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Neal's Last Words


Neal's Last Words

by Byron "Neal" Massey

BreakFest of Champions

The Northwest Netrunner Championships were held at the WotC Gaming Center in Seattle on November 7th and 8th. This is a three-day log of my experiences. The names would have been changed, but there were no innocents.


1:00 PM Johnny Quazar calls and reminds me to arrive at his home, a 150 minute drive, by 6:00 PM.

6:00 PM I arrive at Johnny's. Johnny's paramour and her son hop in the car with us, and we head for the freeway. We stop at Burger King, where we eat some of the flimsiest bacon in the history of pork.

2:00 AM We arrive at the home of our hostess for the weekend. It's a one-bedroom apartment, and our hostess has a penchant for lamps, plants, and outdoor temperatures. Despite being about forty-five degrees (Farenheit) outside, the doors are open.

1:00 AM I'm crashed out on the futon couch in the living room. Johnny and paramour have taken to the bedroom. The son is on the floor. Our hostess has retired to a kind of den. This alcove has been used for storage, so she is busily and noisily moving furniture and boxes to make space for her air mattress. This rearrangement takes place six feet from my head.

1:32 AM She can't find the plug for the air mattress. She spends a lot of time walking back and forth past my head, searching for it.

1:40 AM She knocks over a big potted plant and spills dirt all over the carpet. "I'll have to clean that up," she says. "Sorry about the noise." Six inches from my head, vacuuming commences.

2:00 AM The party begins in the apartment directly above.

2:30 AM The partygoers all become too drunk to stand and fall to the floor with a resounding, but final, "Thud."

4:00 AM The cats, which our hostess refers to as "the boys," walk all over me.

5:00 AM One of the cats knocks over a candle which was resting on the floor in a beautiful wrought-iron holder.


9:00 AM Our hostess appears from the den, turning on lights and generally making it clear that I have slept long enough.

10:00 AM Johnny and paramour appear, looking remarkably well-rested, from the enclosed, heated, cat-free, plant-free, vacuum-free, hostess-free bedroom.

12:00 PM I've eaten my breakfast (which we purchased the previous night with the forewarning that our hostess did not own any food) and Johnny and I are in the car, headed for the WotC Gaming Center which is just 30 blocks down the freeway.

12:45 PM Emerging from the incredible Saturday Noon Traffic Jam, we arrive at the WotC center, locate a parking spot, and head inside.

12:50 PM We attempt to sign up for the tournament at the tournament sign-up desk. Apparently WotC is disavowing all knowledge of this event and we are asked to pay the director directly. We do so.

12: 51 PM Johnny and I suddenly and sadly learn that the constructed-deck tournament will start in nine minutes, not twenty-four hours and nine minutes, as I had believed. Panic ensues. Johnny has thoughtfully keyed a couple of power cheese decks from the mailing list into his Palm Pilot. I have no plan whatsoever. My collection is in disarray and I'm not working on any memorized list, nor do I have any pre-built decks ready.

12:55 PM We arrive back inside the center after going to the car and getting our cards. Johnny quickly and efficiently puts the decks from his Pilot list together. I struggle with 8 boxes of nearly random cards in a corner.

1:05 PM Our decks are finished. I'm fairly confident that this is just the latest step down the staircase of disaster. I have a Psycho Tycho with a few Edgerunner, Inc., Temps thrown in. I'm afraid that Filters and Data Walls won't stop Precision Bribery or Runners powered by Loan from Chiba. I find a clump of seven Haunting Inquisitions and throw them in. I need one more piece of ice, so I pick a Mazer that is laying on top of a pile of unsorted cards. My stack has a bunch of Drone for a Day, five Full Body Conversions, a few All-Hands and several Rush Hour, Bartmoss, Joan of Arc, Enterprise Shields, and Microtech AI Interface. I regret the AI Interface all day and wish it were a Mouse. I also have eleven Bodyweight Synthetic Blood and an Armored Fridge, along with two MIT West Tier and a Remote Detonator. I never manage to detonate a single piece of ice all day.

1:30 PM The tournament starts. The director announces that, because there is no reliable ranking system, the pairings will be random. Johnny and I strongly object when we are paired against one another in the first round (I've driven seven of the past twenty-four hours to be here). The director relents and puts me against Eric Kennedy, a really strong player and a well-rested Seattle native. I shudder briefly.

2:00 PM We each win as Corp but I manage to get a Tycho off Eric as the Runner, and win the match 14-10. He's playing Faked Hit as the Runner but it's too slow in this full-cheese environment.

2:40 PM I face Todd Peterson from Tacoma. He is unfortunately burdened with a conscience and has chosen to play the best decks he can build that are not self-actualizing or unstoppable. For that reason and that reason alone, I sweep the match.

3:50 PM I'm against Chris Phillips. He eventually goes on to win the championship. I thrashed him in our last constructed tournament matchup, and the intimidation factor carries over to this match. I run first, using a stack that is very similar (but not as good) as the one I used against him last time, and his Psycho Tycho with medium ice puts up little resistance. I win 10-0. We switch sides, and it takes me a little too long to realize that he is playing Precision Bribery. He is afraid to install any Loans because I Manhunted him in our last match, but he eventually locks me down as I Annually Review myself down to an empty R&D. I do manage to score a Tycho before this happens, though, so I win the match, 14-10.

