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> 1812 words, 32 paragraphs, about 6 minutes to read (300 wpm).
> First published on 2021-06-10.
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Last weekend I participated in a competitive Netrunner tournament.
Players from Dunedin and Christchurch participated in the tournament, hosted by us in Dunedin. We played the Startup format, which means there's around 300 legal cards we can play, all of which were created in the last couple of years by the Nisei organisation. In total there were 10 people in the tournament, 6 from Dunedin and 4 from Christchurch.
I started playing Netrunner around December 2020 when a friend invited me to the weekly local friendly event out of the blue. I enjoyed it quite a bit and I kept returning to continue having fun and to improve my skills as a player.
I still don't have much experience building decks as corp side, so I brought along a fairly generic Built To Last deck where the aim is to set up extremely strong ice to keep the runner out of the server where you're scoring the agendas. It's a fairly straightforward deck, but very powerful. I was impressed by this identity when I saw it played at locals, which is why I decided to play it in the tournament, though I still chose all the cards myself to put in my deck rather than taking somebody else's build.
I usually find runner side more fun to play and easier to build for, so I spent more time coming up with an original idea for it and refining it.
One of the people that I invited to play Netrunner with me in the past took a stab at deckbuilding and ended up making something with the card Chameleon. Though their deck wasn't very cohesive, I applaud their efforts, and while that deck didn't make good use of Chameleon itself, it did put my mind to work wondering what I could do to make Chameleon viable. I ended up creating a whole deck around the idea of using Chameleon.
The thing about Chameleon is that when it's installed I get to choose which type it is for the rest of my turn. When my turn ends, Chameleon pulls itself back into my hand, ready to be installed again next turn and allow me to choose another type. Sounds great, right? With Chameleon, I can defeat any kind of ice simply by choosing the correct type! But there's a few drawbacks.
Chameleon cannot increase its strength. It starts at strength 3, so any ice that has strength 4 or higher — which is basically all the ice in Built To Last — can't be broken by it.
Once a type has been chosen for Chameleon, it retains that single type, so if two ice have different types, they can't be broken with the same Chameleon.
I must pay credits to install Chameleon on every turn that I want to make a run, which is most turns. That's a lot of credits, when I could instead pay to install some other icebreaker that actually stays out.
During a run, the corp is able to rez ice that has already been installed in my way, but I have no click window, which means I can't click to install Chameleon mid-run. Which means I have to install Chameleon before the run starts. But since I choose its type on install, there's only a 1/3 chance of guessing correctly if the corp then rezzes new ice in my face during the run. Put another way, I can't see what type unrezzed ice is until I run, and I have to choose Chameleon's type before I start the run.
I managed to come up with a strategy that completely mitigates all of these drawbacks.
DZMZ Optimiser, affectionately called Dizzy Mizzy, reduces the cost of the first program installed on a turn by 1. Chameleon costs 2, so if I can install 2x Dizzy Mizzy, I can install my first Chameleon for free.
Ice Carver reduces the cost of all opposing ice by 1, allowing me to break a little more ice than I could otherwise.
Cybertrooper Talut. This card is critical. "Whenever you install a non-AI icebreaker, that icebreaker gets +2 strength for the remainder of the turn." On its own, this is just ok, but you may remember that Chameleon comes back into my hand after every turn. Which means that whenever I use it, I have installed it that turn. This straight up just gives it +2 strength forever, getting it up to 5. With Ice Carver, that's 6. This greatly expands my options.
Paule's Cafe is the final piece of the puzzle. It reads, "spend click: host a program or piece of hardware from your grip on this resource. spend 1 credit: install 1 card that is already hosted." At first glance, this might sound confusing: why spend 1 more credit for the exact same thing? The answer is that credits can be spent during a run, allowing me to host Chameleon, and then install it and choose its type mid-run. This means I start the run, the corp rezzes ice in my face, I see what type it is, and I can straight away pay a credit to install Chameleon right then, choose the correct type for it, and break the ice.
I'm playing all of this with the identity Kit, which gives the Code Gate type to the first piece of ice I encounter each turn. This means if a server is protected by 1 piece of ice, and if I run that first, then the ice will be Code Gate, so I only need a code gate breaker. Since this is such a common occurrence, I also added Gordian Blade, a code gate breaker, into my deck, so that I can get past whatever ice without needing to hassle with Chameleon. Other support cards like Egret (which is in the deck) and Pelangi (which is not) will allow me to set the type of other ice to code gate, creating a massive chain of code gates that I can burn all the way through with only Gordian Blade. So satisfying.
Alright. That's enough rambling about my deck. I do think it's really cool, and I'm very happy with it and with myself. And — spoiler alert! — it won games!!
It was fairly early in the game, I installed my first agenda, and they ran the server. I completely forgot that I had already installed Reduced Service in that server before. So I didn't rez it and they stole the agenda, otherwise the 8 credit tax probably would have made them unable to do that, since Reduced Service costs them another 2 credits to run for every advancement on it.
I was very upset at the time, but it actually turned out okay because I had 2x Punitive in hand so I immediately flatlined them on my next turn.
It was a long and epic game.
Let me set the scene. I have 6 points, my opponent has 5. (7 needed to win.) They were playing Built To Last, and there were a couple of pieces of ice that just had too high strength even for Chameleon. They installed 2 cards in a remote, face down.
I didn't know what either were, but I had a feeling that one of the cards was a 2 point agenda which they'd be able to score on their next turn and win the game, and I had a feeling that the other one was Cayambe Grid.
Cayambe Grid would have meant that I'd need to pay another 6 credits to complete a run on that server. I had already made extremely taxing runs on the previous 2 turns. If it wasn't Cayambe, I could maybe have made the run, but if it was, there was absolutely no way.
I had no way to be certain whether it was Cayambe, but I suspected it was, and if it actually was, then I knew that it would be a disaster. I'd spend my entire turn trying to make that run, and they'd rez Cayambe, and they'd kick me out of the server, and my turn would have gone down the drain, my final turn, as my hopes and dreams flashed before my eyes as play passed to them and they triple-advanced and scored that blasted 3/2 agenda to win the game. That would be a disaster, after coming so far and making it to 6 points myself.
If that was the case, I would lose the game. So I had to do something else.
I started my turn. I ran R&D on click 3 with a broken bank and no Imps to speak of. I accessed one card.
It was an agenda.
I won the game.
Despite being a competitive event, we decided ahead of time that it would be nice to relax and give everyone the same prizes for participating no matter where they placed in the tournament.
Since Netrunner's cards do not come in randomised packs, and anyone can print their own copy of any legal card to play with, it wouldn't be possible to give away rare cards or anything like that as a prize.
Instead, everybody got some extremely cool alternate arts for popular cards in the game, including Project Beale, Noise, and Diesel. I like them a lot!
I placed 6 out of 10 in the tournament and won half of the games that I played in, 2/4 as Built To Last and 2/4 as Kit. I'm extremely happy with these results! These were also the first games that I won as Kit, at all! I didn't actually manage to achive a win earlier when playing at locals or when playing online on jinteki.net. Those games did help me to think more about my game plan and to refine my deck, though, and I definitely couldn't have won at the tournament without the experience that those preparatory games gave me.
Still though, regardless of my results, I'm very happy to have just played in the tournament at all because all of the games I played were awesome.
I wrote this post in the Textreme 2 text editor. It sure as hell made writing this a lot more fun, and I don't think I would have written nearly as much if I was using a more traditional text editor. You should totally check it out. It's available as part of the itch.io Palestinian Aid bundle for a limited time (2 days left at time of writing) which you should definitely also get if you haven't already.
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