Wednesday, 26 February 2014

SHIELDS UP! - Understanding Ice

Ice is possibly the most important card type in the game of Netrunner - it's what the Corp uses to protect it's Agendas, and it's what the Runner has to structure their whole deck to be able to bypass.  There's probably no single topic worth talking about more, and it's why I've labored on it in the past, analysing the Ice from Worlds up and down and back to front.  Stats and numbers from the past are great, but it's also  important to understand the theory that drives these successful decks and successful Ice configurations.  

That's the topic I want to talk about today, breaking down Ice into various distinct groups and talking about when to use them, how to maximise them, and also how to avoid your Ice working at cross-purposes to the rest of your deck.

Let's start with the absolute basics and work upwards.  Ice is what the Corp uses to defend its servers from the Runner, but precisely how the Ice achieves that goal can come in a wide variety of ways.  Although Ice comes in a bewildering array of sizes and shapes it can actually be divided quite neatly into two camps:

ETR - the most obvious way Ice can stop the runner is simply to carry a straight-forward "End The Run" subroutine.  That does exactly what it says on the tin and it's perhaps the most commonly-played type of Ice, with common examples being cards like Wall of Static, Enigma or Chimera, right up to the imposing Curtain Wall.  Playing with ETR Ice forces the runner to install the appropriate Icebreaker in order to proceed.

TAX - taxing Ice is more porous than ETR Ice as it doesn't carry a fixed "End The Run" subroutine.  The runner can usually get past this type of Ice without needing to install an Icebreaker... it's just a matter of how much it will cost them.  This 'tax' can come in the form of a Trace attempt they have to pay credits to match, or a Bioroid subroutine that will End The Run if the runner doesn't pay a cost (eg. Viper, Eli) but the tax can also be one that never threatens to End The Run at all imposes a high enough cost that the Runner chooses not to run past anyway (eg. Hunter, Data Raven, Data Hound).  As well as asking the runner to pay a charge in clicks or credits Taxing Ice can also take the form of more aggressive Ice that deals damage or trashes programs  (eg. Chum, Neural Katana, Grim or the deadly Janus) forcing the runner to pay for their access in blood or premium-priced software.  Because Taxing Ice doesn't carry a straightforward End The Run subroutine the runner doesn't need to install an Icebreaker to go past, but the cost of not doing so is frequently quite high, meaning the runner will often prefer to find an Icebreaker anyway.

The choice of which Ice to play - ETR or Taxing - is a critical one.  It's definitely a point where many players go wrong, often by playing Ice that they like or have seen used effectively in other decks but which doesn't fit into their current deck.

The Bluffers Guide to Ice

As a generalisation ETR Ice is better in the early game when the runner doesn't have any Icebreakers but rapidly gets worse as the runner builds their rig.  This means ETR Ice often works best in decks that are trying to score Agendas quickly - put an Agenda behind your ETR Ice then bounce the runner out for a turn and score the Agenda before they can come back equipped with an Icebreaker.  You'll see a lot of ETR Ice in decks like HB Biotic Rush but pretty much every deck needs some element of ETR Ice to help them score Agendas in the early game.  

By contrast Taxing Ice is actually very bad at protecting Agendas in remote servers as when the runner feels an Agenda point is on the line they are usually willing to pay whatever Tax is necessary to gain access.  However Taxing Icet makes repeated runs on Central servers expensive and Taxing Ice often holds its value more once the runner has Icebreakers installed, making it better in slower decks looking to tire the runner's economy out over a longer game (eg. NBN Midseason Replacement decks, or Cerebral Imaging combos).

I want to overlay the next level, though - all this is what the Ice does when the Runner doesn't have an Icebreaker but I want to overlay how the Ice changes function when an Icebreaker is present.

Disclaimer: the following section talks about how Ice changes as Icebreakers are played.  I make several assumptions about the Icebreakers you will most commonly face and if you are facing different Icebreakers then you'll have to adjust accordingly.  For guidance I'm going to primarily discuss the most commonly played competitive icebreakers - Mimic, Garotte, Ninja, Yog.0, Gordian Blade and Corroder.  I will discuss special cases like Femme Fatale, Atman and Knight later.

