Flash and Grab - Eternal Games SC *2nd*

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This is the corp deck I used to take 2nd at Eternal Games's last-SC-of-the-pre-MWL-era, along with a Jessminder Sareen Opus Vamp deck. (Short version: Jessminder, Maya, and Artist Colony are the real deal; my deck as a whole was fine, but as an eleventh-hour choice, it turned out to be overall Not Ready for Prime Time, so I suggest you just find it on ACOO if you're curious.)

It went 5-3 on the day, losing to getting out-moneyed by Prepaid Kate, a lucky last-minute Blackmail access, and a Medium blitz that killed me on turn 3 when I couldn't draw any ice. I've inculded a tournament report for both decks at the bottom, in part to forever remember prime silly behavior by certain participants in the top cut.

This is a very real deck. For those who have been sleeping on The Flash ever since its original heyday six months ago, rest assured that the deck is still here, still rich, and still eager to give you thirteen tags.

The core of the deck is unchanged: three Midseasons and three Psychos and a ton of money. Make lots of money, then start scoring out agendas behind token pieces of ice and dare your opponent to come take them, for fear of Midseasons followed by a 5 or 7 point Beale.

Here is a rundown of some of my innovations:

  • Snatch and Grab: The namesake. Obviously Enemy #1 is Film Critic, but most of the time, the cards that I'm actually Snatching are the moneymakers - Kati, Aesop, and the Professional Contacts. Often you'll see Anarchs and Shapers go down into the pit to get their economy running, and a well-timed Snatch and Grab not infrequently is a technical knockout all in itself. In the current metagame, I've been very pleased with it at two copies. (Of course, if suddenly everyone is running Siphon MaxX decks, that may change.)

  • Celebrity Gift over Blue Level Clearance: I strongly stand by this choice, because you need big cash infusions far more than the patient advantage that comes with BLC. And since we need room for tech cards now that Clot and Film Critic exist, you can't just run 3 Hedge, 3 Sweeps, 3 GLC, 3 BLC, and 3 Restructure, like the original Flash did. Plus Celebrity Gift can serve your other plan of just scoring Astros the regular way by putting the runner immediately on notice that Midseasons is a thing.

  • Fast Track: Much more efficient than just hoping to draw into your Beale, and enables the foundational combo of Fast Track Beale - Install Beale, - Psychographics. One of the difficult parts of the deck which even I'm still having trouble with is the classic NBN problem of when do you Fast Track for Astros and where do you put them after you get them if you can't just score them out. As a result, this card makes the deck bear a passing resemblance to regular fast advance.

  • Closed Accounts: Actually not that great in practice, this card was primarily an answer to a nagging problem, which was: how do you respond to a runner who has Clot and Clone Chip out and will Clot as soon as you install a card so you have no time to Psycho? That's still a problem (and there have been more than a few games where I actually faced a real Clot on the board and didn't want to suffer the tempo loss from purging), but one that Closed Accounts doesn't really solve anymore, since I cut the tagging ice that the deck used to use.

    Actually, the card I'm thinking of running in this slot to serve the same purpose is Cyberdex Trial (go ahead, click on it, I'm not ashamed), since Cyberdex Virus Suite has the two key weaknesses of being (a) trashable and (b) costing credits which could be used for Psychographics. That, and the Noise matchup is already rather good. Whereas Cyberdex Trial can be used click 3, after install + Psycho, to wipe down the board before you score. It's a niche problem, but it's a niche problem that sometimes means the difference between winning or losing.

  • The Ice suite: Wraparound and Resistors and Elis and Quandary. This isn't rocket science; they're cheap, they're strong, and/or they're annoying. Since we already have a good money engine, we have little use for a card like Errand Boy, which will almost never recoup your investment. The Information Overload is the latest resident of the "one big ice" slot, previously occupied by Little Engine - a card you can slap down in front of R&D to totally cut your opponent out once you've got them tagged and are just trying to stall long enough to Psycho-Beale.

