For this month’s post I decided to provide a resource that has been painfully absent from Netrunner content as far as I can tell: A library of Teaching/Learning decks. We all know that the front page of Netrunnerdb is more often a silly deck, bad deck, or very complex deck than it is a good deck to learn the game with. After a player learns the basics, there aren’t really any places they can go to find a deck which is:
- Fun to play.
- Fairly straightforward to play.
- Fairly powerful.
- Devoid of tech cards specific to a certain meta-game.
- Legal with current tournament rules.
- Not a gimmick or built on a bizarre combo.
My goal for this project was to create decks that have all of these traits and also which:
- Match up interestingly and as evenly as possible against each other.
- Give the pilot a good sense of what each faction’s style is and which might be a good fit for them.
- Teach the pilot some fundamental skills and techniques that will translate to many top tier decks.
- Are consistant and keep card variety and 1-ofs to a minimum.
- Are “real” Netrunner (whatever that means).
These decks are not arbitrary combinations of “simple” cards. They are well thought-out cohesive strategies that just happen to avoid certain aspects of the game that commonly disrupt the learning process. These decks are not massively under-powered ‘noob decks’. All of them were able to win games for me more than 50% of the time in the competitive section of Jinteki.net.
You will maybe notice there is no Jinteki deck. This is because I was unable to build one that meets all of the requirements I set above. I think both Caprice Nisei decks and Net Damage decks are cool and interesting, they’re just not great for building fundamentals.
For every deck I provide a decklist, a description of the faction it represents, a brief summary of how the deck works, and explanations of some of its more subtle tricks and complex plays. Enjoy!
Shapers are tinkerers and explorers. They run for the thrill of discovery, the intellectual challenge, or even just the bragging rights. Shapers don’t much care about disrupting the Corp. They are confident that they can solve any puzzle thrown at them, given enough time and the right tools. A Shaper doesn’t need a lot of the advance preparation that a Criminal or an Anarch might. They’ll just get together what they need on the fly or even bend the landscape of the run to suit their strengths.
Playing This Deck:
The first thing you’re going to want to do every game is get Magnum Opus installed. Your deck has a few ways to find the Magnum if it’s not in your starting hand, and you should mulligan any hand that does not have one of those ways or the Magnum itself. You can play Self-Modifying Code, take 2 credits and then search for the Opus. You can also use Test Run to go find it, click it 3 times, and then reinstall it for good the next turn. Magnum Opus strategies like this typically get off to a slow start, but that single card will provide you with all of the money you will need for the entire game! If you ever feel low, spend a turn (or maybe even two) just taking 8 credits. Shaper isn’t about constant aggression. It’s about saving up for a few really high-impact runs. The Corp will be sweating after you’ve just taken 8 credits for the 3rd turn in a row, wondering what nastiness you could be planning…
Once you have your Magnum online; you’ll need a way to get into servers. Because of Kit’s ability, all this means you need to do is get a Gordian Blade installed. You can do this in all the same ways that worked for the Magnum Opus. Once you have your Gordian Blade, look for opportunities to hit the Corp with The Maker’s Eye, Legwork, or R&D Interface runs. Remember that if a server only has one ICE, you can guarantee that you’ll be able to break it with your Gordian Blade. Because of Kit’s ability and tricks like Tinkering and Test Run, the Corporation is going to need quite a few ICE on a remote server before they feel safe advancing an Agenda in there.
Eventually, the Corp will have two ICE on all of the servers that you want to attack and you’ll have to get out the rest of your Icebreakers. The only weakness of your rig is Sentries, since Femme Fatale is an excellent tool for dealing with a single ice, but isn’t great as a regular breaker (2 credits for 1 strength is always quite poor). If this is a big problem for you, try hosting your Femme Fatale on a Dinosaurus to give it a permanent boost in strength. If you need Dinosaurus’ memory boost, but don’t feel like you need to increase the strength of your Femme, putting your trusty Gordian Blade on it is never a bad call. Normally you can only host a program when you install it, but you can use Scavenge to trash an already-installed breaker and bring back that very same breaker at no cost, allowing you to host it on the Dino. This trick can also be used to change the ICE targeted by your Femme or reload the counters on your “Lady”.
Tricks of the Trade:
Personal Workshop/Self-Modifying Code + Stimhack: Personal Workshop can store the Programs and Hardware you can’t quite afford, allowing you to install them later at your leisure. If you’re not a fan of waiting, you can play a Stimhack to gain 9 credits for a single run, and then spend all of those credits installing cards off of your Workshop! The run doesn’t even have to have another purpose (although it can if you really want to get a little extra value out of the combo.) Self-Modifying Code can also be used with Stimhack to get a program out of your deck at a massive discount. This can really speed you up when you have to SMC for Magnum Opus on turn 1, since you will not have to take 2 credits first. Don’t worry too much about the Brain Damage, you can always host cards on Personal Workshop to avoid having to discard things you want to save for later.
