On Drugs and Devils: A New Breed of Aggressive Criminal

This article is a primer on a Criminal deck that I have been playing for quite some time (I built it the day The Universe of Tomorrow came out on OCTGN). Like most decks I champion, it has a vastly different play-pattern from pretty much any deck out there. You can win a lot of games with just its raw power, but with practice it can become truly terrifying and befuddling for your opponent.

Criminal is in a bit of a rut currently, as I’m sure you are aware. The community has been wracking their brains for quite some time to flesh out exactly what has toppled the Blue tyrant off of its pedestal. For more background on this discussion, check out these great reads:

Dave Hoyland: http://netrunners.co.uk/articles/perfect%20blue.html

El-ad David Amir: http://netrunners.co.uk/articles/imperfect%20blue.html

Here are some of the frequently cited reasons:

  • Too much influence tied down in Icebreakers.
  • No good in-faction card draw.
  • No good in-faction answer to cheap, taxing ICE like Eli 1.0 and Pup.
  • Dependence on Security Testing.
  • Running out of steam after the early game.
  • Getting locked out by surprise program trashing that out-ranges Mimic.

Let’s solve some problems.

Here is the list:

http://netrunner.meteor.com/decks/JitsdJQNahez4khXn
Faust Gabe (45 cards)
Gabriel Santiago: Consummate Professional
Event (19)
3 Account Siphon
3 Dirty Laundry
2 Emergency Shutdown
3 Fisk Investment Seminar
2 Inside Job
1 Levy AR Lab Access ···
2 Special Order
3 Sure Gamble
Hardware (7)
1 Clone Chip ··
3 Desperado
2 HQ Interface
1 R&D Interface ··
Resource (9)
3 Bank Job
3 Drug Dealer
3 Same Old Thing
Icebreaker (4)
1 Breach
2 Faerie
1 Faust ··
Program (6)
2 Datasucker · ·
2 Parasite ·· ··
2 Sneakdoor Beta

General Game-Plan: Do the Gabe thing early game. Pound HQ for money until they rez. Use Bank Job, Dirty Laundry, Desperado, and Gabe money to kill any long-term economy the Corp tries to set up. The Yellow Man must die; Jacksons in HQ are Kill On Sight, usually even if it costs all of your money. You will be glad you did it later. Be relentless. For example, if the Corp rezzes an Eli 1.0 on HQ, click through it aggressively (click through pretty every turn if you have Desperado + another benefit such as Datasucker, HQI, Dirty Laundry, or Account Siphon). Once they lock down HQ, drop a Sneakdoor and keep slamming them. While you spend pretty much all of your clicks running and slowing down the Corp, Drug Dealer can hook you up with the cards you need to keep the pressure on, and Parasite can tick away at particularly annoying ICE. Once the Corp has turtled up and stabilized you should hopefully have at least 2-4 points. At this point you can drop Faust and go into Hail-Mary mode, using Fisk Investment Seminar and HQ Interface to get tons of very random accesses that are difficult for the Corp to interact with. It is VERY hard to get a remote established against this deck’s extremely heavy pressure, not even considering its Inside Jobs and AI breaker. The Corp will have no place to put agendas, bleeding points until they lose.

Card explanations:

Economy Cards (14 + ID)

3 Desperado – This can make you upwards of 20-30 credits in a game if you are playing correctly. It reduces the trash costs on Assets by 1, lets you click through HQ Elis fairly painlessly, and lets you check R&D for free accesses without losing Tempo. This is still why you play Criminal.

3 Sure Gamble – This is amazing in the first phase of the game, and often Faust food in the later stages. Sure Gamble -> Desperado -> Run HQ -> Drug Dealer is a great start.

3 Dirty Laundry – This card may be better than Sure Gamble in this deck. You often have a ton of cards and you make so many runs that this is essentially a click-less “Discard this: Gain 3 Credits”, which is obviously busted with Drug Dealer. Also combos well with Bank Job.

