Well, we've gone and done it again. We just had to go out and select yet another amazing individual from the community and thank them with a lovely playmat. Dreadful. Sorry not sorry, this month's honoree is Elwin (@Jakuza) of LaserRunner fame. If you didn't know, Jakuza has been a huge presence on the Europe event and maker scene, with plenty of his creations exciting the minds of many a Runner. The rarity of said creations, to say nothing of their incredible quality, has made them a treasured piece of any collection they've graced. This week your pal Orbital sat down with Jakuza to get a little personal, to explore some of the Hard-Hitting questions behind the man and his continuing love for Netrunner. Without further ado, please enjoy this little nugget of insight...
@orbital_tangent: Welcome, Elwin (aka Jakuza), to the interview for your snazzy new Community Champion award. We already got some information about you and your lasering hobby in Vesper's lovely 15 Minutes column, but are you ready to tell the people more about you?
@Jakuza: Currently enjoying a nice Japanese whiskey after a hectic workday, so definitely ready.
OT: Perfect. A tip of the hat on the drink choice. So, the first of many Hard-Hitting questions: How did you get into this lovely game, and/or what are some of your first Netrunner memories?
J: The first steps of my Netrunner journey will probably sound familiar to many of the readers; I used to play the original version of the game back in the '90s, so when the game was relaunched by FFG, it immediately caught my attention. I didn't dive in directly though, as the game didn't grab me at first sight and the core set was very hard to get in the beginning. Also; not having a regular gaming group at that point deterred me from jumping in.
Fast forward roughly 1 to 1.5 years forward and I was at a different point; I had just sold a Commander collection and was looking for something new to jump in. Netrunner beckoned again at that point. Some games with one of my best friends later and within 3 months I had gone from just that single core, to all big boxes and most data packs. This was roughly during Lunar, so that will always be a cycle that I have fond memories of.
As for Netrunner memories; those early games will always remain special to me. Ice was a big unknown, a mystery, a dangerous thing that could end the game within a single click. Learning to facecheck was an exhilarating experience that I'll always remember fondly. One of my first tournament games comes to mind in that regard; I was playing Kate versus a local Weyland aficionado, who was on an identity at that point still pretty unfamiliar to me; GRNDL. I'll never forget the first two turns of that game; his turn: Make a new remote with an ice, put something behind it, Restructure. My turn: "That must be an agenda. I can't let him have that. He must be up to something. But what is that ice? It could be anything. It could be a Janus. Oh no." panic. "OK, I have to check that. It's probably something dangerous, but I can't let him have an agenda." Click 1, go. Run the remote. Turned out it was an Ice Wall. That was the point that the game completely clicked for me.
OT: You mention Janus. What was that your least favorite ice to faceplant back then? Do you have an ice you fear or find troubling these days?
J: Most players that started in those days will probably remember Janus 1.0. It's a ridiculous, but also iconic piece of ICE. The potential of flatlining a runner through sheer brain damage had its appeal to me as a starting casual player. I didn't actually fear it that much those days; I just remember it being present at the back of my mind very vividly for the first tournament games. The ICE that I absolutely hated to faceplant back then is Architect. Which ironically is my favorite piece of ICE in the entire game nowadays.
As for face planting these days; there isn't an ICE that I really fear. I have a borderline unhealthy tendency to facecheck and keep running. So there isn't an ICE that I fear, but there definitely is a card that I have trouble with, namely the humble Snare. My talent for running head first into Snares is unparalleled.
OT: Good ol' Snare. Seen that one end its fair share of games. Speaking of games ending, you said in the LaserRunner interview that FFG announcing the end of Netrunner was the impetus of that event coming together. How did you feel on a personal level when you saw the announcement from FFG?
J: The announcement of the end of Android: Netrunner hit me hard. I'd just had one of the best times of my life at the European Championships the week before, where I was a member of the judge team for the main event and ran the Cache Refresh side event. I'll remember that weekend fondly for a long time to come; the Friday that followed not so much. Those two weekends were definitely a complete rollercoaster of emotions; from an absolute high point to an absolute low point. I never knew myself to be a person who'd get outright depressed over a card game for several days, but that's what happened. Luckily I snapped out of it quite quickly, as I realized that the announcement by FFG didn't mean that things would end in an instant. And they wouldn't even end after the official end date in November. Now there was certainly suddenly a clock on the game and my chance to enjoy it in the way that I had done thus far, but that clock wasn't ticking that fast. So it's at that point that I decided to make the most of the time I had left with the game and ride it into the sunset, fully enjoying every second of the last part of the journey. LaserRunner was a part of that, as it was a concept I wanted to organize and it truly was a now or never scenario.
OT: What is it about Netrunner that makes it special for you?
