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The Road to Worlds: Kassel, Vienna, and SD Masters

by Lucas Thompson, Ambassador

1st June 2017

Second Edition Kassel Regional winner Sascha Kiefer
Title: Regionals Klingon Cheating Solver 2017
Headquarters: Qo'noS, Heart of the Empire
Deck Size: 47 cards
Deck Archetype: Midrange Solver
Dilemma Pile Size: 43 cards
Dilemma Pile Type: Standard Attrition
Victory Correctly Predicted By: LORE, Fritzinger, KillerB, Marquetry, and (after the start time of the event) Armus

Sascha's Commentary:
I thought about a starfleet-delphic deck, focusing on the infinite range of the shuttles and the random selection prevention of Jonathan. Because I am not so experienced with it, I decided to bring the deck I am most comfortable with me: The Klingon solver.

During the last online regional I really struggled with that deck because I usually don't play with BOT, so I had 3 games where I just got stopped by one dilemma for almost the whole game. After that experience I decided to put 3 copies of Bridge Officer's Test in it and remove a roadblock and an ETU for them, and in case my opponent manages to out-speed me, one copy of surprise amity.

I expected Benjamin to bring his fast solving Bajorans and Hannes to play his Klingon solver too. Wasn't really sure what to expect about Tjark, Auwerd, and Thorsten; but I thought that they would also bring some big solving guns to the regional. I have to admit that I never could adapt that well during a tournament with a deck of mine. The deck size of 47 cards - with 3 copies of These Are the Voyages - allows you to search/draw in up to 1-2 turns for a situational card like a Tacking Into the Wind or a Roadblock/BOT/ETU.

The hardest game has been the first one against Benjamin's Klingons. I needed to shuffle 10 Klingons back into my draw deck with my Tacking into the wind to be able to compensate for all the kills from his dilemmas and battle actions. In this game my Tacking and At What Cost?s have been the crucial cards.

I used my BOTs only in my last game against Tjark, but in that situation I needed all three to overcome one dilemma and win the tournament in the end.

So, it is hard to name a single card for an MVP spot. The deck is really situational, and its pace could be only matched by a fast TOS solver. In the tournament I had an insane value for my Accelerated Agings (a lot of the missions from my opponents needed anthropology), so I would call it my MVP. I don't know if I would run 3 copies of BOT again and the Surprise Amity was kinda obsolete during those games.

This tournament taught me once again, that the Klingon solver with Riker/BOT/Tacking/ETU/Roadblock has the possibility to adapt in always any situation I could face in this game, also it is simply too fast for any slow-engine gameplan from my opponent like mass-capture or forced discarding of my draw deck.

My Commentary:
The skill-wall piles I've been talking about for the last few weeks? They hate Klingon decks. No other affiliation are quite as good at using Bridge Officer's Test (Bajorans are a distant second), and Klingon skill gain is easy and cheap in the form of Riker and The Promise. That's not to say that our friends in red don't have some skill holes - Geology and Archaeology (the Captain's Holiday combo) are classic Klingon solver weaknesses, and sure enough, those skills are light here (as are some others). But stocking a full playset of Bridge Officer's Test should more than compensate for those weaknesses, and doesn't get blocked by Coordinated Counterattack (while abilities like Riker's are immune to interrupt prevention.

What's great about Klingons is that they are also strong against the more traditional attrition piles. They have premium stop and kill prevention in the form of Gowron, and have sky-high printed stats in order to punish the heavy use of overcost removal dilemmas like Hard Time and The Weak Will Perish. That does make them weak to Becalmed, but more often than not their weak Cunning numbers protect them from its cousin, Adopted Authority. If you fear the standard attrition piles more than the skill wall ones, you can always tech in some copies of Relentless to add some surprise, interrupt-speed stop prevention.

Which brings us to why Klingons have been such a perennially popular affiliation: they have access to all the tools you need in order to make no match-up feel unwinnable. They've got so many potent solver-abilities at low counter costs already on their personnel that you can afford to have a wider variety of tools in the verbs part of your deck. Sascha has opted for a mix of defensive (Roadblock), offensive (Endangered, Surprise Amity), speed (At What Cost?), and solving tools (Bridge Officer's Test), but the options are endless. Want to do battle? Benjamin Liebich brought to the same regional with a more battle-oriented Klingon deck. Want to add a bunch of events and K'mtar/K'tal in order to support your dilemma strategy? You can do that too. The Klingon possibilities are endless, which is what keeps many of us coming back to them.

Second Edition Austrian Regional winner Stefan Slaby
Title: things get damaged, things get broken
Headquarters: Earth, Humanity's Home
Deck Size: 66 cards
Deck Archetype: Control Interference
Dilemma Pile Size: 50 cards
Dilemma Pile Type: Chula/Tillman (Battle)
Victory Correctly Predicted By: LORE, jadziadax8, kingmj4891, Fritzinger, KillerB, The Ninja Scot, and Marquetry.

