As I worry about the state of the country, I figured pouring my time into a reflection on my experience at the 2016 Netrunner World Championships was worthwhile.
A crew of about 8 west coast people rented an Air BnB before Worlds to use for testing. We came into the house with a top tier runner deck ironed out: Hate Bear was a Siphon Whizzard deck inspired by Timmy’s regional-winning Credit Clicker 3000, but with the power level ratcheted up several notches. Obelus was a powerful card draw engine that simultaneously let you hold a large grip of options, the Hades Shard combo provided even more burst draw, Rebirth gave us tech choices & a late-game closer in Omar Keung. It’s hard to overemphasize how hard we, & John Treviranus in particular, grinded & perfected this list. It’s power level was obvious & yet we didn’t see anyone else playing it, so we knew we’d met our “secret tech” quota for the testing house.
It’s probably not obvious to people on the outside who saw only the ultimate success of many of our team members, but the testing house produced a lot of uncertainty. We tested corp after corp after corp, each one showing promise & then falling apart. We put together BOOM! Blue Sun with a Power Shutdown/Lotus Field scoring plan, triple Biotic ETF with & without Power Shutdown, glacier Sol with SanSans, Palana Foods with Archers, & of course Controlling the Message. Nothing felt strong & we crushed every corp we tested with a “meta deck” Temujin Whizzard which was incredibly consistent. We’d learned how to beat our own corps with a runner deck we weren’t playing. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that I left the testing house with a lot of doubt in my mind as to what corp, if any, was viable. I started on Blue Sun but abandoned it, I left the house without a corp deck for Worlds.
Perhaps the best moment of the Glass House: Timmy & Noah have spent well over an hour on a grindy Hate Bear versus ETF matchup. We spent entirely too much time playing optimally against our own runner deck (hint: install take two) which made for long, boring games that made the deck look worse than it truly was. This was one of those. Timmy must’ve clicked for 3000 credits. He’d come extremely close to winning & was set to Biotic out the win next turn. Noah runs R&D, sees the last card left in deck, nothing. Then Wes, who was watching the game, comes up with the winning play: Noah has Rebirth in hand, three clicks left, exactly five credits, & a Medium in the heap. Rebirth into Noise, deja vu for Medium, install Medium milling the final card in R&D.
For Icebreaker, no one on the West Coast team played Hate Bear. Instead, I went full ruse by playing Temujin Whizzard, hoping to prime people against a Whizzard deck with little HQ pressure. One of the many corp decks we’d built, been enthused about, & then discarded after minimal testing was DDFB: “Doomsday Fetch BOOM!”. It was another yellow Power Shutdown-BOOM! combo deck except we put it in Haarpsichord Studios to prevent easy Medium dig losses, using Anonymous Tip & Special Report for card draw while the deck’s ridiculous economy (Explode-a-Palooza, Profiteering, Restructure) created an alternate Midseasons win condition. The deck list looked like a joke & I had no intention of playing it at Worlds.
Then I played it & I killed people. First round, I drew into combo quickly against Mark Mottram—an intimidating UK opponent who innovated a siphon Null deck & plays with Dave Hoyland—then killed him with the “cheap” combo pile of Sweeps Week, 24/7, single BOOM. Later, I killed Jackmade (Felix) when his Utopia Shard somehow missed both Midseasons & BOOM!. My only loss on the day was to Tatsuya Morita-Ahad, who played expertly against the list: he had Plascrete & deja’d an I’ve Had Worse back to hand after he figured out I was on combo. Once I have my pieces, I decide to go off anyways because it’s Icebreaker so let’s have fun: I go for a double BOOM! pile & ask if he has two IHW in hand, he does, I lose. Later, I realize that the game may have been 100% winnable: I forget the credit total differential at the time, but with a Hatchet Job in the pile & 4 more credits than the runner I could’ve bounced Plascrete to hand & killed with a single BOOM!. Given that Tatsuya was my only corp loss of Icebreaker & played very well, I was suddenly convinced the Shutdown deck wasn’t such a joke.
