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The Road to Worlds: Regionals Week 3

by Lucas Thompson, Ambassador

21st April 2016

Welcome back for another season of The Road to Worlds. Around this time every year, we have a three-month stretch where each region of play for the various Star Trek card games gets to have its "big dance." Whether the players of your locale are rated 1800 or don't know their rating, whether your nearest regional attracts 4 players or 40 players, once a year everyone brings their best decks and competes for their regional title. I'm here to celebrate with the winners, ask them what they think, and analyze their decks.

Second Edition Atlanta Regional winner Greg Hodgin
Title: It's been a long road... damn, wrong song
Headquarters: Caretaker's Array
Deck Size: 48 cards
Deck Archetype: Midrange Solver
Dilemma Pile Size: 47 cards
Dilemma Pile Type: Standard Attrition
Average Draw Deck Card Cost: 2.73
Agonizing Count: 3
Odds of Passing a 3-Skill-Dilemma Legacy: 8.2%
See also: Robert Dawson's deck from Australian Nationals, and Alexey Korolev's deck from the Moscow Regional (and various online events).

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

I like to play nasty decks that wreck the opponent's ability to respond effectively, to engage in control, or to flat out lock someone out of victory. The deck I played with at this Regionals was none of those things: there was zero interrupt prevention, and zero event destruction. It was a pure mission solver deck, and it was Voyager. I'd never won an big event with any kind of Fed deck, so I thought, why not give it a try? 5-space Voyager has some great things going for it right now, and I'd been experimenting with a build for a while so I took a shot. I also considered TNG solver and a Maquis lockout deck, but I settled on this one.

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 face big, slow build up decks that took a while to set up or control decks. Voyager is speedy as can be, and it's great to blow through 3 missions in one turn if done correctly. The fast decks I can slow down with my dilemma pile (all stops and mostly bounce-backs), and the pile was tailored to stop microteaming and TNG or VOY Feds (3 Distress calls, 3 Moral Choices, 3 Personal Duties, 3 An Issue of Trusts, etc). I did not want to face attack decks (no headquarters is troublesome but I can limp to theirs if need be), Borg (assimilation is a pain) and I didn't want to face a Maquis lockout deck. Unfortunately, Michael Schwartz decided to bring a Maquis lockout deck, and this Voyager build had zero event destruction and only one Law (Tuvok). I got locked out of Caretaker's Array, but through some shrewd plays I managed to finish a Strange New Worlds mission with my only law.

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?
Yes, I've been playing with a Voyager build for some time now, and I wanted to see how well it went in a big tournament. I definitely learned that there's some refinements that need to be made, specifically a few more NA Law personnel and also some event destruction.

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?
In the case of this deck, most of the situational cards were in the dilemma pile: an extra Timespace, Moral Choices, etc. What card exceeded my expectations? No question, Homeward Bound. Three free turns if used correctly? Thank you very much! This card won me most of my games, full stop. Revised Chakotay plus the new Chakotay made great partners: easy to do missions with 4 or 5 people with them in play. I wouldn't include Lore in my deck anymore: he's cute for Secret Identity, but besides that he wasn't all that useful. Instead, I'd replace him with an NA Law personnel just in case. Drumhead hurts this deck badly.

My Commentary:
Five space Voyager decks are starting to settle down these days. Alexey's and Rob's versions of the deck are frequently copied, and largely represent the two ends of the spectrum on which you can typically place the non-copied decks. Greg's build falls somewhere in between Alexey's more midrange build and the faster version of Rob's.

Greg's most divergent choice was to use none of the one-cost personnel. No Mitchells, no Mortimers, no Tals, and, perhaps most startlingly, no Telfers. No interrupts are going to be downloaded here, though I suppose doing so is not entirely essential in a 48 card deck. In exchange for losing the selection avoidance and downloads, Greg has a lot more protection from low-cost-personnel-hate, which I know from experience is common in the Atlanta meta. Only seven personnel in his deck can be stopped by In Development, and he's got nine different personnel who cost four or more for passing Slightly Overbooked. Those dilemmas tend to be the most common stop-everyone-with-one-under offenders, and avoiding those makes Homeward Bound and Running a Tight Ship that much more potent.

That choice informs his other divergent pick: Kathryn Janeway, Regretful Leader. He doesn't need Mindful Keeper's 1-cost-related text, and Forceful Captain's matching commander status is a little less essential without Mortimer Harren. The regretful admiral (not to be confused with the Wistful Admiral) doesn't download anything in his deck, but she does bring by far the best skill list of all the Janeways, can be played for free once Caretaker's Array has been completed, and simply being an Admiral is valuable for Dignitaries and Witnesses.

