Hosing the 3 Dominant Decks
by Eric Wang / Gilmoy Faffle, Vaticos / Gilmoy Freefall
Editors note: The currently dominant decktypes are The Big Mil (Utopia), DT speed (2-for-1) and the TribRad (Mauler+Gunship). Gilmoy describes ways of hosing these deck using mostly Uncommon and Common cards.
The real challenge is to hose all 3 of these decks using mostly C/U. (Anything else, and you're basically saying "All newbies are doomed to lose to the Power 3", which I refuse to accept.) Some preliminary analysis ...
All 3 dominant decks rely on Interventions: Arms Export Contract, Disarm Talks, or Trib. So you can hose all 3 with 4 Diplomatic Compromise. Then you're kind of hosed yourself if you run up against Failsafe or some other deck that doesn't rely on Interventions ... but it might be worth drawing dead weight once against Failsafe if it gives you a fighting chance against the 10 Big Mil/Trib/DT decks you'll face in the meanwhile.
2. Infinite Defense.
Two of these decks beat on you with big guns: Gunship, Commander, Mauler, ComForce Armored Infantry. And you can't forget about Thalmann speed with Anceph Warriors. In addition, the Utopia flavor of Big Mil can add ComForce Ops to get FP-20 Harness Bulls, while Lancasters get those FP-13+ Infantries. Bottom line is, you need some way to absorb infinite damage without losing assets, or the dominant decks are going to get card advantage by killing your C/U defenders faster than you can kill their huge power-R attackers. That means Bions, or Blast Coffin, and/or Rejuvenation Tanks. Infinite generators such as UN Recruiting Center, Aaron Kofler, and Antonio Fuego can work, too. Hasaku Factory I don't like so much, because one Napalm kills all the PAs. Von Neumann Demon has a similar problem, so keep a couple of them in different cities so that they'll survive any mass-effect card and resurrect the others.
Blinder Cannons work too, but remember that Big Mil generally has at least 2 Napalms ... which kills Blinders and Bion Pod dead. Having one or two is nice when you're up against the other 2 dominant decks, but don't put all your faith in them. Bion Guardian is Old Faithful ... no matter how fancy the other Bions get, in the end, Guardian is the one you can rely on the most.
If you have Khan, he can pretty much shut down all 3 ecks, since none of Gunship, Utopia, big Lancasters, Mauler, or the 2-for-1s have S-3 ... and if your opponent kills you with Lancaster ICs, you deserve it. Obviously, Khan becomes target #1 ... Napalm kills him (double Napalm if he's in a Siege Bunker), Trib imprisons him ... and see #3.
3. Tap Defense.
Most of the dominant decks include a defense-tapping card as their kill combo. Big Mil and Trib generally use the big assets, so they can Concussion Grenade Strike (CGS) your Bions into submission. Trib/Mech can San Op you, and anybody can use Security Precautions. So you want a mix of assets who can stand up to the tapping ... UN mechs with A-7+ are good because they resist nearly everything. Security Checkpoint might not have the awesome stats or other "hot" properties, but it's pretty darn reliable as a defender. Mawson Commander walks past it ... but Mawsons just aren't sexy these days, so you're pretty safe.
4. Asset Removal.
Martyr/Rejuv. 'Nuff said.
SORO-19 is the single best defender against all 3 dominant deck types ... he's immune to War Crimes, Disarm Talks, San Op, Concussion Grenade, and Security Precautions, has AT, and can beat off a lot of 2-for-1s. But that's exactly why he's an above-average Rare. And he's not great against beatdown by himself.
Other than SORO, Checkpoint, and Tactical Command Bunker, you're pretty much reduced to picking defenders who are immune to at most two of the 3 dominant decks' themes. Here are a few canonical examples ... you can find more just by sorting your collection.
Immune to Mil & Trib: A-7+ Mechs with decent hit points. Nothing is immune to 4 Napalms, but hopefully resisting 2 of them will buy you enough time to launch your own attack. Dresdner Bot, Pillbox, Tinker Bot + 1 fodder, Raven, Foenom. Note that AP Mine doesn't qualify, since Napalm kills it.
Immune to Mil & Disarm Talks: FP-4-, A-7+ assets. Dragon Company Fireteam, Grom Zealot. Both of these assets have useful abilities that you can build around. Their drawback is their high cost ... if you get stuck with a couple of them in hand against the 2-for-1 swarm, you'll probably be dead before they do you any good.
