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Subject: A Detailed Exploration of Accelerated Diagnostics + Scorched Earth Combos rss

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Thomas R
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Intent

I intend this post to be, as the title suggests, an exploration of the oft-discussed Accelerated Diagnostics plus Scorched Earth combo. We'll start with the basics, and delve into more and more convoluted, edge-case uses of the combo as we go.

The Basics

While the combo is often abbreviated as some form of "Accelerated Diagnostics combo", the core of the combo actually involves three separate cards:

Power Shutdown (Spin Cycle #58)


Step one of the combo is that, if the runner ran on their turn, you play Power Shutdown with X = the number of cards left in R&D. This results in your entire deck (minus whatever is in HQ, scored, stolen, or installed) being in Archives. This would normally be a terrible idea since you are guaranteed to lose on your next turn when you try to draw, but since you intend to flat-out win on the turn you "go off", it's okay. So, once your whole deck is "available" in Archives...

Jackson Howard (Spin Cycle #15)


With your entire deck in Archives, you play Jackson Howard to the table. Then you rez him, and trigger his second paid ability. You trash Jackson Howard, Remove him from the game, and put any three cards from your deck back into R&D. Since R&D was empty, those three cards are now the entirety of R&D. That, in turn, guarantees the results of...

Accelerated Diagnostics (Spin Cycle #52)


Now that R&D consists of a specific three cards, you get to play Accelerated Diagnostics to look at the top three cards of R&D and play any/all of them that you wish. Since you've spent the rest of your turn making sure that there are only three specific cards left in R&D, you get to play the exact three cards that you want.

So that's the core of the combo. As mentioned above, despite involving three separate cards, it's often abbreviated as "Accelerated Diagnostics combo" because Jackson Howard and Power Shutdown are considered to be generally good cards. You're likely to see them in plenty of decks that aren't running this combo. Accelerated Diagnostics, on the other hand, is considered to be a pretty bad card by most people, and the only place you're likely to see it is in a list that's running this combo.

One thing you might notice is that this combo involves playing three cards so that you can... play three cards. Which, on the surface, seems kind if silly. There are three reasons that people might use this combo despite its seeming inefficiency:

1) It gives you a second set of three cards for your combo. So you can either draw your intended combo directly to hand, or you can draw these three cards. By doubling the number of ways you can play your combo, you (roughly) double your chances of drawing said combo.

2) If your combo involves any Double operations, which require you to pay an extra click as an "additional cost", which Accelerated Diagnostics ignores. This means that some combos can't be played out in one turn normally, but can be using this combo.

3) Because Jackson Howard is an Asset, you can play him to the table a turn before you "go off" with your combo. This means that your combo only requires you to play two cards on the turn you need it (Power Shutdown and Accelerated Diagnostics), leaving you one click free to do... whatever. I refer to this as the "tempo" of the combo, and we'll look at it in more depth later.

The Scorched Earth Combo

Scorched Earth combos seek to end the game on the spot by flatlining the runner. The "traditional" version of this combo relies on two specific cards:

SEA Source (Core #86)


As long as the runner made a successful run on their last turn, and you have enough of a credit advantage, you can play SEA Source in order to trace the runner and give them a tag. That's important because you want to play...

Scorched Earth (Core #99)


Which does four meat damage to the runner, but which can only be played if the runner has a tag. Now, the runner may well have four or five cards in their hand, which means that four meat damage won't kill them. Fortunately, once you've tagged the runner once, you can play two separate copies of Scorched Earth, doing a total of eight meat damage, and flatlining the runner.

The big weakness of this combo is how long it can take to put together. If you play three each of SEA Source and Scorched Earth in your deck, then there are six cards in your deck that are part of the combo. Further, you must draw a specific three of them (that is, drawing two SEA Sources and one Scorched Earth isn't going to do you much good). So we look to item (1) in the list of reasons to play the Accelerated Diagnostics combo: it gives you a second three-card combo that you can draw from an additional nine cards in your deck. It's important to get your combo off, or at least assembled, as early as possible, so this helps that happen. You can either draw the "natural" combo of SEA Source + Scorched Earth + Scorched Earth, or you can draw the "backup" combo of Jackson Howard + Power Shutdown + Accelerated Diagnostics.

Basic Tempo Usage

If we take a look at item (3) in the list of reason to play an Accelerated Diagnostics combo, we'll remember that "tempo", or the ability to gain a click within your combo turn by playing Jackson Howard to the table ahead of time, can be an advantage. There are risks with doing this, of course, in that the runner may run and trash Jackson Howard, but if they don't, the tempo gain can be a really big deal.

One of the biggest reasons that tempo gain can be a big deal is that the traditional 2x Scorched Earth combo can be countered with a single card:

Plastcrete Carapace (Genesis #9)


As long as the runner has one Plastcrete Carapace on the table with all of its counters, and four cards in their hand, then 2x Scorched Earth won't flatline them, and thus can't win the game. In fact, the ease with which Plastcrete Carapace can be included in decks is one of the main reasons that Scorched Earth combos lost a good amount of the popularity they had when the game consisted entirely of the core set.

With the ability of the Accelerated Diagnostics combo to gain tempo, a new option emerges. If Jackson Howard is on the table at the beginning of a turn in which the runner has just made a successful run, you can Power Shutdown for your whole deck, use Jackson Howard to put a SEA Source and two Scorched Earths back into R&D, play Accelerated Diagnostics to do eight meat damage to the runner, and still have a click left over with which to play Scorched Earth from your hand. (Alternatively, you can play SEA Source from hand, use Jackson Howard to put three Scorched Earths into R&D, and Accelerated Diagnostics into three Scorched Earths.) This lets you burn through a full hand and a single Plastcrete Carapace... as long as you have enough of a credit lead on the runner.