I decide to play Haarp Shutdown, tweaking the list a bit. I memorized a few basic piles & their conditions. I cut two Special Report & a Pop-up Window to add Interns, Subliminal Messaging, & Psychographics to enable more combo options. Interns-Subliminal lets me play double piles, Midseasons-Psychographics provides an alternate win condition when the meat damage looks offline. I never did get a Psycho win, though in a couple games I had repeated draws where I could’ve topdecked it for the victory. In retrospect, my deck fell apart with the removal of Special Report. Being unable to shuffle back agendas meant that I was perpetually ditching them into Archives & putting myself on a clock to win the game. Every time I did this, I lost. Seeing the NEH BOOM! lists from the top 16 (Alec Anderson, Dien Tran), they are far more refined & contain multiple ways to hide their agendas (Disposable HQ, Sensie Actors Union, Special Report).
So I’m on Hate Bear, which I’m excited to break out but also a little nervous about since I haven’t practiced the deck much & it’s definitely challenging, plus the silly Haarpsichord deck that I honestly hope just gets a few free wins with perfect draws. Let’s go.
First, a not-so-highlight: my opening round is against Cory Diers, a local SF player who I’ve played several times. I’m not looking forward to playing his Making News, which I know is tag-punishment based but unpredictable. I hope I can trash his Aryabhata Techs, stay on top of money, & play around the currents that I assume his game plan revolves around (he plays stuff like Restructured Datapool -> Media Blitz combo). Sure enough, he Search & Destroys a loaded Medium to put me way behind. I play around BOOM! all game & while the game is tight, he rushes to 4 behind a Tollbooth then wins with Psychographics-Datapool a few turns later. Then, in my corp game, I make a million credits & give up on the traditional combo because he’s trashed two Jacksons & is Keyholing R&D. I need desperately to draw one of the two Midseasons but I miss it on about a dozen top decks, including my penultimate turn where I play two blind Accelerated Diagnostics hoping to hit it, digging nine cards into my near-empty R&D by hitting an Anonymous Tip along the way. No Midseasons, so I lose both in my opener to a local I’d rather avoid playing altogether, not an auspicious start.
My second round, however, is perhaps my favorite of the tournament because my opponent, Julianne Taylor, is the most delightful person. She’s not only fun to play against & using creative homebrew decks, after the round is over she simply gives me a gorgeous, glass click tracker with the art of Net Police. Her own tracker is Rumor Mill & it’s the best I’ve ever seen. Check out her Etsy shop please! The games are also confidence restoring in that they go about as well as possible for me: she’s playing CI & leaves HQ un-iced, almost akin to conceding against my siphon spam Whizzard deck. I trash all her assets saying “let no robot live”, get an Ashigaru rezzed to drain even more money, & eventually win off checking archives & HQ when her hand size is almost nothing. In my corp game, I have the most improbably perfect draw ever: I keep a starting hand with Breaking News, AD, plus Shutdown, scoring the Breaking News turn one. Julianne checks R&D & trashes Jackson…saving herself an immediate loss. Jackson meant my full combo was in the top 7 cards & I would’ve been able to go off on turn two (using a Sweeps Week, single BOOM! pile). I eventually Interns the Jackson behind an ICE, install an Explode-a-Palooza to bait a run, then go off with the usual double BOOM! combo.
The rest of worlds is a blur & probably uninteresting to other people. Hate Bear gets crushed by Matthew Butcher’s Potential Unleashed as I can’t find Siphon & mill myself out with Inject. I get my butt kicked by a NEXT Design piloted expertly by Chris Mayfield. He doesn’t ICE HQ in his opener, which involves installing literally every single card in HQ on turn one (Assembly Lines is a fun card), but I can’t find Siphon immediately. He ABTs into Ichi 1.0, NEXT Gold, NEXT Silver, & proceeds to stack at least three ICE on every server, including Archives once I turn into Omar. After about thirty turns, I lose the grindiest game of the day when he saves just enough credits to score a second ABT to go up 4-2 as time is called.
