Stealings and Ceilings
by Eric Wang / Gilmoy Faffle, Vaticos / Gilmoy Freefall
1500 seems to be Gilmoy Freefall's glass ceiling. In 15 ranked games this week-end, Freefall has fought his way to 1490+ three times, then lost his next ranked game. Currently, he's at 1483, preparing for another run.
Some deck analysis suggests that I'm a victim of my own success. My C/U gimmick decks are regularly running into decks containing multiple Vs and 5-8 power Rs, which can overwhelm me by sheer weight of dollars spent. While this may be "normal" at the 1500 level, I think it's still possible for the "have-nots" to compete against many of these decks. Here are some common motifs you need to watch out for at this level.
Most Rs and Vs are offensive in nature, especially the R and V assets. Hence, 1500-level "money" decks tend to embark on an all-out offensive blitz, where the majority of the cards in the deck are high-FP assets or asset-removal. Some variations include:
These decks probably don't have much in the way of defense, maybe a couple of AP Mines and Bions. When I lose to them, it's usually because I get overwhelmed by sheer firepower, so I often haven't set foot out of my own HQ by game's end.
- Sabotage: Jacqueline, Mother Earth Saboteur, Nakuran Operative
- Beatdown: Utopia Gunship & Commander, Howling Wolf, Lancaster Commander, Harry Tuttle, Prometheus WarMachine, Anceph Warrior
Against big beatdown attacks, having a way to heal your assets can give you enough card advantage to eventually survive. Rejuvenation Tank is particularly effective, since not many offensive decks will include a Domain to remove your bases. Bions and Viral Vines provide staying power, as does Blast Coffin (but note that these assets tend to get removed precisely because they are so useful in defense).
It's been a while since I saw a Worm or a Bolt, so I'd forgotten how pernicious multiples of them can be. Most of the decks I've faced has had at least one Worm; many of them have had 2 Worms and 2 Bolts.
The "obvious" counter is to carry 2-4 Deportations, which costs you a Common to remove a power-Rare. That's a fairly steep price to pay, though, since a 40-card deck has only 6-7 card slots to devote to asset-removal. On the other hand, Deportation compensates somewhat with its flexibility: you can Deport an enemy asset that has some annoying Enhancements, or your own asset that has been stolen, Shackled, Restrained, or Gooed, or in the end-game, enemy blockers. So 4 Deportations counters 4 enemy asset-hosers. In addition, you can design your deck to use Deportation anyways, so that it can serve double-duty. For example, you can build a deck around Deporting your 1-HP Bion Cell Drones.
If you have Shackles, then Shackling a Wormed/Bolted asset is a good way to punish the opponent by eating up his resources. (Even better is to kill a Wormed asset, then Bohanimate it: you get control back, and your opponent still has to pay the Worm's upkeep.)
More subtly, you can play weenie swarm decks that don't contain many assets worth stealing. On defense, consider Bion Tower and Security Checkpoint instead of BCD and Pillbox, so that they can't be used to attack you if they do get Bolted.
Path of the Monastery. The obvious way to deal with a mid-game Path is to deploy your organic assets as soon as you can. If the Path gets played early, before you have enough resources to empty your hand, well, such is life. Don't pin your entire deck design on one organic asset.
The average 1500-level player tends has access to more powerful asset-removal than the "have-nots" do, to wit:
Taser Shackles. As Keybounce has noted, even if you have a high-C asset nearby to remove the Shackles, you end up with two tapped defenders for one extra turn. Then again, the Shackles player could have used the card slot to kill your (organic) asset outright with a Banzai, so if you ever break the Shackles, you've effectively gained card advantage.
To deal with the threat of Shackles, include a couple of reasonably high-C assets. Wartechs, Groms, and Perfect Tommy can double as decent combat assets, while Tobi Wong can replace a CyberOps base in many decks. Use a Field Tech Trooper to untap any Shackled Mechs, and then they can block normally and can't be Shackled again :-) Or, use Hasaku Enforcer to discard Shackles from your low-armor defenders, and an aforementioned programmer or two to keep Shackles off the Enforcer. Finally, Deportation works on everything, as noted above. (If you have Sprawl Thief, you're probably not a "have-not" :-)
Restraining Orders. To avoid getting hosed by this on defense, include a mix of mobile and immobile defenders. On offense, you don't want to invest a lot of Enhancements on a single attacker unless he can win the game for you instantly. If you have one of these, it's most fun when played on something that has an upkeep cost. Deportation is the only way to get rid of it.
Death Dust. The more redundant your deck is, the more this card will hurt you. For example, Faffle's Winston/Datapad/Napalm/ComForce Armored Infantry deck that won the Beaver's C/U America tournament would be destroyed pretty quickly by a single Dust. Beware of the Path/Dust trap, where your opponent uses some early Paths to goad you into emptying your hand, then kills all your good assets with some Dusts (or Dusts first to make you hold your good assets in hand, then steals them with Path).
To counter this, build flexibility into your decks, with many different types of assets. I usually play with a mix of Ancephs, Montanas, and CAIs to avoid losing all of them to a Dust. On defense, I'd rather have 2 Golanis and 2 Hanzas than 4 of either one, since they each have useful abilities: Golani has her +4 FP bonus, while Hanza can block Gunship and Corporate Enforcer.
Thalmann seems to be as popular as ever, and I'm seeing a lot of double-bases even in Europe. Most of my opponents seem to rely on Contracts for infinite resources; I've seen no second-story bases, and few RGAs. Most of my decks have 2 Compromises, which has worked quite well in removing opponents' Contracts, often on the same turn that they're played.
Global and Local Interventions
ComForce Ops, War Crimes, and Disarm Talks seem to be pretty rare at the 1500-level; Freefall has yet to encounter one. (Does this mean that they usually raise their users to 1600+? sigh ...) The vast majority of decks I've seen at this level would be utterly destroyed by Disarmament Talks, since they rely primarily on big assets to inflict damage. (Ironically, I'd probably do much better against D Talks than these decks would, since I just don't have the big assets to rely on :-)
One way to handle War Crimes, Disarm Talks, ComForce Ops, Ascension, and Yakusa decks, and any other deck that relies on non-Direct Interventions, is to design a deck that requires 4 Diplomatic Compromise. Then the Compromises serve double-duty, so you can choose to use them to support your deck theme or to hose your opponent's, whichever is more useful at the moment.
Wormhole Shield and Sanitation Op are the two primary reasons you'd want to Compromise your own stuff. Off the top of my head, here's a sketch of a San Op/Compromise deck:
Carlos C12x could run Luddite Revenge in your HQ. Then wait for the opponent's Lancasters or Utopias to walk in, laugh maniacally, and San Op them all.
- Capt John Fernandez
- HazMat Team and/or Carlos C12x, maybe Hemo Filter for other big attackers (cheaper than NBC Armor)
- EMP Strike and/or Disruptor Symbiote (or Li)
- Booster, Pixie Afterburners, Lancer Rifle, etc.
- Mech defenders to stop beatdown
- Napalm Strike and San Op for mass removal
- Compromise to allow follow-up attackers
Anyways, I'll go hibernate for a few days while I incorporate some of these ponderings into my decks. Gotta handle Shackles and Worms, and then I think I'll be able to compete at this level.