I thought I’d do a report for my trip to Worlds, this is the 3rd year that I have been fortunate enough to go to Minnesota and take part in the Android: Netrunner World Championship.
Knowing what decks to take to a Netrunner tournament is hard!
This is basically what I’d been thinking for several weeks: the meta is in a strange place where there are a lot of good decks that you need to be able to beat, but they are all very different and you want different decks to deal with each. For me right now the difficult decisions are on the runner side rather than the corp. I think there are a number of very viable decks for corp. Near-Earth Hub, Industrial Genomics and SYNC all look strong. I’m less convinced on Palana and kill decks but they are definitely being played and you can’t afford to ignore them.
This is one of the most interesting things about Netrunner – trying to judge the meta and what decks are going to be good. The UK meta in particular is in an interesting place, with many people dropping Whizzard in favour of some flavour of Shaper. This seems to be a response to a huge increase in NBN decks, often taking up over 50% of the field of a given event. Also, fewer people are playing IG than was first expected; there are normally a few representing it at each tournament but there aren’t huge numbers and the deck hasn’t been winning.
The question then is what has a good game against all of those varied corp decks? Recently I’d been playing Whizzard with Siphon but I didn’t really think that it was universally strong. The Palana match wasn’t good if your opponent knew what was coming or were able to swiftly recover economically. SYNC too isn’t great because you are taking so many tags but the other match ups are pretty solid, especially that against IG. With little IG expected and a lot of yellow, I needed a different deck but it had to be one that didn’t just fall apart against glacier, and that was what Leela had done in recent testing.
After conversations with several people I decided to play Apocalypse Kate, popularised by El-ad. I asked him for his most recent list and started testing with it. It is undoubtedly a good deck, but I wasn’t happy with it. Without Clot, it struggled to keep NBN in check long enough to Apocalypse them and then Index them to death. So, I changed the influence around to include this and made a few other changes to breakers and economy. I also added a Councilman to aid in the Palana match up.
I have been pretty set on my corp choice throughout regional season, I have been playing a 49 card IG deck, that combo kills the runner using Dedication Ceremony and Ronin (among other cards). This is a deck I’ve been talking to Chris Hinkes (of Cambridge PE fame) about, and he’s been running something similar. It is a great deck and has generally been seeing positive player feedback, as it isn’t a prison-lock deck. Despite winning a regional with this deck, I’m still not going to publish it. Part of its strength is the question mark about what is in it, and that keeps changing as we refine it. When Whizzard was everywhere this deck still performed; with less Whizzard around I can only see it becoming stronger.
With my decks prepared my tournament buddy, Mark, and I travelled the long distance to the event. I almost bailed on the weekend to spend time with my wife, and this is a theme at the various times I’ve realised I’m going to be away all weekend. I am very lucky to have an understanding and supportive wife!
Day 1: The Swiss
Arriving in Stockport, the site is an old mill and looks pretty terrible from the outside. But I’ve played in some terrible venues, so I’m not too worried. However, inside, the place is amazing. It is huge, really well set-up with TV screens displaying time remaining, pairings and, during lunch, football. It has a bar and a shop selling a wide variety of games and good toilets. Overall Element Games was a great venue and I highly recommend people checking it out if they are ever in the area. I’ve also heard their online store is very good.
66 people are in attendance for this regional.
Round 1: Au-Revoir Andy and SYNC
My opponent is a fairly new player. I know because I played him a month ago in his first regional, also in round 1. This is his second regional, so he’s got some bad luck, I guess, to have to play me round 1 on both occasions. IG pretty much crushes Andy as he takes time setting up, while I assemble my combo kill.
The SYNC match up is pretty rough as I hit all of the News Teams and, towards the end of the game, it is only Clot lock that is preventing him from winning. He shuffles in 2 Cyberdex and another card with his last Jackson and, a few turns later, installs in a remote when I have Clot out. I run R&D which has only 2 cards in it and hit a CVS killing my Clot. I dig for another Clone Chip but, unable to find anything, I hit R&D last click hoping for the win or a trashable card.
I find a CVS, trash it and win when my opponent’s mandatory draw decks him.