One thing to remember is that the runner can avoid SEA Source + 2x Scorched Earth with enough money. The traditional calculation has been that the corp needs to have (6 + runner credits + runner link) credits in their pool, with a minimum of 8 credits, in order to trigger the combo. If you intend to use Power Shutdown and Accelerated Diagnostics, those numbers change to (8 + runner credits + runner link) credits. And if you intend to use tempo to play 3x Scorched Earths then you need (11 + runner credits + runner link) credits.

Some runners will use their understanding of the math to avoid the combo rather than playing a card like Plastcrete Carapace. In these cases, you can also use any tempo gained from getting Jackson Howard onto the table ahead of time to gain credits, throwing off the math. For instance, you might play Power Shutdown, use Jackson Howard to put SEA Source and 2x Scorched Earth into R&D, play Restructure for a burst of credits, and then play Accelerated Diagnostics for the combo kill. What this means is that, with tempo, you actually need, (3 + runner credits + runner link) with a minimum of 10 credits, of even (2 + runner credits + runner link) if you're playing Weyland: Building a Better World.

Finally, if you're lucky, you can get even more tempo and do even more insane things. If you manage to get two Jackson Howards onto the table ahead of time, and you get Power Shutdown and two Accelerated Diagnostics into your hand, then you can play Power Shutdown to dump your deck, use Jackson Howard to put a SEA Source and 2x Scorched Earth into R&D, play Accelerated Diagnostics to land a tag and 8 meat damage, use your second Jackson Howard to put 3x Scorched Earth into R&d, and Accelerated Diagnostics for 12 more meat damage. That's 20 meat damage! Alternatively, if you're dealing with the need for more money rather than more damage, that first Jackson Howard could put 3x Restructure into R&D, and Accelerated Diagnostics could net you 14 credits, setting you up to run a standard SEA Source + 2x Scorched Earth with your second Jackson Howard and Accelerated Diagnostics.

Extending the Accelerated Diagnostics Combo

So, we saw how, if the stars align, and you have enough tempo, your combo can get absolutely insane. However, once someone realizes that you're running an Accelerated Diagnostics combo deck, they're going to be on the lookout for Jackson Howard just sitting around on the table. Sure, you might be able to protect one of them with ice, but two is probably stretching it. Fortunately, we can actually spend part of our combo to "buy" tempo. For this example, let's add a card to our deck:

Interns (Spin Cycle #60)


Interns gives you the ability to spend a card out of your combo to install Jackson Howard from Archives. So, while having two Jackson Howards on the table, and two Accelerated Diagnostics in hand lets us play a six-card combo, if we're willing to play a five-card combo instead, we get access to the following play with only one Jackson Howard on the table and two Accelerated Diagnostics in hand:

1) Power Shutdown for your deck
2a) use your on-table Jackson Howard to put SEA Source, Scorched Earth, and Interns into R&D
2b) Accelerated Diagnostics to give the runner a tag, deal 4 meat damage, and install a Jackson Howard from Archives onto the table
3a) Use your new Jackson Howard to put 3x Scorched Earth into R&D
3b) Accelerated Diagnostics for 12 meat damage

In a lot of cases, the 5-card combo will win you the same games that the 6-card combo would, so including Interns in the deck lets us land that longer combo more often than we would if we had to start the turn with two Jackson Howards in play.

However, sometimes you're going to face an opponent who suspects what you're up to and runs all the time, making sure that any Jackson Howard you install gets trashed. Guaranteeing that you don't get to start your turn with one in play. With our current combo options, that basically gives us no tempo, forcing our combo to be: install Jackson Howard, Power Shutdown, Accelerated Diagnostics. Which is going to limit us to a 3-card combo off of Accelerated Diagnostics. Sometimes, though, we need more than that, and we'd like to have it even against players who won't let us keep a Jackson Howard on the table. Fortunately, there's a card that corps have long had available that allows them to buy tempo:

Biotic Labor (Core #59)


Much like adding Interns to your deck, adding a Biotic Labor allows to you buy tempo by reducing the size of your combo. If your hand consists of two Jackson Howards, two Accelerated Diagnostics, and a Power Shutdown, then you suddenly gain access to:

1) Power Shutdown your deck
2) install Jackson Howard and use him to put Biotic Labor, SEA Source, Scorched Earth into R&D
3) Accelerated Diagnostics for a tag on the runner, 4 meat damage, and two extra clicks
4) install your second Jackson Howard and use him to put 3x Scorched Earth into R&D
5) play your second Accelerated Diagnostics for 12 meat damage.

Much like Interns, you're shortening your combo in order to gain tempo. However, because Biotic Labor buys two clicks worth of tempo, it actually enables you to play a longer combo in cases where you can't get any tempo ahead of time.

One thing to remember is that you can actually combine these two options with one another. If you have Jackson Howard, Power Shutdown, and three Accelerated Diagnostics in hand then you have access to:

1) Power Shutdown your deck
2) install Jackson Howard and use him to put SEA Source, Interns, and Biotic Labor into R&D
3) play Accelerated Diagnostics to give the runner a tag, put another copy of Jackson Howard on the table, and gain two clicks
4a) use Jackson Howard to put 2x Scorched Earth and Interns into R&d
4b) Accelerated Diagnostics for 8 meat damage and to put your last Jackson Howard on the table
5a) use Jackson Howard to put 3x Scorched Earth into R&D
5b) Acceleated Diagnostics into 12 meat damage

Of course, it's possible that you don't have all three of your Accelerated Diagnostics in hand for this last option. You could spend click 4 on playing some other card from hand (a single Scorched Earth instead of two with the combo, or something for money if you need a bit of a push to pay for the end). Alternatively, we can add one last card to our deck so that we can treat copies of Accelerated Diagnostics in-hand just like tempo with Jackson Howard:

Archived Memories (Core #58) (NOTE: As of 2014-03-28, Archived Memories is considered to be superceded in most builds by Reclamation Order, which has a section below.)