Test Run + Scavenge: Test run lets you get any program you like installed for free, but with the drawback of only being able to use it for one turn. However, if you play Scavenge, trashing the program you searched for and bringing back that same program, it will not go back on top of your deck at the end of your turn! This is a great way to get a Magnum Opus or Femme Fatale out on the cheap!
Criminals are greedy and opportunistic. They run for the money and…the money. Criminals like to get in the Corp’s face early and don’t let up the pressure until they’ve milked them for all they are worth. Criminals are typically sneaky and stealthy in their approach, but they’re not opposed giving up their whereabouts if the profits are large enough.
Playing This Deck:
In your starting hand you’re looking for 3 or 4 strong cards to play on the first turn. These cards are Desperado, Security Testing, Sure Gamble, Dirty Laundry, and Daily Casts. Most important of these is the Desperado + Security Testing combo, which is how you will make most of your money throughout the game. Two chances at drawing a 9-card hand should get you this combo right away a good deal of the time.
After your first turn, you’ll want to spend the early game attacking the Corp’s HQ and R&D with basic runs. If you are successful then Desperado will pay you for your efforts. If the Corp rezzes ICE to stop you, then you’ll gain valuable information about what parts of your rig you will need to set up first. Criminals cannot react to ICE mid-run like the Shapers can, so they rely on getting as much ICE face-up as possible so they know what they are dealing with.
Once a lot of ICE is rezzed, you will not be able to harass the Corp with basic runs anymore. At this point you will have to spend some time building your rig. Not to worry, you hopefully forced the Corporation to rez so much ICE that they should struggle to score agendas during this period of time. If they try to catch you unprepared, a little Inside Job should teach them to slow down.
Your rig uses the Stealth Icebreakers Switchblade and Refractor. These Icebreakers break ICE incredibly efficiently, but require stealth credits to work. Your deck has some recurring sources of Stealth credits in Silencer and Cloak, along with a temporary, faster solution in Ghost Runner. Your weakness is Barriers, since your Corroder is far less efficient than your other breakers. Hopefully you have enough money saved up from the early game to pay for your Corroder usage.
If the Corp does not adequately protect HQ, don’t hesitate to hit them with your signature event: Account Siphon. Although the windfall of 10 credits feels like it will last forever, remember that the Corporation can trash your Security Testing, Daily Casts, and other resources if you do not remove the tags. You will have to decide for yourself whether the short-term gains of keeping your tags are worth the long-term sacrifices, but choices like this are what playing Criminal is all about!
Tricks of the Trade:
Security Testing + Recurring Credits: When the Corporation has rezzed ICE on all of their servers, it can be difficult to run them for a profit with Security Testing. However, with your Cloaks and Silencers you can break a lot of lightly-defended servers for no actual credits. Keep an eye out for servers that you can break into for free and use them to continue gaining 3 credits per turn all game long!
Account Siphon + Inside Job: Because the threat of Legwork makes the Corporation feel very unsafe with Agendas in HQ, they may try to take a risk and score when they have just barely as many credits as they need. When they do this, hitting them with an Account Siphon and then playing Inside Job on their Remote Server will almost certainly leave them with too few credits to rez enough ICE to stop you.
Anarchs are saboteurs. They range from social and political activists to downright trolls. They run to shake things up and like watching the Corp squirm. Anarchs don’t have the economic stability of the Shapers or Criminals, but they can counteract this by neutralizing the Corp’s ICE and Assets completely.
Playing This Deck:
The Anarch playstyle is a bit less linear than the methodical Shaper’s or the aggressive Criminal’s. You have two goals for the first few turns. Your first is to set up a solid economic footing. Liberated Accouts, Daily Casts, and Kati Jones can make you a lot of money, but you have to get them going early. If you run out of money as an Anarch, it can be tricky to climb out of that hole. This means that you should mulligan most hands that do not have 2 or more Economy cards in them. Second, you want to force the Corp to rez ICE so you can deploy some Parasites. Use Datasucker, the threat of trashing things with Whizzard and Bhagat, or even Medium to scare the Corp into rezzing their ICE. If you can help it, try not to waste Parasites on Code Gates that are under 4 strength, since they will all become blank when you install your Yog.0.
Once you have installed some of your important programs (Yog.0, Corroder, Medium, Mimic) you must be wary of ICE that can trash them. Mimic may not be able to break some Destroyer Sentries if you do not have enough Datasucker counters to lower their strength. You can protect yourself in these situations with a D4v1d, which, although not a permanent solution to these ICE, can protect you from their initial sting if you get caught unprepared.
