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The Road to Worlds: GenCon Masters

by Lucas Thompson, Ambassador

11th August 2016

First Edition GenCon Masters winner Edwin Latrell
Title: Ferengi Phasmid v0.o
Deck Archetype: Speed Interference
Play Engines: Ferengi Military Operations, Attention All Hands, Cybernetics Expertise, Scientific Diplomacy
Draw Engines: Kivas Fajo - Collector, Continuing Mission, Process Ore: Mining, Forced Labor Camp
Bonus Point Mechanics: Assign Mission Specialists, Scientific Diplomacy, Valuable Prisoner, Labor Camp, Process Ore: Mining
See also: I haven't seen TNG Ferengi take down a major event since the errata to Gozar and Ferengi Military Operations.

Edwin's Commentary:
(Note: Edwin made some some reinterpretations of my questions, which better suited his deck and experience. Enjoy!)
First question in two parts:
First Part: What decision making process did you go through in selecting your deck for GenCon?

Attending GenCon was something of a fluke that was made possible by a serendipitous confluence of life events that found my family relocating to two different parts of the United States. Fortunately, I knew that it was possible to make the event six week in advance, so I was afforded the opportunity to put something together.

I originally toyed with three primary ideas, however, I settled on TNG Ferengi for two main reasons:
1) I am not a ‘seasoned’ or veteran player, and this would only be my second high-level event. I did not, and still do not, possess a solid understanding of the meta. I also lacked an understanding of the play-style of players I had never faced but knew I could face at this event. I therefore decided to construct a phasmid. I knew next to nothing about my potential opponents, so I decided to construct a deck that gave less than nothing away about my deck before I was ready to reveal it. TNG Ferengi was the answer to the creation of the phasmid. It was able to appear convincingly close to Ken Tufts’ Scientific Diplomacy Fed-Deck, or a possible homebrew of a Legitimate or Illegitimate Leader of the Empire deck. This phasmid quality elicited some amazed/incredulous looks from across the table; especially when downloaded Ferengi Military Operations with Continuing Mission.

2) I liked some cards ( [Univ] B’Rel and Duj Saq) that worked synergistically with other cards I knew I wanted in the deck, however, these never made it into the final version of the deck. Though these cards were not in the final version, the provided me the foundation from which the rest of the deck evolved.

Second Part: Did the deck’s evolution impact your desire to continue to keep playing it?
I have always had a special love for the [Univ] B’Rel and thought it might be fun to table one or two. When I realized that I had almost no place for it in the deck, I was a little saddened and almost scrapped the deck because, that was one of a handful of cards I had determined I wanted in the deck from inception. However my play-test buddy, Jordan Smith (Mogor) helped me see the value in the deck without those cards so I pressed on.

Deck design requires some understanding of what decks the build will do well against and those it will not perform well against. What decks, if any, did you tech against and which ones did you feel confident in facing with your deck?
Once the final version was done, about 2 weeks ago, I felt that it was solid against almost any standard speed solver. I was apprehensive about facing a dedicated battle.dek and so I had Metaphasic Shields and Ablative Armor, both of which are fetched via mission or special downloads. I also placed Paxan ‘Wormhole’ in the deck after some feedback from players in my play group who recognized the values of certain missions. Two cards I agonized and debated over up until the night before the event were Resupply Marauder II and/or Strategic Base. Both of these would have helped but I had no room in the Seed for Strategic Base and Resupply Marauder II would give away what I was playing before I wanted too.

That said, I knew Borg was a bad matchup. There was very little I could do about it and with that understanding failed to adequately prepare to face it. I made the mistake of writing that matchup as an auto-loss for me and so failed to at least play test against it in order to better understand the weaknesses my deck had against it. Had I done so, I would have discovered how disastrous actually playing Kiva Fajo – Collector is against a Borg Queen lead horde. I was actually feeding Dan Hamman’s deck with Kivas and that was unexpected to say the least. If I had play tested more diligently I would have seen the value of Ref-cards like Obelisk of Masaka, Access Denied, and some others that specifically help against Borg. With that knowledge I could have at least provided some sort of game to Dan when I sat down across form him and his Borg deck.