Round 2: Dumblefork and Palana
This round is against Paul who I know to be a really strong player. I run first against his Palana and am still setting up when he manages to score his first Nisei. I make an expensive run on R&D through an Assassin, Lotus Field and something else to see nothing. Checking HQ I manage to pull an agenda, and a Dirty Laundry covers my Archives run which he doesn’t Nisei, obviously not seeing the Apocalypse coming until it is too late. In the following turns I manage to get to 6 points while he re-establishes his board. The game gets interesting during a turn when he installs and advances in a remote with an upgrade. I install a councilman and run it but cannot break the Excalibur so he spends the Nisei token, keeping me out. However he is broke and so takes a turn to Celebrity Gift and rez the Caprice in the remote instead of scoring the agenda. I get an Apocalypse off the next turn to close out the game.
In the return match, Paul does a great job of keeping my board clear of cards, and basically runs everything, managing to avoid death when hitting Psychic Fields. We play a nice game of who has the most currents over the course of the game swinging advantage back and forth between us. Paul manages to get a Future Perfect on his Film Critic when on 2 points. I install a card which is a Psychic Field expecting him to run it like he has everything else, he hits R&D stealing a Fetal AI. If I had installed the Bio Ethics instead He’d have been dead, but instead wins the next turn.
Round 3: Kit and SYNC
I sit down against a woman and am slightly more excited than I should be when she doesn’t know who I am. No idea why it mattered, but it was exciting as this normally doesn’t happen anymore. The Kit match up is pretty solid. She gets set up with a stealth rig and starts hitting R&D. I assemble my combo pieces and am able to kill her before bleeding too many points. Without tech, I think IG is a tough match up.
The reverse game is much more ropey. I don’t see much early economy and she baits me into running a QPM then midseasons me for a lot of tags. Things look bad, but I manage to pull off an Apocalypse to prevent her scoring and then hammer R&D hitting the agendas before she sees Exchange of Information or any more QPMs.
Round 4: Whizzard and NEH
I ICE up early and then spam out as many assets as I can. Even with Whizz and his recurring credits, his economy struggles to keep up. Once I find a Cerebral Static it becomes really tough for him, especially as he doesn’t seem to see much econ. A Bio-Ethics/Ronin combo finishes him off before Static ever leaves play.
The NEH match up is interesting. I run early and he doesn’t rez R&D allowing me to score 2 points. I keep running getting to 4 before he ICEs up further but he manages to score out an Astro before I can get an SMC on the board to threaten Clot. I take another 2 points from HQ and then the final agenda from R&D when I am going for my Apocalypse turn.
Round 5 & 6: Intentional Draws
At this point I am 7-1, and so I ID the next 2 games to finish 9-3, guaranteeing my spot for day 2. Unfortunately I finish in 6th seed, meaning I don’t get to pick my side in round 1 of the cut. Still worth IDing to guarantee making the cut.
This is where I would like to talk about intentional draws. Not whether they are good for the game or not, as I don’t think they are. However, I also don’t believe in handicapping myself by not using them.
I’d like to talk about how they were managed in this tournament. FFG don’t have any real guidance on how IDs should be managed by judges and previously my understanding was that you sit down against your opponent, call over a judge before discussing anything, then offer to ID. Your opponent then says yes or no. There has been no additional pressure from one side, as everything has happened in front of a judge.
In this tournament, they asked anyone who wanted to intentionally draw the next round to come up and confirm before the pairings were put up. If both sides had put the request in, then you would get an ID, if not – you played.
It was a little confusing at first, since I had wandered off initially and didn’t hear the announcement, but other than that it seemed to work well. The judge was very good and explained the logic well. He didn’t want there to be any pressure from one side, or any accusations of collusion. This system avoided both of these issues as you likely didn’t know who your opponent would be. The process was absolutely fine, I am not aware of any issues, but I think there needs to be a consistent process for how intentional draws are handled. And this needs to come from FFG: their rules on this currently are probably a bit relaxed.
I’m chatting to Mark who hasn’t made the cut, and I offer to drop from day 2 and go home. It’s fairer on him and it means that I get to see my wife rather than skip out on a day of gardening that we had planned if I didn’t make the cut. Mark thinks I am crazy and refuses. We stay overnight, and my brain is replaying the day’s games so I don’t sleep well, which is normal for me following a Netrunner tournament: I always analyse the mistakes that I made. I think that this is one of the things that make me good at Netrunner, but it is frustrating when I need to sleep!
