Happy New Year!
It’s been a while, but I’ve been working on this piece for quite some time. It’s the culmination of a great deal of thought and testing, and I really wanted to get it right. I specifically debated if I should address this one point before I begin, and I’ve decided that I must, if only briefly:
Back in August (I think), I applied for a position (not a lead) in development with Nisei, and was not accepted. I can not know why, but it does not much matter. I had to then make a decision about what to do. Should I keep all of my ideas to myself, lest I be seen as trying to compete with their efforts (which I respect), or should I publish them? I clearly have chosen the latter. The purpose of my efforts is NOT an attempt to divide. I merely wish to do as I always have: try to improve my readers’, Netrunner experiences as much as I can. I hope that if my ideas get some momentum, Nisei will give them some consideration, but this is not a pitch from me to them. This piece’s primary purpose is, as it is for all my pieces, to share with you my passion for Netrunner.
I am often known to complain about balance. I decided that now that FFG has abandoned the game, I’d try my hand at putting all my complaints into action and devise my own format. Here’s what I took as my starting point:
- The return of all Classic Netrunner cards from the original core set and first cycles – These cards were removed hastily and too many were not adequately replaced. They add so much to the game and must be included in its purest form.
- The aggressive removal of combo decks – These decks are fun puzzles to make and test, but quickly become tiresome to face. If you want to play combos then play Eternal.
- The removal of alternate win-conditions that only detract from the health of the game – Netrunner is a dynamic, intricate game, where multiple factors must be taken into account on every strategic decision. Cards that make the game more linear and reduce decisions add no value.
- A dialing back on Icebreaker and Economy power-creep – This is not supposed to be a ‘broken’ format. It is meant to be netruner in its most balanced state.
- The removal of Global Food Initiative – The card that has secretly (or not so secretly) been the biggest problem with Netrunner balance since it was printed.
I arrived at a format with very simple rules. The entire ANR cardpool is legal (including any cards printed by NISEI), except for a Ban-list of 49 cards. In a sense, this format is tuned Eternal.
For a Quick Look at the lists, you can follow these NRDB links. Banned IDs are listed in the name:
Here are my explanations for the bans:
Overpowered Economy Cards
Mars for Martians
These cards just make too much money (and in the case of Zer0, draw too many cards). They disrupt the ebb and flow of the game too much. Temujin makes 11-16 credits for 1 click (depending how it is used), Mars for Martians can burst you from 0 to untold fortunes, Bloo Moose and Tapwrm commonly make over 30 credits in a game, and Zer0 often makes 10+ credits and draws 10+ extra cards, even outside of synergies. These numbers are just too big and the game is better off without these cards.
Toxic Economy Engines
The Shadow Net
These cards haven’t dominated competitive play like the previous set (although some have made occasional strong showings), but none of us want to live in a world where they do. These engines are boring and frustrating to play against. Aeneas Informant, Tech Trader, Zamba, Au Revoir, and Power Tap all enable repetitive super-opus engines that quickly outpace anything the Corp can hope to do. Although it’s possible that these cards may not have been good enough in Classic to dominate competitive play, there’s no value in even having them even show up occasionally. The Shadow Net is both very powerful and painful to play against, leading to frustrating games that take far to long to complete.
Overpowered Hate Cards
These two cards are widely understood to disable Corp win-conditions too easily and at far too low of a cost. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see them on this list.
Toxic Not-Runner Win-Conditions
Data Leak Reversal
Salvaged Vanadis Armory
These cards allow for extremely non-interactive strategies. Netrunner is most fun when runners are attacking the Corp, either aggressively, or surgically. Combos that seek to trash all R&D or access cards without making runs don’t add anything to the game. I know some players remember a few of these cards fondly (I played Noise exclusively for my whole first year of Netrunner, and frequently after), but our memory is the only place they belong now.
These cards are so good at breaking ice that they outclass all competition. When available, alternatives are rarely considered, and ice suites are selected with almost solely these cards in mind. Additionally, Corps should feel like when they pay a lot of money for an ice, it shouldn’t be breakable efficiently by a boost-and-break breaker. There should be a trade-off between flexibility and power when it comes to breaking ice, and these cards are just too good at both at the same time.
Watch the World Burn
These cards don’t really fit into the above categories, but still merited removal. I’ll go through them 1 at a time.
Watch the World Burn was never play tested, and the community seems to have come to a consensus that it should not be legal in any serious format.
