Deck Club: Our Robot Overlords

Welcome to the first article in what we hope will be a series dedicated to looking at deckbuilding strategy and sharing some of our deck ideas.  Since the release of Legions of Death, Victor and Travis have spent a lot of time talking about what makes an effective Necron deck and trying to come up with competitive decks for either warlord.

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Road to Worlds #8 – No Rest For the Wicked

So, I had just busted out of the Warhammer 40,000: Conquest main event in 9-16th place.  I was disheartened but I had to think about whether I wanted to enter the Android: Netrunner event, which was halfway through the first round.  I had been looking forward to playing in the event, but it had been a long couple days and even though my time at the Top 16 table had been brief, it had left me emotionally drained.  After walking around for 15 minutes to try to let off some steam, I realized that I may never have the opportunity again, so I went and handed in my decklist.  I’m going to talk a little bit about my experiences in the Netrunner main event, but if you want to jump straight to the Conquest Wrap-up event, click here.

Netrunner Main Event

So, with my participation in the Conquest Top 16, I had missed the first round of the Netrunner event and had been awarded an automatic loss.  No problem.  I had no illusions that I would place in the Netrunner event.  In my first game I make a few mistakes but manage to sweep opponent.  In the third round I’m starting to find my rhythm and tally two more wins.

Walking to the tournament HQ to hand in slip, I think to myself, “Boy, that Assassin is doing work, I’m glad I didn’t take it out of my deck.”  Suddenly I realize that Assassin is not on the decklist I copied down from the web when I wrote out my list that morning before the Conquest event. I had reversed a few tweaks that I had tried and what I had online no longer matched the deck I had built.  The only delta is that I had an Assassin and an Architect in place of a 2nd Tollbooth and an Archer.  I knew that it was enough of an infraction to be awarded a loss in both matches and I felt terrible about my mistake.  I went to the judges and explained my error.  I knew that I hadn’t cheated, despite the error in the list, so I was happy when the judge was merciful and updated my decklist to match what I was playing.  Of course, that kind of subjective ruling can be problematic in competitive play, but I am grateful for their call.

Starting the fourth round, I knew that I was starting to make my way out of the loser’s bracket and would start to be facing better opponents and likely decks I didn’t have a ton of experience playing.  I only won my runner game that round because my opponent didn’t notice that I could no longer bring a clot out on the board after a hail mary Medium seige on R&D.  I was able to top deck the final agenda on the subsequent round.  I won my corp game as well and finished the morning session 6-2.  Going undefeated in the morning session was a great way to push the disappointing results from earlier out of my head, at least for a time.

After lunch, I started to face some stiffer competition.  I got swept in round 5 by a talented player from Ottawa.  I think I could have managed a split if I had been a bit more on my game, but I was definitely outclassed in general. In round 6, I faced the Italian national champion and despite a few language related misunderstandings, I felt my two losses were well deserved.

In round 7, I got back on the winning side of the ledger.  My second win went to time when it probably shouldn’t have, but I felt like a poor sport asking my opponent to speed up his play or even call a judge over.  Given how often my opponent was checking the clock, it’s hard not to feel like the stall was at least partially intentional, given the game was essentially unwinnable for him at the end.  I’m 8-6 at this point and going into my last round I am hoping to come out with a winning record.

In round 8, I lost the first game.  I just couldn’t get my Noise engine going.  My last game was going to be the difference between a winning and losing record. I managed to get the Astro train going and pulled it out to go 9-7 on the day. That’s a better record than I could realistically have hoped for.

I should also congratulate Dien Tran for his impressive run to the Top 12 of the Netrunner event.  Dien is one of the top Toronto players and with a nearly 270 player field, making it to day 2 is an impressive feat.  We’re all very proud of Dien for the accomplishment.

Conquest Wrap-up

The stress of the main event was over and now I could just play for fun.  That meant no more Kith.  It was time to pull out my Coteaz deck.

My first game was against the Australian Netrunner national champion and even though Conquest was not his primary game, he was still good enough to beat me.  My second game was against the German Conquest nationals runner-up and despite having a couple tricks up my sleeve, I went down in defeat again.

I managed to bounce back in my next game with some brutal Preemptive Barrage shenanigans to bloody my opponent’s warlord and push through to a definitive victory.

My next match was against Eric Taylor from the Conqast podcast.  Despite getting all of the Coteaz combo pieces out, it still came down to a crazy battle at the last planet that was won when I used Staging Ground to bring in a Void Pirate with my last resource and used Catachan Outpost to buff it up for the killing blow.  I’m grateful to Eric for his patience in letting me work my way through the final combat math – and reminding me that when Coteaz got bloodied, I hadn’t lost the game yet.

I managed to win my last game pretty handily and was able to turn my day around to finish 3-2.