Day 2: The Top Eight
Mark and I chat a lot about my first round match up against Tom. He is playing Siphon Chaos Theory and Prison IG, neither of which seem like great match-ups, but we are fairly sure that Tom will pick the safer choice and play IG. We think that the only way of winning is to land an early Apocalypse and/or get lucky with Indexing. The only other thought I have is to not die and this means keeping the option of Levy available meaning getting Same Old Thing on the table when I see it, and watching out for Chronos Project.
Elimination Round 1: Industrial Genomics
Tom and I shuffle up, and while waiting for everything to start, I stand up and start reading the opening chapter of Moby Dick. Gets a good laugh from those watching the top cut. Obviously it means I have to avoid slow play since I have made a joke about playing to time. Worth it.
Tom’s opening turn is to draw twice and ice archives, which seems like a standard IG play based on what I have seen from many players. I don’t have an indexing in hand to punish this play, but do have an Astrolabe, which will do great work in this match up. Tom immediately gets remotes down to start his Mumbad City Hall stuff going, however the remotes have drawn me into an Indexing, which I play and am fortunate enough to see a Chronos Project and a Future Perfect. I run back to steal the Chronos and then go for the Future Perfect on click 3. I bid zero, so Tom either drops low on money or gives up the agenda. I win the psi game to go up to 4 points.
The middle of the game things switch back to IG after I hit a Snare and he manages to get a Hostile Infrastructure rezzed to deny me my chance of Apocalypse. I set up quite quickly thanks to my free Astrolabe draws, after checking the cards I’ve not seen in remotes I got for a second Indexing that nets me a Global Food Initiative. Following this, Tom stacks 4 ICE on R&D to prevent the loss coming from another Indexing. He is also using Heritage Committee and so there is a high chance that HQ will have limited agendas.
I struggle to create an opening to get another agenda as I need to keep Bio Ethics off the board and that requires a decent number of credits. Eventually time is called with the board in the same state, I have few cards left in deck but still have the Levy to use.
Elimination Round 2: Noise
Most IG players are really happy when they see Noise, but I’m on 49 card IG and my deck is using a combo to kill. Therefore, Noise can be problematic because of the disruption his ability causes.
Early game is a little slow for both of us. I have to respond a few times to Lamprey threats and Imps that are stacked because of Grimoire. This slows me down a lot and I lose a few points from mills or R&D because of it. We have an interesting battle of currents where I get down a Cerebral Static to turn off his ability and he plays a Hacktivist Meeting as a counter. This is extremely interesting as I have my kill combo ready to go but if I rez my kill pieces there is a good chance that I will lose my Dedication Ceremony because of the Hacktivist. I try and sneak out a Philotic Entanglement but he checks it. In the end I use a Jackson to shuffle in my Static and another to draw hoping to find one of my two. .
Eventually I find one, and next turn go for my combo kill unfortunately hitting I’ve Had Worse. Time is called and so he checks archives and fails to win, losing his last two cards including his Levy to Shock. He runs R&D and dies to a Cortex Lock. This may sound like bad play on his part, but it definitely wasn’t. He knew I had the kill on my last turn and so if he Levy’d his only hope of surviving and getting a timed win was to draw an I’ve Had Worse and for me to hit it. Definitely not good odds
Elimination Round 3: Industrial Genomics
I’m through to the winners final, so if I can win this I make the grand final. I’m playing my Apocalypse Kate against Dan Sergeant’s Prison IG. Interesting fact – there were only two Prison IG players at the tournament, and both of them made the cut. Mark and myself were on 49 card IG and one other player was on Hot Tubs Gagarin.
I didn’t think this was a very good ID-pairing, but I have a better idea on how to approach it, following my round 1 match up. Dan however plays this differently to Tom and immediately protects R&D. He gets his MCH down and starts flooding the board. Again, my Astrolabe does great work keeping my speed up. I manage to take a food out of HQ early, but Dan’s board is definitely getting away from me, and when I go for an Apocalypse he doesn’t rez ICE so that he can use his Mumba Temple credits to rez a Hostile Infrastructure shutting down this game plan. When he gets a second rezzed, I know it isn’t a valid game plan anymore.
Part way through the game, when I go for an Indexing run using a Lady to get through Hive, the top 2 cards are both agendas and so I do zero changing to their order which is really frustrating. I pay a load of credits to go back and take my second Global Food of the game.
