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The Road to Worlds: Georgia Masters

by Lucas Thompson, Ambassador

25th February 2016

Welcome back! It's been over a month since Nationals season and the last Road to Worlds article, it's time to get rolling again. Last weekend's Georgia Masters events will help get us warmed up for the upcoming Regionals season, let's see what was hot there:

First Edition winner Michael Van Breemen
Title: Atlanta Masters - 1E
Deck Archetype: Avoidance Solver
Play Engines: Bajoran Resistance Cell, Chamber of Ministers, Quark's Bar
Draw Engines: Bajoran Resistance Cell, Renewal Scroll, Process Ore: Mining
Bonus Point Mechanics: Dabo!
See also: Here is the version of the deck that Justin Ford most recently played, at Canadian Nationals.

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

Achievements, same with just about every deck that I play. I was deciding between the deck I played, a Kazon deck, and something similar to what Ryan played, which would've meant a lot of duplicated missions.

I know that this deck is originally Justin Ford's; did you make any major tweaks to it? Did Justin give you any coaching about how to play it, or have you played against it enough to know it, or both?
Truth be told, it's Justin's basic premise with Ken's card drawing along with my own quirks with Starry Night and the Shrouded Assailant. Justin didn't give me any coaching, I've just played against it a bunch of times. I told him that these were things that I'd do differently than him in playing this deck.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
I didn't really care so much as to what I wanted to play against but I just didn't want to play against Borg or especially battle. It's actually the dislike for battle that ultimately lead me to playing this deck - Can get around Dead End at Bajor, get a lot of points without having to go anywhere else and I could still get achievements with it.

Having played this deck at a major event, are there any further adjustments that you might make to the deck?
I might forego the Shrine and use the Restaurant instead for more free people (3) and have HQ: Secure Homeworld in the draw deck so that I have another way to solve Bajor other than the printed way which wasn't always the easiest of skills for my deck to get on command.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
Shrouded Assailant would win the award for stopping the draws when it was needed most, both against Ryan (who would've gotten the missing Medical that he needed) and Josh (who was playing Borg and deserved it accordingly :) Second would be Quantum Incursions, stopping Ryan repeatedly (no living Empathy, no AU personnel)

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
Don't have a reason to play this again so onto a new achievement deck.

My Commentary:
The top two decks from the Georgia Masters First Edition event are ones I've seen a fair amount of. I've already covered a version of Ryan's AQ speed solver, but Michael Van Breemen's deck hadn't made it into this series as of yet. Justin Ford has played it a number of times, loaned it out to John Corbett, refined it, and played it some more. Actually, at the Masters, John recounted to me a story of once getting a timed win in a mirror match with Justin (who I believe had given him the deck) on Dabo points alone.

This deck is not precisely the same as Justin's deck: it has more draw in it, more things to do if you're not playing against battle, and those Handshake-destroying Shrouded Assailants. The idea is the same, though. You're always safe at home on Bajor, to which all three of your play engines report. You can play Dabo for points with impunity, and wait until you can play a Genesis Effect to get around the Dead Ends that always seem to find their way under Bajor. Then you can scoot along and flip dilemma combos on their heads with The City of B'hala. You even get another play engine in the form of Orb of Wisdom.

This type of deck is very decidedly not a free report salad. You're definitely not going to outpace the raw speed of a deck like Ryan's with only three play engines, and only Cell/Scroll for draw. The quality of the personnel is very high though, and the skill matrix of the deck finely tuned. This a more methodical deck, you've got a game plan, and not much is going to be able to make you stray from it. Common wall skills are covered in spades - I believe that the two times that I saw a couple minutes of Michael's games, he was in the process of saying that "the 2E guy has all the skills."

Don't be fooled by the Reshape the Quadrant, this is not even close to a strictly DS9 logo deck. There are a host of high skill density personnel, from the Medical-dilemma-destroying McCoy, to the AU-dilemma destroying Guinan. The Second Edition personnel may have slightly lower than average non-Integrity stats, but those skill lists are most impressive. Bareil Antos can even be played for free due to his vedek keyword trait, but when personnel like Odo have as many skills as two good First Edition personnel, maybe it doesn't matter that he costs a whole card play.

