Monday, July 13, 2015

2.3 - Criminal - Genesis Cycle

This article was written with the meta up through “Underway Grid” having been released. This article is about the opinions of the writer, and a review of cards as they are seen throughout the length of the game. The main goal of the article is for new players to have an understanding of the history of the cards as the meta evolved, and for experienced players to maybe re-look at a cards they long since dismissed. (It is a nice side effect that the writer learns more about the cards as well).

Andromeda: Dispossessed Riste Identity: Natural (Humanity’s Shadow #83)

Andromeda: Dispossessed RistieImpact 5 out of 5

With an ability that only fires once per game, and only on the very first turn before anything can happen, what is it that makes Andromeda so good? While she has fallen out of favor as the premier runner, for quite a long time she was the only thing winning tournaments. It comes down to one word: Consistency. Drawing nine cards, and mulliganing into another nine cards means that the runner has quite a good chance to be seeing close to a half of the deck - looking for one or two very important pieces that must be played early for the best advantage, and Andy shines in doing so.

That consistency in being able to get her best pieces out in the first turns, then run like crazy is what made her great. It is what still gives her power in archetypes such as Stealth Andy, where there are a lot of moving pieces that need to be found early to make the deck work. For a long time that consistency forced every other runner out of the limelight, and every corp to find a way to deal with a fast, hard hitting runner that would pummel all the servers wherever she wanted to.

Emergency Shutdown Event: Sabotage (Cyber Exodus #43)

Emergency ShutdownImpact 3 out of 5

A card that works well with many criminal directions, and a card that helps illustrate the strategy criminal’s sometimes follow: A successful criminal doesn’t need breakers. Emergency shutdown can be a brutal economic hit to a corp, especially when following Account Siphons. In combination with a lot of the other HQ focused cards that Criminal possess, it is not hard to make use of it.

It is always going to cost the corp something when this card is used, but the problem may become that it may only cost a few credits. Some corp archetypes have very cheap ICE and that is possibly why Emergency Shutdown hasn’t seen a solid spotlight. Not that it hasn’t been seen - It certainly works well, especially with ICE like Tollbooth being extremely popular.

Networking Event (Humanity's Shadow #84)

Impact 2 out of 5

An often underlooked card that could be very interesting with the new Data and Destiny deluxe expansion - where it seems that uses for tags other than just punishing the runner may become a strategy for the corp. If so, Networkings ability to recur easily, and save money on tag removal could make it a valuable card if those strategies are strong.

The problem comes that unless the runner is tagging themselves, Networking can quickly become a dead card. Even if they are, is it worth the card slot for an action that can be done even without one? It certainly can save money, especially if there are a lot of tags being acquired through the runner's own actions - and there are more and more cards that are tagging the runner themselves. It is a balance between saving a few credits here and there, and another card slot.

Satellite Uplink Event (Trace Amount #23)

Satellite UplinkImpact 2 out of 5

Expose is still an underrated and underused (design wise) ability. It has been said in a few podcasts and articles that many high level players are starting to include just a single Infiltration in their decks - a single expose can make the difference late game from running on a server when it isn’t needed, saving the money and not opening up a scoring window for the corp next turn. Satellite Uplink could conceivably help in that - if there was ever a need to expose two cards.

Early game it can help against the ICE that has yet to be rezzed, later game it can help if there are multiple upgrades in a server that need to be dealt with, such as with Drive By - a Satellite Uplink first can make sure the Drive By hits the right card to make the run on the final click successful - but that is very combo heavy and click intensive.

Blackguard is a natural combo with Satellite Uplink however, and if there was some way to reliably run a Blackguard deck without the huge temp hit that the eleven cost console generates to install it, it would be a powerful economic warfare card. Yet, like most expose cards, until that mechanic becomes more needed or “powerful” (in general met a terms), Satellite Uplink is not likely to be very impactful.

Cortez Chip Hardware: Chip (What Lies Ahead #5)

Cortez ChipImpact 1 out of 5

Cortez Chip is unfortunately decidedly uninteresting. As a one use effect without a way to recur it easily, as it is hardware, it is very lackluster. First turn it may be useful to keep the corp from rezzing that one piece of ICE protecting HQ, but that is rather unlikely - and a very niche corner case that begs the question what does it do the rest of the game? Its effect is simply too weak with a trash cost to be included in even economic denial strategies such as Headlock, even if it weren’t for the two influence.

