The Road To Nationals Part 2

The Road to Nationals 2015 Part 2 - The End of the Road

09/06/15

Alex 'VinegaryMink' White

 

 

This report is pretty long, and I apologise for that. It was a long day and I didn’t want to do a The Hobbit and split it into too many parts.

 

This was it. Saturday 30th May. The day of Netrunner Nationals and the end of the tournament season. As outlined in the previous article it had been a good tournament season for me, and given that I’d won a bye in Manchester I was placing a bit of pressure on myself for this one. I wasn’t crazy enough to expect or even hope to win the thing, but I did think that I was capable of making the top 16. I was confident enough in my ability to play my decks, and I had a good understanding of the meta I was going to be playing in. It helped that I had a bye.

 

Luckily the trip to the Expo took less than an hour since I live in Birmingham. I was very glad for this given that I hadn’t had as much sleep as I would have wanted the previous night. I blame Jay Glover and M. Night Shyamalan. A group of us arrived at the expo and started to meet and catch up with people we’d met over this year’s tournament season. This was honestly the part of Nationals that I was most excited for; I’ve met a ton of cool people playing the game this year and getting to see all of them in one place really was something to look forward to. Shout out to the Netrunner community, it’s the thing that keeps me coming back.

 

I hadn’t had a chance to print out or write decklists prior to the event, so I sat down to register my decks. I’ll take this chance to talk over them.

 

 

Stimmed Up Count Wongula

 

Identity

Kate "Mac" McCaffrey: Digital Tinker (Core Set)

 

Event (21)

3x Diesel (Core Set)

3x Dirty Laundry (Creation and Control)

1x Indexing (Future Proof)

1x Legwork (Honor and Profit) ••

1x Levy AR Lab Access (Creation and Control)

3x Lucky Find (Double Time) •• •• ••

1x Scavenge (Creation and Control)

1x Stimhack (Core Set) •

3x Sure Gamble (Core Set)

3x The Maker's Eye (Core Set)

1x Vamp (Trace Amount) ••

 

Hardware (8)

2x Astrolabe (Up and Over)

3x Clone Chip (Creation and Control)

3x Prepaid VoicePAD (Second Thoughts)

 

Icebreaker (6)

1x Atman (Creation and Control)

2x Cerberus "Lady" H1 (All That Remains)

1x Gordian Blade (Core Set)

1x Mimic (Core Set) •

1x Sharpshooter (True Colors)

 

Program (5)

1x Clot (The Valley) ••

1x Datasucker (Core Set) •

3x Self-modifying Code (Creation and Control)

 

Resource (5)

3x Professional Contacts (Creation and Control)

2x Same Old Thing (Creation and Control)

 

Total Cards: 45

Total Influence: 15

 

I’m more of an Anarch player than anything, and I seriously considered playing MaxX because I’ve found the RP matchup to be pretty good. Ultimately I was scared away by Blacklist and by the lack of consistency that Anarchs have compared to Shapers. I’d been winning a ton with Kate, and the prospect of playing a long tournament like Nationals without SMC and Diesel to back me up was daunting. As mentioned in part 1, I did nearly defect to MaxX at the last minute, but it took little more than a look from Andrew to convince me that I was just panicking. I stuck with Kate.

 

As for the list itself, most of it is uncontroversial. The aspect that did (and still does) provoke much debate is the inclusion of the full 3 copies of Professional Contacts. Longtime Kate advocate and outspoken Netrunner personality Calimsha is well documented for strongly opposing the 5 cost resource. Andrew and I ran a list with 3 for the Stimhack Store Champions Invitiational, and while we liked it there I’d gone back to the much more streamlined Quality Time/Symmetrical Visage version. Andrew was a strong advocate for ProCo from the start and after an unsatisfactory winrate against RP and an insanely high one against everything else, I found myself convinced. As it was, I was extremely pleased with the 3 ProCo, and they might just have been the best cards in my deck throughout the day. Sometimes it does just take a handshake. A similar line of thought influenced my choice to include Vamp, as the card is a great way to avoid playing Psi games if you’re rich enough. In the end I didn’t use it all that many times throughout the day, and it’s possible that Parasite would have been better. I did use it to beat Dave Hoyland though, and that counts for something. The final thing to mention is that the 1 Datasucker probably ought to have been a 1 of Femme Fatale. Datasucker was fine for me throughout the day but I never wanted to crack an SMC to get it. Femme may well have done more work against rezzed Susanoo-No-Mikoto and Curtain Walls. I only realised that we should have tested Femme Fatale on Friday night, so Andrew and I decided to stick with what we knew.