3 Bank Job – Sexy Bots, PAD Campaigns, and SanSans must die, and this is the perfect weapon for taking them out. With our strategy demanding multiple ICE on all centrals, the Bank Jobs are usually trivial to fire. They also combo nicely with Fisk Investment Seminar, since many corps will spam all the assets they draw to clear out their hand, giving you easy targets. When your Drug habit takes you down to 0 credits this is the perfect way to bounce back. Robbing a Bank because you need Drug money just feels so believable.

2 Datasucker – This makes breaking Architect and other 3 strength ICE with Faust palatable. It also lets us blow up big things with Parasite, although this comes up less often than in an Anarch deck. You’re not actually in a hurry to install this, since you don’t have fixed breakers that depend on it to function. If you have really pressing things to do it can be pretty greedy to spend a click and a credit installing this when you won’t really need that many counters.

Gabriel Santiago, Consummate Professional – A lot of people have tried playing this concept out of other Criminals, particularly Andromeda and Leela. The synergy between breaking for 0 with Faust and then getting 3 credits back is incredible. You can Dirty Laundry into HQ on 2 credits and come out with 8! That’s stupid. Gabe also forces rezzes like no one else, sometimes setting up blowout early game Siphons or double Siphons that win the game on the spot. One of the best things you can do in Netrunner is force the Corp to defend a server that they don’t want to care about, and Gabe does that better than any other runner.

Denial Cards and Disruption Tools (9)

3 Account Siphon – You know what’s better than getting 10 credits? Getting 13 Credits. Knowing whether to shake your tags or not is often a tough choice with this deck. Always remember that just because you plan to shake eventually doesn’t mean you have to shake right away. A play I often make when I feel myself losing tempo from my first Siphon is to drop 2 Drug Dealers and shake 2 Tags with Faust in play, going into no-money mode for a while. Other games I just spam Siphons and float a huge pile of tags, using Drug Dealers as more of a Tag-Me resource like Joshua B, except a bit better because you get a card back right away. Often times the Corp can’t stomach the tempo hit of trashing your stuff and you will just get to keep your toys anyway.

2 Parasite – For a deck that slows down the game by forcing rezzes, Parasite is perfect. This also gives you quite a versatile solution to otherwise quite problematic cards like a Swordsman or Turing on HQ. You usually don’t have to hold these for anything in particular, just slap them on whatever you see and let them tick away. Finding the time to purge a Parasite is next to impossible against Gabe. You can also blow up bigger ICE with Datasucker in the usual way, although beware of Cyberdex Virus Suite when making this play against a Sentry or Blue Sun.

2 Emergency Shutdown – Sometimes people think it’s a good idea to lock Gabe out with a turn 1 Tollbooth Rez on HQ. Inside job or Sneakdoor into Shutdown should teach them otherwise. Also, Account Siphon -> Emergency Shutdown -> Inside Job remains an incredible mid-late game remote busting play. Clicking through Eli on HQ, gaining 3, and then shutting down the Eli is a totally reasonable play in the world of Drug Dealer.

2 Inside Job – This is really a denial card at heart, but it does a ton of work in this deck. It locks out remotes, saves you cards on an HQ run you would make anyway, defuses Cricium Grids at minimum cost, and enables blowout early game Emergency Shutdown plays. This card is pretty much never dead, and I Same Old Thing for it even more than Account Siphon, which perhaps is a sign that I should have 3 copies. There are only 2 for now just because drawing more than 1 at once is usually not great.

ICE Breakers (4, that’s right, 4)

1 Faust – This is our centerpiece, the 3 credit 1 MU instant rig. Gabe has always loved AI breakers, from the Knights of old, to Timmy Wong’s Overmind at Worlds 2014, nothing says Tempo like a cheap-to-install AI. How about one that takes no credits to use? Having no fear of going to 0 credits really opens up a lot of awesome plays. You can always bounce back in just a couple clicks with a Faust-Fueled HQ run or a Faust-Powered Bank Job. As long as you have 1 credit, you can always run HQ and have enough credits to steal an NAPD. I could have 2 Faust in here, but then I would have to cut a Parasite, which is unimaginable to me.

