Stirling and Friends (Preston DnD Store Champ 1st)

SavvySteve 189

So apparently, when you win a Store Championship with not just the worst faction (according to the player group consensus) but with an identity considered to be on the weaker end, people suddenly want to know how it happened. And I guess, as the guy who actually played the deck, I'd be best placed to know how.

Well, you'd be wrong. But I'll do my best anyway.

I should probably explain a bit about how I like to play. I've been playing since mid-way through the first cycle, and at no point have I considered myself a top player. I prefer playing decks that do something different and/or funny than play the top tier 1 deck (previous decks I have played include various versions of The Professor, Power Shutdown combo out of both Cerebral Imaging and Haarpsichord, and a hilarious London Library/install most of my deck Kaplan). However, my go to runner since he was printed was Stirling.

And that's probably the first reason why I managed to do so well. I've been playing the same runner almost consistently for about 2 years. I've come to know where his strengths are, and where the weaknesses are (glances at the influence number, shakes fist in anger). This isn't a deck which can be just picked up and played and you expect to do well. Heck, it took me two years to get somewhere with it.

Anyway, onto the deck itself, the plan, in essence, is simple. Install lots of cards, make lots of money, make well timed runs. Obviously the execution is little more complicated (and sometimes stressful).

Basically, in your opening hand, you really want to see either Off-Campus or The Supplier (preferably both) with the added bonus of seeing Logos early. With Off-Campus installed, you just install any connection you play and get a draw for free. Normally, if it costs 0, you just put it straight onto the Off-Campus, if it costs more, shove it on The Supplier and play for 2 cheaper at the start of your turn.

Important connections you're trying to find after The Supplier are The Source, Film Critic and Fall Guys. As I found out over the weekend, The Source was far for important and valuable than I had initially given it credit for. And form of Fast Advance deck has to blow 2 pieces of fast advance in order to push through The Source, and so long as you have a Fall Guy ready, The Source won't even go away. Film Critic means that you can 'steal' agendas without triggering the trash conditions on The Source or New Angeles City Hall.

After that, there is your economy. In this case, it's 3 Underworld Contacts (getting the 2nd link from The Helpful AI), a Tri-Maf, Kati Jones and in some cases Data Dealer (not including the already mentioned Supplied). Data Dealer's main purpose to get rid of those annoying things that turn up in your score area that just aren't helpful. Shi-kyu or News Team bringing your score down? Sell 'em. Stole a Medical Breakthrough and you're worried you can't stop the Corp getting the others, sell it. Enjoying your 15 Minutes? Remember to earn some money from it. In other dire circumstances, sometimes selling an agenda to get into a remote to steal the Corp's winning agenda has to be done as well.

The other important econ card is Calling in Favors. Obviously, you want to fire this for as much as possible (I, personally, always feel disappointed if I have to use it for anything less than 10 credits, which is usually always the first one played). This card will catch people out, they will underestimate just how much money you can suddenly make and will think they have a scoring window when they actually don't.

And now to the worst part of the deck, the ice breakers. Sadly, we have to use such 5-star breakers like Aurora and Peacock, and super expensive cards like Garrote and Femme. Luckily, a combination of being stupidly rich, and an e3 Feedback Implants can get you through most things. The Overminds are there to help be aggressive early if you need to be. Oh, and as a personal favor, could people stop running Faust, so people would stop running barriers that a good against it? So many people rezzing Spiderweb was distressing. 8 credits! 8! Gods, I didn't think I could dislike Aurora more.

And to bring the deck discussion to a close, some of the cards that weren't discussed. Vamp and Siphon fall in the similar category to keep the Corp's credit pool in check. Vamp also has the added benefit of dealing with Caprice and Batty. Resetting both player's credit pools to 0 is usually better for you, as you can recover far quicker (5 credits at the start of turn, tri-maf, Kati). The Same Old Thing just allows you to reuse either Account Siphon or Vamp (although Calling in Favors is also pretty funny). The HQ Interfaces are pretty self-explanatory (the lack of any real RnD pressure beyond checking the top is disappointing, but was a sacrifice I had to make). The Feedback Filter is there to try and turn my money into not dying (sadly on the day, it did not turn up in time).

Finally, I provide a run down of each game on the day. I didn't make notes, so most of this is me going of memory. Sorry for any mistakes.