 

 

Am I Bootcamp Glacier Yet?

 

Identity

Jinteki: Replicating Perfection (Trace Amount)

 

Agenda (8)

1x Hades Fragment (Up and Over)

1x NAPD Contract (Double Time)

3x Nisei MK II (Core Set)

3x The Future Perfect (Honor and Profit)

 

Asset (12)

1x Blacklist (Breaker Bay) •

1x Daily Business Show (All That Remains) •

1x Executive Boot Camp (All That Remains) •

3x Jackson Howard (Opening Moves) • • •

3x Mental Health Clinic (Honor and Profit)

3x Sundew (Mala Tempora)

 

ICE (18)

1x Crick (Breaker Bay)

3x Enigma (Core Set)

2x Lotus Field (Upstalk)

2x Tollbooth (Core Set) •• ••

3x Eli 1.0 (Future Proof) • • •

1x Himitsu-Bako (Opening Moves)

1x Grim (Opening Moves)

3x Pup (Honor and Profit)

1x Susanoo-No-Mikoto (Honor and Profit)

1x Tsurugi (True Colors)

 

Operation (7)

3x Celebrity Gift (Opening Moves)

3x Hedge Fund (Core Set)

1x Interns (Mala Tempora)

 

Upgrade (4)

1x Ash 2X3ZB9CY (What Lies Ahead) ••

3x Caprice Nisei (Double Time)

 

Total Cards: 49

Total Influence: 15

 

I have a lot less to say about RP. Jinteki isn’t my faction. RP isn’t the deck I’ve played for six months. I hate all of the Jinteki Ice. But I just couldn’t find a reason to pick anything else. Celebrity Gift, The Future Perfect, Caprice Nisei and Nisei Mk II are just unreasonably powerful Netrunner cards, and I knew that they were going to give me the best chance to perform wel. Andrew finalised and tweaked this list, adding in the Blacklist and the Grim to give potential for the lockout, something I was pleased to have as an alternate win condition against Anarchs and Kate. This list lacks conditional weird ice like Excalibur, and instead everything performs on its own. The Ice spread kept runners on their toes and didn’t make us vulnerable to Atman. I don’t think I’d change anything about this list, particularly the influence spread. The raw power on show here makes this the deck to beat. I hope you like Psi games.

 

Andrew and I were both running the same list card for card at this event, something I’d recommend doing. Identifying, building and then testing the best decks for a tournament with a friend is a great way to end up with an optimal deck, and it’s a huge part of my tournament success this season.

 

The Swiss Rounds

 

With my decklists registered there was only a short while to wait before it all kicked off. I won’t provide details about every single round or we’ll all be here forever. It looked like no more than 4 losses would give a very good chance at top 16, while some people would probably sneak through on 5.

 

Round 1 vs Bye with Expensive Latte & Pleasant Chat

 

I had a round 1 bye for this event after my escapades in Manchester. I used this opportunity to go for a coffee with three other bye winners; Joey McMillan, Dave Hoyland and Samuel Pay. I bought an expensive hot beverage and we hung out at the Hilton bar and had a chat about the state of the game and deckbuilding. It was interesting to learn that we all had slightly different approaches to playing and building decks of our own creation. Dave felt the drive to play and popularise the Leela deck he had built, Joey liked to try to get a leg up on the competition with unknown lists, while I’m willing to drop a deck and pick up something more established if I reckon it’ll boost my winrate even slightly. Once the round time had elapsed, it was time for round 2, and to enter the fray with everyone else.