Generally I have been quite diligent at checking remotes and on one turn I check two of the three cards he has put down. Unfortunately, the one unchecked is the Chronos Project half my deck is wiped away. Luckily I haven’t lost anything that is key except the Lady, leaving me with Inti as my only Barrier breaker. This also leaves me with limited cards for when the Bio-Ethics lock sets in.
From this point in I spend my game making money and removing Bio-Ethics that make it onto the board. Even with two Hostile Infrastructure rezzed it is still better to do this, as often it takes a few turns for them to be found again. If this hadn’t been a game in the cut I think I would definitely have lost. However, when time is called I’m nowhere near being dead or scoring out and so I progress into the final, the score being 4-1.
The final ends up being Timo and me after Dan gets a game loss for having a difference between his deck list and his deck. I believe it was an ice change made at last minute which is very unfortunate. I’m pleased when both of my deck lists come back without incident. Though Steve, the judge, does play with me a bit by shaking his head as he walks up with my decks – that guy is a monster!
The Final: SYNC
I start off by running the open HQ while Timo throws out money operations like they are going out of fashion. This worries me as I’m not sure what type of SYNC he is playing, but doing nothing isn’t an option. The HQ runs net me Global Food, but my set up is generally a bit slow and Timo manages to get a San-San down behind ICE. He scores a Breaking News and exchanges it for my GFI.
The tags are an issue due to the resources that I am running so they have to go, but it slows me down even more and I worry about him scoring out off the San-San. A turn or so later I hit an Apocalypse but end up tagged due to Data Raven. Timo’s deck recovers faster than I wanted and I didn’t get any obvious openings to exploit. I end up keeping the two tags I got and soon regret it as I get hit by Closed Accounts, and allowing him to Psycho out an Astro. The game is over shortly after this. It felt like a pretty brutal beat down from my end of the table.
The Final Game 2: Andromeda
Going into this game the thing I am most worried about is getting repeat Siphoned and then him using the money to trash my stuff. I keep a hand with no draw but with ICE and a Hostile Infrastructure which I can use to dodge early Siphons. The game involves Timo getting off to a great early start with economy and draw while I spam out a few remotes that he doesn’t check. I double ice HQ and feel pretty safe when I get a 2nd Hostile down.
He R&D locks me after using Femme Fatale to get around my ICE. He has an R&D Interface down, and while I know where a number of the agendas are, there are definitely still enough in the deck for me to lose. I ICE R&D and, while he has the breaker he needs, it at least taxes him. Timo spends a lot of money to trash the Hostile and Genetics Pavillion that I rez.
The game goes for a few turns with him checking R&D and me searching for combo pieces. He scores a GFI but nothing else.
I’m not too worried as there is a Philotic on the board as another threat and there is always the chance that he will hit damage cards in R&D also enabling a kill. In the end I get my combo together and kill him before he finds the win in R&D. I think the match up is definitely IG favoured and he played it well, especially not knowing what my deck was doing.
I’m obviously really pleased to have won a regional, but am also pleased to that both decks performed so well. Especially my runner, which I tested once before taking it to the tournament. The runner deck definitely felt like it had gaps though. Most of the games I played against SYNC felt like a challenge, and I was lucky to win some of the games I played in the Swiss. So, while Apoc Kate only lost in the final across both days, that record could easily have been worse. I also think that I won some games before people figured out which version of Kate it was. The fact that Ben Blum’s regional winning list has so many similar cards really helps disguise the true purpose of the deck.
The corp deck dropped one game to Employee Strike Whizzard and even that game I could have won with better play. I’m absolutely convinced of the strength of this deck. Most of the hard work in building it was done by Chris Hinkes, as the version I used at the event was significantly better than previous versions, thanks to input from him.
Going forward, I need a new runner deck as I think that, without the shock factor, Apoc Kate isn’t something I’d want to play again. It all depends on if I can find a deck that can deal with the huge variety of strong corp decks that are around at the moment. If you have any cool suggestions then feel free to throw decks at me. However, they need to be very competitive.
The meta seems to be in a very strange place at the moment and I know a lot of people are unhappy with a lot of the decks that are seeing play. I can understand these comments, but I find it very interesting finding the answers to the meta. Timmy Wong and his Siphon Whizzard are great examples of playing a deck to beat the top meta decks, and while the UK meta has definitely moved away (in my opinion) from this being the right deck, it is these sorts of challenges that make Netrunner both fun and frustrating.
