This article was written with the meta up through “Chrome City” 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: My computer fried over the weekend, and I was forced to rebuild on Saturday. This article is written almost on the fly, with very little time to reflect and go over what I wrote, find mistakes, and adjust strategy thoughts as they percolated in the back of my brain. Please excuse any mistakes this week!
Whizzard: Master Gamer Identity: Natural (What Lies Ahead #1)
Whizzard’s ability may be very meta dependant, but in the current view of the state of competitive decks, his ability is very powerful. Most Anarch decks are in a very interesting place right now - with the exception of Noise and a few specialty decks (Such as Headlock), Anarch decks seem to be able to swap in IDs like a revolving turntable. Whizzard has become strong of late because of the prevalence of economy assets that need trashing (such as Sundew in RP) or the many assets that might be installed just to trigger NEH. This has caused him to be the ID of choice among the ‘Good Stuff’ Anarch types.
Where Whizzard will go from here completely depends on where the corporation meta goes. As long as assets remain a strong part of the corp strategy then Whizzard will keep working well against them and be an obvious choice to counter.
Retrieval Run Event: Run (Future Proof #101)
A solid and interesting bit of recursion, Retrieval Run may not have seen a lot of use but it is at least known as an understandable card. The main issue that it runs into is the three credit cost, and the possibility of ICE over archives increasing that cost even more. Given that Archives is very often a target of Anarch decks, that can limit when this card is useful. In addition, spending a click and three credits to install a card from the heap that may cost far less isn’t always the best economic idea.
Yet there are plenty of programs (mainly icebreakers) that cost far more than three, and this can be a smashingly good way to get them back into play if they were trashed. Combined with Inject it is even stronger - good card draw that is going to dump those expensive programs into the heap for the runner makes a strong case. Even for the now returning Yog.0 it is a discount to install, once it is in the heap, making Retrieval Run a worthwhile investment. Assuming of course, Archives isn’t too heavily ICE’d.
It is a solid card that has a few drawbacks that are entirely circumstantial, and can be worked around. Noise isn’t going to use it because of how fast Archives becomes ICE’d against him, but other runners can find it very useful.
Surge Event (Humanity’s Shadow #81)
In the early days this card saw a lot of use - Mostly because the card pool was small, and the types of Anarch decks that were viable often used a lot of viruses. It has a lot of very interesting combinations - Raising a Parasite to the kill number two turns earlier, increasing a Darwin to an unexpected strength three after a purge to get into some server, even getting more use out of Imp if in hand the turn Imp is played.
The problem for Surge really became deckslots. It is a solid card that can see lot of use, but when the deck as a whole is looked at it doesn’t seem to be the most important and often ends up as the 46th card that gets cut. Seeing as how it is so little used now, however, might make it a good time to include one or two in a deck, for the surprise factor - Large ICE hit by parasites, a few additional Datasucker tokens in order to get into another server, there are many possibilities and for a virus heavy deck it would have many uses.
Vamp Run - Sabotage (Trace Amount #21)
At first glance Vamp just seem’s like a much more expensive Account Siphon without the tags. It must not be forgotten however that what Vamp can do is affect the corp down to zero no matter how many credits they have, as long as the runner has more. That alone has made Vamp very useful, and the key for many decks to beat the very strong Caprice Nisei - the corp cannot spend any credits for her Psi game if they have none. They can’t even rez most ICE, which if played at the right time could allow an easy run into a server by the runner.
Vamp requires a very strong and heavy economy however, which can be difficult to pull off - Yet there are strong runner economies that can make boatloads of credits, so it can be very possible. It must be combined with keeping the corp in a poor position as well, through trashing of economy assets and forcing them to rez ICE (or other means) but when the strategy is properly executed, Vamp becomes a very strong card that can set the corp back to the back foot and keep them there for the rest of the game.
Spinal Modem Hardware: Console (What Lies Ahead #2)
As a Console, Spinal Modem seem’s rather expensively costed. The drawback is very thematic, but two recurring credits, earmarked only for Icebreakers, is far less powerful than Desperado for instance, which with the right tuned deck can result in many many more credits over the course of the game - credits that can be used for anything. That didn’t stop Spinal Modem from being a strong card in many decks - It wasn’t a virus based console and it didn’t eat up influence, so non virus Anarch decks used it well for a long time.
Traces are also one of the more underused mechanics of the game; most of the time when a trace comes out that the runner can’t beat (such as SEA Source) a kill is coming soon after. There are a couple of strong pieces of ICE that use Traces, but those are most often dangerous for a Spinal Modem user early game, before the console is likely to be installed.
