A Complete(ish) Introduction to Startup

In which Rook aims to get new players up to speed on the format

Hi.

Midnight Sun officially lands tomorrow. For a lot of new players, I imagine that the excitement of a new set is going to provide the perfect environment to start really playing Netrunner. So on the eve of Borealis cycle I’m publishing this article. It is going to be very long, and very detailed, and I will absolutely say up-front that nothing I write here is going to compare to the value of just playing games. But Startup is the perfect format for new players, the smaller card pool and lowered risk of death makes it a more approachable environment.

Today, I’m going to give the best and most thorough introduction to Startup I can. We’ll discuss the most important cards in the format – every ID, every staple, every card that I would consider to be a pillar of the format – and then go over the best decks in the format. Finally, we’ll talk about a handful of cards from Midnight Sun and the changes we can expect to see in the format in the coming weeks.

This isn’t going to teach you how to play Netrunner, or even how to play well in the Startup format. Rather, it’s meant to give you an overview of what the format is like right now, so you at least have a foundation to work off in Midnight Sun.

Each section of this article is going to be very clearly headlined, so if you need to take a break and come back later, hopefully it won’t be too difficult to find where you were. Similarly, if this seems overwhelming, please don’t be intimidated! There is zero need to memorise everything here – take away from this article whatever you want, and don’t worry about the rest. It’ll all come with time and experience.

(This was a very long piece with lots of words. I have attempted to catch spelling and grammar errors, but they may still exist. If so, my apologies in advance.)

  1. Identities
    Anarch
    Criminal
    Shaper
    Haas-Bioroid
    Jinteki
    NBN
    Weyland
  2. The State of Startup, and the Pillars of the Format
  3. Notable Decks
    Hoshiko
    Steve
    Lat
    Precision Design
    Personal Evolution
    Near-Earth Hub
    Built to Last
  4. Midnight Sun
    Anarch
    Criminal
    Shaper
    Haas-Bioroid
    Jinteki
    NBN
    Weyland

Identities are one of the most fascinating concepts in Netrunner and one of the ideas that hooked me when I was starting. We’re going to over every ID in the current pre-Midnight Sun format, faction by faction, and discuss how powerful the IDs are and where they see the most play. Don’t be disheartened if I’m slightly more negative about an ID you like. Every ID can have fun decks, and every ID can absolutely win games. This article is, however, meant to serve as an introduction to the format, both in terms of what you can do and what you’re likely to play against. I would lying if I told you that you would face as many Quetzal or Ayla decks as you would Hoshiko or Lat.

ANARCH

Loup’s best attribute is his 40 card deck. Most IDs have a minimum deck size of 45, but the System Gateway IDs all shuck this trend for a minimum deck size of 40. This makes them more consistent – by cutting the 5 worst cards from a 45 card deck, you’re much more likely to draw into your most powerful cards. In Loup’s case, his ability also draws cards which lets him get through his deck at a fairly ridiculous rate.

His best friend is Imp, an innocuous little program that can trash any accessed card for the low price of a single virus counter, regardless of whether that card had a trash cost or not. With an Imp installed, Loup can not only trash assets and upgrades but also ice and critical operations, and all the while he’ll get paid for it. Loup also loves Stargate. Because you don’t access the card it doesn’t trigger his ability, but the combination of Imp, Stargate, and Chisel (all in a 40 card deck where you can find them faster) mean Loup is uniquely equipped to trash ice from HQ, trash ice from R&D, and trash any ice that slips through the cracks.

Quetzal’s ability looks great in theory. Palisade isn’t amazing, but it’s a cheap and functional ice that sees a respectable amount of play; Weyland decks often rely on Ice Wall and Akhet to rush out early agendas; HB can pack Eli 1.0 and Bran 1.0, and which Quetzal can’t get through them by themselves, they at least save you a click. Quetzal can, depending on the corp’s draw, make their early remotes far less safe than they would be otherwise, and even when a barrier has too many subroutines for them to break, they save you credits here and there.

In practice, they don’t quite work as well. There are plenty of code gates that end the run, and it’s not like you can just skip including a fracter. That’s a very easy way to lose to double-stacked barriers. If you want to really abuse Quetzal’s ability, use them as a deterrent to the corp, making them slow down and hence giving you more time to set up. When paired with cards like Boomerang, Quetzal can frequently threaten the vast majority of early remotes, and while the corp is trying to shore up their defenses you can keep drawing and installing more valuable economy pieces until you don’t need the ability any more.

Reina’s ability doesn’t look that impactful until you sit across from it. One credit isn’t quite enough to cause havoc with early corp economies, but by agressively running and forcing rezzes turn after turn, Reina’s tax can really stack up. You rarely see her without other ways to really capitalize on her ability: Xanadu is an additional tax to every ice the corp rezzes (not just the first), Chisel lets you trash ice after the corp spent far too many credits getting them online, and criminal derez effects turn the ice back down and make the corp pay to rez it again. That’s not bad, but Reina’s ability is purely corp-centric. It does nothing to advance her own game plan, short of “my gameplan is the corp is poor” which is strictly true, but hardly unique to Reina.

Unlike other Anarch IDs, Reina’s ability provide her with no more credits or cards than she would otherwise have. That’s not to say that Reina isn’t fun, because she definitely is, and putting the corp in an economic choke-hold that they won’t be able to escape until after you’ve found your 7 points is a great feeling. But it would be a lie to suggest that Reina is on the same competitive tier as Hoshiko or even Loup.

Hoshiko is the queen of Anarchs in Startup. It’s important to understand that resources are not created equal: a card is more valuable than a credit, and a click is more valuable than a card. Any identity that allows you to draw cards without spending a click is extremely valuable, and well worth the cost of a credit each turn. Because has the digital subtype, Hoshiko is uniquely equipped to mitigate this credit drain thanks to the power of DreamNet, another source of clickless card draw (you wanted to be running anyway to keep your ID flipped) that also offsets the credit loss! You might be wondering why Hoshiko is so much better than Loup, given his card draw also comes with a credit gain rather than a credit loss. To keep using Loup you need to keep draining your resources, either your credit total or your Imp counters, and either way that’s frequently going to be a much bigger loss than Hoshiko’s.

Additionally, her burst of 2 credits when she flips effectively pays for 2 turns of card draw, and if you ever have to stop running – say, to click a Liberated Account and restore your credit total – on the next turn, you’ll be able to get those 2 credits again. Hoshiko is so good because unlike every other Anarch ID, she doesn’t push you in a specific direction. Her ability is just raw efficient economy, and whatever your deck is trying to do, Hoshiko is going to make it run that much smoother. Finally, her cycle of companions all also help to offset that credit loss. Most anarch decks are going to be running at least Paladin Poemu, if not more of the companions, but because Hoshiko draws extra cards she’s more likely to be able to use them each turn, and because she loses a credit each turn their drip economy is extra valuable for her.

CRIMINAL

Zahya’s ability, at a very basic level, is really quite powerful. Just getting a credit back when you run HQ or R&D is great when those were already things you wanted to be doing! Run them with a Docklands Pass installed, or on a Legwork/Maker’s Eye run? That’s bonus money. Run them when there’s an upgrade installed in the root of the server? That’s bonus money. Zahya is great because she doesn’t force you into a specific direction, she just pays you for doing what you already wanted to be doing.

I think Ken is one of the best IDs to give a new player. One issue new players often have is that they’re scared to run, afraid to facecheck ice, but in order to find success with Ken you’re going to have to play aggressively. Bravado is an extremely good card anyway, but ramping up the profit by 1 credit makes it feel truly absurd.

Ken’s biggest issue is that he has a lot of competition from other Criminal IDs. If you’re looking to use Legwork, Jailbreak, The Maker’s Eye, and other multi-access tools, then Zahya is going to pay you back a lot sooner. If you want to utilise Swift for even more efficiency, and maybe even import Deep Dive to make extra use of the bonus Swift click…. then we need to talk about Steve.

Steve’s ability is just great. Present the corp with two copies of the same card and you’ll obviously get one back, but just showing them a Dirty Laundry and a Hedge Fund, or an Inside Job and a Mutual Favour when they were just trying to score out is incredibly powerful. And crucially, unlike a lot of criminal identities where as the costs of runs add up and their abilities become comparably less efficient, Steve stays strong. Zahya hates it when HQ gets triple iced. Sure, she can pressure other servers and it’s really not that bad for her, but it does make her ability notably less efficient. But the more turns the game goes, the more Bravados Steve is going to find, and if you do nothing but show the corp two copies of the same card, Steve can effectively turn 3 copies of a card into 5.

And even though Ken has 2 more influence, Steve is better Deep Dive ID! Because of that ability, Steve can turn 2 imported Dives into 3. Now you’ll rarely need to play 3 Dives in a game, but it means he can still resolve two copies if one gets shot out of hand by a Snare! or an Anemone. Steve is the pinnacle of Criminal economy IDs, and if a deck wants to be great outside of Steve it needs to be doing something very different.

Here’s something very different. Az is most commonly played as a sort of hybrid Criminal-Shaper, relying on the raw click efficiency of Masterwork + Prognostic Q-Loop. Make a run, use Masterwork to clicklessly install a hardware from hand and draw a card all while your ID offsets the additional cost, look at the top two cards of your stack, use Q-Loop to clicklessly install another card, go the corp’s turn and use Q-Loop again and trigger Masterwork again! It’s like a Rube-Goldberg machine where you can’t do anything without ooops here’s more cards and more clickless installs and those clickless installs will get you more cards.

It is is a ton of fun once it gets going. You will feel like you are playing at a million miles an hour, with a hundred triggers to remember. And ultimately, it is held back by the fact that there just aren’t that many good hardware in Startup. The best thing you can do with Az is clicklessly install Boomerangs from the top of your deck. That’s not bad at all, and if you couldn’t tell from my tone it is extremely fun! But there’s limited room in Startup to truly make Az great. The other side is that if you’re not using Az for these wild shenanigans, if you’re just trying to save a credit here and there on your console and Boomerangs, you’re better off just playing Steve.

