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Transport Crash Survivor

by Johannes Klarhauser, Staff Writer

13th April 2010

According to our beloved Chairman, Infinite Diversity includes, among other fantastic cards, "a huge new mission." The powers that be even deemed this one card in the new expansion so capable of affecting the current metagame that the original spoiler schedule was changed around in order to present this card early and give all players enough time to think about what kind of impact Transport Crash Survivors will have on the way this game is played.

At first glance, it doesn't look all that spectacular. A space mission in the Alpha Quadrant with a Span of three that is worth 30 points and that can be attempted by any affiliation. Nothing too exciting so far. Both the attribute requirements of greater than 32 and the sheer number of skills required (an unprecedented sixteen) are much too high to justify a mission worth only thirty points, so there had better be some upside, right? Right?

Here's what I scribbled down on the "+" side of the page in my little old notebook on which I brainstormed its pros and cons when I first saw this beauty:

- AE freebie
- easy to complete (although super hard to complete)
- might revive some cards (BNR, TI + U)
- hates on microteams!

Let's go through the first three points quickly before we tackle the big one.

First, as a mission without any fixed skills in its requirements, Transport Crash Survivor reduces the number of stops you will have to take from the ever popular Agonizing Encounter by one. This dilemma is still popular in many playgroups, and limiting the damage it does is always welcome. Since the mission does not ask for a pre-specified, focused skill set, but rather for a multitude of different skills (a not-quite-infinite diversity), it's possible to build viable decks around a mission selection that does not have any overlap whatsoever in the skills required by your non-headquarters missions.

This leads us directly to the next aspect. Transport Crash Survivor might well be both the most easy and the most difficult mission to complete, ever. Easy, because your opponent cannot simply take out your mission skills, since for this one, there are no easy targets. So your opponent's Tragic Turn pile used The Clown: Guillotine and All-Consuming Evil to kill your Security and Leadership personnel? No big deal, Anthropology and Physics will work just as well. While it is hard for the average deck to cover all the skill bases equally (out of the twenty-three different skills in Second Edition, Acquisition, Intelligence, Law, and Telepathy are especially hard to find for several affiliations), most decks will usually cover eighteen or more, so even if some personnel are killed, your chances are good that you will still be able to come up with sixteen different skills. (Make sure to have a look at Nathan Wineinger's article on skill diversity!)

However, even though it's hard to completely take out enough skills, there are ways to make Transport Crash Survivor a real pain to complete. One of them is Bre'Nan Ritual, a dilemma from To Boldly Go. Once placed on the mission, it will randomly stop a personnel right away on subsequent attempts. A random stop at a mission that requires a specific set of three or four skills often amounts to nothing more than a reduction in total available attributes, but at Transport Crash Survivor, even a single stop of any personnel can lead to a failed mission attempt. And if that does not work, Urgency plus Temporal Incursion will nail this mission shut for a long, long while, so you had better not count on completing Transport Crash Survivor too easily in the first place. Unless you are playing Borg, in which case you can play Expand the Collective to turn the mission into one that only requires one quarter of the skills and Cunning greater than 36. And you get extra points on top.

Still, at the end of the day, none of this is what this mission is all about. Let's be honest here, this mission will not see play because of its novel requirements. In constructed play, this card will be played first and foremost because of its gametext. Like Historical Research, and to a lesser extent Find Lifeless World and even Survey New World, Transport Crash Survivor is one of those cards that will be stocked because it lets you do cool stuff, or to be precise (in this case), because it prevents all players from doing cool stuff. (Side note to Maquis players: a mission selection that runs Transport Crash Survivor and/or Historical Research just begs for a Biogenic Weapon, don't you think?)