Where that all takes Spinal Modem depends on the deck. Anarch consoles are typically the cheapest, and while Spinal Modem is not like many of its fellows, it can serve some use. In order to be picked over others however, the deck would need those two recurring credits very much.
Darwin Program: Icebreaker - AI - Virus (Future Proof #102)
There was, at one point, a Darwin deck that did very well at some higher level tournaments, relying on Darwin as its primary breaker. To do so requires a lot of support, such as Surge and Cyberfeeder's (the credit on which can be used to add a virus counter to Darwin) and maybe e3 Feedback Implants to reduce the cost of breaking multi-sub ICE. Cards like Hivemind and Virus Breading Ground that were recently released can give some great support as well. That those cards are so versatile for other virus based strategies gives Darwin some place as a support role - many decks include at least one AI for dealing with pesky ICE that is otherwise difficult for their breaker suite, Darwin with the support that would be going into other virus strategies would be strong in that role.
Now that those support cards for Virus strategies are out there, Darwin will possibly some use in those kinds of decks, even as just a one off emergency AI breaker, rather than the other possiblities.
Disrupter Program (A Study In Static #61)
Given how little trace effects are encountered, Disrupter is a solidly niche card that would be perfect for a sideboard, if Netrunner ever had such a thing. It is also great to tech against your buddie’s trace centric theme deck, but outside of that it is very difficult to play. Because it’s a program that has to be trashed, it is only good with on the board recursion (such as Clone Chip). Which means the only time it is going to be usable is when it is already installed or in the Heap, and the corp will know it’s there. Given that you can’t even clone chip it out as the corp plays an operation that would initiate a trace makes it only useful there for ICE. Any important trace that the corp needs to fire (Such as SEA Source) they will simply wait until they have more credits to fire it, or wait until it has been trashed. Never going to see use outside of decks that are teching specifically against trace decks, makes it an interesting, but unlikely to be used card.
Force of Nature Program: Icebreaker - Decoder (A Study In Static #62)
As most people have said, Force of Nature is one of the worst decoders in the game. Not only is it expensive to install, but it is strikingly inefficient. Peacock is almost as inefficient, and for at least some ICE Peacock is strikingly more efficient. Force of Nature is the only pumpable decoder in faction for Anarch, but when you take a look at the alternative in faction - Yog - it might become obvious why it is so bad. Yog is simply so good. If the runner doesn’t want to include the support cards that make Yog even better (NRE, Datasucker, or even a few others) then perhaps, but spending a few influence might be a better choice than Force of Nature.
What is most interesting is that Zu.13 is only a credit or two cheaper to break most ICE, but used far more often as an alternative decoder, especially when it needs to be splashed. Why is that? When one looks at Sneakdoor and compares Zu to Force of Nature, the cost to get through is very very similar. Of course, of the course of a game that single extra credit per ICE can really add up. A single credit can make the difference between being able to steal a NAPD or not. It can make the difference of getting through that Pop-Up window or not. It can make the difference in a Psi game. Zu is also so much cheaper to install, part of which gives Force of Nature its bad rap. Yog exists too, which is simply so much better - with a few support cards, most code gates are simply free to get through, and D4v1d exists for the rest.
Imp: Program: Virus (What Lies Ahead #3)
Imp is a strong card, good for a lot of uses. Economy denial and saving money in trashing assets, tossing out important operations the corp may want to see on an RD run, possibly even getting to see more cards the next time the runner gets in with Medium. It can even be used to toss agenda’s accessed into the trash to prevent a Midseasons from being able to be played.
While Imp doesn’t go in every deck, it has a lot of use and see’s play in the decks that often run other virus strategies, if just for the ability to get more counters on it.
Morningstar Program: Icebreaker - Fracter (What Lies Ahead #4)
The last of the fixed strength breakers, Morningstar is very efficient, but very expensive to get out. A prime target for a Retrieval Run, the problem is that there are not a lot of ICE that really gets a benefit out of its ‘break any number of subroutines’ ability. Without strength manipulation, there only seven barriers that have multiple subroutines that it can break, and while all seven may be seen at one time or another, only a few of them are seen constantly enough - and Corroder, already in faction, gets through them well enough. Maybe not always cheaply, but it is far cheaper to install making it easier to get out without as much of a tempo hit.