SHAPER

Tao’s ability is excellent for putting pressure onto the corp. Frequently, the best counterplay is to simply never ice HQ or Archives and just create two towers on your remote and R&D, because if you don’t, Tao is shuffle your best ice onto the worst server and create huge windows of pressure for himself. Tao can also manage better than a lot of other Shaper IDs if he doesn’t find the breakers he needs early: maybe you only have a decoder and while there’s a code gate on centrals, there’s a barrier on the remote you just can’t get through. Where you’d normally be screwed here, Tao limits the punishment to a single score before that code gate ends up stranded on the remote, rendering it vulnerable until the corp can find a second barrier, hopefully buying you the time you need to find your own permanent answers.

We’re going to have to mention Deep Dive for every Shaper ID here. It is one of the biggest reasons to play the faction, and all the IDs support it in their own way. Tao’s 40 card deck makes it faster to find, and his ability to create huge early pressure can also be used to concede the remote, putting problematic ice there whilst making centrals weaker to set up for a Dive.

Ayla is best used in a deck that wants to find specific cards as early as possible. The best example of this in Startup is usually Professional Contacts. Whilst there’s been much debate over whether or not ProCo is an efficient card, it’s undeniable that it gets better the earlier you can put it down. If you’re not using Ayla to find that sort of big engine card as early as possible, you’re almost certainly better served by a different ID.

Other useful cards to try to find with Ayla include Aesop’s Pawnshop, which is cool but generally doesn’t need to be found at the earliest possible moment, and Conduit, which is generally very fragile and vulnerable to the corp just icing R&D too much for you to win. You can use Ayla to just make it more likely you can find enough economy early, or to help you find your breakers, but for how valuable your ID can be this is a very medium use.

Kit is a really fun ID. With a just a decoder installed, any single-iced is vulnerable. Start adding Pelangis and Egrets to the mix, and you have an excellent basis for a very aggresive Shaper deck that puts on pressure immediately at the cost of being more likely to get locked out in the late game. Unfortunately Kit is burned with a horrible 10 influence compared to the usual 15, which makes it a lot harder for her to import all the tools she wants. She loves Boomerang as another way to supplement her aggression, but 2 copies is almost half her total influence, and 3 copies is over.

Unlike most IDs where we’ve had an “unfortunately” sentence however, Kit is still really good. The nature of Startup (and we’ll get more into this later) is that runners are very rich, and most corps have to play fast if they want to win. But Kit is at her best against fast corps, who won’t be able to reliably defend against her aggression at all! If you want to play an aggressive Shaper, while it’s somewhat debatable whether Kit is better than Tao or Lat, she’s definitely more fun. As another small downside, especially in variants where you don’t play any/very few non-decoders, Kit is frequently the worst Shaper ID at landing Deep Dives, a problem that only gets worse as the game goes on.

Lat is the only Shaper ID whose ability is really just plain old economy, and that’s okay! It’s okay to be boring sometimes. Lat’s natural card draw just makes his engine work so much smoother. The less time you can spend manually drawing cards, the better, and while sometimes it won’t be feasible to get a Lat trigger on a given turn, you can activate his ability pretty reliably. Because he’s so generic, he doesn’t push you really into a specific direction. You can play him aggressively with Swift and Deep Dive, or you can sit back, money up, and make it unsafe for the corp to ever try and score in their remote. Whatever you do, Lat’s going to be greasing the wheels of your deck with free card draws on most turns.

HAAS-BIOROID

The scourge of standard, Precision Design aims to use its ability to constantly score agendas with Seamless Launch. This has two effects. Firstly, PD gets to play all the tempo positive 4/2 agendas in Offworld and Sandbox, letting it maintain its credit total whilst scoring. Secondly, it allows the deck to score agendas from 0 advancements, making any face-down card in the remote look like a potential agenda.

You can do other things with PD, of course. Fast advance PD that uses the ability to bring back Biotoic Labours is fun but ultimately too expensive to be reliable. The deck took a hit with the printing of Light the Fire, but the core gameplan is still fast and effective.

Architects is the ID for you if you really like bioroid ice. There’s really not much more to it than that. Bioroids get stronger together, where the runner might be able to click through one taxing bioroid, but they definitely can’t click through three. AoT makes rezzing those bioroids much cheaper – if the runner passes your ice. And therein is the critical weakness of Architects: the runner must pass your ice. If they encounter an Eli 1.0 and simply let the subroutines fire, you don’t get your ID trigger. This makes it especially easy to pressure AoT’s economy, and with the sad 12 influence that economy is going to be stretched thin.

You can either import economy or not. If you don’t, you’re mostly reliant on HB’s economy ecampaigns to provide the money needed, but a wide runner can usually trash these and leave you penniless. If you import economy like Daily Quest, then you run out of room for other useful imports. AoT simply struggles to make anything happen in Startup.

Mirrormorph is an ID that immediately captures the imagination. Think of all the cool things you could do with that extra click! There are two schools of thought with Mirrormorph. The first gets ID triggers where convenient and mostly uses them to gain credits, using the ID as a sort of drip economy over the course of the game. The second tries to really abuse the ability with cards like Cold Site Server and other weird click abilities.

Either way, most Mirrormorph decks have complex lines to consider, working out not just what you need to do this turn, but what you need to do next turn, and if you can set it up in such a way that you’ll get ID triggers on both. Cards like Red Level Clearance overperform here, letting you play an operation for your ID while actually installing 2 cards in a turn, something you can’t usually do while getting ID triggers.

JINTEKI

Personal Evolution is a powerful ID that generally rewards you for having lots of small agendas. There are two main variations of the deck. The first uses Prana Condenser to make economy off of steals, scores, Snares! and such, before using the Condenser to blast the runner to bits. The second is a shellgame deck, installing a mixture of traps, agendas, and must-runs, hoping the runner makes too many mistakes and dies.

No matter what type of PE you play, you’re probably going to be playing both Sting! and House of Knives. They’re small agendas for your ID and can both do a lot of damage, HoK being more spread out whereas Sting! is a much more immediately lethal card.

Restoring Humanity is bad.

That might sound a little unfair, because you can do some funny things with it. Stick 6 points of agendas in Archives to establish a nice flow of credits, and blow the runner up with Punitive Counterstrike if they ever try to turn it off. That’s cute. That’s real cute. But you have to understand that what Jinteki can do in Startup is very limited, and RH contributes nothing to any of the cohesive strategies. I wish I had more to say! RH is mind-numbingly boring and weak as hell. Both other Jinteki identities are interesting, play them instead.

Hyoubu isn’t the strongest ID in the game, but it is home to one of the most fun decks. Hyoubu Rush aims to score an early Flower Sermon, an absurdly tempo-positive agenda in exactly this ID, adn then ride that train to victory. It’s not incredibly powerful, it can be inconsistent, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play.

Hyboubu benefits a lot from Subliminal Messaging, since you have to reveal the card when returning it to hand. It’s a lot of drip economy, and it puts pressure on runners with slower starts. But most of the time you’ll just lose the games where you can’t get a Flower Sermon scored, and that’s pretty sad from a competitive perspective.

As a random aside, these Jinteki watercolours by Kalypso are really quite pretty. Not pretty enough to make me play RH, but enough to make me play more Sermon Hyoubu.

NBN

Tag punishment in Startup is quite bad. Retribution maybe lets you trash a key breaker but runner decks have plenty of tools to keep on hitting your servers without a full rig. So Reality Plus isn’t really going to be using those tags too much. Rather, you can use cards like Ping and Funhouse as tempo tools, helping you draw through your deck. Lots of runners will go tagme against R+ (choosing not to clear tags and instead accumulating them) and so Psychographis does get some value in this ID, especially when paired with Project Beale.

Near-Earth Hub is Startup’s premier asset spam ID. The deck uses SanSan City Grid to fast advance agendas from hand, and License Acquisition to bring it straight back if the runner trashes it. All the while, your ID is giving you free card draw, helping you find your SanSans, find your economy, find your agendas to score.

You’re often fairly ice-light because your ID wants you to be creating new remote servers; you do still need to run some though to avoid losing to Stargate and to help score agendas off the table while the runner is unprepared. Bellona is great in all NBN IDs but it’s especially great here, since stealing it will often render a runner too poor to interact with your board for a while.

In contrast, GameNET is one of Startup’s premier glacier IDs. The deck is in large part powered by the absurd Gold Farmer, a broken ice that’s banned in Standard for being too strong, but set free in Startup. F2P, Tollbooth, even a lovely imported Afshar: you get paid every time the runner loses credits to one of these, and that just gives you even more money to keep rezzing Tollbooths. Daily Quest is a staple here, giving you even more money to do with as you will. GameNET doesn’t really push you in a particular direction, except that it wants to be somewhat more ice-heavy than other NBN IDs in order to make use of its own ability. Play GameNET if you want a slightly more generic NBN ID that will likely work well with whatever gameplan you’re trying to execute.

WEYLAND

Built to Last is one of the best rush decks in Startup. Your ID gives you a lot of money over the course of a game – it pays you back when you score agendas, and when you advance your ice. And you’ll want to be advancing that ice because Trick of Light is a perfect card for you, letting you take counters off your ice to fast advance your numerous 3/2 agendas.

BTL can also glacier up relatively well, with triple-advanced Akhet, Hortum, Archer, and Cayambe Grid all providing large taxes to whatever server they’re on. The deck definitely struggles against Clot at times, but that’s frankly an occupational hazard for any sort of deck with fast advance capabilities.

It’s hard to justify playing BABW. The simple truth is that while turning a Hedge Fund into 5 credits profit instead of the usual 4 is pretty cool, there just aren’t enough transactions to ever make this worth playing over BTL. BTL will gain you more credits over the course of a game, and it does so without requiring all your influence to be spent on Red Level Clearances and Predictive Planograms because you’re so starved for transactions. It’s sad to say, but it would take nothing short of a miracle to make BABW playable.

