A brief history of Shapoc
If you asked me a year ago if Shaper Apoc (Shapoc) was a ‘thing’, I would have probably looked at you funny. I see this deck as the accumulation of a long journey. I was first inspired by Greg and Spags attempts at Shapoc and played Anarch Apoc for a while. Pre-Gateway, Shaper had a key weakness that made Shapoc decks difficult, too much reliant on installables for draw and economy.
However, Shapoc had a lot of positivies, robust Apoc turns with Out of the Ashes, great economy post Apoc recovery with Aesop Pawnshop. My interest in Shapoc was intensified when I play in Jess and Jessica snakedraft, and completely messed my runner draft. I saw a vision of a Shapoc deck, and with Gateway releasing VRCation and Creative Commission, I felt the time for Shapoc was now.
Why would you play this deck?
This is a very good question, and ultimately it is a question of what the meta corp looks like. If everyone ran Crisium Grid in Palana gets with lots of ETR effects, or if the meta was significantly Aginfusion, I would suggest you might want a different runner deck.
However, in this young meta, there seems to be a strong emphasis on tempo / rush decks, with focus on strong scoring servers with cards like Void. Shapoc feels like it has good gameplan vs the most common corp decks I’ve seen.
If I had to put this a different way, was there any matchups I was worried about during my 8 games in the Store Championship? Not a single one. Infact a few people remarked ‘this is my worse matchup’.
For those that are interested, this deck delivered Apoc 8 times in 6 games, a fine record. This deck is truly for people that love to Apoc!
Card Choices and notable exclusions
Apocalypse – I’ve specifically only put two in. One was to release the influence for a 2nd Paperclip, but also I feel 2 is the limit of this deck. I see the gameplan is 3 phases, pre-Apoc, post-Apoc 1, post-Apoc 2. In each of these phases, I want to Aesop available, and it also matches well with the amount of redundant breakers and Compile. A 3rd Apoc would help drawing into it earlier, but the way the deck draws, I have no concerns about finding Apoc when I want it.
Compile vs Simulchip – A result of my testing and an interesting conversation with Rotage. Simulchip is Apoc decks is far too clumsy, with the requirement of trashing programs meant it had to be installed post Apoc, or while Aesop was trashing a program post Apoc. Both felt bad. A word of warning – don’t use Compile to install Engolo on a non-code gate ICE if you want to use its painting effect, there is no window to do it.
Creative Commission – The 2nd set of Sure Gambles. This helps the econ without installables, huge card in Apoc.
VRcation, Out of the Ashes, Lat: Ethical Freelancer – Havvy, why have you put these three together I hear you say. When I saw VRCation, I thought ‘wow a great draw card but clumsy as hell’. I realized there was a pretty nice combination with Out of the Ashes, where overdraw from VRCation last click wouldn’t be a disadvantage. Granted, there are times you might need to trash cards you actually would have liked. What makes this particularly nice in Lat, if the corp hand size is 5 (which for a lot of the time it is), you can discard Out of the Ashes then draw another card.
Installable econ – I have lumped together Daily Casts, Harbinger and Aesop's Pawnshop here. These may feel like strange choices in an Apoc deck, but it is important that you setup as if you were a ‘normal’ Shaper deck, the econ is strong. The benefits of a pre-Apoc phase Pawnshop is, you can trash a breaker you feel is important before committing to an Apoc if you have ran using Out of the Ashes. Never be shy of Apoccing when you have Daily Casts tickling down, you need to be ruthless with the windows available. In addition, seeing T1 / T2 Daily Casts feels great, because 9 times out of 10, they will have ticked down prior to the Apoc turn.
Out of the Ashes – What. A. Card. This is a card I fallen in love with. I can confidently say, this card makes Apoc turns a lot scarer. You won’t be taxed with clicks in Apoc turns, only economy. There are other synergies too, you can use Out of the Ashes to charge up Conduit, poke centrals to test out what ICE there is if you have Engolo installed. A little tip – if you feel the corp hasn’t twigged on that you are running an Apoc deck, discarding this card will give them all the information that you are! Try to delay the discard of these if you can, but don’t break a sweat working around it, just a fun mini game 😊
Breaker suite – The breaker suite is one of the parts I’m really proud of in this deck. Not having to pre-install Paperclip, which synergising with VRCation feels amazing. Ika is a cheap install breaker, and should be seen as a backup breaker to Engolo (i.e. have they rezzed two sentries). Engolo is a hell of a card, efficient and hugely pressurising in the corp when it comes to Apoc turns. In addition, Engolo is a efficient vs the taxing code gate ICE that are out there at the moment.
