Friday, 24 January 2014

It Came From The Web

Somewhere along the way my blog posts have become monsters.  1,000 words became 1,500, became 2,000, became 3,000... the Godzilla of blogs trampling through Tokyo, leaving me battered and exhausted in its wake.

I'm going to try and mix it up a bit more so that I'm not left feeling like I can't post anything shorter than War & Peace.  I'll still churn out plenty of big pieces but I'll also try to throw out more 'nuggets' of good Netrunner stuff that either occur to me, or which I find scattered in various corners of the internet.

Today I'm going to point you to three things I've found which are very different, and for very different reasons.

1 - Agenda 7

Agenda7 is a Canadian blog/podcast combo that tackle a whole range of subjects and is definitely worth adding to your regular trawls for good Netrunner info and insight.  In the interests of transparency I only found their site because somebody told me that this blog got namechecked on their latest podcast, but if you like somebody then does it really matter how you were first introduced?

I would return the favor by mentioning them anyway but I'm more than happy to do so because I really enjoyed listening in to their show.  My coverage writing career began when I was fortunate enough to be a part of Rich Hagon beginning his stratospheric rise to the Pro Tour booth with a humble 4-man podcast called MoxRadio so I know the Agenda7 format well and know it's an easy one to get wrong, but I thought they did a great job. 

Well worth a read and a listen!

2 - OnoSendai

OnoSendai is a new card database/search tool that has just been launched and it is very swish.  I know a lot of people use the tool on CardGameDB, and although I use CGDB's deckbuilder I've always preferred NetrunnerDB for simply finding cards and answering mid-deckbuild questions like "what cards do damage that I've forgotten about?" or "I've got an Influence left to spend, what only costs 1 Influence?".

On first analysis OnoSendai is more like NetrunnerDB, although there is a promised deckbuilder coming soon.  Many of the functionalities are similar between the two sites but the OnoSendai interface is super-slick and intuitive, with the usual grid of cards updating live as you change filters instead of going away to run a search, and a nifty Itunes-style horizontal card flicking option.  A really nice touch is that the Ice and Icebreakers come with a second tab that provides you with the cost required to either break Ice, or be broken by Icebreakers, which gives you a really quick and clear way of comparing cards.

A deckbuilder tool is coming and I'm sure there will be a host of little improvements to come.  For a debut version OnoSendai is very impressive and well worth a look.

3 -  Fear In My Heart's Cyber-Future

Posted as part of the Imaginary Funerals project this piece might well be a one-off - I don't know if the author intends on writing more about Netrunner in future - but this was a nice little piece I found posted on Reddit earlier today.  It's not strategy.  It's not insight.  It's not card reviews.  It's just a really nicely written piece about playing Netrunner.  

I've felt that same fire many times in different games and I just thought this would resonate with many of you.  It's certainly a fitting follow-up to my self improvement Blog last time out.  If you can combine this guy's passion for the game with the lessons I dished out you're going to set yourself up to achieve good things.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Building A Better You - Lessons With "The Professor"

Immediate apologies to players who are here to learn about a certain Shaper Identity - that's not what this is about.  Instead, in a rare moment of ego I decided to Google myself earlier today (come on, we’ve all done it).  Specifically I decided to Google “Sutcliffe Sligh”, which was a Magic: The Gathering deck I designed about 15 years ago and which a friend of mine played to become the first UK player to win a major Magic tournament, crushing the then-vincible Kai Budde in the final of Grand Prix Birmingham.  The first link that Google threw up was an article written by that very friend after he went on to carve out a successful spot as a writer for

The article saw my friend summing up his Magic career, which had taken him from the kitchen table to Grand Prix wins, Pro Tour finals and World Championship appearances.  It was a series of recollections but each memory was also a lesson that he had learned along the way to becoming both a better player and a better deck designer. 

Although it was written several years before Android: Netrunner even existed, and written about a different game, many of the lessons apply just as well to competitive Netrunner as they ever did to competitive Magic and are well worth a revision session today.

This is well-timed for Netrunner because we've recently had major announcements about the structure of Store Championships and Regional Championships - the building blocks towards the National and World Championships.  Taking Netrunner seriously is not for everyone, and the same is true of Magic players, but with some premier tournaments on the horizon things are going to get a little more serious.  If you want to be a more successful player or deck designer it’s a good time to go back to college and learn from "The Professor".

No, not that Professor, THIS Professor… Craig 'Prof' Jones - the most successful UK Magic player ever to come from our sceptered isle.

You can find the whole of Craig's original article here.  Magic players may understand what he’s talking about a little more than those who’ve never tapped a Basic Land in anger, but for the rest of you I will pull together the most important lessons in Netrunner speak as best I can. 


When you’re used to building your own decks it’s easy to get too attached.”

This is a lesson that I think we can all learn from and if anything it applies even more to Netrunner than it does to Magic because fewer people pick up ‘netdecks’ off the internet than they do in Magic.  Most of the time you set off to build a deck with a great dream of what it’s going to do (I don’t think many people deliberately set out to make a crappy deck) and as you go through the process of building, playtesting, rebuilding, playtesting again, rebuilding again (you get the drift) it’s only natural that you will get attached to what you’ve made. 