 

Round 3 vs Dave Hoyland with Replicating Perfection & Leela Patel

 

Oh boy. Round 3 and I was already against the player in the room who scared me the most. In terms of beating me at Netrunner I mean. Dave Hoyland is the 2014 UK Champ and is easily one of the best players in the country. The feeling was clearly mutual here, and we joked about intentionally splitting to avoid the sweep that both of us feared from the other. We obviously did not pick this path because it’s a stupid idea that’s against the rules. This round was filmed (keep an eye out for NeoReading Grid) and should be on the internet at some point. As it turns out that this split does occur. Dave has a bad economy draw as RP and I’m able to get a load of accesses as Kate. I win a fairly early Psi game against Caprice to steal and early Nisei Mk II in a remote, and Dave never really recovers. I end the game with a Vamp not long after. Once we swap my early game really slows down as I agenda flood a little, and Dave capitalises on it in typical Criminal faction. We were both happy with a split and we wish each other luck going forward.

 

Round 4 vs Oisin McDermott with Haas Bioroid ETF & Noise

 

I start off corping. RP vs Noise is a strange one because his late game is better than yours, something that you don’t have to deal with very often as RP. I manage to rush out an early Hades Fragment behind an Enigma, putting me in a favourable position. I start trying to rush Nisei Mk IIs behind the same Enigma, and Oisin punishes me with Knights and Parasites. Archives is now not the goldmine it usually is for Noise, so he pressures the rest of my servers and grabs points. I played this game very badly. In hindsight I should have just shored up my defences once I’d scored Hades and just waited for him to run out of cards. Once we switch things don’t go much better. I have a slightly suboptimal draw and proceed to make it worse by making weirdly aggressive plays against his Fast Advance strategy. I should have slowed down, found Clot and pulled back control. Instead I ran myself into the ground, found Clot too late and lost to a rezzed Cyberdex Virus Suite. More bad play. Anyone that thinks I’m some kind of Netrunner genius should talk to Oisin about the schooling he gave me.

 

After this match I’m tilting really hard. I’ve never tilted in Netrunner before and I have to go for a long walk to calm myself down, and remind myself that the stakes aren’t high here. At some point I’d convinced myself that I had to make top 16, but now I’m not even halfway through the day and I’m two, maybe even one, loss away from not having a chance to make the cut.

 

Round 6 vs Sam Burdock with Blue Sun and Chaos Theory

 

By this point in the day I’ve pulled myself together, and have gone undefeated since round 3. This isn’t going to be an easy one however. I’ve heard rumours of Sam’s ‘RP Killing Runner Deck’, and his Blue Sun Corp deck is a worry too. I can probably take a loss at this point if I 2-0 the next round, and I feel like I’m going to need it. I start off Corping and fortunately I manage to get off to a blazing start. He’s on the Au Revoir/Snitch plan to get money, and while it’s effective once it’s going I’m able to score 2 Nisei Mk IIs before he’s able to start running. This doesn’t get me out of the woods though, with a successful Escher turning my boardstate into a complete joke against his badass rig. At one point he opts to start running my crippled scoring remote to kill the Caprice that’s protecting it, but I’m able to win a bunch of psi games to protect her. I decide to go for a Future Perfect score to end it before I lose control, and I’m forced to play another psi game after using both of my Nisei counters to stop his Vamp and Same Old Thing Vamp from crushing me. We open our fists and I bid 2 to his 1, winning me the game.

