Want it More – Winner Interviews: spags

“Want It More” is a series of post-event chats with the people who wanted it just that little bit more and managed to climb to the top of the field during a given event. We’re asking about impressions, strategies, good and not so good plays, and more.

Today, we get our questions answered by the winner of the NISEI Core Experience tournament, which took place over two weekends in January 2019.

Name (or username): spags
Personal flavour text: Better lucky than good.
If you had an intro song: Run The Jewels – Blockbuster Night Part 1
Event: NISEI Online Tournament: Core Experience
Placement in Swiss: 3rd (Day 1A) | 6th (Overall)
Path to the final: Swiss | Cut

3N1GM4: Congrats on the win! Was it fun to play a tournament with a much smaller card pool than usual?

Spags: It was a bit nerve-wracking, to be honest. Having played in the last Stimhack Online Cache Refresh (SOCR; shout-out to Sanjay for running it) tournament, I found the smaller card pool disconcerting and felt quite shackled by it during the deckbuilding process. I didn’t put a lot of time or thought into prepping or playtesting for it, and my record showed that. However, I decided to just have fun and embrace it, and was not super-competitive about it at all.

The single System Core 2019 (SC19) experience is an even more severe reduction in cards available, but that was almost freeing. 80-85% of your deck is basically built for you, and thus, the small differences and nuances between decks is seen in how they spend their influence.

3N1GM4: How did you prepare for the event?

Spags: Like most things Netrunner, I prepped by playing on jinteki.net (JNET). I almost didn’t play, as I was not feeling the decks I was playing, nor was I enjoying the format during testing. The small card pool, along with the forced usage of Priority Requisition, led to a number of games ending early and abruptly based on uncontrollable flood or lucky early accesses. However, discussion with others, more testing, and some epiphanies (such as adding a secondary win condition into RP via Punitive damage, or having recursion tricks for Femme and Faerie) got me locked in to what decks I should be taking to the event.

3N1GM4: What were your ID and card choices for the event and why?

Spags: Queen Leela and the classic Jinteki standard Replicating Perfection (RP) were my decks of choice. I took the former because she’s very fun, has an ability that is very strong in a limited format, and I felt that Criminal has the best cards in-faction in single SC19. I waffled a lot on Corp, trying RP, Spark, and both Weyland IDs. A chance game on JNET v. scd – who was on Punitive Counterstrike in RP – opened my eyes and I pivoted quickly to that option. Regarding my Leela build, I tried a few varieties, including one by my teammate thearete, but opted for a more control and recursion-based build that turned out to be very similar to what Mark was playing in the finals.

3N1GM4: What was the most exciting play (or plays) of the event for you?

Spags: I think the last turn of the Finals was pretty good, but we can save that for below. 😉

The forced inclusion and thus usage of Paper Trail led to some really swingy plays. One of my opponents was pushing a Kati Jones and Armitage Codebusting, so I installed and double advanced a naked Trail. When facing RP, is it worth two clicks of tempo to check it, when it could just as easily be a Fetal AI or a Project Junebug? The answer was usually ‘No’, and in this case it led to the loss of 6 credits on a Kati and 8 on an Armitage.

3N1GM4: Do you have any misplays or mistakes from the event that you’d like to share?

Spags: I kept my plays very clean in general, I would say. I perhaps made some foolish judgement calls, like most players over the course of a tournament, including that last turn of the Finals. However, I dropped only 2 of 15 games, and one of those was to some bad luck (killed a loaded Kati with Trail, only to have them drop another immediately), so I felt that I played near optimally.

3N1GM4: What was the most fun deck to play against?

Spags: I really enjoyed seeing what Mark did with Blue Sun in the Finals, fully loading up on NBN by spending all of his influence on yellow cards.

3N1GM4: Here’s the final game one more time, courtesy of Dan “CodeMarvelous” Spinosa from Self-modifying Code – anything you’d do differently if you were playing one more time in the final?