1) Binary ETR Ice

I've coined the term 'Binary Ice' to describe ETR Ice that is basically either 'On' or 'Off', depending on whether the Runner has an appropriate breaker or not.  The most perfect example of this is low Strength Code Gates like Enigma or NEXT Bronze, which are broken for free by Yog.0, but I would expand the 'Off' side to include Ice that is broken for a minimal credit cost, eg. Corroder will break Wraparound for just 1cr, Mimic will punch through Rototurret or Fenris for 2cr.  Where precisely the line is drawn for 'minimal cost' is a subjective one - I think breaking Ice for 3cr (eg. Corroder vs Bastion) is a real grey area that probably depends on efficiently the Runner can generate those credits, but once it's costing the runner 4cr+ to break past a piece of Ice I don't think you can really call that a 'minimal' cost.

Binary ETR Ice, therefore, is Ice that carries a huge amount of value up until the point where the Runner installs an Icebreaker then sees most of that value wiped away.  10 turns into the game it probably costs you more to install an Ice Wall on the end of your server than it costs the Runner to break it, so why bother?

  • Binary ETR Ice tends not to care too much about Bad Publicity for the Corp.  The Runner can use those credits to break the Ice for free but the Ice wasn't putting up much of an obstacle anyway.
  • Binary ETR Ice can be supported by effects that trash programs, effectively turning them back 'On' by removing the Icebreakers.

Analog ETR Ice

'Analog' ETR Ice is Ice that carries an ETR subroutine but which is also large enough to still provide a sizeable obstacle to the Runner once they have installed an Icebreaker.  We've already discussed that Bastion sits right on the dividing line of being Binary or Analog but some more obvious examples of Analog Ice are cards like Wall of Thorns (5 cr to break with Corroder), Tollbooth (7cr to break with Gordian Blade) or Archer (8cr to break with Garotte, 10cr to break with Ninja!).

While Analog Ice carries on functioning to a high level when the Runner has an Icebreaker this usually comes at a price, with these Ice frequently costing much more to rez than Binary Ice and being vulnerable to cards like Inside Job/Forged Activation Orders/Emergency Shutdown.

  • Analog ETR Ice can be badly degraded by handing out Bad Publicity, which gives the Runner free credits to throw at breaking through.  The amount that this impacts the Ice depends largely on how much Bad Publicity we're talking about and how much it costs to break the Ice to begin with, but you can find yourself paying over the odds for a Wall of Thorns that's not significantly more of an obstacle to the runner than a Wall of Static.
  • Analog ETR Ice is often (but not always!) best positioned over Central servers.  When there's no Icebreaker around it's expensive to rez something big like a Hadrian's Wall when a Wall of Static would do the same job but once the Runner has an Icebreaker they can pay to punch through the Hadrian's Wall if there is an Agenda on the other side.  If it's over R&D or HQ, though, the runner has to pay a lot of cash to get past that Hadrian's Wall just for a 20% chance of hitting an Agenda.

Binary Taxing Ice

Similar to Binary ETR Ice, Binary Analog Ice is those pieces of Ice where the taxation is virtually entirely removed when the Runner plays an Icebreaker - some good examples are Neural Katana (1cr to break with Mimic vs 3 clicks to redraw lost cards from Net damage) or Viktor v1.0 (completely ignored by Yog.0 instead of taxing two clicks to break the Bioroid subroutines).  

  • Binary Taxing Ice usually DOES care about Bad Publicity (unlike Binary ETR Ice).  Although it costs a minimal amount to break Binary Taxing Ice the whole point of playing Taxing Ice was to economically drain the runner so handing out any amount of Bad Publicity often runs contrary to that goal
  • Binary Taxing Ice can be supported by playing Assets and Upgrades with a high Trash cost, or which further drain the runner's resources (eg. Private Contracts, Eve Campaign, Red Herrings, Caprice Nisei).  In this style of play the runner can pay to get get past your Ice but can't achieve anything once they're through.

Analog Taxing Ice

You've probably got the hang of this by now but Analog Taxing Ice is the bigger pieces of Ice that still require some effort to break through once the Runner has their Icebreakers, and in many cases it may even be cheaper to carry on paying the tax instead of breaking the subroutines with an Icebreaker!  The popular barrier Eli v1.0 is perhaps the cheapest Ice that we can consider Analog Taxing Ice, as even with a Corroder in play it costs 4cr to break through and it may well be better to use 2 clicks instead.  Other examples might be Flare (5cr to break with Garotte, 7cr to break with Ninja, or fight the Trace attempt) or the big Bioroids like Heimdal, Janus or Wotan (frequently easier to click past than break with Icebreakers).

