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The Road to Worlds: Australian Continentals

by Lucas Thompson, Ambassador

9th July 2015

July is here, and the Regional Season had ended. It's now that magical time where we take what we've learned at our various Regionals and apply it on larger stages. This past weekend saw the Australian Continental Championships for both First and Second Edition. Later this year, Australia will play host to the World Championships, so anyone looking to make the trip will want to pay extra close attention to these Continental results.

The First Edition Australian Continental Championships took place on Thursday Friday, July 3rd (it started on Thursday from the perspective of a certain writer on the east cost of the US), and attracted nine players. No one went undefeated; Matthew Ting won with a record of four Full Wins and one Full Loss to Greg Dillon. Both Greg and Steve Hartmann also had four wins, but each one had one modified win - what I'm saying is that it was a very tight competition. Here's what Matt's deck looked like:

Title: Give us Genesis! 2.0
Deck Archetype: Speed Solver
Play Engines: Illegitimate Leader of the Empire, Attention All Hands, The Great Hall, Cybernetics Expertise
Draw Engines: Continuing Mission, Handshake
Bonus Point Mechanics: Assign Mission Specialists, The Genesis Device, Arbiter of Succession

Matt's Commentary:

Why did you choose the deck that you used? What other decks did you consider using?
Originally I was planning to take a variant of the Terran Empire deck I'd played in the recent Not A Regional tournament. Then came the In The Zone ban, which shook everything up. I wanted to abuse this, and Genesis Device is ridiculous right now. At the same time I feel Quantum Incursions restricts the number of viable affiliations, since I didn't want to rely solely on luck to get past it. Since Genesis Device doesn't work for Federation, that left TNG Klingon and TNG Romulan.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
I didn't want to face other speed solvers. I was fine facing battle / interaction decks since the deck has a number of tricks against that. Specifically against Kazon battle, which I was worried about facing. Like mad scientists, Iron Mike and I got Jay Coad to play Kazon in playtesting, and that ended up being his deck. If it wasn't for us, the event would have been safely Kazon free!

Prior to this tournament, did you have much experience playing this deck (or decks like it)? Did you learn anything new about it when you played it this time?
I've played TNG Klingon before, and played the first version of this deck in a June online tournament. TNG Klingons are just especially efficient, and B'Somgh/Zegov have the skills to bust through an impressive number of common dilemmas.

Did you use any situational cards (cards that you wouldn't expect to be useful in every game)? Are there any whose usefulness exceeded your expectations? Were there any that you wouldn't include if you played the deck again?
I may not bother with To Be Or Not To Be, it never got used all day (and Chang in the deck loses me a few achievements). Quinn is in there specifically against Mission Debriefing and Outgunned, it only got used once all day against a Mission Debriefing. Most of the cards in the deck are specific answers to something though.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
The Genesis Device. This is what happens when In The Zone is banned. I imagine people are going to have even scarier versions of this deck in the months to come. The 120pt Diplomatic Conference deck is going to be a thing!

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
I'll be amazed if I'm able to bring this same deck unchanged to Worlds this year...

My Commentary:
Historically, due to the influence of In The Zone, decks that aimed to win by only completing two missions needed to score their points in increments of 50. Some decks would fit a few points in here and there through Dabo or a Scotsman yelling to warn the dead, but largely these decks would aim to get mission specialists points at the few missions that could get them to 45 or 50. Experienced players could often identify those missions and seed dilemmas accordingly, without much opportunity for the deckbuilder to play around those expectations. Now that you can score more than 50 points in one turn, The Genesis Device can truly shine. With the ability to double the points of any planet mission, a Cryosatellite to seed the Device at any space mission, and the mission specialists in the deck, any planet-space pair can be turned into a two mission win.