Earth Station is an unusual ID with some cool features and weird issues. There are small annoyances like not being able to install a Spin Doctor the same time you have an agenda on the table, but these aren;’t really big concerns. Earth Station’s 6 credit tax is generally pretty unsustainable for even rich runners to handle, so Crisium Grid is a must to keep that tax online. This is one of the few decks where Sprint is better than Spin, so consider swapping them over. The big issue is just working out what Earth Station wants to do. You can play a slow Punitive game, but runners have so many ways to dodge death that it’s unreliable at best. You can try to score out behind large ice like Archers backed up with the Earth Station tax, but that deck is slightly too slow and lacks the economy provided by BTL. That all said, ES is a very fun ID with a lot of room for player creativity in deckbuilding and I would suggest it to anybody looking for a deckbuilding challenge.

THE STATE OF STARTUP, AND THE PILLARS OF THE FORMAT

One common thread that you maybe picked up from these descriptions of IDs is that Startup is heavily runner-favoured. This is in some ways desirable for a new player format, but I don’t think we can go on without talking about the state of Startup.

Startup as a format is primarily defined by the comparative strength of runners in the late game. Cards like Rezeki give runners so much economy that when a corp attempts to play slowly and run the runner out of resources, they are inevitably fighting a losing battle. Imagine for example a Steve Cambridge deck that spends just 3 influence importing 3 copies of Rezeki. This is a very small price for Steve to pay, only 1/5 of the total influence, and in return he becomes almost unbeatable in the late game. Cards that would give corps a chance such as Anoetic Void and Cayambe Grid are easily countered by the powerful Light the Fire. There are still exceptions to this rule, like GameNET glacier, but by and large, this dynamic holds true for the majority of decks.

The end result is that corp decks must find other ways to win. Some decks, like Precision Design, attempt to rush even faster, and still threaten an Anoetic Void lockout if the runner can’t find their answer fast enough. Others, like Built to Last, are also on a rush plan that they supplement with fast advance tools to win without a viable remote later on. Others still, like Personal Evolution, attempt to play a sort of shell game, asking the runner to find the agendas amidst a sea of Urtica Ciphers and Cerebral Overwriters.

Runner decks respond in turn to beat this tide of fast corp decks. More Boomerangs and Botulus and Kit to make those early remotes weaker. More Simulchips to bring back Chisel to tear down more ice. More Clot to blank the fast advance. Startup is an arms race where both sides are trying to find ways to go faster than the other, predicated on the base assumption that if the game goes long against a traditional corp deck the runner’s chances of winning only increase.

This is the lens through which we must analyse the pillars of the format. The cards that define Startup are universally the cards that allow the runner to win the late game, the cards that some corps use to try and eke out wins late, and the cards that both sides use to go faster. This is, of course, a slight over-simplification of things, but I would argue that it is not that much of a simplification! With that in mind, let’s look at the most important cards in Startup and try to understand why they’re so critical.

These 4 economy cards are the most mandatory cards in the format. In Standard, where the card pool is larger, it can be correct to not run Hedge Fund in corp decks, for example. Not so in Startup – the fast economy options are more limited, and not including 3 copies of Hedge Fund in a corp deck, or 3 copies of each of Daily Casts, Dirty Laundry, and Sure Gamble in a runner deck, is virtually incorrect. You may feel that you have a deck that wants to go faster than Daily Casts can, or one that doesn’t want to run much and so Dirty Laundry is worse. You are (probably) wrong. Especially as a new player, these cards should be considered mandatory.

Having mentioned that Startup is an arms race between corps trying to get quick points before the runner can set up an engine and become incredibly favoured, and runners trying to find ways to contest these early scores, these cards can be considered pillars of the formats. Boomerang and Botulus are the best by some margin, with Boomerang being faster to set up and not consuming memory, while Botulus is a more permanent solution to a piece of ice. Inside Job is generally worse than Boomerang, being limited to only handling the outermost ice, but is still frequently played in Criminal decks as it is usually as good as Boomerang in the early game while being 1 click more efficient (Boomerang requires installation and then a run, Inside Job simply requires the run). Pelangi is the worst of the lot, and Shapers will frequently import Boomerang, but it is worth mentioning as an influence free option.

These are the premier disruptive tools in the format. Light the Fire deals with problematic defensive upgrades like Anoetic Void and Cayambe Grid, while Clot blanks fast advance attempts. Self-Modifying Code serves as both a tool to contest early remotes (in the same way as the cards in the above section do) by searching out whatever breaker is required, whilst also being able to search up Clot during the corp’s turn to nullify their attempt. Simulchip has use in reinstalling breakers that ended up in the heap, but its primary use is also to reinstall a clot that got purged away. Thanks to these tools, runners have the ability to disrupt the corp’s plans even when they would otherwise be able to land important scores.

The ChiselCharm combo deserves a section all to itself. Every Anarch deck worth mentioning uses this combo to trash even the largest ice. Because Chisel and Charm trigger at the same time you may choose the order they resolve, so you can reduce the ice’s strength by 6 (almost certainly to 0) with Charm, then fire Chisel to trash the ice. It’s an incredibly potent combo that gets even better in decks that import Simulchip to bring back Chisels, letting you use them to trash problematic Gold Farmers and other such ice.

The only fracters worth mentioning. Cleaver is generally better even without the support of Leech or Ice Carver, but Corroder isn’t strictly worse – it handles large ice like Bran 1.0 and triple-advanced Pharos better than Cleaver. Most Shaper and Criminal decks will import one of these are their fracter of choice – they have their own fracters, but they are universally awful and gimmicks rather than genuinely good cards.

The 4 big decoders in the format. Buzzsaw looks bad but 3 strength handles most ice just fine, and with Leech or Ice Carver supporting it, it can really quite efficient. Euler is mostly relegated to decks trying to stuff with Cybertrooper Talut. As a general breaker it’s usually outclassed by Unity, which is not great by itself but can be really efficient once you have a full rig set up. Gordian Blade is most commonly seen in Kit decks where you’re more likely to encounter multiple code gates in a single run; otherwise, you’re generally better served by just playing Unity.

And finally the killers of Startup. Bukhgalter is a broken card and the standard by which all other killers are compared to. Carmen is generally worse than Bukh, only being notably better against a handful of higher strength sentries, but it is 2 influence cheaper and so far easier to import into other factions. Mimic’s 3 strength is more than enough for the majority of sentries, and against the ones where you need more you’ll have a Leech and Ice Carver to back you up. Revolver is likewise an efficient card that needs support, this time in the form of Simulchips to reinstall it once it’s out of counters.

These three types of breakers are not the only options, of course. Some decks will use Afterimage as their killer and Penrose as their decoder; others will save influence and make do with the lackluster Marjanah or Makler as their fracter. These should be considered anomalies and as a new player, you should stick to the standard options. I would recommend a suite of Cleaver (Corroder if you’re worried about large ice), Unity, and Bukhgalter (or Carmen if you cannot find the influence spare) for your first decks. Whether or not other options are correct is something you will learn to intuit with time.

These are simply examples of the sorts of cards that make runners so favoured in the late game. Rezeki is a simple 1 credit per turn that can be used on anything; Poemu gives you 1 credit per turn for lower cost and no memory usage, but it can only be used to install things; Leech gives you a counter that’s always worth a minimum of 1 credit on each central run, if not more. There are more examples than these – Bravado is an absurd amount of burst economy, Boomerangs and Botulus can just be used to save on breaking costs, and many of the best IDs get to draw another good economy card every turn for free – but these should help illustrate the idea that if you are trying to go into the late game with a runner in Startup, you are fighting a losing battle and it’s going to be hard to win.

These are some of the best win conditions for runners. Conduit can pressure R&D extremely hard if the corp can’t adequately defend it, or if the runner just has enough money in the bank + drip economy to run the server for a while. Deep Dive is the new staple from the Midnight Sun Booster Pack, and it’s extremely effective at closing out games. You can use Swift to get an extra click and hence be able to steal 2 agendas, but frequently it’s still worth playing with just the 1 use. Stargate is a versatile card, being able to trash ice from R&D to keep the corp’s defences weak whilst also letting you trash agendas into archives which you can then steal.

In a format where runners are so rich, ice alone isn’t enough to keep the runner out of your servers. Defensive upgrades are effectively a multiplicative effect on your ice, allowing you to make servers stronger without spening more credits on install costs, and if they end the run because the runner was careless, then they’ll need to go all the way through that server again. Cayambe Grid doesn’t just force the runner to pay out large sums of cash, it also drip feeds you advancements that either make your ice stronger or are fuel for Trick of Light. Manegarm is the cheapest to use and its tax is moderate enough, especially if the runner doesn’t play around it properly. Anoetic Void is less a tax and more a brick wall, being expensive to use but stopping the runner cold in their tracks. Because the corp can choose which order these abilities fire in, they can force the runner to pay for Cayambe or Skunk before Voiding them back out of the server. This was a much more powerful combo before the printing of Light the Fire (and the new Pinhole Threading), both of which are clean and easy answers to this style of defence.

The Gateway cycle of “limit 1 per deck” 3/2 agendas are really common. There are some agenda spreads where you won’t see them: for example, a Punitive Counterstrike deck out of a 40 card ID (which means you need 18-19 agenda points) will typically 6 5/3 agendas to maximise the oppurtunities to land a Punitive. But in most decks, these are staples of agenda suites. Above the Law and Luminal are particular standouts, with Above the Law often creating huge tempo swings when it trashes a rich Daily Casts or Liberated Accounts, and Luminal giving HB decks a huge amount of tempo when scored. Tomorrow’s Headline is also widely played but it’s not quite as good, mostly because the tag punishment in Startup is infamously poor. Longevity Serum’s effect is definitely useful, but it’s still the weakest of the bunch.

These agendas, along with Above the Law, form an extremely powerful Weyland agenda suite. You can play 7 3/2 agendas, the best stateline an agenda can have for rushing, while Hostile Takeover can easily be scored from hand to net you the final point. Hostile also serves as an economy card, where scoring it in the midgame can give you the money you need to safely score another, and an overadvanced Atlas is one of the scariest things in the game – if one of these decks can get an Atlas counter, their chances of winning go up drastically.

The tempo-positive 4/2s aren’t quite as dominant as they have been in Standard, but they’re still an important part of the metagame. I generally think Offworld is better than Sandbox in Startup (whereas the reverse is often true in Standard) because there just aren’t as many crucial viruses you need to purge, and no Macrophage to make giant. In a similar manner to Hostile Takeover, scoring an Offworld will often give you the money you need to keep scoring.