 

Once we swap sides he gets off to a quick start using Oversight AI on a Curtain Wall that I can’t break, and he retains his credit lead throughout the game. I figure out that he’s on a 6 Agenda Government Takeover/Punitive Counterstrike deck, with an Off the Grid/Crisium Grid backup plan. All of these things scare me, since my deck doesn’t have Plascrete Carapace and isn’t designed to make a billion runs. I money up though and try to find the path to victory. At some point he goes for his first agenda with Off the Grid backup and I decide to try to strike back. I click one Indexing, hoping at the very least to make him rez ice everywhere. This is a tactic I’ve found to be effective against Blue Sun as it mitigates their have-your-cake-and-eat-it ID ability. I get an insane stroke of luck however when the Indexing shows me three 3 pointers in RnD. I have The Maker’s Eye in hand but not enough money to get in again this turn, so I decide to make the kind of ridiculous bluff that I usually avoid. I look down at the 5 cards off the Indexing, I sigh and I say, half to myself and half to Sam “well I suppose that there are only six agendas in your entire deck”, and replace them back on top of RnD with all the agendas at the bottom of the pile. I desperately hope that he doesn’t catch on and indeed, he simply scores out his 5/3 agenda. I money up and draw some cards, trying to imply that I’m at a loss for what to do. He takes his next turn without drawing a card and passes back to me. I money up and I slam The Maker’s Eye onto the table. Sam knows what’s happening immediately. “Is this the game?” he asks as I bust through the RnD Ice. I’m honestly not 100% confident that I did everything correctly and tell him to just play it out. The three agendas I’d just seen are indeed nicely arranged on top of RnD, and I pull out one of the unlikeliest wins I’ve ever had. I’d like to put it all down to my dumb bluff, but dumb luck is closer to the truth.

 

Sam is a bit tilted after this game, his chances of making the cut just having taken a big hit. I apologise and we go off to play round 7.

 

As it turns out I finish the day on only 3 losses. Unfortunately a recording or input error has me at only 2 losses on the system, but some checks by the organisers reveal it wouldn’t affect standings. I believe that I would have been top of Swiss even on 1 more loss. I make the cut along with Dave Hoyland, Andrew Hynes, Tim Fowler and a host of other great players, including, thankfully, Sam Burdock. Upon the announcement of Sam’s name we all go nuts and I hug him, along with a bunch of other people. Like me, he isn’t going to play very much Netrunner after Nationals and he truly deserved to make the cut.

 

There’s a short break where I pace nervously, and half an hour later we reconvene to begin double elimination. I really like the Nationals playmat so at this point my goal is to make the top 8.

 

Top 16

 

Round 1 vs James Billington with Kate

We’d played in Swiss and he seemed to have less experience against RP than he did against Kate, so I opted to Corp. Besides, his Corp deck is Butchershop NEH, and I want to avoid playing against it if I can. I did have a tough time in our Swiss games because James seems to be much better at Psi games than me, so I still have to be on my toes. He seems to have learned a lot from our Swiss game and he is much more active in killing my Sundews and Mental Health Clinics, but eventually I’m able to establish board control and push out three agendas, progressing up to the winner’s bracket.

 

Round 2 vs Quinns (Of Shut Up & Sit Down) with Kate

 

 

This game was recorded by Netrunners.co.uk, and is already on the internet for your viewing pleasure. I’d recommend watching it before reading this, and it is an interesting game with excellent commentary. Treat yourself to it; I’ll still be here when you’re done.

 

Before we started the game Quinns and I started talking about internet fame and how much people come up to him at events like this, and we moved on to a discussion about the expectations on middle class kids to go to University and follow a standard path. It was getting pretty interesting when we realised that we had to play a game of Netrunner. At some point during the long game I look up and realise that a big crowd has formed around us to watch. I’m a bit shocked at first, but then relax by making a joke about how this is the biggest audience I’ve ever had for anything (this is actually a lie, I was into amateur dramatics at school). Quinns has scored an early 6 points and I have to try to play as tight as possible to salvage a win. Eventually the game comes down to a psi game on my remote. We’re both rich as hell. What do you bid? When you’re both rich as hell bidding zero is the big boy choice. I’ll only win Nationals if I’m prepared to bid like a big boy. Zero it is. Next second he’s holding out a hand with a credit in it. He shakes my hand and I progress onwards.

