I’ve been playing stealth Shaper since the day after Worlds 2015, and I did pretty well with it throughout Store Champs and Regionals. I was hoping to play Smoke at Worlds, but she got here just a little too late. Oh well.
But now that she’s arrived, it seems like as good a time as any to share my opinions on stealth lists for everybody new to the archetype.
Three copies are the first thing that go in my stealth lists. No, you don’t really need to have all three, but you really want to find one, and you don’t want to spend an SMC on it.
If you aren’t playing Smoke, this is another three-of. The biggest downside of Stealth is the setup time, so this just improves the odds that you can start running fast. It’s also a card I’m rarely sad to see. In the late game, it can feel like Same Old Thing for Stimhack, letting you make multiple large runs a turn if you really need to.
This card is ridiculous. It’s an Astrolabe cum Desperado without requiring success on the run. It doesn’t pay off quite so easily, so it’s not as automatic a play as putting down Desperado, especially as Scarcity of Resources can be a bit of a pain. You always want it in play, but be at least a little mindful of the tempo.
You don’t need it anymore. For Kit, it’s fine; you’ll always get value there. For Smoke, it’s a waste of a precious slot. Everywhere else, you should be using Ghost Runners to set up fast enough, and Lockpick will end up being card 48 or so.
Houdini is okay, but Refractor has been good enough for a long while now, and is cheaper for getting the pressure up faster. It’s almost impossible to justify the slot outside of Kit, but one of each would be hilarious to mess with the Corps’ attempts to stack code gates to tax your stealth credits.
Just play Dagger.
Regarding Switchblade: No. No no nonono. It’s too slow. Even with Smoke, you give up the ability to just run with an SMC. I’ve seen people complaining about having to spend 3 credits to break Ichi. Well, that’s true of most other Killers played in the game, and things have been fine. Unless you have the influence to spare, and you’re seeing too many Tour Guides, Sherlocks, and Archers, it’s not worth it. And even then, you should keep your Dagger.
Play Corroder or Paperclip.
This is probably the thing I’ve gotten the most disagreement about. As far as Lady goes, you have to spend influence anyway, and the threat of stealth is that you constantly keep the threat of running.
Blackstone is awkward to pump, and even with a lot of stealth credits, it’s generally nice to have one breaker that doesn’t need them. (This is especially true against rush decks, where you can often make a strong read on the ice.) But If everybody in your meta is playing only three or four barriers, none with strength over 3, feel free to play whatever you want.
Mirror (and Indexing)
Don’t be tempted by The Gauntlet. Mirror (along with Net Mercur) means the era of 1-run-per-turn stealth is over. It can make Temüjin Contract on R&D oppressive in the early game. And it enables Indexing very well.
More R&D Pressure
The Maker’s Eye and R&D Interface are as good as always. You can play whichever suits the rest of your deck better. I prefer RDI for pairing with Indexing—partly for the synergy, partly for hedging against Crisium Grid.
With stealth, the corp is under strong pressure to make the “H” of deep ice on R&D and the remote. So HQ often ends up cheap enough that single accesses are actually entirely reasonable, and HQ is also a wonderful target for Temüjin. The Turning Wheel is plenty of pressure, and I’d probably add a second copy before switching to any other HQ multiaccess.
Escher is often the card I cut, wishing I could fit it, as it will do a lot of work. If your econ is strong, Vamp is a strong option as well. And of course, if you’re Rude™, Smoke can play Account Siphon no problem, and the Corp will hate her for it.
This is more about play strategy than about the deck. In terms of cards, Escher, Vamp, and Siphon naturally translate into play on the remote. Even without those, stealth gives you a pretty natural threat. You want to make them at least rez their remote ice, so plan accordingly.
The hardest aspect of building a stealth deck is finding slots for tech. Of course, the usual tech cards for Shaper are still relevant, but a couple of cards come to mind that do a bit more in stealth than usual.
It’s not hard for the Corp to play around Councilman in the remote. But glacier decks often get desperate against stealth Shapers and put Caprice or Ash on R&D. Councilman forces them to choose which one they want to rez on their turn.
There aren’t a lot of lists that it will feel completely comfortable to play NRE in, since the damage will often hit a card that you want more than you want the NRE installed. But if you’re playing one of those lists, NRE can smooth out a lot of the ice that’s a little bit awkward for the breaker suite.
Hopefully this has been a helpful starting point for putting together a stealth deck, or at least an interesting view into the archetype. As always, remember that the best deck is a deck that you’re comfortable with. Try things out and change whatever doesn’t feel right to you. Nothing interesting ever came from keeping things the same.
This is Net Mercur, signing off for the night. Stay safe, New Angeles.