Second Edition winner Greg Hodgin
Title: Resistance is... Fabulous
Headquarters: Unicomplex, Root of the Hive Mind
Deck Size: Large (60+)
Deck Archetype: Midrange Solver
Dilemma Pile Size: Large (50+)
Dilemma Pile Type: Standard Attrition
Average Draw Deck Card Cost: 1.97
Agonizing Count: 2
Odds of Passing a 3-Skill-Dilemma Legacy: 6.05%
See also: For examples of recent Borg Assimilator winners, you could take a look at Ken's or Kevin's. But for a Borg solver that has won a major event, you'd need to go much further back.

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

I seriously considered Romulans, Cardassians and a nice Voyager 5-space deck. However, I'm known for running Romulans a great deal (in fact, I ran Romulans at the side event) and my Cardassian deck isn't as strong as I want it to be right now. Voyager is insanely strong, but I figured people would be teching against that (Distress Call, Moral Choice, etc) and I didn't want to deal with that grief. So I figured I'd pull the Borg deck out I'd been working on for a bit: light assimilation, but much more of a mission solver deck. I wasn't sure if it was tournament ready, but I was certain that most people wouldn't expect me to play Borg, given my history. I was proven correct in that regard.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
I was hoping to play TOS, Voyager and Terok Nor decks. TOS and Voyager I had teched against, and it's always great to yank a Fed out of their discard pile and make them one with the Borg, especially with TOS! Terok Nor has a poor skill set so it's easy to slow them down, and the dilemma pile was thick enough where I didn't care about milling. I was hoping not to face the Maquis, the Romulans or any speed deck. Both Maquis and Romulans (especially Romulans) could engage in lock out or card denial. A speed deck could simply overpower the deck in regard to mission solving: I can slow people down w/ the dilemma pile, but I can't stop them.

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 been toying with the Borg for years so I was pretty familiar with it, especially the version I had, which involves some kind of random stuff sometimes. I did learn that I need to add one or two Christenings and also 2 more ships (probably the Enterprise-E because it's just beautiful!)

Post-Quintessence errata Borg Solver decks have turned to a number of different download sources (You've Always Been My Favorite, Third, Fourth, First) or drastically cut the deck size in order to get the cards they need when they need them. I was all prepared to ask about your download priority, and then I saw... just two copies of Quintessence in a 91 card deck. What's up with that?
So... I treat the Borg as drones. I don't care who's doing what where: I load up with 8, get a ship as fast as I can and start chewing on the first mission. Half the time I didn't check mission requirements until the second attempt: the point is to see the dilemma pile. You kill drones? Great. I'll use regen alcoves and reload. You stop them or it's a bounce back deck? Fine, now I know. Whenever I attempt, I interlink until there's at least 14 ships/personnel in the discard pile, and then that's a free stop w/ Back to Basics. If they're in space, I go for Tactical Disadvantage as I usually have 2 or 3 ships in my hand to wreck anyone else's hand. If I don't, then there's enough meat in the dilemma pile to slow people down until I get what I need. By the time I get to the second mission, I've got the Queen out (or Locutus) and I've got lots of drones in the discard pile which means I just dial whatever drone I need for the mission with the Queen. Even if she gets thrown out w/ Secret Identity, the ability to swap one drone is usually enough to get the skill I need. Every mission that I have has one of the skills needed for the Observation Drone (except Access Contamination which then gets it because of Expand the Collective), which means I can dump more ships/personnel into the discard pile and recycle my interrupts or Queens or whatever I need back into the deck.

With that being said... I got absolutely hosed against Kevin Reitzel in the first game because I spent ten turns not drawing a single ship or a way to download a ship. And I do mean not a single card: I managed to stop Kevin w/ a Back to Basics that kicked off solely from the personnel I had discarded over turns of simply drawing 7 cards, hence the lessons learned from the earlier question.