These three cards form the backbone of shellgame decks. You must run the Clearinghouse, but you can’t run the Urtica. Guess wrong and… well, you probably won’t die if you’re playing sensibly, but you’ll get punished for it. Run the Cerebral, and you’ll lose hand size for the rest of the game, making all other traps even scarier. Most commonly played out of Personal Evolution, the addition of Ronins and Sting! make ending your turn on a low hand-size even more lethal.

These first two ice are notable for being banned in Standard but legal in Startup, and it shows. Gold Farmer is a hugely taxing ice that costs far too much for its cheap cost, only slightly held back by a weakness to Chisel. Engram Flush is a punishing facecheck where one fire lets you set up the perfect type name for the next, and it’s also absurdly expensive to break for the 2 rez cost. You can of course handle it by running with an empty grip, but come on – if you’re running with an empty grip against Jinteki, you are asking to die. Both of these ice are widely imported because of their raw efficiency. Magnet isn’t as taxing, but it handles Botulus like a dream, and it’s here because it’s also very widely imported. It’s a great ice to rush out behind early because it’s cheap, it has a hard “end the run”, and it’s immune to one of the more common ways runners can contest early scores.

These are the premier fast advance tools in Startup. SanSan and Trick of Light are easily the best, with SanSan being an important tool in various NBN decks and Trick of Light seeing play in both Weyland and Jinteki decks. Biotic Labour is a little too expensive to really see super-widespread play but it’s by far the easiest of them to set up. Bass is the worst by some distance, but he’s still worth mentioning because of some cute synergies in Mirrormorph.

Finally, Spinny deserves a section all his own. If there is any card in Startup corp decks that should be considered mandatory (short of Hedge Fund), it’s Spin Doctor. Yes, even in non-NBN decks. Spin is one of the most powerful cards in the format and the amount it does for you cannot be overstated. If you need to get key assets or ice back that the runner trashed, Spin can do it. If you need to get agendas out of HQ, use Spin to overdraw, discard them, and then shuffle them back. If you need to find an agenda to score, use Spin to draw. If you’re playing a deck that wants to build a worthwhile remote, use Spin to drag the runner through it because unrezzed it looks like an agenda. You cannot overstate the importance of Spin Doctor to the game. And with Midnight Sun bringing us the new Sabotage mechanic, Spin is going to be even more important than ever. If you are a new player, do not cut him. You will be making your deck worse.

NOTABLE DECKS

I’m going to go through one deck from each faction that I consider to be the best (or at least the most approachable) and discuss how it works.

Decklist: https://netrunnerdb.com/en/decklist/467b9000-bf33-4886-bf28-5a82198f0fca/-startup-run-it-chisel-it

This Hoshiko deck is a balanced aggressive deck that utilises the ChiselCharm combo + Boomerangs to contest early scores. Keiko + Paladin Poemu gives you a lot of drip economy each turn with how many installables you have, and that just gets ramped up even further with a DreamNet down. Simulchip can bring back Chisels to help you deal with Gold Farmers and other irritating ice whilst also being an excellent tool with Imp if you need more trashing, or Fermenter if you need more cash. The deck is extremely rich and well-balanced, with the biggest weakness being slow starts (with potentially bad Gachapon luck) letting rush decks get a fast lead, and scoring out from fast advance before you can find the points you need. Stargate helps a lot in these situations, trashing fast advance tools from R&D and giving you even more pressure to close quickly. Overall, there’s a lot of variation in what you can do with Hoshiko simply because the ID is so powerful, and this is just a very regular example of the deck.

Decklist: https://netrunnerdb.com/en/decklist/b3ca3b99-327d-484c-a5e7-8b788898c998/-startup-better-lucky-with-full-guide-

This deck is packed full of economy cards that you’ll keep recurring with Steve, making it extremely hard to ever run you out of money. Keep pressuring whatever central you think the agendas are lurking in, using your run-based economy to keep yourself rich. If the corp gets too many ice on HQ and R&D, install your Sneakdoor Beta and start slamming HQ again. Your goal is to never let the corp keep agendas in HQ, either because you’re sniping them from R&D first, or because your HQ pressure forces the corp to install them in a remote. Thanks to your bypass, your efficient breakers, and the heaploads of money you can generate, you shouldn’t have too much trouble snatching agendas from the remote. Lucky Charm is an excellent X-factor against Anoetic Void, letting you blank their trigger and get in anyway.

Decklist: https://netrunnerdb.com/en/decklist/37a7813c-bc74-4194-9839-b8b65577e0d1/-startup-deep-dive-lat-2de-brussels-circuit-opener

Deep Dive Lat is an excellent Startup deck, using Lat’s natural card draw to power through the deck. This particular list doesn’t have too many bypass tools, but 3 Self-Modifying Codes mean that you can break any single-iced server given sufficient money. Overclock is excellent here, providing you with a burstof credits to help your SMC find what you need. The breakers are the most efficient possible, spending a full 4 influence on Bukhgalter because it’s just the best option. Jailbreak is primarily a tool to be used on HQ when you think there are agendas lurking there, and remember to try and keep a run event or two in hand for your Deep Dive turn. You’d be very sad if you found your moment to Dive and realised that you didn’t have a run event for Swift and were forced to settle for a single-click Dive. 2 Harmony AR Therapy give you longevity in longer games, but the second copy is likely excessive and the first place I’d look to make cuts if you wanted to customise.

Decklist: https://netrunnerdb.com/en/decklist/56f1cefb-6f93-485d-bd7f-a4cc48d23446/-startup-battle-station-pd-3-4-2nd-place-ashes-to-ashes

While the printing of Light the Fire undeniably made PD worse, the deck is still very good. This list spends a huge 12 influence on all 3 copies of Anoetic Void, meaning that even if one gets trashed you can likely find a replacement very quickly. PD always wants to have at least one remote with a card inside – usually a Tranquility Home Grid – and so Fully Operational can draw 4 cards for 1 credit, helping you find the agendas you need to rush out (or if you find an agenda in the first set of draws, it can also just gain some money). If you set up a second single-iced remote with Nico, it’s going to get even more efficient, though it’s often worth putting that ice elsewhere. With how fast this deck can play, Vacheron very quickly becomes a blank card for the runner, since you’re going to score out before those counters ever tick down.

Decklist: https://netrunnerdb.com/en/decklist/29f39e05-741e-48d1-b46e-ea45cbb053cc/pauper-pe-startup-6-1-in-the-ashes-to-ashes-tournament-

This is a very poor PE deck that can flex its gameplan to suit the situation. It has a ton of gearchecks to rush out behind, including the advanceable Ice Wall (which combos with Trick of Light to fast advance later) and Magnet (which is immune to Botulus and Chisel). You put the pressure on fast and early, but if the runner is too reckless they’re liable to die to Sting!, Ronin, Snare!, or most likely a combination of the above. Urtica Cipher is painful to check, but can also work for your Trick of Light plays. The deck is very poor and will have to spend a lot of time clicking for credits – this makes every ice placement even more important as you’ll naturally be extending games more than other rush decks.

Decklist: https://netrunnerdb.com/en/decklist/3e4fd9ae-af17-42b1-83a6-0756d76e6536/-startup-near-earth-flop

This is a SanSan / License Acquisition NEH deck. The most unusual choice here is spending 9 influence on Fully Operational – if you can get multiple remotes set up behind ice, this card provides absurd value for its cost, either finding you whatever card you need, or giving you enough money to do whatever you want to do. Daily Business Shows are essential for finding agendas to score, or bottoming them when you’re unready. Drafter is an extremely punishing facecheck if the runner has trashed any of your assets. PAD Campaigns and Tiered Subscriptions provide you with a steady source of drip economy, but the runner probably shouldn’t trash them – if they go too wild busting your economy, they’re going to have major issues trashing a SanSan (and even more the second or third time). If the runner doesn’t trash them you can generate huge credit totals, which Corporate Troubleshooters can leverage into a win.

Decklist: https://netrunnerdb.com/en/decklist/30d3d32e-f94c-4cd6-9761-58a7992ee071/vegan-btl-sandwich-1st-place-startup-tournament-z-rich-

This is a very fast rush deck with a strong fast-advance backup plan. Your ID keeps you rich as your score, helping ensure you don’t need to spend too much time clicking for credits. Meanwhile, your advanceable ice is both stopping and taxing, and later on turns into fast advance pieces of Trick of Light. Cayambe Grid helps to keep your centrals safe whilst also giving you more free advancements, either for Trick or just to hit the valuable 3-counter threshold. Akhet specifically becomes very taxing with 3 counters, costing 5 credits with Cleaver or 4 with Corroder while still firing a subroutine. The agenda suite is designed to go very fast, with the full package of 3/2s and Hostiles to end.

MIDNIGHT SUN

It’s impossible to predict exactly what Midnight Sun will do to the format. There’s too many powerful new cards, too many things worth noting to get everything correct. In this section, I’m going to go over each faction, talk about some of the new tools they’ve got, and what people are most hyped for.

ANARCH

Anarch’s MS cards can be roughly divided into two groups. There’s the core damage / sabotage package, which includes the new ID Esa Afontov, and then a handful of generically powerful cards.

Esa is difficult to judge. Xir ability makes taking core damage a lot more reasonable, and the incremental sabotage can definitely add up. Core damage is a mixed bag – on one hand, it makes you much more liable to die to shellgame/Jinteki traps, but on the other hand it all helps you sabotage them, and these decks frequently lose on centrals. Getting bonus accesses from sabotage mills, then, seems valuable.

There’s two schools of thought for a sabotage deck. The first is a somewhat-solitaire “run archives once and win” deck, where you just aim to sabotage mill away enough points to win. The other plays more like a regular Anarch deck, using the sabotage cards as additional central pressure. The former seems gimmicky, though don’t let that be an indictment – there have been plenty of powerful gimmicky decks in Netrunner’s history. It just strikes me as a deck with an unusually low skill ceiling. The latter, however, is arguably less promising – whilst a full-on sabotage mill deck might work, I don’t see regular Anarch decks being particularly improved by most sabotage cards.

