Sleeper Hold: Engineering Click-Compression

For this article I thought I would try to talk through my thought process behind building what I believe to be quite a good deck. I feel the idea behind this deck was particularly inspired, and a discussion of how I landed on my exact choices could be interesting.

Before I start, I should say that many of the ideas from this deck were inspired by my online games and discussions with a couple other players:

Mason Hans (Eldermason) for his use of ELP alongside a multitude of HB assets.

Sam Suied (SamRS) for several of the other synergies in the deck, particularly those surrounding Clone Suffrage Movement.

sleeper-hold

The first synergy that inspired this deck was that between a protected Advanced Assembly Lines and political assets (Like the in-faction Clone Suffrage Movement). Having ICE on your Assembly Lines means that you can install your Clones at the end of the runner’s turn, allowing you to guarantee a trigger on yours. This also compresses the runner by 1 click on their next turn because they will almost certainly want/need to deal with the CSM.

To further take advantage of this click compression, it makes sense to run Enhanced Login Protocol. This card is already a great tool against Criminals and Whizzard, especially now that they all have 3 Temujin Contract. Being able to sometimes recur the ELP with CSM is a nice bonus.

A lot of HB decks don’t typically run a lot of Operations, and I want to be able to always have an immediately useful target for my Clones, so Lateral Growth makes sense as an addition. With 3 Assembly Lines and 3 Laterals, Blue Level Clearance seems excellent, since if I have one the former cards I can even play it on turn 1 without having to discard, which is really nice. Lateral a Clone Suffrage Movement, Ice a central, play ELP is an amazing first turn. Often the CSM will go unchecked and recur the lateral to give me a great start to the game. Following up with a Blue Level into the Lateral on the next turn makes me salivate just thinking about it.

To maximize the ELP, it also makes sense to run some more assets, but since I already have 9 economy cards and the Engineering the Future identity, I can afford for them to be utility assets. Team Sponsorship has incredible synergy with must-trash and self-trashing assets like Assembly Lines and Clones, allowing me to double-down on their effects every time that I score. Since I have Blue Level Clearance and Lateral Growth, and since this is starting to look like a Fast-Advancing deck, Jeeves Model Bioroids seems like a good fit. 3 copies would probably be too many since it is unique it is less likely to get trashed when I have so many other high-priority assets and ELP, so I’ll go with 2. Now that I know I’m fast Advancing, 3 Biotic Labors are necessary. Shipment from Sansan also seems nice to have, but probably not 3 copies. I’d come back to that one.

Now for the ICE suite. Gearcheck ICE has great synergy with our click-taxing game-plan. Ideally the runner will not have much time to draw for their breakers since they will have to deal with high-threat cards under an ELP on a regular basis. I definitely want 3 Vanilla, since it’s the best barrier gear-check in the game (certainly for HB at least).  3 Architect also seems obvious with our volume of assets.

At this point I had a great realization. With so many people going to Yog.0, and with our emphasis on gear-checks, a couple Lotus Fields seems like a great choice. When I run the lotus I usually like to run another smaller Code Gate alongside it for the match-ups where Lotus isn’t worth the cost. I like Magnet a lot more than Enigma right now, since you can punish the Criminals who have Passport (3 credits) and Peacock (4 credits), and Parasite immunity is a nice bonus. We actually have 7 ICE with this property which is quite impressive. I’m not too worried about losing our Vanillas to the excess Parasites, since they cost nothing and can easily be reinstalled with Team Sponsorship if we want.

For the agendas, I’m going to default to a 9-agenda suite rather than an 11-agenda suite since I don’t want it to be too easy for the runner to steal something and turn off our ELP. Global Food Initiative is also great to jam behind a Lotus Field against the decks that struggle to break it early.

This was my deck so far:

sleeper_draft

At this point we need a smart way to spend our last 5 influence. It seems like a Sansan City Grid could be a nice Luxury. Reinstalling it with Sponsorship is brutal. I already mentioned Shipment from SanSan as a potentially useful card, so we’ll slot one of those for our final pip.

Now we need a little more ICE. Ichi 1.0 into Vanilla is one of my favorite taxing-on-a-budget servers, and ELP makes it even better, since if they click the Ichi they will have to eat the trace with no clicks remaining. 3 Ichis is probably too many though, so we’ll go with 2. I also want one more hard Sentry because of the recent prevalence of Mongoose. Rototurret isn’t great, but this sort of tempo deck is its natural home, so I’m willing to try a single copy. Architect into Rototurret could end in a blowout against a Mongoose deck if the runner decides to take a risk. With how many cards we will be drawing (both with clicks and with Blue Level Clearance), 13 ICE should be enough. We also will often not make a multi-ICE remote server, or even an ICE’d remote server at all, which certainly helps. Now I was at 48 cards with all needs accounted for, so I added a pet card of mine that has actually made a massive difference in many of my victories.

sleeperz

Domestic Sleepers lets us win from 6 points while only on 1 credit. It triggers Team Sponsorships, and we can even triple click it to go up to 5 points and get a click back from Jeeves (not actually a big deal, but it’s quite funny)! Here’s the final list (Efficiency Committee was my 4/2 for a while, but Sales Team has clearly been better in further testing so I’ve made the switch retroactively here.)

https://netrunnerdb.com/en/decklist/38094/thebigboy-s-sleeper-hold

Sleeper Hold
Haas-Bioroid: Engineering the Future
Agenda (10)
3x Accelerated Beta Test
1x Corporate Sales Team
1x Domestic Sleepers
2x Global Food Initiative  ●●
3x Project Vitruvius
Asset (13)
3x Advanced Assembly Lines
2x Clone Suffrage Movement
3x Jackson Howard  ●●●
2x Jeeves Model Bioroids
3x Team Sponsorship
Upgrade (1)
1x SanSan City Grid  ●●●◦
Operation (12)
3x Biotic Labor
3x Blue Level Clearance
2x Enhanced Login Protocol
3x Lateral Growth
1x Shipment from SanSan  ●
Barrier (3)
3x Vanilla
Code Gate (4)
2x Lotus Field  ●●
2x Magnet
Sentry (6)
3x Architect◦◦◦
2x Ichi 1.0
1x Rototurret

 

 

At this point I looked at my deck and thought…

“What a pile of shit.”