  • As with Binary Taxing Ice, Bad Publicity usually works against the principle of taxing the runner's economy with Taxing Ice - you will rapidly destroy Eli v1.0 as a tax if you hand over Bad Publicity counters.  But...
  • ...some big Analog Taxing Ice (particularly Bioroids) can be so prohibitively expensive to break with Icebreakers that even Bad Publicity doesn't help much - if you hand the runner 3 Bad Publicity credits he'll may still click past Janus v1.0 and take a Brain damage rather than spending another 7cr of his own money to break all the subroutines with Garotte or Ninja.

At the top of this section I said I would discuss the impacts of some of the non-standard Icebreakers, like Femme Fatale, Knight and Atman.  

Femme Fatale's ability to bypass Ice makes her virtually unique and it's easy to explain both her power and popularity when you understand the difference between Binary and Analog Ice - Femme is perhaps the best card for converting troublesome Analog ice into Binary Ice, which can completely disrupt the structure of the Corp's defenses.  A Tollbooth could cost you 7cr to break with Gordian Blade or 1cr to bypass with Femme Fatale, a Heimdal could be swung past for 3cr instead of 7cr, and even the lethal Archer or Janus become little more than speed bumps once they're in Femme's sights.  

Knight is a popular AI Icebreaker that targets Ice in a similar way to Femme Fatale, but because it costs 2cr to break a subroutine with Knight the effect is different - more like converting everything into a taxation Ice.  When the Runner knows that they will be running Knight they can prepare to pay this taxation with the minimum fuss, while for the Corp having your Binary ETR strategy converted into a Tax strategy can be enough to force them into trashing their Ice and installing a new piece of Binary ETR Ice in it's place.  

The final card to talk about is Atman, once a scourge of Corp decks but now reduced to a bit-player the Shaper AI still warrants a mention because she does something different again as Atman has the potential to turn EVERYTHING into Binary Ice so long as she is kept stocked with enough Datasucker counters to reduce their strength.  That was the power of the Katman decks - although it might take time to deploy the full 2x Atman, 2x Datasucker rig was capable of making light work of virtually any server.  Many decks today use Atman as another type of Femme Fatale, bringing her in to troubleshoot particular problem pieces of Ice and make them Binary when other traditional Icebreakers might leave them Analog. 

Exemplary Examples

To show you how the Ice you use can be mapped to match your deck's objectives let's look at a couple of successful decks and see how their Ice was sculpted to suit their purposes....

Deck #1: HB Fast Advance

This deck was one of the early winners in the Plugged In Tour season last year and I like it because it very clearly demonstrates the Binary ETR Ice in action.  There is a very clear plan here - the Barriers and Code Gates are all Binary ETR Ice that support the deck in rushing out it's early Agendas.  As those Agendas are 3/2s the deck can move quickly to install them behind Ice without having to invest in advancing them, and the ability of Engineering The Future pays back as the deck makes that rapid expansion of installs.  The deck forces the runner to installs Fracters and Decoders to break through this Ice but because the deck is also moving quickly the Runner may not have time to find a Killer for Sentry Ice, leaving them exposed to the program trashing of Rototurret and Grim, which then send them back to square one.  The deck's cheap binary Ice is turned 'Off' by the Icebreakers but program destruction turns it back 'On' again.  Notice also that Travis had no qualms about running the full playset of Grim - the Bad Publicity he was handing out wasn't a problem if the Runner didn't have any Icebreakers to spend it on!

As well as the Ice that the deck DOES play some of the most interesting choices are about the Ice that it DOESN'T play.  When Travis posted his winning decklist onto the BoardGameGeek forums one of the very first questions he was asked was this one:

"Why do you run Grim instead of Ichi 1.0? And Enigma instead of Viper? Bastion instead of Eli 1.0?"

On the face of it these are all great questions - Ichi costs the same as Grim but trashes two programs and doesn't hand out a Bad Publicity, Viper costs the same as Enigma but has +2 Strength so doesn't fail against Yog.0 and Eli v1.0 costs one less than Bastion and brings a second subroutine.  They all sound better than the neutral options Travis decided to play instead, so why was he ignoring his in-faction HB Ice?

Hopefully you already know the answer to this question after reading the rest of this blog, the answer being "because those are Taxing Ice, not ETR Ice".  Taxing Ice gives the Runner the chance to steal those early 3/2 Agenda that Travis is trying to score.  On top of that if you give the runner the option of paying a tax they don't need to install an Icebreaker, and if they don't need to install an Icebreaker then your program trashing Ice loses most (or all) of its value.  Travis' deck had a very clear plan, and taxing Ice was not part of that plan.