The second group, however, are obvious staples. Steelskin Scarring is an excellent draw card baseline that becomes really gross if you trash it to damage or your own Moshing. In a format where every anarch plays Paladin Poemu, if not more companions, the Twinning provides immense central pressure, far more than what I see sabotage cards providing in regular decks.

CRIMINAL

Criminals also get two types of cards, the Mark cards and the generic cards, but the divide is a lot less harsh here.

Sable gets you a click when you run your marked server. That’s potent, but I don’t think a “Mark deck” with Virtuoso and Backstitching is going to come together. Rather, I think the individually good cards – Sable and Carpe Diem – are going to find homes anyway. Carpe Diem is obviously good in Sable, but it’s just a reasonable enough economy card anyway. I don’t necessarily know that many Criminal decks want another run-economy card, but it’s an option. Sable, meanwhile, is likely the best new Deep Dive Criminal, since she doesn’t need to play Swift and instead can play a better console like Pennyshaver.

Pinhole Threading is a great new answer to defensive upgrades. It can’t save you credits on trashing a SanSan like Light the Fire can, but it also doesn’t cost you influence. Cezve is a nice new source of drip economy for an aggressive centrals-based Criminal, and No Free Lunch is very pleasant anti-tag tech that also doubles as a mediocre (but far better than nothing) economy card. I can see lots of decks finding room for an NFL or two, and I’d be curious to see if some influence-starved Crims swap their Rezekis for Cezves.

SHAPER

Shapers get a very exciting suite of cards, including what may be the most hyped card of the set.

Let’s get the boat in the room out of the way first. Endurance is a huge, expensive, clunky console that provides you with as many Boomerangs as your heart could want. Paired with Padma, you can get 2 counters a turn on Endurance. This is extremely effective at putting early pressure on the corp, weakening their single-iced remotes in a similar manner to Boomerang or Inside Job, but in this case the boat will stick around turn after turn, constantly threatening to invalidate your ice. That being said, it is expensive to put down, and ice with odd numbers of subroutines can force it to overspend. Ice Wall, Bran 1.0, Ansel 1.0, and several others are all effective against Endurance. It is, however, undeniable that an early Boat coming down will warp the rest of the game.

Padma herself need not be relegated to always charging her boat, however. Propeller and Hyperbaric are both pleasant targets for her ability, and squeezing an extra turn out of Earthrise Hotel is also strong. Into The Depths is a versatile card, half Dirty laundry, half SMC, but whether or not it will find a home in decks depends on whether Shaper decks really need another, clunkier, Dirty Laundry. Rigging Up has nice synergy with Revolver, Hyperbaric, Propeller, and of course Endurance, but Modded (an FFG card with this text except the Charge ability) frequently struggled to find targets and this may suffer the same fate.

HAAS-BIOROID

HB’s cards here don’t seem great.

Trieste is a powerful ability, but many of its best targets aren’t in Startup. When you’re targetting a 1.0 Bioroid with it, it’s suddenly a lot less powerful. The Harmonic ice could maybe be powerful once more of them are printed in Parhelion, but right now there just aren’t enough to make it worthwhile. Midnight-3 is a tempo-positive 4/2, but it’s worse than both Cyberdex Sandbox and Offworld Office, and arguably worse than Architect Deployment Test which sees no play. Big Deal is a very splashy effect, but it’s vulnerable to Clot and altogether too expensive for the format.

JINTEKI

Jinteki comes into Midnight Sun with several cool and poweful new tools, but it’s a big question if they’re enough to make the faction meaningfully stronger.

Mavirus could possibly be the most relevent card here, but not in Jinteki. A paid-ability-speed purge means that fast advance decks can purge away a Clot and score their agenda before the runner can ever Simulchip it back. Whether or not it’s worth the influence is a different question, but I imagine it will at least be experimented with in BTL and HB fast advance decks. Jinteki can of course do Trick of Light plays themselves, and they have the new Moon Pool, but both of those seem secondary enough in Jinteki decks that you don’t want to waste a card slot on Mavirus.

Blood In The Water is a potent ability, but somewhat neutered by the fact that the correct play against Jinteki is always to draw up before your turn ends where possible. There are cute things that can be done with Sting! and Ronin, but those combos seem hard to put together.

Regensis seems quite bad in a format without Obokata. There’s nothing except not wanting to waste clicks to stop the runner from just checking archives every turn there’s a facedown card, rendering the card fairly useless. Mitosis is maybe the Jinteki card with the most potential here, as it seems like a shoe-in for shellgame. Now, shellgame is really quite bad and I don’t know that this changes that, but it at least has use within the archetype.

NBN

A new breed of shellgame is here for NBN, and it wishes it could do more with tags.

The fork of Chekist/Drago is very obvious. With Pravdivost’s ability adding a third counter, run a double-advanced Chekist and you won’t be able to clear the tags without a tool like No Free Lunch. But don’t run, and if it’s a Drago you’re tagged anyway. The core weakness here is unfortunately obvious – there’s just very little to do with tags in Startup.

Retribution can trash icebreakers or important hardware, and Trust Operation can trash a resource while bring back a large ice for free, but none of these are amazing uses of your time and effort. The best use may simply be Backroom Machinations to score a free point, and that’s not bad, but it’s hardly worth building a deck around.

Of more interest is combining Pravdivost with Mestnichestvo, Vasilisa, and maybe some Weyland ice or a Vladisibirsk City Grid. Mestnichestvo is a painful facecheck with a counter, but it’s also a fairly reasonable card even without, and thanks to Pravdivost or Vasilisa, you’ll be able to keep counters on it without spending clicks. The question, of course, is if this is worthwhile in a world where runners can simply use Boat to smash through your ice without needing credits. Time will tell.

WEYLAND

Weyland’s new ID is obviously powerful, but whether or not it has a home in Startup is up for debate.

Ob looks like it could be a force to be reckoned with in Standard, but in Startup? Without the power of Border Control, Ob looks poised to maintain a board state that looks like it belongs on turn 2 well into the midgame. Extract and Excavator are both fairly reasonable cards as long as you have trash chains you’re happy going down, but especially in Startup I’m not sure you do. Critically, the lack of any reasonable 2-cost ice makes trashing down for profit far harder than it originally looks. I’m not convinced.

Mutually Assured Destruction has the same problems as all the NBN cards: there’s just no good reason to put that many tags on someone. Psychographics can only go so far, and giving up your board state to do it seems bad.

So what’s left? Maskirovka has horrible numbers against Cleaver, and Envelopment and Stavka lose huge amounts of their value once you’re no longer playing them in Ob. Weyland very much got the short end of the stick for Startup in my humble opinion, but don’t let me dissuade you. Ob is an ID with a lot of potential and even more complexity. If someone manages to break it in Startup I wouldn’t be surprised in the least.

And so concludes my very lengthy introduction to Startup. If you’re a new player, I already have a couple of articles on this site talking about some of the basics of Netrunner, and I plan to put more up over time, when I have the chance and the motivation to write. I hope you found something interesting here, or at least useful. Thank you for reading this far, and have a lovely day.

Standard

The Foundations: Corp Archetypes

in which Rook discusses various common deck archetypes and how to identify and beat each

Hi.

It’s been brought to my attention that a blog theoretically aimed at new players without an in-person meta to guide them should probably have some sort of resource that explains each of the common archetypes in the game. This article should simultaneously serve as a basic strategy guide and a glossary – I will be defining and discussing the game’s popular corp deck archetypes, and then we’ll go over how these decks win, how they lose, and the sorts of things you can do when playing against them or building with the matchup in mind.

Archetypes in the Abstract

What exactly is an archetype, though? It might sound obvious to people who have played card games for a while, but even the more approachable language we use can be intimidating and hard-to-understand for new players. To put it briefly, an archetype is a type of general category that describes how a deck plays. While there might be some degree of variation within a given archetype as to how specific decks play or interact, each deck that belongs to an archetype will still tend to share many of the same strengths and weaknesses. While different glacier decks may do different things (and don’t worry if the term glacier is currently unfamiliar), a deck that is very good against one type of glacier deck is likely to be at least somewhat favoured against other glacier decks. In other words, matchups can frequently be considered in terms of playing against various archetypes rather than against various specific decks.

Asset spam decks might play and win in different ways, but they all really hate a timely Miss Bones tearing their board apart for pennies.

I do want to define one small term here before we begin – tempo. The actual full definition of tempo is once again far beyond the scope of this article, but for our purposes all that needs to be understood is the concept of tempo-positive agendas. I’ve found it useful to explain tempo as the idea of being on the front foot, being the one constantly generating resources and advancing your own game plan. Scoring agendas might get you closer to winning the game, but it’s also very inefficient! You have to spend multiple credits and clicks to sufficiently advance an agenda. This is why cards like Cyberdex Sandbox and Offworld Office are so powerful: because they immediately pay you back for scoring them, they help you maintain your tempo even while getting closer to actually winning the game. These agendas are known as tempo positive and they’re going to be a crucial part of lots of the decks we talk about.

Rush

Rush decks aim to win by scoring agendas behind cheap gearcheck ice before the runner is adequately set up. They rely on efficient and easy-to-score agendas, traditionally 3/2s though the recent printing of powerful tempo-positive 4/2s have changed their spreads slightly.

Notable rush decks include:
Standard Precision Design, a deck that leverages Seamless Launch to score 4/2 agendas from no advancements while defensive upgrades and Border Control team up with taxing ice to stop the runner getting in
Startup Built to Last, a deck that leverages the fact that Weyland’s startup card pool includes many of the best early gearchecks and the single most 3/2 agendas, scoring out early before falling back on Trick of Light to fast advance agendas from hand
Startup Hyoubu Institute, a deck that leverages the incredible tempo generated by Flower Sermon in this ID to power out their rush, while also supplementing their cheap gearchecks runners can usually recklessly run into with the scary Saisentan.

Rush decks win games where the runner can’t get set up in time. Their core gameplan relies on cheap stopping ice that runners will easily be able to repeatedly run through once they’ve found their breakers – the trick is that these decks can threaten to win before the runner has ever found and installed the breakers they need.