Immune to Trib & Disarm: FP-4- Mechs. There's a real sleeper here: Elemental Drone. It's cheap enough to out-speed the 2-for-1s, yet big enough at 6-4-4 to beat them to death. Like Vines, it repairs itself if you can juggle your blocking assignments every couple of turns. Furthermore, it comes with built-in flexibility: if you see you're up against Big Mil, then one big guy could do you more good than 2 average ones, so you can combine 2 Elemental Drones and get an Elemental Warrior, which gives you the FP to go toe-to-toe with Gunships and the A-8 to shrug off Concussion Grenades. Best of all, Elementals cannot be Shackled or Bolted, since they can't receive Gear.
Finally, DX Sentry is one of the best defenders in today's environment, even though he's hosed by all 3 dominant decks ... FP-5, A-6, and organic is just about the worst of all possible worlds :-) But he survives 2 Napalms, San Op, Nuke, Prometheus + Orbital Cannon Strike, Oyabun, and the rare Tear Gas combo, and your opponent can't Worm, Shackle, Restrain, Banzai, or assassinate him.
Having digested all that, now you have to think about an offense that'll beat these decks. If you're stuck with mostly C/U cards, you can still put together a nasty gimmick tap-kill combo. Consider cards such as Brain Candy + EMP Strike, False Alarm + Sabotage, Napalm + Raul Grange + UN Command Orders (and just pay to tap any Dresdner Security Bots), and so on. Lancer Rifle is the great equalizer, allowing even Zapp to hit for damage that Gunships can only dream of. One of the keys to any 1-turn kill combo is being able to attack twice, which means Warrior Hunome, Codeslinger, or a programmer with Insomnia. Then load one guy up to FP-13 and tap out the defense. Alternatively, lurk next door with Utopias, then have them rush in and pump up.
The other great non-power-C/U deck is Program Burn. Even without its namesake Crash & Burn, which is a decent Rare these days, you can pretty easily acquire enough direct damage cards to kill most HQs except Armored and Military. With a full set of 4 Lohwan's Acid Rain, 4 Corrosive Mites, and 4 Deconstruction, you'll have enough for 56 total damage, without even considering any of the "decent" 7th Air Cavalry Strike or Semtex Lunchbox you might get. Use Public Database Access, Shiden Tech, Tantric Crusader, and Gaean Scribe to pull these programs to your hand quickly. This deck can win without having to attack even once, so every defender your opponent draws is a wasted card. Also, it destroys DHQ and Hive decks, and sweeps the board free of annoying enemy Bases such as Prison Camp, Womb Array, Cult of the Purification, ComForce Barracks, defensive Nukes, Construction Yard, and so on. Its vulnerability is its annoying tendency to saddle you with many programs early on. Save one of your Compromises to remove Emergency Core Restrictions, include Voodoos to remove Guard Dog, and preferably have some way to hose enemy UN Corp of Engineers.
One deck idea that I think could do quite well against all 3 dominant decks is Big Cyber, with a minor in Covert and a smattering of Mil. You'll have Bions for defense, Martyrs for removal, Checkpoint, Zealot, and Warrior Hunome to survive CGS, and you can pull and run the good defensive daemons like Closed Border and Luddite Revenge. For offense, you can wait for the Monastery unblockability combo (Mark or Tomb + Disruptor or EMP Strike), then win with Hunome + Pixie or Zealot + Lancer. Alternatively, use Grom Scribes and just Shock everything to death. Use your Mil to pick up some AT help, and of course save some Covert to Compromise Tribs. Then you can pretty much go toe-to-toe with anything else. Big Mil's Napalms will still hurt, and you're vulnerable to Precautions ... but you have direct damage and some nasty defense-tapping programs of your own. If you have the "average" Ascendant Master, you can eventually undo any amount of Monastery asset losses, which frees your Martyrs to go on seek-and-destroy missions ... perfect for eliminating those SLAM Launchers.
Finally, I would be remiss without mentioning at least once that you could just play suicide speed and try to beat all of these decks to the punch. But that tends towards the Thalmann America speed-rare deck ... and if you have those cards, you probably don't need me to kibbitz.