I wanted to write a brief report on my experience at FFG World Championship 2015. Here we go…
After being lucky enough to attend Worlds 2014 at FFG’s expense I came back and immediately told everyone how great it was, and tried to convince them to start saving up to attend in 2015. It isn’t cheap to travel to Worlds when you take into account plane and hotel costs, spending money, not to mention that a significant amount of time off work is needed. Whether it was because of my glowing review of the whole Worlds experience or simply a love of the game; a huge number of Brits made the trip this year to accompany the 2015 UK National Champion Alex White (VinegaryMink).
I’m really glad they did, as it was great to be able to experience the event with people I know and who share a love for the game. If you are reading this, and love Netrunner, you should seriously consider joining us in 2016, it is a great experience, you’ll meet loads of amazing people and it is a lot of fun! Just start saving now, book the time off work and it is actually quite manageable. If you’re interested, and have any questions, feel free to drop me a message!
One of the toughest questions that needed answering was what decks to play. While Data and Destiny had been revealed early, many people didn’t have a physical copy until a few days before Worlds, more than that, there hadn’t been many big tournaments for people to gauge what the meta looked like. I predicted that many people would fall back on what they knew to be top tier, not willing to take a risk with a newer deck for Worlds. I thought that this would mean that the decks to beat would be PPVP Kate and various builds out of NBN.
I started testing with Andromeda and a new version of my Leela – Endless Waltz deck because I felt it had a very good game against all of the yellow decks, it was strong against traditional AstroBiotics, crushed Team Turtle NEH and was solid against Butchershop. On the corp side I tested less, I’d been playing Butchershop for a while and was very happy with how strong it was in the current meta, it was runner I felt I needed to get right.
The amazing team over at Stimhack.com organised another great online tournament where Data and Destiny was legal, featuring players who had won Regional, National, and ANR PC events. Not only was this won by Alex White (VinegaryMink), but it gave us a really good snap shot into the meta. NEH AstroBiotics looked as popular as ever, and the new NBN kill deck using 24/7 out of Harpsichord also looked extremely strong. Noise was especially weak to these kill decks it seemed as most didn’t run Plascrete Carapace or I’ve Had Worse and so I wondered if the deck would adapt or if it would die off from its recent popularity.
The increase in popularity of kill decks did worry me, Butchershop had been doing very well for me recently but a large part of that was because no one was running kill protection, if a kill deck was tier 1 that would definitely change. I was suddenly less confidant in my corp list and started testing various decks. I tested RP, Foodcoats, Astrobiotics and a few other things not worth mentioning, I was still terribly unsure but I felt RP was the best deck against Kate, it was terrible against Noise but I was hoping that the kill decks would scare some of them off. (How wrong was I?)
Leading up to Worlds I was playing 2-3 times a week, some of the time with other Brits making the trip who travelled to get the practice in. I was really happy with Leela, she was smashing yellow decks, and was basically good against any deck that gave me an open remote. I knew she had a weak glacier match up, and I was likely to only win 40% of my HB glacier games tops. However that was likely acceptable based on the meta I thought. I’d been discussing Criminal quite heavily with El-ad David Amir, as we both thought it could be good if we guessed the meta correctly. We’d started on an Andy Sucker build but I convinced him to try Leela and he was impressed with the NEH match up so much so that he switched over to her. However Corp was still the concern…
I went to a GNK tournament in Oxford, and took Leela and RP. Leela went undefeated against a field of NBN. RP was solid, though lost to Noise as I’d expected. At this point I was really unsure on what to take to Worlds, I was happy with Leela, but really unhappy with what I should Corp. The initial testing I’d done with Foodcoats wasn’t inspiring, as it was very susceptible to remote lock by Kate, I wasn’t convinced on it. Time was up; it was time to travel… What do I play???
One of the huge advantages to having a whole contingent of Brits travelling over was that we got to do a lot of testing, in the airport, on the plane, in the hotel at 6am, basically whenever we could. We were all certain that Harpsichord 24/7 kill decks were going to be everywhere and were super strong and so we did a lot of testing with it. I decided to take it to the icebreaker tournament to see if it was as good as expected. It wasn’t! Don’t get me wrong, it is a super strong deck, but everyone was very prepared for it. Everyone was running multiple Plascrete, sometimes with Film Critic and Valencia DLR has in built protection against it. In one round my opponent played a first turn Plascrete and Logos, then used it to go and get his second Plascrete after I scored an Astro… it wasn’t fun. For me the level of awareness and preparation from the meta told me it wasn’t the right deck to take. Also, I saw a lot more Foodcoats / HB glacier than I was expecting, this made me worried that Leela was not the right choice and I was now worrying on both of my decks and Worlds was in two days!