AI breakers are frequently really useful against rush decks, and turtle is the best. They often don’t have the time to purge nor the ice to make purging worthwhile, and Aumakua devours gearchecks like nothing else.

Rush decks lose games where the runner gets set up fast enough to reliably contest the remote. This is why most decks are not pure rush decks – they suplement their plan with other strategies. Weyland decks will frequently turn to fast advance to close games, a strategy they are uniquely equipped for thanks to Audacity being an excellent card, Trick of Light synergising perfectly with advanceable ice, Project Atlas making assembling these fast advance combos effortless, and Hostile Takeover being a naturally fast-advanceable agenda to get the final point. PD uses really taxing ice and hard “end the run” tools like Border Control and Anoetic Void to transition away from cheap gearchecks into a far more taxing deck than it might appear. Hyoubu lacks an equivalent back-up plan, relying more on the imported Bran 1.0 and their mediocre lockdown to tax the runner and close games, and accordingly it’s easily the weakest deck of the 3 mentioned here.

To beat rush decks, you need to be able to force them into their backup plan as early as possible. Bypass tools like Inside Job, Boomerang, and Botulus can invalidate their gearchecks early even when you haven’t found the necessary breaker, letting you get early steals. Self-Modifying Code and Mutual Favour can tutor (search through your deck) for whatever breaker you need, forcing the rush deck to shore up the remote if they want to keep it effective. Kit decks are frequently excellent against rush because even with only a decoder, any single-ice remote is vulnerable thanks to her ability. It’s hard to beat rush decks by simply stealing 7 points from their centrals – they can play far too fast for that to be a reliable strategy. You need to be able to force them to slow down, and the easiest way to do that is to make them commit more and more resources to the remote. In terms of economy, burst economy cards like Sure Gamble and Dirty Laundry are ideal, as slower sources are unlikely to give you the returns you want from them before the game is over.

Economic pressure also works wonders. As a runner you should always be facechecking (running into ice knowing that you can’t break it to force the corp to spend credits rezzing) to pressure the corp’s money, and that’s especially crucial against Rush. Because their economy is generally more fragile than most decks and they have a tendency to play pretty poor, forcing early rezzes frequently slows them down significantly. Diversion of Funds is always a big deal here, as their small credit totals mean the 5 credit drain is often a very significant portion of their money. It is, of course, possible for the rush deck to get richer, and to play and Diversion, and to make sure that they can survive their economy being pressured…. But in order to do so they have to slow themselves down, and that’s exactly what you want to do against rush. By forcing them to slow down, you give yourself more time to get set up and find the cards you need.

Vanilla is a classic rush card, but it’s far from relegated to them. AgInfusion isn’t necessarily a rush deck, but Vanilla is excellent, serving as a free gearcheck you can rush behind early while just getting trashed to your ID later on.

As a final note, you don’t have to be a rush deck to rush! Lots of decks that you couldn’t really describe as rush will happily take advantage of a runner that hasn’t found the breakers they need yet to quickly score early points.

Horizontal / Asset Spam

Horizontal decks are so called because of the number of remote servers they create, spreading horizontally across the table. They win because of a very simple interaction – take PAD Campaign as a very simple example. If you install it in a new remote without any ice and the runner runs and trashes it, you’ve spent a click and a card and they’ve spent a click and 4 credits, because you don’t have to rez assets until you need them. That’s already a pretty good deal for you, but if it stays on the board for a turn or two, that credit differential when they eventually trash it gets larger and larger. And if they never trash it? That’s also great! Now you have this constant dripfeed of credits for the rest of the game. In other words, horizontal decks rely on the fact that the runner cannot both spend the time to contest your board and develop their own and maintain a reasonable credit total, and whatever they fail to do you capitalise on. This is an idea known as click compression – you compress the amount of clicks the runner can spend during the game. If they don’t contest your board, you utilise all your assets to win. If they don’t have much of a board, you can utilise your ice to rush out agendas behind it. And if they don’t have a credit total, then they’re very soon going to find themselves unable to contest the board or to get into your iced servers.

Notable horizontal decks include:
Standard CTM, a deck that leverages the ID ability and AR-Enchanced Security to make trashing assets even harder before scoring out unstealable Bellonas or 3/2s on a SanSan City Grid, all while backed up by the constant threat of Hard-Hitting News
Standard Gagarin, a deck that leverages Gagarin’s tax and Hard-Hitting News to protect their remotes, scoring the powerful Weyland 3/2s using the Reconstruction Contract / Dedication Ceremony fast advance combo, or simply scoring them naked when the runner was too scared to run
Startup NEH, a deck that leverages the tempo of your ID’s free draws with efficent economy assets and plenty of gearchecks to force the runner to play fast while scoring 3/2s on a SanSan City Grid, then when the runner finally builds up the board required to trash SanSan you get it back with License Acquisition

Horizontal Jinteki decks don’t really exist in the modern era – while they have done in the past, Jinteki has lost both all their good assets and the IDs – Industrial Genomics and Replicating Perfection – that pulled the decks together. Horizontal HB decks have been strong in the past, with Asa Group being a notably poweful ID that won Worlds 2019, but recently the deck has also lost a lot of power cards and it’s currently outshone by Precision Design.

Hard-Hitting News is the subject of many long and tiresome debates from new and old players alike. While I personally enjoy the card a lot, it’s undeniable that it warps matchups far more than almost any other card, and it’s extremely punishing when you don’t know how to play around it.

When discussing horizontal decks it’s impossible to not talk about Hard-Hitting News. This archetype generally plays less ice, relying on other ways to protect their assets – sometimes it’s just the high trash costs, but in standard the best tool decks rely on is the threat of HHN. It’s most often seen in NBN decks, as it’s in faction for them, and Weyland decks, as Weyland have kill cards like BOOM! that rely on tags to work. Each faction can therefore import the other’s cards to create a punishing HHN Kill package. HHN is a hard card to learn how to play around, and I don’t use the word “learn” lightly here. If you want to play standard, you are going to have to sit down and learn how to not immediately lose to the HHN decks because they are some of the most immediately punishing decks in the format, where a single slip up or incorrect decision can rapidly spiral into death. I will, at some point, put up a post explaining some general rules for playing around HHN, but that is outside the scope of this article. For now, simply understand the basic rule that if you ever run against CTM or Gag and end your turn at less than 8 credits, you won’t be able to remove them all during your next turn and will have to remain tagged during at least 1 corp turn.

Horizontal decks win in two ways. When the runner is too cautious, they can freely score naked (un-iced) agendas off the table that the runner was too afraid to run. When the runner is not cautious enough, they can either quickly set up a remote and score out, or fast advance using cards that are now too expensive to trash, or just land a HHN and kill the runner. Cards like Commercial Bankers Group, Daily Quest, and Mumba Temple give the corp far too much money if left untouched, and the raw tempo of Rashida Jaheem can win a game, but trash too many economy cards recklessly and the runner will be unable to trash the critical SanSan City Grid, or slam into an unbreakable Tollbooth. It can often be okay for the runner to commit to taking the pedal off for a couple turns and moneying up, but when they drop to 0 to install a Liberated Accounts and it gets kidnapped by a Malia before they can click it once… that can frequently end a game instantly, even if it it still actually goes on for several more turns. Asset spam decks present the runner with an impossibly fine tightrope to walk and then challenges them to find the right balance turn after turn after turn.

I decided not to talk about Asa decks in this section, but it’s still worth bringing up Fully Operational, one of the singularly most efficient cards in the game. It’s flexible, it gives massive returns for the cost, and even in decks that don’t get Asa triggers to easily ice assets, it can be worth importing it anyway.

The key to beating asset spam is learning to walk that tightrope properly throughout an entire game, and the first key is understanding that money is everything. Yes, horizontal decks can gearcheck you and force you to dig for breakers. Yes, they can pull off wild tricks and give you more tags than you can possibly clear with clicks. But even with all these factors, 90% of the time when someone loses to asset spam (and near 100% of the time for a new player) it’s because they didn’t manage their money properly. And that’s understandable! If you are in standard, you must play around HHN. In startup, you must be ready to trash multiple SanSans behind Gold Farmers and steal multiple Bellonas to win. Asset spam decks are going to present you with constant economic challenges and it is your job as the runner to effectively and efficiently naviagte the puzzle. If you haven’t read this fantastic article by Whiteblade over at Stimhack, I would highly reccomend you do so, but I’ll try to summarise one of the key ideas here.

Throughout the game, you’re going to need decide what sort of cards on the board you’re trashing. Sometimes you will simply attempt to trash everything installed. This is phenomenally difficult because of the high costs, but a robust economy with multiple sources of drip economy like Rezeki can do it. If you can keep the board empty, or near empty, then it becomes massively harder for the horizontal deck to win. Most of the time though, this is simply going to be too expensive to pull off and so you’re going to have to resort to other strategies. Frequently you’ll be trashing whatever assets you consider to be key at that moment. Is the corp poor? Make sure you trash every Commercial Bankers Group. Are there Daily Business Shows ticking, helping the corp to find agendas to score off their SanSan? Make sure that SanSan bites the dust. Is that SanSan behind ice and too expensive to trash? Then you’ve got to go after the Business Shows. Working out what assets are actually key at any given moment can be a real challenge, but once you’ve got the hang of it you’ll be able to disrupt the corp’s plans even while leaving things on the table.

The final option you’ve got is to ignore the board entirely. This should be considered a last-ditch effort because those assets were in the deck for a reason, and letting the corp keep them around for free is a reckless proposition. That being said, sometimes your economy just doesn’t come together and especially in the late game, once centrals are getting more agenda dense, ignoring the board and hammering them instead can be the right play.

Some Gagarin decks are prison decks, a niche archetype I won’t be talking about today. Make the runner too scored to trash an Urban Renewal and maybe they’ll just take the 4 damage. But what about when you rez 2 at once? What if you keep shuffling Urbans back into your deck to play again? The honest answer is “not much” because modern prison Gag decks proved to generally be unable to beat anyone playing any kind of tech.

