Jinteki, the red corp, the death by a thousand net damage cuts. Jinteki has recently started to come more and more into its own, with its big box expansion that gave it many new tricks and traps to play around with, and the sign of Clot driving Fast Advance out of the spotlight. During core however it was often seen as one of the weaker corp’s to play, relying too much on shell games when it didn’t have enough of them to really pull the strategy off, and ICE that was dangerous, but not stoppable, plus the weakest of all the corp economies.
Traps and net damage was the key to success in Jinteki, but early versions of the corp often were referred to as ‘mistake’ wins. That is to say, the best way for Jinteki to win was to force a mistake by the runner, causing them to run into a Snare! while unprepared or an advanced Junebug. While Jinteki still wins a large amount of its games by putting the runner in a position where they are doomed if they do, doomed if they don’t, it has more tools now than it did during the core set. Add a good economy, and stronger taxing ICE, it can reliably threaten to score now, which ratchets up the pressure, putting the runner into more difficult positions against the traps that might be laid.
This article was written with the meta up through “The Valley/Breaker Bay” 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).
Jinteki: Personal Evolution Identity: Megacorp (#67 Core Set)
When first drawn to red corp, players will almost always see the potential to flatline the runner through net damage as the primary method for winning. In reality, though it took some time for (some) players to realize this, net damage fills the design space more as a tax or an additional cost most runner decks are not ready to deal with. It removes cards from the runner’s ability to play them, and even with heavy recursion it can still take out very important cards. Imagine Levy AR Lab Access being hit for net damage in a MaxX deck, for instance.
Net damage is far more prevalent than meat or brain damage, and often easier to deal out than the other two varieties, but is almost always found in smaller chunks. Individually it is often easy to recover from one or two sources of net damage and keep going, but the threat of it is always there. For Personal Evolution, often called Black Tree, the tax is always present. Black Tree relies on pressuring the runner into making runs they don’t want to do, but has no choice, leading right into a nasty trap. Even though it was just written that net damage is mostly a tax, the threat of Flatline is often used as a way to force the runner to make a mistake.
Black Tree developed slowly in the meta, not really having the economy in faction to make it effective at being able to threaten agendas when it needed to. Economy arrived for them, released in Honor and Profit (and before) that has really seen all forms of Jinteki reach high positions in major tournaments across the globe.
Black Tree decks are often designed for the kill to be a happy coincidence, but not the main focus. Built more around around taxing through both credits and discards, forcing the runner to rely on less and less tools or use up some of their tools (such as Clone Chip when they didn’t quite want to. Now that the economy has caught up with other corp factions, Black Tree remains a potent force, and will continue to do so.
Nisei MK II Agenda: Initiative (#68 Core Set)
Nisei has had a very interesting life as a card. Originally it was dismissed; the four for two was difficult to score, and still is. Its ability is potent, but as Fast Advance style started to take over winning games, combined with the lack of Jinteki economy it was seen for a while as a mediocre agenda.
Then Jinteki got economy. As it did, Nisei suddenly became a much stronger agenda. Still difficult to score, its ability was revealed as a stick of dynamite waiting to be used by red corp. The ability to shut off a The Maker's Eye run or other Run type Event is very strong. Not only that, but the threat of Nisei tokens makes it incredibly difficult to get into a scoring server. Effectively, the runner needs twice the amount of credits to get through the ICE, as the best time to use the token is once they have already broken all the ICE but have not yet accessed.
Many of the three for two agendas give the corp some ability to help score. AstroScript Pilot Program made it cheaper and Project Atlas lets you find what you need when you need it for instance. Nisei is the same for Jinteki, and that is where its strength comes in (even it if it is not a three for two). If the first agenda scored is a Nisei, then protecting the rest becomes very easy, even when scoring windows do not seem to be available. Since the counter can be spent before access, it combo’s very well with Caprice Nisei (See the naming similarity?) and used only if Caprice ability does not keep the runner out.
Nisei has become a staple of many Jinteki decks, even with its difficult to score four for two status. It will continue to be difficult to score, but will be very impactful into the future.
Project Junebug Asset: Ambush - Research (#69 Core Set)
As Jinteki’s primary advanceable trap, Junebug has seen a lot of use. The greatest aspect of Junebug’s existence is the shell game that is played primarily within Jinteki. Any card that has been installed and advanced twice (IAA, or Install Advance Advance) is simultaneously both a possible Junebug and an agenda that might be scored next turn. It becomes very dangerous for the runner - do they run such cards and risk a massive amount of net damage, possibly enough to kill them, or do they ignore it and let the corp score an agenda?