2 Faerie – This deals with Archer, Swordsman, Tsurugi, and Komainu, which are typically a massive problem for Faust. The former is a great Shutdown target after you Faerie it and the latter three can eat a Parasite. It’s also nice to stuff early Architects. I could see running 3 of these, but I honestly haven’t needed them. You usually need exactly 1 each game, and often not right away, so 2 copies is fine.

1 Breach – Corroder is not enough better than Breach in this deck to justify cutting a Parasite for the influence. The primary use of Breach is to make Wraparound 0 strength, but it’s also great for HQ Spiderweb or Curtain Wall, both of which Faust hates and both of which it breaks for cheaper than Corroder! I’ve actually been pretty impressed by this card and use it to break things more than I thought I would (although still not that often).

Breaker-ish things (4)

2 Special Order – These are essentially 0 influence Fausts 2-3. They can also search out your Breach if they have Wraparounds. I suppose you could also get a Faerie if you really needed to, but I’ve pretty much never done so.

2 Sneakdoor Beta – Typically this card is used to get a few points early and then is overwritten as the runner completes their rig. Not in this deck! Our final 5-MU rig is Sneakdoor, Faust, Datasucker, Breach/Faerie/Parasite. Having Sneakdoor out all game makes the Fisk Investment Seminar Hail Mary plan twice as efficient, since you can run whichever server is the cheapest. It’s pretty funny when people triple-ICE archives. This can also be game-breaking early game with Emergency Shutdown, and can serve as a de-facto Security testing if the Corp has an ICE-light draw or over-commits resources to defending HQ proper. The more they defend against Account Siphon, the less they defend against Sneakdoor Beta.

Recursion (5)

1 Levy AR Lab Access – This gives you the peace-of-mind to YOLO throw away all your cards without fear of running out. Having this in your deck makes the PE match-up trivial to win, whereas otherwise it could be a bit tricky. Unlike in Prepaid Kate, you want to wait as long as possible before playing this. After the early game pretty much all of your cards are just Faust-Food, so quantity matters more than quality. Against NBN I pretty much never play this, against HB glacier it gets played about 60% of the time, and against Jinteki it gets played about 80% of the time (stupid The Future Perfect in HQ drags out the games). I don’t really have enough data against Weyland (sigh…such is the state of things).

3 Same Old Thing – Having 3 of these gives you Levy security and tons of options for what to recur. Remember that you cannot play Fist Investment Seminar with this. This essentially expands your hand-size for 0 credits, which is really nice. I probably recur Inside Job the most, since it is at its best at the very early and very late stages of the game, whereas Account Siphon falls off in the late game.

1 Clone Chip – This is our Swordsman/Marcus Batty insurance. I could just play a 2nd Faust, but I really liked the idea of a Faerie, Parasite, back-up Faust split-card. Mid-run Parasite-Datasucker kills don’t happen that much, but when they do it’s incredible.

Multiaccess – (6)

2 HQ Interface – This deck often makes a bunch of money and needs none of it to break ICE. Any extra money you have goes straight into interfaces to make you more efficient. This is better than Legwork in this deck because of the synergy with Sneakdoor Beta and the sheer number of times that you hit HQ.

1 R&D Interface – Many players will turtle up HQ and Archives with 3+ ICE and leave just a single piece on R&D. We need a card to punish this extreme case. This gets discarded a lot, but when it gets played it wins the game and is absolutely un-cuttable for me.