It’s really easy become emotionally invested in your deck and that can just as easily blinker you to its shortcomings.  Partly this is because you like the idea behind it – that’s why you started making it, remember? – but also because through all the various iterations and refinements you know that your deck has got better.  Those 45 or 49 cards in your hand right now are the best they’ve ever been.  Sure it didn’t work last time but your deck is better now.  Right?

Nobody sets out to make a crappy deck, and actually in Netrunner not many truly crappy decks DO get made.  But an awful lot of get made that aren’t as good as the best decks.  That's not a terrible thing but it IS going to hold you back when you get to a tournament.  The moment when you recognise that the deck you’ve lovingly nurtured for three months has got better but isn’t going to be good enough is a key one, but it’s not always easy to have that perspective on your own creations.

One a personal note this is definitely something that I’ve struggled with in Netrunner.  I’ve done it twice, spending months refining Chaos Theory builds then jumped from Chaos Theory into Rielle ‘Kit’ Peddler and spending months fiddling around with Cyber Cypher builds and Gordian Blade builds.  Always improving, always refining, always enjoying exploring the card pool in doing so… in the end I realised they were never going to be the best deck I could play.  They're always going to be there for me to dip back to when I want some fun, but I won't be taking them to tournaments in the near future.

“All too often people make the mistake of thinking what their deck can do is what their deck will do

This is HUGE.  If every deck starts out with a great dream of what you want to happen it will almost always be a dream of something that is possible, but not necessarily something that is likely.

The example Craig referred to in his article was one that I remember well because I can still picture the hotel room we shared at Pro Tour Rome where he unveiled his deck’s grand plan, and I can still picture the look of incredulity that must have been plastered across my face as he did so.  Craig’s deck was all about the best case scenario – if things went the way he wanted them to go then he would obliterate his opponent.  Unfortunately if they didn’t go the way he wanted then his hugely unconventional and risky plan would collapse in a laughable pile and he had left plenty of opportunities for it to go wrong.

This is one of the key dangers of getting too attached to your deck (see the first lesson) and it’s one that I think is very relevant in Netrunner, especially for Runner decks.  Corporation decks tend to come with a bit of a straitjacket that ensures they can’t go too far wrong – you’ll need X Agendas, and Y Ice, and probably Z economy cards.  Runner decks are more freeform and players have much more opportunity to screw them up by assuming they’ll draw the cards they want when they want them.  It takes real mental discipline to recognise where you’ve drifted from the likely to the possible but it’s a key skill you’ll need if you’re to maximise your chances of success.

If you’re serious about winning as many games as possible then consistency is VITAL.  If you want to know why Andromeda is the best deck then you can stop right here, because this is the reason.  Kate McCaffrey may be able to make a better rig, Reina Roja may be able to shred the Corp with aggressive start and Keyhole runs, Gabriel Santiago might play the same cards as Andromeda but have more credits from HQ runs… but all those decks will randomly lose a certain percentage of games simply because they drew the right cards in the wrong order.  With her huge opening hand Andromeda is twice as unlikely to lose games to bad luck as any of her competitors, and that’s a big deal.

So am I saying you can only play Andromeda because she has more cards?  No!!!  Please don’t take that away from this lesson.  Instead take away that you should work really hard to play a deck that WILL do something, not a deck that MIGHT do something.  Make sure you can recover from bad opening hands, make sure you can find your key cards, make sure you don’t need to see too many cards in a specific order.  You might not draw them.  You might get them trashed.  You might lose them to some random Net damage you weren’t expecting.  Hope for the best, fear the worst, but plan for the likely.


“If someone has a better deck than yours, play it.”

Ultimately, this is the brutal bottom line of playing to win.  Build your own deck, tweak and refine it as much as you can.  Make it as consistent and sensible as possible, take out all the wacky combos that you’d love to do but you know deep down are just showing off.  And if, after you’ve done all that, you still have sufficient perspective to be able to throw away all that hard work and play somebody else’s deck… you’ve learnt the discipline to be a better player.

It’s not easy.  It’s often a bitter pill to swallow but the best medicines usually taste like crap – that’s how you know they’re medicine.

It’s a lesson Craig learnt just in time.  I met his Survival of the Fittest deck at a PTQ and beat him with my Sligh deck, even though he knew Sligh was a good matchup for him.  A week later we met at another PTQ and Craig had tweaked his deck to make it better against Sligh.  I beat him again.  Two weeks after that Craig won Grand Prix Birmingham playing my Sligh deck.  That’s not an ego-rub for me, BTW because I’ve dumped designs of my own for better decks many, many times.  It’s what you need to do in order to maximise your chances of winning.

“Don’t forget the obvious deck. Most of the time it wins.”

Obvious deck is obvious.  You know why it’s obvious?  Because a lot of people play it.  You know why they play it?  Because it’s good.

Stealth + Elephant In The Room = Stealiphant

Playing the obvious deck is often a dull and functional option.  It’s taking up all the creativity you can muster and flushing it down the toilet.  You won’t be the envy of your friends and rivals.  You won’t be the internet poster boy for a brand new deck archetype.  Strangers won’t stop you in the street to ask for your decklist.