If Greg is looking for suggestions about which Non-Aligned Law personnel to use, I would like to put forward Nimira. Revealing a Homeward Bound is not a huge disadvantage in this deck, people are generally going to assume you have one anyways. On the other hand, in a no-HQ space-only deck, being able to choose to play a personnel stopped can be very useful. There are times when you haven't had time yet to play your second ship, and the ability to play more people without attempting with more than nine personnel can be critical. She's got good stats and a long skill list too, one which will put The Weak Will Perish under your mission. And how can you say no to that face?

Second Edition Twin Cities Regional winner Nat Kirton
Title: "Besides spelling, I like to ride rollercoasters...and I'm a vegetarian."
Headquarters: Mouth of the Wormhole, Deep Space 9
Deck Size: 37 cards
Deck Archetype: Speed... Interference?
Dilemma Pile Size: 22 cards
Dilemma Pile Type: Attribute Denial
Average Draw Deck Card Cost: 2.08
Agonizing Count: 3
Odds of Passing a 3-Skill-Dilemma Legacy: 1.3%
See also: The draw deck isn't that far removed from something like Nate's DS9 anti-meta solver, but the dilemma pile is something else entirely. Nat has been winning tournaments with similar decks since at least 2013.

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

The Deep Space Nine deck I played is a deck that I am familiar with, and knew I could play well. The attribute denial dilemma pile I also have experience with, and thought it would be decent meta choice. I also considered playing Ferengi mega counters and non 5-space Voyager, but both felt not quite strong enough for the Minnesota Regional.

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 against speed solvers and straight forward designs in general, including a lot of Federation which I expected to see. I did not want to face Dominion nor Terok Nor, as both are very strong against an attributed denial pile with naturally high strength.

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 have played this deck at Regionals and other big tournaments before, and as I knew I would be coming in tired for this tournament (I work overnights) I wanted to play something I was familiar with. This iteration of the deck is about 10 cards smaller than all previous versions, which was incredibly useful in ensuring a good opening hand / draw throughout.

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 whole dilemma pile is pretty situational, depending on match-ups. As I trimmed the draw deck down significantly for this iteration, there were not any situational cards in it. While there weren’t any that I would exclude the next time I play this deck, I might consider adding a second copy of Alvera Tree Ritual or maybe an Enrique Muniz.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
The three in order are: 1) Clown: Bitter Medicine 2) Programmed Compulsion and 3) Chula: The Dice.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
Deep Space Nine is still viable, and attribute denial is fun. Happy skill tracking!

My Commentary:
Sitting down across from this deck, you'll probably initially feel like you're going to face off against your average DS9 deck. The missions are pretty familiar - it turns out, even though DS9 doesn't have the highest average Integrity out there, >25 attribute space missions are pretty good when you've got the Centaur around. DS9 in particular cares less that the average space mission is 3 span than most factions, since their Headquarters is 1 span. When any 8 range ship can fly out to space and back without boosts, making your early missions space missions is an easy choice. Couple those missions with the two of the lowest attribute requirement 40 point missions available, and you've got a solid start for any deck. There's a good reason why few successful DS9 decks have diverged from this formula since Torga IV was released in Unnatural Selection.

Once you actually start attempting missions, things start going sideways for you. Nate's attribute denial pile is more akin to something you'd typically see in a Dominion Infiltration deck, filled with things like Chula: The Dice and The Clown: Bitter Medicine. With those two dilemmas and good skill tracking, solving becomes a nightmare, one that worsens once Programmed Compulsion and Khan hit the table. DS9 may lack cards like Bashir Founder and Misdirection, but it turns out that even a -2 or even -1 reduction can make solving a mission significantly harder - especially with Setting The Stage bouncing around and flat out preventing the mega-teams. And what DS9 lacks in pile support, it more than makes up for in solving capability. Dominion Infiltration decks struggle to get even the modified win, Nat had all full wins.

Reading Matt Hayes' tournament report, I discovered that I didn't really know how good Programmed Compulsion is. I always figured that you just needed to go try the mission it is placed on next, but the key here is that you need a staffed ship at the mission. If you fail the attempt, your staffing is stopped, and Programmed Compulsion sticks around. Brutal. If you want that reduction to go away, you really need to just park a whole ship and staffing at that mission and not do anything with them. For some decks, that's a really tall order. What a difference between the end of your turn and the beginning makes.

So, if you're looking for something different, maybe add a Khan or two and try out an attribute denial pile yourself. Nat's got something very unique here, which might just be the breath of fresh air you're looking for.

First Edition Twin Cities Regional winner Kris Sonsteby
Title: If You Hit the Wrong Note... We'll All B Flat!
Deck Archetype: Speed Solver
Play Engines: Legitimate Leader of the Empire, Attention All Hands, The Great Hall, I.K.C. T'Ong
Draw Engines: Continuing Mission, Kivas Fajo - Collector
Bonus Point Mechanics: Assign Mission Specialists, Arbiter of Succession
See also: Kris has played a variety of TNG Klingon builds since he was handed one in 2013. Feel free to browse his tournament profile for a full accounting of the permutations over the years.