Doppelgänger Hardware: Console (A Study in Static #64)

DoppelgängerImpact 2 out of 5

There is a weird place for most criminal consoles - they have to compete with Desperado. Desperado and Doppleganger both do the same concept in different execution - Both compress clicks for the runner’s benefit. Desperado combines the action to ‘Make a Run’ with ‘Gain a Credit,’ and Doppleganger combines the same action ‘Make a Run’ twice into one click. There can be made for some argument that taken out of context, two make a run actions for a single click is more powerful effect - especially against the likes of Replicating Perfection (for a little bit of context). The problem comes in that Desperado is unlimited in its use per turn, which gives it a greater amount of click compression (possibly an ‘extra four’ clicks over one turn) and one credit is more universally a benefit in most situations than a second run.

That comparison is the only reason that Doppleganger hasn’t had more of an impact - because it must compare against the other run benefit criminal console. It has some fringe cases where it becomes more useful than Desperado, but the credit gain is generally far more useful.

e3 Feedback Implants Hardware: mod (Trace Amount #24)

e3 Feedback ImplantsImpact 3 out of 5

A situationally useful card, in that it is only useful with certain types of decks. With efficient ICE breaker suites included in a deck, e3 is not necessary at all - in fact, it is redundant. However, there are breakers that are not nearly as efficient in breaking subroutines that e3 can save a few credits on. Over the course of a game, that can add up. Where it really shines however is with token based breakers such as Overmind and D4v1d - allowing the runner to use money instead of the very limited tokens, or with the new breaker Faust for far less card usage.

It remains a niche card for those kinds of breakers - including it in a deck means that there has to be more than just one use for it - part of which makes it perfect for Quetzal who will at least have an ability in play the entire game that can make use of it.

HQ Interface Hardware (Humanity’s Shadow #85)

HQ InterfaceImpact 4 out of 5

As one of the interfaces, HQI see’s a lot of use. It helps if the deck is focused on HQ accesses (as many criminals are) in order to maximise the effect of those runs. Being able to see a large chunk of the corps hand is a powerful effect for sniping agendas before they can be used - any deck that can’t safely get that agenda out of hand (either by scoring it with fast advance strategies as soon as it is drawn or by having the scoring windows with a remote server) is going to lose it if it stays in HQ too long when faced with a couple of HQI’s.

It also combo’s fantastically well with a few cards, some of which are becoming quite popular. There are cards that allow access to HQ outside of a run - such as Gang Sign - and as it is an access, HQI triggers as well, allowing multiple cards to be accessed without a run - which can be very powerful.

Muresh Bodysuit Hardware: Gear (Cyber Exodus #44)

Muresh BodysuitImpact 1 out of 5

Possibly simply one of the worst cards in the game, Muresh Bodysuit simply doesn’t help at all against almost all forms of meat damage - Meat damage doesn’t come in bits and bites like net damage, it comes in large chunks. Preventing one may save the runner from that first Scorched Earth leaving two cards in the grip, but the second would be coming anyways and it wouldn’t matter if Muresh was there or not. It barely even enough to stop Traffic Accident into Scorched, and the runner has to be on five cards to survive. In that case though, the corp - seeing this card on the table - will simply wait until the runner's hand drops below five. Maybe with I've Had Worse in hand it can save a runner, but why not simply play the vastly superior Plascrete Carapace, which was not only released before this, but is neutral as well? A runner could even simply spend just one counter on Plascrete if they want, mimicking (to better effect) the ability of Muresh Bodysuit.

Crescentus Program (A Study in Static #65)

CrescentusImpact 3 out of 5

Recently Crescentus has jumped up into the forefront of a few strategies, such as Headlock Reina, taking full advantage of the economic denial ability that Reina can produce - forcing the corp to pay over and over again for the same piece of ICE can quickly bankrupt them - and once done, it can pave the way for a lot of runs into a central server that the corp can’t combat.

Crescentus is a rather integral part of that strategy, and even if it is used outside of Headlock, it is still mostly for the same purpose - economic warfare. It is just that within Reina, that economic warfare is so much stronger. Derezzing  any piece of ICE is going to cost the corp money they didn’t plan on having to spend again.  