With an Archived Memories in the deck, we get access to the following:

1) Power Shutdown your deck
2) install Jackson Howard and use him to put Interns, Biotic Labor, and Archived Memories into R&D
3) play Accelerated Diagnostics to put another copy of Jackson Howard on the table, gain two clicks, and pick up a copy of Accelerated Diagnostics from Archives (note that you can't pick up the copy that you played for this step because it's still being resolved)
4a) use Jackson Howard to put SEA Source, Interns, and Archived Memories into R&d
4b) Accelerated Diagnostics to give the runner a tag, put your last Jackson Howard on the table, and pick up the an Accelerated Diagnostics from Archives (this can be the copy you played in step 3)
5a) use Jackson Howard to put 3x Scorched Earth into R&D
5b) Acceleated Diagnostics into 12 meat damage

(Section on Subliminal Messaging added on 2014-03-10)
As was first pointed out below by mplain, though I suspect that others picked up on this as well, there's another card that you can use to gain clicks to extend your combo with:

Subliminal Messaging (Spin Cycle #100)


I had missed this originally, but there's another card that "buys" clicks, at least within the context of the combo. Normally, Subliminal Messaging is good because it is "free". It replaces the click used to play it. But when running an Accelerated Diagnostics combo, each card in any cycle only costs one-third of a click to play. If one of those cards is Subliminal Messaging, and you haven't played a Subliminal Messaging already this turn (and why would you, if you want to use it in your combo) then you get to replace the click that you spent to play three cards. You also get a credit, which is nice.

One really neat thing about Subliminal Messaging is that it's always guaranteed to be in your Archives. Unlike some cards which may get stranded in your hand when you want to go off, you get to play Subliminal Messaging on any turn in which you draw it or recover it from archives. Because Subliminal Messaging comes back to HQ on any turn the runner didn't run, it only comes back on turns you can't combo (because Power Shutdown requires the runner to have run). Your only real risk of "accidentally" playing Subliminal Messaging outside of the combo when you need it inside of the combo is if you have a backup copy in your hand at the beginning of a combo turn.

Anyway, what having this second option for buying clicks in your deck does is make your combo options even more flexible. If you only need two cycles (rather than three) for your combo, then can save the equivalent of 5 credits (not paying 4, and gaining one instead).

With a Jackson Howard, Power Shutdown, and two Accelerated Diagnostics in hand, you get access to the following combo:

1) Install Jackson Howard
2) Power Shutdown your deck
3a) Jackson Howard to put Interns, Subliminal Messaging, and SEA Source into your deck
3b) Accelerated Diagnostics to put a second Jackson Howard on the table, gain a click and a credit, and land a tag with SEA Source
4a) Jackson Howard to put three Scorched Earths in your deck
4b) Accelerated Diagnostics to deal 12 meat damage

The other thing that having Subliminal Messaging does is something that Silent Requiem pointed out down-thread: You can use your the existing combo shell to score a 3-point agenda from a standing start as long as you have all of the pieces mentioned above. It looks like this:

1) Install Jackson Howard
2) Power Shutdown R&D
3a) Jackson Howard to put Archived Memories, Interns, and Biotic Labor into your R&D
3b) Use Accelerated Diagnostics go Archived Memories an Accelerated Diagnostics, Interns a Jackson Howard, and gain two clicks
4a) Use Jackson Howard to put Archived Memories, Interns, and Biotic Labor into R&D
4b) Use Accelerated Diagnostics go Archived Memories an Accelerated Diagnostics, Interns a Jackson Howard, and gain two clicks
5a) Use Jackson Howard to put Interns, Biotic Labor, and Subliminal Messaging into your deck
5b) Use Accelerated Diagnostics to put a 3-point agenda onto the table, gain two clicks, then gain another click.

At this point you've played three copies of Biotic Labor to gain a total of six clicks, and you've played one Subliminal Messaging to gain an additional click. That's a total of seven gained clicks, meaning your total for the turn is 10. You've used five to get this far, which leaves you with five clicks:

6 to 10) Advance your 3-point agenda. Score three points.

This gives you a second way to end the game if you can get to four points, and having more ways to use the existing combo shell to win is never a bad thing.

(This section added 2014-03-28)

The release of Double Time has provided the combo with a lovely new card that adds to its power.

Reclamation Order (Spin Cycle #111)


At two influence, we can play Reclamation Order in precisely the same slot as Archived Memories. Since we're planning on using it as part of our Accelerated Diagnostics combo, the fact that it is a double-operation is pretty much irrelevant, and it turns out that it adds a lot of power and flexibility to our combo. We'll look at how it works replacing Archived Memories first.

Remember that the main reason to play Archived Memories in the deck is that it lets us use one of our Accelerated Diagnostics slots to pick up another copy of Accelerated Diagnostics in order to extend our combo. With Archived Memories, if you need to do this twice (to extend to all three copies of Accelerated Diagnostics), you need to spend two combo slots so that you can play Archived Memories twice. Reclamation Order, however, lets you grab two copies of Accelerated Diagnostics with just one card slot. Which theoretically allows us to...