With my two initial losses, my strength of schedule was not great and I finished 17/38.  There were surprise prizes for the top 16, so I ended up on the bubble.  Thankfully for me, a couple of the players in the top 16 had already left, so Brad was kind enough to give me one of the alt art Possessed that were being handed out as prizes.

I went back to the hotel to collect my other games, but some of the remaining players wanted to do another Netrunner draft.  The early sets were heavily discounted at the Event Center and FFG was still providing prize support.  We were able to get our prize support to go and enjoyed watching the Netrunner finals in the hotel boardroom before getting down to a draft.  I’ve shouted out the Conquest community already, but I have to give props to the Netrunner crew that went down.  I won’t name all dozen players that went down from Toronto, but I had a great time hanging with all of them.  With more than half of our group finishing in the top 100 or so in the main event, I think we had a solid showing.

And that’s it for my World’s 2015 experience.  Thanks for reading.

While Travis is back from the Fantasy Flight Games World Championships in Minnesota, where he played in the Star Wars: Armada, Warhammer 40,000: Conquest and Android: Netunner events, he still wants to share his last few updates here on The Tactical Squad blog.

Road to Worlds #7 – The Road Ends Here

When last we left our hero, he was headed to bed the night before the Warhammer 40,000: Conquest World Championship Top 16 Elimination round…

My nerves weren’t too bad walking into the Fantasy Flight Games Event Center.  I’d even started to consider the possibility that I could actually win this thing.  But before that could happen, the judges needed to do a deck check for all 16 players remaining in the tournament.  I suddenly became incredibly paranoid that I had written my deck list out incorrectly the day before.  They call one competitor over to discuss an irregularity in the deck – I never did discover what that problem was.  Then another player was pulled aside for a whispered conversation.

When he came back to the group, he revealed that he had listed only 48 cards on the written list.  The minimum deck size is 50.  He had just forgotten to list two Promethium Mine, but I had heard multiple people reference that those cards were in his deck the day before.  It was an innocent mistake, but we were still waiting for a verdict to be made.  While we were waiting, we admired the tarot sized planet cards that were to be awarded to the Top 8 players and were being set up to be used at the top table for the live stream.  Thumbs up from the judges.  The offending player would be allowed to compete with his full deck.

Then it was on to the games themselves.  As the sixth place finisher, I was paired against the 11th seed, Elliot Hedman, an extremely friendly player who preferred Netrunner to Conquest, but was determined to make the best of his opportunity.  It was going to be a Kith vs. Kith mirror match.  I’d split my Kith games the day before and thought I had a decent shot, particularly if my opponent was as inexperienced as he was saying.  As is often the case with the mirror match, a lot would come down to card draw.

I started with initiative and had a pretty good opening hand.  None of the key cards, but plenty of units for command and some Kith’s Khymeramasters to try to take the first planet, which was a tri-color.  I was able to secure first planet, though it cost more cards than I would have liked.  My draw didn’t help and I didn’t have much to play in round 2.  I wasn’t going to win very much in command, but I could potentially snipe first planet again and force a quick game.  Or I could shift to the long game, and commit to a planet to win a few cards and rebuild.  I had a lot of resources and a Klaivex Warleader in hand, so I convinced myself that even if my opponent anticipated my move I could still power through.  But I didn’t think through what the situation would look like after he won command and drew up to a mitt full of a cards, backed up by a healthy pile of resources.  I realized that one two-shield card – which was all but certain – could derail my plan so I retreated by warlord and tried to even things up with a Warpstorm.  But I knew that my mistake had probably cost me my chance at advancing.

Another Warpstorm and another Klaivex in headquarters face did not improve my chances and after opponent deployed an Archon’s Palace and a Khymera Den, alongside of a 2-3 new units, I knew my road was over.  I made a last ditch effort to pull out some combat tricks but after a fourth deployment round of the same, I conceded.

Elliot was very gracious in victory and obviously excited to be moving on.  I hope that I was able to offer him some sincere congratulations, but I continued to berate myself inside my head as I had been ever since the beginning of the second combat phase.  My first match of every day had been full of errors, but so far I had been lucky enough not to have it result in a loss.  But in Top 16, luck isn’t going to be enough anymore.  Seeing the balance of card draw after the first round, I still probably would have been in tough, but I could have at least made more of a match of it.

I didn’t expect to be in the Top 16, but now that I was there, it was a crushing disappointment not to be able to go further.  It would have been one thing to go out in a hard fought game, but in this case I got in my own way.  After about 10 or 15 minutes I was able to quiet some of the screaming voices in my head and go over to congratulate Elliot properly and wish him luck in his next round.  Which left me about 10 minutes to decide whether to late enter the Android: Netrunner event – but that is a story for another time.

