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- Famous Netrunner Stacks -
#13: Greyhound Demolition Derby

by Jens Kreutzer
using material by Byron "Neal" Massey, with permission
with input by Richard Cripe and Lukas Kautzsch

"Children should not attempt to build or play this without adult supervision."
- Neal

In this article, we're going to take a look at one of the most famous heavy-caliber Tag'n'Bag-decks out there. It's also one of the most straightforward. As you can read in the Famous Stacks installment of the 3/1999 TRQ issue, the basic premise of Tag'n'Bag is to tag Runners and then hit them with enough meat damage to flatline them. This is best done fast in order to catch opponents by surprise, and one card combination that was notorious in the infant days of Netrunner was playing Chance Observation/Urban Renewal in the second Corp turn. But this approach depends on the Runner running during turn one, plus having no linkage, no tag or meat damage protection and not more than four cards in hand during the Corp's second turn - which is a lot of uncertainty to base a deck around. Since there are only four actions for the Runner to set up, this wouldn't be so bad, if it weren't for the fact that modern Constructed Runner stacks tend to draw lots and lots of cards. Bodyweight Synthetic Blood and Militech MRAM Chips are standard. Later in the game, circumspect Runners often install Emergency-Self Construct, which then spoils the party for any meat-damage strategy. Consequently, the "basic" Tag'n'Bag approach was seen less and less in tournaments up till 1998.

Into this Tag'n'Bag-lean metagame environment stepped Byron Massey (a.k.a. Neal). At the time, some really strong deck archetypes like Psycho Tycho and ASD/Corp War had already emerged, and - decklists being spread via the Internet - everybody and their friends were playing them. The same was true for the Runner side, with Precision Bribery/Time to Collect as the deck to beat, and bit engines like Bodyweight Synthetic Blood/Organ Donor/MIT West Tier or TagMe ruling the day. Neal was fed up with everybody just copying decks in his local Constructed tournaments, and one day, he made a conscious metagame decision to counter the ubiquitious TagMe and Bodyweight/Organ Donor stacks by bringing back the long-shunned Tag'n'Bag strategy. Only this time, it was Tag'n'Bag's elder brother: Greyhound Demolition Derby, published August 3, 1998.

    Greyhound Demolition Derby

    5 Tycho Extension
    10 City Surveillance
    8 Schlaghund
    12 Accounts Receivable
    8 Manhunt
    2 Project Consultants

The main element is, and quite prominently so, Schlaghund. Eight copies ensure that one shows up in turn 1 or 2, and ten meat damage should take care of most Runners at that stage, eliminating Urban Renewal's shortcoming. Also, unlike I Got A Rock, which packs an even harder punch, Schlaghund doesn't need any agenda points to "work", which is good, since having to score agendas and turn-2 surprise kills don't really fit together. The concept is, literally, striking: Neal's deck features the most potent tag strategies available that punish card drawing (City Surveillance) and running (Manhunt), respectively, both capable of giving multiple tags at one go, which are very much needed by Schlaghund (ideally six). Then, he uses the tags to set off a Schlaghund as early as possible for the win, ideally before the Runners know what's hitting them, and before they can set up any defenses.

This is what Neal has to say about his approach:

    "If you're wondering how to make this work (no ice!), here is the very brief explanation:

    [First turn:]

    1. Install a City Surveillance.
    2. Play an Accounts Receivable.
    3. We have some options. We can play another Accounts Receivable if we have one. We can also draw another card, or even take a single bit ('working in the mail room'). Installing a second City Surveillance is another great idea. We can even install a Schlaghund in anticipation of the kill, but it might get trashed.

    "If the Runner makes a run on any fort, we can play Manhunt on the next turn and kill him with a Schlaghund. If the Runner doesn't run, they will almost certainly need to draw cards, and we should rez up the City Surveillance(s) when this happens. Typically, the Runner will run to trash the unprotected City Surveillance after paying a bit for each card drawn.

    "On our second turn, we should:

    1. Play a Manhunt with all but two of our bits.
    2. Install (if we haven't already) and rez a Schlaghund.
    3. Use it.

    "There are all kinds of variations on how this works, but the effect is the same."

This deck takes its chances with being able to pull off what it attempts to do, and it might very well not be able to, but unlike with Chance Observation/Urban Renewal, it does have a real chance of working even (or especially so, because of the abundance of Bodyweight Synthetic Blood) in the Constructed environment.

Once again in Neal's words: "Is this deck unbeatable? No. The Runner will often die on the second turn, however, which leaves little time for a solution. The inspiration was to kill TagMe Runners with meat damage. The unfortunate side-effect was killing nearly everyone, nearly instantly."

There are three ways in which Demolition Derby may fail to operate as planned (apart from a really bad draw for the starting hand):

  1. Not enough tags to set off Schlaghund reliably (and then having bad luck with the dice rolls).
  2. Not being able to deliver the meat damage because of fast Runner defenses.
  3. Failing to function because of early Runner disruption.

Let's address each of them in turn. First, tags. Of course, Neal designed Demolition Derby as a weapon against TagMe stacks, and if the Runner really happens to play one of those, this first point won't be much of a problem, though it isn't guaranteed that TagMe-Runners start off with Drone for a Day right in the first turn. However, if the Runner doesn't play TagMe, it might be a little expensive to rez City Surveillance (1) plus Schlaghund (2) and still be able to play a Manhunt for six tags (10) - which would probably be neccessary, since most Runners will pay for City Surveillance rather than gain tags. This is no problem if the Corp played two Accounts Receivable in the first turn, but with just one (and taking a bit for the last action), 10 bits might not be enough to pull it off reliably in the second turn (and the third might be too late: Although the Runner will have a tough time removing the tags quickly, trashing Schlaghund or installing protection might be more feasible). Another danger is a Runner who neither runs nor draws cards during the first turn, though this should be a pretty rare occurrence.

