Congress-style Wu is pretty great. This is the version that won me the Rockford SC going undefeated.
The full story is a bit more complicated, however. I got legitimately lucky against a few of my opponents, winning games I had no right winning by stealing points on a last Hail Mary run. So take this write up with a grain of salt.
One of the most obvious benefits of Kabonesa Wu is the ability to summon an SMC and turn it into an Opus. Importantly, this shores up Shaper’s shaky matchup against CtM and other asset spammy decks. Opus also gives a chance to make measured runs against glacier in mid-game or afford Hail Mary runs even in matchups you probably should lose.
The ability to tutor your money without drawing means you can make a pile of money consistently every game. You can then use that money to get into any one-ice remote regardless of your deck’s sequencing. This means that the tempo of Wu is necessarily different from Kate’s Congress. It also means that the Congress-style economy on top of Opus is not strictly necessary, but I’ve found that it’s an awesome benefit if you get it and it’s worth the deck slots. Once you’re certain that you have enough money to challenge a remote/survive a punitive counter strike/fend off a HHN you can feel free to dig aggressively for your drip economy and your win conditions. The drip may not be necessary, but it’ll absolutely win you games if you can find it early.
This particular deck has one or two answers for every matchup, but isn’t an absolute lock against any of them. I constructed this deck to give me an out against anyone, but an aggressive and experienced player will push this deck to the limits. Unlike the original Congress deck which had overwhelming dominance if a game went on long enough, Shaper right now can be a stressful and white-knuckle experience throughout. You really have to play perfectly and know your outs in order to win against a very broad range of corp threats.
Here’s how my matchups went on Sunday:
R1 vs. Skorp- I lost a Clippy, an Opus, and one Femme to Hunter Seekers stealing my first 4 points.
I got the game to 4-6 and clot + sac con gave me a one-turn warning that the game was going to end. I femme’d the non-sentry ice over R&D, paid through the cobra, and indexing + mad dash for the win.
R2 vs. Architects of Tomorrow- This win makes me legitimately sad to have won. Ian outflanked me at basically every turn. He rused me into running an NGO, beat me in psi games, and played his half of the board perfectly. He got to 6 points and only allowed me 2 and had an MCAAP with 3 advancements on it but couldn’t find an agenda. I had missed on 2 Indexings in mid-game and we both knew Ian had nothing in hand so I set up my final turn about 5 turns before I fired it. There were 5 agendas in a deck of around 30 cards and Ian was able to safely draw around 10 of them to find an agenda. Had he drawn an agenda he could have easily scored it and won. Instead, he whiffed and I was able to Index (to avoid ELP) through a Fairchild 3.0, an Ichi 1.0, and a Fairchild 2.0 and Stimhack in to spend 2 Turning Wheel counters and spend my last click and last 2 credits to steal a Vitruvius and an Ikawah. It was a complete scorched earth run wherein I trashed every installed card other than the Wheel and the Gordian and spent every credit I owned. It was a cool move, and one I was proud of, but it could have only happened in the context of some extremely bad RNG for Ian. Given that Ian only missed the cut on strength of schedule I sincerely wish I could take this one back and lose 9-6.
R3 vs. CtM- this was a weird game that required a unique style of play to win. I managed to get a big pile of money using Wu’s ability into an Opus on turn one and kept enough money to avoid getting hit with Sea Source or HHN. I also managed to snag a Beale from a remote with Stimhack. But I looked at the board state and realized early on that this was a losing battle for me on a long enough time scale. I’d managed to apply enough pressure early that I was confident that Brandon had probably put some agendas on the bottom of his deck using DBS. And even though he had 2 DBSes active through much of a the mid-game, he wasn’t able to draw enough points fast enough that he could score out quickly. So while he was struggling to find answers I installed Beth and Turning Wheel and bounced off his HQ resistor 4-5x per turn, only stopping if I needed to click Opus for a turn to stay out of Sea Source range. Once the winning agenda went down into the server I used Wu to install Femmes onto his R&D and mad dashed for 10 cards (the last few of which were what he’d DBSed at the beginning of the game). There were a few agendas hiding at the bottom of the deck and I won by being non-interactive for most of the game.