And then I realized…

The deck has 0 Hedge Funds.

This was going to be a disaster.

The deck looked like it should lose to every reasonable runner deck. Nevertheless, it looked like fun so I played some games on Jinteki.net just to see if I could squeak out some wins.

It stomped.

Most games were not even close.

Between unanswered Lotus Fields, oppressive ELP openings, and just straight-up Biotic Labor spam, the deck just kept winning. I kept jamming games with it, day in and day out, confident that eventually my losing streak would begin and I could move on to something else, but this never happened. As the caliber of my opponents increased the games certainly got much closer, and a few games slipped away from me, but I was still winning FAR more than I had been with any other Corp deck.

There is something here. It’s weird, it’s powerful, and I’m not really sure why…

I think the essentially click-less economy cards like Assembly Lines and Lateral Growth are actually much stronger than they look. Being able to make some credits without having to slow your pressure of drawing cards and creating threats is a really unique effect that has only recently snuck its way into the game.

Cards I am interested in trying at some point are: 1 copy of Subliminal messaging, 1 Fast Track, the 3rd CSM, and possibly even the 3rd ELP, but I need far more games to decide what I can afford to cut. I am confident that all of these options are worse than my precious Sleepers. The Rototurrent is obviously not incredible, but I’m hoping a strong HB ICE comes out in the next few packs so I can replace it. I really don’t want to go below 13 ICE, and don’t want a porous ice like the 3rd Ichi 1.0.

After a period of Corp play so depressing that I built a Mushin No Shin deck for my last article, I am finally having fun again!

I hope you enjoy this deck if you decide to try it. I’ve been told that it takes a few games to get used to, so stick with it if you’re not successful at first. Having 9 non-Hedge Fund burst economy cards certainly takes some getting used to. Drop a comment here or message me on the Stimhack forums or Slack chat if you have any questions about the deck!

-TheBigBoy

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Corp Archetypes

In this article I will share my understanding of the mechanics of a functioning Corp deck in very broad terms. A lot of the information here (ice types, phases of the game, etc.) has been discussed extensively elsewhere, but a lot of those sources are old enough that many players have not read them, and a lot of their specific information is a bit out of date now (for example, the context that 80+% of a given meta is probably Criminal, which is far from the case now). I intend for this to be a good reference for anyone looking to better understand discourse about Corp play, or for anyone trying to build original decks but struggling to give them direction.

Following is a list of terms that I’ll be referring to in this article. Feel free to read them first, or just refer back as needed.

Definitions:

Binary Ice – Ice that is either ‘on’ or ‘off’ depending on the runner’s equipment. Typically cheap and taxes the runner by forcing install costs on them, rather than breaking costs. Examples include Ice wall, Wraparound, Himitsu-Bako, Quandary, Rototurret.

Taxing Ice – There are 2 varieties of taxing ice. The first is cheap ice that causes an immediate monetary exchange that is beneficial for the Corp, but often does not stop the runner or force them to install a breaker. Examples are Pop-up window, Pup, Caduceus, and Draco. The second variety is ice that is expensive to break for most breakers in Phase 3. Examples are Tollbooth, Ichi 1.0, Tsurugi, and Curtain Wall. This second type is typically expensive to rez and not useful in Phase 1 due to its prohibitive cost or lack of relevant subroutines.

Gear-check – A situation where the runner cannot make progress toward their current short-term objective until they install a specific breaker type or utility card. Binary Ice cause gear-checks and Destroyers (Archer, Rototurret, Grim) or other program destruction cards (Power shutdown, Will-o-the-Wisp) can turn them back ‘on’ once they are broken.

Operation Economy – Using Operations for burst money. Difficult to disrupt, but can fall behind runner economy in the long run. Examples are Restructure, Celebrity Gift, Sweeps Week, Beanstalk Royalties, and Green-Level Clearance.

Asset Economy – Using Assets for long-term or even permanent economy. Either sustainable or massively profitable, but can be trashed by the runner. Examples are Pad Campaign, Eve Campaign, Sundew, Marked Accounts, and Capital Investors.

Face-check punishment – Ice that ranges from annoying to devastating for the runner to hit in Phase 1. Examples are Architect, Caduceus, Gutenberg, and Komainu. Often does not deny entry if the runner feels the potential gains of access outweigh the consequences of the ice.

R&D lock – A state in which the runner can consistently access R&D (typically for multiple cards) every turn, preventing the Corp from drawing the agenda(s) they need to win the game.

Work compression – The corporation invests many clicks over several turns to force the runner to spend more than 4 clicks in a single turn in order to safely access a server. This can be done with damage cards such as House of Knives, Hokusai Grid, and Fetal AI, with tagging effects such as Data Raven, Bernice Mai, and TGTBT, or with click compressors such as various Bioroids, Enchanced Login Protocol, and the Replicating Perfection ID ability.

Phase 1 – At least one important server can still be accessed very efficiently (often freely) by the runner. The runner is still susceptible to gear-checks and face-check punishment. Runner advantage, but only tenuously.

Phase 2 – The runner is locked out of all important servers or cannot access them without substantial long-term sacrifices. Corp advantage.

Phase 3 – The runner can enter all relevant servers with an acceptable level of efficiency, or can enter a single, very important server to devastating effect. Runner advantage.

—————————————————————————————————————-

When new or intermediate players try to build a Corp deck, they often build around groups of cards that seem to go together. However, the way they form these groups is a bit off. They group cards by how they work rather than what they are for. They put a bunch of net damage ice in a deck without a clear idea of how they are using that damage. They build annoying servers full of Data Ravens, but have no way to force the runner to run through them. A good Corp deck has a clear path to victory, and every synergy in the deck moves it forward along that path.

I will now walk through how I think about the different paths to victory that the Corporation has. If you have not previously had success building your own decks, you can use these very broad archetypes to guide your thinking.

