Saturday, 28 September 2013

Winning Decklists // NBN "Tag & Bag" and Chaos Theory

I’ve just returned from a local Manchester Netrunner tournament which I (happily) won.  I probably would have written a blog introducing my two decks anyway but it’s always much more convincing to be providing decklists that just won a tournament!

I’ll do a little write up about the games later but here is the juicy bit – the decklists.  After spending a couple of weeks blogging about OCTGN data that told us that Kate McCaffrey was the best Shaper ID, NBN: The World Is Yours is outperforming Making News and 45 card decks are doing well I can proudly announce that I… completely ignored all that advice and played a 49 card NBN: Making News deck and Chaos Theory.  Make of that what you will...

NBN: Making News (49 cards)

Agendas (11)
2 Breaking News
3 Astroscript Pilot Program
3 Project Beale
3 Private Security Force

Assets (7)
3 PAD Campaign
2 Private Contracts
2 Melange Mining Corp

2 Closed Accounts
2 SEA Source
3 Scorched Earth (****)
3 Midseason Replacements
3 Hedge Fund

Ice (18)
3 Pop-Up Window
3 Draco
3 Ice Wall (*)
2 Enigma
2 Wall of Static
3 Data Raven
2 Tollbooth

At the last minute I made a late change to the deck and added the Tollbooth, which previously had been Datapike.  Sitting down for my first round I was still wavering about which I wanted, eventually settling on Tollbooth primarily because it was already in my deck sleeves.  It's definitely the right decision, and I'll talk about that in a minute.

Unashamedly “Tag & Bag” the keys to this deck are Private Security Force, Scorched Earth and Midseason Replacements.  Combined they become a virtual lock on the Runner, with the Private Security Force demanding the Runner spends his turn drawing cards instead of clearing tags – they’ll have drawn their entire deck and died by the time they can clear 6 or 7 tags that Midseason Replacements gave them.   The strongest start you can make is to score Private Security Force on the second turn (so install Ice and PSF, then advance it on the first turn).  If you’ve done that then you’ve come really close to winning – all you need to do now is find Midseason Replacements ASAP and make sure you’ve got more cash than the Runner, from there you either grind out the win with PSF alone, or immediately win with Scorched Earth.


The threat of deadly meat damage acts like a lethal sting in the tail for the unwary Runner but the rest of the deck is a tight agenda-scoring machine with lots of robust ETR Ice and some efficient Agendas (Astroscript and Project Beale are both very good Agendas if you’re hoping to win via scoring Agenda points).  Whether you’re hoping to win with Private Security Force or Astroscript Pilot Program the method is the same – be aggressive and score Agendas as early as possible, while your cheap Ice is holding up the Runner.

The core building blocks of this deck are being solid and consistent in going after your game plan, namely:

1)  Solid early game ETR Ice.  By bringing in Draco and Ice Wall I add a very strong early game defense to NBN’s typically porous Ice mix.  The only Ice that doesn’t really function as early game Ice is Tollbooth, and as I mentioned above they were the last cards to go in – replacing Datapike at the 11th hour.

2) Varied Tag threat.  13 cards in my deck can tag the runner (Breaking News, SEA Source, Midseason Replacements, Draco, Data Raven).  Of these by FAR the most important is Midseason Replacements.  I’d go so far as to say this is a Midseason Replacements deck, with the ability to give the Runner so many tags that he can’t clear them the pivotal moment in many games.  SEA Source is more flexible but unless you win the turn you play it the Runner will usually clear the tag straight away and absorb the damage you did in that turn.  When you nail Midseason Replacements it’s often just a matter of time until you win.

3) Strong(ish) Economy.  Let’s be clear – Tag & Bag is a numbers game.  The formula you’re looking for is having Credits enough to ensure your Trace succeeds, and then to be able to play one or two Scorched Earth immediately afterwards.  That requires deep pockets.  Tag & Bag doesn’t really work unless you have cash, and that’s why I dig deep into Neutral for the rarely played Private Contracts.  Private Contracts is not an exciting card by any means but it IS a fundamental building block that helps you keep up with the Runner’s economy, sort of a stepping stone between the burst economy of Melange Mining Corp and the hard-to-trash persistent benefit from PAD Campaign.

Let's talk about a few specific card choices:

PAD Campaign vs Marked Accounts


I’ll get to the point: I don’t understand the appeal of Marked Accounts.  As you have to spend a click to charge it up it costs pretty much the same as PAD Campaign, and it’s only 1 more for the Runner to trash.  Those minor benefits don’t (to my mind) offset the fact that it’s only giving you 2/3rds of the cash back when it’s actually active because it demands you spend a click every third turn.  While I don’t like Marked Accounts there are clear benefits to PAD Campaign in a deck of 3/2 Agendas because you get the credit each turn without having to spend a click, meaning you’ve got all three clicks spare to advance and score an Astroscript Pilot Program.  As if that wasn’t enough I believe the added rez cost of PAD Campaign actually makes it better against Account Syphon – playing a PAD Campaign or Private Contracts on the first turn often means you can leave HQ undefended as you’ve something to do with the credits in your bank if the runner comes knocking.