Congratulations to Varun Khertapal for winning the event and all the 111 competitors that made their way to Minneapolis.  Despite my initial fears, everyone was pretty relaxed – at least externally, and were a pleasure to play again.  It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet and chat with so many great players from around the world.  I haven’t done a great job keeping up with the various names in the scene, but I hope to keep in touch more in the future.

I’d like to thank Shane for convincing me to attend the World Championships, splitting a room with me and being my biggest cheerleader in Minnesota.  He had faith in me even when I insisted on downplaying my chances.

I’d like to thank John and Victor, two other Toronto players who made the trip and offered plenty of invaluable advice and playtesting in the days leading up to the event.  Both of them had a good showings.  John finished 4th in the Worldeater tournament and Victor lost out on the tokens for top Tyranid player on secondary strength of schedule.

I also have to thank the other members of The Tactical Squad.  Jon, Liz, Alex and Mark all provided on-going moral support throughout the event and provided words of encouragement when I was knocked out.

And thanks to the entire Toronto Conquest community for maintaining a pretty vibrant scene despite so many competing games.  The Netrunner scene is dominant here, but I was thrilled to show that the Toronto Conquest scene is also one to contend with.  I hope to see you all at league on Thursday.

And finally I’d like to thank the Fantasy Flight and Event Center staff for running such a top notch event.  It’s not easy hosting 100s of competitive gamers, but I had a great time and hope to return next year.

While my Road to Worlds ends here, I will be writing up one more post about my experiences at the remainder of the World Championship week in Minnesota, including the Conquest Wrap-up event.

While Travis is back from the Fantasy Flight Games World Championships in Minnesota, where he played in the Star Wars: Armada, Warhammer 40,000: Conquest and Android: Netunner events, he still wants to share his last few updates here on The Tactical Squad blog.

Road to Worlds #6 – Not Over Yet

Well, this is not the post I thought I’d be making at the end of the today.

I made the Top 16!  I went 6-1 and finished 6th in Swiss.  Top 16 starts at 10am tomorrow morning and I’m playing for the Warhammer 40,000: Conquest World Championship title!

I’m really kicking myself for not taking notes after each round.  I am happy to say that everyone I played against was extremely friendly and were a pleasure to play against.  My biggest fear about Worlds was that it was high profile enough that there would be players taking things so seriously that they were no longer having fun.  I’m glad that wasn’t the case.

So, I’m back in my room now, having just ordered a steak to celebrate.  I feel terrible that I didn’t go out for the Cigars and Beers event hosted by the First Planet Podcast guys, but I’m exhausted after a 10 hour day of Conquest and I want to make sure that I get some rest before tomorrow.  I’m sure if I went I would have got caught up talking with folks and would have gotten home late.

In the afternoon session I faced another Kith, a Nazdreg and two Ragnars.  I was happy to have a better result in my second Kith mirror of the day.  He got the Archon’s Palace out first turn, but I managed to still win some command and eventually reeled him back in for a victory.

My match against Nazdreg was one of those matches that makes everyone hate Kith.  It was lopsided from the outset and the deck mostly played itself.  It’s not a knock against my opponent, but it was a case study in why Kith is such a strong deck.

My last two matches were both against Ragnar.  Both were very challenging games, even though I went in to the tank far too long worrying about Kith being bloodied in the last turn of the first match-up.  I forgot that after I won planet 1, there would be no battle at planet 2.

At 6-1 I was a lock for Top 16 so I was able breathe a huge sigh of relief after my last victory.  Reviewing the numbers after the fact, it looks like my strength of schedule was good enough that I would have made Top 16 even with a loss.

The adrenaline is finally starting to fade. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a decent night’s sleep.

Wish me luck for the morning!

Travis is flying out to the FFG World Championships in Minnesota next week to play in the Star Wars: Armada, Warhammer 40,000: Conquest and Android: Netunner events. Conquest is his primary focus and he is going to share some of his thoughts leading up to and during the event here on The Tactical Squad blog.

Road to Worlds #5 – In the Thick of It

I am three rounds into the Warhammer 40,000: Conquest World Championships and we are on our lunch break.  Well, the rest of the field is grabbing lunch.  I ate earlier after a quick loss against another Kith deck in the second round.  I decided that I didn’t want to rush around during the break so ordered some food before the crowd.

I’m currently sitting at 2-1.  My goal was not to be eliminated before lunch, so I’ve managed that, even if I would have felt a lot better at 3-0.  My strength of schedule isn’t looking great so far, so I’m going to focus on winning my remaining games.  I faced Cato in the first and third rounds and lost against Kith in the second.  I made a lot of mistakes in my first game and only one space mistake in the third.  I’m not sure there was much I could have done in the second round against my opponent’s hand.  I don’t want to take anything away from my opponent, because he played it perfectly, but it left with me no opening to claw my way back in.

