Tuesday, 14 January 2014

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...