Yesterday we looked at pushing and maintaining tempo in a game. Today we’ll follow up by looking at denying your opponent’s tempo.
Assets and tempo
In the last post, we talked about how NEH, RP and HB create tempo swings with high-priority assets that demand the runner deal with them. HB’s campaigns are more of an economy swing as they will typically drag the runner down a scoring server to be dealt with. NEH and RP also have this effect, but exploit different sides of the tempo equation. NEH draws a card whenever they install a new remote, and thus functionally lose no tempo at all when putting down an economy asset. They effectively gain one click over the runner. RP, by contrast, denies the runner a click by forcing them to run on a central server before trashing a Mental Health Clinic or Sundew.
This will get out of hand fast – can you afford the time to deal with it?
The Never Advance strategy also works to deny runner tempo by continuously baiting them to run on new facedown remotes. Often this could be a Snare! or another damaging trap, which will force the runner to waste valuable clicks recovering. This strategy is often used in NEARPAD or Jinteki: Personal Evolution decks, which deny the runner tempo by sneaking out agendas among traps that hurt the runner and force recovery.
A common situation you will face as a Runner is to decide whether or not to trash economy assets against Near Earth Hub. The main question you should be asking is – is it worth it to shut off a source of Corp income, or will it slow me down too much? If you’re at 2 credits and the Corp is at 6, it takes you far too much time to gain money, pay 4 credits to trash that PAD Campaign and recover to threaten again. The Corp will probably be fine with this exchange. However, if you’re on 6 and the Corp is on 2 with no ICE rezzed, the loss of tempo will probably be outweighed by the economy you deny the Corp and the opportunity for free accesses.
Daily Business Show is a similar problem. This card provides an ongoing tempo advantage, allowing the Corp to filter their deck and select the most appropriate cards for their plan. Trashing DBS is almost always worth it for the runner because the value of DBS in increasing the Corp’s tempo simply outweighs the tempo hit the runner will take to trash it.
ICE and tempo
Much like NEH uses Pop-Up Window and Architect to gain tempo, RP in particular uses cheap punishing ICE to deny the runner tempo. Cheap ICE like Pup, Cortex Lock, Crick and Enigma demand that the runner interact with them by spending credits or taking damage. The tempo loss of having to run on a central server to deal with an asset is exacerbated by being forced to spend credits as well. Crick in particular forces a shift in runner tempo by reinstalling an asset the runner has already spent valuable time and money trashing.
No bouncing off harmlessly here – you need to do something
Stomping on the Corporation’s face, forever
If you want to look at the perfect example of combining a tempo and economy swing then look no further than everyone’s favourite core set card, Account Siphon. Not only does this card provide a massive 15 credit swing, but if used when the Corp is already low on credits it provides you the fuel to keep running rampant over Corp servers. Think about times when you’ve had a 5/3 advanced in a remote server, then been Siphoned twice and had the agenda stolen. You not only lose massive tempo from installing and advancing a now-useless agenda, but a huge amount of time needs to be spent recovering. It’s not as consistently punishing as it used to be in this new age of asset economy, but a well-timed Siphon is one of the most powerful tempo swings in the game.
The Queen of tempo
The best tempo denial identity on the Runner side is undoubtedly Leela Patel. Leela was underrated when she was first released, as people generally weren’t sure how to best make use of her ability. As people became familiar with her, it became clear that building a “standard” Criminal deck with her is very strong and can severely disrupt an unprepared Corp (check out Dave Hoyland’s excellent writeup for a detailed perspective). Her ability lets you completely reset a Corp’s board state and put them massively behind on tempo. It’s very possible to steal an agenda turn 1, bounce ICE, and then Account Siphon or even snag another agenda. When this happens it’s almost like being a full turn ahead of the Corp – something that lets you snowball an advantage very hard. You can also exploit tempo denial in cases where the Corp has installed and advanced something, but you steal an Agenda from somewhere else and return the installed card to hand. Again, this wastes practically an entire Corp turn and gives you serious breathing room to either further your own board state or continue to exploit theirs.
Reina denial decks (best named one here) are also strong at the moment. The primary denial tools in this kind of build are typically Vamp, Lamprey and Crescentus recursion. By using Vamp and Lamprey to keep the Corp poor and derezzing even moderately expensive ICE with Crescentus repeatedly, it ensures that the Corp is continuously wasting time building up resources only to have them immediately drained for no benefit. Importantly, this also leads to agendas building up in HQ while the Corp is unable to score. This deck can afford to run broke as long as they’re keeping the Corp on the back foot, because if the Corp can’t rez any ICE you can take accesses all day long. It manipulates economy to exploit the resulting tempo openings. The various destructive tools in the Anarch arsenal are also excellent for manipulating tempo – Parasite and Imp can destroy Corp investments for little effort on the Runner’s part.
Get out and stay out: Replicating Perfection and you
Jinteki: Replicating Perfection has been one of the most dominant Corps since the release of Honour and Profit, and for good reason. It’s the Corp ID that is best at controlling the tempo of the runner and dictating the overall tempo of the game. There’s been some evolution from Dan D’Argenio’s Worlds winning build over the last few months due to the rise of Stealth Andromeda and the release of Blacklist (check out this list) but the basic principle is the same. As discussed above, the continuous tempo losses by the Runner from trashing economy assets adds up significantly throughout the game. In addition, RP uses lots of small punishing ICE like Cortex Lock, Crick or Pup that, while not ending the run, demands the runner invest time and credits into dealing with them constantly from the very beginning of the game. Furthermore, their self-protecting agenda suite means that an otherwise successful run that sees an agenda can turn out to be a wasted click if the runner loses a Future Perfect psi game or can’t afford to steal NAPD Contracts.
The other unique spin RP puts on tempo is changing how the runner reacts to a scoring server. Typically, the runner will need to hit a server multiple times to deal with Caprice or Ash and finally get to the agenda. With RP, the runner will never be able to try this until click 2 at the earliest, putting them on the back foot. If the Corp is running Enhanced Login Protocol, this gets pushed back to click 3. With the addition of Nisei tokens, it’s possible to create a scoring server that is literally impenetrable – there’s simply not enough time.
As with the IT Department decks mentioned in Part 1, RP will often trade early game tempo to build up a crushing lategame. This is where the concept of manipulating your opponent’s tempo really shines. RP forces the runner to adapt to the slower tempo whether it matches their game plan or not, something other IDs can’t manage. This click compression is the core of RP’s strength.
One less click to deal with all this
Putting it together
The main consideration in game is that every click matters on both sides. You just need to consider whether your plan is more based around accelerating your own tempo or decelerating that of your opponent and figure out if short term hits are going to pay off in long term gains. To win the tempo war, you need to be asking: what is my plan to win this game, and what’s the most efficient way to get there? How does my opponent plan to win, and how do I slow them down without hurting myself too much? The second half is harder but comes out of understanding the first part – if your opponent has just rezzed a PAD Campaign, think about how you’d be feeling if you were playing the Corp. Would you (as the Corp) lose more or gain more from having it trashed? Understanding and evaluating that decision is one of the most important skills in the game.