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The Road to Worlds: Minnesota Masters

by Lucas Thompson, Ambassador

14th November 2015

The fifth set North American Masters events, played this last weekend in Minnesota, saw some fierce competition. In the end though, Kevin Jaeger emerged victorious in both the First and Second Edition events. These are the decks he used:

Second Edition
Title: ..And who took them? It was you Borg!
Headquarters: Unicomplex, Root of the Hive Mind
Deck Size: Medium (45-59)
Deck Archetype: Interference (Assimilation)
Dilemma Pile Size: Medium (30-49)
Dilemma Pile Type: Hybrid Attrition
Average Draw Deck Card Cost: 2.23
Agonizing Count: 2
Odds of Passing a 3-Skill-Dilemma Legacy: 17.4%
See also: In 2013, Kevin previously won the 2013 MN King of the Ring event with an earlier Borg assimilator, almost immediately post-Quintessence errata. Barry Windschitl's assimilation deck also from the Minnesota Masters, an update of the one he used at the 2014 North American Continental Championships.

Kevin's Commentary:
Why did you choose the deck that you used? What other decks did you consider using?
Mark and I didn't know we would be able to attend until literally 5am the morning of tournament due to my ongoing health issues. So I decided to play a deck that, while looking like it's complicated, is actually the easiest deck I have ever played. I have a TNG deck I've been playing that hasn't lost yet but I didn't feel comfortable playing it on 4 hrs. of sleep.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
I really didn't care what I played against. Just happy to play.

An attrition dilemma pile with The Clown: Guillotine and All-Consuming Evil is pretty uniquely Jaeger, but new to the mix this year are the Persistent elements (presumably to work with Strength in Numbers). How did the Persistent suite perform for you? What parts would you use again (with or without Strength in Numbers)?
The persistent twist works really, really well and can single handily win games. The change I would make is removing the Fear/Rage out for something else as they were bad draws in every situation.

Both of the slim, successful Borg Assimilators I've seen in recent years (yours and Barry's) have omitted Locutus. He seems to be a nice source of rare skills and potential bonus points, why leave him out?
Diplomacy is irrelevant. The knowledge and experience of the collective will overcome all issues.

This deck has a lot of download options. What tends to be your download priorities for Historical Research? Fourth? How about for You've Always Been My Favorite (another Jaeger favorite)?
There is no priority list I can give. It simply requires in game critical thinking. What I can tell you is that Locutus' Cube + Fourth + 3 of 9 + assimilated people + One With the Borg + You've Always Been My Favorite = infinite cycle combo.

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?
The only change would be -2 harvest drones for +1 invasive drone and +1 regeneration alcoves.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
MVP is You've Always Been My Favorite.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
Contrary to the opinions of a few others I don't believe there is anything broken about this deck. It's super strong but not unbeatable.

My Commentary:
The Borg have been largely written-off by many people post-Quintessence and Fifth errata. That's not the case for Kevin Jaeger, and I remember being impressed when he won the King of the Ring with them shortly after they were changed. I'll admit, it felt a bit like a fluke when the Borg remained absent from big events for some time after that, maybe it had just been Kevin's strong abilities as a player carrying him. After all, Caleb Grace came in second in that event with a Traditional (read: Central Command-less) Cardassian build - another feat I attribute to strong playing skills.

When Barry Windschitl, another top-table contender, had a good showing with a similarly sized (though fairly different in construction) Borg Assimilator at the 2014 NACC, I printed out a copy of his deck for personal playtesting. I didn't expect much - another top player managed to milk some gold out of the Borg, I'd probably not get it to work very well. I was mistaken. His deck impressed me a lot when I actually tried it out - even when the opponent knew the assimilation was coming, there were few options to play around the inevitable. A potentially worthwhile note though: Kevin's tournament report from the 2013 King of the Ring, Kevin tell's of Caleb Grace's gambit for beating his deck. Caleb drew and played every personnel in the deck before making his move - though he came up just short, it was one of the closest games Kevin had that day.

I've already put together Kevin's deck for testing, and I have high expectations for it. It has similar ratios to the Windschitl version that I'm more familiar with, and a similar goal, but the individual elements should present some new and interesting gameplay for me to explore. Kevin's mentioned the You've Always Been My Favorite means of deck access (replacing These Are The Voyages), but there's also the Guardian of the Hive/Harvest Drone means of reaping more opposing personnel to try out. I'm very much looking forward to giving the dilemma pile a try too (though I won't replace Flare of Rage/Frozen by Fear yet), since the combination of Guillotine and an attrition pile is very unique to Kevin despite the success he's had with it.

