The night before the UK Nationals tournament, I was walking into the Hilton reception when I ran into a friend of mine who I had not seen for a while. He had managed to organise attendance at the last moment. I was feeling pretty sleazy; I’d been drinking since arriving at Edinburgh airport at 8 o’clock that morning because my parents were incredibly successful at instilling in me the importance of punctuality while travelling by plane but utterly unsuccessful in curbing my innate irresponsibility.
By eleven in the evening, the Games Expo had become a nerdy facsimile of Hunter S. Thompson’s Las Vegas binge, all even unnatural lighting, harried staff, exhausted costumed attendants weighed down by their props and a thin film of sweat on everything.
I’d spent much of the past two hours watching another friend slowly losing his mind, staring at three decks worth of Haas Bioroid cards spread face-up across two tables of the Hilton breakfast area with a blankness of mirth and understanding one normally only sees on the wrong side of 9am when the techno rhythm has been fully internalised by the few fools pretending that whatever it is that they’re still doing constitutes a party.
Running into a fresh face jolted me out of my entirely enjoyable but rather unsavoury state of mind. As we walked back to the breakfast area he asked what decks I was using and I told him that I was going to be running Kit. This didn’t surprise him as much as it did some of my opponents the next day; I’d been playing Kit for a long time and had won a store championship with her in Scotland.
I confessed to him that I now wished I’d spent some time becoming familiar with a more conventionally competitive deck for nationals. Despite having spent the previous months loudly declaring that Kit is the best runner (I also spent some time declaring my Industrial Genomics to be a tier one deck) I now – at the very last minute – was full of doubt. My friend agreed that she isn’t very strong but assured me that I was a strong player and that my tenacity had paid off in at least making my Kit deck good on its own terms. As an American he’s prone to sincere compliments like this. It’s absolutely ghastly.
Ultimately, I did rather well at Nationals. I went to the event hoping – though not necessarily expecting – to sneak into the top sixteen, having been a little disappointed by my performance at the Scottish Regional. In the end I took fourth place, being knocked out of the elimination by the ultimately victorious Alex and the always charming Tim. I was immensely pleased and proud of this result but the thing that made it particularly sweet was the performance of my Kit deck.
The deck lost only two games the entire day and defeated two highly skilled opponents fielding the dreaded Replicating Perfection in the elimination rounds. This confirmed for me the power of Kit and the deck that I’d accidentally built.
About four months after starting to play Netrunner last year, I settled on Shaper as my preferred runner faction.
The core shell of solid economy options and flexible tutoring and recursion allowed me to experiment with odd splashes and fun combinations of cards. At this point, still hungry for every victory I could get, I vacillated between Kate and Chaos Theory for a number of builds but always found myself missing the aggression of the other factions.
Rather than using a convoluted marriages of programs, hardware and events in order to make cheap runs using Cyber-Cypher or Yog.0 on Dinosaurus, I suspected that Kit’s ability might be best exploited in allowing a level of aggression usually lacking from the faction. These thoughts were crystallised listening to Run Last Click when Tim of the London meta, who was already a long-time Kit player, gave his views on the subject.
Buoyed by this, I slashed my influence count by five and hunted out some copies of Tinkering. I’ve included one of the lists I started with here.
Although the meta has moved since I used this deck it was not dramatically more competitive than it looks now on paper. It did win a couple of small local tournaments but I never truly believed I had transcended the second-tier status that Kit had inhabited since her release. Looking at the places I was spending influence might have you doubting that I was trying to. You’d be pretty much right.
Here’s the strange bit though. The biggest problem with the deck wasn’t my dubious influence spends or even the limited amount of that influence available to Kit. While Gordian Blade is a fine card, mirroring the enviable efficiency of Corroder with a bonus ability for an increased cost, four credits was just too much to install and start using immediately. The tempo hit was too great, particularly if it was tutored for with an SMC.
While the deck had the ability to run more aggressively than its Chaos Theory and Kate predecessors, it couldn’t do so with enough consistency that the influence penalty seemed worth the exchange. Games often entered the late game without the deck having established any kind of advantage and Gordian lacked the muscle of hyper-efficient breakers now common (Lady, D4v1d, Cyber-Cypher) to maintain consistent pressure once servers were established.