1) Power Shutdown R&D
2) Install Jackson Howard
3a) Jackson Howard to put Interns, Reclamation Order, and Biotic Labor into R&D
3b) Accelerated Diagnostics to Interns Jackson Howard into play, Reclamation Order to grab your second and third Accelerated Diagnostics, and gain two clicks.
4a) Jackson Howard to put Interns, SEA Source, and Scorched Earth into R&D
4b) Accelerated Diagnostics to Interns Jackson Howard into play, land a tag, and deal 4 meat damage.
5a) Jackson Howard to put three copies of Scorched Earth into R&D
5b) Accelerated Diagnostics to deal 12 meat damage.

16 total damage starting with only three cards in hand at the beginning of the turn. Which lets you burn through two copies of Plastcrete Carapace. At least as long as you have enough of a credit advantage (something on the order of a 24-credit lead).

However, we also gain access to an interesting combo that deals with opponents with better economy. Because there are other ways to land tags other than SEA Source. (Credit where it's due, bhosp was the first one to suggest a Posted Bounty combo, but I judged it to take too many pieces to play... until now.)

Here's our combo:

1) Power Shutdown R&D
2) Install Jackson Howard
3a) Jackson Howard for Interns, Reclamation Order, and Biotic Labor
3b) Accelerated Diagnostics to install Jackson Howard, get two copies of Accelerated Diagnostics, and gain two clicks
4a) Jackson Howard for Interns, Reclamation Order, and Biotic Labor
4b) Accelerated Diagnostics to install Jackson Howard, get all three copies of Scorched Earth, and gain two clicks
5a) Jackson Howard for Interns, Biotic Labor, and Subliminal Messaging
5b) Accelerated Diagnostics to install Posted Bounty, gain two clicks, then gain a third click and a credit
6) Advance Posted Bounty
7) Advance Posted Bounty
8) Advance Posted Bounty, score it, land a tag
9) Scorched Earth
10) Scorched Earth

26 credits to kill, no matter how many credits your opponent has. Assuming they don't have additional defenses. Note that if you started the turn with Jackson Howard on the table, then you have an extra click to spend. And, conveniently, you have a third Scorched Earth in hand. So you get to drop that to burn through a Plastcrete Carapace.

(This section added 2014-03-28)

With the availability of Reclamation Order, and the Posted Bounty combo that it opens up, we finally have a reason to include a card that has been seen in other Accelerated Diagnostics combos within this shell.

Shipment from SanSan (Spin Cycle #34)


Shipment from SanSan is actually a key card in a different Accelerated Diagnostics shell. Usually you'll see it played in NBN variants that are intending to install Project Beale and then dump a huge number of advancement tokens onto it for a sudden win.

It's also not necessary in the Scorched Earth shell, but now that we have Reclamation Order, including a single Shipment from SanSan opens up one new combo. Whether that's worth it to you or not is an open question, but it is one that's worth asking. Here's the combo you get access to:

1) Power Shutdown R&D
2) Install Jackson Howard
3a) Jackson Howard for Interns, Reclamation Order, Biotic Labor
3b) Accelerated Diagnostics to install Jackson Howard, get two copies of Accelerated Diagnostics, and gain two clicks
4a) Jackson Howard for Interns, Reclamation Order, Biotic Labor
4b) Accelerated Diagnostics to install Jackson Howard, get three copies of Scorched Earth, and gain two clicks
5a) Jackson Howard for Interns, Shipment from SanSan, Biotic Labor
5b) Accelerated Diagnostics to install Posted Bounty, put two advancement counters on it, and gain two clicks
6) Advance Posted Bounty, score it, land a tag
7) Scorched Earth
8) Scorched Earth
9) Scorched Earth

28 credits. Land a kill through Plastcrete Carapace without having to win a trace. Not a bad option to have in your pocket for the price of including a single card in your deck (assuming you've already got Posted Bounty in, anyway).

Advanced Tempo Math

One of the keys to tempo math is understanding how much tempo it requires to add three cards to your combo by playing a second round of Accelerated Diagnostics. If it requires "zero" tempo to play one round (since you can Power Shutdown, install and use Jackson Howard, and play Accelerated Diagnostics on any turn), then we find that it requires "two" tempo to play a second round (we need to start with two Jackson Howards on the table). Playing a third round requires two more tempo for a total of four (three Jackson Howards on the table, start your turn by playing Biotic Labor).

On top of that, there are tempo costs associated with having multiple copies of Accelerated Diagnostics in your hand. If you only have two copies of Accelerated Diagnostics, then starting with three Jackson Howards on the table and playing Biotic Labor won't let you play a 9-card combo. But if you're willing to play an 8-card combo, instead, you can slip an Archived Memories into the second round of Accelerated Diagnostics to grab the first one to play again.

Because Biotic Labor opens up the possibility of playing all three Accelerated Diagnostics, the theoretical maximum size of your combo is 9 cards. As we saw in the last example above, the presence of the listed cards in your deck lets you play a 9-card combo as long as you start the turn with Jackson Howard, Power Shutdown, and Accelerated Diagnostics in hand, but only if you're willing to spend 5 cards from your combo buying tempo. For every Jackson Howard that is on the table at the start of your turn, and for every extra Accelerated Diagnostics in your hand at the start of the turn, you get one more card in your combo.

Once you have enough support cards in the deck, piloting the combo is mostly about recognizing how many cards of combo you need to win on any given turn, and being able to identify the shortest path to triggering a combo of that size. It's also about protecting your Jackson Howards. You've only got three in the deck, and if they all die (and you can't recover them with Interns or Archived Memories), then your main combo is turned off.