With this mission on the table, microteaming becomes a whole lot harder. Microteaming is the strategy of attempting a mission with a very small number of personnel, usually no more than four or five, using either dilemma choke (often a combination of examining/rigging the opponent's dilemma pile and using cards that reduce the number of dilemmas an opponent can draw and/or spend on dilemmas, e.g., Running a Tight Ship, Carolyn Palamas, Vic Fontaine (Vegas Crooner), Rekar (Tool of the Tal Shiar), Damar (Useful Adjutant) or the infamous pre-erratum Mot (The Barber) ) or shortstacking (attempting a mission with expendable personnel in the hopes of stacking a few dilemmas underneath so the main team can attempt the mission giving only a bare minimum to draw and spend).

The more extreme versions of decks that abused these concepts were able to attempt and complete multiple missions on the same turn with only one or two personnel. While some of these decks were arguably masterpieces of deckbuilding, many people feel that, while being completely legal and one hundred percent within what the rules of the game allow, these decks go against the "spirit" of Second Edition. To many, the dilemma pile provides the main point of interaction between players and is an integral part of the game. Over the years, I have heard several players agree that they see not so much the draw deck, but the construction and use of their dilemma pile as the thing that separates the good players from the great. To watch this core element of the game being largely ignored or bypassed can be frustrating to old and new players alike, and therefore action has been taken to combat this very creative, but ultimately problematic use of the cards. Many of the usual suspects have already received errata, and Transport Crash Survivor is the next step in this process.

Whenever a player attempts a mission with less than six personnel, his or her opponent will get a whopping six more to draw and spend on dilemmas. Against a dilemma pile built around Tragic Turn (often using cards like Complications, Uninvited or Conflict to increase their oomph anyway), microteaming can easily result in a complete wipeout of your mission team. Anything less than six, and the dilemma player will get several chances to draw into a card that hurts a small mission team like Polywater Intoxication, Full Complement or any old filter, killer or wall dilemma. Remember, you not only get to draw six more, you also get six more to spend, so you are virtually guaranteed to find something that works. Again, infinite diversity.

In a way, Transport Crash Survivor is a built-in Skeleton Crew, but it doesn't take away slots from your pile, and it won't clog your hand when you draw dilemmas. Also, with six being the new standard minimum number of personnel in a mission attempt, this opens up many good combos, for example, at cost three each, Hard Time followed by The Dal'Rok or Occupational Hazards is a nice way to stop many attempts consisting of six personnel with not a single dilemma overcome. (Note how missions worth less than 30 points are not affected, so Voyager decks can attempt Caretaker's Array with only four personnel.)

The number of decks that will be affected by Transport Crash Survivor is enormous. Even when a deck is not designed to do microteaming, once there are three or four dilemmas under a mission, many decks will be able to form a mission team that will only give one or two to draw, and will jump at the opportunity to attempt with less than six. So if you've never been one to have much luck with topdecking the right dilemma at the right time, run this mission!

Here's just a short list of sucssessful decks or deck types that used some form of microteaming at major events:

2010 US Nationals-West: The winning deck on this day was a Next Generation microteam deck.

2009 World Championship: Both decks in the final confrontation used high-Strength Klingons to complete relatively easy missions with a small number of personnel (allowing them to use more personnel to fly around and murder people). Many of these decks used the U.S.S. Defiant (Stolen Warship), which has since received an erratum, to shortstack the second mission, but many good Klingon missions can still be done by only five (Brute Force) or four (Rescue Prisoners, Protect the Escapees) personnel.

2009 European Championship: Day 1 was dominated by the unholy trifecta of Worf, Vic and Mot; Day 2 was won by a Dominion Defiant shuffle deck that was able to complete missions with only four personnel.

2008 World Championship: First three places on Day 1 went to a Klingon/Defiant deck (see above), to a Bajoran Integrity microteam deck, and to Mot/Goval microteam deck. Day 2 was won by a Next Generation deck that used, among other tricks, Worf, Vic and Mot.

Of course, nobody is forced to include Transport Crash Survivor in his or her deck. It's up to you to judge your meta – will the mission become standard in post-Infinite Diversity decks, or will you be able to catch your opponents with their defenses down and steal a win with your microteam shenanigans? Whatever happens, an exciting championship season is upon us!

-djl-


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