Faerie Program: Icebreaker - Killer (Future Proof #104)

FaerieImpact 5 out of 5

Faerie is the strongest Killer in the game, despite even its one time use status. Recursion is a thing, and the ability to run without fear early for very cheap is a strong effect. Some of the more taxing ICE are also sentries, which Faerie can break for rather cheap. It also provides strong Power Shutdown protection for more important cards (though sometimes Faerie is the most important card). With a few Clone Chips in play it can be seen over and over again. There was even a deck, known as the CT Fae Rush, which relied on being able to use that really cheap breaker early to get into troublesome servers protected by, at the time, some of the most devastating ICE - ICE that was mostly Sentries.

Peacock Program: Icebreaker - Decoder (What Lies Ahead #6)

PeacockImpact 1 out of 5

Another of the very underwhelming decoders, like Force of Nature it fills a hole that the core set criminal didn’t have - a decoder. Beyond that however, like FoN, it is one of the most inefficient breakers within Netrunner - but at least it has an extra strength to start off with. That isn’t much to go for with it however - simply because for most code gates it is going to cost a minimum of four credits to break, even for a strength three or four, one subroutine piece of ICE (like Lotus Field).

Pheromones Program: Virus (Humanity’s Shadow #86)

PheromonesImpact 2 out of 5

A narrowly focused card that could see some use in HQ centric criminal decks, the problem with it seeing much impact is the extreme focus the card has. It only gains more power with HQ runs, and it only is useful for further HQ runs, creating a very focused situation that the corp can adjust its strategy to combat. It has at least some good combo’s in Vamp, potentially giving several extra ‘fake’ money to use to drain the corp. That extreme narrow focus however is what has kept the card out of having a large impact, and likely to continue to do so.

Snitch Program (Cyber Exodus #45)

SnitchImpact 3 out of 5

Snitch didn’t see much impact until the Au Revoir engine was conceived. Before the release of that card, Snitch was only useful as a ‘save yourself’ card, giving the runner an option to not facecheck into dangerous ICE when the appropriate breaker isn’t installed. It did a sort of half click compression - make a run, and expose a card at the same time, possibly being saved from a nasty hit. It was far better to simply learn to run safer, or gain more experience on when it is ok to make runs that might be dangerous than to include a program that could be done through player skill instead.

With Au Revoir however it turns into a supercharged economic engine, netting the runner a possible three credits per click. Such an engine is very card heavy, and MU heavy, but once it is up and running it is quite devastating.

Compromised Employee Resource: Connection - Link (Trace Amount #25)

Compromised EmployeeImpact 1 out of 5

Possibly a very underused card, if seen early enough it can actually generate quite a substantial amount of credits during a game - and more importantly, it generates those credits during a run, which can make scoring windows smaller than expected. In addition, its other ability could become more useful when Data and Destiny is released - if traces manage to become more of a popular mechanic with that set.  The downsides are two fold for this card, which has probably been what has kept it mostly from being played - Traces are underused, making that a possibly dead ability, and some of the more popular decks may only rez three or four pieces of ICE in a single game, making the card hard to even pay for itself. At least, combined with the likes of The Supplier it won’t have to be making money back for installing it.

Mr. Li Resource: Connection (Future Proof #105)

Mr. LiImpact 4 out of 5

Simply put, Mr. Li is the best card draw in faction for criminal. The ability to filter the deck of cards that are ‘less’ needed for the situation at hand, and draw what is more important can keep a deck flowing strong. Most of the other great draw cards either cost a lot of influence to import into criminal (such as Professional Contacts) are expensive to install (Earthrise Hotel) or limited (Symmetrical Visage).  This has lead him to have a large impact on the game as a whole, if simply for the fact that for a long time, criminal was the dominate runner faction. He was a very central part of those decks, and it gave him a strong presence. Certainly, with the likes of Earthrise Hotel and Symmetrical Visage, he is falling out of use a little bit - such neutral cards can be more efficient or effective for the deck at hand, but the deck filtering ability of his will continue to make him useful.

Reminder: This article was written with the meta up through “Underway Grid” having been released. This article is about the opinions of the writer, and a review of cards as they are seen throughout the length of the game. The main goal of the article is for new players to have an understanding of the history of the cards as the meta evolved, and for experienced players to maybe re-look at a cards they long since dismissed. (It is a nice side effect that the writer learns more about the cards as well).