Deck #2: NBN Midseasons

This deck took Jesse Vandover to the Semi-Finals of the World Championships so we know it's a strong deck but it's striking just how different the Ice lineup is from that played by Travis Day in his HB:EtF deck.  Of all the Ice played here only 4 pieces carry a hard "End The Run" subroutine that forces the Runner to find an Icebreaker - two copies of Ice Wall and two Enigmas.  The other ten pieces of Ice are a mixture of various taxation effects with Eli v1.0 ending the run unless the Runner is prepared to pay a heavy toll in credits or clicks, Shadow and Data Raven threatening to land tags that the Runner must pay clicks and credits to clear, and a lone Ichi v1.0 lurking for unwary last click runs.  

Like Travis Day's deck, Jesse's deck also has a very clear plan and that is Midseason Replacements.  Midseason Replacements is a very powerful card that combines to lethal effect with Psychographics and Project Beale to mean the deck can potentially score 7 Agenda points in a single click!  To play Midseason Replacements effectively you need two things to be true - the runner has to steal an Agenda, and you need to have more cash than the Runner when that happens so that you can ensure landing a big Trace attempt.  Jesse's use of taxing Ice works perfectly to meet both those aims:

  • The Runner can score Agendas - only 4 of Jesse's 14 Ice actually End The Run if the Runner doesn't have any Icebreakers.  Cards like Ichi and Eli can be clicked through with impunity, and both Shadow and Data Raven do nothing to stop the runner whatsoever.
  • The Runner is drained economically - all this taxing Ice forces the Runner to spend clicks or credits, and in the case of the tagging Ice the threat of building up tags and enabling Psychographics the Runner is forced to spend both clicks and credits clearing the tags after the run is completed.

Jesse WANTS the Runner to get into R&D and HQ.  He WANTS them to access cards.  He WANTS them to score Agendas, so that he can spring his Midseason Replacements trap.  What he doesn't want, though, is for the Runner to be able to access R&D or HQ cheaply - stealing one Agenda is perfect, but if the Runner steals three Agendas there could well be a problem.  The Ice he's chosen is perfect for this, and for funnelling the Runner onto a diet of slow & steady R&D accesses while Jesse can spend his time building cash and preparing to spring his trap.

Summing Up

If you want a clear example of how the value of Ice changes based on the deck then look no further than the contrast between Jesse's NBN deck and Travis Day's HB, above.  Remember those Eli and Ichi that Travis decided not to play in his HB deck even though they were in-faction?  Well they're right there in NBN, with Jesse Vandover deciding they were worth spending 1/3rd of his Influence to bring their taxation effects into his NBN deck.  It's not the Eli and Ichi are bad cards, far from it, but they didn't work with Travis' game plan while they fit perfectly into Jesse's.  Similarly Jesse could have chosen to replace the Eli and Ichi in his deck with the Binary ETR of the Wall of Static and Ice Walls that Travis used (and saved himself Influence in doing so) but that would have run contrary to his plan too - Wall of Static does little to help him force the Runner into slow & steady Central server accesses as it's either a complete block on access or virtually no obstacle at all.  

They both played completely different Ice but they also both made the right choice, which was to play the Ice that suited their deck's plan.

What you should be taking from this is that the concept of 'good Ice' and 'bad Ice' is too simplistic.  The decision between whether to play Eli v1.0 or Bastion/Wall of Static should be more than a simple decision of whether you have the Influence or not, because they do different things.  Eli v1.0 will tax the Runner, Wall of Static is Binary ETR, while Bastion can either function as overpriced Binary ETR or as an Analog ETR depending on the rest of your deck.  The Ice cannot be taken in isolation from the rest of the deck, and instead you've got to know what your deck is trying to achieve in order to play the correct Ice to support that strategy.

Hopefully you've found this a cool article (geddit?  Ice is cold, see?) and it will help you in designing better defenses for your own Corp decks in the future!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Fear & Loathing Set Review

After leaving us in a bit of a spoiler drought for a while FFG have finally started paying out, with the last week seeing some cards from Lunar Cycle, a few Jinteki cards from Honor & Profit, and now we are getting our dirty little hands on the full Fear and Loathing set - the 5th release in Spin Cycle.