You may never get to a point where you feel like you can run wherever you want. This is fine as long as the server you CAN get into really hurts for the Corp. Whether you’re trashing a card every turn with Bhagat, accessing several cards with Medium, or trashing everything they put into a remote server for free with Whizzard, the Corp should feel the pain every time you do manage to access a server. Don’t worry too much about scoring points early, if you can keep attacking the Corporation’s board by destroying their ICE and trashing their Assets and Upgrades, then their agendas will fall into your lap soon enough.
Tricks of the Trade:
Clone Chip/Street Peddler + Parasite + Datasucker: If you have built up enough Datasucker counters, you can use Clone Chip or Street Peddler to install a Parasite in the middle of a run and immediately destroy the ICE you are encountering by lowering its strength to 0 with Datasucker. Having a Grimoire or ICE Carver installed can make this even easier.
Inject/Street Peddler + Clone Chip: Sometimes the best place for your programs is the trash! Your full rig is actually quite expensive to install, and you have no tricks to make it cheaper. However, if you use Inject or Street Peddler to throw your Icebreakers in the trash, you can use Clone Chip to pull them out right when you need them. This works especially well with Yog.0, your most expensive breaker. Sometimes when the Corp sees you have access to your Yog.0 they may choose not to rez their small Code Gates, knowing they will immediately be blanked. If they do this then you do not even have to pay for your Yog.0 in the first place! It’s a game of chicken that will always go in your favor. Just make sure you don’t have too much fun using all your Clone Chips on Parasites, or you might lose one of your Icebreakers forever!
Haas Bioroid values efficiency and security. Their strengths are defending themselves and mitigating risk. Getting into HB servers is always either slow or expensive and quite often both. However, HB’s greatest strength, it’s ICE, is also its vulnerability. If the runner manages to neutralize or find ways to ignore HB’s ICE, there is very little that HB can do to turn things around.
Playing this Deck:
Your two objectives in the early game are to secure an Adonis or Eve Campaign protected by ICE, and to defend your Central Servers. Most of your ICE is quite expensive and without the cash-flow of a campaign you can find yourself out of money in a hurry. If you are lucky enough to draw a Breaker Bay Grid early on then your campaign will make you even larger and faster profits. Against Shaper and Anarch it is usually best to focus on securing the Campaign first, while against Criminal it is usually a good idea to defend your servers from Security Testing and Account Siphon first. When you are running that first campaign, try not to click to draw too much. You don’t want to lose your agendas out of HQ before you are ready to score them. When in doubt on how to spend your turn, just install a card and take 2 credits. This maximizes the value of your Engineering the Future ability.
Once your first Campaign runs out, you should be ready to score. If the runner might be able to get into your remote server, it can be best to just put down one of your 3/2 agendas without advancing it. The runner will very often ignore this agenda, because spending a bunch of money just to look at another Campaign is very wasteful. If, on the other hand, you know that your remote server is totally secure, you can go for one of your larger agendas, a 4 or 5-advanced Project Vitruvius, or even the ABT-Jackson trick (described below).
Even though your ICE forts will get impressive as the game goes on, you do not want to take forever to score out. Your Bioroid ICE will slow the runner down immensely, but it will not keep them out forever. Always be on the lookout for chances to score your Global Food Initiative, since after you get to 5 points, you are a single Biotic Labor and 3/2 agenda away from winning.
Tricks of the Trade:
Accelerated Beta Test + Jackson Howard/Archived Memories: If you put at least one advancement on your ABT when you install it, you will have an extra click on the turn that you score. This means that you can safely fire its ability if you have a Jackson Howard or Archived Memories in hand. Use the extra click to rescue any agendas that you might accidentally dump into Archives. It also works to protect Jackson Howard with your remote server ICE and use Biotic Labor to score your ABT the turn you install it.
Trashing Campaigns on Breaker Bay Grid: If you have an Archived Memories or a replacement Campaign, you can freely trash a campaign in a Breaker Bay Grid server to score an agenda. When you replace the campaign after you score, you will go back to making money as usual without having to repay the campaign’s rez cost!
Weyland values audacity and brute force. Their strengths are making bold moves and punishing Runners who take risks in order to stop them. Weyland moves fast and fearlessly, building a large bank of credits while scoring agendas that continue to pad their fat stacks of cash. By the time the runner is set up enough to stop Weyland from scoring, they may find themselves paid back by a lethal dose of Meat Damage.
Playing this Deck:
With most Corp decks you will want to set up for a bit before you try to score. With this one you should go for your first score by turn 2 and sometimes as early as turn 1! The 10 credits that you start the game with plus an early Hedge Fund or Restructure should set you up with enough money to safely score for a few turns. The purpose of your ICE is not to cost the runner credits to break, it is to stop them in their tracks. Mix the ICE types on your remote server so that the runner will have to install as many Icebreakers as possible before they can get in. Archer, in particular, is extremely difficult for most runner decks to break. Don’t be afraid to forfeit even a 2-point agenda to it. The time it will buy you should let you score far more points than that.