Swiss Round 1 vs Weyland: Titan (Harry Esslemont)

So, first game for Stirling of the day, and it's against Weyland. On the one hand, I'm fairly confident against Weyland decks. I can avoid tags fairly well, so I don't have to worry about hellfire raining from above, and I usually have enough to crack through the glacier. However, they do have a couple of annoying cards that can turn up. The more common one did, as my opponent happily over-advanced his Oaktown Renovation to an absurd amount (I think it was close to 20, but I may be exaggerating). There was very little I could do about it, so accepted it and worked on putting out as much stuff as a could to get ready. This was hindered by the lack of Off-Campus. I had The Supplier down pumping out stuff when I found it, and the Logos was ready for when he scored Oaktown. When he finally did score it, I had already drawn into it, so used the search to find a breaker. He got out an Atlas before I was in a position to anything but after that I took control. The Source stopped him from doing anything crazy with fast scoring agendas. His money drained away very quickly after rezzing 2 assassins (and a combo of Siphon and Vamp). After that, it came down to just running and finding the agendas. Which, eventually, I did.

Result: Win (1-1 Corp had lost against his Whizzard)

Round 2 vs Jinteki: Biotech (James Cunningham)

And into the second game, and it was against Jinteki. Jinteki, despite the Feedback Filter, is easily my worst match up, especially if they are trying to kill me. And I demonstrated this by earning my only loss of the day with this deck. While I took my time setting up again (and looking for Feedback Filter that never came), he began the Jinteki equivalent of 'Beale-or-No-Beale' with Mushin-no-shin. I let a Fetal AI through, and shortly after he scored a Philotic (he just left it on the board and then scored it the following turn). Then, played another Mushin and advanced the card. At this point, I was still half-way to setting up, had no Logos (so didn't find any cards), no Feedback, and couldn't get his credit pool to 0. So I ran it, and promptly face-planted into the Junebug.

Result: Loss (2-2 Corp won against Noise)

Round 3 vs Weyland: Blue Sun(Mark Surtees)

So, 2 spilts, and with the new and 'improved' rounds and Cut system, I was worried about getting into the Top 4. I knew any chance I had involved on only winning from now on. Which brings me to my next opponent. And we were back with Weyland, although of the Blue Sun variety this time. This game went fairly similar to my previous game with Harry (although with less super advanced Oaktowns). He got ahead (using Public Support was cool, and annoying, way to do so), but eventually I gained control of the game, so that when he started trying to use Oversights to gain money and to just went and killed the ice, making all my future runs a heck of a lot cheaper. Eventually, I took enough points to win the game.

Result: Win (4-2 Corp beating his Kit)

Round 4 vs NBN: Near Earth Hub (Tom Mason)

And then it was the final round, and fate conspired to pair me against a fellow player from Manchester. Not only did this ruin our chances of both of us getting into the Top 4, he had played against my Stirling deck often enough that he knew what not to do. Luckily, I had also learned from our previous game, and made sure I hostage'd for an early Source to slow him down, and then keep it around with Fall Guys. He did manage to push some agendas through (and they were AstroScripts, for an extra scare factor) but eventually keeping control of his money, keeping The Source in play, and running RnD and his hand relentlessly managed to secure me the win (at one point, I took his winning agenda out of his hand, which was lucky).

Result: Win (6-2 Corp beating his Kim deck)

And on the back of those 2 double wins, I managed to get myself into 3rd place, and a shot at the title. After taking a short break to hand out prizes (and grab a refreshment or two), we proceeded into the double elimination.

Top 4 Game 1 vs NBN: Sync (Alice Rees) First game of elimination, and as the higher seed (placing 2nd in the Swiss), Alice got to choose which side she wanted to play, while also knowing what identities I was playing. After a few moments of consideration, she chose to Corp. Just because it was a different shade of yellow didn't mean I should forget about the Astro-train, so like in the previous game, I ensured I found The Source nice and early, and enough Fall Guys to keep him safe. She did manage to push 2 Astro's through (worryingly) but I was steadily gaining control. At one point, I managed to 'find' all 3 News Teams, which were promptly sold of to a local Data Dealer that I knew. Eventually, we were both on 6 points (Alice having scored a Beale, but using the Astro counter to do so), but Alice was quickly running out of deck, and Jacksons. A run on archives prompted the use of Mr Howard in order to put an agenda back into RnD and leave none in Archives. So I went sniffing around in RnD, which got me the winning agenda.

And that was the end for Stirling. The next two games I played, I had to use my Corp deck, and because I won both, I didn't need to call upon his services again. The deck definitely performed better than I had hoped, but I think one of it's main advantages was that no-one was expecting it, and were even less sure how to deal with it. Folks had their anti-clot tech to fast advance their agendas but couldn't deal with a heavily defended The Source.

