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).