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

Generally, I prefer slow decks with lots of abilities both in solving and in interfering with the opponent. I considered bringing 5 space Voyager, or Romulans, or DMZ Maquis. However, Voyager felt way too predictable; the Romulan deck was really just a couple of ideas and other people's decklists; and I'm not yet confident in the Maquis' solving abilities.

I hadn't played Starfleet since they got their Phase 2 stuff, but had been toying around with several different builds. They've finally reached a point where I simply cannot cram everything I want them to have into a single deck. Ultimately, my decision for Starfleet was made because of the opponents I was expecting.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
I thought Vlad, who was pre-registered but couldn't come, might bring Voyager. The only Austrian I thought I could safely predict is an experienced Relativity player. I was worried about the possibility of Josef bringing Bajoran micro teaming (again). Some Maquis decks had been making appearances. Finally, I thought some might copy those recently successful Guinan / Preposterous Plan speed decks.

Voyager and Relativity are weak against battle; all the better if they don't see it coming. (Also, battle is a great way to get full wins with slow decks. If you need more time, make your opponent need less!) Relativity is royally screwed if you succeed in preventing or discarding, then removing all their Temporal Transporters. Event/Interrupt prevention helps against Maquis and Preposterous Plan, too. Delirium and Alpha 5 Approach, Transport Crash Survivor protect against micro-teaming. And if people bring Guinan, it helps if you can spend those points.

There's Grav-Plating Trap (and Trellium-D and Lustful Distraction). At What Cost? (and A Sight For Sore Eyes). Noble Intentions to reliably download Dukat, Pah-Wraith Puppet. Delirium and A5A work with everything. I've always believed that battle (to destroy ships) works with everything that doesn't have issues with playing and staffing two ships with mid-range attributes; and those Starfleet ships are dirt cheap, easy to staff, and can be brought to decent attributes. Finally, Starfleet has some of the best solving abilities in the game.

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 Starfleet enough, back when they were overplayed, but not recently. They've got so many elements that I like... The A Sight For Sore Eyes / At What Cost? combo forced me to downsize the deck for a better chance to draw into, but I really suck at making a deck small. I had to eliminate the Future Enterprise crew and Nathan, the NX Prototypes, and everything Ripple Effect. And still there were 66 cards left, which, while smaller than I'm comfortable with, is probably still too big for the combo. On the other hand, there was no non-personnel stuff left that I'd be willing to remove, and the Starfleet personnel ratio of the deck was also getting dangerously low at 24 out of 66...

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?
Dukat is not as powerful as he used to be, but in the Bajoran matchup, despite Metron Arena, he really got to shine. I could only safely remove non-personnel cards, and copies of personnel in play, but that was enough to significantly strip Josef's resources. He couldn't recycle his key interrupts, and without those spare Opakas and Emissaries his Basso Tromac and Covenant had to consume integrity 6 people instead of the usual 10s.

I may leave out the Phoenix and the Preeminent Precesions next time, they didn't do any work. Then again, it's more of a second line of interference which I simply didn't need this time because the first line worked just fine.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
Probably T'Pol, Overbearing Observer. Triple upgrade over Chakotay: can be downloaded, is cheaper to use frequently, smells better.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
Blowing up ships with two NX Class relics was hilarious. I might try shuttles next. Safety is an illusion!

My Commentary:
Hilarious indeed! I can safely say that this is the first time I've ever seen a (Second Edition) Starfleet battle deck, and I can say that, for one reason or another, I've looked at a whole lot of decks. Leave it to Stefan! The last few times we've spoken with him, he has used his unique Voyager battle deck, which in itself is an idiosyncratic choice, but they do at least start the game with a 9-weapons ship. Starfleet ships are, as Stefan mentions, cheap, but TOS ships (a more common battle choice) are even cheaper. So the big question to ask yourself when building a Starfleet battle deck, at least in my mind, is why not TOS?

Well, if your card border is that darker blue, you can't be hit by the wildly popular Moral Choice (Stefan himself runs three copies). But the main answer brings us back to the commentary on Sascha's deck above: Starfleet personnel (like Klingons) have such powerful (and often cheap) abilities that you can include strong solving power in just your personnel that you can free up other parts of your deck to do other things. TOS personnel are fast and hugely efficient since you rarely need to pay for their abilities if you don't want to, but you also don't get many mid-attempt effects like Archer's selection avoidance, T'Pol's stop prevention, or Gannet Brooks' skill dialing.

