Scorched Imaging

PeekaySK 7756

A further development of my Cerebral Imaging deck (which you can find in the "Derived From" section), this build got created to cover one of the weaknesses of the standard CI build - tag-me runners.

Huge props to Hollis, who was the first person I've seen do this (you can watch the original video here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sV23N0Da6z4). SEA+Scorch actually makes perfect sense in Cerebral Imaging, for all the synergies:

  • You're already running a ton of recursion, so recurring one Scorch to play it multiple times to chew through Carapaces requires no additional deckspace
  • You're already running ways to get more clicks (EffCom, Biotic), once again enabling multi-Scorch plays, even factoring in recursion!
  • You're usually sitting on a ton of money, making SEA Source very hard to play around

Of note is the fact that Shipments from SanSan managed to stay despite squeezing in all the TnB goodness, meaning that the classic avenue of scoring 7 points is still open to you, if it's more convenient to win that way.

Differences from the previous version

Vitruvius got changed into NAPD Contract, because it's excellent for making the runner more SEA-Sourcable. Especially in a situation where the runner is wary of your shenanigans, slapping down an unprotected NAPD contract basically creates a nasty dlemma for him.

Losing the Celebrity Gifts definitely hurts and it means you need to mostly use your Reclamation Orders for whatever Econ card you get three copies of first.

Hives are also sorely missed, although there's one somewhat suitable substitute - Heimdall 2.0. While 1.0 is essentially an overpriced Enigma, it's pretty common for Heimdall 2.0 to actually stick its brain damage, further enabling the Scorch play.

Ichi 2.0 is actually invaluable as a source of tags, as runners can't click through all three subroutines and they'll often let the third sub run, expecting the program trashes to be the bigger threat.

Random Notes From Tournament Play

I took this version to the Chronos in Vienna, where I proceeded to kill every single one of my opponents with it :D Three of the five kills were particularly notable:

  • First game, where I killed the runner after a game-breaking Escher that left him with free runs on my HQ, which would surely have lost me the game the next turn if I were playing a more traditional CI build
  • Third game, where I drew an opening hand of SEA + 2x Scorched, leading to a game taking all of 1 minute and 23 seconds
  • Fifth game, where I killed the runner through two Plascretes, thanks to Efficiency Committee and Reclamation Order on two Scorched Earths

(shame my runner deck sucked, so I came in fifth overall)

edit: I've done a write-up on various Cerebral Imaging variant over at http://stimhack.com/cerebral-imaging-the-evolution-of-an-identity/ , check it out if you're interested.

46 comments
29 Apr 2014 mplain

Well, your deck is sure different from mine. That ice is reeeally expensive, how are you going to out-seasource the runner after rezzing it? Also, how do you avoid first-turn Siphon with this ice?

And the agenda mix is weird, you now need to double-biotic TWO agendas before shipping a 5/3 for the win. Is naked scoring PAND really such a reliable move?

Also, are 5/3s really worth it? Seems to me, shipping two 3/2s after scoring the Committee is not much harder than a single 5/3, but it really hurts when the runner only needs to steal three agendas instead of four.

29 Apr 2014 AkAnderson

I like that this is different from Killer Hand, but I'd feel uncomfortable playing this because it seems too split between scoring and scorching. I'm also uneasy with how much ICE is clickable. But if it works then it works, congrats on the.5-0

29 Apr 2014 PeekaySK

In order:

Expensive ICE

Mostly, Reclaiming either Restructures or Hedge Funds did the trick. Also, I usually didn't rez the Heimdall until midgame and just have the runner have his early free accesses.

Ichi got rezzed mostly in situations where he'd be broken through with clicks, or when I had leisure money to do it with.

First-turn Siphon

Sure, the ICE is clickable... but if you do that, you're keeping the tags. This may or may not be a good idea. Often, an unrezzed piece of ICE on HQ is enough to dissuade a first-turn Siphon, unless we're talking a TestRun-Femme or something.

I will say one thing, though - compared to the Hive build, this version definitely requires more judicious mulliganing, as fewer opening hands are actually workable.

You now need to double-biotic TWO agendas before shipping a 5/3 for the win.

Actually, most of the time I'll just get a second EffCom with the first EffCom counters, then Reclaim the Shipments. Doing it that way even gives you a spare token if a surprise Source decides to show up.

(or just, you know, wait for them to run and then just kill them)

Also, are 5/3s really worth it?

It might just be personal preference, but I like 5/3s in here. More card slots for other stuff, easier to hold enough agenda points in hand to stop RnD-based wins, quicker agenda-based finish (it's one turn sooner, and the reclaiming can be done beforehand).

You need to either lose a Subliminal or a piece of ICE to go with all 2-pointers... that seemed like a big tradeoff to me.

