Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Sherlock Holmes is not a “master of deduction”. As any 1st year Maths student can tell you, deduction is logically valid conclusions that have no other answer. When Sherlock walks into a room, spots a mug and letter opener on the left side of the desk and declares that the victim was left handed, this is but a good guess. It’s based on observed facts yes, but it’s a guess nonetheless and deduction is only provable facts. Sherlock Holmes is instead a master of “induction”, which is making the best possible conclusion from observable facts. And when it comes to both observation and induction, let’s be clear here: Sherlock Holmes is a total genius.
Let’s talk some Netrunner then, and here’s my central claim – Sherlock Holmes would make an excellent Netrunner player. Assuming he devoted his mind to it, Holmes’ ability to:
1.Instantly observe all important facts
2.Deduce the most likely scenario from those facts
3.Do this quickly (this part is often forgotten)
would be invaluable to almost any Netrunner game. After any game, win or loss, I find myself reviewing the game from Sherlock’s point of view.
-“What meaningful decisions did I make?”
-“What did I know at that time?”
-“What other information was available that I missed?”
-“What could I have reasonably concluded?”
- and ultimately therefore, “Did I make the right decisions?”
So, with this tournament report being a London Store Championship, and held on Robbie Burns night, and me being a Scotsman abroad and apprentice to the great master Holmes himself, it seems only fitting to write this tournament report slightly differently, focussing not on the play-by-plays, but instead on what Holmes would have done. [What, you didn’t know that Dr Watson was Scottish? His middle name is Hamish. And you didn’t know that Holmes’ London is actually based on Edinburgh? Well now you do. Ssshh… don’t tell the Londoners].
To London then. This is one of two London Store Championships, and with 63 people, our TO informed us it is the biggest SC in the world to date. It’s also the 2nd largest tournament in the UK to-date and attracted people from Bristol, Brighton, Birmingham, Oxford… basically a good chunk of Southern England. Among those attending, in no particular order, were Tim Fowler (Welsh Regional champ), Zach Eaton-Rosen (Birmingham super-Regional champ), Laurence Watson (various SCs), Kester Jarvis (London Chronos Protocol champ), Brendan Jackson (4th place UK Nationals), and Seb Atay (various SCs and all around mad genius). If I missed your name off that list, apologies: too many people and all UK Netrunners are fabulous people. No, really.
(At this point various North Americans and other aliens are looking at Google Maps and laughing at the short distances involved. But you must understand that One Does Not Simply Drive into London. On a Sunday, with reduced services and Engineering works on the trains, congested motorways and London traffic, getting anywhere in the South East is a mission. Point in case – I live only 35 miles away, and my door-to-door journey was 2:15. That’s 4.5 hours of travel before you add an 11 hour tournament. So put down your japes sir, travel from Birmingham to central London is a big old mission).
My decks then. I’ve uploaded both to Netrunner DB (links below), so individual card commentary is there.
•For Runner I went with classic Andromeda Datasucker [“Andy” is only ever a boy’s name in this country, dear boy]. Nothing hugely exciting there.
•For Corp, I went with Blue Sun. I’ve been trying out a number of Blue Sun builds, generally based off a Keystone or Lanri skeleton, and various ways to take it. My favourite was a double-biotic variant I’ve unoriginally called Biotic Keystone. I like it, it has lots of options for tactical play, which means you can seek an edge through piloting. Of course, Order and Chaos is about to burst which changes everything.
OK, decks, shout-outs, deerstalkers – done. Let’s play some games!
For those that haven’t been to Darksphere before, imagine a giant cavern, two-and-a-half times the size of a man, and long enough for row-upon-row of benches, enough to seat over a hundred warriors. Stacked high against the walls of the cavern’s edge is gaming stock, mainly miniature based. Next to me was an epic column of around a hundred VT-49 Decimators and YT-2400s, putting aside their differences to hold back a legion of Warmachine Hordes. The cavern is situated underneath the train-tracks of one of London’s main commuter lines so the frequent rumble of thunder overhead can be heard (quieter today: reduced service and engineering works remember). Due to the size of the “room”, speakers are installed into the cavern’s heights for TO announcements etc, and the store owner frequently uses these to blast out epic fantasy music in short 5 minute bursts, so every now and then an important run, or match-affected psi-game NOW HAS AN EPIC BACKDROP! It’s a good place to play.
