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Strategy Articles

The Road to Worlds: Canadian Nationals

by Lucas Thompson, Ambassador

3rd December 2015

What a busy weekend! There were not one, but two double-header-Nationals - Ken Tufts (again) swept the Canadian events, while the UK events were split by Stefan de Walf (First Edition) and Mr Slade (Second Edition). Today we'll take a look at Ken's decks from the Canadian events, and we'll turn to the decks from the UK later in the week.

Second Edition 2015 Canadian National Championships Winner Kenneth Tufts
Title: Borg Achievements
Headquarters: Unicomplex, Root of the Hive Mind
Deck Size: Small (35-44)
Deck Archetype: Speed... Interference?
Dilemma Pile Size: Medium (30-49)
Dilemma Pile Type: Standard Attrition
Average Draw Deck Card Cost: 2.14
Agonizing Count: 2
Odds of Passing a 3-Skill-Dilemma Legacy: 15.6%
See also: The Minesota Masters article from a couple weeks ago has a some commentary on post-Quintessence Borg Assimilation decks.

Ken's Commentary:
Why did you choose the deck that you used? What other decks did you consider using?

Achievements of course, this deck was my second attempt at the Data of Borg casting achievement. I was trying to pull it off without using my First Edition Borg deck; no one wants to see me play that again locally.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
Hoping to face anything that can't win in one turn - the first turn they leave their HQ mission. I do not want to face anything with a ton of counter-spells, as they can wreck my assimilation attempts and then I'm sad.

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 had seen MVB play a similar deck a few times; I used some of the core principles he did, but rebuilt it myself.

Miracle Working made a big splash when it was released - how did it perform for you?
AMAZING, just crazy good, in this 35 card deck the 3 miracle workings allowed me to cycle through 24 cards! Drawing 6 of them and only spending 9 counters to do so, that meant I could count on finding the cards I needed when I needed them EVERY game.

This is the first time I've seen a Borg Assimilator running at a sleek 35 cards - with no Queen even. In your average game, how many personnel do you assimilate? Is this typically a two or three mission win deck?
The deck is only planning to take 3 people in an average game. However, it can often take 3-6 people in the one turn it assimilates (plus one from solving the space mission maybe). In some games, it will be different (e.g. against Voyager or Relativity). It might get on the ship sooner and spend some more time sitting there taking people and recurring the Reborns, while it gets the other cards set up for solving. It is planning on two mission win with bonus points from the "I have your people" card, though it does have the ability to solve all 4 missions.

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 might tweak a few of the Borg drones to try and swap a few more 1 cost people in for 2 cost guys. Data would get dropped, since I got that achievement hit. But otherwise, the deck is very lean. There are not really any situational cards - every card has specific uses in every game. Maybe Locutus could be called situational and could be cut, he is needed for a LOT of dilemmas if anything goes wrong with my assimilation tactic. But he's also just fun to mess with people and be another points engine or dilemma limiter so I have to prevent fewer of them.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
Hmmm, it's hard to pick one MVP per se. The deck definitely works because of a chain of cards working together very specifically, but if i have to pick one it would be Three of Nine, as she is key to the infinite recursion aspects that allow the deck to have options for infinite points, infinite assimilation, and infinite prevent and overcome of dilemmas... all over time of course.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
It was very fun to play, but not always as fun to play against - based on some of my opponents reactions to it. I think maybe there might be a bit of an issue when a card that can't be countered can let you recur forever cards that combo together to make your opponent's personal yours, then score you points for them and then spend those point to prevent and overcome every dilemma you face. I basically NEVER had to deal with a dilemma all day unless I chose to, three prevent and overcomes on every attempt, up to 6 times a turn on the main solving turn normally just seams kinda gross to me. And while counter spells CAN help a bit, the deck draws out FAST, and once it has decked out, as long as I can get ONE of your personnel, I can, within a turn or two, thanks to Three of Nine + Two of Nine, burn through all your counter spells and then take enough people to build up the points fast enough for the rest of the mechanics.