Look at Apoc Kate: can it beat NEH? Definitely – Clot, Apoc, Indexing are all great cards. Can it beat IG? Definitely, especially if it can land an Apocalypse and my familiarity with the match up certainly helped on the day. It can beat Palana and other decks as well. It is very versatile and was the right choice on the day.
Next month it will likely be something different that is the right call. Getting this call wrong can be very frustrating, often leading to horrible match ups. But getting it right can be one of the most rewarding experiences Netrunner has to offer.
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One of the aspects of the game I see new and experienced people alike struggle with is running. For a new player playing the runner can be really hard; you don’t know what any of the face down cards are, and there are several ways for the unknowing player to get killed. Generally, you have access to more information as the corporation and so maybe this is why some find it easier to play the corporation from the start. In this article I’d like to go through some tips to make you a better runner and some easy traps to fall into, especially as a new player.
Let’s start off with some common traps that new players often fall into.
Not running until you build a full rig
It is extremely common for new players to build their board state until they have the perfect economy and rig set up. Doing this means they can often get into any server, and very little can threaten them. Unfortunately, it is likely that the corporation player has won the game by the point your prefect set up has been completed. I understand why running can be scary for a new player, they don’t know what any of the ice is and it could do serious damage to them. However, not running in the early game is giving up a huge advantage, as it is in this period that the corporation is not set up and able to defend themselves. We will cover more on this later in the article, but keep an eye on if you are being aggressive enough in the early game.
Just playing your deck
One of the things I have found with newer players is that they have a tendency to focus on what they want to do next. For example, they will draw a Makers Eye and focus on building up the credits or rig to play that card, but in doing so will ignore what the corporation has been doing and why. More often than not, you can tell the areas to attack the corporation by the actions that they take.
I once had a conversation with a player I was teaching. He was focused on building up for a big R&D run, and I asked him what he thought was in the corporations scoring remote. He said he didn’t know as he hadn’t run it yet. I asked him what was in the new remote next to the scoring server; he gave me the same response. What I was trying to get him to think about was what the corporation may be doing. The corp was HB Engineering the Future, there was an Accelerated Beta Test (ABT) in the scoring server, a Jackson Howard outside, and they were looking to safely trigger the ABT.
You need to think about what the corporation may be trying to achieve. You are not just trying to score agendas, but also trying to stop them from scoring or advancing their board state as well, which gives you more time to win. I like to think about what I would do if I was the corporation with the current board state., If I would try to score an agenda, then I predict that my opponent would try to do the same, so what, if anything, can I do anything about that.
Noise and the mill
I see a lot of new players playing Noise and loving him, as they are able to beat better players with him. I strongly advise new players to not play Noise initially, as I believe that other runners teach better fundamentals and that Noise can in fact teach bad habits. Some players rely heavily on the randomness of the Noise mill effect to win games. I recently played against a new player playing Noise in a tournament. He literally never ran, instead just installed viruses and used Hades Shard. Now this may be an extreme example, but it shows the problem of how Noise can teach bad habits.
What will make you good at running?
Let’s flip this over then and discuss some good things to do or think about. This section is a collection of little tips, which hopefully will help you understand how to become a better runner.
Know how your opponent plans to win
There are several strategies for the corporation to win, and identifying this early is very important. The main ways a corporation wins are by; killing the runner, scoring in a safe remote, or fast advancing. The reason it is important to identify early what your opponent is doing is because your strategy should be different in all of those match ups. If you are playing the same way regardless of your opponents strategy, you are more than likely going to lose.
I think it is very difficult to provide a succinct summary of how to deal with all of the different match ups but here are some key thoughts that may help you:
Decks that score in a remote – These decks are generally trying to either tax you with big pieces of ice or rush early behind cheap ice. This is really core Netrunner, you are trying to get into their remote and steal their agendas, but are also happy to steal agendas from their central servers. You have a lot of options in these match ups, which we will cover below in more detail.
Fast Advance decks – These decks try to score an agenda the same turn that they install it, which limits your options quite a lot, as you are not often going to be able to score out of a remote server. Therefore, central server multi access is going to be key. Killing off their Fast Advance tools, such as San San City Grid, is essential and will often slow them down long enough for you to win.
