AI Criminal Esa Isn't Real, She Can't Hurt You (Startup)

perenxiao 81

Do you like to go fast? Do you have an unhealthy fascination for things like explosives and poison? Well do I have the deck for you. AI Criminal ESA is fast, effective, and extremely fun to play. Here’s a quick summary of what it does

This is essentially a cycle deck. You need to get these pieces and everything else is to help you draw them or make enough money to use them:

Botulus, Poison Vial, Mayfly, Finality. Let’s talk about why these 4 cards work so well together.

Pros of this Deck:

  1. Extreme Early Pressure: This deck brings the heat from turn 1. You do this with free runs such as Carpe Diem, Ice bypass with Inside Job, and our new Parhelion combo, Botulus+Poison Vial. For 3 clicks and 3 credits, you can break any single piece of ice in Startup, no questions asked. Just put PV down, slap Botulus on that ice, and dare your opponent to rez it. Any ice with up to SEVEN subroutines can be broken in one go.

  2. Maximizing Early Damage: so you hit HQ and saw nothing. Feels bad man you just basically wasted a click. But wait! Here comes Time Bomb! Always late to the party but like a grill at a cookout, when it shows up Corpo Daddy is gonna be preoccupied for a turn. If you manage to hit every single Time bomb you will trash 9 out of the 45 cards in a normal Corp deck. That’s 20% and that’s TERRIBLE.

  3. End Game Potential: It’s turn 7-9. You have 3-5 points and you’re eyeing just one or two more agendas so you can finish the game, reconnect with your teenage child, and do something more meaningful with your life. But there’s multiple ice on the servers and your Botulus isn’t doing much anymore. You’re devastated, the previous combos are no longer working and you’re reevaluating every decision that you’ve made in your life that’s lead you here. But fear not, Parhelion has the finisher that we need: Finality+Mayfly! This, along with whatever you have left on your Poison Vials and Leech, will allow you to break your way into R&D to find the last few agendas that you need. And in true Anarch fashion, it is very messy. You get a bonus little Sabotage 2 along with the 4 R&D cards, which is very nice. Plus it’s very thematic to win an Esa game using her signature card.

Cons of this deck:

  1. Lack of Icebreakers:

“But Peren, this is a one to three use combo, I need my ice to stick around because I feel scared and exposed when I don’t have my breakers waahhh”

Let’s be real, you won’t use your ice breakers more than 5 times in a game anyways. Count it if you don’t believe me. Just imagine Poison Vial as your teenage kid who’s too cool for your stupid card game and decided they’re leaving early to hangout with their tik tok followers. The card left the game early because it’s done its job and knows you’re gonna win. Congrats. You only have three mayflies. Three nearly assured successful runs, so make it count.

  1. Very little mid game pressure: Once a corp rez more than one ice in front of their central servers then you’re going to have problems getting in. You have to focus on two things here: getting the cards that you need, and working on the weakest servers. Unless you know for a fact that one of the remotes is an agenda, it’s usually not worth it to run it. Save your money for Finalities and look for your Mayflies.

  2. Card Draw: YOU NEED EARTHRISE. YOU NEED EARTHRISE. YOU NEED EARTHRISE. When you don’t have it, draw to max handsize every turn.

Mulligans: If it’s Thule or Jinteki, mulligan for your marrow. If it’s NBN, mulligan for more money. You want Earthrise in hand, along with either Carpe Diem, Sure Gamble, or Dirty Laundry. Time bomb is nice, Fermenter is nice, Botulus is nice. Liberated Account is a bait and my least favorite card because it takes too many clicks. Use only when desperate.


“There’s only 3 core damage in your deck, why are you using Esa?” Until I stop seeing Snares, Jinteki, Weyland, and Thule in my matchups I’ll leave the dmg for the corps to do. I’m not a masochist.

“I don’t have enough programs to break into my opponent’s servers. I need more ice breakers” No you don’t. For a deck like this any extra icebreakers will slow it down and be too costly.

This is my first published deck, so feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks and happy running!

17 Dec 2022 CJ

This looks really interesting !

17 Dec 2022 Vacilotto

Will give it a try, at first glance it made me think this was a joke list but once reading it all made sense. Thanks for sharing.

17 Dec 2022 tirano del aire

What about Quetzal instead of Esa?

17 Dec 2022 perenxiao

That's a really great suggestion. I've been testing this deck with Chastushka as well which could let me get out of core damage completely. I dropped leech and hush for two Chastushka, and if I swap Quetzal I could go down to one Finality and 3 Chastushka instead. I'll let you know how it goes.

18 Dec 2022 Satoshi

If I may make some suggestions:

  • Your list has 22 events, which each cost at least 1 credit to play.
  • If you ran 1 copy of Ghosttongue, on average that would save you 11 credits, and it would sabotage 2 on the corp. I would consider running 2x of this. I would even consider cutting Fermenter to allow this. This would make your Steelskin Scarring like a Diesel which seems like it would help.
  • If you ran 1 or 2 copies of Running Hot, even if you only use those clicks to click on Liberated Account, that's going to get you money faster and cheaper than Fermenter, and will sabotage 2 on the corp.
  • Given how many viruses you have, 1 copy of Avgustina Ivanovskaya may be worth it, not sure.
  • I would consider Katorga Breakout in order to recur Botulus and Mayfly, possibly reducing the number of Dirty Laundry or Overclock somewhat.
  • I personally would consider 1x Begemot just to make it that much harder for the corp to actually lock you out at the end. This could synergize with your Botulus' strat
18 Dec 2022 Satoshi

If you really don't want Ghosttongue at least consider Prepaid VoicePAD

18 Dec 2022 Satoshi

The number of events here is comparable to Ken "Express" Tenma: Disappeared Clone decks or Aniccam Lat: Ethical Freelancer decks

18 Dec 2022 Satoshi

Also what about Tsakhia "Bankhar" Gantulga, seems on brand and helping you do those runs?

19 Dec 2022 Diogene

Great write-up? Why not use Matryoshka?

19 Dec 2022 perenxiao

@SatoshiI think you're right, a Prepaid VoicePad might be good in this deck. I don't like more core damage due to my experience playing on Jinteki, running into both core and other types of dmg. I like Fermenter better than Liberated account because I care more about clicks in this deck over credits. I might drop some of the liberated for pad or running hot. I tried Tsakhia but the problem is I really hate randomly discarding from my hand. Since I'm not running many of breakers losing even a single one by accident feels terrible.

@Diogene I tried that before but the problem is that takes a long time to set up. I find better success being able to drop a mayfly and run.

28 Dec 2022 Satoshi

This deck is cool but I think a major gap is that there is no Pinhole Threading. This means that the deck loses pretty hard to Anoetic Void since mayfly trashes itself after the first run.

29 Dec 2022 Satoshi

Maybe Light the Fire! would fix that

29 Dec 2022 Diogene

Considering that you go for Poison Vial, why not use Num and Begemot?