Looking forward to the MWL: I've actually been working on this deck for a month with the MWL in mind; the Elis were a concession to the free influence floating around for the tournament alone, and while they were great in the slot, the MWL makes them an impossible luxury. So the simplest change would be to cut them and reinsert the ice that was there before - in particular the third Wraparound and the third Resistor. I also want to find a new "big" piece of ice, as both Little Engine and Information Overload have shown their weaknesses. It may well be that the card this deck really wants is Tollbooth again, in two copies.

My test list at this moment for the post-MWL era thus looks something like this:
- 3 Eli 1.0
- 1 Closed Accounts
- 1 Information Overload
+ 1 Cyberdex Trial
+ 1 Wraparound
+ 1 Resistor
+ 2 Tollbooth

And now, without further ado:

For Whom the Meme Tolls: An Unnecessarily Long Tournament Report

"...never send to know for whom the meme tolls; it tolls for d1en."
- John Donne D'Argenio

"Send all complaints to damon.stone@hotmail.com."
- some mensch

Two in the morning found your correspondent still awake, still grinding on Jnet, twisted sick on a cocktail of Diet Coke and diphenhydramine, trying desperately to make Iain Stirling Eater Siphon spam A Thing, He'd tried Deadcoats; he'd tried Yin; he'd tried cutting all the Yin cards and replacing them with Scorched Earths and SEA Sources; he'd tried falling asleep. In a fit of wild pique, he briefly considered whether he'd broken the metagame with his hot tech of combining Mutate with Heritage Committee... in Blue Sun.

As for the runner, well, he could run Blackmail Hayley again, but running that deck into a metagame full of ETF players patiently stacking their credits and triple-upgrading their scoring servers felt about as promising as running vegan Government Takeover again, or taking a second sleeping pill and hoping it wouldn't cause respiratory failure.

Just then, from out of the deep recesses of either Stimhack's forums or an auditory hallucination, came a voice he'd never heard before - the voice that said "play Jessminder Opus Vamp; that's a thing, right"? He played a game with it on Jnet, won easily, and decided that was all the testing he'd ever need. The only problem being that he, uh, didn't have Kala Ghoda.

It was settled, then. He'd leave it up to the fates. if they had Kala Ghoda in stock, he'd play Jessminder; if they didn't, he'd go back to his old love, janky Hayley combo. It was like the climax of the romantic drama - a mad rush to the airport, if the airport were a strip-mall game shop in the wastes outside Detroit. Would she be there, waiting for him, at the gate? Would he finally find that one true love he'd sought for so long? Would he stop referring to himself in the third person for some reason?

As it turns out, fate is capricious (and Caprice is fated). I just ended up bumming the cards off a fellow Ann Arborite. Never bet against a man in the throes of infatuation to do something bone-headed.

Round 1 - Art with Haarpsichord Convenience Shop and Valencia

Art is an older guy who reveals he's at his first tournament ever. Cool. Unfortunately for him, Jessminder does a real number on Data Ravens, and to make matters worse, I have my Artist Colony, so while I end up taking three News Teams (and let him have a power counter on a Data Raven), he's broke, so I reshape one News Team into a Plascrete Carapace and then forfeit the other two a couple of turns later for the win. This was the first time I'd seen Artist Colony in action, and it was brutally effective. (Needless to say, this would be the last NBN matchup of the day.)

In the second game, I open into an aggressive keep of two Midseasons, two Explode-a-Paloozas, some money, and no ice. He then proceeded to lay the punishment hard with turn 1 Imp, running HQ and trashing a Midseason, then turn 2 Nerve Agent, running HQ to steal both of my Explode-a-Paloozas and trash the other Midseason. Eventually, I was able to turn the money advantage into a pile of tags, but since I didn't have a Beale in hand, I was a click short of being able to Fast Track it and Psycho it the same turn I landed Midseason, and had to pass. So of course he Blackmails R&D and hits an agenda on top.

Needless to say, this will not be my last loss at the hands of the fickle slot machine that is SYNC Psycho just deciding to give a random jackpot. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

2 prestige

Round 2 - [name lost to time] with Noise Install-All-the-Things and Cerebral Protocol

My opponent is playing an odd variety of Noise. He's got... well, he's got Technical Writers... and Ixodidaes... and Hades Shard... and Autoscriptor, and Mass Install, and even MemeStrips. Clearly, he hasn't heard that Data Leak Reversal is a thing. But anyway.