I still believe that Gordian Blade was the correct choice of the available decoders at the time. Zu.13, while deliciously cheap to install, could hardly do justice to Kit’s ability in the mid or late game. Torch was entirely reliant on Test Run/Scavenge if getting it into play wasn’t to prove such a tempo hit that one might as well have played Kate. Neither of these – or the use of both, as is sometimes suggested - seemed to provide the early game aggression and late game consistency I felt was possible.
For a while I drifted from Kit but there remained an itch at the back of my mind that wouldn’t shift.
When the purple-haired transhuman’s salvation was released I didn’t recognise it.
A number of stealth decks emerged throughout the Lunar cycle, with Stealth Andy probably receiving the most online attention. In the Edinburgh meta there were a couple of full stealth rigs out of Kate. Its power when set up was amazing but as corp I found myself consistently outpacing them. Rather than address the weaknesses of Shaper at the time, the stealth cards seemed to magnify them while also playing to their strengths. Stealth decks took longer to set up, and increased their already formidable late game strength.
Eventually, when discussing stealth rigs in general with a friend of mine, we agreed that the problem of setting them up was the quantity of stealth credits required for either Switchblade or Dagger on top of the usual burden of assembling a functioning set of breakers. Staring me in the face was the fact that Kit’s ability and Refractor’s innate strength addressed both of these issues.
3x Dirty Laundry
2x Legwork ••••
3x Sure Gamble
3x Clone Chip
1x Plascrete Carapace
3x R&D Interface
3x Daily Casts
3x Ghost Runner
2x Kati Jones
3x Professional Contacts
1x Utopia Shard •
1x Corroder ••
1x Deus X
1x Mimic •
1x Clot ••
3x Self-modifying Code
10 influence spent (max 10)
45 cards (min 45)
Cards up to The Valley
As everyone who knows me is very tired of hearing, Refractor is a magnificent program. If its stats were those of any of the other stealth breakers I don’t think stealth out of Kit would work at all. I’d go so far as to venture that it was designed at least partially with the intention of making her relevant. The install cost, the innate strength and, of course, the lovely stealth strength boost are ideally suited to enabling the early pressure and late game efficiency that Kit requires.
Those of you not yet bored by my enthusing will recognise that it addresses every problem presented by the use of Gordian that I’d experienced in the past. Against a rushing deck it is cheaply installed, even through use of a Self-Modifying Code. Rush decks typically use cheap, low strength ICE, so stealth credits aren’t required to overcome their early game defences. Against larger ICE even just a couple of recurring credits negates the breaking tax that is normally assumed. Even against a Tollbooth (one of the few reliably taxing pieces of ICE in the current meta), two Lockpicks have you flying through for a mere three ‘real’ credits.
Of course, as with all stealth decks, the cost of this is the deckspace required for the support cards. This is a very real issue. Personally, I find keeping to a sensible deck size to be the toughest constraint on my deck construction these days, even more so when using IDs with more generous influence limits. Having said that, bringing Lockpick, Cloak and Ghost Runner into Kit solved a couple of other problems the deck had suffered from.
The first of these is quality one-click economy resources. Professional Contacts is a fantastic draw/economy hybrid engine – particularly if one is intending to install many low cost items, for example in a stealth deck – and works best with a click and forget economy. Daily Casts and the standard burst package often proved insufficient. The stealth credit cards supplement these very nicely. Whilst needing specific cards to get full use out of one’s breakers is a burden, they are – once in play – a boon. Kati Jones’ one-click-per-turn commitment also fits nicely. It took a while for the deck to finally abandon Magnum Opus; it being so click intensive really clashed with the deck’s game-plan.
The second problem solved by Refractor and the stealth suite is the Killer question. Pre-Paid Kate – inarguably the current top runner deck – generally has four or five cards to answer sentries. Here, rather than juggle one shot breakers, Datasuckers and an emergency Atman, having already included the stealth support cards means that Dagger happily solves all of one’s Killer concerns. Frequently, nasty sentries are going to be the outermost ICE and are happily dealt with by Refractor, which means that Dagger does a very fine job.