This is one of the weaker Data Packs we've seen recently, IMHO, so rather than dedicate two big blogs to it I'm going to try and whizz through the Runner and Corp cards all at once.  

I couldn't any good icons of Johnny Depp so let's go generic, with the Power Tokens scale...

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

2 Rarely played but will have its moments

3 Solid card - you'll definitely see this around

4A great card - a faction staple

5You'll see this used across all factions.

Got that?  Let's go for it! 
(and apologies for some of the photo qualities - these are the grainy first shots that leaked out onto the net)


As a rule I like cards that add effects onto doing things you already want to do (like making successful runs - hello Desperado, Datasucker, John Masanori...) and a part of me quite likes this card.  What I have a real problem with is that using the effect requires a click.  That pretty much kills it for me because the click efficiency you get from tagging this onto a successful run is lost when you want to actually use the counters.

Quest Completed

Hey look, Notoriety got color-shifted!  In fact Quest Completed is a neat card and one that is almost certainly better than Notoriety - rather than just score 1 point for yourself you potentially steal 2 or 3 points from the Corp, which could be a huge tempo shift.  I think it's still way to much effort than it's worth, but while I'd give Notoriety only 1 out of 5 I'm going to give Quest Complete the benefit of the doubt.

Tallie Perault

Tallie hands out Bad Publicity whenever the Corp does something shady.  Handing out a Bad Publicity is great stuff but this really boils down to what counts as 'something shady'.

Grey Ops - Big Brother, Closed Accounts, Freelancer, Invasion of Privacy, Neural EMP, Power Shutdown, Subliminal Messaging (see below)
Black Ops - Hellion Alpha Test, Punitive Counterstrike, Scorched Earth

The three cards that really stand out there are Closed Accounts, Power Shutdown, and the new Subliminal Messaging - it's likely that all three of those cards will see play in tournaments.  Other cards like Invasion of Privacy and Punitive Counterstrike are on the fringes but not really good enough, while cards like Neural EMP and Scorched Earth tend to only get played as part of a flatline win, when you don't have long enough to enjoy the Bad Publicity.

I think Tallie is a very interesting card and one that is likely to crop up in quite a few decks - being able to dish out multiple Bad Publicity is very useful and that she's a Connection you can find with Hostage makes her attractive as a splash into Criminal (although 3 influence is a heavy price to pay).

Cybersolutions Mem Chip

4 credits for 2MU is expensive but there are some decks that want that much MU.  I don't see this ever cropping up in competitive decks because you set yourself back hugely by investing in that much MU, but some casual decks will lap up the extra MU for their monster rig.

Alpha and Omega

These cards obviously come as a pair - for those who couldn't squint to make the card out in that photo Alpha is an AI breaker that can break any OUTER piece of Ice, while Omega is the same for any INNER piece of Ice.  Install both and any 2-Ice server is child's play.  Great!  But is it?  Any 3-Ice server makes you go away and find another breaker anyway, so why waste 14 credits on some inefficient AI breakers that don't even get the job done?

I know that Kit players will get some value from Omega (Kit's ability is like a built-in Alpha for the first run of each turn) but even then a third piece of Ice scuppers your plan and 7 just feels like far too much for these ultimately limited AI Breakers

Both cards pull the same rating from me:

Executive Wiretap

I didn't like Expert Schedule Analyser (which let you repeatedly see the Corp's hand for a successful run, for 0 cost).  I'm DEFINITELY not a fan of spending 4 credits and 2 clicks just to flash a look at their HQ.  Terrible, terrible card.


Blackguard is one of those cards that just begs to have a deck built around it - Satellite Uplinks, Infiltrations, Lemuria Codecrackers.  Those decks will only be for fun, though.  Blackguard won't trash cards the Corp can't afford to rez so there's no permanent benefit aside from forcing the Corp to jink left when you want to run right, and at the hefty price of 11 credits for the privilege you're paying a long way over the odds.  I like it.  It's fun.  But it's not good.


If you can play this card it's IMMENSE.  The ultimate server-sniping tool I think it's too early to say just how much impact Blackmail will have on how Runners play the game, but potentially it's revolutionary.  If you can create a deck that forces the Corp to leave Agendas sitting in play before scoring them (eg. with The Source) and then sit back and snipe those Agendas with Blackmail then I don't really see what the Corp can do about it.  This all requires the ability to consistently have Bad Publicity, and that's the difficult part of the equation, but if you can crack that then there could well be a whole new way to play the Runner, based around Blackmail.

