurking in the shadows and only mentioned in whispers…

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Note from SebastianK

MulganDragon and I built the first version of this together just over two weeks ago. Ever since our first games where we somehow flat-lined people with Nerine-Loki-Trieste, we were sure there was something to this idea. After deciding I wanted to bring it to worlds, we started testing with more urgency, both of us playing hours upon hours of it on jnet. We may have played a few too many public games with it before moving to only testing it privately, as our former jnet opponents started discussing it both in Green Level Clearance and Itinerant Protesters. Regardless of my vague concerns, it was awesome that our deck was a topic of conversation and that people were as excited about it as we were. In the lead-up to worlds, I was unsure whether I was delusional or not for worrying our deck would get found out. Surely everyone will think of it as jank, right? My question was answered in the top 16 tiebreaker rounds when I met Whiteblade on the deck our jnet escapades inspired and he absolutely obliterated me with it, knocking me out of the tournament. I AM NOT INSANE, I'LL HAVE IT BE KNOWN! Wp wb.

Shoutouts to @MulganDragon, @CyberStein, and @Maj.Apollo, who all helped test the deck. It was great testing with y'all. This is posted on this account instead of mine because @CyberStein wrote most of this write-up, and I think he did a very good job. So long, my fellow travelers. Until the next campfire story...

Oh yeah also. The deck went 3-2 on the day. It felt ok.

7 comments
11 Oct 2022 thebigunit3000

Very well done! Keep following your jank heart and it will take you far. ❤️

11 Oct 2022 wiriamu

Kudos! Been waiting to see an iteration of this deck. Love that you are one of the originators, and that a major testing group took up this design. Sincerest form of flattery. It's a Big Deal to originate an important archetype--at Worlds!

11 Oct 2022 Kikai

I really enjoyed this write-up.

Bacterial programming to find Trieste, and Daruma to protect it, is inspired.

11 Oct 2022 bowlsley

It was a privilege to get absolutely crushed by this thing online and spend the next week completely obsessed by it. I actually pored over the logs of the game in order to figure out what it had and what I hadn’t seen (”what was protecting the Trieste? A Void? A Hokusai? A Mavirus??”).

I took a Nerine version to the pub a couple of days later and I think I only got the lock once (and even then I lost it to some judicious Hippo play), but it was fascinating to try and figure out - I could see the flaws you’ve described above but didn’t have time to improve it, so it was pretty fascinating to find out the next week that a certain testing group were looking at it too.

11 Oct 2022 Murse

This is one of the best write-ups ever to maybe the most unique deck to hit worlds in a while. Congrats on scaring us silly.

11 Oct 2022 Diogene

Frightening deck. All the tools that can help against it are seldom used (except Inside Job). I find the inclusion of Tribunal quite fun! Congratulation on placing so high with the deck. Cheers!

12 Oct 2022 lostgeek

I did not expect to see my messages appear on NRDB today. Delightful write-up and amazing deck idea. Congratulations on the great finish!