Scorched Earth to the max!

I don’t understand the ‘just play one Scorched Earth in case I need it’ mentality.  If you’re trying to kill people then 3 is the right number, not least because a single Scorched Earth is rarely enough to win anyway – you need two in hand, or a Private Security Force already scored.  Runners seem to consistently underestimate the number of Scorched Earth in my deck, and they consistently pay the price for doing so.  Probably the card I would replace the third Scorched Earth for would be a pair of Snare! (which do damage and Tag, so fit the deck) but Snare! is so reactive and the Runner can play around it if they need to – while Snare! into Scorched Earth is a dream play it’s a dream that becomes a reality less often than simply smashing the opponent with two copies of Scorched Earth after a Midseason Replacements or Breaking News.

Tollbooth vs Datapike

As I mentioned this was the last thing I changed, and I think it’s right.  While Datapike suits  my aggressive Agenda-scoring rush strategy it rapidly becomes worthless in mid-late game.  Tollbooth is the opposite – rarely good in the opening hand but sometimes the only thing in my deck that will actually bother a Runner once their rig is set up.  I swerved from Datapike at the last minute because it felt like I was becoming too dependent on the game going the way I wanted, while Tollbooth could help me win games I was ‘losing’.   As a secondary consideration the Tollbooth is also much better than Datapike when Atman/Datasucker is around in the metagame.

And now for my Runner deck, the Wunderkind...

Shaper: Chaos Theory (40 cards)

Programs (11)
3 Datasucker (*)
1 Corroder (**)
2 Parasite (**)
2 Mimic (*)
2 Gordian Blade
1 Snowball

Hardware (5)
2 Omni-Drive
3 R&D Interface

Resources (5)
2 Kati Jones
3 Professional Contacts

Events (19)
3 Diesel
3 Easy Mark (*)
3 Modded
3 Dirty Laundry
3 Test Run
3 Sure Gamble
1 Levy AR Lab Access

This is the same Shaper deck that I’ve been plugging away with since Creation & Control arrived and over times it has developed and matured into a list of 40 cards that I think are as good as it gets (until Opening Moves lands, at least).

The central Professional Contacts/Events engine has remained virtually intact in all versions and it’s been the Programs that have changed.  The first version I played was based in Criminal for cards like Ninja and Crescentus - I managed to scrape through and win my first tournament with that setup but I definitely noticed conflicts between the relatively drip-drip economy from Professional Contacts and the cash-hungry Ninja that was very greedy if it faced two or more Sentries.  The next step was to switch out Ninja for Mimic and to replace Crescentus with Parasite but I then hit MU issues as my rig ideally had Mimic-Corroder-Gordian Blade-Datasucker-Datasucker, which left no room for installing the Parasites.  This final evolution replaced a set of Daily Casts and a Dinosaurus with 2 Kati Jones and 2 Omni-Drives, with Omni-Drive giving me both critical MU and long term running economy.

Shapers tend not to have many tricks (both Indexing and Escher are missing from my deck), and with most Shaper decks your objective is to plant Professional Contacts ASAP and assemble your rig as rapidly as possible.  Test Run is a valuable asset because it can return Parasite to the game from your Heap, but otherwise there’s not much to talk about in terms of game plan beyond simply setting your rig up and busting through Ice.  There are some key card choices to discuss where this differs from other Shaper builds, though.

I can’t help but notice you’re not Kate McCaffrey?

I’m not 100% about this decision but this deck started out as Chaos Theory and I've never wanted to change.  I understand that Kate is the ‘best’ Shaper ID but when I look at this deck I think I benefit noticeably from both the 40 card deck size and the extra MU.  If I translated this deck into Kate I would have to put 5 extra card in, diluting the essential cards in my deck (especially Professional Contacts, which you want on turn 1 as often as possible).  More than that, the extra cards I put in would need to include a bunch of +MU cards to support my rig.  I think this is bound up into the next point as well – Kate decks at the moment can fit Datasucker into their rig because they have Atman to save MU on icebreakers.

Ok, so… no Atman?

Atman/Datasucker is powerful, no doubt.  But a lot of strength of Atman is the ability to bring it in during a run with Self-Modifying Code and Clone Chip and I’m using neither of those cards.  In place of Self-Modifying Code as my search engine I’ve gone with Test Run.  Self-Modifying Code (SMC) combos best with cards that help you install the card you go and get (so Kate’s ID, Sahasrara, Stimhack) – you don’t just put SMC into a deck, it needs an economic support network that I’m not playing.  So that’s why I’m not playing SMC, and one of the reasons why I AM playing Test Run is that it’s dual purpose and can function as either SMC or Clone Chip – finding a breaker from my deck when I need it, or returning a Parasite from my Heap to play.  Once your rig is set up both SMC and Clone Chip become fairly redundant, while there’s always something you can do with Test Run.