One of the things that happened at the Icebreaker was one of the best moments I’ve ever had in Netrunner. I hang out at the Penny Arcade forums a bit, and they have a small Netrunner community there, who I chat to quite a lot. I’m pretty big on giving back to the community so I have sent people promos they were after, or 1 ofs from the core set that they were missing for free, as well as helping with deck advice etc. At the Icebreaker one of the people I chat to from the forum presented me with a certificate, it was signed (digitally) by all of the people from the forum thanking me for all my help. There were some written letters included, expressing personal thanks as well as a fan made alt art Cerberus ‘Rex’. I was literally speechless, it was so nice of these guys and girls to spend the time and effort to do this for me, and so nice to know that whatever it is that I’m doing, is thought this highly of. Penny Arcade folk, if you are reading this, thank you, you made me so happy, you are amazing!
Spags organised a Team Tournament for the day before Worlds, and it was amazing, there were excellent participation prizes available including King of Servers dice, fan made Jackson Howards, and an acrylic NEH ID. Not only that but the team tournament format is AMAZING, not only do you get to play with your friends for the day but getting to ask your team mates advice on plays is really helpful and very insightful to the way they play the game. If you’ve not played in this format before, I suggest you find one or organise one, as it is really good fun. Spags seriously put on a great tournament and it is another great thing that the ANR PC have done, I feel that the Netrunner scene in the UK is a lot better because of ANR PC, there is more going on after UK Nationals and so I am really grateful for all the hard work those involved put into this.
I was in a team with Alex White, Zach Eaton-Rosen and Laurie Poulter, definitely a strong team. I was put down as playing Criminal and Jinteki when we’d decided on the team, and I was pretty pleased with this. I thought that this would be good testing for the main event as RP was still something I was considering.
The day went extremely well, with Team UK finishing the day with the highest prestige and splitting the winnings with the team below us so that we didn’t have to play them again in a final as we’d played them in the last round and split across the board. Leela seemed okay but not as dominant as I’d hoped and while I was worried, I put it down to not being a normal meta as all of the different factions had to be represented. RP on the other hand felt really bad, it wasn’t great against Valencia DLR, most of the Anarch’s gave it problems, especially Noise, its results were fine but it was not something that felt secure in any of the games.
Special mention needs to go to Zach (groober) here, he absolutely wrecked our opponents on the day and is a huge part of the reason we were so successful. He went 9-1 on the day, losing one game on the final turn to 2013 World Champion Jens Erikson. Not only that but he was playing Weyland, the most under powered corp faction currently.
We went back to the hotel to test more. On the runner side, I knew that Leela may not be the best deck to take because HB glacier was more popular than I thought it would be. However I didn’t want to change because I was very experienced with the deck, and I felt if it met yellow it would do well. I also didn’t think I could pilot something like Kate as well as some of the best Kate players in the world. For corp, I tested HB glacier, and decided that two Caprice were essential along with Archived Memories to prevent remote lock. I was also expecting a lot of Kate and a lot of Valencia DLR with Account Siphon, and that meant that Crisium Grid was needed. However that was a lot of influence tied up and it means that you cannot run one of the key cards for a glacier deck which is Tollbooth. I looked at a few possible solutions such as Ichi 2.0 but was very concerned with having a lot of ice that didn’t do anything until the runner had programs installed. So I tested Assassin and found that it was amazing. Since a lot of the ice I had didn’t always end the run (Eli, Ichi, Assassin, Architect etc) I decided to play with six 3/2 agendas so I could play the never advance game. In testing it did very well, better than anything else I had tested, I’d won 2014 UK Nationals with HB Glacier and so it felt like an easy deck to pilot for me. Worlds was tomorrow, I wasn’t feeling confidant with either deck.
I’m not sure if it was something that I ate, or if I just got it due to being run down from lack of sleep (jet lag was killing me pretty badly, getting about 3 hours sleep a night), but the night before Worlds I was pretty ill.
I’m not going to go through each round of swiss in detail, but the day started really badly, my first three games were all against HB, and while I managed to win one of them it was not a good start to the day and not a good sign of what the meta was like. I went into the 4th round having split each of my games, and while I swept round 4 and went to get some lunch with team UK it wasn’t looking good.