I'm also interested to see three copies of the full suite of Borg dilemma disruption interrupts. Did they all perform up to expectations, or would you cut some if you ran the deck again?
Thank the Queen, yes, they performed to expectations! Adapt and Knowledge and Experience flat out won me the last game, while Ascertain and Analyze allowed me to power through stuff I could have never gotten through otherwise. There are 12 interrupts in the deck for good reason: the Borg suck at dilemmas, but with all 4 of those cards you can make it work if you're paying attention. The most important drone usually became the Continuity Drone for interlinking Programming, so I don't need Diplomacy, Law, etc. Much easier to just blow through stuff. Also... Chula piles. I love Chula with a Borg deck and I've got those interrupts in my hand. The first mission's a bit of a grind, but after that... it's pretty smooth sailing.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
2 MVP's: Adapt and Assimilate Resistance. Adapt because so many decks have lots of multiple copies of dilemmas (again, especially Chula) and being able to knock out 3 or 4 dilemmas with Adapt can wreck someone's deck. I didn't see a single Swashbuckler, and that would have honestly hurt, but with no Swashbuckler or interrupt prevention, Adapt became an incredibly powerful card.

Assimilate Resistance was really the only assimilation card I had in the deck, and it was a mission! The deck really only needs 1 person to assimilate, and then Knowledge and Experience just starts wrecking stuff (3 Annexation Drones take care of the points issues). The mission is very easy for the Borg to do, and with the Queen's Borg Sphere it can be done with 4 drones and the Queen if it's set up correctly.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
I wanted to win Masters, but I also wanted to do it with something I hadn't used in a competitive environment before. In the Cardassia Region, I'm "the Romulan guy" and I wanted to dispel the notion that I was a one trick pony. With that being said, I won't be playing Borg for a bit, but I am certain that it'll be played elsewhere, and I'll be making refinements to it myself.

Resistance is indeed futile.

My Commentary:
Going into the Georgia Masters event, I expected to see some Borg Assimilators, inspired by their recent successes. I did not expect to see a Borg Solver - those had mostly died off after the errata to Quintessence. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to see the deck in action, but Greg's commentary above is quite illuminating.

Though the Borg have lost their superior deck access in Quintessence, there are still plenty of potent tricks available to them. Even a 91 card deck can become small quickly with the Interlink keyword (ability?). The interaction that the Queen (Guardian of the Hive) has with Interlink is one of my favorite (presumably intentionally designed) pieces of affiliation flavor. It is fundamentally an abstract mechanic, but the first time I saw someone dial a skill that way I immediately thought that it felt perfectly Borg-like, and unlike anything already in the game.

Borg Solvers that lean heavily on the skill-light interlink drones have another advantage - they are necessarily light on the skills that are punished by the perennially popular Personal Duty and An Issue of Trust. I've taken to running triple Personal Duty myself, due to its usefulness in match-ups with TOS, 5-space Voyager, New Dominion, and GQ Romulan. Nathan Miracle's Masters deck also intentionally ran light on those skills - in my match against him, it certainly caused a great deal of concern when I drew a Personal Duty and An Issue of Trust for his first space attempt, and knew that neither would stop any personnel. Nathan said that he's had many opponents simply assume that AIOT would work against Romulan and essentially give him a mission; I imagine that doesn't happen often with Borg, but I think perhaps its enough to turn popular dilemmas into dead draws.

Now that Greg has called it out, I can completely see why Adapt is amazing these days. Post-Terok Nor Mill, dilemma piles have gotten larger, though diversity within those piles has not increased greatly, so you know what that means... lots of duplicate dilemmas. In Greg's 57 card pile, there are only 30 unique dilemmas. Going down the event list, my 3rd place 44 card pile also only has 30 unique dilemmas, and John Kinney's 4th place 50 card pile has a mere 23 unique dilemmas. You will not want for a target for Adapt, it will just be a matter of how greedy you want to get with it. Do you hit that Secret Identity that is going to remove your second Queen, or do you save it for the Excalbian Drama later on and blast through the mission. I'm looking forward to trying out this card again.


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