You often do not need to ICE your central servers at all, although you can toss an ICE Wall or Quandary on one of them if you drew more ICE than is typical. Don’t worry about the runner taking your agendas from R&D before you can find them. With 3 Fast Tracks, you should have no trouble getting something to score when you are ready, and an overeager runner who is digging into your R&D may just get a face full of Snares! Whenever possible, try to get 1 or 2 agenda counters on your Project Atlas. These counters can search for more agendas to score, the ICE you need to stop the runner, a transaction to keep you in the money, or even the missing piece of your Flatline combo.
Tricks of the Trade:
Sea Source + Scorched Earth (+ Scorched Earth): Assembling a combo of 3 cards seems difficult, but remember that you can search your deck for the pieces you are missing with agenda counters from Project Atlas. Having 6 more credits than the runner and this combo in hand means Game Over (7 credits for a 1-link runner). Since the runner can break most of your ICE for free due to Bad Publicity, they may focus on building their rig rather than building a big bank. This combo lets you punish that strategy.
Project Atlas + Hostile Takeover: Another reason why Project Atlas counters are so valuable is that they are essentially worth a point each! If you get to 5 or 6 points with enough Atlas counters, you can search for and score a Hostile Takeover each turn to close out the game. You can also do this earlier if you want to rez an Archer without having to forfeit a 2-point agenda.
NBN values acquisition and materialism. They excel at disrupting the runner’s credit pool and profiting from runs made against them. NBN often doesn’t mind if an agenda gets stolen from them, as long as the economic exchange was favorable for the Corp. No matter what the runner does, NBN gets paid, and the runner signs the check.
Playing this Deck:
The first thing you are going to want to do is set up some Economy assets. Against most runners you do not have to protect your PAD Campaigns with ICE, but your Launch Campaigns should be lightly protected. Put a Launch Campaign behind a Pop-up Window or Caduceus and you will make some money no matter what the runner does!
Once you go to build your scoring server, you don’t necessarily need the ICE protecting it to end the run. Since you will score most of your agendas using Ash 2X3ZB9CY or Sansan City Grid, you don’t mind if the runner gets in, as long as once they do they are too broke to do anything when they access. Your 3 NAPD Contracts will be nearly impossible for the runner to steal a good deal of the time. Don’t underestimate the power of the bluff when playing this deck. Putting a 3/2 agenda behind some lightly taxing ICE is often a safe play, even if the runner could get in. You have so many other annoying cards to install in that server that the runner cannot afford to check everything. Paying 4 or 5 credits to look at a Product Placement or two is just demoralizing. You can even do this trick with your 4/2 NAPD Contracts if you have a SanSan City Grid in the server allowing you to score them with only 3 advancements.
Tricks of the Trade:
Spark Agency Double-Trigger Trick: If you have 2 unrezzed PAD or Launch Campaigns, you can rez one at the end of the runner’s turn and one at the beginning of your own turn. This will cause Spark Agency’s ability to trigger twice and you will still get money from both campaigns that turn! Remember that Product Placement can be rezzed to lose the runner one credit (even though rezzing it does nothing other than trigger Spark). Rez it right before they access it to get some extra value, or rez one on the first turn of the game to make playing a Sure Gamble that much more annoying!
Sansan City Grid + Global Food Initiative: If you have scored 4 points, install and advance once a Global Food Initiative on an unrezzed Sansan City Grid. Since you have 5 other upgrades in your deck, the runner will likely read this as an NAPD contract with an Ash or Product Placement. Since it would be expensive for them to steal if that is the case, and not game-winning for you, they may let it slide, allowing you to rez your Sansan and advance 3 more times the next turn for a surprise win!
Playing different combinations of these decks against each other is a great way to get a lot of your Netrunner fundamentals up to snuff. If you and a friend together build all 6 of them, you will have 9 very engaging and unique match-ups to play with each other (18 if you count switching sides).
These decks are strong enough that if you really like one, you can take it just as it is to a GNK or small tournament and feel confident that you know what you are doing. Although respectably strong, these decks are not optimized for competition (For example, the Whizzard deck cannot break a Lotus Field, but I was mindful enough to leave 2 influence free for you to solve that problem). If you really enjoy a strategy then it is your project as a learner to take the introductory version presented here and tune it for the problems you are facing in your competitive games. However, while you play the decks against each other for the sake of learning, I highly recommend you make no changes.
A great way to use this resource as an experienced player is to build a few (or all) of these decks with your own cards, and bring them to your local meet-up to share with newer players. I guarantee they will have more fun playing these against each other than playing this week’s NRDB deck of the week against last week’s…
If you have questions about these decks or how to best use them as a resource, drop me a comment here or message me on the Stimhack forums or Slack channel.