I thought I’d do a report for my trip to Worlds, this is the 3rd year that I have been fortunate enough to go to Minnesota and take part in the Android: Netrunner World Championship.
Before I go any further I’d like to do a few shout outs to some of the amazing Netrunner related stuff that some of the UK folk do that you may not be aware of:
- Ben Ni’s (Worlds Runner Up) You Tube Channel
- Gary B’s (Evil Gaz) Blog
- Chris and Eady’s Podcast – Run Last Click
- Johno’s Podcast Dead Channel and You Tube Channel NeoReading Grid
Just some cool content that I wanted to make you aware of, check it out!
Not that long before Worlds was the UK ANR PC event known as BABW (Bring Another Brit to Worlds), this was won by a name you will all likely now be familiar with, Chris Dyer. However the meta in the cut was very informative to what we were likely to see at Worlds. The cut was all CTM on the corp side and Whizzard (and a single Andromeda) on the runner side. This was a real eye opener for me on how dominated the meta was likely to be by CTM and Whizzard, and I knew that whatever decks I took to Worlds had to be able to beat those decks.
My test partner Mark and I did a load of testing before Worlds, though not as much as I wanted – real life gets in the way.
I have played a lot of Siphon Whizzard this year, winning a 90-person regional and coming 3rd at the 150-person UK Nationals with it. I was pretty determined to update this so it had a good CTM match up and knew this was a possible deck for Worlds. The changes that I made to this deck were based off a number of test games against CTM. Whizzard was great at trashing their annoying economy assets, and as I was planning on going tag me anyway so there was only a tempo hit as long as they have tag punishment cards. The tag punishment cards, with the exclusion of Closed Accounts are all combo cards, EOI needs a Breaking News scored and your opponent to have a GFI, Psycho needs a Beale or GFI and a certain number of credits. This means that these cards will often sit in hand for some time and this is where Wanton Destruction really shows its strength in Eater decks. The other problem tag me decks have is big ice, Resistor, Archangel and Tollbooth were all cards that had caused me problems in games. My solution to this was Cutlery, so I went up to 2 Spooned and Knifed, and in an effort to remove the need for large amounts of credits, I played 3 D4v1d to combo with this plan. In testing this was really quite solid.
The other runner deck that I picked up because I at least wanted an option B was DLR MaxX, initial testing with this was very positive. The thing that surprised me was how resilient it was, in the first 5 test games I was hit with ASI twice and comfortably won those games. The ease that it won some games made me really interested in this deck, and before we flew to America it was the deck I was likely to play. Things changed pretty quickly when we got to America…
On the Corp side, we were really struggling to find something. We built and tried Foodcoats and while I liked the deck and thought it was okay, it felt fair and balanced. However when we were testing our various runner ideas against yellow decks, it didn’t feel fair and we honestly thought that by playing HB we were just handicapping ourselves and it would be better to play yellow, though we didn’t have much idea of what. I built the UK SYNC list that people were playing and tried a few games with it, I didn’t love it but it did seem like a good deck, though not one that fit my play style from what I could tell. When we flew to America I didn’t have a list that I was comfortable with, and had no idea what to play.
I’m really lucky to have Mark as my play testing partner. There aren’t many people that I can spend an entire week with who don’t drive me mad. Mark and I get on so well because we are so alike. The journey to America was quite fun, though long, I got to watch some movies I hadn’t seen, and play a load of games of Lords of Waterdeep which is now our long journey tradition. For the record overall I crushed him 4-1. Getting to America we met with Ben Ni and Seamus and shared a taxi to the hotel, we grabbed some food from the local sports bar and then headed to get some sleep. 3 hours later I was awake because it was around 8am in the UK and therefore I should be up ☹
This year team UK was 26 strong, and that is incredible and I’m really pleased there has been such a big Netrunner boom in the UK. I have no idea if I have contributed to this growth, but I really hope that I have, as I try and be a good representative for the game and encourage people to come to Worlds, because it is an amazing and fun time. If you are reading this, you should come to Worlds in 2017, it will be awesome fun. I also told Ian Birdsall from FFG that we were aiming for 52 next year, so I don’t want to let him down! Last year felt like a close group with 13 people, I honestly couldn’t speak to everyone with 26 Brits and I wish there had been more time to hang out with the people I didn’t know very well.
Special Mention – The Winning Agenda Crew
I met Jesse in 2014 at Worlds and we’ve kept in contact since, but it was really good to see him and Hollis again and get to meet Wilfy, crazy gambling bioroid that he is. I wish we’d got more time to hang out, but I’m it was really great and definitely one of the highlights of my trip!
