Monday, June 1, 2015

1.7 Weyland - Core Set

Weyland, the big scary evil corporation. Truly, if there is anything ‘evil’ in the Android Netrunner universe, it is Weyland. Blowing up entire city blocks, traffic accidents, ‘acceptable collateral damage’ is their style, and they leverage it with big money and big ICE.

Core Weyland was a simple proposition. Tag them, kill them. That was pretty much the only reliable way to win. With ICE that, while big, was simply not taxing enough (most of the time) it was more the threat of the kill that kept Weyland in the game, and a single mistake by the runner lead to entire city blocks being scorched to the ground. Weyland has grown since then, but the fact that Scorched Earth is in faction is what keeps the power in the green money grubbing world destroying corp - always have to look out for that carpet bombing run.

This article was written with the meta up through “Breaker Bay/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).

Weyland Consortium: Building a Better World Identity: Megacorp (#93 Core Set)

Weyland Consortium: Building a Better WorldImpact 4 out of 5

Still a great money making identity out there, BaBW was the cornerstone of Weyland strategy for a long time. Big money, big profit, turning every single transaction Operation (and there are quite a few) into an extra bit of money that would allow them to race up above the runner, then slap them flat with a kill combo.

Blue Sun has taken over the space for that kind of deck archetype - It can give a much bigger jump in credits (fourteen with an Oversite AI on a Curtain Wall - which is probably more than BaBW will make all game) that can land a Scorched Earth combo far easier.

Where BaBW will lead from there is hard to say. The Order and Chaos box set gave some interesting IDs to Weyland to play around with new strategies, and while there are a lot of Transactions to take advantage of BaBW, it is not an Identity that lends itself to any one particular strategy.

Hostile Takeover Agenda: Expansion (#94 Core Set)

Hostile TakeoverImpact 4 out of 5

For most of the history of the game, Hostile Takeover is an essential agenda for Weyland. A huge credit boost, that can be scored with no protection. It is then a cheap and available agenda to rez Archer. That is why it has been such an integral part of Weyland decks for so long - Archer is simply a very good piece of ICE. Cheap (ish) to rez, very taxing to break, and if its subroutines land it can really set a runner back. The need for cheap agenda’s to sacrifice to it is very important, and anything bigger than Hostile Takeover is generally not going to be worth the gain rezzing an Archer is going to bring.

Hostile is also great for that seventh point, after six points have been scored Hostile can close out the game quick and easy like, and that is a very good point in its favor.

The problem comes with the Bad Pub. Bad Pub is something that has also been Weyland’s thing - We’re gonna make money and we don’t care what you think about it style of playing.That Bad Pub however means that making taxing servers (such as using Archer) are not nearly as taxing, leading to problems keeping the runner out. That makes Hostile at the same time a synergy for Archer and an anti synergy, which puts Weyland in a difficult place.

Hostile will continue to be used for a long time. It is a five credit gain and an agenda point, and it is well worth it to turn on Archer most of the time. Perhaps it will fall out if another 1 point or even a 0 point agenda for Weyland is printed, but until then it is unlikely to stop being used, even at the drawback.

Posted Bounty Agenda: Security (#95 Core Set)

Posted BountyImpact 2 out of 5

While Posted Bounty received some use early on as a way to tag the runner for the Bagging that would come shortly after, it unfortunately suffers from a lot of problems to make it a worthwhile card. First off, as a three for one, it must be advanced over two turns to score it. While that could mean a score, scorch scorch combo on the second turn, it also requires a scoring window. Then because the corp must wait for a window, it sits in HQ where it can easily be stolen, messing up the plan.

Second, it must be forfeited immediately when scored, so if the rest of the kill combo is not in hand, then it is a hefty price - not only a lost potential agenda point, but a Bad pub that will make scoring future agendas harder.