As a closing note, if you're looking for a post-Quintessence Borg solver, I don't have as much to show you. There is the dissident solver that Sean O'Reilly won a Regional with this year (original credit for the build to Kris Sonsteby). If dissidents aren't your thing, I don't have any recent winners for you, but there is this Borg speed-solver from Matt Kirk that left an impression on me - it's not every day that you see a good Borg deck clock in at 40 cards.

First Edition
Title: ..And who took them? It was you Lord!
Deck Archetype: Interference (Capture/Lockout)
Play Engines: Reward from the Founders, Assign Support Personnel/Dominion War Efforts, New Arrivals
Draw Engines: New Arrivals, Deyos
Bonus Point Mechanics: Training Ring, Victory is Life, Ultimatum
See also: Version A of this deck.

Kevin's Commentary:
Why did you choose the deck that you used? What other decks did you consider using?
Because I wanted to try out some new tech for the deck. Some of it works, some of it really sucks and I nearly lost to Justin because of the piss-poor decision making I made in the design changes.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
I didn't consider any other decks. I thought Justin was going to play his Orb Solver from worlds. John played it instead and it was a 100-0 win with a sub optimal build, so I got the answer I wanted. I also wanted to face the free report salad and Drake's pink lightening to measure up. This deck fears nothing.

Last time we spoke about this deck, you used a pretty different suite of 12 dilemmas. Is this just to keep people guessing about what you're going to try to lock out, or are there other reasons?
Always change the dilemmas to keep people guessing. The deck predicates on hitting hard and early, then putting the opponent on tilt so they don't know what to protect, download, or dig for... So yes the idea is to not allow opponents to successfully scout you in that area since the deck vacillates anywhere from 12 down to only 6 dilemmas based on meta calls from one tourney to the next.

Interment Camp, in addition to be another free play engine, has a Brig. However, Terok Nor and its Holding Cells are still there; why use both?
IC371 is about bonus points for the two mission win. TN is about torture to make the opponent's score negative, which will get/guarantee mod wins and boost your Dead End. A lot.

I've got the 2014 Regionals version of this deck, but not the 2015 Regionals version. What changes, if any, has the deck gone through since the last iteration you used?
Like I said, 12 different versions that are more alike than different, but each do different things. 2014 was iteration A. 2015 was iteration D. This was version L. Which was fitting apparently because it took more luck than anything to win rd 3. Not exactly the situation you want to be in.

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?
The truth is that cards I thought would be very useful were never used successfully while Evasive Maneuvers was never intended to be drawn and used and it was used twice against Justin and was the only thing that kept me in that game.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
I'll give the game ball to Evasive Maneuvers for saving my bacon... twice.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
Not really other than: goodbye. You will never see this version again.

My Commentary:
It feels like half the time I'm interviewing Kevin, it's about this deck. He has won a Regional with it both this year (now known as Version D), and last year with the original (Version A). At first glance, it's not actually an obviously powerful deck: it doesn't have the most or the biggest ships; it doesn't have huge draws or plentiful play engines; its personnel aren't skill-dense and you can only dial a certain set of skills with Assign Support Personnel. What it does have is high mobility, the ability to surgically remove essential personnel, and a flat-out lock-out for the opponent using dilemmas and/or Post Garrison.

Now, one thing that I'd noticed when looking at this version (L), but couldn't figure out right away, is that the precipitous drop in the number of seeded Captureds. It wasn't until I read this forum thread, wherein John Corbett voiced a concern about Nanoprobe Resuscitation, that I learned what was up. Kevin was apparently using the Resuscitation to recur the Captureds, or Post Garrison, or really whatever worked best for the particular match-up he was in. Sure, that takes up the card play (in a deck with already limited free-plays thanks to New Arrivals), but the ability to repeatedly remove specific personnel is very powerful in a game that has dilemmas that often have no alternate requirements.

I also could not initially figure out the use for Taking Charge right away, and Nanoprobe Resuscitation is a key player there too. Taking Charge has that "your mission" clause, and the only Objective in the deck that Kevin could want to play on a mission, Post Garrison, doesn't serve much purpose when played on your own missions when they are theft-proof under OTF rules. However, Garrison has a self-nullification clause, which Kevin can trigger intentionally (after downloading it with Taking Charge), and then Resuscitate it back so he can play it later on an opponent's mission. Tricky.


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