Corp Archetypes

Most Corporation decks fall on a 2-dimensional space, the axis of which are Pace (how aggressively the Corporation tries to score) and Scoring Strategy (how the Corporation plans to safely advance agendas). The Pace axis is a spectrum, whereas the Scoring Strategy axis is binary (for now!).

There are also Corp decks with strategies that are orthogonal to most Corp play (Mainly Personal Evolution and other Mushin No Shin decks). I will not discuss these here. They are viable, but they can have a totally different play pattern than most decks.

Pace:

Rush

Summary: Score 7 points quickly, sending the game to phase 2 very early and winning (or losing) before phase 3 arrives.

Ice Types: Binary, possibly assisted by Destroyers

Economy Types: Operation

Other Details: Usually contain a backup win condition to finish the game if the runner gets to phase 3 but you are on game point. Examples are Biotic Labor in HB, Caprice Nisei in Jinteki, or Sea Source/Snare + Scorched Earth in Weyland. Often (but not always) contain snowballing agendas such as Astroscript Pilot Program, Efficiency Committee, Project Atlas, or Nisei Mk 2, making the first score (which is usually the easiest one) more relevant.

Glacier

Summary: Take away the runner’s advantage in phase 3 using taxation or work compression. Give up accesses in phase 1 for tempo and long term economy.

Ice Types: Taxing/Face-check punishment (some binary to protect economy assets or to defend against devastating events such as Account Siphon and Indexing)

Economy Types: Asset/Varying amounts of operation to help early game

Other Details: Needs to contain a plan to safely score agendas in the late game against a runner who does nothing but build money and their rig, rushing to stage 3 with a powerful economy. This may be upgrades, fast-advance options, never-advance/bluffing tactics, damage or tag-based work-compression, or traps.

Scoring Strategy

Fast-Advance

Summary: Score agendas the turn they are installed without needing to protect them in a remote server. This is typically done with Biotic Labor, Astroscript Pilot Program, SanSan City Grid, or Trick of Light, although other options also exist.

Advantages: Many runner tricks are much less effective when the value of individual single-access runs is lowered by the lack of a critical remote server. Examples of such cards would be Inside Job, Stimhack, and Blackmail.

Disadvantages: Fast advance tools consume deck slots and often quite a bit of influence. A well-timed Clot can lose you the game. Vulerable to central-heavy pressure cards like Medium, Sneakdoor Beta, and Indexing. Since HQ is usually very vulnerable in phase 3, R&D lock can be devastating since you may not be able to safely draw cards.

Traditional

Summary: Score agendas in a remote server over multiple turns.

Advantages: Potentially inexpensive, as some agendas may be scored with no ice rezzed and no money is spent on expensive fast-advance tools. The relevance of a 3rd server gives the runner more chances to make mistakes in judgment, attacking the remote when they should pressure centrals and vice-versa. Deck space is reserved for tricks and tech cards, while influence is preserved for surprising or particularly well-suited ice. The Corp can use clicks to draw cards more aggressively in phase 3 since they have a place to put agendas if they are drawn, giving them an answer to R&D lock.

Disadvantages: Potentially vulnerable to the runner tricks mentioned above, as well as unexpected burst-economy. The Corp is also potentially vulnerable to ice-destruction, as ice is spread over 1 (or more) additional server(s). Can get remote locked against powerful phase 3 runners, where the runner can run through the scoring remote every turn at little cost.

Quintessential Examples:

In this section I will give popular examples of these deck types. I encourage you to use these only as a reference. I am definitely not saying that these are the best decks for each category, or that they are the ones you should play. They are just good representations of their strategies.

Rush/Fast Advance: NBN Astrobiotics

General plan: Score an early Astroscript Pilot Program using SanSan City Grid or Biotic Labor. Use the Astro counter to help fast advance more agendas, rushing to 7 points very quickly.

Strengths: Speed, resilience to disruption and denial due to requiring very little money to function and using very cheap ice.

Weaknesses: Vulnerable to R&D lock, very predictable ice and play-style. All possible ice spreads have vulnerabilities that can be heavily punished if the runner is equipped with the proper tools (powerful events against face-check punishment and quick rig assembly against binary ice)

Most Important Skills: Properly discerning potential early-game threats. Diverting the runner’s attention away from the important central server at any given moment.

You may like this style if: You like having a clear, unwavering path to victory that is present until the runner has won.

Your least favorite runner cards are: Medium, Clot, Desperado, Indexing

Rush/Traditional: Weyland Supermodernism

General Plan: Build a frustrating remote server ASAP and immediately begin scoring snowballing agendas such as Oaktown Renovation, Project Atlas, and Hostile Takeover. End the game before the runner can escape Phase 2 or reset their rig with destroyers and Power Shutdown if they manage to get to Phase 3.  Punish runners who prioritize rig-building over economy with a Sea Source + Scorched Earth Flatline, often assisted by Snare!.

Strengths: Best gear-checks in the game thanks to Archer, Grim, and Ice Wall. Can get free wins with early Snares or meat damage kills, preys on runner fear of kill cards and destroyers.

Weaknesses: Vulnerable to Remote-lock. If behind on credits, this deck has absolutely no ways to win in phase 3 if not on game point, and often even if on game point.

Most Important Skills: Proper ice-placement and identifying the rig-building strategy of the runner.

You may like this style if: You like feeling in control and making the runner play your game. You don’t like building and like getting right into the action! You don’t mind drawing dead for a few turns in games that you lose.

Your least favorite runner cards are: Self-Modifying Code, Clone Chip, Inside Job, Blackmail.

Glacier/Fast Advance: Biotic Labor HB (w/Eve Campaign)

General Plan: Use HB’s powerful Assets to generate a robust economy. Use the economy to build frustrating central servers that are taxing in Phase 3 and then close the game by fast advancing agendas with Biotic Labor and SanSan City Grid. HB’s powerful taxing but porous ice is quite well suited for protecting the 5-trash-cost Grid.

