Hello everyone. Welcome back after a three month hiatus to Self-Modifying Code.
This game called Netrunner has been around for a bit and I have noticed a trend emerging, we can’t keep those pesky runners out of anywhere. At a recent 25 person tournament I found my glacier HB being laughed at by criminal and prepaid voicepad economy. Even Titanic slaying icebergs only buy you a one turn scoring window, so how do we corps get the power back: compression. A gander at NetrunnerDB will reveal that the most competitive decks either compress clicks such as Replicating Perfection or threaten damage as a disincentive to making runs.
Damage builds have been popular since the core set and have evolved from Weyland sea scorched and PE to a build for all factions and most identities. I say damage because the game has departed from pure kill builds with the exception of Butcher Shop and Blue Sun. The focus is on the threat of the kill to compress by forcing the runner to play differently. While Personal Evolution has always used damage to force the runner to slow down, lest they lose critical cards or their lives to damage. What excites me is how damage is viable in different identities, so lets take a look at builds that can use damage to control the game.
The two most dangerous meat damage decks, Butcher Shop and Blue Sun, generate money quickly and create a game state where the runner has a limited number of turns to win after a steal. Both use Midseason Replacements to tell the runner “I don’t care if you can get in, if I have more money I will either immediately kill you or start a countdown where you must win before I find my kill cards.” These decks leverage money into victory by making it unwise to steal agendas without a stockpile of credits. Furthermore, both decks can create huge swings in power, NBN can use Information Overload and Psychographics to leverage tags into victory and blue sun taxing ice and the cost refund makes finding agendas a credit swing for the corporation that increases to potency of Midseasons.
Hostile Infrastructure builds such as Shogun of the Net and Industry Secrets can kill but aren’t depending on it. These builds punish the runner by dealing damage for running, checking archives and trashing assets so trashing and looking for agendas costs you cards. This type of deck creates a late game where the runner cannot run due to lack of breakers, money, or cards in hand. I have had many a game with both decks where the runner cannot trash cards without dying and cannot dig RD or HQ because they are simply out of cards. In the case of Industry Secrets the late game is making archives a Pyrrhic run so they either cannot afford or do not have the ability to trash the Ronins you’ve been advancing.
Argus and Personal Evolution run the nibble based click compression using shell game. It takes too many clicks to draw, check all the servers and clear tags from traps/agendas. From personal experience I know the stress of playing against these decks. You don’t have enough clicks and if you run the wrong card you can take damage AND they score an agenda the next turn. Argus creates a damned if you do damned if you don’t scenario by making you spend an extra click and two credits after picking the agenda to clear tag or risk immediate death. In PE if you run that Snare or that Fetal you could be killed by a Philotic Entanglement or a Ronin the next turn, its brutal. despite the stress these decks cause, kills aren’t easy and you are unlikely to flatline unless someone makes a mistake. The use of hidden knowledge in these decks makes them a riot to both play and play against, the unknown leads to analysis paralysis and mistakes which you can capitalize on for a kill or to score points.
Last but not least is my new favorite corporate identity: Cybernetics Division. This 40/15 HB division gives both players a max hand size of four, which, along with thing like Edge of World, Cerebral Overwriter and Punitive Counterstrike give HB their first viable brain damage build. What intrigues me is that right from the start of the game the runner has to throw away options and play with less held cards. This puts them on edge, they have to choose between cards they need and will often draw up as if they have five cards to keep, leading them to put tools they can’t use right now in the trash. Furthermore, if you can land any amount of brain damage that stress increases exponentially, a double advanced Cerebral Overwriter reduces their cards kept to two. This is an example of damage as a form of compression, now they must search for options and throw them away, choosing the must haves. This compresses the runners turns and gives you breathing room. This compression is permanent unlike that of Argus and PE and as such cannot be dealt with by drawing or clearing a tag.
With two brain damage or more on the runner, a plethora of different cards threaten them, they must draw before running or fear Snare, any un-advanced card in the remote could be
an Edge of World. Also, they must respect a Punitive Counterstrike or an advanced Ronin. It is a deck where every card could kill you or put you into a difficult gamestate. The version that I am enjoying is a PC based deck with three pointers, Mushin no Shin and Cerebral Overwriter, mine is decent but I feel this Dain Bramage deck does it best. This encourages rich runners to run, dig deep, find more than one three point agenda so I can nuke you off the planet. As I have found, the best way to make runners second guess themselves is build a deck where you want them to run. Cambridge PE has already proven the power of Mushin and in this build if you score a 5/3 out, it makes them far more likely to run your Cerebral Overwriters which dials the threat level up to 11. Once that happens you can breathe easier beacause your opponent doesn’t know which cards are trying to kill them.
The way to control the game is to threaten a flatline to score or to use damage to steer the runner’s play, that is the path to victory when runners are rich and efficient. You have to make running dangerous, take away their clicks or take away their options.
See you at the mental health clinic,