I decided on a whim to go to Brussels for the Belgian National event. The UK Netrunners are nothing if not keen and travel up and down the country for event, so it didn’t seem that much further to go to the continent. Having booked Worlds already, a couple of hours on a plane to Brussels didn’t seem too much of a hardship. In the event I stopped over with a friend and made a weekend of it, exploring the city, visiting the military museum and so forth, then stuffing my face with Jambonneau (whole ham hock) and drinking Rochefort 8 (9.2% ABV) until 3am.
The games were held at Outpost gaming centre, a decent sized store with a good range of facilities including a LAN gaming set up, several rooms, hot and cold food and a well stocked beer supply. Here I met up with Rob who’s come over on the train from Bristol and we discovered one more Brit had made it in the form of Chris from Kent, who was now working in Frankfurt and had made the road trip up for the day. There were plenty of Belgians, some French, Dutch and at least one German and Greek. 45 players in all and 6 rounds of Swiss before a Top 8 cut.
I’d come loaded with a Scorch variant of Blue Sun. Bootcamp Glacier, IT department and other vegetarian brands of Weyland are popular at the minute, but I don’t get on with them and wanted to pack some heat, which might provide a slight surprise factor. Noise is my pretty standard build, but I’d taken out one Clone Chip for a Utopia Shard and Gorman Drip.
Round 1: Mattiew from France, with French language cards. His English was not perfect, but about 1000 times better than my French so we muddled though and there were no problems. He was playing NEH and Noise.
[Runner] My opponent had to Mulligan and after bankrupting himself to rez Tollbooth on HQ I figured he was flooded to some extent. I poked away at centrals and ate anything that went down in remotes. Eventually I managed to parasite my way through the Tollbooth and grab all the remaining points I needed.
[Corp] Mattiew was applying pressure, but I got ICE and money early and started to build a position of relative security with imposing scoring remote. The runner was keeping up on money but it was clear something had to be done. He dropped Medium and paid for expensive runs through a Hive to hammer R&D, but this gave me the credit advantage and successful run I needed to lay down the Scorch.
W-2 L-0 (4 prestige)
Round 2: Minh “mtgred” who only managed 2nd place in Worlds, so was obviously going to be an easy match up if he can’t even win that event. Or not…
[Corp] MaxX Account Siphon build was sat opposite me and while I scored an Oaktown to preserve cash and had double ICEd HQ, the lack of Crisium showed when Eater hit the table and I started haemorrhaging money. I didn’t see the OAI to recover and it was a matter of getting Keyholed after that to ultimately lose. The amusing bit was Minh asking where I was from and as soon as I said England, he played Plascrete. This wasn’t the last time that happened throughout the day… So much for my slight surprise factor.
[Runner] NEH again – this time a murder version. Minh tried to sneak an Astro out early hidden with a facedown asset, but I checked both and snatched it. After Midseasons showed itself I knew the score and hammered HQ to Imp away Scorched Earth. Going full aggro, I just kept piling on the pressure and keeping I’ve Had Worse in hand to win out.
W-3 L-1 (6 prestige)
Round 3: I played Demiur (I think – it’s a character from World of Warcrack or something). HB Ending The Fun and Kate.
[Runner] The Corp soon had three Architects rezzed and the other ICE was fairly robust, so it was painful getting in with no NEXT ICE to easily Parasite or anything. Nevertheless, I kept milling away aggressively and running when I could. The game was a bit of a grind, but with 3-pointers in there it only required three scores to win and I got there in the end.
[Corp] Playing against Kate I got properly cashed up and started to Score. We were short on time after the first game and even though I was ahead on points, I was having to play a bit risky to try and get a proper win. As a result I was over-drawing and had to make the awkward decision at one point of ditching part of my SEA-Scorch-Scorch in hand. I figured the chances of landing the kill without SEA was pretty low so ditched a Scorch and hoped for the other to turn up if needed, that I’d score an Atlas token, or I’d see Archived Memories. In the end time was called and the runner got a Data Raven tag, then hit Snare for another, but did had a Plascrete out. If I’d kept the Scorch I could have got the kill – or another turn I could have scored out a winning agenda – but had to settle for a timed win instead. Although the point was good, I was aware this meant more work later on potentially. What a difference one play can make.
W-5 L-1 (9 prestige)
Round 4: After the break I faced FoxX from Deutschland. He was playing yet another NEH and the ubiquitous Kate.
[Runner] I somehow contrived to shuffle my deck so that I got three of each card. Daily Casts, Inject, Deja Vu, I’ve had Worse, Sure Gamble, Grimoire (x2)… I had money and recursion but no cards to actually apply any pressure. Foxx scored out two agendas including an Astro before I’d even got started and although I knew he was playing a Butcher’s Shop type deck had to burn the IWH to try and get something going. He won quite shortly afterwards though – just one of those games, not a lot I could do with that one.