 

 

At this point I’ve definitely made top 8. Even if I proceed to lose both of the next two games and get eliminated I’ll have earned myself a sweet Inject playmat. I also feel pretty good because I have a good chance of playing runner in the next round, and I considered runner to be my strongest side for this event.

 

Round 3 vs Seamus McCleod with Blue Sun

 

Seamus was a really friendly guy in a sweet suit, and in our pre game talk I discovered that he worked for an international accounting firm. How fitting that he was the corp man and I, in my scruffy hoody and black t-shirt was the runner. He was also exceedingly friendly and polite, which suggested to me that he was running Scorched Earth. We struggled over economy in the earlygame but he got a big leg up on me when he baited me into running through a Tauras into a Shattered Remains. I don’t anticipate traps out of Blue Sun very often, and I was forced to regroup and consolidate. A couple of turns later he went for a score in an Off the Grid server which I assumed to be unassilable, so I take the same line that I’d taken against Sam. I play an Indexing to try to force Ice rez everywhere. My ridiculous luck strikes again as I see 7 points worth of agendas on the top of the deck. This time no dumb bluffs are required as I just next click The Maker’s Eye for the win. Seamus took his crappy luck well, and he was a real gent to meet and play against.

 

Because Netrunner Top 16s are weird I’m not clear on whether I get a rest after going undefeated 3 times, but I’m informed that I am playing again next round. I mentally prepare myself for what I assume will be more running.

 

Round 4 vs Marc Valles with NEH

My opponent is on NEH, which has become one of the scarier IDs now that it encompasses two archetypes. He’s either on Fast Advance or the Meat Damage heavy Butchershop deck. Fortunately I have a good amount of experience against both. Some early runs confirm that he’s on the Butchershop plan, and from then on I’m just careful to money up and not make any stupid mistakes. I see a couple of Prepaid Voicepads and a Professional Contacts early whilst he only sees a couple of Hedge Funds and a PAD Campaign. Staying ahead of him isn’t too difficult and once I’ve established a big credit lead I make some careful runs. I Stimhack into Archives to steal an NAPD that he gave me the option of stealing earlier, and I grab a single advanced Breaking News without fear of repercussion. From then on it’s just a matter of carefully making a lot of money, firing off a The Maker’s Eye and then giving myself some time to recover. I close out this game with little drama.

 

 

 

Once I’ve won this game I earn my break. And oh boy is it longer than I was expecting. Michael informs that he wants to see me back in an hour and a half (quarter past midnight) to play the finals. This is actually quite a lot of time to kill, and I’m thankful for that fact that we’re at the UK Games Expo in the Hilton Hotel instead of a cramped game shop in the middle of nowhere. While this is an obvious chance to actually check out the Expo, that didn’t appeal to me at the time. I don’t want to take my mind off Netrunner and risk crashing, so instead I go for a walk and outside and then I relax in an armchair in the hotel lobby.

 

I get talking to other Netrunner players, both at the Expo and on social media and I realise that I’m going to have to keep my ego in check. People keep telling me that I’m great. David Paterson starts talking to me about writing a tournament report and I’m speaking as if I’ve won it already. I know that I have to put all this to one side. I’ll start making risky plays with the assumption that I can’t lose if I let it all go my head.

 

This period is significant because it’s when my focus shifted. Prior to this, my goal was just to play the best Netrunner that I could, and do as well as possible. I realised that after coming this far the only legitimate goal left to me was to win Nationals. This goal is solidified when I get talking to Dave Hoyland. At one point he looks at me and says “I expect you to win this”. But his words aren’t a compliment or an observation. It’s a challenge. Game on.

 

I head back to the marquee to watch Tim Fowler beat an aggressive Whizzard deck with NEH Fast Advance. Despite his victory, Tim does not have the luxury of an extended break and he’s forced to go straight into the finals. I quietly hope that this gives me an advantage and set up for the game ahead.