And Levy AR Lab Access…

It’s pretty common for this deck to power through so strongly with Professional Contacts that you draw every card.  At that point your Event-based economy dries up and you’re reduced to clicking for 1 credit forever more.  Levy AR Lab Access reshuffles all your Sure Gambles and Easy Marks back into your deck to start again, and also gives you a new stack of Parasites and Test Runs should the game be going really long.  In most games you don’t need the Levy, but in some games it’s the only card in the game that will help.

All in all what I think you come out with a different deck to Kate/Atman.  If you try to change any one piece of the deck towards the standard Kate/Atman build I believe it sets off a chain reaction of synergies that alter 20 cards into a fairly stock ‘Katman’ deck.  I’m having good success with Chaos Theory as a different breed of Shaper and would certainly recommend giving the little girl as try before you dismiss her.  I’ve played this deck in two tournaments and won both so I must be doing something right.

I’m always trying to improve decks so would like to know what you think, and if you give these decks a try then I’d love to hear how you get on!



As promised here’s a brief summary of how the games went in my tournament win.

Round One – Raymond – Kate McCaffrey & Jinteki: Personal Evolution

Playing as Kate, Raymond makes a good start by playing Professional Contacts on his first turn then running to steal Astroscript Pilot Program from my undefended hand (I mulliganed into a hand with very little Ice).  Unfortunately for Raymond his good start only seals his demise as I play Midseason Replacements on my second turn to ensure he stays tagged for the rest of the game, then trash his Professional Contacts.  He spends a couple of turns grinding up cash the hard way but I hit him with a Closed Accounts and that puts him back into the gutter long enough for me to score Private Security Force and finish the game with Scorched Earth.

It’s now my turn to play Shaper and Raymond reveals he is Jinteki.  That’s interesting and it becomes a great opportunity for me to put to use what I learnt from the OCTGNdata about Jinteki’s weaknesses - if I can avoid killing myself by running too rashly in the early game I should be able to pick Jinteki apart in the mid-late game.  I probe his defences cautiously, all the while digging deep into my deck and waiting for Gordian Blade (for Chum) and Mimic (for Neural Katana).  Raymond manages to score a couple of Agendas while I wait but with my rig assembled I plunder his R&D for a comfortable win.


Round Two – Dan – Whizzard & Jinteki: Personal Evolution

I’ve only rarely played against Whizzard and I have to admit that his ability was a real pain.  My economy cards like PAD Campaign and Private Contracts and a valuable part of my gameplan but against Whizzard I’m forced to play Ice to defend them rather than relying on their high trash cost making them unappealing for the runner to trash.  I make what seems like a great first turn – Ice Wall in front of Private Security Force, which I advance – but he crushes my dreams with a Hedge Fund/Vamp combination then walks past the Ice Wall I can no longer afford to rez to steal my PSF.  Damn.  Forced to start again with no cash the game goes longer than I would like as I defend my Central Servers and stabilise but I score a Private Security Force then finally win by using Breaking News to tag him and Scorched/PSF adds up to 6 meat damage.

A second game against Jinteki: Personal Evolution means a second chance to test the OCTGN results.  They prove correct again.  That only tells part of the truth, though, and this game was incredibly tight.  In early probing of Dan’s defences I hit a Snare! and the net damage takes all THREE copies of Test Run from my hand.  Without Test Run my ‘build rig then run’ plan meant I was left digging down to my last 7 cards to complete my rig.  By the time I’d got set up Dan was 5-0 ahead on Agenda points, but after shuffling my Heap back with Levy AR Lab Access I go to town and rapidly level the scores at 5-5.  At that point time is called on the round and I have one last turn to either win or lose the game – I play a second R&D Interface and take my punt by hitting R&D.  The game is simple – if I access an Agenda I win, if I access Dan’s third Snare! I lose, and if neither happens it’s a draw.

Three cards will decide the game.  Agenda to win, Snare! to lose…

Access 1: Chimera
Access 2: Neural Katana
Access 3: (drumroll) Braintrust!

A close run thing but I think if I hadn’t lost all three Test Run it would have been much easier.


Round Three – Jacob – Weyland: Building A Better World & Andromeda

I’m never in this.  Jacob’s Weyland deck is very quick and focussed, pulling in Anonymous Tip and Green Level Clearance with his Influence to keep the cards flowing.  He sees a constant stream of Agendas and the threat of Archer means I can’t run until I’m ready to Datasucker/Mimic Archer down to size.  I never get there.  I’ve played my Chaos Theory runner deck for two months and never been taken to school like this. 