Cards that pulled their weight: Top of this list has to be The Source (and by proxy his two best friends, Fall Guy and Film Critic) Vamp was also surprisingly good. It was a very recent change due to it eating up my influence for a Corroder, but aside from whenever I stared at a Spiderweb in distress, I was happy with the swap. Off-Campus and The Supplier obviously did as they intended.

Changes for the future: With the Mumbad cycle here (although, not for this tournament), there are various cards that have caught my eye. In the first pack, Mongoose is the main card here, and will probably replace Garrote and one of the Overminds. Further on in the cycle, we have Political Operative and Councilman (finally, I can deal with Caprice and Batty in a far more reliable manner), and Guru Davinder who will replace the Feedback Filter as my 'I-don't-want-to-die' tech. The other obvious big card is Rebirth. There is obviously a massive incentive to play this deck with Rebirth in Andy, and just swap to Stirling later in the game. 4 more influence and 9 card starting hands are very nice.

Anyway, I'll stop here as it's basically become a giant English essay. If you have any other questions ask away.

15 Feb 2016 kandiru

I notice your only +link is Helpful AI. This card is costing you influence, and you presumably can't use the Trash ability, as you'll then lose out on 3C/turn from then on.

Hostage can find your Helpful AI, and it is usable on Off-Campus Apartment, but is that really worth 2 influence over Access to GlobalSec? Something like Globalsec Security Clearance might add R&D pressure for those 2inf.

15 Feb 2016 shanodin

Our top 4 game was probably the most stressful, tense, and challenging of the event for me. I love losing at Netrunner in new and creative ways. I think this deck has come a long way since I last played you in the Stockport Sympathy Shield (where you couldn't stop Haarps from doing its thing) and your dedication (some may call it pigheadedness) has clearly paid off. A well deserved win :)

15 Feb 2016 SavvySteve

Personally, I think the Helpful AI is worth its 2 influence. Being able to search for it is a massive boon in its favour (it's either the 3rd or 4th most sort after connection in my deck, behind The Supplier, The Source and Film Critic (It might place higher than Critic, depends on the situation). Then add onto that, that it replaces itself if put on an Off-Campus, and counts towards Calling in Favors puts it over Access to Globalsec (which I'd want to run more than one of just to ensure I see it quick enough).

As for the top 4 games, I have to agree about how tense it was. When you scored the Beale to get to 6 points, there was a period of internal panic and the thought that I may messed up big time was crossing my mind.

15 Feb 2016 shanodin

I just needed to find the 15 Minutes before you did, but R&D was in your favour, not mine, alas :)

15 Feb 2016 darwindeez

Well done! I've been telling everyone that Iain is OP lately. #1 Runner, etc. I've been playing a similar list online with success. Haven't actually tried Helpful AI over Corroder though. My build does a little bit less Hostage and a bit more Mr. Li. And then I've got Lovegood and Drug Dealer over the Feedback Filter with 2x of each breaker type rather than Overmind, e3 and Special Order (which would be nice actually, although I like to dig with Li). An extra copy of NACH to hopefully start Siphoning earlier and to allow me to steal and trash a NACH if I need to place pressure. I'm not running Kati Jones as I never have the clicks for her early, and when I do, I don't need more money. I'd run a 2nd Tri-Maf before adding her I think, as it's more helpful with early money needs. The Off-Campus Apts are so unreliable. I wish I could fix that. Doubters of this deck always think it's too slow to beat Astrobiotics. Any comments on that matchup from your experience? My list:

15 Feb 2016 SavvySteve

@darwindeez To address each point:

I find The Helpful AI is worth it mainly because it's the +1 link that you need to turn on the Underworld Contact, with the added bonus of being searchable (thanks to Hostage) and can go on Off-Campus for a draw.

I do like Mr. Li, and would never take him out, but I find between the amount of cards I can draw off the Off-Campus, or John Masanori, and the search effects of Hostage and Logos, he isn't as essential for me. He's still really nice if I need to dig for something specific though.

I used to play with Drug Dealers, and I thought they were alright, but I never liked paying them, and I prefer the 1 inf on Lovegood to go on dealing with Net Damage (easily my biggest issue, but that's just because of who I am as a player. This could very well be different for someone else)

The Overminds are mainly there to allow some early aggression if I need it.

The e3 supports Overmind, Aurora and Peacock, and Special Order is mainly there so I don't lose to 'X breaker was at the bottom of my deck'.