29 Apr 2014 PeekaySK

I'd feel uncomfortable playing this because it seems too split between scoring and scorching.

I feel the same way about decks that go all-in on the scorching, due to how easy that is to stop with Decoy/NACH.

If you find the clickable nature of ICE a problem I'd probably try solving it by replacing Eli with Walls of Static, leaving the job of taxing mostly to Viktors and Ichis. Given how many Morning Stars I've seen lately, it might not even be a huge trade-off on the taxing front.

29 Apr 2014 Heartthrob

Interesting. The only way to really land a tag is through SEA Source. That's a major difference from Killer Hand, which has tagging ice that often lands tags over the course of the game.

I think all of these interations of the CI kill deck are deadly...

29 Apr 2014 PeekaySK

The only way to really land a tag is through SEA Source

Don't underestimate the power of Ichi 2.0 - he tags people more often than you'd believe. Sometimes people don't have a choice, and sometimes they make the incorrect choice.

This behavior is further encouraged precisely because of the lack of other tagging ICE. If I run someone and see a Hunter, I know you're packing tag punishment (why else would you run that particular piece of ICE). Seeing an Ichi 2.0 is way less indicative - people often run it for the trashes and because it's a pretty harshly taxing piece.

Yes, Killer Hand has plenty of tagging ICE that lands tags over the course of the game... but how many of them actually stick around to be used? :P

29 Apr 2014 Heartthrob

... but how many of them actually stick around to be used?

More than you think actually. I've noticed that after too long the runner is forced through the taggers (or they have to spend a ton to get through without tags). I know my Whizzard + NACH deck didn't survive because the minute I went on the attack I was in trouble...even after sitting on cash stacks! These decks are mean I'm telling you...the different flavors don't make them any less deadly ;)

29 Apr 2014 Heartthrob

But honestly...Gyri is an MVP in my build. It gets people in single scorch range all the time!

30 Apr 2014 skaterforsale

Just played this several times and man is it good! What I noticed is the added potential for Scorching multiple times with Reclamation. The runner would need to think outside of the box when it comes to a typical Scorch play once they've discovered that little surprise in this deck and even when they've put up a plascrete or two you can triple Scorch them with a scored Efficiency Committee. If that weren't bad enough the way this deck wins by points is crazy good as well!

30 Apr 2014 PeekaySK

@Heartthrob: Yeah, I noticed that, and it piqued my interest. Generally speaking, when do you rez it? At the first opportunity? Only when it leads to a kill?

@skaterforsale: Thanks! Yes, the Reclamation can definitely be used for multi-scorch plays, although you need both of them to show up for that. Otherwise, I just tend to reserve Archived Memories for that purpose (and resist the temptation to use AM on Restructures and such).

30 Apr 2014 Heartthrob

Usually an opportune moment will present itself. If they have plascrete and are keeping a full hand, wait for them to hit Gyri and get them in 2x scorch range. Brain damage helps this card as well (looking at you Stimhack!)

1 May 2014 mplain

it's a str 2 code gate, how can it work??

1 May 2014 AkAnderson

It's one of the meanest cards to facecheck and if you haven't rezzed Victor yet then the runner probably won't have a breaker

5 May 2014 M3th

This deck is a monster to play against, i hate you^^

5 May 2014 PeekaySK

@M3th: Thanks! :D

(there's actually a pretty straightforward counter, as anyone playing me at various Regionals with something like this will find out :P)

5 May 2014 lolpaca

Just wondering, why Cerebral Imaging? Is the extra hand size important and is having to float extra credits ever a pain, especially with all the pricey ice?

5 May 2014 lolpaca

Reading through some other comments on CI decks I just realised they are really dumb questions :p I've never played CI before, what if the worst happens and you get first-turn Siphoned? Isn't it really hard to come back from?

5 May 2014 PeekaySK

@lolpaca CI is actually the best fit amongst the HB identities for what I'm doing.

1) it's a kill deck, so you need to hoard the pieces until you're ready 2) the things you need to hold are often more than 5 cards total, which means that in other identities, you couldn't hold onto agendas the way you can with CI 3) you need to sit on a bunch of credits anyway, if you're gonna scorch (especially in multiples) 4) the pricy ICE is there for when you can make it connect (a well-rezzed Ichi can easily save you 15 credits on a SEA trace), or when you have luxury cash to spend

6 May 2014 lolpaca

Fair enough, I've just always been nervous of CI - seems like getting your credits wiped out seems like pretty much the worst thing that can happen to you. How do you deal with taxing/Blackguarding runners, etc?

6 May 2014 PeekaySK

It's true that getting your credits wiped is GG most of the time... then again, that's probably true of everyone but NBN, and you have a much higher buffer of disposable cash. The upsides definitely outweigh the downsides, in my opinion.