But you might win more games.

“Boring + Efficient = Game Win” is a formula that holds true across a great many games.  Desperado is pretty much the poster child for this - a console that gives you a credit is hardly an exciting use of 9 Influence, but it's how you get your Kate deck into the Finals of the World Championships.


“Teams are important.”

Teams are something that don’t really seem to be a big deal in Netrunner.  Yet.  With Store Championships and Regionals around the corner that could well change – it’s often the bigger tournaments that are the trigger for local rivals to team up to take on a common foe.

Teams don’t come naturally to players in CCGs and LCGs, not least because most of the time you’re sitting at the table alone, playing for you not your teammates.  That said, after 20 years in Magic: The Gathering, World of Warcraft and Netrunner I can tell you without hesitation that pretty much all the best moments in those 20 years involved other people – friends and teammates.  The nature of card games is that you’re going to get unlucky sometimes, you’re going to lose sometimes, you’re going to get bad hands or bad R&D accesses where the Runner scores 6 Agenda points with their first two runs.  Teams are a support network.  They’re there to help you build your deck.  They’re there to watch you play and will you on.  They’re there to talk over your decisions and help you play better in the future.  Teams are great.

When the UK’s Store Championships were announced earlier this week the first thing I asked was “who wants to team up and take down as many of these things as possible?” and that so many of the people who have been running my servers and trashing my programs were ready to team up was great to see.

Turn opponents into teammates.  It’s better that way.

“More people building a deck together = good.”

Oh.  Hell.  Yes.

More ideas, more points of view, more contributions from past experiences.  More playtesting, more decks played against, more options tested – more rigorously and more reliably.  When deckbuilding is a collaborative process and not a lone exercise you can achieve more, in less time, and with a greater chance of producing a result that is balanced against your likely opponents.

“What would you do differently?  Why?  Ok I see that but I was worried about Card X.  Have you played against that much?  Yeah, me either… maybe it’s not so important.  Have you guys needed Card Y much, I keep drawing it and it doesn’t seem to do much.  Oh it won a game for you?  Cool, maybe it’s worth keeping in.”

I know what it feels like to go into a tournament with a deck that I’ve built myself, tested myself, and has only my thoughts and experiences behind it.  I also know what it’s like to go into a tournament with three teammates whose opinions I trust, and with whom I’ve spent a month testing a deck, bouncing ideas around, and with whom we all agree we’re packing the right deck.  I’ve won games with cards that I know wouldn’t have been in my deck if I’d been running solo.

Teams make your deck better.

“Most of the time you should go with your team. Sometimes you have to recognise when to split with the herd”

It doesn’t matter how good your teammates are and it doesn’t matter how convinced they are that they’re right and you’re wrong, sometimes your Spidey Sense is going to tingle anyway.  If you just can’t get on board with what everyone else is doing for some reason then don’t be afraid to do your own thing.  Sitting there and playing a deck you don’t believe in will not improve your chances.

Why will your Spidey Sense tingle?  For a whole host of reasons.  Maybe you don’t think it suits your playstyle – it’s too controlling and you want to be more aggressive.  Maybe you don’t agree with your teammates about what decks you think everyone else is going to play.  Maybe you just don’t like Gabriel Santiago’s freaky metal arm.  

Teams are good – all the playtesting and experiences and discussions you’ve had in coming to the point where you play a different deck to them will still come in very useful in the tournament – but being in team doesn’t mean you joined the Borg and signed over your free will.


“Be prepared to own up to your own bad plays rather than blaming poor luck.  Accept that some games are just out of your control, and you must be able to put it aside and move onto to the next round.”

These are two key skills.  Unless you’re a freak of probability math you’re going to lose games of any card game – that’s the nature of drawing cards randomly from your deck - but recognising why you lost those games and responding to those losses in the right way gives you the best possible grounding for approaching the next game.

It can be difficult to see your mistakes for what they are – you made the plays you did for a reason and you (hopefully) had a logic behind them that you believed in. Having the discipline to go back and challenge those decisions in hindsight is one of the best tools you have to improving your chances going forwards.  It’s tempting to see the Runner accessing an Agenda from the top of R&D to win the game as bad luck – and no doubt luck played a part in what they accessed – but did you really do everything that you could to minimise the opportunity to be unlucky?  It’s not a straightforward question – did you allow them to access easily as part of a calculated gamble to win the game?  Did you really need to make that gamble?

Some players are very good at spotting their own mistakes.  I have a Magic playing friend who can remember key decision points in games from several years ago, and he can tell you whether the line of play he chose was correct or not.   I don’t have that skill – once my mind is made up on a course of action I can be quite stubborn about accepting I was wrong.  For players like me it just becomes another reason why working in a team is so helpful.  If I can’t spot the mistakes in my own play I need other people to spot them for me.

The flipside of that self-analysis is to be able to recognise and accept that sometimes you can make all the right plays and have your opponent pull out a lucky win despite your best efforts.  There’s no point carrying that baggage around with you for the rest of the day - there’s nothing to be gained from loading extra importance onto the next game or from feeling as though the gaming gods are conspiring against you.  I’ve seen plenty of players go on ‘tilt’ after a bad game but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game where tilting actually helped.  You’re not a Jedi.  You can’t channel your anger like a Sith Lord and use it to hurt your next opponent, it will just get in the way of making good decisions.