Remember that you also don't have to go for the full 3x Accelerated Diagnostics rotation. Sometimes all you need is two rounds of Accelerated Diagnostics and an extra card from hand (with the fifth click bought by Biotic Labor). You can shorten your combo that way if you need to save a credit, or if you've had to burn one of your Jackson Howards earlier in the game.

(Section added 2014-03-31)
The New Numbers

In the old world it was pretty easy to do tell if you had enough credits to avoid SEA Source + 2x Scorched Earth combo because there was only one way it would hit you: straight from hand. The corp had to have have a 6+ credit advantage over you, with a minimum of 8 credits. And playing a single copy of Plastcrete Carapace meant that you didn't have to worry about that as long as you kept four cards in hand.

In this brave new world of Accelerated Diagnostics combos, those are no longer the only numbers you need to know. This section attempts to provide guidance on the new numbers that Accelerated Diagnostics combos make available. These are ordered by number of credits required, and they're not going to detailed. You'll just have to trust me that these are possible, and if you just want to know how to be safe, well... memorize these, if you want to live.

(Note: these numbers assume a deck using the Weyland: Building a Better World identity. For other identities running this combo shell, the corp will need an additional 1 or 2 credit advantage to land combos in the 2x and 3x Scorched Earth variants.)

2x Scorched Earth (uses SEA Source unless otherwise noted)
-2 credit advantage, minimum of 11 credits (2x Accelerated Diagnostics in hand)
-3 credit advantage, minimum of 6 credits (2x Accelerated Diagnostics in hand)
-5 credit advantage*, minimum of 18* credits
-6 credit advantage*, minimum of 13* credits
-8 credit advantage*, minimum of 9* credits
-19* credits FLAT w/ Posted Bounty (2x Accelerated Diagnostics in hand)
-20 credits FLAT w/ Posted Bounty

3x Scorched Earth (uses SEA Source unless otherwise noted)
-13 credit advantage (2x Accelerated Diagnostics in hand)
-14* credit advantage, minimum of 18* credits
-15* credit advantage
-28* credits FLAT w/ Posted Bounty

4x Scorched Earth (SEA Source only)
-23* credit advantage

5x Scorched Earth (SEA Source only)
-30 credit advantage (3x Accelerated Diagnostics in hand)
-31 credit advantage (requires Jackson Howard installed at start of turn)

Score a 5/3 agenda
-12 credits FLAT

*: reduce this number by 5 if Jackson Howard is installed at the beginning of the turn

Opinions Regarding the Combo's Existence

I've seen quite a lot of vitriol from a lot of people about the existence of this combo. People seem to really hate that it can happen at all, suggesting that it's toxic to the game.

Personally, I disagree. I think that it is actually important that something like this combo exists to make Scorched Earth decks a thing. Not because I think it should be easy to flatline a runner this way, but because I think it should be possible. Until the introduction of this combo, a single Plastcrete Carapace was all you needed to be safe from the SEA Source + x2 Scorched Earth combo. Which is too bad because the real point of the combo, at high-level play, and in my experience, is to slow the runner down. That's because the "old school" way to beat the combo was to keep relatively close to the corp in the credit race. That meant you couldn't run all the time, and had to spend some time on economy (more than just what it takes to make another run). Without a working Scorched Earth combo to keep runners in check, we've seen the rise of Atman + Datasucker and Andy + Datasucker decks that run multiple times per turn on basically no credits because there's no reason to bank credits. A workable Scorched Earth combo puts the brakes on, and I think that having that as an archetype is good for the game, not bad for it.

Anyway, that's my two cents. I'm sure some people disagree, and that's fine. I'm sure that we'll have some sort of discussion on the subject.

Conclusion

So, that's the Accelerated Diagnostics into Scorched Earth combo. There are a couple of other available combos built out of Accelerated Diagnostics shenanigans that attempt to achieve victories in other ways, but this is the one you'll see most often.

Understanding the key elements of this version of the combo will provide you with the ability to substitute other combos into your Accelerated Diagnostics shell. We've seen here that you can, with enough credits, guarantee yourself a 4-card combo. And that with tempo, you can increase the size of that combo. So if a new card comes out, and you see a potentially awesome combo in it, ask yourself if it fits into the shell, and if it does, take it for a spin.
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Scott Rubin
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Thanks for writing this up. I really needed this after getting killed by you twice. I will study this thoroughly.
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Jonathan Harrison
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So long ...
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... and thanks for all the fish.
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Very interesting read.
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Jon Riley
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anathomical wrote:
Intent

...

I've seen quite a lot of vitriol from a lot of people about the existence of this combo. People seem to really hate that it can happen at all, suggesting that it's toxic to the game.

Personally, I disagree. I think that it is actually important that something like this combo exists to make Scorched Earth decks a thing. ...


-Appreciate the write up. Personally, i don't think it damages the game, it just isn't any fun to play against.

Thanks again.

Jergis
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Matt Wilson
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anathomical wrote:
Personally, I disagree. I think that it is actually important that something like this combo exists to make Scorched Earth decks a thing. Not because I think it should be easy to flatline a runner this way, but because I think it should be possible. Until the introduction of this combo, a single Plastcrete Carapace was all you needed to be safe from the SEA Source + x2 Scorched Earth combo. Which is too bad because the real point of the combo, at high-level play, and in my experience, is to slow the runner down. That's because the "old school" way to beat the combo was to keep relatively close to the corp in the credit race. That meant you couldn't run all the time, and had to spend some time on economy (more than just what it takes to make another run). Without a working Scorched Earth combo to keep runners in check, we've seen the rise of Atman + Datasucker and Andy + Datasucker decks that run multiple times per turn on basically no credits because there's no reason to bank credits. A workable Scorched Earth combo puts the brakes on, and I think that having that as an archetype is good for the game, not bad for it.