I decided to eat something because I felt like I needed to keep my strength up for the long day, and it was plainly a mistake and I threw up very shortly afterwards. My team mates all thought that I should just go back to the hotel and rest, and I could understand why, I was a mess. However saying that, throwing up made me feel a lot better.
I was aware that you could likely only take 4 loses and qualify for day two, sitting at a 5-3 record, and knowing I needed a 12-4 record, I knew it was going to be a big ask. The first game after lunch I split with the Italian National Champion, who was a really nice guy, but this left me on a 6-4 record and needing to win out my three remaining rounds. Strangely this really focused me, and I was determined to try and make it, however unlikely it was. My last three games were all against NBN in some form, and this allowed Leela to show her stuff. Going into the last round I remember sitting down and asking my opponent what decks he was playing and when he told me Noise and Harpsichord I was internally screaming YES!!!, because I was in with a chance.
So, I ended up sweeping my last six games to make it into the cut for day two. I was super happy, because I’d made it, for two years in a row. Consistency is super important to me, and so proving that last year wasn’t a fluke was great. I was also very pleased to be awarded the tokens for highest placing faction, as I was the highest placing Criminal player and the only Criminal in the top 16. I’m not sure when I became a snowflake and wanted to win with original decks, but it was really cool to represent Criminal when it was thought to be weak.
Just as importantly, fellow Brit team members Gary, Zach and Tim all made the cut as well. Unfortunately a number of other Brits missed the cut by one game, which is super disappointing for them, but it is a crazy tough field and variance can be enough to throw you out. I’m really pleased Tim made the cut, Tim has been my rival since way back in 2014 when I started in the competitive scene, a guy who I chat to a lot about Netrunner and who I think is a really nice guy, and deserved to be there more than anyone else, including me.
FFG published some stats on what the most popular decks were, and it wasn’t a surprise to see Kate at the top of the runner pile with Noise and Valencia closely following. On the corp side the most popular deck was Near Earth Hub, second place went to Engineering the Future, and third to Harpsichord and so it looked like I was correct that the meta would mostly be yellow, which was pleasing at least, and justified my decision to play Leela. However I was dead wrong about something and that would be how successful ETF would be on the day, it made up two thirds of the top 16 and that could be a serious problem for me.
One of the topics that I want to talk about is jealousy, this may seem like a strange subject for the middle of this article, but it is something I experienced a lot over the Worlds weekend. I’m a competitive person and I want to do well, and during swiss many of my team mates were doing better than me. I didn’t like it, not because I wanted them to do badly, I didn’t, I was really pleased that they were doing well, but I wanted to be up there with them. I wanted to be doing better than them. The same is true of the icebreaker, my protégé Mark did really well finishing in 9th, way better than me. I was really pleased for him, he deserved to be up there. But I was jealous; I have a reputation to keep up as a top class player. In some ways the jealousy was good, it really drove me on, but at the same time I should just be pleased for my friends, especially Mark who I have spent so long training. At the end of Worlds I finished highest of all the people I travelled with, and that matters to me way more than it should I think. I should want to win, that’s fine, being competitive is fine, but wanting to finish higher than your friends seems like a bad trait. If they do better than me it should drive me on but I should be able to be happy for them rather than just thinking about myself. I’m not really sure where writing this down takes me, but it kind of crystallises the fact I was feeling this, and that I need to be aware of it and fight against it. I find the fun, banter, and relaxed atmosphere of Netrunner really important so want to keep it that way and these feelings don’t have a place in this Netrunner culture.
After swiss team UK go and get some food, I cannot even remember where, or what I had, I do remember having a broken nights sleep, thankfully not because I am ill, but because I am nervous about the next day.
I knew my first game was going to be against Dien from Canada. I met him last year at Worlds and he is a really nice guy. He was running Valencia (no DLR) and NEH, and as the higher seed he was going to get to choose the side he played. I expected him to run, I’d been preaching about the strength of Leela against NEH enough that I thought he’d have heard and chose to run. He did…
Dien and I have a great game,
It was really enjoyable because it was relaxed, there was a bit of table talk and it really helped me calm my nerves. I’m really glad to have got to meet Dien again and have this game against him. I manage to take the win as when time is called I have 6 points and Dien has 4. As a last ditch attempt Dien Blackmail’s into R&D, I rez Caprice and win the Psi game, the top card is an agenda and would have taken him to 6 points where he as higher seed would have gone through. Great game, great player, great guy!
