Monday, April 13, 2015

1.0 Anarch - Core Set

Anarch. This faction has undergone some incredible ups and downs over the years. From the insane application of Noise’s mill ability, to the recent box set where new runners like MaxX speed up the game with her crazy draw, the Anarch faction is by far one of the most diverse and different ones.

Core Set Anarch saw a lot of use in the early days of competitive Netrunner. It saw wonderful use of Noise and Aesop’s to mill away those Agendas from the corp, and make a glory run on Archives. This was before the days of Jackson Howard and his godsend of an ability. This was before the likes of Reclamation Order, and Archive Memories couldn’t save you if there were too many points already in the Archives.

Anarch strives to be the faction of Chaos. The faction that drives itself on its unpredictability, it’s unique style, and it’s crazy self disregard for it’s own health. This faction pushes the boundaries of ‘safe’ and runs with abandon. This is the group that can cause the Corp’s to be unsure of how to proceed, and what is going to happen next.

We all know the Core Set has many of the most ‘powerful’ cards, and certainly the cards with the greatest impact on the game even today. Anarch is no exception.

This article was written with the meta up through “The Valley” having just 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).

Noise: Identity: G-Mod (#1, Core Set)

Noise: Hacker ExtraordinaireImpact: 4 out of 5

Noise, like most Identities in the Core Set, has led an active life. He is often picked up by runners looking to play something ‘a little different’ if only because his ability is still a powerhouse. It is commonly seen by Timmy and Johnny players as a gateway into a glory run - get those seven points into the Archives and run, only ever having to run once. No need for ice breakers, no need for dealing with the corp besides one great all powerful run. Some even take it further, putting in cards like Data Leak Reversal and more to ‘mill’ the corp down to run them out of cards and win the game that way. Spike players will see it in a different light - disruption of the Corp’s game plan by tossing cards they may need, as well as making them consider protecting Archives, spreading their ICE thinner. Either way you look at it, Noise’s ability is powerful and a direct disruption on the Corp, a solid Anarch trait.

Noise took a huge hit with Jackson Howard being released. The glory run was mitigated to a high degree, making it possible for corp players to steal back those agendas from Archives, denying that single, awesome, seven point run. Noise took a hit for many data packs, but is coming back into the forefront again as cards like Cache and Progenitor give new life to virus based strategies.  In addition, the  Shards; Hades and Eden can give you a win - either with an access of Archives with Hades that that the corp cannot respond to (if you hard install it) or by forcing the corp to draw with Eden when they have 1 or 0 cards left in their deck.

As with all the Core Set identities Noise is always going to be a figure in the future. His design space is not horizontal, it is original, and he will be one of the first things new Netrunners have to deal with when looking at red across the playscape.  Noise’s ability will always be relevant; there will always be new viruses. From the virus filled mill decks to the combo heavy Chakana, to any number of new design spaces that will be explored in the future with the Virus keyword, Noise will remain a constant threat to Corp’s progress everywhere.

Déjà Vu: Event (#2, Core Set)

Déjà VuImpact: 3 out of 5

This is a card that has seen lot’s of use, but may not be realized for the impact it had. Everyone knows the pain of Account Siphon - there were some Noise decks in the early days that would make use of Account Siphon and Deja Vu for long suffering returns of the dreaded Siphon. Deja Vu found its way into Criminal decks for the same reason at the time, for much lower influence cost.

Clearly meant to aid in the use of the Virus theme that dominated Core Set Anarch, it never-less is good for many other uses - it’s ability to bring back any card from your Heap with no restrictions makes it powerful in recursion. Recursion is a heavy theme of Shaper, but until Creation and Control, Deja Vu was one of the primary methods of using those cards over and over again, even outside its designed intention of Virus type cards. Unfortunately its 2 credit cost and its generally only 1 card return make it a slightly more expensive card than most other options, in addition to needing an actual click to play it - unlike Clone Chip.

MaxX has made this card even more useful in the current day, given her ability puts so many cards into her Heap. Like with Exile, using the Heap as an additional space to store cards to play requires cards that can cause recursion. Add to that the new proliferation of Virus cards with Order and Chaos, there is more use for Deja Vu than ever before.

Demolition Run: Event: Run - Sabotage (#3 Core Set)

Demolition RunImpact: 2 out of 5

Demolition Run saw some heavy use early on with deep Medium digs, to see even more cards. A Demo Run plus several Medium counters would allow you to see twice the number of cards you would have seen with only 2 regular medium runs. Timing it was a problem around purges as was being able to make enough money to get through the ICE. It was also the one of the first of the Run - Sabotage types, along with Account Siphon. Now that set includes the Cutlery brand and the dangerous Wonton Destruction. Without multi-access cards such as the Interfaces and viruses like Medium and Nerve Agent, Demo Run falls rather flat on its face, being no better than an Imp counter.