Mad Dash allows the runner to play a 6 vs. 7 game too efficiently. The other cards that allow them to do this are either far more expensive or require a lot more work, whereas Mad Dash is commonly worth an entire agenda steal for 0 credits and 0 clicks (since you would have run anyway). The alternatives to Mad Dash are strong enough that they could still see play, and anyone who makes them work will have at least had to put in some effort to do so.
Sifr is probably one of the most widely-hated cards in the game. It makes any ice-reliant strategy impossible to play. I would like Parasite to be legal and healthy and Sifr makes that goal impossible.
Account Siphon is the most controversial card on this list, but I am convinced that the format will be healthier and more diverse without it. Criminal looks to be a very strong faction given their new tools and the return of Desperado and Andromeda. I think there are a lot of things that make Account Siphon interesting, but they do not make up for the damage it does to the meta. Diversion of Funds allows Criminal to still have the ability to punish a lightly-iced HQ and stretch the Corp’s econ at key moments.
Non-Interactive Combo Cards
24/7 News Cycle
Shipment from Kaguya
Shipment from MirrorMorph
Much like the alternative win-conditions that are banned on the Runner side, these cards allow the Corp to win the game without engaging in any of the gameplay that makes Netrunner fun and interesting. 7-Point combos have been over-banned here so that Biotic Labor can safely remain legal.
AstroScript Pilot Program
Astro, even at limit 1 per deck, is essentially a 3/4 agenda that is worth 2 points for the runner, which is clearly too powerful to be legal. Breaking News is an interesting card in many ways, but having it be legal would require the gutting of the entire NBN faction for them to not be clearly the best option. I decided that removing Breaking News and allowing NBN to experiment with their other powerful cards was a more fun option.
Museum of History
Jinteki: Potential Unleashed
Scorpios Defense Systems
These cards are removed because they allow the Corp to play a totally 1-dimmensional game. Corps and Runners should have to adapt to each other, not project the game onto a single axis such as total-damage-dealt, total credits gained, number-of-fracters-in-deck, or number-of-copies-of-Moby-Dick-in-backpack.
Overpowered Economy Cards
Mumbad City Hall
Clone Suffrage Movement
These cards are just far too efficient. Like the broken economy cards on the runner side, the game is better off when single cards do not produce as many credits as several other cards combined, with little to no extra work or risk.
Hired Help (see: Watch the World Burn)
Global Food Initiative
Surveyor is the only banned ice in Classic. While there is a chance that Surveyor may not have been too powerful, Classic Corps have enough win-conditions that they don’t need this horrendously power-creeped ice to build a solid remote server.
Mti Mwekundu cannot be legal in a format with Caprice Nisei, but even aside from the interaction between these two cards, runners should be able to run on naked servers without having to fear a Cortex Lock or DNA Tracker. This ID discourages running too much AND is far too powerful to be legal.
Global Food Initiative’s removal is the insight that makes Classic such an exciting format. Boggs and the playtest team did an excellent job of pushing the power-level of 5/3 agendas in Netrunner’s final sets, and sadly GFI prevents so many of them from seeing play. Jamming 3 GFIs in your deck to only have 17 points devalues accesses in a way that makes running and aggression far less rewarding. Now decks will have to choose between having 10+ agendas or having some agendas worth 3 points, one of the most interesting decisions in Netrunner deckbuilding.
From what I can tell, every faction has powerful, viable decks in classic, and Runner-Corp balance is great. Many cards that used to be great fun, but either rotated or got boxed-out by an over-powered replacement, are back in spades. Deck-building is a great puzzle, a combination of looking to the past and synthesizing new tools and counters with old strategies.
If you are interested in trying out some Classic on jinteki.net, hit up the #classic channel on Stimhack Slack. Alternatively, bring it up with your local playgroup. It’s a blast both for those with pre-MWL pre-rotation nostalgia, and for those who never got a chance to play with older cards. Keep your eyes peeled in the next few days. I plan on starting a challenge board for a jinteki.net Classic league.
If you’re intimidated by the size of the cardpool, take a look at some tournament decks from 2015 or earlier. You wont be able to copy them exactly, but they should be a solid start. Alternatively, just take your current decks and slowly modify them with older card that make them stronger. Once you get a feel for the format, the cardpool should feel less massive.
For some added hype, here’s a list of the card from each faction that I’m most excited to bring back:
HB: Engineering the Future
I hope you’ll join me,