Strengths: Extremely resilient to economy denial, few terrible match-ups that cannot be played around with play-style or tech-card changes. Very flexible and potentially unpredictable ice-spreads.

Weaknesses: Bleeding too many points to early aggression. Anarch asset-destruction (Whizzard, Scrubber, Imp). Multiple R&D interfaces or well-timed HQ multi-access.

Most Important Skills: Economy management, balancing offense and defense, Ice Placement.

You may like this style if: You like being able to react to your opponent or your meta-game. You like managing a complex economy that is tied up in several places at once.

Your least favorite runner cards are: Legwork, R&D Interface, Imp, Datasucker.

Glacier/Traditional: Jinteki Replicating Perfection

General Plan: Use the click compression caused by Caprice Nisei, Replicating Perfection, Nisei Mk 2, Eli 1.0, and potentially Enhanced Login Protocol or Ichi 1.0 to score agendas in a remote server that is so secure, the runner may as well not even try running it.

Strengths: Closes the game very quickly once set-up. Self-defending agendas help you escape phase 1. Capable of miraculous comebacks if behind on points early.

Weaknesses: Very vulnerable to ice-destruction. Can lose to phase-3 runner power-plays (Vamp, Escher). Can have trouble getting agendas out of HQ if Jackson Howards and defensive upgrades are trashed from centrals in phase 1. Can have trouble leaving phase 1 if asset economy is denied by very strong early runner decision-making, burst economy and potentially disruption tools such as Account Siphon and Parasite.

Most Important Skills: Agenda management (when to keep agendas in HQ and when to use Jackson Howard to put them back in R&D), adapting your strategy and pacing to your opponent and their deck.

You may like this style if: You like winning long games. You like the “Checkmate” moment and tactical play.

Your least favorite runner cards are: Account Siphon, Vamp, Parasite

Additionally, here is a visual representation of some popular Corp strategies. Obviously the exact and relative placement of decks in this visual is highly subjective and the details of where a Corp deck falls can depend on specific card choices.

Corp Archetypes

Hopefully some of these generalizations can help guide your thinking like it guides mine when I build a Corp deck. Do you have trouble with Medium? Maybe don’t play a Fast-Advance + Rush deck. Parasite got you down? Maybe stay away from Traditional Scoring + Glacier. Look at what your meta is doing (or the cards you struggle against) and give yourself an edge by playing the types of cards that are going to be strong in that environment. The answer to Account Siphon is not jamming Crisium Grid into every deck; it’s playing strategies that are inherently good against that type of tactic.  Not relying on counter-cards and instead using counter-tactics will make you a stronger, less frustrated player.

The CT Litmus Test

What makes a good Corp deck?

In this installment of Corp Deck-building I’m going to spew a lot of dogma about what makes some Corp decks work and not others. Strangely, I’m going to start with a runner deck-list:

http://netrunner.meteor.com/decks/fcY2MkcEkiJkZipFG

CT Litmus Test (40 cards)

Chaos Theory: Wunderkind

Event (18)

3 Diesel

3 Legwork ·· ·· ··

1 Modded

2 Quality Time

3 Scavenge

1 Stimhack ·

3 Test Run

2 Vamp ·· ··

Hardware (8)

2 Astrolabe

3 Clone Chip

3 R&D Interface

Icebreaker (7)

2 Cerberus “Lady” H1

1 Femme Fatale ·

1 Mimic ·

1 Sharpshooter

1 Torch

1 ZU.13 Key Master

Program (7)

1 Clot ··

3 Magnum Opus

3 Self-modifying Code

CT Litmus Test Game-Plan: Get an Opus turn 1 no matter what. Mash the opus until you are rich (with a mulligan you can do this ~95% of the time). Build a super-efficient rig with multiple RDIs. Vamp them down with your huge bank if needed (mainly to deal with Caprice). Close the game with Legwork followed by R&D lock, assisted by Clot if necessary.

This runner deck is nothing spectacular. It functions and has a clear game-plan, but against a good Corp deck with a good pilot it should find itself just a little behind the curve all game. However, a Corp deck that is anything less than very good will get smothered. I called this deck CT Litmus Test because if your Corp deck loses to this it is bad!

In general:

When building a Corp deck, imagine an opponent who plays a turn 1 Opus + SMC and then clicks the Opus until they have 40 credits. If you don’t have a robust plan to win that game, your deck is bad.

Of course this is not meant to be taken literally. Opus is not super popular right now, but every good runner deck has a way to go “BRB getting rich”. Whether that’s Prepaid Voice-Pad, Aesop’s Pawnshop, Kati Jones, or tons of resources is irrelevant.

Let’s apply this rule to the 2 decks from the previous articles. If you can’t tell from the deck lists how each deck is supposed to play, go check those articles out. I’ve re-linked the lists here:

Argus: http://netrunner.meteor.com/decks/fbmZShjmAiu8qydqx

GRNDL: http://netrunner.meteor.com/decks/NG6AsoRDLBzZhLuFr

It turns out the GRNDL deck is the stronger deck, and it’s not close. Against our Opus-ing adversary, GRNDL is in its comfort zone, rushing agendas while the runner fails to set up their rig in a timely manner. Argus’s plan for this type of game is to mash its own economy asset until it can set up its dream server.  This results in a game state like this:

Argus_vs_CT_1 Versus Argus_vs_CT_2

Congratulations! That remote is on lock, nice job! Argus will get to 3 points here and then a Legwork followed by relentless R&D lock will close the game for CT. It turns out this Argus deck relies on its opponent doing one of 3 things.

  1. Taxing themselves out on centrals too early rather than building economy.
  2. Running through the Raven remote to trash econ assets.
  3. Messing up and floating a tag.

Remember from the first article in this series that if a Corp deck relies on your opponent doing something specific, or playing in a specific way, it is not good.

The GRNDL deck, on the other hand, although it has weaknesses, will win unless its opponent plays in a specific way. If the runner does not march towards one of their win-conditions (either 7 fast points on centrals, or locking your remote with a full, robust rig) without delay, GRNDL will leave them complaining about Hostile Takeover as if it was Astroscript Pilot Program.