After an ugly beating for my Runner I need a result from NBN and unfortunately for Jacob he hands me one on a plate.  First turn he goes for Account Syphon but gets bounced out by Draco – Jacob accepts the Tag then completely forgets it’s there!  Six turns later he finally ends a turn with less than four cards and I hit him with a Scorched Earth, much to his disbelief.  Really unfortunate for Jacob but I was well ahead in the game and I’m pretty sure I would have won anyway – it just came a few turns early.


Round Four – Henry – Kate McCaffrey & Haas-Bioroid: NEXT Design

Henry has been playing his Atman/Datasucker deck for as long as I’ve been playing Chaos Theory so I know exactly what to expect.  It’s a game where Tollbooth should be a key card, and so it proves as I make a quick start, scoring Astroscript Pilot Program on turn 2, then use the hefty Tollbooth to secure a server long enough to score Project Beale for 3 Agenda Points.  Very quickly Henry is in a pretty unwinnable position – I’ve got 5 Agenda Points and an Astroscript Pilot Program ready to fast advance my next Agenda for the win.  Henry’s slow start means he can’t get into my R&D fast enough to cut off the flow of Agendas and I draw a Project Beale to win.

I haven’t played against NEXT Design often but Henry’s pre-game analysis that it makes for a deck that scores two Agendas very quickly then struggles to get the third proves exactly right.  He gets two free Ice installs before the game begins then another two Ice on his first turn.  That’s plenty to keep me from getting to Priority Requisition and while I’m setting up he adds a Project Vitrivius and races onto 5 points.  Unfortunately for Henry the stretch for Vitruvius left him without cash to rez any Ice on R&D – I use Parasite/Datasucker to remove the Viktor 2.0 from R&D that was he had rezed with Priority Requisiton then go to town with a pair of R&D Interfaces.  Henry throws down more Ice on R&D but it’s more Bioroids and he can’t get enough rezed to prevent me from simply clicking past his Bioroids time and again and I quickly collect 7 points of Agendas from his R&D.


Top 2 Playoff for Glory (and playmats) – Javier – Kate McCaffrey & NBN: Making News

The final playoff between the top 2 players is played using the old tournament rules, so Agenda Points scored by the losing side matter again.  I make an aggressive start in the first game, scoring Private Security Force and another Project Beale for 3 Agenda Points.  That forced Javier into a tough spot between a rock and a hard place while his rig was only partially assembled – anything I installed in a remote server was a threat to win on Agenda Points, but any risky run opened him up to death by meat damage.  In the end I nail him with SEA Source to set up a Scorched Earth/PSF win, but would have won with Astroscript Pilot Program anyway.

The first game had been so quick that Javier only had time to score Breaking News for 1 Agenda Point.  Switching to Chaos Theory I very quickly pull an Astroscript Pilot Program from his HQ for 2 Agenda Points to make the second game irrelevant and seal my victory.


W00t!  Prizes!

Many thanks to Michael Coop for organising the event, and the Fanboy 3 players for another great few hours of Netrunning!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Psychographics // 100,000+ OCTGN Games Analysed // Size Matters

I don't plan on making a living from milking the OCTGN data from the first 100,000 games of Android: Netrunner, but there is one last blogs-worth of data I can throw out which I think has some interesting findings.  Some of those findings reinforce the 'accepted wisdom' while others challenge the status quo.  

It's not a topic that gentlemen often talk about in public so gird yourselves - we're going to talk about size.

I already touched on the subject of deck size for Corporations in an earlier post and I'm going to return to it here with a wealth of OCTGN data to talk about.  Most Corp Identities have a minimum deck size of 45 cards, and for those identities there are three deck sizes that make sense as they play to different strengths and weaknesses:

45 cards - High Agenda density, Highest consistency
49 cards - Low Agenda density, Average consistency
54 cards - Lowest Agenda density, Lowest consistency

The tradeoff being made is being how many Agenda points you have per card in your deck, from a minimum of 0.41 (22 Agenda Points in 54 cards) to a maximum of 0.47 (21 Agenda Points in 45 cards), which might not sound like much but it's a 15% difference.  The opposite side to the change in Agenda density is that a smaller deck means you see your best non-Agenda cards more often (you'll see a card 22% more often in a 45 card deck than you will in 54 cards).

Smaller deck sizes suit a quick Agenda-scoring strategy, or an aggressive Tag punishment strategy that needs to see things like Scorched Earth.  Big deck sizes allow the Corp to get by without so much central server defense because the Agendas are spread more thinly in R&D.

Enough preamble, let's look at OCTGN and see what we know.

Corp Deck Size vs Win Rate

This data was pulled for Creation & Control games for all IDs except NBN: The World Is Yours, for all players.

First of all, you can ignore pretty much all the data points that aren't 45, 49, or 54 cards simple because they come from very little games - 94% of all Corp decks played one of those three deck sizes.  Next, you can see that the win rate was highest for 49 card decks (46%) while 54 cards (43%) and 45 cards (41%) lagged behind.