So… Tuesday was strangely one of my favourite days. Why? Because I got to do some recording with the Run Last Click team. This was SO MUCH FUN! I am very lucky to have been invited to do this recording, and I am sure I am full of Netrunner insight (maybe) but the ‘feud’ I had with Seamus while recording and the general banter we have had since that day has been amazing. Listen to the RLC stuff, it is amazing, and fun. I’m sure we also did some deck testing and other stuff, but I still had no idea on what to take to Worlds… ah well, 2 days until it’s a problem…
I decided that I would take decks to the Icebreaker that I wasn’t really convinced on, and see if anything really clicked for me. I took DLR MaxX and SYNC Boom. The tournament overall was a little strange for me, it didn’t go well but I was generally glad for that, the SYNC deck, which was similar to Ben Ni’s 2nd place list was really not my style. It was so focused on sitting back and being defensive, while it waited for its combo pieces. There was no rushing or bluffing in the early game and this really wasn’t my style. I’ve played the deck a bit more since Worlds after some feedback on how it is designed to play and I have better results with it. But it is definitely not my play style naturally of that I am certain. On the runner side DLR MaxX was generally very good, but it wasn’t quite good enough in my view, all of the matches seemed too close and it was often quite frustrating looking like you had a game won to lose due to Psychographics. The deck is always tag me, especially against CTM and so this is always an out for them. I think a bit more practice with the deck would have given me some strategies to deal with these common problems but my limited experience with the deck meant I hadn’t quite figured this out yet.
So with the main event the next day, I had to finally decide on my decks. I’d been coming to a decision over the last few days and felt pretty happy with the plan, but definitely not confidant. For my runner I decided on Siphon Whizzard. I knew the deck so very well and really thought that the tweaks that I had made to it were solid. On the flip side I was very inexperienced with DLR MaxX and while I thought it was definitely viable it wasn’t something I was comfortable with.
Corp was an interesting one. I’d tested so many decks trying to find the one that would deliver the best win percentage. I generally like to play off meta decks, but only if they are good enough. I’d had a CTM list built for a while, I didn’t have any real intention to play it but it was the right deck to test my runners against as I thought it would be the most dominant archetype. However whenever I played CTM in testing, it felt extremely powerful and I was crushing decks that all my other corp decks were struggling with. I knew that Whizzard with Slums and Employee Strike was good against CTM but only if they had a perfect opener was it actually a problem, otherwise it was a very interesting and skill intensive match. I didn’t really want to play CTM in all honesty, still too much of a special snowflake it seems, but I thought it would give me the best win percentage by a he margin and so I played it. The list was tweaked to be good against Temujin Whizzard, with more ETR ice which wasn’t Parasite fodder to ensure that I could rush before they had fully set up. I didn’t follow the rest of team UK and play a Cobra, but probably should have.
In hindsight, I find it interesting that I couldn’t find a corp list as good as CTM, and that neither could Timmy Wong. I don’t put myself on the same level as him when it comes to deck building, but I think it just shows how far above most other decks it is.
I definitely wont go through all of my swiss games, but I will call out a few games. Lets start with round one, where I am paired against Dan who is a UK player. I guess it was logical with the number of us who travelled over, but last year I also played a Brit in round 1. The funniest pairing I saw was Chris and Catherine Underwood from Run Last Click be paired up in round 1. Fate is cruel.
As you would expect when I was performing well I met some good players in swiss day 1. The first was Dien, who is always fun to play against, and one of the nicest people in the Netrunner community. He got me good as runner comboing through a Plascrete and two I’ve Had Worse to kill me. I generally didn’t think combo Boom was that great and so my play testing against it was limited, and looking back at that game I definitely made some big old misplays. Our reverse game was brutally one sided as CTM made Val trash Sensie Actors Union a huge 7 times, before I psycho a Beale for the win. Great games with a great guy.
I had a great couple of games against last years top 16’er Alan Noonan. The corp game was particularly interesting as he was up to 6 points by turn 3 after a Legwork (hitting 2 Beale but missing the Breaking News) and R&DI run. He was in such a dominant position with Opus, R&DI and Beth down, but then hit two Archangel while low on credits due to a Closed Accounts which unravelled his board and allowed me to claw my way back into the game.
I got to play Eric C in some really interesting games, we both made some misplays I think but both games were extremely close, and came down to 50/50 runs on HQ. I was fine with a split as I think this represented how close the games were. The worst bit about these games were that prior to the tournament I had told Eric that the CTM trace was an optional trigger, and therefore not your responsibility to ask the Corp as a runner, and he used this trick against me twice! He’s a monster!