Could Demo Run make a come back with more design influence for Sabotage runs? Imagine if you will a card that doubles the effectiveness of Run - Sabotage. Of course, then Account Siphon is even more powerful. Such a design space interaction would have to be carefully considered because of that interaction.

Currently, unless one is heavily relying on multi-access, Demo Run is better replaced in most decks with other cards that aid in digging. Wonton Destruction can do the same thing (on HQ) without any other cards to help it (though cards like Amped Up and Stim Dealer can clearly make Wonton more effective, it doesn’t need them) Showing Off even works instead, with the same amount of required helper cards, with the added benefit of being useful against Daily Business Show agenda hiding.

And that is where Demo Run’s problem comes in. Without additional card support it is a dead sort of card in your hand until such things are set up, and that just means its taking up space. Getting rid of one card at a time isn’t worth it unless you can do it reliably over multiple turns of the games (ie: Noise) or it gives some other benefit. At this current design state of the game, Demo Run still remains a secondary card that can easily end up as the 46th card in a runner deck, ready to be cut.

However, with newer cards like Crisium Grid and even for some uses against dreaded heavily upgraded centrals, it could find some use. You do access all the upgrades, so in specific cases, Demo Run without multi-access can be useful. However, in a deck building for consistency you never want to rely on the ‘specialized cases’ - especially ones where there are other, more efficient ways to do it.

Stimhack Event: Run (#4 Core Set)

StimhackImpact 4 out of 5

Stimhack is a great card, even for its cost. Many new players will consider the card dangerous - Brain damage helps the corp win, doesn’t it? But a sudden influx of 9 credits makes scoring windows dry up faster than water in the desert. It is also only one influence, making it a perfect fit for any deck with just one influence leftover - which can happen quite often.

Stimhack has been placed in many decks, and that ability to jump at least 12 credits in one turn if you wish (with clicking for 3 credits at the very minimum) is what makes it so powerful, and with such an impact. It has caused many corps to lose an Agenda they thought was safe, or for a runner to get that one last deep Medium dig on a turn the corp thought they were safe and didn’t purge

It is a simple card, with a heavy cost, but one that is well worth it. It also beautifully explains the theme of Anarchs - Self harm for profit, if that’s what it takes.

Cyberfeeder Hardware: Chip (#5 Core Set)

CyberfeederImpact 3 out of 5

Cyberfeeder is a great source of credits, and for a long time was one of Anarch’s primary method of paying for their runs. Anarch has long been considered one of the poorest of Runner factions, and only in the last few packs as well as Order and Chaos did they manage to get some very good money options. It’s use is dying down, but it will never go completely out of style. It works in any deck that has the space for it, giving a source of income that is renewable and easy to access. It even works to pay for that virus token on Darwin at the start of the turn.

It is well costed for its ability, not being too much of a drain to put down and seeing it early enough means that it can provide a hefty sum of credits over the course of a game. It is a staple card, that will see use, but not one that screams out for strange interactions with other cards.

GrimoireGrimoire Hardware: Console (#6 Core Set)

Impact 3 out of 5
It is a Console, and for what it does it does it well. Any virus based deck is going to run it - If there are more than 3 or 4 different viruses in your deck it will see a good return for its money in the additional Imp or Medium counters, or any other virus. Any virus strategy will benefit from its inclusion.

The +2 Memory is also a nice addition, especially when considered that viruses run best when you have more in play, plus a need for Icebreakers. It is not as strong as some other consoles, and it is stronger than many others. It is for one archetype however, and that is the only one it is consistently good for.

Corroder Program: Icebreaker - Fracter (#7 Core Set)

CorroderImpact 4 out of 5

Long regarded as the best fracter in the game, Corroder does so by having the best math for breaking ice. At least, across the board in averages that is, in regards to pumpable, non counter breakers. As the game state moves on in horizontal design paths, Corroder becomes less and less as a beautiful end all of fracters. Still quite efficient, others can be more useful, especially as recursion becomes more and more prevalent and the need to get in often is replaced with understanding scoring windows and when to get in.