 

Round 5 vs Tim Fowler with Kate

 

This is on camera as well although the footage has yet to be released. Tim is a great player, and used to be a part of the Birmingham meta. He was one of the hotshots when I was just starting out, and I remember the first time that I felt good about my Netrunner game was when we were paired against each other at a GNK and he complained and said that I was actually good. I know that he’s packing Professional Contacts and Vamp, so he’s ready for this matchup.

This game is a testament to the insane power of Celebrity Gift. I get an early Gift and he struggles a little with no early Voicepad or ProCo. I decide to take the fight to him when he goes down to 0 credits to trash a Sundew, and I install a Nisei Mk II behind a Lotus Field and score it out uncontested. However Tim evens it up when he finds his money and grabs 4 points off the top of RnD. He knows that I’m playing the Hades Fragment version of the deck and he keeps praying to see it from the top of RnD. Fortunately for me, RnD is on my side, and it doesn’t show. I manage to score another Nisei Mk II with the help of a Caprice, and things look rough for Tim. I soon draw The Future Perfect and decide to go for it. With a Caprice still in my remote he observes that he has to win 3 Psi games in a row to win the game. He runs and I win the first one. Tim extends his hand.

My brain finally calms down. Its work is done. I’ve won the day. Tim and I stand and we hug. Tim is the nicest guy in the world, and he would absolutely be one of my first choices for a finals opponent. Well played Tim.

 

Everyone congratulates me and photos are taken. Graham Linehan retweets the photo of my victory on Twitter and I’m internet famous, if only for a few minutes. After all the post tournament stuff is complete I pack up my stuff and head to the bar. This is the best chance I’ve had to blag some free drinks in forever.

 

 

Thank You Section

 

Nationals wouldn’t have been the experience that it was without these people.

 

Andrew ‘Xenasis’ Hynes – You’ve probably gathered already that Andrew and I work on everything Netrunner related together. We’ve improved a lot together, and I have no doubt that I wouldn’t have won Nationals if we’d never met. He also proofread Parts 1 & 2 of this article.

 

Jay Glover – I first got into Netrunner properly when Jay bought a core set, and we played endless games with it against each other. Without him I’m not sure if I’d have been tempted to buy a core set for myself. He’s offered me tons of encouragement throughout my time playing the game, and was sending me endless requests for updates during Nationals. He also proofread Parts 1 & 2 of this article.

 

Donald Bowden – Donald taught me the rules of the game, and the games against him really helped me to improve when I first started playing. Don tends to play Scorched Earth decks, and I don’t doubt that the games against Butchershop would have been a hell of a lot harder without this practice.

 

Tim Fowler & Neil Gorst - The original titans of the Birmingham meta, Tim and Neil are both still fantastic players who helped us to test for this event. I owe a lot of my improvement at Netrunner at various stages to the two of them.

 

Lawrence Watson, Laurie Poulter & Tagore Nakornchai – These three deserve praise in their own right, particularly Laurie for managing to attend every regional this season. These three guys bought me drinks after my Nationals victory (who knew that a junebug was a type of drink?) for which I am extremely grateful. Lawrence and Tagore also let me sleep on the floor of their hotel after I had to stay late on site and various transport options weren’t available. Lawrence even stole me some beanbags from the hotel lobby to sleep on.

 

The group of Irish guys who also bought me drinks after Nats – This is pretty self-explanatory. Apart from Oisin I didn’t catch anyone else’s name I’m afraid, but if you make yourselves known I’ll try and get Dave to edit this.

 

Steve Kissane – Steve ran the first ever Netrunner tournaments I went to, and if his tournaments weren’t so well run and fun I may not have continued to play tournament Netrunner. He’s a big part of my formative experience with Netrunner.

 

CJ Mitchell & Michael Coop – For running a huge tournament with very little support or equipment. Huge shout out to these two for running a fantastic event, I have no doubt that running Nationals is much harder than winning it. Michael was also the TO at the Manchester regional that I threw up at, and if it wasn’t for his stellar handling of the situation I certainly wouldn’t have gone on to win that event. Shout out to CJ for not being a pink haired anime girl in real life.

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