Through working coverage for Magic: The Gathering I’ve been privileged to meet many successful players and talk about what the defining moments have been in their growth to the Pro level of play.  Time and again the answer isn’t about cards, or decks, or plays… it’s psychological.  Time and again the tipping point for great players is when they stop worrying about whether they’re 1-0 down or 1-0 up in the match, whether they’re 8-0 in tournament or a defeat away from being knocked out, whether they’re playing for thousands and dollars or nothing at all.  Stop thinking about all that.  Stop thinking about the last game or the next game.  Think about this game.

The key to this lesson.  Just because you lose doesn’t mean you made a mistake.  Just because you won didn’t mean you played correctly.  But if you make the correct plays every time you’ll win far more than you’ll lose.

“There are bad beats and bad drafts, but there are also escape opportunities for the alert….  you have to be able to spot where you can create the opportunities to be lucky

Don’t ever accept defeat, look for the way out.  We’ve all had Corp hands that just seemed unwinnable – Agenda after Agenda and no Ice.  Some truly are unwinnable, but some offer a glimmer of hope for those alert to it.  Sometimes you’ve got to play for that 5% chance of winning because the 95% play just prolongs the inevitable defeat – you’ve got to make the crazy play that shouldn’t work because if you play conservatively you’re just boxing yourself further into a corner.

This boils down to being another psychological lesson: as soon as you start thinking you’ve lost… you probably have.  As your game plan is disintegrating in front of you, as the Runner hits you with a second Account Siphon and installs Same Old Thing it can be really tempting to mentally throw in the towel and just go through the motions until you lose.  Draw cards, click for credits, try to rez Ice… it’s what you should do, right?  But if doing all that is just setting up a drawn-out defeat then don’t you need a Plan B? 

Sometimes you have to accept that Plan A is finished, and once that happens you’ve got to improvise.  What do you need to be true in order for you to win this game?  If it’s that the top of your deck is economy and Power Shutdowns, that the Runner doesn’t draw a Clone Chip and that none of your top 10 cards are Agendas then play as though that’s true.  However unlikely your winning scenario is IT’S YOUR BEST CHANCE OF WINNING.  There are no points for being a well-disciplined loser, but plenty of points for the winner who gave himself the chance to get lucky.

Craig’s greatest moment in Magic was precisely this sort of situation.  Faced with sure defeat in the semi final of Pro Tour Honolulu, Craig was moments away from being knocked out by Olivier Ruel in the deciding game.  His deck of aggressive creatures had been stopped dead – his gameplan called for him to keep removing Ruel’s creatures and attacking as best he could but there was no way through.  Craig analysed that his only possible chance for victory was to switch to the defensive, hope that his opponent wouldn’t be able to attack with all his creatures, then hope that the top card of his own deck was a certain card… Lightning Helix.

It was a lot to ask, but Craig had worked out that if he did what his deck was ‘supposed to do’ he could only stay alive long enough to lose a turn or two later.  If he risked it all he could win now.  It’s gone down as one of the most dramatic moments in Magic history…

 “Variance can work in your favour.”

Being lucky is essential.  It might sound odd to finish on this in an article about learning to play better but it’s true.  I don’t think many tournaments are ever won by a player who spent the whole day being unlucky, and in fact I think if every tournament winner was truly honest with themselves they’d accept that there were a couple of times when things definitely went their way – they hit R&D twice and pulled two Astroscripts, or an opponent couldn’t draw a Barrier breaker all game.  That’s the nature of card games: luck is a factor.  The best you can do is to play as well as you possibly can so that you’re at the top table when the good luck is being handed out and hope you get a little bit more of it than the other guys.

Everything about being a good player comes down to minimising how much good luck you need.  Play the right deck, playtest it enough to make the right decisions, work with other good players to incorporate their feedback and knowledge, analyse your own play for mistakes and good decisions, give yourself every chance to win every game.  You do all that just to mean you only have to be slightly lucky to win, not extremely lucky.  But at some point you’ll need the luck and if you don’t take any risks you’re denying yourself the chance to be lucky.

Relying on your opponent making a mistake is usually a bad idea (assuming your opponent is actually good) but sometimes it will be your only chance.  If you sit there and worry about everything he could have in hand, or unrezzed, you could avoid taking the very risks you needed to take to win the game.

You’re going to be faced with a decision.  Play safe and probably finish 4th, or take a risk and finish 1st or 8th.  If you really want to win then at some point you have to risk defeat, and recognising those moments when they come along is one of the hardest things to get right.  It's moments like those where you can get 5 of the best players around the table and never be able to get them to agree on whether the gamble was the right play or not.  They're the difference makers.

I guess what you’ve got to ask yourself is "do I feel lucky?".

Well do, ya, punk?

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

True Colors Set Review - Runner Cards

The Corp cards got to use the all-new Evil Pinky Scale, and for the Runners I unveil the Groovy Scale...