None the less, this icebreaker was splashed into every conceivable deck for a long while, and still is found as a staple fracter, especially when dealing with the likes of Wraparound. It allows for quick early aggression due to its low cost to install, and its low cost to deal with some of the most popular early game barriers - the most likely cards to be rezed with End the Run subroutines. It is quickly falling to a weakness of mid and late game against large barriers however - Even though it is the most efficient fracter, that does not mean it is cheap. Big barriers like Curtain Wall just cost so much to get through even with cost effective breakers. Barriers are slowly coming back into the frontline now, showing how even cost effective breakers can not be the right ones. However, it remains strong even to this day, and will continue to be worth its influence cost in decks for a long time.

Datasucker Program: Virus (#8 Core Set)

DatasuckerImpact 4 out of 5

Datasucker is the reason that many quick, cheap to run builds worked in the early days. Consider the tokens on Datasucker to be free cash that can only be used during a run and only to modify the strength interaction of icebreakers. Also make note that a Parasite’d ICE that is affected by Datasucker counters will be trashed instantly.

This is one of the key components that allowed the fix strength breakers of the Anarchs to work. Without Datasucker, early Anarchs would have been hard pressed to break into many servers, even finding it impossible in some cases.  It was also one of the ways that Andromeda in the Genesis Cycle got off to a great start, even getting it’s own deck name ‘Andysucker’

This is also a card that lead to the formation of the strategy of ‘click compression.’ Running a central server with the likes of Desperado and other cards netted you multiple bonuses for the same single click. Even to this day, Datasucker remains a potent force even in the meta today, if not as common as before.

Djinn Program: Daemon (#9 Core Set)

DjinnImpact 3 out of 5

The ability to host more programs for less memory is one of the first thing that new Netrunners are drawn to. Its true power however comes from the ability to tutor for any (virus) card for only a click and a credit. Tutors are powerful in Netrunner, to find what you need, when you need it, not relying (too much) on the vagrancies of the draw.

Djinn has remained a staple of virus decks which always need more memory, and the ability to find what they need when they want it. It is also the first Daemon, a design space that is still not explored very far. All Daemons host programs with various effects for those programs. Daemons are useful, but the fact that programs hosted on them are trashed if the Daemon is gives an inherent weakness to that. Given the increase in abilities of the Corp to trash programs, this becomes more and more of a weakness. Still, Djinn remains useful for both its effects (Memory compression and tutoring) and will continue to remain a player where virus cards are concerned.

Medium Program: Virus (#10 Core Set)

MediumImpact 3 of 5

multi-access cards are one of the most effective ways of winning the game. Concentrating on a single server can have its drawbacks, but a well loaded Medium will end up seeing many more cards with far fewer accesses. Medium is still one of the primary methods of multi-access, through its program distinction gives it less versatility that alternates like the Interfaces or The Maker's Eye.

Traps can cause a large disruption for Medium - seeing all three Snare!s in a single run is a good way to finish yourself off for the day. But if you are confident, or even ready, reducing the amount of times you need to access to find the agendas is a good thing.

Medium remains a well used card, and will continue to do so. Even with the plethora of alternatives that come about, Medium still has a place as a cheap cost, and devilishly effective at getting the big, deep digs. Forcing the corp to Purge might hurt your digs, but it hurts their tempo, and that is something that should be taken into consideration.

Mimic Program: Icebreaker - Killer (#11 Core Set)

Impact 4 of 5

The first of the fixed strength breakers, there is no Killer that is more efficient for what it does. That is where the strength of Mimic comes into play. For any Sentry of cost 5 or less to rez, it will break it for a pittance. Combined with the various methods of strength reduction that even just the Core Set Anarchs had available to them, it became possible to get through any Sentry for usually only 1 or 2 credits.

It fell from the spotlight for a while, but was never forgotten. Now with new cards like D4V1D for ICE that is of strength to high to be efficient to deal with by Mimic, it is making a comeback for cheap, lean, efficient rigs that spend as few credits as possible to go as deep as possible

Parasite Program: Virus (#12 Core Set)

ParasiteImpact 5 out of 5

When Account Siphon spam had its hayday of recursion and draining the corp dry, Parasite Spam got its own day in the spotlight. The ICE is what the Corp uses for primary interaction with the runner - remove it from the board, and the Corp is powerless in most cases to deal with the tools and tricks the Runner has. As more cards for recursion appear, then Parasite continues to remain effective.

It also is a common verb against new ICE, especially low strength. Any strength one or zero ICE is often dismissed as it ‘dies easily to Parasite.’ This does not mean that ICE is useless, but many people assume it does. Still, the usage of the card to evaluate low strength ICE remains impactful, and is often one of the first things players think about when they see new ICE.