I think I’ve played Neil before at the Birmingham Super-Regional where he smashed up my RP with Kit, so I know he’s a good player. I mulligan into 3 agenda, Oversight an Archer on HQ and he responds with an Indexing. Crap. But it completely whiffs, and at least he didn’t Sharpshooter the Archer, so now I have a few turns of breathing space to try and sort myself out, or he finds a Sharpshooter and wrecks me.
The game ends a tense 35 minutes later with me Atlas-countering for an Atlas to biotic out (one of my standard win-conditions). I won 7-6, and he had seen a total of 13 cards from R+D (partly thanks to a 2nd clean Indexing), an additional 3 cards from HQ, as well as a busted remote. Generally this is enough to win, and he was feeling a little sore that the numbers hadn’t fallen his way I think. I’m about to thank my good luck and shuffle up Andromeda when Sherlock pipes up.
“It wasn’t entirely luck dear boy?” Oh? Sherlock points out that for most of the game my entire hand was completely stuffed with agenda, and I was almost certainly bleeding this information through my ice play and draw choices. So the 13 random accesses on R+D were very much into a low density deck. It was my choice to move most of my defences to HQ and Neil’s choice to stick to his primary R+D win condition, both of which gave me extra odds. I’m not entirely convinced by this, I still think I got a little lucky, but it’s worth mulling over later. On to the Runner game.
The next game is equally long, and equally tense, being a standard Andromeda/NEH race that goes long. I get the lead with an early Beale / Breaking News but then he gets his Astrotrain running and his economy is strong enough to keep me in a very shaky partial R+D lock rather than full access, so we end up in an R+D shoot off. He wins this, and burns up to 6 agenda points, but runs out of Astrotokens and money, so he needs to finish with a Biotic. I wait as long as I think I can, and then Legwork for the win. Another 7-6, with 1 minute of round time remaining.
After the game we have a brief chat, and Neil asks me, “How did you know to Legwork right then? That was literally the only turn in the game where it would have been good for you, and I was about to win.” I mumble something about it just “feeling right”, but Sherlock would be most disappointed in this answer so let’s try and be more precise.
1.For most of the mid-game, he had an Astrotoken and econ. If he had another Astro he would have chained into it, possibly with a Beale also.
2.He was playing Biotic, probably x3, and had drawn enough of his deck that he probably had one. Therefore, with a Biotic + Astrotoken, he’s even more likely to fast advance his Beale.
3.Therefore, barring a fist full of NAPD, his hand is almost certainly empty of agenda. I’m better saving my Legwork for the end game and focussing on R+D.
So, two immensely tight games to begin with, both characterised by big dig events that fell on my favour in both scenarios. You could probably write a whole Netrunner article on optimised play for big digs, and Sherlock is right that it is not all luck and “random” accesses are often a bit of a misnomer. Still, I won’t deny there isn’t some chance involved. Neil’s probably right to feel a little down.
I chomp down a cereal bar, grab my decks, and move to the next table. My opponent is Donald, part of a 4-person team that has driven down from Birmingham to take names and chew gum. He slaps down GRNDL, pronounces it correctly, and we begin.
I draw a nice opening hand of Sure Gamble – Desperado – Plascrete – Some Stuff, so I’m happy with that, but turn one he drops down Targeted Marketing and calls “Plascrete Carapace”. Holeeeee…. sheeettt… is there a more “I’m going to kill you!” statement of intent than that? I pause for a moment and consider my strategy. I don’t want to give him 10 credits, but I also DON’T WANT TO DIE, so I need to be careful. Sherlock points out that with only 10 influence on GRDNL, he’s going to be feeling the pinch with Targeted Marketing / Snare! / SEA / Jackson and probably has no influence for anything else, so I can move straight to Yog, but whether or not he has a Lotus Field isn’t really my primary concern at this moment so I tell Sherlock to shut up.
I decide to play around the Marketing, keep my credits up, and try and break the current. We have an edgy early game, some shit happens for a few turns, but then I Planned Assault into an Inside Job into an Atlas and slap down two Plascrete Carapaces in one go. He deflates a little. From then on in, it’s standard Supermodernism: play around the Snare, guard against scoring windows, and he’s out of options.
