I've only been playing Netrunner for a few months and in addition to becoming utterly captivated by the game I've been pretty blown away by the amazing community surrounding it. So much so I wanted to write an article about my experiences over the first few months.
When contemplating this article I joked with Cerberus about entitling it; “the ten stages of account siphon rage” admittedly an inside (job) joke for his persistent Account Siphoning antics against my Jinteki PE deck where he then wipes out all my lovely traps one by one, without being able to fire them. I HATE that card! Anyhoo... the idea of stages of something I thought would be the good basis of an article. Something which I've also discovered having now written this article was done by Mr Dave Paterson himself in his amusing seven sins of Netrunner article. If you don't think it’s that funny, there’s also a picture of some boobs at the end, and who doesn’t love boobs? In fact I think I might steal that idea as well...
The stages I wanted to pass through were the kubler-ross stages of grief, which once you've got over the image of me dressed in black listening to my chemical romance (I’m actually listening to Taylor Swift - she just gets me!), it does actually provide a range of emotions and experiences that have lead me to a state of eat, sleep, snare, repeat.
First up confession time, so when I said I first started playing Netrunner for the first time a few months ago, that’s not strictly true. I played it when it first came out, quite a bit actually, but I quickly grew bored of it; there wasn’t enough depth or strategy to keep me interested. It seemed to take forever for FFG to get out their first few data packs and by that time I was either not interested or had gone on to play something else. Wait, it gets worse...
I'm quite active within a few gaming groups, and on more occasion than I'd like to admit I’d had people ether paying it before my very eyes, or saying; “hey have you played the FFG reboot of Netrunner, it’s the sort of thing you'd enjoy, it’s got lots of depth and you get to take people apart piece by piece and flaunt your superiority” (as my handle suggests I like winning A LOT). “Yes I’ve played it” I’d declare; “but it wasn’t for me, there isn't enough depth or varying strategies, you see the factions and you know what's going to happen before the game begins. I like to kill people in ways they don't expect. They tend to find it more annoying.” “But there's an element of bluffing and deception and you always seem to enjoy that in X,Y and Z.” “Yes, but not enough...”
In hind sight I probably should have re-started again sooner, maybe it was my stubbornness, or once bitten twice shy, as we all know getting in to an LCG especially one with a fast advancing meta is an expensive business especially my impatience to be competitive. As Sophocles once wrote; “I have no desire to suffer twice, in reality and then in retrospect.” I instead stuck to my boardgames and the Lord of the Rings LCG. Both of which I still enjoy thoroughly, just not as much as Netrunner. So there you have it, denial isn’t just a river that runs through Egypt I’ve been having it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for quite some time, but I’m come to my senses now and thank Jackson Howard I have!
It may seem strange but this is what gets me in to most games. I love anger, it’s my favourite emotion. We've all had that feeling where you've play against someone with a weird deck or an unexpected strategy and you get absolutely slapped. This annoys me and makes me angry, I had it last week playing Cerberus against an annoying MaxX deck that does nothing for 5 or 6 turns and then when its ready to go unleashes hell Russell Crowe style on R&D with Medium, Incubator and Hivemind to dig for 22 cards, twice... But that’s a good thing, it means there’s something to learn from, a new strategy that you've learnt and you either need to deck build, or adjust your strategy accordingly. You bring about change from anger, apathy gets you nowhere. It reminds me of the Noise quote on Chum - “You ever get that feeling like you're shark food? Pay attention to that feeling.” Sometimes you notice the blood around you too late, other times you don’t notice it at all, but you didn’t lose, you just found another way not to beat that deck.
This ultimately is what I think is at the core of my addiction to Netrunner, there's a quote on the Netrunner review on Eurogamer describing Netrunner at its most basic; "I want to sit down with someone, shake his hand, and take him apart." Sometimes you do that and it’s the best feeling ever to have succeeded, but there’s the flip side to that you are going to lose and it’s what you do with that, do you go again and come back stronger or resort to apathy? This is what I love about playing games, and it's all done in good spirit and gamesmanship, but the desire to win, outsmart outmanoeuvre and best your opponent is at the very core of Netrunner, there’s no luck; it’s you and your cards, so when you lose it’s your fault, and so you get angry and strive to do better. In my opinion Netrunner does this better than any other game I’ve played.
We've all made deals with the card gods at some point or another; please just let me draw the scorched earth and I won't ask for another card all day... Please let me win the psi game I'll never ask for anything ever again!
I recently competed in my first two competitions in quick succession. The first a GNK down at the games bunker in Gloucester, where I went with the aim of not totally embarrassing myself and winning 1 game over the 4 rounds of Swiss (unlike most I set my sights low that way you'll rarely be disappointed). Nervous as I was I lost both my games in the first round of Swiss after making stupid mistakes. Second round went much better; I won my first game after the Netrunner gods had answered my prayers. Satisfied? No... Just let me win 2, another victory follows... I ended up 3-5 over the rounds of Swiss and got a silhouette box for my first tournament.
That weekend I headed up to the Manchester regionals, I'd set myself a target of a 50% win ratio and seeing where that took me. I entered my final round of Swiss at 7-5 assured of my 50% goal. Satisfied? Nope! If I can win this round 2-0 then maybe I can make top 16 and I'll never ask for anything ever again I promise. I finished 9-5 and placed 19th.
I'm already going to Sheffield with an aim of making the top 16, if I do I'll never ask for anything again ever...