I finished 6-6, barely salvaging a 4-6 record by sweeping my last round & picking up a sweet Gagarin/Edward Kim plastic ID on the way. A 50% win rate is OK, I can be average at a tournament full of the best players in the world. Honestly, seeing the West Coast team slowly rise to the top of the standings was more than enough for me. I was so happy for all our people who put in great performances, & sad for the ones who played extremely well but barely missed the cut. We worked very hard, we doubted ourselves, we drafted decks & then scrapped them many times, & it all paid off.
King of Servers
On Saturday, I’m itching to play Netrunner after watching top 16 games all Friday, & I’m on a stacked Oakland/Berkeley team featuring two top 16 performers (Brian Cronin, John Treviranus) plus Adam Cabrera, perhaps the best Shaper player in our meta. We’re confident in our ability but our first round is against a similar all-star squad composed of Ran Cao, Gabriel Fielder, Jason Deng, & Timmy Wong. We somehow come out on top. Jason (cosplaying as Andromeda) complains loudly about playing against John’s Hate Bear; we’ve created a monster.
Second round, we play a Colorado team & almost sweep them, going 7-1. This is the only round where we weren’t first table. The next round, we nearly do the same to Metropole Grid, with John playing a great CI game on stream where he scores an early Efficiency Committee from behind Mother Goddess, then later comboes through Clot with Sacrificial Construct. The next two rounds are essentially splits & extremely tough matches for all of us, we barely lose the final one to the eventual champion Versace Brick Syndicate & end up third overall. Another strong showing on the week, proving the Bay Area meta is nothing to mess with.
Some of my favorite King of Servers moments:
- I bait a Kate player into running a double Prisec, Jackson remote, they have to pay 3 to Nexus bypass an Ice Wall, barely have the clicks & credits to clear the tags, then eat a Hard-Hitting News the next turn, go for Utopia Shard via Artist Colony but miss the one Scorched in hand & I topdeck a second for the fortunate flatline
- a 0-0 Cortex Lock flatline when my opponent Aaron Celovsky runs aggressively with a Grimoire but no programs installed
- in the flip side of that match, I squeak out a mill victory with DLR MaxX despite never landing an Account Siphon & eating multiple brain damage from Ichi 1.0 & Fairchild 3.0, Aaron is a single credit short of a Biotic victory
- Aaron Andries essentially table talks me out of rezzing Crisium Grid on HQ, pops DDoS & suddenly starts running all my other centrals…then apocalypses a large board with me on game point
I’ve spent a lot of time with the SF/Bay Area crew but most of it has been spent staring at a hand of cards during a GNK, wondering how I’m supposed to beat yet another tough opponent sitting across from me. It was great to spend more time getting to know them all, & to know Brian, Kyle, & Timmy during the testing house as well. Some of my favorite moments minus much explanation:
- “Is this everyone’s first meme?” as we take a picture with the Radisson cheese plate
- “B the character hyphen D A L E” “B-DALE?” (repeat about a dozen times)
- BOSS LADY (I still cry when I think about it)
- John’s “one beer per CI win” somehow turning into “two beers per CI win” halfway through King of Servers
- Taking one meat & a tag from the tree outside the Radisson
- Somehow winning at Captain Sonar while everyone yells at me, more stressful than Netrunner
I was elated to see such large contingents of players from foreign countries at worlds. It wouldn’t truly be a world championship if we didn’t have the best players in the world. As convenient as it would have been to have a bunch of American scrubs for the West Coast team to beat in the top 16, I loved seeing such a large delegation from the UK which is clearly a country crazy about Netrunner. Outside of the UK, I met a number of Germans (Jackmade, Marsellus), Canadians (Dien, Jamison from Bad Publicity), Australians (the Winning Agenda crew), & even a Swede (Gabriel Fielder at King of Servers). There truly was a global scene going on & it was wonderful to see that creative, talented players exist all over.
I’m headed back to Minnesota in November, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.