Kill decks – These are probably the toughest for new players as you need to be extra careful, run early in the turn, keep a full hand of cards, and be aware of how they can kill you. Because I feel that this is such a tough match up for new players, I have dedicated an entire section to dealing with these decks below.
Knowing what things are…
This is a very broad point, but you will find that running is so much easier if you know what cards are available for the opposing faction, and more importantly, you know what cards are popular in that faction. There are plenty of sites available such as NetrunnerDB and Stimhack that show tournament winning decks, which will allow you to what see cards are frequently being played. If you know the common ice that can hurt you, then you will know when it is safe to run, either because of the corporation’s credit pool or the ice breakers that you have available.
This tip is definitely wider than just ice though, it applies to traps, and defensive upgrades Knowing which traps are common in popular decks can help you judge if it is worth the risk when making a run. Getting to the bottom of an expensive server only to be kept out by a defensive upgrade, such as Ash, is very problematic and often game changing. Having more information about popular cards will not only help your overall decision making but also work around these problems and help you feel safer making runs. You can get this information by playing lots of different decks, and making mistakes against them,. Doing a bit of research really helps you develop faster and is especially worth while before a tournament. Remember, a big part of the corporation’s advantage is hidden information; the more of this you remove the better it is for you.
Be able to threaten
Another broad point, I know. There are a lot of ways to threaten the corporation, but having a plan is very important. One of the best ways to threaten most corps is to be able to threaten the remote server,. This requires the right rig and normally credits, but if the corporation doesn’t feel safe putting an agenda in their remote server, that is a good thing. You can then take advantage of this unsafe feeling by applying HQ pressure where agendas are building up. Another way of applying pressure is with R&D multi access cards such Medium and R&D Interface. This pressure means that the corporation cannot just focus on scoring in their remote as they will often lose before they can score out, which means they will need to spend clicks and credits to defend R&D. There are a few tricks to extended R&D pressure, however, if you are seeing no agendas in R&D, then you need to pressure HQ as it could be flooded with agendas. New players often curse their bad luck after seeing no agendas in 10 cards on R&D, but should actually be thinking about why they are not seeing agendas in that location. Don’t forget that it is important to still apply pressure to the remote servers, because if the corporation has to rez ice on multiple servers it makes life more difficult on their economy, meaning it slows the rate that they can score out. Finally, it is often a bad move to go broke making a big R&D dig, Regardless of the success of that run, you are granting the corporation a huge scoring opportunity which is something you want to minimize.
What is the worst that can happen?
This point definitely ties in with knowing what the corporations options are, as it is through this knowledge that you can better plan out your turn. Before you start your turn, you should be planning out what you want to do,. This is a general tip that will help you improve on both sides of the game; if you can help it, don’t draw with your last click. Often times, the card drawn may have changed what you do for your entire turn. Plan your turns! This is especially important as runner, you need to think what you need to do and when it is safest to do it. In general, running early in the turn is what you want to be doing. Why? Here are a few simple (and common) situations where it is helpful:
- You run 1st click and encounter an Ichi 1.0 with no means to break it. You can safely use clicks to get through the problematic subroutines.
- You run 1st click and encounter a Snare! You can spend the rest of your turn clearing the tag and drawing cards to ensure you don’t get killed.
- You run 1st click and the corporation rezzes a Tollbooth going down to 1 credit in the process. You are able to run other freely servers knowing no additional ice is likely to be rezzed this turn.
Hopefully you can see the advantage in running early in the turn. It isn’t always possible, but you should when you can. However this point is not just about running early in the turn, it is about judging what could happen,. Before you start your run, you need to think what the ice could be (and is likely to be) and, in the worse case scenario, can you deal with that? If the triple advanced card is a trap, what does that mean to you? Can you deal with it? Just take some time before each run, to think things through. Sometimes you’ll have to take risks, but try to generally play safe and smart.
Play all the popular decks!
I know that a lot of people don’t like to play the popular decks or ‘Netdeck’ and I understand their thinking,. A big part of the game is deck building and people want to be creative, its all cool. I still recommend playing the popular decks, maybe by just take them for a spin at your local game night or online. You don’t need to play them for months or take them to tournaments, just get some games in with them. The reason is really simple, every deck has problems, or weaknesses, but sometimes when you are playing against them you can’t see it. When you are piloting the deck it becomes much clearer what they are strong at and where there are they run into problems. You’ll learn so much about how to beat a deck by piloting it, and what to expect when on the opposite side. I keep dribbling on about knowledge and this is another aspect of this.
