Games Expo is a great event, now in its tenth year, with many thousands descending on the Hilton and NEC centre for all things geek and game related. Previously, the Netrunner event has been the Nationals, squeezing all the UK’s competitive action into a couple of months! This year however, some sense has prevailed and with the Nationals being held separately, the Expo event was this time a Regional. It did, however, still attract large numbers of players, with there being 120 at final count I think. Due to FFG’s bizarre top cut numbers, that makes a Top 8. Wowzers. Additionally the organisers wanted Swiss rounds done by 7pm so organisation had to be razor sharp to get everything done and dusted.
At the head of the competition there was a lot of chatter about the amount of IG, with a lot of the more morally bankrupt heading in that direction, but equally the most populace runner seemed to be teched-up Whizzard. I think the take away from the day is that IG isn’t as all-encompassing as some hivemind gamers would have you believe, but the theory was a lot of people don’t play against IG and so don’t know how to handle it. If anything, I’d expect to see even more Whizz in future.
Faced a nice man from Kuwait, Mishary, who was there for the X-Wing, but thought he may as well play some other stuff while at Expo. He was rocking RP, which I completely forgot how to play against, leaving a Sundew too long because of an unknown ICE. Once the Caprice server had spat out a Nisei, it was more or less over. I got five points off R&D, but fundamentally the game came down to me not pressuring the assets enough early game. On the reverse against Whizzard I was doing well, having got an early score and on my way to scoring a second as Faust didn’t have enough food to get through to it, when a deck check lost my opponent that game. Type your deck lists out in advance and double check them kids.
There was a kafuffle around mismatches and we had to redraw the round, but that was all handled fairly quickly. I was redrawn against one of the guys I’ve played a lot in Nottingham (Rufus) in a mirror match. Unlike the usual in-shop game result, he swept me on this occasion. I could go on about how fast he found Wyldside or other excuses, but fundamentally he played effectively and won more psi games than me and that was telling throughout the matches. Good for Rufus, rubbish for me as I was probably effectively out of that slender cut now. Sad panda. Some people have said that there’s variance with Whizzard and I think we could see it here a little – glacier is a tough match up if you don’t get your pieces – but it’s still more consistent than say, Noise for example.
Further down the tables now and into interesting deck territory, I was pleased to be paired against the solitary Sunny player, also bringing Titan. I had to be careful against the Corp, he was being very rushy – but the threat of Scorch is always a worry. First turn was an agenda behind a piece of ICE, but one draw into Faust and it was mine. I poked around and discovered some Purple influence and figured that scorch threat was not real. Archers slowed me down, but inevitably I crunched through ICE and R&D until I had enough points. On the flip side I blasted out ASAP with Palana. Sunny had some answers in her handbag, but just simply wasn’t fast enough. By the time she was set up I had Caprice, Nisei tokens and lots of cash taking that victory too.
Hanging around the pairings board I joked with Martin about being on the same points, submarining back up and how we’d play each other next round. Then the pairings went up and we were playing each other. We’d played previously at the other Birmingham regional and split, murdering each other. This time went a little differently. Aware of the potential for murder, I played the runner game more cautiously, avoiding upgrades unless I could recover and applying pressure in the other places. The Whizzard engine started chugging and with ICE in limited supply, I took the win. On the flip side, I knew my deck lacked Snares, but Martin assumed it still had them, which enabled be to me more cheeky about scoring and leaving R&D less well defended. Initially at least. It became apparent to both of us that if Hayley was going to win this game, it would be on R&D and I had to resort to Jackson-ing in multiple Batty and reusing them to keep Martin out. With a Pol Op on the board, Caprice just wouldn’t do it. Fortunately I won enough of the psi battles to live though and score the last agenda.