I disagree with your disagreement . The existence of the killshot combo is bad for two reasons, and decent at best for one.

I think you overstate the degree to which this slows down the existing Criminal archetypes. My Andy / Gabe builds (which approximate tournament-grade builds) can sustain a high run tempo while maintaining rough economic parity. Yes, it slows them down, but not to a huge extent.

It is bad because it is disproportionately punishing to new and inexperienced runners. Where before they had to learn to be cognizant of Weyland's threat using *known* information, they now have to bear in mind that *at any moment*, should they perform one of the game's most core features (making a run), they may face summary execution. The only way to avoid it is to not run or play 3x Carapace, both of which I find exceptionally lame.

It is further bad because it disproportionally impacts another under-represented group: runners that 'run poor', e.g. non-Criminal, non-Shaper-big-MO-rigs. The Exiles, Noises, Reinas that have deck archetypes built around doing more with less cash. Criminals throw cash at problems, the others work around it. If entire deck archetypes cannot be competitive simply because they need to keep up with moneybags Weyland in order to avoid unstoppable instadeath, that's bad for the game.

It's also easier to pull off than people 'round the internet make it out to be. Or the people in my playgroup are exceptionally good at drawing into it. Dedicated Rush/Killshot decks draw into it about >50% of the time around here, on one memorable occasion the deck landed the killshot combo in four consecutive matches. Good Weylands already play JH and Power Shutdown already, finding three influence for the accelerateds ain't no thang.

TL;DR: doesn't slow down "intended targets Andy/Gabe" much, hurts newbies, hurts available archetype space, gets lucky a lot.
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If this thread doesn't end up in the BGG Top ## Strategy threads meta-thread next year, we're not upvoting it right. Very nice work!
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Steven
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laikal wrote:
TL;DR: doesn't slow down "intended targets Andy/Gabe" much, hurts newbies, hurts available archetype space, gets lucky a lot.


Hasn't the cheap counter to this strategy been around since the core set?



And later with:



If it's really an issue in your local scene, why not change your decks to counter an AD+Scorch kill deck?
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Thomas R
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laikal wrote:
anathomical wrote:
Personally, I disagree. I think that it is actually important that something like this combo exists to make Scorched Earth decks a thing. Not because I think it should be easy to flatline a runner this way, but because I think it should be possible. Until the introduction of this combo, a single Plastcrete Carapace was all you needed to be safe from the SEA Source + x2 Scorched Earth combo. Which is too bad because the real point of the combo, at high-level play, and in my experience, is to slow the runner down. That's because the "old school" way to beat the combo was to keep relatively close to the corp in the credit race. That meant you couldn't run all the time, and had to spend some time on economy (more than just what it takes to make another run). Without a working Scorched Earth combo to keep runners in check, we've seen the rise of Atman + Datasucker and Andy + Datasucker decks that run multiple times per turn on basically no credits because there's no reason to bank credits. A workable Scorched Earth combo puts the brakes on, and I think that having that as an archetype is good for the game, not bad for it.


I disagree with your disagreement .

[snipped for space, lots of good points are made]

TL;DR: doesn't slow down "intended targets Andy/Gabe" much, hurts newbies, hurts available archetype space, gets lucky a lot.


While I think it is actually the weakest point in your argument, I'm going to start by suggesting that you're wrong about Andy/Gabe's ability to stay rich in the face of the right deck. I blew up two rather traditional Andy builds at a tournament with a deck built on this combo over the weekend. In both cases it was because they couldn't keep up with my credit generation, but kept running two or three times a turn, spending any credits they managed to generate almost immediately.

Now, with that out of the way, in no particular order:

On the newbies front, I suspect that I'm actually inclined to agree with you. Or, at least, to agree that the Scorched Earth combo in general, basic or this one, is unfriendly to newbies. When you're trying to teach people to run more aggressively, blowing them up for actually doing so is pretty awful. I'm not sure that making the combo easier to land makes this any worse than the combo existing at all, though. Or, if it does, I don't think it's much worse. It only takes one or two flatline deaths to scare someone back into passivity in my experience.

I don't think it's "getting lucky" so much as it is that, for flatlining specifically, it's easier to draw the Accelerated Diagnostics combo than the traditional SEA Source + 2x Scorched Earth combo. That's because you need to pull 3 cards, each of which you have three copies of, rather than needing to pull three cards one of which you have three copies of, one of which you have three copies of, and the third which (for the purposes of hypergeometric math) you have only two copies of. So you're now more than twice as likely to have the combo at any given stage of the game. On top of that, you've also got access to Punitive Counterstrike now, adding three more cards that can kill. (I landed a Punitive Counterstrike + SEA Source + Scorched Earth combo against a broke runner, for instance.) I don't feel like that's a bad thing, necessarily. It's just another example of people having to take the combo "seriously", since before you could kind of rely on the fact that it was statistically unlikely that your opponent even had the cards in hand.

The archetype concern is, I think, the biggest deal, and it's well-raised. I'm not entirely sure what I'd want to say about that, actually. I think I probably need more experience on both sides of the deck to get a feeling for just how hard it is to keep up. If you're playing poor Reina, and you realize that this is your opponent's plan, are there options for playing around it? Can you, for instance, just take four credits a until/unless your opponent tries to score?

I think, overall, I'm in a wait-and-see mindset. We probably won't really have an idea about how much of an effect this will have for at least two or three more months.
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Nephtys Nephtys
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The problem with AD Combos isn't scorched earth. It's when you use it with Net Damage or especially, NBN advance + Beales.

Weyland could always Atlas search Sea + Scorch + Scorch without much of a problem.