If you’re having trouble with asset spam decks, there are tech cards you can run. Misdirection and Citadel Sanctuary both help you to clear the tags from HHN efficiently, and Miss Bones pays for a lot of trashes. In startup, Imp and Scrubber can both help you deal with expensive trashes. However, I would generally advocate against playing these sorts of tech cards as a new player. They often function as a crutch and prevent you from actually learning how to play the matchup. If you want to change your deck to be more effectively against horizontal decks, just play more economy cards. Money is everything in this matchup, and generating more credits is the easiest way to make the matchup better.

Glacier

In contrast to rush decks where a fully-equipped runner can usually breach a server, glacier decks want to…. well, runners are so rich that a fully set-up runner will generally still be able to breach any given server within a turn or two, but glacier decks want to at least create board states that a mostly set-up runner will struggle to get into. They do this by combining impactful and expensive ice with defensive upgrades to make the runner run through the server again, in a similar manner to the PD rush deck we mentioned earlier! But while PD’s most expensive ice is Ansel at 6 credits, glacier decks will often need even larger and more expensive ice.

Notable glacier decks include:
Standard Azmari, a deck that leverages the economy provided by the ID to pay for swathes of taxing ice, while the absurdly low agenda density keeps centrals relatively safe
Standard Never Advance Palana, using La Costa Grid to score 4/2 from 0 advancements while making the server extremely taxing with a mix of dirt cheap taxing ice and giant ice that’s painfully expensive for both sides of the table

Border Control is one of the most important ice in standard so get used to seeing it. Unlike defensive upgrades that only do work once a server is adequately defended by ice, BC can gearcheck early before turning into a huge tax late. It also punishes anybody trying to run last click.

Glacier decks win games where they can set up a horrific remote and drag the runner through it multiple times, either because of defensive upgrades and Border Control, or because they have a La Costa and anything could be an agenda, or just because the card they advanced turned out to be an NGO Front and now the runner’s broke. The runner will obviously have time to set up their economy, and probably time to find their full rig (at least before the game ends, maybe not before you start trying to score the first agenda). As a glacier deck, it’s your job to make that money not enough. When the runner has to run through a Tollbooth, then a Hydra, then a Border Control which you trash – even with the super efficient breaker suite of Paperclip, Unity, Bukhgalter, it costs a huge 28 credits to break all subroutines. Even without the Border Control getting popped, getting baited into spending 14 credits to access something that isn’t an agenda is incredibly painful.

Glacier decks lose in 3 main ways. Firstly, if they get unlucky on centrals early then they have significantly less time to win before the runner closes the game. Somtimes in NBN glacier decks it’s worth feeding the runner a Bellona to make way for scoring your other agendas afterwards; if the runner already stole a 5/3 earlier than this becomes far more risky. Early agenda steals also mean that the runner is far more able to close out games with a big Deep Dive or Turning Wheel. Secondly, they lose when their economy doesn’t come together. The Palana deck above is more resilient to this because of the density of cheap and efficient ice, but in general stumbling on economy leaves a lot of their ice being too expensive to effectively rez and so they take too long to win, giving the runner more turns to benefit from their own drip economy cards like Rezeki. Finally, glacier decks can lose when the runner just has enough money to keep challenging the remote over and over again. This can happen because cards like Light the Fire, Political Operative, Hippo, Ankusa, and Pinhole Threading are neutralising the defensive upgrades and Border Control. Ice destruction and derez effects can also remove expensive ice from the equation, making each run cheaper.

Remember when I said that you don’t have to be a rush deck to rush? Magnet helps glacier decks deal with Botulus which can otherwise neuter an expensive ice, but depending on the board state you can also just rush out a cheeky agenda behind it.

When trying to improve your matchup against glacier decks, try playing more sources of recurring drip economy. While fast economy is important against rush deck, games against glacier will generally go long enough that you’ll have time to make excellent profit on your Rezekis and companions. Efficiency is generally the name of the game in this matchup, and choosing to import more efficient breakers from other factions will let you reduce the costs of running servers. As always, pressuring their economy can set them back and leave expensive ice stranded in hand or on the table. When that ice does eventually get rezzed, trash it, derez it, Botulus it – whatever you can do to neutralise the ice is going to make the corp’s life a lot harder.

Glacier decks have somewhat fallen out of favour recently. Current runner decks are so rich and so well equipped to deal with a glacier’s game plan that it’s more effective to try and tax their clicks with asset spam – you don’t have enough clicks to both clear my board and remove the tags and stay safe from HHN – or just go fast and beat them before they can get set up.

Hopefully this article was at least somewhat useful. There are some archetypes that I chose to not focus on here, such as grinder and the more ice-heavy horizontal decks headed by Asa Group. This is partially because this blog is more than long enough already, and partially because I don’t think those archetypes are particularly meaningful factors when just starting out. Shellgame is, however, and I would reccomend reading this article by tehepicwin if you want a thorough examination of how to beat Jinteki shellgame decks. Many thanks for reading.

Standard

The Foundations: Corp Deckbuilding

in which Rook discusses how to identify a gameplan, how to build an agenda suite that supports that plan, and how to balance the rest of the deck

Hi.

My name is Rook, and this blog is an experiment to help both new players to the game and myself. I plan on posting articles and writeups aimed at newbies to help them get started with the game – especially for people who don’t have an in-person meta to give them the guidance lots of us recieved when first starting out – and at the same time, I want to help formalise my thought processes and work out where my weaknesses as a player lie.

This post is centred on the foundations of corp deckbuilding, specifically building off the questions I’ve seen most commonly asked within the Green Level Clearance discord server and other communities. This guide will be by no means exhaustive, nor should it be treated as gospel; it is simply a foundational and basic tool for new players to work from and then discard in favour of their own personal methods once they have more experience.

A small note: this is going to be quite long, and extremely dry. The foundations of good deckbuilding are not exciting. They are not sexy. They will not make you desperate to play more Netrunner. They are, however, essential to becoming a better player and personally I find a small and quiet joy in the dry process of building a good deck.

Thesis Statement

Whenever you set out to build a deck, the first question that needs to be answered is “what is this deck trying to do?”. Whilst decks may have complex and multi-faceted gameplans, every strong deck’s gameplan can be summarised within 1 or 2 simple sentences. I refer to these as “thesis statements”, in that they are short encapsulations of a deck’s core goals. Whilst not every game will necessarily follow the heuristics that naturally follow from these goals, you should at least approach every game with these core goals in mind.

Talking in the abstract is of no help to anybody though, so through this article I will reference the following 2 decklists that most players will become familiar with quickly. RotomAppliance’s Worlds-winning Precision Design (PD) is a standard-format deck, but the core shell is applicable to startup players also. lostgeek’s Built to Last (BTL) is a startup deck.

As a practical example, look over these decks, or if you’ve already got a handful of games under your belt then think back to any games you’ve played against these decks, and try to come up with a short thesis statement for each of these lists.

PD – “I want to use Precision Design’s ability to continually recur my Seamless Launches to score agendas. Anything I install can be scored next turn with no advancements, so I’ll use defensive upgrades and good ice to make my remote too expensive to constantly run.”

BTL – “After quickly scoring an agenda or two behind cheap “end the run” ice, I will use Trick of Light to score 3/2 agendas from my hand in a single turn, forcing the runner to win off my central servers.”

Obviously not every game will go as ideally as these thesis statements suggest – sometimes PD won’t have a Seamless Launch available and will have to manually pre-advance agendas before scoring them the next turn, or sometimes BTL will be able to build a strong enough remote against slow runners to just manually score out normally.

Note how simple these plans are. Whilst both of these decks still have complex decision points, their basic game plans are still easily describable and understandable. If your gameplan involves a lot of multi-card combos, that deck is likely to be weaker than you’d like. Similarly, notice how all of these plans are very proactive. They all explain how the deck aims to win. If your gameplan feels more reactive to the runner, if you rely on the runner doing certain things for your deck to start working, that deck is likewise going to be weaker. (These are obviously guidelines, and there are plenty of examples of decks that break both rules that have been good throughout Netrunner’s history. When you are new to the game, however, you should attempt to follow these guides.)

Lesson 1: When you build a deck, first establish what your deck wants to do. The best decks tend to have simple and strong proactive gameplans. It is generally better to force the runner to react to your gameplan, than to attempt to react to the runner’s.

A small pair of side notes before moving on. Firstly, you should still attempt to adapt in-game to the runner’s gameplan. If there’s a Docklands Pass installed, for example, it may be worth putting an ice on HQ that might have otherwise stayed in hand. Secondly, while glacier decks are significantly slower than the decks mentioned so far, I argue that most glacier decks (and certainly the ones I would reccomend to a new player) are still proactive, just slower. Exceptions do exist, but most glacier decks still want to build up a strong remote, protect it with defensive upgrades and good ice, and then score out from within.

Agenda Suite

The set of agendas a deck plays is commonly known as its agenda suite. Once you know what you’re trying to do with your deck, it gets a lot easier to choose the agendas you want to play.

PD wants to build a taxing remote with strong ice and defensive upgrades, and then score agendas from 0 advancements. This makes every card you install in the remote a potential agenda that the runner has to respect. While early versions of deck used Project Vitruvius, Seamless Launch is a great card to get back with the identity, and it lets you score 4/2 agendas from 0 advancements. But which 4/2 agendas should the deck play? PD can be quite a poor deck without much money, so the neutral economy agendas – Cyberdex Sandbox and Offworld Office – make perfect sense as a way to keep your money up whilst scoring. Luminal Transubstantiation might not be a 4/2, but it’s still a superb agenda and worth running.

If we were to run 3 copies of each 4/2 and a Luminal, that would take us to 14 points. For a 40-44 card deck we need to have 18-19 points, so we could fill in those remaining 4 points with a pair of other two-point agendas. This makes actually winning quite awkward, however, as we would always need to score 4 agendas to win. Instead, we can cut a copy of the weakest agenda here – an Offworld Office – to go to 12 points, and then play 2 copies of Global Food Initiative. This puts us at the required 18 points. Because GFI counts as 2 points in the runner’s score area, they still always need to steal 4 agendas to win, but we can win with 3 agendas by scoring a pair of 2-pointers and a GFI. This agenda suite keeps our money up while scoring, and it makes it easier for us to win than for the runner.

