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Frisky's Corner

by Frisco Del Rosario

Socket to me

Viral Pipeline was the cornerstone of two undefeated constructed runner decks at the Northwest NetRunner Championship held April 19 in Springfield, Oregon. Hometown hero Dennis Duncan won the event with a remarkable Clown-and-Pipeline deck, and visitor Jim McCoy borrowed a Loan from Chiba-powered Pipeline deck for the occasion. (The first-place trophy was awarded by combining scores from the constructed and sealed deck events -- Duncan scored 4-0 in constructed, and 1.5-1.5 in sealed, and I achieved 2.5-1.5 in constructed, and 3-0 in sealed. The tiebreaks favored me.)

The superpowered Viral Pipeline is clearly the most lethal virus program the runner has at his disposal. After each successful run on the archives, headquarters, or research and development, a "socket" counter is placed on that data fort. When one socket counter has been placed on all three central forts, the "pipeline" is complete, and the corporation must forgo one action during its turn.

That is brutal. The Crumble virus trashes normally untrashable cards, and Taxman grinds away at the corporation's bit pool, but cards and bits can be recovered. Actions -- the basic unit of NetRunner movement -- are priceless. Even the richest corporation with a headquarters full of perfect cards will collapse if it has no actions.

Viral Pipeline is different from all other virus programs in that it requires successful runs on three different forts. Many virus attacks which concentrate on HQ or RD employ Restrictive Net Zoning in order to weaken the target fort, but Viral Pipeline plans cannot reasonably restrict all three central forts. Therefore, a Pipeline scheme requires an effective bit engine and a strong icebreaker suite. The Pipeline decks which won four games at the Northwest NetRunner Championships took two different approaches.

Dennis Duncan's runner deck requires zero bits to win. Zero bits. The deck relies on Jack 'n' Joe plus ValuPak Software Bundle to install several daemons, Zetatech Software Installers, Clowns, and icebreakers with the ability to break subroutines for zero bits. When the tableau is complete, Duncan needs just to run three times -- once on each central fort -- to lay down nine Socket counters, leaving the corporation with zero actions per turn.

8 Zetatech Software Installer
5 Afreet
5 Clown
3 Viral Pipeline
2 Joan of Arc
2 Succubus
1 Emergency Self-Construct
1 Forward's Legacy
1 Imp
1 Wizard's Book
1 Wrecking Ball

12 Jack 'n' Joe
7 ValuPak Software Bundle
1 MIT West Tier

That's all, readers -- 30 programs and 20 preps in the most remarkable architecture I've ever seen. Can it be beaten? Perhaps. Crystal Palace Station Grid forces the runner to pay one extra bit to break each subroutine on its fort, and Duncan's deck, remember, has no income plan. It's also possible to strengthen ice with Antiquated Interface Routines or Security Net Optimization to the point where the runner has to pay to pump the corresponding icebreaker.

City Surveillance must be the corporation's best answer to this deck, but the part of me which likes absurd humor wants to install three Chimeras on a central fort.

While Dennis Duncan's Pipeline deck depends on Clowns to ensure successful runs to give sockets, David Liu fuels Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker with Loan from Chiba.

1 Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker
1 Joan of Arc
1 Viral Pipeline

7 Bodyweight Synthetic Blood
2 Pirate Broadcast
2 Inside Job

11 Loan from Chiba
4 Code Viral Cache
3 Time to Collect
3 Airport Locker
2 Fall Guy
2 Junkyard BBS

4 Millitech MRAM Chip
2 The Deck

Duncan's deck drops three Socket counters per action by having three Viral Pipelines installed. Liu's deck has just one Pipeline in play, but Pirate Broadcast demands a run on each fort, and smacks the corporation with three Sockets per action that way.

Liu's scheme typically starts running several turns before Duncan's does, sometimes doing an Inside Job on HQ on turn one or two in order to install Code Viral Cache. Because this deck gets off to an earlier start and has a dozen Loans from Chiba to protect, it needs tag protection and base link.

It's a very different approach, but there are some similarities. City Surveillance is the bete noire of any Synthetic Blood-sucking runner deck, and strong ice is a deterrent, too. Of course, it's a lot easier to find ice stronger than Bartmoss than it is to hamper a Forward's Legacy bolstered by five Clowns, but Loan from Chiba is one hell of an equalizer.

I don't know what you plan to do about these mighty Viral Pipeline decks. The corporation can't hope to gain actions to burn with a huge Project Venice because the runners prepare themselves rapidly -- Liu's deck takes about nine turns to win, Duncan's sometimes takes fewer. Corporate Boon? Pacifica Regional AI?


Frisky's Corner