My Commentary:
Remember last time, when I called a 40+ card Borg Assimilation deck slim? Well, here we've got a 35 card assimilator deck - I've never seen one of these before. It has all the essentials: the interrupt-speed assimilation, the prevent and overcome, the point gain, the "of nines"... and that's it. It doesn't have the Kevin's harvest drones or combat, and it doesn't have Barry's Aid Legendary Civilization either. Just exactly what it needs to assimilate and use those personnel to burn through missions.

The result is almost certainly more reliable than the decks we looked at last time, likely at the cost of resiliency. This deck will, very often, be able to fire off 2-3 Reborns at the same, on an early turn, every time you play it. The majority of the time, that'll be enough, but if it isn't (for example, against a strong verb-denial deck like many Starfleet builds), once the cannon's been fired, there's not much more ammo. Of course, I've never seen a deck like this before (let alone actually played it), so I could be wrong. The only way to find out for sure is with SCIENCE!

Whatever type of Borg assimilation build you use, the benefit is a good match-up against the boogeymen of the current meta, the Romulans. Romulan card advantage comes in bursts (At What Cost? and Energize), so knocking the wind out of their sails afterwards can make a big difference, especially if doing so is paired with strong mission solving through Knowledge and Experience. And, while Far Seeing Eyes is good verb-denial, it's also slow, so a faster assimilator like this one may even have an easier time with the Greens.

First Edition 2015 Canadian National Championships Winner... also Ken Tufts.
Title: Blue Screen of death
Deck Archetype: Midrange Solver
Play Engines: Hirogen Hunt, Home Away From Home
Draw Engines: Ancestral Vision, Process Ore: Mining
Bonus Point Mechanics: Assign Mission Specialists
See also: Ken mentions a similar Computer Crash-centric deck from J in his interview; that deck is The Fog off Elliott Bay II, from day two of the US Nationals tournament.

Ken's Commentary:
Why did you choose the deck that you used? What achievement(s) were you chasing with this deck? What other decks achievements did you consider using seeking?

Haha, you're learning. This deck was for Hirogen play and win hits, working towards x5 and x10 variations, casting Decaren, and No Ref Cards Win if I could pull off the win. I didn't really have a huge amount of time to consider too much else, because I designed the deck on Friday, and assembled it Saturday night after all of that day's events. Though I had been thinking about what to play a bit when I could for about a week, I decided to go with a download denial deck largely because it was at its core a simpler deck with fewer moving parts to worry about. I thought that Delta Quadrant would be a strong choice, since they don't really care about some of the most important ref cards like Strategema etc., and the Crashes make the anti-download ones irrelevant in theory. Then I considered what affiliation to make it - Kazon had some really strong options since, with Voyager, Kazon has two affiliated free play engines to get the deck's affiliations in the achievement zone (50% affiliated). But then Vidiians and Hirogen both had casting achievements, so that narrowed it down to them for the day. Then, I took some quick looks at who they had, and realized to play Vids I'd need Talax (for free Paxims) for officers and that would kill the ratios. I expected multiple DQ decks in my meta and didn't want to dupe Talax anyways, so Hirogen was chosen.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
I hoped to face other DQ decks with missions I could steal, because my local meta can be DQ-heavy at big events with a few players that are well known for playing almost exclusively DQ. I teched in a couple Dropping Ins to be able to steal a mission with a Dead End as the main dilemma seeded there. What I did not want to face was any deck that does not do any downloads, and what would you know but my old partner in 1e deck building crime James had the same idea about a Crash deck and we were paired in round one. Lucky for me a few different choices we made still gave me an edge in this game, mostly because I had a lot more dilemmas, planing to card-play the crashes, and he had seeded most of his, so had weaker combos. This gave me a speed solving edge. The other deck I did not want to face was any deck that could fetch a Quark easily and had Quark's Isolinear Rods - that makes this deck a sad panda.

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 played with and against Crash decks a ton way, way back in the day when it first came out and they were a thing. I had not played one recently, which I figured would help surprise people maybe, though J played one recently at US Nationals. I freely admit that his deck was what spurred the reminder about these decks, and the thought to build my own one while IMO improving a few of the flaws his had. Nothing much new was learned; the core mechanics are the same as always, it can be high reward but has high risk if your opponent is prepared for it or you miss one turn too early in the game, your opponent can just splat everything out and you're toast as they will out-speed you then.

