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Android:Netrunner ramblings

Netrunner Deckbuilding (Runner)

In Magic:The Gathering, the build-up of lands and thus mana sources gives the game a natural progression as more mana allows for bigger things and spells to be played. Netrunner is rather different (rightly so, given that Garfield designed NR to be different from M:tG) , in the sense that board state isn’t a simple linear progression, but depends on the corp-runner interactions throughout the game.

Economy is crucial in Netrunner, and I would liken credits and clicks to mana in M:tG in the sense that a ‘tapped-out’ runner presents little threat to a corp looking to score. With that in mind, I would like to discuss the crucial aspects of successful runner decks. It is helpful to look at sample decklists across different runner factions and examine the common factors that successful runner decks share. Thankfully, stimhack.com (which is awesome!) has a nice compilation over at http://stimhack.com/tournament-decklists/

Runner decks tend to run with the minimum 45 deck size. As of yet, there is no good reason to go over this limit, so we will assume 45 to be the optimal case. If we take 3 Sure Gambles and 2 Plascrete Carapace to be a given in all runner decks (and it is), then that leaves 40 cards to fill up.

Right off the bat, we see that some cards are factional staples.

These are:

Criminal

3 Account Siphon

2 Desperado

3 Inside Job

To avoid generalizations, I will avoid labelling any Shaper or Anarch cards as ‘staples’. Shapers and Anarchs at the moment have more flexibility in deckbuilding than Criminals with their outright ‘crazy-good’ cards, so none are omnipresent in every deck. The above 8 Criminal cards, however, should and will belong in every top Criminal deck ever.

Economy

There are various choices for economy, but they tend to be split across factional lines.

Run-based (Gabriel Santiago, Datasucker, Desperado, Dirty Laundry)

Resources (Daily Casts, Professional Contacts, Armitage Codebusting, Liberated Accounts, Kati Jones)

Burst (Stimhack, Sure Gamble, Easy Mark)

Programs (Magnum Opus, Freelance Coding Contract, Aesop’s Pawnshop)

Different runners lend themselves to different modes of economy, with quite a lot of room for personal preference. Hito’s excellent analysis on the pros and cons of the different modes can be found over at http://teamcovenant.com/flaminghito/2013/08/19/the-click-market-part-2-runner-economy/

Varying the offense

‘The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points; and his forces being thus distributed in many directions, the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionately few.’ – The Art of War

It is my opinion that good runner decks should make a conscious attempt to pressure all three centrals, while still being able to contest remote servers if so desired. The reason is simply to force the corporation to commit to defending additional servers and to be able to punish them for failing to do so. Imagine a typical ‘good’ corp opening against Gabe of Hedge Fund, ICE HQ and R&D. Why is this considered the ‘good’ opening? The corp anticipates Account Siphon on HQ and possible Indexing or Maker’s Eye on R&D and thus needs to ICE up those servers. By being able to pressure all three servers, Gabe can respond with Sneakdoor Beta and punish that opening hard. A Kate player can make similarly backbreaking plays with a mixture of Desperado, Datasucker and Dirty Laundry on Archives, with Datasucker acting as the pressure on Archives. Too often, runner decks tunnel on accessing HQ and R&D and ignore the Archives, letting the corp ignore their defense of that server and get away with it. For simplicity, here’s a list of cards that pressure different servers:

R&D

R&D Interface

The Maker’s Eye

Indexing (incredibly effective against Snare! players)

Medium

Datasucker/Desperado/any successful run effect

In general, R&D pressure is not as important (it still is!) as corps will place priority on ICE-ing R&D regardless of whether you have additional tools to abuse R&D or not.

HQ

Gabriel Santiago’s ability

Account Siphon

Nerve Agent

HQ Interface

Imp (Imp gives better odds on multiple accesses and also trashes important cards)

Escher

Datasucker/Desperado/any successful run effect

Archives

Noise

Sneakdoor Beta

Datasucker/Desperado/any successful run effect

Given the relative scarcity of cards that specifically abuse open Archives, it is even more important to include some cards that utilize that opening.

Stimhack

Stimhack is, in my opinion, the best 1 influence any runner can spend, ever. The value of the first Stimhack is far greater than the second (first Stimhack puts you at 4-card hand size, which is still in the 2-scorch zone, whereas the 2nd Stimhack puts you in 1-scorch zone) and Stimhack by itself is an incredibly efficient card, not even considering the minitricks that are possible with Personal Workshop, SMC and Clone Chip. I would always play at least 1 in every runner deck, unless there was a compelling reason not to.  Stimhack’s burst of credits is also conveniently hidden until it is used, providing potential for the corp to overreach, thinking the runner is ‘tapped-out’.

Doing the Math and Singletons

http://stattrek.com/online-calculator/hypergeometric.aspx is a useful hypergeometric distribution calculator to help you do the math for drawing a particular card at a certain time. For example, Andromeda with 1 Professional Contacts has a 36% after mulligan to start with 1 in the 9-card hand (which is incredible for just 3 influence, in my opinion). With the addition of a single Hostage, that chance goes up to 59.6%. Doing the math for yourself allows you to make informed decisions on whether the addition of a particular card is worth it or not.

Singletons in Netrunner are often underestimated. Particularly for runners, singletons with niche uses are often not much of a problem to include. Think back to the inclusion of Plascrete Carapace in almost every Runner deck (I find Crash Space useful, but that’s a topic for another day!). Plascrete has zero usage in non-Scorched Earth matchups, yet it’s present in every runner deck for the huge boost it provides in the Weyland matchup. Runners often draw more than they need and have to discard down while digging for breakers anyway, so having niche-case cards are not a problem most of the time.

R.I.P The Collective

too soon