Last round of Swiss and I am 8-2, if I sweep I can consider ID’ing into the cut on Day 2. I play against John T (Joseki), we play a close game with me as runner, but he manages to win. Then I get to see Hate Bear for the first time, because I don’t know what is coming my ice placement and generally all of my play is wrong. I don’t think that I got a bad draw or John got a good one, it was simply a really well designed deck played really well and I got crushed!
At the end of day 1 of Swiss I was pretty gutted, getting swept in the last round really put the pressure on, it was so unlikely that I was able to make the cut to top 16, I would need to win 5 of my 6 games to have a chance. Luckily my SoS was very strong, but I still didn’t think it would be enough. I wasn’t too worried if I didn’t make it, I’d had a good year and there would be little doubt I’m still a good player, strange how important reputation and consistency matter now.
Swiss Day 2
If you had told me who my 3 opponents were going to be before the day started I think I would have cried. I know Worlds is full of great players, and not everyone can make the cut, but day 2 was hard.
Round 7 – Brandon Hauk
For those not aware Brandon is a Worlds top 16’er from 2015, but he also holds the most impressive swiss record in Netrunner to date as far as I am aware, going 15-1 last year!
In the first game he is played his Valencia against my CTM. He was on a build very similar to Hate Bear from what I could see. I don’t remember a huge amount about the game until towards the end, where he is smashing R&D for big Medium digs. He has a huge number of tags and 6 points. My economy is fine due to Sweeps Weeks and his Obelus hand size, the problem is he rebirthed into Edward Kim and trashed my Psychographics. I use a Jackson shuffling back in the Psyco, which leaves 8 cards in R&D, I’m fairly sure he wins next turn with a big R&D run. I mandatory draw, nope, click one draw and its Psycho which I use on Beale for the win. 25% chance of an out, phew!
The runner game, I am against Russian NEH. This one is always an interesting match up, as while I am Whizzard, it is easy for NEH to out spam your trash potential. We have a good back and forth game, where there is one crucial turn that I remember, he scores an Astro going to 5 points, I drop a Turntable and get 2 runs at HQ pulling an Exploda on the last click, possibly saving me the game. I win a few turns later when I find a food on the board hidden away in the early game.
Round 8 – Noah McKee
I love this guy. He is so precise, and technically perfect, he is one of my favourite players to watch. Our games are both very simple. As runner he dismantles me with Hate Bear, I am totally Siphon and Medium locked from about turn 3, the games drags on but I am never in contention. I run and he double ices HQ due to me being on Siphon Whizz, I drop Keyhole and win two turns later when he can’t find any more ice. Simple but brutal games.
Round 9 – Josh Wilson
Josh and I are both on 11 – 5, neither of us can take a loss if we want to make the cut. This game is on FFG stream, but I don’t recommend you bother watching.
I run against Josh first who double ices HQ, how is everyone aware I’m on Siphon Whizz? I check R&D , trash an asset and clear a tag. Josh does some stuff that doesn’t include icing R&D so I run it and peel 3 agendas off the top. Ridiculous! Josh ices up but doesn’t rez when I run it, he plays a second ice the next turn which also isn’t rezzed when I run, and I score the winning agenda. Apparently both the ice were Archangels. I won because of stupidly good luck.
The second game starts off quite good. Josh runs and trashes an early asset after installing Slums, and I hit him with Hard Hitting News the next turn. This allows me to trash his slums and threaten asset spam again. I think Josh drops low on credits to Install Wyldside and Chronotype, and I get him with another HHN. This basically breaks his board and things look good, Josh manages to stay in the game by stealing two GFI, I cannot remember if I feed him one or not, but he definitely snipes the second from HQ with a 1 in 5. Still I’m pretty confidant, as I have strong ice on servers and when I see my tag punishment I can do some serious damage.
Unfortunately, this is where the game goes a bit wonky. Josh installs a Datasucker to compliment his Faust, D4v1d and 2 Parasite rig. Because he has Parasite on both Tollbooth and Archangel I’m purging every so often and am worried he will use archives to farm Datasucker counters and kill my good ice. I overwrite an unrezzed Turnpike on archives with a Resistor to stop this threat. The game continues and a judge walks over and looks at the board and then goes off. I’m confused why they have come over, and so check the board and realise that Josh is over MU, we trash the Datasucker and are about to carry on when I realise that I’ve lost the Resistor because of it. I call the judge, who calls Lukas, honestly I was expecting them to rewind and allow me to have the Resistor back, but what actually happens is that Josh got a game loss. As I said, this is pretty messy. Emotionally, I’m torn because I want to make the cut, but this seems dumb. Someone on Slack commented to say that if it was them then they would have played it out. I agree with them, it would be the ideal situation, but I don’t think that I am in control of it at Worlds, its not my call. Josh, I owe you a rematch for both those games, hopefully the next ones will be better.