Popular Archetypes and the CT Litmus Test

Let’s see how several popular archetypes deal with the endlessly Opus-ing Runner.

Replicating Perfection: Caprice Nisei invalidates the runner’s credit pool, while a Nisei Mk 2 counter (or another Caprice on HQ) takes away the Vamp answer to Caprice. This matchup is even better for RP decks that play Ichi 1.0 or Enchanced Login Protocol.

NEH Astrobiotics: Clot is not enough here. The Opus economy gets off the ground too slowly and the Astro-train leaves it in the dust. It is worth stating that the non-asset based NEH with 3 Shipment from SanSan is probably even stronger against this deck than the versions with Marked Accounts and Pad Campaigns, but both should smash it.

HB Fast Advance: I admittedly have not tested this match-up very much. I know that Ichi 1.0 is very annoying for the CT deck, as is an early SanSan behind ice. A rushy HB deck applies enough pressure that the CT deck should not be able to mash its Opus as much as it would like. However, if the HB FA deck has a draw on the slower side without an early-ish SanSan, I can see the CT deck stomping it. In general the HB deck should still be favored.

HB Glacier (with Caprice): Caprice in the remote and Cricium grid on HQ locks down the remote, meaning that CT’s best way to win is through multiple RDI’s. Since this deck plays terrible 5/3s, CT should be able to steal some wins here. This means that I think HB Glacier is significantly weaker than the above decks, but still a reasonable deck.

Blue Sun Glacier: This deck is hard to judge, since so few people can pilot it at even a passable level, but I am still skeptical of its ability to consistently beat the CT deck. RDI is strong against this deck, and it needs a big economy advantage since it does not have Caprice. Tons of Lady recursion to shut down Oversight AI-Curtain Walls means that advantage will have to come from Adonis Campaign, which is not bursty enough to keep up with CT, and also must be protected. I think this deck is not just difficult to pilot, but is actually bad. Sorry!

Blue Sun Murder: Punitive or Scorch versions of Blue sun have the same problems as the Glacier deck, but they also have several wasted deck slots, as their kill cards are worthless against Opus-mashing CT. Notice these decks also break our rule of not relying on the runner to do a thing. These decks are bad, and I think a rush deck such as my GRNDL deck is the best Weyland meat damage deck right now.

NEH Butchershop: Get your pitchforks ready. I don’t think this deck is good. My local meta makes fun of me when I say this but it’s really how I feel. This deck’s plan against CT Litmus test is not robust. You are not going to Midseason CT, and even if you do, you need to have your kill cards immediately as she will remove 2 tags every turn. She will trash all your PADs with Opus money and then climb out of reach. The best thing you can do is rush an Astro out, but without the dedication of an Astrobiotics deck, this is both harder to accomplish and less punishing once you do. This deck can never establish anything resembling a stable remote and by the time Butcher is on their 2nd Astro counter, CT will leverage Clot, Legwork, and RDI to close out the game. I think this deck is very popular and wins as much as it does because of it’s ability to routinely stomp players who do not understand what it is trying to do and what their win condition is.  I will say that the proactive plan of killing the runner with Breaking News is very strong and is this deck’s one redeeming quality, and it can get unbeatable dream-draws (tons of money, Midseasons, Breaking News and 2 kill cards very early) because of it. I don’t think that saves this archetype though. (Before raging at me, read the “About this Place” section of this blog 😀 )

Conclusions

Obviously there is more to Netrunner than beating a passive builder opponent, but the need for Corp decks to have a robust, proactive plan cannot be overstated. As long as your Corp deck has that, you can adjust its specific build to deal with the “unless” scenarios that you are losing to.

Up next

THE PROFESSOR IS TIER 1!

Now that I’ve got your attention…the Professor is not actually tier 1, but he is pretty good! Certainly better than people think.

Deck-list and explanation next time!

GRNDL: The Game Plan

GRNDL: The Game Plan

Last time, I gave you a walk-through of Argus Terror, a meat damage deck that forces agendas through using tags and click compression. If you have not read that post yet, go back and check it out.

In this post I will walk you through a deck that is not for the faint of heart. Just remember that when you play it, your opponent is even more terrified than you.

Here is the list again:

http://netrunner.meteor.com/decks/b3CHWnkWxZfBgF8WZ

GRNDL (49 cards)

GRNDL: Power Unleashed

Agenda (11)

1 Corporate War

1 High-Risk Investment

3 Hostile Takeover

3 Oaktown Renovation

3 Project Atlas

Asset (3)

3 Snare! •• •• ••

Operation (19)

1 Anonymous Tip •

3 Beanstalk Royalties

2 Fast Track

3 Hedge Fund

3 Power Shutdown

3 Restructure

3 Scorched Earth

1 SEA Source ••

Barrier (6)

1 Changeling

3 Ice Wall

2 Wall of Static

Code Gate (5)

3 Enigma

1 Lotus Field •

1 Quandary

Sentry (4)

3 Archer

1 Grim

ICE (1)

1 Chimera

The Game Plan: This is a rush deck. It plays all of the best early game ice and the most difficult to deal with destroyers. It will not be uncommon to spend the entire game with either HQ, R&D, or both wide open. If the runner wants to spend clicks for random accesses early in the game, it will only delay the building of their rig, which is their real win condition. We want to get a 2 iced remote down ASAP and start scoring, upping it to 3 iced when appropriate. 2 Fast Track and 1 Tip means that we are not very scared of R&D lock. If we have a secure remote we can use Fast Track to start a Project Atlas chain. In this deck Project Atlas counters very often search for Hostile Takeovers to finish the game. We have no Jackson Howards. Our answer to agenda flood is to just stuff everything in our remote. If our opponent gets a really good start gear-wise, they probably do not have much money, and we can hopefully catch them with a Sea-Source Scorched Earth kill. The 3 Snare! are great for potential kills but also serve as more rig destruction. A tricky player will hold Faeries or Self-Modifying Codes in hand so you cannot kill them with Power Shutdown, and a well-timed Snare! can dash those plans, as well as slow the runner down as they draw up and clear the tag. We will be so rich, and our ice is so cheap, that paying for our Snares will be trivial.