Being able to turn any two missions into a win is incredibly powerful, especially for only two seed slots, but there are other perks too. Altonian Brain Teaser, the go-to dilemma for blocking those old-fashioned mission specialist-fueled wins, which Matt packs in duplicate here, can only really block a two mission win that starts at Secret Salvage II and then doesn't go to Reported Activity... and that's assuming that Arbiter of Succession never gets drawn. Even if an opponent does make the right call on the Cryosatellite mission with Dead End, Matt's got a couple copies of The Genesis Effect to slide right past it. This deck can generate so many points, it can even afford to avoid Reported Activity altogether, which is good since that mission is one of those "obvious mission specialist bonanza" places that draws really nasty combos. To quote Matt from an ongoing thread about the post-In The Zone-ban landscape: "I was even walking through Edo Probes and taking the point hit without concern since I knew it wouldn't be enough to stop the 2 mission win."

Some other points of interest: I love the To Be or Not to Be anti-Kazon tech. With a Battle Bridge Side Deck filled with Isolytic Bursts, damaging the entire Kazon Fleet would make each ship Range -6: basically immobile. This technique does rely on some surprise factor; the Kazon would likely be able to break up their attacks at a non-facility location. Also, you'll likely need some of those Quinns on hand, in order to prevent getting Outgunned, which circumvents the event altogether. Chang is necessary for maintaining that surprise, since otherwise the event needs to already be in play when you get attacked.

I also like the use of Balancing Act without All Available Personnel to download it. At first glance, as long as you've got tent space for the Act, Available would be better since you also get the anti-redshirt functionality. The catch here is that, when you face a player with an unbalanced spaceline, you don't want to leave Balancing Act's arrival to chance. The only guaranteed way for someone to face the Act is for you to self-seed it and face it yourself - since it affects both players, you can just put it somewhere that you plan on going, and know for sure that your opponent will be down 50 points. And if your opponent is balanced? Put it at the back of some combo, and hope for the best.

 

The Second Edition Australian Continental Championships was a two day affair; day one drew seventeen players and was won by Steve Hartmann. The top eight moved on to day two, facing off in a Modified McIntyre bracket. Greg Dillon took the title, finishing first on day two with this deck:

 

Title: Maquis 2
Headquarters: Athos IV, Maquis Base
Deck Size: Large (60+)
Deck Archetype: Interference
Dilemma Pile Size: Medium (30-49)
Dilemma Pile Type: Kill/Lock-out
Average Draw Deck Card Cost: 2.42
Agonizing Count: 2
Odds of Passing a 3-Skill-Dilemma Legacy: 4.9%

Greg's Commentary:

Why did you choose the deck that you used? What other decks did you consider using?
I chose Maquis because they've been easily the best affiliation since the Borg eratta. The specific Maquis deck I played focused on removing Biology for the dilemmas, I did that because I was very under-practiced with Maquis going in so I planned on leaning heavily on the dilemma pile. I also thought about playing a Jem'hadar 'midrange' solver that focuses on Friction and Borath to slow the opponent long enough to get the two Stakoran missions done and an unstoppable 4 man team at Survey New World.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
I love facing decks that have the majority of Biology on personnel with a cost of 2 or less (Relativity, which is the deck I practiced this against the most, gets absolutely obliterated). Dominion is probably the worst deck to face (in hindsight something I should've considered more with Strange Bedfellows) because they have Biology on popular 3+ cost uniques (Crom, Omet'iklan, etc.) AND they are also really good at the alternate requirements on Biochemical Hyperacceleration and Unknown Microorganism.

Prior to this tournament, did you have much experience playing this deck (or decks like it)? Did you learn anything new about it when you played it this time?
I've only ever tried proper Maquis (not this deck) once before back in 2012 and played awfully but I could see why they were strong. This deck's first game against another person was Matt in round 1. I did learn a lot playing it for 4 rounds on Day 2 and by the final with Matt I didn't even need the Biology dilemmas just a straight up kill pile would have done better coupled with me playing the deck well.

Did you use any situational cards (cards that you wouldn't expect to be useful in every game)? Are there any whose usefulness exceeded your expectations? Were there any that you wouldn't include if you played the deck again?
Situational: Strafing Fire is mainly in the deck in case of Romulans, I'd probably keep it around just because of the threat of them and it's handy against stuff like Mobilization Points.

Exceeded expectations: Biogenic Weapon won my game against Steve by itself because he only had 1 space mission, with out it I would lose that game 10/10 times. Allegiance is hard to get out because 6 [Fed] [Maq] does take a while but once it is up Organised Terrorist Activities secures the win for my deck. I'd also say Feast on the Dying (I'll probably add 2 more); getting an extra Cascade Virus or Organised Terrorist Activites is really really good.

