Netrunner Regionals Incoming!

So, after spending so much time on X-Wing in the past month, I unfortunately had to let Netrunner slide from my preparation platter - which in all respects was fine with me because as I covered last month, I was feeling kind of burnt out after Store Champs season.  But all of that ended last weekend when I played a bad list without sufficient metagame practice to my regionals (on the advice of a man I thought knew something I didn't).  

Suffice it to say, he doesn't know better; I should have just played my Bs after a disappointing 16th place finish.  My dice were cold in the first round where I played my friend and website partner Clay (who wiped the floor with my Firespray, double Interceptor) and then following a round 2 win against Wookie on X-Wing Matt R, I proceeded to get trumped by incredibly poor matchups the rest of the afternoon.

The thing is, I still had a great time, the boys who came over from Halifax, PEI and Moncton were all pretty great, we got a lot of video shot (12 videos- hopefully in 12 weeks- , starting in July); and I was amazed at how our little website has begun to permeate the culture of our region.  All day I had guys talk to me about how much they like the website, the videos, and the blog.  It was pretty eye-opening to see that even in terms of grass roots growth, we have had a really great first eight months in operation over here in our little hole in the wall.

But that was last weekend, that was X-Wing, and that is a completely different animal from the topic at hand this afternoon.  I have Netrunner regionals tomorrow, and lucky for me, my best (or first best) corp ID is the top ID in the game right now.  I've got a ton of practice in with Replicating Perfection, I know the deck very well and I feel exceptionally confident that I will be able to do good work with what is essentially a modified rip off of the UK Nationals winning EBC Glacier deck.  It is runners that I have always had (and still have) all the trouble with.

Let's go back a bit to March and April when I was bouncing from Runner to Runner trying to find a deck that really meshed with who I am as a player; and ultimately failing at the goal.  I played Maxx at Fredericton SC to inglorious defeat, and I played Andromeda in Moncton to a solid 3-2 for fourth place... not great, but certainly better than I should have expected.

So I am at a crossroads - I am playing a glacier-style corp, so I can't really afford to take forever on the runner side, which principally invalidates the slow drip-econ supplier Andy I played in April; but I don't really have enough practice with the aggressive strategies when looking at how much the metagame has been shaken up by the SanSan cycle.  I've been looking at three decks, two of which are close in style to decks I've played in the past, and the third just a nod to how strong the ID is.

I'm looking first and foremost at Kate - she who shall not be named, shaperdemort... the necessary evil who proves or disproves the validity of corp strategies all on her own.  I don't have a ton of experience with Kate as an ID (I had never played her before I started experimenting with her a few months back), but I am aware of how strong she is that despite my inexperience I feel she could drive herself to at least a couple of victories along the way.

My Kate list is derived from the UK Nationals winning list, with Vamp and a single Legwork.  But since that event I've been seeing a ton more blacklist and (far less prevalent) student loans coming out en masse in corps across the spectrum, making an inexperienced kate more risky than she had been just a month earlier.   A Kate who knows how to invade remotes more efficiently than I could should be able to counter-play the blacklist decks with relative ease (perhaps switching some influence around in order to fit in one or more inside jobs to break into those servers).  But I don't know where the correct swaps are - I don't have enough experience to know what cards are superfluous to the plan, and which are vital to carrying out her principal task.

The other two Runners that I'm considering are both very derivative of runners I've played before - Valencia (very aggressive in a manner similar to Maxx, yet with a little less consistency in exchange for a much better late-game), and Leela (a runner I've very publicly derided for being "worse-Andromeda" but whose play style reminds me very much of those aggressive Andy decks from a year ago).  I have at the moment no actual games in hand with either Identity, which is somewhat discouraging - however I have been warned that Leela is a very picky Runner.  You need to select your game-mode very carefully depending on the situation at hand.  Since she is a hybrid aggro/control runner, you need to time your aggression very carefully or else you can find yourself losing control moving into the late game.