Ice Placement: Your first 3 ice should be 2 on your remote and 1 on the important central for the matchup. If you only draw 2 ice you will probably want to put both on the remote and roll the dice. If you ever find yourself on the back foot defending, you have probably lost. Enigma is a little bit better on the remote than the barriers since the runner will have less time to figure out a way in after they hit it. Try to save Archer and Grim for the remote if you can. Here is an ideal mid-game setup:

GRNDL_setup

Even with no agendas in hand, and R&D compromised, this is often checkmate. Next turn you can score Project Atlas with 1 counter. The turn after you can use your counter to search for another Atlas and Install-Advance it with another click to put more ice over the remote (maybe a Grim or Lotus field to make for an even tougher gear-check) or to make some more money. That Atlas locks up the game if scored, since you can use its counter to search for a Hostile Takeover for the win.

Agenda Spread:

3 Project Atlas: This card does triple duty in this deck. First, it lets us search for agendas when the runner is hitting R&D every turn. Second, it lets us put the kill combo together, sometimes totally taking away the runner’s ability to run. Finally, as a 3/2 it is great for rushing. If we are on 5 points we can draw twice on our turn and still slap it down ready to score for the game (it even looks like a Snare when we do this!)

3 Hostile Takeover: A 2/1 that makes us money is nuts for a rush deck. We don’t care much about the bad pub since it is not of much use to a runner who does not have the right breakers (although against SMC, Clone Chip, and Personal Workshop it can matter quite a bit). Some games I score 2 Project Atlas with 3 counters between then and win the game by searching up all 3 of these, all while keeping the Scorch threat alive. Hilarious. This card obviously enables Archer as well, which is an essential card for our strategy.

3 Oaktown Renovation: This rush style of GRNDL used to be very popular, but it is much less popular today. This is the card that made me want to try it again and it is the real deal. It is important to note than if you IAA this and get Vamped or Siphoned to 0 you can still score it out next turn (and be left with 3 credits afterwards). That’s great. It also feels amazing to score points without having to give up your economic advantage. In the old builds of this deck these slots were Geothermal Fracking. The Clicks to get the money off your Fracking make the deck a full turn slower a lot of the time, and in a deck as dedicated to the rush as this one, one turn can be the difference between a swift 7-0 win and an agonizing 5-7 loss. The Bad pub it gave you was also not great. You don’t want SO much bad pub that Femmes are breaking your Archers the hard way…

1 Corporate War: This slot could be a Fracking and I have tested them both. Sometimes the Corp War screws you but 90% of the time you get your 7 from it. I wish this could be something better but it’s the best we’ve got. Some people play 2 False Lead in this slot, but I’d rather get 2 points for 4 Advancements than 1 point for 3, and the kill possibility from False Lead never came up for me in over 20 games. This also gives us a deck slot for what it’s worth.

1 High-Risk Investment: BUT ABRAM YOU SAID NOT TO PLAY 5/3s!!! Yes, 5/3s are really bad, but there is a sweet incentive to play exactly one in this deck: Project Atlas. On 4 points with an Atlas counter and a secure remote you can search up your 5/3 and put the game away. Additionally, the effect of this agenda is CRAZY if you actually manage to score it earlier than that. Finally, our agenda options are so thin for the last 5 points that this is probably the best option. With NAPD out of the question because of Bad Publicity, we are not left with much. If Weyland gets another REALLY strong 4/2 like Oaktown, I could see going to 2 of that and 1 False Lead instead of this and the 1 Corporate War. When I give this deck to people to play, one of the first comments I get is, “UGH I HATE THAT 5/3!”

I totally understand…

Other Important Details: Eater in general is pretty awful for us. Eater-Keyhole with Bad Pub and no Jackson is a nightmare. Sometimes those decks can have a hard time getting into archives in time to beat the rush though. I have won several games with 7 points in Archives while the Eater-Keyhole deck dug for Hades/Cutlery/a real breaker. That being said, these match-ups are hard (They are even worse if the Eater player is running Singularity). Luckily many players who play these decks will not be experienced playing against a deck rushing this hard, allowing you to coast to a quick 7-0 win while they set up aimlessly. They are also probably screwed if they can’t find their Eater early. Sometimes they will be able to win by Keyholing 4 times a turn, but they choose not to because of Scorch fear. That is probably a misplay by them, but people misplaying against it is one if this deck’s greatest strengths.

A big early Vamp can be terrible. Hold your Beanstalks against these decks to recover. Oaktown is your friend here. Getting Vamped and then going Beanstalk Install Oaktown Advance leaves you with enough money to rez an Ice Wall and Enigma on your remote if you have to.

Don’t look for Scorch kills, just take them if you see them. It is usually incorrect for the runner to play around Scorch too much, since they will just be handing you the rush win. The package is just there to give you some dumb wins in games that you really should lose otherwise, and to make the runner install a Plascrete or hold I’ve Had Worse, slowing down their rig-building.

Good Power Shutdown targets are: SMC, Faerie, Datasucker (to turn of Mimic), Net-Ready Eyes (if you drew the Lotus field or Changeling), Clone Chip, Zu.13, Cyber Cypher, and Corroder. Don’t Shutdown a Plascrete unless it will 100% get you a kill. 3 cards in the yard is too risky.

I have not played any games against Faust yet, but I imagine he could be a pretty big problem. Hopefully you can get an Archer up, since it takes 5 cards for Faust to break. Maybe don’t over-advance your Atlases and have them actually be Snares (Joke).

Quetzal is also SUPER annoying. Hopefully you draw 2 barriers to put in a row. A Quetzal with an early Yog.0 when your ice is Ice Wall + Enigma is a great way to lose very very fast. Oh well, them’s the breaks.