But suddenly now you get CRAZY stuff like
(tag the runner a few times)
Power Shutdown
Install Beale
Accelerated Diagnostics a combination of Shipment from San Sans + Psychographics.

Even the simple combo of a pre-installed neveradvance Beale is a 4 agenda point swing, for a grand total of 2 credits.
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SW_Cygnus wrote:
laikal wrote:
TL;DR: doesn't slow down "intended targets Andy/Gabe" much, hurts newbies, hurts available archetype space, gets lucky a lot.


Hasn't the cheap counter to this strategy been around since the core set?

[Decoy]

And later with:

[New Angeles City Hall]

If it's really an issue in your local scene, why not change your decks to counter an AD+Scorch kill deck?


I didn't go into it in this article because it was already long enough as-is, but it's worth pointing out that Decoy won't save you from the other available combo that most kill decks will be running: 3-point agendas + Punitive Counterstrike. This also requires a huge money advantage, but if you have Decoy on the table, I can install-advance-advance a 3-point agenda, and if you steal it I can Accelerated Diagnostics combo into Restructure-Punitive Counterstrike-Punitive Counterstrike for 6 damage and a flatline.
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Thomas R
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Nephtys wrote:
The problem with AD Combos isn't scorched earth. It's when you use it with Net Damage or especially, NBN advance + Beales.

[Some examples]

Even the simple combo of a pre-installed neveradvance Beale is a 4 agenda point swing, for a grand total of 2 credits.


Sorry, but can you run through that one for me? I can see:

1) Power Shutdown
2) Install Jackson Howard, put three Shipment from SanSan into R&D
3a) Accelerated Diagnostics to put six advancement tokens on Project Beale
3b) Score project Beale with one counter, making it a three point agenda

Am I missing an extra point somewhere?
 
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Jergis wrote:
anathomical wrote:
Intent

...

I've seen quite a lot of vitriol from a lot of people about the existence of this combo. People seem to really hate that it can happen at all, suggesting that it's toxic to the game.

Personally, I disagree. I think that it is actually important that something like this combo exists to make Scorched Earth decks a thing. ...


-Appreciate the write up. Personally, i don't think it damages the game, it just isn't any fun to play against.

Thanks again.

Jergis


I think it depends on the player. I've played some Weyland players who just gain credits and try to wait for their moment to pull of a flatline. It's avoidable but takes time so you end up with an extended game that's often pretty unexciting.

The Weyland players who know how to rush agendas, and win without relying on a flatline combo are much more exciting to watch and play against.
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Jergis wrote:
anathomical wrote:
Intent

...

I've seen quite a lot of vitriol from a lot of people about the existence of this combo. People seem to really hate that it can happen at all, suggesting that it's toxic to the game.

Personally, I disagree. I think that it is actually important that something like this combo exists to make Scorched Earth decks a thing. ...


-Appreciate the write up. Personally, i don't think it damages the game, it just isn't any fun to play against.

Thanks again.

Jergis


I can understand that when the combo player is a slow player. When competently piloted, the increased real time it takes to combo out can be minimized. At that point, it shouldn't be any more or less fun than a normal Scorched Earth win. To further decrease the time spent, a runner should do their own homework on the combo to speed up the delivery (by being able to recognize when the combo is a done deal and appropriately scooping) and make playing against the combo MORE fun. I find these combos to be no fun when there is no clear way to defend against it. However, once the combo is analyzed and its weak points identified, playing against it is like playing against any other strategy.
 
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I'd like to add my two cents:

Cent #1: Decoy can shut you out. So maybe it's worth playing Midseason Replacements.

Cent #2: Having 1-2x Scorched Earth in hand can make the basic combo impossible to pull off. But if you have Subliminal Messaging in the deck, you can play Diagnostics for 2x Scorch (or SEA Source + Scorch) + SM, then use the extra click to play Scorch from hand.
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Jacek Wieszaczewski
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anathomical wrote:
Nephtys wrote:
The problem with AD Combos isn't scorched earth. It's when you use it with Net Damage or especially, NBN advance + Beales.

[Some examples]

Even the simple combo of a pre-installed neveradvance Beale is a 4 agenda point swing, for a grand total of 2 credits.


Sorry, but can you run through that one for me? I can see:

1) Power Shutdown
2) Install Jackson Howard, put three Shipment from SanSan into R&D
3a) Accelerated Diagnostics to put six advancement tokens on Project Beale
3b) Score project Beale with one counter, making it a three point agenda

Am I missing an extra point somewhere?

Your aim when playing for this combo is to score 3 points and have one AstroScript token, so you make that Beale worth 4 points.
 
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mplain wrote:
I'd like to add my two cents:

Cent #1: Decoy can shut you out. So maybe it's worth playing Midseason Replacements.

Cent #2: Having 1-2x Scorched Earth in hand can make the basic combo impossible to pull off. But if you have Subliminal Messaging in the deck, you can play Diagnostics for 2x Scorch (or SEA Source + Scorch) + SM, then use the extra click to play Scorch from hand.


Re: 2 -- you have to make decisions as you're piloting the deck based on hand size and board state. If you're holding 2 Scorched *and* all 3 combo pieces in your hand, either you're doing it wrong or it's turn one and you've just hit a terrible mull.

If it looks like you're more likely to pull off Shutdown/Jackson/AD than the manual SEA/Scorch/Scorch, it's time to start discarding Scorches. Or, put the Jackson down and dig for the SEA. But if you sit around aiming for both outcomes with a clogged up hand, you're not doing much anything else. And once the runner knows what you're up to, you need to be doing something else, pressuring them to make decisions they don't want to make.
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osoito osoito
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All of these combos are easily countered by Noise's ability if he can only install a virus (e.g. using clone chip) exactly before Accelerated Diagnostics is played. Without one of the three cards brought back by Howard, corp can't win, losing instead.
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Steven: Decoy is making a comeback for sure, but then now we're talking about allocating deckspace and influence for a lot of anti-Weyland counters.