J: The basis is the game. It's a truly special game, where everything comes together. Every game is an adventure, as you never know what will happen, but every game is also a puzzle. A flexible puzzle, where there are always options available to you, due to the nature of the game, the opportunity to hide information and the phenomenal click system. I don't know if I could ever go back to a (card)game that has a traditional tightly ordered full turn structure with different phases, sub phases, etcetera.
But what elevates the game is the community. Never have I come across such a welcoming, fun and friendly bunch of people. Both locally and internationally. When I first visited a local tournament the friendly laidback nature of the event amazed me. I felt very welcome from the first games on and my local community has remained a strong motivator for me to continue exploring this game and everything it has to offer. That friendly nature and focus on just having fun together is something I've come across at Netrunner events nationally and internationally, something that continues to amaze me. Even at the highest levels of competition everything is very laidback; some of the best times in Netrunner are definitely after the tournament when analyzing board states and discussing decisions made over beers.
Roughly the last 1.5 to 2 years Netrunner has taken on another aspect; that of a medium through which to learn, develop, and experiment. The community of makers and artists (sometimes referred to as the Artist Colony) is an important part of the game to me. Likely the most important part by now, as I find making things incredibly satisfying.
OT: Would you say that the maker aspect is your favorite part, or something else?
J: The maker aspect has become my favorite slowly over the years. Organizing events used to be my favorite part of the game, but it's been overtaken by making things the last year. With each project I take the chance to explore something new; from very visible things like lasering new materials to minute details like combining different dithering methods. The laser things especially get an enthusiastic response every time I throw something new out there, so that's definitely a good motivator. Lately I've been re exploring play mats again, as evidenced by the mat in the NISEI GNK #2.
Seeing the things that other makers and artists from within the community make is also a key part of this aspect of the game for me and as such I'm quite the avid fan alt collector. I especially enjoy fan alts that give a new or unexpected spin on already established cards or characters.
OT: Very cool. So, you mention organizing. What got you into that and what inspired you to get into the other community spaces (like Stimhack and Slack)?
J: Organizing events started purely as a way of helping out our friendly local gaming store Comicasa. Local events started to dry up a bit, both in frequency and attendance, so I offered to take up organizer duties. I hoped to grow a midsize meta and have frequent small events, with the occasional bigger thing as well. At that point I didn't suspect that I'd end up organizing and hosting a Nationals, judging Euros and that the local community would grow into a very decently sized but also very active group of friends that travels all over Europe. Getting into Slack and Stimhack somewhere at the midpoint of that journey was a logical part of that process, as I was looking for places to communicate our events, but also wanted more in-depth analysis of the game.
OT: In-depth analysis, eh? Do you consider yourself somewhat of a competitive player?
J: Good way of putting it. Somewhat of a competitive player describes me quite well. I used to describe it as casually competitive, although that has shifted a bit as of last year. In the past I've focused even more on organizing and making things, but when the dark news from FFG hit us, I decided to make the most of the time I had left with it. Going for some competitive success after having not been a focus of mine for quite a while was a part of that. And luckily that has worked out quite well for me so far, with some respectable results during the latter half of 2018 that I'm quite satisfied with.
The thrill of competitive play and the whole experience of traveling to big events are big parts of the draw of competitive play for me. I do however place a lot of worth on playing decks that I simply find fun to play and offer play styles that feel comfortable to me. Often those are decks that have strong plans of their own forcing the runner to interact with them or just decks that play fast. I also enjoy subverting existing archetypes and doing something unexpected with them. Doing something that goes against expectation is something that offers a significant advantage in this game and it's also helpful as I don't often have the time and patience to fully master a certain deck.
One last good example of why I don't consider myself a competitive player foremost is that I have been known to sometimes base deck building decisions or changes to existing decks solely on available fan alts. I'll never depower a deck significantly, but when I have to choose between creativity and efficiency, it's an easy choice for me.
OT: So, I am guess that if I were to ask you to pick 1 Runner ID and 1 Corp ID to use for the rest of time, your picks might subvert expectations as well?
Let's see them picks. You could also explain your choices, if you want, but you don't have to. We're into the silly questions now.
J: It depends a bit on the meta as well, but going just by the first things that come to mind the Corp would easily be NEH in that case. That pick won't surprise anyone who has played me in the past, as asset based strategies (spam if you will) are my favorite play style on the Corp side. The raw speed and power that NEH offers, plus the sheer amount of options available would keep me satisfied for quite a while. If I had to pick a specific type of NEH, it would be either Russian NEH or Spatula City, a build that was pioneered by local ruse lord Walter.
Runner side would be Andromeda or Maxx, depending on whether I have trusty old Siphon and Desperado also available or not. Run based Andromeda is some of the best fun to be had in Netrunner, whether it's the truly old school builds, or the fully powered version at the height of Netrunner power levels, with Temüjin Contract and Inversificator. One of the best games of Netrunner I've ever had was at Dutch Nationals 2016, where I was running as Andy against one of the terrors of the meta at that time; Industrial Genomics. The back and forth in that game, the push and pull; it's some of the best Netrunner there is to be had to me. Coincidentally that was also one of the game rounds that will always make me love Russian NEH; even though I was Apocalypsed several times, I won the Corp game and never felt out of control. Lately I've been having a lot of fun with Maxx, as she offers a similar fast and run based experience.
