RIDE or DI(v)E 🛵 - 4th, 16th @ UK Nats 2023

CobraBubbles 466

Tell me would you RIDE?

I would!
I would!
I would!

And tell me would you DI(v)E?

I would!

I would!

I WOULD!


🛵

It's 10am on the Thursday before UK Nationals, and I have already walked 5 miles back and forth across town this morning because I left my glasses at my boyfriend's house and need them to at least pretend to do a day's work from home before travelling. That day gets cut short because I hear that the train cursor and I are booked onto is cancelled, and we have to scramble to make the best available alternative, which requires arriving at the station an hour earlier.

Under different circumstances, this would be a Very Stressful Day. But as cursor and I reminisce about old times on the slow train to Sheffield, the stress runs off me like water off the proverbial pato's posterior. I feel excellent, for two reasons:

  • Boyfriend dyed my hair pink the previous evening and it looks cute as HECK
  • I'm about to spend the weekend doing my favourite thing to do in the world: playing competitive card games for a chance at glory

That feeling has stayed with me through to this moment, and I expect it will carry me forward for weeks to come. This weekend was one of true joy, of catharsis, thrill, fulfilment and laughter. I can't come close to sharing all the moments that made it so special to me, so instead I direct you to my dear friend and collaborator not_yeti's excellent write up, which had me tearing up during my shift at the library yesterday.

Shoutouts of course to yeti and to all the rest of EA Sports 🏅 and the Norwich meta: KamiKami, Alex A, cursor, Fridan, clickonerun, Tanzzen, Brindelmold, Marcin, Kikai, Ollie, Countzer0, Bart & Havvy. It's a pleasure to be in community with you all. Overall EA's first real tournament outing was a stunning success, with 5 players finishing in the top 21 and Alex just missing out on top 32 (at his first major tournament!) in 33rd place. We're in the game.

EA Sports team photo


Alrighty, with sentimentalities duly indulged in, let's fire up these Wheels and get to discussing this totally based Runner deck. Ride with me.

🛵

This is my version of the Lat deck that EA Sports developed in response to the Corp meta we anticipated post-Worlds. This exact list was piloted by myself to 16th place and by Ollie to 4th, but due to the quirks of DSS its overall record was actually only 9-8. Nonetheless, it felt like we had the best runner deck in the room on day 1 into a field largely made up of NBN tempo. That feeling was backed up by Lat's incredible 66% conversion rate into the cut - 4 of the 6 Lat in the field made it, including fellow EA Sportsperson Kikai's slightly different Hermes build, and AceEmpress' very cool PrePaid list.

The variety on the Corp side of the game at the moment is very exciting, but it's also a big challenge if you're trying to build a tournament-worthy Runner, as others have recently observed. The train of thought that led me to look to Lat for an answer to this challenge went roughly like this:

  1. It's usually better to play a generalist Runner than a specialist one into a diverse Corp field, so that you can develop and adapt gameplans for very different matchups.
  2. Many of the best Corps at the moment can threaten to win the game very quickly, so we need a proactive way to win the game on our terms in a timely fashion.
  3. Recognising this pressure on Runners to be proactive, many of the best players at Worlds developed Corp strategies that punish run-based value engines, either by covering all centrals with massive ice or by threatening to punish a misplaced run with a swift death - or both.

Our answers to these concerns are as follows:

  1. Lat's card draw provides generic value that is good in every matchup, and does so without needing to run, unlike the more prevalent generic value runners Sable and Hoshiko.
  2. Deep Dive is a very compelling proactive win condition, and a couple of Deep Dive Shaper decks had put up impressive results at Worlds despite the top competitive players disregarding them.
  3. With Lat's ability to have 6 cards on the Corp's turn, in combination with Stoneship Chart Room and/or Aniccam, we can tank 6-7 damage in a turn pretty trivially. This lines up nicely against the kill strategies that performed best at worlds, which are pretty focused on dealing exactly 6 damage and struggle to deal more. In addition, as Shaper we get to play the dreaded Turbine doom rig, with access to searchable Hush, so we can make pretty much every ice suite irrelevant given a little set up time.