It's this internal monologue that keeps us driving forward this endless pursuit of improvement, the pressure and psychology knowing at whatever level you are playing at, everyone has their own personal goals and reap the satisfaction (and rewards) of surpassing them. I'm sure life is good at the top, but underneath is pretty fun as well.
I've already admitted to running a Jinteki PE deck, but if you think this section is about Snare/Cerebral/Junebug remorse than you're sadly mistaken. All's fair in love and war, plus I didn't make you run at that server, you hear that MartinP? You're the master of your own destruction! The guilt I guess I've experienced is down to the commitment required at times to play Netrunner competitively, spending a weekend day away from my loved ones, not listening to their troubles and conversations because I'm thinking about a game I've just played or a new improved version of my current deck.
I spoke to Cerberus about what he thought made a good Netrunner player, the answer which I guess I already knew was kind of obvious; commitment. Commitment to understanding the meta, studying the cards messing with strategies, commitment to gaining experience. Playing games again and again, losing again and again. It's all time consuming and an inconvenience to those around us, and yet we still make the decision to inconvenience those around us, if you want to see the extreme of this check out Joey's London regionals report, I have nothing but admiration for that act and can only imagine how badly he was castrated when he got home. So to that degree I do feel an element of guilt, but as I always remind my long suffering wife; she knew what I was like when she married me, she only has herself to blame.
After restarting playing the game again I'd pretty quickly decided the first deck I was going to play competitively was Jinteki PE, I love the bluffing nature of it, the aggression and traps within it, a game is never boring and I always have fun. It's also good to see the roller coaster of emotions the runner goes through when they are deciding do I run, do I not run, right, F' it I'm running! No! I'm not! Only to watch me score out the future perfect on the next turn and mushin out another card to watch the process go all over again... Only the boring ones focus on r&d and hq, a real man would run a triple advanced card 4th click with no cards in hand!
On the runner side I struggled, badly. I picked up an Andy Datasucker deck as that seemed to be what everyone and his dog was running, but it didn't seem a comfortable fit, the strategy did make sense and I knew what I was trying to achieve but I just didn't feel very flexible with it. It's like wearing someone else's shoes, they're nice enough and get the job done, but they're still someone else's shoes. So after a stint of losing a lot I ditched poor old Andy and moved on. Now you might be thinking having read this that I like being aggressive, getting in where people live and burning their house down anarch player surely...Yup me too.
I moved on to Noise, couldn't get it going either, Valencia? Nope. MaxX? Too inconsistent for me. I was pretty much miffed at this point. What's the point in playing if I'm sure 9/10 times I'm going to lose my runner game? Kind of makes the corp side a little redundant.
I retreated in to my shell a little and did some thinking. What was is I couldn't get my head around? Why was I struggling so badly, I understood quite well the meta, corp thought and generally what it was they were trying to do, but I was still struggling to get her done, so to speak. I moved to shaper. A breaker for a piece of ice, you use it, pay your credits and you're through. Easy right? Wrong! I got slapped, a lot. But I felt a little bit more comfortable and assertive in my games. I was losing from mistakes, and on my own terms, dictating play in a way I hadn't done with the others.
I went away and look through netrunnerdb at deck ideas and crossed what I wanted to play and how I wanted to play it. I settled on an aggressive PPVP Kate deck with the determination of know it was the deck I was going to take to my first tournament even if I hated it by then.
I'm a big fan of the phrase; "depression is just anger without the enthusiasm" and while not wishing to make light of people who suffer with depression, that certainly rings true for me. I resolved that I would play again and again until I got it right. So I set aside my free time and loaded up OCTGN and my Taylor Swift soundtrack and started racking up the games. Loss, loss, loss, win, loss, loss, loss, rage quit, shake it off... The cycle continued, eventually it clicked, I understood my deck how it worked, what its weaknesses when to run, when not to run, how to win and I'd only aged 30 years in the process!
I think it's probably quite clear by now that I'm determined to (successfully) compete at Netrunner. I already know by now that sometimes I'll hate the game, other times I'll love it, either way I'll still keep coming back for more. That's just who I am. On top of that the company could be worse. I've been attending events and tournaments for a few months now and I have yet to meet someone who I disliked, and is as discussed set my bar low with everything, you're a dick unless proved otherwise... Everyone is welcoming, friendly and even in tournament play don't take it so seriously as to the extent of being that dick, who yes did win, but gets to celebrate it alone, or with their Mum. At Manchester my favourite game was with a guy who I'd never met before and within 5 minutes of playing we had a decent rapport going across the table, and a lot of banter. He killed me with his aggressive NEH deck and then I killed him back with my Jinteki PE. A lot of laughs on the table, no hard feelings afterwards and someone who I could talk to as a mate afterwards about how the tournament was going what other games we played, how long it would be before we bought in to the My Little Pony CCG. That to me is a rarity outside of Netrunner and it's brilliant, despite it being competitive and us both obviously wanting to win it's also about having a laugh at the end of the day.
I guess going forward I have accepted that I'm going to be playing Netrunner competitively for as long as I can, with the hope one day of winning something of significance, right now that's a playmat and after that I won't want anything again ever... But if not I've accepted that regardless I'll be having a lot of fun along the way and making a lot of great friends...
So there you have it; my decline in to Netrunner addiction, but I suppose it’s better than a heroin addiction. Perhaps not quite as good as a sex addiction, if that’s even a thing, as that has boobs, and everyone loves boobs right?!
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