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

Why did I play this? Because, to quote “The Icon” Jason Drake, “I believe in the 2-mission win.”

While in “The Lab” building for MinnMania 2000 plus 16, I compiled the dilemma combos right after our local league season came to a close in March, then debated my options for draw decks over the following weeks. Intent on seeding 18 dilemmas and two copies of Quantum Incursions meant I had only nine seed slots to work with for an essential minimum of four play engines, and that narrowed things down even further. Once I came to that realization and looked over the list of likely Regional attendees, I felt I needed to play to my strengths as best I could if I was to have any real hope of doing well. Since I had recently played Hirogen locally and am tired of playing TNG Romulan, the two other decks that make up my usual stable, I didn’t really give a ton of thought to playing anything else. Especially not any of the latest Flavor of the Month ™ noise I was undoubtedly going to face.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
I wasn’t really hoping or not hoping to face anything in particular. In our area, which is rapidly becoming pretty deep in tier-1 and tier-2 talent, every time I bother to prepare for a specific design, I run into something completely different. That said, I also knew that Kevin would naturally be playing to his strengths as well given what was at stake, and that meant I either needed to be interaction proof or find a way to outrace it.

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 have run this build a handful of times in the past, most recently at King of the Ring in September and then again at a league gig in February. Both of those iterations utilized The Genesis Device for the 2-mission win plus Handshake for draws, and I was not pleased with how either mechanic was working. The Genesis Device is just far too easy to shutdown with a well-placed Dead End at either mission, and Handshake for the first function takes the decision out of my hands. So, I went back to the drawing board and came out with an outpost focused draw engine in Kivas Fajo – Collector and huge premiere era missions to make the 2-mission win far more reliable.

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?
Other than the typical Referee fodder that is almost never used by the First Edition majority, I didn’t have anything specific in my build that I would not consider using again. After the tournament, I ran through the Q’s Tent and the only thing that never came out over the course of the four round tournament was Dig. However, I could have easily pulled it out in a pinch to double up a Masaka while trolling for a specific card in my draw deck, so it still merits a spot. The only surprisingly useful card I found this time around was Emergency Transport Unit, as I saved Gowron from death by Kelvan Show of Force after he cleared an Executive Authorization.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
I think an honorable mention has to go to Masaka Transformations via Obelisk of Masaka, as against Jon I had to use it to dig for extra Science to pass a Scientific Method at Distress Mission and against Barry I needed it to go searching for an Arbiter of Succession after I got tagged with Lack of Preparation at Pegasus Search. Those two cards aside, I would have to say the overall MVP of this deck is undoubtedly Officer Exchange Program. That card alone is why I was able to attempt on my second turn in every game.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
Not about the deck, but I would like to give a shout out to Minnesota’s finest Ambassadors, Justin and Barry, for putting on a great weekend over at Fantasy Flight Games. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Kevin and Jon specifically for giving me a pair of cerebral chess matches on Sunday. Those two games alone were pay-per-view worthy, and reinforced the notion that the best place to play STCCG in the World is still right here in The Land of 10,000 Champions.

My Commentary:
If you looked through Kris' tournament profile as I suggested in the See Also section, and clicked on the First Edition Klingon deck tab, you'd see a long list of TNG Klingon decks. Kris has been honing this design for quite some time, and what we see here is a finely tuned machine. There's not a hair out of place here, every card has its purpose, and most games will see every card. I would also recommend reading Kris' thorough tournament report, since that does a great job of illuminating how this deck plays out.

In particular, it helps explain why not one but two stealable missions show up in this deck. Players have been avoiding them like the plague since the dawn of OTF, and often for good reason. But Kris has a plan - HQ: Defensive Measures can block the theft of those missions, leaving him with a 45+ point mission that has a weak combo underneath it. And now that In the Zone is gone, Wormhole Negotiations can be boosted with the same three mission specialists as Distress Mission, to a whopping 60 points. Other recent TNG Klingon winning decks have used The Genesis Device for a two mission win, this deck doesn't need that. It has its own seed card to enable the two mission win, and Defensive Measures doesn't need you to solve a mission first.

My read of this deck is that it is slightly less aggressive than Kris' historically well-performing Romulan build - there's no battle bridge side deck, no Ready Room Doors to fetch Captain's Log from the tent. I still wouldn't turn your back on it though; when one of your play engines is a ship, and Klingons have one of the bigger TNG-legal Hidden Fighter targets, you're never completely safe. The Pagh can always be dialed up with Officer Exchange Program, though that's just as likely to be used to find essential solving personnel. The Program is in fact Klag and Vekma's only way out of the Tent, and they are a key part of the two mission strategy.