1 Groovy - Fun?  Thematic?  Cool?  Maybe.  Good?  No.

2 Groovies - Rarely played but will have its moments

3 Groovies - Solid card - you'll definitely see this around

4 Groovies - A great card - a faction staple

5 Groovies - Shagadelic!  You'll see this used across all factions


Lets start with the biggie – Keyhole was spoiled a while ago and I've never previously liked this card.  However enough people have said it's great, including some of the people whose card evaluations I pay close attention to, that I've gone back to basics and taken a fresh look.

Ignoring the cost and 2MU for now, what does Keyhole actually do for you?   

Keyhole shows you 3 cards at random from the Corp's deck, and roughly half the time that will include an Agenda.  You'll be able to trash the Agenda then run on Archives to collect it.  Given unfettered access to R&D you should be able to score an Agenda every turn by running R&D two or three times the running the Archives.  Because you shuffle R&D after your access you don't get to ensure that the Corp won't draw an Agenda the way you can with an R&D Interface 'lock' but if you're seeing 6 or 9 cards per turn and the Corp is only drawing 1 or 2 cards you can certainly expect to see Agendas more rapidly.  This is actually quite different to playing Medium, the current Anarch R&D dig of choice, where it will typically take you longer to score Agendas but you can be pretty certain that the Corp can't draw any in the meantime.  

Compared to Medium I think Keyhole is better when you're winning (ahead on Agenda Points, in a dominant position and able to access Central servers repeatedly for little cost) while Medium is better in other situations.  Medium only needs one run per turn to really deny the Corp the chance to draw an Agenda.  When you're behind on Agenda points Keyhole leaves the door open for the Corp to score their last Agenda before your accesses can find 7AP, which Medium doesn't do, and it's worth noting that the first time you try and steal an Agenda with Keyhole you'll likely find Jackson Howard ready to rip it away from you, buying the Corp more time to win. 

That said, Keyhole is powerful and I had definitely dismissed it too readily, although I think many players are too quick to see its strengths when you're ahead and overlooking the times when you would rather have Medium.  The key for Keyhole (pun intended) is fitting it into a rig which can afford to access R&D and Archives so easily, and that's where the 2 MU becomes a bit of a problem.  It could be that deck requires Grimoire to fund that additional MU while supporting the Anarch rig of Corroder/Yog.0/Mimic/Datasucker, maybe with Djinn to help out.  Reina Roja has already sparked huge interest in Anarch decks and I'm sure many people will try to use Keyhole as their win condition.  

Keyhole can certainly win games but compared to Medium I think it requires the runner to be in a stronger position before it can be effectively used and it's not yet clear in my mind that it's not 'win more' compared to Medium.  I think that in situations where Keyhole will win the game for you Medium would probably also win the game, although it would take longer to do it.  Back the other way I'm not so sure that Keyhole will always win the game for you in situations where Medium would have locked the Corp out. 

BTW, a nice little difference between Keyhole and Medium is that you're not accessing multiple cards, and this significantly de-risks running against Jinteki decks full of Shock! and Snare!  If Jinteki takes off then Keyhole definitely gains an edge over Medium & R&D Interface.

Activist Support

Being able to give the Corp a Bad Publicity is a great ability but giving the Corp the chance to trash your Activist before he can even Support you isn’t so great.  You’ll need to put the Corp between a rock and a hard place before this actually works out for you so don’t get too excited about what this claims to do.

Lawyer Up

Lawyer Up brings a mini Quality Time into Criminal, allowing the Event-heavy decks to keep their hands topped up.  You have to keep in mind that this is a Double event, though, so unless you’re gaining value from the clearance of tags this card is less exciting than you might think – versus simply clicking to draw two cards you’re +1 card (which is just cycling the Lawyer Up) but -2 credits, which isn’t exactly a stellar trade.  The only real value comes from wanting to clear tags and that’s something that, currently Criminal decks are happy to ignore doing.  Right now I think this is a lot less thrilling than it looks at first glance precisely because it’s a Double and Criminals are usually happy to play Tag Me, but if you want tags gone and you want cards in hand Lawyer Up provides both at once as some solid work compression.


Even without the restriction of running HQ I wouldn’t be too interested in this card – it’s much easier to play Plascrete to avoid Meat damage and simply play well to avoid Net damage.  That I have to run somewhere I don’t want to have to run in order to generate an effect I don’t want to generate is just a nail in the coffin.  Leverage would be a strong contender for the worst card in the set if that hadn’t been wrapped up by Starlight Crusade Funding a long time ago.


On initial reactions this seems to have divided people but I am definitely on the side of the fence that Garrote is a great addition to the Icebreakers.  Up to now no single Icebreaker has offered an efficient breaking formula and it has been much harder to break Sentries than any other type of Ice.  When I made my analysis of the ice andIcebreakers from the Top 32 decks at Worlds I highlighted that there wasn’t a really good Sentry killer, and even explored what two programs you could most effectively combine (Mimic & Knight or Mimic & Femme being best).

