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Strategy Articles

The Road to Worlds: British Nationals

by Lucas Thompson, Ambassador

30th November 2017

First Edition British National Championships winner Stefan de Walf
Title: Les ciseaux
Deck Archetype: Midrange Solver
Play Engines: Kolinahr, New Arrivals, 22nd-Century ShiKahr... and In for a Trim!
Draw Engines: IDIC: Wisdom of Surak, Finally Ready to Swim, New Arrivals,
Bonus Point Mechanics: Assign Mission Specialists, Kir'Shara, Seek Hidden Reliquary
Victory Correctly Predicted By:Pazuzu and Armus

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

Haven't played in a long time, so I checked through the 'new' decks which are available. I tested IDIC:Power, MACO and 22nd Klingon a bit, but didn't like them for one way or the other. I always loved In for a Trim but it never worked in any deck for me (I know Niall experimented with it a lot, comboing it with Romulan and their top-of-deck shenanigans, but I remember not being too impressed with that deck at the time). Vulcans are just broken with Vulcan Mindmeld and I thought I could integrate it with them since they even have decent solver capabilities if the payoff from babering was not too big.

What sorts of decks were you hoping to face while playing your deck? What decks did you hope not to face?
It's good against interference decks that are based on drawing Interrupts and Events as their ways of annoyance, against decks that use events/incidents as their draw engines and against some archetypes that are weak on certain skills since I can manage to move them away from the top of their decks.

Apart from hiding in the past I have no real defense against battle and am way behind any no-nonsense speed solver - I was particularily afraid of the 'mirror' against IDIC:Wisdom without the barbering baggage (I lucked out big time against Alex, landing an early Warp Core Breach, Kevin Uxbridge and big barbering setup to starve him of resources).

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?
The base is a standard speed solver + cycle, but I never made Barber Pole work, so I never played it in a tournament before. The fine tuning of the barbering package with personnel and ships seemed hard for me and I am still not sure about the ratios. It was quite cool to see how hard you can screw with other peoples' game plans by rearranging a few top cards every turn.

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?
Because of the barbering package I wasn't really able to include any real situational cards. I am kind of fond of Warp Core Breach, it saved me one game and was quite good in testing.

What would you nominate as the MVP card from your deck?
Barber Pole of course. However, from a proactive point of view more games were decided by the broken cards like Wisdom + Katra/Vulcan Mindmeld.

Do you have anything else you'd like to say about your deck?
Vulcan Mindmeld is way too strong, especially with the ability to special download it with 3 people. I don't know how to really address the card (except for the obvious nerf-into-the-ground approaches like making only one person gain skills or even only one skill). Wisdom + Katra is also just insane (especially with Syrran), eliminating their skill gaps like Empathy. Of course you can try to counter them by using no-skill dilemmas, but that leaves you open against a lot of other decks - and kill dilemmas don't really do much against fal-tor-pan.

Big thanks to the Brits (and the other Germans and the Swede in attendance) for putting together another awesome day of Trek!

My Commentary:
This marks the third major First Edition event in a row that has been won by Vulcans. We're not quite to the levels of Five Space Voyager (a Second Edition deck that won a lot of Regionals last year) yet, but let's just say that I'm a bit concerned. It's possible that, once people start teching against Vulcans a bit harder, we'll see them fall out of favor again as decks that are good at anti-Vulcan dilemmas start winning. I was heartened to read Bruce's tournament report from 11/19, wherein he recounts locking a Vulcan deck out of Vulcan with In the Pale Moonlight. Maybe switching to anti-Vulcan dilemmas is not enough; only time will tell.

Of course, the most exciting thing here is In for a Trim. When that card came out in All Good Things, it was hugely satisfying to finally see a use for those barbering cards from the early sets, but I didn't see the potential in it. It really wasn't until Niall started experimenting with it a few years ago that it became clear how good being able to, say, remove an opponent's draw engine events before they can use them. It's true that we've seen a lot of winners lately that don't use card-play draw engines like Kivas Fajo - Collector, but I can imagine wiping out those Vulcan Mindmeld cards in the mirror match would be very impactful.

Stefan calls out Vulcan Mindmeld as overpowered in a Vulcan deck, and I won't argue against that. I will, however, say that it is a very skill-testing card. Sure, it's easy to use when you special download it mid-attempt to double up whatever you know you need, but using it before the attempt, when you've not sure what you've going to face, is quite difficult - or at least it was for me. That time I played Vulcan recently, I recall trying to plan out my Mindmelding in advance (I think I wanted to put more honor on Syrranites), only to eventually give up and just copy high skill people at (almost) random for some of the mindmeld personnel present. I imagine that a good player could milk a lot more value out of that card than I could.

Finally, I'd like to say that it is really cool that Warp Core Breach not only came out of the binder, but was influential in at least one of Stefan's games. It took a card that special downloads it and triples the requirements, but I'm glad to see it all the same.

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