Hit me with more silliness.
OT: That's a lot of different factions and playstyles there. Well, what if you were a Runner? What faction would you be? To clarify, this can be based on anything. But if we had Elwin: The Runner, what faction are they?
J: The easy answer here would be Shaper, as they tend to be portrayed as the artists and engineers of the Netrunner world. So as someone who considers himself a maker and a creative person foremost, the first temptation would be to go with that. But that would be taking things too easy, going for the obvious and actually even somewhat reductive. I'd actually go with Anarch, mainly for one thing: The Anarch philosophy tends to be very goal or objective oriented; when they want something, they'll go to extreme lengths to get it or realize it. Anarch usually has a ring of destruction to it, but often it's destruction and even chaos with a certain goal in mind. Anarchs go big and have an all or nothing philosophy. That captures me very well as I tend to lose myself in endeavors and will go very far to realize something that I got on my mind. That way of thinking and looking at life is far deeper seated than just my creative nature. To a certain extent it actually guides my creativity. So my choice would be Anarch. An Anarch focussed on creation, if you will.
OT: Also a faction question: Geist. Blue Shaper or Criminal minifaction?
J: Blue Shaper. Easy choice.
OT: And last of the regularly scheduled questions: If you could unrotate a single card, what would it be?
J: I'll cheat a bit here and would actually not unrotate a card, but would nominate a card to save from rotation. Or we could pretend that we're living just after the first NISEI set has hit and the Lunar and SanSan cycles have just left us: I'd unrotate Architect. An iconic card with a unique effect in the game and actually the kind of design I would have liked to have seen more of. Coincidentally; the card that I would have nominated for unrotation until quite recently was very kindly actually unrotated in System Core; our run rewarding but also risky friend Jon Masanori.
OT: Excellent. That's kind of a wrap for our questions. The floor is yours if you would like to plug plug-ables or say anything to the community. Thank you for your time and congratulations on the award!
J: First, I'd like to warmly invite any and all Netrunners to come and drop by one of my local tournaments in Enschede at our awesome store; Comicasa. They're truly the basis without which I couldn't have done any of the things mentioned.
Secondly; I'd like to thank NISEI for all the time and effort they're putting into the continuation of the game. Without you my personal ride into the sunset would have ended a lot sooner. So; thank you. I also really appreciate the very kind gesture of awarding me this way. It's an honor.
Lastly for folks who want to stay up to date of the things that I make, feel free to follow me on my humble little Instagram: The Maker's Eye.
Hey runners, RC here - big thanks to OT for interviewing Jakuza, and of course congratulations to Jakuza himself for being our newest Community Champion! I have to admit to a little big of sneakery here, I used Elwin's love of alt-arts against him by saying I'd found one not in his collection and that I'd send him a copy... but actually sent him the CC mat! Since the interview, he's also sent me some new pieces he's been working on...
Brushed gold acrylic Azmari for the Domecon tournament in Berlin this weekend
"Some personal copies and experiments. The magenta Maxx (or Pinky Maxx) is something I like to do from time; colourshift ID's. It makes for good alternate prizing and lets me explore materials without having to immediately make a new design. This is a material that I've used before, but my magenta sleeves clashed too much with the orange for my own comfort. Also; magenta and pink are just the best.
The RP's (Replicating Perfection) are in 2 different types of wood; bamboo and walnut. As some readers might know, I like to explore new materials as it can lead to very satisfying new results; the walnut definitely lived up to that expectation. The RP doesn't have a personal signature btw, as there was next to no actual design work involved. Instead it mentions the name of the piece of art it references and its maker; "The Great Wave of Kanagawa" by Hokusai. Which is a possibly perfect piece of art in my view, so it's all very meta."
I'm sure you'll agree with me that these are very cool. You can safely bet several credits I'll be trying to get to the next LaserRunner!
Back to normality, in other business this week...
- The communication survey is open for another 7 days, with great feedback streaming in already
- Our Patreon has hit over 100 Patrons(!) and rewards for January are being put together ready for the payments to finish processing
- The Q2 GNK is still on sale, now also available in card-only form!
- Our first Core Experience tournament on jinteki.net finished yesterday, you can watch some of the games on Trace5 (Swiss 1a), Metropole Grid (Swiss 1b) and Self Modifying Code (Top 16 cut) - I won't spoil the winner here, but congratulations to them :D
And that's it for this week, come back next time when I'll be talking out the release of our first set, and letting you know all about how we'll be teasing you with delightful spoilers... until then