Because of that analysis I feel like you’re frequently going to devote 2MU to Sentry breaking anyway – either Mimic/Datasucker or Mimic/Femme or similar – and that Garrote takes up 2MU alone isn’t such a bad bargain because it turns out that Garrote is SIGNIFICANTLY more efficient than any other Sentry breaker (see the table below).  Yes, Garrote costs 7.  Yes, it takes up 2 MU.  But you were probably spending 2MU and lots of credits anyway to install a combination of cards to break Sentries with.  Garrote brings it all in one card, and one card you can search for with Special Order and which doesn’t cost Influence.

I don’t know if Criminals are going to switch from Mimic/Datasucker to Garrote because Datasucker synergises so well with Desperado, but I do see that their Anarch rig is coming under attack (Power Shutdown for Datasuckers, Str 4+ Code Gates like RSVP and Inazuma) and Garrote offers the option to jump out into a Garrote/Gordian rig instead (similar to the versions from Worlds that were based on Magnum Opus).  It’s definitely a possibility I will playtest, and I also think Garrote is tempting for Shapers to port over into their Test Run/Scavenge decks.

If your evaluation stops at the cost and MU of Garrote then I think you’re not appreciating the investment required to break Sentries with the current selection of Breakers.  Garrote is good, not quite Mimic/Datasucker good but good nonetheless.

LLDS Processor

Big woop.  No advantage you get from this can possibly be worth the cost of drawing/installing it.  I heard somebody say you would use it with Faerie/Clone Chip decks… presumably because the one thing you need with Faeries is some way to dodge the enormous cost of giving Faerie +1 Strength. </sarcasm>


The program-saving version of Deus X, Sharpshooter is limited use but essential for the decks running Self Modifying Code as your get-out when you run into an unexpected Archer.  I think you can expect to see a couple of copies played quite frequently in Shaper decks and this quite effectively neuters the swing towards Grim/Rototurrets in Corp decks.  A neat little card that achieves quite a lot simply by existing.


So if you built your deck badly to include lots of duplicates of cards you don’t want duplicates of, then put lots of draw effects in so that you keep drawing the cards you don’t want rather than filtering past them with search effects, this card is good.  Alternatively you could punch yourself in the face repeatedly if you’re feeling particularly masochistic.

Starlight Crusade Funding

I’m sure there is going to be a wacky theme deck of Double events that uses this.  I’m equally sure it will be terrible.

The Runners definitely get the raw side of the deal in True Colors, as has been true all the way through Spin Cycle so far, but each faction gets something that I think is good.  The standout card is Keyhole, which follows hot on the heels of Reina Roja and Knight to keep players interested in what Anarchs can do, but I think both Garrote and Sharpshooter will be valued additions to the war against Sentries and program destruction.

True Colors Set Review - Corp Cards

One of the great joys of writing a blog for Netrunner is that the sets come along so frequently that you're rarely short of something to write about.  Hurrah, therefore, for the arrival of True Colors spoilers at the weekend.  The fourth data pack in Spin Cycle brings us some very good cards, particularly for the Corporation, and for that reason I'm going to break with tradition and start with the Corp.

For once there are a bunch of cards I actually like in this review so I'm going to replace the much-loved Kermit scale for something more suitable - The Evil Pinky Scale!

1 Pinky - Fun?  Thematic?  Cool?  Maybe.  Good?  No.

2 Pinkies - Rarely played but will have its moments

3 Pinkies - Solid card - you'll definitely see this around

4 Pinkies - A great card - a faction staple

5 Pinkies - Knockout.  You'll see this used across all factions

Got that?  Good.  Let's get started...

Veteran’s Program

I can see that some decks may want this – I’ve never seen a deck that aggressively tries to remove Bad Publicity rather than live with it, but it’s possible it would exist.  There are some good 3/1 Agendas already and it’s not immediately easy to judge the relative benefit of removing 2 Bad Publicity compared to, say, generating extra credits with Gila Hands Arcology or rezzing huge ice with Profiteering, but the more I think about it the more I convince myself that Veteran’s Program is a legitimate option.  Midgame I can see that you may add more to your defences by removing 2 Bad Publicity credits from each run the Runner makes than you would by gaining cash and rezzing another piece of Ice.  It’s still niche, but I’m prepared to accept that it will see play at some point.

Rex Campaign

Paying 1 for 5 credits is a good result.  Paying 1 to remove a Bad Publicity is a good result.  Paying 1 to make the Runner waste a click and 3 credits is a good result.  But somewhere between waiting 3 turns to generate the effect and giving the Runner the option of whether their economy is strong enough they can afford to trash Rex Campaign I begin to lose interest.  I think it’s fine, but with Haas-Bioroid decks already overflowing with good economy options I’m not sure this justifies a place in the starting team.


I think a lot of players overvalue Brain damage, and that’s why I’m not going to score Fenris too highly – I basically feel like this card would be fine without the Bad Publicity and the Bad Pub brings it down quite a lot.  Brain damage is a lovely splashy effect that has been hard to produce, I mean you permanently fry your opponent’s brain – how cool is that?!? – but dealing a single point of damage doesn’t usually contribute a whole lot towards you winning the game.  As the Runner side I’ve won plenty of games when my ID has been reduced to a dribbling vegetable by a Cerebral Overwriter or two, and that’s why I would usually prefer to rez a Rototurret and trash a program with my 4 credits than deal 1 Brain damage.  Fenris is the most reliable way of dealing Brain damage, and it will see play – it may well see more play as a splash into Jinteki or Weyland decks hoping for some help in flatlining the Runner – but if it’s only coming in at Strength 2 (bad vs Mimic/Femme/Garotte) I simply don’t think it needs the Bad Publicity and to my mind that knocks a couple of stars off.