That dilemma is at the core of the Jinteki playstyle philosophy, forcing runners into difficult decisions and capitalizing on their actions therein.
Junebug falls into and out of popularity, often being replaced or supplemented with a Cerebral Overwriter. Junebug’s status entirely depends on the type of shell game that the Jinkteki player wants to play, does the corp want to tempt the runner with IAA cards in servers, or make them sweat with a bunch of unrezzed unadvanced cards, such as Snare!. However, its mere existence forces a knowledgeable runner to be wary of the possibility that any IAA card is a Junebug waiting to strike. That alone means it carries weight into the future of the game, even if it does not see active play.
Snare! Asset: Ambush (#70 Core Set)
Snare! is one of the first things runners learn to be afraid of, and like Project Junebug, it is one thing that players are always conscious of finding. It is also one of the few cards that ends more games before they really get underway, hitting an unexpected Snare! with only two cards in hand. The only draw back is the four credit cost needed to trigger the card, meaning that a savvy runner with a few tools like Account Siphon or Vamp can keep themselves safe.
Snare! is a card alone that helps discourage deep digs of R&D, and is often seen splashed as a one of in many decks, just to ‘keep the runner honest.’ It is also part of the Jinteki playstyle, where every card is a potential dangerous one to access, either advanced (thanks to Junebug) or not (thanks to Snare!). The tag means hitting it fourth click is very dangerous - not only does the runner not have time to draw back up, but a tag could lead into Scorched Earth finishing off what Snare! couldn’t do. This card is the primary reason runners are taught by more experienced ones not to run on fourth click. Never run on the fourth click, a netrunner will be told, else the building around you may get blown up.
Snare! will always be relevant. It will always have a place and it will always be a card that must be considered when making a run, on any server outside of Archives or something advanced in a remote. That alone makes it a highly impactful card.
Zaibatsu Loyalty Asset (#71 Core Set)
As stated in an early article, expose is one of those design areas that simply has not been explored very much. While there is a runner who works around it, she is no where near popular enough to pack a card like Zaibatsu Loyalty. Although expose is very strong against the Jinteki Shell Game, very few people put expose cards into their decks when building for all-comers.
Until expose becomes a more consistent, often used effect, this card will remain with low impact on the game. That all being said, besides the effect being lackluster it is an excellently designed card. It is one of the few cards that is an interrupt effect in Netrunner, that alone gives it an amount of power. Its zero rez and four trash cost is a great ratio, especially for the core set, and makes a lot of runners hesitant to pay that cost. Even better than that, many similar powered cards have their ability as a trash cost - Zaibatsu Loyalty has that as an option, but can even be powered by credits. At only one influence it could find its way into any deck that wanted expose protection. Unfortunately, if the runner has no expose abilities it is a dead and useless card.
If Expose was a more used mechanic, Zaibatsu Loyalty would be an insanely powerful card for the way it is designed. Unfortunately, the mechanic is so very underused that this remains a niche card to tech against certain decks or local meta’s, and does not find much of an impact outside of that.
Neural EMP Operation: Gray Ops (#72 Core Set)
Neural EMP is the finisher card for Jinteki kill decks. Runners have to run in order to win, and that turns Neural on. A few of these in hand and the runner hitting a Snare! or a Junebug or any other of the many sources of net damage Jinteki has at its disposal, and they can (and will) finish off the runner.
As only a single point of damage, they are rarely used to simply tax the runner. Two credits and a click, plus a card slot in the deck, simply to knock a single card out of the runners grip is not often worth it, especially when there are many other cards that can do that single point for much cheaper. To kill with it however, the corp often needs two or even all three in their hand to get the flatline. Yet it does find its way into many Jinteki decks, and it has been the end of many runners. It does this simply because it is a way, without a tag, without advancing cards, without relying on luck of the access to do damage. Even more so than that, it is damage done during the corps turn, which while not entirely rare, is not all that common in cards either.
It will remain a staple of Jinteki kill decks, unless something is printed that does the job better. When Chronos Protocol: Selective Mind-mapping is released in the end of the SanSan cycle however, this will be a staple card for that deck.
Precognition Operation (#73 Core Set)
Precog has a very useful ability. It is the corp version of Indexing and given how powerful Indexing can be for a runner in the right situation, Precog seems that it should be equally powerful for the corp. Indeed, in terms of raw power, it is. The ability to stack what you want to see for the next few draws, or even the next two cards with a Jackson Howard draw for instance, could be very useful.