Monday, June 29, 2015

2.2 - Jinteki - Genesis Cycle

This article was written with the meta up through “Underway Grid” having been released. This article is about the opinions of the writer, and a review of cards as they are seen throughout the length of the game. The main goal of the article is for new players to have an understanding of the history of the cards as the meta evolved, and for experienced players to maybe re-look at a cards they long since dismissed. (It is a nice side effect that the writer learns more about the cards as well).

Jinteki: Replicating Perfection Identity: Megacorp (Trace Amount #31)

Jinteki: Replicating PerfectionImpact 5 out of 5

Currently one of the most powerful corp IDs, Replicating Perfection didn’t start out that way. Like most Jinteki at the time, it was broke, unable to power even the ambushes that are so common for the red clone corp. That changed when economic cards like Sundew and Mental Health Clinic came out. Abandoning the kill plays, Replicating Perfection strove to tax the runner into being unable to do anything when they want to, in terms of both econ and clicks, and be rich while doing so.

Throw in a Caprice Nisei and a scored Nisei MK II token, and there aren’t often enough clicks in a turn for a runner to get in. Not only does a central have to be run, then at least two runs on a remote, assuming the Psi game from Caprice can be won, anytime an agenda may be in there. That leaves, in the best case scenario, only a single click to money up and get into that server on demand.

That is where RP has become so powerful, being rich with all of their economic assets that are so expensive to trash, and really taxing the runner. Even though the run on a central doesn’t have to be successful, its common to put a prickly ICE on the outside of those servers, forcing them to use up something or take damage in some way just to be able to run on a remote.

It is no wonder it has become so strong of an ID with Fast Advance being a wary proposition for some players. Yet it is asset heavy, and as discussed last week, Whizzard is a key answer to that. The meta does seem to be advancing around this concept quickly, so only time will tell how RP continues to play.

Braintrust Agenda: Research (A Study in Static #72)

BraintrustImpact 1 out of 5

Possibly the least used agenda in all of Jinteki, Braintrust doesn’t give much bang for its buck. Requiring a double turn scoring window in order to get any bonus out of scoring it, and its effect is not going to be as needed once those ICE protecting it have been rezzed to keep that scoring window open. It is a three for two, which in a Fast Advance strategy is just what the doctor ordered - Some Jinteki have tried that approach, but it has never really caught on.

It could be used for some crazy positional ICE Whirlpool Cell Portal infinite loop combo kill server, but the number of moving parts in there is simply so complicated, it is unlikely to ever be pulled off with any sort of consistency. It is possible that Braintrust would see more use with Fast Advance strategies out of Jinteki, a place where most players have not forged ahead - and that means for at least a little bit, it could be quite a surprise deck to see.

Fetal AI Agenda: Ambush (Cyber Exodus #53)

Fetal AIImpact 3 out of 5

A five for two is an unusual agenda cost, and because of that it doesn’t see as much play. Not only is it difficult to score, but unlike a five for three, it doesn’t reduce the number of agendas in a deck as well. It has two difficult drawbacks because of that. Yet it still sees a lot of play.

This is simply because of the fact it protects itself. It bites back when accessed, and if the runner doesn’t have the credits to steal it, it stays there. It is used with other agendas like it that protect themselves, and creates a difficult situation for the runner. Not only is damage a threat, but a number of credits has to be kept on hand ‘just in case’ during every run which might encounter these kinds of agendas.

While Fetal AI hasn’t seen as much use out of the currently powerful Replicating Perfection, it still is a common agenda that has been a staple part of many Jinteki plans at world domination.

Dedicated Server Asset: Facility (A Study in Static #72)

Dedicated ServerImpact 1 out of 5

Like Braintrust, the point of this card is to help keep rez costs low. The most use out of it is going to come if the runner has to run over multiple turns, encountering multiple ICE that needs to be rezzed. That is where it fails, and why it has had very little impact on the game. It isn’t cost effective, and it has to be seen early to get any real benefit out of it. See it too late, and the ICE is already rezzed; see it early and that is great, but it still requires at least two runs on separate turns to save the corp any money.

