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Matchpoint theory & Rush Hybrids

Sebastian Barth
Germany
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Hey Netrunners,

I wish you all a happy 2014 and great runs. In order to spice up your corp game, here are some thoughts about Rush Hybrids and matchpoint

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What is matchpoint?

The concept of a matchpoint is actually pretty simple and it won't sound like rocket science to most people:

matchpoint: A certain boardstate that (from the runners point of view) has the potential to lead to a corporate win next turn.

Example: the corp has 5 agenda points and installs a card facedown in a remote server. If this card is one of the corps 2/3 agendas (and he has a couple credits), he could win the game next turn. As long as the runner doesn't know which card is installed, this is a matchpoint for the corp player.


There is one distinction however that I feel is important as matchpoints can have different qualities:

full matchpoint: A certain kind of matchpoint where the corporation wins "almost certain" should he get another turn

Example: Jinteki: PE is sitting on 5 agenda points and IAAs a Fetal AI into a remote server with a Hokusai Grid and Chum + Data Mine while the runner doesn't have the proper breakers. Now the runner either dies on the steal attempt or the corp scores his 7th point next turn.


semi matchpoint: A certain kind of matchpoint where the runner is given different choices and some of those choices lead to a corp win on the next turn, while some don't.

Example: Weyland: BaBW is sitting on a big pile of money with a SEA Source and 2x Scorched Earth in hand. If the runner chooses to run, the corp wins next turn.


Since the full matchpoints are pretty rare (imho), the semi matchpoints are the focus of this article and will for now just be called matchpoints.

Those matchpoints come in different strengths, for example "not running" is not an option for long against Weyland in the last example. But "install Plascrete, then run" is.

Why are matchpoints important?

I think that matchpoints should be at the core of the corps strategy for a very simple reason:

Whatever strategy your corp is employing, the runner can almost certainly just ignore you as long as you are not at matchpoint!

A bad (and outdated) example of old to illustrate the point is the Jinteki 10x2 agenda deck which ran

3x Nisei Mk II
3x Fetal AI
3x Braintrust
1x Private Security Force

for their agenda package. The reasoning was that when the runner needs to steal 4 agendas their ID would deal more damage and they had more chances to flatline the runner...

Problem was that this deck needs to score 6 agenda points before it has reached matchpoint. And scoring 6 points with that package is hard! And those games usually went like described above: The runner ignored all the cute tricks and traps before the corp had six points, probably just going for an R&D lock and not running potentially lethal Junebugs.
The result was a sad corp which rarely won any games.

(There is a resurgence in this kind of deck type with even smaller agendas and while I'm not sure how viable those decks are at the moment, they at least have lowered their matchpoint to 5!)

How do you get to matchpoint?

This is where the Rush from Rush Hybrid comes in. A Rush Hybrid basically has two stages or plans.

Plan A: Rush to matchpoint.
Plan B: Apply your main strategy while at matchpoint.

Let's have a look at those two stages

Plan A: Rush hour

Rushing is actually pretty straight forward. When building a Rush Hybrid you choose one particular runner resource and turn it into a bottleneck during the early game which you utilize in order to score agendas the old fashioned way. And that's exactly the crux for the runner as they might not know which bottleneck you'll present them. Do they need to find their breakers quickly? Acquire big stacks of money? Protect against lethal damage? And of course it is feasible to mix and match your bottleneck strategies to best suit your overall gameplan and faction.

(This basically is work compression in less flashy words. I encourage everybody to read this excellent article about Jinteki and work compression by BGG user hollis.)

So, where do you create your bottleneck?

Bottleneck: Breakers

This is pretty simple, you take cheap ETR Ice across all three different types and force the runner to find the proper breakers in time, which he usually can't, especially once he needs two precise breakers for your early server. Can be supplemented by cards like Grim or Aggressive Secretary to prolong the runners times of early misery.

Bottleneck: Credits

Cards like Professional Contacts take time to make a profit. And in fact they dunk the runner into a tempo hole for a while. By bottlenecking the runners credits, you are arguing that he can't pay for everything while preventing the corp from scoring precious points. A simple example would be a SanSan City Grid protected by Viper against Making News. The runner doesn't need lousy breakers... pfff... only ten credits and he can trash your SanSan to prevent you from scoring, all the while getting no points himself. And after he trashed the City Grid Interns brings it back...