Finally, any deck named with a Goonies quote is a winner in my book.

Second Edition Orlando Regional winner Rick Kinney
Title: Borg solver with some Assimilation for Orlando Regional
Headquarters: Unicomplex, Root of the Hive Mind
Deck Size: 50 cards
Deck Archetype: Midrange Interference
Dilemma Pile Size: 40 cards
Dilemma Pile Type: Chula attrition
Average Draw Deck Card Cost: 2.06
Agonizing Count: 3
Odds of Passing a 3-Skill-Dilemma Legacy: 0.1%
See also: For another Borg solver, see Greg Hodgin's Georgia Masters deck. For another Borg assimilator, see Ken Tufts' Canadian Nationals deck.

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

I picked this deck because I needed to play Borg one more time for the Play 10 achievement. I considered playing a Klingon Event destruction deck but I expected to face at least one or two mostly space opponents. With the Borg and some assimilation, I thought I could catch opponents off guard as I rarely, if ever, play a lot of interaction type decks. I've never played with the Borg to assimilate anyone.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
Based on my expectations, I was actually looking forward to the Voyager all space build. I thought if I could get my Drones on board, then the opponent's crew would have nowhere to hide from them and I could attack and/or assimilate as needed.

I didn't want to face other Borg. If they did to me what I wanted to do to my opponents, it would have been messy. Also, I was a little concerned if I had to do combat with Klingons or Jemmies due to their strength.

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 never tried using the Borg the way most players do, at least not to engage in combat or other aggressive behavior. I learned that I have to make a lot more decisions than I'm used to making based on my normal deck designs. Like, should I beam onto their ship now; how many do I send; can I get them back when I need them; do I stop interfering with them and work on my own missions, and if so, when? Do I play this personnel or that event? Lots more things for me to consider than I am used to.

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?
Absolutely! I had cards I've never ever used that would only be helpful in this type of solver/assimilation deck design. Borg Cutting Beam, the Harvest Drone, One With the Borg, and the list goes on.

My dilemma pile worked better than I had expected. I'll give credit to Chula The Game for that. It worked great with some non-Chula cards to complement it. Also, Uninvited is an amazing card if you are running a Chula pile. It kept my opponents at bay long enough for me to squeeze out three wins.

Pretty much everything that was in the deck proved useful in one game or another, except I never got a chance to play One With the Borg. Other than that, I don't think I had much dead weight considering it was a 50 card draw deck. To that end, I rarely interlinked any skills as I really didn't want to lose ANY of the cards in the draw deck.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
My MVP card would have to be Abduction. Using that with the Invasive Drone set up most of my assimilation success.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
I honestly expected to be embarrassed at the tournament today. In my practice draws, I would get too many events, not enough events, no ships, too many ships, not enough of the right personnel and any other "luck of the draw" problems you can imagine. My dilemma practice draws didn't do much better. I think that my wins today were all just good luck for a change. I've had my share of "if only I had drawn that card" type of game. It feels nice to have things work out right, at least this one time!

My Commentary:
I think Rick's deck title is actually selling the degree to which his deck is an assimilation deck short. He actually has more assimilation cards than the assimilator of Ken's I linked above, even adjusting for deck size. What I'm saying is, if you're sitting across from this deck, you should not feel remotely safe.

Often you'll see a kill pile paired with an interference deck. Assimilating (Borg), killing (Klingon), or returning personnel to hand (Maquis) supplements the pile well, increasing the likelihood that you'll completely deplete the opponent's resources. I think though that a Chula pile is an underrated option for pairing with an interference deck, depending on your goal. Standard attrition piles and kill piles have a fairly even curve on the game time to points scored graph. But Chula piles, especially ones backed up with 3x Uninvited, typically stall the opponent harder at one mission, often the first. An interference deck can capitalize on that stalling by grinding down the crews that keep getting stopped at that one mission.

It's uncommon to see a Borg deck eschew the Alpha Quadrant - Assimilate Resistance and the Annexation Drone provide such a strong incentive that few can resist their call. But the 9-10 range on Borg ships often goes to waste when commuting to the AQ, frittered away on the cross-quadrant fees. Meanwhile, a cube in the Delta Quadrant can fly out to a 3-span space mission and back without blinking, and the Queen's Borg Sphere's attribute boost is much easier to activate out there too.

An assimilator might be concerned about the commute back to the DQ after assimilating your new solving crew, but Rick already had his sights set on DQ opponents. It's much easier to regroup after abducting Janeway and Chakotay when all they missions you'll attempt with them are next door. After you've lost your third game in a row to someone netdecking a five space Voyager deck, this deck may be just the right therapeutic treatment. (I'd add a Knowledge and Experience or two though.)


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