Taxing runners: the thing to learn with CI in general is correctly estimating the value of early accesses - you don't need to actually stop them, you just need to be taxing them enough so that they don't happen too often. Things like Keyhole, Imp and Medium (notice how those are all Anarch cards, btw - that's one of the reasons Noise is your worst matchup) change that a bit, of course, but they take time and money to set up, plus they're all programs - thus enabling Ichi as a counterplay.

Playing against Blackguard is actually pretty simple - just don't install any ICE before you want to rez it. CI actually has less of a problem with this sort of counterplay than other corp identities, because you can afford to hold onto all that ICE without losing the ability to hold other cards!

Of course, it's entirely possible you over-install before that Blackguard hits the table, putting you in a bad spot. Then, there are two lessons to be learned here:

  • learn to spot a Blackguard deck from the composition of other cards and/or the way they're sacrificing aggression in order to scrape the Blackguard + Snitch money together
  • most of your clicks as CI should be spent drawing cards and gaining credits, only installing the bare minimum of ICE you need to actually get by

Oh, and I missed this earlier question:

I've never played CI before, what if the worst happens and you get first-turn Siphoned? Isn't it really hard to come back from?

It's not that bad, actually - turn 1, you probably won't have that many cards in hand yet. The worst thing about losing your money in CI is all the goodies you have to discard, and there's not too much of that going on turn 1. Still, turn 1 needs to have an ICE on HQ no matter what - doesn't matter if it's a piece you don't want to rez (like, Ichi 2.0), it just needs to be lying there, face-down. That alone makes several plays for the runner less appealing.

Still, if you're CI, you're always trying to end the turn at {number of cards in hand + cost of all unrezzed ICE + 5} credits, minimum. This is the state you're trying to get to ASAP and stay there for the whole game, as it gives you a comfortable buffer for when things start going wrong :D

6 May 2014 lolpaca

Really helpful, thanks for taking the time to explain :)

6 May 2014 datadouble

Thanks for taking the time to write about CI here and at Stimhack, I found both to be very informative.

My biggest issue with this version is the rez cost of ICE. All of the previous CIs I am aware of (your earlier versions, CrimsonWraith's builds, and the Killer Hand) play cheaper ICE that can be rezzed early game without dumping the hand. Unless I'm missing something, you're looking for Eli & Rototurret in the opening hand (four cards total), or you use Viktor/Ichi 1.0 and use the next turn to get credits back.

You've mentioned that early accesses do not matter as much against CI, and I agree with that. However, with this ICE suite it feels like the early access window for the runner is quite large. Could you tell a little more about the early game plan? Does it require aggressive mulliganing for an opening with Blue Level/Hedge Fund as well as a playable piece of ICE?

6 May 2014 PeekaySK

Good questions! Let's get on it, then :)

This version definitely requires more judicious mulliganing than the previous ones, that's true. Generally speaking, you're mulling for an economy card that isn't Restructure. Anything else is fine, really. BLC is especially neat, as it gives you both money and a follow-up - you usually draw either ICE or another econ card.

Onto ICE - Eli or Viktor is ideal, as far as opening ICE goes. Any piece will do though, even Ichi 2 or Heimdall. What I'm actually aiming for is:

  • having a piece to install in front of HQ
  • not rezzing it in the runner's first turn

Only relatively few situations require you to actually rez the ICE, when you think about it. Leaking a few points sucks, but it's not like you actually need the agenda in hand at this point, it's just sucking up hand space. Depending on what precisely you have in hand, maybe you don't even want to rez vs. a Nerve Agent.

The reason I'm playing the bigger ICE is precisely that - most people don't expect you to be rezzing big pieces, as you don't want to lose your hand. Then, in the rush to "keep the pressure on", they are quite willing to faceplant themselves into a game-deciding large piece like Ichi 2 or Heimdall.

Of course, if the game won't progress past your discard step ('cause the runner will be toast), it suddenly matters a whole lot less, doesn't it? This is the reasoning behind Heimdall 2.0 in particular - you mostly just rez him if he connects (or bankrupts the runner), and 2 braindamage basically save you 2 actions, 3 credits and a recursion card, if you want to kill the runner. That's totally worth 11 credits in my book. Hell, I might even be willing to ditch my hand to rez him turn 3, if that means sticking those 2 BD (not against Crim though, because of Inside Job + Emergency Shutdown :) ).

If you're uncomfortable with the current ICE setup (it does require a particular playstyle to make it work well, I'll give you that :) ), swap one Heimdall and one Eli for two Walls of Static. This will also give you a bit more Siphon resilience, at the cost of being less taxing.