That more or less eliminates her, as it would be only with repetition that I could learn the correct timing of her specific forms (attack mode and control mode).  I feel as though I would more-or-less embarrass myself if I were so brash as to assume I could play her properly.  That said, Since doing some commentary with Krystian on the Teamworkcast channel, I have to say, I am far more positive about her potential moving forward.

Thanks Krystian!  Can't wait to have you on the podcast!  Maybe around D&D release?

Valencia, on the other hand, is just a more long-game oriented form of the punishing Maxx deck I was playing, being capable of using her blackmail combo to keep the opponent off their game, while also having a (potentially) brutal economic engine inherent to her ID.  the issue with Valencia is the same as the issue with Kate - Executive Boot Camp.  Being able to rez ice outside of runs hinders the effectiveness of Blackmail, while also being able to fetch silver-bullet solutions to the questions that Val (and Kate) pose is an interesting conflict in building a deck.

The principal attribute that has me looking at Val is her Red border - moreso than her ability, or its consequences -, I am really high on the 'anarch' element in the game as it relates to disrupting the plan of the 'setup-and-win' corps that are very prevalent right now.  having access to cards that potentially single-handedly defeat both NEARPAD (Hacktivist Meeting) and RP (Blackmail) gives her a massive edge on a certain popular portion of the metagame.  But then why isn't she more popular, why isn't she winning?  Does the community see a giant flaw with her pla that I'm not seeing right now?

I'm just a monkey with a typewriter, why do I think I'll wind up with Hamlet on my first try when the rest of the world is spewing out gibberish and winning under 50% with the Angel?  Everyone is playing Kate, and Kate is winning virtually everywhere - but the game responds.  
That is the necessary evil of the Living Card Game - every month the game grows a little bit;  but as it grows, it evolves to the point where the game we are playing today looks very dissimilar from this time last year, and looks not at all like the game as it launched... Nobody foresaw the Shapers and Jintekis and NBN's dominating in the way they have over the past six-to-eight months, and who knows what will be possible eight months down the road.

I bring this up to suggest that even since UK Nationals, we've had a data pack drop, and we've seen small but meaningful changes to the way corps and runners play.  Net-Ready Eyes are putting the fear of god into more than one corp player, while the Cybernetics division has made runners aware that you can be flatlined or fast advanced out of the same deck and you have no way of knowing how you are going to lose.  Needing to hedge against so many new strategies has lead to a impasse.

Personally speaking, I am likely more capable of playing the Shaper game better in this metagame than I would playing the Anarch one.  I have always been a player who always wants to keep his options open (which is a big reason why I was so high on EBC when it was first released - glad to know that feeling has since bee vindicated), and the Shaper game-plan is one of constant decision-making.  So many options open to the Shaper means that every click is a crossroads, and I need to be confident in my ability to parse the potential consequences of those choices very quickly in order to achieve maximum possible 9and in my case maximum possible is different from "BEST") results.

But what about options paralysis?  We have heard from the TO that the rounds will be locked at 60 minutes, which leaves me thinking that with the glacier corp I've already locked into, perhaps a more aggressive Runner will leave me with fewer options to consider which will ultimately allow me to finish more games, win or lose.  What is the risk that running Kate will leave me spending too many turns just thinking about unintended consequences until time is called?

And this is where I am, at 3:45 PM on Friday afternoon.  18 or so hours out from the last big Netrunner tournament in which I'll play before Gencon, and I'm struggling to accept my own limitations as a player.  Am I better off playing a deck that I have less experience with and might be strictly worse, or should I go with the deck that is clearly better represented in the metagame but leaves me at risk of losing to myself?

Please leave your feedback below, I'm really looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say about this dilemma.  And no, I almost definitely won't be listening to anyone's suggestions of a plan C... did that last week, and got the shield tokens to prove it.

Thanks for reading, and remember, always be gaming.
Matt