Game 2, he plays Silhouette and I mistakenly assume he’s doing the old Quest Completed nonsense and try and push an early agenda, which he takes. It becomes apparent that he’s playing instead what I call a “Window Breaker” deck, where you offer the Corp small scoring windows that he thinks he can get away with before breaking them down with surprise play, kind of like that slappy game that kids do. Leela is especially good at this, but any Criminal can try. It seems he’s running Silhouette to both win the information war (Sherlock would be proud), and also keep his deck lean. Has he or has he not got an Inside Job? Don’t even risk it; he has. Once I work this out, I slow down a little and go for bigger, safer windows. Power Shutdown helps here, and I can always Biotic-SEA-3xScorch if I win econ.
As it happens, I manage to set him up with a horrible Sophie’s Choice. He must choose between:
1.Inside Jobbing and icebreaking into my Prority Req but finishing the turn on less credits than me, 3 cards in hand, and a Plascrete on the table. I have an Atlas-counter.
2.Letting me score the Priorty Req, putting me to 5 agenda points and getting a free Archer on HQ.
Due to Silhouette, he knows what all the cards are, and understand the implications of both choices. He also knows that I know he has this choice, and I know that he knows that, whatever…
He wrestles internally with this for a long time. “Take your time,” I say. Eventually he picks option 1, but I have the flatline combo, so GG.
It was a tough choice. I didn’t have access to his Sherlock, so I’m not sure what other information he had, but assuming he had no way of knowing whether I had two out of the three pieces I needed, it might have been the right play. Given my Biotics, and the Atlas-counter, it probably was. Yes, sometimes the right decision is to play Russian Roulette if the alternative has less chance of success.
Anyway, after four tight games I need a breather, so I chat to my homies. Dave Etherington is also 4-0, but with much easier games. He jokes that this means we’ll play each other, but I point out that there are some 13 people who are 4-0, so it’s only a 1 in 6 chance or something; highly unlikely.
“Stop laughing and get on with it,” says the TO. OK, he didn’t say that, but we stop laughing and get on with it anyway.
I know Dave’s decks, know he likes to bust remotes, so I need to play fairly safe like the last game. We both build up, we trade some agendas, and then I Biotic-SEA-3xScorch through his Plascrete for the win. While this was interesting, it wasn’t the part that we discussed after the match, instead that was a different point.
He has half of his breaker suite out (just missing the decoder), and I have an unrezzed ICE in a remote he doesn’t have information on. I install a 2nd piece of ice, and then I-A. What is your response to this? He spends a while thinking, Femme’s through the new ice, and runs head-first into a Curtain Wall.
Now there was an easy play here that would have got the agenda. Credit-credit-run would have worked, and was pretty much the only play that did. (Creditx3-Inside Job would have lowered his hand size). The 2nd piece of ice was actually something he could already break for one credit. But credit-credit-run was not an obvious play from his point of view at all. The most likely thing is that my new ICE is a code gate, and with only one shot at the remote, he had to go for something that respected that. The main point here is that it’s OK to give the runner a board state with a known solution, even if the solution requires no additional work beyond basic actions, so long as that solution is not a logically good choice. We chat about this for a little, neither of us can decide on what exactly is the runner’s best move, but we’re on the clock so it’s time to move on.
Game 2 I know I’m playing against Tagstorm megadeath, so I dig for my Plascrete. This takes ages, he rushes out agendas, gets ridiculous econ, and screws me into the ground with Manhunt. It’s a fairly crushing victory and there was little I could have done. There was a dumb point where I accessed (an unadvanced) NAPD with only 3 credits, but he was planning on Midseasoning me even if I got it, so it didn’t really matter. Sometimes there literally is nothing that you can do, and Sherlock was out grabbing a sandwich anyway, so let’s move on.