Conduit – The biggest surprise of the day. Do not be scared of installing this in pre-Apoc phase if you feel there is a window to punish the corp for being too greedy on the remote. The pressure you can apply is significant. I feel I am still learning when to install and use this card optimally, a high skill ceiling.
Self-modifying Code – Wait, where is it? With the amount of draw in this deck and no simulchips, you don’t need it. Compile can fill this hole if you are worried about missing a breaker on an Apoc turn.
How to play this deck
A word of warning – to get the most of deck, you need to reckon when to play this deck as a ‘normal Shaper deck’ and as an ‘Apoc deck’. This isn’t a pure Apoc deck like you can run in Anarch, and you can easily abandon the Apoc plan if the centrals are too well defended. It just means there remote is going to be weak.
You have to be flexible about what the corp is planning to do. If it is a rush deck, you need to focus on the setup phase, and look for opportunities to punish them with Conduit if they get too greedy. Slower decks, you can afford to have a robust setup phase, which this deck loves.
What I will say is – this decks rewards taking risks. Sometimes post Apoc, you are facechecking ICE on Conduit without any breakers and they are on low credits. Sometimes you are facechecking ICE during your Apoc turn and you are both low-ish on credits. If you are using Out of the Ashes during these runs and have Pawnshop installed, do not underestimate how well you can recover.
Games on the day
Swiss game 1 – WIN vs Swiftie (Outfit HHN kill) – A real solid setup phase with Daily Casts, Aesop and Harbinger going down early. Swiftie rushing the remote with single ICE on each central. I punish this by Apocing the first time. I have a smooth recovery with another Beth and Aesop going down. R+D is left wide open and I install a Conduit, stealing an Atlas. Swiftie scores a 2 counter Atlas, increasing the kill option pressure. I dig harder into the still open R+D, stealing GFI. R+D gets ICED up, but my economy is very solid with a 7 counter Conduit on the board. I run the remote with a single advanced remote, but I get booped out with Border Control and Trebuchet with only Paperclip and Engolo installed. I decide to be aggressive and Compile for an Ika, stealing a GFI. This results in me getting hit with Economic Warfare and HHN, but I had Misdirection in hand for a long while and was comfortable I could recover. There is a purge, and I’m still hitting R+D hard with Conduit. I see another opportunity for an Apoc, with Bulwark also rezzed. The Apoc hits home, and we are both on low credits. There is an Audacity on a Above the Law. I put the 2nd Conduit down and hit home for the win on R+D.
Swiss game 2 – LOSS vs Motionblur (Palana) – Motionblur does a great job not taxing me on clicks, but taxing me with NISEI token going past expensive ICE. They have Sandbox and NISEI scored before I can hit the first Apoc, stealing NISEI in the process. I see an Protocol in hand, I hestitate for a long time to steal it, with my 2nd Apoc and good econ cards in hand. I decline to steal it. I start to Conduit, but I facecheck an Anansi with one credit short of breaking all subs. I tanked the damage with my face but steal a Sandbox. Immediately there is an IAA. I manage to delay the scoring for one more turn by forming ICE rezzes on the Protocol. The 2nd turn, only Macro protecting the 2 advanced card (assumed to be Protocol), with two clicks left, 5 credits, 4 cards in hand and Engolo installed, I decide to play Sure Gamble and run last click. This was a serious misplay and I knew all the information in front of me, I could have simply broke one sub on Macro and won the game.
Swiss game 3 – WIN vs Haway (Precision Design) – A really tight game, which haway disconnected from the game and couldn’t get back in. I still couldn’t call which way that game was going to go, and a feel bad way to win the game.