I have the nervous waiting period as I know that not all the 13-5 will make it, my SOS is good but that doesn’t stop me being nervous. Mark is happily telling my wife that I have made the cut, who is confused when I’m being worried. The results get posted up, and I’m both overjoyed and gutted at the same time. I’ve made the cut, as 12th Seed, but as I look down the list I see Jesse has finished 17th just missing the cut. He is obviously gutted, and I hug him, totally at a loss for words.
The cut has 6 UK players in it, which is really exciting. Timmy Wong makes his third year in the cut, making me and him the only people to have achieved that. Dan D missed the cut after meeting Dien in the final round of Swiss, there is going to be a new World Champion! Of the UK players who have made it, there is Chris Dyer who 100% deserves to be there, is an amazing player and the most consistent one I know. Ben Ni, who is both a great player and great deck builder, he always makes the cut so no surprise that he made it here. Dave Saiya, the creator of Dyper, another man who always makes the cut in the UK, and did here. Dave C, who I don’t know very well but always does really well. Finally, Alex White, it was really good to see Alex make the cut as he had been a bit down on his play recently and wanted to prove he still had it. He does, but I think he was the only person doubting.
Diversity at the Top
The lack of diversity in the top cut is probably something that needs to be spoken about. I think the fact that NBN decks made up 100% of the top 16 was really telling. Most were CTM, a chunk were SYNC both Fast Advance and kill, and then a couple of NEH who were both on combo Boom. It really says a lot to the dominance of yellow decks, and I think it means that the runner side is more weighted than it would be otherwise. Runner was mostly Whizzard, with some other Anarch such as Val and MaxX, and two Shaper (a link Kate and Dyper). Whizz and Val make so much sense in a meta dominated by CTM, and this is why they were so popular.
Strangely it doesn’t bother me how skewed the meta was, I thought it would, but I enjoy the match up, they are good games. I still hope decks from other factions become viable though. What did surprise me was how much Siphon Anarch there was in the top cut, there were at least 6 decks that I am aware of. Hate Bear is the one that caught me most off guard, it is a great deck and now I have seen it and know what it is doing I think it is easy to counter, that was not the case at Worlds.
Game 1 – Andre Nilsson
Andre isn’t someone I have met before and so I have no idea what he is playing. He chooses to Corp being the higher seed, he’s on SYNC. We both money up early game, I’m still not sure what type of SYNC he is on, so use Day Job and Liberated to keep ahead of him. I start setting up and so put down Keyhole to apply some pressure as he is setting up a remote. The game escalates rapidly from that turn, as he scores the Astro off San San City Grid. I decide to try a Keyhole run and find R&D only protected by a Pop Up Window. I bin a Breaking News, then a second, and then something else before collecting the Breaking News. He scores a Beale off San San, and Keyhole again taking a Food and maybe something else. At this point I am happy for him to continue to score off the San San, as it means that I can likely win next turn with Keyhole. He may Ice R&D but I have Eater in hand and so unless it is very punishing things still look good. Worse case scenario is that he has the last Breaking News and an Exchange of Information, I’m fine with this play as I have 2 Breaking News and so the odds of him having both combo pieces are really slim. Unfortunately he has exactly that combo and so wins the game. This was an interesting one, as I feel like my line of play was correct but I didn’t win.
Game 2 – Nick Hansen
We have both played runner so we randomise who is running, and I’m up against his NEH. I mulligan into a garbage hand with no economy or Siphon, it does however have two Street Peddler which may make things better. Nick’s first turn is also extremely telling on what sort of deck he is playing, as he scores a Breaking News first turn, so I am certain he is on Combo Boom! I play both Peddlers, the first hitting two events before getting me an Eater. The second gives me a Keyhole, which is strong, as well as a D4v1d if he gets big ice rezzed. I use the remaining clicks to poke central servers. He draws and installs two remote servers, so I get Keyhole and go to town. In all four of my runs I don’t see an agenda, but I do see a Power Shutdown and an Accelerated Diagnostics, maybe even a Jackson. Next turn he uses card draw such as Anonymous Tip and Special Report but still no ice. I continue to Keyhole and check one of his remotes finding an Exploda. I think I manage to find a Breaking News with Keyhole before he ices up R&D. I poke HQ a bit and see an AD, and decide it is time to stop running for a bit. I draw and get to two credits so I can Day Job. He is drawing and installing like crazy. I draw and get a Plascrete down, but know that this will not save me, just make it slightly harder for him. He scores an Astro off the table and I decide that it is time to go. I Keyhole and install Eater off Peddler to deal with it, I see another Exploda and go again seeing Power Shutdown (and likely that he doesn’t have the combo) and the another 2 pointer, I run archives and win.