Not seeing NACH early is always slightly annoying, but can be offset with decoys, or just making sure I have the clicks to remove the tags afterwards. Not entirely efficient but probably better than not running at all.

Kati Jones ensures that during the stalled board states, I WILL have the economic advantage when they eventually make me have to run something. (These situations usually involve me having The Source down so most agendas need to be advanced before scoring on the next turn)

I've personally never had to much of an issue with the Off-Campus. Some games they turn up to late, and it's disappointing, but normally they turn up early enough to still be relevant.

As for beating Astrobiotics, just hunt for The Source as quick as possible, followed by a Fall Guy, and you should be fine. Having to use 2 different pieces of FA to score an agenda can be crippling (especially when you can happily trash SanSans all day).

15 Feb 2016 River

Congratulations on your win!

16 Feb 2016 TheRyanBurke


16 Feb 2016 accipender

Hey - I've been goldfishing a similar list ( since it was featured a couple months ago (I don't have a lot of time to play in real life and this deck is miserable to play online), so I don't know how it measures up against some of the corp decks, but I've found Rachel Beckman to be fairly useful in the mid- and lategame. Did you test her at some point and find her lacking? If so, why?

17 Feb 2016 SavvySteve

@accipender I used to play with Beckman when she first came out, and I was running something along a similar lines (a time before Off-Campus). My main issue with her was the massive credit investment. Despite that, she was a solid card, but eventually, her influence was spent on the Feedback Filter instead.

Maybe I'll swap things back for a bit, see what it's like, but I feel like I would miss the net protection from Feedback Filter.

19 Feb 2016 mderb4

I used to play a very very similar version of this deck, but I always assumed it was too slow for tournament play. How did you feel playing it, were you ever rushed to try and finish games to avoid time? Congrats on the win!

19 Feb 2016 SavvySteve

The only time I felt like I was in trouble of timing out was in the Top 4. So, of course, I started playing quicker, but then started missing triggers, and making mistakes (the big one being I forgot about the 15 minutes in Archives that would have won me the game if I had run it. Instead, when i did go, Alice had found another Jackson by then).

Personally, I feel like I know the deck well enough to be able to play it quick enough, but like I said, I don't think this is a pick-up-and-play deck, especially for tournaments.

19 Feb 2016 mderb4

How do you feel about dropping helpful AI and aurora for Corroder? There are a couple options from there, either add link with Dyson memchip (helps overmind a bit) or access to globalsec (ew), OR swap underworld contacts for compromised employee. Employee probably makes less money over the course of the game (depending how fast you get contacts online) but give you an effective 3 link instead of 1 (super relevant rn) and is crazy vs blue sun. The money saved by Corroder may even balance the credit difference between contacts and compromised.

19 Feb 2016 SavvySteve

The issue with playing any other form of link is that non of it is tutor-able via Hostage, which is a big plus in The Helpful AI's favour. Considering how slow the deck can be to set up, spending influence to make it more streamlined isn't a bad thing. And once you can't see your identity because how much money you have, the difference between Aurora and Corroder isn't that much (despite the amount of complaining I do about Aurora).

As for Employee over Underworld, I don't think he would ever net me more money, realistically speaking, than Underworld. It may be '3 link', but that's only recurring credits. You know what's better than 3 recurring credits a turn for traces, gaining 3 credits a turn for anything. Also, I've found that traces never really bother me. I have 2 link, which puts a dent in quite a few traces, a lot more traces are ignored by being able to pay 2 to avoid tags, that only leaves a few problematic ones, and most of those are on ice, and therefore breakable.

I also used to play with the guy, and he is really good against glacier, but I never felt glad to see him, he was always just, there. And Glacier still falls apart to me having a mountain of credits.

19 Feb 2016 BobAloVskI

I've been interested in playing a deck like this for a while but the influence (and in this case the breakers used) always stopped me. I know it is an obvious deck but when Rebirth hits I'll be trying something like this with Andromeda: Dispossessed Ristie into Iain Stirling: Retired Spook.

-1 Iain Stirling: Retired Spook -1 Peacock -1 Aurora -1 e3 Feedback Implants +1 Andromeda: Dispossessed Ristie +1 Corroder +1 ZU.13 Key Master +1 Rebirth

It will speed you up early game and should be a decent deck in its own right. The Source should slow corps down enough so that when they do score you will have gotten enough connections onto an Off-Campus Apartment and have drawn into Rebirth ready to become Iain Stirling: Retired Spook.

Obviously never played this but it works in theory.