Offworld Office is the common link between these two agenda suites. 7 credits is a lot.

BTL wants to rush out behind cheap “end the run”, and then close the game by scoring 3/2 agendas from hand with Trick of Light. As such, the deck runs every single 3/2 available in startup – 3x Project Atlas, 3x Azef Protocol, and 1x Above the Law. This is 14 points so far. Hostile Takeover is an excellent agenda that gives us money and can naturally be scored from hand, and it has natural synergy with our deck – we can win by scoring 3 2-pointers and a Hostile, which is significantly easier than scoring 4 2-pointers.

As such, we definitely want some number of Hostiles. If we were to play 3 Hostiles we would have 17 points, and we need 18-19. We could run another 1 point agenda, but we’d have to play a 3/1 agenda. 3/1s aren’t great for us – they’re as hard to score as our 3/2s but only give half as many points. The best part of Hostile is that we can score it from hand with no other tools. As such, we run an Offworld Office as a good economy agenda as before. The 4/2 might seem awkward, but it’s the same as scoring an Atlas with a counter, and that’s something the deck frequently wants to do anyway. We could run 1x Offworld, 3x Hostile for 19 points, and in some decks that absolutely have to go as fast as possible, that could be correct, but in this case lostgeek decides to go with 1x Offworld, 2x Hostile for 18 points.

The takeaway here should be that while working out the best agenda suite for a deck can be complicated, it should naturally follow from the rest of the deck’s gameplan. If you’re trying to play a fast, rushy game like BTL, 5/3 agendas are very awkward for you to score and make it a lot easier for the runner to win. In a slower glacier deck, you’ll see more 5/3 agendas because those decks can build up remotes safe enough to score the slow agendas, and the larger point values mean their deck has a lower raw number of agendas in it, making each central server safer (though the punishment for getting an agenda stolen is more brutal).

Lesson 2: Agenda suites should follow from your gameplan. Consider the point values in your deck and how easy it will be for you to actually win the game.

The Rest of the Fucking Owl Rook

“What sort of proportions of cards should I have in my deck?” is a very common question from new players. How many ice should I run? How many assets? The answer is “it depends” and since there’s nothing more unhelpful than that worthless excuse of an answer, let’s be slightly more thorough.

I want to make it very clear at this point – not all ice is created equal. We can think of ice in two main categories: taxing ice and stopping ice. Taxing ice might let the runner through, but it’s going to be expensive and irritating to break. Engram Flush, Ansel 1.0, and Mausolus are all taxing ice. To greater or lesser extents the runner can let them fire and continue with their run, but generally letting the subroutines fire is a bad idea. However, breaking said subroutines is quite expensive, ie it taxes the runner. Stopping ice are ice that stop the runner getting through without a breaker or other bypass tool, and they include Ice Wall, Border Control, and Magnet. Cards like Ice Wall are part of a specific subset of stopping ice called gearchecks or binary ice. These are cards that flat-out stop the runner from getting through without the requisite breaker, but are virtually free to break once said breaker is down. Some cards can be both taxing and stopping, such as a just-rezzed Gatekeeper or an Afshar on HQ. Some cards are neither taxing nor stopping. We have a very specific term for these cards – bad.

As a very general rule (and one that you should absolutely learn when to break), taxing ice goes on centrals and stopping ice goes on the remote. When you’re trying to score out, the last thing you want is for your agenda to be protected by ice the runner can just let fire if need be. On the other hand, you don’t necessarily need to stop the runner getting into your centrals – you just need to make it expensive enough that they can’t constantly do it.

Eli might have a pair of “end the run” subroutines, but he’s much more of a taxing ice than a stopping one. Can you see why? The bioroid click ability means that when it matters, he won’t actually stop the runner no matter what breakers they have.

The types of ice your deck wants will depend on the gameplan. In BTL, we’re trying to quickly score agendas normally before scoring the last few points from hand. As such, our ice needs to meet 2 main criteria. We need cheap gearcheck ice to stop the runner getting into our remote and let us score our first couple agendas, and we need a number of advanceable ice to Trick of Light from later. Akhet, Ice Wall, and Hortum are all perfect for this purpose. Tithe will do very little later, but the runner really shouldn’t be running through it that frequently early and so it’s the perfect early deterrant on a central. Afshar is both stopping, and gets really taxing to run through repeatedly, so it’s perfect for defending HQ. Finally, with our Hostile Takeovers, there’s not much reason to not run Archer. We will usually have an agenda to forfeit to it, and if the runner hits it unprepared they can get devestated. Even if prepared, it’s still absurdly expensive to break. That being said, with only 2x Hostiles we don’t really want more than 1 copy of Archer.

Pharos would notably be pretty bad in this deck. It might look exciting, but we’re trying to score fast and early. A 7 cost ice is far too expensive to rez early and later on, we’re not trying to build unbreakable servers.

I don’t think it’s particularly useful to think of decks in terms of “how many assets/operations/upgrades should I run?”. That’s a useful question for ice, however. A deck like BTL needs enough ice to find a quick piece to rush out behind early, and it needs to find a few more pieces later on to defend centrals, but you don’t need that much more than that. Most of the extra ice you draw will just be extra gearchecks on the remote, or more taxing on centrals. 16 pieces makes it likely we can find a gearcheck early. Initially I thought that 16 might be very slightly too many ice, but you’re forced to trash something – usually an ice – to score Azef Protocol. As such, a slightly higher ice count is warranted.

“How much economy/non-ice defensive tools/other utility pieces should I run?” is a far more useful question, however. BTL saves money when scoring thanks to its ID, and it makes advancing ice more efficient too, so the deck runs a very light economy package of Hedge Fund and Predictive Planogram. Hedge Fund is standard in almost all decks; Planogram costs influence but lets the deck easily recover from low credit totals which is essential in such a fast deck. The money is a more secondary use compared to drawing 3 cards to help find agendas to score while the runner is unprepared. Wall to Wall is unlikely to make much money for you, but it helps you both get through your deck, get a few credits, and freely advance your ice. As this deck isn’t trying to create unbreakable remotes once the runner is set up, you don’t need too many defensive tools outside of ice, but Cayambe Grid is a great tax that also doubles as a Trick of Light enabler. Finally, the last few slots go to Spin Doctors, which once again help us get through the deck but also shuffle back Trick of Lights and excess agendas.

As you can see, every card in BTL fits straight in with that thesis statement we wrote up earlier. It all either helps you draw to find agendas, gives you the money you need to score, or sets up Trick of Light without needing to actually spend clicks doing so. The deck is built to go extremely fast and efficiently, and there’s no fluff anywhere in the deck.

Government Subsidy would be pretty awful in this deck. While the 5 credit profit is more than any of the other economy cards in the deck, you should never be sitting around collecting the 10 credits you need to play this. Either keep scoring, or click to draw agendas to score.

PD is a little more complicated because it actually wants to have a worthwhile remote. The key cards to identify here are Anoetic Void, Manegarm Skunkworks, and Border Control. SkunkVoid is a well-proven combo: because they trigger at the same time, the corp may order the triggers however they want, forcing the runner to pay for Skunkworks before kicking them out with Void. Border Control has to be used before the runner approaches the server, but does a similar role, gearchecking early and forcing the runner to run through the entire remote again later. When paired with the highly taxing Ansel 1.0 and the absurd 6 strength of a newly-rezzed Gatekeeper, PD needs less stopping ice than most other rush decks. It still plays it, of course, with Magnet and Hagen having additional utility outside just gearchecking the runner, but the combination of defensive upgrades and Border Control means that you don’t need your ice to stop the runner, you just need to make it too expensive to run the remote too many times in a turn.

Rashida is effectively mandatory in any standard corp deck, and Drafter is a nice piece of taxing ice that, when an unprepared runner crashes into it, can be devestating when it returns a Rashida or AAL. Speaking of, Advanced Assembly Lines is functionally a clickless economy card, and has excellent synergy with Tranquility Home Grid, the real economic backbone of the deck. Tranq is too expensive to trash early, but provides so much consistent drip economy over the course of the game. After the cards we mentioned in the BTL section, the remaining slots get filled out with tech cards – Crisium beats Apocalypse, and Macrophage and CVS both work great with Cyberdex Sandbox.

RLC is an alternative economic option for PD that Rotom chose not to play. While the clickless draws can be useful, the reduced profit compared to AAL makes it awkward.

Don’t worry too much about tech cards when starting out, though – just play the core shell of the deck and maybe you can add one later if it’s really necessary. The best way to beat problem matchups is to learn those matchups, not to tech against them.

In general, the takeaway here should be that there’s no defined ratio of economy/draw/utility/whatever else. When you start making a deck for the first time, put in more economy than you think you need. Having money is never a bad thing, and you’ll be able to see how well the core idea works. If you put too little in, all you’ll learn is that you don’t have enough credits. You won’t learn much in game, and you won’t learn much about the rest of your deck. It is far better to start with too much economy and cut back, than to start with too little.

A slower glacier deck will want more economy than these decks, and they’ll want more expensive ice. Because of the escalating install costs of ice on a single server, and the fact that you’re only going to draw so many ice before you get too many agendas in HQ, you want more expensive and impactful ice. You’ll naturally need more economy to support those cards, and importantly you’ll generally want recurring sources of economy like Daily Quest rather than the one-shot operation economy we saw in BTL. Then with giant ice on the server, defensive upgrades that make the runner go through the whole server again get exceptionally powerful. Where do you find the slots for all these cards? Generally, these decks will have smaller agenda suites with larger point values, and they’ll have less card draw.

Lesson 3: There aren’t defined ratios of card types in decks. Think about the types of ice you’re playing, and make sure you have a good mixture of ice that stops the runner, and ice that really taxes them. Hedge on the side of too much money and cut back if you’re swimming in cash. Defensive upgrades gain value when forcing the runner to run back through taxing ice than stopping ice.

This was very, very long. It was also dry, but I do hope it was informative. I don’t know how frequently I will update this – probably not all too frequently, and only when the mood takes me. Next time, the foundations of runner deckbuilding.

Standard