So why doesn’t Precog see play? It is zero credits to use, it has no cost except the click to play it and the card slot in your deck. It should see more play, for the ability to protect RD from any runs being fruitful for a few turns could be very powerful. Pull a Precog with the mandatory draw, purge virus counters against that pesky medium, and next turn set up RD.
The reason that Precog has not seen much play is most likely two fold. First, deck slots. Corp decks are always very tight, having to fit in anywhere from 15-17 pieces of ICE (on average, sometimes more, sometimes less depending on the archetype) 9-11 agendas (at least), and then economy cards to be able to support that ICE and scoring windows. That does not leave a lot of free room for cards that are not supporting scoring agendas directly. That leads into the second reason. For the Runner, where information they need is mostly hidden from them, Indexing is a great ability to dig deep and set up for a second run. For the corp, they already know what is in the deck - not the order of course, but they can do some light math with what they have on the table for an idea. Precog doesn’t help with scoring agendas directly. If it drew a card after arranging, then it would probably be extremely popular, but as it stands it takes a second click to get that card off the top of the deck.
Then comes the question of how to arrange them? Drop the agendas? Put them on top and draw them, risking them in HQ? Add in the fact that now there is Daily Business Show (for only a single influence too) that gives a similar, if smaller, Precog effect for every single turn of the game it is in play.
It could work well in combination with cards such as Mutate or Accelerated Diagnostics, and there certainly could be a deck in the use of such cards. Precog can certainly be useful, but it is a hard card to include when compared to other cards that advance the win strategy directly.
Cell Portal ICE: Code Gate - Deflector (#74 Core Set)
The first piece of ICE in the Jinteki set, it shows off the style that Jinteki will take. Traps, misdirection, shell games. Cell Portal is a quintessential piece of Jinteki theme. Unfortunately, it simply falls flat as piece of ICE.
First, its advantages. As a strength seven code gate, it is very difficult to break. Its subroutine will fire, and will fire often simply because the cost to break for most decoders is expensive, even with only one subroutine. Its rez cost to its strength is lower, which is rare, and while good is that way for a reason. This is a very taxing piece of ICE. Even Torch, one of the most efficient to use (if not install) decoders, breaks it for four credits, which is a hefty tax. That alone could give it some more use than its more comborific effects.
As a lot of early Jinteki ICE was, it is highly positional. Having Cell Portal on the outermost piece of ICE protecting a server is practically useless, unless the corp wants a drain on their credits. Cell Portal is best placed deep inside a server, preferably the last piece the runner will encounter before accessing cards. That way when it fires, the runner will be forced to run the entire gambit again, at the risk of doing it a third time. That means it has to be seen early in the game, or support cards like Tenma Line need to be used to get it there later. If it is the first piece of ICE on a server it is useless to protect against anything, only being a drain if the corp were to rez it. That in turn gives the runner free access to that server.
Its redirect does not force the runner to encounter that ICE, only to approach. This means they have the opportunity to jack out before proceeding (Despite being the first piece of ICE in the server, it is not the first piece of ICE being encountered during a run, meaning the runner can indeed jack out - See Timing Structure of Run, point 2.0-2.2 - This excludes the use of Whirlpool). While this can indeed keep the runner out of a server, there are far cheaper ways to do so than Cell Portal. If the runner was forced to encounter that ICE again it would at least have a taxing purpose or a potential flatline combo, but without that forced encounter, it looses a lot of effectiveness unless paired with even more positional ICE.
Last, but not least, is the fact that it derezes itself, meaning it is a potential huge drain on the corp credit pool, and even though Jinteki economy has gotten much better, a five credit hit is still rather large. Jinteki does have abilities to reduce the rez cost of ICE, but to make an effective Cell Portal ICE server of death and doom, that requires even more cards to add to the combo, making it even more difficult to set up.
Cell Portal has had little impact on the game because of all of these drawbacks. While players often do try to construct the death trap ICE server deck, it becomes very hard to actually get all the pieces in order to set it up, and that makes it rather unreliable. (But if it can be gotten to work even once it is quite rewarding!)
Chum ICE: Code Gate (#75 Core Set)
While not seen very much any more, Chum is a piece of positional ICE that did see a lot of play early on. The threat of Chum in front of any piece of ICE was often enough to cause the runner to jack out before encountering that next piece of ICE, especially early game. The strength of four made it difficult to Yog, and the strength bonus it gave to the next piece of ICE was a nice taxing effect even late game. Given the popularity of the fixed strength breakers in the early meta, that +2 strength could very well put many pieces of ICE outside of the fixed breakers range - at the very least against those fixed breakers it required a datasucker token to be spent more often than not to break Chum.