Unfortunately for him, while he managed to get his grind-your-deck-down plan running smoothly, even in the face of a Snatch & Grabbed Aesop, I'm getting absolutely pulverized by agenda flood in my hand. Which means that, even as I'm losing lots of important cards into my bin, the one thing he can't have is an agenda. Eventually, I even start throwing Explode-a-Paloozas onto the board, and one into Archives, which he took when he cracked the Fragment (to his incredible annoyance).

Eventually, I sneak out an Astro and then a Beale behind a zero-tag Resistor, while he fires off a Trope to grind down the last dozen cards in my deck. I single-advance an Explode-a-Palooza, putting him in a steal-it-or-lose situation, and when he decides to ignore it, I score them both off the board, with five cards left in my deck.

The second game goes pretty quickly, because his ice is unimpressive, and he lets me repeatedly get into R&D with an Interface and Maya rather than rez a Swordsman. I take two Snares to the face but just redraw (thanks, Jessminder!) and keep pounding, and by the time he's found some real ice I've already got six points.

6 prestige

Round 3 - Chris with Noise and Replicating Perfection

Chris is undefeated, which means I've been paired up. He has a fast Aesop which promptly gets Snatch & Grabbed, and then I force him to play the Jackson-trashing shell game. I've got agendas to spare, so I decide to run out a Beale and sit on it, hoping he'll take it, but instead he goes into R&D and gets an Explode-a-Palooza for his troubles, which I turn into thirteen tags. But I don't have a Psychographics, so I just sit back. He tries to restart his economy, and my third Jackson digs up Psycho, which scores the Beale for 7 points, shocking Chris.

The second game was a classic. I Modded out a Maya but had no Opus to back it up, so I greedily tried to Code Siphon to get it and ended up taking two net damage for my trouble, losing my Film Critic in the process. I build up a big stack of credits as he runs the Sundew game and scores a TFP without my interference (trashing the Sundew out of his scoring server and then retrieving it with Interns). When he goes for the Nisei in the protected server, I'm ready with Vamp, with just enough credits to bleed him dry and take the agenda. R&D is a fierce struggle, as he filters with Daily Business Show and I try to control him with Maya. I get up to 6 points (including a Global Food) and he gets a second TFP when he manages to block my second attempt at a Vamp with a Tollbooth. I face-plant into an Ichi on a fourth click and lose the Atman 2 I was using to get through Enigma, but decide to gamble and use Artist Colony, which I've installed for just this sort of desperate situation, to get Gordian to reengage my lock, and get paid off with a Nisei, followed by pushing a TFP to the bottom of his deck with Maya after I lose the psi game.

Since he's out of Jacksons, this means that there's no way for that TFP to leave the bottom of his deck, which means Chris is down to one scorable agenda in his deck to try to win. Sure enough, a couple of turns later, he goes for it in his scoring server at a precarious amount of money - 11. I charge in, and the only ice he can rez in front of it is an Eli, which does little against my Lady, so it all comes down to three psi games, with him starting at 6 and me at 5 (and bleeding one per turn). The first goes 0-2; the second goes 0-1. He's down to 3 credits. I come in for one last full game.

And that's when I notice it - he needs 3 credits to score out, but he has a Mental Health Clinic that will pay him one, so if he bids 1, he can still score out. I've bid 0 the entire game, and he might assume I'll keep with the pattern. The bids come in, we each put out one credit, and I throw my hands in the air.

10 prestige

That last game, and that last read, took everything out of me, but thankfully it was time for the "lunch break" (at 5:30) to try to reload for the battle ahead.

Round 4 - Austin with Minh MaxX and Replicating Perfection

Austin is undefeated up to this point, but Minh MaxX seems to have real problems against SYNC Psycho if it can't start a Siphon spree. We both make large piles of money while I leave R&D open to assemble more combo pieces and he moves his resources to the board. Eventually, he takes an Explode-a-Palooze off R&D and I decide to Midseasons him for three more than his credit pool, figuring he'll pay the money to slow me down and I can start nickel-and-diming him with Psycho Astros. Instead, he decides to take all the tags (something like 20, though we just agree upon "infinite"). I've got three credits left, and sure enough, he immediately fires an Account Siphon right into my Wraparound.