I’ve somehow managed to avoid Tim at all previous tourneys so this was to be our first match together. Hopefully I wouldn’t embarrass myself [Oh dear…]
Game 1 he gets a great start as Andromeda. I don’t, and he tightens the pressure, almost moving to an R+D lockout by turn 5. He runs without Plascrete, paying careful attention to his credits and handsize, and there is little I can do so long as he stays alert. Then, his attention slips for one turn, he passes to me and I pause and start doing some sums (before the mandatory draw). He sees me doing this, does his own check of the board and mutters “Oh, shit, I forgot about the Hive”. It’s not a giveaway, the bonus 5 credits from an off-to-the-side Hive on Archives is exactly what I was considered for SEA-2xScorch. I finish my count-up … I’m one credit short. Curse Andromeda’s link! I count again, and a third time just to make sure, yep, one credit short, nothing I can do. “No bounce”, I say, take my mandatory draw and he breathes a sigh of relief. Next turn he Account Siphons, burns tags, and plays flawlessly for the rest of the game. I’m done.
Game 2 begins, and my attempt not to embarrass myself goes down in flames. I make two pretty serious mistakes in London today, and this game has the first of them. The game is another Andy vs NEH race that goes long, similar to the match against Neil. I draw 60% of my deck and fail to get a single Corroder, Special Order or Mr Li, so even with some early agendas, I’m already pretty far behind board-wise. Eventually I get my breakers up and running, but fast advance is online, so we move to an R+D battle. He installs a 4th piece of ice on R+D, grabs some money and passes.
Here comes the mistake. As my decoder is the only breaker I’m missing, I assume the ice is a Tollbooth, even though I have been breaking the bouncing Merlin in his hand all game. You don’t need Sherlock’s skills to work out that the ice you know is in his hand, which is good against your board is the one he’s installed; it’s elementary. I even have a Yog in hand. But following my bad logic, I come up with some hair-brained plan of bouncing off the Tollbooth and Siphoning him, don’t install the Yog, and run face first into the Merlin, losing both the Yog in hand and my installed Corroder [remember, all Grail ICE essentially does net damage, program trash and end the run once the suite is up]. From this point it’s pretty much GG, and Tim scores out. We chat afterwards, both agreeing the facecheck was a spectacularly dumb move. I spend the next 15 minutes casting myself into purgatory in the corner of the cavern, eating my lunch in shame and muttering “Of course it was the Merlin!” over and over. Sherlock is scornful. However, tilt is the mind-killer, tilt must pass over and through us, so I make an imaginary bonfire of ten thousand Merlins, douse it in paraffin, toss a match on it and walk back to the rest of the players. We shall not speak of it again.
The first game is over rather quickly. Joseph starts with ProCo, draws a ton load of cards and starts building a giant rig. Meanwhile, I rush out agendas. By the time his Dinosaurus, Lockpick, breaker suite, etc is up and running and he fires off his first Maker’s Eye, I Atlas-counter into a Biotic-Atlas for the win. Not much to say here; big rig is pretty uncompetitive at the moment. Maybe when Clot is out it will come back.
His second deck is much stronger, an out-and-out kill-hungry Cambridge PE build with lots of teeth and little ice. For those that haven’t read mtgred’s excellent write-up on Feedback Filter vs Cambridge PE, then go here now and grok that. With my Feedback Filter in play and a ton of credits, it becomes difficult for Joseph, and barring a 3 damage Cerebral, he doesn’t land much on me. Then I forget to clear tags after a Siphon for a few turns and he begins frantically digging for his Scorched, while I continue checking R+D and a few remotes, wondering why he is playing like he is about to win (Sherlock: “perhaps because he is about to win dear chap.”). Luckily, I remember about the tags literally one turn before he draws his Scorch to cries of “dammit dammit dammit” (presumably in Japanese, in game). Then I score out.
I’ve never met Luke before, but he seems a friendly chap, so we shuffle up, shoot the breeze, and get our chips ready. Turn one he starts with ice on R+D, double install. Interesting.
I Sure Gamble – Desperado – Dirty Laundry into one of his installed remotes and it’s a naked Astroscript. Very interesting. I pause and discuss with Sherlock. What do I know about Luke now? Not very much…
1.He’s running Noise, and therefore probably likes to mess his opponent up.
2.He likes a gamble, playing the risky naked Astroscript vs Andromeda in what is essentially a top-8 playoff match against an unknown opponent.
