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A.P.P.A. Lecture Series

Why speed decks are not good in america
by Neuromage A.P.P.A.

1. Introduction

First of all, let me start by saying that while there are a core group of top players within the game of ChronX (about 20 of them), I am not one of them. Instead, I belong to the second-layer of players, which means that I can give the guys in the first rank a real headache in my specialty area, but I am not as well rounded as the top layer.
Also, when I say top players, I certainly don't mean top rankers. The ChronX ranking system has encouraged a whole top rank of sandbaggers (those who refuse to play so that they can retain their ranks), so at least half the top players will not even be in the top 50. More on this later.
This lecture is not about combos, or what cards to play, or what deck is the most effective. This lecture is about helping you build a deck that nobody has seen before. It'll bring you back to the basics, and will make you look at them in a different light. Its about thinking about the game from a holistic point of view, rather than copying the best decks to play.
While this lecture won't make you instant experts, you should be able to understand how the top 100 players operate.

2. There is no such thing as a speed deck

Playing a speed deck in the USA would seem to be a no-brainer. Or is it?

If you look at the game closely, you will realise that there is no such thing as a speed deck. Each deck has two characteristics: its speed and its edge. Speed is the number of turns you'll expect to make a kill (fast = <10, slow = 35+) while the edge is the advantage you gain by combining certain cards.

Still don't believe me? Check this out:

Fast Deck                              Edge
1) Thalman "Brute Force" deck          High Firepower
2) Armoured-Syn Channel	               Fast Detection high Firepower
3) Yakusa                              Fast Draw - sabotage
4) Cyber HQ-codeslinger-deconstruct    Fast Draw - unblockable

Each of these decks has a different edge, but they still have the same basic characteristic - they are fast. 1 & 2 are faster but they can be easily messed up by a lucky bion drone at the enemy HQ. The others are a little slower but use attacks that are harder to block (Yak decks bring out sabotage faster than Thalman decks).

Keep this important fact in mind when you are designing decks. Compare "fast" against "Slow"; a slow deck has an big advantage over a fast deck and vice versa. The winning factor is how well the two deck's edges work against one another. For example, Birdwatcher and I both have slow decks in the USA that eat Thalman decks for breakfast. My deck is 34-1 against speed decks, and the 1 very close loss was to Firehound after a no-base first hand.
Do not be fooled by what the crowds say about "this" is the best deck in "this map". This brings us into the next section, which is

3. Chron X Psychology

When the crowds say "this" is the best deck in "this map". You can expect the following:
  • Raw Newbies will 50% play "this" deck, and 50% play a deck that has no real edges.
  • Newbies will almost 90% of the time play "this" deck
  • Average players will time play "this" deck 50% of the time
  • Good players will seldom play "this" deck (25%); but the versions they play will be refined and may contain surprises
  • Top players will almost never play "this" deck. If they do, you can expect that this is an ultra-tuned deck.

Remember that the way to winning any match is to get into the enemy's head before the game even starts. Before you play a guy in a tourney, look at his stats. Look at his batting average, rank and rating. He will usually fall into 3 categories:

  • If he looks like a raw newbie, then play your most competent deck for the map.
  • If he is about newbie to average then you want to consider playing a counter deck.
  • Playing good player is a bit of a fine art. By the time you play them on a regular basis, you will know most of them by name, and their personalities. Some are speed demons, some enjoy a good one kill combo.
  • The top players are usually capable of throwing anything imaginable at you. Playing one of them is a little like Russian roulette.
These are obviously generalisations, and are used as a guideline only.

Another way to learn about the other player is to listen to him/her talk. Is s/he arrogant? Very secretive? Or helpful?
Does he know what he is talking about? Or is he just bragging? A dead give-away is a bragger who shows his ignorance through a slip up. However, do note that some braggers are truly very good. The usual strategy for a bragger here is to let him get overconfident when you are playing. He might be less careful, and that is when you exploit his weakness.
If the other guy is very excited, consider playing a slow deck... this usually adds pressure on this side as his adrenaline runs out.

Here's a tip for tourney playing. As Dodger will tell you, I seldom play with less than 3 decks in my arsenal when I enter a tournament, this way I can tailor my style on the fly:
  • Competent Deck - I use this low risk deck to dispatch newbies-average
  • Power Deck - a higher risk deck that is used against good players
  • Draw Deck - A low risk deck that is designed to end in a draw... for use against the elite or when a draw will ensure that I get into finals.
Remember, win or loose, tag the person with details like skill and preferred deck. Military Intelligence never hurts.

4. Deck Lifecycles, and how to exploit them

This is where I talk about the difference between the top 'elite' players and the rest of us. The top players in ChronX are the ones who have developed a combo or two. The elite among these players are the one who are able to come out with a totally new deck that rocks the socks off everything that is out there. For example, the Radiation-UN War Crimes Deck or Tim's Torchslinger deck. Or the infamous Miroku Fat Deck. When these came out, they creamed everyone in the field and their designer climbed the ranks real fast.