We both work on rebuilding - him by repeatedly Injecting, me by firing a timely Celebrity Gift, hiding the Psychographics in my hand just in case he's still unsure what my plan is, putting me up to 14 credits. It turns out after the game he had a Retrieval Run in hand to get back his Corroder and fire another Siphon, but instead he opts to just install more resources instead, and I play the 13-credit Psycho to his surprise. The tension of that moment almost killed me, and I realize after the game that my hands are shaking as I shuffle Jessminder. (Though it might also have had something to do with the "Mucho"-sized Diet Coke I'd gotten from Del Taco before the prior round. Okay, so I have a problem.)

He plays far more aggressively than most RP players in the second game, which is refreshing, but he accidentally drops too low on credits going for a Nisei behind a single piece of Ice and I fire an uncontestable Vamp in to take it, and then end up taking another off the top of his deck. But it took me several turns to get my Magnum Opus going, and my deficit is compounded when I break myself to get into his scoring server again, access his NAPD Contract, and forget I have a Film Critic installed, letting him score it easily and leaving me broke. A future run into HQ reveals that the ice was Assassin the whole time, and in a moment of unconsidered aggression I decline to break the program-trash trace, not thinking he might use it on my Opus.

By the time my economy has been restarted, he's pushing out a 4/2 in his scoring server behind two gear checks and with a likely Nisei in tow, so I go for a hail mary Legwork into HQ click 1 for the Future Perfect I know is there. But my opponent is wise enough to pick up his Himitsu-Bakos before I access, leaving me with slightly worse than 50/50 odds, and I blow it. I have a choice at this point between one psi game or checking R&D, I go with the latter, and I miss.

12 prestige

I'm annoyed with myself for my two big mistakes in this game, especially because losing Opus likely let my control of R&D down long enough for Austin to sneak that TFP past me in the first place. But talking it out with him after the round helped me shake off the tilt. At this point, I figure a split fifth round locks up my Top 8.

Round 5 - Steve with Prepaid Kate and Engineering the Future

You remember that scene from The Matrix where Smith is holding Neo in front of the subway train and says, "You hear that sound, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability." And then at the last second Neo kicks Smith in front of the train instead?

Well, this round was nothing like that at all. Pretty much a non sequitur.

It's hard to give a full recounting because both of these games were incredibly anticlimactic - Prepaid Kate makes more money than SYNC, making it impossible to ever surmount her on a Midseason trace, and while I managed to get two AstroScripts with counters, the perpetual threat of a Clot made it impossible for me to get my last points; and when I got my Magnum Opus late, ETF opened with double Breaker Bay Eves, quadruple-iced R&D, and that was that. Turns out D4v1d is a great card, but it's not quite impressive against Tollbooth + Ichi 2.0 + Ichi 1.0 + Architect. The only thing that could have made it worse is if he'd said what I was thinking the whole round, which was, "oh, you thought your post-rotation decks could play at the big kids' table? That's cute." (Not that Steve would do that.)

As the song goes: doo-doo-d-doo, waaaaaahm.

12 prestige.

I assume I'm out the door at this point. I consoled myself with a bottle of Diet Coke. But it turns out I managed to just sneak in on the back of some serious SOS into 8th seed. On the one hand, I was elated. On the other hand, I knew my torment in the nine circles of jank hell had only just begun.

Quarterfinals: Austin with RP

Naturally, Austin is waiting for me in the 1st slot, and for some reason decides maybe Minh MaxX is not a good choice against SYNC Psycho. But this time, everything's firing for me. He opens with two Tsurugis on HQ, trying again to set me up to die with an untimely Vamp run, but I have the Turn 1 Opus, followed by playing Maya and running three times into an open R&D, which earned me a Nisei, a trash on Caprice, and pushing another piece of ice to the bottom of his deck. Not bad. He eventually puts a Turing on R&D (which I trump with Gordian Blade), followed by a Komainu, which I face-plant into to lose a full hand, but by this point, I realize he's not playing any Snares, so I decide to just keep running it as long as he'll let me, netting another Nisei in the process and sifting more and more valuable cards to the bottom of his deck with Maya.