As for the other Toronto players, Victor and John are also sitting at 2-1.  I know that Jon is disappointed that he dropped his last game of the morning session, but I have faith that he can make his way through the afternoon.

A few of my opponents and nearby players have recognized the Tactical Squad playmat and said nice things.  My second opponent said it was an honour to play someone from the podcast.  I corrected him; it was an honour to demolish someone from the podcast.  But no one has tried to claim the prize yet.

Anyways, I don’t want to spend my entire break writing, so I’m going to head back over to the Fantasy Flight Games Event Center.

PS.  The player who beat me yesterday in Armada went on to win the event, so I can say that my only lost in Armada came against the eventual World Champion.

Travis is flying out to the FFG World Championships in Minnesota next week to play in the Star Wars: Armada, Warhammer 40,000: Conquest and Android: Netunner events. Conquest is his primary focus and he is going to share some of his thoughts leading up to and during the event here on The Tactical Squad blog.

Road to Worlds #4 – Stay on Target

Thursday marked the first day of official World Championship events for me.  The Star Wars: Armada event was scheduled to start at noon, but I had a bye in the first round courtesy of my victory at the Canadian Nationals.  So, our usual readers may have to bear with me for a moment as I divert briefly into Armada talk.

I was very nervous about the Armada event.  It is not my primary event and I don’t spend as much time strategizing or practicing as I do for other games.  And with the first round bye, that meant I would be matched up against other winning players in the second round.  I didn’t want to embarrass either the Toronto scene or Canada in general by crashing and burning.

Thankfully I was able to pull off a victory in my first actual match of the day.  Ironically it was against the player from New Mexico who had actually travelled to participate in the Canadian Nationals.  I made a few mistakes, but I felt pretty good about my performance, even if was low margin victory that only netted me only 6 out of a possible 10 points for the round.

But a win moved me further up in the standings, so I was facing even stiffer competition.  Unfortunately I didn’t write down the name of my opponent in the third round, but he was very friendly – even after having a long day at the X-Wing event the day before.  He had actually made top 16, but was eliminated early enough Thursday morning to be able to play in the Armada event.  I ended up with a full loss in that match.  There were a couple key mistakes that would likely have turned the course of the battle, but I didn’t feel terrible about my performance.  And my opponent was such a pleasure to play against, that I still ended the day feeling great.

I ended up with 15 out of a possible 30 points for the day, so it removed most of the anguish from the decision to drop from day 2 of the Armada event to play in the Warhammer 40,000: Conquest main event tomorrow.

Now I’m just waiting for room service to bring me my burger before I head back to the Fantasy Flight Games Event Center for a couple more hours of Conquest theorycrafting and deck tweaking before we get down to business in the morning.  Many people have been talking about how the field with be bringing a lot of anti-Kith to the event to deal with the prevalence of Kith players, but even knowing that, there are still some top players coming over to the dark side and switching to Kith at the last minute.  I think I may swap a few cards around, but I’m locked in to Dark Eldar.

Also, I want to take a moment to congratulate John Gobeil, a local Toronto Conquest player, for his 5th place finish in the Worldeater event today and his shiny new Broadside playmat.

Travis is flying out to the FFG World Championships in Minnesota next week to play in the Star Wars: Armada, Warhammer 40,000: Conquest and Android: Netunner events. Conquest is his primary focus and he is going to share some of his thoughts leading up to and during the event here on The Tactical Squad blog.

Road to Worlds #3 – Good morning, Minnesota!

I woke up this morning in the Radisson Hotel Roseville in the lovely state of Minnesota.  It’s grey and threatening rain, but that didn’t stop us from heading over to the Fantasy Flight Games first thing after a complementary brunch at the hotel.  We had to wait to let the X-Wing players register first, as their event starts today, but it didn’t take long before we had our passes and a few tokens to use in FFG’s league play.  Basically if you find another player with a stripe for their game on their badge, you can challenge them to a game, putting up one of your tokens as bounty.  It sounds like fun, but I’m not sure when I won’t be in another event so that I can participate.

The first disappointment of the day was learning that the Hard Wired draft packs did not arrive, so the Android drafts today have to use one of the older sets.  That definitely dampened the enthusiasm everyone had starting the day.  But so far we’ve met the Australian Conquest champion, netrunner players from France and the UK, and Victor even brokered a trade with Quinns from Shut Up & Sit Down.

I’m looking forward to the afternoon.

Travis is flying out to the FFG World Championships in Minnesota next week to play in the Star Wars: Armada, Warhammer 40,000: Conquest and Android: Netunner events. Conquest is his primary focus and he is going to share some of his thoughts leading up to and during the event here on The Tactical Squad blog.