It falls off in popularity because it is positional ICE, and those kinds of ICE are hard to work with. As Jinteki got more ICE to play with, it became less of a tax on the runner, or even a threat, and more of a problem for the corp to get it put down in the right place at the right time.
It could be one of those cards that see’s a small resurgence just because it is a blink in the eye for any experienced runner. A runner encountering Chum is going to have to pause, think back, remember what it was like to run against it way back when, and decide if it is worth encountering that next piece of ICE or not.
Data Mine ICE: Trap - AP (#76 Core Set)
Data Mine has been seen in several kill decks. It’s non standard type gives it an advantage in that its subroutine will almost always fire. It is only a single point however, and that is rarely enough to make the difference, especially when it trashes itself after use. A theme might also be seen in the ICE looked at for Jinteki so far in this article - none of them have an End the Run subroutine yet. This makes Jinteki ICE very porous, and trashing one of those ICE is even less effective.
As the ICE list grew, Data Mine fell by the wayside. There are many other pieces of ICE that can do net damage, and those all stay around. Many of those are very taxing as well, making them ideal to open up scoring windows that Data Mine simply does not.
Neural Katana ICE: Sentry - AP (#77 Core Set)
One of the defining pieces of Jinteki ICE, the reason it receives a high impact is because of one reason. As a Sentry, it was powerful enough to severely set the runner back if it was facechecked, (run while it is unrezzed and encounter it with no breakers but ones face) and that meant that many runners would seek out their killer before beginning a run on Jinteki.
It also is a very standard archetype for Jinteki ICE, that many other pieces like Komainu and Pup follow with, Sentry - AP ICE doing packets or streams of net damage to the runner.
While Neural Katana has fallen out of favor for more taxing ICE like the above two, or for including more ETR ICE, it has a place as a special memory, and only one other piece of Jinteki ICE can do that much damage with a single subroutine. Cortex Lock is very similar, and possibly even better early game. Katana always fell off when the Killer was found, not even being much of a tax. Cortex Lock falls off even faster even without a Killer, but can be potentially more damage. So while not a straight 'better' card, Neural Katana's situational usefulness may be better achieved with Cortex Lock
Wall of Thorns ICE: Barrier - AP
Finally, an End The Run subroutine in Jinteki. But at a hefty cost, and with only two subroutines. Eight cost to rez ICE is a specific design space for Netrunner, with the likes of Tollbooth and Heimdall 1.0 in the core set. They are iconic pieces of ICE for the corp they are in, and Wall of Thorns is no different. Unfortunately for Jinteki it was very expensive to stop the runner, and that made it difficult to keep the runner out.
Its eight rez cost is still a major drawback, but as large barriers are becoming more and more popular, it is at least a barrier with some teeth. While it may not tax the runner with credits like Tollbooth can, it can tax them on cards. That subroutine may not fire more than once in a game, but cards are a much more precious resource - a reason why the ‘Death by 1000 cuts’ strategy works for Jinteki.
Akitaro Watanabe UPgrade - Sysop - Unorthodox (#79 Core Set)
One rez cost to save two on a piece of ICE - that means it automatically is saving you a credit on the first piece of ICE he is used on. A three trash cost is a little difficult for the runner to trash, but if timed right it won't matter for the corp. If two or even three pieces of ICE are rezed in a single run with Akitaro in that server, he more than paid for himself and saved the corp a lot of money.
The major drawback is that he is limited to a single server. As Clot comes into its own and the meta shifts around it (how it will do so is not for Wyldside to comment on) Akitaro could see a use. While he never really saw much play, bigger, more expensive ICE is becoming more popular, and although the economy can keep up, saving money would never hurt. The question becomes is he worth a deck slot over another upgrade, in the already tight corp decks?
Jinteki in Core
Unfortunately Jinteki did not do so great in Core. Despite the apparent design philosophy that core set cards set the power level and are rarely surpassed, Jinteki saw far more use out of its big box expansion than any of its core set cards. Yet many of the cards from the core set are indeed still the most powerful, if far to positional or situational to make the cut more often.
Next Week, Shaper!
Next week Wyldside takes a look at the green Shaper, professors and students, hackers for the love of knowledge and the right for it to be free.
Reminder: This article was written with the meta up through “The Valley/Breaker Bay” 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).