Bottleneck: Cards

Attacking the runners hand is Jintekis forte, especially Personal Evolution. The runner will likely want to play some cards, that's what they are in the deck for, right? But it probably takes a while to be ready for a sever that tries to score a Fetal AI with a Neural Katana and Hokusai Grid. Or is it a Chum + Data Mine? Or Swordsman + Chimera? Does the corp hold Neural EMPs? etc.
It's pretty tough for the runner to make the "right" calls during the early turns when net damage might kill key breakers or other important cards.

Bottleneck: Clicks

This is kind of a derivate of the net damage above, because cards usually have to be drawn with clicks, but can still stand on it's own. Basically each runner only has 4 clicks per turn and if getting to your agendas requires more than that... congratulations you have a window to score an agenda. For example a server with 2 copies of Eli 1.0 is surprisingly cheap to acquire yet painfully resilient against the runners intrusion attempts (even once they have a Corroder)

And here is one important takeaway from this article:

Each and every corp faction has a base ability to rush! Don't fool yourself with errors like "Jinteki can't stop the runner" or "rush cards would cost me too much influence and dilute my strategy".

Haas Bioroid: They have access to the cheapest ETR Ice suite to date without spending influence (Rototurret, NEXT Bronze and Paperwall)
NBN: They have the absolute best ways to hammer the runners early economy with SanSan City Grid, PopUp Window and Red Herrings
Jinteki: Nobody disrupts the runners early hand like the clones do
Weyland: The big meanies have the fastest early game economy with cards like Hostile Takeover, Beanstalk Royalties or GRNDL and money can be transformed into points.

So, in order to build a solid Rush Hybrid, check out your base strength and choose one or two bottlenecks to focus on. And then score those points.

Plan B: Finish him

There is probably not much to talk about here, because what your deck actually wants to do is entirely up to you, but there is one important consideration to be made:

You need to choose strategy supporting cards according to your matchpoint!

Which just means that you have to pick traps that can disguise as your agendas and vice versa. (traps in the wider sense. A PAD Campaign can be a "trap" in the right deck)

Example: Aggressive Secretary is a trap that fits a corp that has a matchpoint threshold of 4 and is looking to score a final 3-pointer. On the other hand it has absolutely no place in a Fast Advance deck that tries to score small agendas from hand (and has a threshold of 5)

SanSan City Grid is kind of a trap too, which fits the opposite type of deck (which is sitting on 5 AP) and is looking to score a final 2/3 agenda, the runner has to highly respect that. On the other hand SanSan makes no sense in a deck that is looking to score a big 3-pointer for the win while having a matchpoint of 4.

Ok, here are some examples:

Deck #1
HB: Etf by Jens Erickson (#1 at Worlds)
Matchpoint: 5
Plan B: Fast Advance

A "classic" HB Fast Advance. Jens combines bottleniecking breakers (Icewall, Enigma, Rototurret) with bottlenecking the runners economy (SanSan City Grid, Ash, PopUp Window, Tollbooth). Adding a couple of cards that complements his matchpoint play by disguising as a small agenda (Jackson, Adonis) and voila you've got yourself a World Champion Rush Hybrid deck.

Deck #2
NBN: MN by Andrew Veen (#2 at Worlds)
Matchpoint: 5
Plan B: Fast Advance

This deck is actually pretty Rush heavy with almost no Plan B. But since Astroscript Pilot Program is such a strong agenda that gives you enough Fast Advance capabilities, the "minimal" Plan B might not be a bad thing. In fact scoring early Astroscripts is so huge that heavily focusing on the rush aspect gives you a Worlds Runner Up deck.
To be totally fair though, Closed Accounts can open up some late game scoring opportunities.