But note that Decoy is 2 criminal influence, and the only tutor for it is also criminal, so, like the multi-plascrete solution, we find ourselves digging for out-of-faction solutions for the factions that struggle to keep up already . That's silly.

NACH is great, but goes away when you steal an agenda, which is also the time you're most likely to be combokilled .

Neither protects the runner from punitive counterstrike combokill either.

All in all, I'd be happy if the "accelerated shutdown kill" combo were harder to pull off, but my testing indicates that it isn't particularly hard. For example, I'd be OK with it if it were as hard to pull off as a Cerebral Imaging or NBN 1-turn, 5+AP combo.
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Jon Riley
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jerklin wrote:


I think it depends on the player. I've played some Weyland players who just gain credits and try to wait for their moment to pull of a flatline. It's avoidable but takes time so you end up with an extended game that's often pretty unexciting.

The Weyland players who know how to rush agendas, and win without relying on a flatline combo are much more exciting to watch and play against.


-I can agree with that. I've only ran into one player doing it here, and it just wasn't a fun game. Maybe it was the pace, or the player's attitude about the whole thing, or maybe i'm just weird. Dunno.

Jergis
 
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laikal wrote:

It is bad because it is disproportionately punishing to new and inexperienced runners. Where before they had to learn to be cognizant of Weyland's threat using *known* information, they now have to bear in mind that *at any moment*, should they perform one of the game's most core features (making a run), they may face summary execution. The only way to avoid it is to not run or play 3x Carapace, both of which I find exceptionally lame.


Or you maintain an economy edge to prevent the corp from landing the trace attempt. Like the poster above said, ANY scorched kill is less fun for a brand new player as it appears to come out of nowhere. The AD combo doesn't come out of nowhere. It requires credits and the proper hand. Running HQ lets the runner know whats going on. Is this harder for a new player? Of course. So don't play the deck against a new player until they're hooked.

Quote:

It is further bad because it disproportionally impacts another under-represented group: runners that 'run poor', e.g. non-Criminal, non-Shaper-big-MO-rigs. The Exiles, Noises, Reinas that have deck archetypes built around doing more with less cash. Criminals throw cash at problems, the others work around it. If entire deck archetypes cannot be competitive simply because they need to keep up with moneybags Weyland in order to avoid unstoppable instadeath, that's bad for the game.

Decoy, Imp, Noise plus instant speed virus, NACH, Carapace, Winning before the corp goes off ...
Exile can include a singular MO in deck that they can search out for fighting this particular deck.

Quote:

It's also easier to pull off than people 'round the internet make it out to be. Or the people in my playgroup are exceptionally good at drawing into it. Dedicated Rush/Killshot decks draw into it about >50% of the time around here, on one memorable occasion the deck landed the killshot combo in four consecutive matches. Good Weylands already play JH and Power Shutdown already, finding three influence for the accelerateds ain't no thang.


How much time are they being given and how much is the metagame focused on dealing with the threat? If nobody is metagaming against it, of course they land the combo 50% of the time.

As far as playing against criminal goes. It slows criminal down by forcing them to shed tags and pile credits instead of using credits to run. Further, if the runner goes Tag-me some AD/SE decks are able to burn through 3 installed plascretes, and its made easier because there is no need to trace. If you go Tag-me vs weyland AD relying on your plascretes, you are giving up a primary means of defeating the corp.

If the deck doesn't defeat criminals enough, then you shouldn't have to worry as AD should be eventually hated out of the metagame, as by assertion its not useful versus the number 1 runner deck.



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Felix Hathaway
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I find that i tend to lose playing the combo against any runner who's prepared to slow down and play carefully.

Also Taille is a potential in faction counter for anarchs depending on when you can trigger her draw ability. I have not done this, but using hemorrhage seems like it should also be effective if you want to stay aggressive.
 
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Personally, I'm glad that this works. I haven't tried it and don't really play Weyland anymore, so I'm not just being biased.

No longer can the runner simply install a single neutral card and say "well, your chances of winning just got cut in half." Now they have to think as well.

I played against one such deck at our store championship this weekend with a goofy Gabe deck I built that I didn't bother putting any scorch defense in. It was a long, drawn out game. Once I figured out what he was doing I had to be very careful with my runs and take lots of money. He ended up getting decked.

This game involves thinking. We should have to do it to win.
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Kaiwen Zhang
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you didn't mention subliminal messaging which gives you back the click used for AD.
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Thomas R
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johncraven wrote:
you didn't mention subliminal messaging which gives you back the click used for AD.


Good point! I actually hadn't mentioned it because I haven't played with it at all. And because of that, it hadn't occurred to me. I don't want to go back and edit the article, but getting a free click via Subliminal essentially lets you "buy" one tempo and one credit for one card out of your combo vs the Biotic Labor "buying" two tempo for four credits and a card slot. Could be pretty important since it would let you play a 4-card combo for cheaper as long as you have one tempo (either a second Accelerated Diagnostics in hand, or a Jackson Howard on the table at the beginning of the turn). I might have to put one in and see how that goes...
 
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lluluien wrote:
If this thread doesn't end up in the BGG Top ## Strategy threads meta-thread next year, we're not upvoting it right. Very nice work!

We definitely are not upvoting it right (more people upvoted the first post than the whole thread, and it's the thread upvotes that count).
 
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