After Kikai, Fridan and I tested initial prototypes at the Cambridge CO, I felt that this theory was being borne out well enough in the games that Lat was worth iterating on. A week and a half later we had binned Aniccam, tweaked the econ in several directions, discovered that Compile was low-key kinda sick, and argued a lot about whether Pichação was worth the slot. With a few days to go to Nats I was pretty much locked on my 45 and feeling confident in it, a feeling that was reinforced when Ollie picked it up and found it to be very effective despite initial trepidation. Overall I think this is the best Runner deck I've ever been involved in building (ok yes there is one notable exception but that's not in Standard) and I am very proud of what our process and collaboration produced in such a short time frame.

🛵

Cards of note

Wheels - Your friend and mine, Hannah "Wheels" Pilintra is so sick right now. We joked several times across the weekend that she is Shaper's best card and that really this is a Wheels deck above all else. Makes the asset matchups not only viable but often favoured (especially in combination with Paricia), lets us clear Oppo tags on-tempo, enables Deep Dive, soft-counters Corp click-taxing e.g. SkunkVoid/Ikawah/B-1001, clears Spin Doctors trivially - she does so damn much. I am genuinely considering trying to find the inf for the 3rd copy going forward.

Stoneship - We identified pretty early that 3 Stoneship was optimal. It's a 0-cost install that invalidates some Corp strategies, especially in multiples, and it cantrips in every other matchup. It's a bit of a shame that we don't have any worthwhile targets for the charge ability (Kikai played 1 Environmental Testing but I wasn't convinced that was worthwhile), but hey ho, we'll just have to make do with it being a free wincon that also draws cards.

Pantograph - When we moved away from Aniccam I didn't have high hopes for Pants, but it seemed better than the other MU solutions available. Testing quickly showed that it actually pulled a lot of weight in the deck, saving you sorely-taxed clicks against the faster scoring decks, allowing for surprise click-gaining shenanigans with Wheels, Pichação and DJ Sable, and best of all soft-countering Amani Senai. Twice during swiss I had a loaded Fermenter bounced by Amani after a Cryptocrash score, then used the Pants trigger and credit to immediately reinstall it and tick it back to 2 counters on my turn for a quick economic recovery. There's a case to be made for the 3rd copy.

Pichação - As the deck grew more refined and slots grew tighter, several of my teammates looked at cutting this, but I fought hard to keep it in. As a searchable program it's our most consistent way to enable Deep Dive, and moreover lets us Dive without having to pop Wheels in the matchups where she is needed for other things. It can also play a useful role when repeatedly challenging remotes, keeping on top of R&D, or using DJ Steve at max efficiency. In a couple of games in swiss my Dive ambitions were being foiled by NBN players leaving centrals uniced, but that prompted me to realise that Picha can still net us clicks for Dive if we put it on remote ice and use Wheels' first ability to run through that ice. Didn't end up doing it in the end, but it might be the sickest skateboard trick in the deck's arsenal.

Compile - This is probably my favourite card in the deck. Yes, it's kind of a pet card, and yes, you might not notice its absence if you cut it, but I promise it's actually good and by the end my teammates all agreed. Its main purpose is to act as a 4th SMC to help us set up the rig faster, combining with either Simulchip or SMC + an excess of cash to get a breaker right when you need it and keep it for later. It can also act as Inside-Job-at-home in a pinch, fetch Picha during a run on the Deep Dive turn, surprise Hush a problematic ice (notably it triggers before on-encounter abilities of the ice you hit), recur a breaker lost to rigshooting or damage, or just alchemise some Simulchip fodder out of nothing if you really need it. It can sit in hand for a while, but you should be looking for opportunities to maximise it down the line - it can create big swings with the right planning.

DJ Fenris - Yes, Steve is still the default option, but this deck actually has the widest variety of valid uses for other DJ targets of any deck I've played. At Nats I used Loup and Sable as well as Steve, and Quetzal can also be very relevant against Sandstone, Hagen or Bran. Steve also has some interesting applications here, such as letting you pop Wheels 3 times in a game, recurring Stoneships to stay alive against PE, or enabling Deep Dive through damage.

🛵

Useful Learnings

You could probably play this deck without prep and win games - after all, we did build it to be a reg Runner of sorts. But to really get the most out of it you have to be constantly focusing on several things at once and planning a couple turns ahead. It's not easy to play right, but it's a very rewarding deck to learn. I certainly haven't mastered it! But I think it plays to my strengths and I learned a great deal both in testing and the tournament, so I have a few pointers to get you started.