(In theory this deck could have a matchpoint while sitting on 4 agenda points by IAAing a Project Beale. But since no other card supports that strategy and IAA is contradictory to the Plan B of Fast Advance, this play is unavailable to Andrew or at least it is a pretty dead giveaway to a smart runner)

Deck #3
Weyland: BaBW by Aaron Andrias (Semifinalist at Worlds)
Matchpoint: 3!
Plan B: Tag'N'Bag

Bottlenecking the runners breaker again by diverse Ice (Icewall, Datapike, Archer) and also threatening his hand (Scorched Earth, Snare). This type of deck is very interesting because is has a very low matchpoint play of 3. This is due to the nature of Weylands agendas as you could IAA a Project Atlas while having 3 agenda points and win 3 turns later by tutoring 2 Hostile Takeovers (if the runner doesn't steal obviously). This puts some very early pressure on the runner which can lead to burnt apartments should the runner try to match the corps speed.

Deck #4
NBN: MN by Jesse Vandover (Semifinalist at Worlds)
Matchpoint: 5
Plan B: Midseason + Psychographis

Again presuring the runners breakers (Icewall, Enigma), while also hammering the runners economy (this time with tags along the trusted SanSan City Grid, Draco and also Closed Accounts). This deck is especially notorious for being able to set up a full-matchpoint if left unchecked. He lays down an agenda and you either let the corp score it or you lose to a Midseason + Psychographics combo.

Deck #5
Jinteki: PE by hollis (slightly outdated deck list, but the concepts still hold)
Matchpoint: 4
Plan B: Flatline

An interesting deck especially for the fact that hollis gives strong considerations to his matchpoint play. With 2 Priority Requisitions in the deck, Junebugs and Ronins suddenly become interesting. Also surprise Scorched Earth.
Rushes his early agendas with Chum + X Servers and Hokusais

Deck #6
HB: Etf by running_bear (melting faces on stream)
Matchpoint: 5
Plan B: Fast Advance

This deck is pressuring the runners breakers like no other (Icewall, Enigma, Rototurret, also Grim) and can seal games via Biotic Labor. Pretty straightforward, but also pretty strong.

Deck #7
Weyland: BaBW by myself (played at German nationals)
Matchpoint: 4
Plan B: Win by Economy

Bringing in all the early game Ice like plenty of people before coupled with some bottlenecking the runners economy with Ash, who also translates into the late game win condition. Aggresive secretary is the right complementary trap posing as a big 3-pointer.


What does the future hold?

getting more efficient

The Rush Hybrids seen so far usually fall into one of two categories: They either have their matchpoint at 5 and try to Fast Advance the last agenda or they have a matchpoint at 4 and make IAA plays from there.
But why not have the best of both worlds? In my opinion decks that have a matchpoint at 4 and can Fast Advance 3 points from there will be a force to be reckoned with in the near future.

edit:
Since the question came up somewhere else, how those decks might look like, here are some ideas:

- Accelerated Diagnostics will enable some decks to score 3+ points from hand
- Efficiency Committee with two Shipments from SanSan allows you to score a 3 pointer from hand
- Jinteki will be able to score a "pseudo 3-pointer" with Unorthodox Predictions, probably not by direct Fast Advance though (still a threshold of 4 with a Never Advance matchpoint is an improvement, especially if Never Advancing fits your overall deck better)
- and likely some more I haven't thought about yet or with unreleased cards



strengthening Plan B by lowering matchpoint further

Watch out for decks that might have a lower matchpoint than "usual", most notably Cerebral Imaging decks. The 0-7 comboes are pretty wacky at the moment, but letting CI rush out a single Efficiency Committee might put the runner in a very tight spot soon.
Also the upcoming Harmony Medtech clearly falls under that category. Runners have to be prepared.

strengthening Plan A by front-loading Rush IDs

Since getting to matchpoint is really important, identities with "turn 0 advantages" like NEXT Design or GRNDL will soon dominate the Rush Hybrid builds. GRNDL actually has to be careful with Blackmail though, but I firmly believe that NEXT Design will be a Tier 1 deck in 2014.

TLDR

Choose runners resources to bottleneck and then rush to matchpoint.

If your not running a Rush Hybrid as your corp deck, you better have a very good reason.

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Ok, there you have it. A couple of my thoughts about Rush Hybrids without bloating the article too far (hopefully). Let me know what you think.

Cheers,
Sebastian
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