3.He seems like a nice fellow.
For some reason, my conclusion of the above facts is that he’s planning on killing me. I drop a Plascrete as my last click and pass. Sherlock agrees, this is a definite possibility, but ideally we need more facts, so let’s see what he does. Turn two he goes for I-I-I. Yes, really. He’s definitely up to something fishy. I check one of the new remotes, and he rezzes a Dedicated Response Team as I plunder his digitally marked bitcoins [Yeah, that’s what TGTBT is; you knew that right?), and I take the meat damage to the face. His mask is now off, and the game is afoot!
From then on it, it’s a carefully constructed maze of City Surveillance, traps like Snare and Bernice Mai, and lots of meat damage. I’ve since checked the interwebs and this seems to be a thing called N.E.A.R.P.A.D. that I had hadn’t previously heard about, though there are lots of variants of it and Luke’s was a bit different to the original build (variants are generally a good idea in trappy decks). I play safe and slow and shut down his remotes for the win. Luke congratulates me on the win and says that he had 5 straight kills as Corp prior to that. Catching onto his plan early def helped here.
Next up is Noise, and he’s doing some kind of hybrid Quetzal build out of Noise, with lots of tricks and thin on the Noise-mill. He doesn’t draw his Plascrete, but unfortunately he’s not as careful as Tim Fowler and even though he plays the board well, he leaves himself low on credits and handsize… boom! Just another random gas explosion in South Megalondon. Seems to be happening a lot these days.
OK that’s the end of the Swiss. Tim Fowler is first, I’m second, and Dave Etherington is third. Sadly, Tim has to go home, so he gets the judges’ playmat, a round of applause from London, and #2-#9 move through to the elims.
I have the seed priority and elect to run. Laurie takes a risky first turn, playing Hedge – Sweeps – SanSan, and leaving HQ open. I respond with double Account Siphon and he’s now in a dreadful position and its only turn 2. Closing out this match should be easy, right? I decide that rather than clearing the tags, I’ll use the 20 credits to try and move to an immediate R+D lock and top-deck his first 7 points.
Sadly, like some kind of bumbling Dickens character, I squander my inheritance and fail to make good of my family’s position (appropriate for Andromeda, I suppose). The early lock fizzles, my economy is crippled due to no resources, and the game goes long. To be fair to Laurie, he plays a bad hand incredibly well, focussing on the long term economy war and value-for-money defence over fast advance, while still finding the odd scoring window. It looks like I am about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but in the end there is just one too many 2-card break-ins to R+D and I win 7-5. Phew.
In retrospect, the strategy was wrong here. I should have cleared the tags and played a normal game, rather than going for the haymaker. That way, if he did recover (which he did), I would still have a late game. Sometimes Sun Tzu would be better help than Sherlock, but he stayed at home today.
This match was filmed by the Run Last Click guys so hopefully we’ll get some video up soon. It’s actually a really exciting game, one of the most fun of the day, so I can’t wait to see what they make of it.
There are two really interesting points. The first is where I go for I-A-A on Priority Req behind a single rezzed Archer, a move described by a spectator afterwards as “totally balsy”. In my mind though it wasn’t that much of a gamble, as he had declined to check the face down Jackson the turn before, and even if he suspected a Jackson / etc, he kind of hand to look as a Neveradvanced Atlas was a solid move for me at that point (I already have an Atlas counter). I figured since he didn’t check the Jackson he couldn’t get in and Sherlock agreed this was worth the risk.
The second interesting point is when he comes in after an Indexing to pick up the agenda, and I pause the clock for a while before eventually Atlas-countering a reshuffle for a Hostile. I’m throwing away a win condition at that point, as I’d much rather Atlas-counter into a 2 pointer. Nevertheless, I can’t risk the Indexing agenda being a 3-pointer and, even though his body language suggests this is not the case, I feel it’s worth lengthening the game rather than take that risk.
Daily Business Show wins in the end. It’s such a good card, and its use is surely on the rise. It’s not a case of it being worse than Jackson, you can absolutely have both, and 3x Daily Business Show is a horrible runner tax in a similar fashion to naked SanSans. Again, another card that could take a whole article of its own, but we’re low on credits so let’s move on.