Game 3 – Dave Culmann
Because I have run twice I get to Corp against Dave’s Valencia. I don’t know a lot about this list apart from the fact that it is similar to Hate Bear and so am expecting Siphon and Medium digs. I have a great draw and so keep, installing ice over HQ and a Sensie in the remote and Hedge Fund. Dave Rebirths first turn into Whizzard and starts trashing my stuff and clearing the tags. I predict Dave will go tag me at some point and so score Breaking News from hand as it allows Exchange to work later without risk of losing it. I double ice HQ and then Dave drops Medium and starts digging since I still haven’t iced R&D, he scores a food and trashes lots of good cards. I don’t draw an ice so I drop a San San and hope that R&D holds out for me. It does as Dave hits an Archangel which allows me to bounce his Medium when it has 4 counters. I score a second Breaking News off the San San and Exchange for the Food. Dave starts rebuilding and then drops Faust and Siphons and I rez Wraparound which keeps him out. He can Faust through but it would cost him his entire hand and so he bounces. Some other stuff happens, but it is at this point I make an embarrassing mistake. Dave has 4 tags, I have 5 credits and Psycho Beale in hand which means I can win. However I get it in my head that I need him to have 5 tags, as I forget I can advance before the Psychographics. A turn goes by and I realise and am kicking myself. Luckily it doesn’t impact me as I get Siphoned when on 10 credits and this allows me to Psycho the Beale in full. Still an embarrassing error at this level of play.
Game 4 – Brian Cronin
I’m playing CTM against Brian’s Whizzard which I know to be Hate Bear. Having played against this deck a few times now, I’m much more aware of what I need to do against it. I start by ensuring HQ is well defended to prevent frequent Siphon runs. Brian is controlling my assets well and goes tag me early, but this does slow me down very significantly. He eventually gets his Faust, Medium, Obelus combo going and starts plowing into R&D. I have two Breaking News scored at this point and am waiting to see Exchange of Information and Psychographics to tip the balance. I cannot dedicate any ice to a remote as I need to protect R&D and the ice destruction is a big problem. Brian starts to access more and more cards in R&D and getting closer and closer to the win. It is a really good game of back and forth, drawing an Exchange of Information gives me much more time and with a Jackson an avenue of victory, drawing the Psychographics wins me the game. Eventually the R&D digs are too much and I bleed enough points for Brian to win. I look at my deck (which is quite depleted) and the bottom 5 cards contains the Psychographics, Exchange of Information and a Closed Accounts. My deck didn’t give me what I needed, but Brian played excellently and deserved the win.
So ends another dream of becoming World Champion. I have to admit that while I want to win, I am not unhappy with my performance. I do believe consistency is important in Netrunner, you can win a big tournament with a good meta call and some luck. You cannot win consistently without being good and therefore making top 8 at Words three years in a row is something I am very proud of.
I am also really pleased to see Chris Dyer win Worlds, he is the most consistent player I know, and part of that is how adaptable he is, he is good in basically any meta. I called him as my pick on RLC a few days before Worlds, glad he came through for me. Ben getting to the final was also great, he is a nice person and contributes back to the community through his YouTube Channel. Not being top UK player is a bit of a change for me, and I thought it would pressure me more, but I’m genuinely happy for both of them and with my performance.
- Spags didn’t curse me as much as I thought he had when I first read his article
- Why wasn’t there a best dressed competition? I wanted to see Seamus lose!
- Mark is amazing when I’m playing in the cut, both years he has made sure I eat and drink and generally been a great support. Thank you.
- I am sure there are loads of people I hung out with who I’ve not given special mention to. I do love you, this article is just too long already.
- King of Servers was amazing, thanks Spags
- Special thank you to Sean for my awesome Leela
- Is the purple cap or the donut shirt the secret to Alex White’s power?
- The truth! Chris Dyer winning Worlds is terrible! He is on Team Cat! If I see a cat themed card we are going to fall out!
- #Team Dog