Eventually, he stabilizes, and I back up from the game of death with Komainu. He scores an NAPD and GFI I'd seen on his seemingly-endless Celebrity Gifts, and I decide it's time to strike, so I fire off a Vamp into the two unknown Tsurugis with an SMC at the ready and (importantly) two cards in hand. I get Mimic to break the first, but it breaks me in turn, leaving me with one click, but in a fit of... let's say bravado I decide to keep going. He reveals the second Tsurugi with one credit left and pronounces my death...

...except that he doesn't realize I can spend my last credit to break one of the net damage subs to stay alive! He lets the run end, I return to pounding R&D (with him putting that last credit into a Pup, which nabs one of my cards anyway), and a turn later, he's one credit short of rezzing the third piece of ice in the stack, and R&D coughs up a The Future Perfect. This time, I remembered my Film Critic.

A spotter on the game expressed amazement afterward at the temerity of the turn 2 Maya-run-3-times plan. I think it's pretty natural in that situation, though. I needed to be more aggressive in the matchup, and though it almost cost me my life, it paid big dividends.

Winner's Semifinals: Tim with Noise

Tim is a great guy, and an Ann Arborite to boot. Unfortunately, he gets some serious bad luck. I open with two Elis and a pile of cash, feed him an Explode-a-Palooza, and Midseason to leave him with twelve tags, followed by trashing both Aesop and Wyldside, leaving him with no credits and just a Datasucker and half-empty Imp to his name.

To his credit, he fought back hard, clicking through the HQ Eli to trash the Psychographics in my hand and steal the Beale, but from that point on, he was reduced to clicking for credits, most of which he ended up losing to a clutch Closed Accounts. I Celebrity Gift up to 15 credits and try to psych him out by saying "maybe you'll get lucky in R&D", but he's smart enough to spy his true out, which is to take three credits and remove a tag, leaving me one short of a 7-point Beale. I take a 5-point Beale instead, and he makes the 50/50 run through Eli again and nabs the third Beale, putting him up to 6 points.

Unfortunately for Tim, I proceed to get the luck-sack moment of the night, because the other card in my hand is a Fast Track, and the top card of my deck... is another Psycho. Another victory for the Flash slot machine.

Winner's Finals: Chris with Noise

Chris is ready to avenge his RP deck after that very close loss in the swiss. Unfortunately for him, the tournament rules mandate random side determination in later rounds. I win the die roll, and naturally choose SYNC.

This was an interesting game as a demonstration of this deck's potency, as he made a ton of cash off Aesop, and I opted to just shut my engines off altogether. I scored an Astro from behind a Wraparound (which he didn't even check, busy as he was with attacking R&D and later HQ), and then fast advanced that one, and then put a Beale in that server, and when he finally got a breaker it was Faust, and he chose not to discard his entire hand to get in, and just then I drew the third Astro...

Man, even I'm yawning recounting this story.

Anyway, despite the vagueries of NBN being a totally fair faction, I'm elated, not least because I finally get a break. While we're waiting for the losers' finals to begin, Chris and I goof off switching off with the aforementioned jank-ass Heritage Committee-Blue Sun deck, with him getting to experience the intense sadness of going for the miracle Mutate on a Pup and turning it into... an Ice Wall. (And after he shuffles R&D, the top card becomes Curtain Wall.)

Tim claws his way up to meet Chris, with the former on Noise and the latter on RP. I'm elated, because I'm heavily favored against Tim's two decks. But this game was mostly memorable for Chris being at peak memery, after our slap-happy bullshit time.

Some choice quotes, with names hidden to protect the guilty:

"As we say back home, one two three noodle this bitch."

(Tim accesses HQ, rolls a die, ignores the result, and steals the agenda anyway) "He's turned off his targeting computer!"

(Chris gets back a face-down card with Interns) "I will get a Cap - a juicy card back."

