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The Road to Worlds: Australian Nationals

by Lucas Thompson, Ambassador

10th December 2015

This season's flurry of Nationals came to an end last weekend with the Australian Nationals, held in Cannington in Western Australia. Matthew Ting and Robert Dawson were our winners, using these decks:

First Edition Australian National Championships Winner Matthew Ting
Title: Resistance is Futile - Fury Quadrant Edition
Deck Archetype: Interference/Assimilation
Play Engines: New Arrivals, They Will Be Coming, We Are the Borg, Borg Queen (FC)
Draw Engines: New Arrivals, We Are the Borg, Cortical Node Implant
Bonus Point Mechanics: Add Distinctiveness
See also: Here's the version Ting used at Worlds this year.

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

I started building a KCA deck, but then halfway through I remembered Quantum Incursions/Kobayashi Maru Scenario is still a thing and I don't want to lose games to die rolls.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
The deck wants to face anything which doesn't have strong anti-battle defenses. Borg assimilation is something you need a specific plan to counter, and it can be pretty much an auto-loss for an unprepared opponent. I was half expecting a few people to copy Ken's Hirogen Computer Crash deck, which is why I added in a Quark's Rods, but it turned out they copied Ken's TNG Fed deck instead. That's a very solid deck, except against this deck.

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 it a few times, including Day 2 Worlds. There's only a handful of card changes from my Worlds version. It's a brutally efficient deck.

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?
Brunt of Borg, since I now have the casting achievement. Pretty much every other card has a specific reason for being in there.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
Establish Tractor Lock. Hitting Iron Mike's Borg Cube with this pretty much ended our game, and it was also nasty in other games. Transwarp Hub also makes getting to my opponent absolutely trivial.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
Borg assimilation is a ridiculously good deck, and the only reason it doesn't get played by more people is because of the learning curve involved. It's even stronger in a Quantum Incursions / Kobayashi Maru Scenario environment, since Borg are the only affiliation with the ability to just completely walk through the combo with ease.

You can end up with a near lockout situation once you have assimilated a bunch of personnel, and then almost casually go and scout 2 missions for the win. There is pretty much no way for an opponent to recover from that scenario. If it comes down to a race to 100, Borg have some huge advantages with dilemma busting / dialing into any card they need.

My Commentary:
I've got to admit, I'm still a bit at sea when it comes to First Edition Borg. The times that I've played against them, they usually end up being a blur of downloads and then all of my cards are either on the other side of the table or removed from the game. Having written a few of these articles by now, I've gotten a bit better at understanding now why exactly I'm being demolished, but I'm still not entirely sure what I can do about it.

For a while, I've thought that Kazon Battle would be a good answer for Borg Assimilation - after all, as long as the non-nullifiable The Kazon Collective is in play, your cards are immune to the entire assimilation gameplan, right? Well, I asked Ting a follow-up about this particular match-up, and this is what he told me: "That's a matchup I faced against Justin Ford at Worlds Day 2 with pretty much this exact same deck. A prepared Borg deck should win that matchup; my deck has a fair few tricks specifically for this match-up. Once the Borg player can get to Evade Borg Vessel or even Paxan Wormhole (if using Data of Borg), the Kazon player probably won't get another chance to take out a Cube. The Borg deck can then just go scout missions, and will have an easier time of it than Kazon. The big problem is that solver decks need to consider both Kazon battle and Borg assimilation, and this requires a different set of defensive tools. Kazon battle is the boogeyman right now, which meant that I expected to face more anti-Kazon tech than anti-Borg tech."