It’s Donald and his GRNDL again, and this time it’s on video. I hope he doesn’t do that turn one Targeted Marketing “Plascrete Carapace” thing again. Oh, crap, he has.
This game is where I make my second major mistake of the day. The commentary for the Run Last Click guys practically writes itself here:
“What’s the right play here Eady? He has a ton of credits, surely it is to play the Mimic and run?”
“That’s what I’d do Chris.”
“He’s… he’s running without the Mimic. Why’s he doing that?”
“I don’t know Chris. Seems odd to me.”
“And, oh my word, the Corp’s rezzed a Grim! This could be bad! He’s going to lose a breaker now and -”
“-what’s he doing with those green counters, Chris?”
“I’m not sure Eady. It looks like he’s using Datasucker tokens, and breaking it, but with what?”
“Yeah, the Corp is confused also.”
“Oh my word Eady, he thinks he’s already installed the Mimic! He’s trying to break the Grim but the Mimic’s still in his hand.”
“I think you’re right. He’s realised it now. What a blunder.”
“That’s right, what a terrible mistake in a game like this. This will almost certainly cost him his space in the final. I’ve never seen such a giant disaster as this Eady. What a total noob. What a terrible play. In all my days I’ve ---“
--- commentary feed terminated.
Yeah, it was dumb. In my defence, it was a long day and mistakes happen. Donald must have thought the game was all wrapped up at this point, but I still had the Mimic in hand and an emergency Crypsis, so I was able to recover and move back into phase 3. To be fair, apart from that blunder, I play the rest of game pretty well, dodge the meat damage and move into a scoring lock. It’s tight but I pull through.
Donald goes away, beats Alex White, and then comes back again. It’s worth saying that Donald and Alex are buddies and that from their car of 4 people from Birmingham, 3 of them made the top 4. Sorry, did you say this was a London tournament?
I mulligan into 3 Hostile Takeovers and no ice…. hoolleee sheeeet. I fire off the first Hostile, keep a straight face, and pass. I think the video starts at this point. Luckily he doesn’t open with a Legwork, so he gets one more Hostile and I get the third, before normal service resumes. I press onto the midgame.
I don’t actually remember a huge amount after that. I do remember that he struggles for econ, and his low credit stack gives me a number of scoring windows. I even forgo scoring an Atlas to Power Shutdown his Corroder to lengthen this midgame. Eventually I have an unadvanced Priority Req that he can’t get to but thinks is safe until I put a few tokens on it. I bounce some ice, and double-Atlas-counter into double-Biotic to score it from zero for the win.
And that is that. For those that have read this whole text, congratulations. You are like the guys who stayed to the end to watch all the final matches, fantastically appreciated, especially as this quick scribble rapidly became massive. I’ve you’re in the SE of England, I’ll hopefully see in some tournaments, if you’re not, keep running.
Top 8 decklists are as follows:
1.Iain Reid - Andromeda Datasucker / Blue Sun Biotic Keystone
2.Donald Bowden - Silhouette Window Breaker / GRNDL Supermodernism
3.Alex White- PvP Kate / NEH Astrobiotics
4.Andrew Hynes - Gabe Datasucker / NEH Astrobiotics
5/6. Tagore Nakornchai*- Leela* / NEH Astrobiotics*
5/6 Laurie Poulter- Andromeda Stealth* / NEH Astrobiotics
7/8 Dave Etherington- Keyhole Gabe / NBN:MN Tagstorm
7/8 Tim Hobart - PvP Kate* / NEH Astrobiotics*
(I’m not 100% certain on those marked with an *, as only the top-4 decklists were published. Nevertheless, rumours of NEH Astrobiotics’ demise were underestimated with 5 of the top 8 running it, and a large chunk of the other field also.)
In terms of commentary, my final thoughts move back to Sherlock. I’m still very much the novice, and more lessons are required to learn from the master. Nevertheless, I made a few good observations, which were enough to tip a few games and counteract the clues that I missed, and blunders that I made. What good Sherlock plays have you done in Netrunner? What observations do you often make that help you in the hidden information war? And do you have any cautionary tales where you missed, what Sherlock would say was elementary? Answers on a postcard please to the usual address: 221B Baker Street, London.
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