The deck then goes through seven stages described by Ian Schreider (Another elite):

  • Infancy. An idea is born. One imaginative player starts to go through a list of cards, and builds a deck in an attempt to make that card useful in some way that hadn't been thought of before.
  • Early Childhood. The deck has been assembled and tried it out in Skill Test a few times; the deck out-performs all expectations and starts to really get good.
  • Adolescence. The deck now starts to head out into the vicious world-at-large for the first time, and is played in ranked games. It continues to crush opponent after opponent. It may start to mature as its originator, now realizing its true power, puts more effort into fine-tuning.
  • Early Adulthood. This is where the deck is in its prime, and it tends to start multiplying. News spreads of this deck type, and more and more players start to build similar decks in an effort to boost their wins.
  • Middle Age. As popularity spreads, the race to find a way to beat the dominant deck is well under way. The limitations of the deck start to show more clearly now, as more players study it in an attempt to find weaknesses. Often, a new deck type is created around this point whose main function is to take out the dominant deck. The existence of this new deck causes an initial decline in the dominant deck.
  • Old Age. As word of the nemesis decks spread, they begin to multiply as well, thus reducing the power of the once-dominant deck even further.
  • Death. Since the limitations of the dominant deck are well-known by this point and it's been weakened to the point where it's not particularly powerful any more, it falls out of use and effectively "dies." Since the nemesis deck was mainly created to stop this deck, it too tends to fall out of circulation.

Ian has missed out one more stage; and that's resurrection. Sometimes a new card set can bring a new life to a deck, and you must be on the lookout for that as well.

How does this affect you? Well in 3 main ways.
  • One, you now know that the most impressive way to gain rank and fame is to make a new killer deck. So go back and look real hard at your cards.
  • Two, if you spot a dominant deck coming, do three things:
    • play it for all you're worth for during Early Adulthood but develop you nemesis deck.
    • when Middle age is here, whip out your nemesis deck.
    • Get out fast before the deck dies.

If you follow these rules, you will find that you will receive a big edge over the average player, who will blindly follow the dominant deck type.

5. A Short Summary

OK. We have now looked at the 'soft' ways of ChronX strategy like deck life cycles and psychology. That basically sets up the stage for the next part, which is the Hard Stuff.... Deck edges and how to win.

To demonstrate this, here's my infamous USA deck (which I, following my own advice, have retired). Note that its a pre-Ascension deck.

  • Bion Cell Drone
  • Bion Guardian
  • Dresdner Bot
  • Crows Nest
  • Pill Box
  • Tantric Crusader
  • Sprawl Thief
  • Nuke
  • Mauler
  • UN War Crimes Trib
  • Conk Grenade
  • Peace Conference
  • E Domain
  • Wiretap
  • Salvage Team

You get the idea... the deck is full of mechs... you bring out the defensive mechs and run Wiretap. Meanwhile play UN Trib to thin out the enemy. Then destroy the enemy's bases with the maulers (the thieves are for shackle defense). Then nuke-conk-peace treaty the enemy and then blast away with the maulers.

6. Some basic Edge focuses

When you are building your new 'edge' decks, here are some things you should be looking out for:

  • Card advantage (Hasaku Facotry, bion cell drone, which BTW, was designed by Titanium Manticore APPA)
  • Speed Advantage (fast deploy)
  • Numerical advantage (Swarm decks, notably nonames)
  • One turn Kills (Torchslinger deck)
  • unblockable attacks (Direct Damage, Enforcer, sabotage)
  • Fast Draw decks (Yakusa, Missile Cache)
  • Removal of enemy assets (Worms, nukes)
  • resource production (use massive amounts of resource to kill the opponent)
  • resource denial (base killing, Core anti)
  • Endurance decks (make yourself last longer than the enemy Ascendant Master deck )
  • Detection decks
  • HQ edges (hidden, armoured etc)
Please note that some of these can be used defensively as well , e.g. numerical advantage (Hakasu factory-wiretap) or unblockable attack (i.e. impenetrable defense).

If you look at my Rad-UNWC deck, there is Card advantage(numerical), Numerical advantage (defensive), fast draw, unblockable attacks, resource denial and Endurance built into the deck.

So take another look at your cards, comparing what is in your deck with this list... is there a new fat deck in the making somewhere there?

7. Advanced Resource Management (ARM)

I will illustrate ARM using a standard 'Thalman' America deck.

I go about this using a "resource usage "model. I figure that you get to attack about twice with any one asset in a USA speed deck and will probably not move much. The cost for each asset is then equal to= deploy cost plus cost for 2 attacks. Enhancement/Intervention cost is the cost on the card. Remember to track military/covert/cyber resources separately.

Add up all the resource costs for every card in the deck (excluding bases and no cost cards). You should be able to see the proportion of military/covert/ cyber resource use. You should then divide the base types according to the proportions there, based on the number of resources they produce PER TURN.

Warning! Thalmans, Tinker bases, NSA and Ops Centre should count as 6 or 2 resources as the deck is speed based...the total assets produced is not important. If you want to modify this calculation technique for a slow deck, then the reverse is true.

Thalmans should be included as well as a 'base'. I realise that some people don't like to include the Thalmans... but this is psychological rather than fact-based. What it means is that you probably favour a 37%-42% base ratio rather than you like "33% bases with 4 thalmans added". The importance of this comes when you decide on your bases for a Highlander or "two of a kind" tourney--- not adding extra bases to compensate for the thalmans there could get you killed.

As for how many % of a deck should be bases... its a matter of tuning, based on the cards in the deck. Too many assets and you will run out of resources, too few and you will be flooded with resources but no assets. I suggest playing the trainer at least 20 times to tune this. As always it depends on how you "feel" and your style of play; modify it around the 33.3% benchmark.

The reason for such a complex calculation is simply this: you will be able to get a better hold on how your resources are used. This will lead to a more efficient and effective use of resources and a better game.

8. Conclusion: Three Golden Rules

  1. Know your cards back to front!!
  2. There is no substitute for experience... expect to play 500-600 games before everything I said starts to make sense
  3. Never be afraid to experiment!!


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Last updated on 01/14/2008 by Crash.
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Chron X artwork © 2008 Darkened Sky, Inc.