As a long-time Shaper player (for better, for worse!), I often wondered what direction Shaper would go after Hayley Kaplan: Universal Scholar rotated, given her dominance in various types of decks. Today, I have the great pleasure of introducing one of my favourite cards of System Gateway, a Shaper identity that takes the faction in a new direction. Say hello to Tāo Salonga: Telepresence Magician!
This identity offers something that is rare, if not unique, at the moment in Shaper IDs—disruption. Disruption comes in many forms, such as economic pressure, like the Criminal cards Diversion of Funds or Emergency Shutdown, or the specialty of Anarchs, blatant card destruction. Shaper disruption has always been more subtle. One of my favourite cards that highlights this subtlety is Indexing, which rewards the Runner for knowing the Corp’s game plan. A successful Indexing run can really throw off the Corp’s plans, but only if you’re able to get inside their head!
There have been various attempts at Tāo’s type of disruption within Shaper, like Inversificator, Escher, and Cordyceps. Unfortunately, they have never reached competitive levels of play. However, one thing I’ve learned from events in the OKORINA format, where your ID is an installable card like Aesop’s Pawnshop, is how non-competitive cards can become very powerful as identity effects! There are two areas this proved to be strong.
Firstly, Shaper has long been the faction with “in-house” R&D pressure cards. A classic example is The Maker’s Eye, but also keep a lookout for Conduit in System Gateway as another card that puts a target on R&D. Tāo has the potential to leverage this R&D pressure into interesting forks. A Tāo player consistently threatening R&D may push the Corp to commit resources to protect that central server. But against this ID, that’s a risk, because any rezzed ice on R&D could be swapped onto another server!
Tāo’s ability rewards the Runner for making intelligent decisions about what ice should be where, putting further pressure on the Corp’s game plan. Particularly for rush or tempo-based decks, forcing the Corp to rez R&D ice only to then swap it with other unrezzed ice really puts the squeeze on them! Rearranging the Corp’s defenses in a way that better suits your installed icebreakers feels like disrupting the Corp’s plan in a uniquely Shaper way.
Secondly, the Corp meta has been strong with positional ice in the two years I’ve been playing. You can look at decks like Argus that heavily rely on tagging ice to punish the Runner, or glacier decks that maximize the effectiveness of Surveyors by using them to defend heavily-iced servers. With a single trigger, Tāo can reposition this troublesome ice onto a more favourable server, potentially saving credits and clicks.
It’s also safe to say that there are other cards in System Gateway that have a similar synergy with Tāo’s gameplan. One such card is his console, Pantograph, which we shared in our introductory article!
The best moments I’ve had in testing with Tāo have been when the Corp has felt safe behind towering walls of ice on their central servers, while running themselves low on credits to defend and score an agenda. What they thought was a safe scoring window is turned around on them when I use Tāo’s ability to move unrezzed ice to their centrals. Suddenly, the board has changed, and I have several turns to put on the pressure while the Corp tries to recover. At this point, it isn’t unreasonable to see more agenda steals to further leverage the advantage!
So I asked in the first question, where do I think Shaper is heading after this rotation? From my testing, the faction is going somewhere good—and different to where it has been before! You’ll find Tāo Salonga in System Gateway when it comes out this month. May your swaps be kind…
System Gateway and System Update 2021 will be released on or shortly after March 28, 2021, as physical cards via NISEI’s print-on-demand partners and pay-what-you want files for downloading and printing at home!