The deck that I took to nationals also ran a Mimic which is a steal at a single point of influence. I’ve since changed this. Prior to Clot it was still common to come up against NEH Astro-Biotics and in these match-ups having the Mimic to deal with Architect – and only Architect – was invaluable. Now that Replicating Perfection has changed its ICE composition away from high numbers of low strength sentries, I don’t think it justifies inclusion. For those that are curious, I’ve replaced it with a Crescentus which has done some good work in combination with Refractor and recurring credits.
The rest of the deck is best explained by the remaining influence use and a brief comparison with Pre-Paid Kate.
While Clot shows up in almost all Kate decks too, it was particularly important in improving my Kit deck’s performance. Kate is able to unleash multi-access pressure at a moment’s notice with fair regularity. In contrast, my Kit deck’s early pressure is more harrying than hammer-blow. Whilst effective, it was often insufficient against Astro-Biotics if they saw the right cards at the right time. Similarly, HB hybrid decks with cheap taxing ICE and the option of scoring from hand could be problematic. Although I miss the Parasite in many match-ups, Clot covers more holes for the deck than Parasite did.
Being able to source the Killer and additional (stealth) economy without spending influence means that Kit’s meagre ten influence is sufficient to supply adequate HQ pressure in the form of two Legwork and a Corroder. With the release of Lady, Shapers gained a fine solution to many popular barriers; its absence in this deck is due in part to a lack of deckspace for a comfortable level of recursion and because Corroder allows repeated cheap runs on lightly defended servers.
The final influence is spent on Utopia Shard. This has earned its inclusion in more games than I can count. It’s such a fantastic card that I include it in most runner decks these days but it is particularly sweet in a deck like this where runs on HQ are often entirely funded by recurring credits. It’s also a great alternative to a second Plascrete Carapace that the deck might otherwise require.
Rather than fluidity and explosive pressure, this deck builds to a board state where multi-access runs on R&D occur every turn and no remote is too taxing. It also retains enough turn-by-turn pressure to keep the Corporation on the back foot. The current Corporation meta is geared up to fight Kate, and appears to be weak to this approach, concerned as it is with taxing Lady counters and countering consistent recursion from the heap. These tactics are largely irrelevant against this deck.
I am unaware – most likely because I’ve spent so much time playing Kit to the exclusion of other runners – of another deck in the current meta that so cleanly moves towards a favourable late game without surrendering the early game too severely.
Pre-Paid Kate is undoubtedly a better deck. It is a monster. But as the current resurgence of Whizzard shows, other beasts can also thrive.
As briefly mentioned above, the week after Nationals I went to a GNK tournament in Stirling. I took some silly decks, enjoying the opportunity to indulge in low-stress Netrunner but Kit still made an appearance. In the first round my opponent told me that my deck had inspired his. Another couple of players in Edinburgh have built versions of my deck too. I won’t lie and tell you that this doesn’t make me feel good, or that I don’t feel that I have been recognised for having a talent for deckbuilding. Or even that I don’t sometimes feel like I’ve somehow “arrived,” as absurd as that is.
That admission of hubris aside, if you’ve taken the time to read this far and if this article has had the slightest impact on your Netrunner intentions going forward, don’t let that impact only be to copy my deck. For one thing, you don’t want to contribute any further to my ego.
Of course, I’d be delighted if people started to play this deck, if people recognised the strength of Kit and most importantly if people started experimenting with and improving upon it. But that’s not the point. The point is that without ever really meaning to, I built a good deck. You can too. And if you’re anything like me, every win it racks up will be all the sweeter for the time and effort that has gone into it.
I’ll leave you with the story of my first elimination round at the UK Nationals. My opponent – a lovely man and great player – was the higher seed. He asked what IDs I was running so that he could choose the more favourable match-up. I told him Blue Sun and Kit. He murmured “Blue Sun and Kate” while considering his options and raised an eyebrow when I corrected him: “I’m running Kit.”
He chose to play his corporation deck and I smiled inwardly, knowing that he had no idea what was in store for him.
Massive thanks to the Scottish Netrunner scene and the Quality Time crew for getting me into this wonderful game and for putting up with playing against various iterations of this deck for months. Thanks also to all the lovely people I've played across the UK and elsewhere in the last few months and a special thanks to Peter for editing and proof-reading this article.
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