Swiss game 4 – WIN vs twisty_b (Precision Design) – At this point I start regretting having Lat as my ID! We both have really solid starts, but R+D is left open in the early game, leaving a 3 click Conduit open free. I trash Void, Rashida and Skunkswork, giving me a strong intention of this game plan. Twisty_b immediately respects this threat and ices up R+D, I continue my build up phase. Offworld Office is scored and MCA goes down soon after, normally a fear for Apoc but not mine! MCA results in a Sandbox being scored out (RIP Conduit). After this, I see my window for Apoc, and this goes through very nicely, stealing a Luminal Transubstantiation in the process. Post Apoc, they try to recover but I install Conduit on the now open R+D, stealing a Ikawah Project. R+D is ICED up, but this is only a Slot Machine which I’m happy to facecheck for Conduit counters, resulting in the last agenda steal.
Swiss game 5 – ID vs Chris Ferg – I was having a bath delivered and a caveat of the ID was to have a selfie with a bath. Chris know has a selfie of a 6 ft 6 bearded notherner next to a bath.
Cut game 1 – WIN vs Chris Ferg (Asa Smartfabrics) – I felt this was a good matchup for me. Chris did a great job rushing me out as much as reasonably possible. I try to apply pressure on an open R+D with Conduit, to force Chris away from the gameplan on the remotes. My econ feels very clumsy and I’m struggling with my setup phase here, while there setup is going pretty nicely. They score a single overadvanced Project Vitruvius, while I’m struggling with money to install my Engolo. Another Project Vitruvius is scored and I’m getting concerned. I feel I have one turn left to setup, all my breakers down with Aesop / Beth / Daily Casts, but only 10 credits. HQ and R+D have 2 lots of ICE. I decide to pull the trigger on Out of the Ashes on archives, with 5 clicks and 15 credits to my name. I steal a GFI from hand, but I’m on 5 credits now, I decide I have to be brave and commit to R+D now. Gatekeeper is rezzed, and I decide to continue, thankfully facechecking a Drafter. I steal a Sandbox on this run too. I have only one credit, but three clicks left, leaving me to click for credits and Apoc. We are both low credits and vulnerable. I recover with an Aesop on the board and lots of Aesop fuel. R+D is open and I decide to press Conduit for 3 clicks. I see Slot Machine on this dig. Rashida fires, giving me fresh accesses but with R+D iced up (assumed to be Slot Machine). I press ahead on the R+D, taking the risk it is Slot Machine. This turns out to be correct, and I’m hitting R+D hard on 0 credits now, stealing another Sandbox. I hit a CVS with 0 credits in R+D, truly oh no time. I end up rerunning R+D and get the GFI for the win. A seriously tough game.
Cut game 2 – LOSS vs Algebraic (Build to Last RPC Punitive) – I saw this decklist and I felt confident. I knew I had a long setup phase ahead, and I could land the Apoc to remove the RPC gameplan. After a long setup phase and both on 30ish credits, with them on a heavily defended centrals with more than 7 advancement tokens on the ICE, I decided to pull the trigger. I noticed two facedown cards in Archives with Spin Doctor, so decided to poke with Out of the Ashes to see how confident they were on the Punitive kill plan. A Spin Doctor trash confirmed my gut instinct they didn’t have it (only 3 cards in hand). I pull off a very smooth Apoc run on Out of the Ashes only, both on a reason amount of credits (8 for corp and 11 for me). I decide to put the pressure on, knowing only one card out of 28 would punish me, a Government Takeover steal. I install Conduit and run last click. I steal Government Takeover.
Fuckity fuck. OK – they need to draw into Punitive now, it isn’t over yet. They drew into it. Fuckity fuckity fuck.
Conclusions / Improvements / Acknowledgements
Apoc Shaper I feel is a solid deck, although not the easier to pilot. You have to play it without the usual ‘Shaper’ mentality. If I had to improve it, I would try and fit Overclock into the deck, but it is hard to see what would go from the deck. The classic slots mate.
I feel this decklist came about from sitting on the shoulders of giants of Shapoc; Greg, spags and rotage. Cablecarnage – thank you for so much encouragement and advice on this deck, and thank you Jessica for inviting me to the snakedraft that started this whole journey for me! Also thank you to Aki for help me testing this deck, which I know isn’t a fun job.