Stefan's dilemma pile is also unique to him, and a big part of the success of this deck. It is an update of his Voyager battle pile, using the cost-efficient Chula cards to set up damage markers. This time, though, it drops the event-synergy dilemmas, while adding Prefix Codes. That dilemma is essential for allowing the weak Starfleet ships to hit things like Borg Cubes or the Relativity. This pile is a bit more portable than it was before, and has me thinking about what other decks could get turned into surprise battle decks.

First Edition South Dakota Masters winner Kevin Jaeger
Title: 8 kinds of smoke
Deck Archetype: Speed Solver
Play Engines: Hall of Magistrates, Federation Flagship: Relaunched, Nanoprobe Resuscitation, Holodeck Door
Draw Engines: Temporal Shifting, Finally Ready to Swim, Operate Dilithium Gulag, Federation Flagship: Renewed
Bonus Point Mechanics: Assign Mission Specialists, Arbiter of Succession, U.S.S. Enterprise-D (Battleship), Gold!
Victory Correctly Predicted By: Bosskamiura, BCSWowbagger, scox, and The Ninja Scot.

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

Getting the entire event coordinated and ready to run for the week or two leading up to the event soaked up a lot of my time. I spent a fair amount of time working out the logistics of things for the streaming, etc. Deckbuilding was way on the back burner for this event. I also didn't want to invest a lot of time in case I ended up not playing. The 2 cards that got swapped in was always the plan after I settled on playing the prior version at the MN regional. I like to have a "next level" for a deck when I play it for the first time. When Niall contacted me about using the dilemmas from the deck for his regional deck I laughed really hard because he had inadvertently stumbled upon my plan!

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
Pretty much the same answer as last time. I don't want a borg cube or a Kazon fleet breathing down my neck when I head out to pegasus search because then I have to use Kes for avoiding that instead being able to use her to get out from a nasty dilemma. Short of that I feel like the deck has ways of being able to avoid an opponent trying to get at you. The deck also has the ability to, if things fall your way, solve both of its missions so quickly, that you can afford to just turtle up and milk the clock for as long as you need to before committing to see what happens. A battle opponent who is focused on you isn't focused on doing missions and typically, they dont do them as well and need more time. That was my plan vs Kris' romulans and it worked out in the end with the help from Lack of Preparation and Arbiter of Succession (plus Kris not being able to find enough universals early to try and steal Pegasus through his combo).

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 learned that having Gold! to cover your Arbiters and possible point drain is a great "better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it" situation. I "feel" like I goaded the deck into giving me the bonus points so readily that I was free to be unconcerned about it. I even went off script and solved Escape Gulag against Preston because I got 15 Gold! points from Preston's Gold! then 5 from AMS. Against everyone else, they held onto the Gold! because they recognized that giving it back was pretty much assuring me the two mission win.

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 think at this point the deck is pretty much set and there isn't much room for improvement. I would say that its usefulness now as an option for me to play is only as a changeup pitch after playing a bunch of other decks in meantime. Its weakness is the same as most other straight speed solvers: once your opponents have seen it a few times they get better at crafting which dilemmas go where OR they try and do what James did round 4 and go for the turn 1 steal of pegasus hoping to then nab it after the Defensive Measures counts down if I couldn't get through it OR they go with what Kris tried to do in our game. Since this deck is Fed, I dont have the fear of battle (or the aftermath of actual battle) to keep an opponent from sniffing around Pegasus, Narendra or Verify Journey the way a Klingon or Romulan deck can.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
This time around the MVP has to go to HQ: Defensive Measures for keeping James and Kris out of Pegasus Search long enough for me still solve it. If Kris had stolen it, it was game over.

My Commentary:
Last time I looked at this deck, my focus was on the draw deck. Nanoprobe Resuscitation was a bit of a hot topic at the time, and was a feature of the other First Edition deck that week. This time, with the addition of Gold!, let's take a deeper dive into the dilemmas. Now that Kevin mentions it, these dilemmas do look like they'd match up very well with Gold!. You may remember how powerful pre-errata Your Galaxy Is Impure was, with its repetitive choice kills. If you do, now imagine all random kill dilemmas were elevated to the level of YGII. I'll wait here until you're done vomiting.

So yes, now Volcanic Eruption and Horta are killing choice people every turn (the ones with Quantum Incursions skills from the looks of Kevin's Combos). Denevan Neural Parasites kills all the strongest personnel in the away team (and/or the ones with Rock People skills). Perhaps even scarier is the ability of the filter/wall dilemmas, Quantum Leap and Spatial Rift, to filter out the skills that are required to pass their second halves. Spatial Rift's 2 Engineer and Astrophysics is one thing, but needing three Archaeology to pass Quantum Leap is brutal - better have a Time Location that you can get to! Otherwise, they're going to Kevin's Hall of Magistrates where they'll be inaccessible to traditional discard retrieval methods. Or, if you have some means of getting there, Kevin can always just task a few high-strength Klingons with battling them.