In combination with the fixed strength breakers of Anarch, it served a useful purpose: Dealing with, if slowly, those ICE that were too big for the likes of Mimic or Yog.  As the game sped up, it became more useful for dealing with smaller ice, to simply - and quickly - remove it from the board and bypass having to deal with it. It has a place in both uses even in the current day

Wyrm Program: Icebreaker - AI (#13 Core Set)

WyrmImpact 1 out of 5

One of the least used cards out of the core set, Wyrm suffered from an extreme expensive drawback - in order for it to interact with the ICE to lower its strength, it had to have a strength that could match that ICE. That meant you had to raise its strength to match the ICE first, before you could start to lower it. Sure, it is an AI, but when it was used (as little as that was) it was only as an extreme last case backup too Datasucker or Parasite for interactions with fixed breakers (or for Parasite destruction of ice).

It never saw a strong light of day among competitive decks, and even in casual play it often get’s left behind for less costly AI’s like Crypsis.  With the current cardpool it hasn’t seen a recurrence, and is unlikely to do so unless the design space of interacting with 0 strength ICE is opened up into other cards. Even then, because it is still an effective 2 credits per strength difference of the ICE being affected, there will be other ways.

Yog.0 Program: Icebreaker - Decoder (#14 Core Set)

Yog.0Impact 5 out of 5

Simply put, Yog.0 is the Anarch card with the most impact of the Core Set. It was so strong that for a while (including at least a few store championship level tournaments) players were including only a bare minimum of code gates. There was even one deck that only had a single code gate at 3 copies, simply to force the runner to install Yog and then have it be useless memory for the rest of the game.

It’s ability to break for free, any number of subroutines, even though it is on a fixed strength, makes it one of the most dangerous Decoders in the game. For a long period, any Code Gate of 3 or less strength was simply dismissed as being too weak, because of the prevalence of Yog.0.

Even today, Yog.0 is still something that must be contended with, though as Code Gates grew in strength, its dominance of Decoders became less apparent.  The arrival of the Yogasaurus (Yog.0 on a Dinosaurus) and in combination with “Kit” and a possible  Paintbrush means Yog was still a threat - if not seen nearly as often in that manner. Yet no other Decoder, and no other Anarch card left players scrambling to deal with it in their corp deck designs, affecting the game as much as Yog has, and will, over the years.

Ice Carver Resource: Virtual (#15 Core Set)

Ice CarverImpact 2 out of 5

A resource that might be considered essential for the fixed breaker suite. It brings all strength 4 ice into consideration of the likes of Yog and Mimic, and yet it did not see that much of an impact over the history of the game.

This would likely be due to two particular points. First, its Unique status means you are only ever going to get one reduction of strength from it at a time, and future draws become dead cards. Second, as a resource it is still not tutorable, so to find it you have to draw and dig deep.

It also means that more setup would be required before running on certain pieces of ICE, meaning the runner slows down. Aggression, or a way to stall (Control) the aggression of the other side, is one of the more important concepts any CCG or LCG, and in Netrunner it is no different. If you are going to be including Ice Carver then you need other ways to make the corp not move as fast as it might, while you look for it and get it set up to take advantage of its ability.

Wyldside Resource: Location - Seedy (#16 Core Set)

WyldsideImpact 3 out of 5

This sites namesake!  For a long while Wyldside was essential in Anarch decks, accelerating their card draw in order to find the things they needed. The Noiseshop variant, using Aesop’s Pawnshop (hence the name) made great use of this card. It accelerated the deck, making it faster and more reliable to draw what you wanted in the appropriate time, as well as giving you a way (through the Pawnshop) to turn it off when you didn't want to lose that click anymore.

That was the big drawback of Wyldside - the lost click. Sure, in turns of ‘Click Efficiency’ it was much better, but it wasn’t optional. 3 clicks a turn can really harm a runner if they are not careful. In today’s environment there are far more draw options that Wyldside has fallen by the wayside for now. Yet the release of the new Genetics style cards of The Valley mean that there is a possibility of its return to the limelight.

Anarch in Core.

For the Core set alone, Anarch was rather powerful. Noise simply was hard to deal with until Jackson Howard, and while Account Siphon was (and still is) strong, Criminals were still getting started. Shapers were too slow, even then, without the tools that sped them along nicely after Creation and Control. For a while, the red was in charge, and Noise was its King.

Next Week

We take a look at Haas Biroid from the Core Set, the purple brain damage click denying corporation

Reminder: This article was written with the meta up through “The Valley” having just 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).