Morningstar could certainly see some use with NRE, but the install cost is tough even as Anarch’s are finally getting some economy to play with, and while an entire fixed strength suite of breakers is very efficient at getting in, there are a few ICE that would cause a lot of problems, even with multiple strength reduction options or a D4v1d to back them up.
Nerve Agent Program: Virus (Cyber Exodus #41)
The HQ version of Medium, it suffers from the fact that once it hits five counters, for most decks, additional runs are not gaining any additional benefit. O fcourse, being able to access the entire hand of a corp is very strong, and given that often agendas pile up in HQ while waiting for scoring windows, can be a very strong card mid to late game.
It is great for runners who want to be able to apply some HQ pressure, especially if their decks were concentrating heavily on another server to begin with. If the deck is very good at getting into RD or a remote, the corp is going to hold agendas in HQ (or try to get them in there with a Jackson draw) and a sudden swoop in of a Nerve Agent series of runs can snag many of them out of the hand when the corp is not expecting it. It is a strong card that helps bring HQ pressure, which can be useful in many decks all across the meta.
Data Leak Reversal Resource: Virtual - Sabotage (Future Proof #103)
A very difficult card to pull off, when done correctly it is hard for the corp to deal with. Combined with a series of Account Siphons and Vamps, then played when the corp is struggling to recover economy, could leave the corp spending an entire turn just to deal with it. Toss down a few Fall Guy's and suddenly even a single turn can’t get rid of that Data Leak, making it very difficult for the corp to recover after eight, twelve, even more cards have been milled into the trash.
It requires a specialty deck however, and generally is the keystone effect the deck is trying to go for - it takes a lot of cards to really make it a strong effect, and so it will remain a niche card for those kinds of decks, as their primary goal.
Joshua B. Resource: Connection (Cyber Exodus #42)
Combined with Data Leak Reversal above, Joshua can provide a lot of clicks to use to mill, especially with Fall Guy protecting them all, and it easily provides the tag for DLR. It also goes very well with the click intensive Wanton Destruction and given that there are other click gaining cards for Anarch, it can quite quickly give the runner two turns in which to act without the corp having any clicks of their own.
It takes a lot to use, and the tag at the end of the turn is a dangerous place - a free tag to any kill deck is an invitation to watch the carpet bombing start, and with only a few credits in hand. Some way of dealing with that tag must be included, which ups the combo pieces even more. Like DLR, it generally only slots into a deck that is planning on using it for its primary strategy, or to directly support a click intensive strategy like DLR.
Liberated Account Resource (Trace Amount #22)
So very expensive to install, but so much money once it is on the table. Each click used in Liberated Accounts is like playing a Sure Gamble, and each Liberated Accounts has four of them ready to go. Hard to get out there, recently it has become much better with cards like The Supplier reducing its install cost (and letting you click all four times in a single turn if a burst is required, for even more money than Day Job - Twelve vrs eight total gain), or Career Fair as well.
It has a lot of strong economic power that is becoming more common to be used with the support cards as listed above. Its biggest hurdle was its installation cost, making it impossible to get out if the runner was broke. Given that those cards go well with other resources that are commonly played they make valid support cards in a deck that might make use of such economy options.
Scrubber Resource: Connection - Seedy (A Study In Static #63)
If Whizzard is popular in the meta because of asset trashing, Scrubber is going to be as well. Just like Whizzard will use his credits to create an economic disparity by denying the asset economy many of the strong decks use right now, Scrubber will do the same. At only one influence, it can be splashed into any deck, giving all of them a chance to compete against the current meta environment.
It remains strong, and will as long as the asset economy remains strong. Where it continues to go from there is hard to say, as that depends entirely on the direction corp decks take.
Xanadu Resource: Virtual (Humanity’s SHadow #82)
An economy denial card, forcing the corp to pay more, it is difficult to use - Its unique status makes it a dead card to draw after the first is out, and if it is included it is going to want to be seen for its power early, rather than later. It suffers from that same problem that Ice Carver does, in that way. Yet it is a very important card in some recent decks, such as Headlock Reina - In that style the card is nice to see, but not necessary, which is perhaps the best place for it. There are so many other ways of economy denial in that style of deck that while Xanadu has a great place, it isn’t necessary.
It has seen some play in that current strong style of Headlock or Soulsiphon, and while it may not get much use outside of that place, it will be useful wherever a strong economic denial deck originates.
Back to Red, Jinteki in the Genesis Cycle
Reminder: This article was written with the meta up through “Chrome City” 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).