3 Fist Investment Seminar – OK, so this is not really multi-access, but it essentially makes your HQ interfaces do double-duty. This card is REALLY REALLY HARD TO USE. It took over a month to learn how to use it properly, and I’m a pretty quick learner. If you play this too early or in a bad window you can undo all of your hard work and essentially throw the game. The times to play this are

  1. Right before you land a certain Account Siphon, which will break the Corp and leave them on 7-8 cards in hand.
  2. Late in the game when you don’t care at all about tempo anymore and only about points, and you can hit HQ that same turn as well as the next for at least 2 cards each time.
  3. When the Corp Install-Advanced an agenda last turn and you smell blood (the blood-smelling is the part that takes practice)
  4. You REALLY need Faust food and it’s an EMERGENCY.
  5. You are trying to deck the Corp and are planning to play one of these every turn for the rest of the game.

By using levy to play this 6 times I have actually won a TON of games by depleting R&D. Sometimes the Corp FINALLY locks you out with something gross like 4 ICE on every central, but doesn’t have enough clicks to finish the game before you draw them out of cards. Usually the cause of this game-state is the Corp sitting on a protected Jackson that is hiding 6-8 points in Archives for most of the game. People who have tried this deck and cut this card are just lazy and need to play about 50 more games with it. (Note: This card is MUCH better against Glacier and is really bad against a scored Astroscript Pilot Program. In certain Meta-games it may be cut-able, but I found that doing so really cripples the glacier match-up).

Your nasty habit (3)

3 Drug Dealer – Without this card, this strategy would not be possible. You get money for accessing, you get cards from your money, and you use those cards to get more accesses. It’s a beautiful circle of life. Before you play Faust you can support 1 of these, and once you have Faust out 2 of them is ideal. I have had 3 before and it’s REALLY fun, but you have to be really committed to the 0-credits-for-the-rest-of-the-game plan to do that. This card is just incredible. In-faction Click-less draw with almost no setup cost is exactly what Criminal needed, and Faust makes the downside much less relevant.

Notable Excludes

Plascrete Carapace – I never play silver bullets until they are proven necessary. Until now I haven’t had much trouble out-moneying Scorch decks, but 24/7 News Cycle really changes things. If 24/7 Scorch is a common opponent for you and you want to play some of these you can cut some number of Same Old Thing, Emergency Shutdown, or Fisk Investment Seminar for them.

Security Testing – This takes a lot of Clicks to use, has anti-synergy with Sneakdoor (they already want to ICE archives), sucks without Desperado, and is way worse than Bank Job when you have to go Tag-Me. This deck doesn’t really need consistent money besides Gabe’s ability and Desperado, so tons of burst to set up quickly is better. This card is way worse in Gabe than in Andy, since getting it and Desperado online quickly is way harder.

Actual Breakers – Some people have suggested a Mimic and a Passport for this deck, but I haven’t found that I need them. Feel free to try them out, but they feel like they solve a problem that the deck doesn’t really have. The 1 install cost on Passport is intriguing, but when I’ve tested it I never installed it, and it quickly got cut.

Final Thoughts

This deck is amazing. It has been consistently performing for me both locally and on OCTGN, and I am getting better at piloting it and understanding its win-conditions in each match-up every time I play it. It is also SUPER FUN and dynamic. If you want to just pick up your deck and throw your cards at the Corp until they lose, this is your deck.

Faust_Gabe

Give Faust Gabe a try and let me know how it does for you. If you want to discuss the deck with me, you can do so here or in the Stimhack forums or Slack chat channel. Here are some questions to consider if you are looking to make changes:

  1. Does the deck want some more 1-of real breakers. Is it worth influence for Mimic?
  2. How many of the flex Criminal tricks should there be (Inside Job, Shutdown, Same Old Thing)?
  3. How often is it correct to float tags? Can the deck stay at 0-1 Plascretes safely? What should be cut for them if they are required?
  4. Is Parasite appropriate, or a crutch?
  5. Does the deck need more R&D pressure besides the 1 R&D Interface?

See you on OCTGN

-TheBigBoy