The plan - At heart this is a control deck. My default gameplan is to find 2-4 points through normal play first and then set up for an unstoppable Dive to close the game. The exact steps to get there differ wildly from matchup to matchup (more on that below), but you should always be thinking about where you're going to find your first points and what you need to set up to make the Dive happen. Often the Dive lands on the turn before the Corp was planning to win, and the Corp might feel like you stole the victory out from under them, but in fact it was probably the culmination of a few turns' worth of careful planning. It's an incredible feeling when you get it right.

Optimising Lat - I won't go into all the intricacies of maximising Lat triggers here - if you want a masterclass, I recommend rewatching Sokka's 2022 APAC run. However, during testing for this tournament I did learn something new that helped me out a lot: to pay attention to how you use the 'spare' clicks that Lat gives you. Some turns you have a click unaccounted for. With any other Runner you would use these to draw, but doing so with Lat would mean missing out on the free draw. These are the 'spare' clicks, and using them well can make a big difference in piloting this deck. Back when we were playing hard control with Rezeki and Endurance, clicking for a credit was often the best option if the Corp wasn't presenting any obvious threats. Now though we don't have the same late game inevitability, so we need to use these clicks to progress towards victory or actively hamper the Corp.

If you're ever tempted to click for a cred, look up instead. Can you get an access that might get you those early points you need? Can you check a remote that might contain a threat like Amani? Can you clear a Spin Doctor to get agendas back in R&D for your Dive later? Can you get the Corp to rez an ice on centrals so you know what to expect when you go for the Dive (and to open up Compile + Picha lines)? Can you facecheck a remote to force the Corp to expend resources? Runs are powerful, even in a deck with no impactful run effects. Use them.

Building the rig - In most games, our rig is essentially a 4 card combo that says 'ice may as well not exist'. However, focusing too much on assembling this combo when you may not need to (or may not have time) is a big trap. There are two main considerations to think about when building the rig in any given game.

First, which pieces do you actually need, and which are the highest priority? Echelon and Turbine present the most decision points. Echelon is a bit restrictive, so if you know you're going to need to deal with sentries you need to prioritise getting it and at least one other breaker out pronto so you're not paying through the nose. You will want to deploy Turbine in most matches, but not all, and not until you know you need it - if you're not sure that you're going to get value from it this turn or next, don't install it.

Second, how can you deploy the rig in ways that don't slow you down too much? The most obvious way is with SMC + Overclock, but there are other subtle ways to accrue value. If you have to pay real money for the SMC, try to do it on a turn when you can gain Simulchip equity off the trash by e.g. recurring Fermenter. If you have to install the breakers from hand, try and do it on a turn where doing so lines up your Lat draw.

Simulchip - Unlike Arissana or the ReaverShop builds of old, we're not running many expendable programs, so the 'trash a program' clause on Simulchip must be carefully managed. Think of the times you get to trash a program as a resource - any time you pop Fermenter or SMC when you don't have a 'chip in play is lost value, and may require you to trash something more important later on. By far the most common thing I used 'chips for at Nats was to immediately reinstall an SMC or Fermenter I had just used. You don't need to get fancy with them - they're mostly here to help with set up speed in combination with those two cards, and the more exciting applications with Clot/Hush/Picha are secondary to that. That said, Simulchip activations are also a resource. If you're in a matchup where you expect to have to use them for other things, like Clot or insurance against rigshooting/damage, you should be very aware of how many you have left, where they are, and whether you're going to need DJ Steve to get more. Never discard a breaker and 'chip it back in the name of 'efficiency' - you'll be punished for it in the long run.

Managing MU - We play the bare minimum amount of MU with just two Pantographs, but we draw lots of cards so we reliably get to 5 in most games. 5 is definitely enough - if you're smart about it. The thing to pay attention to is whether installing something now will lock you out of installing something else important later. In particular, you want to avoid going to <2 remaining MU for as long as possible so that you can SMC for the last piece of your rig or for Picha/Hush if needed. Having to reinstall a breaker that you trashed for MU so you could SMC another breaker is the worst possible use of Simulchip - do it if you have to, but try to avoid it all costs. Again, knowing your matchups is important here - in each matchup you should know what your full complement of MU looks like.