My assent to acceptability continued and I was paired up against Jonny, playing what I expected to be murder NEH and Whizzard (possibly Timmy version). Running was hairy as I could tell from the ICE composition this wasn’t fast advance, but I had no choice to go for agenda victory as Plascrete was Sir Not Appearing in This Deck. I had a few upsetting turns seeing Traffic, Salem’s, 24/7 and other kill pieces in R&D travelling through to hand… but finally Medium helped and I was able to score the remaining points on the final turn before the kill combo went off. Flip over and I had to lightly defend HQ to score some early points and get the Sales Team selling everyone delicious cola, even though I suspected Siphon Whizz. Fortunately I generated enough cash that the first Siphon didn’t even put a dent in the coffers, and a surprise tag landing meant I could trash a bunch of Same Old Thing and not have to worry about it again. In the end I scored and took all credits off a complete set of Sales Teams, causing Type 2 diabetes in New Angeles, but handing me the win.
I was now 7-3 for the day and labouring under the delusion that I might actually make the cut, despite my probably poor strength of schedule. I was paired with Catherine playing Argus and Jesminder – due to her appearance on Run Last Click I was expecting she was going to murder me and / or siphon me into the ground, so was at least mentally prepared, even if my Corp wasn’t. I mulliganed into a truly awful hand and first turn was Jackson, draw, draw and ditch agendas. Once she’d cleared archives, runs on R&D scored two more agenda. This wasn’t going to end well. I did what I could to keep up some sort of defence and even scored here and there, but was under the relentless pressure of Magnum Opus and shaper tools so the end was inevitable.
Back in “not making the cut mode” I switched over to Whizz Without Plascrete to face Argus. Despite some early scoring from the Corp, I was equally aggressive, knowing the only way to win was to get some of those Agendas for myself. I was hammering R&D and scored an agenda taking two meat damage – unfortunately my opponent got over-excited and flipped a third card. Unsure of the situation I called the judges over fairly sure it was a Warning according the floor rules, but due to being a Premier event and the information being revealed was completely new (nothing in the Heap to give it away) it was upgraded to a game loss. Sad face. We checked R&D anyway and I’d have almost certainly won regardless (thanks to I’ve Worse and no money for Snare), but it still felt a bit of a bummer.
Final round and it was just for laughs, had to play the second Nottingham player of the day, Pete – playing a similar Corp to myself and hearty Shaper. On the runner side, I found Whizzard a bit slow getting going (not for the first time). Although awesome against Asset Spam decks, against Glacier, there can be a bit too much ICE to deal with if you won’t get your key cards set up early. Pete started with all the money and quickly moved on to scoring Braintrust, the never-advance plan catching me off guard. I battered down what I could, but even with three Faust I wasn’t going quickly enough and he took a win. On the flip side I was facing down Stealth breakers which is never good. Pete was a bit unfortunate on R&D, with several Indexing failing to find anything, but then when he did he couldn’t get back in to the server and gifted me a winning agenda. I had one in hand anyway to be fair, so a HQ visit may have lost me that game regardless, but in the event I claimed a win.
Given the 1-3 start, finishing on 9-5 felt reasonable! Some people made the cut on 10 wins, so a bit more application of effort in the first couple of games, or a better draw round 6 might have meant a different story, but at this level of competition you have to be both good and lucky (especially with a super tight cut) to get to the top of the pack. There were several game losses on the day for deck failures and other things, so please be sure you’ve got your cards in order kids – no one likes to have the TOs taking games off people – especially the TOs.
Great organisation by Coop, Cj and the rest of the guys – the event went behind time as to be expected with that many moving parts, but on the whole was kept on track and issues were resolved quickly and effectively from what I saw. All the opponents and other players were great – even those who had to take a tough call from the TOs did so with grace and good manners.
I was particularly glad that IG took a beating on the day in many ways – it took newer or inexperienced players by surprise and was a rough match up for Criminals, but the majority of Whizzard players did well. With this new bogey man in town, I might even be safe to try an NEH deck… Palana seemed to do well across the board, probably due to the amount of tech for asset spam, but it feels like it’s not the best. It is the “safe” option though and has probably the most consistent play across a variety of match ups. There seemed to be a lot of Blue / Yellow combo which did well enough – although a combination of Glacier Palana and IG kept Criminals from having the big resurgence they’re angling for. NEH and the like are still strong, because Astro is still a card apparently.