So that's not quite what I was hoping for. I definitely agree that anti-Kazon tools don't help for Borg, I just don't know what does work for Borg. So I asked. Here's what Ting told me: "Some of the best counters are:
Transport Inhibitors: This is a hard counter, but you need to be able to access it very quickly.
Disruptor Overload: To take out Assimiliation Table.
The Genesis Effect: To cancel the inevitable Dead End at your homeworld, so you can safely attempt 1 mission.
Event destruction: To cancel Mission Debriefing (although my version protects it)
Interrupt prevention: To cancel A Change Of Plans (situational, and only causes a delay)
Loss of Orbital Stability: Will only work once though, before the Borg player plays around it.
The Juggler: To prevent probe rigging. Probes will still be in Borg player's favour.
Even with all that, if you protect yourself against assimilation the Borg player can instead go out and scout missions. The Borg will likely cut through your dilemmas like they're not even there, so it's still a hard game to win. And if you make a mistake, the Borg might still come back and assimilate you / destroy your ships / Post Garrison lockout your missions."

Still sounds a bit dire, huh? Well, certain that there are other options, I sought out Paddy Tye, who has to deal with the Sexecutioner's cybersexual advances often. Here's his take: "I suppose the main things I have learned against Niall have been speed, battle or avoidance. It takes time to staff a cube, so just get straight out the gate and solve solve solve. Ping ships you don't care about at him to slow him down and prevent probing. Avoid space so he doesn't get a chance to Assimilate Starship (using Contingency Plan) until it's too late. Hide from timeline disruption at a time location. If he has a Q-Flash, expect him to Post Garrison (4 SECURITY for Unexpected Beam-in). Oh, and keep a careful eye on which drones have been played. No Multiplexor Drone Niall? Well I'll just blow up your cube with my Ferengi Fleet then! 50 points, thank you very much!"

Okay, that's some more stuff to work with. For a few more ideas, I went to the chat room. Here's what I got from there:
Resistance-is-futile: dont leave HQ
LadyFenix: forfeit the game before it gets to that point
AllenGould: Well, ship assimilation is easy - they can't probe if they've battled, so you can throw flunkies at them every turn and wait for them to get tired of waiting.
AllenGould: Personnel assimilation requires either Assimilate Counterpart or Assimilate Species. (They need that excuse to battle). If you want to ruin the former's day, simply don't play unique males. No target, not legal, no fight.)
Worf_Son_of_Mogh: best personal assimilation defense is Transport inhibitor, they cant asismilate you if they cant get to you.
Worf_Son_of_Mogh: cloaking doesn't work to well due to decloaking drone
Worf_Son_of_Mogh: the singles biggest defense is it takes a few turns for them to be ready so if you win the game on turn 3 or 4 you can normally win before they are ready to assimilate you :)

So there you go; stop playing with unique males! Have fun!

Second Edition Australian National Championships Winner Robert Dawson
Title: Power Rangers in Space!
Headquarters: Caretaker's Array
Deck Size: Small (35-44)
Deck Archetype: Speed Solver
Dilemma Pile Size: Medium (30-49)
Dilemma Pile Type: Standard Attrition
Average Draw Deck Card Cost: 2.64
Agonizing Count: 3
Odds of Passing a 3-Skill-Dilemma Legacy: 35.8%
See also: Five space Voyager decks are common at major events; most recently Thomas Schneider came in second at the UK Nationals with one.

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

This was my first proper tournament in almost a year (baring the warm up tournament that we ran here a couple of weeks ago), but I've been keeping up with each of the new sets and building decks I knew I probably wouldn't get a chance to play just for fun. Relativity was something I considered, as was TNG with some of the new cards, but the final choice came down to either 5 space Voyager or a Cadet deck using Favor the Bold. I tested both of those decks out in practice and Voyager came out a little stronger.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
Well, being Voyager, anything geared towards engagements wasn't going to be fun, to be honest I wanted to see a good spread of newer deck types so I could see everything in action. Mike has playing a Dominion deck with the newer HQ which actually forced me to have to complete all five of my missions to have a shot at winning - that was cool.

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?
Hahaha - as mentioned above, this was my first real tournament in a while. I've played Voyager plenty of times but that deck did Caretaker's Array and two 40 point missions. I was a little apprehensive about having to do four missions but the dilemmas were a lot easier towards the end. That, play playing two At What Costs had me with 18+ personnel in play for multiple mission attempts, further augmented with Homeward Bound.