As a Corp the existence of Blackmail asks real questions about your approach to Bad Publicity while making Fast Advance techniques more powerful, and arguably making traps or tricky assets like Bernice Mai better as well because they bait out the Blackmails.

It all really depends on how reliably the Runners feel they will have Bad Publicity.  Blackmail could be a tournament staple or could be almost entirely unplayed, dependent on the Bad Publicity, but to my mind Blackmail has the potential to be the most important card printed in a long time.

A tentative...


It's been a while since we got a new ID in a Data Pack, and in this one Weyland gets GRNDL, which is basically starting the game with a free Hostile Takeover (trading 5 credits for 1 Bad Publicity), although you lose 5 Influence to do so.

On first impressions I don't like GRNDL at all.  Hostile Takeover is one of the best Agendas in the game so why is it bad to start with a free one?  Well, because you don't start with a whole Hostile Takeover - you don't start with an Agenda point and you don't start with an Agenda you can use to rez Archer, either.  In comparison with the excellent Building A Better World I see GRNDL generating less credits over the course of a game and also handing out a Bad Publicity, which is bad (see: Blackmail) and then doing it with 5 Influence less, to boot.

My one caveat is that for some reason FFG made a point about dropping the Influence to 10.  They had to have a reason.  Maybe it's something we haven't seen yet.  Maybe something is coming that makes it incredible to have 5 more credits and a Bad Publicity.  I don't know.  On the face of it, though, I think most Weyland players will stick to Building A Better World instead of swapping it for life on an oil rig.

GRNDL Refinery

Weyland loves money but I think the Refinery doesn't pay out quite as much as it first appears - it was a one-shot you could Install-Advance-Trash for 4 credits over 3 clicks, which isn't much better than clicking for cash.  Say you compare it to Melange, and Install it one turn then Advance-Advance-Trash - that's 8 credits from 4 clicks, which is 2 more than you get from Melange (which costs 1 to gain 7) but Melange hasn't been trashed and forces the Runner to waste clicks and credits trashing it.

So for GRNDL Refinery to outperform Melange Mining Corp it has to sit around for multiple turns without being touched.  That's tough to do, and you're taking a huge risk that the runner will come in and steal those credits.  Weyland gets plenty of cash from Transactions and in my mind the Refinery is a risk that Weyland doesn't need to take.  Do not invest.

Vulcan Coverup

Weyland has some of the best Agendas in the game (Hostile Takeover, Project Atlas, Geothermal Fracking) so it will take something special for Vulcan Coverup to barge into Weyland decks, and although Meat damage is welcome just dealing 2 random Meat damage when you score an Agenda is unlikely to make much difference at all to a game - it doesn't help you push towards a flatline with Scorched Earth.  That playing it in your deck risks the runner scoring Bad Publicity is just helping me to make my mind up and ignore this card.

Still, it's a 3/1 Agenda and they're never ALL bad...

Market Research

Somebody in the FFG team loves to play NBN.  If there is any gap at all in NBN's Agenda mix it's that Character Assassination is good but not great.  Enter Market Research, which fills in nicely.  The current trend at the moment is for NBN to play Midseason Replacements and leave the runner tagged for most of the game, and that plays directly into Market Research's hands.  As a possible 4/3 this creates some very attractive 7-point scoring scenarios with Astroscript Pilot Program and Project Beale, and because the runner scores it as a 4/2 it means NBN can functionally play more Agenda Points for its own ends than are in there for the Runner.

I suspect it won't replace Character Assassination in all NBN decks, but it will do so in many.


Somebody in the FFG team really loves to play NBN.  Wraparound is the Barrier gift that keeps on giving - not only is it good enough to replace most Ice Walls that NBN is currently bringing in with Influence, at only 1 Influence of its own Wraparound may actually start replacing Ice Wall in non-NBN decks!

Wait, what?  Am I saying that Wraparound is BETTER than Ice Wall?!?

In certain circumstances, yes, it is.  Let's break it down...

1) Once a Fracter is in play Wraparound is a 0 strength wall for Ice Wall's 1 strength.  That won't make a difference against pretty much any Fracter, so it doesn't cost any less to break Wraparound with Corroder or Battering Ram than it costs to break Ice Wall.