It is slow, and ineffectual at helping to advance the win condition of most decks, and that is why it has seen very little use - and likely, will see very little in the future. The economy is there, and strongly, for Jinteki now, this kind of band-aid economy isn’t needed anymore.

Edge of World Asset: Ambush (Cyber Exodus #53)

Edge of WorldImpact 2 out of 5

A card that maybe should see a little more use as a one off in glacier style decks, Edge of World is hard to pull off but a very strongly designed card. Because it cannot be advanced, that makes it hard to bluff out as an agenda and force the runner to run on it. Not only that, but the timing has to be critical - the runner has to have enough credits to get in, but it can’t look too easy. If the runner is simply richy and can access whatever they want, seeing a card go down with no advancements isn’t an incentive to run unless there are some other factors.

Edge of World can lead to some surprise kills though. As only two influence, popping a single one into any glacier deck could be very surprising. Especially if there is a Never Advance sort of strategy going on (install card, but do not advance. Only advance the next turn to score a three for two). Even if it is seen early in RD or HQ, the threat of it it will put the runner on alert, causing them to run more cautiously when facing un advanced cards in servers with a lot of ICE.

Ronin Asset: Hostile (Future Proof #112)

RoninImpact 3 out of 5

A staple of Jinteki kill decks, this card relies on the fact that a ‘failed trap’ is often left alone. Install and advance advance and a runner will go after the card, assuming it to be an agenda. Install and advance only once, and the runner will stop to consider, look at the board state - maybe they won’t run. Maybe they will assume it is a trap and let it be. A few more slow advanced turns and all that is left is waiting for the runner to drop below three cards in their grip.

In combination with Industrial Genomics this is a rather common strategy, boosting the trash cost to high levels, in combination with Shock!s in archives and Hostile Infrastructure as an additional cost, leaving a runner in a potentially bad state. Ronin has other uses, and when played in the right manner is a great way to snag a kill.

Bullfrog ICE: Code Gate - Deflector - Psi (A Study in Static #73)

BullfrogImpact 1 out of 5

Bullfrog has seen pretty much no play at all, due to its very strange nature. Once Susanoo-No-Mikoto came out, while a more focused deflector, Bullfrog dropped off whatever little bit of use it might have had. The Psi game requirement makes it not a guarantee to fire, as a four strength code gate it may be slightly more difficult for Yog.0 to break, but not really - there are lots of ways to get -1 strength for Yog’s benefit. It really could not be relied on to fire more than once, and even if it did, it meant that it was no longer on the server originally, making it easier for the runner to get into that server on the next attempt. Outside of a combo heavy ICE trap kill deck, where Bullfrog might be used to put the runner into that server after it is setup (but without other cards, the run doesn’t even have to continue) it is unlike Bullfrog will ever see much use.

Sensei ICE: Code Gate (Trace Amount #34)

SenseiImpact 2 out of 5

Positional ICE is always difficult to make use of. See it too early, and it is useless without support cards to move ICE. See it late and it is nice, but did it really do its job then? Sensei is at least a piece of ICE that is not only difficult to break at five strength, but also adds subroutines to all other pieces of ICE after it. That adds the tax factor up really quickly. Given also that token breakers are becoming more popular (such as Lady) an additional subroutine could run those kinds of breakers out faster, opening up scoring windows for the corp.

It is positional, and that is its greatest drawback for certain. It is an average of three of four credits to break though, which can be good - more so the more ICE that it is in front of. On average it  probably is only going to be an additional two credits to break those subroutines it adds to the ICE behind it (assuming it averages out most often as the third ICE on a server), meaning its high tax to break will never be paid in favor of the smaller addition to further ICE.

Snowflake ICE: Barrier - Psi (What Lies Ahead #15)

SnowflakeImpact 2 out of 5

Out of all the Psi ICE, Snowflake is possibly the best of the lot. It is cheap to rez, which is good because spending money on the Psi game is an additional cost, and it simply ends the run. A good combination that may be often overlooked.

The drawback is of course that it is Psi. The cost to keep the runner out can add up very quickly, and it is not a guarantee that it will do so even if there are no breakers on the table for it. The cost is reduced out of Nisei Division, but that ID hasn’t seen enough reason to be run yet.