Where things get more interesting is when you cut the data down to just Corp players with win rates over 55% (so above-average Corp players).

Three things crop up here, all of which are revealing:

1) most of the players using 45 card decks are below-average, as the % of players halves in the >55% group. BUT the good players who are playing 45 cards seem to have the best records (nearly a 75% win rate!). The sample size is small (112 wins from 151 games) so it could be an anomaly... we'll come back to that in a moment.

2) The % of players using 49 cards increased to 89% in the >55% players. Most good players use 49 cards.

3) 54 card decks are not significantly disadvantaged from 49 card decks, which is interesting. The sample size is small but larger than it is for 45 cards (208 wins from 332 games).

The 45 Card Decks

I just said that the 45 card decks delivering the best win rate could be an anomaly, so let's have a quick look for that to see if a single set of results are throwing off that sample's overall performance.

Across the four most heavily played Corp Identities played at 45 cards the pattern is really consistent - they ALL performed better at 45 cards than they did at 49.  The performance at 54 cards was less uniform, with NBN: Making News seemingly strongest at 54 cards, and Haas-Bioroid: Engineering The Future distinctly weaker at 54 cards.

There is a huge caveat here: the sample size here is becoming very small.  From an initial sample of 100,000 games we've cut everything before August, everything where the Corp player didn't win more than 55% of his games during August/September, and we're focusing on a deck size that only 2% of players used - a grand total of only 151 games are left.  That makes these results unreliable, but the fact that it was repeated for all Corp IDs does lend some credibility to the theory that 45 card decks are strong at the moment (as I first posited a few weeks ago HERE).

Something For The Runners

Runners don't have to worry about Agenda density so deck size is much easier for them - the smaller the better.

Pretty obvious, but I'm happy to state the obvious now and then.


This hopefully ends my trawling through the OCTGN data dump and I can move on to new topics but I hope that you've all been able to learn something from this analysis, both the earlier posts about Corp and Runner identities, and this one about the tricky subject of size.

In summary I think the Corporation deck size question is at a very interesting place.  When players come into Netrunner they often bring preconceived notions that the best things come in small packages and stick to 45 cards.  The results from the above-average players shows that players migrate to 49 cards as they becomes more experienced and see other players running 49 cards.  What now seems to be happening is a third stage in the deck size evolution, with players finding ways to produce results at 45 and 54 cards that match or exceed the 49 cards.

So if you have a 49 card deck, will making it 45 or 54 cards make it better?  No, probably not.  You'll need to change what your deck is trying to do to get the most from that transition.

But at 45 or 54 card decks inherently better than 49 cards?  No, once again probably not.  It's possible that the players getting good results at 45/54 cards were getting above-average results at 49 cards as well.  What I think you CAN take from this is that 45 and 54 cards are now realistic options, and that makes for an interesting range of deckbuilding choices.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Psychographics // 100,000+ OCTGN Games Analysed // Runner Analysis

A few days ago I brought you some analysis from the mammoth pile of OCTGN results recently published, focussing on what those results had to tell us about the Corp Identities.  If you missed that then you can catch up HERE.  While a lot of the Corp findings were things that the dedicated Netrunner afficionado already knew there were a few interesting findings to pop up - the success of NBN: The World Is Yours for one, and the contentious evidence that Jinteki decks struggle to win if the opponent doesn't make a mistake.

Now it's the turn of the Runner Identities to pass under the microscope...

Right from the start, let's look at the top level numbers for the most popular runners.

There are no real surprises here at the top of the table, with the dominant Criminal Identity leading the way, although Noise is coming up close behind, being played in almost as many games.  The first interesting thing, given that there has been so much focus around the 'Runner-Corp imbalance' issues is that overall only three Runner identities have a winning record against the Corp!  In fact it's only the two Criminal IDs who are swinging the overall record to 51/49 in favour of the Runner, with both Gabriel Santiago and Andromeda pulling impressive 56/59% win rates.  The most surprising thing, then, is just how diverse the Runner identities are, given that there are two identities that demand to be played ahead of the others.

But isn't everyone talking about Atman/Datasucker?  If that's wrecking everyone then how come Shaper decks are only managing a 45% win rate?

Well, for the answer to that you have to look at just how complete the original data source from OCTGN actually was: it takes a long time to play over 100,000 games of Netrunner and the data went back into 2012 while Atman was only printed in Creation & Control a couple of months ago.  If you recut the data for games played in August/September 2013 (so during the period Creation & Control was widely used in OCTGN) you get a slightly different picture...

And, as if by magic, three winning Runner Identities become four as Kate McCaffrey jumps from #3 to #1 in most-played, and picks up a whopping 9% in her win rate, jumping from 45% to 54%.  That's the Atman Effect at work (along with the other juicy cards Shapers got in Creation & Control).