What level of familiarity did you have with your deck, or decks like it prior to GenCon? What Lessons Learned did you gain from playing your deck at this event?
GenCon provided me the opportunity to debut, as it were, my first approach to, and take on a TNG Ferengi deck. To be honest, I sort of missed the TNG Frengi hype a few years ago because I was in Cuba, a pleasant country with underwhelming Internet. As a result I was not able to play online at that time and missed TNG Ferengi at its peak. I have not previously piloted nor, if my memory is correct, have I previously played against a TNG Ferengi deck. So this ‘test flight’ of the deck was a very nice experience, made all the more memorable because it was a janky-homebrew deck rather then a recognized staple.

In my line of work there is a maxim: Complacency Kills. Every time I play, I am afforded a new opportunity to learn more about the game, and about the players who are helping to keeping it alive. If I walked away from a game having not learned anything I would be guilty of being a complacent player. In such an instance, the loss would be mine, and a well-deserved loss it would be. In this tournament I played so many different kinds of decks that I learned at least the same number of new things. I cannot pick out one pithy soundbite to encompass my lessons learned piloting my deck at the event because they are numerous and all equally valuable to me.

Your deck employs cards not often found together in TNG Ferengi Deck. How many of these are situation cards? Did they work, or were they taking up deck space? How many of the cards you recognize as being situational would you retain in future iterations of this particular deck?
My Ref pile is the most situational part of the deck. I built it in order to deal with threats my opponent may bring out that could potentially shift the tempo into his or her favor. That said I did a very poor job of building my Ref pile against decks I already knew I was going to have difficulty playing against. Future versions of this deck will contain a Ref pile that possesses a more anti-Borg quality to it.

Additionally, the following cards were those I specifically tech-ed in against archetypes I knew I may face. These are listed in below, including the name of the archetype(s) I placed them in to counter.

[Univ] D’Kora Marauder (Battle, Borg).
Tommygun (Holograms).
Ablative Armor (Battle, Borg)
Paxan ‘Wormhole’ (Battle, Borg)
Steal Technology (Battle, Borg)

Every player feels that one thing more than any other contributed to the overall success of the deck they piloted. What do you feel that is in your deck?
I mentioned above that I constructed the deck as a phasmid. That was the strategy that I pursued, and that is the strategy that helped me to win. Every opponent at the GenCon Masters that I managed to defeat, I did so in a way that was a surprise to them. The deck has the ability to blindside even the most attentive players: from the revealing of FMO after the spaceline is set up with dilemmas, to winning via Scientific Diplomacy’s removal of a SCIENCE person from the discard after placing them there with Process Ore: Mining at the beginning of the turn.

Is there anything else you can tell us about your deck?
Yes. While this was not a reason for playing TNG Ferengi, it was extremely fulfilling to pilot a Ferengi deck while still representing the Ferenginar region! Ken, Amber, Michael, J, Justin, Jordan, and anyone else from Ferenginar that I failed to include in the shout-out here, who over the last few years have adopted me as one of their own and helped me to be the best player I can be: This is for you guys.

My Commentary:
I'll be completely honest with you: I was not expecting to be reviewing TNG Ferengi this week. TNG hasn't exactly been dominant lately, and I believe the general consensus is that, since the TNG errata wave, the Ferengi have been on the bottom of the heap. Switching Gozar's uniqueness on top of changing Attention All Hands to care about duplication of universals wreaked havoc on their skill matrix, in addition to removing the draw engine from Ferengi Military Operations and the ability to stack them with the aggressive Mercenaries. To quote Kris Sonsteby's 2/27/16 tournament report: Post errata to Gozar and Mercenary Raiders, TNG Ferengi border on unplayable as they lack sufficient skill coverage to solve even their most basic missions. When Rata x3 is required to get to a marginal level of Acquisition personnel, you know you're in for a long day.

And yet, here we are with a TNG Ferengi deck that has taken down a major event, through some very stiff competition. Edwin has used some pretty clever techniques to bring our lobed friends up to speed. Taking Charge is quite a nice engine for them due to their popular DaiMons, and fetches not only Forced-Labor Camp but the popular Process: Ore Mining. Those objectives supplement the draws from Kivas Fajo - Collector, who is significantly less risky these days due to the decrease in Q's Tent - Civil War usage. These Objectives help to ensure the effectiveness of Temptations of the Flesh, which is a great mass-stopper that also ensures a reasonable mission attempt was initiated before allowing the weakened crew to move on.

TNG Ferengi don't have access to the same two-mission wins that other TNG factions do. Their icons don't show up on the easy, high-point, HQ: Defensive Measures-protectable premiere missions; they also don't have the mission specialist depth that the Federation, Romulans, and Klingons do. The Genesis Device is available to them, but after recent high-profile Genesis-fueled wins, it's hard to imagine Edwin wouldn't have seen the Device blow up in a disruptor accident. What we have instead is an interesting mix of some capture side-strategies. Ferengi Ambush has always been popular in TNG Ferengi decks, but using it to capture personnel that you then use to fuel draws and bonus points is really cool (5 points).