Lukas tells me that I’m running as Leela against Noah’s Replicating Perfection. I’m actually surprised to see RP make it this far due to the amount of Noise and DLR decks, so I assume it’s a different type of RP or he is one hell of a player. Turns out both of these are true.
Noah mulligans into what I presume isn’t a great hand, draws a card, protects HQ and installs a remote. I install Desperado and Dirty Laundry R&D but don’t see anything. I bounce across to the remote, where Noah uses Executive Boot Camp to go and find Jackson Howard, so I check R&D again with a second Dirty Laundry, again seeing nothing. Noah’s go is simply drawing and ditching cards with Jackson Howard as well as installing a second ice on HQ. I slap down an R&D Interface and check R&D, Noah uses Jackson so I don’t get to see two new cards if I check archives, however the first card is a Future Perfect, Noah is sitting on 3 credits and so I bid zero, as does he. The second card doesn’t show me anything but I go again for a fresh card and score a Global Food Initiative. This has bounced both ice over HQ and so I run it and steal a Nisei for the game. Noah had a bad draw, and Leela snow ball basically meant that there was no coming back from a 5 point loss. I feel bad for Noah and apologise, but am pleased to get my second win under my belt even if it is a turn two blow out.
At this point of the four Brits who have made the cut, Gary has already been knocked out after losses to Dan D and the number 1 seed Brandon. Zach is on one win and one loss, with both Tim and me on two wins. Tim is about to face off with Dan and I have Timmy Wong.
This is a really interesting game, one where I definitely make some play mistakes. I’m looking forward to watching this back on camera, so I can digest what I did wrong. It becomes apparent to me really early that this is a new deck that I’ve never seen before and that it is trying to kill me. I play cautiously but have a really slow economy start, I’m not sure if this is because I am prodding a lot, and I should be drawing more. I see a Scorched Earth and a Midseason while I am prodding, but also manage to score a number of agendas and a News Team. I finally set up a Kati and while Timmy has the economy lead I’m happy that if I score an agenda I can take money off Kati. It is at this point that Timmy SEA Source and double Scorches me, and I realise that I’ve been so focused on avoiding the Midseason play, that I made the assumption that he wasn’t running SEA, which in a world with Film Critic was likely a mistake. Well played by Timmy and an interesting and creative deck.
Team UK all lost that round with Tim losing to Dan, Zach getting knocked out and me losing to Timmy. Tim and I wait while another set of games is played, with the winners playing us. I take time to eat and drink. In the end I am playing against Stiv and Tim is playing against Noah.
I met Stiv at the Dutch nationals; he’s a really nice guy and a very solid player, not that shocking in the top 6 at Worlds. I’m told that he is running, so that puts his Noise against my HB. I played against a lot of Noise in swiss, and did well so I don’t think this is a bad match up.
I don’t remember too much of this match, though I do know that I create a remote that he doesn’t run as he is busy applying central pressure. The remote allows me to score out two 3/2 agendas, and he picks up an agenda from Noise mills and one from the top of R&D. The end of the game comes when I draw a Global Food Initative and go for the score in the remote protected by a Caprice. Stiv takes a long time to think about his play and decides to go for installing a second Medium, both have a counter thanks to Grimoire, and checks R&D seeing an agenda in the top 3 cards. He then checks Archives and HQ for his remaining clicks but doesn’t see anything allowing me to score on my next turn. A super close game, and I’m delighted to make top 4, I quite like the Caprice art and I’m pleased I’ll be able to take this home.
Tim loses to Noah, who I have to face next, with the winner going on to face Timmy.
I’m told that I am running again against Noah’s RP. It is unlikely to be as good for me this time as it was previously.
I run early but Noah keeps me out with a Lotus Field and a Crick that I can’t just smash through as it provides Noah too much tempo by installing without spending a click. Noah Celebrity Gifts showing me another Celebrity Gift, some ice and economy and a Future Perfect. Great!
While my opening hand was solid, I seem to get a slow start from a lack of economy. Noah creates a remote and soon puts an upgrade in. I don’t have what I need to challenge this so let it go and he scores out a Nisei. I manage to find a Kati and set up part of a rig including two R&DI when Noah goes for another agenda. Thinking I cannot get into the remote I go for an R&D dig using up most of my credits and turn. Noah uses the Nisei token to end the run and scores another Nisei the next turn. I remember saying at this point, “well, that’s game!”. Noah and I both build money for a few turns and then he goes for the win, and installs and double advances. I bounce off a central and go for the remote thinking I don’t have a choice. I break Eli to hit a Caprice, and manage to win the first Psi game bidding zero, Noah uses the Nisei token to end the run. I go again, losing the Psi game on a zero bid, I go again and win the Psi game on a zero bid, scoring a Global Food Initiative and trashing the Caprice. I’m back in the game, but I’m not sure for how long.