Another interesting change between the Creation & Control data and that from all time is the rise of Andromeda, who has overtaken Gabriel Santiago as the Criminal mastermind of choice for Runners.  What's particularly noteworthy here is that it makes Andromeda arguably the ONLY identity published since the Core set that was actually better than the Identities we get there.   Identities like Noise, Kate McCaffrey, Engineering the Future and Making News were the first we got to play with and they set the standard for what Identities can do for you.  Almost without exception the Identities printed in the data packs have been weaker and underplayed, the exception I alluded to being Andromeda.  Drawing 9 cards for your first turn is extremely powerful, particularly if you happen to have an Event you want to play on the first turn.  Say, an event that let you run at HQ to steal money?  Something like that would work well with Andromeda.

When I broken down the flow of Win/Loss records by ID for the Corps it threw up some good learnings - some Corps win early, other late and some are all about Flatlining.  It was worth doing so let's repeat that for the Runners...

I've lumped them all together like because, unlike the Corporations, what is most striking about the performance of the best Runner identities is how SIMILAR they are.  If you think back to the Corp decks we saw HUGE differences between how Haas-Bioroid and Jinteki were trying to win the game, and even big differences between the two NBN Identities, with The World Is Yours significantly faster than Making News.

By contrast the Runners are all very similar in so many ways.  You could argue that Kae McCaffrey is slightly slower out of the blocks than the other Runners, taking 8 or 9 turns to get up to speed, but by and large all the four best Runner decks are neither particularly strong early game, or particularly strong late game - pretty much right through the game they're all 55-60% to win the game once they've avoided getting flatlined in the first few runs.  That doesn't throw up much in the way of useful information for Runners/Corps to work with, but it does point to an interesting game design point about Netrunner, which is that it looks as though it's the Corps that are setting the pace of the game (can I get away with saying the Corps set the Agenda?), which is worth thinking about when most people would say that the Runner is the protagonist in the game by being the one on the 'offense'.

As we've seen in decks like HB Rush and NBN Fast Advance the concept of 'offense' in Netrunner isn't necessarily tied to the act of running, and this supports the idea that some Corps can go on the offensive, while the Runners are relatively reactive throughout.

Another similarity between all the runners - none of them are particularly vulnerable to flatlining.  I had expected Criminals to be more aggressive in running early, and thus more vulnerable to getting caught out early, but there's little evidence that it's resulting in more crispy-friend Criminals than there are Anarchs or Shapers.

Winners vs Winners

So all the Runners are the same.  That's the amazing analysis I'm providing?  Well I'd argue that it's sometimes interesting to find out that it's boring, but I don't want to leave you like that so here's another level.  This is the results when Corp Players who won more than 55% of games since Creation & Control arrived in OCTGN played against Runner Player who had won more than 55% of games.

Statistically both groups are winning more than 50/50, so we're honing in on the above-average players to see if anything changes for them.  One side has to come off second-best in these matches, though - does the Corp hold an edge when good players meet, or does the Runner widen the gap?

Damnit, it's the same again.  When you look at EVERY game EVER on OCTGN, the Runner won 51% of them.  When you look at games just in Creation and Control it's 52%, and when you look at just the above-average players in Creation & Control it's STILL 51%.

At least that's consistent, right?

But there are some interesting changes in the league table that are worth noting (the sample size is much smaller now, so these results are less reliable so bear that in mind):

  • Kate McCaffrey is #1 among all players during Creation & Control, but Andromeda is most popular among the above-average players, with Kate only coming third.
  • Andromeda is played twice as often as Gabriel Santiago by the better Runner players, but actually has a worse win record against the better Corp players.
  • Chaos Theory and Whizzard have both posted 50% win rates when handled by above-average players.  Whizzard was close on 49% when played by all players, but Chaos Theory jumps several % points when piloted by stronger players.
The final piece of the jigsaw is matchups - does a particular runner have an easier time against a particular Corp?  Again, this is based on matches since Creation & Control, and between players who have gone 55% or better with their Runner/Corp decks in that time...

The number that leaps out there is that The World Is Yours posted a 65% win rate against Gabriel Santiago!  The sample size there is only 43 games between the two Identities so it's not an exhaustive sample, but it's definitely an eyebrow raiser.  That the same Gabriel Santiago beat Making News 72% of the time is either a fantastic insight into the respective strengths of the two NBN decks or, quite possibly, a statistical fluke from the small sample size.

I'm reluctant to draw too many conclusions from this data, but it suggests...
  • Andromeda is weak against NBN: Making News (early running opens her up to SEA/Scorch?) but particularly strong against Haas-Bioroid: Engineering the Future
  • Kate McCaffrey is strong against Jinteki and NBN.  Possible her slower start makes her less likely to hit unfortunate Chum/Katana tricks, and she has the easiest access to Deus X when she needs it.
  • Jinteki only likes playing against Noise and Andromeda.  That doesn't make too much sense to me, as Andromeda's starting hand size should help against Snare!