5:00 PM I face Neal Bully. Neal is just about the nicest, most pleasant person you could hope to meet at a geekfest like this. He's also from South Africa, so he has a great accent. He plays well, but once again, his honor is his undoing. I sweep.

6:10 PM I'm up against Byron Bailey in the last round. Johnny Quazar is playing Chris Phillips, and all I need to do is get more points than Chris, during this round, to win. I'm pretty confident that Johnny can lock down Chris' Psycho Tycho with Precision Bribery, but I'm not nearly as confident that I can sweep Byron Bailey. I manage to hit Byron with a Haunting as the Corp (third or forth person I Haunted today, worked better than I ever dreamed) and draw my single copy of Closed Accounts and drain his TagMe bit pool. As the Corp, Byron is crushed by bad luck and is unable to draw any of the three copies of Closed Accounts he has placed in his deck. I win the game and sweep the match with about 80 tags.

7:20 PM Johnny gets swept by Chris Phillips, who seems to be his nemesis. Chris and I have the same number of GMP, I'm ahead with five match wins to four, he is ahead with nine game wins to eight, and a tie breaker I do not understand makes him the winner. Yes, I did beat him in round three.

Johnny points out to me that he beat Eric Kennedy in a split match in the second round, but somehow only received 1.5 GMP instead of 2. At the end of the day, Johnny is tied for third with Eric, at 10.5 GMP. Correct scoring would have been to give Eric 10 GMP and Johnny 11. The difference was a good chunk of change. Even without the scoring problem, Johnny did beat Eric in round 2.

I'm relatively happy after the tournament since I still get a plain white envelope with cash money (no checks, remember, WotC and the DCI stayed as far away as possible). Johnny is not happy with his play or the final scoring. We make a gentlemen's agreement to host this event next time.

8:30 PM We arrive back at our hostess' apartment and take Johnny's paramour out to dinner.

9:30 PM After doing a thorough tour of the Seattle transportation network, we arrive at a superb restaurant called F.X. McRory's. The waitress likes me, which is always nice, and I buy a Partagas cigar. The food is delicious.

11:30 PM We find a motel that is open and I gleefully and happily pay an outrageous price just so I can sleep in peace and comfort for the next nine hours. I do so. Johnny and paramour head back to the apartment, where they endure several hilarious interruptions, even while securely garrisoned in the bedroom.


10:00 AM Johnny picks me up at the motel, shaken after trying to start the car and failing several times. This turns out to be the least of our worries this day.

11:00 AM We eat breakfast at our hostess' apartment and head for the tournament. There is no traffic jam, but we do turn around halfway and go back for Johnny's Pilot (rumored to have been under his seat in the car the whole time).

11:50 AM We arrive at the tournament site. We play a couple games of Arabian Knights pinball and then head downstairs. Everyone is already opening their cards.

12:10 PM I realize I'm screwed. I have made a solemn oath to myself that, no matter what happens, I will not play Tag 'n' Bag. Every time I try, I end up doing badly. (It's so tempting, though!). I'm caught between the worst cards I have ever had in sealed and my solemn oath. I have two fast-advancement cards; Systematic Layoffs and Overtime Incentives. I have three agenda that can benefit from them; Hostile Takeover, Project Babylon, and Corporate Downsizing. I have no Main-Office Relocation, no Marine Arcology, no Tycho Extension, and no Corporate War. I also have no Political Coup, and only three bit-producing nodes; Rockerboy Promotion, Spinn Public Relations, and Braindance Campaign. I have one Accounts Receivable, and that is all the bits I can generate. On the bright side, my ice is good.

12:30 PM I get swept by Eric Kennedy, whom I play again in the first round. In fact, the first round pits the number one and four players from yesterday against one another, and the number two and three players against each other. This effectively splits the pairings into two distinct halves, with the weefles all playing each other most of the day and the vets all playing each other.

12:40 PM My first-round smashing moves me over to the weefle side of the pairings, and I don't get another chance to bring down one of the big boys.

I broke my oath in the first game and tried Tag 'n' Bag in pure desperation, but I change my deck back and take out everything except for one Fetch 4.0.1. It works slightly better. I split two matches and sweep two matches the rest of the day, finishing with ten points.

6:30 PM The tournament is over and Chris is the winner. I'm in a three or four-way tie for third place, and tie breaks put me in fifth. There are two people tied for second with eleven points and Doug Caspian-Kaufmann wins those tie breaks over Byron Bailey.

The tie break system has nothing to do with how tough your opponents were, so I end up feeling sorry for Byron. Doug got swept by Chris Phillips and then pounded on Wilson the rest of the day. (For the record, that's what I did, too.) Byron had to play with the big boys.

7:00 PM Pictures are taken, trophies are handed out, and everyone smiles and promises to meet again soon. I go up to the restaurant and have a really good burger, then we hit the road. Johnny's paramour drives like wind and we hit Johnny's place shortly after midnight.

As I fall asleep, I think about how the weekend went. I only lost one match all weekend! That's a good showing. I don't have the big cash or cool trophy that the winner got, but I did beat everyone who placed in either tournament except Doug, whom I never faced. I feel bad for Johnny, though. I give him my four prize boosters and he pulls a World Domination and a City Surveillance.