Second Edition GenCon Masters winner Phil Schrader
Title: Make America d8 Again
Headquarters: Mouth of the Wormhole, Deep Space 9
Deck Size: 39 cards
Deck Archetype: Speed Solver
Dilemma Pile Size: 36 cards
Dilemma Pile Type: Standard Attrition
See also: Well, there's Ken Tuft's original version of this deck, and then there's Kevin Jaeger's deck that was in part inspired by Ken's.

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

After looking at the field of pre-registered players I thought speed would be the best way to approach this tournament. I brought two other decks with me that I considered playing: TOS 8472 (same as Continentals) and Borg Assimilation. TOS 8472 is great in a 2-day event since but can fall flat in 1-day events since Klingons and Ferengi (to a lesser extent) make most of the 8472 dilemmas whiff. I decided against Borg because I felt more comfortable with speed and especially with the Commons deck.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
I tech'd the dilemma pile heavily against any form of [Fed] with three Moral Choices. I had expected to see some 5SV decks but there was not-a-one in the field. I did play against two other [Fed] decks - Tyler and Stephen - so they didn't go completely to waste. The only deck I knew I didn't want to face was Romulan discard. The deck is a bit fragile with just under 40 cards, so any consistent milling might ruin my day.

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 tried this first-cut version of this deck out a local event a couple of weeks ago, which I won the event with. The deck doesn't take too much thinking to play aside from making crew/away team selections since the goal is to microteam as much as possible. The only new lesson I learned was that sometimes you need to use the Quark download to grab a ship instead of Commons card. You want to play a ship on turn two (three at the latest) and if the ships are near the bottom of the deck it can be hard to pull off.

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?
After facing two Tragic Turn piles at the previously mentioned local, I decided to include one copy of the U.S.S Sao Paulo and the associated Nog to help me deal with any kill piles that may turn up. These cards were useful against Ben in Round 1, but did not see much play after that.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
It's a tie between Common Cause and the three missions I used - Protect the Escapees, Investigate Destruction and Torga IV. Common Cause would routinely draw 5-7 cards for 2 counters, which let me get through nearly a third of my deck for three cards. As far as the missions go, PtE and ID are joke missions that can easily be solved with four personnel and Torga IV allows me to solve these three missions and isn't all that hard to complete itself.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
I need to thank Ken Tufts for turning me on to this deck. We had a great discussion about it at Continentals and he pointed me to his version, which formed the backbone for this deck.

My Commentary:
I'm less surprised by the winning Second Edition deck than I was by the First Edition one, but I generally feel that Kevin's version that adds TNG Earth with Guinan and Inyo is just generally more versatile. As a player that favors playing speed decks myself, Kevin's version patches up a huge weakness. By cheating in high cost personnel with Inyo, the deck dodges rough match-ups against 40-point mission decks that use the 6-cost anti-weenie dilemmas heavily. Weenie decks generally don't care when their personnel die, but when you're losing three chumps at a time with only one dilemma under, you lose a lot of your speed advantage.

On the other hand, Ken and Phil's version likely draws more reliably. Kevin's latest build drops the "Common" events in favor of more often drawing the potent combo pieces of Preposterous, Guinan, Inyo, and At What Cost?, but those are a lot of different pieces to draw, even in a slim deck. This deck just needs to draw personnel of different affiliations (which come in many possible permutations), and add to them the six Common events. What's nice about the Common events is they don't need to be drawn in a certain order, and they certainly don't need to be drawn together. Just firing off a couple of them greatly increases the odds that you'll draw into more by the time you're ready for them. Sure, a turn where you chain the draws from Cause into counters from Purpose and just keep drawing through your deck are nice, but they're entirely non-essential.

Phil's major addition is that of the Sao Paulo, perhaps a concession to the kill weakness of the original Tufts. It may feel weird to add a 7-cost ship to a weenie deck that should generally not care about losing individual personnel, but it can be worth the cost to counter All-Consuming-Evil piles so directly - especially for a deck that plans to solve two space missions. It doesn't directly answer the 6-cost dilemmas though, since the kill-free Slightly Overbooked and is what you'll face in space, and Unfair Terms shows up on planets.


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