That being said, the right playstyle around it can work - If say a SEA Source was in hand with the two Scorched, it could be used as bait. The runner heads down a taxing remote, and steals the agenda that was IAA’d. Then they are too low on credits to stop the SEA Source. Or if they don’t run down, advance, score, scorch scorch. That is a four card combo however, which makes it tricky.

Posted Bounty has too many problems to make its upsides (The chance of a dead if you do, dead if you don’t scenario) worthwhile.

Security Subcontract Asset: Transaction (#96 Core Set)

Security SubcontractImpact 1 out of 5

Another Weyland Core set card that has seen almost no use. Security Subcontract is a very interesting card that may see some use as new ICE such as Little Engine comes into play. ICE that is good for a while, then a huge drawback once the runner has the tools needed.

The main problem is that even if the ICE is not stopping the runner, its taxing them, even if that tax is only a credit or two. Once that ICE is rezzed it’s not costing the corp any money to keep it up, but it costs the runner every time they go through it. With ICE like Little Engine however, there comes a point where the runner is probably breaking even to get through it, making it not even worth as a tax. If there is more ICE like this that is worth playing, Security Subcontract could be worth a slot to at least get some of the money back. Of course, because the corp can just trash ICE whenever they install new ones on that server, which not only removes the problem, but also gets a new piece of ICE that may actually tax the runner, is usually a far better choice than a simple four credits.

Aggressive Negotiation Operation (#97 Core Set)

Aggressive NegotiationImpact 2 out of 5

A tutor card is a tutor card, and it is a little surprising that this isn’t seen more. There is a little surprise that this was never in an Astro train deck, but that may be because influence was too tight, and lets face it - Fast Track is just better for that purpose. The requirement to score an agenda first makes Aggressive Negotiation harder to use - not only does the corp have to score something, but they have to have the card in hand at that same time. Predicting scoring windows is not that easy to do, and who knows what RD is going to hand up.

However, unlike Fast Track it doesn’t have to be revealed, and it doesn’t have to be an agenda. Need that last bit of kill for the combo? Or whatever other card is in that crazyness? This can find it. It is also in faction with Project Atlas, which while a bit harder to get off, can do the same thing - without the click. That fact that not only does an agenda need to be scored but a free click has to be left to use this card is what has really hampered Aggressive Negotiation from getting play.

Still, in a cambridge style deck (Personal Evolution or even Argus Security) there may be a place for it.

Beanstalk Royalties Operation: Transaction (#98 Core Set)

Beanstalk RoyaltiesImpact 3 out of 5

The corp version of Easy Mark, the bonus that Beanstalk has is its Transaction key word, which out of Because We Built It makes it absolutely fantastic. Zero credits for four makes it as good as a Hedge Fund with less investment, and puts the corp up into range to quickly use Hedge Fund into Restructure.

Unfortunately, it has fallen out of style. While it is a great way to jumpstart an economy that has fallen low (or even bankrupt) there are only so many deck slots. There are economy cards that give better profit (for more investment, of course, or more risk) that often work out better for the deck slots available. Economy creeps, one of the few things that gets progressively more powerful in Netrunner, and older cards like Beanstalk fall out of style to make room for economy that gives more total profit.  It is still a good solid card; one card and one click to make three credits is a pretty standard baseline, and even other economy cards just get slightly better (one or two more credits) for substantially more investment.

Scorched Earth Operation: Black Ops (#99 Core Set)

Scorched EarthImpact 5 out of 5

Well, this is the card that defines an entire archetype; Kill them. Meat damage flatlining always has a few Scorched Earth in the deck, even if those decks are branching out into additional cards like Punitive Counterstrike and Traffic Accident. Yet Scorched Earth remains the solid core of that strategy - four meat damage is a brutal hit, and two of them in a row after getting tagged on that first click is death for any runner that doesn’t have a Carapace.