That ends my look at the Runner identities,and I hope you've learnt as much from reading it as I got from slicing/dicing the data to write it.  I'm going to give my Excel pivot tables and break for a week or so, but may revisit the OCTGN data to pull out other pieces of juicy gossip - deck size vs win rate, for instance.

Until then: good running, and may the Snowflake be ever in your favor!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Psychographics // 100,000+ OCTGN Games Analysed // Corp Analysis

If you aren't aware of the excellent virtual tabletop for playing Netrunner online, OCTGN, then allow me to be the one to introduce you - I think you're going to get on famously.  Thousands of players play thousands of games online, using it as a perfect testing ground for new deck ideas and strategies, and today the developers of the Android: Netrunner game files for the OCTGN platform released a mammoth store of data - the results from the last 100,000+ games of Netrunner played on OCTGN!

100,000+ games.  That's a lot of data.

Being a man who likes his spreadsheets and graphs and charts I rolled up my sleeves and went data mining.  I'm going to return the results in two or three parts, starting with some insights for Corp players.

First, for those who care, I did a little bit to scrub the data for less competitive decks and results to cut to the core of data from decks that were legal.  Results were cut from games where decks were:
  • Influence was 0 (so likely playing Core set only)
  • Influence was higher than the Identity could legally play
  • Decks were smaller than the Identity could legally play
  • Decks were more 10+ cards bigger than the identity could legally play
That still left just under 100,000 games to analyse, which is plenty of data to draw some conclusions.  With that out of the way, it's time to report back to the Board of Directors on my findings...

This is the top level of data, looking at all the Identities that were played, ranked in order of popularity.  The data here is Games Played - Won and Lost - and the Win %.  The Loser Score is how close the game was, on average, measuring how many Agenda Points the losing side scored.  The Game Length is a measure of how long the games were with that Identity, in games where the Corp Won or Lost.

On the subject of Game Length it's normal for the Corp's Winning Turns to be larger than number of turns where the Corp lost.  The Corp always goes first and almost always wins on it's own turn, whereas it will virtually always lose on the Runner's turn (you can see this is different for Jinteki, which usually flatlines the runner on their own turn).  If you deduct the extra turn in which the Corp sealed the win you can see the real strength/weakness of the Identity in terms of where it holds an edge over the Runner.

There's a few things to pull out here.  First of all let's focus right at that bottom number - the Corporation has won 49% of the games in our sample size, as close to a 50/50 split as it's really possible to get and a sign that the game currently appears to be quite well balanced between the two sides.  It's important to note that this is based on results across ALL skill bands of players - the OCTGN data doesn't allow us to identify the best players or worst players and focus on their results.  It could be that among the elite players one side has a bigger advantage, but from this sample the game appears very evenly balanced.

Secondly it's immediately clear that there's four Corp Identities that are vastly more popular than the others.

Four Corp Identities are over 75% of all the games played, indicating there are clear favourites.  So far so obvious - you probably know they're popular because they're the ones you're playing yourself!  There is something interesting, though - although there are only four popular identities there are actually FIVE that are winning a much higher percentage of games than the others.  The missing identity is the second NBN Identity, The World Is Yours, which is one of only three Corp identities to record better than a 50% win rate!

If you want to win a Corp game of Netrunner your chances are VASTLY improved if you are playing one of these five Identities.

There's another layer to this though.  Corporations have two ways to win a game of Netrunner - you can score 7 Agenda Points or you can Flatline the runner by dealing damage to them.  If you strip out the games where the Corp won by Flatlining then a very stark picture emerges...

Only ONE Corp Identity has a 50/50 chance of winning by scoring 7 Agenda points - Haas-Bioroid: Engineering the Future.  The young upstart NBN: The World Is Yours has a relatively healthy 44% record, but by and large scoring Agendas is not the best way for your Corp deck to try and win the game.

Let's focus on the top five Corp Identities and see how different they are.

Take a look at the Flatline % and it reveals some huge differences between the best Corp decks, and that's something that Runners need to pay attention to as well.

Engineering The Future
With only 9% of their wins coming from Flatlining the most popular Corp identity is clearly interested in winning via Agenda Points (AP).  With that in mind it's a good job that they're the only Identity that has a 50% chance of winning by AP.  If you look at the games where the Corp wins they tend to be longer than the games they lost, and among the top five Corps that makes Engineering The Future pretty much unique.

This graph shows the results of games where Engineering The Future was the Corp identity, divided over games of length 1-30 turns at the bottom.  The orange bars you can't really see are games won by Flatline, the red bars are games won by AP, and the blue bars are games lost. the purple line is the Win Ratio for the Corp.  As you can see the Corp's win ratio in the early game is pretty terrible, but as the game goes on EtF's chances of winning the game get better and better - if EtF can make it through the first 10 turns it's actually >50/50 to win the game.