Whirlpool ICE: Trap (Humanity’s Shadow #94)

WhirlpoolImpact 1 out of 5

Positional (ish) ICE that is really the key to any ICE Kill server style deck. Not that those decks are very effective, or even have a winning percentage, but if the concept is going to be explored, Whirlpool is the key to doing so. As a Trap it is far more likely to fire, as long as those pesky AI breakers aren’t in position to break it. It really needs to be on the outermost bit of the server, and it would need a lot of combination with other pieces of ICE set up in just the right places, some cost reduction for rezzing those ICE, and a way to get the runner to run on it when the corp is ready for them. So many moving pieces make it difficult to pull off.

Whirlpool could be used in combination with traps of course, forcing the runner down a server they don’t want to be going down. End the Run would have to be non existent then; the runner could just let that subroutine fire when they want to get out. That in turn reduces the ability for ICE in general to keep the runner out, which is a bad proposition for most corp strategies. It could make an interesting surprise, a one off in a deck that makes the runner pause and think, step back, have to really consider what is going on down there, but it would only work once, and deckslots are allways tight.

Sunset Operation (Cyber Exodus #54)

SunsetImpact 1 out of 5

One of those methods for rearranging ICE that is needed for the Whirlpool and Cellportal style decks, and is great with Jinteki having a lot of positional ICE. The problem is that instead of playing cards that are good all the time, playing this card means cards are being played that are only good some of the time, and additional card slots are being used up to shore up those cards, making more cards that are only good some of the time. That is why it hasn’t seen any play, and likely won’t.

Trick of Light Operation (Trace Amount #33)

Trick of LightImpact 3 out of 5

This is the Jinteki Fast Advance card, and it is only good if there is a place to bank those advancement tokens. Advanceable ICE for instance, is a great place to put them, and it helps relieve some of the tempo sting of advancing agendas. Scoring an agenda naturally requires time and money (clicks and credits), which means that every time the corp does so, tempo is being lost. Nothing is being done on that turn except setting up the chance to score, and if it is not fast advanced, then setting up the chance for the runner to steal as well.

Trick of Light alleviates some of that. Not only is it a Fast Advance strategy, allowing a three for two to be scored out in one turn (even a four for two), the process of putting tokens on advanceable ICE to save them for later spreads the tempo hit out over multiple turns to score an agenda, instead of all at once. It may not be the strongest of the Fast Advance core strategy cards, but it still has some uses and will still see play.

Hokusai Grid Upgrade: Region (Humanity’s Shadow #95)

Hokusai GridImpact 2 out of 5

Hokusai is starting to see some use in Jinteki decks that tax more than just clicks and credits. It is expensive to trash, and with some prickly assets like Hostile Infrastructure and ICE that is dangerous to pass through, it can lead to a critical mass of pricks that makes it very dangerous for the runner to run. Seen most often on Archives in Industrial Genomics, that is a perfect example of its use - protecting those face down cards, and adding another bite to the Shock!s that are going to be in there already.

Midori Upgrade: Sysop (Future Proof #113)

MidoriImpact 1 out of 5

She simply has not seen a lot of use yet, and that is probably because prickly ICE or even threatening ICE simply isn’t common enough yet to really make her powerful. Having to rez that piece of ICE is an additional cost as well, but at least Midori is free to rez. What she does do extraordinarily well is advance the shell game. That ICE could be anything. It could a simple trap that just is dealt with, or it could be a piece of ICE the runner won’t have the breaker or the money to deal with, leading to a very tough decision - does the runner jack out? (Her ability triggers during 2.0, the approach - meaning she has to already be rezzed before the run starts if it's the first piece of ICE, or she can only affect the second piece onward - and the runner can choose to jack out at 2.2) That insecurity of what is there ahead of them can be the key to bluffing away a lot of runners.

Reminder: This article was written with the meta up through “Underway Grid” having been released. This article is about the opinions of the writer, and a review of cards as they are seen throughout the length of the game. The main goal of the article is for new players to have an understanding of the history of the cards as the meta evolved, and for experienced players to maybe re-look at a cards they long since dismissed. (It is a nice side effect that the writer learns more about the cards as well).

Authors Note: Due to real world events, Wyldside will be on hiatus next week. Enjoy the 4th Weekend for all our American readers, and play some good Netrunner!