Ride or Dive - This deck lives and dies by landing Deep Dives. Sometimes you do everything you can to land them and then still whiff, as I did twice in the cut, but that's the trade-off for getting to play a 2-deckslot win condition and fit in so much money and tech. Whether you hit the agendas in the top 8 is largely out of your control though - what you need to do is make sure, beyond doubt, that you can make the Corp flip the top 8 in the first place. If you get stopped by a Border Control you weren't expecting, or by having to spend more on breaking ice than you were planning to, or by an upgrade that you could have dealt with earlier, that's on you. Get things rezzed ahead of time if you can. Don't advertise when exactly you're planning to Dive to the Corp by preinstalling Picha or DJ Sable, unless you really have to (Pants helps use these cards in surprising ways). Use Compile to find the last piece you need during the runs on the Dive turn, or make sure you have MU to do it with 'chip > SMC. I whiffed on Dives during Nats, but I never started a turn with a plan to Dive that didn't end with me seeing those top 8 cards. That's the goal.

So to recap, to play this deck to its best potential, from the start of the game you should be thinking about all of the following:

  • Can I get my Lat trigger this turn?
  • Where are my first points coming from?
  • Which parts of my rig do I need to develop, and how can I do that without losing too much tempo?
  • What do I need my Simulchips for in this matchup, and how many are left?
  • How can I manage my MU to avoid locking myself out of future lines?
  • When am I going to go for Deep Dive, and what do I need to make sure it goes off without a hitch?

And of course on top of that there will be more considerations in each matchup in terms of where to apply pressure and which tech cards to deploy - more on that shortly. It's a lot, I know, but it's also a lot to learn and a lot of engaging, interlocking problems to solve! Running never felt this good.

🛵

Matchups

Tempo R+ - This is the big one. We predicted, correctly as it turned out, that variations of this deck would be very well represented at Nats. The core engine of assets + Cryptocrash + Bellona + Oppo requires the runner to produce a large amount of credits throughout the game while also asking them to make very difficult choices repeatedly and usually punishing incorrect choices very hard. That's the kind of combination that great players are attracted to in a Corp deck, especially in the UK where there is such an abiding love for NBN tempo and the glory days of CtM.

I maintain that this Lat deck is favoured in the matchup. However, the proof isn't exactly in the pudding, as despite collectively going 6-1 against the archetype in swiss, Ollie and I lost all 3 of our games against it in the cut. Notably, in every game that one of us lost, we whiffed on a Deep Dive that could have been game winning. My takeaway from that is that our gameplan going in was sound and that we lost to the part of the game that was most out of our control, but we definitely made some mistakes under the incredible pressure R+ puts on the Runner, and it could be that we were playing in a way that was too reliant on Dive against a deck with a low-ish agenda density. At any rate, these are the key elements of the matchup as I played it over the weekend:

  • Gameplan: Control the board; minimise the situations where R+ can make its most powerful plays with Crypto + Amani; use Hush and Clot to mitigate the risks of floating tags; get our first points by cracking the remote or poking HQ; Dive.
  • Key cards: Wheels and Paricia. With these online, we can check every remote, keep the board clear of Amani, B-1001 and Wage Workers, and drastically reduce the resources R+ can bring to bear in developing its forks. Wheels also bails us out of getting Oppo'd if necessary. Fermenter is also key as our best way to produce the sheer amount of credits R+ asks us to have, and Hush can do great work against some of NBN's ice, particularly Starlit Knight.
  • Simulchip targets: Fermenter, almost exclusively. Continually recurring this is the best way to keep up in the credit war that is this matchup. Keep a 'chip around for Clot if you're floating tags so you don't lose to Shipment, and so that you don't have to pay to trash SanSan if they have it.
  • DJ: Loup if you draw it early or if HQ is iced up; otherwise, Steve gives us more econ overall.
  • Endgame rig: Echelon, Cleaver, Buzzsaw, Paricia, Hush/Picha. One MU will be occupied by Fermenter for most of the game; if you run out of Fermenters it's probably time to Dive.

PD - A much harder matchup, in the sense that there are some PD draws that we just can't beat. We're almost never set up fast enough to contest the first score, and if that first score is Luminal we probably just lose. However, once our full rig is online we're usually able to deal with the remote pretty promptly, and the matchup swings massively in our favour after that point.