As we'll see, that's an unusual situation for a Corp...

Making News and The World Is Yours

The two NBN Identities are very similar in many ways, but have some notable differences as well.  Similarities first - about 25% of their wins come from Flatlining, which fits with the Corp that makes tagging the runner it's speciality.  More similarities, as well as carrying a Flatline threat, both the NBN identities have a >40% chance of winning on Agenda points as well - the best record outside of Haas-Bioroid.  

A final similarity is that the two NBN decks are pretty consistent over any length of game - they're not as weak as Haas-Bioroid in the early game because of the flatlining threat, but don't have any particular strength in the late game either.

The main difference between the two Identities is just how quick The World Is Yours is!  With Flatline wins coming in at 8.9 turns on average and Agenda wins at 14.2 turns the second NBN identity is significantly faster than its older brother (12.1 and 17.3 turns, respectively).  Being tuned down to a 40 card deck makes The World Is Yours much more consistent at pulling together a strong early game then taking advantage of that with either a Scorched Earth or Psychographics strategy to end the game quickly.  That speed is what makes The World Is Yours the Ferrari of the Corporate world. 

Building A Better World
The Weyland identity is the first of two Corps whose main route to victory is flatlining the runner, although in Weyland's case it's only just over half of the Corp's wins and Weyland can still win with Agenda points just over a third of the time.

One big difference from the other Corp identities we've looked at so far is that Weyland's chance of winning the game declines throughout the game - where Haas-Bioroid has a 60% chance of winning a long game, Weyland is on the wrong end of a 40% chance.

Personal Evolution
If Haas-Bioroid is all about scoring Agendas, then Jinteki seems to see Agendas as a mere distraction to it's game plan.  A whopping 75% of ALL Personal Evolution wins came from Flatlining the runner.  SIZZLE!

The flipside from that great stat is a terrible one: you've only got a 19% chance of winning a game where you don't flatline the runner.  Jinteki players should read that and weep.  19% is horrible odds.

The win ratio in Jinteki is very telling.  In the early game you've got a good chance of the runner screwing up and walking into a Chum/Neural Katana/Snare combination and putting himself into the ground.  But with each turn that goes by the Jinteki player is less and less likely to win the game.  As the runner sets up his breakers and finds his Deus X the chances of flatlining slip away, and there's simply no Agenda scoring plan to step up and take its place.

This is critical information if you're running against Jinteki.  Avoiding defeat is largely in your hands - don't run when you don't have to, or when it's dangerous to do so, and you largely neuter the Jinteki threat.  Remember runners, always practice safe running!


EDIT: It was suggested I was being unfair on Jinteki by claiming their wins were primarily down to runner mistakes.  The argument was that Jinteki wins by flatline when it's close to winning on Agenda Points and is able to force the runner into making bad runs and exposing themselves to flatlining.  

To check this I switched the Game Flow graph around to look at the number of Agenda Points scored by the Corp when the game ended.  If most of the Jinteki wins came when the Corp had 4-6 Agenda Points then it would support the view that Personal Evolution is able to force flatline wins, rather than relying on unforced errors from the runner.

That appears to support the original analysis that Personal Evolution relies on unforced errors.  By far the most Flatline kills come early in the game, long before the Jinteki player is close to winning on Agenda points.

It's worth repeating that this sample is for ALL Personal Evolution decks.  Some decks may be better at forcing errors from the runner on 4/5 Agenda Points.  It may be different among the best players, with less experienced players skewing results towards 'lucky' wins early in the game.  But overall the result is clear - Jinteki primarily wins from unforced runner error.


One Last Nugget...

This one is very obvious, but also very clear.  Influence helps you win games.  There is a direct relationship between the amount of Influence in your deck and your win ratio.  Well, duh.  But here's a graph I made to show the bleeding obvious...

Summing Up

What this data does is help you to understand where the pitfalls in the Corp strategy is.  It might be interesting to develop a Stronger Together deck that tries to win by building big data forts to score big Agendas, but you should be aware that you're going against the flow.

Your chances of winning are increased when you play one of five Identities, and usually when you're NOT focussed solely on scoring Agendas, because only one Corp Identity has a 50/50 chance of winning with Agendas.

So does that mean you can't try something new?  Hell no.  What we're seeing here is data filtered very broadly - only to Identity level.  We don't know, from this data, that there isn't a subset of Personal Evolution decks that have a 70% chance of winning by Agendas.  We don't know that you won't find one tomorrow.  But we do know that, overall, scoring Agendas is something that Jinteki is VERY bad at.  That's something you really need to know when you're building your Corp deck, and it's also something you need to know when you're playing against that identity.

I'll be back in the next day or two with a similar look at the other side of the coin - what the OCTGN data tells us about Runner decks.

Many thanks to DbZer0 and the folks at OCTGN for making all this juicy gossip available.