Panic Button

This card is very niche – installed only as a HQ upgrade it serves to really only do a few things:

1) It’s a cash sink vs Account Siphon.  Quite how much cash you’re prepared to sink into it without winding up with a hand of 4 Agendas and having to pitch some of them to Archives, I’m not sure, but it definitely helps.  The trouble is that the Runner plays Account Siphon to take away your credits, and if they go into Panic Button rather than Siphon they’ve still got a partial success from that run.  The best case is that you Panic Button into Operation economy to then rebuild your credits, which isn’t too unlikely but probably means you lose a turn rebuilding back to the point you were at.

2) It’s a mild deterrent to running HQ for accesses – the Runner will have to be careful about when they time that run to minimise the Corp’s advantage and to ensure trashing Panic Button once they’ve got in.  Runners don’t currently focus much on HQ accesses so that shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience.

3) It helps set up combos, so it plays a role in Custom Biotics and Accelerated Diagnostics decks.

I’m not sure if 1) alone is enough to justify a starting place in your deck, and I’m not sure 2) matters that much against most Runners.  That leaves 3) as the main reason to play Panic Button, in my eyes.  If you’re the sort of deck where money isn’t really an object and you want to pull as many cards as possible then Panic Button comes in and helps a lot.  If the Runner decides to let it help by running HQ.  Which if they've any common sense they won't.


I’ve been waiting for this card ever since it was first spoiled.  Adding another access trap to your deck approaches a tipping point where accessing R&D and HQ becomes extremely painful.  The word I use to describe these sorts of decks is that they’re ‘spiky’, like your deck is a cactus that it’s painful to get too near.  With Snare!, Shock!, Fetal AI and the identity power of Personal Evolution you can have a deck with 20+ cards hurt the Runner simply for accessing them.

Dealing 1 net damage isn’t a lot, possibly not enough to justify taking up a slot in your deck.  In some ways it’s similar to Data Mine, which is a card some Jinteki decks packed and others would ignore.  But that’s not quite all the story and Shock! has two advantages over Data Mine – the first is that it costs the Runner 2 credits to trash, which is a little economic drain that isn’t an obvious element in a net damage ambush.  The Runner could hit Shock! in your R&D and not have the credits to trash it, leaving it there as a further deterrent in R&D and your HQ.  The second part, perhaps the key part, is that Shock! deals damage from Archives as well, which Snare! doesn’t do.  Shock! will naturally gravitate to the Archives through the game as it gets trashed or discarded, and it becomes a defense on that server which is particularly good against Datasucker decks.  Spiky archives is something that both Personal Evolution and Replicating Perfection are interested in.

Shock! is a key part in upgrading the Jinteki net damage decks, and close to an auto-include.  How good that emerging net damage deck will be is going to be something I’ll talk about another time.


“End the Run unless the Corp pays 1”

That’s an odd subroutine. The Corp pays NOT to stop the run?  Why would they do that?

“Do 1 net damage.  Do 1 net damage.  Do 1 net damage”

Ah, that’s why.  Subroutines on Ice fire in order and it’s important to know that for Tsurugi – if the Corp doesn’t pay 1 then the Runner gets kicked out before they take damage, but if the Corp DOES pay 1 then the Runner takes 3 net damage but the run continues.  The Corp can’t have its cake and eat it, though – Tsurugi can’t deal damage AND end runs (unless you’ve got Sensei ahead of it).

Tsurugi begs to be compared to Neural Katana so let’s do that.  Both cards deal 3 net damage but while Neural Katana does so in a single routine (which is very vulnerable to Mimic) Tsurugi’s multiple subroutines make it a more effective late game tax on the Runner.  The price of that added tax is an additional two credits to rez the Ice and one less strength.  The Strength doesn’t matter too much except against Parasite (the -1STR makes no difference to Ninja, and while Femme can break Tsurugi for 4 credits it had to spend 3 to break Katana anyway) but the added rez cost is pretty awkward and makes the card an attractive target for Parasite/Emergency Shutdown/Forged Activation Orders.

I think one factor really determines the use of Tsurugi or not – Bad Publicity.  If you’re not running much Bad Publicity then Tsurugi is a very effective upgrade on Neural Katana, but Bad Publicity rapidly undermines the taxation from the multiple subroutines making the added cost unnecessary.


TGTBT is not TGTBT (Too Good To Be True).  NBN has perhaps got the strongest Agendas of any Corporation so TGTBT is up against strong competition to justify a slot in the deck and it simply comes up short in my view, particularly when you consider how many Runner decks are happy to simple ignore tags anyway.  Pro-active tagging decks probably want the more controllable temporary tag from Breaking News, while decks where tagging isn’t a centrepiece will find more value from other neutral 3/1 Agendas with stronger economy boosts.