Early access window: It might be a bit larger, and it might not. The need to play around getting Scorched actually serves as a pretty big tempo hit, especially once you realize you can't really go tag-me just because you have one carapace out. There's a lot of workable hands you can get (like, a handful of NAPD contracts is totally fine - let the runner steal them, he'll go bankrupt and you can either set up or kill him at your own leisure), and how exactly to approach the early game depends on the particular runner as well.

6 May 2014 datadouble

Thanks for the detailed answers. I follow and agree with your reasoning on all of it. As you've said, making the big ICE work might just be an issue of adjusting my playstyle.

I think I have a heavy Criminal bias when evaluating the early game plays of my corp decks, as most of my (painfully) memorable moments of I-think-I-lost-this-one come from being hit by the various Criminal events in the first three turns. It makes perfect sense to me when you say your aim is to have the ice on HQ turn one but to not rez it, and it actually eases a lot of those worries. I'll definitely test out the cheaper ICE version with you've listed as well.

6 May 2014 wswan

I'm into this. It's totally different and nothing I would ever use or think of. It's interesting. Good job!

7 May 2014 echorust

Oh man. Had so much fun with this deck last night. Thanks very much, Peekay!

8 May 2014 Elronhir

Last 3 plays 100% victory. One by advancing agenda, the other 2 by flatline.

9 May 2014 yornheeim

@PeekaySK can i use this deck and commentary to my resource in my language as example of deck-building?

9 May 2014 PeekaySK

@yornheeim Sure, I'd be honored! If there's any way I can help, just let me know :)

10 May 2014 galonso

Excellent deck. Used it this weekend successfully. Thank you!

11 May 2014 frost-duty

Took this deck to the london regionals. Went 6-0 with it. This deck is a monstrosity!

11 May 2014 frost-duty

Took this deck to the london regionals. Went 6-0 with it. This deck is a monstrosity!

11 May 2014 frost-duty

Took this deck to the london regionals. Went 6-0 with it. This deck is a monstrosity!

12 May 2014 PeekaySK

Thanks!

(so, does that mean you went 18-0? :P)

13 May 2014 frost-duty

Apparently so! Who knew..

14 May 2014 skaterforsale

What do you think about Fast Track in this deck @PeekaySK?

15 May 2014 PeekaySK

@skaterforsale I wouldn't put it in. By the time you're ready to score, you have more than enough agendas in hand. Not drawing any Efficiency Committees would be the problem you're trying to solve with Fast Track, but you're already drawing a lot naturally and/or with Blue Level Clearance.

Also to keep in mind - to fit it in, you'd have to drop either a piece of ICE, or an Economy operation. Both are already pretty much strained to the breaking point in this particular variant of CI.

15 May 2014 galonso

Peekay can you post any changes you've made to the original list? I think one is Wall of Static instead of the second Heimdall. Any others? Thank you!

15 May 2014 PeekaySK

@galonso: Sure thing - so far, the only changes are -1 Eli, -1 Heimdall 2.0, +2 Wall of Static. I've done that to increase early Siphon resilience a bit - you don't always get to draw the Scorched(s) soon enough for that not to matter :)

23 Jul 2014 rath

Any chance I could bother you for an update on your thoughts of the list in the current meta?

23 Jul 2014 PeekaySK

@rath Sure :)

The biggest game-changer since I actively played this deck is Legwork - suddenly, you can't really risk letting them into HQ once because that could very well mean 3-4 points snatched. If they're running SoT or multiple legworks, you can easily lose in 2 runs, if they're reasonably lucky. For this reason, I feel like CI needs either harder ETRs, or possibly a more scary flatline threat. (I wonder if Snares and possibly Shi-Kyus would work here).

Other than that, I don't feel like all that much has changed on the runner side - maybe the one other thing that bears mentioning is the resurgence of Anarch. Noise in particular tends to be a bad matchup, because a CI deck that isn't handed a stupid flatline win by runner mistakes tends to cut it pretty close, RnD-wise (I've often had tournament games end with less than five cards in RnD). In these situations, random Noise mills can accelerate the game beyond what you can manage, and DLR actually becomes reasonable too.

27 Jul 2014 rath

Thank you for your thoughts sir.

19 Aug 2014 Xealo

Did you update the decks since Upstalk and Spaces Between?

14 Oct 2015 herr.Connoisseur

Does it matter if your opponent plays Sweeps Week? With that amount of cards in your hand, it makes it easier for the running to go through your taxing ice.

16 Oct 2015 Nerdfighter

@markkhei Sweeps Week is a corp card. Runners don't play it.

16 Oct 2015 herr.Connoisseur

@Nerdfighter Oh my, that's so dumb of me. But thanks for asking. LOL.