Dropped: I didn't play Strange New Worlds in the 4 games, it could've been useful against Matt but just wasn't necessary and it costs a bit too much for what it does against the majority of affiliations.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
While Biogenic Weapon did win me the semi and it was used as a demoraliser in the final by blocking off the mission with 6 dilemmas under, I'd say Amaros because he just makes stuff happen.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
Aid Legendary Civilization is probably too good, the popular Romulan deck last year relied heavily on it as well. If the opponent is at a mission when you complete ALC you'll destaff them almost every time especially if you can predict the solve and use Stalling for Time on top of the kill pile they probably just hit at the mission. All up if they attempt the turn before you complete you can remove 3-5 turns worth of counters from the table, which is exactly what the Romulans do as well.

My Commentary:
I'd like to start with the dilemma pile this time; it's of a type that I haven't seen in a while. It is most similar to the type of dilemma pile that you'd see paired with a Romulan Far-Seeing Eyes deck, back in the day. The idea is that you strip out the Biology from play with tools like Inequitable Exchange or The Clown: Guillotine, and then the opponent can no longer pass wall dilemmas that can return to pile (Telepathic Deception and Unknown Microorganism). Greg mentioned that a straight-up kill pile might have worked better, and that's possibly true for the particular match-ups that he had, but not necessarily the case in other situations. For example, a Starfleet Archer-centric deck would likely be stalled longer by the wall dilemmas, and a TOS speed deck could be held up more effectively by just removing they key personnel rather than trying to get everyone.

In either case, the draw deck perfectly supports the strategy. Playing Maquis basically puts the opposing deck on a timer; you have X turns to get as many ships and personnel in play as you can, before the Defiant, Reide, Shankar, Organized Terrorist Activities, Stalling For Time, Alarming Rumors, and Cascade Virus lock up too many of your counters each turn. Whether you're killing all of the personnel who made it in play, or just the ones with biology is largely irrelevant. The Maquis simply devours those popular midrange solvers, particularly the interrupt heavy ones, because those cards in hand don't simply go away, they go on top of the deck. In order for the hapless opponent to do something, they need to draw through all those cards that they already chose not to play last turn before even possibly getting to a card that they actually need.

I'd definitely agree with Greg that Aid Legendary Civilization is the icing on the cake. No matter what affiliation you play, you can tech against kills; doing so is harder for some affiliations than others, but it's possible. You can also tech against Maquis hand denial by running fewer interrupts and by increasing the speed (reducing your average cost or including counter-generation tricks) of your deck. Aid Legendary Civilization though, that takes cost reduction, and some factions don't have options other than Julian Bashir, Rebel Captain. Add in Strafing Fire to block verb-based cost reduction like Mobilization Points, and you narrow the options further. It is easily the most fool-proof part of this deck's equation; All-Consuming Evil piles (especially lock-out ones) actually benefit a great deal from skill tracking, and Maquis hand denial tactics take a lot of planning to use (and necessitate playing Maquis, who don't have many mission-solving tricks).

In any event, the complete creation that Greg brought to day two of the Australian Continentals was able to efficiently get the job done. He lost in the first round (he seeded high enough to move on though), but then proceeded to rack up full wins in the next three games. Most impressively, he took what he learned from his lost match against Matthew Ting in round one, and used it to reverse the result against the same opponent in the final round. Being able to turn a match-up around like that requires a combination of a powerful and flexible deck and high player skill.

 

That's all for the Australian Continental Championships deck coverage, and we're left with some questions. Matt's interview left no question that he's of the opinion that Genesis Device is over the curve in a play environment that lacks In The Zone. Do you agree? If so, is the problem more with the Device or with the lack of In The Zone? Or are you just happy that the Genesis Device is seeing play outside of Khan decks? On the Second Edition side of things, Aid Legendary Civilization is back in first place at Continentals this year, but with a different affiliation. Are we just not teching enough against denial decks at major tournaments? Is it the elimination format? I don't know. Do you?

 


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