  • Gameplan: Set up the rig as fast as humanly possible; contest the second score; prevent the third score; Dive.
  • Key cards: SMC, Overclock, Compile. We need that rig up, and these are the cards that get us there. Wheels can also do some work here as several of PD's tools try to tax our clicks directly.
  • Simulchip targets: SMC, to get the remaining pieces of the rig. Can also make Compiled breakers permanent. Bear in mind that you may need Clot for the Big Deal/Biotic Labour closer that some builds employ, but don't hold onto your 'chips for that if it means slowing down your rig development.
  • DJ: Sable can be nice to get central accesses without losing rig-building time; Steve can help lock up the game once the rig is established. But it's also often correct to just not spend the click and 3 creds.
  • Endgame rig: Cleaver, Buzzsaw, Echelon, Turbine, Hush/Clot. If you get all of these and can stop a score, you probably win. You will probably be forced to run before the full rig is up, so order of priority is Echelon > Turbine > Buzzsaw > Cleaver. Remember Echelon + Turbine breaks Drafter without other breakers. Gatekeeper is a pain, Hush it if you can or just get it rezzed early.

Rush Ob - The worst matchup, in my opinion. It combines speed with a wide variety of threats in its ice suite and a number of ways to tax out our Simulchips. We can't really turn the corner against it once the rig is established in the same way as we can against PD, because we still need to maintain Clot threat and deal with Stavka/Hafrun and Border Control. Our gameplan is much less fixed, as Ob can constantly change the board to create new problems for us, so we have to try and adapt and we probably can't play around everything.

  • Gameplan: Try and adapt to whatever they throw at you ice-wise; take some risks rather than playing around too much; crack the remote at least once; find the Border Controls to figure out when it's safe to Dive and where Hush is needed; establish Clot lock; Dive.
  • Key cards: Simulchip, Hush, Clot. Hush is huge here to deal with Border Control, Envelopment, and even Stavka if you have a good read. Clot will probably be required to keep you in the game at some point, so try to clear cards that could be Mavirus whenever possible. Wheels can be good to help give enough clicks to get into Border Control remotes.
  • Simulchip targets: As against PD we need 'chips to help establish the rig with SMC and Compile, but we also need them to Clot, to move Hush around fast and to reset a Stavka'd Echelon. Dig for 'chips whenever you can.
  • DJ: Steve is good to get more 'chips if you can stay in the game long enough; Sable helps force a Dive through against Border Control if you're out of time.
  • Endgame rig: Cleaver, Echelon, Buzzsaw, Turbine, Hush, Clot. Yes, that's 6 MU - at some point you will likely have to trade out Hush/Turbine/Clot for one another depending on the threats you're presented with.

Punitive Jinteki - RH principally, but people are also packing Punitive out of A Teia, PE and Issuaq at the moment. This matchup is hugely favoured for us, as our rig and tech line up very well against their gameplan.

  • Gameplan: Find and install Stoneships; build the rig; sit back, make money and lock the remote; Dive if you have to but really you've effectively won once you're set up - just watch the clock.
  • Key cards: Stoneship, Turbine. This is where Stoneship shines as a 0-cost win condition, and Turbine just eats all the 4-5 str expensive ice Jinteki has. This is the rare matchup where Hannah doesn't do very much, but she can occasionally help crack a Void remote.
  • Simulchip targets: Fermenter mostly since your plan is to sit back for much of the game. Keep one handy until you're set up for rig pieces that might get trashed to rogue damage from e.g. Fujii.
  • DJ: Steve shines here to really lock in that long-game inevitability, and to recur Stoneships if they try to blow through them.
  • Endgame rig: Buzzsaw, Echelon, Turbine, Cleaver. You don't usually need Hush unless they're on Data Loop. Cleaver is mostly here to give Echelon 5 strength, but you'll need it for Tatu-Bola eventually as well.

These are the most complex and challenging matchups. In my experience the deck is largely favoured against all other prevalent decks at the moment. Play good fundamentals according to the guidelines given above and you'll quickly learn how to take over any matchup. RIP to:

  • Kill NEH, dies to Stoneship
  • Outfit, dies to Turbine rig + Clot
  • BTL, dies to Hush
  • PE, dies to Stoneship + Steve
  • Asa, dies to basically all of our cards


🛵

...you didn't really think I was done being self indulgent, did you?