Second, fast Runner defenses. While Demolition Derby has a good chance to outrun Emergency Self-Construct, the bane of all meat-damage strategies, another danger is Identity Donor, which finds its way into many a Runner stack. Especially in a Bad Publicity stack, Runners will have as many as four or even more copies, and unlike Emergency-Self Construct (which usually isn't included in great numbers), one might very well be in the starting hand or be drawn with the first Bodyweight Synthetic Blood. In comparison to other meat-damage approaches (such as Corporate Headhunters) that break down their deadly damage load into smaller units, an all-or-nothing heavy hitter like Schlaghund is especially vulnerable to Identity Donor. Other Runner defenses exist, such as Full-Body Conversion, an untrashed Wilson or a good link, but the two discussed above seem to be the most problematic ones.

Third, early Runner disruption. Neal mentioned some Runner strategies that might be disruptive to Demolition Derby:
"Precision Bribery/Time to Collect could be difficult to beat, depending on the steel nerves of the Runner, who must decide how much he believes in Time to Collect as a way to protect his many resources (assuming he takes the City Surveillance tags). A first-turn Credit Subversion or Weather-to-Finance Pipe would also stop the second-turn kill (assuming the Corp hadn't played two Accounts Receivable on its first turn)."
While Precision Bribery/Time to Collect has fortunately lost its sting since then, attacking the Corp's bit supply is still a very viable Runner strategy. In the case of Demolition Derby, this is aggravated by the iceless nature of the deck: HQ is wide open for any kind of disruption.

As was shown above, the deck is indeed beatable, but quite a lot of Runners will find it difficult to survive longer than one or two turns against it. Neal sums it up: "It's scary to see how many [Runner] options this rare-laden monstrosity takes away". That brings us to another aspect of Greyhound Demolition Derby: 18 out of its 45 cards are rares that are very hard to get, since every Netrunner player wants them in multiples. Unfortunately, there are no real substitutes for City Surveillance and Schlaghund, and that means that only a few players will be able to build the deck at all - but on the other hand, even "card lords" with ten copies of each card might balk at the gamble that lies at the heart of this deck strategy. Consequently, it won't be seen that often at tournaments, and therefore it can still surprise opponents (even if they know all about Demolition Derby) - which in turn will often lead to their messy demises. If you can build it, I'd like to encourage you to try it out at tournaments now and then. Tag'n'Bag is an integral part of Netrunner, and Runners must be prepared to deal with it - to keep them on their toes, we could do with some more tagging and bagging in tournaments. Though it's hard to win with Demolition Derby once the Runner knows what the Corp is up to, the Corp will likely never lose with this strategy because of a game being called for time.

Neal picked Tycho Extension as his agenda of choice, which allowed him a lean card-agenda ratio in his deck and opened up (in combination with Project Consultants) an alternative way of winning by fast-advance. It's good to have this backup plan, but since Tycho Extension is banned in the Revised Constructed format, the original Greyhound Demolition Derby needs some modifications. Being a frequent choice of Tag'n'Bag players, Political Overthrow offers itself as a substitute. Winning by fast-advancing two Overthrows won't be feasible anyway, and so we might as well drop the Project Consultants. This in turn leaves room for four other cards. These slots can be filled by additional Accounts Receivable, Schlaghund, City Surveillance or Manhunt, but Classic's Shock Treatment, which wasn't around when Demolition Derby was created, is another consideration. With Shock Treatment, the Corp can trash an installed Emergency Self-Construct and clear the way for the hounds.

    Greyhound Shocker Derby

    3 Political Overthrow
    10 City Surveillance
    8 Schlaghund
    13 Accounts Receivable
    9 Manhunt
    2 Shock Treatment

Another card that might have the same effect is Badtimes - Lukas Kautzsch has experimented with this, but since just one Badtimes won't do the job, Shock Treatment is arguably the better choice, even though it is trashable. Of course, playing the deck without either of the two is just as fine: Another strategy, also suggested by Lukas, is putting in four Blood Cats as a nice surprise for Runners who don't run at all (Faked Hit) or only in their final action (Big Dig) - they tend to just pay for City Surveillance and dodge the tags.

Richard Cripe has suggested another way of adapting Demolition Derby to Revised Constructed rules:

    GreyOps Demolition Derby

    6 Employee Empowerment
    9 City Surveillance
    8 Schlaghund
    11 Accounts Receivable
    8 Manhunt
    3 Project Consultants

Just like Psycho Tycho substituted Employee Empowerment when Tycho Extension was banned in Revised, Richard recommends keeping the fast-advance strategy, albeit in a lesser incarnation (since you must now score three agendas to win). Here are his comments: "The main focus is still to kill the Runner. If you can't, then it's a race to see who can score the agendas faster. The only way to win that race is to out-draw the Runner. Employee Empowerment is the easiest way to attain this. It's not as good as the Tycho version, but it's a solution. The main vulnerability to this deck is a Runner who has Emergency Self-Construct and a virus setup, particularly Highlighter, Viral Pipeline, or Taxman. It's probably not worth it to put in cards to prepare for this strategy; just hope to win before this gets set up."

Concluding, Greyhound Demolition Derby is a classic that is going to stay, even after Netrunner Classic - but because of the many rares needed for building it and its risky strategy, it will only ever be a threat that looms in the (metagame) background of Constructed tournaments, to strike at unexpected moments (unless you're playing Neal, Lukas, or Richard, of course). At such times, a wise Runner had better be prepared for the Schlag-hounds.

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