A few turns later I go for an R&D dig which turns up two agendas. This puts me on 6 points to Noah’s 4. Noah puts more Ice on the remote and changes them, I’m not sure if this is true or not, but someone told me after the game that I had trashed all of his Caprice at some point and so the remote wasn’t very secure. I Legwork into HQ and hit a Future Perfect, probably the one he showed me on turn 2, who knows. I think about the Psi game, and think I’ve bid zero every time so far, I’ll bid one. Noah also bids one and I win the match. I won 3 of 4 Psi games to it, so there is no doubting that it was favouring Noah. I think I played well, but I need to re watch the video and see, maybe I just got lucky.
So, I’m back fighting for 2nd place with Timmy again. This time I’m corp against his Whizzard.
I think this is a game that should be watched, so check it out here…
Steven Wooley makes this game with his excellent commentary. I’m always happy when he commentates on my games.
Spoiler: I lose, and finish in 3rd place. Am I unhappy about that? Not really, being 3rd in the World is pretty good, I managed to make top 8 two years in a row. I’m happy that I’ve proven that I’m damn good at this game.
In the end Dan D’Argenio wins for the second year in a row. Massive congratulations to him, he deserves it for being an amazing player and someone who does a lot for the Netrunner community, can’t ask for more than that. I like the fact that it proves that Netrunner isn’t much luck dependent, you constantly see the same people on top. Next year hopefully I get to challenge Dan for his crown. I’ve not played him, and even if I get crushed, I’d like the chance.
The meta is in an interesting place right now. I’m not a fan of the DLR decks, not because they aren’t skill intensive, because they seriously are. But just because I don’t find it a very fun deck to play against. This may just be personal opinion. I’m expecting for Foodcoats to kick off in poularity after its showing at Worlds, and the meta to react and try and be more ready for glacier. The game is constantly evolving and that’s what makes it fun. I’m already looking forward to Store Champ seasion, need to get me some Leela play mats!
As always Worlds was an amazing adventure, it was really nice to see some of the people that I met last year, and to meet new people. Netrunner is an amazing community and every one is super friendly. Special shout out to my main man Hollis Eacho, was great to chat to you again and to share the Worlds experience with you. Even if Damon Stone dressed better than you!
Finally, if you’ve not considered it already, you should come to Worlds in 2016!
Mark for being my play testing partner for the last 6 months and for making sure I ate and drank enough in the top 16, you were amazing dude!
El-ad for the constant challenges around Leela, the constant reviews of the meta and general help preparing for Worlds
Alex White for his secret plague bearer abilities (Alex won a regional in the UK after he threw up everywhere part way through, apparently throwing up helps you win)
Zach for that amazing moment, when he pulled off his sleeves, to unleash his super powers in the top 16.
All the Brits, was amazing having people to travel with, test with, and generally hang out with, you made the trip amazing.
Finally here are the links to my decks:
3x Account Siphon
3x Dirty Laundry
1x Emergency Shutdown
2x Inside Job
3x Special Order
3x Sure Gamble
2x Plascrete Carapace
3x R&D Interface ••••• •
3x Bank Job
2x John Masanori
2x Kati Jones
3x Security Testing
1x Utopia Shard •
2x Corroder ••••
1x Femme Fatale
1x Mimic •
1x Yog.0 •
1x ZU.13 Key Master ••
2x Sneakdoor Beta
15 influence spent (max 15)
46 cards (min 45)
Cards up to All That Remains
3x Accelerated Beta Test
2x Global Food Initiative ••
1x NAPD Contract
3x Project Vitruvius
3x Adonis Campaign
3x Eve Campaign
3x Jackson Howard •••
2x Ash 2X3ZB9CY
3x Breaker Bay Grid
2x Caprice Nisei ••••• •••
2x Crisium Grid ••
1x Archived Memories
3x Hedge Fund
3x Eli 1.0
1x Wall of Static
3x Ichi 1.0
15 influence spent (max 15)
20 agenda points (between 20 and 21)
49 cards (min 45)
Cards up to Data and Destiny
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