This card has possibly also limited Weyland in a lot of ways. At four influence, it is going to take up a chunk of any other decks influence to include, and that limits it outside of Weyland. Inside however, it can just be thrown in there for no opportunity cost other than card slots. That makes it a card that has to be designed around - too much tagging in Weyland and it becomes too easy to use. Too much other meat damage and it becomes too easy to use. Too much good ICE to keep them out and it becomes easier to use. Design decisions have to be considered around cards like Scorched Earth which define the Flatline by Meat damage archetypes all on their own.

At the same time, the threat of Scorched Earth means the runner must always be aware of it when playing Weyland… even if that corp doesn’t have any in the deck. That makes it a powerful card that has to be respected, and the impact on the game as a whole as high as it can be.

Shipment from Kaguya Operation (#100 Core Set)

Shipment from KaguyaImpact 2 out of 5

Free advancements sounds like a great thing, and indeed - like Shipment from SanSan this is more of an economy card than anything else. It saves money, and also clicks, compressing work down to the benefit of the corp. The drawback comes with having to have two different cards to advance to get the worth out of it. Agenda’s are difficult to use with it, and while there are some assets that can be advanced, it is hard to keep those things on the table long enough to make the free advancement worth it.

It really shines with the advanceable ICE however, especially when playing around those types. More often than not there will be more than one piece of ICE that can be advanced on the table in a deck that uses that mechanic, making full use of the card. Advanceable ICE hasn’t really seen its day in the sun yet, and while some uses have been made for them, they haven’t really come out as a strategy to be reckoned with. If/When they do, Shipment from Kaguya will undoubtedly make a bigger splash as part of that strategy.

Archer ICE: Sentry - Destroyer (#101 Core Set)

ArcherImpact 4 out of 5

Possibly the most devastating piece of ICE in Weyland, it is a sentry that all fear when facing the corp. It is extremely taxing to run through - while maybe the runner doesn’t break that 2credit subroutine, it can still cost a pretty penny to get through for most breakers. Despite the forfeit additional cost to rez, it is rather cheap, making it easy to force a runner into it. Not only does it keep them out then, but it also can really set the runner’s rig back, opening up huge scoring windows. Against some runners that play dangerously with only one copy of a breaker and little to no recursion it can completely shut them out.

Don’t let the cost of the agenda put a bad side on this card. First, Weyland has a Two for One in faction in Hostile Takeover. This is a staple part of a lot of Weyland’s economy, especially those Weyland decks which care less about keeping the runner out and more about just slowing them down to set up for the Flatline. Hostile is a perfect target for Archer - indeed, while it can be very possible to sack a two or even three pointer to Archer, rarely the tempo gained is worth the loss of points for anything beyond a single pointer.

With that agenda in faction and very easy to get on the table to power up Archer, this sentry becomes a devastating weapon to use against a runner who face checks without a killer - or two broke to use the one they have installed. Archer remains a constant threat and will remain a strong piece of ICE.

Hadrian's Wall ICE: Barrier (#102 Core Set)

Hadrian's WallImpact 3 out of 5

As an advanceable piece of ICE, Hadrian’s is the big guy, the tall and strong barrier. Two subroutines makes it taxing even for those breakers with high strength, and the ability to advance it means that it can always get more taxing.

So why doesn’t Hadrian’s see more play? As a taxing barrier goes, it is phenomenal, taxing breakers for (usually) six plus credits. It is hard to get out, and that is a problem - getting to ten credits can be an issue, and advancing it after it’s rezzed can be hard to do because of the cost to rez it. Other big barriers are at time even more taxing - Curtain Wall can tax even more for only a Hedge Fund more worth of credits, Asteroid Belt taxes less but can potentially be free. Tricks to rez it, like Oversight AI can leave it vulnerable with only the two subroutines, though a Priority Requisition can be very nice to target Hadrians with, it is hard to score such a five for three without the big status of the wall first. It is smack dab in the middle, and as with a lot of the variety of similar cards, the ones in the middle of the pack get used least.