Against early Parasite + Medium digging you may have to blow a Destroyer on R&D to stop the bleeding. You can race most things, but Medium is not one of them. Lucky this kind of digging usually sets the runner’s board and economy way behind, letting you score out of your remote behind basic ice. Sometimes the runner will die to Snares doing this also. OOPS!

If you have 0 points, no agendas, a Fast Track, and a scoring window, it is often correct to draw for agendas rather than play the Fast Track. You will want that Fast Track to finish the game and with no agendas in hand your odds of drawing one should be pretty good. You can use the Fast Track to search for Atlas if you are super rich, but scoring Atlas as your first agenda can be a bit of a financial liability. Anonymous tip is great here. The Tip will also convince a lot of runners to waste time in HQ in situations where there is nothing there (except Snares)

Against Kate you may have to give up your first agenda. If she plays SMC + Clone Chip and runs your 2 rung remote, rez the first of them to make her burn the SMC and then Power Shutdown the Clone Chip on your next turn and go for another score. If she has yet another one that early in the game you can complain about how lucky she is (and hopefully Scorch her :P)

It is usually wrong to waste time installing Snares. You will rarely get a kill that way, and they do a lot of work punishing HQ runs. I have won games with installed Snares, but I wouldn’t make a habit of it. Sometimes I will put one down when I don’t have an agenda and am on game point, just to maybe get a lucky kill if they surprise me and can get in. When choosing between installing an agenda and a Snare, just go for the points. Be brave!

This deck has no assets (except Snares) or upgrades to make it have the most resilient R&D possible. Corporate Troubleshooter could be great, but I feel like he will just get trashed out of centrals for free every time. Jackson Howard is not necessary. We never want to discard agendas and we have Fast Track and tons of redundancy in our ice. Jackson is a turn slower than Anonymous Tip and every turn of speed is critical with this deck.

Give this deck (and the Argus deck from the last post) a chance and see what you think. Hopefully you can see from these write-ups (and from playing the decks) that even though these are both Scorched Earth decks, they are totally different strategies.

Feel free to drop questions/comments about either deck here and I will do my best to respond to them! In the next post I will talk about which of the decks has been stronger for me overall and why.

Argus Terror: The Game Plan

Before revealing which of our decks from last time has been more successful, we’re going to break down what’s going on with each list, starting with Argus Terror.  I will try to sell you on each deck before revealing which is stronger and why.

Here is the list again:

http://netrunner.meteor.com/decks/ZkZZLr4SdSLysJCFr

Argus Terror (49 cards)

Argus Security: Protection Guaranteed

Agenda (11)

2 False Lead

3 NAPD Contract

3 Oaktown Renovation

3 Project Atlas

Asset (8)

3 Capital Investors

1 Ghost Branch •

3 Jackson Howard • • •

1 Melange Mining Corp

Operation (13)

3 Beanstalk Royalties

3 Hedge Fund

1 Midseason Replacements ••••

3 Scorched Earth

3 Traffic Accident

Barrier (5)

2 Meru Mati

3 Spiderweb

Code Gate (3)

2 Enigma

1 Lotus Field •

Sentry (9)

1 Caduceus

3 Data Raven •• •• ••

3 Hunter

2 Shadow

The Game-plan: Use very taxing early ice to secure a powerful economy asset. Dump clicks into that asset and use early game operation economy to quickly build a remote with multiple pieces of tagging ice (hopefully ravens). Use the click-compression created by that ice, possibly a scored False Lead, and the Argus ability to create situations in which it is impossible for the runner to steal agendas that we try to score without ending their turn tagged. If they runner does manage to break this stranglehold and score, they have hopefully spent enough money to get hit with a Midseason Replacements (possibly searched for by a Project Atlas counter). With 3 Scorched Earth and 3 Traffic Accident, killing a tagged runner should be trivial, often even with a Plascrete Carapace installed.

Ice Placement: Hunter on HQ or R&D early is brutal. 1 cost for a tax of at least 2 credits and usually 3 credits is great. Shadow has a similar effect, and is stronger against a runner who goes tag-me from turn 1 (perhaps a player who lands an Account Siphon and then plays a Plascrete Carapace), but loses effectiveness against Mimic and Parasite. Meru Mati goes on HQ obviously. It can be tempting to try to secure an early Capital Investors with it, but if the runner has an early fracter this can be a game-losing error. Spiderweb is better for this, since trashing a Capital Investors behind a Spiderweb is a 5-credit hit (or 2 lady counters, which is also significant). That should be enough to buy time for a 2nd ice on that server for the next Asset. Additionally, you will be happy that Spiderweb is on your remote when you go to score. Data Raven is amazing on R&D, but we really need it for the remote, or our deck will struggle in the late game, so avoid using it there. The code gates can go wherever they are needed, and are your flex-ice and Account Siphon defense. Your endgame setup hopefully looks something like this, with Enigmas and the Lotus field replacing whatever of the non-Raven ice is necessary based on your draw:

Argus_Setup

If the runner cannot break a 4-strength sentry, this remote server is a 9 credit tax that leaves the runner with 2 tags. If they can (with say, Atman-4), it is still a 5 credit tax that gives 2 tags. R&D is a sufficient 5-6 credit tax, as is HQ (with the Argus ability also somewhat helping to defend against central multi-access). The runner actually needs a substantial back-up fund as well if they cannot break the ravens. If you can boost the trace to get a power counter for anything less than all your money, you can usually ride that to victory. Even if you do not have the kill cards in hand, and would not boost the trace, the runner does not know that.

Additionally, all of this ice is relatively inexpensive. We achieve this significant tax without having to rez an 8-cost tollbooth or advance clunky space ice.

Agenda Spread: When most people build an Argus deck, they either include a huge amount of 1-point agendas to get the maximum number of triggers out of their ID, or go for a big-moment deck with a Government Takeover and 3-pointer build. For this deck, we are just running the agendas that are actually good.

2 False lead: This enables our kill and forces the runner to run on click 1, letting us keep easy tabs on their credit total and rig progress as we look for scoring windows.

3 NAPD Contract: We are playing no bad publicity because it is awful with trace ice and taxing servers. This opens up NAPD contract as an option. Have you ever stolen an NAPD against Argus? It isn’t fun.