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?
Homeward Bound was awesome, I expected it to be countered more often than it was. I actually ended up using the Gametext on Repair Null Space Catapult in one game too (Voyager had started the turn at Caretaker's Array due to Where No One Has Gone Before, and didn't have range to move to another mission. I'd consider swapping out a mission for a 40+ point mission so I had a fallback against a point loss deck like Mike's though.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
As good as Homeward Bound was, Dignitaries and Witnesses took the cake. I used in about 6 or 7 times across the day, often as my only dilemma, and it was only overcome once (seriously, who has 3 Leadership among seven personnel? :P)

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
Not really, just happy we got to have a high level tournament that was walking distance from my house instead of a four hour plane flight. And great to see Trek in WA making a resurgence!

My Commentary:
It's not hard to see why 5-space Voyager decks are so common these days. Voyager was already a force to be reckoned with, but didn't previously have much reason to play a preventable/destroyable event in order to do more missions to win. Sure, those four solved missions would all be space, but dilemma piles were already heavily weighted towards dual dilemmas, and some of the fiercest dilemmas out there bear the space icon (I'm looking at you, Where No One Has Gone Before). Then, in the Lower Decks expansion, we got The Long Journey Home's text on a mission (where it cannot be blanked), and a Ruling Council clone for 5-space Voyager in Homeward Bound.

Well, that got people's attention, and now we're starting to see a whole lot of this decktype, though this is the first time it has made it into this series. With dilemma piles already often reaching the 40-50 card size, and space dilemmas that work against the Stakoron-happy Dominion and Romulans (like Personal Duty or Gomtuu Shock Wave) showing up in increasing numbers, simply making planet dilemmas into dead draws and having the downloadable ability to gain a turn at least three times isn't quite enough on its own; this decktype still needs to be optimized. What Robert has done here is just that: optimization. We're down to a slick 44 cards, which is a rare sight in Voyager deck. After all, you need enough events to make those Voyager-less first turns hurt less, and then you've got 6 of your cards dedicated to Chakotays alone, right?

Right off the top, the event count here is slimmed down, and has a full three Christenings to severely drop the number of games that you start without a Voyager. Now, this could sometimes be a problem in classic Voyager, since you've got all those duplicate personnel, and might have a pretty non-optimal personnel drop if you get the first-turn Voyager. However, we've only got two Chakotays here, which should greatly smooth out the Voyager first turn personnel drop. The stop prevention may be missed, but with the new Chakotay's ability, good attribute boosting from Thirst for Knowledge, and some dilemma choke from Running a Tight Ship, you're facing fewer dilemmas that have to fight harder to prevent you from solving anyways.

Of course, I could have the wrong read on all this, so I just asked Robert whether he missed the unstopping power of the Chakotays. Here's what he said: "I didn't find myself mising them too much, no. I used them quite extensively in my other Voyager deck, but for the five space voyager deck I found the new Chakotay to be much more useful, both with reducing the attribute requirement and providing redundancy for RATS. I considered including Revised Chakotay but i wanted to keep the deck slimmer to maxmise the chance of drawing Voyager and/or Christening in my opening hand, which happened in 4 out of 5 games."

I'd like to point out one other choice that is uncommon for most 5-space Voyager decks, but is one that has me completely on board. As I mentioned before, Gomtuu Shockwave is everywhere these days, and Bored Janeway from Lower Decks doesn't do as much about it as Janeway, Forceful Captain. That huge attribute boost is enough to turn the average 5-person Caretaker's team into one that doesn't get drop-stopped by Gomtuu - and the sooner you solve that first space mission, the better. It helps that she's the commander of the less Outclassable ship in the deck too - when I tried out 5-space Voyager, I often wished that I could be attempting from a ship that could move and beat Outclassed in the same turn (and still have matching commander abilities be active). Bored Janeway is good, don't get me wrong, but my experience has definitely made me a convert to the Forceful Captain.

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