Hadrian’s Wall is posed to make a comeback though. Gone are the days where Corroder was the only fracter needed. As runners start to make use of token based breakers like Lady or even D4v1d, Hadrian’s could make a comeback. Only one token for Lady, but four credits is still a respectable tax. D4v1d takes an even harder hit, using two of its tokens just to get through Hadrian’s wall. That is pretty respectable.

Ice Wall ICE: Barrier (#103 Core Set)

Ice WallImpact 4 out of 5

This piece of ICE is extremely good. Cheap to rez with an End the Run Subtroutine, it makes protecting early servers very good. Score a quick agenda behind it, stop an Account Siphon or The Maker's Eye run. Or just keep the runner out until a fracter is installed.

Overall, this ICE is simple, but effective. It isn’t flashy, it doesn’t have a lot of subroutines, but it does what it does very well and very cheap. Then, if the corp has free time and money lying around while they are waiting to find a window, it can even be advanced. That not only makes it more taxing to the runner, but a gives an easy to find battery for advancement cards like Trick of Light and Commercialization

Simple, easy, and without complications, but with the possibility for more is what makes ICE wall so good, and what keeps it going into decks.

Shadow ICE: Sentry - Tracer (#104 Core Set)

ShadowImpact 2 out of 5

Shadow is an underused piece of ICE. In faction tagging is extremely good for Weyland, but that comes on the price of it being ICE - Subroutines rarely fire more than once, and certainly not a second time without the runner being prepared for it to do so. Shadow however, is advanceable. This means that even if the runner isn’t going to hit it, they may not be able to run it if they don’t want the tag. Runner is using Mimic as their primary killer? Then triple advanced and this card means the runner now has to deal with a trace five to avoid a tag, or waste a click every time they want to run through it. A Builder in front of it can suddenly put it out of the runner’s reach to break, and of course Corporate Troubleshooter can really put the subroutines back into effect.

Still, tags from ICE are harder to land, more often needing on encounter effects (Data Raven) or simply being that it is more effective to take the tag and clear it afterward, for being too expensive to avoid in the first place (Gutenberg). Shadow is however, in faction for one of the most potent forms of tag punishment, and that makes it dangerous - if underused.

Research Station Upgrade: Facility (#105 Core Set)

Research StationImpact 1 out of 5

Hand size increase for corp is not nearly as important as for the runner. For the runner it can be a life or death situation, and with the ability to reduce their own handsize by using brain damage cost cards, it can be necessary to include cards that increase it. The main benefit for the corp is protecting agenda’s in HQ a little better. However, there is also a problem - to get that better protection, more cards need to be drawn, shortening the game.

In a combo heavy deck it can be nice to increase the options in hand for the corp, keeping more cards in hand, so more options while holding onto the pieces for the end game. Both of these advantages can be solved by more effective methods however. Scoring agendas, or purposefully overdrawing with Jackson Howard to trash them can protect agendas, with the added benefit Jackson already provides for most decks. Tutor cards can find the pieces of a combo a lot better, and can be used to find it ‘earlier’ than it necessarily would have been.

Research Station provides an effect which the corp doesn’t really need. Only  two other cards, both Identities, increase hand size for the corp, showing how little of an effect it has in the game design space. Maybe with Cybernetics Division having the opposite effect, it could find a use, but it would probably be better to simply play with that restriction and learn to work around it, than wasting deck slots on an effect that isn’t really needed.

Weyland in Core

Weyland suffered a bit in core, having really only one solid solution - kill them. It worked, and it was dangerous, but when Plascrete Carapace was released it really hurt that strategy until more tools were given to the green money making monsters.

Next Week, Power Creep

Next week Wyldside takes a break from card impact reviews to discuss Power Creep, what this is, how Netrunner has been pretty much avoiding it, and what it means for card design.

Reminder: This article was written with the meta up through “Breaker Bay/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).

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