Spags: Well, I think I foolishly overplayed that final turn, and got lucky. Mark was ready for the double Punitive, and if he used his Project Atlas counter that final click to grab it, he could have decreased my access odds from 33% to 25%. I probably was a bit worried about not being able to get into the scoring remote and wanted to score the agenda that turn. I probably should have just run HQ two more times, as opposed to installing the Datasucker and playing Emergency Shutdown to de-rez the Hadrian’s. Luck > skill (sometimes).

3N1GM4: What do you think is the best thing about the meta in this particular format?

Spags: It … is pretty neat. A single core format is VERY limiting, to the point of being stifling. However, it felt very well constructed and I appreciated a number of the card choices, especially the deeper I played into the event. Single core reminded me of playing a simplified version of Netrunner, something you could see more in a mobile game like Hearthstone. It still felt very much like Netrunner, but the tools were quite focused.

Long answer is that it felt like experiencing a lot of the core tenets of Netrunner: ICE, icebreakers, economy, damage, and scoring.

3N1GM4: What was the main prize for winning the event and where is it now?

Spags: The main prize was a playmat from the first NISEI GNK, and I am hoping Mark enjoys it (I passed it down, as I had just won the same mat the day before at a GNK).

3N1GM4: What would you consider a good way to get into competitive Netrunner?

Spags: That is a very good question. I would recommend just playing and going to events. If no events or meetups are nearby, I would try to jam on JNET as much as possible, and watch cached videos of games online.

3N1GM4: Have you had any notable competitive success in the past? What result(s) are you most proud of?

Spags: Oh, just a few. I have made top 16 at Worlds four times, Gencon three times, and won a few Regionals, including one this past year. I was really proud of 2018 overall for my team, especially my old Wisconsin crew of aandries and paranoid. Aaron and I each took down a Regional on the way to Magnum Opus, and King Joe took home the final FFG World Championship while Aaron and I made the top 16. I felt that our hotel room’s success was a fun culmination of years of practice, comradery, and good times.

3N1GM4: Do you prefer online or offline events? For what reasons?

Spags: Offline. Netrunner is a card game, meant to be played face to face. I love banter and reading my opponent. JNET is great, but it definitely lacks that pressure of your opponent staring you down, a crowd gathering, etc.

3N1GM4: You reach the top cut and you get to choose your side: Corp or Runner?

Spags: Depends on the meta, but generally Corp.

3N1GM4: What’s your antidote to tilting? What helps you overcome stress when the game goes against you?

Spags: I try to avoid tilting by not caring too much about winning or losing in the moment. It’s best to stay loose at events and I have done this via a variety of methods, whether it’s consuming adult beverages, cosplaying, or playing on a large stack of playmats while wearing my 2017 T16 medallions. Netrunner generally allows for many outs and comeback chances, so if I ever feel down and maybe out, I have faith in my deck’s end goal – and luck. I rarely if ever have to tell myself that during a match. For an example of a rough matchup where I could’ve folded, but held firm and kept faith, check out my last round of Swiss at Worlds last year.

3N1GM4: Any lucky charms or superstitions about the game itself you’d like to share with us?

Spags: Minh, of JNET fame, brutally taught me the power of continually bidding two on PSI games, and it stuck with me as my general go-to bid. Otherwise, not much else. I carry notes of love and encouragement from my wife and daughter in my Quiver card case, but that’s about it. When it comes to luck, let God decide.

3N1GM4: Any format or card pool you’d like to see an event for?

Spags: I think NISEI has a lot of these covered.

3N1GM4: Any other games or hobbies you’re partaking in on a competitive level?

Spags: Not currently, no, and maybe never again? Netrunner was an ‘all-in’ for me, and as I age into decrepitude, I doubt my brain or reflexes will allow for super-competitiveness. I would like to go to the World Boardgaming Championships sometime, though.

3N1GM4: Thank you for answering our lightning question round and all the best in your future tournaments!

Spags: Thanx for the opportunity to allow me to blather. Cheers, and good luck to NISEI!