It's been a bit of a dramatic year for me. I had to deal with some of the most intense work, family and health stuff of my life in the first few months of '23, which I have slowly been recovering from since. I'm very grateful to the friends and loved ones who've supported me through that, and very thankful that I'm still able to orient my life around the people and activities I love rather than the onerous obligations of capitalism, even as this disaster country I call home continues to implode.

I feel a lot of ways about Netrunner at the moment, but most of all I feel proud. Proud of myself for how I've improved my technical and mental game this year, proud of the players who I had a hand in introducing to Netrunner and who are now getting stuck right in to the community, proud of my NSG colleagues for doing literally the coolest shit in the world.

This year marked a decade since I first started playing competitive card games in my late teens. It's in my bones at this point. I track time not in weeks or months but in time to the next card game event. I write and speak and think thousands of words every day about small pieces of cardboard and the bizarre and beautiful concepts they represent. And I regularly get to feel the thrill of putting those concepts into practice on the competitive stage. I couldn't be happier with where my life is at right now, and Netrunner is a huge part of that.

Thanks again to all those who I have connected with through this game, and as a thrillingly large number of people said to me as we parted ways on Sunday: see you at the next one!

Peace, love, and fuck Suella Braverman,
Cobra x

Posing with my custom playmat

14 comments
14 Nov 2023 not_yeti

Beautiful writeup my dude xx

Proud of you.

Peace, love and fuck Suella Braverman ✊

14 Nov 2023 Brindelmold

I have never seen a better sign off. Peace, love, and fuck Suella Braverman.

14 Nov 2023 Havvy

What an amazing deck write up. Honestly - seeing how Norwich meta has come alive again, and the new test group - from the sidelines, you have done an incredible job (as well as others!).

This is exactly the type of deck I would sleeve up - fingers crossed life lets me spend more time with you lot soon <3

14 Nov 2023 AceEmpress

This writeup has it all - a dramatic narrative, cool photos, some brilliant insight into the rationale behind card choices and matchups, and an absolutely excellent card I would literally never have thought of otherwise but am now very hyped to try in Compile. It was so cool to see you again at Nats, a thousand fucking congrats on making top cut, and here's to many more future tournaments!

14 Nov 2023 cursor

The pink hair was indeed cute as heck and it was great to see you make the cut. I missed the last few years of Netrunner, the World's trip and the real preparation for nats, but you were a big part of making me feel able to come back to the game and take part in this event. Thank you for everything.

PL&FSB

14 Nov 2023 Fridan

This was a truly great write up and the deck that comes with it is pretty nice too. It was a pleasure to work on this with you and a pleasure to play card games with for the last decade. Here's to many more. PL&FSB.

14 Nov 2023 Countzer0

I regret not saying it at the time: your pink hair was heckin' amazing. This writeup was fantastic and the deck bloody awesome. Looking forward to more good times for EA Sports!

PL&FSB

14 Nov 2023 shanodin

Pink hair 100% cute and I now feel compelled to sign off all deck lists with "peace, love, and fuck Suella Braverman".

15 Nov 2023 harmonbee

Was a delight to see you again - can confirm that the pink hair was cute as heck! Congrats on your placement :)

PL&FSB

15 Nov 2023 Baa Ram Wu

1 compile = 1 Like!

Also - just jammed a couple of games with this and it seems super solid! Really love the list, and am finding a little bit of love for Pantograph - A console hadnt really considered much recently!

16 Nov 2023 wowarlok

Great write up and great performance!
I'm very jealous of that playmat!

19 Nov 2023 Santa

Strong deck!

Sleeved a minor modification up in a local CO for the first time ever playing Lat!

Loved it!

Got me hooked on Diving!!!

4 Dec 2023 Sinbu

Thanks for sharing everything. This looks fun to play, balancing the safety and flexibility of shapers with the ride-or-die hardcore-ness of anarch (thanks wheels). Love the hair :)

9 Dec 2023 PreNic

Great writeup! Congratulations for the results and for still being friend to Lat even if they don't own a boat anymore. 👏