R4 Intentionally Drew against Trevor
Cut R1 corp vs. Rob’s Shaper. Scored out 9-0. I didn’t do a full recap of my corp because none of my games were close enough to warrant a dramatic description.
Cut R2 vs. Grail Palana- this game was stressful as hell at every point. I’m not ashamed to admit that Trevor is straight up a better Netrunner player than I am. I know for certain that if we played 10 games back to back he would win at least 6 of them. So going into the game I knew I would need to slow down, not make any mistakes, and play aggressively enough that Trevor couldn’t grind out enough marginal advantages over a long game that I’d find myself in a hole I couldn’t get out of. I installed Opus turn one and built up a large number of credits early. I knew that drip economy was going to be too slow to go as a strategy and I didn’t want to give him his Palana credits if I absolutely didn’t have to. I risked losing to incidental damage and played down to at most one card before devoting an entire turn to drawing. I also ran aggressively with an SMC to force rezzes whenever possible. Eventually the game was tied 4-4, but Trevor had 2 Nisei tokens (but very little money). I found a Future Perfect on R&D but bid zero, knowing that losing even a single credit could be catastrophic for either of us. There was nothing over HQ so Trevor had to install the agenda in his remote. He managed to keep me out by rezzing a grail ice, but it left him with only 2 credits and he needed 3 to win. I went into the tank and realized that I had just enough money to summon a femme from deck to bypass the grail and win. It’s probably not a game I should have won, but I played it well enough to ensure that a few lucky breaks were enough to eek out a win.
Finals vs. CtM- Kevin’s CtM is a deck I have had a lot of experience with. I played against it at Worlds (with Anarch) and I’d seen enough of the pieces by playing around it that I was pretty sure it was a known quantity. I also know that Kevin is a smart, methodical player who wouldn’t make crazy gambits. I felt confident that I could win the matchup, but I knew I was going to have to earn it. If I was careless he’d put me into tag hell and would just win.
I played very conservatively from start to finish and tried my best to leverage my hidden information to best advantage. I had 2 scavenges in hand at one point so I scavenged a Femme onto his R&D ice in order to pull off an indexing for a few points only to scavenge the Femme back next turn onto his remote to steal a Kitty. I only had to keep a tag for a turn or two in the mid-game and only when I knew that he couldn’t punish me that much for it. I was able to keep him poor by trashing his Bankers while still keeping enough money to either fight the HHN retaliation or be able to clear all tags next turn if he over committed to the trace. I got down 2 additional link and drew aggressively for my drip economy when there was nothing more urgent going on. Eventually I was able to keep him remote locked entirely and installed my second Femme over R&D to find the last few points for the win.
All things considered I think this deck is good but not perfect. The Trope is probably an unnecessary backup against damage decks. I feel like either another Turning Wheel or finding room for Artist Colony and Fan Site would help smooth out the deck and make it more consistent. I’d also love a third Femme, as that card is disgustingly good right now, especially out of Wu. The Sure Gambles are completely superfluous and should go away. Earthrise Hotel was amazing and I was never sad to see it. It should be a 3-of going forward. Gauntlet didn’t do much for me on Sunday but the 2 MU was great. I could see replacing it with Daredevil and finding influence for a legwork.
Building a Shaper in the current meta is often an exercise in greed. If you prepare against everything you’ve got a chance to win every game, but you risk flooding your deck with silver bullets that are useless in the wrong game. Even though I managed to steal every game at this SC, I wish I’d cut my sac cons and clot, not bothered with the trope, and gone harder on the things that make me excited about the deck—the Turning Wheel, the Femmes, and ways to replay my Indexings. In hindsight, Congress was a safe choice that happened to work out. I’m glad to know that the archetype still has legs, and I think Wu is likely to be a dominant force in the meta for a long time, but she’s also really hard to play. While this deck may have the same power as Congress out of Kate it’s significantly harder to play. Either that or I’ve just grown stupider and lazier in the intervening years. Probably a little of both.
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