[Corp] I got lots of money and started to build – the “You’re English therefore playing Scorch” meme was in full effect, so he was cautious about running. It was getting to tipping point where Kate has enough cash not to worry or is going to see a Plascrete so I pushed out the 5/3 double advanced on what could be a scoring window (you never know with burst economy Kate). The runner was on 2 points, hit HQ and saw nothing. Now the successful run had landed I was on for the kill if he would just burn some more money. He blasted through a Curtain Wall on R&D with and Maker’s Eye with R&DI meant he saw four cards, the fourth being an agenda. My scoring server still looked okay, but a last click Stimhack gave Foxx the money to get through and snatch the game before his apartment building went up in flames. Well played, but I was now needing two double wins to make the cut so was a bit downbeat.
W-5 L-3 (9 prestige)
Round 5: Quenten playing NEH Butcher’s Shop and Kate. The Belgians apparently didn’t get the memo that NEH is dead, RP is top now and there are other factions out there.
[Runner] I go quite aggressively because you can’t sit around in case it’s an Astrobanans deck but soon got Mideasoned – it was that or leave advanced cards on the table – and having let one NAPD go I couldn’t keep doing it. I went for the cautious option of keeping a four card hand with IHW. The thinking here is if you get a Traffic Accident, there’s more chance of them hitting the IHW than a five card hand. This paid off and I was saved from a fiery death as I continued to hammer centrals. I maintained the strategy and lived once more. By this point I was able to Medium through the rest of the deck and then make a run on Archives to sweep up any remaining points.
[Corp] I’d been conscious of mixing up strengths of ICE, so avoid Atman 4 ruining everything, but with Kate it doesn’t really matter as she’s got enough tools for the other things and 4tman is just plugging the gap. So it proved here and my key ICE was turned off without me seeing the big guns and so I ended up losing the game without too much of a fight. With D4v1d around anything above four strength isn’t as effective anymore and Corps seem to be in a weird position. More thinking needs to be done here on my part.
W-6 L-4 (11 prestige)
Round 6: “Salty Bag” from Paris playing NEH (so bored of NEH right now) and Whizzard (Yay! Something cool!). I was almost definitely out of the cut not due to the timed win if nothing else, but thought I should play for the double win just in case.
[Runner] I quickly determined it was another murder version so was ecstatic I’d not brought any Plascretes. Long story short, I tried the same four card in hand tactics, but this time round after surviving the first Traffic Accident, it was a double Scorched the second turn and only having four cards is no good in that situation…
[Corp] I set up the scoring remote and started pushing out agendas, the Runner got set up with Grimoire and a wide variety of breakers including 4tman and D4v1d so it was looking a bit rubbish for me. I tried a one-advanced Shattered Remains that the runner could get in if he did the maths right used his D4v1d counters wisely, but he decided against it – either through thinking he couldn’t get in or not wanting to spend the resources. Sad face. Running out of options I decided I’d ultimately go for bluffing the Government Takeover and started by advancing the remote another time. Next round I got the bite and smashed his console to effectively ruin his rig as two programs had to go with it. From this point the runner was more or less locked out, although it was a Snare / Scorched that did for him in the end.
W-7 L-5 (13 prestige)
So with that I finished 17th (full listings here). Not a total embarrassment, but I feel one decision here or there, or maybe a bit of luck I could have made the cut. Such is the way with Netrunner, there were other games I could just have easily have lost!
Excellent folk over on the continent. Thanks to Gaming Outpost, Wim for organising and being an excellent TO, and everyone else for being such gracious players and being welcoming and friendly. Also for speaking English so that no one from Britain ever has to bother paying attention during French lessons at school. Great to meet some new people and put faces to names for others. Shout out to Constantine who came second playing Nisei Division and Silhouette. Love this kind of inventive behaviour. You can find his report and decklists here.
The Belgian meta definitely felt “weird”. I was ready for loads of RP but it was virtually all NEH. I had considered taking a Butcher Shop variant myself, but it was everywhere so glad I didnt. I thought my Noise would be off-piste, but there were at least another half a dozen and people were well used to it. As a result (and maybe anti-clot too) Cyberdex was everywhere. In fact, unlike Kate-dominated UK Nationals, there was just as much Anarch as Shaper. It was somewhat of a revelation that UK players use Scorched -as my experience is the opposite in competitive play.
Just another example of local metas getting a view of the world of Netrunner that is surprisingly different from others, even though we all play on OCTGN, read the same reports and follow the same podcasts etc. Now I need to look at Copenhagen for the Nordic Nationals, but who knows what they think the current strong decks are or what to take! With foresight I’d have taken a different Runner probably, arguably even a fast Criminal – Account Siphon and Passport / Mimic / Corroder would have served me well in most games. For Corp I should have arguably gone full-on kill with Punitives as well, or left the napalm at home and gone with Adonis / IT Dept. Deck choice can really make a difference – shame you never know ahead of time which to take! 🙂
Excellent times in Belgium – well worth a visit to Brussels (don’t forget it’s the anniversary of Waterloo if you fancy a trip out of the city, or Bruge is very close)