Of course, there's a solution: just pass the Gold! back to Kevin and guarantee his two mission win. Not very appealing, I know. At least Kevin's deck isn't a hard anti-kill deck like MACOs or Holograms, so if you're using dilemmas like his, passing the Gold! back may actually slow him down a bit. But only a bit, because now we're back to the part where this is a deck that uses Nanoprobe Resuscitation as a play engine. You may successfully kill that essential personnel, but be prepared to have to do it again and again when he or she keeps reporting from the discard pile.

Also perhaps relevant to your interests: there are archived recordings of some of the games from this event on Kevin Jaeger's Facebook page. I couldn't figure out how to embed them here like Nathan's game below, but you should be able to view them all on Facebook.

Second Edition South Dakota Masters winner Nathan W
Title: Jewell in the Stars
Headquarters: Romulus, Seat of Power
Deck Size: 72 cards
Deck Archetype: Midrange Solver
Dilemma Pile Size: 30 cards
Dilemma Pile Type: Standard Attrition
Victory Correctly Predicted By: The Ninja Scot

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

I expected tough competition, so I wanted to play something I was comfortable playing. Tain was my other realistic choice, but I thought I might see kill piles. Resurrecting and updating my old DS9 deck was a possibility, but I couldn’t figure it out on short notice. In the end, I went with an AQ Romulan mid-range solver since it is faster than the GQ versions and handles kill piles better. It’s a deck I know very well. I went with an attrition dilemma pile that targets fast decks. In general, the draw deck crushes slow decks and the dilemma pile punishes speed.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
I was hoping, but didn’t expect to play slow decks. Slow, verb heavy decks are really easy to beat when you combine the knowledge you get from Ptol and Tal with the regular downloading of Tal and Viceroy. Fast decks are tough, especially if you get a bad draw, but you have to stay calm and realize you have incredible mid-game speed to catch and surpass fast opponents.

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?
Starbase 718 worked wonderfully. I am thinking about playing that in more decks.

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?
Sorus is the sole option to nuke any problematic verbs. But worst case scenario is he is a personnel with a bunch of mission skills. Endangered is micro-team defense that could be substituted out if you wanted to play Transport Crash Survivor, though this stops your ability to micro-team. Overall the deck is pretty refined. I think adding other cards would disrupt the balance between personnel, ships, verbs, and your ability to get the key combos the deck relies on to accelerate mid-game.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
Necessary Execution. Three of my four opponents raced out to planet first and two met that buzzsaw, one twice. I’d consider adding a third.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
My grandpa, that the deck is named after, passed away early Tuesday morning after a rapid deterioration in health which began last week. It was faster than I and my family originally expected, and I don’t know if I would have had the chance to see him had I not decided to travel back to the Midwest on short notice. Being able to play in this event helped me make that decision at the time, and I am thankful that I did. Thank you to Kevin for running the event and hosting me Saturday night, and to Kris for driving me to my parents’ – good friends I was only able to meet through this game.

My Commentary:
It's actually really nice to see a classic Romulan Solver again. In recent years, we've seen Gamma Solvers, Aid Legendary Civilization Interference decks, and even Lurking decks using the new Romulus. This deck is closest to the Gamma Solver in its gameplay, you play strong personnel and power through missions using your inevitable Romulan bonus points. By sticking to the alpha quadrant, you're dropping The Die is Cast's stop prevention and the Stakoron mission's cost increase for dual dilemmas. In return, you get missions with significantly easier attribute requirements (often worth 5 points of Power Shifting per mission), and you no longer need the Scanners for the Stakoron mission skills. Equipment (and the Fajo's Menageries that download them) aren't things that the Romulans have natural synergy with, so dropping them increases your deck's reliability.

The theme this week with the Second Edition decks is personnel with powerful abilities, and this deck is no exception. There are the solving abilities (Ruwon, Karina, Donatra), which aren't cheap but definitely are powerful, covering stops, kills, and the ever-threatening Prevent and Overcome aspects of protection from dilemmas. You've also got great deck accessibility abilities in the form of Tal and the Viceroy, backed up by the combination of Ptol's cost-reduction plus These Are the Voyages. Kinda makes me want to build a Romulan battle deck. On the other hand, the more focused nature of this deck makes me nostalgic for my Necessary Evil-era Romulan Solver...

Anyways, thanks to Kevin's streaming set-up, you don't have to just daydream about seeing this deck in action. Embedded below is Nathan's round two game against Kris Sonsteby, atop those gorgeous Masters playmats (mild language warning if you're watching at work or something). Three other recorded Second Edition games can be found on Kevin's YouTube channel.

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