Okay, help me out here. Computer Crash. Ten of them. What's up with that? Guess this question makes it obvious I send lists of questions to people, rather than sit down and interview them the old-fashioned way.
Simple: that was the core idea of the deck. Most decks are built around using a certain amount of downloads to set up draw mechanics, get extra/key people in play, some times even get their ships. So, don't let them download for a lot of turns! My deck is built around not needing downloads to gain a slight speed edge and out-solve them. Also should delay any battle deck getting set up and out to me quite a LOT, hopefully enough for me to rack up enough points to at least get a mod win, before they make me go BOOM.

I noticed that there are no card draw cards in the draw deck; instead the deck relies on Process Ore: Mining and Ancestral Vision for draws. How did that work out for you?
Great! Without ref cards burning half my end-of-turn draws, I was able to draw 3 net cards a turn, (4 new one discarded to the processing), while playing 3 cards a turn one Crash and two free people, occasionally an extra Ocompa and once per game McCoy instead of a crash, it keeps a good hand size up in general.

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?
Well, everything in the tent was situational, since they all required turns where I did not have a crash active to DL them, THOUGH, all the special download ones do have times I can maybe sneak them in as my opponent does their first action of his or her turn. If it's not a download action, I can sneak them in before I need to reveal the next crash. The two extra mission specialists in the tent were useless, because I went with hard crashes over Nanoprobe Resuscitations (to avoid Anij borking me by bouncing the Nanos). The idea was: if I go first and draw a Nanoprobe, I could burn the AMS probe it and replay it for them - but that was far too rare a case, I should have just put two more random Hirgogen there (the two alphas are pure space filler), allowing me to play with a couple more NA guys in the draw deck, while keeping the achievement valid.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
Computer Crash kinda has to be; it's the core of the deck.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
It was a lot of fun to play, but it was scary every game because you're always on the edge of disaster, just barely ahead of the opponent and knowing that the second you give them a chance to hit their downloads, they could easily take the lead. One late addition I had on my desk to add but just ran out of time/energy to really fit it in the seed slots was a Homefront for HQ decks, killing a free play AND not letting any downloads happen (like Defend Homeworld, which normally fetches early security), James had that in his, is just extra mean. High Risk High reward deck - I was rewarded as no one was really ready for the deck today.


My Commentary:
When I see eight copies of a verb in a draw deck, it's usually a source of card draws, like Handshake. Not only was that octupled card Computer Crash instead, but this deck is one of those rare decks that doesn't use any card-play-costing card-draw-cards at all. The deck manages to make do entirely on the extra draws from Ancestral Vision and Process Ore: Mining. Most often, such decks are battle-oriented (ships usually cost a card play), or at least the Borg (card plays are irrelevant after all).

Not the case here. It's not that the Hirogen aren't good at battle - with ships downloadable in place of the normal card draw, they are. That's just not the focus of this deck. While Delta Quadrant decks may not have the free-play-engine-stackability of Alpha Quadrant decks, the skill-density of their personnel is unparalleled. With the ability to essentially constantly block all non-ref downloads (Quark's Isolinear Rods only lasts so long), this deck can really cramp the ability of other solvers to reach their full potential, while also being good at mission solving itself.

The absence of Ref cards is really interesting to me - there really are just a few big Ref cards these days, with a handful of peripherally useful options. Now that In the Zone is gone, if you can block downloads with Computer Crashes you don't really need General Quarters; if you're not in the Alpha Quadrant anyways, you don't need a way to get You Are a Monument; and if you don't have an HQ, Defend Homeworld and Strategema don't benefit you very much anyways. That's still a fairly narrow set of decks that have little need for Ref cards, but it certainly speaks to the stability of the game these days. And hey, a guy can dream of a day where we can Process Ore (the old-fashioned kind) in the good old AQ for two draws again, right?

That's all for today, see you later with reviews of the decks from Manchester!

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