Here’s an example of why this is so important. I have often seen people playing against Haarpsichord kill decks, who after the corporation scores an Astroscript Pilot Program, go really aggressive as if they have only a few turns to win before the corporation scores out, which invariably gets them killed. However, if you play a Haarpsichord kill deck, you will often find that scoring out is harder than it seems,. It is not an Astro Biotic deck built to Fast Advance, that is merely a back up win condition. You are running less 3/2 agendas, and have no other Fast Advance options meaning you can only chain an Astro into an Astro if you want to purely Fast Advance etc. This is something that you learn by playing the deck, so regardless if you want to play your own creative decks, you will get better by playing and understanding the popular decks around at the moment.
Run early (but with a purpose)
One of the key tips for new runners is to encourage them to run early and often. Many games you will find that the corporation cannot afford to rez all of their ice in the first few turns. This will often allow you some free accesses, and is part of the way to winning the game. Generally all new players should definitely be running early in the game and not just focusing on rig building. However, I think it is important that this is with the caveat that you should still be building your board state. You need to make a judgement call on if runs are worth it.
For example, you may be able to get into HQ for free, but how many times is it worth running there? If they have credits to rez the ice, you need to question why they aren’t rezzing it. Is it because there are no agendas? Playing cards that benefit you for making these free runs is key to taking advantage of the early game corporation weakness. Desperado or Datasucker benefit you for getting free accesses, therefore even if you do not score agendas, you are not putting back your board state too much. There is no perfect algorithm for Netrunner. You need to make a judgement call based on the board state and your opponent’s options, as to whether running lots is worth while. But generally, even if you get punished for it some games, run early and run often. Overall it will make you a better player. Sometimes you may want a killer ICE breaker before you run e.g. against Jinteki Personal Evolution. If you are struggling with early game running, try playing a criminal like Gabriel Santiago who is better equipped to adapt to this mindset.
Playing against kill decks
I felt that it was important to specifically talk about kill decks, as these can be very difficult to deal with for new players. There are generally two types of kill decks, those focused on killing you with cards such as Scorched Earth and meat damage cards, and those that are trying to wear you down with lots of small damage effects and kill with a big damage shot. Both of these decks find it more difficult to kill you if you keep a full hand size, so the key tip here is to keep a full hand of cards. We also spoke earlier about how running first click is really important, this is especially true against kill decks as it will allow you to shake tags or draw up after suffering damage.
You will almost never want to be running clicks 3 or 4 against these decks. Decks trying to kill you with Scorched Earth will often be trying to tag you, they will often do this using ice, so make sure that you are avoiding tags where you can. You will also need be aware of cards such as SEA Source and Midseason Replacements which can tag you and can be dealt with by having more credits than the corporation. Kill decks have tricks to tag you proactively such as Breaking News and Posted Bounty, which are agendas that you can steal. Think ahead before stealing that agenda, as it could be the death of you. There are a number of cards specifically designed to help you deal with kills decks, however having these cards in your deck make your match ups against other decks worse, so think very carefully before including these cards in your deck.
Being aware of timing windows is something that will help you a lot as a runner. You can find the timing structure here, and getting your head around this is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, when you confirm you are going to access a server there is an opportunity for the corporation to take some actions, this could be rezzing defensive upgrades, or deal you a point of net damage with House of Knives. These are important things to be aware of when you are planning how much money or how many cards you need for your run. Secondly, it is important to know about who has priority when it comes to Fast Advance and anti-Fast Advance cards such as Clot. I don’t want to go into significant detail on this, but wanted to mention it so that new players can look it up. Priority can be a common occurrence and understanding the timings is an important part of your runner knowledge building.
We all want to get better, so what are some good tips to do so? Well I’d recommend this great article by Noah McKee as a starting point. One of the key things Noah talks about in his article is how he keeps notes of each game and writes down the things he did wrong. I think this is something that would definitely benefit new players, being able to identify what has cost them the game or common misplays will help them improve quickly.
Hopefully this helps you get better as a runner or helps you when talking to new players about running. Most of this article has come from my own experiences teaching new players and training someone who wanted to play in the competitive scene I probably am missing a few things, so if you think of anything that needs to be included here, drop me a message.