When I read that Assimilator skips “When Install” triggers and opened up Apex to non-virtual resources, I really got into seriously playing the ID for the first time. I started by playing around with Hipster Apex without realizing how important card draw is for Apex. Luckily, @Antler first casually, then insistently, brought me back to to the Apex staple, Chop Bot 3000.
The deck can be quite fast if you find the right cards, or stupid slow if you don’t. Of course, this is Apex, so there’s no big shock there.
Find the Trashers First
Chop Bot and Aesop both synergize with the trashing effects of Wasteland and Reaver, so you really should mulligan for them. It’s a pretty hard mulligan for Aesop, but probably keep Chop with two of either Rver and or Wasteland. Sports Hopper becomes a beast when you have two Reavers and two Wastelands installed. It’s like a Sure Gamble’s worth of value in the trash alone.
Get Paid to Trash
You may need to ease up when both are installed, however, since you only get the bonus creds and cards from the first trash. Also try not to forget that Reaver (but not Wasteland) gives you cards if the first trash is a corp card! Once Aesop’s is fully operational, you will probably rarely use Chop Bot. It will come in handy, however, against Hard Hitting News. You can shed a tag with Chop Bot, lose the rest with clicks, and still be able to run if they mistakenly thought they had a scoring window.
Draw to Assimilate
You will eventually need to assimilate, so either an early Peace/Gamble or slow build through Chop Bot/Wasteland trashes can get you there. The deck really sings if you can get Aesop within a couple turns. Essentially, you want to always end your turn with a card you’re willing to face down, even if it’s really tempting to just Sure Gamble on that last click.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Crazy Assimilation Interactions
Can we just stop and talk about how sick this ability is? If I’m interpreting it correctly, the alien AI is taking control of people and using them for its own nefarious purposes. Theme!
• Political Operative does not require a successful run on HQ. You didn’t have to send a spy into HQ, you just brainwashed someone who was already there!
• Cyber-Cypher doesn’t require its typical installation package, it just assembles the code piecemeal until it resembles the real thing.
• Harbinger, as pointed out by @Restartt, can be recurred infinitely through Assimilation. That means that Apex plays God with code, creating, destroying, and recreating at will.
• Adjusted Matrix, asssimilated by Apex, is an AI 3D-printing an AI. WHAT IS THIS EVEN?
How to Assimilate?
Well, your number one target is Rachel Beckman because she will make everything a little more efficient. The isn’t the usual tempo loss because she will install for free. However for everything else, you should wait until your draw/money engine is more sophisticated. You don’t want to waste a turn using Apex’s ID ability to facedown an Assimilator target if it means not continuing to draw and make money. Make sure you have a Harbinger or two out or some matchup-weak facedown targets (Prey/Apocalypse against glacier, Political Operative against NBN) or some extra copies of Endless Hunger. You may also want to wait until the corp feels they have you locked out. Then surprise them by assimilating Na'Not'K and Cyber-Cypher on the same turn leaving a Rachel click to run.
How to Score?
With so much influence in tricks and tomfoolery, you still need to score. The play style here is very similar to my Hayley from Worlds season. Develop the big rig to lock out the remote, then try to multi-access R&D. That’s where The Turning Wheel comes in. If Rachel survives to late game, you just need to find some safe outer end-the-run ICE on HQ or R&D to slam into over and over again for up to five counters per turn! People often think this is dumb, but don’t listen to them. Not protecting the outside of your server with spiky ICE is dumb. Turning Wheel is great because you can clear out HQ if they haven’t cycled agendas all games and are just randomly clicking for credits, or you can dig into R&D if it’s getting denser after a billion DBS triggers.
But You’re Not a Shaper!
One benefit of Apex is that you are significantly more sturdy than a Shaper. Heartbeat allows you to test out punishing ICE and survive, forcing the corp to lose credits and tempo. You are still very prone to tags, however, especially if you have Rachel Beckman out (maybe don’t run against NBN until you’re super rich). With guaranteed meat damage like Builder of Nations, you can even time turns when you are not going to Chop/Aesop to get the Wasteland/Reaver bonuses off preventing meat damage.
But I Can’t Find Aesop!
Not all is lost! You have a backup plan with old Endless Hunger (still viable), ideally hosted on Dhegdheer. If you want to get real spicy, slap an Adjusted Matrix on your Endless Hunger for a hulking, yet slow breaker.
Even if things are bleak, there’s always the 1x Apocalypse for you Apex purists. The sting of the face down isn’t even so bad if you remember to keep an extra Assimilator in hand. That way you can get everything back for free eventually.
Sometimes, especially against Jinteki, you will need to find that last bit of steam to fund your Turning Wheel turns. Trope seems to be the most efficient way to do this without Levy AR Lab Access since you usually only need a half-dozen or so extra cards, and Harbinger can act like a lot more. Depending on how efficient you find the infinite Harbinger recursion, you could get away with no Trope to save three influence, but you will need to be careful about losing key cards.
In short, Assimilator feels like the card that Apex was designed to have. It completes the mystery of “why does it install so many cards face down?” with something more satisfying than “uhhhh to trash with?” Maybe if CI gets nerfed and the meta slows down even more, this will become viable!
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