Sweeps Week

Probably the best card in the set, we’re very fortunate that Sweeps Week costs 2 influence or it would be joining Jackson Howard as another NBN auto-include in every Corp deck.  Let’s assume that we live in a world where the Runner pretty much always keeps a hand of 4 of 5 cards, which they have to do against NBN for fear of being levelled by SEA Source/Scorched Earth.  That makes Sweeps Week and in-faction Beanstalk Royalties (with 4 cards) or a Hedge Fund (with 5 cards).  The faction with Jackson Howard has been the faction that gained least benefit from drawing all those cards as it had no economy Operations, so it’s a huge boost to NBN’s that they can call on Sweeps Week and finally leave behind the bad old days of Pad Campaigns and Private Contracts.

The second half of this card is that it subtly punishes players of the most successful Runner ID, Andromeda.  If you have Sweeps Week in your opening hand against Andromeda’s 9 cards you can cash it in for +8 credits.  +8!!!  That makes Celebrity Gift look like clicking for credits.  It’s a huge boost, and arguably gives you the credits that you might lose to Account Siphon if the Runner comes knocking.  Sweeps Week does NOT ‘kill’ Andromeda - Andromeda may look nice in her fancy red dress but she’s a streetfighting badass and can certainly handle the Corp having a few more credits – but NBN was already the hardest matchup for her and Sweeps Week helps to cement NBN as the faction that handles Criminals the best.
BTW, the odds of drawing Sweeps Week in your opening hand vs Andromeda: 28% at 49 cards in Making News, 33% at 40 cards in The World Is Yours.  More if you mulligan for it, but I don’t think it’s worth mulliganing for if your opening hand is otherwise ok.


“The NBN Chum”, RSVP is similar to the Jinteki version in that it’s a Strength 4 Code Gate that makes it hard to pass the next piece of Ice.  RSVP costs 2 additional credits over Chum but offers significantly more for your money, making it one of the strongest Code Gates currently printed.  The main advantages of RSVP over Chum are:

1) If positioned in front of Ice, RSVP means the runner is helpless vs the next Ice they meet.  Chum makes the next Ice tougher (and punishes failure) but the Runner can choose if the run continues and if they’re confident they have the right breaker for the next Ice at +2 Strength then Chum has done nothing.  RSVP pretty much forces the Runner to jack out after the encounter, regardless of what other icebreakers they have installed.

2) RSVP doesn’t just stop the Runner from breaking Ice it also stops the Runner from paying to trash assets, beat traces or steal Agendas like Fetal AI or the upcoming NAPD – cards like Red Herrings or Ash are excellent behind RSVP.  Where Chum is helpless at the base of a server RSVP can still be extremely frustrating for the Runner.

3) I believe (but don’t hold me to this) that paying 0 credits still constitutes paying credits, and RSVP says the Runner can’t pay credits.  So RSVP blocks Yog.0 from breaking subroutines, blocks Faerie, blocks trashing Snare! or Off The Grid.  Niche applications, but important.

Edit: This has sparked a bit of a rules debate but more people seem to think RSVP doesn't stop Yog.0 than think it does, so maybe don't go building your red hot RSVP/Off The Grid deck just yet :-).  

The world is crying out for Code Gates above Strength 3 that matter and RSVP is one of those.  Yog.0 and Datasucker will bust through but Yog.0 alone won’t and that’s enough to mean RSVP will start sneaking into decks, particularly in NBN, while the interaction with the traps and ambushes in Jinteki could see it bleed over into that faction as well.

Curtain Wall

Best (and most misleading) use of flavour text in the game?  Almost certainly.  Most overkill in stopping a run in the game?  Almost certainly.  14 is a mammoth amount of credits – not even Weyland can pay 14 without wincing – but you don’t get much for that extra money, particularly compared to Hadrian’s Wall.  Hadrian’s is rarely played and I doubt we’ll see much more of SuperHadrians. 

Punitive Counterstrike

Like Shock!, Punitive Counterstrike is a card I’ve been waiting for since the spoilers first hit.  Combining SEA Source and Scorched Earth into a single card is very attractive, although the fact that it deals less damage (in most situations) is very important.  While I don’t think this will see much play in Weyland or NBN who can call on the original Tag n Bag combo Punitive Counterstrike finally brings Meat damage threat to Haas Bioroid and Jinteki and that is important.  Until now Jinteki has had to rely on Neural EMP or Ronin for dealing damage on its own turn, both with their weaknesses, but Punitive Counterstrike now offers Ronin levels of damage with EMP ease of use.  Punitive Counterstrike works best with 5/3 Agendas (obviously) but where players only previously had to play around 2 copies of Neural EMP it’s much harder to play around two Punitive Counterstrikes and a potential 6 meat damage.  Similarly if there is a Haas Bioroid brain damage deck then it has been desperate for a finisher once the Runner’s hand size has been whittled down by the likes of Fenris, and Punitive Counterstrike offers that.

I think Punitive Counterstrike opens up a couple of new deck archetypes, and for that reason I’m going to hand it a decent score.

All in all I think True Colors is an excellent pack for the Corp, with something for everybody and pretty much no card you won't ever think about playing.  Almost certainly the best Corp pack ever.

What did the Runners get?  That's going to be up next...