2) If a Fracter isn't in play then Ice Wall is still vulnerable to AI breakers (Crypsis, Atman) or to being destroyed by a Parasite.  At Strength 7 the Wraparound is much better in these situations, although it does still get broken by Knight (nobody's perfect, right?).  As a niche benefit, this makes Wraparound a lot better than Ice Wall vs Kit, who loves breaking Barriers with Decoders.

So Wraparound is no worse than Ice Wall vs Fracters, and better vs non-Fracters.  The only things counting against replacing every Ice Wall with Wraparound is that it costs 1 more to rez, and in some cases you do actually advance Ice Wall to a higher strength.  Balancing those two means Ice Wall comes out just ahead in the race, but in metagames with lots of Atman or Parasites there's a strong case for putting in Wraparound ahead of Ice Wall.

Make no mistake, Wraparound is a fantastic card that demands to be evaluated alongside one of the best piece of Ice ever printed - Ice Wall.

Toshiyuki Sakai

Toshi got spoiled a long time ago and we've had plenty of time to digest what he does, which is... not much.  Toshiyuki Sakai lets you replace a mind game that the Runner already made a decision about (Agenda or Trap)... with the same mind game, only you've given them a bit more information to make their decision with.

This will be played by Jinteki players because Jinteki players play all sorts of garbage and convince themselves they're using some sort of ESP to beat the Runner.  In reality it's a waste of space.

Restoring Face

I'm not usually a fan of cards that remove Bad Publicity and Saving Face isn't much of an exception.  The list of Sysops, Executives and Clones is a mixed bag but basically contains cards you don't want in your deck to begin with (Isabel McGuire, Akitaro Watanabe) and cards that are so good you'd be crazy to trash them voluntarily (Jackson Howard, Chairman Hiro, Caprice Nisei).  

Amazing flavor, though.  One of the most thematically strong cards I've seen.  I won't play it, but I like it.


Yagura is a card that makes me really angry.  I love this card.  I love the cost, and I love that for that cost you get two subroutines.  I love the ability to passively do net damage and I REALLY love the opportunity to filter a card from top of R&D.  I love everything about Yagura.  That is, I love everything aside from the fact that Yog.0 exists, which means that this beautiful piece of game design is unplayable.

Fucking Yog.0, man.  That card should not exist.

Blue Level Clearance

Obviously a step deeper down the rabbit hole than Green Level Clearance, but is Blue Level as good as the original?  In short, no.  A Double event, Blue Level Clearance gives you a Green Level Clearance with your first click then 2/3rds of one with your second click.  It's a solid benefit but in drawing two cards in two clicks you're actually very likely to have to discard at least one of the cards you drew, further limiting what you got from that second click.

I think we'll see it played in (some) HB decks - Cerebral Imaging loves it - but I don't think anyone will spend 2 Influence on taking this into another faction.


The Bioroid version of Red Herrings, only Red Herrings is usually better (when you do you ever get to switch a click for 5 credits).  The strength of this is over R&D when you've got something like a Heimdal in front of it - sure you can click through Heimdal but won't have any clicks left on the other side.  Bioroids work when they hit a critical mass of click taxing and Strongbox helps with that.  But with such a low trash cost would you ever play Strongbox over Ash?

Subliminal Messaging

It takes a bit of lateral thought to work out what Subliminal Messaging does.  If you aren't recurring it then the answer is very simple, which is that it did virtually nothing - you got a credit without spending a click, but had to spend that click to draw Subliminal Messaging instead of a different card in the first place.

If the runner doesn't run, however, you get to pick up Subliminal Messaging from the Archvies and get a free credit out of it.  That's nice.  If you had mutliple Subliminal Messagings in the Archives you can pick them all up, but basically only the first one is worth playing over clicking for a credit.

Subliminal Messaging is a card that I'm going to hold my hands up and say I haven't worked out yet.  I can't tell if the drip-drip credit benefit you get from Subliminal Messaging (only on turns when the Runner hasn't run) is worth the card slots in your deck.  I kind of suspect it isn't, especially considering that modern Runners like Andromeda run A LOT so you won't often be picking Subliminal Messaging up from Archives.  Corp economy has got much better throughout Spin Cycle and I feel as though Subliminal Messaging is coming too late to see play.

But I can't rule out that Subliminal Messaging does just enough to ensure that it's never bad and always slightly helps, in which case it becomes the first three cards on every Corp decklist.

You want a rating?  Ok then...

What did I get right?  What did I get wrong?  Tell me your own opinions below, please!