3 Project Atlas: These let us search for our 1 Midseason Replacements if the runner gets frisky on our remote or lucky on a central at the right (wrong?) time.  We can also search for more agendas when we have scoring windows, kill cards, or even my personal favorite: the 3rd data raven to make the most irritating server ever.

3 Oaktown Renovation: Although it is the least flashy, this may be the most important agenda in the deck. In fact, this deck would probably be unplayable without it! Oaktown lets you seize scoring windows to get points without giving up the tempo that gave you the window in the first place. It also works exceptionally well with Midseason Replacements for obvious reasons.

NO 3-POINTERS: If you are new to deck building or not an advanced player, there is one critical rule you must follow. If you learn anything from me, learn this:

Never ever ever ever put 5/3s in your deck.*

*Except for The Future Perfect**

**Actually not even that one. More on this another time

Not even considering their anti-synergy with the Argus ability, 5/3s are a HUGE liability in centrals and are very hard to score. The deck space they give you does not make up for all the ways in which they suck. I would rather put a 5/2 NAPD Contract in my deck than a 5/3. Go ahead. Go on Stimhack.com and look at the tournament winning decklists. Count the non-TFP 3-pointers. You’re welcome.

Other Important Details: This deck also benefits from runner fear (hence its name). Many of your early score attempts could be stopped by the runner but, due to their great expense, would leave the runner dead to Sea-Source or Midseasons + single Scorched Earth (the runner is almost always is forced to take the meat damage from Argus after remote runs against this deck). Even though we only have 1 tagging operation, the runner does not know that, and this fear can help get that all-important first False Lead and/or Project Atlas scored. If the runner calls the bluff, at least they probably spent a lot of money, giving us a window to hopefully try again the next turn (or actually land the Midseasons if we drew it).

If we are on game point, but the runner has a full rig and roaring economy, our singleton Ghost Branch can be a life-saver. A 2-advanced Ghost Branch behind 2 Ravens guarantees a tagged runner, leading to some hilarious “uh-oh” moments. Try to Install-Advance-Advance your NAPD contracts early on so that this IAA play does not stand out as strange. Runners will assume you are “donating” an NAPD and will begrudgingly run it every time.

In many decks where it is important to get your ice on very specific servers, the early game can be a challenge. However, between our ID ability, early trace ice, NAPD contracts, lack of 3-pointers, and runner fear, we should be able to meander through the early game with at most 2 points given up. On the other hand, I have had 0-link runners face-check 2 Hunters/Shadows on turn 1, leaving them totally broke. Games that start this way are often trivial to win.

Final Strategic Note: When playing a Meat Damage deck, keep this important fact in mind:

Your primary objective is to score 7 points. The purpose of your kill cards is to protect your agendas indirectly.

Don’t get obsessed with looking for kills. It is hard to get runners to run through Data Ravens when you have 0 points.

I encourage you to give this deck a try and see what you learn from playing it. In the next post I will do a similar breakdown for the GRNDL list. We will then compare the experiences and decide which one is the stronger option.

When I post lists, I’ll try to add the music I usually play them to. This is very important ;). Here is the track for both of these decks:

A Journey into Corp Deckbuilding: Introduction

Building an original corp deck that actually wins games can feel futile. It can be quite the challenge getting those pesky agendas into your score area, let alone keeping them out of the runner’s! Many players struggle to build functioning corp decks because they do not create for themselves a clear path to victory. They build decks on a foundation of “if” statements rather than “unless” statements. An example:

“If the runner runs through my taxing centrals, I will get a scoring window”

Versus:

“I will have a secure remote unless the runner plays Vamp.”

Statements like the first often appeal to the aspiring deck-builder, and rightfully so, one of the biggest mistakes that an intermediate runner makes is overextending on centrals. Statements like the second, on the other hand, make players doubt themselves, diluting their deck with contingencies for edge cases.

Here is my dogma to accept:

A deck that is reliant on the runner doing a thing will be less successful than a deck that relies on them not doing a thing.

Let’s look at some lists for a concrete example.  These decks have a lot in common but one has been MUCH more successful for me than the other. Try to guess which deck is the winner and which deck is the loser.

(Note: If you want pop-up images for the cards, just follow the meteor links for the decks)

http://netrunner.meteor.com/decks/ZkZZLr4SdSLysJCFr

Argus Terror (49 cards)

Argus Security: Protection Guaranteed

Agenda (11)

2 False Lead

3 NAPD Contract

3 Oaktown Renovation

3 Project Atlas

Asset (8)

3 Capital Investors

1 Ghost Branch •

3 Jackson Howard • • •

1 Melange Mining Corp

Operation (13)

3 Beanstalk Royalties

3 Hedge Fund

1 Midseason Replacements ••••

3 Scorched Earth

3 Traffic Accident

Barrier (5)

2 Meru Mati

3 Spiderweb

Code Gate (3)

2 Enigma

1 Lotus Field •

Sentry (9)

1 Caduceus

3 Data Raven •• •• ••

3 Hunter

2 Shadow

http://netrunner.meteor.com/decks/b3CHWnkWxZfBgF8WZ

GRNDL (49 cards)

GRNDL: Power Unleashed

Agenda (11)

1 Corporate War

1 High-Risk Investment

3 Hostile Takeover

3 Oaktown Renovation

3 Project Atlas

Asset (3)

3 Snare! •• •• ••

Operation (19)

1 Anonymous Tip •

3 Beanstalk Royalties

2 Fast Track

3 Hedge Fund

3 Power Shutdown

3 Restructure

3 Scorched Earth

1 SEA Source ••

Barrier (6)

1 Changeling

3 Ice Wall

2 Wall of Static

Code Gate (5)

3 Enigma

1 Lotus Field •

1 Quandary

Sentry (4)

3 Archer

1 Grim

ICE (1)

1 Chimera

If you had to bring one of these decks to a small tournament, which would you choose and why? Post your answer in the comments and I will publish my own views shortly.