In the end, Tim gets some bad Noise luck, and ends up having to win two psi games in a row to take it, which he can't do.

Grand Finals: Chris with RP

This game was pretty straightforward. I open a hand with three Diesels, which I quickly turn into Opus, R&D Interface, Maya, and a breaker for his Enigma in front of R&D. I know all his early ice. I even snag a The Future Perfect out of HQ thanks to Film Critic. I'm sure I'm going to keep him locked down, even as he gets a Daily Business Show. I just assume if I put my money toward keeping him low on money and attacking R&D over and over, eventually the agendas will come to me. He scores a Nisei Mk II, but I assume that's not a problem, because eventually I'll suffocate him.

...and then a funny thing happens. He just doesn't draw any agendas. Ever. Even with me leaving the Daily Business Show for him to filter out my accesses, even with me moving up to accessing three cards at a time with a second R&D Interface, no agendas come up. I must have seen fifteen cards without a single hit and with almost no extra clicks-to-draw by him to see fresh cards. And then, as it always seems to be, the moment I look away for a second to try to rebuild my economy, he draws the agendas and shoves them out through the Caprice-protected server (which, it turns out, only had a single Eli for protection). I figured, what's the point? He's got a Nisei counter. And then there was a double-advanced agenda in that server, and nothing in R&D, and that was that.

Mental note: always trash Daily Business Show. ALWAYS.

Bracket Reset: Chris with Noise

Well, as they say: if you play against the casino long enough, eventually they're gonna take you out into the desert and beat you to death with a shovel. Or at least, that's how this game felt.

I'm ready to get back on top. I haven't lost to a Noise deck all day.

What I'm not ready for is to get one piece of ice, stick it on HQ to protect my cards from Imp, and then face:

  • Turn 1 Imp (trashing a piece of ice), run R&D, trash a Midseasons, steal an agenda.
  • Turn 2 Medium, run R&D three times, steal two agendas, and in the process force a desperate Jackson activation to try to stave off death.
  • Me with three agendas in hand already and no Midseason in sight, frantically drawing with my first two clicks, only to draw two more agendas, and all but throw my hand on the table in disgust.

Needless to say, there was not a Turn 4.

Final Tally

Record: 9-6 (5-3 Sync, 4-3 Jessie)
Agendas forfeited with Artist Colony: 2 + 3 News Teams
7-Point Beales Scored: 3
Moments of Sheer Luck-Sackery: innumerable, but definitely at least 3
Moments of Sheer Bone-Headedness: see above
Amount of Diet Coke consumed: ~92 ounces. (For those of you keeping score at home, that's almost eight cans.)

Normally, the MTG wannabe in me would give some props and slops here, but really they're just all props. Especially to Ryan for lending me his Kala Ghoda stuff. And Chris. You weirdo.

The moral of this story is... I dunno. Something about the frailty of all human creation. Something about Detroit. Something about America. Something deep, man.

I use Maya like it's Medium. Maybe you should draw your own conclusions.

31 Jan 2016 NerdimusPrime

Congratulations on taking second! A2 REPREZENT! Great write-up, and you're very welcome for the cards. Glad I could be there in cardstock spirit, but I was too brain-fried to stay until the end.

Oh, and speaking as a recovering (diet) coke addict (phenylalanine-free for 6+ months), the first step is admitting you have a problem.

31 Jan 2016 rnishimura

Great deck and congrats on the 2nd place! Last year I also got 2nd place at Eternal both in Store Champs and Regionals, so it's good to see someone from A2 keeping up with the tradition! :) (Coincidentally, also with a Yellow and a Green deck).

I love this version of Flash on SYNC, so much synergy! Also really like your ideas for post-MLW. However, I think the Closed Accounts might be better than Cyberdex Trial, especially with 2 Tollbooths. It can still prevent them from Clone Chip/SMC Clot if you are Psyco Beale, but can also create a pretty good scoring window if you have a Tollbooth on a remote and want to score an Astro with a extra counter.

I'm definitely trying this deck later today!

3 Feb 2016 tvaduva

Well played all day and even better write-up. Also, thanks for the ride home.